Hochgeladen von vin-shaky

Sherlock

Werbung
The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle
This text is provided to you “as-is” without any warranty. No warranties of any kind, expressed or implied, are made to you as to the
text or any medium it may be on, including but not limited to warranties of merchantablity or fitness for a particular purpose.
Pictures for “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”, “The Adventure of the Priory School”, “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez”
and “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter” were taken from a 1911 edition of the “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” by
Smith, Elder & Co. of London.
Pictures for “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” were taken from a 1915 edition of “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” by Smith,
Elder & Co. of London.
This text was formatted from various free ASCII and HTML variants. See http://sherlock-holm.es for an electronic form of this text
and additional information about it.
This text comes from the collection’s version 3.1.
Table of contents
A Study In Scarlet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1
The Sign of the Four . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
63
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
A Scandal in Bohemia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
119
The Red-Headed League . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
135
A Case of Identity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
149
The Boscombe Valley Mystery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Five Orange Pips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
159
173
The Man with the Twisted Lip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
185
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
199
The Adventure of the Speckled Band . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
211
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
225
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
237
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
249
The Adventure of the Copper Beeches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
263
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Silver Blaze . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
279
The Yellow Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
293
The Stock-Broker’s Clerk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
305
The “Gloria Scott” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
315
The Musgrave Ritual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
327
The Reigate Squires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
339
The Crooked Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
351
The Resident Patient . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
361
The Greek Interpreter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
371
The Naval Treaty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
383
The Final Problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
401
iii
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
The Adventure of the Empty House . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
413
The Adventure of the Norwood Builder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
425
The Adventure of the Dancing Men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
439
The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
453
The Adventure of the Priory School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
465
The Adventure of Black Peter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
481
The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
493
The Adventure of the Six Napoleons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
503
The Adventure of the Three Students . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
515
The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
525
The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
539
The Adventure of the Abbey Grange . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
551
The Adventure of the Second Stain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
565
The Hound of the Baskervilles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
579
The Valley Of Fear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
655
His Last Bow
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
737
The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
739
The Adventure of the Cardboard Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
757
The Adventure of the Red Circle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
769
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
783
The Adventure of the Dying Detective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
799
809
The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
821
His Last Bow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
835
iv
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
847
The Illustrious Client . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
849
The Blanched Soldier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
863
The Adventure Of The Mazarin Stone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
875
The Adventure of the Three Gables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
885
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
895
The Adventure of the Three Garridebs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
905
The Problem of Thor Bridge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
915
The Adventure of the Creeping Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
929
The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
941
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
953
The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
961
The Adventure of the Retired Colourman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
971
v
A Study In Scarlet
A Study In Scarlet
Table of contents
Part I
Mr. Sherlock Holmes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7
The Science Of Deduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10
The Lauriston Garden Mystery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
14
What John Rance Had To Tell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
19
Our Advertisement Brings A Visitor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
22
Tobias Gregson Shows What He Can Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
25
Light In The Darkness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
29
Part II
On The Great Alkali Plain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
37
The Flower Of Utah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
41
John Ferrier Talks With The Prophet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
44
A Flight For Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
46
The Avenging Angels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
50
A Continuation Of The Reminiscences Of John Watson, M.D. . . . . . . . . .
54
The Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
59
3
PART I.
(Being a reprint from the reminiscences of
John H. Watson, M.D.,
late of the Army Medical Department.)
A Study In Scarlet
I
CHAPTER I.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes
n the year 1878 I took my degree of
Doctor of Medicine of the University of
London, and proceeded to Netley to go
through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army. Having completed my studies
there, I was duly attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as Assistant Surgeon. The regiment
was stationed in India at the time, and before I
could join it, the second Afghan war had broken
out. On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corps
had advanced through the passes, and was already
deep in the enemy’s country. I followed, however,
with many other officers who were in the same
situation as myself, and succeeded in reaching Candahar in safety, where I found my regiment, and at
once entered upon my new duties.
irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at
a private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless,
meaningless existence, and spending such money
as I had, considerably more freely than I ought. So
alarming did the state of my finances become, that
I soon realized that I must either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the country, or that
I must make a complete alteration in my style of
living. Choosing the latter alternative, I began by
making up my mind to leave the hotel, and to take
up my quarters in some less pretentious and less
expensive domicile.
On the very day that I had come to this conclusion, I was standing at the Criterion Bar, when
some one tapped me on the shoulder, and turning
round I recognized young Stamford, who had been
a dresser under me at Bart’s. The sight of a friendly
face in the great wilderness of London is a pleasant
thing indeed to a lonely man. In old days Stamford
had never been a particular crony of mine, but now
I hailed him with enthusiasm, and he, in his turn,
appeared to be delighted to see me. In the exuberance of my joy, I asked him to lunch with me at the
Holborn, and we started off together in a hansom.
“Whatever have you been doing with yourself,
Watson?” he asked in undisguised wonder, as we
rattled through the crowded London streets. “You
are as thin as a lath and as brown as a nut.”
I gave him a short sketch of my adventures,
and had hardly concluded it by the time that we
reached our destination.
“Poor devil!” he said, commiseratingly, after he
had listened to my misfortunes. “What are you up
to now?”
“Looking for lodgings,” I answered. “Trying to
solve the problem as to whether it is possible to get
comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.”
“That’s a strange thing,” remarked my companion; “you are the second man to-day that has used
that expression to me.”
“And who was the first?” I asked.
“A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory up at the hospital. He was bemoaning himself
this morning because he could not get someone
to go halves with him in some nice rooms which
he had found, and which were too much for his
purse.”
“By Jove!” I cried, “if he really wants someone
to share the rooms and the expense, I am the very
man for him. I should prefer having a partner to
being alone.”
The campaign brought honours and promotion
to many, but for me it had nothing but misfortune
and disaster. I was removed from my brigade and
attached to the Berkshires, with whom I served at
the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on
the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the
bone and grazed the subclavian artery. I should
have fallen into the hands of the murderous Ghazis
had it not been for the devotion and courage shown
by Murray, my orderly, who threw me across a
pack-horse, and succeeded in bringing me safely to
the British lines.
Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged
hardships which I had undergone, I was removed,
with a great train of wounded sufferers, to the base
hospital at Peshawar. Here I rallied, and had already improved so far as to be able to walk about
the wards, and even to bask a little upon the verandah, when I was struck down by enteric fever, that
curse of our Indian possessions. For months my life
was despaired of, and when at last I came to myself
and became convalescent, I was so weak and emaciated that a medical board determined that not a day
should be lost in sending me back to England. I was
dispatched, accordingly, in the troopship Orontes,
and landed a month later on Portsmouth jetty, with
my health irretrievably ruined, but with permission
from a paternal government to spend the next nine
months in attempting to improve it.
I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was
therefore as free as air—or as free as an income
of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit
a man to be. Under such circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into
which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are
7
A Study In Scarlet
Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me
over his wine-glass. “You don’t know Sherlock
Holmes yet,” he said; “perhaps you would not care
for him as a constant companion.”
“It is not easy to express the inexpressible,”
he answered with a laugh. “Holmes is a little
too scientific for my tastes—it approaches to coldbloodedness. I could imagine his giving a friend a
little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, not out
of malevolence, you understand, but simply out
of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate
idea of the effects. To do him justice, I think that
he would take it himself with the same readiness.
He appears to have a passion for definite and exact
knowledge.”
“Very right too.”
“Yes, but it may be pushed to excess. When
it comes to beating the subjects in the dissectingrooms with a stick, it is certainly taking rather a
bizarre shape.”
“Beating the subjects!”
“Yes, to verify how far bruises may be produced
after death. I saw him at it with my own eyes.”
“And yet you say he is not a medical student?”
“No. Heaven knows what the objects of his
studies are. But here we are, and you must form
your own impressions about him.” As he spoke, we
turned down a narrow lane and passed through
a small side-door, which opened into a wing of
the great hospital. It was familiar ground to me,
and I needed no guiding as we ascended the bleak
stone staircase and made our way down the long
corridor with its vista of whitewashed wall and
dun-coloured doors. Near the further end a low
arched passage branched away from it and led to
the chemical laboratory.
This was a lofty chamber, lined and littered
with countless bottles. Broad, low tables were scattered about, which bristled with retorts, test-tubes,
and little Bunsen lamps, with their blue flickering
flames. There was only one student in the room,
who was bending over a distant table absorbed in
his work. At the sound of our steps he glanced
round and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure.
“I’ve found it! I’ve found it,” he shouted to my
companion, running towards us with a test-tube in
his hand. “I have found a re-agent which is precipitated by hœmoglobin, and by nothing else.” Had
he discovered a gold mine, greater delight could
not have shone upon his features.
“Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Stamford, introducing us.
“How are you?” he said cordially, gripping
my hand with a strength for which I should
hardly have given him credit. “You have been in
Afghanistan, I perceive.”
“How on earth did you know that?” I asked in
astonishment.
“Why, what is there against him?”
“Oh, I didn’t say there was anything against
him. He is a little queer in his ideas—an enthusiast
in some branches of science. As far as I know he is
a decent fellow enough.”
“A medical student, I suppose?” said I.
“No—I have no idea what he intends to go in
for. I believe he is well up in anatomy, and he is
a first-class chemist; but, as far as I know, he has
never taken out any systematic medical classes. His
studies are very desultory and eccentric, but he has
amassed a lot of out-of-the way knowledge which
would astonish his professors.”
“Did you never ask him what he was going in
for?” I asked.
“No; he is not a man that it is easy to draw out,
though he can be communicative enough when the
fancy seizes him.”
“I should like to meet him,” I said. “If I am to
lodge with anyone, I should prefer a man of studious and quiet habits. I am not strong enough yet
to stand much noise or excitement. I had enough of
both in Afghanistan to last me for the remainder of
my natural existence. How could I meet this friend
of yours?”
“He is sure to be at the laboratory,” returned
my companion. “He either avoids the place for
weeks, or else he works there from morning to
night. If you like, we shall drive round together
after luncheon.”
“Certainly,” I answered, and the conversation
drifted away into other channels.
As we made our way to the hospital after leaving the Holborn, Stamford gave me a few more
particulars about the gentleman whom I proposed
to take as a fellow-lodger.
“You mustn’t blame me if you don’t get on with
him,” he said; “I know nothing more of him than I
have learned from meeting him occasionally in the
laboratory. You proposed this arrangement, so you
must not hold me responsible.”
“If we don’t get on it will be easy to part company,” I answered. “It seems to me, Stamford,” I
added, looking hard at my companion, “that you
have some reason for washing your hands of the
matter. Is this fellow’s temper so formidable, or
what is it? Don’t be mealy-mouthed about it.”
8
A Study In Scarlet
“Never mind,” said he, chuckling to himself.
“The question now is about hœmoglobin. No doubt
you see the significance of this discovery of mine?”
“There was the case of Von Bischoff at Frankfort
last year. He would certainly have been hung had
this test been in existence. Then there was Mason
of Bradford, and the notorious Muller, and Lefevre
of Montpellier, and Samson of new Orleans. I could
name a score of cases in which it would have been
decisive.”
“You seem to be a walking calendar of crime,”
said Stamford with a laugh. “You might start a
paper on those lines. Call it the ‘Police News of the
Past.’ ”
“Very interesting reading it might be made, too,”
remarked Sherlock Holmes, sticking a small piece
of plaster over the prick on his finger. “I have to be
careful,” he continued, turning to me with a smile,
“for I dabble with poisons a good deal.” He held
out his hand as he spoke, and I noticed that it was
all mottled over with similar pieces of plaster, and
discoloured with strong acids.
“We came here on business,” said Stamford, sitting down on a high three-legged stool, and pushing another one in my direction with his foot. “My
friend here wants to take diggings, and as you were
complaining that you could get no one to go halves
with you, I thought that I had better bring you
together.”
Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea
of sharing his rooms with me. “I have my eye on a
suite in Baker Street,” he said, “which would suit
us down to the ground. You don’t mind the smell
of strong tobacco, I hope?”
“I always smoke ‘ship’s’ myself,” I answered.
“That’s good enough. I generally have chemicals about, and occasionally do experiments. Would
that annoy you?”
“By no means.”
“Let me see—what are my other shortcomings.
I get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my
mouth for days on end. You must not think I am
sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I’ll
soon be right. What have you to confess now? It’s
just as well for two fellows to know the worst of
one another before they begin to live together.”
I laughed at this cross-examination. “I keep a
bull pup,” I said, “and I object to rows because
my nerves are shaken, and I get up at all sorts of
ungodly hours, and I am extremely lazy. I have
another set of vices when I’m well, but those are
the principal ones at present.”
“Do you include violin-playing in your category
of rows?” he asked, anxiously.
“It depends on the player,” I answered. “A wellplayed violin is a treat for the gods—a badly-played
one—”
“It is interesting, chemically, no doubt,” I answered, “but practically—”
“Why, man, it is the most practical medico-legal
discovery for years. Don’t you see that it gives us
an infallible test for blood stains. Come over here
now!” He seized me by the coat-sleeve in his eagerness, and drew me over to the table at which
he had been working. “Let us have some fresh
blood,” he said, digging a long bodkin into his finger, and drawing off the resulting drop of blood in
a chemical pipette. “Now, I add this small quantity
of blood to a litre of water. You perceive that the
resulting mixture has the appearance of pure water.
The proportion of blood cannot be more than one
in a million. I have no doubt, however, that we
shall be able to obtain the characteristic reaction.”
As he spoke, he threw into the vessel a few white
crystals, and then added some drops of a transparent fluid. In an instant the contents assumed a
dull mahogany colour, and a brownish dust was
precipitated to the bottom of the glass jar.
“Ha! ha!” he cried, clapping his hands, and
looking as delighted as a child with a new toy.
“What do you think of that?”
“It seems to be a very delicate test,” I remarked.
“Beautiful! beautiful! The old Guiacum test was
very clumsy and uncertain. So is the microscopic
examination for blood corpuscles. The latter is valueless if the stains are a few hours old. Now, this
appears to act as well whether the blood is old or
new. Had this test been invented, there are hundreds of men now walking the earth who would
long ago have paid the penalty of their crimes.”
“Indeed!” I murmured.
“Criminal cases are continually hinging upon
that one point. A man is suspected of a crime
months perhaps after it has been committed. His
linen or clothes are examined, and brownish stains
discovered upon them. Are they blood stains, or
mud stains, or rust stains, or fruit stains, or what
are they? That is a question which has puzzled
many an expert, and why? Because there was no
reliable test. Now we have the Sherlock Holmes’
test, and there will no longer be any difficulty.”
His eyes fairly glittered as he spoke, and he put
his hand over his heart and bowed as if to some
applauding crowd conjured up by his imagination.
“You are to be congratulated,” I remarked, considerably surprised at his enthusiasm.
9
A Study In Scarlet
“Oh, that’s all right,” he cried, with a merry
laugh. “I think we may consider the thing as settled—that is, if the rooms are agreeable to you.”
My companion smiled an enigmatical smile.
“That’s just his little peculiarity,” he said. “A good
many people have wanted to know how he finds
things out.”
“When shall we see them?”
“Oh! a mystery is it?” I cried, rubbing my hands.
“This is very piquant. I am much obliged to you for
bringing us together. ‘The proper study of mankind
is man,’ you know.”
“Call for me here at noon to-morrow, and we’ll
go together and settle everything,” he answered.
“All right—noon exactly,” said I, shaking his
hand.
We left him working among his chemicals, and
we walked together towards my hotel.
“You must study him, then,” Stamford said, as
he bade me good-bye. “You’ll find him a knotty
problem, though. I’ll wager he learns more about
you than you about him. Good-bye.”
“By the way,” I asked suddenly, stopping and
turning upon Stamford, “how the deuce did he
know that I had come from Afghanistan?”
“Good-bye,” I answered, and strolled on to my
hotel, considerably interested in my new acquaintance.
CHAPTER II.
The Science Of Deduction
We met next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms at No. 221b, Baker Street, of
which he had spoken at our meeting. They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a
single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished,
and illuminated by two broad windows. So desirable in every way were the apartments, and so
moderate did the terms seem when divided between us, that the bargain was concluded upon the
spot, and we at once entered into possession. That
very evening I moved my things round from the hotel, and on the following morning Sherlock Holmes
followed me with several boxes and portmanteaus.
For a day or two we were busily employed in unpacking and laying out our property to the best
advantage. That done, we gradually began to settle
down and to accommodate ourselves to our new
surroundings.
now and again a reaction would seize him, and
for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the
sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a
muscle from morning to night. On these occasions
I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression
in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not
the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life
forbidden such a notion.
As the weeks went by, my interest in him and
my curiosity as to his aims in life, gradually deepened and increased. His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most
casual observer. In height he was rather over six
feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be
considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I
have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his
whole expression an air of alertness and decision.
His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness
which mark the man of determination. His hands
were invariably blotted with ink and stained with
chemicals, yet he was possessed of extraordinary
delicacy of touch, as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched him manipulating his fragile
philosophical instruments.
The reader may set me down as a hopeless busybody, when I confess how much this man stimu-
Holmes was certainly not a difficult man to live
with. He was quiet in his ways, and his habits were
regular. It was rare for him to be up after ten at
night, and he had invariably breakfasted and gone
out before I rose in the morning. Sometimes he
spent his day at the chemical laboratory, sometimes
in the dissecting-rooms, and occasionally in long
walks, which appeared to take him into the lowest portions of the City. Nothing could exceed his
energy when the working fit was upon him; but
10
A Study In Scarlet
lated my curiosity, and how often I endeavoured to
break through the reticence which he showed on all
that concerned himself. Before pronouncing judgment, however, be it remembered, how objectless
was my life, and how little there was to engage my
attention. My health forbade me from venturing
out unless the weather was exceptionally genial,
and I had no friends who would call upon me and
break the monotony of my daily existence. Under
these circumstances, I eagerly hailed the little mystery which hung around my companion, and spent
much of my time in endeavouring to unravel it.
what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have
nothing but the tools which may help him in doing
his work, but of these he has a large assortment,
and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to
think that that little room has elastic walls and can
distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes
a time when for every addition of knowledge you
forget something that you knew before. It is of the
highest importance, therefore, not to have useless
facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
“But the Solar System!” I protested.
“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted
impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun.
If we went round the moon it would not make a
pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
He was not studying medicine. He had himself, in reply to a question, confirmed Stamford’s
opinion upon that point. Neither did he appear to
have pursued any course of reading which might fit
him for a degree in science or any other recognized
portal which would give him an entrance into the
learned world. Yet his zeal for certain studies was
remarkable, and within eccentric limits his knowledge was so extraordinarily ample and minute that
his observations have fairly astounded me. Surely
no man would work so hard or attain such precise
information unless he had some definite end in
view. Desultory readers are seldom remarkable for
the exactness of their learning. No man burdens
his mind with small matters unless he has some
very good reason for doing so.
I was on the point of asking him what that work
might be, but something in his manner showed
me that the question would be an unwelcome one.
I pondered over our short conversation, however,
and endeavoured to draw my deductions from it.
He said that he would acquire no knowledge which
did not bear upon his object. Therefore all the
knowledge which he possessed was such as would
be useful to him. I enumerated in my own mind
all the various points upon which he had shown
me that he was exceptionally well-informed. I even
took a pencil and jotted them down. I could not
help smiling at the document when I had completed it. It ran in this way—
His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and
politics he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon
my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the
naivest way who he might be and what he had
done. My surprise reached a climax, however,
when I found incidentally that he was ignorant
of the Copernican Theory and of the composition
of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware
that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to
be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could
hardly realize it.
Sherlock Holmes—his limits.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling
at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know
it I shall do my best to forget it.”
“To forget it!”
7.
8.
9.
“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a
man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic,
and you have to stock it with such furniture as you
choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort
that he comes across, so that the knowledge which
might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best
is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he
has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now
the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to
10.
11.
12.
11
Knowledge of Literature.—Nil.
Philosophy.—Nil.
Astronomy.—Nil.
Politics.—Feeble.
Botany.—Variable. Well up in belladonna,
opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
Geology.—Practical, but limited. Tells at a
glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his
trousers, and told me by their colour and
consistence in what part of London he had
received them.
Chemistry.—Profound.
Anatomy.—Accurate, but unsystematic.
Sensational Literature.—Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror
perpetrated in the century.
Plays the violin well.
Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and
swordsman.
Has a good practical knowledge of British
law.
A Study In Scarlet
When I had got so far in my list I threw it into
the fire in despair. “If I can only find what the
fellow is driving at by reconciling all these accomplishments, and discovering a calling which needs
them all,” I said to myself, “I may as well give up
the attempt at once.”
alluding to it, but he soon dispelled the idea by
coming round to the subject of his own accord.
It was upon the 4th of March, as I have good
reason to remember, that I rose somewhat earlier
than usual, and found that Sherlock Holmes had
not yet finished his breakfast. The landlady had
become so accustomed to my late habits that my
place had not been laid nor my coffee prepared.
With the unreasonable petulance of mankind I rang
the bell and gave a curt intimation that I was ready.
Then I picked up a magazine from the table and
attempted to while away the time with it, while my
companion munched silently at his toast. One of
the articles had a pencil mark at the heading, and I
naturally began to run my eye through it.
Its somewhat ambitious title was “The Book of
Life,” and it attempted to show how much an observant man might learn by an accurate and systematic
examination of all that came in his way. It struck me
as being a remarkable mixture of shrewdness and
of absurdity. The reasoning was close and intense,
but the deductions appeared to me to be far-fetched
and exaggerated. The writer claimed by a momentary expression, a twitch of a muscle or a glance of
an eye, to fathom a man’s inmost thoughts. Deceit,
according to him, was an impossibility in the case
of one trained to observation and analysis. His conclusions were as infallible as so many propositions
of Euclid. So startling would his results appear to
the uninitiated that until they learned the processes
by which he had arrived at them they might well
consider him as a necromancer.
“From a drop of water,” said the writer, “a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a
Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the
other. So all life is a great chain, the nature of which
is known whenever we are shown a single link of
it. Like all other arts, the Science of Deduction
and Analysis is one which can only be acquired
by long and patient study nor is life long enough
to allow any mortal to attain the highest possible perfection in it. Before turning to those moral
and mental aspects of the matter which present
the greatest difficulties, let the enquirer begin by
mastering more elementary problems. Let him, on
meeting a fellow-mortal, learn at a glance to distinguish the history of the man, and the trade or
profession to which he belongs. Puerile as such
an exercise may seem, it sharpens the faculties of
observation, and teaches one where to look and
what to look for. By a man’s finger nails, by his
coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his trouser knees, by the
callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt cuffs—by each of these things
a man’s calling is plainly revealed. That all united
I see that I have alluded above to his powers
upon the violin. These were very remarkable, but as
eccentric as all his other accomplishments. That he
could play pieces, and difficult pieces, I knew well,
because at my request he has played me some of
Mendelssohn’s Lieder, and other favourites. When
left to himself, however, he would seldom produce
any music or attempt any recognized air. Leaning
back in his arm-chair of an evening, he would close
his eyes and scrape carelessly at the fiddle which
was thrown across his knee. Sometimes the chords
were sonorous and melancholy. Occasionally they
were fantastic and cheerful. Clearly they reflected
the thoughts which possessed him, but whether
the music aided those thoughts, or whether the
playing was simply the result of a whim or fancy
was more than I could determine. I might have
rebelled against these exasperating solos had it not
been that he usually terminated them by playing
in quick succession a whole series of my favourite
airs as a slight compensation for the trial upon my
patience.
During the first week or so we had no callers,
and I had begun to think that my companion was
as friendless a man as I was myself. Presently, however, I found that he had many acquaintances, and
those in the most different classes of society. There
was one little sallow rat-faced, dark-eyed fellow
who was introduced to me as Mr. Lestrade, and
who came three or four times in a single week. One
morning a young girl called, fashionably dressed,
and stayed for half an hour or more. The same afternoon brought a grey-headed, seedy visitor, looking
like a Jew pedlar, who appeared to me to be much
excited, and who was closely followed by a slipshod elderly woman. On another occasion an old
white-haired gentleman had an interview with my
companion; and on another a railway porter in his
velveteen uniform. When any of these nondescript
individuals put in an appearance, Sherlock Holmes
used to beg for the use of the sitting-room, and I
would retire to my bed-room. He always apologized to me for putting me to this inconvenience.
“I have to use this room as a place of business,”
he said, “and these people are my clients.” Again
I had an opportunity of asking him a point blank
question, and again my delicacy prevented me from
forcing another man to confide in me. I imagined
at the time that he had some strong reason for not
12
A Study In Scarlet
should fail to enlighten the competent enquirer in
any case is almost inconceivable.”
“Quite so. I have a kind of intuition that way.
Now and again a case turns up which is a little
more complex. Then I have to bustle about and
see things with my own eyes. You see I have
a lot of special knowledge which I apply to the
problem, and which facilitates matters wonderfully.
Those rules of deduction laid down in that article
which aroused your scorn, are invaluable to me
in practical work. Observation with me is second
nature. You appeared to be surprised when I told
you, on our first meeting, that you had come from
Afghanistan.”
“What ineffable twaddle!” I cried, slapping the
magazine down on the table, “I never read such
rubbish in my life.”
“What is it?” asked Sherlock Holmes.
“Why, this article,” I said, pointing at it with
my egg spoon as I sat down to my breakfast. “I see
that you have read it since you have marked it. I
don’t deny that it is smartly written. It irritates me
though. It is evidently the theory of some arm-chair
lounger who evolves all these neat little paradoxes
in the seclusion of his own study. It is not practical.
I should like to see him clapped down in a third
class carriage on the Underground, and asked to
give the trades of all his fellow-travellers. I would
lay a thousand to one against him.”
“You were told, no doubt.”
“Nothing of the sort. I knew you came from
Afghanistan. From long habit the train of thoughts
ran so swiftly through my mind, that I arrived at
the conclusion without being conscious of intermediate steps. There were such steps, however. The
train of reasoning ran, ‘Here is a gentleman of a
medical type, but with the air of a military man.
Clearly an army doctor, then. He has just come
from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is
not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are
fair. He has undergone hardship and sickness, as
his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has been
injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner. Where in the tropics could an English army
doctor have seen much hardship and got his arm
wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan.’ The whole
train of thought did not occupy a second. I then
remarked that you came from Afghanistan, and
you were astonished.”
“You would lose your money,” Sherlock Holmes
remarked calmly. “As for the article I wrote it myself.”
“You!”
“Yes, I have a turn both for observation and for
deduction. The theories which I have expressed
there, and which appear to you to be so chimerical
are really extremely practical—so practical that I
depend upon them for my bread and cheese.”
“And how?” I asked involuntarily.
“Well, I have a trade of my own. I suppose I am
the only one in the world. I’m a consulting detective, if you can understand what that is. Here in
London we have lots of Government detectives and
lots of private ones. When these fellows are at fault
they come to me, and I manage to put them on the
right scent. They lay all the evidence before me,
and I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of crime, to set them straight.
There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand
at your finger ends, it is odd if you can’t unravel
the thousand and first. Lestrade is a well-known
detective. He got himself into a fog recently over a
forgery case, and that was what brought him here.”
“It is simple enough as you explain it,” I said,
smiling. “You remind me of Edgar Allen Poe’s
Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did
exist outside of stories.”
Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. “No
doubt you think that you are complimenting me in
comparing me to Dupin,” he observed. “Now, in
my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That
trick of his of breaking in on his friends’ thoughts
with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour’s
silence is really very showy and superficial. He had
some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by
no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to
imagine.”
“And these other people?”
“They are mostly sent on by private inquiry
agencies. They are all people who are in trouble
about something, and want a little enlightening. I
listen to their story, they listen to my comments,
and then I pocket my fee.”
“Have you read Gaboriau’s works?” I asked.
“Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?”
Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. “Lecoq
was a miserable bungler,” he said, in an angry voice;
“he had only one thing to recommend him, and that
was his energy. That book made me positively ill.
The question was how to identify an unknown prisoner. I could have done it in twenty-four hours.
“But do you mean to say,” I said, “that without leaving your room you can unravel some knot
which other men can make nothing of, although
they have seen every detail for themselves?”
13
A Study In Scarlet
Lecoq took six months or so. It might be made
a text-book for detectives to teach them what to
avoid.”
He had a large blue envelope in his hand, and was
evidently the bearer of a message.
“You mean the retired sergeant of Marines,”
said Sherlock Holmes.
I felt rather indignant at having two characters
whom I had admired treated in this cavalier style.
I walked over to the window, and stood looking
out into the busy street. “This fellow may be very
clever,” I said to myself, “but he is certainly very
conceited.”
“Brag and bounce!” thought I to myself. “He
knows that I cannot verify his guess.”
The thought had hardly passed through my
mind when the man whom we were watching
caught sight of the number on our door, and ran
rapidly across the roadway. We heard a loud knock,
a deep voice below, and heavy steps ascending the
stair.
“There are no crimes and no criminals in these
days,” he said, querulously. “What is the use of
having brains in our profession? I know well that I
have it in me to make my name famous. No man
lives or has ever lived who has brought the same
amount of study and of natural talent to the detection of crime which I have done. And what is
the result? There is no crime to detect, or, at most,
some bungling villany with a motive so transparent
that even a Scotland Yard official can see through
it.”
“For Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” he said, stepping
into the room and handing my friend the letter.
Here was an opportunity of taking the conceit
out of him. He little thought of this when he made
that random shot. “May I ask, my lad,” I said, in
the blandest voice, “what your trade may be?”
“Commissionaire, sir,” he said, gruffly. “Uniform away for repairs.”
I was still annoyed at his bumptious style of
conversation. I thought it best to change the topic.
“And you were?” I asked, with a slightly malicious glance at my companion.
“I wonder what that fellow is looking for?” I
asked, pointing to a stalwart, plainly-dressed individual who was walking slowly down the other
side of the street, looking anxiously at the numbers.
“A sergeant, sir, Royal Marine Light Infantry,
sir. No answer? Right, sir.”
He clicked his heels together, raised his hand in
a salute, and was gone.
CHAPTER III.
The Lauriston Garden Mystery
I confess that I was considerably startled by this
fresh proof of the practical nature of my companion’s theories. My respect for his powers of analysis
increased wondrously. There still remained some
lurking suspicion in my mind, however, that the
whole thing was a pre-arranged episode, intended
to dazzle me, though what earthly object he could
have in taking me in was past my comprehension.
When I looked at him he had finished reading the
note, and his eyes had assumed the vacant, lacklustre expression which showed mental abstraction.
“Why, that he was a retired sergeant of
Marines.”
“I have no time for trifles,” he answered,
brusquely; then with a smile, “Excuse my rudeness. You broke the thread of my thoughts; but
perhaps it is as well. So you actually were not able
to see that that man was a sergeant of Marines?”
“No, indeed.”
“It was easier to know it than to explain why I
knew it. If you were asked to prove that two and
two made four, you might find some difficulty, and
yet you are quite sure of the fact. Even across the
street I could see a great blue anchor tattooed on the
back of the fellow’s hand. That smacked of the sea.
He had a military carriage, however, and regulation
“How in the world did you deduce that?” I
asked.
“Deduce what?” said he, petulantly.
14
A Study In Scarlet
side whiskers. There we have the marine. He was
a man with some amount of self-importance and a
certain air of command. You must have observed
the way in which he held his head and swung his
cane. A steady, respectable, middle-aged man, too,
on the face of him—all facts which led me to believe
that he had been a sergeant.”
energetic, but conventional—shockingly so. They
have their knives into one another, too. They are
as jealous as a pair of professional beauties. There
will be some fun over this case if they are both put
upon the scent.”
I was amazed at the calm way in which he rippled on. “Surely there is not a moment to be lost,”
I cried, “shall I go and order you a cab?”
“I’m not sure about whether I shall go. I am the
most incurably lazy devil that ever stood in shoe
leather—that is, when the fit is on me, for I can be
spry enough at times.”
“Why, it is just such a chance as you have been
longing for.”
“My dear fellow, what does it matter to me.
Supposing I unravel the whole matter, you may be
sure that Gregson, Lestrade, and Co. will pocket
all the credit. That comes of being an unofficial
personage.”
“But he begs you to help him.”
“Yes. He knows that I am his superior, and acknowledges it to me; but he would cut his tongue
out before he would own it to any third person.
However, we may as well go and have a look. I
shall work it out on my own hook. I may have a
laugh at them if I have nothing else. Come on!”
He hustled on his overcoat, and bustled about
in a way that showed that an energetic fit had superseded the apathetic one.
“Get your hat,” he said.
“You wish me to come?”
“Yes, if you have nothing better to do.” A
minute later we were both in a hansom, driving
furiously for the Brixton Road.
It was a foggy, cloudy morning, and a duncoloured veil hung over the house-tops, looking
like the reflection of the mud-coloured streets beneath. My companion was in the best of spirits,
and prattled away about Cremona fiddles, and the
difference between a Stradivarius and an Amati. As
for myself, I was silent, for the dull weather and the
melancholy business upon which we were engaged,
depressed my spirits.
“You don’t seem to give much thought to the
matter in hand,” I said at last, interrupting Holmes’
musical disquisition.
“No data yet,” he answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It
biases the judgment.”
“You will have your data soon,” I remarked,
pointing with my finger; “this is the Brixton Road,
and that is the house, if I am not very much mistaken.”
“Wonderful!” I ejaculated.
“Commonplace,” said Holmes, though I
thought from his expression that he was pleased at
my evident surprise and admiration. “I said just
now that there were no criminals. It appears that
I am wrong—look at this!” He threw me over the
note which the commissionaire had brought.
“Why,” I cried, as I cast my eye over it, “this is
terrible!”
“It does seem to be a little out of the common,”
he remarked, calmly. “Would you mind reading it
to me aloud?”
This is the letter which I read to him—
“My dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes:
“There has been a bad business during
the night at 3, Lauriston Gardens, off the
Brixton Road. Our man on the beat saw
a light there about two in the morning,
and as the house was an empty one, suspected that something was amiss. He
found the door open, and in the front
room, which is bare of furniture, discovered the body of a gentleman, well
dressed, and having cards in his pocket
bearing the name of ‘Enoch J. Drebber,
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.’ There had been
no robbery, nor is there any evidence as
to how the man met his death. There
are marks of blood in the room, but
there is no wound upon his person. We
are at a loss as to how he came into the
empty house; indeed, the whole affair
is a puzzler. If you can come round to
the house any time before twelve, you
will find me there. I have left everything in statu quo until I hear from you.
If you are unable to come I shall give
you fuller details, and would esteem it a
great kindness if you would favour me
with your opinion.
— “Yours faithfully,
“Tobias Gregson.”
“Gregson is the smartest of the Scotland
Yarders,” my friend remarked; “he and Lestrade
are the pick of a bad lot. They are both quick and
15
A Study In Scarlet
“So it is. Stop, driver, stop!” We were still a
hundred yards or so from it, but he insisted upon
our alighting, and we finished our journey upon
foot.
along there could not be a greater mess. No doubt,
however, you had drawn your own conclusions,
Gregson, before you permitted this.”
“I have had so much to do inside the house,”
the detective said evasively. “My colleague, Mr.
Lestrade, is here. I had relied upon him to look
after this.”
Holmes glanced at me and raised his eyebrows
sardonically. “With two such men as yourself and
Lestrade upon the ground, there will not be much
for a third party to find out,” he said.
Gregson rubbed his hands in a self-satisfied way.
“I think we have done all that can be done,” he answered; “it’s a queer case though, and I knew your
taste for such things.”
“You did not come here in a cab?” asked Sherlock Holmes.
“No, sir.”
“Nor Lestrade?”
“No, sir.”
“Then let us go and look at the room.” With
which inconsequent remark he strode on into the
house, followed by Gregson, whose features expressed his astonishment.
A short passage, bare planked and dusty, led
to the kitchen and offices. Two doors opened out
of it to the left and to the right. One of these had
obviously been closed for many weeks. The other
belonged to the dining-room, which was the apartment in which the mysterious affair had occurred.
Holmes walked in, and I followed him with that
subdued feeling at my heart which the presence of
death inspires.
It was a large square room, looking all the larger
from the absence of all furniture. A vulgar flaring
paper adorned the walls, but it was blotched in
places with mildew, and here and there great strips
had become detached and hung down, exposing
the yellow plaster beneath. Opposite the door was
a showy fireplace, surmounted by a mantelpiece of
imitation white marble. On one corner of this was
stuck the stump of a red wax candle. The solitary
window was so dirty that the light was hazy and
uncertain, giving a dull grey tinge to everything,
which was intensified by the thick layer of dust
which coated the whole apartment.
All these details I observed afterwards. At
present my attention was centred upon the single
grim motionless figure which lay stretched upon
the boards, with vacant sightless eyes staring up
at the discoloured ceiling. It was that of a man
about forty-three or forty-four years of age, middlesized, broad shouldered, with crisp curling black
hair, and a short stubbly beard. He was dressed
Number 3, Lauriston Gardens wore an illomened and minatory look. It was one of four
which stood back some little way from the street,
two being occupied and two empty. The latter
looked out with three tiers of vacant melancholy
windows, which were blank and dreary, save that
here and there a “To Let” card had developed like
a cataract upon the bleared panes. A small garden sprinkled over with a scattered eruption of
sickly plants separated each of these houses from
the street, and was traversed by a narrow pathway,
yellowish in colour, and consisting apparently of a
mixture of clay and of gravel. The whole place was
very sloppy from the rain which had fallen through
the night. The garden was bounded by a three-foot
brick wall with a fringe of wood rails upon the
top, and against this wall was leaning a stalwart
police constable, surrounded by a small knot of
loafers, who craned their necks and strained their
eyes in the vain hope of catching some glimpse of
the proceedings within.
I had imagined that Sherlock Holmes would at
once have hurried into the house and plunged into
a study of the mystery. Nothing appeared to be further from his intention. With an air of nonchalance
which, under the circumstances, seemed to me to
border upon affectation, he lounged up and down
the pavement, and gazed vacantly at the ground,
the sky, the opposite houses and the line of railings.
Having finished his scrutiny, he proceeded slowly
down the path, or rather down the fringe of grass
which flanked the path, keeping his eyes riveted
upon the ground. Twice he stopped, and once I
saw him smile, and heard him utter an exclamation
of satisfaction. There were many marks of footsteps
upon the wet clayey soil, but since the police had
been coming and going over it, I was unable to see
how my companion could hope to learn anything
from it. Still I had had such extraordinary evidence
of the quickness of his perceptive faculties, that I
had no doubt that he could see a great deal which
was hidden from me.
At the door of the house we were met by a tall,
white-faced, flaxen-haired man, with a notebook
in his hand, who rushed forward and wrung my
companion’s hand with effusion. “It is indeed kind
of you to come,” he said, “I have had everything
left untouched.”
“Except that!” my friend answered, pointing at
the pathway. “If a herd of buffaloes had passed
16
A Study In Scarlet
in a heavy broadcloth frock coat and waistcoat,
with light-coloured trousers, and immaculate collar
and cuffs. A top hat, well brushed and trim, was
placed upon the floor beside him. His hands were
clenched and his arms thrown abroad, while his
lower limbs were interlocked as though his death
struggle had been a grievous one. On his rigid
face there stood an expression of horror, and as it
seemed to me, of hatred, such as I have never seen
upon human features. This malignant and terrible
contortion, combined with the low forehead, blunt
nose, and prognathous jaw gave the dead man a
singularly simious and ape-like appearance, which
was increased by his writhing, unnatural posture.
I have seen death in many forms, but never has it
appeared to me in a more fearsome aspect than in
that dark grimy apartment, which looked out upon
one of the main arteries of suburban London.
“You can take him to the mortuary now,” he
said. “There is nothing more to be learned.”
Gregson had a stretcher and four men at hand.
At his call they entered the room, and the stranger
was lifted and carried out. As they raised him,
a ring tinkled down and rolled across the floor.
Lestrade grabbed it up and stared at it with mystified eyes.
“There’s been a woman here,” he cried. “It’s a
woman’s wedding-ring.”
He held it out, as he spoke, upon the palm of
his hand. We all gathered round him and gazed at
it. There could be no doubt that that circlet of plain
gold had once adorned the finger of a bride.
“This complicates matters,” said Gregson.
“Heaven knows, they were complicated enough
before.”
“You’re sure it doesn’t simplify them?” observed Holmes. “There’s nothing to be learned
by staring at it. What did you find in his pockets?”
“We have it all here,” said Gregson, pointing
to a litter of objects upon one of the bottom steps
of the stairs. “A gold watch, No. 97163, by Barraud, of London. Gold Albert chain, very heavy
and solid. Gold ring, with masonic device. Gold
pin—bull-dog’s head, with rubies as eyes. Russian
leather card-case, with cards of Enoch J. Drebber
of Cleveland, corresponding with the E. J. D. upon
the linen. No purse, but loose money to the extent
of seven pounds thirteen. Pocket edition of Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron,’ with name of Joseph Stangerson
upon the fly-leaf. Two letters—one addressed to E.
J. Drebber and one to Joseph Stangerson.”
“At what address?”
“American Exchange, Strand—to be left till
called for. They are both from the Guion Steamship
Company, and refer to the sailing of their boats
from Liverpool. It is clear that this unfortunate
man was about to return to New York.”
“Have you made any inquiries as to this man,
Stangerson?”
“I did it at once, sir,” said Gregson. “I have had
advertisements sent to all the newspapers, and one
of my men has gone to the American Exchange,
but he has not returned yet.”
“Have you sent to Cleveland?”
“We telegraphed this morning.”
“How did you word your inquiries?”
“We simply detailed the circumstances, and said
that we should be glad of any information which
could help us.”
“You did not ask for particulars on any point
which appeared to you to be crucial?”
Lestrade, lean and ferret-like as ever, was standing by the doorway, and greeted my companion
and myself.
“This case will make a stir, sir,” he remarked. “It
beats anything I have seen, and I am no chicken.”
“There is no clue?” said Gregson.
“None at all,” chimed in Lestrade.
Sherlock Holmes approached the body, and,
kneeling down, examined it intently. “You are sure
that there is no wound?” he asked, pointing to numerous gouts and splashes of blood which lay all
round.
“Positive!” cried both detectives.
“Then, of course, this blood belongs to a second
individual—presumably the murderer, if murder
has been committed. It reminds me of the circumstances attendant on the death of Van Jansen, in
Utrecht, in the year ’34. Do you remember the case,
Gregson?”
“No, sir.”
“Read it up—you really should. There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.”
As he spoke, his nimble fingers were flying
here, there, and everywhere, feeling, pressing, unbuttoning, examining, while his eyes wore the same
far-away expression which I have already remarked
upon. So swiftly was the examination made, that
one would hardly have guessed the minuteness
with which it was conducted. Finally, he sniffed
the dead man’s lips, and then glanced at the soles
of his patent leather boots.
“He has not been moved at all?” he asked.
“No more than was necessary for the purposes
of our examination.”
17
A Study In Scarlet
“I asked about Stangerson.”
Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You may be very smart and
clever, but the old hound is the best, when all is
said and done.”
“Nothing else? Is there no circumstance on
which this whole case appears to hinge? Will you
not telegraph again?”
“I really beg your pardon!” said my companion,
who had ruffled the little man’s temper by bursting
into an explosion of laughter. “You certainly have
the credit of being the first of us to find this out,
and, as you say, it bears every mark of having been
written by the other participant in last night’s mystery. I have not had time to examine this room yet,
but with your permission I shall do so now.”
“I have said all I have to say,” said Gregson, in
an offended voice.
Sherlock Holmes chuckled to himself, and appeared to be about to make some remark, when
Lestrade, who had been in the front room while
we were holding this conversation in the hall, reappeared upon the scene, rubbing his hands in a
pompous and self-satisfied manner.
As he spoke, he whipped a tape measure and a
large round magnifying glass from his pocket. With
these two implements he trotted noiselessly about
the room, sometimes stopping, occasionally kneeling, and once lying flat upon his face. So engrossed
was he with his occupation that he appeared to
have forgotten our presence, for he chattered away
to himself under his breath the whole time, keeping
up a running fire of exclamations, groans, whistles,
and little cries suggestive of encouragement and
of hope. As I watched him I was irresistibly reminded of a pure-blooded well-trained foxhound
as it dashes backwards and forwards through the
covert, whining in its eagerness, until it comes
across the lost scent. For twenty minutes or more he
continued his researches, measuring with the most
exact care the distance between marks which were
entirely invisible to me, and occasionally applying
his tape to the walls in an equally incomprehensible
manner. In one place he gathered up very carefully
a little pile of grey dust from the floor, and packed
it away in an envelope. Finally, he examined with
his glass the word upon the wall, going over every
letter of it with the most minute exactness. This
done, he appeared to be satisfied, for he replaced
his tape and his glass in his pocket.
“Mr. Gregson,” he said, “I have just made a discovery of the highest importance, and one which
would have been overlooked had I not made a careful examination of the walls.”
The little man’s eyes sparkled as he spoke, and
he was evidently in a state of suppressed exultation
at having scored a point against his colleague.
“Come here,” he said, bustling back into the
room, the atmosphere of which felt clearer since
the removal of its ghastly inmate. “Now, stand
there!”
He struck a match on his boot and held it up
against the wall.
“Look at that!” he said, triumphantly.
I have remarked that the paper had fallen away
in parts. In this particular corner of the room a
large piece had peeled off, leaving a yellow square
of coarse plastering. Across this bare space there
was scrawled in blood-red letters a single word—
RACHE.
“What do you think of that?” cried the detective, with the air of a showman exhibiting his show.
“This was overlooked because it was in the darkest
corner of the room, and no one thought of looking
there. The murderer has written it with his or her
own blood. See this smear where it has trickled
down the wall! That disposes of the idea of suicide
anyhow. Why was that corner chosen to write it
on? I will tell you. See that candle on the mantelpiece. It was lit at the time, and if it was lit this
corner would be the brightest instead of the darkest
portion of the wall.”
“They say that genius is an infinite capacity for
taking pains,” he remarked with a smile. “It’s a
very bad definition, but it does apply to detective
work.”
Gregson and Lestrade had watched the manœuvres of their amateur companion with considerable
curiosity and some contempt. They evidently failed
to appreciate the fact, which I had begun to realize, that Sherlock Holmes’ smallest actions were all
directed towards some definite and practical end.
“And what does it mean now that you have
found it?” asked Gregson in a depreciatory voice.
“What do you think of it, sir?” they both asked.
“Mean? Why, it means that the writer was going
to put the female name Rachel, but was disturbed
before he or she had time to finish. You mark my
words, when this case comes to be cleared up you
will find that a woman named Rachel has something to do with it. It’s all very well for you to laugh,
“It would be robbing you of the credit of the
case if I was to presume to help you,” remarked my
friend. “You are doing so well now that it would be
a pity for anyone to interfere.” There was a world of
sarcasm in his voice as he spoke. “If you will let me
know how your investigations go,” he continued,
18
A Study In Scarlet
“I shall be happy to give you any help I can. In the
meantime I should like to speak to the constable
who found the body. Can you give me his name
and address?”
his victim in a four-wheeled cab, which was drawn
by a horse with three old shoes and one new one
on his off fore leg. In all probability the murderer
had a florid face, and the finger-nails of his right
hand were remarkably long. These are only a few
indications, but they may assist you.”
Lestrade glanced at his note-book. “John
Rance,” he said. “He is off duty now. You will
find him at 46, Audley Court, Kennington Park
Gate.”
Lestrade and Gregson glanced at each other
with an incredulous smile.
“If this man was murdered, how was it done?”
asked the former.
Holmes took a note of the address.
“Come along, Doctor,” he said; “we shall go
and look him up. I’ll tell you one thing which may
help you in the case,” he continued, turning to the
two detectives. “There has been murder done, and
the murderer was a man. He was more than six
feet high, was in the prime of life, had small feet
for his height, wore coarse, square-toed boots and
smoked a Trichinopoly cigar. He came here with
“Poison,” said Sherlock Holmes curtly, and
strode off. “One other thing, Lestrade,” he added,
turning round at the door: “ ‘Rache,’ is the German
for ‘revenge;’ so don’t lose your time looking for
Miss Rachel.”
With which Parthian shot he walked away, leaving the two rivals open-mouthed behind him.
CHAPTER IV.
What John Rance Had To Tell
It was one o’clock when we left No. 3, Lauriston Gardens. Sherlock Holmes led me to the
nearest telegraph office, whence he dispatched a
long telegram. He then hailed a cab, and ordered
the driver to take us to the address given us by
Lestrade.
Gregson’s word for that—it follows that it must
have been there during the night, and, therefore,
that it brought those two individuals to the house.”
“There is nothing like first hand evidence,” he
remarked; “as a matter of fact, my mind is entirely
made up upon the case, but still we may as well
learn all that is to be learned.”
“Why, the height of a man, in nine cases out
of ten, can be told from the length of his stride. It
is a simple calculation enough, though there is no
use my boring you with figures. I had this fellow’s
stride both on the clay outside and on the dust
within. Then I had a way of checking my calculation. When a man writes on a wall, his instinct
leads him to write about the level of his own eyes.
Now that writing was just over six feet from the
ground. It was child’s play.”
“That seems simple enough,” said I; “but how
about the other man’s height?”
“You amaze me, Holmes,” said I. “Surely you
are not as sure as you pretend to be of all those
particulars which you gave.”
“There’s no room for a mistake,” he answered.
“The very first thing which I observed on arriving
there was that a cab had made two ruts with its
wheels close to the curb. Now, up to last night, we
have had no rain for a week, so that those wheels
which left such a deep impression must have been
there during the night. There were the marks of
the horse’s hoofs, too, the outline of one of which
was far more clearly cut than that of the other
three, showing that that was a new shoe. Since
the cab was there after the rain began, and was
not there at any time during the morning—I have
“And his age?” I asked.
“Well, if a man can stride four and a-half feet
without the smallest effort, he can’t be quite in the
sere and yellow. That was the breadth of a puddle
on the garden walk which he had evidently walked
across. Patent-leather boots had gone round, and
Square-toes had hopped over. There is no mystery
about it at all. I am simply applying to ordinary
19
A Study In Scarlet
life a few of those precepts of observation and deduction which I advocated in that article. Is there
anything else that puzzles you?”
you too much of my method of working, you will
come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary
individual after all.”
“The finger nails and the Trichinopoly,” I suggested.
“I shall never do that,” I answered; “you have
brought detection as near an exact science as it ever
will be brought in this world.”
“The writing on the wall was done with a man’s
forefinger dipped in blood. My glass allowed me
to observe that the plaster was slightly scratched
in doing it, which would not have been the case if
the man’s nail had been trimmed. I gathered up
some scattered ash from the floor. It was dark in
colour and flakey—such an ash as is only made by
a Trichinopoly. I have made a special study of cigar
ashes—in fact, I have written a monograph upon
the subject. I flatter myself that I can distinguish
at a glance the ash of any known brand, either of
cigar or of tobacco. It is just in such details that
the skilled detective differs from the Gregson and
Lestrade type.”
My companion flushed up with pleasure at my
words, and the earnest way in which I uttered them.
I had already observed that he was as sensitive to
flattery on the score of his art as any girl could be
of her beauty.
“I’ll tell you one other thing,” he said. “Patentleathers and Square-toes came in the same cab,
and they walked down the pathway together as
friendly as possible—arm-in-arm, in all probability.
When they got inside they walked up and down the
room—or rather, Patent-leathers stood still while
Square-toes walked up and down. I could read
all that in the dust; and I could read that as he
walked he grew more and more excited. That is
shown by the increased length of his strides. He
was talking all the while, and working himself up,
no doubt, into a fury. Then the tragedy occurred.
I’ve told you all I know myself now, for the rest
is mere surmise and conjecture. We have a good
working basis, however, on which to start. We must
hurry up, for I want to go to Halle’s concert to hear
Norman Neruda this afternoon.”
“And the florid face?” I asked.
“Ah, that was a more daring shot, though I have
no doubt that I was right. You must not ask me
that at the present state of the affair.”
I passed my hand over my brow. “My head is
in a whirl,” I remarked; “the more one thinks of
it the more mysterious it grows. How came these
two men—if there were two men—into an empty
house? What has become of the cabman who drove
them? How could one man compel another to take
poison? Where did the blood come from? What
was the object of the murderer, since robbery had
no part in it? How came the woman’s ring there?
Above all, why should the second man write up the
German word RACHE before decamping? I confess
that I cannot see any possible way of reconciling all
these facts.”
This conversation had occurred while our cab
had been threading its way through a long succession of dingy streets and dreary by-ways. In the
dingiest and dreariest of them our driver suddenly
came to a stand. “That’s Audley Court in there,”
he said, pointing to a narrow slit in the line of
dead-coloured brick. “You’ll find me here when
you come back.”
Audley Court was not an attractive locality. The
narrow passage led us into a quadrangle paved
with flags and lined by sordid dwellings. We
picked our way among groups of dirty children,
and through lines of discoloured linen, until we
came to Number 46, the door of which was decorated with a small slip of brass on which the name
Rance was engraved. On enquiry we found that
the constable was in bed, and we were shown into
a little front parlour to await his coming.
My companion smiled approvingly.
“You sum up the difficulties of the situation
succinctly and well,” he said. “There is much that
is still obscure, though I have quite made up my
mind on the main facts. As to poor Lestrade’s discovery it was simply a blind intended to put the
police upon a wrong track, by suggesting Socialism
and secret societies. It was not done by a German.
The A, if you noticed, was printed somewhat after
the German fashion. Now, a real German invariably prints in the Latin character, so that we may
safely say that this was not written by one, but by
a clumsy imitator who overdid his part. It was
simply a ruse to divert inquiry into a wrong channel. I’m not going to tell you much more of the
case, Doctor. You know a conjuror gets no credit
when once he has explained his trick, and if I show
He appeared presently, looking a little irritable
at being disturbed in his slumbers. “I made my
report at the office,” he said.
Holmes took a half-sovereign from his pocket
and played with it pensively. “We thought that we
should like to hear it all from your own lips,” he
said.
20
A Study In Scarlet
“I shall be most happy to tell you anything I
can,” the constable answered with his eyes upon
the little golden disk.
There was a candle flickerin’ on the mantelpiece—a
red wax one—and by its light I saw—”
“Yes, I know all that you saw. You walked round
the room several times, and you knelt down by the
body, and then you walked through and tried the
kitchen door, and then—”
John Rance sprang to his feet with a frightened
face and suspicion in his eyes. “Where was you hid
to see all that?” he cried. “It seems to me that you
knows a deal more than you should.”
Holmes laughed and threw his card across the
table to the constable. “Don’t get arresting me for
the murder,” he said. “I am one of the hounds
and not the wolf; Mr. Gregson or Mr. Lestrade will
answer for that. Go on, though. What did you do
next?”
Rance resumed his seat, without however losing
his mystified expression. “I went back to the gate
and sounded my whistle. That brought Murcher
and two more to the spot.”
“Was the street empty then?”
“Well, it was, as far as anybody that could be of
any good goes.”
“What do you mean?”
The constable’s features broadened into a grin.
“I’ve seen many a drunk chap in my time,” he said,
“but never anyone so cryin’ drunk as that cove. He
was at the gate when I came out, a-leanin’ up ag’in
the railings, and a-singin’ at the pitch o’ his lungs
about Columbine’s New-fangled Banner, or some
such stuff. He couldn’t stand, far less help.”
“What sort of a man was he?” asked Sherlock
Holmes.
John Rance appeared to be somewhat irritated
at this digression. “He was an uncommon drunk
sort o’ man,” he said. “He’d ha’ found hisself in
the station if we hadn’t been so took up.”
“His face—his dress—didn’t you notice them?”
Holmes broke in impatiently.
“I should think I did notice them, seeing that I
had to prop him up—me and Murcher between us.
He was a long chap, with a red face, the lower part
muffled round—”
“That will do,” cried Holmes. “What became of
him?”
“We’d enough to do without lookin’ after him,”
the policeman said, in an aggrieved voice. “I’ll
wager he found his way home all right.”
“How was he dressed?”
“A brown overcoat.”
“Had he a whip in his hand?”
“A whip—no.”
“Just let us hear it all in your own way as it
occurred.”
Rance sat down on the horsehair sofa, and knitted his brows as though determined not to omit
anything in his narrative.
“I’ll tell it ye from the beginning,” he said.
“My time is from ten at night to six in the morning. At eleven there was a fight at the ‘White
Hart’; but bar that all was quiet enough on the
beat. At one o’clock it began to rain, and I met
Harry Murcher—him who has the Holland Grove
beat—and we stood together at the corner of Henrietta Street a-talkin’. Presently—maybe about two or
a little after—I thought I would take a look round
and see that all was right down the Brixton Road.
It was precious dirty and lonely. Not a soul did I
meet all the way down, though a cab or two went
past me. I was a strollin’ down, thinkin’ between
ourselves how uncommon handy a four of gin hot
would be, when suddenly the glint of a light caught
my eye in the window of that same house. Now, I
knew that them two houses in Lauriston Gardens
was empty on account of him that owns them who
won’t have the drains seed to, though the very last
tenant what lived in one of them died o’ typhoid
fever. I was knocked all in a heap therefore at
seeing a light in the window, and I suspected as
something was wrong. When I got to the door—”
“You stopped, and then walked back to the garden gate,” my companion interrupted. “What did
you do that for?”
Rance gave a violent jump, and stared at Sherlock Holmes with the utmost amazement upon his
features.
“Why, that’s true, sir,” he said; “though how
you come to know it, Heaven only knows. Ye see,
when I got up to the door it was so still and so
lonesome, that I thought I’d be none the worse for
some one with me. I ain’t afeared of anything on
this side o’ the grave; but I thought that maybe it
was him that died o’ the typhoid inspecting the
drains what killed him. The thought gave me a
kind o’ turn, and I walked back to the gate to see if
I could see Murcher’s lantern, but there wasn’t no
sign of him nor of anyone else.”
“There was no one in the street?”
“Not a livin’ soul, sir, nor as much as a dog.
Then I pulled myself together and went back and
pushed the door open. All was quiet inside, so I
went into the room where the light was a-burnin’.
21
A Study In Scarlet
“He must have left it behind,” muttered my
companion. “You didn’t happen to see or hear a
cab after that?”
“I am rather in the dark still. It is true that the
description of this man tallies with your idea of the
second party in this mystery. But why should he
come back to the house after leaving it? That is not
the way of criminals.”
“No.”
“There’s a half-sovereign for you,” my companion said, standing up and taking his hat. “I am
afraid, Rance, that you will never rise in the force.
That head of yours should be for use as well as
ornament. You might have gained your sergeant’s
stripes last night. The man whom you held in your
hands is the man who holds the clue of this mystery, and whom we are seeking. There is no use of
arguing about it now; I tell you that it is so. Come
along, Doctor.”
“The ring, man, the ring: that was what he came
back for. If we have no other way of catching him,
we can always bait our line with the ring. I shall
have him, Doctor—I’ll lay you two to one that I have
him. I must thank you for it all. I might not have
gone but for you, and so have missed the finest
study I ever came across: a study in scarlet, eh?
Why shouldn’t we use a little art jargon. There’s
the scarlet thread of murder running through the
colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel
it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it. And
now for lunch, and then for Norman Neruda. Her
attack and her bowing are splendid. What’s that
little thing of Chopin’s she plays so magnificently:
Tra-la-la-lira-lira-lay.”
We started off for the cab together, leaving our
informant incredulous, but obviously uncomfortable.
“The blundering fool,” Holmes said, bitterly, as
we drove back to our lodgings. “Just to think of his
having such an incomparable bit of good luck, and
not taking advantage of it.”
Leaning back in the cab, this amateur bloodhound carolled away like a lark while I meditated
upon the many-sidedness of the human mind.
CHAPTER V.
Our Advertisement Brings A Visitor
Our morning’s exertions had been too much
for my weak health, and I was tired out in the afternoon. After Holmes’ departure for the concert, I
lay down upon the sofa and endeavoured to get a
couple of hours’ sleep. It was a useless attempt. My
mind had been too much excited by all that had
occurred, and the strangest fancies and surmises
crowded into it. Every time that I closed my eyes
I saw before me the distorted baboon-like countenance of the murdered man. So sinister was the
impression which that face had produced upon me
that I found it difficult to feel anything but gratitude for him who had removed its owner from the
world. If ever human features bespoke vice of the
most malignant type, they were certainly those of
Enoch J. Drebber, of Cleveland. Still I recognized
that justice must be done, and that the depravity of
the victim was no condonement in the eyes of the
law.
did my companion’s hypothesis, that the man had
been poisoned, appear. I remembered how he had
sniffed his lips, and had no doubt that he had detected something which had given rise to the idea.
Then, again, if not poison, what had caused the
man’s death, since there was neither wound nor
marks of strangulation? But, on the other hand,
whose blood was that which lay so thickly upon
the floor? There were no signs of a struggle, nor
had the victim any weapon with which he might
have wounded an antagonist. As long as all these
questions were unsolved, I felt that sleep would be
no easy matter, either for Holmes or myself. His
quiet self-confident manner convinced me that he
had already formed a theory which explained all
the facts, though what it was I could not for an
instant conjecture.
He was very late in returning—so late, that I
knew that the concert could not have detained him
all the time. Dinner was on the table before he
The more I thought of it the more extraordinary
22
A Study In Scarlet
appeared.
“Not at all. If my view of the case is correct,
and I have every reason to believe that it is, this
man would rather risk anything than lose the ring.
According to my notion he dropped it while stooping over Drebber’s body, and did not miss it at the
time. After leaving the house he discovered his loss
and hurried back, but found the police already in
possession, owing to his own folly in leaving the
candle burning. He had to pretend to be drunk
in order to allay the suspicions which might have
been aroused by his appearance at the gate. Now
put yourself in that man’s place. On thinking the
matter over, it must have occurred to him that it
was possible that he had lost the ring in the road
after leaving the house. What would he do, then?
He would eagerly look out for the evening papers
in the hope of seeing it among the articles found.
His eye, of course, would light upon this. He would
be overjoyed. Why should he fear a trap? There
would be no reason in his eyes why the finding
of the ring should be connected with the murder.
He would come. He will come. You shall see him
within an hour.”
“And then?” I asked.
“Oh, you can leave me to deal with him then.
Have you any arms?”
“I have my old service revolver and a few cartridges.”
“You had better clean it and load it. He will
be a desperate man, and though I shall take him
unawares, it is as well to be ready for anything.”
I went to my bedroom and followed his advice.
When I returned with the pistol the table had been
cleared, and Holmes was engaged in his favourite
occupation of scraping upon his violin.
“The plot thickens,” he said, as I entered; “I
have just had an answer to my American telegram.
My view of the case is the correct one.”
“And that is?” I asked eagerly.
“My fiddle would be the better for new strings,”
he remarked. “Put your pistol in your pocket.
When the fellow comes speak to him in an ordinary
way. Leave the rest to me. Don’t frighten him by
looking at him too hard.”
“It is eight o’clock now,” I said, glancing at my
watch.
“Yes. He will probably be here in a few minutes. Open the door slightly. That will do. Now
put the key on the inside. Thank you! This is a
queer old book I picked up at a stall yesterday—De
Jure inter Gentes—published in Latin at Liege in the
Lowlands, in 1642. Charles’ head was still firm on
his shoulders when this little brown-backed volume
was struck off.”
“It was magnificent,” he said, as he took his
seat. “Do you remember what Darwin says about
music? He claims that the power of producing and
appreciating it existed among the human race long
before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps
that is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There
are vague memories in our souls of those misty
centuries when the world was in its childhood.”
“That’s rather a broad idea,” I remarked.
“One’s ideas must be as broad as Nature if they
are to interpret Nature,” he answered. “What’s the
matter? You’re not looking quite yourself. This
Brixton Road affair has upset you.”
“To tell the truth, it has,” I said. “I ought to
be more case-hardened after my Afghan experiences. I saw my own comrades hacked to pieces at
Maiwand without losing my nerve.”
“I can understand. There is a mystery about
this which stimulates the imagination; where there
is no imagination there is no horror. Have you seen
the evening paper?”
“No.”
“It gives a fairly good account of the affair. It
does not mention the fact that when the man was
raised up, a woman’s wedding ring fell upon the
floor. It is just as well it does not.”
“Why?”
“Look at this advertisement,” he answered. “I
had one sent to every paper this morning immediately after the affair.”
He threw the paper across to me and I glanced
at the place indicated. It was the first announcement in the “Found” column. “In Brixton Road,
this morning,” it ran, “a plain gold wedding ring,
found in the roadway between the ‘White Hart’ Tavern and Holland Grove. Apply Dr. Watson, 221b,
Baker Street, between eight and nine this evening.”
“Excuse my using your name,” he said. “If I
used my own some of these dunderheads would
recognize it, and want to meddle in the affair.”
“That is all right,” I answered. “But supposing
anyone applies, I have no ring.”
“Oh yes, you have,” said he, handing me one.
“This will do very well. It is almost a facsimile.”
“And who do you expect will answer this advertisement.”
“Why, the man in the brown coat—our florid
friend with the square toes. If he does not come
himself he will send an accomplice.”
“Would he not consider it as too dangerous?”
23
A Study In Scarlet
“Who is the printer?”
“The Brixton Road does not lie between any
circus and Houndsditch,” said Sherlock Holmes
sharply.
“Philippe de Croy, whoever he may have been.
On the fly-leaf, in very faded ink, is written ‘Ex libris Guliolmi Whyte.’ I wonder who William Whyte
was. Some pragmatical seventeenth century lawyer,
I suppose. His writing has a legal twist about it.
Here comes our man, I think.”
The old woman faced round and looked keenly
at him from her little red-rimmed eyes. “The gentleman asked me for my address,” she said. “Sally
lives in lodgings at 3, Mayfield Place, Peckham.”
“And your name is—?”
As he spoke there was a sharp ring at the bell.
Sherlock Holmes rose softly and moved his chair
in the direction of the door. We heard the servant
pass along the hall, and the sharp click of the latch
as she opened it.
“My name is Sawyer—her’s is Dennis, which
Tom Dennis married her—and a smart, clean
lad, too, as long as he’s at sea, and no steward
in the company more thought of; but when on
shore, what with the women and what with liquor
shops—”
“Does Dr. Watson live here?” asked a clear but
rather harsh voice. We could not hear the servant’s
reply, but the door closed, and some one began to
ascend the stairs. The footfall was an uncertain and
shuffling one. A look of surprise passed over the
face of my companion as he listened to it. It came
slowly along the passage, and there was a feeble
tap at the door.
“Here is your ring, Mrs. Sawyer,” I interrupted,
in obedience to a sign from my companion; “it
clearly belongs to your daughter, and I am glad to
be able to restore it to the rightful owner.”
With many mumbled blessings and protestations of gratitude the old crone packed it away in
her pocket, and shuffled off down the stairs. Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet the moment that she
was gone and rushed into his room. He returned in
a few seconds enveloped in an ulster and a cravat.
“I’ll follow her,” he said, hurriedly; “she must be
an accomplice, and will lead me to him. Wait up
for me.” The hall door had hardly slammed behind
our visitor before Holmes had descended the stair.
Looking through the window I could see her walking feebly along the other side, while her pursuer
dogged her some little distance behind. “Either his
whole theory is incorrect,” I thought to myself, “or
else he will be led now to the heart of the mystery.”
There was no need for him to ask me to wait up
for him, for I felt that sleep was impossible until I
heard the result of his adventure.
“Come in,” I cried.
At my summons, instead of the man of violence whom we expected, a very old and wrinkled
woman hobbled into the apartment. She appeared
to be dazzled by the sudden blaze of light, and after
dropping a curtsey, she stood blinking at us with
her bleared eyes and fumbling in her pocket with
nervous, shaky fingers. I glanced at my companion, and his face had assumed such a disconsolate
expression that it was all I could do to keep my
countenance.
The old crone drew out an evening paper, and
pointed at our advertisement. “It’s this as has
brought me, good gentlemen,” she said, dropping
another curtsey; “a gold wedding ring in the Brixton Road. It belongs to my girl Sally, as was married
only this time twelvemonth, which her husband is
steward aboard a Union boat, and what he’d say
if he comes ’ome and found her without her ring
is more than I can think, he being short enough at
the best o’ times, but more especially when he has
the drink. If it please you, she went to the circus
last night along with—”
It was close upon nine when he set out. I had no
idea how long he might be, but I sat stolidly puffing
at my pipe and skipping over the pages of Henri
Murger’s Vie de Bohème. Ten o’clock passed, and I
heard the footsteps of the maid as they pattered off
to bed. Eleven, and the more stately tread of the
landlady passed my door, bound for the same destination. It was close upon twelve before I heard the
sharp sound of his latch-key. The instant he entered
I saw by his face that he had not been successful.
Amusement and chagrin seemed to be struggling
for the mastery, until the former suddenly carried
the day, and he burst into a hearty laugh.
“Is that her ring?” I asked.
“The Lord be thanked!” cried the old woman;
“Sally will be a glad woman this night. That’s the
ring.”
“And what may your address be?” I inquired,
taking up a pencil.
“I wouldn’t have the Scotland Yarders know it
for the world,” he cried, dropping into his chair; “I
have chaffed them so much that they would never
have let me hear the end of it. I can afford to laugh,
“13, Duncan Street, Houndsditch. A weary way
from here.”
24
A Study In Scarlet
because I know that I will be even with them in the
long run.”
his fare. On inquiring at Number 13 we found that
the house belonged to a respectable paperhanger,
named Keswick, and that no one of the name either
of Sawyer or Dennis had ever been heard of there.”
“What is it then?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t mind telling a story against myself.
That creature had gone a little way when she began to limp and show every sign of being foot-sore.
Presently she came to a halt, and hailed a fourwheeler which was passing. I managed to be close
to her so as to hear the address, but I need not have
been so anxious, for she sang it out loud enough
to be heard at the other side of the street, ‘Drive to
13, Duncan Street, Houndsditch,’ she cried. This
begins to look genuine, I thought, and having seen
her safely inside, I perched myself behind. That’s
an art which every detective should be an expert
at. Well, away we rattled, and never drew rein until
we reached the street in question. I hopped off
before we came to the door, and strolled down the
street in an easy, lounging way. I saw the cab pull
up. The driver jumped down, and I saw him open
the door and stand expectantly. Nothing came out
though. When I reached him he was groping about
frantically in the empty cab, and giving vent to
the finest assorted collection of oaths that ever I
listened to. There was no sign or trace of his passenger, and I fear it will be some time before he gets
“You don’t mean to say,” I cried, in amazement,
“that that tottering, feeble old woman was able to
get out of the cab while it was in motion, without
either you or the driver seeing her?”
“Old woman be damned!” said Sherlock
Holmes, sharply. “We were the old women to be
so taken in. It must have been a young man, and
an active one, too, besides being an incomparable
actor. The get-up was inimitable. He saw that he
was followed, no doubt, and used this means of
giving me the slip. It shows that the man we are
after is not as lonely as I imagined he was, but has
friends who are ready to risk something for him.
Now, Doctor, you are looking done-up. Take my
advice and turn in.”
I was certainly feeling very weary, so I obeyed
his injunction. I left Holmes seated in front of the
smouldering fire, and long into the watches of the
night I heard the low, melancholy wailings of his
violin, and knew that he was still pondering over
the strange problem which he had set himself to
unravel.
CHAPTER VI.
Tobias Gregson Shows What He Can Do
The papers next day were full of the “Brixton
Mystery,” as they termed it. Each had a long account of the affair, and some had leaders upon
it in addition. There was some information in
them which was new to me. I still retain in my
scrap-book numerous clippings and extracts bearing upon the case. Here is a condensation of a few
of them:—
alluding airily to the Vehmgericht, aqua tofana,
Carbonari, the Marchioness de Brinvilliers, the Darwinian theory, the principles of Malthus, and the
Ratcliff Highway murders, the article concluded
by admonishing the Government and advocating a
closer watch over foreigners in England.
The Standard commented upon the fact that lawless outrages of the sort usually occurred under a
Liberal Administration. They arose from the unsettling of the minds of the masses, and the consequent weakening of all authority. The deceased
was an American gentleman who had been residing for some weeks in the Metropolis. He had
stayed at the boarding-house of Madame Charpentier, in Torquay Terrace, Camberwell. He was
accompanied in his travels by his private secretary,
Mr. Joseph Stangerson. The two bade adieu to
The Daily Telegraph remarked that in the history
of crime there had seldom been a tragedy which
presented stranger features. The German name of
the victim, the absence of all other motive, and the
sinister inscription on the wall, all pointed to its perpetration by political refugees and revolutionists.
The Socialists had many branches in America, and
the deceased had, no doubt, infringed their unwritten laws, and been tracked down by them. After
25
A Study In Scarlet
their landlady upon Tuesday, the 4th inst., and departed to Euston Station with the avowed intention
of catching the Liverpool express. They were afterwards seen together upon the platform. Nothing
more is known of them until Mr. Drebber’s body
was, as recorded, discovered in an empty house in
the Brixton Road, many miles from Euston. How
he came there, or how he met his fate, are questions which are still involved in mystery. Nothing
is known of the whereabouts of Stangerson. We are
glad to learn that Mr. Lestrade and Mr. Gregson, of
Scotland Yard, are both engaged upon the case, and
it is confidently anticipated that these well-known
officers will speedily throw light upon the matter.
many disreputable statuettes. “In future you shall
send up Wiggins alone to report, and the rest of
you must wait in the street. Have you found it,
Wiggins?”
“No, sir, we hain’t,” said one of the youths.
“I hardly expected you would. You must keep
on until you do. Here are your wages.” He handed
each of them a shilling. “Now, off you go, and
come back with a better report next time.”
He waved his hand, and they scampered away
downstairs like so many rats, and we heard their
shrill voices next moment in the street.
“There’s more work to be got out of one of those
little beggars than out of a dozen of the force,”
Holmes remarked. “The mere sight of an officiallooking person seals men’s lips. These youngsters,
however, go everywhere and hear everything. They
are as sharp as needles, too; all they want is organisation.”
“Is it on this Brixton case that you are employing them?” I asked.
“Yes; there is a point which I wish to ascertain.
It is merely a matter of time. Hullo! we are going
to hear some news now with a vengeance! Here
is Gregson coming down the road with beatitude
written upon every feature of his face. Bound for
us, I know. Yes, he is stopping. There he is!”
There was a violent peal at the bell, and in a
few seconds the fair-haired detective came up the
stairs, three steps at a time, and burst into our
sitting-room.
“My dear fellow,” he cried, wringing Holmes’
unresponsive hand, “congratulate me! I have made
the whole thing as clear as day.”
A shade of anxiety seemed to me to cross my
companion’s expressive face.
“Do you mean that you are on the right track?”
he asked.
“The right track! Why, sir, we have the man
under lock and key.”
“And his name is?”
“Arthur Charpentier, sub-lieutenant in Her
Majesty’s navy,” cried Gregson, pompously, rubbing his fat hands and inflating his chest.
Sherlock Holmes gave a sigh of relief, and relaxed into a smile.
“Take a seat, and try one of these cigars,” he
said. “We are anxious to know how you managed
it. Will you have some whiskey and water?”
“I don’t mind if I do,” the detective answered.
“The tremendous exertions which I have gone
through during the last day or two have worn me
out. Not so much bodily exertion, you understand,
The Daily News observed that there was no
doubt as to the crime being a political one. The
despotism and hatred of Liberalism which animated the Continental Governments had had the
effect of driving to our shores a number of men who
might have made excellent citizens were they not
soured by the recollection of all that they had undergone. Among these men there was a stringent
code of honour, any infringement of which was
punished by death. Every effort should be made
to find the secretary, Stangerson, and to ascertain
some particulars of the habits of the deceased. A
great step had been gained by the discovery of the
address of the house at which he had boarded—a
result which was entirely due to the acuteness and
energy of Mr. Gregson of Scotland Yard.
Sherlock Holmes and I read these notices over
together at breakfast, and they appeared to afford
him considerable amusement.
“I told you that, whatever happened, Lestrade
and Gregson would be sure to score.”
“That depends on how it turns out.”
“Oh, bless you, it doesn’t matter in the least.
If the man is caught, it will be on account of their
exertions; if he escapes, it will be in spite of their
exertions. It’s heads I win and tails you lose. Whatever they do, they will have followers. ‘Un sot trouve
toujours un plus sot qui l’admire.’ ”
“What on earth is this?” I cried, for at this moment there came the pattering of many steps in the
hall and on the stairs, accompanied by audible expressions of disgust upon the part of our landlady.
“It’s the Baker Street division of the detective
police force,” said my companion, gravely; and as
he spoke there rushed into the room half a dozen
of the dirtiest and most ragged street Arabs that
ever I clapped eyes on.
“’Tention!” cried Holmes, in a sharp tone, and
the six dirty little scoundrels stood in a line like so
26
A Study In Scarlet
as the strain upon the mind. You will appreciate
that, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, for we are both brainworkers.”
red about the eyes and her lips trembled as I spoke
to her. That didn’t escape my notice. I began to
smell a rat. You know the feeling, Mr. Sherlock
Holmes, when you come upon the right scent—a
kind of thrill in your nerves. ‘Have you heard of the
mysterious death of your late boarder Mr. Enoch J.
Drebber, of Cleveland?’ I asked.
“The mother nodded. She didn’t seem able to
get out a word. The daughter burst into tears. I felt
more than ever that these people knew something
of the matter.
“ ‘At what o’clock did Mr. Drebber leave your
house for the train?’ I asked.
“ ‘At eight o’clock,’ she said, gulping in her
throat to keep down her agitation. ‘His secretary, Mr. Stangerson, said that there were two
trains—one at 9.15 and one at 11. He was to catch
the first.’
“ ‘And was that the last which you saw of him?’
“A terrible change came over the woman’s face
as I asked the question. Her features turned perfectly livid. It was some seconds before she could
get out the single word ‘Yes’—and when it did
come it was in a husky unnatural tone.
“There was silence for a moment, and then the
daughter spoke in a calm clear voice.
“ ‘No good can ever come of falsehood, mother,’
she said. ‘Let us be frank with this gentleman. We
did see Mr. Drebber again.’
“ ‘God forgive you!’ cried Madame Charpentier,
throwing up her hands and sinking back in her
chair. ‘You have murdered your brother.’
“ ‘Arthur would rather that we spoke the truth,’
the girl answered firmly.
“ ‘You had best tell me all about it now,’ I said.
‘Half-confidences are worse than none. Besides, you
do not know how much we know of it.’
“ ‘On your head be it, Alice!’ cried her mother;
and then, turning to me, ‘I will tell you all, sir. Do
not imagine that my agitation on behalf of my son
arises from any fear lest he should have had a hand
in this terrible affair. He is utterly innocent of it.
My dread is, however, that in your eyes and in the
eyes of others he may appear to be compromised.
That however is surely impossible. His high character, his profession, his antecedents would all forbid
it.’
“ ‘Your best way is to make a clean breast of the
facts,’ I answered. ‘Depend upon it, if your son is
innocent he will be none the worse.’
“ ‘Perhaps, Alice, you had better leave us together,’ she said, and her daughter withdrew. ‘Now,
sir,’ she continued, ‘I had no intention of telling you
all this, but since my poor daughter has disclosed it
“You do me too much honour,” said Holmes,
gravely. “Let us hear how you arrived at this most
gratifying result.”
The detective seated himself in the arm-chair,
and puffed complacently at his cigar. Then suddenly he slapped his thigh in a paroxysm of amusement.
“The fun of it is,” he cried, “that that fool
Lestrade, who thinks himself so smart, has gone
off upon the wrong track altogether. He is after the
secretary Stangerson, who had no more to do with
the crime than the babe unborn. I have no doubt
that he has caught him by this time.”
The idea tickled Gregson so much that he
laughed until he choked.
“And how did you get your clue?”
“Ah, I’ll tell you all about it. Of course, Doctor
Watson, this is strictly between ourselves. The first
difficulty which we had to contend with was the
finding of this American’s antecedents. Some people would have waited until their advertisements
were answered, or until parties came forward and
volunteered information. That is not Tobias Gregson’s way of going to work. You remember the hat
beside the dead man?”
“Yes,” said Holmes; “by John Underwood and
Sons, 129, Camberwell Road.”
Gregson looked quite crest-fallen.
“I had no idea that you noticed that,” he said.
“Have you been there?”
“No.”
“Ha!” cried Gregson, in a relieved voice; “you
should never neglect a chance, however small it
may seem.”
“To a great mind, nothing is little,” remarked
Holmes, sententiously.
“Well, I went to Underwood, and asked him if
he had sold a hat of that size and description. He
looked over his books, and came on it at once. He
had sent the hat to a Mr. Drebber, residing at Charpentier’s Boarding Establishment, Torquay Terrace.
Thus I got at his address.”
“Smart—very smart!” murmured Sherlock
Holmes.
“I next called upon Madame Charpentier,” continued the detective. “I found her very pale and
distressed. Her daughter was in the room, too—an
uncommonly fine girl she is, too; she was looking
27
A Study In Scarlet
I have no alternative. Having once decided to speak,
I will tell you all without omitting any particular.’
live like a princess.” Poor Alice was so frightened
that she shrunk away from him, but he caught her
by the wrist and endeavoured to draw her towards
the door. I screamed, and at that moment my son
Arthur came into the room. What happened then
I do not know. I heard oaths and the confused
sounds of a scuffle. I was too terrified to raise my
head. When I did look up I saw Arthur standing in
the doorway laughing, with a stick in his hand. “I
don’t think that fine fellow will trouble us again,”
he said. “I will just go after him and see what
he does with himself.” With those words he took
his hat and started off down the street. The next
morning we heard of Mr. Drebber’s mysterious
death.’
“This statement came from Mrs. Charpentier’s
lips with many gasps and pauses. At times she
spoke so low that I could hardly catch the words. I
made shorthand notes of all that she said, however,
so that there should be no possibility of a mistake.”
“It’s quite exciting,” said Sherlock Holmes, with
a yawn. “What happened next?”
“When Mrs. Charpentier paused,” the detective
continued, “I saw that the whole case hung upon
one point. Fixing her with my eye in a way which I
always found effective with women, I asked her at
what hour her son returned.
“ ‘I do not know,’ she answered.
“ ‘Not know?’
“ ‘No; he has a latch-key, and he let himself in.’
“ ‘After you went to bed?’
“ ‘Yes.’
“ ‘When did you go to bed?’
“ ‘About eleven.’
“ ‘So your son was gone at least two hours?’
“ ‘Yes.’
“ ‘Possibly four or five?’
“ ‘Yes.’
“ ‘What was he doing during that time?’
“ ‘I do not know,’ she answered, turning white
to her very lips.
“Of course after that there was nothing more to
be done. I found out where Lieutenant Charpentier was, took two officers with me, and arrested
him. When I touched him on the shoulder and
warned him to come quietly with us, he answered
us as bold as brass, ‘I suppose you are arresting me
for being concerned in the death of that scoundrel
Drebber,’ he said. We had said nothing to him
about it, so that his alluding to it had a most suspicious aspect.”
“Very,” said Holmes.
“ ‘It is your wisest course,’ said I.
“ ‘Mr. Drebber has been with us nearly three
weeks. He and his secretary, Mr. Stangerson,
had been travelling on the Continent. I noticed
a “Copenhagen” label upon each of their trunks,
showing that that had been their last stopping place.
Stangerson was a quiet reserved man, but his employer, I am sorry to say, was far otherwise. He was
coarse in his habits and brutish in his ways. The
very night of his arrival he became very much the
worse for drink, and, indeed, after twelve o’clock
in the day he could hardly ever be said to be sober.
His manners towards the maid-servants were disgustingly free and familiar. Worst of all, he speedily
assumed the same attitude towards my daughter,
Alice, and spoke to her more than once in a way
which, fortunately, she is too innocent to understand. On one occasion he actually seized her in his
arms and embraced her—an outrage which caused
his own secretary to reproach him for his unmanly
conduct.’
“ ‘But why did you stand all this,’ I asked. ‘I
suppose that you can get rid of your boarders when
you wish.’
“Mrs. Charpentier blushed at my pertinent question. ‘Would to God that I had given him notice on
the very day that he came,’ she said. ‘But it was a
sore temptation. They were paying a pound a day
each—fourteen pounds a week, and this is the slack
season. I am a widow, and my boy in the Navy has
cost me much. I grudged to lose the money. I acted
for the best. This last was too much, however, and I
gave him notice to leave on account of it. That was
the reason of his going.’
“ ‘Well?’
“ ‘My heart grew light when I saw him drive
away. My son is on leave just now, but I did not tell
him anything of all this, for his temper is violent,
and he is passionately fond of his sister. When I
closed the door behind them a load seemed to be
lifted from my mind. Alas, in less than an hour
there was a ring at the bell, and I learned that
Mr. Drebber had returned. He was much excited,
and evidently the worse for drink. He forced his
way into the room, where I was sitting with my
daughter, and made some incoherent remark about
having missed his train. He then turned to Alice,
and before my very face, proposed to her that she
should fly with him. “You are of age,” he said, “and
there is no law to stop you. I have money enough
and to spare. Never mind the old girl here, but
come along with me now straight away. You shall
28
A Study In Scarlet
“He still carried the heavy stick which the
mother described him as having with him when he
followed Drebber. It was a stout oak cudgel.”
unable to give any satisfactory reply. I think the
whole case fits together uncommonly well. What
amuses me is to think of Lestrade, who had started
off upon the wrong scent. I am afraid he won’t
make much of—Why, by Jove, here’s the very man
himself!”
“What is your theory, then?”
“Well, my theory is that he followed Drebber as
far as the Brixton Road. When there, a fresh altercation arose between them, in the course of which
Drebber received a blow from the stick, in the pit
of the stomach, perhaps, which killed him without
leaving any mark. The night was so wet that no
one was about, so Charpentier dragged the body of
his victim into the empty house. As to the candle,
and the blood, and the writing on the wall, and the
ring, they may all be so many tricks to throw the
police on to the wrong scent.”
It was indeed Lestrade, who had ascended the
stairs while we were talking, and who now entered
the room. The assurance and jauntiness which
generally marked his demeanour and dress were,
however, wanting. His face was disturbed and troubled, while his clothes were disarranged and untidy.
He had evidently come with the intention of consulting with Sherlock Holmes, for on perceiving
his colleague he appeared to be embarrassed and
put out. He stood in the centre of the room, fumbling nervously with his hat and uncertain what to
do. “This is a most extraordinary case,” he said at
last—“a most incomprehensible affair.”
“Well done!” said Holmes in an encouraging
voice. “Really, Gregson, you are getting along. We
shall make something of you yet.”
“I flatter myself that I have managed it rather
neatly,” the detective answered proudly. “The
young man volunteered a statement, in which he
said that after following Drebber some time, the
latter perceived him, and took a cab in order to
get away from him. On his way home he met an
old shipmate, and took a long walk with him. On
being asked where this old shipmate lived, he was
“Ah, you find it so, Mr. Lestrade!” cried Gregson, triumphantly. “I thought you would come to
that conclusion. Have you managed to find the
Secretary, Mr. Joseph Stangerson?”
“The Secretary, Mr. Joseph Stangerson,” said
Lestrade gravely, “was murdered at Halliday’s Private Hotel about six o’clock this morning.”
CHAPTER VII.
Light In The Darkness
The intelligence with which Lestrade greeted
us was so momentous and so unexpected, that
we were all three fairly dumbfounded. Gregson
sprang out of his chair and upset the remainder
of his whiskey and water. I stared in silence at
Sherlock Holmes, whose lips were compressed and
his brows drawn down over his eyes.
“We have been hearing Gregson’s view of the
matter,” Holmes observed. “Would you mind letting us know what you have seen and done?”
“I have no objection,” Lestrade answered, seating himself. “I freely confess that I was of the opinion that Stangerson was concerned in the death of
Drebber. This fresh development has shown me
that I was completely mistaken. Full of the one
idea, I set myself to find out what had become of
the Secretary. They had been seen together at Euston Station about half-past eight on the evening of
the third. At two in the morning Drebber had been
found in the Brixton Road. The question which
confronted me was to find out how Stangerson had
been employed between 8.30 and the time of the
crime, and what had become of him afterwards. I
telegraphed to Liverpool, giving a description of
“Stangerson too!” he muttered. “The plot thickens.”
“It was quite thick enough before,” grumbled
Lestrade, taking a chair. “I seem to have dropped
into a sort of council of war.”
“Are you—are you sure of this piece of intelligence?” stammered Gregson.
“I have just come from his room,” said Lestrade.
“I was the first to discover what had occurred.”
29
A Study In Scarlet
the man, and warning them to keep a watch upon
the American boats. I then set to work calling upon
all the hotels and lodging-houses in the vicinity
of Euston. You see, I argued that if Drebber and
his companion had become separated, the natural
course for the latter would be to put up somewhere
in the vicinity for the night, and then to hang about
the station again next morning.”
“The word RACHE, written in letters of blood,”
he said.
“That was it,” said Lestrade, in an awe-struck
voice; and we were all silent for a while.
There was something so methodical and so incomprehensible about the deeds of this unknown
assassin, that it imparted a fresh ghastliness to his
crimes. My nerves, which were steady enough on
the field of battle tingled as I thought of it.
“The man was seen,” continued Lestrade. “A
milk boy, passing on his way to the dairy, happened
to walk down the lane which leads from the mews
at the back of the hotel. He noticed that a ladder,
which usually lay there, was raised against one of
the windows of the second floor, which was wide
open. After passing, he looked back and saw a
man descend the ladder. He came down so quietly
and openly that the boy imagined him to be some
carpenter or joiner at work in the hotel. He took
no particular notice of him, beyond thinking in his
own mind that it was early for him to be at work.
He has an impression that the man was tall, had a
reddish face, and was dressed in a long, brownish
coat. He must have stayed in the room some little
time after the murder, for we found blood-stained
water in the basin, where he had washed his hands,
and marks on the sheets where he had deliberately
wiped his knife.”
I glanced at Holmes on hearing the description
of the murderer, which tallied so exactly with his
own. There was, however, no trace of exultation or
satisfaction upon his face.
“Did you find nothing in the room which could
furnish a clue to the murderer?” he asked.
“Nothing. Stangerson had Drebber’s purse in
his pocket, but it seems that this was usual, as he
did all the paying. There was eighty odd pounds
in it, but nothing had been taken. Whatever the
motives of these extraordinary crimes, robbery is
certainly not one of them. There were no papers
or memoranda in the murdered man’s pocket, except a single telegram, dated from Cleveland about
a month ago, and containing the words, ‘J. H. is
in Europe.’ There was no name appended to this
message.”
“And there was nothing else?” Holmes asked.
“Nothing of any importance. The man’s novel,
with which he had read himself to sleep was lying
upon the bed, and his pipe was on a chair beside
him. There was a glass of water on the table, and
on the window-sill a small chip ointment box containing a couple of pills.”
Sherlock Holmes sprang from his chair with an
exclamation of delight.
“They would be likely to agree on some
meeting-place beforehand,” remarked Holmes.
“So it proved. I spent the whole of yesterday evening in making enquiries entirely without
avail. This morning I began very early, and at eight
o’clock I reached Halliday’s Private Hotel, in Little
George Street. On my enquiry as to whether a Mr.
Stangerson was living there, they at once answered
me in the affirmative.
“ ‘No doubt you are the gentleman whom he
was expecting,’ they said. ‘He has been waiting for
a gentleman for two days.’
“ ‘Where is he now?’ I asked.
“ ‘He is upstairs in bed. He wished to be called
at nine.’
“ ‘I will go up and see him at once,’ I said.
“It seemed to me that my sudden appearance
might shake his nerves and lead him to say something unguarded. The Boots volunteered to show
me the room: it was on the second floor, and there
was a small corridor leading up to it. The Boots
pointed out the door to me, and was about to go
downstairs again when I saw something that made
me feel sickish, in spite of my twenty years’ experience. From under the door there curled a little
red ribbon of blood, which had meandered across
the passage and formed a little pool along the skirting at the other side. I gave a cry, which brought
the Boots back. He nearly fainted when he saw it.
The door was locked on the inside, but we put our
shoulders to it, and knocked it in. The window
of the room was open, and beside the window, all
huddled up, lay the body of a man in his nightdress.
He was quite dead, and had been for some time, for
his limbs were rigid and cold. When we turned him
over, the Boots recognized him at once as being the
same gentleman who had engaged the room under
the name of Joseph Stangerson. The cause of death
was a deep stab in the left side, which must have
penetrated the heart. And now comes the strangest
part of the affair. What do you suppose was above
the murdered man?”
I felt a creeping of the flesh, and a presentiment
of coming horror, even before Sherlock Holmes
answered.
30
A Study In Scarlet
“The last link,” he cried, exultantly. “My case is
complete.”
As he spoke he turned the contents of the wine
glass into a saucer and placed it in front of the terrier, who speedily licked it dry. Sherlock Holmes’
earnest demeanour had so far convinced us that
we all sat in silence, watching the animal intently,
and expecting some startling effect. None such appeared, however. The dog continued to lie stretched
upon the cushion, breathing in a laboured way, but
apparently neither the better nor the worse for its
draught.
The two detectives stared at him in amazement.
“I have now in my hands,” my companion said,
confidently, “all the threads which have formed
such a tangle. There are, of course, details to be
filled in, but I am as certain of all the main facts,
from the time that Drebber parted from Stangerson
at the station, up to the discovery of the body of
the latter, as if I had seen them with my own eyes.
I will give you a proof of my knowledge. Could
you lay your hand upon those pills?”
Holmes had taken out his watch, and as minute
followed minute without result, an expression of
the utmost chagrin and disappointment appeared
upon his features. He gnawed his lip, drummed
his fingers upon the table, and showed every other
symptom of acute impatience. So great was his
emotion, that I felt sincerely sorry for him, while
the two detectives smiled derisively, by no means
displeased at this check which he had met.
“I have them,” said Lestrade, producing a small
white box; “I took them and the purse and the
telegram, intending to have them put in a place
of safety at the Police Station. It was the merest
chance my taking these pills, for I am bound to say
that I do not attach any importance to them.”
“Give them here,” said Holmes. “Now, Doctor,”
turning to me, “are those ordinary pills?”
“It can’t be a coincidence,” he cried, at last
springing from his chair and pacing wildly up and
down the room; “it is impossible that it should be a
mere coincidence. The very pills which I suspected
in the case of Drebber are actually found after the
death of Stangerson. And yet they are inert. What
can it mean? Surely my whole chain of reasoning
cannot have been false. It is impossible! And yet
this wretched dog is none the worse. Ah, I have it! I
have it!” With a perfect shriek of delight he rushed
to the box, cut the other pill in two, dissolved it,
added milk, and presented it to the terrier. The unfortunate creature’s tongue seemed hardly to have
been moistened in it before it gave a convulsive
shiver in every limb, and lay as rigid and lifeless as
if it had been struck by lightning.
They certainly were not. They were of a pearly
grey colour, small, round, and almost transparent
against the light. “From their lightness and transparency, I should imagine that they are soluble in
water,” I remarked.
“Precisely so,” answered Holmes. “Now would
you mind going down and fetching that poor little
devil of a terrier which has been bad so long, and
which the landlady wanted you to put out of its
pain yesterday.”
I went downstairs and carried the dog upstair
in my arms. It’s laboured breathing and glazing
eye showed that it was not far from its end. Indeed,
its snow-white muzzle proclaimed that it had already exceeded the usual term of canine existence.
I placed it upon a cushion on the rug.
Sherlock Holmes drew a long breath, and wiped
the perspiration from his forehead. “I should have
more faith,” he said; “I ought to know by this time
that when a fact appears to be opposed to a long
train of deductions, it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation. Of the two
pills in that box one was of the most deadly poison,
and the other was entirely harmless. I ought to
have known that before ever I saw the box at all.”
“I will now cut one of these pills in two,” said
Holmes, and drawing his penknife he suited the action to the word. “One half we return into the box
for future purposes. The other half I will place in
this wine glass, in which is a teaspoonful of water.
You perceive that our friend, the Doctor, is right,
and that it readily dissolves.”
This last statement appeared to me to be so
startling, that I could hardly believe that he was in
his sober senses. There was the dead dog, however,
to prove that his conjecture had been correct. It
seemed to me that the mists in my own mind were
gradually clearing away, and I began to have a dim,
vague perception of the truth.
“This may be very interesting,” said Lestrade,
in the injured tone of one who suspects that he is
being laughed at, “I cannot see, however, what it
has to do with the death of Mr. Joseph Stangerson.”
“Patience, my friend, patience! You will find in
time that it has everything to do with it. I shall now
add a little milk to make the mixture palatable, and
on presenting it to the dog we find that he laps it
up readily enough.”
“All this seems strange to you,” continued
Holmes, “because you failed at the beginning of the
inquiry to grasp the importance of the single real
31
A Study In Scarlet
clue which was presented to you. I had the good
fortune to seize upon that, and everything which
has occurred since then has served to confirm my
original supposition, and, indeed, was the logical
sequence of it. Hence things which have perplexed
you and made the case more obscure, have served
to enlighten me and to strengthen my conclusions.
It is a mistake to confound strangeness with mystery. The most commonplace crime is often the
most mysterious because it presents no new or special features from which deductions may be drawn.
This murder would have been infinitely more difficult to unravel had the body of the victim been
simply found lying in the roadway without any of
those outré and sensational accompaniments which
have rendered it remarkable. These strange details,
far from making the case more difficult, have really
had the effect of making it less so.”
thing, however, compared with the power of laying
our hands upon him. This I expect very shortly to
do. I have good hopes of managing it through my
own arrangements; but it is a thing which needs
delicate handling, for we have a shrewd and desperate man to deal with, who is supported, as I
have had occasion to prove, by another who is as
clever as himself. As long as this man has no idea
that anyone can have a clue there is some chance of
securing him; but if he had the slightest suspicion,
he would change his name, and vanish in an instant
among the four million inhabitants of this great city.
Without meaning to hurt either of your feelings, I
am bound to say that I consider these men to be
more than a match for the official force, and that
is why I have not asked your assistance. If I fail
I shall, of course, incur all the blame due to this
omission; but that I am prepared for. At present
I am ready to promise that the instant that I can
communicate with you without endangering my
own combinations, I shall do so.”
Gregson and Lestrade seemed to be far from
satisfied by this assurance, or by the depreciating
allusion to the detective police. The former had
flushed up to the roots of his flaxen hair, while
the other’s beady eyes glistened with curiosity and
resentment. Neither of them had time to speak,
however, before there was a tap at the door, and
the spokesman of the street Arabs, young Wiggins,
introduced his insignificant and unsavoury person.
“Please, sir,” he said, touching his forelock, “I
have the cab downstairs.”
“Good boy,” said Holmes, blandly. “Why don’t
you introduce this pattern at Scotland Yard?” he
continued, taking a pair of steel handcuffs from
a drawer. “See how beautifully the spring works.
They fasten in an instant.”
“The old pattern is good enough,” remarked
Lestrade, “if we can only find the man to put them
on.”
“Very good, very good,” said Holmes, smiling.
“The cabman may as well help me with my boxes.
Just ask him to step up, Wiggins.”
I was surprised to find my companion speaking
as though he were about to set out on a journey,
since he had not said anything to me about it. There
was a small portmanteau in the room, and this he
pulled out and began to strap. He was busily engaged at it when the cabman entered the room.
“Just give me a help with this buckle, cabman,”
he said, kneeling over his task, and never turning
his head.
The fellow came forward with a somewhat
sullen, defiant air, and put down his hands to assist.
Mr. Gregson, who had listened to this address
with considerable impatience, could contain himself no longer. “Look here, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,”
he said, “we are all ready to acknowledge that
you are a smart man, and that you have your own
methods of working. We want something more
than mere theory and preaching now, though. It
is a case of taking the man. I have made my case
out, and it seems I was wrong. Young Charpentier
could not have been engaged in this second affair.
Lestrade went after his man, Stangerson, and it
appears that he was wrong too. You have thrown
out hints here, and hints there, and seem to know
more than we do, but the time has come when we
feel that we have a right to ask you straight how
much you do know of the business. Can you name
the man who did it?”
“I cannot help feeling that Gregson is right, sir,”
remarked Lestrade. “We have both tried, and we
have both failed. You have remarked more than
once since I have been in the room that you had all
the evidence which you require. Surely you will
not withhold it any longer.”
“Any delay in arresting the assassin,” I observed, “might give him time to perpetrate some
fresh atrocity.”
Thus pressed by us all, Holmes showed signs of
irresolution. He continued to walk up and down
the room with his head sunk on his chest and his
brows drawn down, as was his habit when lost in
thought.
“There will be no more murders,” he said at
last, stopping abruptly and facing us. “You can
put that consideration out of the question. You
have asked me if I know the name of the assassin.
I do. The mere knowing of his name is a small
32
A Study In Scarlet
At that instant there was a sharp click, the jangling
of metal, and Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet
again.
“Gentlemen,” he cried, with flashing eyes, “let
me introduce you to Mr. Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Enoch Drebber and of Joseph Stangerson.”
The whole thing occurred in a moment—so
quickly that I had no time to realize it. I have
a vivid recollection of that instant, of Holmes’ triumphant expression and the ring of his voice, of
the cabman’s dazed, savage face, as he glared at
the glittering handcuffs, which had appeared as if
by magic upon his wrists. For a second or two we
might have been a group of statues. Then, with an
inarticulate roar of fury, the prisoner wrenched himself free from Holmes’s grasp, and hurled himself
through the window. Woodwork and glass gave
way before him; but before he got quite through,
Gregson, Lestrade, and Holmes sprang upon him
like so many staghounds. He was dragged back
into the room, and then commenced a terrific conflict. So powerful and so fierce was he, that the
four of us were shaken off again and again. He
appeared to have the convulsive strength of a man
in an epileptic fit. His face and hands were terribly
mangled by his passage through the glass, but loss
of blood had no effect in diminishing his resistance.
It was not until Lestrade succeeded in getting his
hand inside his neckcloth and half-strangling him
that we made him realize that his struggles were
of no avail; and even then we felt no security until
we had pinioned his feet as well as his hands. That
done, we rose to our feet breathless and panting.
“We have his cab,” said Sherlock Holmes. “It
will serve to take him to Scotland Yard. And now,
gentlemen,” he continued, with a pleasant smile,
“we have reached the end of our little mystery. You
are very welcome to put any questions that you
like to me now, and there is no danger that I will
refuse to answer them.”
33
PART II.
The Country of the Saints.
A Study In Scarlet
CHAPTER I.
On The Great Alkali Plain
In the central portion of the great North
American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert, which for many a long year served as
a barrier against the advance of civilisation. From
the Sierra Nevada to Nebraska, and from the Yellowstone River in the north to the Colorado upon
the south, is a region of desolation and silence.
Nor is Nature always in one mood throughout this
grim district. It comprises snow-capped and lofty
mountains, and dark and gloomy valleys. There
are swift-flowing rivers which dash through jagged
cañons; and there are enormous plains, which in
winter are white with snow, and in summer are
grey with the saline alkali dust. They all preserve,
however, the common characteristics of barrenness,
inhospitality, and misery.
and examine them! They are bones: some large
and coarse, others smaller and more delicate. The
former have belonged to oxen, and the latter to
men. For fifteen hundred miles one may trace this
ghastly caravan route by these scattered remains of
those who had fallen by the wayside.
Looking down on this very scene, there stood
upon the fourth of May, eighteen hundred and
forty-seven, a solitary traveller. His appearance
was such that he might have been the very genius
or demon of the region. An observer would have
found it difficult to say whether he was nearer to
forty or to sixty. His face was lean and haggard, and
the brown parchment-like skin was drawn tightly
over the projecting bones; his long, brown hair and
beard were all flecked and dashed with white; his
eyes were sunken in his head, and burned with an
unnatural lustre; while the hand which grasped his
rifle was hardly more fleshy than that of a skeleton. As he stood, he leaned upon his weapon for
support, and yet his tall figure and the massive
framework of his bones suggested a wiry and vigorous constitution. His gaunt face, however, and
his clothes, which hung so baggily over his shrivelled limbs, proclaimed what it was that gave him
that senile and decrepit appearance. The man was
dying—dying from hunger and from thirst.
There are no inhabitants of this land of despair.
A band of Pawnees or of Blackfeet may occasionally traverse it in order to reach other huntinggrounds, but the hardiest of the braves are glad
to lose sight of those awesome plains, and to find
themselves once more upon their prairies. The
coyote skulks among the scrub, the buzzard flaps
heavily through the air, and the clumsy grizzly
bear lumbers through the dark ravines, and picks
up such sustenance as it can amongst the rocks.
These are the sole dwellers in the wilderness.
In the whole world there can be no more dreary
view than that from the northern slope of the Sierra
Blanco. As far as the eye can reach stretches the
great flat plain-land, all dusted over with patches
of alkali, and intersected by clumps of the dwarfish
chaparral bushes. On the extreme verge of the horizon lie a long chain of mountain peaks, with their
rugged summits flecked with snow. In this great
stretch of country there is no sign of life, nor of anything appertaining to life. There is no bird in the
steel-blue heaven, no movement upon the dull, grey
earth—above all, there is absolute silence. Listen as
one may, there is no shadow of a sound in all that
mighty wilderness; nothing but silence—complete
and heart-subduing silence.
He had toiled painfully down the ravine, and
on to this little elevation, in the vain hope of seeing some signs of water. Now the great salt plain
stretched before his eyes, and the distant belt of savage mountains, without a sign anywhere of plant or
tree, which might indicate the presence of moisture.
In all that broad landscape there was no gleam of
hope. North, and east, and west he looked with
wild questioning eyes, and then he realised that his
wanderings had come to an end, and that there,
on that barren crag, he was about to die. “Why
not here, as well as in a feather bed, twenty years
hence,” he muttered, as he seated himself in the
shelter of a boulder.
Before sitting down, he had deposited upon the
ground his useless rifle, and also a large bundle
tied up in a grey shawl, which he had carried slung
over his right shoulder. It appeared to be somewhat too heavy for his strength, for in lowering
it, it came down on the ground with some little
violence. Instantly there broke from the grey parcel
a little moaning cry, and from it there protruded
a small, scared face, with very bright brown eyes,
and two little speckled, dimpled fists.
It has been said there is nothing appertaining
to life upon the broad plain. That is hardly true.
Looking down from the Sierra Blanco, one sees a
pathway traced out across the desert, which winds
away and is lost in the extreme distance. It is rutted
with wheels and trodden down by the feet of many
adventurers. Here and there there are scattered
white objects which glisten in the sun, and stand
out against the dull deposit of alkali. Approach,
37
A Study In Scarlet
“You’ve hurt me!” said a childish voice reproachfully.
“Then mother’s a deader too,” cried the little
girl dropping her face in her pinafore and sobbing
bitterly.
“Yes, they all went except you and me. Then
I thought there was some chance of water in this
direction, so I heaved you over my shoulder and
we tramped it together. It don’t seem as though
we’ve improved matters. There’s an almighty small
chance for us now!”
“Do you mean that we are going to die too?”
asked the child, checking her sobs, and raising her
tear-stained face.
“I guess that’s about the size of it.”
“Why didn’t you say so before?” she said, laughing gleefully. “You gave me such a fright. Why, of
course, now as long as we die we’ll be with mother
again.”
“Yes, you will, dearie.”
“And you too. I’ll tell her how awful good
you’ve been. I’ll bet she meets us at the door of
Heaven with a big pitcher of water, and a lot of
buckwheat cakes, hot, and toasted on both sides,
like Bob and me was fond of. How long will it be
first?”
“I don’t know—not very long.” The man’s eyes
were fixed upon the northern horizon. In the blue
vault of the heaven there had appeared three little
specks which increased in size every moment, so
rapidly did they approach. They speedily resolved
themselves into three large brown birds, which
circled over the heads of the two wanderers, and
then settled upon some rocks which overlooked
them. They were buzzards, the vultures of the
west, whose coming is the forerunner of death.
“Cocks and hens,” cried the little girl gleefully,
pointing at their ill-omened forms, and clapping
her hands to make them rise. “Say, did God make
this country?”
“Of course He did,” said her companion, rather
startled by this unexpected question.
“He made the country down in Illinois, and He
made the Missouri,” the little girl continued. “I
guess somebody else made the country in these
parts. It’s not nearly so well done. They forgot the
water and the trees.”
“What would ye think of offering up prayer?”
the man asked diffidently.
“It ain’t night yet,” she answered.
“It don’t matter. It ain’t quite regular, but He
won’t mind that, you bet. You say over them ones
that you used to say every night in the waggon
when we was on the Plains.”
“Why don’t you say some yourself?” the child
asked, with wondering eyes.
“Have I though,” the man answered penitently,
“I didn’t go for to do it.” As he spoke he unwrapped
the grey shawl and extricated a pretty little girl of
about five years of age, whose dainty shoes and
smart pink frock with its little linen apron all bespoke a mother’s care. The child was pale and wan,
but her healthy arms and legs showed that she had
suffered less than her companion.
“How is it now?” he answered anxiously, for
she was still rubbing the towsy golden curls which
covered the back of her head.
“Kiss it and make it well,” she said, with perfect
gravity, shoving the injured part up to him. “That’s
what mother used to do. Where’s mother?”
“Mother’s gone. I guess you’ll see her before
long.”
“Gone, eh!” said the little girl. “Funny, she
didn’t say good-bye; she ’most always did if she
was just goin’ over to Auntie’s for tea, and now
she’s been away three days. Say, it’s awful dry, ain’t
it? Ain’t there no water, nor nothing to eat?”
“No, there ain’t nothing, dearie. You’ll just need
to be patient awhile, and then you’ll be all right.
Put your head up agin me like that, and then you’ll
feel bullier. It ain’t easy to talk when your lips is
like leather, but I guess I’d best let you know how
the cards lie. What’s that you’ve got?”
“Pretty things! fine things!” cried the little
girl enthusiastically, holding up two glittering fragments of mica. “When we goes back to home I’ll
give them to brother Bob.”
“You’ll see prettier things than them soon,” said
the man confidently. “You just wait a bit. I was
going to tell you though—you remember when we
left the river?”
“Oh, yes.”
“Well, we reckoned we’d strike another river
soon, d’ye see. But there was somethin’ wrong;
compasses, or map, or somethin’, and it didn’t turn
up. Water ran out. Just except a little drop for the
likes of you and—and—”
“And you couldn’t wash yourself,” interrupted
his companion gravely, staring up at his grimy visage.
“No, nor drink. And Mr. Bender, he was the
fust to go, and then Indian Pete, and then Mrs. McGregor, and then Johnny Hones, and then, dearie,
your mother.”
38
A Study In Scarlet
“I disremember them,” he answered. “I hain’t
said none since I was half the height o’ that gun. I
guess it’s never too late. You say them out, and I’ll
stand by and come in on the choruses.”
waggons and carts, men on horseback, and men
on foot. Innumerable women who staggered along
under burdens, and children who toddled beside
the waggons or peeped out from under the white
coverings. This was evidently no ordinary party of
immigrants, but rather some nomad people who
had been compelled from stress of circumstances to
seek themselves a new country. There rose through
the clear air a confused clattering and rumbling
from this great mass of humanity, with the creaking of wheels and the neighing of horses. Loud as
it was, it was not sufficient to rouse the two tired
wayfarers above them.
At the head of the column there rode a score
or more of grave ironfaced men, clad in sombre
homespun garments and armed with rifles. On
reaching the base of the bluff they halted, and held
a short council among themselves.
“The wells are to the right, my brothers,” said
one, a hard-lipped, clean-shaven man with grizzly
hair.
“To the right of the Sierra Blanco—so we shall
reach the Rio Grande,” said another.
“Fear not for water,” cried a third. “He who
could draw it from the rocks will not now abandon
His own chosen people.”
“Amen! Amen!” responded the whole party.
They were about to resume their journey when
one of the youngest and keenest-eyed uttered an exclamation and pointed up at the rugged crag above
them. From its summit there fluttered a little wisp
of pink, showing up hard and bright against the
grey rocks behind. At the sight there was a general
reining up of horses and unslinging of guns, while
fresh horsemen came galloping up to reinforce the
vanguard. The word “Redskins” was on every lip.
“There can’t be any number of Injuns here,”
said the elderly man who appeared to be in command. “We have passed the Pawnees, and there are
no other tribes until we cross the great mountains.”
“Shall I go forward and see, Brother Stangerson,” asked one of the band.
“And I,” “and I,” cried a dozen voices.
“Leave your horses below and we will await you
here,” the Elder answered. In a moment the young
fellows had dismounted, fastened their horses, and
were ascending the precipitous slope which led
up to the object which had excited their curiosity. They advanced rapidly and noiselessly, with
the confidence and dexterity of practised scouts.
The watchers from the plain below could see them
flit from rock to rock until their figures stood out
against the skyline. The young man who had first
given the alarm was leading them. Suddenly his
“Then you’ll need to kneel down, and me too,”
she said, laying the shawl out for that purpose.
“You’ve got to put your hands up like this. It makes
you feel kind o’ good.”
It was a strange sight had there been anything
but the buzzards to see it. Side by side on the
narrow shawl knelt the two wanderers, the little
prattling child and the reckless, hardened adventurer. Her chubby face, and his haggard, angular visage were both turned up to the cloudless
heaven in heartfelt entreaty to that dread being
with whom they were face to face, while the two
voices—the one thin and clear, the other deep and
harsh—united in the entreaty for mercy and forgiveness. The prayer finished, they resumed their
seat in the shadow of the boulder until the child
fell asleep, nestling upon the broad breast of her
protector. He watched over her slumber for some
time, but Nature proved to be too strong for him.
For three days and three nights he had allowed
himself neither rest nor repose. Slowly the eyelids
drooped over the tired eyes, and the head sunk
lower and lower upon the breast, until the man’s
grizzled beard was mixed with the gold tresses of
his companion, and both slept the same deep and
dreamless slumber.
Had the wanderer remained awake for another
half hour a strange sight would have met his eyes.
Far away on the extreme verge of the alkali plain
there rose up a little spray of dust, very slight at
first, and hardly to be distinguished from the mists
of the distance, but gradually growing higher and
broader until it formed a solid, well-defined cloud.
This cloud continued to increase in size until it
became evident that it could only be raised by a
great multitude of moving creatures. In more fertile spots the observer would have come to the
conclusion that one of those great herds of bisons
which graze upon the prairie land was approaching him. This was obviously impossible in these
arid wilds. As the whirl of dust drew nearer to
the solitary bluff upon which the two castaways
were reposing, the canvas-covered tilts of waggons
and the figures of armed horsemen began to show
up through the haze, and the apparition revealed
itself as being a great caravan upon its journey for
the West. But what a caravan! When the head of
it had reached the base of the mountains, the rear
was not yet visible on the horizon. Right across
the enormous plain stretched the straggling array,
39
A Study In Scarlet
followers saw him throw up his hands, as though
overcome with astonishment, and on joining him
they were affected in the same way by the sight
which met their eyes.
“Nigh upon ten thousand,” said one of the
young men; “we are the persecuted children of
God—the chosen of the Angel Merona.”
“I never heard tell on him,” said the wanderer.
“He appears to have chosen a fair crowd of ye.”
“Do not jest at that which is sacred,” said the
other sternly. “We are of those who believe in those
sacred writings, drawn in Egyptian letters on plates
of beaten gold, which were handed unto the holy
Joseph Smith at Palmyra. We have come from Nauvoo, in the State of Illinois, where we had founded
our temple. We have come to seek a refuge from
the violent man and from the godless, even though
it be the heart of the desert.”
The name of Nauvoo evidently recalled recollections to John Ferrier. “I see,” he said, “you are
the Mormons.”
“We are the Mormons,” answered his companions with one voice.
“And where are you going?”
“We do not know. The hand of God is leading
us under the person of our Prophet. You must
come before him. He shall say what is to be done
with you.”
They had reached the base of the hill by this
time, and were surrounded by crowds of the
pilgrims—pale-faced meek-looking women, strong
laughing children, and anxious earnest-eyed men.
Many were the cries of astonishment and of commiseration which arose from them when they perceived the youth of one of the strangers and the
destitution of the other. Their escort did not halt,
however, but pushed on, followed by a great crowd
of Mormons, until they reached a waggon, which
was conspicuous for its great size and for the gaudiness and smartness of its appearance. Six horses
were yoked to it, whereas the others were furnished
with two, or, at most, four a-piece. Beside the driver
there sat a man who could not have been more than
thirty years of age, but whose massive head and
resolute expression marked him as a leader. He
was reading a brown-backed volume, but as the
crowd approached he laid it aside, and listened
attentively to an account of the episode. Then he
turned to the two castaways.
“If we take you with us,” he said, in solemn
words, “it can only be as believers in our own creed.
We shall have no wolves in our fold. Better far that
your bones should bleach in this wilderness than
that you should prove to be that little speck of decay which in time corrupts the whole fruit. Will
you come with us on these terms?”
“Guess I’ll come with you on any terms,” said
Ferrier, with such emphasis that the grave Elders
On the little plateau which crowned the barren
hill there stood a single giant boulder, and against
this boulder there lay a tall man, long-bearded and
hard-featured, but of an excessive thinness. His
placid face and regular breathing showed that he
was fast asleep. Beside him lay a little child, with
her round white arms encircling his brown sinewy
neck, and her golden haired head resting upon the
breast of his velveteen tunic. Her rosy lips were
parted, showing the regular line of snow-white
teeth within, and a playful smile played over her
infantile features. Her plump little white legs terminating in white socks and neat shoes with shining
buckles, offered a strange contrast to the long shrivelled members of her companion. On the ledge of
rock above this strange couple there stood three
solemn buzzards, who, at the sight of the new comers uttered raucous screams of disappointment and
flapped sullenly away.
The cries of the foul birds awoke the two sleepers who stared about them in bewilderment. The
man staggered to his feet and looked down upon
the plain which had been so desolate when sleep
had overtaken him, and which was now traversed
by this enormous body of men and of beasts. His
face assumed an expression of incredulity as he
gazed, and he passed his boney hand over his eyes.
“This is what they call delirium, I guess,” he muttered. The child stood beside him, holding on to
the skirt of his coat, and said nothing but looked
all round her with the wondering questioning gaze
of childhood.
The rescuing party were speedily able to convince the two castaways that their appearance was
no delusion. One of them seized the little girl, and
hoisted her upon his shoulder, while two others
supported her gaunt companion, and assisted him
towards the waggons.
“My name is John Ferrier,” the wanderer explained; “me and that little un are all that’s left o’
twenty-one people. The rest is all dead o’ thirst and
hunger away down in the south.”
“Is she your child?” asked someone.
“I guess she is now,” the other cried, defiantly;
“she’s mine ’cause I saved her. No man will take
her from me. She’s Lucy Ferrier from this day on.
Who are you, though?” he continued, glancing with
curiosity at his stalwart, sunburned rescuers; “there
seems to be a powerful lot of ye.”
40
A Study In Scarlet
could not restrain a smile. The leader alone retained his stern, impressive expression.
“Take him, Brother Stangerson,” he said, “give
him food and drink, and the child likewise. Let it
be your task also to teach him our holy creed. We
have delayed long enough. Forward! On, on to
Zion!”
“On, on to Zion!” cried the crowd of Mormons,
and the words rippled down the long caravan, passing from mouth to mouth until they died away in a
dull murmur in the far distance. With a cracking of
whips and a creaking of wheels the great waggons
got into motion, and soon the whole caravan was
winding along once more. The Elder to whose care
the two waifs had been committed, led them to his
waggon, where a meal was already awaiting them.
“You shall remain here,” he said. “In a few days
you will have recovered from your fatigues. In the
meantime, remember that now and forever you are
of our religion. Brigham Young has said it, and he
has spoken with the voice of Joseph Smith, which
is the voice of God.”
CHAPTER II.
The Flower Of Utah
This is not the place to commemorate the trials and privations endured by the immigrant Mormons before they came to their final haven. From
the shores of the Mississippi to the western slopes
of the Rocky Mountains they had struggled on with
a constancy almost unparalleled in history. The
savage man, and the savage beast, hunger, thirst,
fatigue, and disease—every impediment which Nature could place in the way—had all been overcome
with Anglo-Saxon tenacity. Yet the long journey
and the accumulated terrors had shaken the hearts
of the stoutest among them. There was not one
who did not sink upon his knees in heartfelt prayer
when they saw the broad valley of Utah bathed in
the sunlight beneath them, and learned from the
lips of their leader that this was the promised land,
and that these virgin acres were to be theirs for
evermore.
first blush of dawn until the closing of the twilight,
the clatter of the hammer and the rasp of the saw
was never absent from the monument which the
immigrants erected to Him who had led them safe
through many dangers.
The two castaways, John Ferrier and the little
girl who had shared his fortunes and had been
adopted as his daughter, accompanied the Mormons to the end of their great pilgrimage. Little
Lucy Ferrier was borne along pleasantly enough
in Elder Stangerson’s waggon, a retreat which she
shared with the Mormon’s three wives and with his
son, a headstrong forward boy of twelve. Having
rallied, with the elasticity of childhood, from the
shock caused by her mother’s death, she soon became a pet with the women, and reconciled herself
to this new life in her moving canvas-covered home.
In the meantime Ferrier having recovered from his
privations, distinguished himself as a useful guide
and an indefatigable hunter. So rapidly did he
gain the esteem of his new companions, that when
they reached the end of their wanderings, it was
unanimously agreed that he should be provided
with as large and as fertile a tract of land as any of
the settlers, with the exception of Young himself,
and of Stangerson, Kemball, Johnston, and Drebber,
who were the four principal Elders.
Young speedily proved himself to be a skilful
administrator as well as a resolute chief. Maps
were drawn and charts prepared, in which the future city was sketched out. All around farms were
apportioned and allotted in proportion to the standing of each individual. The tradesman was put to
his trade and the artisan to his calling. In the town
streets and squares sprang up, as if by magic. In the
country there was draining and hedging, planting
and clearing, until the next summer saw the whole
country golden with the wheat crop. Everything
prospered in the strange settlement. Above all, the
great temple which they had erected in the centre
of the city grew ever taller and larger. From the
On the farm thus acquired John Ferrier built
himself a substantial log-house, which received so
many additions in succeeding years that it grew
into a roomy villa. He was a man of a practical
turn of mind, keen in his dealings and skilful with
41
A Study In Scarlet
his hands. His iron constitution enabled him to
work morning and evening at improving and tilling his lands. Hence it came about that his farm
and all that belonged to him prospered exceedingly.
In three years he was better off than his neighbours,
in six he was well-to-do, in nine he was rich, and
in twelve there were not half a dozen men in the
whole of Salt Lake City who could compare with
him. From the great inland sea to the distant Wahsatch Mountains there was no name better known
than that of John Ferrier.
few who cannot recall that day and remember the
one little incident which heralded the dawn of a
new life. In the case of Lucy Ferrier the occasion
was serious enough in itself, apart from its future
influence on her destiny and that of many besides.
It was a warm June morning, and the Latter Day
Saints were as busy as the bees whose hive they
have chosen for their emblem. In the fields and in
the streets rose the same hum of human industry.
Down the dusty high roads defiled long streams
of heavily-laden mules, all heading to the west, for
the gold fever had broken out in California, and the
Overland Route lay through the City of the Elect.
There, too, were droves of sheep and bullocks coming in from the outlying pasture lands, and trains
of tired immigrants, men and horses equally weary
of their interminable journey. Through all this motley assemblage, threading her way with the skill
of an accomplished rider, there galloped Lucy Ferrier, her fair face flushed with the exercise and her
long chestnut hair floating out behind her. She
had a commission from her father in the City, and
was dashing in as she had done many a time before, with all the fearlessness of youth, thinking
only of her task and how it was to be performed.
The travel-stained adventurers gazed after her in
astonishment, and even the unemotional Indians,
journeying in with their pelties, relaxed their accustomed stoicism as they marvelled at the beauty of
the pale-faced maiden.
There was one way and only one in which he
offended the susceptibilities of his co-religionists.
No argument or persuasion could ever induce him
to set up a female establishment after the manner of
his companions. He never gave reasons for this persistent refusal, but contented himself by resolutely
and inflexibly adhering to his determination. There
were some who accused him of lukewarmness in
his adopted religion, and others who put it down
to greed of wealth and reluctance to incur expense.
Others, again, spoke of some early love affair, and
of a fair-haired girl who had pined away on the
shores of the Atlantic. Whatever the reason, Ferrier
remained strictly celibate. In every other respect he
conformed to the religion of the young settlement,
and gained the name of being an orthodox and
straight-walking man.
Lucy Ferrier grew up within the log-house, and
assisted her adopted father in all his undertakings.
The keen air of the mountains and the balsamic
odour of the pine trees took the place of nurse and
mother to the young girl. As year succeeded to
year she grew taller and stronger, her cheek more
rudy, and her step more elastic. Many a wayfarer
upon the high road which ran by Ferrier’s farm
felt long-forgotten thoughts revive in their mind
as they watched her lithe girlish figure tripping
through the wheatfields, or met her mounted upon
her father’s mustang, and managing it with all the
ease and grace of a true child of the West. So the
bud blossomed into a flower, and the year which
saw her father the richest of the farmers left her as
fair a specimen of American girlhood as could be
found in the whole Pacific slope.
She had reached the outskirts of the city when
she found the road blocked by a great drove of cattle, driven by a half-dozen wild-looking herdsmen
from the plains. In her impatience she endeavoured
to pass this obstacle by pushing her horse into what
appeared to be a gap. Scarcely had she got fairly
into it, however, before the beasts closed in behind
her, and she found herself completely imbedded
in the moving stream of fierce-eyed, long-horned
bullocks. Accustomed as she was to deal with cattle, she was not alarmed at her situation, but took
advantage of every opportunity to urge her horse
on in the hopes of pushing her way through the
cavalcade. Unfortunately the horns of one of the
creatures, either by accident or design, came in violent contact with the flank of the mustang, and
excited it to madness. In an instant it reared up
upon its hind legs with a snort of rage, and pranced
and tossed in a way that would have unseated any
but a most skilful rider. The situation was full of
peril. Every plunge of the excited horse brought it
against the horns again, and goaded it to fresh madness. It was all that the girl could do to keep herself
in the saddle, yet a slip would mean a terrible death
It was not the father, however, who first discovered that the child had developed into the woman.
It seldom is in such cases. That mysterious change
is too subtle and too gradual to be measured by
dates. Least of all does the maiden herself know
it until the tone of a voice or the touch of a hand
sets her heart thrilling within her, and she learns,
with a mixture of pride and of fear, that a new and
a larger nature has awoken within her. There are
42
A Study In Scarlet
under the hoofs of the unwieldy and terrified animals. Unaccustomed to sudden emergencies, her
head began to swim, and her grip upon the bridle to relax. Choked by the rising cloud of dust
and by the steam from the struggling creatures, she
might have abandoned her efforts in despair, but
for a kindly voice at her elbow which assured her
of assistance. At the same moment a sinewy brown
hand caught the frightened horse by the curb, and
forcing a way through the drove, soon brought her
to the outskirts.
“You’re not hurt, I hope, miss,” said her preserver, respectfully.
She looked up at his dark, fierce face, and
laughed saucily. “I’m awful frightened,” she said,
naively; “whoever would have thought that Poncho
would have been so scared by a lot of cows?”
“Thank God you kept your seat,” the other said
earnestly. He was a tall, savage-looking young fellow, mounted on a powerful roan horse, and clad in
the rough dress of a hunter, with a long rifle slung
over his shoulders. “I guess you are the daughter of John Ferrier,” he remarked, “I saw you ride
down from his house. When you see him, ask him
if he remembers the Jefferson Hopes of St. Louis. If
he’s the same Ferrier, my father and he were pretty
thick.”
“Hadn’t you better come and ask yourself?” she
asked, demurely.
The young fellow seemed pleased at the suggestion, and his dark eyes sparkled with pleasure. “I’ll
do so,” he said, “we’ve been in the mountains for
two months, and are not over and above in visiting
condition. He must take us as he finds us.”
“He has a good deal to thank you for, and so
have I,” she answered, “he’s awful fond of me. If
those cows had jumped on me he’d have never got
over it.”
“Neither would I,” said her companion.
“You! Well, I don’t see that it would make much
matter to you, anyhow. You ain’t even a friend of
ours.”
The young hunter’s dark face grew so gloomy
over this remark that Lucy Ferrier laughed aloud.
“There, I didn’t mean that,” she said; “of course,
you are a friend now. You must come and see us.
Now I must push along, or father won’t trust me
with his business any more. Good-bye!”
“Good-bye,” he answered, raising his broad
sombrero, and bending over her little hand. She
wheeled her mustang round, gave it a cut with her
riding-whip, and darted away down the broad road
in a rolling cloud of dust.
Young Jefferson Hope rode on with his companions, gloomy and taciturn. He and they had
been among the Nevada Mountains prospecting for
silver, and were returning to Salt Lake City in the
hope of raising capital enough to work some lodes
which they had discovered. He had been as keen
as any of them upon the business until this sudden
incident had drawn his thoughts into another channel. The sight of the fair young girl, as frank and
wholesome as the Sierra breezes, had stirred his
volcanic, untamed heart to its very depths. When
she had vanished from his sight, he realized that a
crisis had come in his life, and that neither silver
speculations nor any other questions could ever
be of such importance to him as this new and allabsorbing one. The love which had sprung up in
his heart was not the sudden, changeable fancy of
a boy, but rather the wild, fierce passion of a man
of strong will and imperious temper. He had been
accustomed to succeed in all that he undertook.
He swore in his heart that he would not fail in
this if human effort and human perseverance could
render him successful.
He called on John Ferrier that night, and many
times again, until his face was a familiar one at
the farm-house. John, cooped up in the valley,
and absorbed in his work, had had little chance
of learning the news of the outside world during
the last twelve years. All this Jefferson Hope was
able to tell him, and in a style which interested
Lucy as well as her father. He had been a pioneer
in California, and could narrate many a strange
tale of fortunes made and fortunes lost in those
wild, halcyon days. He had been a scout too, and a
trapper, a silver explorer, and a ranchman. Wherever stirring adventures were to be had, Jefferson
Hope had been there in search of them. He soon
became a favourite with the old farmer, who spoke
eloquently of his virtues. On such occasions, Lucy
was silent, but her blushing cheek and her bright,
happy eyes, showed only too clearly that her young
heart was no longer her own. Her honest father
may not have observed these symptoms, but they
were assuredly not thrown away upon the man
who had won her affections.
It was a summer evening when he came galloping down the road and pulled up at the gate. She
was at the doorway, and came down to meet him.
He threw the bridle over the fence and strode up
the pathway.
“I am off, Lucy,” he said, taking her two hands
in his, and gazing tenderly down into her face; “I
won’t ask you to come with me now, but will you
be ready to come when I am here again?”
43
A Study In Scarlet
“And when will that be?” she asked, blushing
and laughing.
“Thank God!” he said, hoarsely, stooping and
kissing her. “It is settled, then. The longer I stay, the
harder it will be to go. They are waiting for me at
the cañon. Good-bye, my own darling—good-bye.
In two months you shall see me.”
“A couple of months at the outside. I will come
and claim you then, my darling. There’s no one
who can stand between us.”
He tore himself from her as he spoke, and, flinging himself upon his horse, galloped furiously away,
never even looking round, as though afraid that his
resolution might fail him if he took one glance at
what he was leaving. She stood at the gate, gazing
after him until he vanished from her sight. Then
she walked back into the house, the happiest girl
in all Utah.
“And how about father?” she asked.
“He has given his consent, provided we get
these mines working all right. I have no fear on
that head.”
“Oh, well; of course, if you and father have
arranged it all, there’s no more to be said,” she
whispered, with her cheek against his broad breast.
CHAPTER III.
John Ferrier Talks With The Prophet
Three weeks had passed since Jefferson Hope
and his comrades had departed from Salt Lake City.
John Ferrier’s heart was sore within him when he
thought of the young man’s return, and of the impending loss of his adopted child. Yet her bright
and happy face reconciled him to the arrangement
more than any argument could have done. He
had always determined, deep down in his resolute
heart, that nothing would ever induce him to allow
his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such a marriage
he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame
and a disgrace. Whatever he might think of the
Mormon doctrines, upon that one point he was
inflexible. He had to seal his mouth on the subject,
however, for to express an unorthodox opinion was
a dangerous matter in those days in the Land of
the Saints.
tached to it, made this organization doubly terrible.
It appeared to be omniscient and omnipotent, and
yet was neither seen nor heard. The man who held
out against the Church vanished away, and none
knew whither he had gone or what had befallen
him. His wife and his children awaited him at
home, but no father ever returned to tell them how
he had fared at the hands of his secret judges. A
rash word or a hasty act was followed by annihilation, and yet none knew what the nature might
be of this terrible power which was suspended
over them. No wonder that men went about in
fear and trembling, and that even in the heart of
the wilderness they dared not whisper the doubts
which oppressed them.
At first this vague and terrible power was exercised only upon the recalcitrants who, having
embraced the Mormon faith, wished afterwards to
pervert or to abandon it. Soon, however, it took
a wider range. The supply of adult women was
running short, and polygamy without a female
population on which to draw was a barren doctrine indeed. Strange rumours began to be bandied
about—rumours of murdered immigrants and rifled camps in regions where Indians had never
been seen. Fresh women appeared in the harems of
the Elders—women who pined and wept, and bore
upon their faces the traces of an unextinguishable
horror. Belated wanderers upon the mountains
spoke of gangs of armed men, masked, stealthy,
Yes, a dangerous matter—so dangerous that
even the most saintly dared only whisper their religious opinions with bated breath, lest something
which fell from their lips might be misconstrued,
and bring down a swift retribution upon them. The
victims of persecution had now turned persecutors on their own account, and persecutors of the
most terrible description. Not the Inquisition of
Seville, nor the German Vehmgericht, nor the Secret Societies of Italy, were ever able to put a more
formidable machinery in motion than that which
cast a cloud over the State of Utah.
Its invisibility, and the mystery which was at44
A Study In Scarlet
and noiseless, who flitted by them in the darkness.
These tales and rumours took substance and shape,
and were corroborated and re-corroborated, until
they resolved themselves into a definite name. To
this day, in the lonely ranches of the West, the name
of the Danite Band, or the Avenging Angels, is a
sinister and an ill-omened one.
“It is true that I have not married,” Ferrier answered. “But women were few, and there were
many who had better claims than I. I was not a
lonely man: I had my daughter to attend to my
wants.”
“It is of that daughter that I would speak to
you,” said the leader of the Mormons. “She has
grown to be the flower of Utah, and has found
favour in the eyes of many who are high in the
land.”
Fuller knowledge of the organization which produced such terrible results served to increase rather
than to lessen the horror which it inspired in the
minds of men. None knew who belonged to this
ruthless society. The names of the participators in
the deeds of blood and violence done under the
name of religion were kept profoundly secret. The
very friend to whom you communicated your misgivings as to the Prophet and his mission, might be
one of those who would come forth at night with
fire and sword to exact a terrible reparation. Hence
every man feared his neighbour, and none spoke of
the things which were nearest his heart.
John Ferrier groaned internally.
“There are stories of her which I would fain disbelieve—stories that she is sealed to some Gentile.
This must be the gossip of idle tongues. What is
the thirteenth rule in the code of the sainted Joseph
Smith? ‘Let every maiden of the true faith marry
one of the elect; for if she wed a Gentile, she commits a grievous sin.’ This being so, it is impossible
that you, who profess the holy creed, should suffer
your daughter to violate it.”
One fine morning, John Ferrier was about to set
out to his wheatfields, when he heard the click of
the latch, and, looking through the window, saw
a stout, sandy-haired, middle-aged man coming
up the pathway. His heart leapt to his mouth, for
this was none other than the great Brigham Young
himself. Full of trepidation—for he knew that such
a visit boded him little good—Ferrier ran to the
door to greet the Mormon chief. The latter, however, received his salutations coldly, and followed
him with a stern face into the sitting-room.
John Ferrier made no answer, but he played
nervously with his riding-whip.
“Upon this one point your whole faith shall be
tested—so it has been decided in the Sacred Council of Four. The girl is young, and we would not
have her wed grey hairs, neither would we deprive
her of all choice. We Elders have many heifers1 ,
but our children must also be provided. Stangerson has a son, and Drebber has a son, and either
of them would gladly welcome your daughter to
their house. Let her choose between them. They
are young and rich, and of the true faith. What say
you to that?”
“Brother Ferrier,” he said, taking a seat, and
eyeing the farmer keenly from under his lightcoloured eyelashes, “the true believers have been
good friends to you. We picked you up when you
were starving in the desert, we shared our food
with you, led you safe to the Chosen Valley, gave
you a goodly share of land, and allowed you to wax
rich under our protection. Is not this so?”
Ferrier remained silent for some little time with
his brows knitted.
“You will give us time,” he said at last. “My
daughter is very young—she is scarce of an age to
marry.”
“She shall have a month to choose,” said Young,
rising from his seat. “At the end of that time she
shall give her answer.”
“It is so,” answered John Ferrier.
“In return for all this we asked but one condition: that was, that you should embrace the true
faith, and conform in every way to its usages. This
you promised to do, and this, if common report
says truly, you have neglected.”
He was passing through the door, when he
turned, with flushed face and flashing eyes. “It
were better for you, John Ferrier,” he thundered,
“that you and she were now lying blanched skeletons upon the Sierra Blanco, than that you should
put your weak wills against the orders of the Holy
Four!”
“And how have I neglected it?” asked Ferrier,
throwing out his hands in expostulation. “Have I
not given to the common fund? Have I not attended
at the Temple? Have I not—?”
With a threatening gesture of his hand, he
turned from the door, and Ferrier heard his heavy
step scrunching along the shingly path.
“Where are your wives?” asked Young, looking
round him. “Call them in, that I may greet them.”
1 Heber
C. Kemball, in one of his sermons, alludes to his hundred wives under this endearing epithet.
45
A Study In Scarlet
He was still sitting with his elbows upon his
knees, considering how he should broach the matter to his daughter when a soft hand was laid upon
his, and looking up, he saw her standing beside
him. One glance at her pale, frightened face showed
him that she had heard what had passed.
“I could not help it,” she said, in answer to his
look. “His voice rang through the house. Oh, father,
father, what shall we do?”
“Don’t you scare yourself,” he answered, drawing her to him, and passing his broad, rough hand
caressingly over her chestnut hair. “We’ll fix it up
somehow or another. You don’t find your fancy
kind o’ lessening for this chap, do you?”
A sob and a squeeze of his hand was her only
answer.
“No; of course not. I shouldn’t care to hear you
say you did. He’s a likely lad, and he’s a Christian, which is more than these folk here, in spite
o’ all their praying and preaching. There’s a party
starting for Nevada to-morrow, and I’ll manage
to send him a message letting him know the hole
we are in. If I know anything o’ that young man,
he’ll be back here with a speed that would whip
electro-telegraphs.”
Lucy laughed through her tears at her father’s
description.
“When he comes, he will advise us for the best.
But it is for you that I am frightened, dear. One
hears—one hears such dreadful stories about those
who oppose the Prophet: something terrible always
happens to them.”
“But we haven’t opposed him yet,” her father
answered. “It will be time to look out for squalls
when we do. We have a clear month before us; at
the end of that, I guess we had best shin out of
Utah.”
“Leave Utah!”
“That’s about the size of it.”
“But the farm?”
“We will raise as much as we can in money, and
let the rest go. To tell the truth, Lucy, it isn’t the
first time I have thought of doing it. I don’t care
about knuckling under to any man, as these folk do
to their darned prophet. I’m a free-born American,
and it’s all new to me. Guess I’m too old to learn.
If he comes browsing about this farm, he might
chance to run up against a charge of buckshot travelling in the opposite direction.”
“But they won’t let us leave,” his daughter objected.
“Wait till Jefferson comes, and we’ll soon manage that. In the meantime, don’t you fret yourself,
my dearie, and don’t get your eyes swelled up, else
he’ll be walking into me when he sees you. There’s
nothing to be afeared about, and there’s no danger
at all.”
John Ferrier uttered these consoling remarks
in a very confident tone, but she could not help
observing that he paid unusual care to the fastening of the doors that night, and that he carefully
cleaned and loaded the rusty old shotgun which
hung upon the wall of his bedroom.
CHAPTER IV.
A Flight For Life
On the morning which followed his interview
with the Mormon Prophet, John Ferrier went in to
Salt Lake City, and having found his acquaintance,
who was bound for the Nevada Mountains, he entrusted him with his message to Jefferson Hope. In
it he told the young man of the imminent danger
which threatened them, and how necessary it was
that he should return. Having done thus he felt easier in his mind, and returned home with a lighter
heart.
As he approached his farm, he was surprised
to see a horse hitched to each of the posts of the
gate. Still more surprised was he on entering to
find two young men in possession of his sittingroom. One, with a long pale face, was leaning
back in the rocking-chair, with his feet cocked up
upon the stove. The other, a bull-necked youth with
coarse bloated features, was standing in front of
the window with his hands in his pocket, whistling
a popular hymn. Both of them nodded to Ferrier
as he entered, and the one in the rocking-chair
46
A Study In Scarlet
commenced the conversation.
“The hand of the Lord shall be heavy upon
you,” cried young Drebber; “He will arise and smite
you!”
“Maybe you don’t know us,” he said. “This here
is the son of Elder Drebber, and I’m Joseph Stangerson, who travelled with you in the desert when the
Lord stretched out His hand and gathered you into
the true fold.”
“Then I’ll start the smiting,” exclaimed Ferrier
furiously, and would have rushed upstairs for his
gun had not Lucy seized him by the arm and restrained him. Before he could escape from her, the
clatter of horses’ hoofs told him that they were
beyond his reach.
“As He will all the nations in His own good
time,” said the other in a nasal voice; “He grindeth
slowly but exceeding small.”
“The young canting rascals!” he exclaimed, wiping the perspiration from his forehead; “I would
sooner see you in your grave, my girl, than the wife
of either of them.”
John Ferrier bowed coldly. He had guessed who
his visitors were.
“We have come,” continued Stangerson, “at the
advice of our fathers to solicit the hand of your
daughter for whichever of us may seem good to
you and to her. As I have but four wives and
Brother Drebber here has seven, it appears to me
that my claim is the stronger one.”
“And so should I, father,” she answered, with
spirit; “but Jefferson will soon be here.”
“Yes. It will not be long before he comes. The
sooner the better, for we do not know what their
next move may be.”
“Nay, nay, Brother Stangerson,” cried the other;
“the question is not how many wives we have, but
how many we can keep. My father has now given
over his mills to me, and I am the richer man.”
It was, indeed, high time that someone capable
of giving advice and help should come to the aid of
the sturdy old farmer and his adopted daughter. In
the whole history of the settlement there had never
been such a case of rank disobedience to the authority of the Elders. If minor errors were punished
so sternly, what would be the fate of this arch rebel.
Ferrier knew that his wealth and position would
be of no avail to him. Others as well known and as
rich as himself had been spirited away before now,
and their goods given over to the Church. He was a
brave man, but he trembled at the vague, shadowy
terrors which hung over him. Any known danger
he could face with a firm lip, but this suspense
was unnerving. He concealed his fears from his
daughter, however, and affected to make light of
the whole matter, though she, with the keen eye of
love, saw plainly that he was ill at ease.
“But my prospects are better,” said the other,
warmly. “When the Lord removes my father, I shall
have his tanning yard and his leather factory. Then
I am your elder, and am higher in the Church.”
“It will be for the maiden to decide,” rejoined
young Drebber, smirking at his own reflection in
the glass. “We will leave it all to her decision.”
During this dialogue, John Ferrier had stood
fuming in the doorway, hardly able to keep his
riding-whip from the backs of his two visitors.
“Look here,” he said at last, striding up to them,
“when my daughter summons you, you can come,
but until then I don’t want to see your faces again.”
The two young Mormons stared at him in
amazement. In their eyes this competition between
them for the maiden’s hand was the highest of
honours both to her and her father.
He expected that he would receive some message or remonstrance from Young as to his conduct,
and he was not mistaken, though it came in an
unlooked-for manner. Upon rising next morning
he found, to his surprise, a small square of paper pinned on to the coverlet of his bed just over
his chest. On it was printed, in bold straggling
letters:—
“There are two ways out of the room,” cried
Ferrier; “there is the door, and there is the window.
Which do you care to use?”
His brown face looked so savage, and his gaunt
hands so threatening, that his visitors sprang to
their feet and beat a hurried retreat. The old farmer
followed them to the door.
“Twenty-nine days are given you for amendment, and then—”
The dash was more fear-inspiring than any
threat could have been. How this warning came
into his room puzzled John Ferrier sorely, for his
servants slept in an outhouse, and the doors and
windows had all been secured. He crumpled the paper up and said nothing to his daughter, but the incident struck a chill into his heart. The twenty-nine
“Let me know when you have settled which it
is to be,” he said, sardonically.
“You shall smart for this!” Stangerson cried,
white with rage. “You have defied the Prophet and
the Council of Four. You shall rue it to the end of
your days.”
47
A Study In Scarlet
days were evidently the balance of the month which
Young had promised. What strength or courage
could avail against an enemy armed with such mysterious powers? The hand which fastened that pin
might have struck him to the heart, and he could
never have known who had slain him.
the figure 2 upon the wall of his house, and the
next day would be the last of the allotted time.
What was to happen then? All manner of vague
and terrible fancies filled his imagination. And his
daughter—what was to become of her after he was
gone? Was there no escape from the invisible network which was drawn all round them. He sank
his head upon the table and sobbed at the thought
of his own impotence.
Still more shaken was he next morning. They
had sat down to their breakfast when Lucy with
a cry of surprise pointed upwards. In the centre
of the ceiling was scrawled, with a burned stick
apparently, the number 28. To his daughter it was
unintelligible, and he did not enlighten her. That
night he sat up with his gun and kept watch and
ward. He saw and he heard nothing, and yet in
the morning a great 27 had been painted upon the
outside of his door.
What was that? In the silence he heard a gentle scratching sound—low, but very distinct in the
quiet of the night. It came from the door of the
house. Ferrier crept into the hall and listened intently. There was a pause for a few moments, and
then the low insidious sound was repeated. Someone was evidently tapping very gently upon one
of the panels of the door. Was it some midnight
assassin who had come to carry out the murderous
orders of the secret tribunal? Or was it some agent
who was marking up that the last day of grace had
arrived. John Ferrier felt that instant death would
be better than the suspense which shook his nerves
and chilled his heart. Springing forward he drew
the bolt and threw the door open.
Thus day followed day; and as sure as morning came he found that his unseen enemies had
kept their register, and had marked up in some
conspicuous position how many days were still left
to him out of the month of grace. Sometimes the
fatal numbers appeared upon the walls, sometimes
upon the floors, occasionally they were on small
placards stuck upon the garden gate or the railings.
With all his vigilance John Ferrier could not discover whence these daily warnings proceeded. A
horror which was almost superstitious came upon
him at the sight of them. He became haggard and
restless, and his eyes had the troubled look of some
hunted creature. He had but one hope in life now,
and that was for the arrival of the young hunter
from Nevada.
Outside all was calm and quiet. The night was
fine, and the stars were twinkling brightly overhead.
The little front garden lay before the farmer’s eyes
bounded by the fence and gate, but neither there
nor on the road was any human being to be seen.
With a sigh of relief, Ferrier looked to right and to
left, until happening to glance straight down at his
own feet he saw to his astonishment a man lying
flat upon his face upon the ground, with arms and
legs all asprawl.
Twenty had changed to fifteen and fifteen to ten,
but there was no news of the absentee. One by one
the numbers dwindled down, and still there came
no sign of him. Whenever a horseman clattered
down the road, or a driver shouted at his team,
the old farmer hurried to the gate thinking that
help had arrived at last. At last, when he saw five
give way to four and that again to three, he lost
heart, and abandoned all hope of escape. Singlehanded, and with his limited knowledge of the
mountains which surrounded the settlement, he
knew that he was powerless. The more-frequented
roads were strictly watched and guarded, and none
could pass along them without an order from the
Council. Turn which way he would, there appeared
to be no avoiding the blow which hung over him.
Yet the old man never wavered in his resolution to
part with life itself before he consented to what he
regarded as his daughter’s dishonour.
So unnerved was he at the sight that he leaned
up against the wall with his hand to his throat to stifle his inclination to call out. His first thought was
that the prostrate figure was that of some wounded
or dying man, but as he watched it he saw it writhe
along the ground and into the hall with the rapidity and noiselessness of a serpent. Once within the
house the man sprang to his feet, closed the door,
and revealed to the astonished farmer the fierce
face and resolute expression of Jefferson Hope.
“Good God!” gasped John Ferrier. “How you
scared me! Whatever made you come in like that.”
“Give me food,” the other said, hoarsely. “I
have had no time for bite or sup for eight-and-forty
hours.” He flung himself upon the cold meat and
bread which were still lying upon the table from his
host’s supper, and devoured it voraciously. “Does
Lucy bear up well?” he asked, when he had satisfied his hunger.
He was sitting alone one evening pondering
deeply over his troubles, and searching vainly for
some way out of them. That morning had shown
48
A Study In Scarlet
“Yes. She does not know the danger,” her father
answered.
Hope slapped the revolver butt which protruded from the front of his tunic. “If they are
too many for us we shall take two or three of them
with us,” he said with a sinister smile.
The lights inside the house had all been extinguished, and from the darkened window Ferrier
peered over the fields which had been his own, and
which he was now about to abandon for ever. He
had long nerved himself to the sacrifice, however,
and the thought of the honour and happiness of
his daughter outweighed any regret at his ruined
fortunes. All looked so peaceful and happy, the
rustling trees and the broad silent stretch of grainland, that it was difficult to realize that the spirit
of murder lurked through it all. Yet the white face
and set expression of the young hunter showed that
in his approach to the house he had seen enough
to satisfy him upon that head.
Ferrier carried the bag of gold and notes, Jefferson Hope had the scanty provisions and water,
while Lucy had a small bundle containing a few
of her more valued possessions. Opening the window very slowly and carefully, they waited until
a dark cloud had somewhat obscured the night,
and then one by one passed through into the little
garden. With bated breath and crouching figures
they stumbled across it, and gained the shelter of
the hedge, which they skirted until they came to
the gap which opened into the cornfields. They had
just reached this point when the young man seized
his two companions and dragged them down into
the shadow, where they lay silent and trembling.
It was as well that his prairie training had
given Jefferson Hope the ears of a lynx. He and
his friends had hardly crouched down before the
melancholy hooting of a mountain owl was heard
within a few yards of them, which was immediately
answered by another hoot at a small distance. At
the same moment a vague shadowy figure emerged
from the gap for which they had been making, and
uttered the plaintive signal cry again, on which a
second man appeared out of the obscurity.
“To-morrow at midnight,” said the first who
appeared to be in authority. “When the Whip-poorWill calls three times.”
“It is well,” returned the other. “Shall I tell
Brother Drebber?”
“Pass it on to him, and from him to the others.
Nine to seven!”
“Seven to five!” repeated the other, and the two
figures flitted away in different directions. Their
concluding words had evidently been some form
of sign and countersign. The instant that their footsteps had died away in the distance, Jefferson Hope
“That is well. The house is watched on every
side. That is why I crawled my way up to it. They
may be darned sharp, but they’re not quite sharp
enough to catch a Washoe hunter.”
John Ferrier felt a different man now that he
realized that he had a devoted ally. He seized the
young man’s leathery hand and wrung it cordially.
“You’re a man to be proud of,” he said. “There are
not many who would come to share our danger
and our troubles.”
“You’ve hit it there, pard,” the young hunter
answered. “I have a respect for you, but if you were
alone in this business I’d think twice before I put
my head into such a hornet’s nest. It’s Lucy that
brings me here, and before harm comes on her I
guess there will be one less o’ the Hope family in
Utah.”
“What are we to do?”
“To-morrow is your last day, and unless you act
to-night you are lost. I have a mule and two horses
waiting in the Eagle Ravine. How much money
have you?”
“Two thousand dollars in gold, and five in
notes.”
“That will do. I have as much more to add to it.
We must push for Carson City through the mountains. You had best wake Lucy. It is as well that the
servants do not sleep in the house.”
While Ferrier was absent, preparing his daughter for the approaching journey, Jefferson Hope
packed all the eatables that he could find into a
small parcel, and filled a stoneware jar with water, for he knew by experience that the mountain
wells were few and far between. He had hardly
completed his arrangements before the farmer returned with his daughter all dressed and ready for
a start. The greeting between the lovers was warm,
but brief, for minutes were precious, and there was
much to be done.
“We must make our start at once,” said Jefferson Hope, speaking in a low but resolute voice, like
one who realizes the greatness of the peril, but has
steeled his heart to meet it. “The front and back
entrances are watched, but with caution we may
get away through the side window and across the
fields. Once on the road we are only two miles
from the Ravine where the horses are waiting. By
daybreak we should be half-way through the mountains.”
“What if we are stopped,” asked Ferrier.
49
A Study In Scarlet
sprang to his feet, and helping his companions
through the gap, led the way across the fields at
the top of his speed, supporting and half-carrying
the girl when her strength appeared to fail her.
“Hurry on! hurry on!” he gasped from time to
time. “We are through the line of sentinels. Everything depends on speed. Hurry on!”
Once on the high road they made rapid
progress. Only once did they meet anyone, and
then they managed to slip into a field, and so
avoid recognition. Before reaching the town the
hunter branched away into a rugged and narrow
footpath which led to the mountains. Two dark
jagged peaks loomed above them through the darkness, and the defile which led between them was
the Eagle Cañon in which the horses were awaiting
them. With unerring instinct Jefferson Hope picked
his way among the great boulders and along the
bed of a dried-up watercourse, until he came to the
retired corner, screened with rocks, where the faithful animals had been picketed. The girl was placed
upon the mule, and old Ferrier upon one of the
horses, with his money-bag, while Jefferson Hope
led the other along the precipitous and dangerous
path.
It was a bewildering route for anyone who
was not accustomed to face Nature in her wildest
moods. On the one side a great crag towered up
a thousand feet or more, black, stern, and menacing, with long basaltic columns upon its rugged
surface like the ribs of some petrified monster. On
the other hand a wild chaos of boulders and debris
made all advance impossible. Between the two ran
the irregular track, so narrow in places that they
had to travel in Indian file, and so rough that only
practised riders could have traversed it at all. Yet
in spite of all dangers and difficulties, the hearts
of the fugitives were light within them, for every
step increased the distance between them and the
terrible despotism from which they were flying.
They soon had a proof, however, that they were
still within the jurisdiction of the Saints. They had
reached the very wildest and most desolate portion
of the pass when the girl gave a startled cry, and
pointed upwards. On a rock which overlooked the
track, showing out dark and plain against the sky,
there stood a solitary sentinel. He saw them as soon
as they perceived him, and his military challenge of
“Who goes there?” rang through the silent ravine.
“Travellers for Nevada,” said Jefferson Hope,
with his hand upon the rifle which hung by his
saddle.
They could see the lonely watcher fingering his
gun, and peering down at them as if dissatisfied at
their reply.
“By whose permission?” he asked.
“The Holy Four,” answered Ferrier. His Mormon experiences had taught him that that was the
highest authority to which he could refer.
“Nine from seven,” cried the sentinel.
“Seven from five,” returned Jefferson Hope
promptly, remembering the countersign which he
had heard in the garden.
“Pass, and the Lord go with you,” said the voice
from above. Beyond his post the path broadened
out, and the horses were able to break into a trot.
Looking back, they could see the solitary watcher
leaning upon his gun, and knew that they had
passed the outlying post of the chosen people, and
that freedom lay before them.
CHAPTER V.
The Avenging Angels
All night their course lay through intricate
defiles and over irregular and rock-strewn paths.
More than once they lost their way, but Hope’s intimate knowledge of the mountains enabled them to
regain the track once more. When morning broke,
a scene of marvellous though savage beauty lay
before them. In every direction the great snow-
capped peaks hemmed them in, peeping over each
other’s shoulders to the far horizon. So steep were
the rocky banks on either side of them, that the
larch and the pine seemed to be suspended over
their heads, and to need only a gust of wind to
come hurtling down upon them. Nor was the fear
entirely an illusion, for the barren valley was thickly
50
A Study In Scarlet
strewn with trees and boulders which had fallen in
a similar manner. Even as they passed, a great rock
came thundering down with a hoarse rattle which
woke the echoes in the silent gorges, and startled
the weary horses into a gallop.
indications, he judged that there were numerous
bears in the vicinity. At last, after two or three
hours’ fruitless search, he was thinking of turning
back in despair, when casting his eyes upwards he
saw a sight which sent a thrill of pleasure through
his heart. On the edge of a jutting pinnacle, three
or four hundred feet above him, there stood a creature somewhat resembling a sheep in appearance,
but armed with a pair of gigantic horns. The bighorn—for so it is called—was acting, probably, as a
guardian over a flock which were invisible to the
hunter; but fortunately it was heading in the opposite direction, and had not perceived him. Lying
on his face, he rested his rifle upon a rock, and
took a long and steady aim before drawing the trigger. The animal sprang into the air, tottered for a
moment upon the edge of the precipice, and then
came crashing down into the valley beneath.
As the sun rose slowly above the eastern horizon, the caps of the great mountains lit up one after
the other, like lamps at a festival, until they were
all ruddy and glowing. The magnificent spectacle
cheered the hearts of the three fugitives and gave
them fresh energy. At a wild torrent which swept
out of a ravine they called a halt and watered their
horses, while they partook of a hasty breakfast.
Lucy and her father would fain have rested longer,
but Jefferson Hope was inexorable. “They will be
upon our track by this time,” he said. “Everything
depends upon our speed. Once safe in Carson we
may rest for the remainder of our lives.”
The creature was too unwieldy to lift, so the
hunter contented himself with cutting away one
haunch and part of the flank. With this trophy over
his shoulder, he hastened to retrace his steps, for
the evening was already drawing in. He had hardly
started, however, before he realized the difficulty
which faced him. In his eagerness he had wandered
far past the ravines which were known to him, and
it was no easy matter to pick out the path which he
had taken. The valley in which he found himself
divided and sub-divided into many gorges, which
were so like each other that it was impossible to
distinguish one from the other. He followed one for
a mile or more until he came to a mountain torrent
which he was sure that he had never seen before.
Convinced that he had taken the wrong turn, he
tried another, but with the same result. Night was
coming on rapidly, and it was almost dark before
he at last found himself in a defile which was familiar to him. Even then it was no easy matter to
keep to the right track, for the moon had not yet
risen, and the high cliffs on either side made the
obscurity more profound. Weighed down with his
burden, and weary from his exertions, he stumbled
along, keeping up his heart by the reflection that
every step brought him nearer to Lucy, and that he
carried with him enough to ensure them food for
the remainder of their journey.
During the whole of that day they struggled
on through the defiles, and by evening they calculated that they were more than thirty miles from
their enemies. At night-time they chose the base
of a beetling crag, where the rocks offered some
protection from the chill wind, and there huddled
together for warmth, they enjoyed a few hours’
sleep. Before daybreak, however, they were up and
on their way once more. They had seen no signs of
any pursuers, and Jefferson Hope began to think
that they were fairly out of the reach of the terrible organization whose enmity they had incurred.
He little knew how far that iron grasp could reach,
or how soon it was to close upon them and crush
them.
About the middle of the second day of their
flight their scanty store of provisions began to run
out. This gave the hunter little uneasiness, however,
for there was game to be had among the mountains,
and he had frequently before had to depend upon
his rifle for the needs of life. Choosing a sheltered
nook, he piled together a few dried branches and
made a blazing fire, at which his companions might
warm themselves, for they were now nearly five
thousand feet above the sea level, and the air was
bitter and keen. Having tethered the horses, and
bade Lucy adieu, he threw his gun over his shoulder, and set out in search of whatever chance might
throw in his way. Looking back he saw the old
man and the young girl crouching over the blazing
fire, while the three animals stood motionless in
the back-ground. Then the intervening rocks hid
them from his view.
He had now come to the mouth of the very defile in which he had left them. Even in the darkness
he could recognize the outline of the cliffs which
bounded it. They must, he reflected, be awaiting
him anxiously, for he had been absent nearly five
hours. In the gladness of his heart he put his
hands to his mouth and made the glen re-echo
to a loud halloo as a signal that he was coming. He
paused and listened for an answer. None came save
He walked for a couple of miles through one
ravine after another without success, though from
the marks upon the bark of the trees, and other
51
A Study In Scarlet
his own cry, which clattered up the dreary silent
ravines, and was borne back to his ears in countless
repetitions. Again he shouted, even louder than
before, and again no whisper came back from the
friends whom he had left such a short time ago.
A vague, nameless dread came over him, and he
hurried onwards frantically, dropping the precious
food in his agitation.
becoming one of the harem of the Elder’s son. As
the young fellow realized the certainty of her fate,
and his own powerlessness to prevent it, he wished
that he, too, was lying with the old farmer in his
last silent resting-place.
Again, however, his active spirit shook off the
lethargy which springs from despair. If there was
nothing else left to him, he could at least devote his
life to revenge. With indomitable patience and perseverance, Jefferson Hope possessed also a power
of sustained vindictiveness, which he may have
learned from the Indians amongst whom he had
lived. As he stood by the desolate fire, he felt
that the only one thing which could assuage his
grief would be thorough and complete retribution,
brought by his own hand upon his enemies. His
strong will and untiring energy should, he determined, be devoted to that one end. With a grim,
white face, he retraced his steps to where he had
dropped the food, and having stirred up the smouldering fire, he cooked enough to last him for a few
days. This he made up into a bundle, and, tired
as he was, he set himself to walk back through the
mountains upon the track of the avenging angels.
When he turned the corner, he came full in sight
of the spot where the fire had been lit. There was
still a glowing pile of wood ashes there, but it had
evidently not been tended since his departure. The
same dead silence still reigned all round. With
his fears all changed to convictions, he hurried on.
There was no living creature near the remains of
the fire: animals, man, maiden, all were gone. It
was only too clear that some sudden and terrible
disaster had occurred during his absence—a disaster which had embraced them all, and yet had left
no traces behind it.
Bewildered and stunned by this blow, Jefferson
Hope felt his head spin round, and had to lean
upon his rifle to save himself from falling. He was
essentially a man of action, however, and speedily
recovered from his temporary impotence. Seizing a
half-consumed piece of wood from the smouldering
fire, he blew it into a flame, and proceeded with its
help to examine the little camp. The ground was all
stamped down by the feet of horses, showing that
a large party of mounted men had overtaken the
fugitives, and the direction of their tracks proved
that they had afterwards turned back to Salt Lake
City. Had they carried back both of his companions
with them? Jefferson Hope had almost persuaded
himself that they must have done so, when his eye
fell upon an object which made every nerve of his
body tingle within him. A little way on one side
of the camp was a low-lying heap of reddish soil,
which had assuredly not been there before. There
was no mistaking it for anything but a newly-dug
grave. As the young hunter approached it, he perceived that a stick had been planted on it, with
a sheet of paper stuck in the cleft fork of it. The
inscription upon the paper was brief, but to the
point:
For five days he toiled footsore and weary
through the defiles which he had already traversed
on horseback. At night he flung himself down
among the rocks, and snatched a few hours of sleep;
but before daybreak he was always well on his way.
On the sixth day, he reached the Eagle Cañon, from
which they had commenced their ill-fated flight.
Thence he could look down upon the home of the
saints. Worn and exhausted, he leaned upon his
rifle and shook his gaunt hand fiercely at the silent
widespread city beneath him. As he looked at it,
he observed that there were flags in some of the
principal streets, and other signs of festivity. He
was still speculating as to what this might mean
when he heard the clatter of horse’s hoofs, and saw
a mounted man riding towards him. As he approached, he recognized him as a Mormon named
Cowper, to whom he had rendered services at different times. He therefore accosted him when he
got up to him, with the object of finding out what
Lucy Ferrier’s fate had been.
“I am Jefferson Hope,” he said. “You remember
me.”
JOHN FERRIER,
Formerly of Salt Lake City,
Died August 4th, 1860.
The sturdy old man, whom he had left so short a
time before, was gone, then, and this was all his
epitaph. Jefferson Hope looked wildly round to
see if there was a second grave, but there was no
sign of one. Lucy had been carried back by their
terrible pursuers to fulfil her original destiny, by
The Mormon looked at him with undisguised
astonishment—indeed, it was difficult to recognize
in this tattered, unkempt wanderer, with ghastly
white face and fierce, wild eyes, the spruce young
hunter of former days. Having, however, at last, satisfied himself as to his identity, the man’s surprise
changed to consternation.
52
A Study In Scarlet
“You are mad to come here,” he cried. “It is as
much as my own life is worth to be seen talking
with you. There is a warrant against you from the
Holy Four for assisting the Ferriers away.”
as is the Mormon custom. They were grouped
round the bier in the early hours of the morning,
when, to their inexpressible fear and astonishment,
the door was flung open, and a savage-looking,
weather-beaten man in tattered garments strode
into the room. Without a glance or a word to the
cowering women, he walked up to the white silent
figure which had once contained the pure soul of
Lucy Ferrier. Stooping over her, he pressed his lips
reverently to her cold forehead, and then, snatching up her hand, he took the wedding-ring from
her finger. “She shall not be buried in that,” he
cried with a fierce snarl, and before an alarm could
be raised sprang down the stairs and was gone.
So strange and so brief was the episode, that the
watchers might have found it hard to believe it
themselves or persuade other people of it, had it
not been for the undeniable fact that the circlet of
gold which marked her as having been a bride had
disappeared.
“I don’t fear them, or their warrant,” Hope said,
earnestly. “You must know something of this matter, Cowper. I conjure you by everything you hold
dear to answer a few questions. We have always
been friends. For God’s sake, don’t refuse to answer
me.”
“What is it?” the Mormon asked uneasily. “Be
quick. The very rocks have ears and the trees eyes.”
“What has become of Lucy Ferrier?”
“She was married yesterday to young Drebber.
Hold up, man, hold up, you have no life left in
you.”
“Don’t mind me,” said Hope faintly. He was
white to the very lips, and had sunk down on the
stone against which he had been leaning. “Married,
you say?”
For some months Jefferson Hope lingered
among the mountains, leading a strange wild
life, and nursing in his heart the fierce desire for
vengeance which possessed him. Tales were told
in the City of the weird figure which was seen
prowling about the suburbs, and which haunted
the lonely mountain gorges. Once a bullet whistled
through Stangerson’s window and flattened itself
upon the wall within a foot of him. On another
occasion, as Drebber passed under a cliff a great
boulder crashed down on him, and he only escaped
a terrible death by throwing himself upon his face.
The two young Mormons were not long in discovering the reason of these attempts upon their lives,
and led repeated expeditions into the mountains
in the hope of capturing or killing their enemy, but
always without success. Then they adopted the precaution of never going out alone or after nightfall,
and of having their houses guarded. After a time
they were able to relax these measures, for nothing
was either heard or seen of their opponent, and
they hoped that time had cooled his vindictiveness.
“Married yesterday—that’s what those flags are
for on the Endowment House. There was some
words between young Drebber and young Stangerson as to which was to have her. They’d both been
in the party that followed them, and Stangerson
had shot her father, which seemed to give him the
best claim; but when they argued it out in council,
Drebber’s party was the stronger, so the Prophet
gave her over to him. No one won’t have her very
long though, for I saw death in her face yesterday.
She is more like a ghost than a woman. Are you
off, then?”
“Yes, I am off,” said Jefferson Hope, who had
risen from his seat. His face might have been chiselled out of marble, so hard and set was its expression, while its eyes glowed with a baleful light.
“Where are you going?”
“Never mind,” he answered; and, slinging his
weapon over his shoulder, strode off down the
gorge and so away into the heart of the mountains
to the haunts of the wild beasts. Amongst them
all there was none so fierce and so dangerous as
himself.
Far from doing so, it had, if anything, augmented it. The hunter’s mind was of a hard, unyielding nature, and the predominant idea of revenge had taken such complete possession of it
that there was no room for any other emotion. He
was, however, above all things practical. He soon
realized that even his iron constitution could not
stand the incessant strain which he was putting
upon it. Exposure and want of wholesome food
were wearing him out. If he died like a dog among
the mountains, what was to become of his revenge
then? And yet such a death was sure to overtake
him if he persisted. He felt that that was to play
The prediction of the Mormon was only too
well fulfilled. Whether it was the terrible death
of her father or the effects of the hateful marriage
into which she had been forced, poor Lucy never
held up her head again, but pined away and died
within a month. Her sottish husband, who had
married her principally for the sake of John Ferrier’s property, did not affect any great grief at his
bereavement; but his other wives mourned over
her, and sat up with her the night before the burial,
53
A Study In Scarlet
his enemy’s game, so he reluctantly returned to the
old Nevada mines, there to recruit his health and
to amass money enough to allow him to pursue his
object without privation.
His intention had been to be absent a year at
the most, but a combination of unforeseen circumstances prevented his leaving the mines for nearly
five. At the end of that time, however, his memory
of his wrongs and his craving for revenge were
quite as keen as on that memorable night when
he had stood by John Ferrier’s grave. Disguised,
and under an assumed name, he returned to Salt
Lake City, careless what became of his own life,
as long as he obtained what he knew to be justice.
There he found evil tidings awaiting him. There
had been a schism among the Chosen People a few
months before, some of the younger members of
the Church having rebelled against the authority of
the Elders, and the result had been the secession of
a certain number of the malcontents, who had left
Utah and become Gentiles. Among these had been
Drebber and Stangerson; and no one knew whither
they had gone. Rumour reported that Drebber had
managed to convert a large part of his property
into money, and that he had departed a wealthy
man, while his companion, Stangerson, was comparatively poor. There was no clue at all, however,
as to their whereabouts.
Many a man, however vindictive, would have
abandoned all thought of revenge in the face of
such a difficulty, but Jefferson Hope never faltered
for a moment. With the small competence he possessed, eked out by such employment as he could
pick up, he travelled from town to town through the
United States in quest of his enemies. Year passed
into year, his black hair turned grizzled, but still
he wandered on, a human bloodhound, with his
mind wholly set upon the one object upon which
he had devoted his life. At last his perseverance
was rewarded. It was but a glance of a face in a
window, but that one glance told him that Cleveland in Ohio possessed the men whom he was in
pursuit of. He returned to his miserable lodgings
with his plan of vengeance all arranged. It chanced,
however, that Drebber, looking from his window,
had recognized the vagrant in the street, and had
read murder in his eyes. He hurried before a justice
of the peace, accompanied by Stangerson, who had
become his private secretary, and represented to
him that they were in danger of their lives from the
jealousy and hatred of an old rival. That evening
Jefferson Hope was taken into custody, and not
being able to find sureties, was detained for some
weeks. When at last he was liberated, it was only
to find that Drebber’s house was deserted, and that
he and his secretary had departed for Europe.
Again the avenger had been foiled, and again
his concentrated hatred urged him to continue the
pursuit. Funds were wanting, however, and for
some time he had to return to work, saving every
dollar for his approaching journey. At last, having
collected enough to keep life in him, he departed
for Europe, and tracked his enemies from city to
city, working his way in any menial capacity, but
never overtaking the fugitives. When he reached St.
Petersburg they had departed for Paris; and when
he followed them there he learned that they had just
set off for Copenhagen. At the Danish capital he
was again a few days late, for they had journeyed
on to London, where he at last succeeded in running them to earth. As to what occurred there, we
cannot do better than quote the old hunter’s own
account, as duly recorded in Dr. Watson’s Journal,
to which we are already under such obligations.
CHAPTER VI.
A Continuation Of The Reminiscences Of John Watson, M.D.
Our prisoner’s furious resistance did not
apparently indicate any ferocity in his disposition
towards ourselves, for on finding himself powerless, he smiled in an affable manner, and expressed
his hopes that he had not hurt any of us in the
scuffle. “I guess you’re going to take me to the
police-station,” he remarked to Sherlock Holmes.
“My cab’s at the door. If you’ll loose my legs I’ll
walk down to it. I’m not so light to lift as I used to
be.”
Gregson and Lestrade exchanged glances as if
they thought this proposition rather a bold one; but
54
A Study In Scarlet
Holmes at once took the prisoner at his word, and
loosened the towel which we had bound round his
ankles. He rose and stretched his legs, as though
to assure himself that they were free once more. I
remember that I thought to myself, as I eyed him,
that I had seldom seen a more powerfully built
man; and his dark sunburned face bore an expression of determination and energy which was as
formidable as his personal strength.
when some powerful engine was at work. In the
silence of the room I could hear a dull humming
and buzzing noise which proceeded from the same
source.
“Why,” I cried, “you have an aortic aneurism!”
“That’s what they call it,” he said, placidly. “I
went to a Doctor last week about it, and he told me
that it is bound to burst before many days passed.
It has been getting worse for years. I got it from
over-exposure and under-feeding among the Salt
Lake Mountains. I’ve done my work now, and I
don’t care how soon I go, but I should like to leave
some account of the business behind me. I don’t
want to be remembered as a common cut-throat.”
“If there’s a vacant place for a chief of the police,
I reckon you are the man for it,” he said, gazing
with undisguised admiration at my fellow-lodger.
“The way you kept on my trail was a caution.”
“You had better come with me,” said Holmes
to the two detectives.
The Inspector and the two detectives had a hurried discussion as to the advisability of allowing
him to tell his story.
“I can drive you,” said Lestrade.
“Good! and Gregson can come inside with me.
You too, Doctor, you have taken an interest in the
case and may as well stick to us.”
“Do you consider, Doctor, that there is immediate danger?” the former asked.
I assented gladly, and we all descended together. Our prisoner made no attempt at escape,
but stepped calmly into the cab which had been
his, and we followed him. Lestrade mounted the
box, whipped up the horse, and brought us in a
very short time to our destination. We were ushered into a small chamber where a police Inspector
noted down our prisoner’s name and the names of
the men with whose murder he had been charged.
The official was a white-faced unemotional man,
who went through his duties in a dull mechanical
way. “The prisoner will be put before the magistrates in the course of the week,” he said; “in the
mean time, Mr. Jefferson Hope, have you anything
that you wish to say? I must warn you that your
words will be taken down, and may be used against
you.”
“Most certainly there is,” I answered.
“In that case it is clearly our duty, in the interests
of justice, to take his statement,” said the Inspector.
“You are at liberty, sir, to give your account, which
I again warn you will be taken down.”
“I’ll sit down, with your leave,” the prisoner
said, suiting the action to the word. “This aneurism
of mine makes me easily tired, and the tussle we
had half an hour ago has not mended matters. I’m
on the brink of the grave, and I am not likely to
lie to you. Every word I say is the absolute truth,
and how you use it is a matter of no consequence
to me.”
With these words, Jefferson Hope leaned back
in his chair and began the following remarkable
statement. He spoke in a calm and methodical
manner, as though the events which he narrated
were commonplace enough. I can vouch for the
accuracy of the subjoined account, for I have had
access to Lestrade’s note-book, in which the prisoner’s words were taken down exactly as they were
uttered.
“I’ve got a good deal to say,” our prisoner said
slowly. “I want to tell you gentlemen all about it.”
“Hadn’t you better reserve that for your trial?”
asked the Inspector.
“I may never be tried,” he answered. “You
needn’t look startled. It isn’t suicide I am thinking
of. Are you a Doctor?” He turned his fierce dark
eyes upon me as he asked this last question.
“It don’t much matter to you why I hated these
men,” he said; “it’s enough that they were guilty
of the death of two human beings—a father and a
daughter—and that they had, therefore, forfeited
their own lives. After the lapse of time that has
passed since their crime, it was impossible for me
to secure a conviction against them in any court. I
knew of their guilt though, and I determined that
I should be judge, jury, and executioner all rolled
into one. You’d have done the same, if you have
any manhood in you, if you had been in my place.
“Yes; I am,” I answered.
“Then put your hand here,” he said, with a
smile, motioning with his manacled wrists towards
his chest.
I did so; and became at once conscious of an extraordinary throbbing and commotion which was
going on inside. The walls of his chest seemed to
thrill and quiver as a frail building would do inside
55
A Study In Scarlet
“That girl that I spoke of was to have married
me twenty years ago. She was forced into marrying
that same Drebber, and broke her heart over it. I
took the marriage ring from her dead finger, and
I vowed that his dying eyes should rest upon that
very ring, and that his last thoughts should be of
the crime for which he was punished. I have carried it about with me, and have followed him and
his accomplice over two continents until I caught
them. They thought to tire me out, but they could
not do it. If I die to-morrow, as is likely enough, I
die knowing that my work in this world is done,
and well done. They have perished, and by my
hand. There is nothing left for me to hope for, or
to desire.
behind them every day, and never once saw them
separate. Drebber himself was drunk half the time,
but Stangerson was not to be caught napping. I
watched them late and early, but never saw the
ghost of a chance; but I was not discouraged, for
something told me that the hour had almost come.
My only fear was that this thing in my chest might
burst a little too soon and leave my work undone.
“At last, one evening I was driving up and down
Torquay Terrace, as the street was called in which
they boarded, when I saw a cab drive up to their
door. Presently some luggage was brought out,
and after a time Drebber and Stangerson followed
it, and drove off. I whipped up my horse and kept
within sight of them, feeling very ill at ease, for
I feared that they were going to shift their quarters. At Euston Station they got out, and I left a
boy to hold my horse, and followed them on to
the platform. I heard them ask for the Liverpool
train, and the guard answer that one had just gone
and there would not be another for some hours.
Stangerson seemed to be put out at that, but Drebber was rather pleased than otherwise. I got so
close to them in the bustle that I could hear every
word that passed between them. Drebber said that
he had a little business of his own to do, and that
if the other would wait for him he would soon rejoin him. His companion remonstrated with him,
and reminded him that they had resolved to stick
together. Drebber answered that the matter was a
delicate one, and that he must go alone. I could not
catch what Stangerson said to that, but the other
burst out swearing, and reminded him that he was
nothing more than his paid servant, and that he
must not presume to dictate to him. On that the
Secretary gave it up as a bad job, and simply bargained with him that if he missed the last train he
should rejoin him at Halliday’s Private Hotel; to
which Drebber answered that he would be back on
the platform before eleven, and made his way out
of the station.
“They were rich and I was poor, so that it was
no easy matter for me to follow them. When I
got to London my pocket was about empty, and I
found that I must turn my hand to something for
my living. Driving and riding are as natural to me
as walking, so I applied at a cabowner’s office, and
soon got employment. I was to bring a certain sum
a week to the owner, and whatever was over that
I might keep for myself. There was seldom much
over, but I managed to scrape along somehow. The
hardest job was to learn my way about, for I reckon
that of all the mazes that ever were contrived, this
city is the most confusing. I had a map beside me
though, and when once I had spotted the principal
hotels and stations, I got on pretty well.
“It was some time before I found out where
my two gentlemen were living; but I inquired and
inquired until at last I dropped across them. They
were at a boarding-house at Camberwell, over on
the other side of the river. When once I found them
out I knew that I had them at my mercy. I had
grown my beard, and there was no chance of their
recognizing me. I would dog them and follow them
until I saw my opportunity. I was determined that
they should not escape me again.
“They were very near doing it for all that. Go
where they would about London, I was always at
their heels. Sometimes I followed them on my cab,
and sometimes on foot, but the former was the best,
for then they could not get away from me. It was
only early in the morning or late at night that I
could earn anything, so that I began to get behind
hand with my employer. I did not mind that, however, as long as I could lay my hand upon the men
I wanted.
“The moment for which I had waited so long
had at last come. I had my enemies within my
power. Together they could protect each other, but
singly they were at my mercy. I did not act, however, with undue precipitation. My plans were already formed. There is no satisfaction in vengeance
unless the offender has time to realize who it is that
strikes him, and why retribution has come upon
him. I had my plans arranged by which I should
have the opportunity of making the man who had
wronged me understand that his old sin had found
him out. It chanced that some days before a gentleman who had been engaged in looking over some
houses in the Brixton Road had dropped the key
“They were very cunning, though. They must
have thought that there was some chance of their
being followed, for they would never go out alone,
and never after nightfall. During two weeks I drove
56
A Study In Scarlet
of one of them in my carriage. It was claimed that
same evening, and returned; but in the interval I
had taken a moulding of it, and had a duplicate
constructed. By means of this I had access to at
least one spot in this great city where I could rely
upon being free from interruption. How to get
Drebber to that house was the difficult problem
which I had now to solve.
so far gone that I knew the game was in my own
hands.
“Don’t imagine that I intended to kill him in
cold blood. It would only have been rigid justice
if I had done so, but I could not bring myself to
do it. I had long determined that he should have
a show for his life if he chose to take advantage
of it. Among the many billets which I have filled
in America during my wandering life, I was once
janitor and sweeper out of the laboratory at York
College. One day the professor was lecturing on
poisons, and he showed his students some alkaloid,
as he called it, which he had extracted from some
South American arrow poison, and which was so
powerful that the least grain meant instant death.
I spotted the bottle in which this preparation was
kept, and when they were all gone, I helped myself
to a little of it. I was a fairly good dispenser, so I
worked this alkaloid into small, soluble pills, and
each pill I put in a box with a similar pill made
without the poison. I determined at the time that
when I had my chance, my gentlemen should each
have a draw out of one of these boxes, while I ate
the pill that remained. It would be quite as deadly,
and a good deal less noisy than firing across a handkerchief. From that day I had always my pill boxes
about with me, and the time had now come when
I was to use them.
“It was nearer one than twelve, and a wild, bleak
night, blowing hard and raining in torrents. Dismal
as it was outside, I was glad within—so glad that I
could have shouted out from pure exultation. If any
of you gentlemen have ever pined for a thing, and
longed for it during twenty long years, and then
suddenly found it within your reach, you would
understand my feelings. I lit a cigar, and puffed at
it to steady my nerves, but my hands were trembling, and my temples throbbing with excitement.
As I drove, I could see old John Ferrier and sweet
Lucy looking at me out of the darkness and smiling
at me, just as plain as I see you all in this room. All
the way they were ahead of me, one on each side
of the horse until I pulled up at the house in the
Brixton Road.
“There was not a soul to be seen, nor a sound
to be heard, except the dripping of the rain. When
I looked in at the window, I found Drebber all huddled together in a drunken sleep. I shook him by
the arm, ‘It’s time to get out,’ I said.
“ ‘All right, cabby,’ said he.
“I suppose he thought we had come to the hotel that he had mentioned, for he got out without
another word, and followed me down the garden. I
had to walk beside him to keep him steady, for he
was still a little top-heavy. When we came to the
“He walked down the road and went into one
or two liquor shops, staying for nearly half-an-hour
in the last of them. When he came out he staggered in his walk, and was evidently pretty well
on. There was a hansom just in front of me, and
he hailed it. I followed it so close that the nose
of my horse was within a yard of his driver the
whole way. We rattled across Waterloo Bridge and
through miles of streets, until, to my astonishment,
we found ourselves back in the Terrace in which
he had boarded. I could not imagine what his intention was in returning there; but I went on and
pulled up my cab a hundred yards or so from the
house. He entered it, and his hansom drove away.
Give me a glass of water, if you please. My mouth
gets dry with the talking.”
I handed him the glass, and he drank it down.
“That’s better,” he said. “Well, I waited for
a quarter of an hour, or more, when suddenly
there came a noise like people struggling inside
the house. Next moment the door was flung open
and two men appeared, one of whom was Drebber,
and the other was a young chap whom I had never
seen before. This fellow had Drebber by the collar,
and when they came to the head of the steps he
gave him a shove and a kick which sent him half
across the road. ‘You hound,’ he cried, shaking
his stick at him; ‘I’ll teach you to insult an honest
girl!’ He was so hot that I think he would have
thrashed Drebber with his cudgel, only that the cur
staggered away down the road as fast as his legs
would carry him. He ran as far as the corner, and
then, seeing my cab, he hailed me and jumped in.
‘Drive me to Halliday’s Private Hotel,’ said he.
“When I had him fairly inside my cab, my heart
jumped so with joy that I feared lest at this last
moment my aneurism might go wrong. I drove
along slowly, weighing in my own mind what it
was best to do. I might take him right out into the
country, and there in some deserted lane have my
last interview with him. I had almost decided upon
this, when he solved the problem for me. The craze
for drink had seized him again, and he ordered me
to pull up outside a gin palace. He went in, leaving
word that I should wait for him. There he remained
until closing time, and when he came out he was
57
A Study In Scarlet
door, I opened it, and led him into the front room.
I give you my word that all the way, the father and
the daughter were walking in front of us.
the other, and we stood facing one another in silence for a minute or more, waiting to see which
was to live and which was to die. Shall I ever forget
the look which came over his face when the first
warning pangs told him that the poison was in his
system? I laughed as I saw it, and held Lucy’s
marriage ring in front of his eyes. It was but for a
moment, for the action of the alkaloid is rapid. A
spasm of pain contorted his features; he threw his
hands out in front of him, staggered, and then, with
a hoarse cry, fell heavily upon the floor. I turned
him over with my foot, and placed my hand upon
his heart. There was no movement. He was dead!
“ ‘It’s infernally dark,’ said he, stamping about.
“ ‘We’ll soon have a light,’ I said, striking a
match and putting it to a wax candle which I had
brought with me. ‘Now, Enoch Drebber,’ I continued, turning to him, and holding the light to my
own face, ‘who am I?’
“He gazed at me with bleared, drunken eyes
for a moment, and then I saw a horror spring up
in them, and convulse his whole features, which
showed me that he knew me. He staggered back
with a livid face, and I saw the perspiration break
out upon his brow, while his teeth chattered in his
head. At the sight, I leaned my back against the
door and laughed loud and long. I had always
known that vengeance would be sweet, but I had
never hoped for the contentment of soul which now
possessed me.
“The blood had been streaming from my nose,
but I had taken no notice of it. I don’t know what
it was that put it into my head to write upon the
wall with it. Perhaps it was some mischievous
idea of setting the police upon a wrong track, for
I felt light-hearted and cheerful. I remembered a
German being found in New York with RACHE
written up above him, and it was argued at the
time in the newspapers that the secret societies
must have done it. I guessed that what puzzled
the New Yorkers would puzzle the Londoners, so I
dipped my finger in my own blood and printed it
on a convenient place on the wall. Then I walked
down to my cab and found that there was nobody
about, and that the night was still very wild. I had
driven some distance when I put my hand into the
pocket in which I usually kept Lucy’s ring, and
found that it was not there. I was thunderstruck
at this, for it was the only memento that I had of
her. Thinking that I might have dropped it when
I stooped over Drebber’s body, I drove back, and
leaving my cab in a side street, I went boldly up
to the house—for I was ready to dare anything
rather than lose the ring. When I arrived there, I
walked right into the arms of a police-officer who
was coming out, and only managed to disarm his
suspicions by pretending to be hopelessly drunk.
“ ‘You dog!’ I said; ‘I have hunted you from Salt
Lake City to St. Petersburg, and you have always
escaped me. Now, at last your wanderings have
come to an end, for either you or I shall never see tomorrow’s sun rise.’ He shrunk still further away as
I spoke, and I could see on his face that he thought
I was mad. So I was for the time. The pulses in my
temples beat like sledge-hammers, and I believe I
would have had a fit of some sort if the blood had
not gushed from my nose and relieved me.
“ ‘What do you think of Lucy Ferrier now?’ I
cried, locking the door, and shaking the key in his
face. ‘Punishment has been slow in coming, but it
has overtaken you at last.’ I saw his coward lips
tremble as I spoke. He would have begged for his
life, but he knew well that it was useless.
“ ‘Would you murder me?’ he stammered.
“ ‘There is no murder,’ I answered. ‘Who talks
of murdering a mad dog? What mercy had you
upon my poor darling, when you dragged her from
her slaughtered father, and bore her away to your
accursed and shameless harem.’
“That was how Enoch Drebber came to his end.
All I had to do then was to do as much for Stangerson, and so pay off John Ferrier’s debt. I knew that
he was staying at Halliday’s Private Hotel, and I
hung about all day, but he never came out. I fancy
that he suspected something when Drebber failed
to put in an appearance. He was cunning, was
Stangerson, and always on his guard. If he thought
he could keep me off by staying indoors he was
very much mistaken. I soon found out which was
the window of his bedroom, and early next morning I took advantage of some ladders which were
lying in the lane behind the hotel, and so made my
way into his room in the grey of the dawn. I woke
him up and told him that the hour had come when
“ ‘It was not I who killed her father,’ he cried.
“ ‘But it was you who broke her innocent heart,’
I shrieked, thrusting the box before him. ‘Let the
high God judge between us. Choose and eat. There
is death in one and life in the other. I shall take
what you leave. Let us see if there is justice upon
the earth, or if we are ruled by chance.’
“He cowered away with wild cries and prayers
for mercy, but I drew my knife and held it to his
throat until he had obeyed me. Then I swallowed
58
A Study In Scarlet
tives, blase as they were in every detail of crime,
appeared to be keenly interested in the man’s story.
When he finished we sat for some minutes in a
stillness which was only broken by the scratching
of Lestrade’s pencil as he gave the finishing touches
to his shorthand account.
he was to answer for the life he had taken so long
before. I described Drebber’s death to him, and
I gave him the same choice of the poisoned pills.
Instead of grasping at the chance of safety which
that offered him, he sprang from his bed and flew
at my throat. In self-defence I stabbed him to the
heart. It would have been the same in any case,
for Providence would never have allowed his guilty
hand to pick out anything but the poison.
“There is only one point on which I should like
a little more information,” Sherlock Holmes said at
last. “Who was your accomplice who came for the
ring which I advertised?”
“I have little more to say, and it’s as well, for I
am about done up. I went on cabbing it for a day or
so, intending to keep at it until I could save enough
to take me back to America. I was standing in the
yard when a ragged youngster asked if there was
a cabby there called Jefferson Hope, and said that
his cab was wanted by a gentleman at 221b, Baker
Street. I went round, suspecting no harm, and the
next thing I knew, this young man here had the
bracelets on my wrists, and as neatly snackled as
ever I saw in my life. That’s the whole of my story,
gentlemen. You may consider me to be a murderer;
but I hold that I am just as much an officer of justice
as you are.”
The prisoner winked at my friend jocosely. “I
can tell my own secrets,” he said, “but I don’t get
other people into trouble. I saw your advertisement,
and I thought it might be a plant, or it might be the
ring which I wanted. My friend volunteered to go
and see. I think you’ll own he did it smartly.”
“Not a doubt of that,” said Holmes heartily.
“Now, gentlemen,” the Inspector remarked
gravely, “the forms of the law must be complied
with. On Thursday the prisoner will be brought
before the magistrates, and your attendance will be
required. Until then I will be responsible for him.”
He rang the bell as he spoke, and Jefferson Hope
was led off by a couple of warders, while my friend
and I made our way out of the Station and took a
cab back to Baker Street.
So thrilling had the man’s narrative been, and
his manner was so impressive that we had sat
silent and absorbed. Even the professional detec-
CHAPTER VII.
The Conclusion
We had all been warned to appear before
the magistrates upon the Thursday; but when the
Thursday came there was no occasion for our testimony. A higher Judge had taken the matter in
hand, and Jefferson Hope had been summoned before a tribunal where strict justice would be meted
out to him. On the very night after his capture the
aneurism burst, and he was found in the morning
stretched upon the floor of the cell, with a placid
smile upon his face, as though he had been able in
his dying moments to look back upon a useful life,
and on work well done.
“I don’t see that they had very much to do with
his capture,” I answered.
“What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence,” returned my companion, bitterly. “The
question is, what can you make people believe that
you have done. Never mind,” he continued, more
brightly, after a pause. “I would not have missed
the investigation for anything. There has been no
better case within my recollection. Simple as it was,
there were several most instructive points about it.”
“Simple!” I ejaculated.
“Gregson and Lestrade will be wild about his
death,” Holmes remarked, as we chatted it over
next evening. “Where will their grand advertisement be now?”
“Well, really, it can hardly be described as otherwise,” said Sherlock Holmes, smiling at my surprise. “The proof of its intrinsic simplicity is, that
without any help save a few very ordinary deduc59
A Study In Scarlet
tions I was able to lay my hand upon the criminal
within three days.”
men who had first passed through the garden. It
was easy to tell that they had been before the others, because in places their marks had been entirely
obliterated by the others coming upon the top of
them. In this way my second link was formed,
which told me that the nocturnal visitors were two
in number, one remarkable for his height (as I calculated from the length of his stride), and the other
fashionably dressed, to judge from the small and
elegant impression left by his boots.
“On entering the house this last inference was
confirmed. My well-booted man lay before me. The
tall one, then, had done the murder, if murder there
was. There was no wound upon the dead man’s
person, but the agitated expression upon his face
assured me that he had foreseen his fate before
it came upon him. Men who die from heart disease, or any sudden natural cause, never by any
chance exhibit agitation upon their features. Having sniffed the dead man’s lips I detected a slightly
sour smell, and I came to the conclusion that he
had had poison forced upon him. Again, I argued
that it had been forced upon him from the hatred
and fear expressed upon his face. By the method of
exclusion, I had arrived at this result, for no other
hypothesis would meet the facts. Do not imagine
that it was a very unheard of idea. The forcible administration of poison is by no means a new thing
in criminal annals. The cases of Dolsky in Odessa,
and of Leturier in Montpellier, will occur at once
to any toxicologist.
“And now came the great question as to the
reason why. Robbery had not been the object of the
murder, for nothing was taken. Was it politics, then,
or was it a woman? That was the question which
confronted me. I was inclined from the first to the
latter supposition. Political assassins are only too
glad to do their work and to fly. This murder had,
on the contrary, been done most deliberately, and
the perpetrator had left his tracks all over the room,
showing that he had been there all the time. It
must have been a private wrong, and not a political
one, which called for such a methodical revenge.
When the inscription was discovered upon the wall
I was more inclined than ever to my opinion. The
thing was too evidently a blind. When the ring was
found, however, it settled the question. Clearly the
murderer had used it to remind his victim of some
dead or absent woman. It was at this point that
I asked Gregson whether he had enquired in his
telegram to Cleveland as to any particular point
in Mr. Drebber’s former career. He answered, you
remember, in the negative.
“I then proceeded to make a careful examination of the room, which confirmed me in my opin-
“That is true,” said I.
“I have already explained to you that what is
out of the common is usually a guide rather than
a hindrance. In solving a problem of this sort, the
grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That
is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy
one, but people do not practise it much. In the
every-day affairs of life it is more useful to reason
forwards, and so the other comes to be neglected.
There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one
who can reason analytically.”
“I confess,” said I, “that I do not quite follow
you.”
“I hardly expected that you would. Let me see if
I can make it clearer. Most people, if you describe a
train of events to them, will tell you what the result
would be. They can put those events together in
their minds, and argue from them that something
will come to pass. There are few people, however,
who, if you told them a result, would be able to
evolve from their own inner consciousness what the
steps were which led up to that result. This power
is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backwards,
or analytically.”
“I understand,” said I.
“Now this was a case in which you were given
the result and had to find everything else for yourself. Now let me endeavour to show you the different steps in my reasoning. To begin at the beginning. I approached the house, as you know, on foot,
and with my mind entirely free from all impressions. I naturally began by examining the roadway,
and there, as I have already explained to you, I saw
clearly the marks of a cab, which, I ascertained by
inquiry, must have been there during the night. I
satisfied myself that it was a cab and not a private
carriage by the narrow gauge of the wheels. The
ordinary London growler is considerably less wide
than a gentleman’s brougham.
“This was the first point gained. I then walked
slowly down the garden path, which happened to
be composed of a clay soil, peculiarly suitable for
taking impressions. No doubt it appeared to you to
be a mere trampled line of slush, but to my trained
eyes every mark upon its surface had a meaning.
There is no branch of detective science which is
so important and so much neglected as the art of
tracing footsteps. Happily, I have always laid great
stress upon it, and much practice has made it second nature to me. I saw the heavy footmarks of
the constables, but I saw also the track of the two
60
A Study In Scarlet
ion as to the murderer’s height, and furnished me
with the additional details as to the Trichinopoly
cigar and the length of his nails. I had already come
to the conclusion, since there were no signs of a
struggle, that the blood which covered the floor had
burst from the murderer’s nose in his excitement.
I could perceive that the track of blood coincided
with the track of his feet. It is seldom that any
man, unless he is very full-blooded, breaks out in
this way through emotion, so I hazarded the opinion that the criminal was probably a robust and
ruddy-faced man. Events proved that I had judged
correctly.
“Having left the house, I proceeded to do what
Gregson had neglected. I telegraphed to the head
of the police at Cleveland, limiting my enquiry to
the circumstances connected with the marriage of
Enoch Drebber. The answer was conclusive. It told
me that Drebber had already applied for the protection of the law against an old rival in love, named
Jefferson Hope, and that this same Hope was at
present in Europe. I knew now that I held the clue
to the mystery in my hand, and all that remained
was to secure the murderer.
“I had already determined in my own mind
that the man who had walked into the house with
Drebber, was none other than the man who had
driven the cab. The marks in the road showed me
that the horse had wandered on in a way which
would have been impossible had there been anyone
in charge of it. Where, then, could the driver be,
unless he were inside the house? Again, it is absurd
to suppose that any sane man would carry out a
deliberate crime under the very eyes, as it were, of
a third person, who was sure to betray him. Lastly,
supposing one man wished to dog another through
London, what better means could he adopt than to
turn cabdriver. All these considerations led me to
the irresistible conclusion that Jefferson Hope was
to be found among the jarveys of the Metropolis.
“If he had been one there was no reason to believe that he had ceased to be. On the contrary,
from his point of view, any sudden chance would
be likely to draw attention to himself. He would,
probably, for a time at least, continue to perform his
duties. There was no reason to suppose that he was
going under an assumed name. Why should he
change his name in a country where no one knew
his original one? I therefore organized my Street
Arab detective corps, and sent them systematically
to every cab proprietor in London until they ferreted out the man that I wanted. How well they
succeeded, and how quickly I took advantage of it,
are still fresh in your recollection. The murder of
Stangerson was an incident which was entirely unexpected, but which could hardly in any case have
been prevented. Through it, as you know, I came
into possession of the pills, the existence of which I
had already surmised. You see the whole thing is a
chain of logical sequences without a break or flaw.”
“It is wonderful!” I cried. “Your merits should
be publicly recognized. You should publish an
account of the case. If you won’t, I will for you.”
“You may do what you like, Doctor,” he answered. “See here!” he continued, handing a paper
over to me, “look at this!”
It was the Echo for the day, and the paragraph
to which he pointed was devoted to the case in
question.
“The public,” it said, “have lost a sensational
treat through the sudden death of the man Hope,
who was suspected of the murder of Mr. Enoch
Drebber and of Mr. Joseph Stangerson. The details of the case will probably be never known now,
though we are informed upon good authority that
the crime was the result of an old standing and
romantic feud, in which love and Mormonism bore
a part. It seems that both the victims belonged, in
their younger days, to the Latter Day Saints, and
Hope, the deceased prisoner, hails also from Salt
Lake City. If the case has had no other effect, it, at
least, brings out in the most striking manner the
efficiency of our detective police force, and will
serve as a lesson to all foreigners that they will
do wisely to settle their feuds at home, and not
to carry them on to British soil. It is an open secret that the credit of this smart capture belongs
entirely to the well-known Scotland Yard officials,
Messrs. Lestrade and Gregson. The man was apprehended, it appears, in the rooms of a certain Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, who has himself, as an amateur,
shown some talent in the detective line, and who,
with such instructors, may hope in time to attain to
some degree of their skill. It is expected that a testimonial of some sort will be presented to the two
officers as a fitting recognition of their services.”
“Didn’t I tell you so when we started?” cried
Sherlock Holmes with a laugh. “That’s the result of
all our Study in Scarlet: to get them a testimonial!”
“Never mind,” I answered, “I have all the facts
in my journal, and the public shall know them. In
the meantime you must make yourself contented
by the consciousness of success, like the Roman
miser—
“ ‘Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo
Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplar in arca.’ ”
61
The Sign of the Four
The Sign of the Four
Table of contents
The Science of Deduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
67
The Statement of the Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
70
In Quest of a Solution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
73
The Story of the Bald-Headed Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
75
The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
79
Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
82
The Episode of the Barrel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
86
The Baker Street Irregulars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
91
A Break in the Chain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
95
The End of the Islander . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
99
The Great Agra Treasure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
103
The Strange Story of Jonathan Small . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
105
65
The Sign of the Four
S
CHAPTER I.
The Science of Deduction
herlock Holmes took his bottle from
the corner of the mantelpiece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco
case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled
back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his
eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm
and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable
puncture-marks. Finally he thrust the sharp point
home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back
into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of
satisfaction.
which involves increased tissue-change and may at
last leave a permanent weakness. You know, too,
what a black reaction comes upon you. Surely the
game is hardly worth the candle. Why should you,
for a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those
great powers with which you have been endowed?
Remember that I speak not only as one comrade
to another, but as a medical man to one for whose
constitution he is to some extent answerable.”
He did not seem offended. On the contrary, he
put his fingertips together and leaned his elbows
on the arms of his chair, like one who has a relish
for conversation.
Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this performance, but custom had not reconciled my mind to it. On the contrary, from day
to day I had become more irritable at the sight, and
my conscience swelled nightly within me at the
thought that I had lacked the courage to protest.
Again and again I had registered a vow that I
should deliver my soul upon the subject, but there
was that in the cool, nonchalant air of my companion which made him the last man with whom
one would care to take anything approaching to
a liberty. His great powers, his masterly manner,
and the experience which I had had of his many
extraordinary qualities, all made me diffident and
backward in crossing him.
“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give
me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis,
and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can
dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor
the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental
exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession,—or rather created it, for I am
the only one in the world.”
“The only unofficial detective?” I said, raising
my eyebrows.
“The only unofficial consulting detective,” he
answered. “I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection. When Gregson or Lestrade or
Athelney Jones are out of their depths—which, by
the way, is their normal state—the matter is laid
before me. I examine the data, as an expert, and
pronounce a specialist’s opinion. I claim no credit
in such cases. My name figures in no newspaper.
The work itself, the pleasure of finding a field for
my peculiar powers, is my highest reward. But you
have yourself had some experience of my methods
of work in the Jefferson Hope case.”
Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the
Beaune which I had taken with my lunch, or the
additional exasperation produced by the extreme
deliberation of his manner, I suddenly felt that I
could hold out no longer.
“Which is it to-day?” I asked,—“morphine or
cocaine?”
He raised his eyes languidly from the old blackletter volume which he had opened. “It is cocaine,”
he said,—“a seven-per-cent solution. Would you
care to try it?”
“Yes, indeed,” said I, cordially. “I was never so
struck by anything in my life. I even embodied it in
a small brochure with the somewhat fantastic title
of ‘A Study in Scarlet.’ ”
“No, indeed,” I answered, brusquely. “My constitution has not got over the Afghan campaign yet.
I cannot afford to throw any extra strain upon it.”
He shook his head sadly. “I glanced over it,”
said he. “Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon
it. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science,
and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with
romanticism, which produces much the same effect
as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into
the fifth proposition of Euclid.”
He smiled at my vehemence. “Perhaps you are
right, Watson,” he said. “I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one. I find it, however,
so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the
mind that its secondary action is a matter of small
moment.”
“But consider!” I said, earnestly. “Count the
cost! Your brain may, as you say, be roused and
excited, but it is a pathological and morbid process,
“But the romance was there,” I remonstrated. “I
could not tamper with the facts.”
67
The Sign of the Four
“Some facts should be suppressed, or at least
a just sense of proportion should be observed in
treating them. The only point in the case which
deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes by which I succeeded
in unraveling it.”
hundred and forty forms of cigar-, cigarette-, and
pipe-tobacco, with colored plates illustrating the
difference in the ash. It is a point which is continually turning up in criminal trials, and which
is sometimes of supreme importance as a clue. If
you can say definitely, for example, that some murder has been done by a man who was smoking an
Indian lunkah, it obviously narrows your field of
search. To the trained eye there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and
the white fluff of bird’s-eye as there is between a
cabbage and a potato.”
I was annoyed at this criticism of a work which
had been specially designed to please him. I confess, too, that I was irritated by the egotism which
seemed to demand that every line of my pamphlet
should be devoted to his own special doings. More
than once during the years that I had lived with
him in Baker Street I had observed that a small vanity underlay my companion’s quiet and didactic
manner. I made no remark, however, but sat nursing my wounded leg. I had a Jezail bullet through
it some time before, and, though it did not prevent
me from walking, it ached wearily at every change
of the weather.
“You have an extraordinary genius for minutiae,” I remarked.
“I appreciate their importance. Here is my
monograph upon the tracing of footsteps, with
some remarks upon the uses of plaster of Paris
as a preserver of impresses. Here, too, is a curious little work upon the influence of a trade
upon the form of the hand, with lithotypes of the
hands of slaters, sailors, corkcutters, compositors,
weavers, and diamond-polishers. That is a matter
of great practical interest to the scientific detective,—especially in cases of unclaimed bodies, or
in discovering the antecedents of criminals. But I
weary you with my hobby.”
“My practice has extended recently to the Continent,” said Holmes, after a while, filling up his
old brier-root pipe. “I was consulted last week by
Francois Le Villard, who, as you probably know,
has come rather to the front lately in the French
detective service. He has all the Celtic power of
quick intuition, but he is deficient in the wide range
of exact knowledge which is essential to the higher
developments of his art. The case was concerned
with a will, and possessed some features of interest.
I was able to refer him to two parallel cases, the
one at Riga in 1857, and the other at St. Louis in
1871, which have suggested to him the true solution. Here is the letter which I had this morning
acknowledging my assistance.” He tossed over, as
he spoke, a crumpled sheet of foreign notepaper. I
glanced my eyes down it, catching a profusion of
notes of admiration, with stray magnifiques, coup-demaı̂tres and tours-de-force, all testifying to the ardent
admiration of the Frenchman.
“Not at all,” I answered, earnestly. “It is of
the greatest interest to me, especially since I have
had the opportunity of observing your practical
application of it. But you spoke just now of observation and deduction. Surely the one to some
extent implies the other.”
“Why, hardly,” he answered, leaning back luxuriously in his armchair, and sending up thick blue
wreaths from his pipe. “For example, observation
shows me that you have been to the Wigmore Street
Post-Office this morning, but deduction lets me
know that when there you dispatched a telegram.”
“He speaks as a pupil to his master,” said I.
“Right!” said I. “Right on both points! But I
confess that I don’t see how you arrived at it. It
was a sudden impulse upon my part, and I have
mentioned it to no one.”
“Oh, he rates my assistance too highly,” said
Sherlock Holmes, lightly. “He has considerable
gifts himself. He possesses two out of the three
qualities necessary for the ideal detective. He has
the power of observation and that of deduction. He
is only wanting in knowledge; and that may come
in time. He is now translating my small works into
French.”
“It is simplicity itself,” he remarked, chuckling
at my surprise,—“so absurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous; and yet it may serve to
define the limits of observation and of deduction.
Observation tells me that you have a little reddish
mould adhering to your instep. Just opposite the
Seymour Street Office they have taken up the pavement and thrown up some earth which lies in such
a way that it is difficult to avoid treading in it in
entering. The earth is of this peculiar reddish tint
which is found, as far as I know, nowhere else in
“Your works?”
“Oh, didn’t you know?” he cried, laughing.
“Yes, I have been guilty of several monographs.
They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for
example, is one ‘Upon the Distinction between the
Ashes of the Various Tobaccoes.’ In it I enumerate a
68
The Sign of the Four
the neighborhood. So much is observation. The
rest is deduction.”
“Quite so. The W. suggests your own name. The
date of the watch is nearly fifty years back, and the
initials are as old as the watch: so it was made for
the last generation. Jewelry usually descents to the
eldest son, and he is most likely to have the same
name as the father. Your father has, if I remember
right, been dead many years. It has, therefore, been
in the hands of your eldest brother.”
“How, then, did you deduce the telegram?”
“Why, of course I knew that you had not written
a letter, since I sat opposite to you all morning. I
see also in your open desk there that you have a
sheet of stamps and a thick bundle of postcards.
What could you go into the post-office for, then,
but to send a wire? Eliminate all other factors, and
the one which remains must be the truth.”
“Right, so far,” said I. “Anything else?”
“He was a man of untidy habits,—very untidy
and careless. He was left with good prospects, but
he threw away his chances, lived for some time in
poverty with occasional short intervals of prosperity, and finally, taking to drink, he died. That is all
I can gather.”
“In this case it certainly is so,” I replied, after a
little thought. “The thing, however, is, as you say,
of the simplest. Would you think me impertinent if
I were to put your theories to a more severe test?”
“On the contrary,” he answered, “it would prevent me from taking a second dose of cocaine. I
should be delighted to look into any problem which
you might submit to me.”
I sprang from my chair and limped impatiently
about the room with considerable bitterness in my
heart.
“I have heard you say that it is difficult for a
man to have any object in daily use without leaving
the impress of his individuality upon it in such a
way that a trained observer might read it. Now, I
have here a watch which has recently come into my
possession. Would you have the kindness to let me
have an opinion upon the character or habits of the
late owner?”
“This is unworthy of you, Holmes,” I said. “I
could not have believed that you would have descended to this. You have made inquires into the
history of my unhappy brother, and you now pretend to deduce this knowledge in some fanciful
way. You cannot expect me to believe that you have
read all this from his old watch! It is unkind, and,
to speak plainly, has a touch of charlatanism in it.”
I handed him over the watch with some slight
feeling of amusement in my heart, for the test was,
as I thought, an impossible one, and I intended it as
a lesson against the somewhat dogmatic tone which
he occasionally assumed. He balanced the watch
in his hand, gazed hard at the dial, opened the
back, and examined the works, first with his naked
eyes and then with a powerful convex lens. I could
hardly keep from smiling at his crestfallen face
when he finally snapped the case to and handed it
back.
“My dear doctor,” said he, kindly, “pray accept
my apologies. Viewing the matter as an abstract
problem, I had forgotten how personal and painful
a thing it might be to you. I assure you, however,
that I never even knew that you had a brother until
you handed me the watch.”
“Then how in the name of all that is wonderful
did you get these facts? They are absolutely correct
in every particular.”
“Ah, that is good luck. I could only say what
was the balance of probability. I did not at all expect
to be so accurate.“
“There are hardly any data,” he remarked. “The
watch has been recently cleaned, which robs me of
my most suggestive facts.”
“But it was not mere guess-work?”
“No, no: I never guess. It is a shocking
habit,—destructive to the logical faculty. What
seems strange to you is only so because you do
not follow my train of thought or observe the small
facts upon which large inferences may depend. For
example, I began by stating that your brother was
careless. When you observe the lower part of that
watch-case you notice that it is not only dinted in
two places, but it is cut and marked all over from
the habit of keeping other hard objects, such as
coins or keys, in the same pocket. Surely it is no
great feat to assume that a man who treats a fiftyguinea watch so cavalierly must be a careless man.
Neither is it a very far-fetched inference that a man
“You are right,” I answered. “It was cleaned
before being sent to me.” In my heart I accused
my companion of putting forward a most lame and
impotent excuse to cover his failure. What data
could he expect from an uncleaned watch?
“Though unsatisfactory, my research has not
been entirely barren,” he observed, staring up at
the ceiling with dreamy, lack-lustre eyes. “Subject
to your correction, I should judge that the watch
belonged to your elder brother, who inherited it
from your father.”
“That you gather, no doubt, from the H. W.
upon the back?”
69
The Sign of the Four
who inherits one article of such value is pretty well
provided for in other respects.”
more faith in your marvellous faculty. May I ask
whether you have any professional inquiry on foot
at present?”
I nodded, to show that I followed his reasoning.
“None. Hence the cocaine. I cannot live without
brain-work. What else is there to live for? Stand at
the window here. Was ever such a dreary, dismal,
unprofitable world? See how the yellow fog swirls
down the street and drifts across the duncolored
houses. What could be more hopelessly prosaic
and material? What is the use of having powers,
doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert
them? Crime is commonplace, existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those which are
commonplace have any function upon earth.”
“It is very customary for pawnbrokers in England, when they take a watch, to scratch the number
of the ticket with a pin-point upon the inside of
the case. It is more handy than a label, as there
is no risk of the number being lost or transposed.
There are no less than four such numbers visible to
my lens on the inside of this case. Inference,—that
your brother was often at low water. Secondary
inference,—that he had occasional bursts of prosperity, or he could not have redeemed the pledge.
Finally, I ask you to look at the inner plate, which
contains the key-hole. Look at the thousands of
scratches all round the hole,—marks where the key
has slipped. What sober man’s key could have
scored those grooves? But you will never see a
drunkard’s watch without them. He winds it at
night, and he leaves these traces of his unsteady
hand. Where is the mystery in all this?”
I had opened my mouth to reply to this tirade,
when with a crisp knock our landlady entered, bearing a card upon the brass salver.
“A young lady for you, sir,” she said, addressing my companion.
“Miss Mary Morstan,” he read. “Hum! I have
no recollection of the name. Ask the young lady to
step up, Mrs. Hudson. Don’t go, doctor. I should
prefer that you remain.”
“It is as clear as daylight,” I answered. “I regret
the injustice which I did you. I should have had
CHAPTER II.
The Statement of the Case
Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm
step and an outward composure of manner. She
was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved,
and dressed in the most perfect taste. There was,
however, a plainness and simplicity about her costume which bore with it a suggestion of limited
means. The dress was a sombre grayish beige,
untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore a small
turban of the same dull hue, relieved only by a
suspicion of white feather in the side. Her face had
neither regularity of feature nor beauty of complexion, but her expression was sweet and amiable, and
her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual and
sympathetic. In an experience of women which
extends over many nations and three separate continents, I have never looked upon a face which gave
a clearer promise of a refined and sensitive nature.
I could not but observe that as she took the seat
which Sherlock Holmes placed for her, her lip trembled, her hand quivered, and she showed every
sign of intense inward agitation.
“I have come to you, Mr. Holmes,” she said, “because you once enabled my employer, Mrs. Cecil
Forrester, to unravel a little domestic complication.
She was much impressed by your kindness and
skill.”
“Mrs. Cecil Forrester,” he repeated thoughtfully.
“I believe that I was of some slight service to her.
The case, however, as I remember it, was a very
simple one.”
“She did not think so. But at least you cannot
say the same of mine. I can hardly imagine anything more strange, more utterly inexplicable, than
the situation in which I find myself.”
Holmes rubbed his hands, and his eyes glistened. He leaned forward in his chair with an
expression of extraordinary concentration upon his
clear-cut, hawklike features. “State your case,” said
he, in brisk, business tones.
70
The Sign of the Four
I felt that my position was an embarrassing one.
“You will, I am sure, excuse me,” I said, rising from
my chair.
“I have not yet described to you the most singular part. About six years ago—to be exact, upon
the 4th of May, 1882—an advertisement appeared
in the Times asking for the address of Miss Mary
Morstan and stating that it would be to her advantage to come forward. There was no name or
address appended. I had at that time just entered
the family of Mrs. Cecil Forrester in the capacity of
governess. By her advice I published my address
in the advertisement column. The same day there
arrived through the post a small card-board box
addressed to me, which I found to contain a very
large and lustrous pearl. No word of writing was
enclosed. Since then every year upon the same date
there has always appeared a similar box, containing
a similar pearl, without any clue as to the sender.
They have been pronounced by an expert to be of a
rare variety and of considerable value. You can see
for yourselves that they are very handsome.” She
opened a flat box as she spoke, and showed me six
of the finest pearls that I had ever seen.
To my surprise, the young lady held up her
gloved hand to detain me. “If your friend,” she
said, “would be good enough to stop, he might be
of inestimable service to me.”
I relapsed into my chair.
“Briefly,” she continued, “the facts are these.
My father was an officer in an Indian regiment
who sent me home when I was quite a child. My
mother was dead, and I had no relative in England.
I was placed, however, in a comfortable boarding
establishment at Edinburgh, and there I remained
until I was seventeen years of age. In the year 1878
my father, who was senior captain of his regiment,
obtained twelve months’ leave and came home. He
telegraphed to me from London that he had arrived
all safe, and directed me to come down at once, giving the Langham Hotel as his address. His message,
as I remember, was full of kindness and love. On
reaching London I drove to the Langham, and was
informed that Captain Morstan was staying there,
but that he had gone out the night before and had
not yet returned. I waited all day without news
of him. That night, on the advice of the manager
of the hotel, I communicated with the police, and
next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our
inquiries let to no result; and from that day to this
no word has ever been heard of my unfortunate
father. He came home with his heart full of hope,
to find some peace, some comfort, and instead—”
She put her hand to her throat, and a choking sob
cut short the sentence.
“Your statement is most interesting,” said Sherlock Holmes. “Has anything else occurred to you?”
“Yes, and no later than to-day. That is why I
have come to you. This morning I received this
letter, which you will perhaps read for yourself.”
“Thank you,” said Holmes. “The envelope too,
please. Postmark, London, S.W. Date, July 7. Hum!
Man’s thumb-mark on corner,—probably postman.
Best quality paper. Envelopes at sixpence a packet.
Particular man in his stationery. No address. ‘Be
at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum
Theatre to-night at seven o’clock. If you are distrustful, bring two friends. You are a wronged woman,
and shall have justice. Do not bring police. If you
do, all will be in vain. Your unknown friend.’ Well,
really, this is a very pretty little mystery. What do
you intend to do, Miss Morstan?”
“The date?” asked Holmes, opening his notebook.
“He disappeared upon the 3d of December,
1878,—nearly ten years ago.”
“That is exactly what I want to ask you.”
“His luggage?”
“Then we shall most certainly go. You and I
and—yes, why, Dr. Watson is the very man. Your
correspondent says two friends. He and I have
worked together before.”
“Remained at the hotel. There was nothing in
it to suggest a clue,—some clothes, some books,
and a considerable number of curiosities from the
Andaman Islands. He had been one of the officers
in charge of the convict-guard there.”
“But would he come?” she asked, with something appealing in her voice and expression.
“Had he any friends in town?”
“I should be proud and happy,” said I, fervently,
“if I can be of any service.”
“Only one that we know of,—Major Sholto, of
his own regiment, the 34th Bombay Infantry. The
major had retired some little time before, and lived
at Upper Norwood. We communicated with him,
of course, but he did not even know that his brother
officer was in England.”
“You are both very kind,” she answered. “I have
led a retired life, and have no friends whom I could
appeal to. If I am here at six it will do, I suppose?”
“You must not be later,” said Holmes. “There is
one other point, however. Is this handwriting the
same as that upon the pearl-box addresses?”
“A singular case,” remarked Holmes.
71
The Sign of the Four
“I have them here,” she answered, producing
half a dozen pieces of paper.
“You are certainly a model client. You have the
correct intuition. Let us see, now.” He spread out
the papers upon the table, and gave little darting
glances from one to the other. “They are disguised
hands, except the letter,” he said, presently, “but
there can be no question as to the authorship. See
how the irrepressible Greek e will break out, and
see the twirl of the final s. They are undoubtedly by
the same person. I should not like to suggest false
hopes, Miss Morstan, but is there any resemblance
between this hand and that of your father?”
“Nothing could be more unlike.”
“I expected to hear you say so. We shall look
out for you, then, at six. Pray allow me to keep the
papers. I may look into the matter before then. It is
only half-past three. Au revoir, then.”
“Au revoir,” said our visitor, and, with a bright,
kindly glance from one to the other of us, she replaced her pearl-box in her bosom and hurried
away. Standing at the window, I watched her walking briskly down the street, until the gray turban
and white feather were but a speck in the sombre
crowd.
“What a very attractive woman!” I exclaimed,
turning to my companion.
He had lit his pipe again, and was leaning back
with drooping eyelids. “Is she?” he said, languidly.
“I did not observe.”
“You really are an automaton,—a calculatingmachine!” I cried. “There is something positively
inhuman in you at times.”
He smiled gently. “It is of the first importance,”
he said, “not to allow your judgment to be biased
by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere
unit,—a factor in a problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I assure
you that the most winning woman I ever knew
was hanged for poisoning three little children for
their insurance-money, and the most repellant man
of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has
spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.”
“In this case, however—”
“I never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule. Have you ever had occasion to
study character in handwriting? What do you make
of this fellow’s scribble?”
“It is legible and regular,” I answered. “A man
of business habits and some force of character.”
Holmes shook his head. “Look at his long letters,” he said. “They hardly rise above the common
herd. That d might be an a, and that l an e. Men
of character always differentiate their long letters,
however illegibly they may write. There is vacillation in his k’s and self-esteem in his capitals. I am
going out now. I have some few references to make.
Let me recommend this book,—one of the most
remarkable ever penned. It is Winwood Reade’s
Martyrdom of Man. I shall be back in an hour.”
I sat in the window with the volume in my
hand, but my thoughts were far from the daring
speculations of the writer. My mind ran upon
our late visitor,—her smiles, the deep rich tones
of her voice, the strange mystery which overhung
her life. If she were seventeen at the time of her father’s disappearance she must be seven-and-twenty
now,—a sweet age, when youth has lost its selfconsciousness and become a little sobered by experience. So I sat and mused, until such dangerous
thoughts came into my head that I hurried away to
my desk and plunged furiously into the latest treatise upon pathology. What was I, an army surgeon
with a weak leg and a weaker banking-account,
that I should dare to think of such things? She was
a unit, a factor,—nothing more. If my future were
black, it was better surely to face it like a man than
to attempt to brighten it by mere will-o’-the-wisps
of the imagination.
72
The Sign of the Four
CHAPTER III.
In Quest of a Solution
It was half-past five before Holmes returned.
He was bright, eager, and in excellent spirits,—a
mood which in his case alternated with fits of the
blackest depression.
that he thought that our night’s work might be a
serious one.
Miss Morstan was muffled in a dark cloak, and
her sensitive face was composed, but pale. She
must have been more than woman if she did not
feel some uneasiness at the strange enterprise upon
which we were embarking, yet her self-control was
perfect, and she readily answered the few additional questions which Sherlock Holmes put to her.
“There is no great mystery in this matter,” he
said, taking the cup of tea which I had poured out
for him. “The facts appear to admit of only one
explanation.”
“What! you have solved it already?”
“Major Sholto was a very particular friend of
papa’s,” she said. “His letters were full of allusions
to the major. He and papa were in command of
the troops at the Andaman Islands, so they were
thrown a great deal together. By the way, a curious paper was found in papa’s desk which no one
could understand. I don’t suppose that it is of the
slightest importance, but I thought you might care
to see it, so I brought it with me. It is here.”
“Well, that would be too much to say. I have discovered a suggestive fact, that is all. It is, however,
very suggestive. The details are still to be added. I
have just found, on consulting the back files of the
Times, that Major Sholto, of Upper Norword, late
of the 34th Bombay Infantry, died upon the 28th of
April, 1882.”
“I may be very obtuse, Holmes, but I fail to see
what this suggests.”
Holmes unfolded the paper carefully and
smoothed it out upon his knee. He then very methodically examined it all over with his double lens.
“No? You surprise me. Look at it in this way,
then. Captain Morstan disappears. The only person
in London whom he could have visited is Major
Sholto. Major Sholto denies having heard that he
was in London. Four years later Sholto dies. Within
a week of his death Captain Morstan’s daughter receives a valuable present, which is repeated from
year to year, and now culminates in a letter which
describes her as a wronged woman. What wrong
can it refer to except this deprivation of her father?
And why should the presents begin immediately
after Sholto’s death, unless it is that Sholto’s heir
knows something of the mystery and desires to
make compensation? Have you any alternative
theory which will meet the facts?”
“It is paper of native Indian manufacture,” he
remarked. “It has at some time been pinned to a
board. The diagram upon it appears to be a plan
of part of a large building with numerous halls,
corridors, and passages. At one point is a small
cross done in red ink, and above it is ‘3.37 from left,’
in faded pencil-writing. In the left-hand corner is
a curious hieroglyphic like four crosses in a line
with their arms touching. Beside it is written, in
very rough and coarse characters, ‘The sign of the
four,—Jonathan Small, Mahomet Singh, Abdullah
Khan, Dost Akbar.’ No, I confess that I do not see
how this bears upon the matter. Yet it is evidently a
document of importance. It has been kept carefully
in a pocket-book; for the one side is as clean as the
other.”
“But what a strange compensation! And how
strangely made! Why, too, should he write a letter
now, rather than six years ago? Again, the letter
speaks of giving her justice. What justice can she
have? It is too much to suppose that her father is
still alive. There is no other injustice in her case
that you know of.”
“It was in his pocket-book that we found it.”
“Preserve it carefully, then, Miss Morstan, for
it may prove to be of use to us. I begin to suspect
that this matter may turn out to be much deeper
and more subtle than I at first supposed. I must
reconsider my ideas.” He leaned back in the cab,
and I could see by his drawn brow and his vacant
eye that he was thinking intently. Miss Morstan
and I chatted in an undertone about our present
expedition and its possible outcome, but our companion maintained his impenetrable reserve until
the end of our journey.
“There are difficulties; there are certainly difficulties,” said Sherlock Holmes, pensively. “But our
expedition of to-night will solve them all. Ah, here
is a four-wheeler, and Miss Morstan is inside. Are
you all ready? Then we had better go down, for it
is a little past the hour.”
I picked up my hat and my heaviest stick, but
I observed that Holmes took his revolver from his
drawer and slipped it into his pocket. It was clear
73
The Sign of the Four
It was a September evening, and not yet seven
o’clock, but the day had been a dreary one, and
a dense drizzly fog lay low upon the great city.
Mud-colored clouds drooped sadly over the muddy
streets. Down the Strand the lamps were but misty
splotches of diffused light which threw a feeble
circular glimmer upon the slimy pavement. The
yellow glare from the shop-windows streamed out
into the steamy, vaporous air, and threw a murky,
shifting radiance across the crowded thoroughfare.
There was, to my mind, something eerie and ghostlike in the endless procession of faces which flitted
across these narrow bars of light,—sad faces and
glad, haggard and merry. Like all human kind,
they flitted from the gloom into the light, and so
back into the gloom once more. I am not subject
to impressions, but the dull, heavy evening, with
the strange business upon which we were engaged,
combined to make me nervous and depressed. I
could see from Miss Morstan’s manner that she
was suffering from the same feeling. Holmes alone
could rise superior to petty influences. He held his
open note-book upon his knee, and from time to
time he jotted down figures and memoranda in the
light of his pocket-lantern.
At the Lyceum Theatre the crowds were already
thick at the side-entrances. In front a continuous
stream of hansoms and four-wheelers were rattling
up, discharging their cargoes of shirt-fronted men
and beshawled, bediamonded women. We had
hardly reached the third pillar, which was our rendezvous, before a small, dark, brisk man in the
dress of a coachman accosted us.
“Are you the parties who come with Miss
Morstan?” he asked.
“I am Miss Morstan, and these two gentlemen
are my friends,” said she.
He bent a pair of wonderfully penetrating and
questioning eyes upon us. “You will excuse me,
miss,” he said with a certain dogged manner, “but
I was to ask you to give me your word that neither
of your companions is a police-officer.”
“I give you my word on that,” she answered.
He gave a shrill whistle, on which a street Arab
led across a four-wheeler and opened the door. The
man who had addressed us mounted to the box,
while we took our places inside. We had hardly
done so before the driver whipped up his horse,
and we plunged away at a furious pace through
the foggy streets.
The situation was a curious one. We were
driving to an unknown place, on an unknown errand. Yet our invitation was either a complete
hoax,—which was an inconceivable hypothesis,—or
else we had good reason to think that important issues might hang upon our journey. Miss Morstan’s
demeanor was as resolute and collected as ever.
I endeavored to cheer and amuse her by reminiscences of my adventures in Afghanistan; but, to tell
the truth, I was myself so excited at our situation
and so curious as to our destination that my stories
were slightly involved. To this day she declares that
I told her one moving anecdote as to how a musket
looked into my tent at the dead of night, and how
I fired a double-barrelled tiger cub at it. At first I
had some idea as to the direction in which we were
driving; but soon, what with our pace, the fog, and
my own limited knowledge of London, I lost my
bearings, and knew nothing, save that we seemed
to be going a very long way. Sherlock Holmes was
never at fault, however, and he muttered the names
as the cab rattled through squares and in and out
by tortuous by-streets.
“Rochester Row,” said he. “Now Vincent
Square. Now we come out on the Vauxhall Bridge
Road. We are making for the Surrey side, apparently. Yes, I thought so. Now we are on the bridge.
You can catch glimpses of the river.”
We did indeed bet a fleeting view of a stretch of
the Thames with the lamps shining upon the broad,
silent water; but our cab dashed on, and was soon
involved in a labyrinth of streets upon the other
side.
“Wordsworth Road,” said my companion. “Priory Road. Lark Hall Lane. Stockwell Place. Robert
Street. Cold Harbor Lane. Our quest does not
appear to take us to very fashionable regions.”
We had, indeed, reached a questionable and
forbidding neighborhood. Long lines of dull brick
houses were only relieved by the coarse glare and
tawdry brilliancy of public houses at the corner.
Then came rows of two-storied villas each with a
fronting of miniature garden, and then again interminable lines of new staring brick buildings,—the
monster tentacles which the giant city was throwing out into the country. At last the cab drew up
at the third house in a new terrace. None of the
other houses were inhabited, and that at which
we stopped was as dark as its neighbors, save for
a single glimmer in the kitchen window. On our
knocking, however, the door was instantly thrown
open by a Hindoo servant clad in a yellow turban,
white loose-fitting clothes, and a yellow sash. There
was something strangely incongruous in this Oriental figure framed in the commonplace door-way
of a third-rate suburban dwelling-house.
“The Sahib awaits you,” said he, and even as he
spoke there came a high piping voice from some
inner room. “Show them in to me, khitmutgar,” it
cried. “Show them straight in to me.”
74
The Sign of the Four
CHAPTER IV.
The Story of the Bald-Headed Man
We followed the Indian down a sordid and
common passage, ill lit and worse furnished, until
he came to a door upon the right, which he threw
open. A blaze of yellow light streamed out upon
us, and in the centre of the glare there stood a small
man with a very high head, a bristle of red hair
all round the fringe of it, and a bald, shining scalp
which shot out from among it like a mountain-peak
from fir-trees. He writhed his hands together as
he stood, and his features were in a perpetual jerk,
now smiling, now scowling, but never for an instant in repose. Nature had given him a pendulous
lip, and a too visible line of yellow and irregular
teeth, which he strove feebly to conceal by constantly passing his hand over the lower part of his
face. In spite of his obtrusive baldness, he gave the
impression of youth. In point of fact he had just
turned his thirtieth year.
I listened to his heart, as requested, but was
unable to find anything amiss, save indeed that he
was in an ecstasy of fear, for he shivered from head
to foot. “It appears to be normal,” I said. “You have
no cause for uneasiness.”
“You will excuse my anxiety, Miss Morstan,”
he remarked, airily. “I am a great sufferer, and I
have long had suspicions as to that valve. I am
delighted to hear that they are unwarranted. Had
your father, Miss Morstan, refrained from throwing
a strain upon his heart, he might have been alive
now.”
I could have struck the man across the face, so
hot was I at this callous and off-hand reference to
so delicate a matter. Miss Morstan sat down, and
her face grew white to the lips. “I knew in my heart
that he was dead,” said she.
“I can give you every information,” said he,
“and, what is more, I can do you justice; and I
will, too, whatever Brother Bartholomew may say.
I am so glad to have your friends here, not only
as an escort to you, but also as witnesses to what
I am about to do and say. The three of us can
show a bold front to Brother Bartholomew. But let
us have no outsiders,—no police or officials. We
can settle everything satisfactorily among ourselves,
without any interference. Nothing would annoy
Brother Bartholomew more than any publicity.” He
sat down upon a low settee and blinked at us inquiringly with his weak, watery blue eyes.
“Your servant, Miss Morstan,” he kept repeating, in a thin, high voice. “Your servant, gentlemen.
Pray step into my little sanctum. A small place,
miss, but furnished to my own liking. An oasis of
art in the howling desert of South London.”
We were all astonished by the appearance of
the apartment into which he invited us. In that
sorry house it looked as out of place as a diamond
of the first water in a setting of brass. The richest
and glossiest of curtains and tapestries draped the
walls, looped back here and there to expose some
richly-mounted painting or Oriental vase. The carpet was of amber-and-black, so soft and so thick
that the foot sank pleasantly into it, as into a bed
of moss. Two great tiger-skins thrown athwart it
increased the suggestion of Eastern luxury, as did a
huge hookah which stood upon a mat in the corner.
A lamp in the fashion of a silver dove was hung
from an almost invisible golden wire in the centre
of the room. As it burned it filled the air with a
subtle and aromatic odor.
“For my part,” said Holmes, “whatever you may
choose to say will go no further.”
I nodded to show my agreement.
“That is well! That is well!” said he. “May I
offer you a glass of Chianti, Miss Morstan? Or of
Tokay? I keep no other wines. Shall I open a flask?
No? Well, then, I trust that you have no objection
to tobacco-smoke, to the mild balsamic odor of the
Eastern tobacco. I am a little nervous, and I find
my hookah an invaluable sedative.” He applied a
taper to the great bowl, and the smoke bubbled
merrily through the rose-water. We sat all three
in a semicircle, with our heads advanced, and our
chins upon our hands, while the strange, jerky little
fellow, with his high, shining head, puffed uneasily
in the centre.
“Mr. Thaddeus Sholto,” said the little man, still
jerking and smiling. “That is my name. You are
Miss Morstan, of course. And these gentlemen—”
“This is Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and this is Dr.
Watson.”
“A doctor, eh?” cried he, much excited. “Have
you your stethoscope? Might I ask you—would
you have the kindness? I have grave doubts as to
my mitral valve, if you would be so very good. The
aortic I may rely upon, but I should value your
opinion upon the mitral.”
“When I first determined to make this communication to you,” said he, “I might have given you
my address, but I feared that you might disregard
my request and bring unpleasant people with you.
75
The Sign of the Four
I took the liberty, therefore, of making an appointment in such a way that my man Williams might be
able to see you first. I have complete confidence in
his discretion, and he had orders, if he were dissatisfied, to proceed no further in the matter. You will
excuse these precautions, but I am a man of somewhat retiring, and I might even say refined, tastes,
and there is nothing more unaesthetic than a policeman. I have a natural shrinking from all forms
of rough materialism. I seldom come in contact
with the rough crowd. I live, as you see, with some
little atmosphere of elegance around me. I may call
myself a patron of the arts. It is my weakness. The
landscape is a genuine Corot, and, though a connoisseur might perhaps throw a doubt upon that
Salvator Rosa, there cannot be the least question
about the Bouguereau. I am partial to the modern
French school.”
We read the details in the papers, and, knowing that
he had been a friend of our father’s, we discussed
the case freely in his presence. He used to join in
our speculations as to what could have happened.
Never for an instant did we suspect that he had the
whole secret hidden in his own breast,—that of all
men he alone knew the fate of Arthur Morstan.
“We did know, however, that some mystery—some positive danger—overhung our father.
He was very fearful of going out alone, and he always employed two prize-fighters to act as porters
at Pondicherry Lodge. Williams, who drove you tonight, was one of them. He was once light-weight
champion of England. Our father would never tell
us what it was he feared, but he had a most marked
aversion to men with wooden legs. On one occasion
he actually fired his revolver at a wooden-legged
man, who proved to be a harmless tradesman canvassing for orders. We had to pay a large sum to
hush the matter up. My brother and I used to think
this a mere whim of my father’s, but events have
since led us to change our opinion.
“Early in 1882 my father received a letter from
India which was a great shock to him. He nearly
fainted at the breakfast-table when he opened it,
and from that day he sickened to his death. What
was in the letter we could never discover, but I
could see as he held it that it was short and written
in a scrawling hand. He had suffered for years from
an enlarged spleen, but he now became rapidly
worse, and towards the end of April we were informed that he was beyond all hope, and that he
wished to make a last communication to us.
“When we entered his room he was propped up
with pillows and breathing heavily. He besought
us to lock the door and to come upon either side
of the bed. Then, grasping our hands, he made a
remarkable statement to us, in a voice which was
broken as much by emotion as by pain. I shall try
and give it to you in his own very words.
“ ‘I have only one thing,’ he said, ‘which weighs
upon my mind at this supreme moment. It is my
treatment of poor Morstan’s orphan. The cursed
greed which has been my besetting sin through life
has withheld from her the treasure, half at least
of which should have been hers. And yet I have
made no use of it myself,—so blind and foolish a
thing is avarice. The mere feeling of possession has
been so dear to me that I could not bear to share it
with another. See that chaplet dipped with pearls
beside the quinine-bottle. Even that I could not
bear to part with, although I had got it out with
the design of sending it to her. You, my sons, will
give her a fair share of the Agra treasure. But send
her nothing—not even the chaplet—until I am gone.
“You will excuse me, Mr. Sholto,” said Miss
Morstan, “but I am here at your request to learn
something which you desire to tell me. It is very
late, and I should desire the interview to be as short
as possible.”
“At the best it must take some time,” he answered; “for we shall certainly have to go to Norwood and see Brother Bartholomew. We shall all
go and try if we can get the better of Brother
Bartholomew. He is very angry with me for taking
the course which has seemed right to me. I had
quite high words with him last night. You cannot
imagine what a terrible fellow he is when he is
angry.”
“If we are to go to Norwood it would perhaps
be as well to start at once,” I ventured to remark.
He laughed until his ears were quite red. “That
would hardly do,” he cried. “I don’t know what
he would say if I brought you in that sudden way.
No, I must prepare you by showing you how we
all stand to each other. In the first place, I must
tell you that there are several points in the story of
which I am myself ignorant. I can only lay the facts
before you as far as I know them myself.
“My father was, as you may have guessed, Major John Sholto, once of the Indian army. He retired some eleven years ago, and came to live at
Pondicherry Lodge in Upper Norwood. He had
prospered in India, and brought back with him
a considerable sum of money, a large collection
of valuable curiosities, and a staff of native servants. With these advantages he bought himself a
house, and lived in great luxury. My twin-brother
Bartholomew and I were the only children.
“I very well remember the sensation which was
caused by the disappearance of Captain Morstan.
76
The Sign of the Four
After all, men have been as bad as this and have
recovered.
ears down to my mouth. The treasure is hidden
in—At this instant a horrible change came over his
expression; his eyes stared wildly, his jaw dropped,
and he yelled, in a voice which I can never forget,
‘Keep him out! For Christ’s sake keep him out’! We
both stared round at the window behind us upon
which his gaze was fixed. A face was looking in at
us out of the darkness. We could see the whitening
of the nose where it was pressed against the glass.
It was a bearded, hairy face, with wild cruel eyes
and an expression of concentrated malevolence. My
brother and I rushed towards the window, but the
man was gone. When we returned to my father
his head had dropped and his pulse had ceased to
beat.
“ ‘I will tell you how Morstan died,’ he continued. ‘He had suffered for years from a weak heart,
but he concealed it from every one. I alone knew
it. When in India, he and I, through a remarkable
chain of circumstances, came into possession of
a considerable treasure. I brought it over to England, and on the night of Morstan’s arrival he came
straight over here to claim his share. He walked
over from the station, and was admitted by my
faithful Lal Chowdar, who is now dead. Morstan
and I had a difference of opinion as to the division of the treasure, and we came to heated words.
Morstan had sprung out of his chair in a paroxysm
of anger, when he suddenly pressed his hand to his
side, his face turned a dusky hue, and he fell backwards, cutting his head against the corner of the
treasure-chest. When I stooped over him I found,
to my horror, that he was dead.
“We searched the garden that night, but found
no sign of the intruder, save that just under the
window a single footmark was visible in the flowerbed. But for that one trace, we might have thought
that our imaginations had conjured up that wild,
fierce face. We soon, however, had another and
a more striking proof that there were secret agencies at work all round us. The window of my
father’s room was found open in the morning, his
cupboards and boxes had been rifled, and upon
his chest was fixed a torn piece of paper, with the
words ‘The sign of the four’ scrawled across it.
What the phrase meant, or who our secret visitor
may have been, we never knew. As far as we can
judge, none of my father’s property had been actually stolen, though everything had been turned out.
My brother and I naturally associated this peculiar
incident with the fear which haunted my father
during his life; but it is still a complete mystery to
us.”
“ ‘For a long time I sat half distracted, wondering what I should do. My first impulse was, of
course, to call for assistance; but I could not but
recognize that there was every chance that I would
be accused of his murder. His death at the moment
of a quarrel, and the gash in his head, would be
black against me. Again, an official inquiry could
not be made without bringing out some facts about
the treasure, which I was particularly anxious to
keep secret. He had told me that no soul upon
earth knew where he had gone. There seemed to
be no necessity why any soul ever should know.
“ ‘I was still pondering over the matter, when,
looking up, I saw my servant, Lal Chowdar, in the
doorway. He stole in and bolted the door behind
him. “Do not fear, Sahib,” he said. “No one need
know that you have killed him. Let us hide him
away, and who is the wiser?” “I did not kill him,”
said I. Lal Chowdar shook his head and smiled. “I
heard it all, Sahib,” said he. “I heard you quarrel, and I heard the blow. But my lips are sealed.
All are asleep in the house. Let us put him away
together.” That was enough to decide met. If my
own servant could not believe my innocence, how
could I hope to make it good before twelve foolish tradesmen in a jury-box? Lal Chowdar and I
disposed of the body that night, and within a few
days the London papers were full of the mysterious
disappearance of Captain Morstan. You will see
from what I say that I can hardly be blamed in the
matter. My fault lies in the fact that we concealed
not only the body, but also the treasure, and that I
have clung to Morstan’s share as well as to my own.
I wish you, therefore, to make restitution. Put your
The little man stopped to relight his hookah
and puffed thoughtfully for a few moments. We
had all sat absorbed, listening to his extraordinary
narrative. At the short account of her father’s death
Miss Morstan had turned deadly white, and for a
moment I feared that she was about to faint. She
rallied however, on drinking a glass of water which
I quietly poured out for her from a Venetian carafe
upon the side-table. Sherlock Holmes leaned back
in his chair with an abstracted expression and the
lids drawn low over his glittering eyes. As I glanced
at him I could not but think how on that very day
he had complained bitterly of the commonplaceness of life. Here at least was a problem which
would tax his sagacity to the utmost. Mr. Thaddeus
Sholto looked from one to the other of us with an
obvious pride at the effect which his story had produced, and then continued between the puffs of his
overgrown pipe.
77
The Sign of the Four
“My brother and I,” said he, “were, as you may
imagine, much excited as to the treasure which my
father had spoken of. For weeks and for months
we dug and delved in every part of the garden,
without discovering its whereabouts. It was maddening to think that the hiding-place was on his
very lips at the moment that he died. We could
judge the splendor of the missing riches by the
chaplet which he had taken out. Over this chaplet
my brother Bartholomew and I had some little discussion. The pearls were evidently of great value,
and he was averse to part with them, for, between
friends, my brother was himself a little inclined
to my father’s fault. He thought, too, that if we
parted with the chaplet it might give rise to gossip
and finally bring us into trouble. It was all that I
could do to persuade him to let me find out Miss
Morstan’s address and send her a detached pearl
at fixed intervals, so that at least she might never
feel destitute.”
Our new acquaintance very deliberately coiled
up the tube of his hookah, and produced from behind a curtain a very long befrogged topcoat with
Astrakhan collar and cuffs. This he buttoned tightly
up, in spite of the extreme closeness of the night,
and finished his attire by putting on a rabbit-skin
cap with hanging lappets which covered the ears,
so that no part of him was visible save his mobile
and peaky face. “My health is somewhat fragile,”
he remarked, as he led the way down the passage.
“I am compelled to be a valetudinarian.”
Our cab was awaiting us outside, and our programme was evidently prearranged, for the driver
started off at once at a rapid pace. Thaddeus Sholto
talked incessantly, in a voice which rose high above
the rattle of the wheels.
“Bartholomew is a clever fellow,” said he. “How
do you think he found out where the treasure
was? He had come to the conclusion that it was
somewhere indoors: so he worked out all the cubic space of the house, and made measurements
everywhere, so that not one inch should be unaccounted for. Among other things, he found that the
height of the building was seventy-four feet, but
on adding together the heights of all the separate
rooms, and making every allowance for the space
between, which he ascertained by borings, he could
not bring the total to more than seventy feet. There
were four feet unaccounted for. These could only
be at the top of the building. He knocked a hole,
therefore, in the lath-and-plaster ceiling of the highest room, and there, sure enough, he came upon
another little garret above it, which had been sealed
up and was known to no one. In the centre stood
the treasure-chest, resting upon two rafters. He
lowered it through the hole, and there it lies. He
computes the value of the jewels at not less than
half a million sterling.”
“It was a kindly thought,” said our companion,
earnestly. “It was extremely good of you.”
The little man waved his hand deprecatingly.
“We were your trustees,” he said. ”That was
the view which I took of it, though Brother
Bartholomew could not altogether see it in that
light. We had plenty of money ourselves. I desired
no more. Besides, it would have been such bad
taste to have treated a young lady in so scurvy a
fashion. ‘Le mauvais goût mène au crime.’ The French
have a very neat way of putting these things. Our
difference of opinion on this subject went so far
that I thought it best to set up rooms for myself:
so I left Pondicherry Lodge, taking the old khitmutgar and Williams with me. Yesterday, however,
I learn that an event of extreme importance has
occurred. The treasure has been discovered. I instantly communicated with Miss Morstan, and it
only remains for us to drive out to Norwood and
demand our share. I explained my views last night
to Brother Bartholomew: so we shall be expected,
if not welcome, visitors.”
At the mention of this gigantic sum we all stared
at one another open-eyed. Miss Morstan, could we
secure her rights, would change from a needy governess to the richest heiress in England. Surely it
was the place of a loyal friend to rejoice at such
news; yet I am ashamed to say that selfishness took
me by the soul, and that my heart turned as heavy
as lead within me. I stammered out some few halting words of congratulation, and then sat downcast,
with my head drooped, deaf to the babble of our
new acquaintance. He was clearly a confirmed
hypochondriac, and I was dreamily conscious that
he was pouring forth interminable trains of symptoms, and imploring information as to the composition and action of innumerable quack nostrums,
some of which he bore about in a leather case in his
Mr. Thaddeus Sholto ceased, and sat twitching
on his luxurious settee. We all remained silent, with
our thoughts upon the new development which the
mysterious business had taken. Holmes was the
first to spring to his feet.
“You have done well, sir, from first to last,” said
he. “It is possible that we may be able to make you
some small return by throwing some light upon
that which is still dark to you. But, as Miss Morstan
remarked just now, it is late, and we had best put
the matter through without delay.”
78
The Sign of the Four
pocket. I trust that he may not remember any of
the answers which I gave him that night. Holmes
declares that he overheard me caution him against
the great danger of taking more than two drops of
castor oil, while I recommended strychnine in large
doses as a sedative. However that may be, I was
certainly relieved when our cab pulled up with a
jerk and the coachman sprang down to open the
door.
“This, Miss Morstan, is Pondicherry Lodge,”
said Mr. Thaddeus Sholto, as he handed her out.
CHAPTER V.
The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge
It was nearly eleven o’clock when we reached
this final stage of our night’s adventures. We had
left the damp fog of the great city behind us, and
the night was fairly fine. A warm wind blew from
the westward, and heavy clouds moved slowly
across the sky, with half a moon peeping occasionally through the rifts. It was clear enough to see
for some distance, but Thaddeus Sholto took down
one of the side-lamps from the carriage to give us
a better light upon our way.
he said. “If I guarantee them, that is enough for
you. There is the young lady, too. She cannot wait
on the public road at this hour.”
“Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus,” said the porter, inexorably. “Folk may be friends o’ yours, and yet
no friends o’ the master’s. He pays me well to do
my duty, and my duty I’ll do. I don’t know none o’
your friends.”
“Oh, yes you do, McMurdo,” cried Sherlock
Holmes, genially. “I don’t think you can have forgotten me. Don’t you remember the amateur who
fought three rounds with you at Alison’s rooms on
the night of your benefit four years back?”
“Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!” roared the prizefighter. “God’s truth! how could I have mistook
you? If instead o’ standin’ there so quiet you had
just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours
under the jaw, I’d ha’ known you without a question. Ah, you’re one that has wasted your gifts,
you have! You might have aimed high, if you had
joined the fancy.”
“You see, Watson, if all else fails me I have still
one of the scientific professions open to me,” said
Holmes, laughing. “Our friend won’t keep us out
in the cold now, I am sure.”
“In you come, sir, in you come,—you and your
friends,” he answered. “Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus,
but orders are very strict. Had to be certain of your
friends before I let them in.”
Inside, a gravel path wound through desolate
grounds to a huge clump of a house, square and
prosaic, all plunged in shadow save where a moonbeam struck one corner and glimmered in a garret
window. The vast size of the building, with its
gloom and its deathly silence, struck a chill to the
heart. Even Thaddeus Sholto seemed ill at ease,
and the lantern quivered and rattled in his hand.
Pondicherry Lodge stood in its own grounds,
and was girt round with a very high stone wall
topped with broken glass. A single narrow ironclamped door formed the only means of entrance.
On this our guide knocked with a peculiar postmanlike rat-tat.
“Who is there?” cried a gruff voice from within.
“It is I, McMurdo. You surely know my knock
by this time.”
There was a grumbling sound and a clanking
and jarring of keys. The door swung heavily back,
and a short, deep-chested man stood in the opening, with the yellow light of the lantern shining
upon his protruded face and twinkling distrustful
eyes.
“That you, Mr. Thaddeus? But who are the others? I had no orders about them from the master.”
“No, McMurdo? You surprise me! I told my
brother last night that I should bring some friends.
“He ain’t been out o’ his room to-day, Mr. Thaddeus, and I have no orders. You know very well
that I must stick to regulations. I can let you in, but
your friends must just stop where they are.”
This was an unexpected obstacle. Thaddeus
Sholto looked about him in a perplexed and helpless manner. “This is too bad of you, McMurdo!”
79
The Sign of the Four
“I cannot understand it,” he said. “There must
be some mistake. I distinctly told Bartholomew
that we should be here, and yet there is no light in
his window. I do not know what to make of it.”
the instinct to turn to me for comfort and protection. So we stood hand in hand, like two children,
and there was peace in our hearts for all the dark
things that surrounded us.
“Does he always guard the premises in this
way?” asked Holmes.
“What a strange place!” she said, looking round.
“It looks as though all the moles in England had
been let loose in it. I have seen something of the
sort on the side of a hill near Ballarat, where the
prospectors had been at work.”
“Yes; he has followed my father’s custom. He
was the favorite son, you know, and I sometimes
think that my father may have told him more than
he ever told me. That is Bartholomew’s window
up there where the moonshine strikes. It is quite
bright, but there is no light from within, I think.”
“And from the same cause,” said Holmes.
“These are the traces of the treasure-seekers. You
must remember that they were six years looking
for it. No wonder that the grounds look like a
gravel-pit.”
“None,” said Holmes. “But I see the glint of a
light in that little window beside the door.”
At that moment the door of the house burst
open, and Thaddeus Sholto came running out, with
his hands thrown forward and terror in his eyes.
“Ah, that is the housekeeper’s room. That is
where old Mrs. Bernstone sits. She can tell us all
about it. But perhaps you would not mind waiting
here for a minute or two, for if we all go in together
and she has no word of our coming she may be
alarmed. But hush! what is that?”
“There is something amiss with Bartholomew!”
he cried. “I am frightened! My nerves cannot stand
it.” He was, indeed, half blubbering with fear, and
his twitching feeble face peeping out from the great
Astrakhan collar had the helpless appealing expression of a terrified child.
He held up the lantern, and his hand shook
until the circles of light flickered and wavered all
round us. Miss Morstan seized my wrist, and we
all stood with thumping hearts, straining our ears.
From the great black house there sounded through
the silent night the saddest and most pitiful of
sounds,—the shrill, broken whimpering of a frightened woman.
“Come into the house,” said Holmes, in his
crisp, firm way.
“Yes, do!” pleaded Thaddeus Sholto. “I really
do not feel equal to giving directions.”
We all followed him into the housekeeper’s
room, which stood upon the left-hand side of the
passage. The old woman was pacing up and down
with a scared look and restless picking fingers, but
the sight of Miss Morstan appeared to have a soothing effect upon her.
“It is Mrs. Bernstone,” said Sholto. “She is the
only woman in the house. Wait here. I shall be
back in a moment.” He hurried for the door, and
knocked in his peculiar way. We could see a tall
old woman admit him, and sway with pleasure at
the very sight of him.
“God bless your sweet calm face!” she cried,
with an hysterical sob. “It does me good to see you.
Oh, but I have been sorely tried this day!”
“Oh, Mr. Thaddeus, sir, I am so glad you have
come! I am so glad you have come, Mr. Thaddeus,
sir!” We heard her reiterated rejoicings until the
door was closed and her voice died away into a
muffled monotone.
Our companion patted her thin, work-worn
hand, and murmured some few words of kindly
womanly comfort which brought the color back
into the others bloodless cheeks.
Our guide had left us the lantern. Holmes
swung it slowly round, and peered keenly at the
house, and at the great rubbish-heaps which cumbered the grounds. Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand was in mine. A wondrous
subtle thing is love, for here were we two who
had never seen each other before that day, between
whom no word or even look of affection had ever
passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our
hands instinctively sought for each other. I have
marvelled at it since, but at the time it seemed the
most natural thing that I should go out to her so,
and, as she has often told me, there was in her also
“Master has locked himself in and will now answer me,” she explained. “All day I have waited to
hear from him, for he often likes to be alone; but
an hour ago I feared that something was amiss, so
I went up and peeped through the key-hole. You
must go up, Mr. Thaddeus,—you must go up and
look for yourself. I have seen Mr. Bartholomew
Sholto in joy and in sorrow for ten long years, but I
never saw him with such a face on him as that.”
Sherlock Holmes took the lamp and led the way,
for Thaddeus Sholto’s teeth were chattering in his
head. So shaken was he that I had to pass my hand
80
The Sign of the Four
under his arm as we went up the stairs, for his
knees were trembling under him. Twice as we ascended Holmes whipped his lens out of his pocket
and carefully examined marks which appeared to
me to be mere shapeless smudges of dust upon the
cocoa-nut matting which served as a stair-carpet.
He walked slowly from step to step, holding the
lamp, and shooting keen glances to right and left.
Miss Morstan had remained behind with the frightened housekeeper.
It appeared to have been fitted up as a chemical
laboratory. A double line of glass-stoppered bottles was drawn up upon the wall opposite the door,
and the table was littered over with Bunsen burners,
test-tubes, and retorts. In the corners stood carboys
of acid in wicker baskets. One of these appeared to
leak or to have been broken, for a stream of darkcolored liquid had trickled out from it, and the air
was heavy with a peculiarly pungent, tar-like odor.
A set of steps stood at one side of the room, in the
midst of a litter of lath and plaster, and above them
there was an opening in the ceiling large enough
for a man to pass through. At the foot of the steps
a long coil of rope was thrown carelessly together.
By the table, in a wooden arm-chair, the master of the house was seated all in a heap, with his
head sunk upon his left shoulder, and that ghastly,
inscrutable smile upon his face. He was stiff and
cold, and had clearly been dead many hours. It
seemed to me that not only his features but all his
limbs were twisted and turned in the most fantastic
fashion. By his hand upon the table there lay a
peculiar instrument,—a brown, close-grained stick,
with a stone head like a hammer, rudely lashed
on with coarse twine. Beside it was a torn sheet
of note-paper with some words scrawled upon it.
Holmes glanced at it, and then handed it to me.
“You see,” he said, with a significant raising of
the eyebrows.
In the light of the lantern I read, with a thrill of
horror, “The sign of the four.”
“In God’s name, what does it all mean?” I asked.
“It means murder,” said he, stooping over the
dead man. “Ah, I expected it. Look here!” He
pointed to what looked like a long, dark thorn
stuck in the skin just above the ear.
“It looks like a thorn,” said I.
“It is a thorn. You may pick it out. But be
careful, for it is poisoned.”
I took it up between my finger and thumb. It
came away from the skin so readily that hardly any
mark was left behind. One tiny speck of blood
showed where the puncture had been.
“This is all an insoluble mystery to me,” said I.
“It grows darker instead of clearer.”
“On the contrary,” he answered, “it clears every
instant. I only require a few missing links to have
an entirely connected case.”
We had almost forgotten our companion’s presence since we entered the chamber. He was still
standing in the door-way, the very picture of terror,
wringing his hands and moaning to himself. Suddenly, however, he broke out into a sharp, querulous cry.
The third flight of stairs ended in a straight passage of some length, with a great picture in Indian
tapestry upon the right of it and three doors upon
the left. Holmes advanced along it in the same
slow and methodical way, while we kept close at
his heels, with our long black shadows streaming
backwards down the corridor. The third door was
that which we were seeking. Holmes knocked without receiving any answer, and then tried to turn
the handle and force it open. It was locked on the
inside, however, and by a broad and powerful bolt,
as we could see when we set our lamp up against
it. The key being turned, however, the hole was not
entirely closed. Sherlock Holmes bent down to it,
and instantly rose again with a sharp intaking of
the breath.
“There is something devilish in this, Watson,”
said he, more moved than I had ever before seen
him. “What do you make of it?”
I stooped to the hole, and recoiled in horror.
Moonlight was streaming into the room, and it was
bright with a vague and shifty radiance. Looking
straight at me, and suspended, as it were, in the
air, for all beneath was in shadow, there hung a
face,—the very face of our companion Thaddeus.
There was the same high, shining head, the same
circular bristle of red hair, the same bloodless countenance. The features were set, however, in a horrible smile, a fixed and unnatural grin, which in
that still and moonlit room was more jarring to the
nerves than any scowl or contortion. So like was
the face to that of our little friend that I looked
round at him to make sure that he was indeed with
us. Then I recalled to mind that he had mentioned
to us that his brother and he were twins.
“This is terrible!” I said to Holmes. “What is to
be done?”
“The door must come down,” he answered, and,
springing against it, he put all his weight upon the
lock. It creaked and groaned, but did not yield.
Together we flung ourselves upon it once more,
and this time it gave way with a sudden snap, and
we found ourselves within Bartholomew Sholto’s
chamber.
81
The Sign of the Four
“The treasure is gone!” he said. “They have
robbed him of the treasure! There is the hole
through which we lowered it. I helped him to
do it! I was the last person who saw him! I left him
here last night, and I heard him lock the door as I
came down-stairs.”
have brought you here if it were I? Oh, dear! oh,
dear! I know that I shall go mad!” He jerked his
arms and stamped his feet in a kind of convulsive
frenzy.
“You have no reason for fear, Mr. Sholto,” said
Holmes, kindly, putting his hand upon his shoulder.
“Take my advice, and drive down to the station to
report this matter to the police. Offer to assist them
in every way. We shall wait here until your return.”
“What time was that?”
“It was ten o’clock. And now he is dead, and
the police will be called in, and I shall be suspected
of having had a hand in it. Oh, yes, I am sure I
shall. But you don’t think so, gentlemen? Surely
you don’t think that it was I? Is it likely that I would
The little man obeyed in a half-stupefied fashion, and we heard him stumbling down the stairs
in the dark.
CHAPTER VI.
Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration
“Now, Watson,” said Holmes, rubbing his
hands, “we have half an hour to ourselves. Let
us make good use of it. My case is, as I have told
you, almost complete; but we must not err on the
side of over-confidence. Simple as the case seems
now, there may be something deeper underlying
it.”
on the sill is the boot-mark, a heavy boot with the
broad metal heel, and beside it is the mark of the
timber-toe.”
“It is the wooden-legged man.”
“Quite so. But there has been some one else,—a
very able and efficient ally. Could you scale that
wall, doctor?”
“Simple!” I ejaculated.
I looked out of the open window. The moon still
shone brightly on that angle of the house. We were
a good sixty feet from the ground, and, look where
I would, I could see no foothold, nor as much as a
crevice in the brick-work.
“Surely,” said he, with something of the air of
a clinical professor expounding to his class. “Just
sit in the corner there, that your footprints may
not complicate matters. Now to work! In the first
place, how did these folk come, and how did they
go? The door has not been opened since last night.
How of the window?” He carried the lamp across
to it, muttering his observations aloud the while,
but addressing them to himself rather than to me.
“Window is snibbed on the inner side. Framework
is solid. No hinges at the side. Let us open it. No
water-pipe near. Roof quite out of reach. Yet a man
has mounted by the window. It rained a little last
night. Here is the print of a foot in mould upon
the sill. And here is a circular muddy mark, and
here again upon the floor, and here again by the
table. See here, Watson! This is really a very pretty
demonstration.”
“It is absolutely impossible,” I answered.
“Without aid it is so. But suppose you had a
friend up here who lowered you this good stout
rope which I see in the corner, securing one end
of it to this great hook in the wall. Then, I think,
if you were an active man, you might swarm up,
wooden leg and all. You would depart, of course,
in the same fashion, and your ally would draw up
the rope, untie it from the hook, shut the window,
snib it on the inside, and get away in the way that
he originally came. As a minor point it may be
noted,” he continued, fingering the rope, “that our
wooden-legged friend, though a fair climber, was
not a professional sailor. His hands were far from
horny. My lens discloses more than one bloodmark, especially towards the end of the rope, from
which I gather that he slipped down with such
velocity that he took the skin off his hand.”
I looked at the round, well-defined muddy discs.
“This is not a footmark,” said I.
“It is something much more valuable to us. It is
the impression of a wooden stump. You see here
82
The Sign of the Four
“This is all very well,” said I, “but the thing
becomes more unintelligible than ever. How about
this mysterious ally? How came he into the room?”
“Yes, the ally!” repeated Holmes, pensively.
“There are features of interest about this ally. He
lifts the case from the regions of the commonplace.
I fancy that this ally breaks fresh ground in the
annals of crime in this country,—though parallel
cases suggest themselves from India, and, if my
memory serves me, from Senegambia.”
“How came he, then?” I reiterated. “The door is
locked, the window is inaccessible. Was it through
the chimney?”
“The grate is much too small,” he answered. “I
had already considered that possibility.”
“How then?” I persisted.
“You will not apply my precept,” he said, shaking his head. “How often have I said to you that
when you have eliminated the impossible whatever
remains, however improbable, must be the truth? We
know that he did not come through the door, the
window, or the chimney. We also know that he
could not have been concealed in the room, as there
is no concealment possible. Whence, then, did he
come?”
“He came through the hole in the roof,” I cried.
“Of course he did. He must have done so. If
you will have the kindness to hold the lamp for me,
we shall now extend our researches to the room
above,—the secret room in which the treasure was
found.”
He mounted the steps, and, seizing a rafter with
either hand, he swung himself up into the garret.
Then, lying on his face, he reached down for the
lamp and held it while I followed him.
The chamber in which we found ourselves was
about ten feet one way and six the other. The
floor was formed by the rafters, with thin lath-andplaster between, so that in walking one had to step
from beam to beam. The roof ran up to an apex,
and was evidently the inner shell of the true roof
of the house. There was no furniture of any sort,
and the accumulated dust of years lay thick upon
the floor.
“Here you are, you see,” said Sherlock Holmes,
putting his hand against the sloping wall. “This is
a trap-door which leads out on to the roof. I can
press it back, and here is the roof itself, sloping
at a gentle angle. This, then, is the way by which
Number One entered. Let us see if we can find one
other traces of his individuality.”
He held down the lamp to the floor, and as
he did so I saw for the second time that night a
startled, surprised look come over his face. For
myself, as I followed his gaze my skin was cold
under my clothes. The floor was covered thickly
with the prints of a naked foot,—clear, well defined,
perfectly formed, but scarce half the size of those
of an ordinary man.
“Holmes,” I said, in a whisper, “a child has
done the horrid thing.”
He had recovered his self-possession in an instant. “I was staggered for the moment,” he said,
“but the thing is quite natural. My memory failed
me, or I should have been able to foretell it. There is
nothing more to be learned here. Let us go down.”
“What is your theory, then, as to those footmarks?” I asked, eagerly, when we had regained
the lower room once more.
“My dear Watson, try a little analysis yourself,”
said he, with a touch of impatience. “You know my
methods. Apply them, and it will be instructive to
compare results.”
“I cannot conceive anything which will cover
the facts,” I answered.
“It will be clear enough to you soon,” he said, in
an off-hand way. “I think that there is nothing else
of importance here, but I will look.” He whipped
out his lens and a tape measure, and hurried about
the room on his knees, measuring, comparing, examining, with his long thin nose only a few inches
from the planks, and his beady eyes gleaming and
deep-set like those of a bird. So swift, silent, and
furtive were his movements, like those of a trained
blood-hound picking out a scent, that I could not
but think what a terrible criminal he would have
made had he turned his energy and sagacity against
the law, instead of exerting them in its defense. As
he hunted about, he kept muttering to himself, and
finally he broke out into a loud crow of delight.
“We are certainly in luck,” said he. “We ought
to have very little trouble now. Number One has
had the misfortune to tread in the creosote. You
can see the outline of the edge of his small foot here
at the side of this evil-smelling mess. The carboy
has been cracked, You see, and the stuff has leaked
out.”
“What then?” I asked.
“Why, we have got him, that’s all,” said he. “I
know a dog that would follow that scent to the
world’s end. If a pack can track a trailed herring across a shire, how far can a specially-trained
hound follow so pungent a smell as this? It sounds
like a sum in the rule of three. The answer should
give us the—But halloo! here are the accredited
representatives of the law.”
83
The Sign of the Four
Heavy steps and the clamor of loud voices were
audible from below, and the hall door shut with a
loud crash.
never forget how you lectured us all on causes and
inferences and effects in the Bishopgate jewel case.
It’s true you set us on the right track; but you’ll
own now that it was more by good luck than good
guidance.”
“It was a piece of very simple reasoning.”
“Oh, come, now, come! Never be ashamed to
own up. But what is all this? Bad business! Bad
business! Stern facts here,—no room for theories.
How lucky that I happened to be out at Norwood
over another case! I was at the station when the
message arrived. What d’you think the man died
of?”
“Oh, this is hardly a case for me to theorize
over,” said Holmes, dryly.
“No, no. Still, we can’t deny that you hit the
nail on the head sometimes. Dear me! Door locked,
I understand. Jewels worth half a million missing.
How was the window?”
“Fastened; but there are steps on the sill.”
“Well, well, if it was fastened the steps could
have nothing to do with the matter. That’s common
sense. Man might have died in a fit; but then the
jewels are missing. Ha! I have a theory. These
flashes come upon me at times.—Just step outside,
sergeant, and you, Mr. Sholto. Your friend can remain.—What do you think of this, Holmes? Sholto
was, on his own confession, with his brother last
night. The brother died in a fit, on which Sholto
walked off with the treasure. How’s that?”
“On which the dead man very considerately got
up and locked the door on the inside.”
“Hum! There’s a flaw there. Let us apply common sense to the matter. This Thaddeus Sholto
was with his brother; there was a quarrel; so much
we know. The brother is dead and the jewels are
gone. So much also we know. No one saw the
brother from the time Thaddeus left him. His bed
had not been slept in. Thaddeus is evidently in
a most disturbed state of mind. His appearance
is—well, not attractive. You see that I am weaving
my web round Thaddeus. The net begins to close
upon him.”
“You are not quite in possession of the facts yet,”
said Holmes. “This splinter of wood, which I have
every reason to believe to be poisoned, was in the
man’s scalp where you still see the mark; this card,
inscribed as you see it, was on the table; and beside
it lay this rather curious stone-headed instrument.
How does all that fit into your theory?”
“Confirms it in every respect,” said the fat detective, pompously. “House is full of Indian curiosities. Thaddeus brought this up, and if this
splinter be poisonous Thaddeus may as well have
“Before they come,” said Holmes, “just put your
hand here on this poor fellow’s arm, and here on
his leg. What do you feel?”
“The muscles are as hard as a board,” I answered.
“Quite so. They are in a state of extreme contraction, far exceeding the usual rigor mortis. Coupled
with this distortion of the face, this Hippocratic
smile, or ‘risus sardonicus,’ as the old writers called
it, what conclusion would it suggest to your mind?”
“Death from some powerful vegetable alkaloid,” I answered,—“some strychnine-like substance which would produce tetanus.”
“That was the idea which occurred to me the
instant I saw the drawn muscles of the face. On getting into the room I at once looked for the means by
which the poison had entered the system. As you
saw, I discovered a thorn which had been driven
or shot with no great force into the scalp. You observe that the part struck was that which would be
turned towards the hole in the ceiling if the man
were erect in his chair. Now examine the thorn.”
I took it up gingerly and held it in the light of
the lantern. It was long, sharp, and black, with a
glazed look near the point as though some gummy
substance had dried upon it. The blunt end had
been trimmed and rounded off with a knife.
“Is that an English thorn?” he asked.
“No, it certainly is not.”
“With all these data you should be able to draw
some just inference. But here are the regulars: so
the auxiliary forces may beat a retreat.”
As he spoke, the steps which had been coming
nearer sounded loudly on the passage, and a very
stout, portly man in a gray suit strode heavily into
the room. He was red-faced, burly and plethoric,
with a pair of very small twinkling eyes which
looked keenly out from between swollen and puffy
pouches. He was closely followed by an inspector
in uniform, and by the still palpitating Thaddeus
Sholto.
“Here’s a business!” he cried, in a muffled,
husky voice. “Here’s a pretty business! But who
are all these? Why, the house seems to be as full as
a rabbit-warren!”
“I think you must recollect me, Mr. Athelney
Jones,” said Holmes, quietly.
“Why, of course I do!” he wheezed. “It’s Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, the theorist. Remember you! I’ll
84
The Sign of the Four
made murderous use of it as any other man. The
card is some hocus-pocus,—a blind, as like as not.
The only question is, how did he depart? Ah, of
course, here is a hole in the roof.” With great activity, considering his bulk, he sprang up the steps and
squeezed through into the garret, and immediately
afterwards we heard his exulting voice proclaiming
that he had found the trap-door.
“He can find something,” remarked Holmes,
shrugging his shoulders. “He has occasional glimmerings of reason. Il n’y a pas des sots si incommodes
que ceux qui ont de l’esprit!”
“You see!” said Athelney Jones, reappearing
down the steps again. “Facts are better than mere
theories, after all. My view of the case is confirmed.
There is a trap-door communicating with the roof,
and it is partly open.”
“It was I who opened it.”
“Oh, indeed! You did notice it, then?” He
seemed a little crestfallen at the discovery. “Well,
whoever noticed it, it shows how our gentleman
got away. Inspector!”
“Yes, sir,” from the passage.
“Ask Mr. Sholto to step this way.—Mr. Sholto, it
is my duty to inform you that anything which you
may say will be used against you. I arrest you in
the Queen’s name as being concerned in the death
of your brother.”
“There, now! Didn’t I tell you!” cried the poor
little man, throwing out his hands, and looking
from one to the other of us.
“Don’t trouble yourself about it, Mr. Sholto,”
said Holmes. “I think that I can engage to clear you
of the charge.”
“Don’t promise too much, Mr. Theorist,—don’t
promise too much!” snapped the detective. “You
may find it a harder matter than you think.”
“Not only will I clear him, Mr. Jones, but I will
make you a free present of the name and description of one of the two people who were in this room
last night. His name, I have every reason to believe,
is Jonathan Small. He is a poorly-educated man,
small, active, with his right leg off, and wearing
a wooden stump which is worn away upon the
inner side. His left boot has a coarse, square-toed
sole, with an iron band round the heel. He is a
middle-aged man, much sunburned, and has been
a convict. These few indications may be of some
assistance to you, coupled with the fact that there
is a good deal of skin missing from the palm of his
hand. The other man—”
“Ah! the other man—?” asked Athelney Jones,
in a sneering voice, but impressed none the less, as
I could easily see, by the precision of the other’s
manner.
“Is a rather curious person,” said Sherlock
Holmes, turning upon his heel. “I hope before
very long to be able to introduce you to the pair of
them. A word with you, Watson.”
He led me out to the head of the stair. “This
unexpected occurrence,” he said, “has caused us
rather to lose sight of the original purpose of our
journey.”
“I have just been thinking so,” I answered. “It is
not right that Miss Morstan should remain in this
stricken house.”
“No. You must escort her home. She lives with
Mrs. Cecil Forrester, in Lower Camberwell: so it
is not very far. I will wait for you here if you will
drive out again. Or perhaps you are too tired?”
“By no means. I don’t think I could rest until I know more of this fantastic business. I have
seen something of the rough side of life, but I give
you my word that this quick succession of strange
surprises to-night has shaken my nerve completely.
I should like, however, to see the matter through
with you, now that I have got so far.”
“Your presence will be of great service to me,”
he answered. “We shall work the case out independently, and leave this fellow Jones to exult over
any mare’s-nest which he may choose to construct.
When you have dropped Miss Morstan I wish you
to go on to No. 3 Pinchin Lane, down near the
water’s edge at Lambeth. The third house on the
right-hand side is a bird-stuffer’s: Sherman is the
name. You will see a weasel holding a young rabbit
in the window. Knock old Sherman up, and tell
him, with my compliments, that I want Toby at
once. You will bring Toby back in the cab with
you.”
“A dog, I suppose.”
“Yes,—a queer mongrel, with a most amazing
power of scent. I would rather have Toby’s help
than that of the whole detective force of London.”
“I shall bring him, then,” said I. “It is one now.
I ought to be back before three, if I can get a fresh
horse.”
“And I,” said Holmes, “shall see what I can
learn from Mrs. Bernstone, and from the Indian
servant, who, Mr. Thaddeus tell me, sleeps in the
next garret. Then I shall study the great Jones’s
methods and listen to his not too delicate sarcasms.
‘Wir sind gewohnt, daß die Menschen verhöhnen was
sie nicht verstehen.’ Goethe is always pithy.”
85
The Sign of the Four
CHAPTER VII.
The Episode of the Barrel
The police had brought a cab with them, and
in this I escorted Miss Morstan back to her home.
After the angelic fashion of women, she had borne
trouble with a calm face as long as there was some
one weaker than herself to support, and I had found
her bright and placid by the side of the frightened
housekeeper. In the cab, however, she first turned
faint, and then burst into a passion of weeping,—so
sorely had she been tried by the adventures of
the night. She has told me since that she thought
me cold and distant upon that journey. She little
guessed the struggle within my breast, or the effort
of self-restraint which held me back. My sympathies and my love went out to her, even as my hand
had in the garden. I felt that years of the conventionalities of life could not teach me to know her
sweet, brave nature as had this one day of strange
experiences. Yet there were two thoughts which
sealed the words of affection upon my lips. She
was weak and helpless, shaken in mind and nerve.
It was to take her at a disadvantage to obtrude love
upon her at such a time. Worse still, she was rich.
If Holmes’s researches were successful, she would
be an heiress. Was it fair, was it honorable, that a
half-pay surgeon should take such advantage of an
intimacy which chance had brought about? Might
she not look upon me as a mere vulgar fortuneseeker? I could not bear to risk that such a thought
should cross her mind. This Agra treasure intervened like an impassable barrier between us.
It was nearly two o’clock when we reached Mrs.
Cecil Forrester’s. The servants had retired hours
ago, but Mrs. Forrester had been so interested by
the strange message which Miss Morstan had received that she had sat up in the hope of her return.
She opened the door herself, a middle-aged, graceful woman, and it gave me joy to see how tenderly
her arm stole round the other’s waist and how
motherly was the voice in which she greeted her.
She was clearly no mere paid dependant, but an
honored friend. I was introduced, and Mrs. Forrester earnestly begged me to step in and tell her
our adventures. I explained, however, the importance of my errand, and promised faithfully to call
and report any progress which we might make
with the case. As we drove away I stole a glance
back, and I still seem to see that little group on
the step, the two graceful, clinging figures, the halfopened door, the hall light shining through stained
glass, the barometer, and the bright stair-rods. It
was soothing to catch even that passing glimpse of
a tranquil English home in the midst of the wild,
dark business which had absorbed us.
And the more I thought of what had happened,
the wilder and darker it grew. I reviewed the whole
extraordinary sequence of events as I rattled on
through the silent gas-lit streets. There was the
original problem: that at least was pretty clear now.
The death of Captain Morstan, the sending of the
pearls, the advertisement, the letter,—we had had
light upon all those events. They had only led
us, however, to a deeper and far more tragic mystery. The Indian treasure, the curious plan found
among Morstan’s baggage, the strange scene at
Major Sholto’s death, the rediscovery of the treasure immediately followed by the murder of the
discoverer, the very singular accompaniments to
the crime, the footsteps, the remarkable weapons,
the words upon the card, corresponding with those
upon Captain Morstan’s chart,—here was indeed a
labyrinth in which a man less singularly endowed
than my fellow-lodger might well despair of ever
finding the clue.
Pinchin Lane was a row of shabby two-storied
brick houses in the lower quarter of Lambeth. I
had to knock for some time at No. 3 before I could
make my impression. At last, however, there was
the glint of a candle behind the blind, and a face
looked out at the upper window.
“Go on, you drunken vagabone,” said the face.
“If you kick up any more row I’ll open the kennels
and let out forty-three dogs upon you.”
“If you’ll let one out it’s just what I have come
for,” said I.
“Go on!” yelled the voice. “So help me gracious,
I have a wiper in the bag, an’ I’ll drop it on your
’ead if you don’t hook it.”
“But I want a dog,” I cried.
“I won’t be argued with!” shouted Mr. Sherman.
“Now stand clear, for when I say ‘three,’ down goes
the wiper.”
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes—” I began, but the words
had a most magical effect, for the window instantly
slammed down, and within a minute the door was
unbarred and open. Mr. Sherman was a lanky, lean
old man, with stooping shoulders, a stringy neck,
and blue-tinted glasses.
“A friend of Mr. Sherlock is always welcome,”
said he. “Step in, sir. Keep clear of the badger; for
he bites. Ah, naughty, naughty, would you take a
nip at the gentleman?” This to a stoat which thrust
its wicked head and red eyes between the bars of its
86
The Sign of the Four
cage. “Don’t mind that, sir: it’s only a slow-worm.
It hain’t got no fangs, so I gives it the run o’ the
room, for it keeps the bettles down. You must not
mind my bein’ just a little short wi’ you at first,
for I’m guyed at by the children, and there’s many
a one just comes down this lane to knock me up.
What was it that Mr. Sherlock Holmes wanted, sir?”
to do a little climbing. And dip my handkerchief
into the creasote. That will do. Now come up into
the garret with me for a moment.”
We clambered up through the hole. Holmes
turned his light once more upon the footsteps in
the dust.
“I wish you particularly to notice these footmarks,” he said. “Do you observe anything noteworthy about them?”
“They belong,” I said, “to a child or a small
woman.”
“Apart from their size, though. Is there nothing
else?”
“They appear to be much as other footmarks.”
“Not at all. Look here! This is the print of a
right foot in the dust. Now I make one with my
naked foot beside it. What is the chief difference?”
“Your toes are all cramped together. The other
print has each toe distinctly divided.”
“Quite so. That is the point. Bear that in
mind. Now, would you kindly step over to that
flap-window and smell the edge of the wood-work?
I shall stay here, as I have this handkerchief in my
hand.”
I did as he directed, and was instantly conscious
of a strong tarry smell.
“That is where he put his foot in getting out.
If you can trace him, I should think that Toby will
have no difficulty. Now run down-stairs, loose the
dog, and look out for Blondin.”
By the time that I got out into the grounds Sherlock Holmes was on the roof, and I could see him
like an enormous glow-worm crawling very slowly
along the ridge. I lost sight of him behind a stack
of chimneys, but he presently reappeared, and then
vanished once more upon the opposite side. When
I made my way round there I found him seated at
one of the corner eaves.
“That You, Watson?” he cried.
“Yes.”
“This is the place. What is that black thing
down there?”
“A water-barrel.”
“Top on it?”
“Yes.”
“No sign of a ladder?”
“No.”
“Confound the fellow! It’s a most break-neck
place. I ought to be able to come down where he
could climb up. The water-pipe feels pretty firm.
Here goes, anyhow.”
“He wanted a dog of yours.”
“Ah! that would be Toby.”
“Yes, Toby was the name.”
“Toby lives at No. 7 on the left here.” He moved
slowly forward with his candle among the queer
animal family which he had gathered round him.
In the uncertain, shadowy light I could see dimly
that there were glancing, glimmering eyes peeping
down at us from every cranny and corner. Even
the rafters above our heads were lined by solemn
fowls, who lazily shifted their weight from one leg
to the other as our voices disturbed their slumbers.
Toby proved to an ugly, long-haired, lop-eared
creature, half spaniel and half lurcher, brown-andwhite in color, with a very clumsy waddling gait.
It accepted after some hesitation a lump of sugar
which the old naturalist handed to me, and, having
thus sealed an alliance, it followed me to the cab,
and made no difficulties about accompanying me.
It had just struck three on the Palace clock when I
found myself back once more at Pondicherry Lodge.
The ex-prize-fighter McMurdo had, I found, been
arrested as an accessory, and both he and Mr. Sholto
had been marched off to the station. Two constables
guarded the narrow gate, but they allowed me to
pass with the dog on my mentioning the detective’s
name.
Holmes was standing on the door-step, with his
hands in his pockets, smoking his pipe.
“Ah, you have him there!” said he. “Good dog,
then! Athelney Jones has gone. We have had an
immense display of energy since you left. He has
arrested not only friend Thaddeus, but the gatekeeper, the housekeeper, and the Indian servant.
We have the place to ourselves, but for a sergeant
up-stairs. Leave the dog here, and come up.”
We tied Toby to the hall table, and reascended
the stairs. The room was as we had left it, save
that a sheet had been draped over the central figure. A weary-looking police-sergeant reclined in
the corner.
“Lend me your bull’s-eye, sergeant,” said my
companion. “Now tie this bit of card round my
neck, so as to hang it in front of me. Thank you.
Now I must kick off my boots and stockings.—Just
you carry them down with you, Watson. I am going
87
The Sign of the Four
There was a scuffling of feet, and the lantern
began to come steadily down the side of the wall.
Then with a light spring he came on to the barrel,
and from there to the earth.
beech. Where the two walls joined, several bricks
had been loosened, and the crevices left were worn
down and rounded upon the lower side, as though
they had frequently been used as a ladder. Holmes
clambered up, and, taking the dog from me, he
dropped it over upon the other side.
“There’s the print of wooden-leg’s hand,” he
remarked, as I mounted up beside him. “You see
the slight smudge of blood upon the white plaster.
What a lucky thing it is that we have had no very
heavy rain since yesterday! The scent will lie upon
the road in spite of their eight-and-twenty hours’
start.”
I confess that I had my doubts myself when I
reflected upon the great traffic which had passed
along the London road in the interval. My fears
were soon appeased, however. Toby never hesitated
or swerved, but waddled on in his peculiar rolling
fashion. Clearly, the pungent smell of the creasote
rose high above all other contending scents.
“Do not imagine,” said Holmes, “that I depend
for my success in this case upon the mere chance
of one of these fellows having put his foot in the
chemical. I have knowledge now which would enable me to trace them in many different ways. This,
however, is the readiest and, since fortune has put
it into our hands, I should be culpable if I neglected
it. It has, however, prevented the case from becoming the pretty little intellectual problem which it at
one time promised to be. There might have been
some credit to be gained out of it, but for this too
palpable clue.”
“There is credit, and to spare,” said I. “I assure
you, Holmes, that I marvel at the means by which
you obtain your results in this case, even more than
I did in the Jefferson Hope Murder. The thing
seems to me to be deeper and more inexplicable.
How, for example, could you describe with such
confidence the wooden-legged man?”
“Pshaw, my dear boy! it was simplicity itself.
I don’t wish to be theatrical. It is all patent and
above-board. Two officers who are in command
of a convict-guard learn an important secret as to
buried treasure. A map is drawn for them by an
Englishman named Jonathan Small. You remember
that we saw the name upon the chart in Captain
Morstan’s possession. He had signed it in behalf
of himself and his associates,—the sign of the four,
as he somewhat dramatically called it. Aided by
this chart, the officers—or one of them—gets the
treasure and brings it to England, leaving, we will
suppose, some condition under which he received
it unfulfilled. Now, then, why did not Jonathan
Small get the treasure himself? The answer is obvious. The chart is dated at a time when Morstan
“It was easy to follow him,” he said, drawing on
his stockings and boots. “Tiles were loosened the
whole way along, and in his hurry he had dropped
this. It confirms my diagnosis, as you doctors express it.”
The object which he held up to me was a small
pocket or pouch woven out of colored grasses and
with a few tawdry beads strung round it. In shape
and size it was not unlike a cigarette-case. Inside
were half a dozen spines of dark wood, sharp at
one end and rounded at the other, like that which
had struck Bartholomew Sholto.
“They are hellish things,” said he. “Look out
that you don’t prick yourself. I’m delighted to have
them, for the chances are that they are all he has.
There is the less fear of you or me finding one in
our skin before long. I would sooner face a Martini
bullet, myself. Are you game for a six-mile trudge,
Watson?”
“Certainly,” I answered.
“Your leg will stand it?”
“Oh, yes.”
“Here you are, doggy! Good old Toby! Smell
it, Toby, smell it!” He pushed the creasote handkerchief under the dog’s nose, while the creature stood
with its fluffy legs separated, and with a most comical cock to its head, like a connoisseur sniffing the
bouquet of a famous vintage. Holmes then threw
the handkerchief to a distance, fastened a stout cord
to the mongrel’s collar, and let him to the foot of
the water-barrel. The creature instantly broke into
a succession of high, tremulous yelps, and, with his
nose on the ground, and his tail in the air, pattered
off upon the trail at a pace which strained his leash
and kept us at the top of our speed.
The east had been gradually whitening, and we
could now see some distance in the cold gray light.
The square, massive house, with its black, empty
windows and high, bare walls, towered up, sad
and forlorn, behind us. Our course let right across
the grounds, in and out among the trenches and
pits with which they were scarred and intersected.
The whole place, with its scattered dirt-heaps and
ill-grown shrubs, had a blighted, ill-omened look
which harmonized with the black tragedy which
hung over it.
On reaching the boundary wall Toby ran along,
whining eagerly, underneath its shadow, and
stopped finally in a corner screened by a young
88
The Sign of the Four
was brought into close association with convicts.
Jonathan Small did not get the treasure because he
and his associates were themselves convicts and
could not get away.”
four associates, something in the nature of an act
of justice. Whimsical and bizarre conceits of this
kind are common enough in the annals of crime,
and usually afford valuable indications as to the
criminal. Do you follow all this?”
“But that is mere speculation,” said I.
“Very clearly.”
“It is more than that. It is the only hypothesis
which covers the facts. Let us see how it fits in with
the sequel. Major Sholto remains at peace for some
years, happy in the possession of his treasure. Then
he receives a letter from India which gives him a
great fright. What was that?”
“Now, what could Jonathan Small do? He could
only continue to keep a secret watch upon the efforts made to find the treasure. Possibly he leaves
England and only comes back at intervals. Then
comes the discovery of the garret, and he is instantly informed of it. We again trace the presence
of some confederate in the household. Jonathan,
with his wooden leg, is utterly unable to reach the
lofty room of Bartholomew Sholto. He takes with
him, however, a rather curious associate, who gets
over this difficulty, but dips his naked foot into creasote, whence come Toby, and a six-mile limp for a
half-pay officer with a damaged tendo Achillis.”
“A letter to say that the men whom he had
wronged had been set free.”
“Or had escaped. That is much more likely, for
he would have known what their term of imprisonment was. It would not have been a surprise
to him. What does he do then? He guards himself against a wooden-legged man,—a white man,
mark you, for he mistakes a white tradesman for
him, and actually fires a pistol at him. Now, only
one white man’s name is on the chart. The others are Hindoos or Mohammedans. There is no
other white man. Therefore we may say with confidence that the wooden-legged man is identical
with Jonathan Small. Does the reasoning strike yo
as being faulty?”
“But it was the associate, and not Jonathan, who
committed the crime.”
“Quite so. And rather to Jonathan’s disgust,
to judge by the way the stamped about when he
got into the room. He bore no grudge against
Bartholomew Sholto, and would have preferred if
he could have been simply bound and gagged. He
did not wish to put his head in a halter. There was
no help for it, however: the savage instincts of his
companion had broken out, and the poison had
done its work: so Jonathan Small left his record,
lowered the treasure-box to the ground, and followed it himself. That was the train of events as
far as I can decipher them. Of course as to his
personal appearance he must be middle-aged, and
must be sunburned after serving his time in such
an oven as the Andamans. His height is readily
calculated from the length of his stride, and we
know that he was bearded. His hairiness was the
one point which impressed itself upon Thaddeus
Sholto when he saw him at the window. I don’t
know that there is anything else.”
“No: it is clear and concise.”
“Well, now, let us put ourselves in the place of
Jonathan Small. Let us look at it from his point of
view. He comes to England with the double idea of
regaining what he would consider to be his rights
and of having his revenge upon the man who had
wronged him. He found out where Sholto lived,
and very possibly he established communications
with some one inside the house. There is this butler,
Lal Rao, whom we have not seen. Mrs. Bernstone
gives him far from a good character. Small could
not find out, however, where the treasure was hid,
for no one ever knew, save the major and one faithful servant who had died. Suddenly Small learns
that the major is on his death-bed. In a frenzy lest
the secret of the treasure die with him, he runs
the gauntlet of the guards, makes his way to the
dying man’s window, and is only deterred from
entering by the presence of his two sons. Mad with
hate, however, against the dead man, he enters the
room that night, searches his private papers in the
hope of discovering some memorandum relating
to the treasure, and finally leaves a memento of
his visit in the short inscription upon the card. He
had doubtless planned beforehand that should he
slay the major he would leave some such record
upon the body as a sign that it was not a common murder, but, from the point of view of the
“The associate?”
“Ah, well, there is no great mystery in that.
But you will know all about it soon enough. How
sweet the morning air is! See how that one little
cloud floats like a pink feather from some gigantic
flamingo. Now the red rim of the sun pushes itself
over the London cloud-bank. It shines on a good
many folk, but on none, I dare bet, who are on
a stranger errand than you and I. How small we
feel with our petty ambitions and strivings in the
presence of the great elemental forces of nature!
Are you well up in your Jean Paul?”
89
The Sign of the Four
“Fairly so. I worked back to him through Carlyle.”
latter street turns into Knight’s Place, Toby ceased
to advance, but began to run backwards and forwards with one ear cocked and the other drooping,
the very picture of canine indecision. Then he waddled round in circles, looking up to us from time
to time, as if to ask for sympathy in his embarrassment.
“That was like following the brook to the parent
lake. He makes one curious but profound remark.
It is that the chief proof of man’s real greatness lies
in his perception of his own smallness. It argues,
you see, a power of comparison and of appreciation
which is in itself a proof of nobility. There is much
food for thought in Richter. You have not a pistol,
have you?”
“What the deuce is the matter with the dog?”
growled Holmes. “They surely would not take a
cab, or go off in a balloon.”
“Perhaps they stood here for some time,” I suggested.
“I have my stick.”
“It is just possible that we may need something
of the sort if we get to their lair. Jonathan I shall
leave to you, but if the other turns nasty I shall
shoot him dead.” He took out his revolver as he
spoke, and, having loaded two of the chambers, he
put it back into the right-hand pocket of his jacket.
“Ah! it’s all right. He’s off again,” said my
companion, in a tone of relief.
He was indeed off, for after sniffing round again
he suddenly made up his mind, and darted away
with an energy and determination such as he had
not yet shown. The scent appeared to be much
hotter than before, for he had not even to put his
nose on the ground, but tugged at his leash and
tried to break into a run. I cold see by the gleam in
Holmes’s eyes that he thought we were nearing the
end of our journey.
We had during this time been following the
guidance of Toby down the half-rural villa-lined
roads which lead to the metropolis. Now, however, we were beginning to come among continuous
streets, where laborers and dockmen were already
astir, and slatternly women were taking down shutters and brushing door-steps. At the square-topped
corner public houses business was just beginning,
and rough-looking men were emerging, rubbing
their sleeves across their beards after their morning wet. Strange dogs sauntered up and stared
wonderingly at us as we passed, but our inimitable
Toby looked neither to the right nor to the left, but
trotted onwards with his nose to the ground and an
occasional eager whine which spoke of a hot scent.
Our course now ran down Nine Elms until we
came to Broderick and Nelson’s large timber-yard,
just past the White Eagle tavern. Here the dog,
frantic with excitement, turned down through the
side-gate into the enclosure, where the sawyers
were already at work. On the dog raced through
sawdust and shavings, down an alley, round a passage, between two wood-piles, and finally, with a
triumphant yelp, sprang upon a large barrel which
still stood upon the hand-trolley on which it had
been brought. With lolling tongue and blinking
eyes, Toby stood upon the cask, looking from one
to the other of us for some sign of appreciation. The
staves of the barrel and the wheels of the trolley
were smeared with a dark liquid, and the whole air
was heavy with the smell of creasote.
We had traversed Streatham, Brixton, Camberwell, and now found ourselves in Kennington Lane,
having borne away through the side-streets to the
east of the Oval. The men whom we pursued
seemed to have taken a curiously zigzag road,
with the idea probably of escaping observation.
They had never kept to the main road if a parallel
side-street would serve their turn. At the foot of
Kennington Lane they had edged away to the left
through Bond Street and Miles Street. Where the
Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each
other, and then burst simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
90
The Sign of the Four
CHAPTER VIII.
The Baker Street Irregulars
“What now?” I asked. “Toby has lost his character for infallibility.”
“He acted according to his lights,” said Holmes,
lifting him down from the barrel and walking him
out of the timber-yard. “If you consider how much
creasote is carted about London in one day, it is
no great wonder that our trail should have been
crossed. It is much used now, especially for the
seasoning of wood. Poor Toby is not to blame.”
“We must get on the main scent again, I suppose.”
“Yes. And, fortunately, we have no distance to
go. Evidently what puzzled the dog at the corner
of Knight’s Place was that there were two different
trails running in opposite directions. We took the
wrong one. It only remains to follow the other.”
There was no difficulty about this. On leading
Toby to the place where he had committed his fault,
he cast about in a wide circle and finally dashed off
in a fresh direction.
“We must take care that he does not now bring
us to the place where the creasote-barrel came
from,” I observed.
“I had thought of that. But you notice that he
keeps on the pavement, whereas the barrel passed
down the roadway. No, we are on the true scent
now.”
It tended down towards the river-side, running
through Belmont Place and Prince’s Street. At the
end of Broad Street it ran right down to the water’s
edge, where there was a small wooden wharf. Toby
led us to the very edge of this, and there stood
whining, looking out on the dark current beyond.
“We are out of luck,” said Holmes. “They have
taken to a boat here.” Several small punts and skiffs
were lying about in the water and on the edge of
the wharf. We took Toby round to each in turn, but,
though he sniffed earnestly, he made no sign.
Close to the rude landing-stage was a small
brick house, with a wooden placard slung out
through the second window. “Mordecai Smith”
was printed across it in large letters, and, underneath, “Boats to hire by the hour or day.” A second inscription above the door informed us that a
steam launch was kept,—a statement which was
confirmed by a great pile of coke upon the jetty.
Sherlock Holmes looked slowly round, and his face
assumed an ominous expression.
“This looks bad,” said he. “These fellows are
sharper than I expected. They seem to have covered
their tracks. There has, I fear, been preconcerted
management here.”
He was approaching the door of the house,
when it opened, and a little, curly-headed lad of six
came running out, followed by a stoutish, red-faced
woman with a large sponge in her hand.
“You come back and be washed, Jack,” she
shouted. “Come back, you young imp; for if your
father comes home and finds you like that, he’ll let
us hear of it.”
“Dear little chap!” said Holmes, strategically.
“What a rosy-cheeked young rascal! Now, Jack, is
there anything you would like?”
The youth pondered for a moment. “I’d like a
shillin’,” said he.
“Nothing you would like better?”
“I’d like two shillin’ better,” the prodigy answered, after some thought.
“Here you are, then! Catch!—A fine child, Mrs.
Smith!”
“Lor’ bless you, sir, he is that, and forward. He
gets a’most too much for me to manage, ’specially
when my man is away days at a time.”
“Away, is he?” said Holmes, in a disappointed
voice. “I am sorry for that, for I wanted to speak to
Mr. Smith.”
“He’s been away since yesterday mornin’, sir,
and, truth to tell, I am beginnin’ to feel frightened
about him. But if it was about a boat, sir, maybe I
could serve as well.”
“I wanted to hire his steam launch.”
“Why, bless you, sir, it is in the steam launch
that he has gone. That’s what puzzles me; for I
know there ain’t more coals in her than would take
her to about Woolwich and back. If he’d been away
in the barge I’d ha’ thought nothin’; for many a
time a job has taken him as far as Gravesend, and
then if there was much doin’ there he might ha’
stayed over. But what good is a steam launch without coals?”
“He might have bought some at a wharf down
the river.”
“He might, sir, but it weren’t his way. Many
a time I’ve heard him call out at the prices they
charge for a few odd bags. Besides, I don’t like
that wooden-legged man, wi’ his ugly face and outlandish talk. What did he want always knockin’
about here for?”
91
The Sign of the Four
“What would you do, then?”
“I would engage a launch and go down the river
on the track of the Aurora.”
“My dear fellow, it would be a colossal task.
She may have touched at any wharf on either side
of the stream between here and Greenwich. Below
the bridge there is a perfect labyrinth of landingplaces for miles. It would take you days and days
to exhaust them, if you set about it alone.”
“Employ the police, then.”
“No. I shall probably call Athelney Jones in
at the last moment. He is not a bad fellow, and I
should not like to do anything which would injure
him professionally. But I have a fancy for working
it out myself, now that we have gone so far.”
“Could we advertise, then, asking for information from wharfingers?”
“Worse and worse! Our men would know that
the chase was hot at their heels, and they would
be off out of the country. As it is, they are likely
enough to leave, but as long as they think they are
perfectly safe they will be in no hurry. Jones’s energy will be of use to us there, for his view of the
case is sure to push itself into the daily press, and
the runaways will think that every one is off on the
wrong scent.”
“What are we to do, then?” I asked, as we
landed near Millbank Penitentiary.
“Take this hansom, drive home, have some
breakfast, and get an hour’s sleep. It is quite on the
cards that we may be afoot to-night again. Stop at
a telegraph-office, cabby! We will keep Toby, for he
may be of use to us yet.”
We pulled up at the Great Peter Street postoffice, and Holmes despatched his wire. “Whom
do you think that is to?” he asked, as we resumed
our journey.
“I am sure I don’t know.”
“You remember the Baker Street division of the
detective police force whom I employed in the Jefferson Hope case?”
“Well,” said I, laughing.
“This is just the case where they might be invaluable. If they fail, I have other resources; but I
shall try them first. That wire was to my dirty little
lieutenant, Wiggins, and I expect that he and his
gang will be with us before we have finished our
breakfast.”
It was between eight and nine o’clock now, and
I was conscious of a strong reaction after the successive excitements of the night. I was limp and
weary, befogged in mind and fatigued in body. I
had not the professional enthusiasm which carried
my companion on, nor could I look at the matter
“A wooden-legged man?” said Holmes, with
bland surprise.
“Yes, sir, a brown, monkey-faced chap that’s
called more’n once for my old man. It was him that
roused him up yesternight, and, what’s more, my
man knew he was comin’, for he had steam up in
the launch. I tell you straight, sir, I don’t feel easy
in my mind about it.”
“But, my dear Mrs. Smith,” said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders, “You are frightening yourself
about nothing. How could you possibly tell that
it was the wooden-legged man who came in the
night? I don’t quite understand how you can be so
sure.”
“His voice, sir. I knew his voice, which is kind o’
thick and foggy. He tapped at the winder,—about
three it would be. ‘Show a leg, matey,’ says he:
‘time to turn out guard.’ My old man woke up
Jim,—that’s my eldest,—and away they went, without so much as a word to me. I could hear the
wooden leg clackin’ on the stones.”
“And was this wooden-legged man alone?”
“Couldn’t say, I am sure, sir. I didn’t hear no
one else.”
“I am sorry, Mrs. Smith, for I wanted a steam
launch, and I have heard good reports of the—Let
me see, what is her name?”
“The Aurora, sir.”
“Ah! She’s not that old green launch with a
yellow line, very broad in the beam?”
“No, indeed. She’s as trim a little thing as any
on the river. She’s been fresh painted, black with
two red streaks.”
“Thanks. I hope that you will hear soon from
Mr. Smith. I am going down the river; and if I
should see anything of the Aurora I shall let him
know that you are uneasy. A black funnel, you
say?”
“No, sir. Black with a white band.”
“Ah, of course. It was the sides which were
black. Good-morning, Mrs. Smith.—There is a boatman here with a wherry, Watson. We shall take it
and cross the river.
“The main thing with people of that sort,” said
Holmes, as we sat in the sheets of the wherry, “is
never to let them think that their information can
be of the slightest importance to you. If you do,
they will instantly shut up like an oyster. If you
listen to them under protest, as it were, you are
very likely to get what you want.”
“Our course now seems pretty clear,” said I.
92
The Sign of the Four
as a mere abstract intellectual problem. As far as
the death of Bartholomew Sholto went, I had heard
little good of him, and could feel no intense antipathy to his murderers. The treasure, however, was a
different matter. That, or part of it, belonged rightfully to Miss Morstan. While there was a chance
of recovering it I was ready to devote my life to
the one object. True, if I found it it would probably
put her forever beyond my reach. Yet it would be a
petty and selfish love which would be influenced
by such a thought as that. If Holmes could work to
find the criminals, I had a tenfold stronger reason
to urge me on to find the treasure.
so through a trap-door into a room which communicated with that in which the body was found.
This fact, which has been very clearly made out,
proves conclusively that it was no mere haphazard
burglary. The prompt and energetic action of the
officers of the law shows the great advantage of
the presence on such occasions of a single vigorous
and masterful mind. We cannot but think that it
supplies an argument to those who would wish
to see our detectives more decentralized, and so
brought into closer and more effective touch with
the cases which it is their duty to investigate.”
“Isn’t it gorgeous!” said Holmes, grinning over
his coffee-cup. “What do you think of it?”
A bath at Baker Street and a complete change
freshened me up wonderfully. When I came down
to our room I found the breakfast laid and Holmes
pouring out the coffee.
“I think that we have had a close shave ourselves
of being arrested for the crime.”
“So do I. I wouldn’t answer for our safety now,
if he should happen to have another of his attacks
of energy.”
“Here it is,” said he, laughing, and pointing to
an open newspaper. “The energetic Jones and the
ubiquitous reporter have fixed it up between them.
But you have had enough of the case. Better have
your ham and eggs first.”
At this moment there was a loud ring at the
bell, and I could hear Mrs. Hudson, our landlady,
raising her voice in a wail of expostulation and
dismay.
I took the paper from him and read the short
notice, which was headed “Mysterious Business at
Upper Norwood.”
“By heaven, Holmes,” I said, half rising, “I believe that they are really after us.”
“About twelve o’clock last night,” said the Standard, “Mr. Bartholomew Sholto, of Pondicherry
Lodge, Upper Norwood, was found dead in his
room under circumstances which point to foul play.
As far as we can learn, no actual traces of violence
were found upon Mr. Sholto’s person, but a valuable collection of Indian gems which the deceased
gentleman had inherited from his father has been
carried off. The discovery was first made by Mr.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who had called
at the house with Mr. Thaddeus Sholto, brother
of the deceased. By a singular piece of good fortune, Mr. Athelney Jones, the well-known member
of the detective police force, happened to be at the
Norwood Police Station, and was on the ground
within half an hour of the first alarm. His trained
and experienced faculties were at once directed
towards the detection of the criminals, with the
gratifying result that the brother, Thaddeus Sholto,
has already been arrested, together with the housekeeper, Mrs. Bernstone, an Indian butler named
Lal Rao, and a porter, or gatekeeper, named McMurdo. It is quite certain that the thief or thieves
were well acquainted with the house, for Mr. Jones’s
well-known technical knowledge and his powers
of minute observation have enabled him to prove
conclusively that the miscreants could not have entered by the door or by the window, but must have
made their way across the roof of the building, and
“No, it’s not quite so bad as that. It is the unofficial force,—the Baker Street irregulars.”
As he spoke, there came a swift pattering of
naked feet upon the stairs, a clatter of high voices,
and in rushed a dozen dirty and ragged little streetArabs. There was some show of discipline among
them, despite their tumultuous entry, for they instantly drew up in line and stood facing us with
expectant faces. One of their number, taller and
older than the others, stood forward with an air of
lounging superiority which was very funny in such
a disreputable little carecrow.
“Got your message, sir,” said he, “and brought
’em on sharp. Three bob and a tanner for tickets.”
“Here you are,” said Holmes, producing some
silver. “In future they can report to you, Wiggins,
and you to me. I cannot have the house invaded
in this way. However, it is just as well that you
should all hear the instructions. I want to find the
whereabouts of a steam launch called the Aurora,
owner Mordecai Smith, black with two red streaks,
funnel black with a white band. She is down the
river somewhere. I want one boy to be at Mordecai
Smith’s landing-stage opposite Millbank to say if
the boat comes back. You must divide it out among
yourselves, and do both banks thoroughly. Let me
know the moment you have news. Is that all clear?”
“Yes, guv’nor,” said Wiggins.
93
The Sign of the Four
“The old scale of pay, and a guinea to the boy
who finds the boat. Here’s a day in advance. Now
off you go!” He handed them a shilling each, and
away they buzzed down the stairs, and I saw them
a moment later streaming down the street.
It may be looked upon as the very latest authority.
What have we here? ‘Andaman Islands, situated
340 miles to the north of Sumatra, in the Bay of
Bengal.’ Hum! hum! What’s all this? Moist climate,
coral reefs, sharks, Port Blair, convict-barracks, Rutland Island, cottonwoods—Ah, here we are. ‘The
aborigines of the Andaman Islands may perhaps
claim the distinction of being the smallest race upon
this earth, though some anthropologists prefer the
Bushmen of Africa, the Digger Indians of America,
and the Terra del Fuegians. The average height is
rather below four feet, although many full-grown
adults may be found who are very much smaller
than this. They are a fierce, morose, and intractable
people, though capable of forming most devoted
friendships when their confidence has once been
gained.’ Mark that, Watson. Now, then, listen to
this. ‘They are naturally hideous, having large,
misshapen heads, small, fierce eyes, and distorted
features. Their feet and hands, however, are remarkably small. So intractable and fierce are they that all
the efforts of the British official have failed to win
them over in any degree. They have always been a
terror to shipwrecked crews, braining the survivors
with their stone-headed clubs, or shooting them
with their poisoned arrows. These massacres are
invariably concluded by a cannibal feast.’ Nice,
amiable people, Watson! If this fellow had been left
to his own unaided devices this affair might have
taken an even more ghastly turn. I fancy that, even
as it is, Jonathan Small would give a good deal not
to have employed him.”
“If the launch is above water they will find her,”
said Holmes, as he rose from the table and lit his
pipe. “They can go everywhere, see everything,
overhear every one. I expect to hear before evening
that they have spotted her. In the mean while, we
can do nothing but await results. We cannot pick
up the broken trail until we find either the Aurora
or Mr. Mordecai Smith.”
“Toby could eat these scraps, I dare say. Are
you going to bed, Holmes?”
“No: I am not tired. I have a curious constitution. I never remember feeling tired by work,
though idleness exhausts me completely. I am going to smoke and to think over this queer business to which my fair client has introduced us. If
ever man had an easy task, this of ours ought to
be. Wooden-legged men are not so common, but
the other man must, I should think, be absolutely
unique.”
“That other man again!”
“I have no wish to make a mystery of him,—to
you, anyway. But you must have formed your own
opinion. Now, do consider the data. Diminutive
footmarks, toes never fettered by boots, naked feet,
stone-headed wooden mace, great agility, small poisoned darts. What do you make of all this?”
“But how came he to have so singular a companion?”
“A savage!” I exclaimed. “Perhaps one of those
Indians who were the associates of Jonathan Small.”
“Ah, that is more than I can tell. Since, however,
we had already determined that Small had come
from the Andamans, it is not so very wonderful
that this islander should be with him. No doubt we
shall know all about it in time. Look here, Watson;
you look regularly done. Lie down there on the
sofa, and see if I can put you to sleep.”
“Hardly that,” said he. “When first I saw signs
of strange weapons I was inclined to think so; but
the remarkable character of the footmarks caused
me to reconsider my views. Some of the inhabitants
of the Indian Peninsula are small men, but none
could have left such marks as that. The Hindoo
proper has long and thin feet. The sandal-wearing
Mohammedan has the great toe well separated
from the others, because the thong is commonly
passed between. These little darts, too, could only
be shot in one way. They are from a blow-pipe.
Now, then, where are we to find our savage?”
He took up his violin from the corner, and as
I stretched myself out he began to play some low,
dreamy, melodious air,—his own, no doubt, for he
had a remarkable gift for improvisation. I have a
vague remembrance of his gaunt limbs, his earnest
face, and the rise and fall of his bow. Then I seemed
to be floated peacefully away upon a soft sea of
sound, until I found myself in dream-land, with
the sweet face of Mary Morstan looking down upon
me.
“South American,” I hazarded.
He stretched his hand up, and took down a
bulky volume from the shelf. “This is the first volume of a gazetteer which is now being published.
94
The Sign of the Four
CHAPTER IX.
A Break in the Chain
It was late in the afternoon before I woke,
strengthened and refreshed. Sherlock Holmes still
sat exactly as I had left him, save that he had laid
aside his violin and was deep in a book. He looked
across at me, as I stirred, and I noticed that his face
was dark and troubled.
“It is a romance!” cried Mrs. Forrester. “An
injured lady, half a million in treasure, a black cannibal, and a wooden-legged ruffian. They take the
place of the conventional dragon or wicked earl.”
“And two knight-errants to the rescue,” added
Miss Morstan, with a bright glance at me.
“Why, Mary, your fortune depends upon the issue of this search. I don’t think that you are nearly
excited enough. Just imagine what it must be to be
so rich, and to have the world at your feet!”
It sent a little thrill of joy to my heart to notice
that she showed no sign of elation at the prospect.
On the contrary, she gave a toss of her proud head,
as though the matter were one in which she took
small interest.
“It is for Mr. Thaddeus Sholto that I am anxious,” she said. “Nothing else is of any consequence; but I think that he has behaved most kindly
and honorably throughout. It is our duty to clear
him of this dreadful and unfounded charge.”
It was evening before I left Camberwell, and
quite dark by the time I reached home. My companion’s book and pipe lay by his chair, but he had
disappeared. I looked about in the hope of seeing
a note, but there was none.
“I suppose that Mr. Sherlock Holmes has gone
out,” I said to Mrs. Hudson as she came up to lower
the blinds.
“No, sir. He has gone to his room, sir. Do you
know, sir,” sinking her voice into an impressive
whisper, “I am afraid for his health?”
“Why so, Mrs. Hudson?”
“Well, he’s that strange, sir. After you was gone
he walked and he walked, up and down, and up
and down, until I was weary of the sound of his
footstep. Then I heard him talking to himself and
muttering, and every time the bell rang out he came
on the stairhead, with ‘What is that, Mrs. Hudson?’
And now he has slammed off to his room, but I can
hear him walking away the same as ever. I hope
he’s not going to be ill, sir. I ventured to say something to him about cooling medicine, but he turned
on me, sir, with such a look that I don’t know how
ever I got out of the room.”
“I don’t think that you have any cause to be uneasy, Mrs. Hudson,” I answered. “I have seen him
like this before. He has some small matter upon his
mind which makes him restless.” I tried to speak
lightly to our worthy landlady, but I was myself
somewhat uneasy when through the long night I
“You have slept soundly,” he said. “I feared that
our talk would wake you.”
“I heard nothing,” I answered. “Have you had
fresh news, then?”
“Unfortunately, no. I confess that I am surprised
and disappointed. I expected something definite by
this time. Wiggins has just been up to report. He
says that no trace can be found of the launch. It is a
provoking check, for every hour is of importance.”
“Can I do anything? I am perfectly fresh now,
and quite ready for another night’s outing.”
“No, we can do nothing. We can only wait. If
we go ourselves, the message might come in our
absence, and delay be caused. You can do what
you will, but I must remain on guard.”
“Then I shall run over to Camberwell and call
upon Mrs. Cecil Forrester. She asked me to, yesterday.”
“On Mrs. Cecil Forrester?” asked Holmes, with
the twinkle of a smile in his eyes.
“Well, of course Miss Morstan too. They were
anxious to hear what happened.”
“I would not tell them too much,” said Holmes.
“Women are never to be entirely trusted,—not the
best of them.”
I did not pause to argue over this atrocious
sentiment. “I shall be back in an hour or two,” I
remarked.
“All right! Good luck! But, I say, if you are
crossing the river you may as well return Toby, for
I don’t think it is at all likely that we shall have any
use for him now.”
I took our mongrel accordingly, and left him,
together with a half-sovereign, at the old naturalist’s in Pinchin Lane. At Camberwell I found Miss
Morstan a little weary after her night’s adventures,
but very eager to hear the news. Mrs. Forrester,
too, was full of curiosity. I told them all that we
had done, suppressing, however, the more dreadful
parts of the tragedy. Thus, although I spoke of Mr.
Sholto’s death, I said nothing of the exact manner
and method of it. With all my omissions, however,
there was enough to startle and amaze them.
95
The Sign of the Four
still from time to time heard the dull sound of his
tread, and knew how his keen spirit was chafing
against this involuntary inaction.
in a rude sailor dress with a pea-jacket, and a coarse
red scarf round his neck.
“I am off down the river, Watson,” said he. “I
have been turning it over in my mind, and I can
see only one way out of it. It is worth trying, at all
events.”
At breakfast-time he looked worn and haggard,
with a little fleck of feverish color upon either
cheek.
“Surely I can come with you, then?” said I.
“You are knocking yourself up, old man,” I remarked. “I heard you marching about in the night.”
“No; you can be much more useful if you will
remain here as my representative. I am loath to go,
for it is quite on the cards that some message may
come during the day, though Wiggins was despondent about it last night. I want you to open all notes
and telegrams, and to act on your own judgment if
any news should come. Can I rely upon you?”
“No, I could not sleep,” he answered. “This
infernal problem is consuming me. It is too much
to be balked by so petty an obstacle, when all else
had been overcome. I know the men, the launch,
everything; and yet I can get no news. I have set
other agencies at work, and used every means at
my disposal. The whole river has been searched
on either side, but there is no news, nor has Mrs.
Smith heard of her husband. I shall come to the
conclusion soon that they have scuttled the craft.
But there are objections to that.”
“Most certainly.”
“I am afraid that you will not be able to wire
to me, for I can hardly tell yet where I may find
myself. If I am in luck, however, I may not be gone
so very long. I shall have news of some sort or
other before I get back.”
“Or that Mrs. Smith has put us on a wrong
scent.”
I had heard nothing of him by breakfast-time.
On opening the Standard, however, I found that
there was a fresh allusion to the business.
“With reference to the Upper Norwood
tragedy,” it remarked, “we have reason to
believe that the matter promises to be even
more complex and mysterious than was
originally supposed. Fresh evidence has
shown that it is quite impossible that Mr.
Thaddeus Sholto could have been in any
way concerned in the matter. He and the
housekeeper, Mrs. Bernstone, were both released yesterday evening. It is believed,
however, that the police have a clue as to
the real culprits, and that it is being prosecuted by Mr. Athelney Jones, of Scotland
Yard, with all his well-known energy and
sagacity. Further arrests may be expected
at any moment.”
“No, I think that may be dismissed. I had inquiries made, and there is a launch of that description.”
“Could it have gone up the river?”
“I have considered that possibility too, and there
is a search-party who will work up as far as Richmond. If no news comes to-day, I shall start off
myself to-morrow, and go for the men rather than
the boat. But surely, surely, we shall hear something.”
We did not, however. Not a word came to us
either from Wiggins or from the other agencies.
There were articles in most of the papers upon the
Norwood tragedy. They all appeared to be rather
hostile to the unfortunate Thaddeus Sholto. No
fresh details were to be found, however, in any of
them, save that an inquest was to be held upon
the following day. I walked over to Camberwell in
the evening to report our ill success to the ladies,
and on my return I found Holmes dejected and
somewhat morose. He would hardly reply to my
questions, and busied himself all evening in an
abstruse chemical analysis which involved much
heating of retorts and distilling of vapors, ending
at last in a smell which fairly drove me out of the
apartment. Up to the small hours of the morning I
could hear the clinking of his test-tubes which told
me that he was still engaged in his malodorous
experiment.
“That is satisfactory so far as it goes,” thought I.
“Friend Sholto is safe, at any rate. I wonder what
the fresh clue may be; though it seems to be a
stereotyped form whenever the police have made a
blunder.”
I tossed the paper down upon the table, but at
that moment my eye caught an advertisement in
the agony column. It ran in this way:
“Lost.—Whereas Mordecai Smith, boatman, and his son, Jim, left Smith’s Wharf
at or about three o’clock last Tuesday morning in the steam launch Aurora, black with
two red stripes, funnel black with a white
band, the sum of five pounds will be paid to
In the early dawn I woke with a start, and was
surprised to find him standing by my bedside, clad
96
The Sign of the Four
any one who can give information to Mrs.
Smith, at Smith’s Wharf, or at 221b Baker
Street, as to the whereabouts of the said
Mordecai Smith and the launch Aurora.”
try me. You know my theory about this Norwood
case?”
“I remember that you expressed one.”
“Well, I have been obliged to reconsider it. I
had my net drawn tightly round Mr. Sholto, sir,
when pop he went through a hole in the middle of
it. He was able to prove an alibi which could not
be shaken. From the time that he left his brother’s
room he was never out of sight of some one or
other. So it could not be he who climbed over roofs
and through trap-doors. It’s a very dark case, and
my professional credit is at stake. I should be very
glad of a little assistance.”
This was clearly Holmes’s doing. The Baker Street
address was enough to prove that. It struck me as
rather ingenious, because it might be read by the
fugitives without their seeing in it more than the
natural anxiety of a wife for her missing husband.
It was a long day. Every time that a knock
came to the door, or a sharp step passed in the
street, I imagined that it was either Holmes returning or an answer to his advertisement. I tried to
read, but my thoughts would wander off to our
strange quest and to the ill-assorted and villainous
pair whom we were pursuing. Could there be, I
wondered, some radical flaw in my companion’s
reasoning. Might he be suffering from some huge
self-deception? Was it not possible that his nimble
and speculative mind had built up this wild theory
upon faulty premises? I had never known him to
be wrong; and yet the keenest reasoner may occasionally be deceived. He was likely, I thought, to
fall into error through the over-refinement of his
logic,—his preference for a subtle and bizarre explanation when a plainer and more commonplace
one lay ready to his hand. Yet, on the other hand, I
had myself seen the evidence, and I had heard the
reasons for his deductions. When I looked back on
the long chain of curious circumstances, many of
them trivial in themselves, but all tending in the
same direction, I could not disguise from myself
that even if Holmes’s explanation were incorrect
the true theory must be equally outré and startling.
“We all need help sometimes,” said I.
“Your friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes is a wonderful man, sir,” said he, in a husky and confidential
voice. “He’s a man who is not to be beat. I have
known that young man go into a good many cases,
but I never saw the case yet that he could not throw
a light upon. He is irregular in his methods, and
a little quick perhaps in jumping at theories, but,
on the whole, I think he would have made a most
promising officer, and I don’t care who knows it. I
have had a wire from him this morning, by which I
understand that he has got some clue to this Sholto
business. Here is the message.”
He took the telegram out of his pocket, and
handed it to me. It was dated from Poplar at twelve
o’clock. “Go to Baker Street at once,” it said. “If I
have not returned, wait for me. I am close on the
track of the Sholto gang. You can come with us
to-night if you want to be in at the finish.”
“This sounds well. He has evidently picked up
the scent again,” said I.
At three o’clock in the afternoon there was a
loud peal at the bell, an authoritative voice in the
hall, and, to my surprise, no less a person than Mr.
Athelney Jones was shown up to me. Very different
was he, however, from the brusque and masterful
professor of common sense who had taken over
the case so confidently at Upper Norwood. His
expression was downcast, and his bearing meek
and even apologetic.
“Ah, then he has been at fault too,” exclaimed
Jones, with evident satisfaction. “Even the best of
us are thrown off sometimes. Of course this may
prove to be a false alarm; but it is my duty as an
officer of the law to allow no chance to slip. But
there is some one at the door. Perhaps this is he.”
A heavy step was heard ascending the stair,
with a great wheezing and rattling as from a man
who was sorely put to it for breath. Once or twice
he stopped, as though the climb were too much
for him, but at last he made his way to our door
and entered. His appearance corresponded to the
sounds which we had heard. He was an aged man,
clad in seafaring garb, with an old pea-jacket buttoned up to his throat. His back was bowed, his
knees were shaky, and his breathing was painfully
asthmatic. As he leaned upon a thick oaken cudgel
his shoulders heaved in the effort to draw the air
into his lungs. He had a colored scarf round his
“Good-day, sir; good-day,” said he. “Mr. Sherlock Holmes is out, I understand.”
“Yes, and I cannot be sure when he will be back.
But perhaps you would care to wait. Take that chair
and try one of these cigars.”
“Thank you; I don’t mind if I do,” said he, mopping his face with a red bandanna handkerchief.
“And a whiskey-and-soda?”
“Well, half a glass. It is very hot for the time
of year; and I have had a good deal to worry and
97
The Sign of the Four
chin, and I could see little of his face save a pair of
keen dark eyes, overhung by bushy white brows,
and long gray side-whiskers. Altogether he gave
me the impression of a respectable master mariner
who had fallen into years and poverty.
We both started in our chairs. There was
Holmes sitting close to us with an air of quiet
amusement.
“Holmes!” I exclaimed. “You here! But where
is the old man?”
“Here is the old man,” said he, holding out a
heap of white hair. “Here he is,—wig, whiskers,
eyebrows, and all. I thought my disguise was pretty
good, but I hardly expected that it would stand that
test.”
“Ah, you rogue!” cried Jones, highly delighted.
“You would have made an actor, and a rare one.
You had the proper workhouse cough, and those
weak legs of yours are worth ten pound a week. I
thought I knew the glint of your eye, though. You
didn’t get away from us so easily, you see.”
“I have been working in that get-up all day,”
said he, lighting his cigar. “You see, a good many of
the criminal classes begin to know me,—especially
since our friend here took to publishing some of
my cases: so I can only go on the war-path under
some simple disguise like this. You got my wire?”
“Yes; that was what brought me here.”
“How has your case prospered?”
“It has all come to nothing. I have had to release two of my prisoners, and there is no evidence
against the other two.”
“Never mind. We shall give you two others in
the place of them. But you must put yourself under
my orders. You are welcome to all the official credit,
but you must act on the line that I point out. Is that
agreed?”
“Entirely, if you will help me to the men.”
“Well, then, in the first place I shall want a fast
police-boat—a steam launch—to be at the Westminster Stairs at seven o’clock.”
“That is easily managed. There is always one
about there; but I can step across the road and
telephone to make sure.”
“Then I shall want two stanch men, in case of
resistance.”
“There will be two or three in the boat. What
else?”
“When we secure the men we shall get the treasure. I think that it would be a pleasure to my
friend here to take the box round to the young lady
to whom half of it rightfully belongs. Let her be
the first to open it.—Eh, Watson?”
“It would be a great pleasure to me.”
“Rather an irregular proceeding,” said Jones,
shaking his head. “However, the whole thing is
irregular, and I suppose we must wink at it. The
“What is it, my man?” I asked.
He looked about him in the slow methodical
fashion of old age.
“Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?” said he.
“No; but I am acting for him. You can tell me
any message you have for him.”
“It was to him himself I was to tell it,” said he.
“But I tell you that I am acting for him. Was it
about Mordecai Smith’s boat?”
“Yes. I knows well where it is. An’ I knows
where the men he is after are. An’ I knows where
the treasure is. I knows all about it.”
“Then tell me, and I shall let him know.”
“It was to him I was to tell it,” he repeated, with
the petulant obstinacy of a very old man.
“Well, you must wait for him.”
“No, no; I ain’t goin’ to lose a whole day to
please no one. If Mr. Holmes ain’t here, then Mr.
Holmes must find it all out for himself. I don’t care
about the look of either of you, and I won’t tell a
word.”
He shuffled towards the door, but Athelney
Jones got in front of him.
“Wait a bit, my friend,” said he. “You have important information, and you must not walk off.
We shall keep you, whether you like or not, until
our friend returns.”
The old man made a little run towards the
door, but, as Athelney Jones put his broad back
up against it, he recognized the uselessness of resistance.
“Pretty sort o’ treatment this!” he cried, stamping his stick. “I come here to see a gentleman, and
you two, who I never saw in my life, seize me and
treat me in this fashion!”
“You will be none the worse,” I said. “We shall
recompense you for the loss of your time. Sit over
here on the sofa, and you will not have long to
wait.”
He came across sullenly enough, and seated
himself with his face resting on his hands. Jones
and I resumed our cigars and our talk. Suddenly,
however, Holmes’s voice broke in upon us.
“I think that you might offer me a cigar too,” he
said.
98
The Sign of the Four
treasure must afterwards be handed over to the
authorities until after the official investigation.”
had no proof yet of the existence of this Jonathan
Small. However, if you can catch him I don’t see
how I can refuse you an interview with him.”
“Certainly. That is easily managed. One other
point. I should much like to have a few details
about this matter from the lips of Jonathan Small
himself. You know I like to work the detail of my
cases out. There is no objection to my having an unofficial interview with him, either here in my rooms
or elsewhere, as long as he is efficiently guarded?”
“That is understood, then?”
“Perfectly. Is there anything else?”
“Only that I insist upon your dining with us. It
will be ready in half an hour. I have oysters and a
brace of grouse, with something a little choice in
white wines.—Watson, you have never yet recognized my merits as a housekeeper.”
“Well, you are master of the situation. I have
CHAPTER X.
The End of the Islander
“Then take it off.”
The small change was made, we stepped on
board, and the ropes were cast off. Jones, Holmes,
and I sat in the stern. There was one man at the
rudder, one to tend the engines, and two burly
police-inspectors forward.
“Where to?” asked Jones.
“To the Tower. Tell them to stop opposite Jacobson’s Yard.”
Our craft was evidently a very fast one. We shot
past the long lines of loaded barges as though they
were stationary. Holmes smiled with satisfaction as
we overhauled a river steamer and left her behind
us.
“We ought to be able to catch anything on the
river,” he said.
“Well, hardly that. But there are not many
launches to beat us.”
“We shall have to catch the Aurora, and she has
a name for being a clipper. I will tell you how the
land lies, Watson. You recollect how annoyed I was
at being balked by so small a thing?”
“Yes.”
“Well, I gave my mind a thorough rest by plunging into a chemical analysis. One of our greatest
statesmen has said that a change of work is the best
rest. So it is. When I had succeeded in dissolving
the hydrocarbon which I was at work at, I came
back to our problem of the Sholtos, and thought the
whole matter out again. My boys had been up the
river and down the river without result. The launch
was not at any landing-stage or wharf, nor had it
Our meal was a merry one. Holmes coud talk
exceedingly well when he chose, and that night he
did choose. He appeared to be in a state of nervous
exaltation. I have never known him so brilliant.
He spoke on a quick succession of subjects,—on
miracle-plays, on medieval pottery, on Stradivarius
violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the
war-ships of the future,—handling each as though
he had made a special study of it. His bright humor
marked the reaction from his black depression of
the preceding days. Athelney Jones proved to be a
sociable soul in his hours of relaxation, and face his
dinner with the air of a bon vivant. For myself, I felt
elated at the thought that we were nearing the end
of our task, and I caught something of Holmes’s
gaiety. None of us alluded during dinner to the
cause which had brought us together.
When the cloth was cleared, Holmes glanced
at this watch, and filled up three glasses with port.
“One bumper,” said he, “to the success of our little
expedition. And now it is high time we were off.
Have you a pistol, Watson?”
“I have my old service-revolver in my desk.”
“You had best take it, then. It is well to be prepared. I see that the cab is at the door. I ordered it
for half-past six.”
It was a little past seven before we reached the
Westminster wharf, and found our launch awaiting
us. Holmes eyed it critically.
“Is there anything to mark it as a police-boat?”
“Yes,—that green lamp at the side.”
99
The Sign of the Four
returned. Yet it could hardly have been scuttled to
hide their traces,—though that always remained as
a possible hypothesis if all else failed. I knew this
man Small had a certain degree of low cunning,
but I did not think him capable of anything in the
nature of delicate finesse. That is usually a product
of higher education. I then reflected that since he
had certainly been in London some time—as we
had evidence that he maintained a continual watch
over Pondicherry Lodge—he could hardly leave at
a moment’s notice, but would need some little time,
if it were only a day, to arrange his affairs. That
was the balance of probability, at any rate.”
trifling change in her. She would then be removed
to his shed or hard, and so be effectually concealed,
while at the same time I could have her at a few
hours’ notice.”
“That seems simple enough.”
“It is just these very simple things which are
extremely liable to be overlooked. However, I determined to act on the idea. I started at once in this
harmless seaman’s rig and inquired at all the yards
down the river. I drew blank at fifteen, but at the
sixteenth—Jacobson’s—I learned that the Aurora
had been handed over to them two days ago by a
wooden-legged man, with some trivial directions
as to her rudder. ‘There ain’t naught amiss with
her rudder,’ said the foreman. ‘There she lies, with
the red streaks.’ At that moment who should come
down but Mordecai Smith, the missing owner? He
was rather the worse for liquor. I should not, of
course, have known him, but he bellowed out his
name and the name of his launch. ‘I want her
to-night at eight o’clock,’ said he,—‘eight o’clock
sharp, mind, for I have two gentlemen who won’t
be kept waiting.’ They had evidently paid him well,
for he was very flush of money, chucking shillings
about to the men. I followed him some distance,
but he subsided into an ale-house: so I went back
to the yard, and, happening to pick up one of my
boys on the way, I stationed him as a sentry over
the launch. He is to stand at water’s edge and wave
his handkerchief to us when they start. We shall
be lying off in the stream, and it will be a strange
thing if we do not take men, treasure, and all.”
“It seems to me to be a little weak,” said I. “It
is more probable that he had arranged his affairs
before ever he set out upon his expedition.”
“No, I hardly think so. This lair of his would be
too valuable a retreat in case of need for him to give
it up until he was sure that he could do without
it. But a second consideration struck me. Jonathan
Small must have felt that the peculiar appearance
of his companion, however much he may have topcoated him, would give rise to gossip, and possibly
be associated with this Norwood tragedy. He was
quite sharp enough to see that. They had started
from their head-quarters under cover of darkness,
and he would wish to get back before it was broad
light. Now, it was past three o’clock, according
to Mrs. Smith, when they got the boat. It would
be quite bright, and people would be about in an
hour or so. Therefore, I argued, they did not go
very far. They paid Smith well to hold his tongue,
reserved his launch for the final escape, and hurried to their lodgings with the treasure-box. In a
couple of nights, when they had time to see what
view the papers took, and whether there was any
suspicion, they would make their way under cover
of darkness to some ship at Gravesend or in the
Downs, where no doubt they had already arranged
for passages to America or the Colonies.”
“You have planned it all very neatly, whether
they are the right men or not,” said Jones; “but
if the affair were in my hands I should have had
a body of police in Jacobson’s Yard, and arrested
them when they came down.”
“Which would have been never. This man Small
is a pretty shrewd fellow. He would send a scout
on ahead, and if anything made him suspicious lie
snug for another week.”
“But the launch? They could not have taken
that to their lodgings.”
“But you might have stuck to Mordecai Smith,
and so been led to their hiding-place,” said I.
“Quite so. I argued that the launch must be no
great way off, in spite of its invisibility. I then put
myself in the place of Small, and looked at it as
a man of his capacity would. He would probably
consider that to send back the launch or to keep it
at a wharf would make pursuit easy if the police
did happen to get on his track. How, then, could he
conceal the launch and yet have her at hand when
wanted? I wondered what I should do myself if I
were in his shoes. I could only think of one way
of doing it. I might land the launch over to some
boat-builder or repairer, with directions to make a
“In that case I should have wasted my day. I
think that it is a hundred to one against Smith
knowing where they live. As long as he has liquor
and good pay, why should he ask questions? They
send him messages what to do. No, I thought over
every possible course, and this is the best.”
While this conversation had been proceeding,
we had been shooting the long series of bridges
which span the Thames. As we passed the City
the last rays of the sun were gilding the cross upon
100
The Sign of the Four
the summit of St. Paul’s. It was twilight before we
reached the Tower.
“She is very fast,” he said. “I doubt if we shall
catch her.”
“That is Jacobson’s Yard,” said Holmes, pointing to a bristle of masts and rigging on the Surrey
side. “Cruise gently up and down here under cover
of this string of lighters.” He took a pair of nightglasses from his pocket and gazed some time at the
shore. “I see my sentry at his post,” he remarked,
“but no sign of a handkerchief.”
“We must catch her!” cried Holmes, between his
teeth. “Heap it on, stokers! Make her do all she
can! If we burn the boat we must have them!”
We were fairly after her now. The furnaces
roared, and the powerful engines whizzed and
clanked, like a great metallic heart. Her sharp,
steep prow cut through the river-water and sent
two rolling waves to right and to left of us. With
every throb of the engines we sprang and quivered
like a living thing. One great yellow lantern in
our bows threw a long, flickering funnel of light
in front of us. Right ahead a dark blur upon the
water showed where the Aurora lay, and the swirl of
white foam behind her spoke of the pace at which
she was going. We flashed past barges, steamers,
merchant-vessels, in and out, behind this one and
round the other. Voices hailed us out of the darkness, but still the Aurora thundered on, and still we
followed close upon her track.
“Suppose we go down-stream a short way and
lie in wait for them,” said Jones, eagerly. We were
all eager by this time, even the policemen and stokers, who had a very vague idea of what was going
forward.
“We have no right to take anything for granted,”
Holmes answered. “It is certainly ten to one that
they go down-stream, but we cannot be certain.
From this point we can see the entrance of the yard,
and they can hardly see us. It will be a clear night
and plenty of light. We must stay where we are. See
how the folk swarm over yonder in the gaslight.”
“Pile it on, men, pile it on!” cried Holmes, looking down into the engine-room, while the fierce
glow from below beat upon his eager, aquiline face.
“Get every pound of steam you can.”
“They are coming from work in the yard.”
“Dirty-looking rascals, but I suppose every one
has some little immortal spark concealed about him.
You would not think it, to look at them. There is
no a priori probability about it. A strange enigma
is man!”
“I think we gain a little,” said Jones, with his
eyes on the Aurora.
“I am sure of it,” said I. “We shall be up with
her in a very few minutes.”
“Some one calls him a soul concealed in an
animal,” I suggested.
At that moment, however, as our evil fate would
have it, a tug with three barges in tow blundered in
between us. It was only by putting our helm hard
down that we avoided a collision, and before we
could round them and recover our way the Aurora
had gained a good two hundred yards. She was
still, however, well in view, and the murky uncertain twilight was setting into a clear starlit night.
Our boilers were strained to their utmost, and the
frail shell vibrated and creaked with the fierce energy which was driving us along. We had shot
through the Pool, past the West India Docks, down
the long Deptford Reach, and up again after rounding the Isle of Dogs. The dull blur in front of us
resolved itself now clearly enough into the dainty
Aurora. Jones turned our search-light upon her, so
that we could plainly see the figures upon her deck.
One man sat by the stern, with something black between his knees over which he stooped. Beside him
lay a dark mass which looked like a Newfoundland dog. The boy held the tiller, while against
the red glare of the furnace I could see old Smith,
stripped to the waist, and shovelling coals for dear
life. They may have had some doubt at first as to
whether we were really pursuing them, but now
“Winwood Reade is good upon the subject,”
said Holmes. “He remarks that, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate
he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for
example, never foretell what any one man will do,
but you can say with precision what an average
number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician.
But do I see a handkerchief? Surely there is a white
flutter over yonder.”
“Yes, it is your boy,” I cried. “I can see him
plainly.”
“And there is the Aurora,” exclaimed Holmes,
“and going like the devil! Full speed ahead, engineer. Make after that launch with the yellow light.
By heaven, I shall never forgive myself if she proves
to have the heels of us!”
She had slipped unseen through the yardentrance and passed behind two or three small
craft, so that she had fairly got her speed up before
we saw her. Now she was flying down the stream,
near in to the shore, going at a tremendous rate.
Jones looked gravely at her and shook his head.
101
The Sign of the Four
as we followed every winding and turning which
they took there could no longer be any question
about it. At Greenwich we were about three hundred paces behind them. At Blackwall we could not
have been more than two hundred and fifty. I have
coursed many creatures in many countries during
my checkered career, but never did sport give me
such a wild thrill as this mad, flying man-hunt
down the Thames. Steadily we drew in upon them,
yard by yard. In the silence of the night we could
hear the panting and clanking of their machinery.
The man in the stern still crouched upon the deck,
and his arms were moving as though he were busy,
while every now and then he would look up and
measure with a glance the distance which still separated us. Nearer we came and nearer. Jones yelled
to them to stop. We were not more than four boat’s
lengths behind them, both boats flying at a tremendous pace. It was a clear reach of the river, with
Barking Level upon one side and the melancholy
Plumstead Marshes upon the other. At our hail
the man in the stern sprang up from the deck and
shook his two clinched fists at us, cursing the while
in a high, cracked voice. He was a good-sized,
powerful man, and as he stood poising himself
with legs astride I could see that from the thigh
downwards there was but a wooden stump upon
the right side. At the sound of his strident, angry
cries there was movement in the huddled bundle
upon the deck. It straightened itself into a little
black man—the smallest I have ever seen—with
a great, misshapen head and a shock of tangled,
dishevelled hair. Holmes had already drawn his
revolver, and I whipped out mine at the sight of
this savage, distorted creature. He was wrapped
in some sort of dark ulster or blanket, which left
only his face exposed; but that face was enough
to give a man a sleepless night. Never have I seen
features so deeply marked with all bestiality and
cruelty. His small eyes glowed and burned with a
sombre light, and his thick lips were writhed back
from his teeth, which grinned and chattered at us
with a half animal fury.
his covering a short, round piece of wood, like a
school-ruler, and clapped it to his lips. Our pistols
rang out together. He whirled round, threw up
his arms, and with a kind of choking cough fell
sideways into the stream. I caught one glimpse of
his venomous, menacing eyes amid the white swirl
of the waters. At the same moment the woodenlegged man threw himself upon the rudder and
put it hard down, so that his boat made straight
in for the southern bank, while we shot past her
stern, only clearing her by a few feet. We were
round after her in an instant, but she was already
nearly at the bank. It was a wild and desolate place,
where the moon glimmered upon a wide expanse
of marsh-land, with pools of stagnant water and
beds of decaying vegetation. The launch with a
dull thud ran up upon the mud-bank, with her
bow in the air and her stern flush with the water.
The fugitive sprang out, but his stump instantly
sank its whole length into the sodden soil. In vain
he struggled and writhed. Not one step could he
possibly take either forwards or backwards. He
yelled in impotent rage, and kicked frantically into
the mud with his other foot, but his struggles only
bored his wooden pin the deeper into the sticky
bank. When we brought our launch alongside he
was so firmly anchored that it was only by throwing
the end of a rope over his shoulders that we were
able to haul him out, and to drag him, like some
evil fish, over our side. The two Smiths, father and
son, sat sullenly in their launch, but came aboard
meekly enough when commanded. The Aurora herself we hauled off and made fast to our stern. A
solid iron chest of Indian workmanship stood upon
the deck. This, there could be no question, was the
same that had contained the ill-omened treasure
of the Sholtos. There was no key, but it was of
considerable weight, so we transferred it carefully
to our own little cabin. As we steamed slowly upstream again, we flashed our search-light in every
direction, but there was no sign of the Islander.
Somewhere in the dark ooze at the bottom of the
Thames lie the bones of that strange visitor to our
shores.
“Fire if he raises his hand,” said Holmes, quietly. We were within a boat’s-length by this time,
and almost within touch of our quarry. I can see
the two of them now as they stood, the white man
with his legs far apart, shrieking out curses, and
the unhallowed dwarf with his hideous face, and
his strong yellow teeth gnashing at us in the light
of our lantern.
“See here,” said Holmes, pointing to the
wooden hatchway. “We were hardly quick enough
with our pistols.” There, sure enough, just behind
where we had been standing, stuck one of those
murderous darts which we knew so well. It must
have whizzed between us at the instant that we
fired. Holmes smiled at it and shrugged his shoulders in his easy fashion, but I confess that it turned
me sick to think of the horrible death which had
passed so close to us that night.
It was well that we had so clear a view of him.
Even as we looked he plucked out from under
102
The Sign of the Four
CHAPTER XI.
The Great Agra Treasure
Our captive sat in the cabin opposite to the
iron box which he had done so much and waited
so long to gain. He was a sunburned, recklesseyed fellow, with a net-work of lines and wrinkles
all over his mahogany features, which told of a
hard, open-air life. There was a singular prominence about his bearded chin which marked a man
who was not to be easily turned from his purpose.
His age may have been fifty or thereabouts, for his
black, curly hair was thickly shot with gray. His
face in repose was not an unpleasing one, though
his heavy brows and aggressive chin gave him, as I
had lately seen, a terrible expression when moved
to anger. He sat now with his handcuffed hands
upon his lap, and his head sunk upon his breast,
while he looked with his keen, twinkling eyes at
the box which had been the cause of his ill-doings.
It seemed to me that there was more sorrow than
anger in his rigid and contained countenance. Once
he looked up at me with a gleam of something like
humour in his eyes.
“Well, Jonathan Small,” said Holmes, lighting a
cigar, “I am sorry that it has come to this.”
“And so am I, sir,” he answered, frankly. “I
don’t believe that I can swing over the job. I give
you my word on the book that I never raised hand
against Mr. Sholto. It was that little hell-hound
Tonga who shot one of his cursed darts into him. I
had no part in it, sir. I was as grieved as if it had
been my blood-relation. I welted the little devil
with the slack end of the rope for it, but it was
done, and I could not undo it again.”
“Have a cigar,” said Holmes; “and you had best
take a pull out of my flask, for you are very wet.
How could you expect so small and weak a man as
this black fellow to overpower Mr. Sholto and hold
him while you were climbing the rope?”
“You seem to know as much about it as if you
were there, sir. The truth is that I hoped to find the
room clear. I knew the habits of the house pretty
well, and it was the time when Mr. Sholto usually
went down to his supper. I shall make no secret
of the business. The best defence that I can make
is just the simple truth. Now, if it had been the
old major I would have swung for him with a light
heart. I would have thought no more of knifing
him than of smoking this cigar. But it’s cursed hard
that I should be lagged over this young Sholto, with
whom I had no quarrel whatever.”
“You are under the charge of Mr. Athelney
Jones, of Scotland Yard. He is going to bring you up
to my rooms, and I shall ask you for a true account
of the matter. You must make a clean breast of it,
for if you do I hope that I may be of use to you. I
think I can prove that the poison acts so quickly
that the man was dead before ever you reached the
room.”
“That he was, sir. I never got such a turn in my
life as when I saw him grinning at me with his head
on his shoulder as I climbed through the window.
It fairly shook me, sir. I’d have half killed Tonga
for it if he had not scrambled off. That was how he
came to leave his club, and some of his darts too, as
he tells me, which I dare say helped to put you on
our track; though how you kept on it is more than I
can tell. I don’t feel no malice against you for it. But
it does seem a queer thing,” he added, with a bitter
smile, “that I who have a fair claim to nigh upon
half a million of money should spend the first half
of my life building a breakwater in the Andamans,
and am like to spend the other half digging drains
at Dartmoor. It was an evil day for me when first I
clapped eyes upon the merchant Achmet and had
to do with the Agra treasure, which never brought
anything but a curse yet upon the man who owned
it. To him it brought murder, to Major Sholto it
brought fear and guilt, to me it has meant slavery
for life.”
At this moment Athelney Jones thrust his broad
face and heavy shoulders into the tiny cabin.
“Quite a family party,” he remarked. “I think I
shall have a pull at that flask, Holmes. Well, I think
we may all congratulate each other. Pity we didn’t
take the other alive; but there was no choice. I say,
Holmes, you must confess that you cut it rather
fine. It was all we could do to overhaul her.”
“All is well that ends well,” said Holmes. “But
I certainly did not know that the Aurora was such
a clipper.”
“Smith says she is one of the fastest launches
on the river, and that if he had had another man to
help him with the engines we should never have
caught her. He swears he knew nothing of this
Norwood business.”
“Neither he did,” cried our prisoner,—“not a
word. I chose his launch because I heard that she
was a flier. We told him nothing, but we paid him
well, and he was to get something handsome if
we reached our vessel, the Esmeralda, at Gravesend,
outward bound for the Brazils.”
“Well, if he has done no wrong we shall see
that no wrong comes to him. If we are pretty quick
103
The Sign of the Four
in catching our men, we are not so quick in condemning them.” It was amusing to notice how the
consequential Jones was already beginning to give
himself airs on the strength of the capture. From the
slight smile which played over Sherlock Holmes’s
face, I could see that the speech had not been lost
upon him.
speaking jovially and boisterously, though my heart
was heavy within me. “I have brought you something which is worth all the news in the world. I
have brought you a fortune.”
She glanced at iron box. “Is that the treasure,
then?” she asked, coolly enough.
“Yes, this is the great Agra treasure. Half of it
is yours and half is Thaddeus Sholto’s. You will
have a couple of hundred thousand each. Think of
that! An annuity of ten thousand pounds. There
will be few richer young ladies in England. Is it not
glorious?”
I think that I must have been rather overacting
my delight, and that she detected a hollow ring in
my congratulations, for I saw her eyebrows rise a
little, and she glanced at me curiously.
“If I have it,” said she, “I owe it to you.”
“No, no,” I answered, “not to me, but to my
friend Sherlock Holmes. With all the will in the
world, I could never have followed up a clue which
has taxed even his analytical genius. As it was, we
very nearly lost it at the last moment.”
“Pray sit down and tell me all about it, Dr. Watson,” said she.
I narrated briefly what had occurred since I had
seen her last,—Holmes’s new method of search, the
discovery of the Aurora, the appearance of Athelney Jones, our expedition in the evening, and the
wild chase down the Thames. She listened with
parted lips and shining eyes to my recital of our
adventures. When I spoke of the dart which had
so narrowly missed us, she turned so white that I
feared that she was about to faint.
“It is nothing,” she said, as I hastened to pour
her out some water. “I am all right again. It was a
shock to me to hear that I had placed my friends in
such horrible peril.”
“That is all over,” I answered. “It was nothing.
I will tell you no more gloomy details. Let us turn
to something brighter. There is the treasure. What
could be brighter than that? I got leave to bring it
with me, thinking that it would interest you to be
the first to see it.”
“It would be of the greatest interest to me,” she
said. There was no eagerness in her voice, however.
It had struck her, doubtless, that it might seem ungracious upon her part to be indifferent to a prize
which had cost so much to win.
“What a pretty box!” she said, stooping over it.
“This is Indian work, I suppose?”
“Yes; it is Benares metal-work.”
“And so heavy!” she exclaimed, trying to raise
it. “The box alone must be of some value. Where is
the key?”
“We will be at Vauxhall Bridge presently,” said
Jones, “and shall land you, Dr. Watson, with the
treasure-box. I need hardly tell you that I am taking
a very grave responsibility upon myself in doing
this. It is most irregular; but of course an agreement is an agreement. I must, however, as a matter
of duty, send an inspector with you, since you have
so valuable a charge. You will drive, no doubt?”
“Yes, I shall drive.”
“It is a pity there is no key, that we may make
an inventory first. You will have to break it open.
Where is the key, my man?”
“At the bottom of the river,” said Small, shortly.
“Hum! There was no use your giving this unnecessary trouble. We have had work enough already
through you. However, doctor, I need not warn you
to be careful. Bring the box back with you to the
Baker Street rooms. You will find us there, on our
way to the station.”
They landed me at Vauxhall, with my heavy
iron box, and with a bluff, genial inspector as my
companion. A quarter of an hour’s drive brought
us to Mrs. Cecil Forrester’s. The servant seemed
surprised at so late a visitor. Mrs. Cecil Forrester
was out for the evening, she explained, and likely
to be very late. Miss Morstan, however, was in the
drawing-room: so to the drawing-room I went, box
in hand, leaving the obliging inspector in the cab.
She was seated by the open window, dressed
in some sort of white diaphanous material, with
a little touch of scarlet at the neck and waist. The
soft light of a shaded lamp fell upon her as she
leaned back in the basket chair, playing over her
sweet, grave face, and tinting with a dull, metallic
sparkle the rich coils of her luxuriant hair. One
white arm and hand drooped over the side of the
chair, and her whole pose and figure spoke of an
absorbing melancholy. At the sound of my foot-fall
she sprang to her feet, however, and a bright flush
of surprise and of pleasure colored her pale cheeks.
“I heard a cab drive up,” she said. “I thought
that Mrs. Forrester had come back very early, but
I never dreamed that it might be you. What news
have you brought me?”
“I have brought something better than news,”
said I, putting down the box upon the table and
104
The Sign of the Four
“Small threw it into the Thames,” I answered.
“I must borrow Mrs. Forrester’s poker.” There was
in the front a thick and broad hasp, wrought in the
image of a sitting Buddha. Under this I thrust the
end of the poker and twisted it outward as a lever.
The hasp sprang open with a loud snap. With trembling fingers I flung back the lid. We both stood
gazing in astonishment. The box was empty!
No wonder that it was heavy. The iron-work
was two-thirds of an inch thick all round. It was
massive, well made, and solid, like a chest constructed to carry things of great price, but not one
shred or crumb of metal or jewelry lay within it. It
was absolutely and completely empty.
“The treasure is lost,” said Miss Morstan,
calmly.
As I listened to the words and realized what
they meant, a great shadow seemed to pass from
my soul. I did not know how this Agra treasure
had weighed me down, until now that it was finally
removed. It was selfish, no doubt, disloyal, wrong,
but I could realize nothing save that the golden
barrier was gone from between us. “Thank God!” I
ejaculated from my very heart.
She looked at me with a quick, questioning
smile. “Why do you say that?” she asked.
“Because you are within my reach again,” I said,
taking her hand. She did not withdraw it. “Because
I love you, Mary, as truly as ever a man loved a
woman. Because this treasure, these riches, sealed
my lips. Now that they are gone I can tell you how
I love you. That is why I said, ‘Thank God.’ ”
“Then I say, ‘Thank God,’ too,” she whispered,
as I drew her to my side. Whoever had lost a
treasure, I knew that night that I had gained one.
CHAPTER XII.
The Strange Story of Jonathan Small
A very patient man was that inspector in the
cab, for it was a weary time before I rejoined him.
His face clouded over when I showed him the
empty box.
“There goes the reward!” said he, gloomily.
“Where there is no money there is no pay. This
night’s work would have been worth a tenner each
to Sam Brown and me if the treasure had been
there.”
“Mr. Thaddeus Sholto is a rich man,” I said.
“He will see that you are rewarded, treasure or no.”
The inspector shook his head despondently,
however. “It’s a bad job,” he repeated; “and so
Mr. Athelney Jones will think.”
His forecast proved to be correct, for the detective looked blank enough when I got to Baker Street
and showed him the empty box. They had only just
arrived, Holmes, the prisoner, and he, for they had
changed their plans so far as to report themselves
at a station upon the way. My companion lounged
in his arm-chair with his usual listless expression,
while Small sat stolidly opposite to him with his
wooden leg cocked over his sound one. As I exhibited the empty box he leaned back in his chair and
laughed aloud.
“This is your doing, Small,” said Athelney Jones,
angrily.
“Yes, I have put it away where you shall never
lay hand upon it,” he cried, exultantly. “It is my
treasure; and if I can’t have the loot I’ll take darned
good care that no one else does. I tell you that no
living man has any right to it, unless it is three
men who are in the Andaman convict-barracks and
myself. I know now that I cannot have the use of
it, and I know that they cannot. I have acted all
through for them as much as for myself. It’s been
the sign of four with us always. Well I know that
they would have had me do just what I have done,
and throw the treasure into the Thames rather than
let it go to kith or kin of Sholto or of Morstan. It
was not to make them rich that we did for Achmet.
You’ll find the treasure where the key is, and where
little Tonga is. When I saw that your launch must
catch us, I put the loot away in a safe place. There
are no rupees for you this journey.”
“You are deceiving us, Small,” said Athelney
Jones, sternly. “If you had wished to throw the
treasure into the Thames it would have been easier
for you to have thrown box and all.”
105
The Sign of the Four
“Easier for me to throw, and easier for you to
recover,” he answered, with a shrewd, sidelong
look. “The man that was clever enough to hunt me
down is clever enough to pick an iron box from the
bottom of a river. Now that they are scattered over
five miles or so, it may be a harder job. It went to
my heart to do it, though. I was half mad when
you came up with us. However, there’s no good
grieving over it. I’ve had ups in my life, and I’ve
had downs, but I’ve learned not to cry over spilled
milk.”
Smalls living there now if you were to look. I have
often thought of taking a look round there, but the
truth is that I was never much of a credit to the
family, and I doubt if they would be so very glad
to see me. They were all steady, chapel-going folk,
small farmers, well known and respected over the
country-side, while I was always a bit of a rover.
At last, however, when I was about eighteen, I gave
them no more trouble, for I got into a mess over a
girl, and could only get out of it again by taking
the queen’s shilling and joining the 3d Buffs, which
was just starting for India.
“This is a very serious matter, Small,” said the
detective. “If you had helped justice, instead of
thwarting it in this way, you would have had a
better chance at your trial.”
“I wasn’t destined to do much soldiering, however. I had just got past the goose-step, and learned
to handle my musket, when I was fool enough to
go swimming in the Ganges. Luckily for me, my
company sergeant, John Holder, was in the water at
the same time, and he was one of the finest swimmers in the service. A crocodile took me, just as I
was half-way across, and nipped off my right leg as
clean as a surgeon could have done it, just above the
knee. What with the shock and the loss of blood,
I fainted, and should have drowned if Holder had
not caught hold of me and paddled for the bank.
I was five months in hospital over it, and when at
last I was able to limp out of it with this timber toe
strapped to my stump I found myself invalided out
of the army and unfitted for any active occupation.
“Justice!” snarled the ex-convict. “A pretty justice! Whose loot is this, if it is not ours? Where is
the justice that I should give it up to those who have
never earned it? Look how I have earned it! Twenty
long years in that fever-ridden swamp, all day at
work under the mangrove-tree, all night chained
up in the filthy convict-huts, bitten by mosquitoes,
racked with ague, bullied by every cursed blackfaced policeman who loved to take it out of a white
man. That was how I earned the Agra treasure;
and you talk to me of justice because I cannot bear
to feel that I have paid this price only that another
may enjoy it! I would rather swing a score of times,
or have one of Tonga’s darts in my hide, than live
in a convict’s cell and feel that another man is at
his ease in a palace with the money that should
be mine.” Small had dropped his mask of stoicism,
and all this came out in a wild whirl of words,
while his eyes blazed, and the handcuffs clanked
together with the impassioned movement of his
hands. I could understand, as I saw the fury and
the passion of the man, that it was no groundless or
unnatural terror which had possessed Major Sholto
when he first learned that the injured convict was
upon his track.
“I was, as you can imagine, pretty down on my
luck at this time, for I was a useless cripple though
not yet in my twentieth year. However, my misfortune soon proved to be a blessing in disguise. A
man named Abelwhite, who had come out there as
an indigo-planter, wanted an overseer to look after
his coolies and keep them up to their work. He
happened to be a friend of our colonel’s, who had
taken an interest in me since the accident. To make
a long story short, the colonel recommended me
strongly for the post and, as the work was mostly
to be done on horseback, my leg was no great obstacle, for I had enough knee left to keep good grip
on the saddle. What I had to do was to ride over
the plantation, to keep an eye on the men as they
worked, and to report the idlers. The pay was fair,
I had comfortable quarters, and altogether I was
content to spend the remainder of my life in indigoplanting. Mr. Abelwhite was a kind man, and he
would often drop into my little shanty and smoke
a pipe with me, for white folk out there feel their
hearts warm to each other as they never do here at
home.
“You forget that we know nothing of all this,”
said Holmes quietly. “We have not heard your story,
and we cannot tell how far justice may originally
have been on your side.”
“Well, sir, you have been very fair-spoken to me,
though I can see that I have you to thank that I
have these bracelets upon my wrists. Still, I bear
no grudge for that. It is all fair and above-board. If
you want to hear my story I have no wish to hold it
back. What I say to you is God’s truth, every word
of it. Thank you; you can put the glass beside me
here, and I’ll put my lips to it if I am dry.
“Well, I was never in luck’s way long. Suddenly,
without a note of warning, the great mutiny broke
upon us. One month India lay as still and peaceful,
“I am a Worcestershire man myself,—born near
Pershore. I dare say you would find a heap of
106
The Sign of the Four
to all appearance, as Surrey or Kent; the next there
were two hundred thousand black devils let loose,
and the country was a perfect hell. Of course you
know all about it, gentlemen,—a deal more than I
do, very like, since reading is not in my line. I only
know what I saw with my own eyes. Our plantation was at a place called Muttra, near the border
of the Northwest Provinces. Night after night the
whole sky was alight with the burning bungalows,
and day after day we had small companies of Europeans passing through our estate with their wives
and children, on their way to Agra, where were
the nearest troops. Mr. Abelwhite was an obstinate man. He had it in his head that the affair had
been exaggerated, and that it would blow over as
suddenly as it had sprung up. There he sat on his
veranda, drinking whiskey-pegs and smoking cheroots, while the country was in a blaze about him.
Of course we stuck by him, I and Dawson, who,
with his wife, used to do the book-work and the
managing. Well, one fine day the crash came. I had
been away on a distant plantation, and was riding
slowly home in the evening, when my eye fell upon
something all huddled together at the bottom of a
steep nullah. I rode down to see what it was, and
the cold struck through my heart when I found it
was Dawson’s wife, all cut into ribbons, and half
eaten by jackals and native dogs. A little further
up the road Dawson himself was lying on his face,
quite dead, with an empty revolver in his hand
and four Sepoys lying across each other in front
of him. I reined up my horse, wondering which
way I should turn, but at that moment I saw thick
smoke curling up from Abelwhite’s bungalow and
the flames beginning to burst through the roof. I
knew then that I could do my employer no good,
but would only throw my own life away if I meddled in the matter. From where I stood I could see
hundreds of the black fiends, with their red coats
still on their backs, dancing and howling round the
burning house. Some of them pointed at me, and
a couple of bullets sang past my head; so I broke
away across the paddy-fields, and found myself
late at night safe within the walls at Agra.
At Agra there were the 3d Bengal Fusiliers, some
Sikhs, two troops of horse, and a battery of artillery.
A volunteer corps of clerks and merchants had been
formed, and this I joined, wooden leg and all. We
went out to meet the rebels at Shahgunge early in
July, and we beat them back for a time, but our
powder gave out, and we had to fall back upon the
city. Nothing but the worst news came to us from
every side,—which is not to be wondered at, for
if you look at the map you will see that we were
right in the heart of it. Lucknow is rather better
than a hundred miles to the east, and Cawnpore
about as far to the south. From every point on the
compass there was nothing but torture and murder
and outrage.
“The city of Agra is a great place, swarming
with fanatics and fierce devil-worshippers of all
sorts. Our handful of men were lost among the narrow, winding streets. Our leader moved across the
river, therefore, and took up his position in the old
fort at Agra. I don’t know if any of you gentlemen
have ever read or heard anything of that old fort. It
is a very queer place,—the queerest that ever I was
in, and I have been in some rum corners, too. First
of all, it is enormous in size. I should think that
the enclosure must be acres and acres. There is a
modern part, which took all our garrison, women,
children, stores, and everything else, with plenty
of room over. But the modern part is nothing like
the size of the old quarter, where nobody goes, and
which is given over to the scorpions and the centipedes. It is all full of great deserted halls, and
winding passages, and long corridors twisting in
and out, so that it is easy enough for folk to get lost
in it. For this reason it was seldom that any one
went into it, though now and again a party with
torches might go exploring.
“The river washes along the front of the old fort,
and so protects it, but on the sides and behind there
are many doors, and these had to be guarded, of
course, in the old quarter as well as in that which
was actually held by our troops. We were shorthanded, with hardly men enough to man the angles
of the building and to serve the guns. It was impossible for us, therefore, to station a strong guard
at every one of the innumerable gates. What we
did was to organize a central guard-house in the
middle of the fort, and to leave each gate under the
charge of one white man and two or three natives. I
was selected to take charge during certain hours of
the night of a small isolated door upon the southwest side of the building. Two Sikh troopers were
placed under my command, and I was instructed
if anything went wrong to fire my musket, when I
“As it proved, however, there was no great
safety there, either. The whole country was up
like a swarm of bees. Wherever the English could
collect in little bands they held just the ground that
their guns commanded. Everywhere else they were
helpless fugitives. It was a fight of the millions
against the hundreds; and the cruellest part of it
was that these men that we fought against, foot,
horse, and gunners, were our own picked troops,
whom we had taught and trained, handling our
own weapons, and blowing our own bugle-calls.
107
The Sign of the Four
might rely upon help coming at once from the central guard. As the guard was a good two hundred
paces away, however, and as the space between was
cut up into a labyrinth of passages and corridors, I
had great doubts as to whether they could arrive
in time to be of any use in case of an actual attack.
dogs on this side of the river.’ There was the ring
of truth in what he said, and I knew that if I raised
my voice I was a dead man. I could read it in the
fellow’s brown eyes. I waited, therefore, in silence,
to see what it was that they wanted from me.
“ ‘Listen to me, Sahib,’ said the taller and fiercer
of the pair, the one whom they called Abdullah
Khan. ‘You must either be with us now or you
must be silenced forever. The thing is too great a
one for us to hesitate. Either you are heart and soul
with us on your oath on the cross of the Christians,
or your body this night shall be thrown into the
ditch and we shall pass over to our brothers in the
rebel army. There is no middle way. Which is it
to be, death or life? We can only give you three
minutes to decide, for the time is passing, and all
must be done before the rounds come again.’
“Well, I was pretty proud at having this small
command given me, since I was a raw recruit, and
a game-legged one at that. For two nights I kept the
watch with my Punjaubees. They were tall, fiercelooking chaps, Mahomet Singh and Abdullah Khan
by name, both old fighting-men who had borne
arms against us at Chilian-wallah. They could talk
English pretty well, but I could get little out of
them. They preferred to stand together and jabber
all night in their queer Sikh lingo. For myself, I
used to stand outside the gate-way, looking down
on the broad, winding river and on the twinkling
lights of the great city. The beating of drums, the
rattle of tomtoms, and the yells and howls of the
rebels, drunk with opium and with bang, were
enough to remind us all night of our dangerous
neighbors across the stream. Every two hours the
officer of the night used to come round to all the
posts, to make sure that all was well.
“ ‘How can I decide?’ said I. ‘You have not told
me what you want of me. But I tell you now that
if it is anything against the safety of the fort I will
have no truck with it, so you can drive home your
knife and welcome.’
“ ‘It is nothing against the fort,’ said he. ‘We
only ask you to do that which your countrymen
come to this land for. We ask you to be rich. If you
will be one of us this night, we will swear to you
upon the naked knife, and by the threefold oath
which no Sikh was ever known to break, that you
shall have your fair share of the loot. A quarter of
the treasure shall be yours. We can say no fairer.’
“The third night of my watch was dark and
dirty, with a small, driving rain. It was dreary
work standing in the gate-way hour after hour in
such weather. I tried again and again to make my
Sikhs talk, but without much success. At two in
the morning the rounds passed, and broke for a
moment the weariness of the night. Finding that
my companions would not be led into conversation,
I took out my pipe, and laid down my musket to
strike the match. In an instant the two Sikhs were
upon me. One of them snatched my firelock up
and levelled it at my head, while the other held
a great knife to my throat and swore between his
teeth that he would plunge it into me if I moved a
step.
“ ‘But what is the treasure, then?’ I asked. ‘I am
as ready to be rich as you can be, if you will but
show me how it can be done.’
“ ‘You will swear, then,’ said he, ‘by the bones
of your father, by the honor of your mother, by the
cross of your faith, to raise no hand and speak no
word against us, either now or afterwards?’
“ ‘I will swear it,’ I answered, ‘provided that the
fort is not endangered.’
“ ‘Then my comrade and I will swear that you
shall have a quarter of the treasure which shall be
equally divided among the four of us.’
“My first thought was that these fellows were in
league with the rebels, and that this was the beginning of an assault. If our door were in the hands
of the Sepoys the place must fall, and the women
and children be treated as they were in Cawnpore.
Maybe you gentlemen think that I am just making
out a case for myself, but I give you my word that
when I thought of that, though I felt the point of
the knife at my throat, I opened my mouth with the
intention of giving a scream, if it was my last one,
which might alarm the main guard. The man who
held me seemed to know my thoughts; for, even as
I braced myself to it, he whispered, ‘Don’t make a
noise. The fort is safe enough. There are no rebel
“ ‘There are but three,’ said I.
“ ‘No; Dost Akbar must have his share. We can
tell the tale to you while we await them. Do you
stand at the gate, Mahomet Singh, and give notice
of their coming. The thing stands thus, Sahib, and I
tell it to you because I know that an oath is binding
upon a Feringhee, and that we may trust you. Had
you been a lying Hindoo, though you had sworn
by all the gods in their false temples, your blood
would have been upon the knife, and your body in
the water. But the Sikh knows the Englishman, and
108
The Sign of the Four
the Englishman knows the Sikh. Hearken, then, to
what I have to say.
“ ‘Consider, Sahib,’ said he, ‘that if this man is
taken by the commandant he will be hung or shot,
and his jewels taken by the government, so that no
man will be a rupee the better for them. Now, since
we do the taking of him, why should we not do
the rest as well? The jewels will be as well with us
as in the Company’s coffers. There will be enough
to make every one of us rich men and great chiefs.
No one can know about the matter, for here we are
cut off from all men. What could be better for the
purpose? Say again, then, Sahib, whether you are
with us, or if we must look upon you as an enemy.’
“ ‘I am with you heart and soul,’ said I.
“ ‘It is well,’ he answered, handing me back my
firelock. ‘You see that we trust you, for your word,
like ours, is not to be broken. We have now only to
wait for my brother and the merchant.’
“ ‘Does your brother know, then, of what you
will do?’ I asked.
“ ‘The plan is his. He has devised it. We will
go to the gate and share the watch with Mahomet
Singh.’
“The rain was still falling steadily, for it was
just the beginning of the wet season. Brown, heavy
clouds were drifting across the sky, and it was hard
to see more than a stone-cast. A deep moat lay
in front of our door, but the water was in places
nearly dried up, and it could easily be crossed. It
was strange to me to be standing there with those
two wild Punjaubees waiting for the man who was
coming to his death.
“Suddenly my eye caught the glint of a shaded
lantern at the other side of the moat. It vanished
among the mound-heaps, and then appeared again
coming slowly in our direction.
“ ‘Here they are!’ I exclaimed.
“ ‘You will challenge him, Sahib, as usual,’ whispered Abdullah. ‘Give him no cause for fear. Send
us in with him, and we shall do the rest while you
stay here on guard. Have the lantern ready to uncover, that we may be sure that it is indeed the
man.’
“The light had flickered onwards, now stopping
and now advancing, until I could see two dark figures upon the other side of the moat. I let them
scramble down the sloping bank, splash through
the mire, and climb half-way up to the gate, before
I challenged them.
“ ‘Who goes there?’ said I, in a subdued voice.
“ ‘Friends,’ came the answer. I uncovered my
lantern and threw a flood of light upon them. The
first was an enormous Sikh, with a black beard
which swept nearly down to his cummerbund. Outside of a show I have never seen so tall a man. The
“ ‘There is a rajah in the northern provinces who
has much wealth, though his lands are small. Much
has come to him from his father, and more still he
has set by himself, for he is of a low nature and
hoards his gold rather than spend it. When the
troubles broke out he would be friends both with
the lion and the tiger,—with the Sepoy and with the
Company’s raj. Soon, however, it seemed to him
that the white men’s day was come, for through
all the land he could hear of nothing but of their
death and their overthrow. Yet, being a careful man,
he made such plans that, come what might, half
at least of his treasure should be left to him. That
which was in gold and silver he kept by him in the
vaults of his palace, but the most precious stones
and the choicest pearls that he had he put in an
iron box, and sent it by a trusty servant who, under the guise of a merchant, should take it to the
fort at Agra, there to lie until the land is at peace.
Thus, if the rebels won he would have his money,
but if the Company conquered his jewels would be
saved to him. Having thus divided his hoard, he
threw himself into the cause of the Sepoys, since
they were strong upon his borders. By doing this,
mark you, Sahib, his property becomes the due of
those who have been true to their salt.
“ ‘This pretended merchant, who travels under
the name of Achmet, is now in the city of Agra,
and desires to gain his way into the fort. He has
with him as travelling-companion my foster-brother
Dost Akbar, who knows his secret. Dost Akbar has
promised this night to lead him to a side-postern
of the fort, and has chosen this one for his purpose. Here he will come presently, and here he will
find Mahomet Singh and myself awaiting him. The
place is lonely, and none shall know of his coming.
The world shall know of the merchant Achmet no
more, but the great treasure of the rajah shall be
divided among us. What say you to it, Sahib?’
“In Worcestershire the life of a man seems a
great and a sacred thing; but it is very different
when there is fire and blood all round you and
you have been used to meeting death at every turn.
Whether Achmet the merchant lived or died was
a thing as light as air to me, but at the talk about
the treasure my heart turned to it, and I thought
of what I might do in the old country with it, and
how my folk would stare when they saw their ne’erdo-well coming back with his pockets full of gold
moidores. I had, therefore, already made up my
mind. Abdullah Khan, however, thinking that I
hesitated, pressed the matter more closely.
109
The Sign of the Four
other was a little, fat, round fellow, with a great
yellow turban, and a bundle in his hand, done up
in a shawl. He seemed to be all in a quiver with
fear, for his hands twitched as if he had the ague,
and his head kept turning to left and right with two
bright little twinkling eyes, like a mouse when he
ventures out from his hole. It gave me the chills to
think of killing him, but I thought of the treasure,
and my heart set as hard as a flint within me. When
he saw my white face he gave a little chirrup of joy
and came running up towards me.
twice over like a shot rabbit. Ere he could stagger to his feet the Sikh was upon him, and buried
his knife twice in his side. The man never uttered
moan nor moved muscle, but lay were he had fallen.
I think myself that he may have broken his neck
with the fall. You see, gentlemen, that I am keeping
my promise. I am telling you every work of the
business just exactly as it happened, whether it is
in my favor or not.”
He stopped, and held out his manacled hands
for the whiskey-and-water which Holmes had
brewed for him. For myself, I confess that I had
now conceived the utmost horror of the man, not
only for this cold-blooded business in which he had
been concerned, but even more for the somewhat
flippant and careless way in which he narrated it.
Whatever punishment was in store for him, I felt
that he might expect no sympathy from me. Sherlock Holmes and Jones sat with their hands upon
their knees, deeply interested in the story, but with
the same disgust written upon their faces. He may
have observed it, for there was a touch of defiance
in his voice and manner as he proceeded.
“It was all very bad, no doubt,” said he. “I
should like to know how many fellows in my shoes
would have refused a share of this loot when they
knew that they would have their throats cut for
their pains. Besides, it was my life or his when
once he was in the fort. If he had got out, the
whole business would come to light, and I should
have been court-martialled and shot as likely as
not; for people were not very lenient at a time like
that.”
“Go on with your story,” said Holmes, shortly.
“Well, we carried him in, Abdullah, Akbar, and
I. A fine weight he was, too, for all that he was so
short. Mahomet Singh was left to guard the door.
We took him to a place which the Sikhs had already
prepared. It was some distance off, where a winding passage leads to a great empty hall, the brick
walls of which were all crumbling to pieces. The
earth floor had sunk in at one place, making a natural grave, so we left Achmet the merchant there,
having first covered him over with loose bricks.
This done, we all went back to the treasure.
“It lay where he had dropped it when he was
first attacked. The box was the same which now
lies open upon your table. A key was hung by
a silken cord to that carved handle upon the top.
We opened it, and the light of the lantern gleamed
upon a collection of gems such as I have read of
and thought about when I was a little lad at Pershore. It was blinding to look upon them. When
we had feasted our eyes we took them all out and
made a list of them. There were one hundred and
“ ‘Your protection, Sahib,’ he panted,—‘your
protection for the unhappy merchant Achmet. I
have travelled across Rajpootana that I might seek
the shelter of the fort at Agra. I have been robbed
and beaten and abused because I have been the
friend of the Company. It is a blessed night this
when I am once more in safety,—I and my poor
possessions.’
“ ‘What have you in the bundle?’ I asked.
“ ‘An iron box,’ he answered, ‘which contains
one or two little family matters which are of no
value to others, but which I should be sorry to
lose. Yet I am not a beggar; and I shall reward you,
young Sahib, and your governor also, if he will give
me the shelter I ask.’
“I could not trust myself to speak longer with
the man. The more I looked at his fat, frightened
face, the harder did it seem that we should slay him
in cold blood. It was best to get it over.
“ ‘Take him to the main guard,’ said I. The two
Sikhs closed in upon him on each side, and the giant walked behind, while they marched in through
the dark gate-way. Never was a man so compassed
round with death. I remained at the gate-way with
the lantern.
“I could hear the measured tramp of their footsteps sounding through the lonely corridors. Suddenly it ceased, and I heard voices, and a scuffle,
with the sound of blows. A moment later there
came, to my horror, a rush of footsteps coming in
my direction, with the loud breathing of a running
man. I turned my lantern down the long, straight
passage, and there was the fat man, running like
the wind, with a smear of blood across his face,
and close at his heels, bounding like a tiger, the
great black-bearded Sikh, with a knife flashing in
his hand. I have never seen a man run so fast as
that little merchant. He was gaining on the Sikh,
and I could see that if he once passed me and got
to the open air he would save himself yet. My heart
softened to him, but again the thought of his treasure turned me hard and bitter. I cast my firelock
between his legs as he raced past, and he rolled
110
The Sign of the Four
forty-three diamonds of the first water, including
one which has been called, I believe, ‘the Great
Mogul’ and is said to be the second largest stone
in existence. Then there were ninety-seven very
fine emeralds, and one hundred and seventy rubies, some of which, however, were small. There
were forty carbuncles, two hundred and ten sapphires, sixty-one agates, and a great quantity of
beryls, onyxes, cats’-eyes, turquoises, and other
stones, the very names of which I did not know at
the time, though I have become more familiar with
them since. Besides this, there were nearly three
hundred very fine pearls, twelve of which were set
in a gold coronet. By the way, these last had been
taken out of the chest and were not there when I
recovered it.
suspicious folk in the East, however: so what does
this rajah do but take a second even more trusty servant and set him to play the spy upon the first? This
second man was ordered never to let Achmet out of
his sight, and he followed him like his shadow. He
went after him that night and saw him pass through
the doorway. Of course he thought he had taken
refuge in the fort, and applied for admission there
himself next day, but could find no trace of Achmet.
This seemed to him so strange that he spoke about
it to a sergeant of guides, who brought it to the
ears of the commandant. A thorough search was
quickly made, and the body was discovered. Thus
at the very moment that we thought that all was
safe we were all four seized and brought to trial on
a charge of murder,—three of us because we had
held the gate that night, and the fourth because
he was known to have been in the company of the
murdered man. Not a word about the jewels came
out at the trial, for the rajah had been deposed and
driven out of India: so no one had any particular
interest in them. The murder, however, was clearly
made out, and it was certain that we must all have
been concerned in it. The three Sikhs got penal
servitude for life, and I was condemned to death,
though my sentence was afterwards commuted into
the same as the others.
“After we had counted our treasures we put
them back into the chest and carried them to the
gate-way to show them to Mahomet Singh. Then
we solemnly renewed our oath to stand by each
other and be true to our secret. We agreed to conceal our loot in a safe place until the country should
be at peace again, and then to divide it equally
among ourselves. There was no use dividing it
at present, for if gems of such value were found
upon us it would cause suspicion, and there was no
privacy in the fort nor any place where we could
keep them. We carried the box, therefore, into the
same hall where we had buried the body, and there,
under certain bricks in the best-preserved wall, we
made a hollow and put our treasure. We made
careful note of the place, and next day I drew four
plans, one for each of us, and put the sign of the
four of us at the bottom, for we had sworn that
we should each always act for all, so that none
might take advantage. That is an oath that I can
put my hand to my heart and swear that I have
never broken.
“It was rather a queer position that we found
ourselves in then. There we were all four tied by
the leg and with precious little chance of ever getting out again, while we each held a secret which
might have put each of us in a palace if we could
only have made use of it. It was enough to make
a man eat his heart out to have to stand the kick
and the cuff of every petty jack-in-office, to have
rice to eat and water to drink, when that gorgeous
fortune was ready for him outside, just waiting to
be picked up. It might have driven me mad; but I
was always a pretty stubborn one, so I just held on
and bided my time.
“Well, there’s no use my telling you gentlemen
what came of the Indian mutiny. After Wilson
took Delhi and Sir Colin relieved Lucknow the
back of the business was broken. Fresh troops
came pouring in, and Nana Sahib made himself
scarce over the frontier. A flying column under
Colonel Greathed came round to Agra and cleared
the Pandies away from it. Peace seemed to be settling upon the country, and we four were beginning
to hope that the time was at hand when we might
safely go off with our shares of the plunder. In a
moment, however, our hopes were shattered by our
being arrested as the murderers of Achmet.
“At last it seemed to me to have come. I was
changed from Agra to Madras, and from there to
Blair Island in the Andamans. There are very few
white convicts at this settlement, and, as I had behaved well from the first, I soon found myself a sort
of privileged person. I was given a hut in Hope
Town, which is a small place on the slopes of Mount
Harriet, and I was left pretty much to myself. It is
a dreary, fever-stricken place, and all beyond our
little clearings was infested with wild cannibal natives, who were ready enough to blow a poisoned
dart at us if they saw a chance. There was digging,
and ditching, and yam-planting, and a dozen other
things to be done, so we were busy enough all day;
“It came about in this way. When the rajah put
his jewels into the hands of Achmet he did it because he knew that he was a trusty man. They are
111
The Sign of the Four
though in the evening we had a little time to ourselves. Among other things, I learned to dispense
drugs for the surgeon, and picked up a smattering
of his knowledge. All the time I was on the lookout
for a chance of escape; but it is hundreds of miles
from any other land, and there is little or no wind
in those seas: so it was a terribly difficult job to get
away.
“The surgeon, Dr. Somerton, was a fast, sporting
young chap, and the other young officers would
meet in his rooms of an evening and play cards.
The surgery, where I used to make up my drugs,
was next to his sitting-room, with a small window
between us. Often, if I felt lonesome, I used to turn
out the lamp in the surgery, and then, standing
there, I could hear their talk and watch their play.
I am fond of a hand at cards myself, and it was
almost as good as having one to watch the others. There was Major Sholto, Captain Morstan, and
Lieutenant Bromley Brown, who were in command
of the native troops, and there was the surgeon
himself, and two or three prison-officials, crafty old
hands who played a nice sly safe game. A very
snug little party they used to make.
“Well, there was one thing which very soon
struck me, and that was that the soldiers used always to lose and the civilians to win. Mind, I don’t
say that there was anything unfair, but so it was.
These prison-chaps had done little else than play
cards ever since they had been at the Andamans,
and they knew each other’s game to a point, while
the others just played to pass the time and threw
their cards down anyhow. Night after night the soldiers got up poorer men, and the poorer they got
the more keen they were to play. Major Sholto was
the hardest hit. He used to pay in notes and gold at
first, but soon it came to notes of hand and for big
sums. He sometimes would win for a few deals,
just to give him heart, and then the luck would set
in against him worse than ever. All day he would
wander about as black as thunder, and he took to
drinking a deal more than was good for him.
“One night he lost even more heavily than usual.
I was sitting in my hut when he and Captain
Morstan came stumbling along on the way to their
quarters. They were bosom friends, those two, and
never far apart. The major was raving about his
losses.
“ ‘It’s all up, Morstan,’ he was saying, as they
passed my hut. ‘I shall have to send in my papers.
I am a ruined man.’
“ ‘Nonsense, old chap!’ said the other, slapping
him upon the shoulder. ‘I’ve had a nasty facer myself, but—’ That was all I could hear, but it was
enough to set me thinking.
A couple of days later Major Sholto was strolling
on the beach: so I took the chance of speaking to
him.
“ ‘I wish to have your advice, major,’ said I.
“ ‘Well, Small, what is it?’ he asked, taking his
cheroot from his lips.
“ ‘I wanted to ask you, sir,’ said I, ‘who is the
proper person to whom hidden treasure should be
handed over. I know where half a million worth
lies, and, as I cannot use it myself, I thought perhaps the best thing that I could do would be to
hand it over to the proper authorities, and then
perhaps they would get my sentence shortened for
me.’
“ ‘Half a million, Small?’ he gasped, looking
hard at me to see if I was in earnest.
“ ‘Quite that, sir,—in jewels and pearls. It lies
there ready for anyone. And the queer thing about
it is that the real owner is outlawed and cannot
hold property, so that it belongs to the first comer.’
“ ‘To government, Small,’ he stammered,—‘to
government.’ But he said it in a halting fashion,
and I knew in my heart that I had got him.
“ ‘You think, then, sir, that I should give the information to the Governor-General?’ said I, quietly.
“ ‘Well, well, you must not do anything rash,
or that you might repent. Let me hear all about it,
Small. Give me the facts.’
“I told him the whole story, with small changes
so that he could not identify the places. When I
had finished he stood stock still and full of thought.
I could see by the twitch of his lip that there was a
struggle going on within him.
“ ‘This is a very important matter, Small,’ he
said, at last. ‘You must not say a word to any one
about it, and I shall see you again soon.’
“Two nights later he and his friend Captain
Morstan came to my hut in the dead of the night
with a lantern.
“ ‘I want you just to let Captain Morstan hear
that story from your own lips, Small,’ said he.
“I repeated it as I had told it before.
“ ‘It rings true, eh?’ said he. ‘It’s good enough
to act upon?’
“Captain Morstan nodded.
“ ‘Look here, Small,’ said the major. ‘We have
been talking it over, my friend here and I, and we
have come to the conclusion that this secret of yours
is hardly a government matter, after all, but is a
private concern of your own, which of course you
have the power of disposing of as you think best.
112
The Sign of the Four
Now, the question is, what price would you ask for
it? We might be inclined to take it up, and at least
look into it, if we could agree as to terms.’ He tried
to speak in a cool, careless way, but his eyes were
shining with excitement and greed.
Akbar were all present. We talked the matter over
again, and at last we came to an arrangement. We
were to provide both the officers with charts of the
part of the Agra fort and mark the place in the wall
where the treasure was hid. Major Sholto was to
go to India to test our story. If he found the box
he was to leave it there, to send out a small yacht
provisioned for a voyage, which was to lie off Rutland Island, and to which we were to make our
way, and finally to return to his duties. Captain
Morstan was then to apply for leave of absence, to
meet us at Agra, and there we were to have a final
division of the treasure, he taking the major’s share
as well as his own. All this we sealed by the most
solemn oaths that the mind could think or the lips
utter. I sat up all night with paper and ink, and by
the morning I had the two charts all ready, signed
with the sign of four,—that is, of Abdullah, Akbar,
Mahomet, and myself.
“ ‘Why, as to that, gentlemen,’ I answered, trying also to be cool, but feeling as excited as he did,
‘there is only one bargain which a man in my position can make. I shall want you to help me to
my freedom, and to help my three companions to
theirs. We shall then take yo into partnership, and
give you a fifth share to divide between you.’
“ ‘Hum!’ said he. ‘A fifth share! That is not very
tempting.’
“ ‘It would come to fifty thousand apiece,’ said
I.
“ ‘But how can we gain your freedom? You
know very well that you ask an impossibility.’
“ ‘Nothing of the sort,’ I answered. ‘I have
thought it all out to the last detail. The only bar
to our escape is that we can get no boat fit for the
voyage, and no provisions to last us for so long a
time. There are plenty of little yachts and yawls
at Calcutta or Madras which would serve our turn
well. Do you bring one over. We shall engage to
get aboard her by night, and if you will drop us
on any part of the Indian coast you will have done
your part of the bargain.’
“Well, gentlemen, I weary you with my long
story, and I know that my friend Mr. Jones is impatient to get me safely stowed in chokey. I’ll make it
as short as I can. The villain Sholto went off to India,
but he never came back again. Captain Morstan
showed me his name among a list of passengers in
one of the mail-boats very shortly afterwards. His
uncle had died, leaving him a fortune, and he had
left the army, yet he could stoop to treat five men
as he had treated us. Morstan went over to Agra
shortly afterwards, and found, as we expected, that
the treasure was indeed gone. The scoundrel had
stolen it all, without carrying out one of the conditions on which we had sold him the secret. From
that day I lived only for vengeance. I thought of
it by day and I nursed it by night. It became an
overpowering, absorbing passion with me. I cared
nothing for the law,—nothing for the gallows. To
escape, to track down Sholto, to have my hand
upon his throat,—that was my one thought. Even
the Agra treasure had come to be a smaller thing
in my mind than the slaying of Sholto.
“ ‘If there were only one,’ he said.
“ ‘None or all,’ I answered. ‘We have sworn it.
The four of us must always act together.’
“ ‘You see, Morstan,’ said he, ‘Small is a man
of his word. He does not flinch from his friend. I
think we may very well trust him.’
“ ‘It’s a dirty business,’ the other answered. ‘Yet,
as you say, the money would save our commissions
handsomely.’
“ ‘Well, Small,’ said the major, ‘we must, I suppose, try and meet you. We must first, of course,
test the truth of your story. Tell me where the box
is hid, and I shall get leave of absence and go back
to India in the monthly relief-boat to inquire into
the affair.’
“Well, I have set my mind on many things in
this life, and never one which I did not carry out.
But it was weary years before my time came. I
have told you that I had picked up something of
medicine. One day when Dr. Somerton was down
with a fever a little Andaman Islander was picked
up by a convict-gang in the woods. He was sick
to death, and had gone to a lonely place to die. I
took him in hand, though he was as venomous as
a young snake, and after a couple of months I got
him all right and able to walk. He took a kind of
fancy to me then, and would hardly go back to his
woods, but was always hanging about my hut. I
“ ‘Not so fast,’ said I, growing colder as he got
hot. ‘I must have the consent of my three comrades.
I tell you that it is four or none with us.’
“ ‘Nonsense!’ he broke in. ‘What have three
black fellows to do with our agreement?’
“ ‘Black or blue,’ said I, ‘they are in with me,
and we all go together.’
“Well, the matter ended by a second meeting, at
which Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan, and Dost
113
The Sign of the Four
learned a little of his lingo from him, and this made
him all the fonder of me.
ago, we found ourselves in England. I had no great
difficulty in finding where Sholto lived, and I set
to work to discover whether he had realized the
treasure, or if he still had it. I made friends with
someone who could help me,—I name no names,
for I don’t want to get any one else in a hole,—and
I soon found that he still had the jewels. Then I
tried to get at him in many ways; but he was pretty
sly, and had always two prize-fighters, besides his
sons and his khitmutgar, on guard over him.
“Tonga—for that was his name—was a fine boatman, and owned a big, roomy canoe of his own.
When I found that he was devoted to me and would
do anything to serve me, I saw my chance of escape.
I talked it over with him. He was to bring his boat
round on a certain night to an old wharf which was
never guarded, and there he was to pick me up. I
gave him directions to have several gourds of water
and a lot of yams, cocoa-nuts, and sweet potatoes.
“One day, however, I got word that he was dying. I hurried at once to the garden, mad that he
should slip out of my clutches like that, and, looking through the window, I saw him lying in his bed,
with his sons on each side of him. I’d have come
through and taken my chance with the three of
them, only even as I looked at him his jaw dropped,
and I knew that he was gone. I got into his room
that same night, though, and I searched his papers
to see if there was any record of where he had
hidden our jewels. There was not a line, however:
so I came away, bitter and savage as a man could
be. Before I left I bethought me that if I ever met
my Sikh friends again it would be a satisfaction to
know that I had left some mark of our hatred: so I
scrawled down the sign of the four of us, as it had
been on the chart, and I pinned it on his bosom. It
was too much that he should be taken to the grave
without some token from the men whom he had
robbed and befooled.
“He was stanch and true, was little Tonga. No
man ever had a more faithful mate. At the night
named he had his boat at the wharf. As it chanced,
however, there was one of the convict-guard down
there,—a vile Pathan who had never missed a
chance of insulting and injuring me. I had always
vowed vengeance, and now I had my chance. It was
as if fate had placed him in my way that I might
pay my debt before I left the island. He stood on
the bank with his back to me, and his carbine on
his shoulder. I looked about for a stone to beat out
his brains with, but none could I see.
“Then a queer thought came into my head and
showed me where I could lay my hand on a weapon.
I sat down in the darkness and unstrapped my
wooden leg. With three long hops I was on him.
He put his carbine to his shoulder, but I struck him
full, and knocked the whole front of his skull in.
You can see the split in the wood now where I hit
him. We both went down together, for I could not
keep my balance, but when I got up I found him
still lying quiet enough. I made for the boat, and in
an hour we were well out at sea. Tonga had brought
all his earthly possessions with him, his arms and
his gods. Among other things, he had a long bamboo spear, and some Andaman cocoa-nut matting,
with which I made a sort of sail. For ten days
we were beating about, trusting to luck, and on
the eleventh we were picked up by a trader which
was going from Singapore to Jiddah with a cargo
of Malay pilgrims. They were a rum crowd, and
Tonga and I soon managed to settle down among
them. They had one very good quality: they let
you alone and asked no questions.
“We earned a living at this time by my exhibiting poor Tonga at fairs and other such places as
the black cannibal. He would eat raw meat and
dance his war-dance: so we always had a hatful
of pennies after a day’s work. I still heard all the
news from Pondicherry Lodge, and for some years
there was no news to hear, except that they were
hunting for the treasure. At last, however, came
what we had waited for so long. The treasure had
been found. It was up at the top of the house, in
Mr. Bartholomew Sholto’s chemical laboratory. I
came at once and had a look at the place, but I
could not see how with my wooden leg I was to
make my way up to it. I learned, however, about a
trap-door in the roof, and also about Mr. Sholto’s
supper-hour. It seemed to me that I could manage
the thing easily through Tonga. I brought him out
with me with a long rope wound round his waist.
He could climb like a cat, and he soon made his
way through the roof, but, as ill luck would have
it, Bartholomew Sholto was still in the room, to
his cost. Tonga thought he had done something
very clever in killing him, for when I came up by
the rope I found him strutting about as proud as a
peacock. Very much surprised was he when I made
“Well, if I were to tell you all the adventures
that my little chum and I went through, you would
not thank me, for I would have you here until the
sun was shining. Here and there we drifted about
the world, something always turning up to keep us
from London. All the time, however, I never lost
sight of my purpose. I would dream of Sholto at
night. A hundred times I have killed him in my
sleep. At last, however, some three or four years
114
The Sign of the Four
at him with the rope’s end and cursed him for a
little blood-thirsty imp. I took the treasure-box and
let it down, and then slid down myself, having first
left the sign of the four upon the table, to show that
the jewels had come back at last to those who had
most right to them. Tonga then pulled up the rope,
closed the window, and made off the way that he
had come.
“I don’t know that I have anything else to tell
you. I had heard a waterman speak of the speed of
Smith’s launch, the Aurora, so I thought she would
be a handy craft for our escape. I engaged with old
Smith, and was to give him a big sum if he got us
safe to our ship. He knew, no doubt, that there was
some screw loose, but he was not in our secrets. All
this is the truth, and if I tell it to you, gentlemen, it
is not to amuse you,—for you have not done me a
very good turn,—but it is because I believe the best
defence I can make is just to hold back nothing,
but let all the world know how badly I have myself
been served by Major Sholto, and how innocent I
am of the death of his son.”
“A very remarkable account,” said Sherlock
Holmes. “A fitting wind-up to an extremely interesting case. There is nothing at all new to me
in the latter part of your narrative, except that you
brought your own rope. That I did not know. By
the way, I had hoped that Tonga had lost all his
darts; yet he managed to shoot one at us in the
boat.”
“He had lost them all, sir, except the one which
was in his blow-pipe at the time.”
“Ah, of course,” said Holmes. “I had not
thought of that.”
“Is there any other point which you would like
to ask about?” asked the convict, affably.
“I think not, thank you,” my companion answered.
“Well, Holmes,” said Athelney Jones, “You are
a man to be humored, and we all know that you
are a connoisseur of crime, but duty is duty, and I
have gone rather far in doing what you and your
friend asked me. I shall feel more at ease when we
have our story-teller here safe under lock and key.
The cab still waits, and there are two inspectors
down-stairs. I am much obliged to you both for
your assistance. Of course you will be wanted at
the trial. Good-night to you.”
“Good-night, gentlemen both,” said Jonathan
Small.
“You first, Small,” remarked the wary Jones as
they left the room. “I’ll take particular care that you
don’t club me with your wooden leg, whatever you
may have done to the gentleman at the Andaman
Isles.”
“Well, and there is the end of our little drama,”
I remarked, after we had set some time smoking in
silence. “I fear that it may be the last investigation
in which I shall have the chance of studying your
methods. Miss Morstan has done me the honor to
accept me as a husband in prospective.”
He gave a most dismal groan. “I feared as
much,” said he. “I really cannot congratulate you.”
I was a little hurt. “Have you any reason to be
dissatisfied with my choice?” I asked.
“Not at all. I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met, and might have been
most useful in such work as we have been doing.
She had a decided genius that way: witness the
way in which she preserved that Agra plan from
all the other papers of her father. But love is an
emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above
all things. I should never marry myself, lest I bias
my judgment.”
“I trust,” said I, laughing, “that my judgment
may survive the ordeal. But you look weary.”
“Yes, the reaction is already upon me. I shall be
as limp as a rag for a week.”
“Strange,” said I, “how terms of what in another
man I should call laziness alternate with your fits
of splendid energy and vigor.”
“Yes,” he answered, “there are in me the makings of a very fine loafer and also of a pretty spry
sort of fellow. I often think of those lines of old
Goethe,—
Schade, daß die Natur nur
einen Mensch aus Dir schuf,
Denn zum würdigen Mann war
und zum Schelmen der Stoff.
“By the way, a propos of this Norwood business,
you see that they had, as I surmised, a confederate
in the house, who could be none other than Lal
Rao, the butler: so Jones actually has the undivided
honor of having caught one fish in his great haul.”
“The division seems rather unfair,” I remarked.
“You have done all the work in this business. I get
a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what
remains for you?”
“For me,” said Sherlock Holmes, “there still
remains the cocaine-bottle.” And he stretched his
long white hand up for it.
115
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
A Scandal in Bohemia
A Scandal in Bohemia
Table of contents
Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
123
Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
127
Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
132
121
A Scandal in Bohemia
T
CHAPTER I.
o Sherlock Holmes she is always the
woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his
eyes she eclipses and predominates the
whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and
that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold,
precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I
take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing
machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he
would have placed himself in a false position. He
never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe
and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s
motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner
to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and
finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all
his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or
a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would
not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in
a nature such as his. And yet there was but one
woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene
Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
(for I had now returned to civil practice), when
my way led me through Baker Street. As I passed
the well-remembered door, which must always be
associated in my mind with my wooing, and with
the dark incidents of the Study in Scarlet, I was
seized with a keen desire to see Holmes again, and
to know how he was employing his extraordinary
powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as
I looked up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass twice in
a dark silhouette against the blind. He was pacing
the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon
his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me,
who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude
and manner told their own story. He was at work
again. He had risen out of his drug-created dreams
and was hot upon the scent of some new problem.
I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber
which had formerly been in part my own.
His manner was not effusive. It seldom was;
but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly a
word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me
to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars, and
indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner.
Then he stood before the fire and looked me over
in his singular introspective fashion.
“Wedlock suits you,” he remarked. “I think,
Watson, that you have put on seven and a half
pounds since I saw you.”
“Seven!” I answered.
“Indeed, I should have thought a little more.
Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson. And in practice again, I observe. You did not tell me that you
intended to go into harness.”
“Then, how do you know?”
“I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you
have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that
you have a most clumsy and careless servant girl?”
“My dear Holmes,” said I, “this is too much.
You would certainly have been burned, had you
lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I had a
country walk on Thursday and came home in a
dreadful mess, but as I have changed my clothes
I can’t imagine how you deduce it. As to Mary
Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her
notice, but there, again, I fail to see how you work
it out.”
He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long,
nervous hands together.
“It is simplicity itself,” said he; “my eyes tell me
that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the
firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost
parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by
I had seen little of Holmes lately. My marriage
had drifted us away from each other. My own
complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around the man who first finds
himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to absorb all my attention, while Holmes,
who loathed every form of society with his whole
Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker
Street, buried among his old books, and alternating
from week to week between cocaine and ambition,
the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of
his own keen nature. He was still, as ever, deeply
attracted by the study of crime, and occupied his
immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out those clues, and clearing
up those mysteries which had been abandoned as
hopeless by the official police. From time to time
I heard some vague account of his doings: of his
summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of
the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee, and finally
of the mission which he had accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family of
Holland. Beyond these signs of his activity, however, which I merely shared with all the readers of
the daily press, I knew little of my former friend
and companion.
One night—it was on the twentieth of March,
1888—I was returning from a journey to a patient
123
A Scandal in Bohemia
someone who has very carelessly scraped round
the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted
mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction
that you had been out in vile weather, and that you
had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen
of the London slavey. As to your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform,
with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right
forefinger, and a bulge on the right side of his tophat to show where he has secreted his stethoscope,
I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce him
to be an active member of the medical profession.”
“This is indeed a mystery,” I remarked. “What
do you imagine that it means?”
“I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to
theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins
to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to
suit facts. But the note itself. What do you deduce
from it?”
I carefully examined the writing, and the paper
upon which it was written.
“The man who wrote it was presumably well
to do,” I remarked, endeavouring to imitate my
companion’s processes. “Such paper could not be
bought under half a crown a packet. It is peculiarly
strong and stiff.”
“Peculiar—that is the very word,” said Holmes.
“It is not an English paper at all. Hold it up to the
light.”
I did so, and saw a large “E” with a small “g,”
a “P,” and a large “G” with a small “t” woven into
the texture of the paper.
“What do you make of that?” asked Holmes.
“The name of the maker, no doubt; or his monogram, rather.”
“Not at all. The ‘G’ with the small ‘t’ stands for
‘Gesellschaft,’ which is the German for ‘Company.’
It is a customary contraction like our ‘Co.’ ‘P,’ of
course, stands for ‘Papier.’ Now for the ‘Eg.’ Let us
glance at our Continental Gazetteer.” He took down
a heavy brown volume from his shelves. “Eglow,
Eglonitz—here we are, Egria. It is in a Germanspeaking country—in Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad. ‘Remarkable as being the scene of the death
of Wallenstein, and for its numerous glass-factories
and paper-mills.’ Ha, ha, my boy, what do you
make of that?” His eyes sparkled, and he sent up a
great blue triumphant cloud from his cigarette.
“The paper was made in Bohemia,” I said.
“Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is
a German. Do you note the peculiar construction of
the sentence—‘This account of you we have from all
quarters received.’ A Frenchman or Russian could
not have written that. It is the German who is so
uncourteous to his verbs. It only remains, therefore,
to discover what is wanted by this German who
writes upon Bohemian paper and prefers wearing
a mask to showing his face. And here he comes, if
I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts.”
As he spoke there was the sharp sound of
horses’ hoofs and grating wheels against the curb,
followed by a sharp pull at the bell. Holmes whistled.
“A pair, by the sound,” said he. “Yes,” he continued, glancing out of the window. “A nice little
brougham and a pair of beauties. A hundred and
I could not help laughing at the ease with which
he explained his process of deduction. “When I
hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing
always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple
that I could easily do it myself, though at each
successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled
until you explain your process. And yet I believe
that my eyes are as good as yours.”
“Quite so,” he answered, lighting a cigarette,
and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You
see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.
For example, you have frequently seen the steps
which lead up from the hall to this room.”
“Frequently.”
“How often?”
“Well, some hundreds of times.”
“Then how many are there?”
“How many? I don’t know.”
“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you
have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that
there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen
and observed. By-the-way, since you are interested
in these little problems, and since you are good
enough to chronicle one or two of my trifling experiences, you may be interested in this.” He threw
over a sheet of thick, pink-tinted note-paper which
had been lying open upon the table. “It came by
the last post,” said he. “Read it aloud.”
The note was undated, and without either signature or address.
“There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter
to eight o’clock,” it said, “a gentleman who desires
to consult you upon a matter of the very deepest
moment. Your recent services to one of the royal
houses of Europe have shown that you are one who
may safely be trusted with matters which are of an
importance which can hardly be exaggerated. This
account of you we have from all quarters received.
Be in your chamber then at that hour, and do not
take it amiss if your visitor wear a mask.”
124
A Scandal in Bohemia
fifty guineas apiece. There’s money in this case,
Watson, if there is nothing else.”
I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist
and pushed me back into my chair. “It is both, or
none,” said he. “You may say before this gentleman
anything which you may say to me.”
The Count shrugged his broad shoulders.
“Then I must begin,” said he, “by binding you both
to absolute secrecy for two years; at the end of
that time the matter will be of no importance. At
present it is not too much to say that it is of such
weight it may have an influence upon European
history.”
“I promise,” said Holmes.
“And I.”
“You will excuse this mask,” continued our
strange visitor. “The august person who employs
me wishes his agent to be unknown to you, and I
may confess at once that the title by which I have
just called myself is not exactly my own.”
“I was aware of it,” said Holmes dryly.
“The circumstances are of great delicacy, and
every precaution has to be taken to quench what
might grow to be an immense scandal and seriously
compromise one of the reigning families of Europe.
To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great
House of Ormstein, hereditary kings of Bohemia.”
“I was also aware of that,” murmured Holmes,
settling himself down in his armchair and closing
his eyes.
Our visitor glanced with some apparent surprise at the languid, lounging figure of the man
who had been no doubt depicted to him as the
most incisive reasoner and most energetic agent
in Europe. Holmes slowly reopened his eyes and
looked impatiently at his gigantic client.
“If your Majesty would condescend to state your
case,” he remarked, “I should be better able to advise you.”
The man sprang from his chair and paced up
and down the room in uncontrollable agitation.
Then, with a gesture of desperation, he tore the
mask from his face and hurled it upon the ground.
“You are right,” he cried; “I am the King. Why
should I attempt to conceal it?”
“Why, indeed?” murmured Holmes. “Your
Majesty had not spoken before I was aware that
I was addressing Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond
von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein, and
hereditary King of Bohemia.”
“But you can understand,” said our strange visitor, sitting down once more and passing his hand
over his high white forehead, “you can understand
that I am not accustomed to doing such business in
my own person. Yet the matter was so delicate that
I could not confide it to an agent without putting
“I think that I had better go, Holmes.”
“Not a bit, Doctor. Stay where you are. I am
lost without my Boswell. And this promises to be
interesting. It would be a pity to miss it.”
“But your client—”
“Never mind him. I may want your help, and so
may he. Here he comes. Sit down in that armchair,
Doctor, and give us your best attention.”
A slow and heavy step, which had been heard
upon the stairs and in the passage, paused immediately outside the door. Then there was a loud and
authoritative tap.
“Come in!” said Holmes.
A man entered who could hardly have been less
than six feet six inches in height, with the chest and
limbs of a Hercules. His dress was rich with a richness which would, in England, be looked upon as
akin to bad taste. Heavy bands of astrakhan were
slashed across the sleeves and fronts of his doublebreasted coat, while the deep blue cloak which was
thrown over his shoulders was lined with flamecoloured silk and secured at the neck with a brooch
which consisted of a single flaming beryl. Boots
which extended halfway up his calves, and which
were trimmed at the tops with rich brown fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulence which
was suggested by his whole appearance. He carried
a broad-brimmed hat in his hand, while he wore
across the upper part of his face, extending down
past the cheekbones, a black vizard mask, which
he had apparently adjusted that very moment, for
his hand was still raised to it as he entered. From
the lower part of the face he appeared to be a man
of strong character, with a thick, hanging lip, and a
long, straight chin suggestive of resolution pushed
to the length of obstinacy.
“You had my note?” he asked with a deep harsh
voice and a strongly marked German accent. “I told
you that I would call.” He looked from one to the
other of us, as if uncertain which to address.
“Pray take a seat,” said Holmes. “This is my
friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me in my cases. Whom
have I the honour to address?”
“You may address me as the Count Von Kramm,
a Bohemian nobleman. I understand that this gentleman, your friend, is a man of honour and discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of the most
extreme importance. If not, I should much prefer
to communicate with you alone.”
125
A Scandal in Bohemia
myself in his power. I have come incognito from
Prague for the purpose of consulting you.”
“Then, pray consult,” said Holmes, shutting his
eyes once more.
“The facts are briefly these: Some five years
ago, during a lengthy visit to Warsaw, I made the
acquaintance of the well-known adventuress, Irene
Adler. The name is no doubt familiar to you.”
“Kindly look her up in my index, Doctor,” murmured Holmes without opening his eyes. For many
years he had adopted a system of docketing all paragraphs concerning men and things, so that it was
difficult to name a subject or a person on which he
could not at once furnish information. In this case
I found her biography sandwiched in between that
of a Hebrew rabbi and that of a staff-commander
who had written a monograph upon the deep-sea
fishes.
“Let me see!” said Holmes. “Hum! Born in
New Jersey in the year 1858. Contralto—hum! La
Scala, hum! Prima donna Imperial Opera of Warsaw—yes! Retired from operatic stage—ha! Living
in London—quite so! Your Majesty, as I understand, became entangled with this young person,
wrote her some compromising letters, and is now
desirous of getting those letters back.”
“Precisely so. But how—”
“Was there a secret marriage?”
“None.”
“No legal papers or certificates?”
“None.”
“Then I fail to follow your Majesty. If this young
person should produce her letters for blackmailing
or other purposes, how is she to prove their authenticity?”
“There is the writing.”
“Pooh, pooh! Forgery.”
“My private note-paper.”
“Stolen.”
“My own seal.”
“Imitated.”
“My photograph.”
“Bought.”
“We were both in the photograph.”
“Oh, dear! That is very bad! Your Majesty has
indeed committed an indiscretion.”
“I was mad—insane.”
“You have compromised yourself seriously.”
“I was only Crown Prince then. I was young. I
am but thirty now.”
“It must be recovered.”
“We have tried and failed.”
“Your Majesty must pay. It must be bought.”
“She will not sell.”
“Stolen, then.”
“Five attempts have been made. Twice burglars
in my pay ransacked her house. Once we diverted
her luggage when she travelled. Twice she has been
waylaid. There has been no result.”
“No sign of it?”
“Absolutely none.”
Holmes laughed. “It is quite a pretty little problem,” said he.
“But a very serious one to me,” returned the
King reproachfully.
“Very, indeed. And what does she propose to
do with the photograph?”
“To ruin me.”
“But how?”
“I am about to be married.”
“So I have heard.”
“To Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meningen, second daughter of the King of Scandinavia. You may
know the strict principles of her family. She is herself the very soul of delicacy. A shadow of a doubt
as to my conduct would bring the matter to an
end.”
“And Irene Adler?”
“Threatens to send them the photograph. And
she will do it. I know that she will do it. You do
not know her, but she has a soul of steel. She has
the face of the most beautiful of women, and the
mind of the most resolute of men. Rather than I
should marry another woman, there are no lengths
to which she would not go—none.”
“You are sure that she has not sent it yet?”
“I am sure.”
“And why?”
“Because she has said that she would send it
on the day when the betrothal was publicly proclaimed. That will be next Monday.”
“Oh, then we have three days yet,” said Holmes
with a yawn. “That is very fortunate, as I have
one or two matters of importance to look into just
at present. Your Majesty will, of course, stay in
London for the present?”
“Certainly. You will find me at the Langham
under the name of the Count Von Kramm.”
“Then I shall drop you a line to let you know
how we progress.”
126
A Scandal in Bohemia
“Pray do so. I shall be all anxiety.”
“Then, as to money?”
“You have carte blanche.”
“Absolutely?”
“I tell you that I would give one of the provinces
of my kingdom to have that photograph.”
“And for present expenses?”
The King took a heavy chamois leather bag from
under his cloak and laid it on the table.
“There are three hundred pounds in gold and
seven hundred in notes,” he said.
Holmes scribbled a receipt upon a sheet of his
note-book and handed it to him.
“And Mademoiselle’s address?” he asked.
“Is Briony Lodge, Serpentine Avenue, St. John’s
Wood.”
Holmes took a note of it. “One other question,”
said he. “Was the photograph a cabinet?”
“It was.”
“Then, good-night, your Majesty, and I trust
that we shall soon have some good news for you.
And good-night, Watson,” he added, as the wheels
of the royal brougham rolled down the street. “If
you will be good enough to call to-morrow afternoon at three o’clock I should like to chat this little
matter over with you.”
CHAPTER II.
At three o’clock precisely I was at Baker Street,
but Holmes had not yet returned. The landlady informed me that he had left the house shortly after
eight o’clock in the morning. I sat down beside the
fire, however, with the intention of awaiting him,
however long he might be. I was already deeply
interested in his inquiry, for, though it was surrounded by none of the grim and strange features
which were associated with the two crimes which I
have already recorded, still, the nature of the case
and the exalted station of his client gave it a character of its own. Indeed, apart from the nature of the
investigation which my friend had on hand, there
was something in his masterly grasp of a situation,
and his keen, incisive reasoning, which made it a
pleasure to me to study his system of work, and
to follow the quick, subtle methods by which he
disentangled the most inextricable mysteries. So
accustomed was I to his invariable success that the
very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter
into my head.
Putting his hands into his pockets, he stretched out
his legs in front of the fire and laughed heartily for
some minutes.
“Well, really!” he cried, and then he choked and
laughed again until he was obliged to lie back, limp
and helpless, in the chair.
“What is it?”
“It’s quite too funny. I am sure you could never
guess how I employed my morning, or what I
ended by doing.”
“I can’t imagine. I suppose that you have been
watching the habits, and perhaps the house, of Miss
Irene Adler.”
“Quite so; but the sequel was rather unusual. I
will tell you, however. I left the house a little after eight o’clock this morning in the character of a
groom out of work. There is a wonderful sympathy
and freemasonry among horsey men. Be one of
them, and you will know all that there is to know. I
soon found Briony Lodge. It is a bijou villa, with a
garden at the back, but built out in front right up to
the road, two stories. Chubb lock to the door. Large
sitting-room on the right side, well furnished, with
long windows almost to the floor, and those preposterous English window fasteners which a child
could open. Behind there was nothing remarkable,
save that the passage window could be reached
from the top of the coach-house. I walked round it
and examined it closely from every point of view,
but without noting anything else of interest.
It was close upon four before the door opened,
and a drunken-looking groom, ill-kempt and sidewhiskered, with an inflamed face and disreputable
clothes, walked into the room. Accustomed as I
was to my friend’s amazing powers in the use of
disguises, I had to look three times before I was
certain that it was indeed he. With a nod he vanished into the bedroom, whence he emerged in five
minutes tweed-suited and respectable, as of old.
127
A Scandal in Bohemia
“I then lounged down the street and found, as
I expected, that there was a mews in a lane which
runs down by one wall of the garden. I lent the
ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses, and
received in exchange twopence, a glass of half and
half, two fills of shag tobacco, and as much information as I could desire about Miss Adler, to say
nothing of half a dozen other people in the neighbourhood in whom I was not in the least interested,
but whose biographies I was compelled to listen
to.”
the sitting-room, pacing up and down, talking excitedly, and waving his arms. Of her I could see
nothing. Presently he emerged, looking even more
flurried than before. As he stepped up to the cab,
he pulled a gold watch from his pocket and looked
at it earnestly, ‘Drive like the devil,’ he shouted,
‘first to Gross & Hankey’s in Regent Street, and
then to the Church of St. Monica in the Edgeware
Road. Half a guinea if you do it in twenty minutes!’
“Away they went, and I was just wondering
whether I should not do well to follow them when
up the lane came a neat little landau, the coachman
with his coat only half-buttoned, and his tie under
his ear, while all the tags of his harness were sticking out of the buckles. It hadn’t pulled up before
she shot out of the hall door and into it. I only
caught a glimpse of her at the moment, but she was
a lovely woman, with a face that a man might die
for.
“ ‘The Church of St. Monica, John,’ she cried,
‘and half a sovereign if you reach it in twenty minutes.’
“This was quite too good to lose, Watson. I
was just balancing whether I should run for it, or
whether I should perch behind her landau when
a cab came through the street. The driver looked
twice at such a shabby fare, but I jumped in before
he could object. ‘The Church of St. Monica,’ said
I, ‘and half a sovereign if you reach it in twenty
minutes.’ It was twenty-five minutes to twelve, and
of course it was clear enough what was in the wind.
“My cabby drove fast. I don’t think I ever drove
faster, but the others were there before us. The cab
and the landau with their steaming horses were in
front of the door when I arrived. I paid the man
and hurried into the church. There was not a soul
there save the two whom I had followed and a
surpliced clergyman, who seemed to be expostulating with them. They were all three standing in
a knot in front of the altar. I lounged up the side
aisle like any other idler who has dropped into a
church. Suddenly, to my surprise, the three at the
altar faced round to me, and Godfrey Norton came
running as hard as he could towards me.
“ ‘Thank God,’ he cried. ‘You’ll do. Come!
Come!’
“ ‘What then?’ I asked.
“ ‘Come, man, come, only three minutes, or it
won’t be legal.’
“I was half-dragged up to the altar, and before I knew where I was I found myself mumbling
responses which were whispered in my ear, and
vouching for things of which I knew nothing, and
generally assisting in the secure tying up of Irene
“And what of Irene Adler?” I asked.
“Oh, she has turned all the men’s heads down
in that part. She is the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet. So say the Serpentine-mews, to
a man. She lives quietly, sings at concerts, drives
out at five every day, and returns at seven sharp
for dinner. Seldom goes out at other times, except
when she sings. Has only one male visitor, but
a good deal of him. He is dark, handsome, and
dashing, never calls less than once a day, and often
twice. He is a Mr. Godfrey Norton, of the Inner
Temple. See the advantages of a cabman as a confidant. They had driven him home a dozen times
from Serpentine-mews, and knew all about him.
When I had listened to all they had to tell, I began
to walk up and down near Briony Lodge once more,
and to think over my plan of campaign.
“This Godfrey Norton was evidently an important factor in the matter. He was a lawyer. That
sounded ominous. What was the relation between
them, and what the object of his repeated visits?
Was she his client, his friend, or his mistress? If
the former, she had probably transferred the photograph to his keeping. If the latter, it was less likely.
On the issue of this question depended whether I
should continue my work at Briony Lodge, or turn
my attention to the gentleman’s chambers in the
Temple. It was a delicate point, and it widened the
field of my inquiry. I fear that I bore you with these
details, but I have to let you see my little difficulties,
if you are to understand the situation.”
“I am following you closely,” I answered.
“I was still balancing the matter in my mind
when a hansom cab drove up to Briony Lodge,
and a gentleman sprang out. He was a remarkably handsome man, dark, aquiline, and moustached—evidently the man of whom I had heard.
He appeared to be in a great hurry, shouted to the
cabman to wait, and brushed past the maid who
opened the door with the air of a man who was
thoroughly at home.
“He was in the house about half an hour, and
I could catch glimpses of him in the windows of
128
A Scandal in Bohemia
Adler, spinster, to Godfrey Norton, bachelor. It was
all done in an instant, and there was the gentleman
thanking me on the one side and the lady on the
other, while the clergyman beamed on me in front.
It was the most preposterous position in which I
ever found myself in my life, and it was the thought
of it that started me laughing just now. It seems
that there had been some informality about their
license, that the clergyman absolutely refused to
marry them without a witness of some sort, and
that my lucky appearance saved the bridegroom
from having to sally out into the streets in search
of a best man. The bride gave me a sovereign, and
I mean to wear it on my watch-chain in memory of
the occasion.”
“You must leave that to me. I have already arranged what is to occur. There is only one point on
which I must insist. You must not interfere, come
what may. You understand?”
“I am to be neutral?”
“To do nothing whatever. There will probably
be some small unpleasantness. Do not join in it.
It will end in my being conveyed into the house.
Four or five minutes afterwards the sitting-room
window will open. You are to station yourself close
to that open window.”
“Yes.”
“You are to watch me, for I will be visible to
you.”
“Yes.”
“And when I raise my hand—so—you will
throw into the room what I give you to throw, and
will, at the same time, raise the cry of fire. You
quite follow me?”
“Entirely.”
“It is nothing very formidable,” he said, taking
a long cigar-shaped roll from his pocket. “It is an
ordinary plumber’s smoke-rocket, fitted with a cap
at either end to make it self-lighting. Your task is
confined to that. When you raise your cry of fire, it
will be taken up by quite a number of people. You
may then walk to the end of the street, and I will
rejoin you in ten minutes. I hope that I have made
myself clear?”
“I am to remain neutral, to get near the window,
to watch you, and at the signal to throw in this
object, then to raise the cry of fire, and to wait you
at the corner of the street.”
“Precisely.”
“Then you may entirely rely on me.”
“That is excellent. I think, perhaps, it is almost
time that I prepare for the new role I have to play.”
He disappeared into his bedroom and returned
in a few minutes in the character of an amiable
and simple-minded Nonconformist clergyman. His
broad black hat, his baggy trousers, his white tie,
his sympathetic smile, and general look of peering
and benevolent curiosity were such as Mr. John
Hare alone could have equalled. It was not merely
that Holmes changed his costume. His expression,
his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with every fresh part that he assumed. The stage lost a fine
actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when
he became a specialist in crime.
It was a quarter past six when we left Baker
Street, and it still wanted ten minutes to the hour
when we found ourselves in Serpentine Avenue. It
was already dusk, and the lamps were just being
“This is a very unexpected turn of affairs,” said
I; “and what then?”
“Well, I found my plans very seriously menaced.
It looked as if the pair might take an immediate
departure, and so necessitate very prompt and energetic measures on my part. At the church door,
however, they separated, he driving back to the
Temple, and she to her own house. ‘I shall drive
out in the park at five as usual,’ she said as she
left him. I heard no more. They drove away in different directions, and I went off to make my own
arrangements.”
“Which are?”
“Some cold beef and a glass of beer,” he answered, ringing the bell. “I have been too busy
to think of food, and I am likely to be busier still
this evening. By the way, Doctor, I shall want your
co-operation.”
“I shall be delighted.”
“You don’t mind breaking the law?”
“Not in the least.”
“Nor running a chance of arrest?”
“Not in a good cause.”
“Oh, the cause is excellent!”
“Then I am your man.”
“I was sure that I might rely on you.”
“But what is it you wish?”
“When Mrs. Turner has brought in the tray I
will make it clear to you. Now,” he said as he
turned hungrily on the simple fare that our landlady had provided, “I must discuss it while I eat,
for I have not much time. It is nearly five now. In
two hours we must be on the scene of action. Miss
Irene, or Madame, rather, returns from her drive at
seven. We must be at Briony Lodge to meet her.”
“And what then?”
129
A Scandal in Bohemia
lighted as we paced up and down in front of Briony
Lodge, waiting for the coming of its occupant. The
house was just such as I had pictured it from Sherlock Holmes’ succinct description, but the locality
appeared to be less private than I expected. On
the contrary, for a small street in a quiet neighbourhood, it was remarkably animated. There was a
group of shabbily dressed men smoking and laughing in a corner, a scissors-grinder with his wheel,
two guardsmen who were flirting with a nursegirl, and several well-dressed young men who were
lounging up and down with cigars in their mouths.
was a smart little landau which rattled up to the
door of Briony Lodge. As it pulled up, one of the
loafing men at the corner dashed forward to open
the door in the hope of earning a copper, but was
elbowed away by another loafer, who had rushed
up with the same intention. A fierce quarrel broke
out, which was increased by the two guardsmen,
who took sides with one of the loungers, and by
the scissors-grinder, who was equally hot upon the
other side. A blow was struck, and in an instant
the lady, who had stepped from her carriage, was
the centre of a little knot of flushed and struggling
men, who struck savagely at each other with their
fists and sticks. Holmes dashed into the crowd
to protect the lady; but just as he reached her he
gave a cry and dropped to the ground, with the
blood running freely down his face. At his fall
the guardsmen took to their heels in one direction
and the loungers in the other, while a number of
better-dressed people, who had watched the scuffle
without taking part in it, crowded in to help the
lady and to attend to the injured man. Irene Adler,
as I will still call her, had hurried up the steps; but
she stood at the top with her superb figure outlined
against the lights of the hall, looking back into the
street.
“You see,” remarked Holmes, as we paced to
and fro in front of the house, “this marriage rather
simplifies matters. The photograph becomes a
double-edged weapon now. The chances are that
she would be as averse to its being seen by Mr.
Godfrey Norton, as our client is to its coming to the
eyes of his princess. Now the question is—Where
are we to find the photograph?”
“Where, indeed?”
“It is most unlikely that she carries it about with
her. It is cabinet size. Too large for easy concealment about a woman’s dress. She knows that the
King is capable of having her waylaid and searched.
Two attempts of the sort have already been made.
We may take it, then, that she does not carry it
about with her.”
“Is the poor gentleman much hurt?” she asked.
“He is dead,” cried several voices.
“Where, then?”
“No, no, there’s life in him!” shouted another.
“But he’ll be gone before you can get him to hospital.”
“Her banker or her lawyer. There is that double possibility. But I am inclined to think neither.
Women are naturally secretive, and they like to do
their own secreting. Why should she hand it over
to anyone else? She could trust her own guardianship, but she could not tell what indirect or political
influence might be brought to bear upon a business
man. Besides, remember that she had resolved to
use it within a few days. It must be where she
can lay her hands upon it. It must be in her own
house.”
“He’s a brave fellow,” said a woman. “They
would have had the lady’s purse and watch if it
hadn’t been for him. They were a gang, and a
rough one, too. Ah, he’s breathing now.”
“He can’t lie in the street. May we bring him in,
marm?”
“Surely. Bring him into the sitting-room. There
is a comfortable sofa. This way, please!”
“But it has twice been burgled.”
Slowly and solemnly he was borne into Briony
Lodge and laid out in the principal room, while
I still observed the proceedings from my post by
the window. The lamps had been lit, but the blinds
had not been drawn, so that I could see Holmes as
he lay upon the couch. I do not know whether he
was seized with compunction at that moment for
the part he was playing, but I know that I never felt
more heartily ashamed of myself in my life than
when I saw the beautiful creature against whom I
was conspiring, or the grace and kindliness with
which she waited upon the injured man. And yet it
would be the blackest treachery to Holmes to draw
back now from the part which he had intrusted
“Pshaw! They did not know how to look.”
“But how will you look?”
“I will not look.”
“What then?”
“I will get her to show me.”
“But she will refuse.”
“She will not be able to. But I hear the rumble
of wheels. It is her carriage. Now carry out my
orders to the letter.”
As he spoke the gleam of the side-lights of a
carriage came round the curve of the avenue. It
130
A Scandal in Bohemia
to me. I hardened my heart, and took the smokerocket from under my ulster. After all, I thought,
we are not injuring her. We are but preventing her
from injuring another.
Holmes had sat up upon the couch, and I saw
him motion like a man who is in need of air. A
maid rushed across and threw open the window.
At the same instant I saw him raise his hand and
at the signal I tossed my rocket into the room with
a cry of “Fire!” The word was no sooner out of my
mouth than the whole crowd of spectators, well
dressed and ill—gentlemen, ostlers, and servantmaids—joined in a general shriek of “Fire!” Thick
clouds of smoke curled through the room and out
at the open window. I caught a glimpse of rushing
figures, and a moment later the voice of Holmes
from within assuring them that it was a false alarm.
Slipping through the shouting crowd I made my
way to the corner of the street, and in ten minutes
was rejoiced to find my friend’s arm in mine, and
to get away from the scene of uproar. He walked
swiftly and in silence for some few minutes until
we had turned down one of the quiet streets which
lead towards the Edgeware Road.
“You did it very nicely, Doctor,” he remarked.
“Nothing could have been better. It is all right.”
“You have the photograph?”
“I know where it is.”
“And how did you find out?”
“She showed me, as I told you she would.”
“I am still in the dark.”
“I do not wish to make a mystery,” said he,
laughing. “The matter was perfectly simple. You,
of course, saw that everyone in the street was an accomplice. They were all engaged for the evening.”
“I guessed as much.”
“Then, when the row broke out, I had a little
moist red paint in the palm of my hand. I rushed
forward, fell down, clapped my hand to my face,
and became a piteous spectacle. It is an old trick.”
“That also I could fathom.”
“Then they carried me in. She was bound to
have me in. What else could she do? And into
her sitting-room, which was the very room which
I suspected. It lay between that and her bedroom,
and I was determined to see which. They laid me
on a couch, I motioned for air, they were compelled
to open the window, and you had your chance.”
“How did that help you?”
“It was all-important. When a woman thinks
that her house is on fire, her instinct is at once to
rush to the thing which she values most. It is a
perfectly overpowering impulse, and I have more
than once taken advantage of it. In the case of the
Darlington substitution scandal it was of use to me,
and also in the Arnsworth Castle business. A married woman grabs at her baby; an unmarried one
reaches for her jewel-box. Now it was clear to me
that our lady of to-day had nothing in the house
more precious to her than what we are in quest of.
She would rush to secure it. The alarm of fire was
admirably done. The smoke and shouting were
enough to shake nerves of steel. She responded
beautifully. The photograph is in a recess behind
a sliding panel just above the right bell-pull. She
was there in an instant, and I caught a glimpse of
it as she half-drew it out. When I cried out that it
was a false alarm, she replaced it, glanced at the
rocket, rushed from the room, and I have not seen
her since. I rose, and, making my excuses, escaped
from the house. I hesitated whether to attempt to
secure the photograph at once; but the coachman
had come in, and as he was watching me narrowly
it seemed safer to wait. A little over-precipitance
may ruin all.”
“And now?” I asked.
“Our quest is practically finished. I shall call
with the King to-morrow, and with you, if you
care to come with us. We will be shown into the
sitting-room to wait for the lady, but it is probable
that when she comes she may find neither us nor
the photograph. It might be a satisfaction to his
Majesty to regain it with his own hands.”
“And when will you call?”
“At eight in the morning. She will not be up, so
that we shall have a clear field. Besides, we must
be prompt, for this marriage may mean a complete
change in her life and habits. I must wire to the
King without delay.”
We had reached Baker Street and had stopped
at the door. He was searching his pockets for the
key when someone passing said:
“Good-night, Mister Sherlock Holmes.”
There were several people on the pavement at
the time, but the greeting appeared to come from a
slim youth in an ulster who had hurried by.
“I’ve heard that voice before,” said Holmes, staring down the dimly lit street. “Now, I wonder who
the deuce that could have been.”
131
A Scandal in Bohemia
CHAPTER III.
I slept at Baker Street that night, and we were
engaged upon our toast and coffee in the morning
when the King of Bohemia rushed into the room.
“You have really got it!” he cried, grasping Sherlock Holmes by either shoulder and looking eagerly
into his face.
“Not yet.”
“But you have hopes?”
“I have hopes.”
“Then, come. I am all impatience to be gone.”
“We must have a cab.”
“No, my brougham is waiting.”
“Then that will simplify matters.” We descended and started off once more for Briony
Lodge.
“Irene Adler is married,” remarked Holmes.
“Married! When?”
“Yesterday.”
“But to whom?”
“To an English lawyer named Norton.”
“But she could not love him.”
“I am in hopes that she does.”
“And why in hopes?”
“Because it would spare your Majesty all fear
of future annoyance. If the lady loves her husband,
she does not love your Majesty. If she does not love
your Majesty, there is no reason why she should
interfere with your Majesty’s plan.”
“It is true. And yet—Well! I wish she had been
of my own station! What a queen she would have
made!” He relapsed into a moody silence, which
was not broken until we drew up in Serpentine
Avenue.
The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an
elderly woman stood upon the steps. She watched
us with a sardonic eye as we stepped from the
brougham.
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I believe?” said she.
“I am Mr. Holmes,” answered my companion,
looking at her with a questioning and rather startled gaze.
“Indeed! My mistress told me that you were
likely to call. She left this morning with her husband by the 5.15 train from Charing Cross for the
Continent.”
“What!” Sherlock Holmes staggered back, white
with chagrin and surprise. “Do you mean that she
has left England?”
“Never to return.”
“And the papers?” asked the King hoarsely.
“All is lost.”
“We shall see.” He pushed past the servant
and rushed into the drawing-room, followed by
the King and myself. The furniture was scattered
about in every direction, with dismantled shelves
and open drawers, as if the lady had hurriedly ransacked them before her flight. Holmes rushed at
the bell-pull, tore back a small sliding shutter, and,
plunging in his hand, pulled out a photograph and
a letter. The photograph was of Irene Adler herself in evening dress, the letter was superscribed to
“Sherlock Holmes, Esq. To be left till called for.” My
friend tore it open and we all three read it together.
It was dated at midnight of the preceding night
and ran in this way:
“My dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes:
“You really did it very well. You took
me in completely. Until after the alarm
of fire, I had not a suspicion. But then,
when I found how I had betrayed myself, I began to think. I had been warned
against you months ago. I had been
told that if the King employed an agent
it would certainly be you. And your
address had been given me. Yet, with
all this, you made me reveal what you
wanted to know. Even after I became
suspicious, I found it hard to think evil
of such a dear, kind old clergyman. But,
you know, I have been trained as an
actress myself. Male costume is nothing new to me. I often take advantage
of the freedom which it gives. I sent
John, the coachman, to watch you, ran
up stairs, got into my walking-clothes,
as I call them, and came down just as
you departed.
“Well, I followed you to your door,
and so made sure that I was really an
object of interest to the celebrated Mr.
Sherlock Holmes. Then I, rather imprudently, wished you good-night, and
started for the Temple to see my husband.
“We both thought the best resource
was flight, when pursued by so
formidable an antagonist; so you will
find the nest empty when you call tomorrow. As to the photograph, your
client may rest in peace. I love and am
132
A Scandal in Bohemia
loved by a better man than he. The
King may do what he will without hindrance from one whom he has cruelly
wronged. I keep it only to safeguard
myself, and to preserve a weapon which
will always secure me from any steps
which he might take in the future. I
leave a photograph which he might care
to possess; and I remain, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,
— “Very truly yours,
“Irene Norton, née Adler.”
“I am glad to hear your Majesty say so.”
“I am immensely indebted to you. Pray tell me
in what way I can reward you. This ring—” He
slipped an emerald snake ring from his finger and
held it out upon the palm of his hand.
“Your Majesty has something which I should
value even more highly,” said Holmes.
“You have but to name it.”
“This photograph!”
The King stared at him in amazement.
“Irene’s photograph!” he cried. “Certainly, if
you wish it.”
“What a woman—oh, what a woman!” cried the
King of Bohemia, when we had all three read this
epistle. “Did I not tell you how quick and resolute
she was? Would she not have made an admirable
queen? Is it not a pity that she was not on my
level?”
“From what I have seen of the lady she seems indeed to be on a very different level to your Majesty,”
said Holmes coldly. “I am sorry that I have not been
able to bring your Majesty’s business to a more successful conclusion.”
“On the contrary, my dear sir,” cried the King;
“nothing could be more successful. I know that her
word is inviolate. The photograph is now as safe
as if it were in the fire.”
“I thank your Majesty. Then there is no more to
be done in the matter. I have the honour to wish
you a very good-morning.” He bowed, and, turning
away without observing the hand which the King
had stretched out to him, he set off in my company
for his chambers.
And that was how a great scandal threatened
to affect the kingdom of Bohemia, and how the
best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a
woman’s wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of
late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when
he refers to her photograph, it is always under the
honourable title of the woman.
133
The Red-Headed League
I
The Red-Headed League
had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the autumn of
last year and found him in deep conversation with a very stout, florid-faced, elderly gentleman with fiery red hair. With an apology for my intrusion, I was about to withdraw
when Holmes pulled me abruptly into the room
and closed the door behind me.
whether any positive crime has been committed.
As far as I have heard it is impossible for me to say
whether the present case is an instance of crime or
not, but the course of events is certainly among the
most singular that I have ever listened to. Perhaps,
Mr. Wilson, you would have the great kindness to
recommence your narrative. I ask you not merely
because my friend Dr. Watson has not heard the
opening part but also because the peculiar nature
of the story makes me anxious to have every possible detail from your lips. As a rule, when I have
heard some slight indication of the course of events,
I am able to guide myself by the thousands of other
similar cases which occur to my memory. In the
present instance I am forced to admit that the facts
are, to the best of my belief, unique.”
The portly client puffed out his chest with an
appearance of some little pride and pulled a dirty
and wrinkled newspaper from the inside pocket of
his greatcoat. As he glanced down the advertisement column, with his head thrust forward and the
paper flattened out upon his knee, I took a good
look at the man and endeavoured, after the fashion
of my companion, to read the indications which
might be presented by his dress or appearance.
I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection. Our visitor bore every mark of being
an average commonplace British tradesman, obese,
pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy grey
shepherd’s check trousers, a not over-clean black
frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab
waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain, and a
square pierced bit of metal dangling down as an
ornament. A frayed top-hat and a faded brown
overcoat with a wrinkled velvet collar lay upon a
chair beside him. Altogether, look as I would, there
was nothing remarkable about the man save his
blazing red head, and the expression of extreme
chagrin and discontent upon his features.
Sherlock Holmes’ quick eye took in my occupation, and he shook his head with a smile as he
noticed my questioning glances. “Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual
labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason,
that he has been in China, and that he has done a
considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce
nothing else.”
Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair, with
his forefinger upon the paper, but his eyes upon
my companion.
“How, in the name of good-fortune, did you
know all that, Mr. Holmes?” he asked. “How did
you know, for example, that I did manual labour.
It’s as true as gospel, for I began as a ship’s carpenter.”
“You could not possibly have come at a better
time, my dear Watson,” he said cordially.
“I was afraid that you were engaged.”
“So I am. Very much so.”
“Then I can wait in the next room.”
“Not at all. This gentleman, Mr. Wilson, has
been my partner and helper in many of my most
successful cases, and I have no doubt that he will
be of the utmost use to me in yours also.”
The stout gentleman half rose from his chair
and gave a bob of greeting, with a quick little questioning glance from his small fat-encircled eyes.
“Try the settee,” said Holmes, relapsing into his
armchair and putting his fingertips together, as was
his custom when in judicial moods. “I know, my
dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is
bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum
routine of everyday life. You have shown your relish for it by the enthusiasm which has prompted
you to chronicle, and, if you will excuse my saying
so, somewhat to embellish so many of my own
little adventures.”
“Your cases have indeed been of the greatest
interest to me,” I observed.
“You will remember that I remarked the other
day, just before we went into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary Sutherland, that for
strange effects and extraordinary combinations we
must go to life itself, which is always far more
daring than any effort of the imagination.”
“A proposition which I took the liberty of doubting.”
“You did, Doctor, but none the less you must
come round to my view, for otherwise I shall keep
on piling fact upon fact on you until your reason
breaks down under them and acknowledges me
to be right. Now, Mr. Jabez Wilson here has been
good enough to call upon me this morning, and
to begin a narrative which promises to be one of
the most singular which I have listened to for some
time. You have heard me remark that the strangest
and most unique things are very often connected
not with the larger but with the smaller crimes, and
occasionally, indeed, where there is room for doubt
137
The Red-Headed League
“Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is
quite a size larger than your left. You have worked
with it, and the muscles are more developed.”
“What on earth does this mean?” I ejaculated
after I had twice read over the extraordinary announcement.
Holmes chuckled and wriggled in his chair, as
was his habit when in high spirits. “It is a little off
the beaten track, isn’t it?” said he. “And now, Mr.
Wilson, off you go at scratch and tell us all about
yourself, your household, and the effect which this
advertisement had upon your fortunes. You will
first make a note, Doctor, of the paper and the
date.”
“It is The Morning Chronicle of April 27, 1890.
Just two months ago.”
“Very good. Now, Mr. Wilson?”
“Well, it is just as I have been telling you, Mr.
Sherlock Holmes,” said Jabez Wilson, mopping his
forehead; “I have a small pawnbroker’s business at
Coburg Square, near the City. It’s not a very large
affair, and of late years it has not done more than
just give me a living. I used to be able to keep two
assistants, but now I only keep one; and I would
have a job to pay him but that he is willing to come
for half wages so as to learn the business.”
“What is the name of this obliging youth?”
asked Sherlock Holmes.
“His name is Vincent Spaulding, and he’s not
such a youth, either. It’s hard to say his age. I
should not wish a smarter assistant, Mr. Holmes;
and I know very well that he could better himself
and earn twice what I am able to give him. But,
after all, if he is satisfied, why should I put ideas
in his head?”
“Why, indeed? You seem most fortunate in having an employee who comes under the full market
price. It is not a common experience among employers in this age. I don’t know that your assistant
is not as remarkable as your advertisement.”
“Oh, he has his faults, too,” said Mr. Wilson.
“Never was such a fellow for photography. Snapping away with a camera when he ought to be
improving his mind, and then diving down into
the cellar like a rabbit into its hole to develop his
pictures. That is his main fault, but on the whole
he’s a good worker. There’s no vice in him.”
“He is still with you, I presume?”
“Yes, sir. He and a girl of fourteen, who
does a bit of simple cooking and keeps the place
clean—that’s all I have in the house, for I am a
widower and never had any family. We live very
quietly, sir, the three of us; and we keep a roof
over our heads and pay our debts, if we do nothing
more.
“The first thing that put us out was that advertisement. Spaulding, he came down into the office
“Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?”
“I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you
how I read that, especially as, rather against the
strict rules of your order, you use an arc-andcompass breastpin.”
“Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?”
“What else can be indicated by that right cuff
so very shiny for five inches, and the left one with
the smooth patch near the elbow where you rest it
upon the desk?”
“Well, but China?”
“The fish that you have tattooed immediately
above your right wrist could only have been done
in China. I have made a small study of tattoo marks
and have even contributed to the literature of the
subject. That trick of staining the fishes’ scales of a
delicate pink is quite peculiar to China. When, in
addition, I see a Chinese coin hanging from your
watch-chain, the matter becomes even more simple.”
Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. “Well, I
never!” said he. “I thought at first that you had
done something clever, but I see that there was
nothing in it, after all.”
“I begin to think, Watson,” said Holmes, “that
I make a mistake in explaining. ‘Omne ignotum pro
magnifico,’ you know, and my poor little reputation,
such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid.
Can you not find the advertisement, Mr. Wilson?”
“Yes, I have got it now,” he answered with his
thick red finger planted halfway down the column.
“Here it is. This is what began it all. You just read
it for yourself, sir.”
I took the paper from him and read as follows:
“To the Red-headed League: On account of the bequest of the late Ezekiah
Hopkins, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, U.
S. A., there is now another vacancy open
which entitles a member of the League
to a salary of £4 a week for purely nominal services. All red-headed men who
are sound in body and mind and above
the age of twenty-one years, are eligible. Apply in person on Monday, at
eleven o’clock, to Duncan Ross, at the
offices of the League, 7 Pope’s Court,
Fleet Street.”
138
The Red-Headed League
just this day eight weeks, with this very paper in
his hand, and he says:
London when he was young, and he wanted to do
the old town a good turn. Then, again, I have heard
it is no use your applying if your hair is light red, or
dark red, or anything but real bright, blazing, fiery
red. Now, if you cared to apply, Mr. Wilson, you
would just walk in; but perhaps it would hardly be
worth your while to put yourself out of the way for
the sake of a few hundred pounds.’
“Now, it is a fact, gentlemen, as you may see
for yourselves, that my hair is of a very full and
rich tint, so that it seemed to me that if there was
to be any competition in the matter I stood as good
a chance as any man that I had ever met. Vincent
Spaulding seemed to know so much about it that
I thought he might prove useful, so I just ordered
him to put up the shutters for the day and to come
right away with me. He was very willing to have a
holiday, so we shut the business up and started off
for the address that was given us in the advertisement.
“I never hope to see such a sight as that again,
Mr. Holmes. From north, south, east, and west
every man who had a shade of red in his hair had
tramped into the city to answer the advertisement.
Fleet Street was choked with red-headed folk, and
Pope’s Court looked like a coster’s orange barrow.
I should not have thought there were so many in
the whole country as were brought together by that
single advertisement. Every shade of colour they
were—straw, lemon, orange, brick, Irish-setter, liver,
clay; but, as Spaulding said, there were not many
who had the real vivid flame-coloured tint. When I
saw how many were waiting, I would have given it
up in despair; but Spaulding would not hear of it.
How he did it I could not imagine, but he pushed
and pulled and butted until he got me through the
crowd, and right up to the steps which led to the
office. There was a double stream upon the stair,
some going up in hope, and some coming back
dejected; but we wedged in as well as we could and
soon found ourselves in the office.”
“Your experience has been a most entertaining
one,” remarked Holmes as his client paused and
refreshed his memory with a huge pinch of snuff.
“Pray continue your very interesting statement.”
“There was nothing in the office but a couple
of wooden chairs and a deal table, behind which
sat a small man with a head that was even redder
than mine. He said a few words to each candidate
as he came up, and then he always managed to
find some fault in them which would disqualify
them. Getting a vacancy did not seem to be such
a very easy matter, after all. However, when our
turn came the little man was much more favourable
to me than to any of the others, and he closed the
“ ‘I wish to the Lord, Mr. Wilson, that I was a
red-headed man.’
“ ‘Why that?’ I asks.
“ ‘Why,’ says he, ‘here’s another vacancy on the
League of the Red-headed Men. It’s worth quite
a little fortune to any man who gets it, and I understand that there are more vacancies than there
are men, so that the trustees are at their wits’ end
what to do with the money. If my hair would only
change colour, here’s a nice little crib all ready for
me to step into.’
“ ‘Why, what is it, then?’ I asked. You see, Mr.
Holmes, I am a very stay-at-home man, and as my
business came to me instead of my having to go
to it, I was often weeks on end without putting
my foot over the door-mat. In that way I didn’t
know much of what was going on outside, and I
was always glad of a bit of news.
“ ‘Have you never heard of the League of the
Red-headed Men?’ he asked with his eyes open.
“ ‘Never.’
“ ‘Why, I wonder at that, for you are eligible
yourself for one of the vacancies.’
“ ‘And what are they worth?’ I asked.
“ ‘Oh, merely a couple of hundred a year, but
the work is slight, and it need not interfere very
much with one’s other occupations.’
“Well, you can easily think that that made me
prick up my ears, for the business has not been
over-good for some years, and an extra couple of
hundred would have been very handy.
“ ‘Tell me all about it,’ said I.
“ ‘Well,’ said he, showing me the advertisement,
‘you can see for yourself that the League has a vacancy, and there is the address where you should
apply for particulars. As far as I can make out, the
League was founded by an American millionaire,
Ezekiah Hopkins, who was very peculiar in his
ways. He was himself red-headed, and he had a
great sympathy for all red-headed men; so when
he died it was found that he had left his enormous
fortune in the hands of trustees, with instructions
to apply the interest to the providing of easy berths
to men whose hair is of that colour. From all I hear
it is splendid pay and very little to do.’
“ ‘But,’ said I, ‘there would be millions of redheaded men who would apply.’
“ ‘Not so many as you might think,’ he answered. ‘You see it is really confined to Londoners,
and to grown men. This American had started from
139
The Red-Headed League
door as we entered, so that he might have a private
word with us.
“ ‘What would be the hours?’ I asked.
“ ‘Ten to two.’
“ ‘This is Mr. Jabez Wilson,’ said my assistant,
‘and he is willing to fill a vacancy in the League.’
“Now a pawnbroker’s business is mostly done
of an evening, Mr. Holmes, especially Thursday
and Friday evening, which is just before pay-day;
so it would suit me very well to earn a little in the
mornings. Besides, I knew that my assistant was a
good man, and that he would see to anything that
turned up.
“ ‘And he is admirably suited for it,’ the other
answered. ‘He has every requirement. I cannot
recall when I have seen anything so fine.’ He took
a step backward, cocked his head on one side, and
gazed at my hair until I felt quite bashful. Then
suddenly he plunged forward, wrung my hand,
and congratulated me warmly on my success.
“ ‘That would suit me very well,’ said I. ‘And
the pay?’
“ ‘It would be injustice to hesitate,’ said he. ‘You
will, however, I am sure, excuse me for taking an
obvious precaution.’ With that he seized my hair
in both his hands, and tugged until I yelled with
the pain. ‘There is water in your eyes,’ said he as
he released me. ‘I perceive that all is as it should
be. But we have to be careful, for we have twice
been deceived by wigs and once by paint. I could
tell you tales of cobbler’s wax which would disgust
you with human nature.’ He stepped over to the
window and shouted through it at the top of his
voice that the vacancy was filled. A groan of disappointment came up from below, and the folk all
trooped away in different directions until there was
not a red-head to be seen except my own and that
of the manager.
“ ‘Is £4 a week.’
“ ‘And the work?’
“ ‘Is purely nominal.’
“ ‘What do you call purely nominal?’
“ ‘Well, you have to be in the office, or at least
in the building, the whole time. If you leave, you
forfeit your whole position forever. The will is very
clear upon that point. You don’t comply with the
conditions if you budge from the office during that
time.’
“ ‘It’s only four hours a day, and I should not
think of leaving,’ said I.
“ ‘No excuse will avail,’ said Mr. Duncan Ross;
‘neither sickness nor business nor anything else.
There you must stay, or you lose your billet.’
“ ‘My name,’ said he, ‘is Mr. Duncan Ross, and I
am myself one of the pensioners upon the fund left
by our noble benefactor. Are you a married man,
Mr. Wilson? Have you a family?’
“ ‘And the work?’
“ ‘Is to copy out the “Encyclopaedia Britannica.”
There is the first volume of it in that press. You
must find your own ink, pens, and blotting-paper,
but we provide this table and chair. Will you be
ready to-morrow?’
“I answered that I had not.
“His face fell immediately.
“ ‘Dear me!’ he said gravely, ‘that is very serious
indeed! I am sorry to hear you say that. The fund
was, of course, for the propagation and spread of
the red-heads as well as for their maintenance. It
is exceedingly unfortunate that you should be a
bachelor.’
“ ‘Certainly,’ I answered.
“ ‘Then, good-bye, Mr. Jabez Wilson, and let me
congratulate you once more on the important position which you have been fortunate enough to gain.’
He bowed me out of the room and I went home
with my assistant, hardly knowing what to say or
do, I was so pleased at my own good fortune.
“My face lengthened at this, Mr. Holmes, for I
thought that I was not to have the vacancy after all;
but after thinking it over for a few minutes he said
that it would be all right.
“Well, I thought over the matter all day, and by
evening I was in low spirits again; for I had quite
persuaded myself that the whole affair must be
some great hoax or fraud, though what its object
might be I could not imagine. It seemed altogether
past belief that anyone could make such a will, or
that they would pay such a sum for doing anything so simple as copying out the ‘Encyclopaedia
Britannica.’ Vincent Spaulding did what he could
to cheer me up, but by bedtime I had reasoned
myself out of the whole thing. However, in the
morning I determined to have a look at it anyhow,
“ ‘In the case of another,’ said he, ‘the objection
might be fatal, but we must stretch a point in favour
of a man with such a head of hair as yours. When
shall you be able to enter upon your new duties?’
“ ‘Well, it is a little awkward, for I have a business already,’ said I.
“ ‘Oh, never mind about that, Mr. Wilson!’ said
Vincent Spaulding. ‘I should be able to look after
that for you.’
140
The Red-Headed League
so I bought a penny bottle of ink, and with a quillpen, and seven sheets of foolscap paper, I started
off for Pope’s Court.
“No, no,” cried Holmes, shoving him back into
the chair from which he had half risen. “I really
wouldn’t miss your case for the world. It is most refreshingly unusual. But there is, if you will excuse
my saying so, something just a little funny about it.
Pray what steps did you take when you found the
card upon the door?”
“I was staggered, sir. I did not know what to
do. Then I called at the offices round, but none of
them seemed to know anything about it. Finally, I
went to the landlord, who is an accountant living
on the ground-floor, and I asked him if he could tell
me what had become of the Red-headed League.
He said that he had never heard of any such body.
Then I asked him who Mr. Duncan Ross was. He
answered that the name was new to him.
“ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘the gentleman at No. 4.’
“ ‘What, the red-headed man?’
“ ‘Yes.’
“ ‘Oh,’ said he, ‘his name was William Morris.
He was a solicitor and was using my room as a temporary convenience until his new premises were
ready. He moved out yesterday.’
“ ‘Where could I find him?’
“ ‘Oh, at his new offices. He did tell me the address. Yes, 17 King Edward Street, near St. Paul’s.’
“I started off, Mr. Holmes, but when I got to
that address it was a manufactory of artificial kneecaps, and no one in it had ever heard of either Mr.
William Morris or Mr. Duncan Ross.”
“And what did you do then?” asked Holmes.
“I went home to Saxe-Coburg Square, and I took
the advice of my assistant. But he could not help
me in any way. He could only say that if I waited I
should hear by post. But that was not quite good
enough, Mr. Holmes. I did not wish to lose such
a place without a struggle, so, as I had heard that
you were good enough to give advice to poor folk
who were in need of it, I came right away to you.”
“And you did very wisely,” said Holmes. “Your
case is an exceedingly remarkable one, and I shall
be happy to look into it. From what you have told
me I think that it is possible that graver issues hang
from it than might at first sight appear.”
“Grave enough!” said Mr. Jabez Wilson. “Why,
I have lost four pound a week.”
“As far as you are personally concerned,” remarked Holmes, “I do not see that you have any
grievance against this extraordinary league. On the
contrary, you are, as I understand, richer by some
£30, to say nothing of the minute knowledge which
you have gained on every subject which comes under the letter A. You have lost nothing by them.”
“Well, to my surprise and delight, everything
was as right as possible. The table was set out ready
for me, and Mr. Duncan Ross was there to see that I
got fairly to work. He started me off upon the letter
A, and then he left me; but he would drop in from
time to time to see that all was right with me. At
two o’clock he bade me good-day, complimented
me upon the amount that I had written, and locked
the door of the office after me.
“This went on day after day, Mr. Holmes, and
on Saturday the manager came in and planked
down four golden sovereigns for my week’s work.
It was the same next week, and the same the week
after. Every morning I was there at ten, and every
afternoon I left at two. By degrees Mr. Duncan
Ross took to coming in only once of a morning,
and then, after a time, he did not come in at all.
Still, of course, I never dared to leave the room for
an instant, for I was not sure when he might come,
and the billet was such a good one, and suited me
so well, that I would not risk the loss of it.
“Eight weeks passed away like this, and I had
written about Abbots and Archery and Armour
and Architecture and Attica, and hoped with diligence that I might get on to the B’s before very
long. It cost me something in foolscap, and I had
pretty nearly filled a shelf with my writings. And
then suddenly the whole business came to an end.”
“To an end?”
“Yes, sir. And no later than this morning. I went
to my work as usual at ten o’clock, but the door was
shut and locked, with a little square of cardboard
hammered on to the middle of the panel with a
tack. Here it is, and you can read for yourself.”
He held up a piece of white cardboard about
the size of a sheet of note-paper. It read in this
fashion:
The Red-headed League
is
Dissolved
October 9, 1890.
Sherlock Holmes and I surveyed this curt announcement and the rueful face behind it, until the
comical side of the affair so completely overtopped
every other consideration that we both burst out
into a roar of laughter.
“I cannot see that there is anything very funny,”
cried our client, flushing up to the roots of his flaming head. “If you can do nothing better than laugh
at me, I can go elsewhere.”
141
The Red-Headed League
“No, sir. But I want to find out about them, and
who they are, and what their object was in playing
this prank—if it was a prank—upon me. It was a
pretty expensive joke for them, for it cost them two
and thirty pounds.”
most difficult to identify. But I must be prompt
over this matter.”
“What are you going to do, then?” I asked.
“To smoke,” he answered. “It is quite a three
pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me
for fifty minutes.” He curled himself up in his chair,
with his thin knees drawn up to his hawk-like nose,
and there he sat with his eyes closed and his black
clay pipe thrusting out like the bill of some strange
bird. I had come to the conclusion that he had
dropped asleep, and indeed was nodding myself,
when he suddenly sprang out of his chair with the
gesture of a man who has made up his mind and
put his pipe down upon the mantelpiece.
“Sarasate plays at the St. James’s Hall this afternoon,” he remarked. “What do you think, Watson?
Could your patients spare you for a few hours?”
“I have nothing to do to-day. My practice is
never very absorbing.”
“Then put on your hat and come. I am going
through the City first, and we can have some lunch
on the way. I observe that there is a good deal of
German music on the programme, which is rather
more to my taste than Italian or French. It is introspective, and I want to introspect. Come along!”
We travelled by the Underground as far as
Aldersgate; and a short walk took us to SaxeCoburg Square, the scene of the singular story
which we had listened to in the morning. It was a
poky, little, shabby-genteel place, where four lines
of dingy two-storied brick houses looked out into
a small railed-in enclosure, where a lawn of weedy
grass and a few clumps of faded laurel-bushes
made a hard fight against a smoke-laden and uncongenial atmosphere. Three gilt balls and a brown
board with “Jabez Wilson” in white letters, upon
a corner house, announced the place where our
red-headed client carried on his business. Sherlock Holmes stopped in front of it with his head
on one side and looked it all over, with his eyes
shining brightly between puckered lids. Then he
walked slowly up the street, and then down again
to the corner, still looking keenly at the houses. Finally he returned to the pawnbroker’s, and, having
thumped vigorously upon the pavement with his
stick two or three times, he went up to the door
and knocked. It was instantly opened by a brightlooking, clean-shaven young fellow, who asked him
to step in.
“Thank you,” said Holmes, “I only wished
to ask you how you would go from here to the
Strand.”
“Third right, fourth left,” answered the assistant
promptly, closing the door.
“We shall endeavour to clear up these points for
you. And, first, one or two questions, Mr. Wilson.
This assistant of yours who first called your attention to the advertisement—how long had he been
with you?”
“About a month then.”
“How did he come?”
“In answer to an advertisement.”
“Was he the only applicant?”
“No, I had a dozen.”
“Why did you pick him?”
“Because he was handy and would come
cheap.”
“At half-wages, in fact.”
“Yes.”
“What is he like, this Vincent Spaulding?”
“Small, stout-built, very quick in his ways, no
hair on his face, though he’s not short of thirty. Has
a white splash of acid upon his forehead.”
Holmes sat up in his chair in considerable excitement. “I thought as much,” said he. “Have
you ever observed that his ears are pierced for earrings?”
“Yes, sir. He told me that a gipsy had done it
for him when he was a lad.”
“Hum!” said Holmes, sinking back in deep
thought. “He is still with you?”
“Oh, yes, sir; I have only just left him.”
“And has your business been attended to in
your absence?”
“Nothing to complain of, sir. There’s never very
much to do of a morning.”
“That will do, Mr. Wilson. I shall be happy to
give you an opinion upon the subject in the course
of a day or two. To-day is Saturday, and I hope that
by Monday we may come to a conclusion.”
“Well, Watson,” said Holmes when our visitor
had left us, “what do you make of it all?”
“I make nothing of it,” I answered frankly. “It
is a most mysterious business.”
“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more bizarre a
thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is
your commonplace, featureless crimes which are
really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the
142
The Red-Headed League
“Smart fellow, that,” observed Holmes as we
walked away. “He is, in my judgment, the fourth
smartest man in London, and for daring I am not
sure that he has not a claim to be third. I have
known something of him before.”
time to the music, while his gently smiling face
and his languid, dreamy eyes were as unlike those
of Holmes the sleuth-hound, Holmes the relentless, keen-witted, ready-handed criminal agent, as
it was possible to conceive. In his singular character the dual nature alternately asserted itself, and
his extreme exactness and astuteness represented,
as I have often thought, the reaction against the
poetic and contemplative mood which occasionally predominated in him. The swing of his nature
took him from extreme languor to devouring energy; and, as I knew well, he was never so truly
formidable as when, for days on end, he had been
lounging in his armchair amid his improvisations
and his black-letter editions. Then it was that the
lust of the chase would suddenly come upon him,
and that his brilliant reasoning power would rise
to the level of intuition, until those who were unacquainted with his methods would look askance
at him as on a man whose knowledge was not that
of other mortals. When I saw him that afternoon
so enwrapped in the music at St. James’s Hall I
felt that an evil time might be coming upon those
whom he had set himself to hunt down.
“You want to go home, no doubt, Doctor,” he
remarked as we emerged.
“Yes, it would be as well.”
“And I have some business to do which will
take some hours. This business at Coburg Square
is serious.”
“Why serious?”
“A considerable crime is in contemplation. I
have every reason to believe that we shall be in
time to stop it. But to-day being Saturday rather
complicates matters. I shall want your help tonight.”
“At what time?”
“Ten will be early enough.”
“I shall be at Baker Street at ten.”
“Very well. And, I say, Doctor, there may be
some little danger, so kindly put your army revolver in your pocket.” He waved his hand, turned
on his heel, and disappeared in an instant among
the crowd.
I trust that I am not more dense than my neighbours, but I was always oppressed with a sense
of my own stupidity in my dealings with Sherlock
Holmes. Here I had heard what he had heard, I had
seen what he had seen, and yet from his words it
was evident that he saw clearly not only what had
happened but what was about to happen, while
to me the whole business was still confused and
grotesque. As I drove home to my house in Kensington I thought over it all, from the extraordinary
“Evidently,” said I, “Mr. Wilson’s assistant
counts for a good deal in this mystery of the Redheaded League. I am sure that you inquired your
way merely in order that you might see him.”
“Not him.”
“What then?”
“The knees of his trousers.”
“And what did you see?”
“What I expected to see.”
“Why did you beat the pavement?”
“My dear doctor, this is a time for observation,
not for talk. We are spies in an enemy’s country.
We know something of Saxe-Coburg Square. Let
us now explore the parts which lie behind it.”
The road in which we found ourselves as we
turned round the corner from the retired SaxeCoburg Square presented as great a contrast to
it as the front of a picture does to the back. It was
one of the main arteries which conveyed the traffic
of the City to the north and west. The roadway
was blocked with the immense stream of commerce
flowing in a double tide inward and outward, while
the footpaths were black with the hurrying swarm
of pedestrians. It was difficult to realise as we
looked at the line of fine shops and stately business
premises that they really abutted on the other side
upon the faded and stagnant square which we had
just quitted.
“Let me see,” said Holmes, standing at the corner and glancing along the line, “I should like just
to remember the order of the houses here. It is
a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of
London. There is Mortimer’s, the tobacconist, the
little newspaper shop, the Coburg branch of the
City and Suburban Bank, the Vegetarian Restaurant,
and McFarlane’s carriage-building depot. That carries us right on to the other block. And now, Doctor,
we’ve done our work, so it’s time we had some play.
A sandwich and a cup of coffee, and then off to
violin-land, where all is sweetness and delicacy and
harmony, and there are no red-headed clients to
vex us with their conundrums.”
My friend was an enthusiastic musician, being
himself not only a very capable performer but a
composer of no ordinary merit. All the afternoon
he sat in the stalls wrapped in the most perfect
happiness, gently waving his long, thin fingers in
143
The Red-Headed League
stake will be some £30,000; and for you, Jones, it
will be the man upon whom you wish to lay your
hands.”
story of the red-headed copier of the “Encyclopaedia” down to the visit to Saxe-Coburg Square, and
the ominous words with which he had parted from
me. What was this nocturnal expedition, and why
should I go armed? Where were we going, and
what were we to do? I had the hint from Holmes
that this smooth-faced pawnbroker’s assistant was
a formidable man—a man who might play a deep
game. I tried to puzzle it out, but gave it up in
despair and set the matter aside until night should
bring an explanation.
“John Clay, the murderer, thief, smasher, and
forger. He’s a young man, Mr. Merryweather, but
he is at the head of his profession, and I would
rather have my bracelets on him than on any criminal in London. He’s a remarkable man, is young
John Clay. His grandfather was a royal duke, and
he himself has been to Eton and Oxford. His brain
is as cunning as his fingers, and though we meet
signs of him at every turn, we never know where
to find the man himself. He’ll crack a crib in Scotland one week, and be raising money to build an
orphanage in Cornwall the next. I’ve been on his
track for years and have never set eyes on him yet.”
It was a quarter-past nine when I started from
home and made my way across the Park, and so
through Oxford Street to Baker Street. Two hansoms were standing at the door, and as I entered the
passage I heard the sound of voices from above. On
entering his room I found Holmes in animated conversation with two men, one of whom I recognised
as Peter Jones, the official police agent, while the
other was a long, thin, sad-faced man, with a very
shiny hat and oppressively respectable frock-coat.
“I hope that I may have the pleasure of introducing you to-night. I’ve had one or two little turns
also with Mr. John Clay, and I agree with you that
he is at the head of his profession. It is past ten,
however, and quite time that we started. If you two
will take the first hansom, Watson and I will follow
in the second.”
“Ha! Our party is complete,” said Holmes, buttoning up his pea-jacket and taking his heavy hunting crop from the rack. “Watson, I think you know
Mr. Jones, of Scotland Yard? Let me introduce you
to Mr. Merryweather, who is to be our companion
in to-night’s adventure.”
Sherlock Holmes was not very communicative
during the long drive and lay back in the cab humming the tunes which he had heard in the afternoon.
We rattled through an endless labyrinth of gas-lit
streets until we emerged into Farrington Street.
“We’re hunting in couples again, Doctor, you
see,” said Jones in his consequential way. “Our
friend here is a wonderful man for starting a chase.
All he wants is an old dog to help him to do the
running down.”
“We are close there now,” my friend remarked.
“This fellow Merryweather is a bank director, and
personally interested in the matter. I thought it as
well to have Jones with us also. He is not a bad
fellow, though an absolute imbecile in his profession. He has one positive virtue. He is as brave as
a bulldog and as tenacious as a lobster if he gets
his claws upon anyone. Here we are, and they are
waiting for us.”
“I hope a wild goose may not prove to be the
end of our chase,” observed Mr. Merryweather
gloomily.
“You may place considerable confidence in Mr.
Holmes, sir,” said the police agent loftily. “He has
his own little methods, which are, if he won’t mind
my saying so, just a little too theoretical and fantastic, but he has the makings of a detective in him.
It is not too much to say that once or twice, as in
that business of the Sholto murder and the Agra
treasure, he has been more nearly correct than the
official force.”
We had reached the same crowded thoroughfare in which we had found ourselves in the morning. Our cabs were dismissed, and, following the
guidance of Mr. Merryweather, we passed down a
narrow passage and through a side door, which he
opened for us. Within there was a small corridor,
which ended in a very massive iron gate. This also
was opened, and led down a flight of winding stone
steps, which terminated at another formidable gate.
Mr. Merryweather stopped to light a lantern, and
then conducted us down a dark, earth-smelling
passage, and so, after opening a third door, into
a huge vault or cellar, which was piled all round
with crates and massive boxes.
“Oh, if you say so, Mr. Jones, it is all right,”
said the stranger with deference. “Still, I confess
that I miss my rubber. It is the first Saturday night
for seven-and-twenty years that I have not had my
rubber.”
“I think you will find,” said Sherlock Holmes,
“that you will play for a higher stake to-night than
you have ever done yet, and that the play will be
more exciting. For you, Mr. Merryweather, the
“You are not very vulnerable from above,”
Holmes remarked as he held up the lantern and
gazed about him.
144
The Red-Headed League
“Nor from below,” said Mr. Merryweather, striking his stick upon the flags which lined the floor.
“Why, dear me, it sounds quite hollow!” he remarked, looking up in surprise.
see that the enemy’s preparations have gone so far
that we cannot risk the presence of a light. And,
first of all, we must choose our positions. These are
daring men, and though we shall take them at a disadvantage, they may do us some harm unless we
are careful. I shall stand behind this crate, and do
you conceal yourselves behind those. Then, when
I flash a light upon them, close in swiftly. If they
fire, Watson, have no compunction about shooting
them down.”
“I must really ask you to be a little more quiet!”
said Holmes severely. “You have already imperilled
the whole success of our expedition. Might I beg
that you would have the goodness to sit down upon
one of those boxes, and not to interfere?”
The solemn Mr. Merryweather perched himself
upon a crate, with a very injured expression upon
his face, while Holmes fell upon his knees upon the
floor and, with the lantern and a magnifying lens,
began to examine minutely the cracks between the
stones. A few seconds sufficed to satisfy him, for
he sprang to his feet again and put his glass in his
pocket.
I placed my revolver, cocked, upon the top of
the wooden case behind which I crouched. Holmes
shot the slide across the front of his lantern and left
us in pitch darkness—such an absolute darkness
as I have never before experienced. The smell of
hot metal remained to assure us that the light was
still there, ready to flash out at a moment’s notice.
To me, with my nerves worked up to a pitch of
expectancy, there was something depressing and
subduing in the sudden gloom, and in the cold
dank air of the vault.
“We have at least an hour before us,” he remarked, “for they can hardly take any steps until
the good pawnbroker is safely in bed. Then they
will not lose a minute, for the sooner they do their
work the longer time they will have for their escape.
We are at present, Doctor—as no doubt you have
divined—in the cellar of the City branch of one of
the principal London banks. Mr. Merryweather is
the chairman of directors, and he will explain to
you that there are reasons why the more daring
criminals of London should take a considerable
interest in this cellar at present.”
“They have but one retreat,” whispered Holmes.
“That is back through the house into Saxe-Coburg
Square. I hope that you have done what I asked
you, Jones?”
“I have an inspector and two officers waiting at
the front door.”
“Then we have stopped all the holes. And now
we must be silent and wait.”
“It is our French gold,” whispered the director. “We have had several warnings that an attempt
might be made upon it.”
What a time it seemed! From comparing notes
afterwards it was but an hour and a quarter, yet it
appeared to me that the night must have almost
gone and the dawn be breaking above us. My limbs
were weary and stiff, for I feared to change my position; yet my nerves were worked up to the highest
pitch of tension, and my hearing was so acute that
I could not only hear the gentle breathing of my
companions, but I could distinguish the deeper,
heavier in-breath of the bulky Jones from the thin,
sighing note of the bank director. From my position
I could look over the case in the direction of the
floor. Suddenly my eyes caught the glint of a light.
“Your French gold?”
“Yes. We had occasion some months ago to
strengthen our resources and borrowed for that
purpose 30,000 napoleons from the Bank of France.
It has become known that we have never had occasion to unpack the money, and that it is still lying in
our cellar. The crate upon which I sit contains 2,000
napoleons packed between layers of lead foil. Our
reserve of bullion is much larger at present than
is usually kept in a single branch office, and the
directors have had misgivings upon the subject.”
At first it was but a lurid spark upon the stone
pavement. Then it lengthened out until it became
a yellow line, and then, without any warning or
sound, a gash seemed to open and a hand appeared,
a white, almost womanly hand, which felt about in
the centre of the little area of light. For a minute
or more the hand, with its writhing fingers, protruded out of the floor. Then it was withdrawn as
suddenly as it appeared, and all was dark again
save the single lurid spark which marked a chink
between the stones.
“Which were very well justified,” observed
Holmes. “And now it is time that we arranged
our little plans. I expect that within an hour matters will come to a head. In the meantime Mr.
Merryweather, we must put the screen over that
dark lantern.”
“And sit in the dark?”
“I am afraid so. I had brought a pack of cards in
my pocket, and I thought that, as we were a partie
carrée, you might have your rubber after all. But I
145
The Red-Headed League
Its disappearance, however, was but momentary.
With a rending, tearing sound, one of the broad,
white stones turned over upon its side and left a
square, gaping hole, through which streamed the
light of a lantern. Over the edge there peeped a
clean-cut, boyish face, which looked keenly about it,
and then, with a hand on either side of the aperture,
drew itself shoulder-high and waist-high, until one
knee rested upon the edge. In another instant he
stood at the side of the hole and was hauling after
him a companion, lithe and small like himself, with
a pale face and a shock of very red hair.
is no doubt that you have detected and defeated
in the most complete manner one of the most determined attempts at bank robbery that have ever
come within my experience.”
“I have had one or two little scores of my own
to settle with Mr. John Clay,” said Holmes. “I have
been at some small expense over this matter, which
I shall expect the bank to refund, but beyond that
I am amply repaid by having had an experience
which is in many ways unique, and by hearing
the very remarkable narrative of the Red-headed
League.”
“You see, Watson,” he explained in the early
hours of the morning as we sat over a glass of
whisky and soda in Baker Street, “it was perfectly
obvious from the first that the only possible object
of this rather fantastic business of the advertisement
of the League, and the copying of the ‘Encyclopaedia,’ must be to get this not over-bright pawnbroker
out of the way for a number of hours every day.
It was a curious way of managing it, but, really, it
would be difficult to suggest a better. The method
was no doubt suggested to Clay’s ingenious mind
by the colour of his accomplice’s hair. The £4 a
week was a lure which must draw him, and what
was it to them, who were playing for thousands?
They put in the advertisement, one rogue has the
temporary office, the other rogue incites the man
to apply for it, and together they manage to secure
his absence every morning in the week. From the
time that I heard of the assistant having come for
half wages, it was obvious to me that he had some
strong motive for securing the situation.”
“But how could you guess what the motive
was?”
“Had there been women in the house, I should
have suspected a mere vulgar intrigue. That, however, was out of the question. The man’s business
was a small one, and there was nothing in his house
which could account for such elaborate preparations, and such an expenditure as they were at. It
must, then, be something out of the house. What
could it be? I thought of the assistant’s fondness
for photography, and his trick of vanishing into the
cellar. The cellar! There was the end of this tangled
clue. Then I made inquiries as to this mysterious
assistant and found that I had to deal with one of
the coolest and most daring criminals in London.
He was doing something in the cellar—something
which took many hours a day for months on end.
What could it be, once more? I could think of nothing save that he was running a tunnel to some other
building.
“So far I had got when we went to visit the
scene of action. I surprised you by beating upon
“It’s all clear,” he whispered. “Have you the
chisel and the bags? Great Scott! Jump, Archie,
jump, and I’ll swing for it!”
Sherlock Holmes had sprung out and seized
the intruder by the collar. The other dived down
the hole, and I heard the sound of rending cloth
as Jones clutched at his skirts. The light flashed
upon the barrel of a revolver, but Holmes’ hunting
crop came down on the man’s wrist, and the pistol
clinked upon the stone floor.
“It’s no use, John Clay,” said Holmes blandly.
“You have no chance at all.”
“So I see,” the other answered with the utmost
coolness. “I fancy that my pal is all right, though I
see you have got his coat-tails.”
“There are three men waiting for him at the
door,” said Holmes.
“Oh, indeed! You seem to have done the thing
very completely. I must compliment you.”
“And I you,” Holmes answered. “Your redheaded idea was very new and effective.”
“You’ll see your pal again presently,” said Jones.
“He’s quicker at climbing down holes than I am.
Just hold out while I fix the derbies.”
“I beg that you will not touch me with your
filthy hands,” remarked our prisoner as the handcuffs clattered upon his wrists. “You may not be
aware that I have royal blood in my veins. Have
the goodness, also, when you address me always
to say ‘sir’ and ‘please.’ ”
“All right,” said Jones with a stare and a snigger. “Well, would you please, sir, march upstairs,
where we can get a cab to carry your Highness to
the police-station?”
“That is better,” said John Clay serenely. He
made a sweeping bow to the three of us and walked
quietly off in the custody of the detective.
“Really, Mr. Holmes,” said Mr. Merryweather as
we followed them from the cellar, “I do not know
how the bank can thank you or repay you. There
146
The Red-Headed League
the pavement with my stick. I was ascertaining
whether the cellar stretched out in front or behind.
It was not in front. Then I rang the bell, and, as
I hoped, the assistant answered it. We have had
some skirmishes, but we had never set eyes upon
each other before. I hardly looked at his face. His
knees were what I wished to see. You must yourself
have remarked how worn, wrinkled, and stained
they were. They spoke of those hours of burrowing. The only remaining point was what they were
burrowing for. I walked round the corner, saw the
City and Suburban Bank abutted on our friend’s
premises, and felt that I had solved my problem.
When you drove home after the concert I called
upon Scotland Yard and upon the chairman of the
bank directors, with the result that you have seen.”
Jabez Wilson’s presence—in other words, that they
had completed their tunnel. But it was essential
that they should use it soon, as it might be discovered, or the bullion might be removed. Saturday
would suit them better than any other day, as it
would give them two days for their escape. For all
these reasons I expected them to come to-night.”
“You reasoned it out beautifully,” I exclaimed
in unfeigned admiration. “It is so long a chain, and
yet every link rings true.”
“It saved me from ennui,” he answered, yawning. “Alas! I already feel it closing in upon me. My
life is spent in one long effort to escape from the
commonplaces of existence. These little problems
help me to do so.”
“And you are a benefactor of the race,” said I.
“And how could you tell that they would make
their attempt to-night?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Well, perhaps,
after all, it is of some little use,” he remarked.
“ ‘L’homme c’est rien—l’oeuvre c’est tout,’ as Gustave
Flaubert wrote to George Sand.”
“Well, when they closed their League offices
that was a sign that they cared no longer about Mr.
147
A Case of Identity
M
A Case of Identity
y dear fellow,” said Sherlock Holmes as
we sat on either side of the fire in his
lodgings at Baker Street, “life is infinitely
stranger than anything which the mind
of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive
the things which are really mere commonplaces of
existence. If we could fly out of that window hand
in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove
the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are
going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings,
the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events,
working through generations, and leading to the
most outré results, it would make all fiction with
its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most
stale and unprofitable.”
occur to the imagination of the average story-teller.
Take a pinch of snuff, Doctor, and acknowledge
that I have scored over you in your example.”
He held out his snuffbox of old gold, with a
great amethyst in the centre of the lid. Its splendour was in such contrast to his homely ways and
simple life that I could not help commenting upon
it.
“Ah,” said he, “I forgot that I had not seen you
for some weeks. It is a little souvenir from the King
of Bohemia in return for my assistance in the case
of the Irene Adler papers.”
“And the ring?” I asked, glancing at a remarkable brilliant which sparkled upon his finger.
“It was from the reigning family of Holland,
though the matter in which I served them was of
such delicacy that I cannot confide it even to you,
who have been good enough to chronicle one or
two of my little problems.”
“And have you any on hand just now?” I asked
with interest.
“Some ten or twelve, but none which present
any feature of interest. They are important, you
understand, without being interesting. Indeed, I
have found that it is usually in unimportant matters that there is a field for the observation, and for
the quick analysis of cause and effect which gives
the charm to an investigation. The larger crimes
are apt to be the simpler, for the bigger the crime
the more obvious, as a rule, is the motive. In these
cases, save for one rather intricate matter which
has been referred to me from Marseilles, there is
nothing which presents any features of interest. It
is possible, however, that I may have something
better before very many minutes are over, for this
is one of my clients, or I am much mistaken.”
He had risen from his chair and was standing
between the parted blinds gazing down into the
dull neutral-tinted London street. Looking over
his shoulder, I saw that on the pavement opposite
there stood a large woman with a heavy fur boa
round her neck, and a large curling red feather in
a broad-brimmed hat which was tilted in a coquettish Duchess of Devonshire fashion over her ear.
From under this great panoply she peeped up in a
nervous, hesitating fashion at our windows, while
her body oscillated backward and forward, and her
fingers fidgeted with her glove buttons. Suddenly,
with a plunge, as of the swimmer who leaves the
bank, she hurried across the road, and we heard
the sharp clang of the bell.
“I have seen those symptoms before,” said
Holmes, throwing his cigarette into the fire. “Oscillation upon the pavement always means an affaire
“And yet I am not convinced of it,” I answered.
“The cases which come to light in the papers are, as
a rule, bald enough, and vulgar enough. We have
in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme
limits, and yet the result is, it must be confessed,
neither fascinating nor artistic.”
“A certain selection and discretion must be used
in producing a realistic effect,” remarked Holmes.
“This is wanting in the police report, where more
stress is laid, perhaps, upon the platitudes of the
magistrate than upon the details, which to an observer contain the vital essence of the whole matter.
Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as
the commonplace.”
I smiled and shook my head. “I can quite understand your thinking so.” I said. “Of course, in
your position of unofficial adviser and helper to
everybody who is absolutely puzzled, throughout
three continents, you are brought in contact with
all that is strange and bizarre. But here”—I picked
up the morning paper from the ground—“let us
put it to a practical test. Here is the first heading
upon which I come. ‘A husband’s cruelty to his
wife.’ There is half a column of print, but I know
without reading it that it is all perfectly familiar to
me. There is, of course, the other woman, the drink,
the push, the blow, the bruise, the sympathetic sister or landlady. The crudest of writers could invent
nothing more crude.”
“Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one
for your argument,” said Holmes, taking the paper
and glancing his eye down it. “This is the Dundas
separation case, and, as it happens, I was engaged
in clearing up some small points in connection with
it. The husband was a teetotaler, there was no other
woman, and the conduct complained of was that he
had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal
by taking out his false teeth and hurling them at his
wife, which, you will allow, is not an action likely to
151
A Case of Identity
de coeur. She would like advice, but is not sure that
the matter is not too delicate for communication.
And yet even here we may discriminate. When a
woman has been seriously wronged by a man she
no longer oscillates, and the usual symptom is a
broken bell wire. Here we may take it that there is
a love matter, but that the maiden is not so much
angry as perplexed, or grieved. But here she comes
in person to resolve our doubts.”
“Your father,” said Holmes, “your stepfather,
surely, since the name is different.”
“Yes, my stepfather. I call him father, though it
sounds funny, too, for he is only five years and two
months older than myself.”
“And your mother is alive?”
“Oh, yes, mother is alive and well. I wasn’t
best pleased, Mr. Holmes, when she married again
so soon after father’s death, and a man who was
nearly fifteen years younger than herself. Father
was a plumber in the Tottenham Court Road, and
he left a tidy business behind him, which mother
carried on with Mr. Hardy, the foreman; but when
Mr. Windibank came he made her sell the business,
for he was very superior, being a traveller in wines.
They got £4700 for the goodwill and interest, which
wasn’t near as much as father could have got if he
had been alive.”
I had expected to see Sherlock Holmes impatient under this rambling and inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary, he had listened with
the greatest concentration of attention.
“Your own little income,” he asked, “does it
come out of the business?”
“Oh, no, sir. It is quite separate and was left
me by my uncle Ned in Auckland. It is in New
Zealand stock, paying 41/2 per cent. Two thousand
five hundred pounds was the amount, but I can
only touch the interest.”
“You interest me extremely,” said Holmes.
“And since you draw so large a sum as a hundred
a year, with what you earn into the bargain, you no
doubt travel a little and indulge yourself in every
way. I believe that a single lady can get on very
nicely upon an income of about £60.”
“I could do with much less than that, Mr.
Holmes, but you understand that as long as I live
at home I don’t wish to be a burden to them, and
so they have the use of the money just while I am
staying with them. Of course, that is only just for
the time. Mr. Windibank draws my interest every
quarter and pays it over to mother, and I find that I
can do pretty well with what I earn at typewriting.
It brings me twopence a sheet, and I can often do
from fifteen to twenty sheets in a day.”
“You have made your position very clear to me,”
said Holmes. “This is my friend, Dr. Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as before myself.
Kindly tell us now all about your connection with
Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
A flush stole over Miss Sutherland’s face, and
she picked nervously at the fringe of her jacket.
“I met him first at the gasfitters’ ball,” she said.
“They used to send father tickets when he was alive,
As he spoke there was a tap at the door, and
the boy in buttons entered to announce Miss Mary
Sutherland, while the lady herself loomed behind
his small black figure like a full-sailed merchantman behind a tiny pilot boat. Sherlock Holmes
welcomed her with the easy courtesy for which he
was remarkable, and, having closed the door and
bowed her into an armchair, he looked her over in
the minute and yet abstracted fashion which was
peculiar to him.
“Do you not find,” he said, “that with your short
sight it is a little trying to do so much typewriting?”
“I did at first,” she answered, “but now I know
where the letters are without looking.” Then, suddenly realising the full purport of his words, she
gave a violent start and looked up, with fear and astonishment upon her broad, good-humoured face.
“You’ve heard about me, Mr. Holmes,” she cried,
“else how could you know all that?”
“Never mind,” said Holmes, laughing; “it is my
business to know things. Perhaps I have trained
myself to see what others overlook. If not, why
should you come to consult me?”
“I came to you, sir, because I heard of you from
Mrs. Etherege, whose husband you found so easy
when the police and everyone had given him up
for dead. Oh, Mr. Holmes, I wish you would do
as much for me. I’m not rich, but still I have a
hundred a year in my own right, besides the little
that I make by the machine, and I would give it all
to know what has become of Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
“Why did you come away to consult me in such
a hurry?” asked Sherlock Holmes, with his fingertips together and his eyes to the ceiling.
Again a startled look came over the somewhat
vacuous face of Miss Mary Sutherland. “Yes,
I did bang out of the house,” she said, “for it
made me angry to see the easy way in which Mr.
Windibank—that is, my father—took it all. He
would not go to the police, and he would not go
to you, and so at last, as he would do nothing and
kept on saying that there was no harm done, it
made me mad, and I just on with my things and
came right away to you.”
152
A Case of Identity
and then afterwards they remembered us, and sent
them to mother. Mr. Windibank did not wish us
to go. He never did wish us to go anywhere. He
would get quite mad if I wanted so much as to join
a Sunday-school treat. But this time I was set on
going, and I would go; for what right had he to
prevent? He said the folk were not fit for us to
know, when all father’s friends were to be there.
And he said that I had nothing fit to wear, when I
had my purple plush that I had never so much as
taken out of the drawer. At last, when nothing else
would do, he went off to France upon the business
of the firm, but we went, mother and I, with Mr.
Hardy, who used to be our foreman, and it was
there I met Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
“What office?”
“That’s the worst of it, Mr. Holmes, I don’t
know.”
“Where did he live, then?”
“He slept on the premises.”
“And you don’t know his address?”
“No—except that it was Leadenhall Street.”
“Where did you address your letters, then?”
“To the Leadenhall Street Post Office, to be left
till called for. He said that if they were sent to the
office he would be chaffed by all the other clerks
about having letters from a lady, so I offered to
typewrite them, like he did his, but he wouldn’t
have that, for he said that when I wrote them they
seemed to come from me, but when they were typewritten he always felt that the machine had come
between us. That will just show you how fond he
was of me, Mr. Holmes, and the little things that he
would think of.”
“It was most suggestive,” said Holmes. “It has
long been an axiom of mine that the little things are
infinitely the most important. Can you remember
any other little things about Mr. Hosmer Angel?”
“He was a very shy man, Mr. Holmes. He would
rather walk with me in the evening than in the daylight, for he said that he hated to be conspicuous.
Very retiring and gentlemanly he was. Even his
voice was gentle. He’d had the quinsy and swollen
glands when he was young, he told me, and it
had left him with a weak throat, and a hesitating,
whispering fashion of speech. He was always well
dressed, very neat and plain, but his eyes were
weak, just as mine are, and he wore tinted glasses
against the glare.”
“Well, and what happened when Mr.
Windibank, your stepfather, returned to France?”
“Mr. Hosmer Angel came to the house again
and proposed that we should marry before father
came back. He was in dreadful earnest and made
me swear, with my hands on the Testament, that
whatever happened I would always be true to him.
Mother said he was quite right to make me swear,
and that it was a sign of his passion. Mother was
all in his favour from the first and was even fonder
of him than I was. Then, when they talked of marrying within the week, I began to ask about father;
but they both said never to mind about father, but
just to tell him afterwards, and mother said she
would make it all right with him. I didn’t quite like
that, Mr. Holmes. It seemed funny that I should
ask his leave, as he was only a few years older than
me; but I didn’t want to do anything on the sly, so
I wrote to father at Bordeaux, where the company
“I suppose,” said Holmes, “that when Mr.
Windibank came back from France he was very
annoyed at your having gone to the ball.”
“Oh, well, he was very good about it. He
laughed, I remember, and shrugged his shoulders,
and said there was no use denying anything to a
woman, for she would have her way.”
“I see. Then at the gasfitters’ ball you met, as
I understand, a gentleman called Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
“Yes, sir. I met him that night, and he called
next day to ask if we had got home all safe, and
after that we met him—that is to say, Mr. Holmes, I
met him twice for walks, but after that father came
back again, and Mr. Hosmer Angel could not come
to the house any more.”
“No?”
“Well, you know father didn’t like anything of
the sort. He wouldn’t have any visitors if he could
help it, and he used to say that a woman should be
happy in her own family circle. But then, as I used
to say to mother, a woman wants her own circle to
begin with, and I had not got mine yet.”
“But how about Mr. Hosmer Angel? Did he
make no attempt to see you?”
“Well, father was going off to France again in
a week, and Hosmer wrote and said that it would
be safer and better not to see each other until he
had gone. We could write in the meantime, and he
used to write every day. I took the letters in in the
morning, so there was no need for father to know.”
“Were you engaged to the gentleman at this
time?”
“Oh, yes, Mr. Holmes. We were engaged after the first walk that we took. Hosmer—Mr.
Angel—was a cashier in an office in Leadenhall
Street—and—”
153
A Case of Identity
has its French offices, but the letter came back to
me on the very morning of the wedding.”
Hosmer again. As he said, what interest could anyone have in bringing me to the doors of the church,
and then leaving me? Now, if he had borrowed
my money, or if he had married me and got my
money settled on him, there might be some reason,
but Hosmer was very independent about money
and never would look at a shilling of mine. And
yet, what could have happened? And why could
he not write? Oh, it drives me half-mad to think
of it, and I can’t sleep a wink at night.” She pulled
a little handkerchief out of her muff and began to
sob heavily into it.
“I shall glance into the case for you,” said
Holmes, rising, “and I have no doubt that we shall
reach some definite result. Let the weight of the
matter rest upon me now, and do not let your mind
dwell upon it further. Above all, try to let Mr. Hosmer Angel vanish from your memory, as he has
done from your life.”
“Then you don’t think I’ll see him again?”
“I fear not.”
“Then what has happened to him?”
“You will leave that question in my hands. I
should like an accurate description of him and any
letters of his which you can spare.”
“I advertised for him in last Saturday’s Chronicle,” said she. “Here is the slip and here are four
letters from him.”
“Thank you. And your address?”
“No. 31 Lyon Place, Camberwell.”
“Mr. Angel’s address you never had, I understand. Where is your father’s place of business?”
“He travels for Westhouse & Marbank, the great
claret importers of Fenchurch Street.”
“Thank you. You have made your statement
very clearly. You will leave the papers here, and
remember the advice which I have given you. Let
the whole incident be a sealed book, and do not
allow it to affect your life.”
“You are very kind, Mr. Holmes, but I cannot
do that. I shall be true to Hosmer. He shall find me
ready when he comes back.”
For all the preposterous hat and the vacuous
face, there was something noble in the simple faith
of our visitor which compelled our respect. She laid
her little bundle of papers upon the table and went
her way, with a promise to come again whenever
she might be summoned.
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for a few minutes
with his fingertips still pressed together, his legs
stretched out in front of him, and his gaze directed
upward to the ceiling. Then he took down from the
rack the old and oily clay pipe, which was to him as
a counsellor, and, having lit it, he leaned back in his
“It missed him, then?”
“Yes, sir; for he had started to England just
before it arrived.”
“Ha! that was unfortunate. Your wedding was
arranged, then, for the Friday. Was it to be in
church?”
“Yes, sir, but very quietly. It was to be at St.
Saviour’s, near King’s Cross, and we were to have
breakfast afterwards at the St. Pancras Hotel. Hosmer came for us in a hansom, but as there were two
of us he put us both into it and stepped himself
into a four-wheeler, which happened to be the only
other cab in the street. We got to the church first,
and when the four-wheeler drove up we waited for
him to step out, but he never did, and when the
cabman got down from the box and looked there
was no one there! The cabman said that he could
not imagine what had become of him, for he had
seen him get in with his own eyes. That was last
Friday, Mr. Holmes, and I have never seen or heard
anything since then to throw any light upon what
became of him.”
“It seems to me that you have been very shamefully treated,” said Holmes.
“Oh, no, sir! He was too good and kind to leave
me so. Why, all the morning he was saying to me
that, whatever happened, I was to be true; and
that even if something quite unforeseen occurred
to separate us, I was always to remember that I
was pledged to him, and that he would claim his
pledge sooner or later. It seemed strange talk for
a wedding-morning, but what has happened since
gives a meaning to it.”
“Most certainly it does. Your own opinion is,
then, that some unforeseen catastrophe has occurred to him?”
“Yes, sir. I believe that he foresaw some danger,
or else he would not have talked so. And then I
think that what he foresaw happened.”
“But you have no notion as to what it could
have been?”
“None.”
“One more question. How did your mother
take the matter?”
“She was angry, and said that I was never to
speak of the matter again.”
“And your father? Did you tell him?”
“Yes; and he seemed to think, with me, that
something had happened, and that I should hear of
154
A Case of Identity
chair, with the thick blue cloud-wreaths spinning
up from him, and a look of infinite languor in his
face.
a remark upon short sight and typewriting, which
seemed to surprise her.”
“Quite an interesting study, that maiden,” he
observed. “I found her more interesting than her
little problem, which, by the way, is rather a trite
one. You will find parallel cases, if you consult my
index, in Andover in ’77, and there was something
of the sort at The Hague last year. Old as is the
idea, however, there were one or two details which
were new to me. But the maiden herself was most
instructive.”
“But, surely, it was obvious. I was then much
surprised and interested on glancing down to observe that, though the boots which she was wearing
were not unlike each other, they were really odd
ones; the one having a slightly decorated toe-cap,
and the other a plain one. One was buttoned only
in the two lower buttons out of five, and the other
at the first, third, and fifth. Now, when you see that
a young lady, otherwise neatly dressed, has come
away from home with odd boots, half-buttoned, it
is no great deduction to say that she came away in
a hurry.”
“It surprised me.”
“You appeared to read a good deal upon her
which was quite invisible to me,” I remarked.
“Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson. You did
not know where to look, and so you missed all
that was important. I can never bring you to realise the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness
of thumb-nails, or the great issues that may hang
from a boot-lace. Now, what did you gather from
that woman’s appearance? Describe it.”
“And what else?” I asked, keenly interested, as
I always was, by my friend’s incisive reasoning.
“I noted, in passing, that she had written a note
before leaving home but after being fully dressed.
You observed that her right glove was torn at the
forefinger, but you did not apparently see that both
glove and finger were stained with violet ink. She
had written in a hurry and dipped her pen too
deep. It must have been this morning, or the mark
would not remain clear upon the finger. All this is
amusing, though rather elementary, but I must go
back to business, Watson. Would you mind reading me the advertised description of Mr. Hosmer
Angel?”
“Well, she had a slate-coloured, broad-brimmed
straw hat, with a feather of a brickish red. Her
jacket was black, with black beads sewn upon it,
and a fringe of little black jet ornaments. Her dress
was brown, rather darker than coffee colour, with
a little purple plush at the neck and sleeves. Her
gloves were greyish and were worn through at the
right forefinger. Her boots I didn’t observe. She
had small round, hanging gold earrings, and a
general air of being fairly well-to-do in a vulgar,
comfortable, easy-going way.”
I held the little printed slip to the light.
“Missing,” it said, “on the morning
of the fourteenth, a gentleman named
Hosmer Angel. About five ft. seven in.
in height; strongly built, sallow complexion, black hair, a little bald in the
centre, bushy, black side-whiskers and
moustache; tinted glasses, slight infirmity of speech. Was dressed, when
last seen, in black frock-coat faced with
silk, black waistcoat, gold Albert chain,
and grey Harris tweed trousers, with
brown gaiters over elastic-sided boots.
Known to have been employed in an
office in Leadenhall Street. Anybody
bringing—”
Sherlock Holmes clapped his hands softly together and chuckled.
“’Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along
wonderfully. You have really done very well indeed. It is true that you have missed everything
of importance, but you have hit upon the method,
and you have a quick eye for colour. Never trust
to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate
yourself upon details. My first glance is always at
a woman’s sleeve. In a man it is perhaps better
first to take the knee of the trouser. As you observe,
this woman had plush upon her sleeves, which
is a most useful material for showing traces. The
double line a little above the wrist, where the typewritist presses against the table, was beautifully
defined. The sewing-machine, of the hand type,
leaves a similar mark, but only on the left arm, and
on the side of it farthest from the thumb, instead
of being right across the broadest part, as this was.
I then glanced at her face, and, observing the dint
of a pince-nez at either side of her nose, I ventured
“That will do,” said Holmes. “As to the letters,”
he continued, glancing over them, “they are very
commonplace. Absolutely no clue in them to Mr.
Angel, save that he quotes Balzac once. There is one
remarkable point, however, which will no doubt
strike you.”
“They are typewritten,” I remarked.
155
A Case of Identity
“Not only that, but the signature is typewritten.
Look at the neat little ‘Hosmer Angel’ at the bottom.
There is a date, you see, but no superscription except Leadenhall Street, which is rather vague. The
point about the signature is very suggestive—in
fact, we may call it conclusive.”
spent his day in the chemical work which was so
dear to him.
“Well, have you solved it?” I asked as I entered.
“Yes. It was the bisulphate of baryta.”
“No, no, the mystery!” I cried.
“Oh, that! I thought of the salt that I have been
working upon. There was never any mystery in
the matter, though, as I said yesterday, some of the
details are of interest. The only drawback is that
there is no law, I fear, that can touch the scoundrel.”
“Who was he, then, and what was his object in
deserting Miss Sutherland?”
The question was hardly out of my mouth, and
Holmes had not yet opened his lips to reply, when
we heard a heavy footfall in the passage and a tap
at the door.
“This is the girl’s stepfather, Mr. James
Windibank,” said Holmes. “He has written to me
to say that he would be here at six. Come in!”
The man who entered was a sturdy, middlesized fellow, some thirty years of age, clean-shaven,
and sallow-skinned, with a bland, insinuating manner, and a pair of wonderfully sharp and penetrating grey eyes. He shot a questioning glance at each
of us, placed his shiny top-hat upon the sideboard,
and with a slight bow sidled down into the nearest
chair.
“Good-evening, Mr. James Windibank,” said
Holmes. “I think that this typewritten letter is from
you, in which you made an appointment with me
for six o’clock?”
“Yes, sir. I am afraid that I am a little late, but I
am not quite my own master, you know. I am sorry
that Miss Sutherland has troubled you about this
little matter, for I think it is far better not to wash
linen of the sort in public. It was quite against my
wishes that she came, but she is a very excitable,
impulsive girl, as you may have noticed, and she
is not easily controlled when she has made up her
mind on a point. Of course, I did not mind you
so much, as you are not connected with the official police, but it is not pleasant to have a family
misfortune like this noised abroad. Besides, it is a
useless expense, for how could you possibly find
this Hosmer Angel?”
“On the contrary,” said Holmes quietly; “I have
every reason to believe that I will succeed in discovering Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
Mr. Windibank gave a violent start and dropped
his gloves. “I am delighted to hear it,” he said.
“It is a curious thing,” remarked Holmes, “that
a typewriter has really quite as much individuality
as a man’s handwriting. Unless they are quite new,
no two of them write exactly alike. Some letters get
“Of what?”
“My dear fellow, is it possible you do not see
how strongly it bears upon the case?”
“I cannot say that I do unless it were that he
wished to be able to deny his signature if an action
for breach of promise were instituted.”
“No, that was not the point. However, I shall
write two letters, which should settle the matter.
One is to a firm in the City, the other is to the
young lady’s stepfather, Mr. Windibank, asking
him whether he could meet us here at six o’clock
tomorrow evening. It is just as well that we should
do business with the male relatives. And now, Doctor, we can do nothing until the answers to those
letters come, so we may put our little problem upon
the shelf for the interim.”
I had had so many reasons to believe in my
friend’s subtle powers of reasoning and extraordinary energy in action that I felt that he must have
some solid grounds for the assured and easy demeanour with which he treated the singular mystery which he had been called upon to fathom.
Once only had I known him to fail, in the case
of the King of Bohemia and of the Irene Adler
photograph; but when I looked back to the weird
business of the Sign of Four, and the extraordinary
circumstances connected with the Study in Scarlet,
I felt that it would be a strange tangle indeed which
he could not unravel.
I left him then, still puffing at his black clay
pipe, with the conviction that when I came again
on the next evening I would find that he held in
his hands all the clues which would lead up to the
identity of the disappearing bridegroom of Miss
Mary Sutherland.
A professional case of great gravity was engaging my own attention at the time, and the whole of
next day I was busy at the bedside of the sufferer.
It was not until close upon six o’clock that I found
myself free and was able to spring into a hansom
and drive to Baker Street, half afraid that I might
be too late to assist at the dénouement of the little
mystery. I found Sherlock Holmes alone, however,
half asleep, with his long, thin form curled up in
the recesses of his armchair. A formidable array
of bottles and test-tubes, with the pungent cleanly
smell of hydrochloric acid, told me that he had
156
A Case of Identity
more worn than others, and some wear only on one
side. Now, you remark in this note of yours, Mr.
Windibank, that in every case there is some little
slurring over of the ‘e,’ and a slight defect in the tail
of the ‘r.’ There are fourteen other characteristics,
but those are the more obvious.”
in his pockets, began talking, rather to himself, as
it seemed, than to us.
“The man married a woman very much older
than himself for her money,” said he, “and he enjoyed the use of the money of the daughter as long
as she lived with them. It was a considerable sum,
for people in their position, and the loss of it would
have made a serious difference. It was worth an
effort to preserve it. The daughter was of a good,
amiable disposition, but affectionate and warmhearted in her ways, so that it was evident that
with her fair personal advantages, and her little
income, she would not be allowed to remain single
long. Now her marriage would mean, of course,
the loss of a hundred a year, so what does her
stepfather do to prevent it? He takes the obvious
course of keeping her at home and forbidding her
to seek the company of people of her own age. But
soon he found that that would not answer forever.
She became restive, insisted upon her rights, and
finally announced her positive intention of going
to a certain ball. What does her clever stepfather
do then? He conceives an idea more creditable to
his head than to his heart. With the connivance and
assistance of his wife he disguised himself, covered those keen eyes with tinted glasses, masked
the face with a moustache and a pair of bushy
whiskers, sunk that clear voice into an insinuating
whisper, and doubly secure on account of the girl’s
short sight, he appears as Mr. Hosmer Angel, and
keeps off other lovers by making love himself.”
“It was only a joke at first,” groaned our visitor.
“We never thought that she would have been so
carried away.”
“Very likely not. However that may be, the
young lady was very decidedly carried away, and,
having quite made up her mind that her stepfather
was in France, the suspicion of treachery never for
an instant entered her mind. She was flattered by
the gentleman’s attentions, and the effect was increased by the loudly expressed admiration of her
mother. Then Mr. Angel began to call, for it was
obvious that the matter should be pushed as far
as it would go if a real effect were to be produced.
There were meetings, and an engagement, which
would finally secure the girl’s affections from turning towards anyone else. But the deception could
not be kept up forever. These pretended journeys
to France were rather cumbrous. The thing to do
was clearly to bring the business to an end in such
a dramatic manner that it would leave a permanent impression upon the young lady’s mind and
prevent her from looking upon any other suitor
for some time to come. Hence those vows of fidelity exacted upon a Testament, and hence also
“We do all our correspondence with this machine at the office, and no doubt it is a little worn,”
our visitor answered, glancing keenly at Holmes
with his bright little eyes.
“And now I will show you what is really a very
interesting study, Mr. Windibank,” Holmes continued. “I think of writing another little monograph
some of these days on the typewriter and its relation to crime. It is a subject to which I have devoted
some little attention. I have here four letters which
purport to come from the missing man. They are
all typewritten. In each case, not only are the ‘e’s’
slurred and the ‘r’s’ tailless, but you will observe, if
you care to use my magnifying lens, that the fourteen other characteristics to which I have alluded
are there as well.”
Mr. Windibank sprang out of his chair and
picked up his hat. “I cannot waste time over this
sort of fantastic talk, Mr. Holmes,” he said. “If you
can catch the man, catch him, and let me know
when you have done it.”
“Certainly,” said Holmes, stepping over and
turning the key in the door. “I let you know, then,
that I have caught him!”
“What! where?” shouted Mr. Windibank, turning white to his lips and glancing about him like a
rat in a trap.
“Oh, it won’t do—really it won’t,” said Holmes
suavely. “There is no possible getting out of it, Mr.
Windibank. It is quite too transparent, and it was
a very bad compliment when you said that it was
impossible for me to solve so simple a question.
That’s right! Sit down and let us talk it over.”
Our visitor collapsed into a chair, with a ghastly
face and a glitter of moisture on his brow. “It—it’s
not actionable,” he stammered.
“I am very much afraid that it is not. But between ourselves, Windibank, it was as cruel and
selfish and heartless a trick in a petty way as ever
came before me. Now, let me just run over the
course of events, and you will contradict me if I go
wrong.”
The man sat huddled up in his chair, with his
head sunk upon his breast, like one who is utterly
crushed. Holmes stuck his feet up on the corner of
the mantelpiece and, leaning back with his hands
157
A Case of Identity
the allusions to a possibility of something happening on the very morning of the wedding. James
Windibank wished Miss Sutherland to be so bound
to Hosmer Angel, and so uncertain as to his fate,
that for ten years to come, at any rate, she would
not listen to another man. As far as the church door
he brought her, and then, as he could go no farther,
he conveniently vanished away by the old trick of
stepping in at one door of a four-wheeler and out
at the other. I think that was the chain of events,
Mr. Windibank!”
“I cannot now entirely see all the steps of your
reasoning,” I remarked.
“Well, of course it was obvious from the first
that this Mr. Hosmer Angel must have some strong
object for his curious conduct, and it was equally
clear that the only man who really profited by the
incident, as far as we could see, was the stepfather.
Then the fact that the two men were never together,
but that the one always appeared when the other
was away, was suggestive. So were the tinted spectacles and the curious voice, which both hinted at a
disguise, as did the bushy whiskers. My suspicions
were all confirmed by his peculiar action in typewriting his signature, which, of course, inferred
that his handwriting was so familiar to her that
she would recognise even the smallest sample of it.
You see all these isolated facts, together with many
minor ones, all pointed in the same direction.”
Our visitor had recovered something of his assurance while Holmes had been talking, and he
rose from his chair now with a cold sneer upon his
pale face.
“It may be so, or it may not, Mr. Holmes,” said
he, “but if you are so very sharp you ought to be
sharp enough to know that it is you who are breaking the law now, and not me. I have done nothing
actionable from the first, but as long as you keep
that door locked you lay yourself open to an action
for assault and illegal constraint.”
“And how did you verify them?”
“Having once spotted my man, it was easy to
get corroboration. I knew the firm for which this
man worked. Having taken the printed description,
I eliminated everything from it which could be the
result of a disguise—the whiskers, the glasses, the
voice, and I sent it to the firm, with a request that
they would inform me whether it answered to the
description of any of their travellers. I had already
noticed the peculiarities of the typewriter, and I
wrote to the man himself at his business address
asking him if he would come here. As I expected,
his reply was typewritten and revealed the same
trivial but characteristic defects. The same post
brought me a letter from Westhouse & Marbank, of
Fenchurch Street, to say that the description tallied
in every respect with that of their employee, James
Windibank. Voilà tout!”
“The law cannot, as you say, touch you,” said
Holmes, unlocking and throwing open the door,
“yet there never was a man who deserved punishment more. If the young lady has a brother or a
friend, he ought to lay a whip across your shoulders. By Jove!” he continued, flushing up at the
sight of the bitter sneer upon the man’s face, “it
is not part of my duties to my client, but here’s a
hunting crop handy, and I think I shall just treat
myself to—” He took two swift steps to the whip,
but before he could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon the stairs, the heavy hall door
banged, and from the window we could see Mr.
James Windibank running at the top of his speed
down the road.
“And Miss Sutherland?”
“There’s a cold-blooded scoundrel!” said
Holmes, laughing, as he threw himself down into
his chair once more. “That fellow will rise from
crime to crime until he does something very bad,
and ends on a gallows. The case has, in some
respects, been not entirely devoid of interest.”
“If I tell her she will not believe me. You may
remember the old Persian saying, ‘There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger
also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.’
There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and
as much knowledge of the world.”
158
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
W
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
e were seated at breakfast one morning,
my wife and I, when the maid brought
in a telegram. It was from Sherlock
Holmes and ran in this way:
recent papers in order to master the particulars. It
seems, from what I gather, to be one of those simple
cases which are so extremely difficult.”
“That sounds a little paradoxical.”
“But it is profoundly true. Singularity is almost
invariably a clue. The more featureless and commonplace a crime is, the more difficult it is to bring
it home. In this case, however, they have established a very serious case against the son of the
murdered man.”
“Have you a couple of days to spare?
Have just been wired for from the
west of England in connection with
Boscombe Valley tragedy. Shall be glad
if you will come with me. Air and
scenery perfect. Leave Paddington by
the 11.15.”
“It is a murder, then?”
“Well, it is conjectured to be so. I shall take
nothing for granted until I have the opportunity
of looking personally into it. I will explain the
state of things to you, as far as I have been able to
understand it, in a very few words.
“What do you say, dear?” said my wife, looking
across at me. “Will you go?”
“I really don’t know what to say. I have a fairly
long list at present.”
“Oh, Anstruther would do your work for you.
You have been looking a little pale lately. I think
that the change would do you good, and you are always so interested in Mr. Sherlock Holmes’ cases.”
“Boscombe Valley is a country district not very
far from Ross, in Herefordshire. The largest landed
proprietor in that part is a Mr. John Turner, who
made his money in Australia and returned some
years ago to the old country. One of the farms
which he held, that of Hatherley, was let to Mr.
Charles McCarthy, who was also an ex-Australian.
The men had known each other in the colonies, so
that it was not unnatural that when they came to
settle down they should do so as near each other
as possible. Turner was apparently the richer man,
so McCarthy became his tenant but still remained,
it seems, upon terms of perfect equality, as they
were frequently together. McCarthy had one son, a
lad of eighteen, and Turner had an only daughter
of the same age, but neither of them had wives
living. They appear to have avoided the society
of the neighbouring English families and to have
led retired lives, though both the McCarthys were
fond of sport and were frequently seen at the racemeetings of the neighbourhood. McCarthy kept
two servants—a man and a girl. Turner had a considerable household, some half-dozen at the least.
That is as much as I have been able to gather about
the families. Now for the facts.
“I should be ungrateful if I were not, seeing
what I gained through one of them,” I answered.
“But if I am to go, I must pack at once, for I have
only half an hour.”
My experience of camp life in Afghanistan had
at least had the effect of making me a prompt and
ready traveller. My wants were few and simple,
so that in less than the time stated I was in a cab
with my valise, rattling away to Paddington Station.
Sherlock Holmes was pacing up and down the platform, his tall, gaunt figure made even gaunter and
taller by his long grey travelling-cloak and closefitting cloth cap.
“It is really very good of you to come, Watson,”
said he. “It makes a considerable difference to
me, having someone with me on whom I can thoroughly rely. Local aid is always either worthless or
else biassed. If you will keep the two corner seats I
shall get the tickets.”
We had the carriage to ourselves save for an immense litter of papers which Holmes had brought
with him. Among these he rummaged and read,
with intervals of note-taking and of meditation, until we were past Reading. Then he suddenly rolled
them all into a gigantic ball and tossed them up
onto the rack.
“Not a word. I have not seen a paper for some
days.”
“On June 3rd, that is, on Monday last, McCarthy
left his house at Hatherley about three in the afternoon and walked down to the Boscombe Pool,
which is a small lake formed by the spreading out
of the stream which runs down the Boscombe Valley. He had been out with his serving-man in the
morning at Ross, and he had told the man that he
must hurry, as he had an appointment of importance to keep at three. From that appointment he
never came back alive.
“The London press has not had very full accounts. I have just been looking through all the
“From Hatherley Farm-house to the Boscombe
Pool is a quarter of a mile, and two people saw
“Have you heard anything of the case?” he
asked.
161
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
him as he passed over this ground. One was an
old woman, whose name is not mentioned, and
the other was William Crowder, a game-keeper in
the employ of Mr. Turner. Both these witnesses
depose that Mr. McCarthy was walking alone. The
game-keeper adds that within a few minutes of his
seeing Mr. McCarthy pass he had seen his son, Mr.
James McCarthy, going the same way with a gun
under his arm. To the best of his belief, the father
was actually in sight at the time, and the son was
following him. He thought no more of the matter
until he heard in the evening of the tragedy that
had occurred.
“Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing,”
answered Holmes thoughtfully. “It may seem to
point very straight to one thing, but if you shift
your own point of view a little, you may find it
pointing in an equally uncompromising manner
to something entirely different. It must be confessed, however, that the case looks exceedingly
grave against the young man, and it is very possible that he is indeed the culprit. There are several
people in the neighbourhood, however, and among
them Miss Turner, the daughter of the neighbouring landowner, who believe in his innocence, and
who have retained Lestrade, whom you may recollect in connection with the Study in Scarlet, to work
out the case in his interest. Lestrade, being rather
puzzled, has referred the case to me, and hence
it is that two middle-aged gentlemen are flying
westward at fifty miles an hour instead of quietly
digesting their breakfasts at home.”
“The two McCarthys were seen after the time
when William Crowder, the game-keeper, lost sight
of them. The Boscombe Pool is thickly wooded
round, with just a fringe of grass and of reeds
round the edge. A girl of fourteen, Patience Moran,
who is the daughter of the lodge-keeper of the
Boscombe Valley estate, was in one of the woods
picking flowers. She states that while she was there
she saw, at the border of the wood and close by the
lake, Mr. McCarthy and his son, and that they appeared to be having a violent quarrel. She heard Mr.
McCarthy the elder using very strong language to
his son, and she saw the latter raise up his hand as
if to strike his father. She was so frightened by their
violence that she ran away and told her mother
when she reached home that she had left the two
McCarthys quarrelling near Boscombe Pool, and
that she was afraid that they were going to fight.
She had hardly said the words when young Mr.
McCarthy came running up to the lodge to say that
he had found his father dead in the wood, and
to ask for the help of the lodge-keeper. He was
much excited, without either his gun or his hat,
and his right hand and sleeve were observed to be
stained with fresh blood. On following him they
found the dead body stretched out upon the grass
beside the pool. The head had been beaten in by
repeated blows of some heavy and blunt weapon.
The injuries were such as might very well have been
inflicted by the butt-end of his son’s gun, which
was found lying on the grass within a few paces
of the body. Under these circumstances the young
man was instantly arrested, and a verdict of ‘wilful
murder’ having been returned at the inquest on
Tuesday, he was on Wednesday brought before the
magistrates at Ross, who have referred the case to
the next Assizes. Those are the main facts of the
case as they came out before the coroner and the
police-court.”
“I am afraid,” said I, “that the facts are so obvious that you will find little credit to be gained out
of this case.”
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact,” he answered, laughing. “Besides, we
may chance to hit upon some other obvious facts
which may have been by no means obvious to Mr.
Lestrade. You know me too well to think that I
am boasting when I say that I shall either confirm
or destroy his theory by means which he is quite
incapable of employing, or even of understanding.
To take the first example to hand, I very clearly
perceive that in your bedroom the window is upon
the right-hand side, and yet I question whether Mr.
Lestrade would have noted even so self-evident a
thing as that.”
“How on earth—”
“My dear fellow, I know you well. I know the
military neatness which characterises you. You
shave every morning, and in this season you shave
by the sunlight; but since your shaving is less and
less complete as we get farther back on the left side,
until it becomes positively slovenly as we get round
the angle of the jaw, it is surely very clear that that
side is less illuminated than the other. I could not
imagine a man of your habits looking at himself
in an equal light and being satisfied with such a
result. I only quote this as a trivial example of
observation and inference. Therein lies my métier,
and it is just possible that it may be of some service
in the investigation which lies before us. There are
one or two minor points which were brought out
in the inquest, and which are worth considering.”
“I could hardly imagine a more damning case,”
I remarked. “If ever circumstantial evidence
pointed to a criminal it does so here.”
“What are they?”
162
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Mr. James McCarthy, the only son of the
deceased, was then called and gave evidence
as follows: ‘I had been away from home for
three days at Bristol, and had only just returned upon the morning of last Monday,
the 3rd. My father was absent from home at
the time of my arrival, and I was informed
by the maid that he had driven over to Ross
with John Cobb, the groom. Shortly after
my return I heard the wheels of his trap
in the yard, and, looking out of my window, I saw him get out and walk rapidly
out of the yard, though I was not aware in
which direction he was going. I then took
my gun and strolled out in the direction
of the Boscombe Pool, with the intention
of visiting the rabbit warren which is upon
the other side. On my way I saw William
Crowder, the game-keeper, as he had stated
in his evidence; but he is mistaken in thinking that I was following my father. I had
no idea that he was in front of me. When
about a hundred yards from the pool I heard
a cry of “Cooee!” which was a usual signal
between my father and myself. I then hurried forward, and found him standing by
the pool. He appeared to be much surprised
at seeing me and asked me rather roughly
what I was doing there. A conversation ensued which led to high words and almost to
blows, for my father was a man of a very
violent temper. Seeing that his passion was
becoming ungovernable, I left him and returned towards Hatherley Farm. I had not
gone more than 150 yards, however, when
I heard a hideous outcry behind me, which
caused me to run back again. I found my
father expiring upon the ground, with his
head terribly injured. I dropped my gun
and held him in my arms, but he almost
instantly expired. I knelt beside him for
some minutes, and then made my way to
Mr. Turner’s lodge-keeper, his house being
the nearest, to ask for assistance. I saw no
one near my father when I returned, and
I have no idea how he came by his injuries.
He was not a popular man, being somewhat
cold and forbidding in his manners, but he
had, as far as I know, no active enemies. I
know nothing further of the matter.’
“The Coroner: Did your father make any
statement to you before he died?
“Witness: He mumbled a few words, but I
could only catch some allusion to a rat.
“The Coroner: What did you understand
“It appears that his arrest did not take place at
once, but after the return to Hatherley Farm. On
the inspector of constabulary informing him that
he was a prisoner, he remarked that he was not
surprised to hear it, and that it was no more than
his deserts. This observation of his had the natural
effect of removing any traces of doubt which might
have remained in the minds of the coroner’s jury.”
“It was a confession,” I ejaculated.
“No, for it was followed by a protestation of
innocence.”
“Coming on the top of such a damning series of
events, it was at least a most suspicious remark.”
“On the contrary,” said Holmes, “it is the brightest rift which I can at present see in the clouds.
However innocent he might be, he could not be
such an absolute imbecile as not to see that the
circumstances were very black against him. Had
he appeared surprised at his own arrest, or feigned
indignation at it, I should have looked upon it as
highly suspicious, because such surprise or anger
would not be natural under the circumstances, and
yet might appear to be the best policy to a scheming
man. His frank acceptance of the situation marks
him as either an innocent man, or else as a man of
considerable self-restraint and firmness. As to his
remark about his deserts, it was also not unnatural
if you consider that he stood beside the dead body
of his father, and that there is no doubt that he had
that very day so far forgotten his filial duty as to
bandy words with him, and even, according to the
little girl whose evidence is so important, to raise
his hand as if to strike him. The self-reproach and
contrition which are displayed in his remark appear
to me to be the signs of a healthy mind rather than
of a guilty one.”
I shook my head. “Many men have been hanged
on far slighter evidence,” I remarked.
“So they have. And many men have been
wrongfully hanged.”
“What is the young man’s own account of the
matter?”
“It is, I am afraid, not very encouraging to his
supporters, though there are one or two points in
it which are suggestive. You will find it here, and
may read it for yourself.”
He picked out from his bundle a copy of the
local Herefordshire paper, and having turned down
the sheet he pointed out the paragraph in which
the unfortunate young man had given his own
statement of what had occurred. I settled myself
down in the corner of the carriage and read it very
carefully. It ran in this way:
163
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
by that?
“Witness: It conveyed no meaning to me. I
thought that he was delirious.
“The Coroner: What was the point upon
which you and your father had this final
quarrel?
“Witness: I should prefer not to answer.
“The Coroner: I am afraid that I must press
it.
“Witness: It is really impossible for me to
tell you. I can assure you that it has nothing to do with the sad tragedy which followed.
“The Coroner: That is for the court to decide. I need not point out to you that
your refusal to answer will prejudice your
case considerably in any future proceedings
which may arise.
“Witness: I must still refuse.
“The Coroner: I understand that the cry of
‘Cooee’ was a common signal between you
and your father?
“Witness: It was.
“The Coroner: How was it, then, that he
uttered it before he saw you, and before he
even knew that you had returned from Bristol?
“Witness (with considerable confusion): I
do not know.
“A Juryman: Did you see nothing which
aroused your suspicions when you returned
on hearing the cry and found your father
fatally injured?
“Witness: Nothing definite.
“The Coroner: What do you mean?
“Witness: I was so disturbed and excited
as I rushed out into the open, that I could
think of nothing except of my father. Yet I
have a vague impression that as I ran forward something lay upon the ground to the
left of me. It seemed to me to be something
grey in colour, a coat of some sort, or a
plaid perhaps. When I rose from my father
I looked round for it, but it was gone.
“ ‘Do you mean that it disappeared before
you went for help?’
“ ‘Yes, it was gone.’
“ ‘You cannot say what it was?’
“ ‘No, I had a feeling something was there.’
“ ‘How far from the body?’
“ ‘A dozen yards or so.’
“ ‘And how far from the edge of the wood?’
“ ‘About the same.’
“ ‘Then if it was removed it was while you
were within a dozen yards of it?’
“ ‘Yes, but with my back towards it.’
“This concluded the examination of the
witness.”
“I see,” said I as I glanced down the column, “that
the coroner in his concluding remarks was rather
severe upon young McCarthy. He calls attention,
and with reason, to the discrepancy about his father
having signalled to him before seeing him, also to
his refusal to give details of his conversation with
his father, and his singular account of his father’s
dying words. They are all, as he remarks, very
much against the son.”
Holmes laughed softly to himself and stretched
himself out upon the cushioned seat. “Both you
and the coroner have been at some pains,” said he,
“to single out the very strongest points in the young
man’s favour. Don’t you see that you alternately
give him credit for having too much imagination
and too little? Too little, if he could not invent a
cause of quarrel which would give him the sympathy of the jury; too much, if he evolved from his
own inner consciousness anything so outré as a
dying reference to a rat, and the incident of the vanishing cloth. No, sir, I shall approach this case from
the point of view that what this young man says is
true, and we shall see whither that hypothesis will
lead us. And now here is my pocket Petrarch, and
not another word shall I say of this case until we
are on the scene of action. We lunch at Swindon,
and I see that we shall be there in twenty minutes.”
It was nearly four o’clock when we at last, after
passing through the beautiful Stroud Valley, and
over the broad gleaming Severn, found ourselves
at the pretty little country-town of Ross. A lean,
ferret-like man, furtive and sly-looking, was waiting for us upon the platform. In spite of the light
brown dustcoat and leather-leggings which he wore
in deference to his rustic surroundings, I had no
difficulty in recognising Lestrade, of Scotland Yard.
With him we drove to the Hereford Arms where a
room had already been engaged for us.
“I have ordered a carriage,” said Lestrade as we
sat over a cup of tea. “I knew your energetic nature,
and that you would not be happy until you had
been on the scene of the crime.”
“It was very nice and complimentary of you,”
Holmes answered. “It is entirely a question of barometric pressure.”
Lestrade looked startled. “I do not quite follow,”
he said.
“How is the glass? Twenty-nine, I see. No wind,
and not a cloud in the sky. I have a caseful of
164
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
cigarettes here which need smoking, and the sofa
is very much superior to the usual country hotel
abomination. I do not think that it is probable that
I shall use the carriage to-night.”
“It is no time for me to hide anything. James
and his father had many disagreements about me.
Mr. McCarthy was very anxious that there should
be a marriage between us. James and I have always loved each other as brother and sister; but of
course he is young and has seen very little of life
yet, and—and—well, he naturally did not wish to
do anything like that yet. So there were quarrels,
and this, I am sure, was one of them.”
“And your father?” asked Holmes. “Was he in
favour of such a union?”
“No, he was averse to it also. No one but Mr. McCarthy was in favour of it.” A quick blush passed
over her fresh young face as Holmes shot one of
his keen, questioning glances at her.
“Thank you for this information,” said he. “May
I see your father if I call to-morrow?”
“I am afraid the doctor won’t allow it.”
“The doctor?”
“Yes, have you not heard? Poor father has never
been strong for years back, but this has broken him
down completely. He has taken to his bed, and
Dr. Willows says that he is a wreck and that his
nervous system is shattered. Mr. McCarthy was the
only man alive who had known dad in the old days
in Victoria.”
“Ha! In Victoria! That is important.”
“Yes, at the mines.”
“Quite so; at the gold-mines, where, as I understand, Mr. Turner made his money.”
“Yes, certainly.”
“Thank you, Miss Turner. You have been of
material assistance to me.”
“You will tell me if you have any news tomorrow. No doubt you will go to the prison to
see James. Oh, if you do, Mr. Holmes, do tell him
that I know him to be innocent.”
“I will, Miss Turner.”
“I must go home now, for dad is very ill, and
he misses me so if I leave him. Good-bye, and God
help you in your undertaking.” She hurried from
the room as impulsively as she had entered, and
we heard the wheels of her carriage rattle off down
the street.
“I am ashamed of you, Holmes,” said Lestrade
with dignity after a few minutes’ silence. “Why
should you raise up hopes which you are bound to
disappoint? I am not over-tender of heart, but I call
it cruel.”
“I think that I see my way to clearing James
McCarthy,” said Holmes. “Have you an order to
see him in prison?”
“Yes, but only for you and me.”
Lestrade laughed indulgently. “You have, no
doubt, already formed your conclusions from the
newspapers,” he said. “The case is as plain as a
pikestaff, and the more one goes into it the plainer
it becomes. Still, of course, one can’t refuse a lady,
and such a very positive one, too. She has heard
of you, and would have your opinion, though I
repeatedly told her that there was nothing which
you could do which I had not already done. Why,
bless my soul! here is her carriage at the door.”
He had hardly spoken before there rushed into
the room one of the most lovely young women that
I have ever seen in my life. Her violet eyes shining,
her lips parted, a pink flush upon her cheeks, all
thought of her natural reserve lost in her overpowering excitement and concern.
“Oh, Mr. Sherlock Holmes!” she cried, glancing from one to the other of us, and finally, with a
woman’s quick intuition, fastening upon my companion, “I am so glad that you have come. I have
driven down to tell you so. I know that James
didn’t do it. I know it, and I want you to start
upon your work knowing it, too. Never let yourself
doubt upon that point. We have known each other
since we were little children, and I know his faults
as no one else does; but he is too tender-hearted to
hurt a fly. Such a charge is absurd to anyone who
really knows him.”
“I hope we may clear him, Miss Turner,” said
Sherlock Holmes. “You may rely upon my doing
all that I can.”
“But you have read the evidence. You have
formed some conclusion? Do you not see some
loophole, some flaw? Do you not yourself think
that he is innocent?”
“I think that it is very probable.”
“There, now!” she cried, throwing back her head
and looking defiantly at Lestrade. “You hear! He
gives me hopes.”
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders. “I am afraid
that my colleague has been a little quick in forming
his conclusions,” he said.
“But he is right. Oh! I know that he is right.
James never did it. And about his quarrel with his
father, I am sure that the reason why he would not
speak about it to the coroner was because I was
concerned in it.”
“In what way?” asked Holmes.
165
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Then I shall reconsider my resolution about
going out. We have still time to take a train to
Hereford and see him to-night?”
was! I did not wonder at Lestrade’s opinion, and
yet I had so much faith in Sherlock Holmes’ insight
that I could not lose hope as long as every fresh
fact seemed to strengthen his conviction of young
McCarthy’s innocence.
It was late before Sherlock Holmes returned.
He came back alone, for Lestrade was staying in
lodgings in the town.
“The glass still keeps very high,” he remarked
as he sat down. “It is of importance that it should
not rain before we are able to go over the ground.
On the other hand, a man should be at his very best
and keenest for such nice work as that, and I did
not wish to do it when fagged by a long journey. I
have seen young McCarthy.”
“And what did you learn from him?”
“Nothing.”
“Could he throw no light?”
“None at all. I was inclined to think at one
time that he knew who had done it and was screening him or her, but I am convinced now that he
is as puzzled as everyone else. He is not a very
quick-witted youth, though comely to look at and,
I should think, sound at heart.”
“I cannot admire his taste,” I remarked, “if it is
indeed a fact that he was averse to a marriage with
so charming a young lady as this Miss Turner.”
“Ah, thereby hangs a rather painful tale. This
fellow is madly, insanely, in love with her, but some
two years ago, when he was only a lad, and before
he really knew her, for she had been away five years
at a boarding-school, what does the idiot do but
get into the clutches of a barmaid in Bristol and
marry her at a registry office? No one knows a
word of the matter, but you can imagine how maddening it must be to him to be upbraided for not
doing what he would give his very eyes to do, but
what he knows to be absolutely impossible. It was
sheer frenzy of this sort which made him throw
his hands up into the air when his father, at their
last interview, was goading him on to propose to
Miss Turner. On the other hand, he had no means
of supporting himself, and his father, who was by
all accounts a very hard man, would have thrown
him over utterly had he known the truth. It was
with his barmaid wife that he had spent the last
three days in Bristol, and his father did not know
where he was. Mark that point. It is of importance.
Good has come out of evil, however, for the barmaid, finding from the papers that he is in serious
trouble and likely to be hanged, has thrown him
over utterly and has written to him to say that she
has a husband already in the Bermuda Dockyard,
so that there is really no tie between them. I think
“Ample.”
“Then let us do so. Watson, I fear that you will
find it very slow, but I shall only be away a couple
of hours.”
I walked down to the station with them, and
then wandered through the streets of the little town,
finally returning to the hotel, where I lay upon
the sofa and tried to interest myself in a yellowbacked novel. The puny plot of the story was so
thin, however, when compared to the deep mystery through which we were groping, and I found
my attention wander so continually from the action to the fact, that I at last flung it across the
room and gave myself up entirely to a consideration of the events of the day. Supposing that this
unhappy young man’s story were absolutely true,
then what hellish thing, what absolutely unforeseen
and extraordinary calamity could have occurred between the time when he parted from his father, and
the moment when, drawn back by his screams, he
rushed into the glade? It was something terrible
and deadly. What could it be? Might not the nature of the injuries reveal something to my medical
instincts? I rang the bell and called for the weekly
county paper, which contained a verbatim account
of the inquest. In the surgeon’s deposition it was
stated that the posterior third of the left parietal
bone and the left half of the occipital bone had been
shattered by a heavy blow from a blunt weapon.
I marked the spot upon my own head. Clearly
such a blow must have been struck from behind.
That was to some extent in favour of the accused,
as when seen quarrelling he was face to face with
his father. Still, it did not go for very much, for
the older man might have turned his back before
the blow fell. Still, it might be worth while to call
Holmes’ attention to it. Then there was the peculiar
dying reference to a rat. What could that mean? It
could not be delirium. A man dying from a sudden
blow does not commonly become delirious. No, it
was more likely to be an attempt to explain how
he met his fate. But what could it indicate? I cudgelled my brains to find some possible explanation.
And then the incident of the grey cloth seen by
young McCarthy. If that were true the murderer
must have dropped some part of his dress, presumably his overcoat, in his flight, and must have
had the hardihood to return and to carry it away
at the instant when the son was kneeling with his
back turned not a dozen paces off. What a tissue
of mysteries and improbabilities the whole thing
166
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
that that bit of news has consoled young McCarthy
for all that he has suffered.”
“Anyhow, I have grasped one fact which you
seem to find it difficult to get hold of,” replied
Lestrade with some warmth.
“But if he is innocent, who has done it?”
“And that is—”
“Ah! who? I would call your attention very particularly to two points. One is that the murdered
man had an appointment with someone at the pool,
and that the someone could not have been his son,
for his son was away, and he did not know when
he would return. The second is that the murdered
man was heard to cry ‘Cooee!’ before he knew that
his son had returned. Those are the crucial points
upon which the case depends. And now let us talk
about George Meredith, if you please, and we shall
leave all minor matters until to-morrow.”
“That McCarthy senior met his death from McCarthy junior and that all theories to the contrary
are the merest moonshine.”
“Well, moonshine is a brighter thing than fog,”
said Holmes, laughing. “But I am very much mistaken if this is not Hatherley Farm upon the left.”
“Yes, that is it.” It was a widespread,
comfortable-looking building, two-storied, slateroofed, with great yellow blotches of lichen upon
the grey walls. The drawn blinds and the smokeless chimneys, however, gave it a stricken look, as
though the weight of this horror still lay heavy
upon it. We called at the door, when the maid, at
Holmes’ request, showed us the boots which her
master wore at the time of his death, and also a
pair of the son’s, though not the pair which he had
then had. Having measured these very carefully
from seven or eight different points, Holmes desired to be led to the court-yard, from which we all
followed the winding track which led to Boscombe
Pool.
There was no rain, as Holmes had foretold, and
the morning broke bright and cloudless. At nine
o’clock Lestrade called for us with the carriage, and
we set off for Hatherley Farm and the Boscombe
Pool.
“There is serious news this morning,” Lestrade
observed. “It is said that Mr. Turner, of the Hall, is
so ill that his life is despaired of.”
“An elderly man, I presume?” said Holmes.
“About sixty; but his constitution has been shattered by his life abroad, and he has been in failing
health for some time. This business has had a very
bad effect upon him. He was an old friend of McCarthy’s, and, I may add, a great benefactor to him,
for I have learned that he gave him Hatherley Farm
rent free.”
Sherlock Holmes was transformed when he was
hot upon such a scent as this. Men who had only
known the quiet thinker and logician of Baker
Street would have failed to recognise him. His
face flushed and darkened. His brows were drawn
into two hard black lines, while his eyes shone out
from beneath them with a steely glitter. His face
was bent downward, his shoulders bowed, his lips
compressed, and the veins stood out like whipcord
in his long, sinewy neck. His nostrils seemed to
dilate with a purely animal lust for the chase, and
his mind was so absolutely concentrated upon the
matter before him that a question or remark fell
unheeded upon his ears, or, at the most, only provoked a quick, impatient snarl in reply. Swiftly
and silently he made his way along the track which
ran through the meadows, and so by way of the
woods to the Boscombe Pool. It was damp, marshy
ground, as is all that district, and there were marks
of many feet, both upon the path and amid the
short grass which bounded it on either side. Sometimes Holmes would hurry on, sometimes stop
dead, and once he made quite a little detour into
the meadow. Lestrade and I walked behind him,
the detective indifferent and contemptuous, while I
watched my friend with the interest which sprang
from the conviction that every one of his actions
was directed towards a definite end.
“Indeed! That is interesting,” said Holmes.
“Oh, yes! In a hundred other ways he has
helped him. Everybody about here speaks of his
kindness to him.”
“Really! Does it not strike you as a little singular
that this McCarthy, who appears to have had little
of his own, and to have been under such obligations
to Turner, should still talk of marrying his son to
Turner’s daughter, who is, presumably, heiress to
the estate, and that in such a very cocksure manner,
as if it were merely a case of a proposal and all
else would follow? It is the more strange, since we
know that Turner himself was averse to the idea.
The daughter told us as much. Do you not deduce
something from that?”
“We have got to the deductions and the inferences,” said Lestrade, winking at me. “I find it
hard enough to tackle facts, Holmes, without flying
away after theories and fancies.”
“You are right,” said Holmes demurely; “you
do find it very hard to tackle the facts.”
167
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Boscombe Pool, which is a little reed-girt
sheet of water some fifty yards across, is situated at
the boundary between the Hatherley Farm and the
private park of the wealthy Mr. Turner. Above the
woods which lined it upon the farther side we could
see the red, jutting pinnacles which marked the site
of the rich landowner’s dwelling. On the Hatherley
side of the pool the woods grew very thick, and
there was a narrow belt of sodden grass twenty
paces across between the edge of the trees and the
reeds which lined the lake. Lestrade showed us
the exact spot at which the body had been found,
and, indeed, so moist was the ground, that I could
plainly see the traces which had been left by the fall
of the stricken man. To Holmes, as I could see by
his eager face and peering eyes, very many other
things were to be read upon the trampled grass.
He ran round, like a dog who is picking up a scent,
and then turned upon my companion.
to me to be dust into an envelope and examining
with his lens not only the ground but even the bark
of the tree as far as he could reach. A jagged stone
was lying among the moss, and this also he carefully examined and retained. Then he followed a
pathway through the wood until he came to the
highroad, where all traces were lost.
“It has been a case of considerable interest,”
he remarked, returning to his natural manner. “I
fancy that this grey house on the right must be the
lodge. I think that I will go in and have a word
with Moran, and perhaps write a little note. Having done that, we may drive back to our luncheon.
You may walk to the cab, and I shall be with you
presently.”
It was about ten minutes before we regained our
cab and drove back into Ross, Holmes still carrying
with him the stone which he had picked up in the
wood.
“This may interest you, Lestrade,” he remarked,
holding it out. “The murder was done with it.”
“I see no marks.”
“There are none.”
“How do you know, then?”
“The grass was growing under it. It had only
lain there a few days. There was no sign of a place
whence it had been taken. It corresponds with the
injuries. There is no sign of any other weapon.”
“And the murderer?”
“Is a tall man, left-handed, limps with the right
leg, wears thick-soled shooting-boots and a grey
cloak, smokes Indian cigars, uses a cigar-holder,
and carries a blunt pen-knife in his pocket. There
are several other indications, but these may be
enough to aid us in our search.”
Lestrade laughed. “I am afraid that I am still a
sceptic,” he said. “Theories are all very well, but
we have to deal with a hard-headed British jury.”
“Nous verrons,” answered Holmes calmly. “You
work your own method, and I shall work mine. I
shall be busy this afternoon, and shall probably
return to London by the evening train.”
“And leave your case unfinished?”
“No, finished.”
“But the mystery?”
“It is solved.”
“Who was the criminal, then?”
“The gentleman I describe.”
“But who is he?”
“Surely it would not be difficult to find out. This
is not such a populous neighbourhood.”
“What did you go into the pool for?” he asked.
“I fished about with a rake. I thought there
might be some weapon or other trace. But how on
earth—”
“Oh, tut, tut! I have no time! That left foot of
yours with its inward twist is all over the place. A
mole could trace it, and there it vanishes among
the reeds. Oh, how simple it would all have been
had I been here before they came like a herd of
buffalo and wallowed all over it. Here is where
the party with the lodge-keeper came, and they
have covered all tracks for six or eight feet round
the body. But here are three separate tracks of the
same feet.” He drew out a lens and lay down upon
his waterproof to have a better view, talking all
the time rather to himself than to us. “These are
young McCarthy’s feet. Twice he was walking, and
once he ran swiftly, so that the soles are deeply
marked and the heels hardly visible. That bears
out his story. He ran when he saw his father on the
ground. Then here are the father’s feet as he paced
up and down. What is this, then? It is the butt-end
of the gun as the son stood listening. And this? Ha,
ha! What have we here? Tiptoes! tiptoes! Square,
too, quite unusual boots! They come, they go, they
come again—of course that was for the cloak. Now
where did they come from?” He ran up and down,
sometimes losing, sometimes finding the track until we were well within the edge of the wood and
under the shadow of a great beech, the largest tree
in the neighbourhood. Holmes traced his way to
the farther side of this and lay down once more
upon his face with a little cry of satisfaction. For
a long time he remained there, turning over the
leaves and dried sticks, gathering up what seemed
168
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders. “I am a practical man,” he said, “and I really cannot undertake
to go about the country looking for a left-handed
gentleman with a game leg. I should become the
laughing-stock of Scotland Yard.”
“Quite so. That was the word the man uttered,
and of which his son only caught the last two syllables. He was trying to utter the name of his
murderer. So and so, of Ballarat.”
“It is wonderful!” I exclaimed.
“It is obvious. And now, you see, I had narrowed the field down considerably. The possession
of a grey garment was a third point which, granting
the son’s statement to be correct, was a certainty.
We have come now out of mere vagueness to the
definite conception of an Australian from Ballarat
with a grey cloak.”
“Certainly.”
“And one who was at home in the district, for
the pool can only be approached by the farm or by
the estate, where strangers could hardly wander.”
“Quite so.”
“Then comes our expedition of to-day. By an
examination of the ground I gained the trifling details which I gave to that imbecile Lestrade, as to
the personality of the criminal.”
“But how did you gain them?”
“You know my method. It is founded upon the
observation of trifles.”
“His height I know that you might roughly
judge from the length of his stride. His boots, too,
might be told from their traces.”
“Yes, they were peculiar boots.”
“But his lameness?”
“The impression of his right foot was always
less distinct than his left. He put less weight upon
it. Why? Because he limped—he was lame.”
“But his left-handedness.”
“You were yourself struck by the nature of the
injury as recorded by the surgeon at the inquest.
The blow was struck from immediately behind, and
yet was upon the left side. Now, how can that be
unless it were by a left-handed man? He had stood
behind that tree during the interview between the
father and son. He had even smoked there. I found
the ash of a cigar, which my special knowledge
of tobacco ashes enables me to pronounce as an
Indian cigar. I have, as you know, devoted some
attention to this, and written a little monograph on
the ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar,
and cigarette tobacco. Having found the ash, I then
looked round and discovered the stump among the
moss where he had tossed it. It was an Indian cigar,
of the variety which are rolled in Rotterdam.”
“And the cigar-holder?”
“I could see that the end had not been in his
mouth. Therefore he used a holder. The tip had
been cut off, not bitten off, but the cut was not a
clean one, so I deduced a blunt pen-knife.”
“All right,” said Holmes quietly. “I have given
you the chance. Here are your lodgings. Good-bye.
I shall drop you a line before I leave.”
Having left Lestrade at his rooms, we drove to
our hotel, where we found lunch upon the table.
Holmes was silent and buried in thought with a
pained expression upon his face, as one who finds
himself in a perplexing position.
“Look here, Watson,” he said when the cloth
was cleared “just sit down in this chair and let me
preach to you for a little. I don’t know quite what
to do, and I should value your advice. Light a cigar
and let me expound.”
“Pray do so.”
“Well, now, in considering this case there are
two points about young McCarthy’s narrative
which struck us both instantly, although they impressed me in his favour and you against him. One
was the fact that his father should, according to
his account, cry ‘Cooee!’ before seeing him. The
other was his singular dying reference to a rat. He
mumbled several words, you understand, but that
was all that caught the son’s ear. Now from this
double point our research must commence, and we
will begin it by presuming that what the lad says is
absolutely true.”
“What of this ‘Cooee!’ then?”
“Well, obviously it could not have been meant
for the son. The son, as far as he knew, was in Bristol. It was mere chance that he was within earshot.
The ‘Cooee!’ was meant to attract the attention
of whoever it was that he had the appointment
with. But ‘Cooee’ is a distinctly Australian cry, and
one which is used between Australians. There is
a strong presumption that the person whom McCarthy expected to meet him at Boscombe Pool was
someone who had been in Australia.”
“What of the rat, then?”
Sherlock Holmes took a folded paper from his
pocket and flattened it out on the table. “This is a
map of the Colony of Victoria,” he said. “I wired to
Bristol for it last night.” He put his hand over part
of the map. “What do you read?”
“ARAT,” I read.
“And now?” He raised his hand.
“BALLARAT.”
169
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Holmes,” I said, “you have drawn a net round
this man from which he cannot escape, and you
have saved an innocent human life as truly as if
you had cut the cord which was hanging him. I see
the direction in which all this points. The culprit
is—”
“I am a dying man,” said old Turner. “I have
had diabetes for years. My doctor says it is a question whether I shall live a month. Yet I would rather
die under my own roof than in a jail.”
Holmes rose and sat down at the table with his
pen in his hand and a bundle of paper before him.
“Just tell us the truth,” he said. “I shall jot down the
facts. You will sign it, and Watson here can witness
it. Then I could produce your confession at the
last extremity to save young McCarthy. I promise
you that I shall not use it unless it is absolutely
needed.”
“Mr. John Turner,” cried the hotel waiter, opening the door of our sitting-room, and ushering in a
visitor.
The man who entered was a strange and impressive figure. His slow, limping step and bowed
shoulders gave the appearance of decrepitude, and
yet his hard, deep-lined, craggy features, and his
enormous limbs showed that he was possessed of
unusual strength of body and of character. His tangled beard, grizzled hair, and outstanding, drooping eyebrows combined to give an air of dignity
and power to his appearance, but his face was of an
ashen white, while his lips and the corners of his
nostrils were tinged with a shade of blue. It was
clear to me at a glance that he was in the grip of
some deadly and chronic disease.
“It’s as well,” said the old man; “it’s a question
whether I shall live to the Assizes, so it matters
little to me, but I should wish to spare Alice the
shock. And now I will make the thing clear to you;
it has been a long time in the acting, but will not
take me long to tell.
“You didn’t know this dead man, McCarthy. He
was a devil incarnate. I tell you that. God keep you
out of the clutches of such a man as he. His grip
has been upon me these twenty years, and he has
blasted my life. I’ll tell you first how I came to be
in his power.
“Pray sit down on the sofa,” said Holmes gently.
“You had my note?”
“It was in the early ’60’s at the diggings. I was a
young chap then, hot-blooded and reckless, ready
to turn my hand at anything; I got among bad companions, took to drink, had no luck with my claim,
took to the bush, and in a word became what you
would call over here a highway robber. There were
six of us, and we had a wild, free life of it, sticking up a station from time to time, or stopping the
wagons on the road to the diggings. Black Jack of
Ballarat was the name I went under, and our party
is still remembered in the colony as the Ballarat
Gang.
“Yes, the lodge-keeper brought it up. You said
that you wished to see me here to avoid scandal.”
“I thought people would talk if I went to the
Hall.”
“And why did you wish to see me?” He looked
across at my companion with despair in his weary
eyes, as though his question was already answered.
“Yes,” said Holmes, answering the look rather
than the words. “It is so. I know all about McCarthy.”
The old man sank his face in his hands. “God
help me!” he cried. “But I would not have let the
young man come to harm. I give you my word that
I would have spoken out if it went against him at
the Assizes.”
“One day a gold convoy came down from Ballarat to Melbourne, and we lay in wait for it and
attacked it. There were six troopers and six of us,
so it was a close thing, but we emptied four of their
saddles at the first volley. Three of our boys were
killed, however, before we got the swag. I put my
pistol to the head of the wagon-driver, who was
this very man McCarthy. I wish to the Lord that I
had shot him then, but I spared him, though I saw
his wicked little eyes fixed on my face, as though
to remember every feature. We got away with the
gold, became wealthy men, and made our way over
to England without being suspected. There I parted
from my old pals and determined to settle down
to a quiet and respectable life. I bought this estate,
which chanced to be in the market, and I set myself
to do a little good with my money, to make up for
the way in which I had earned it. I married, too,
“I am glad to hear you say so,” said Holmes
gravely.
“I would have spoken now had it not been for
my dear girl. It would break her heart—it will
break her heart when she hears that I am arrested.”
“It may not come to that,” said Holmes.
“What?”
“I am no official agent. I understand that it was
your daughter who required my presence here, and
I am acting in her interests. Young McCarthy must
be got off, however.”
170
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
and though my wife died young she left me my
dear little Alice. Even when she was just a baby her
wee hand seemed to lead me down the right path
as nothing else had ever done. In a word, I turned
over a new leaf and did my best to make up for the
past. All was going well when McCarthy laid his
grip upon me.
already a dying and a desperate man. Though clear
of mind and fairly strong of limb, I knew that my
own fate was sealed. But my memory and my girl!
Both could be saved if I could but silence that foul
tongue. I did it, Mr. Holmes. I would do it again.
Deeply as I have sinned, I have led a life of martyrdom to atone for it. But that my girl should be
entangled in the same meshes which held me was
more than I could suffer. I struck him down with
no more compunction than if he had been some
foul and venomous beast. His cry brought back
his son; but I had gained the cover of the wood,
though I was forced to go back to fetch the cloak
which I had dropped in my flight. That is the true
story, gentlemen, of all that occurred.”
“I had gone up to town about an investment,
and I met him in Regent Street with hardly a coat
to his back or a boot to his foot.
“ ‘Here we are, Jack,’ says he, touching me on
the arm; ‘we’ll be as good as a family to you.
There’s two of us, me and my son, and you can
have the keeping of us. If you don’t—it’s a fine,
law-abiding country is England, and there’s always
a policeman within hail.’
“Well, it is not for me to judge you,” said
Holmes as the old man signed the statement which
had been drawn out. “I pray that we may never be
exposed to such a temptation.”
“Well, down they came to the west country,
there was no shaking them off, and there they have
lived rent free on my best land ever since. There
was no rest for me, no peace, no forgetfulness; turn
where I would, there was his cunning, grinning
face at my elbow. It grew worse as Alice grew up,
for he soon saw I was more afraid of her knowing
my past than of the police. Whatever he wanted he
must have, and whatever it was I gave him without
question, land, money, houses, until at last he asked
a thing which I could not give. He asked for Alice.
“I pray not, sir. And what do you intend to
do?”
“In view of your health, nothing. You are
yourself aware that you will soon have to answer
for your deed at a higher court than the Assizes.
I will keep your confession, and if McCarthy is
condemned I shall be forced to use it. If not, it
shall never be seen by mortal eye; and your secret,
whether you be alive or dead, shall be safe with
us.”
“His son, you see, had grown up, and so had
my girl, and as I was known to be in weak health,
it seemed a fine stroke to him that his lad should
step into the whole property. But there I was firm.
I would not have his cursed stock mixed with mine;
not that I had any dislike to the lad, but his blood
was in him, and that was enough. I stood firm.
McCarthy threatened. I braved him to do his worst.
We were to meet at the pool midway between our
houses to talk it over.
“Farewell, then,” said the old man solemnly.
“Your own deathbeds, when they come, will be the
easier for the thought of the peace which you have
given to mine.” Tottering and shaking in all his
giant frame, he stumbled slowly from the room.
“God help us!” said Holmes after a long silence.
“Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless
worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do
not think of Baxter’s words, and say, ‘There, but for
the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.’ ”
“When I went down there I found him talking
with his son, so I smoked a cigar and waited behind
a tree until he should be alone. But as I listened to
his talk all that was black and bitter in me seemed
to come uppermost. He was urging his son to
marry my daughter with as little regard for what
she might think as if she were a slut from off the
streets. It drove me mad to think that I and all that
I held most dear should be in the power of such
a man as this. Could I not snap the bond? I was
James McCarthy was acquitted at the Assizes
on the strength of a number of objections which
had been drawn out by Holmes and submitted to
the defending counsel. Old Turner lived for seven
months after our interview, but he is now dead; and
there is every prospect that the son and daughter
may come to live happily together in ignorance of
the black cloud which rests upon their past.
171
The Five Orange Pips
W
The Five Orange Pips
hen I glance over my notes and records
of the Sherlock Holmes cases between
the years ’82 and ’90, I am faced by so
many which present strange and interesting features that it is no easy matter to know
which to choose and which to leave. Some, however,
have already gained publicity through the papers,
and others have not offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend possessed in so high
a degree, and which it is the object of these papers
to illustrate. Some, too, have baffled his analytical
skill, and would be, as narratives, beginnings without an ending, while others have been but partially
cleared up, and have their explanations founded
rather upon conjecture and surmise than on that
absolute logical proof which was so dear to him.
There is, however, one of these last which was so
remarkable in its details and so startling in its results that I am tempted to give some account of it in
spite of the fact that there are points in connection
with it which never have been, and probably never
will be, entirely cleared up.
Holmes sat moodily at one side of the fireplace
cross-indexing his records of crime, while I at the
other was deep in one of Clark Russell’s fine seastories until the howl of the gale from without
seemed to blend with the text, and the splash of
the rain to lengthen out into the long swash of the
sea waves. My wife was on a visit to her mother’s,
and for a few days I was a dweller once more in
my old quarters at Baker Street.
“Why,” said I, glancing up at my companion,
“that was surely the bell. Who could come to-night?
Some friend of yours, perhaps?”
“Except yourself I have none,” he answered. “I
do not encourage visitors.”
“A client, then?”
“If so, it is a serious case. Nothing less would
bring a man out on such a day and at such an hour.
But I take it that it is more likely to be some crony
of the landlady’s.”
Sherlock Holmes was wrong in his conjecture,
however, for there came a step in the passage and a
tapping at the door. He stretched out his long arm
to turn the lamp away from himself and towards
the vacant chair upon which a newcomer must sit.
The year ’87 furnished us with a long series
of cases of greater or less interest, of which I retain the records. Among my headings under this
one twelve months I find an account of the adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur
Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in
the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the
facts connected with the loss of the British barque
“Sophy Anderson”, of the singular adventures of
the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally
of the Camberwell poisoning case. In the latter, as
may be remembered, Sherlock Holmes was able, by
winding up the dead man’s watch, to prove that
it had been wound up two hours before, and that
therefore the deceased had gone to bed within that
time—a deduction which was of the greatest importance in clearing up the case. All these I may
sketch out at some future date, but none of them
present such singular features as the strange train
of circumstances which I have now taken up my
pen to describe.
“Come in!” said he.
The man who entered was young, some twoand-twenty at the outside, well-groomed and trimly
clad, with something of refinement and delicacy in
his bearing. The streaming umbrella which he held
in his hand, and his long shining waterproof told
of the fierce weather through which he had come.
He looked about him anxiously in the glare of the
lamp, and I could see that his face was pale and
his eyes heavy, like those of a man who is weighed
down with some great anxiety.
“I owe you an apology,” he said, raising his
golden pince-nez to his eyes. “I trust that I am not
intruding. I fear that I have brought some traces of
the storm and rain into your snug chamber.”
“Give me your coat and umbrella,” said Holmes.
“They may rest here on the hook and will be dry
presently. You have come up from the south-west,
I see.”
It was in the latter days of September, and the
equinoctial gales had set in with exceptional violence. All day the wind had screamed and the
rain had beaten against the windows, so that even
here in the heart of great, hand-made London we
were forced to raise our minds for the instant from
the routine of life and to recognise the presence
of those great elemental forces which shriek at
mankind through the bars of his civilisation, like
untamed beasts in a cage. As evening drew in, the
storm grew higher and louder, and the wind cried
and sobbed like a child in the chimney. Sherlock
“Yes, from Horsham.”
“That clay and chalk mixture which I see upon
your toe caps is quite distinctive.”
“I have come for advice.”
“That is easily got.”
“And help.”
“That is not always so easy.”
175
The Five Orange Pips
“I have heard of you, Mr. Holmes. I heard
from Major Prendergast how you saved him in
the Tankerville Club scandal.”
came back to Europe and took a small estate in
Sussex, near Horsham. He had made a very considerable fortune in the States, and his reason for
leaving them was his aversion to the negroes, and
his dislike of the Republican policy in extending the
franchise to them. He was a singular man, fierce
and quick-tempered, very foul-mouthed when he
was angry, and of a most retiring disposition. During all the years that he lived at Horsham, I doubt
if ever he set foot in the town. He had a garden
and two or three fields round his house, and there
he would take his exercise, though very often for
weeks on end he would never leave his room. He
drank a great deal of brandy and smoked very
heavily, but he would see no society and did not
want any friends, not even his own brother.
“He didn’t mind me; in fact, he took a fancy
to me, for at the time when he saw me first I was
a youngster of twelve or so. This would be in the
year 1878, after he had been eight or nine years
in England. He begged my father to let me live
with him and he was very kind to me in his way.
When he was sober he used to be fond of playing
backgammon and draughts with me, and he would
make me his representative both with the servants
and with the tradespeople, so that by the time that
I was sixteen I was quite master of the house. I
kept all the keys and could go where I liked and
do what I liked, so long as I did not disturb him
in his privacy. There was one singular exception,
however, for he had a single room, a lumber-room
up among the attics, which was invariably locked,
and which he would never permit either me or
anyone else to enter. With a boy’s curiosity I have
peeped through the keyhole, but I was never able
to see more than such a collection of old trunks and
bundles as would be expected in such a room.
“One day—it was in March, 1883—a letter with
a foreign stamp lay upon the table in front of the
colonel’s plate. It was not a common thing for him
to receive letters, for his bills were all paid in ready
money, and he had no friends of any sort. ‘From
India!’ said he as he took it up, ‘Pondicherry postmark! What can this be?’ Opening it hurriedly, out
there jumped five little dried orange pips, which
pattered down upon his plate. I began to laugh
at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at
the sight of his face. His lip had fallen, his eyes
were protruding, his skin the colour of putty, and
he glared at the envelope which he still held in his
trembling hand, ‘K. K. K.!’ he shrieked, and then,
‘My God, my God, my sins have overtaken me!’
“ ‘What is it, uncle?’ I cried.
“ ‘Death,’ said he, and rising from the table he
retired to his room, leaving me palpitating with
“Ah, of course. He was wrongfully accused of
cheating at cards.”
“He said that you could solve anything.”
“He said too much.”
“That you are never beaten.”
“I have been beaten four times—three times by
men, and once by a woman.”
“But what is that compared with the number of
your successes?”
“It is true that I have been generally successful.”
“Then you may be so with me.”
“I beg that you will draw your chair up to the
fire and favour me with some details as to your
case.”
“It is no ordinary one.”
“None of those which come to me are. I am the
last court of appeal.”
“And yet I question, sir, whether, in all your
experience, you have ever listened to a more mysterious and inexplicable chain of events than those
which have happened in my own family.”
“You fill me with interest,” said Holmes. “Pray
give us the essential facts from the commencement,
and I can afterwards question you as to those details which seem to me to be most important.”
The young man pulled his chair up and pushed
his wet feet out towards the blaze.
“My name,” said he, “is John Openshaw, but
my own affairs have, as far as I can understand, little to do with this awful business. It is a hereditary
matter; so in order to give you an idea of the facts,
I must go back to the commencement of the affair.
“You must know that my grandfather had two
sons—my uncle Elias and my father Joseph. My
father had a small factory at Coventry, which he
enlarged at the time of the invention of bicycling.
He was a patentee of the Openshaw unbreakable
tire, and his business met with such success that he
was able to sell it and to retire upon a handsome
competence.
“My uncle Elias emigrated to America when he
was a young man and became a planter in Florida,
where he was reported to have done very well. At
the time of the war he fought in Jackson’s army,
and afterwards under Hood, where he rose to be
a colonel. When Lee laid down his arms my uncle returned to his plantation, where he remained
for three or four years. About 1869 or 1870 he
176
The Five Orange Pips
horror. I took up the envelope and saw scrawled
in red ink upon the inner flap, just above the gum,
the letter K three times repeated. There was nothing else save the five dried pips. What could be
the reason of his overpowering terror? I left the
breakfast-table, and as I ascended the stair I met
him coming down with an old rusty key, which
must have belonged to the attic, in one hand, and a
small brass box, like a cashbox, in the other.
face, even on a cold day, glisten with moisture, as
though it were new raised from a basin.
“Well, to come to an end of the matter, Mr.
Holmes, and not to abuse your patience, there came
a night when he made one of those drunken sallies
from which he never came back. We found him,
when we went to search for him, face downward
in a little green-scummed pool, which lay at the
foot of the garden. There was no sign of any violence, and the water was but two feet deep, so that
the jury, having regard to his known eccentricity,
brought in a verdict of ‘suicide.’ But I, who knew
how he winced from the very thought of death, had
much ado to persuade myself that he had gone out
of his way to meet it. The matter passed, however,
and my father entered into possession of the estate,
and of some £14,000, which lay to his credit at the
bank.”
“ ‘They may do what they like, but I’ll checkmate them still,’ said he with an oath. ‘Tell Mary
that I shall want a fire in my room to-day, and send
down to Fordham, the Horsham lawyer.’
“I did as he ordered, and when the lawyer arrived I was asked to step up to the room. The fire
was burning brightly, and in the grate there was
a mass of black, fluffy ashes, as of burned paper,
while the brass box stood open and empty beside
it. As I glanced at the box I noticed, with a start,
that upon the lid was printed the treble K which I
had read in the morning upon the envelope.
“One moment,” Holmes interposed, “your statement is, I foresee, one of the most remarkable to
which I have ever listened. Let me have the date
of the reception by your uncle of the letter, and the
date of his supposed suicide.”
“ ‘I wish you, John,’ said my uncle, ‘to witness
my will. I leave my estate, with all its advantages
and all its disadvantages, to my brother, your father,
whence it will, no doubt, descend to you. If you
can enjoy it in peace, well and good! If you find
you cannot, take my advice, my boy, and leave it to
your deadliest enemy. I am sorry to give you such
a two-edged thing, but I can’t say what turn things
are going to take. Kindly sign the paper where Mr.
Fordham shows you.’
“The letter arrived on March 10, 1883. His death
was seven weeks later, upon the night of May 2nd.”
“Thank you. Pray proceed.”
“When my father took over the Horsham property, he, at my request, made a careful examination
of the attic, which had been always locked up. We
found the brass box there, although its contents
had been destroyed. On the inside of the cover was
a paper label, with the initials of K. K. K. repeated
upon it, and ‘Letters, memoranda, receipts, and a
register’ written beneath. These, we presume, indicated the nature of the papers which had been
destroyed by Colonel Openshaw. For the rest, there
was nothing of much importance in the attic save a
great many scattered papers and note-books bearing upon my uncle’s life in America. Some of them
were of the war time and showed that he had done
his duty well and had borne the repute of a brave
soldier. Others were of a date during the reconstruction of the Southern states, and were mostly
concerned with politics, for he had evidently taken
a strong part in opposing the carpet-bag politicians
who had been sent down from the North.
“I signed the paper as directed, and the lawyer
took it away with him. The singular incident made,
as you may think, the deepest impression upon me,
and I pondered over it and turned it every way in
my mind without being able to make anything of it.
Yet I could not shake off the vague feeling of dread
which it left behind, though the sensation grew less
keen as the weeks passed and nothing happened to
disturb the usual routine of our lives. I could see a
change in my uncle, however. He drank more than
ever, and he was less inclined for any sort of society.
Most of his time he would spend in his room, with
the door locked upon the inside, but sometimes
he would emerge in a sort of drunken frenzy and
would burst out of the house and tear about the
garden with a revolver in his hand, screaming out
that he was afraid of no man, and that he was not
to be cooped up, like a sheep in a pen, by man or
devil. When these hot fits were over, however, he
would rush tumultuously in at the door and lock
and bar it behind him, like a man who can brazen
it out no longer against the terror which lies at the
roots of his soul. At such times I have seen his
“Well, it was the beginning of ’84 when my father came to live at Horsham, and all went as well
as possible with us until the January of ’85. On
the fourth day after the new year I heard my father
give a sharp cry of surprise as we sat together at
the breakfast-table. There he was, sitting with a
newly opened envelope in one hand and five dried
orange pips in the outstretched palm of the other
177
The Five Orange Pips
one. He had always laughed at what he called
my cock-and-bull story about the colonel, but he
looked very scared and puzzled now that the same
thing had come upon himself.
jury had no hesitation in bringing in a verdict of
‘death from accidental causes.’ Carefully as I examined every fact connected with his death, I was
unable to find anything which could suggest the
idea of murder. There were no signs of violence,
no footmarks, no robbery, no record of strangers
having been seen upon the roads. And yet I need
not tell you that my mind was far from at ease, and
that I was well-nigh certain that some foul plot had
been woven round him.
“In this sinister way I came into my inheritance.
You will ask me why I did not dispose of it? I
answer, because I was well convinced that our troubles were in some way dependent upon an incident
in my uncle’s life, and that the danger would be as
pressing in one house as in another.
“It was in January, ’85, that my poor father
met his end, and two years and eight months have
elapsed since then. During that time I have lived
happily at Horsham, and I had begun to hope that
this curse had passed away from the family, and
that it had ended with the last generation. I had
begun to take comfort too soon, however; yesterday
morning the blow fell in the very shape in which it
had come upon my father.”
The young man took from his waistcoat a crumpled envelope, and turning to the table he shook
out upon it five little dried orange pips.
“This is the envelope,” he continued. “The postmark is London—eastern division. Within are the
very words which were upon my father’s last message: ‘K. K. K.’; and then ‘Put the papers on the
sundial.’ ”
“What have you done?” asked Holmes.
“Nothing.”
“Nothing?”
“To tell the truth”—he sank his face into his
thin, white hands—“I have felt helpless. I have felt
like one of those poor rabbits when the snake is
writhing towards it. I seem to be in the grasp of
some resistless, inexorable evil, which no foresight
and no precautions can guard against.”
“Tut! tut!” cried Sherlock Holmes. “You must
act, man, or you are lost. Nothing but energy can
save you. This is no time for despair.”
“I have seen the police.”
“Ah!”
“But they listened to my story with a smile. I am
convinced that the inspector has formed the opinion that the letters are all practical jokes, and that
the deaths of my relations were really accidents, as
the jury stated, and were not to be connected with
the warnings.”
“ ‘Why, what on earth does this mean, John?’ he
stammered.
“My heart had turned to lead. ‘It is K. K. K.,’
said I.
“He looked inside the envelope. ‘So it is,’ he
cried. ‘Here are the very letters. But what is this
written above them?’
“ ‘Put the papers on the sundial,’ I read, peeping
over his shoulder.
“ ‘What papers? What sundial?’ he asked.
“ ‘The sundial in the garden. There is no other,’
said I; ‘but the papers must be those that are destroyed.’
“ ‘Pooh!’ said he, gripping hard at his courage.
‘We are in a civilised land here, and we can’t have
tomfoolery of this kind. Where does the thing come
from?’
“ ‘From Dundee,’ I answered, glancing at the
postmark.
“ ‘Some preposterous practical joke,’ said he.
‘What have I to do with sundials and papers? I
shall take no notice of such nonsense.’
“ ‘I should certainly speak to the police,’ I said.
“ ‘And be laughed at for my pains. Nothing of
the sort.’
“ ‘Then let me do so?’
“ ‘No, I forbid you. I won’t have a fuss made
about such nonsense.’
“It was in vain to argue with him, for he was a
very obstinate man. I went about, however, with a
heart which was full of forebodings.
“On the third day after the coming of the letter
my father went from home to visit an old friend of
his, Major Freebody, who is in command of one of
the forts upon Portsdown Hill. I was glad that he
should go, for it seemed to me that he was farther
from danger when he was away from home. In
that, however, I was in error. Upon the second day
of his absence I received a telegram from the major,
imploring me to come at once. My father had fallen
over one of the deep chalk-pits which abound in
the neighbourhood, and was lying senseless, with
a shattered skull. I hurried to him, but he passed
away without having ever recovered his consciousness. He had, as it appears, been returning from
Fareham in the twilight, and as the country was
unknown to him, and the chalk-pit unfenced, the
178
The Five Orange Pips
Holmes shook his clenched hands in the air.
“Incredible imbecility!” he cried.
described. You must also put in a note to say that
all the other papers were burned by your uncle, and
that this is the only one which remains. You must
assert that in such words as will carry conviction
with them. Having done this, you must at once put
the box out upon the sundial, as directed. Do you
understand?”
“Entirely.”
“Do not think of revenge, or anything of the sort,
at present. I think that we may gain that by means
of the law; but we have our web to weave, while
theirs is already woven. The first consideration is
to remove the pressing danger which threatens you.
The second is to clear up the mystery and to punish
the guilty parties.”
“I thank you,” said the young man, rising and
pulling on his overcoat. “You have given me fresh
life and hope. I shall certainly do as you advise.”
“Do not lose an instant. And, above all, take
care of yourself in the meanwhile, for I do not think
that there can be a doubt that you are threatened
by a very real and imminent danger. How do you
go back?”
“By train from Waterloo.”
“It is not yet nine. The streets will be crowded,
so I trust that you may be in safety. And yet you
cannot guard yourself too closely.”
“I am armed.”
“That is well. To-morrow I shall set to work
upon your case.”
“I shall see you at Horsham, then?”
“No, your secret lies in London. It is there that
I shall seek it.”
“Then I shall call upon you in a day, or in two
days, with news as to the box and the papers. I shall
take your advice in every particular.” He shook
hands with us and took his leave. Outside the
wind still screamed and the rain splashed and pattered against the windows. This strange, wild story
seemed to have come to us from amid the mad elements—blown in upon us like a sheet of sea-weed
in a gale—and now to have been reabsorbed by
them once more.
Sherlock Holmes sat for some time in silence,
with his head sunk forward and his eyes bent upon
the red glow of the fire. Then he lit his pipe,
and leaning back in his chair he watched the blue
smoke-rings as they chased each other up to the
ceiling.
“I think, Watson,” he remarked at last, “that of
all our cases we have had none more fantastic than
this.”
“Save, perhaps, the Sign of Four.”
“They have, however, allowed me a policeman,
who may remain in the house with me.”
“Has he come with you to-night?”
“No. His orders were to stay in the house.”
Again Holmes raved in the air.
“Why did you come to me,” he cried, “and,
above all, why did you not come at once?”
“I did not know. It was only to-day that I spoke
to Major Prendergast about my troubles and was
advised by him to come to you.”
“It is really two days since you had the letter.
We should have acted before this. You have no
further evidence, I suppose, than that which you
have placed before us—no suggestive detail which
might help us?”
“There is one thing,” said John Openshaw. He
rummaged in his coat pocket, and, drawing out a
piece of discoloured, blue-tinted paper, he laid it
out upon the table. “I have some remembrance,”
said he, “that on the day when my uncle burned the
papers I observed that the small, unburned margins
which lay amid the ashes were of this particular
colour. I found this single sheet upon the floor of
his room, and I am inclined to think that it may
be one of the papers which has, perhaps, fluttered
out from among the others, and in that way has
escaped destruction. Beyond the mention of pips, I
do not see that it helps us much. I think myself that
it is a page from some private diary. The writing is
undoubtedly my uncle’s.”
Holmes moved the lamp, and we both bent over
the sheet of paper, which showed by its ragged
edge that it had indeed been torn from a book. It
was headed, “March, 1869,” and beneath were the
following enigmatical notices:
4th. Hudson came. Same old platform.
7th. Set the pips on McCauley, Paramore, and
John Swain, of St. Augustine.
9th. McCauley cleared.
10th. John Swain cleared.
12th. Visited Paramore. All well.
“Thank you!” said Holmes, folding up the paper and returning it to our visitor. “And now you
must on no account lose another instant. We cannot
spare time even to discuss what you have told me.
You must get home instantly and act.”
“What shall I do?”
“There is but one thing to do. It must be done at
once. You must put this piece of paper which you
have shown us into the brass box which you have
179
The Five Orange Pips
“Well, yes. Save, perhaps, that. And yet this
John Openshaw seems to me to be walking amid
even greater perils than did the Sholtos.”
need certainly to muster all our resources. Kindly
hand me down the letter K of the ‘American Encyclopaedia’ which stands upon the shelf beside
you. Thank you. Now let us consider the situation
and see what may be deduced from it. In the first
place, we may start with a strong presumption that
Colonel Openshaw had some very strong reason
for leaving America. Men at his time of life do
not change all their habits and exchange willingly
the charming climate of Florida for the lonely life
of an English provincial town. His extreme love
of solitude in England suggests the idea that he
was in fear of someone or something, so we may
assume as a working hypothesis that it was fear
of someone or something which drove him from
America. As to what it was he feared, we can only
deduce that by considering the formidable letters
which were received by himself and his successors.
Did you remark the postmarks of those letters?”
“The first was from Pondicherry, the second
from Dundee, and the third from London.”
“From East London. What do you deduce from
that?”
“They are all seaports. That the writer was on
board of a ship.”
“Excellent. We have already a clue. There can
be no doubt that the probability—the strong probability—is that the writer was on board of a ship.
And now let us consider another point. In the case
of Pondicherry, seven weeks elapsed between the
threat and its fulfilment, in Dundee it was only
some three or four days. Does that suggest anything?”
“A greater distance to travel.”
“But the letter had also a greater distance to
come.”
“Then I do not see the point.”
“There is at least a presumption that the vessel
in which the man or men are is a sailing-ship. It
looks as if they always send their singular warning or token before them when starting upon their
mission. You see how quickly the deed followed
the sign when it came from Dundee. If they had
come from Pondicherry in a steamer they would
have arrived almost as soon as their letter. But,
as a matter of fact, seven weeks elapsed. I think
that those seven weeks represented the difference
between the mail-boat which brought the letter and
the sailing vessel which brought the writer.”
“It is possible.”
“More than that. It is probable. And now you
see the deadly urgency of this new case, and why I
urged young Openshaw to caution. The blow has
always fallen at the end of the time which it would
“But have you,” I asked, “formed any definite
conception as to what these perils are?”
“There can be no question as to their nature,”
he answered.
“Then what are they? Who is this K. K. K., and
why does he pursue this unhappy family?”
Sherlock Holmes closed his eyes and placed his
elbows upon the arms of his chair, with his fingertips together. “The ideal reasoner,” he remarked,
“would, when he had once been shown a single
fact in all its bearings, deduce from it not only all
the chain of events which led up to it but also all
the results which would follow from it. As Cuvier
could correctly describe a whole animal by the contemplation of a single bone, so the observer who
has thoroughly understood one link in a series of
incidents should be able to accurately state all the
other ones, both before and after. We have not yet
grasped the results which the reason alone can attain to. Problems may be solved in the study which
have baffled all those who have sought a solution
by the aid of their senses. To carry the art, however,
to its highest pitch, it is necessary that the reasoner
should be able to utilise all the facts which have
come to his knowledge; and this in itself implies, as
you will readily see, a possession of all knowledge,
which, even in these days of free education and encyclopaedias, is a somewhat rare accomplishment.
It is not so impossible, however, that a man should
possess all knowledge which is likely to be useful
to him in his work, and this I have endeavoured
in my case to do. If I remember rightly, you on
one occasion, in the early days of our friendship,
defined my limits in a very precise fashion.”
“Yes,” I answered, laughing. “It was a singular document. Philosophy, astronomy, and politics
were marked at zero, I remember. Botany variable,
geology profound as regards the mud-stains from
any region within fifty miles of town, chemistry
eccentric, anatomy unsystematic, sensational literature and crime records unique, violin-player, boxer,
swordsman, lawyer, and self-poisoner by cocaine
and tobacco. Those, I think, were the main points
of my analysis.”
Holmes grinned at the last item. “Well,” he said,
“I say now, as I said then, that a man should keep
his little brain-attic stocked with all the furniture
that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away
in the lumber-room of his library, where he can
get it if he wants it. Now, for such a case as the
one which has been submitted to us to-night, we
180
The Five Orange Pips
government and of the better classes of the
community in the South. Eventually, in
the year 1869, the movement rather suddenly collapsed, although there have been
sporadic outbreaks of the same sort since
that date.’
“You will observe,” said Holmes, laying down the
volume, “that the sudden breaking up of the society was coincident with the disappearance of Openshaw from America with their papers. It may well
have been cause and effect. It is no wonder that
he and his family have some of the more implacable spirits upon their track. You can understand
that this register and diary may implicate some of
the first men in the South, and that there may be
many who will not sleep easy at night until it is
recovered.”
“Then the page we have seen—”
“Is such as we might expect. It ran, if I remember right, ‘sent the pips to A, B, and C’—that is,
sent the society’s warning to them. Then there are
successive entries that A and B cleared, or left the
country, and finally that C was visited, with, I fear,
a sinister result for C. Well, I think, Doctor, that we
may let some light into this dark place, and I believe that the only chance young Openshaw has in
the meantime is to do what I have told him. There
is nothing more to be said or to be done to-night,
so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget
for half an hour the miserable weather and the still
more miserable ways of our fellow-men.”
It had cleared in the morning, and the sun was
shining with a subdued brightness through the
dim veil which hangs over the great city. Sherlock Holmes was already at breakfast when I came
down.
“You will excuse me for not waiting for you,”
said he; “I have, I foresee, a very busy day before
me in looking into this case of young Openshaw’s.”
“What steps will you take?” I asked.
“It will very much depend upon the results of
my first inquiries. I may have to go down to Horsham, after all.”
“You will not go there first?”
“No, I shall commence with the City. Just ring
the bell and the maid will bring up your coffee.”
As I waited, I lifted the unopened newspaper
from the table and glanced my eye over it. It rested
upon a heading which sent a chill to my heart.
“Holmes,” I cried, “you are too late.”
“Ah!” said he, laying down his cup, “I feared as
much. How was it done?” He spoke calmly, but I
could see that he was deeply moved.
take the senders to travel the distance. But this one
comes from London, and therefore we cannot count
upon delay.”
“Good God!” I cried. “What can it mean, this
relentless persecution?”
“The papers which Openshaw carried are obviously of vital importance to the person or persons
in the sailing-ship. I think that it is quite clear that
there must be more than one of them. A single
man could not have carried out two deaths in such
a way as to deceive a coroner’s jury. There must
have been several in it, and they must have been
men of resource and determination. Their papers
they mean to have, be the holder of them who it
may. In this way you see K. K. K. ceases to be the
initials of an individual and becomes the badge of
a society.”
“But of what society?”
“Have you never—” said Sherlock Holmes,
bending forward and sinking his voice—“have you
never heard of the Ku Klux Klan?”
“I never have.”
Holmes turned over the leaves of the book upon
his knee. “Here it is,” said he presently:
“ ‘Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the
fanciful resemblance to the sound produced
by cocking a rifle. This terrible secret society was formed by some ex-Confederate soldiers in the Southern states after the Civil
War, and it rapidly formed local branches
in different parts of the country, notably in
Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Its power was used for political purposes, principally for the terrorising of the negro voters and the murdering
and driving from the country of those who
were opposed to its views. Its outrages were
usually preceded by a warning sent to the
marked man in some fantastic but generally
recognised shape—a sprig of oak-leaves in
some parts, melon seeds or orange pips in
others. On receiving this the victim might
either openly abjure his former ways, or
might fly from the country. If he braved the
matter out, death would unfailingly come
upon him, and usually in some strange and
unforeseen manner. So perfect was the organisation of the society, and so systematic
its methods, that there is hardly a case upon
record where any man succeeded in braving
it with impunity, or in which any of its outrages were traced home to the perpetrators.
For some years the organisation flourished
in spite of the efforts of the United States
181
The Five Orange Pips
“My eye caught the name of Openshaw, and the
heading ‘Tragedy Near Waterloo Bridge.’ Here is
the account:
“Between nine and ten last night PoliceConstable Cook, of the H Division, on duty
near Waterloo Bridge, heard a cry for help
and a splash in the water. The night, however, was extremely dark and stormy, so
that, in spite of the help of several passersby, it was quite impossible to effect a rescue. The alarm, however, was given, and,
by the aid of the water-police, the body was
eventually recovered. It proved to be that of
a young gentleman whose name, as it appears from an envelope which was found in
his pocket, was John Openshaw, and whose
residence is near Horsham. It is conjectured that he may have been hurrying down
to catch the last train from Waterloo Station, and that in his haste and the extreme
darkness he missed his path and walked
over the edge of one of the small landingplaces for river steamboats. The body exhibited no traces of violence, and there can
be no doubt that the deceased had been the
victim of an unfortunate accident, which
should have the effect of calling the attention of the authorities to the condition of
the riverside landing-stages.”
We sat in silence for some minutes, Holmes more
depressed and shaken than I had ever seen him.
“That hurts my pride, Watson,” he said at last.
“It is a petty feeling, no doubt, but it hurts my pride.
It becomes a personal matter with me now, and,
if God sends me health, I shall set my hand upon
this gang. That he should come to me for help, and
that I should send him away to his death—!” He
sprang from his chair and paced about the room in
uncontrollable agitation, with a flush upon his sallow cheeks and a nervous clasping and unclasping
of his long thin hands.
“They must be cunning devils,” he exclaimed
at last. “How could they have decoyed him down
there? The Embankment is not on the direct line to
the station. The bridge, no doubt, was too crowded,
even on such a night, for their purpose. Well, Watson, we shall see who will win in the long run. I
am going out now!”
“To the police?”
“No; I shall be my own police. When I have
spun the web they may take the flies, but not before.”
All day I was engaged in my professional work,
and it was late in the evening before I returned
to Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes had not come
back yet. It was nearly ten o’clock before he entered, looking pale and worn. He walked up to
the sideboard, and tearing a piece from the loaf he
devoured it voraciously, washing it down with a
long draught of water.
“You are hungry,” I remarked.
“Starving. It had escaped my memory. I have
had nothing since breakfast.”
“Nothing?”
“Not a bite. I had no time to think of it.”
“And how have you succeeded?”
“Well.”
“You have a clue?”
“I have them in the hollow of my hand. Young
Openshaw shall not long remain unavenged. Why,
Watson, let us put their own devilish trade-mark
upon them. It is well thought of!”
“What do you mean?”
He took an orange from the cupboard, and tearing it to pieces he squeezed out the pips upon the
table. Of these he took five and thrust them into
an envelope. On the inside of the flap he wrote
“S. H. for J. O.” Then he sealed it and addressed
it to “Captain James Calhoun, Barque Lone Star,
Savannah, Georgia.”
“That will await him when he enters port,” said
he, chuckling. “It may give him a sleepless night.
He will find it as sure a precursor of his fate as
Openshaw did before him.”
“And who is this Captain Calhoun?”
“The leader of the gang. I shall have the others,
but he first.”
“How did you trace it, then?”
He took a large sheet of paper from his pocket,
all covered with dates and names.
“I have spent the whole day,” said he, “over
Lloyd’s registers and files of the old papers, following the future career of every vessel which touched
at Pondicherry in January and February in ’83.
There were thirty-six ships of fair tonnage which
were reported there during those months. Of these,
one, the Lone Star, instantly attracted my attention,
since, although it was reported as having cleared
from London, the name is that which is given to
one of the states of the Union.”
“Texas, I think.”
“I was not and am not sure which; but I knew
that the ship must have an American origin.”
“What then?”
182
The Five Orange Pips
“I searched the Dundee records, and when I
found that the barque Lone Star was there in January, ’85, my suspicion became a certainty. I then
inquired as to the vessels which lay at present in
the port of London.”
the ship last night. I had it from the stevedore
who has been loading their cargo. By the time that
their sailing-ship reaches Savannah the mail-boat
will have carried this letter, and the cable will have
informed the police of Savannah that these three
gentlemen are badly wanted here upon a charge of
murder.”
“Yes?”
“The Lone Star had arrived here last week. I
went down to the Albert Dock and found that she
had been taken down the river by the early tide this
morning, homeward bound to Savannah. I wired to
Gravesend and learned that she had passed some
time ago, and as the wind is easterly I have no
doubt that she is now past the Goodwins and not
very far from the Isle of Wight.”
There is ever a flaw, however, in the best laid
of human plans, and the murderers of John Openshaw were never to receive the orange pips which
would show them that another, as cunning and as
resolute as themselves, was upon their track. Very
long and very severe were the equinoctial gales that
year. We waited long for news of the Lone Star of
Savannah, but none ever reached us. We did at
last hear that somewhere far out in the Atlantic a
shattered stern-post of a boat was seen swinging in
the trough of a wave, with the letters “L. S.” carved
upon it, and that is all which we shall ever know
of the fate of the Lone Star.
“What will you do, then?”
“Oh, I have my hand upon him. He and the two
mates, are as I learn, the only native-born Americans in the ship. The others are Finns and Germans.
I know, also, that they were all three away from
183
The Man with the Twisted Lip
I
The Man with the Twisted Lip
sa Whitney, brother of the late Elias Whitney, D.D., Principal of the Theological
College of St. George’s, was much addicted to opium. The habit grew upon
him, as I understand, from some foolish freak when
he was at college; for having read De Quincey’s
description of his dreams and sensations, he had
drenched his tobacco with laudanum in an attempt
to produce the same effects. He found, as so many
more have done, that the practice is easier to attain
than to get rid of, and for many years he continued to be a slave to the drug, an object of mingled
horror and pity to his friends and relatives. I can
see him now, with yellow, pasty face, drooping lids,
and pin-point pupils, all huddled in a chair, the
wreck and ruin of a noble man.
It seems that it was. She had the surest information that of late he had, when the fit was on him,
made use of an opium den in the farthest east of
the City. Hitherto his orgies had always been confined to one day, and he had come back, twitching
and shattered, in the evening. But now the spell
had been upon him eight-and-forty hours, and he
lay there, doubtless among the dregs of the docks,
breathing in the poison or sleeping off the effects.
There he was to be found, she was sure of it, at
the Bar of Gold, in Upper Swandam Lane. But
what was she to do? How could she, a young and
timid woman, make her way into such a place and
pluck her husband out from among the ruffians
who surrounded him?
There was the case, and of course there was but
one way out of it. Might I not escort her to this
place? And then, as a second thought, why should
she come at all? I was Isa Whitney’s medical adviser, and as such I had influence over him. I could
manage it better if I were alone. I promised her
on my word that I would send him home in a cab
within two hours if he were indeed at the address
which she had given me. And so in ten minutes I
had left my armchair and cheery sitting-room behind me, and was speeding eastward in a hansom
on a strange errand, as it seemed to me at the time,
though the future only could show how strange it
was to be.
But there was no great difficulty in the first stage
of my adventure. Upper Swandam Lane is a vile alley lurking behind the high wharves which line the
north side of the river to the east of London Bridge.
Between a slop-shop and a gin-shop, approached
by a steep flight of steps leading down to a black
gap like the mouth of a cave, I found the den of
which I was in search. Ordering my cab to wait, I
passed down the steps, worn hollow in the centre
by the ceaseless tread of drunken feet; and by the
light of a flickering oil-lamp above the door I found
the latch and made my way into a long, low room,
thick and heavy with the brown opium smoke, and
terraced with wooden berths, like the forecastle of
an emigrant ship.
Through the gloom one could dimly catch a
glimpse of bodies lying in strange fantastic poses,
bowed shoulders, bent knees, heads thrown back,
and chins pointing upward, with here and there
a dark, lack-lustre eye turned upon the newcomer.
Out of the black shadows there glimmered little
red circles of light, now bright, now faint, as the
burning poison waxed or waned in the bowls of
the metal pipes. The most lay silent, but some muttered to themselves, and others talked together in a
strange, low, monotonous voice, their conversation
One night—it was in June, ’89—there came a
ring to my bell, about the hour when a man gives
his first yawn and glances at the clock. I sat up in
my chair, and my wife laid her needle-work down
in her lap and made a little face of disappointment.
“A patient!” said she. “You’ll have to go out.”
I groaned, for I was newly come back from a
weary day.
We heard the door open, a few hurried words,
and then quick steps upon the linoleum. Our own
door flew open, and a lady, clad in some darkcoloured stuff, with a black veil, entered the room.
“You will excuse my calling so late,” she began, and then, suddenly losing her self-control, she
ran forward, threw her arms about my wife’s neck,
and sobbed upon her shoulder. “Oh, I’m in such
trouble!” she cried; “I do so want a little help.”
“Why,” said my wife, pulling up her veil, “it is
Kate Whitney. How you startled me, Kate! I had
not an idea who you were when you came in.”
“I didn’t know what to do, so I came straight to
you.” That was always the way. Folk who were in
grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house.
“It was very sweet of you to come. Now, you
must have some wine and water, and sit here comfortably and tell us all about it. Or should you
rather that I sent James off to bed?”
“Oh, no, no! I want the doctor’s advice and
help, too. It’s about Isa. He has not been home for
two days. I am so frightened about him!”
It was not the first time that she had spoken to
us of her husband’s trouble, to me as a doctor, to
my wife as an old friend and school companion.
We soothed and comforted her by such words as
we could find. Did she know where her husband
was? Was it possible that we could bring him back
to her?
187
The Man with the Twisted Lip
coming in gushes, and then suddenly tailing off
into silence, each mumbling out his own thoughts
and paying little heed to the words of his neighbour.
At the farther end was a small brazier of burning
charcoal, beside which on a three-legged wooden
stool there sat a tall, thin old man, with his jaw
resting upon his two fists, and his elbows upon his
knees, staring into the fire.
dropped in sheer lassitude from his fingers. I took
two steps forward and looked back. It took all my
self-control to prevent me from breaking out into
a cry of astonishment. He had turned his back so
that none could see him but I. His form had filled
out, his wrinkles were gone, the dull eyes had regained their fire, and there, sitting by the fire and
grinning at my surprise, was none other than Sherlock Holmes. He made a slight motion to me to
approach him, and instantly, as he turned his face
half round to the company once more, subsided
into a doddering, loose-lipped senility.
“Holmes!” I whispered, “what on earth are you
doing in this den?”
“As low as you can,” he answered; “I have excellent ears. If you would have the great kindness
to get rid of that sottish friend of yours I should be
exceedingly glad to have a little talk with you.”
“I have a cab outside.”
“Then pray send him home in it. You may safely
trust him, for he appears to be too limp to get into
any mischief. I should recommend you also to send
a note by the cabman to your wife to say that you
have thrown in your lot with me. If you will wait
outside, I shall be with you in five minutes.”
It was difficult to refuse any of Sherlock Holmes’
requests, for they were always so exceedingly definite, and put forward with such a quiet air of
mastery. I felt, however, that when Whitney was
once confined in the cab my mission was practically accomplished; and for the rest, I could not
wish anything better than to be associated with my
friend in one of those singular adventures which
were the normal condition of his existence. In a few
minutes I had written my note, paid Whitney’s bill,
led him out to the cab, and seen him driven through
the darkness. In a very short time a decrepit figure
had emerged from the opium den, and I was walking down the street with Sherlock Holmes. For two
streets he shuffled along with a bent back and an
uncertain foot. Then, glancing quickly round, he
straightened himself out and burst into a hearty fit
of laughter.
“I suppose, Watson,” said he, “that you imagine
that I have added opium-smoking to cocaine injections, and all the other little weaknesses on which
you have favoured me with your medical views.”
“I was certainly surprised to find you there.”
“But not more so than I to find you.”
“I came to find a friend.”
“And I to find an enemy.”
“An enemy?”
“Yes; one of my natural enemies, or, shall I say,
my natural prey. Briefly, Watson, I am in the midst
As I entered, a sallow Malay attendant had hurried up with a pipe for me and a supply of the
drug, beckoning me to an empty berth.
“Thank you. I have not come to stay,” said I.
“There is a friend of mine here, Mr. Isa Whitney,
and I wish to speak with him.”
There was a movement and an exclamation from
my right, and peering through the gloom, I saw
Whitney, pale, haggard, and unkempt, staring out
at me.
“My God! It’s Watson,” said he. He was in
a pitiable state of reaction, with every nerve in a
twitter. “I say, Watson, what o’clock is it?”
“Nearly eleven.”
“Of what day?”
“Of Friday, June 19th.”
“Good heavens! I thought it was Wednesday. It
is Wednesday. What d’you want to frighten a chap
for?” He sank his face onto his arms and began to
sob in a high treble key.
“I tell you that it is Friday, man. Your wife has
been waiting this two days for you. You should be
ashamed of yourself!”
“So I am. But you’ve got mixed, Watson, for I
have only been here a few hours, three pipes, four
pipes—I forget how many. But I’ll go home with
you. I wouldn’t frighten Kate—poor little Kate.
Give me your hand! Have you a cab?”
“Yes, I have one waiting.”
“Then I shall go in it. But I must owe something.
Find what I owe, Watson. I am all off colour. I can
do nothing for myself.”
I walked down the narrow passage between the
double row of sleepers, holding my breath to keep
out the vile, stupefying fumes of the drug, and looking about for the manager. As I passed the tall man
who sat by the brazier I felt a sudden pluck at my
skirt, and a low voice whispered, “Walk past me,
and then look back at me.” The words fell quite distinctly upon my ear. I glanced down. They could
only have come from the old man at my side, and
yet he sat now as absorbed as ever, very thin, very
wrinkled, bent with age, an opium pipe dangling
down from between his knees, as though it had
188
The Man with the Twisted Lip
of a very remarkable inquiry, and I have hoped to
find a clue in the incoherent ramblings of these sots,
as I have done before now. Had I been recognised
in that den my life would not have been worth an
hour’s purchase; for I have used it before now for
my own purposes, and the rascally Lascar who runs
it has sworn to have vengeance upon me. There
is a trap-door at the back of that building, near
the corner of Paul’s Wharf, which could tell some
strange tales of what has passed through it upon
the moonless nights.”
and a star or two twinkled dimly here and there
through the rifts of the clouds. Holmes drove in
silence, with his head sunk upon his breast, and
the air of a man who is lost in thought, while I sat
beside him, curious to learn what this new quest
might be which seemed to tax his powers so sorely,
and yet afraid to break in upon the current of his
thoughts. We had driven several miles, and were
beginning to get to the fringe of the belt of suburban villas, when he shook himself, shrugged his
shoulders, and lit up his pipe with the air of a man
who has satisfied himself that he is acting for the
best.
“What! You do not mean bodies?”
“Ay, bodies, Watson. We should be rich men if
we had £1000 for every poor devil who has been
done to death in that den. It is the vilest murdertrap on the whole riverside, and I fear that Neville
St. Clair has entered it never to leave it more. But
our trap should be here.” He put his two forefingers
between his teeth and whistled shrilly—a signal
which was answered by a similar whistle from the
distance, followed shortly by the rattle of wheels
and the clink of horses’ hoofs.
“You have a grand gift of silence, Watson,” said
he. “It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.
’Pon my word, it is a great thing for me to have
someone to talk to, for my own thoughts are not
over-pleasant. I was wondering what I should say
to this dear little woman to-night when she meets
me at the door.”
“You forget that I know nothing about it.”
“I shall just have time to tell you the facts of the
case before we get to Lee. It seems absurdly simple,
and yet, somehow I can get nothing to go upon.
There’s plenty of thread, no doubt, but I can’t get
the end of it into my hand. Now, I’ll state the case
clearly and concisely to you, Watson, and maybe
you can see a spark where all is dark to me.”
“Now, Watson,” said Holmes, as a tall dog-cart
dashed up through the gloom, throwing out two
golden tunnels of yellow light from its side lanterns.
“You’ll come with me, won’t you?”
“If I can be of use.”
“Oh, a trusty comrade is always of use; and a
chronicler still more so. My room at The Cedars is
a double-bedded one.”
“Proceed, then.”
“Some years ago—to be definite, in May,
1884—there came to Lee a gentleman, Neville St.
Clair by name, who appeared to have plenty of
money. He took a large villa, laid out the grounds
very nicely, and lived generally in good style. By
degrees he made friends in the neighbourhood, and
in 1887 he married the daughter of a local brewer,
by whom he now has two children. He had no occupation, but was interested in several companies
and went into town as a rule in the morning, returning by the 5.14 from Cannon Street every night.
Mr. St. Clair is now thirty-seven years of age, is a
man of temperate habits, a good husband, a very
affectionate father, and a man who is popular with
all who know him. I may add that his whole debts
at the present moment, as far as we have been able
to ascertain, amount to £88 10s., while he has £220
standing to his credit in the Capital and Counties
Bank. There is no reason, therefore, to think that
money troubles have been weighing upon his mind.
“The Cedars?”
“Yes; that is Mr. St. Clair’s house. I am staying
there while I conduct the inquiry.”
“Where is it, then?”
“Near Lee, in Kent. We have a seven-mile drive
before us.”
“But I am all in the dark.”
“Of course you are. You’ll know all about it
presently. Jump up here. All right, John; we shall
not need you. Here’s half a crown. Look out for
me to-morrow, about eleven. Give her her head. So
long, then!”
He flicked the horse with his whip, and we
dashed away through the endless succession of
sombre and deserted streets, which widened gradually, until we were flying across a broad balustraded
bridge, with the murky river flowing sluggishly
beneath us. Beyond lay another dull wilderness
of bricks and mortar, its silence broken only by
the heavy, regular footfall of the policeman, or the
songs and shouts of some belated party of revellers.
A dull wrack was drifting slowly across the sky,
“Last Monday Mr. Neville St. Clair went into
town rather earlier than usual, remarking before
he started that he had two important commissions
to perform, and that he would bring his little boy
home a box of bricks. Now, by the merest chance,
189
The Man with the Twisted Lip
his wife received a telegram upon this same Monday, very shortly after his departure, to the effect
that a small parcel of considerable value which she
had been expecting was waiting for her at the offices of the Aberdeen Shipping Company. Now, if
you are well up in your London, you will know that
the office of the company is in Fresno Street, which
branches out of Upper Swandam Lane, where you
found me to-night. Mrs. St. Clair had her lunch,
started for the City, did some shopping, proceeded
to the company’s office, got her packet, and found
herself at exactly 4.35 walking through Swandam
Lane on her way back to the station. Have you
followed me so far?”
no one else had been in the front room during the
afternoon. So determined was their denial that the
inspector was staggered, and had almost come to
believe that Mrs. St. Clair had been deluded when,
with a cry, she sprang at a small deal box which lay
upon the table and tore the lid from it. Out there
fell a cascade of children’s bricks. It was the toy
which he had promised to bring home.
“This discovery, and the evident confusion
which the cripple showed, made the inspector realise that the matter was serious. The rooms were
carefully examined, and results all pointed to an
abominable crime. The front room was plainly
furnished as a sitting-room and led into a small
bedroom, which looked out upon the back of one
of the wharves. Between the wharf and the bedroom window is a narrow strip, which is dry at
low tide but is covered at high tide with at least
four and a half feet of water. The bedroom window
was a broad one and opened from below. On examination traces of blood were to be seen upon the
windowsill, and several scattered drops were visible upon the wooden floor of the bedroom. Thrust
away behind a curtain in the front room were all
the clothes of Mr. Neville St. Clair, with the exception of his coat. His boots, his socks, his hat, and
his watch—all were there. There were no signs of
violence upon any of these garments, and there
were no other traces of Mr. Neville St. Clair. Out
of the window he must apparently have gone for
no other exit could be discovered, and the ominous
bloodstains upon the sill gave little promise that he
could save himself by swimming, for the tide was
at its very highest at the moment of the tragedy.
“It is very clear.”
“If you remember, Monday was an exceedingly
hot day, and Mrs. St. Clair walked slowly, glancing
about in the hope of seeing a cab, as she did not
like the neighbourhood in which she found herself.
While she was walking in this way down Swandam
Lane, she suddenly heard an ejaculation or cry, and
was struck cold to see her husband looking down
at her and, as it seemed to her, beckoning to her
from a second-floor window. The window was
open, and she distinctly saw his face, which she
describes as being terribly agitated. He waved his
hands frantically to her, and then vanished from
the window so suddenly that it seemed to her that
he had been plucked back by some irresistible force
from behind. One singular point which struck her
quick feminine eye was that although he wore some
dark coat, such as he had started to town in, he had
on neither collar nor necktie.
“Convinced that something was amiss with him,
she rushed down the steps—for the house was none
other than the opium den in which you found me
to-night—and running through the front room she
attempted to ascend the stairs which led to the first
floor. At the foot of the stairs, however, she met
this Lascar scoundrel of whom I have spoken, who
thrust her back and, aided by a Dane, who acts as
assistant there, pushed her out into the street. Filled
with the most maddening doubts and fears, she
rushed down the lane and, by rare good-fortune,
met in Fresno Street a number of constables with
an inspector, all on their way to their beat. The
inspector and two men accompanied her back, and
in spite of the continued resistance of the proprietor, they made their way to the room in which Mr.
St. Clair had last been seen. There was no sign of
him there. In fact, in the whole of that floor there
was no one to be found save a crippled wretch
of hideous aspect, who, it seems, made his home
there. Both he and the Lascar stoutly swore that
“And now as to the villains who seemed to be
immediately implicated in the matter. The Lascar
was known to be a man of the vilest antecedents,
but as, by Mrs. St. Clair’s story, he was known
to have been at the foot of the stair within a very
few seconds of her husband’s appearance at the
window, he could hardly have been more than an
accessory to the crime. His defence was one of
absolute ignorance, and he protested that he had
no knowledge as to the doings of Hugh Boone, his
lodger, and that he could not account in any way
for the presence of the missing gentleman’s clothes.
“So much for the Lascar manager. Now for the
sinister cripple who lives upon the second floor of
the opium den, and who was certainly the last human being whose eyes rested upon Neville St. Clair.
His name is Hugh Boone, and his hideous face is
one which is familiar to every man who goes much
to the City. He is a professional beggar, though in
order to avoid the police regulations he pretends
190
The Man with the Twisted Lip
to a small trade in wax vestas. Some little distance
down Threadneedle Street, upon the left-hand side,
there is, as you may have remarked, a small angle in
the wall. Here it is that this creature takes his daily
seat, cross-legged with his tiny stock of matches
on his lap, and as he is a piteous spectacle a small
rain of charity descends into the greasy leather cap
which lies upon the pavement beside him. I have
watched the fellow more than once before ever I
thought of making his professional acquaintance,
and I have been surprised at the harvest which he
has reaped in a short time. His appearance, you see,
is so remarkable that no one can pass him without
observing him. A shock of orange hair, a pale face
disfigured by a horrible scar, which, by its contraction, has turned up the outer edge of his upper
lip, a bulldog chin, and a pair of very penetrating
dark eyes, which present a singular contrast to the
colour of his hair, all mark him out from amid the
common crowd of mendicants and so, too, does
his wit, for he is ever ready with a reply to any
piece of chaff which may be thrown at him by the
passers-by. This is the man whom we now learn to
have been the lodger at the opium den, and to have
been the last man to see the gentleman of whom
we are in quest.”
and that the stains which had been observed there
came doubtless from the same source. He denied
strenuously having ever seen Mr. Neville St. Clair
and swore that the presence of the clothes in his
room was as much a mystery to him as to the
police. As to Mrs. St. Clair’s assertion that she
had actually seen her husband at the window, he
declared that she must have been either mad or
dreaming. He was removed, loudly protesting, to
the police-station, while the inspector remained
upon the premises in the hope that the ebbing tide
might afford some fresh clue.
“And it did, though they hardly found upon
the mud-bank what they had feared to find. It was
Neville St. Clair’s coat, and not Neville St. Clair,
which lay uncovered as the tide receded. And what
do you think they found in the pockets?”
“I cannot imagine.”
“No, I don’t think you would guess. Every
pocket stuffed with pennies and half-pennies—421
pennies and 270 half-pennies. It was no wonder
that it had not been swept away by the tide. But a
human body is a different matter. There is a fierce
eddy between the wharf and the house. It seemed
likely enough that the weighted coat had remained
when the stripped body had been sucked away into
the river.”
“But I understand that all the other clothes were
found in the room. Would the body be dressed in
a coat alone?”
“No, sir, but the facts might be met speciously
enough. Suppose that this man Boone had thrust
Neville St. Clair through the window, there is no
human eye which could have seen the deed. What
would he do then? It would of course instantly
strike him that he must get rid of the tell-tale garments. He would seize the coat, then, and be in the
act of throwing it out, when it would occur to him
that it would swim and not sink. He has little time,
for he has heard the scuffle downstairs when the
wife tried to force her way up, and perhaps he has
already heard from his Lascar confederate that the
police are hurrying up the street. There is not an
instant to be lost. He rushes to some secret hoard,
where he has accumulated the fruits of his beggary,
and he stuffs all the coins upon which he can lay his
hands into the pockets to make sure of the coat’s
sinking. He throws it out, and would have done
the same with the other garments had not he heard
the rush of steps below, and only just had time to
close the window when the police appeared.”
“It certainly sounds feasible.”
“Well, we will take it as a working hypothesis
for want of a better. Boone, as I have told you, was
“But a cripple!” said I. “What could he have
done single-handed against a man in the prime of
life?”
“He is a cripple in the sense that he walks with
a limp; but in other respects he appears to be a powerful and well-nurtured man. Surely your medical
experience would tell you, Watson, that weakness
in one limb is often compensated for by exceptional
strength in the others.”
“Pray continue your narrative.”
“Mrs. St. Clair had fainted at the sight of the
blood upon the window, and she was escorted
home in a cab by the police, as her presence could
be of no help to them in their investigations. Inspector Barton, who had charge of the case, made a very
careful examination of the premises, but without
finding anything which threw any light upon the
matter. One mistake had been made in not arresting
Boone instantly, as he was allowed some few minutes during which he might have communicated
with his friend the Lascar, but this fault was soon
remedied, and he was seized and searched, without anything being found which could incriminate
him. There were, it is true, some blood-stains upon
his right shirt-sleeve, but he pointed to his ringfinger, which had been cut near the nail, and explained that the bleeding came from there, adding
that he had been to the window not long before,
191
The Man with the Twisted Lip
arrested and taken to the station, but it could not
be shown that there had ever before been anything
against him. He had for years been known as a
professional beggar, but his life appeared to have
been a very quiet and innocent one. There the matter stands at present, and the questions which have
to be solved—what Neville St. Clair was doing in
the opium den, what happened to him when there,
where is he now, and what Hugh Boone had to
do with his disappearance—are all as far from a
solution as ever. I confess that I cannot recall any
case within my experience which looked at the first
glance so simple and yet which presented such
difficulties.”
sank into a groan as she saw that my companion
shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“No good news?”
“None.”
“No bad?”
“No.”
“Thank God for that. But come in. You must be
weary, for you have had a long day.”
“This is my friend, Dr. Watson. He has been of
most vital use to me in several of my cases, and a
lucky chance has made it possible for me to bring
him out and associate him with this investigation.”
“I am delighted to see you,” said she, pressing
my hand warmly. “You will, I am sure, forgive
anything that may be wanting in our arrangements,
when you consider the blow which has come so
suddenly upon us.”
“My dear madam,” said I, “I am an old campaigner, and if I were not I can very well see that
no apology is needed. If I can be of any assistance,
either to you or to my friend here, I shall be indeed
happy.”
“Now, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said the lady as
we entered a well-lit dining-room, upon the table
of which a cold supper had been laid out, “I should
very much like to ask you one or two plain questions, to which I beg that you will give a plain
answer.”
“Certainly, madam.”
“Do not trouble about my feelings. I am not
hysterical, nor given to fainting. I simply wish to
hear your real, real opinion.”
“Upon what point?”
“In your heart of hearts, do you think that
Neville is alive?”
Sherlock Holmes seemed to be embarrassed by
the question. “Frankly, now!” she repeated, standing upon the rug and looking keenly down at him
as he leaned back in a basket-chair.
“Frankly, then, madam, I do not.”
“You think that he is dead?”
“I do.”
“Murdered?”
“I don’t say that. Perhaps.”
“And on what day did he meet his death?”
“On Monday.”
“Then perhaps, Mr. Holmes, you will be good
enough to explain how it is that I have received a
letter from him to-day.”
Sherlock Holmes sprang out of his chair as if he
had been galvanised.
While Sherlock Holmes had been detailing this
singular series of events, we had been whirling
through the outskirts of the great town until the
last straggling houses had been left behind, and
we rattled along with a country hedge upon either
side of us. Just as he finished, however, we drove
through two scattered villages, where a few lights
still glimmered in the windows.
“We are on the outskirts of Lee,” said my companion. “We have touched on three English counties in our short drive, starting in Middlesex, passing over an angle of Surrey, and ending in Kent.
See that light among the trees? That is The Cedars,
and beside that lamp sits a woman whose anxious
ears have already, I have little doubt, caught the
clink of our horse’s feet.”
“But why are you not conducting the case from
Baker Street?” I asked.
“Because there are many inquiries which must
be made out here. Mrs. St. Clair has most kindly
put two rooms at my disposal, and you may rest
assured that she will have nothing but a welcome
for my friend and colleague. I hate to meet her,
Watson, when I have no news of her husband. Here
we are. Whoa, there, whoa!”
We had pulled up in front of a large villa which
stood within its own grounds. A stable-boy had run
out to the horse’s head, and springing down, I followed Holmes up the small, winding gravel-drive
which led to the house. As we approached, the
door flew open, and a little blonde woman stood in
the opening, clad in some sort of light mousseline
de soie, with a touch of fluffy pink chiffon at her
neck and wrists. She stood with her figure outlined
against the flood of light, one hand upon the door,
one half-raised in her eagerness, her body slightly
bent, her head and face protruded, with eager eyes
and parted lips, a standing question.
“Well?” she cried, “well?” And then, seeing that
there were two of us, she gave a cry of hope which
192
The Man with the Twisted Lip
“What!” he roared.
“And they were posted to-day at Gravesend.
Well, Mrs. St. Clair, the clouds lighten, though I
should not venture to say that the danger is over.”
“But he must be alive, Mr. Holmes.”
“Unless this is a clever forgery to put us on the
wrong scent. The ring, after all, proves nothing. It
may have been taken from him.”
“No, no; it is, it is his very own writing!”
“Very well. It may, however, have been written
on Monday and only posted to-day.”
“That is possible.”
“If so, much may have happened between.”
“Oh, you must not discourage me, Mr. Holmes.
I know that all is well with him. There is so keen
a sympathy between us that I should know if evil
came upon him. On the very day that I saw him
last he cut himself in the bedroom, and yet I in
the dining-room rushed upstairs instantly with the
utmost certainty that something had happened. Do
you think that I would respond to such a trifle and
yet be ignorant of his death?”
“I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than
the conclusion of an analytical reasoner. And in
this letter you certainly have a very strong piece of
evidence to corroborate your view. But if your husband is alive and able to write letters, why should
he remain away from you?”
“I cannot imagine. It is unthinkable.”
“And on Monday he made no remarks before
leaving you?”
“No.”
“And you were surprised to see him in Swandam Lane?”
“Very much so.”
“Was the window open?”
“Yes.”
“Then he might have called to you?”
“He might.”
“He only, as I understand, gave an inarticulate
cry?”
“Yes.”
“A call for help, you thought?”
“Yes. He waved his hands.”
“But it might have been a cry of surprise. Astonishment at the unexpected sight of you might
cause him to throw up his hands?”
“It is possible.”
“And you thought he was pulled back?”
“He disappeared so suddenly.”
“Yes, to-day.” She stood smiling, holding up a
little slip of paper in the air.
“May I see it?”
“Certainly.”
He snatched it from her in his eagerness, and
smoothing it out upon the table he drew over the
lamp and examined it intently. I had left my chair
and was gazing at it over his shoulder. The envelope was a very coarse one and was stamped with
the Gravesend postmark and with the date of that
very day, or rather of the day before, for it was
considerably after midnight.
“Coarse writing,” murmured Holmes. “Surely
this is not your husband’s writing, madam.”
“No, but the enclosure is.”
“I perceive also that whoever addressed the envelope had to go and inquire as to the address.”
“How can you tell that?”
“The name, you see, is in perfectly black ink,
which has dried itself. The rest is of the greyish
colour, which shows that blotting-paper has been
used. If it had been written straight off, and then
blotted, none would be of a deep black shade. This
man has written the name, and there has then been
a pause before he wrote the address, which can
only mean that he was not familiar with it. It is, of
course, a trifle, but there is nothing so important
as trifles. Let us now see the letter. Ha! there has
been an enclosure here!”
“Yes, there was a ring. His signet-ring.”
“And you are sure that this is your husband’s
hand?”
“One of his hands.”
“One?”
“His hand when he wrote hurriedly. It is very
unlike his usual writing, and yet I know it well.”
“Dearest do not be frightened. All will
come well. There is a huge error which
it may take some little time to rectify.
Wait in patience.
— “Neville.
Written in pencil upon the fly-leaf of a book,
octavo size, no water-mark. Hum! Posted to-day
in Gravesend by a man with a dirty thumb. Ha!
And the flap has been gummed, if I am not very
much in error, by a person who had been chewing
tobacco. And you have no doubt that it is your
husband’s hand, madam?”
“None. Neville wrote those words.”
193
The Man with the Twisted Lip
“Certainly.”
“Then dress. No one is stirring yet, but I know
where the stable-boy sleeps, and we shall soon have
the trap out.” He chuckled to himself as he spoke,
his eyes twinkled, and he seemed a different man
to the sombre thinker of the previous night.
As I dressed I glanced at my watch. It was no
wonder that no one was stirring. It was twentyfive minutes past four. I had hardly finished when
Holmes returned with the news that the boy was
putting in the horse.
“I want to test a little theory of mine,” said he,
pulling on his boots. “I think, Watson, that you are
now standing in the presence of one of the most
absolute fools in Europe. I deserve to be kicked
from here to Charing Cross. But I think I have the
key of the affair now.”
“And where is it?” I asked, smiling.
“In the bathroom,” he answered. “Oh, yes, I
am not joking,” he continued, seeing my look of incredulity. “I have just been there, and I have taken
it out, and I have got it in this Gladstone bag. Come
on, my boy, and we shall see whether it will not fit
the lock.”
We made our way downstairs as quietly as possible, and out into the bright morning sunshine. In
the road stood our horse and trap, with the halfclad stable-boy waiting at the head. We both sprang
in, and away we dashed down the London Road.
A few country carts were stirring, bearing in vegetables to the metropolis, but the lines of villas on
either side were as silent and lifeless as some city
in a dream.
“It has been in some points a singular case,”
said Holmes, flicking the horse on into a gallop. “I
confess that I have been as blind as a mole, but it is
better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at
all.”
In town the earliest risers were just beginning
to look sleepily from their windows as we drove
through the streets of the Surrey side. Passing
down the Waterloo Bridge Road we crossed over
the river, and dashing up Wellington Street wheeled
sharply to the right and found ourselves in Bow
Street. Sherlock Holmes was well known to the
force, and the two constables at the door saluted
him. One of them held the horse’s head while the
other led us in.
“Who is on duty?” asked Holmes.
“Inspector Bradstreet, sir.”
“Ah, Bradstreet, how are you?” A tall, stout official had come down the stone-flagged passage, in
a peaked cap and frogged jacket. “I wish to have
a quiet word with you, Bradstreet.” “Certainly, Mr.
“He might have leaped back. You did not see
anyone else in the room?”
“No, but this horrible man confessed to having
been there, and the Lascar was at the foot of the
stairs.”
“Quite so. Your husband, as far as you could
see, had his ordinary clothes on?”
“But without his collar or tie. I distinctly saw
his bare throat.”
“Had he ever spoken of Swandam Lane?”
“Never.”
“Had he ever showed any signs of having taken
opium?”
“Never.”
“Thank you, Mrs. St. Clair. Those are the principal points about which I wished to be absolutely
clear. We shall now have a little supper and then
retire, for we may have a very busy day to-morrow.”
A large and comfortable double-bedded room
had been placed at our disposal, and I was quickly
between the sheets, for I was weary after my night
of adventure. Sherlock Holmes was a man, however, who, when he had an unsolved problem upon
his mind, would go for days, and even for a week,
without rest, turning it over, rearranging his facts,
looking at it from every point of view until he had
either fathomed it or convinced himself that his
data were insufficient. It was soon evident to me
that he was now preparing for an all-night sitting.
He took off his coat and waistcoat, put on a large
blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about the
room collecting pillows from his bed and cushions from the sofa and armchairs. With these he
constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon which
he perched himself cross-legged, with an ounce
of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid out in
front of him. In the dim light of the lamp I saw
him sitting there, an old briar pipe between his
lips, his eyes fixed vacantly upon the corner of the
ceiling, the blue smoke curling up from him, silent,
motionless, with the light shining upon his strongset aquiline features. So he sat as I dropped off
to sleep, and so he sat when a sudden ejaculation
caused me to wake up, and I found the summer
sun shining into the apartment. The pipe was still
between his lips, the smoke still curled upward,
and the room was full of a dense tobacco haze, but
nothing remained of the heap of shag which I had
seen upon the previous night.
“Awake, Watson?” he asked.
“Yes.”
“Game for a morning drive?”
194
The Man with the Twisted Lip
Holmes. Step into my room here.” It was a small,
office-like room, with a huge ledger upon the table, and a telephone projecting from the wall. The
inspector sat down at his desk.
“He certainly needs a wash,” remarked Holmes.
“I had an idea that he might, and I took the liberty of bringing the tools with me.” He opened the
Gladstone bag as he spoke, and took out, to my
astonishment, a very large bath-sponge.
“He! he! You are a funny one,” chuckled the
inspector.
“Now, if you will have the great goodness to
open that door very quietly, we will soon make him
cut a much more respectable figure.”
“Well, I don’t know why not,” said the inspector.
“He doesn’t look a credit to the Bow Street cells,
does he?” He slipped his key into the lock, and we
all very quietly entered the cell. The sleeper half
turned, and then settled down once more into a
deep slumber. Holmes stooped to the water-jug,
moistened his sponge, and then rubbed it twice
vigorously across and down the prisoner’s face.
“Let me introduce you,” he shouted, “to Mr.
Neville St. Clair, of Lee, in the county of Kent.”
Never in my life have I seen such a sight. The
man’s face peeled off under the sponge like the
bark from a tree. Gone was the coarse brown tint!
Gone, too, was the horrid scar which had seamed
it across, and the twisted lip which had given the
repulsive sneer to the face! A twitch brought away
the tangled red hair, and there, sitting up in his bed,
was a pale, sad-faced, refined-looking man, blackhaired and smooth-skinned, rubbing his eyes and
staring about him with sleepy bewilderment. Then
suddenly realising the exposure, he broke into a
scream and threw himself down with his face to
the pillow.
“Great heavens!” cried the inspector, “it is, indeed, the missing man. I know him from the photograph.”
The prisoner turned with the reckless air of a
man who abandons himself to his destiny. “Be it
so,” said he. “And pray what am I charged with?”
“With making away with Mr. Neville St.—Oh,
come, you can’t be charged with that unless they
make a case of attempted suicide of it,” said the
inspector with a grin. “Well, I have been twentyseven years in the force, but this really takes the
cake.”
“If I am Mr. Neville St. Clair, then it is obvious that no crime has been committed, and that,
therefore, I am illegally detained.”
“No crime, but a very great error has been committed,” said Holmes. “You would have done better
to have trusted your wife.”
“It was not the wife; it was the children,”
groaned the prisoner. “God help me, I would not
“What can I do for you, Mr. Holmes?”
“I called about that beggarman, Boone—the one
who was charged with being concerned in the disappearance of Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee.”
“Yes. He was brought up and remanded for
further inquiries.”
“So I heard. You have him here?”
“In the cells.”
“Is he quiet?”
“Oh, he gives no trouble. But he is a dirty
scoundrel.”
“Dirty?”
“Yes, it is all we can do to make him wash his
hands, and his face is as black as a tinker’s. Well,
when once his case has been settled, he will have
a regular prison bath; and I think, if you saw him,
you would agree with me that he needed it.”
“I should like to see him very much.”
“Would you? That is easily done. Come this
way. You can leave your bag.”
“No, I think that I’ll take it.”
“Very good. Come this way, if you please.”
He led us down a passage, opened a barred door,
passed down a winding stair, and brought us to a
whitewashed corridor with a line of doors on each
side.
“The third on the right is his,” said the inspector. “Here it is!” He quietly shot back a panel in
the upper part of the door and glanced through.
“He is asleep,” said he. “You can see him very
well.”
We both put our eyes to the grating. The prisoner lay with his face towards us, in a very deep
sleep, breathing slowly and heavily. He was a
middle-sized man, coarsely clad as became his calling, with a coloured shirt protruding through the
rent in his tattered coat. He was, as the inspector had said, extremely dirty, but the grime which
covered his face could not conceal its repulsive ugliness. A broad wheal from an old scar ran right
across it from eye to chin, and by its contraction
had turned up one side of the upper lip, so that
three teeth were exposed in a perpetual snarl. A
shock of very bright red hair grew low over his
eyes and forehead.
“He’s a beauty, isn’t he?” said the inspector.
195
The Man with the Twisted Lip
have them ashamed of their father. My God! What
an exposure! What can I do?”
my face with a little paint, laying my cap on the
ground, and sitting still. It was a long fight between
my pride and the money, but the dollars won at
last, and I threw up reporting and sat day after day
in the corner which I had first chosen, inspiring
pity by my ghastly face and filling my pockets with
coppers. Only one man knew my secret. He was
the keeper of a low den in which I used to lodge
in Swandam Lane, where I could every morning
emerge as a squalid beggar and in the evenings
transform myself into a well-dressed man about
town. This fellow, a Lascar, was well paid by me
for his rooms, so that I knew that my secret was
safe in his possession.
Sherlock Holmes sat down beside him on the
couch and patted him kindly on the shoulder.
“If you leave it to a court of law to clear the matter up,” said he, “of course you can hardly avoid
publicity. On the other hand, if you convince the police authorities that there is no possible case against
you, I do not know that there is any reason that
the details should find their way into the papers.
Inspector Bradstreet would, I am sure, make notes
upon anything which you might tell us and submit
it to the proper authorities. The case would then
never go into court at all.”
“Well, very soon I found that I was saving considerable sums of money. I do not mean that any
beggar in the streets of London could earn £700 a
year—which is less than my average takings—but I
had exceptional advantages in my power of making up, and also in a facility of repartee, which
improved by practice and made me quite a recognised character in the City. All day a stream of
pennies, varied by silver, poured in upon me, and
it was a very bad day in which I failed to take £2.
“God bless you!” cried the prisoner passionately.
“I would have endured imprisonment, ay, even execution, rather than have left my miserable secret as
a family blot to my children.
“You are the first who have ever heard my
story. My father was a schoolmaster in Chesterfield,
where I received an excellent education. I travelled
in my youth, took to the stage, and finally became
a reporter on an evening paper in London. One
day my editor wished to have a series of articles
upon begging in the metropolis, and I volunteered
to supply them. There was the point from which
all my adventures started. It was only by trying
begging as an amateur that I could get the facts
upon which to base my articles. When an actor I
had, of course, learned all the secrets of making
up, and had been famous in the green-room for my
skill. I took advantage now of my attainments. I
painted my face, and to make myself as pitiable
as possible I made a good scar and fixed one side
of my lip in a twist by the aid of a small slip of
flesh-coloured plaster. Then with a red head of hair,
and an appropriate dress, I took my station in the
business part of the city, ostensibly as a match-seller
but really as a beggar. For seven hours I plied my
trade, and when I returned home in the evening
I found to my surprise that I had received no less
than 26s. 4d.
“As I grew richer I grew more ambitious, took
a house in the country, and eventually married,
without anyone having a suspicion as to my real
occupation. My dear wife knew that I had business
in the City. She little knew what.
“Last Monday I had finished for the day and
was dressing in my room above the opium den
when I looked out of my window and saw, to my
horror and astonishment, that my wife was standing in the street, with her eyes fixed full upon me.
I gave a cry of surprise, threw up my arms to cover
my face, and, rushing to my confidant, the Lascar,
entreated him to prevent anyone from coming up
to me. I heard her voice downstairs, but I knew
that she could not ascend. Swiftly I threw off my
clothes, pulled on those of a beggar, and put on my
pigments and wig. Even a wife’s eyes could not
pierce so complete a disguise. But then it occurred
to me that there might be a search in the room,
and that the clothes might betray me. I threw open
the window, reopening by my violence a small cut
which I had inflicted upon myself in the bedroom
that morning. Then I seized my coat, which was
weighted by the coppers which I had just transferred to it from the leather bag in which I carried
my takings. I hurled it out of the window, and it
disappeared into the Thames. The other clothes
would have followed, but at that moment there was
a rush of constables up the stair, and a few minutes
after I found, rather, I confess, to my relief, that
“I wrote my articles and thought little more of
the matter until, some time later, I backed a bill for
a friend and had a writ served upon me for £25. I
was at my wit’s end where to get the money, but
a sudden idea came to me. I begged a fortnight’s
grace from the creditor, asked for a holiday from
my employers, and spent the time in begging in
the City under my disguise. In ten days I had the
money and had paid the debt.
“Well, you can imagine how hard it was to settle
down to arduous work at £2 a week when I knew
that I could earn as much in a day by smearing
196
The Man with the Twisted Lip
instead of being identified as Mr. Neville St. Clair, I
was arrested as his murderer.
“That was it,” said Holmes, nodding approvingly; “I have no doubt of it. But have you never
been prosecuted for begging?”
“I do not know that there is anything else for
me to explain. I was determined to preserve my disguise as long as possible, and hence my preference
for a dirty face. Knowing that my wife would be
terribly anxious, I slipped off my ring and confided
it to the Lascar at a moment when no constable
was watching me, together with a hurried scrawl,
telling her that she had no cause to fear.”
“Many times; but what was a fine to me?”
“It must stop here, however,” said Bradstreet.
“If the police are to hush this thing up, there must
be no more of Hugh Boone.”
“I have sworn it by the most solemn oaths which
a man can take.”
“In that case I think that it is probable that no
further steps may be taken. But if you are found
again, then all must come out. I am sure, Mr.
Holmes, that we are very much indebted to you for
having cleared the matter up. I wish I knew how
you reach your results.”
“That note only reached her yesterday,” said
Holmes.
“Good God! What a week she must have spent!”
“The police have watched this Lascar,” said Inspector Bradstreet, “and I can quite understand that
he might find it difficult to post a letter unobserved.
Probably he handed it to some sailor customer of
his, who forgot all about it for some days.”
“I reached this one,” said my friend, “by sitting
upon five pillows and consuming an ounce of shag.
I think, Watson, that if we drive to Baker Street we
shall just be in time for breakfast.”
197
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
I
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
had called upon my friend Sherlock
Holmes upon the second morning after
Christmas, with the intention of wishing
him the compliments of the season. He
was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressinggown, a pipe-rack within his reach upon the right,
and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently
newly studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was
a wooden chair, and on the angle of the back hung
a very seedy and disreputable hard-felt hat, much
the worse for wear, and cracked in several places. A
lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair
suggested that the hat had been suspended in this
manner for the purpose of examination.
“No, no, he found it. Its owner is unknown. I
beg that you will look upon it not as a battered
billycock but as an intellectual problem. And, first,
as to how it came here. It arrived upon Christmas
morning, in company with a good fat goose, which
is, I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front
of Peterson’s fire. The facts are these: about four
o’clock on Christmas morning, Peterson, who, as
you know, is a very honest fellow, was returning
from some small jollification and was making his
way homeward down Tottenham Court Road. In
front of him he saw, in the gaslight, a tallish man,
walking with a slight stagger, and carrying a white
goose slung over his shoulder. As he reached the
corner of Goodge Street, a row broke out between
this stranger and a little knot of roughs. One of the
latter knocked off the man’s hat, on which he raised
his stick to defend himself and, swinging it over his
head, smashed the shop window behind him. Peterson had rushed forward to protect the stranger
from his assailants; but the man, shocked at having
broken the window, and seeing an official-looking
person in uniform rushing towards him, dropped
his goose, took to his heels, and vanished amid the
labyrinth of small streets which lie at the back of
Tottenham Court Road. The roughs had also fled
at the appearance of Peterson, so that he was left
in possession of the field of battle, and also of the
spoils of victory in the shape of this battered hat
and a most unimpeachable Christmas goose.”
“Which surely he restored to their owner?”
“My dear fellow, there lies the problem. It is
true that ‘For Mrs. Henry Baker’ was printed upon
a small card which was tied to the bird’s left leg,
and it is also true that the initials ‘H. B.’ are legible
upon the lining of this hat, but as there are some
thousands of Bakers, and some hundreds of Henry
Bakers in this city of ours, it is not easy to restore
lost property to any one of them.”
“What, then, did Peterson do?”
“He brought round both hat and goose to me on
Christmas morning, knowing that even the smallest problems are of interest to me. The goose we
retained until this morning, when there were signs
that, in spite of the slight frost, it would be well
that it should be eaten without unnecessary delay.
Its finder has carried it off, therefore, to fulfil the
ultimate destiny of a goose, while I continue to
retain the hat of the unknown gentleman who lost
his Christmas dinner.”
“Did he not advertise?”
“No.”
“Then, what clue could you have as to his identity?”
“You are engaged,” said I; “perhaps I interrupt
you.”
“Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with
whom I can discuss my results. The matter is a
perfectly trivial one”—he jerked his thumb in the
direction of the old hat—“but there are points in
connection with it which are not entirely devoid of
interest and even of instruction.”
I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my
hands before his crackling fire, for a sharp frost
had set in, and the windows were thick with the
ice crystals. “I suppose,” I remarked, “that, homely
as it looks, this thing has some deadly story linked
on to it—that it is the clue which will guide you in
the solution of some mystery and the punishment
of some crime.”
“No, no. No crime,” said Sherlock Holmes,
laughing. “Only one of those whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have four
million human beings all jostling each other within
the space of a few square miles. Amid the action
and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected
to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without
being criminal. We have already had experience of
such.”
“So much so,” I remarked, “that of the last six
cases which I have added to my notes, three have
been entirely free of any legal crime.”
“Precisely. You allude to my attempt to recover
the Irene Adler papers, to the singular case of Miss
Mary Sutherland, and to the adventure of the man
with the twisted lip. Well, I have no doubt that
this small matter will fall into the same innocent
category. You know Peterson, the commissionaire?”
“Yes.”
“It is to him that this trophy belongs.”
“It is his hat.”
201
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
“Only as much as we can deduce.”
to be deduced from his hat. Also, by the way, that
it is extremely improbable that he has gas laid on
in his house.”
“You are certainly joking, Holmes.”
“Not in the least. Is it possible that even now,
when I give you these results, you are unable to see
how they are attained?”
“I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I
must confess that I am unable to follow you. For
example, how did you deduce that this man was
intellectual?”
For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his
head. It came right over the forehead and settled
upon the bridge of his nose. “It is a question of
cubic capacity,” said he; “a man with so large a
brain must have something in it.”
“The decline of his fortunes, then?”
“This hat is three years old. These flat brims
curled at the edge came in then. It is a hat of the
very best quality. Look at the band of ribbed silk
and the excellent lining. If this man could afford
to buy so expensive a hat three years ago, and has
had no hat since, then he has assuredly gone down
in the world.”
“Well, that is clear enough, certainly. But how
about the foresight and the moral retrogression?”
Sherlock Holmes laughed. “Here is the foresight,” said he putting his finger upon the little disc
and loop of the hat-securer. “They are never sold
upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a sign of a
certain amount of foresight, since he went out of his
way to take this precaution against the wind. But
since we see that he has broken the elastic and has
not troubled to replace it, it is obvious that he has
less foresight now than formerly, which is a distinct
proof of a weakening nature. On the other hand,
he has endeavoured to conceal some of these stains
upon the felt by daubing them with ink, which is a
sign that he has not entirely lost his self-respect.”
“Your reasoning is certainly plausible.”
“The further points, that he is middle-aged, that
his hair is grizzled, that it has been recently cut,
and that he uses lime-cream, are all to be gathered
from a close examination of the lower part of the lining. The lens discloses a large number of hair-ends,
clean cut by the scissors of the barber. They all appear to be adhesive, and there is a distinct odour of
lime-cream. This dust, you will observe, is not the
gritty, grey dust of the street but the fluffy brown
dust of the house, showing that it has been hung
up indoors most of the time, while the marks of
moisture upon the inside are proof positive that the
wearer perspired very freely, and could therefore,
hardly be in the best of training.”
“From his hat?”
“Precisely.”
“But you are joking. What can you gather from
this old battered felt?”
“Here is my lens. You know my methods. What
can you gather yourself as to the individuality of
the man who has worn this article?”
I took the tattered object in my hands and
turned it over rather ruefully. It was a very ordinary
black hat of the usual round shape, hard and much
the worse for wear. The lining had been of red silk,
but was a good deal discoloured. There was no
maker’s name; but, as Holmes had remarked, the
initials “H. B.” were scrawled upon one side. It
was pierced in the brim for a hat-securer, but the
elastic was missing. For the rest, it was cracked,
exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places,
although there seemed to have been some attempt
to hide the discoloured patches by smearing them
with ink.
“I can see nothing,” said I, handing it back to
my friend.
“On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you
see. You are too timid in drawing your inferences.”
“Then, pray tell me what it is that you can infer
from this hat?”
He picked it up and gazed at it in the peculiar
introspective fashion which was characteristic of
him. “It is perhaps less suggestive than it might
have been,” he remarked, “and yet there are a few
inferences which are very distinct, and a few others
which represent at least a strong balance of probability. That the man was highly intellectual is of
course obvious upon the face of it, and also that
he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years,
although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had
foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing
to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with
the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some
evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him.
This may account also for the obvious fact that his
wife has ceased to love him.”
“My dear Holmes!”
“He has, however, retained some degree of selfrespect,” he continued, disregarding my remonstrance. “He is a man who leads a sedentary life,
goes out little, is out of training entirely, is middleaged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within
the last few days, and which he anoints with limecream. These are the more patent facts which are
202
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
“But his wife—you said that she had ceased to
love him.”
“Not the Countess of Morcar’s blue carbuncle!”
I ejaculated.
“This hat has not been brushed for weeks.
When I see you, my dear Watson, with a week’s accumulation of dust upon your hat, and when your
wife allows you to go out in such a state, I shall
fear that you also have been unfortunate enough to
lose your wife’s affection.”
“Precisely so. I ought to know its size and shape,
seeing that I have read the advertisement about
it in The Times every day lately. It is absolutely
unique, and its value can only be conjectured, but
the reward offered of £1000 is certainly not within
a twentieth part of the market price.”
“But he might be a bachelor.”
“A thousand pounds! Great Lord of mercy!”
The commissionaire plumped down into a chair
and stared from one to the other of us.
“Nay, he was bringing home the goose as a
peace-offering to his wife. Remember the card upon
the bird’s leg.”
“That is the reward, and I have reason to know
that there are sentimental considerations in the
background which would induce the Countess to
part with half her fortune if she could but recover
the gem.”
“You have an answer to everything. But how on
earth do you deduce that the gas is not laid on in
his house?”
“One tallow stain, or even two, might come by
chance; but when I see no less than five, I think
that there can be little doubt that the individual
must be brought into frequent contact with burning tallow—walks upstairs at night probably with
his hat in one hand and a guttering candle in the
other. Anyhow, he never got tallow-stains from a
gas-jet. Are you satisfied?”
“It was lost, if I remember aright, at the Hotel
Cosmopolitan,” I remarked.
“Precisely so, on December 22nd, just five days
ago. John Horner, a plumber, was accused of having abstracted it from the lady’s jewel-case. The
evidence against him was so strong that the case
has been referred to the Assizes. I have some account of the matter here, I believe.” He rummaged
amid his newspapers, glancing over the dates, until
at last he smoothed one out, doubled it over, and
read the following paragraph:
“Hotel Cosmopolitan Jewel Robbery. John
Horner, 26, plumber, was brought up upon
the charge of having upon the 22nd inst.
abstracted from the jewel-case of the Countess of Morcar the valuable gem known as
the blue carbuncle. James Ryder, upperattendant at the hotel, gave his evidence
to the effect that he had shown Horner
up to the dressing-room of the Countess
of Morcar upon the day of the robbery in
order that he might solder the second bar
of the grate, which was loose. He had remained with Horner some little time, but
had finally been called away. On returning, he found that Horner had disappeared,
that the bureau had been forced open, and
that the small morocco casket in which, as
it afterwards transpired, the Countess was
accustomed to keep her jewel, was lying
empty upon the dressing-table. Ryder instantly gave the alarm, and Horner was arrested the same evening; but the stone could
not be found either upon his person or in
his rooms. Catherine Cusack, maid to the
Countess, deposed to having heard Ryder’s
cry of dismay on discovering the robbery,
and to having rushed into the room, where
“Well, it is very ingenious,” said I, laughing;
“but since, as you said just now, there has been no
crime committed, and no harm done save the loss
of a goose, all this seems to be rather a waste of
energy.”
Sherlock Holmes had opened his mouth to reply, when the door flew open, and Peterson, the
commissionaire, rushed into the apartment with
flushed cheeks and the face of a man who is dazed
with astonishment.
“The goose, Mr. Holmes! The goose, sir!” he
gasped.
“Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to
life and flapped off through the kitchen window?”
Holmes twisted himself round upon the sofa to get
a fairer view of the man’s excited face.
“See here, sir! See what my wife found in its
crop!” He held out his hand and displayed upon
the centre of the palm a brilliantly scintillating blue
stone, rather smaller than a bean in size, but of
such purity and radiance that it twinkled like an
electric point in the dark hollow of his hand.
Sherlock Holmes sat up with a whistle. “By Jove,
Peterson!” said he, “this is treasure trove indeed. I
suppose you know what you have got?”
“A diamond, sir? A precious stone. It cuts into
glass as though it were putty.”
“It’s more than a precious stone. It is the precious stone.”
203
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
she found matters as described by the last
witness. Inspector Bradstreet, B division,
gave evidence as to the arrest of Horner,
who struggled frantically, and protested his
innocence in the strongest terms. Evidence
of a previous conviction for robbery having
been given against the prisoner, the magistrate refused to deal summarily with the offence, but referred it to the Assizes. Horner,
who had shown signs of intense emotion
during the proceedings, fainted away at the
conclusion and was carried out of court.”
“Very well, sir. And this stone?”
“Ah, yes, I shall keep the stone. Thank you.
And, I say, Peterson, just buy a goose on your way
back and leave it here with me, for we must have
one to give to this gentleman in place of the one
which your family is now devouring.”
When the commissionaire had gone, Holmes
took up the stone and held it against the light. “It’s
a bonny thing,” said he. “Just see how it glints
and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus
of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil’s
pet baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet
may stand for a bloody deed. This stone is not yet
twenty years old. It was found in the banks of the
Amoy River in southern China and is remarkable
in having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save
that it is blue in shade instead of ruby red. In spite
of its youth, it has already a sinister history. There
have been two murders, a vitriol-throwing, a suicide, and several robberies brought about for the
sake of this forty-grain weight of crystallised charcoal. Who would think that so pretty a toy would
be a purveyor to the gallows and the prison? I’ll
lock it up in my strong box now and drop a line to
the Countess to say that we have it.”
“Hum! So much for the police-court,” said Holmes
thoughtfully, tossing aside the paper. “The question for us now to solve is the sequence of events
leading from a rifled jewel-case at one end to the
crop of a goose in Tottenham Court Road at the
other. You see, Watson, our little deductions have
suddenly assumed a much more important and
less innocent aspect. Here is the stone; the stone
came from the goose, and the goose came from Mr.
Henry Baker, the gentleman with the bad hat and
all the other characteristics with which I have bored
you. So now we must set ourselves very seriously
to finding this gentleman and ascertaining what
part he has played in this little mystery. To do this,
we must try the simplest means first, and these lie
undoubtedly in an advertisement in all the evening
papers. If this fail, I shall have recourse to other
methods.”
“Do you think that this man Horner is innocent?”
“I cannot tell.”
“Well, then, do you imagine that this other one,
Henry Baker, had anything to do with the matter?”
“What will you say?”
“It is, I think, much more likely that Henry
Baker is an absolutely innocent man, who had no
idea that the bird which he was carrying was of
considerably more value than if it were made of
solid gold. That, however, I shall determine by a
very simple test if we have an answer to our advertisement.”
“Give me a pencil and that slip of paper. Now,
then: ‘Found at the corner of Goodge Street, a
goose and a black felt hat. Mr. Henry Baker can
have the same by applying at 6.30 this evening at
221b, Baker Street.’ That is clear and concise.”
“Very. But will he see it?”
“Well, he is sure to keep an eye on the papers,
since, to a poor man, the loss was a heavy one. He
was clearly so scared by his mischance in breaking
the window and by the approach of Peterson that
he thought of nothing but flight, but since then
he must have bitterly regretted the impulse which
caused him to drop his bird. Then, again, the introduction of his name will cause him to see it, for
everyone who knows him will direct his attention
to it. Here you are, Peterson, run down to the advertising agency and have this put in the evening
papers.”
“And you can do nothing until then?”
“Nothing.”
“In that case I shall continue my professional
round. But I shall come back in the evening at the
hour you have mentioned, for I should like to see
the solution of so tangled a business.”
“Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is
a woodcock, I believe. By the way, in view of recent
occurrences, perhaps I ought to ask Mrs. Hudson
to examine its crop.”
I had been delayed at a case, and it was a little
after half-past six when I found myself in Baker
Street once more. As I approached the house I saw
a tall man in a Scotch bonnet with a coat which
was buttoned up to his chin waiting outside in the
“In which, sir?”
“Oh, in the Globe, Star, Pall Mall, St. James’s,
Evening News, Standard, Echo, and any others that
occur to you.”
204
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
disjecta membra of my late acquaintance are going
to be to me. No, sir, I think that, with your permission, I will confine my attentions to the excellent
bird which I perceive upon the sideboard.”
Sherlock Holmes glanced sharply across at me
with a slight shrug of his shoulders.
“There is your hat, then, and there your bird,”
said he. “By the way, would it bore you to tell me
where you got the other one from? I am somewhat
of a fowl fancier, and I have seldom seen a better
grown goose.”
“Certainly, sir,” said Baker, who had risen and
tucked his newly gained property under his arm.
“There are a few of us who frequent the Alpha Inn,
near the Museum—we are to be found in the Museum itself during the day, you understand. This
year our good host, Windigate by name, instituted
a goose club, by which, on consideration of some
few pence every week, we were each to receive a
bird at Christmas. My pence were duly paid, and
the rest is familiar to you. I am much indebted to
you, sir, for a Scotch bonnet is fitted neither to my
years nor my gravity.” With a comical pomposity
of manner he bowed solemnly to both of us and
strode off upon his way.
“So much for Mr. Henry Baker,” said Holmes
when he had closed the door behind him. “It is
quite certain that he knows nothing whatever about
the matter. Are you hungry, Watson?”
“Not particularly.”
“Then I suggest that we turn our dinner into a
supper and follow up this clue while it is still hot.”
“By all means.”
It was a bitter night, so we drew on our ulsters
and wrapped cravats about our throats. Outside,
the stars were shining coldly in a cloudless sky, and
the breath of the passers-by blew out into smoke
like so many pistol shots. Our footfalls rang out
crisply and loudly as we swung through the doctors’ quarter, Wimpole Street, Harley Street, and
so through Wigmore Street into Oxford Street. In
a quarter of an hour we were in Bloomsbury at
the Alpha Inn, which is a small public-house at
the corner of one of the streets which runs down
into Holborn. Holmes pushed open the door of the
private bar and ordered two glasses of beer from
the ruddy-faced, white-aproned landlord.
“Your beer should be excellent if it is as good
as your geese,” said he.
“My geese!” The man seemed surprised.
“Yes. I was speaking only half an hour ago to
Mr. Henry Baker, who was a member of your goose
club.”
bright semicircle which was thrown from the fanlight. Just as I arrived the door was opened, and
we were shown up together to Holmes’ room.
“Mr. Henry Baker, I believe,” said he, rising
from his armchair and greeting his visitor with the
easy air of geniality which he could so readily assume. “Pray take this chair by the fire, Mr. Baker. It
is a cold night, and I observe that your circulation
is more adapted for summer than for winter. Ah,
Watson, you have just come at the right time. Is
that your hat, Mr. Baker?”
“Yes, sir, that is undoubtedly my hat.”
He was a large man with rounded shoulders, a
massive head, and a broad, intelligent face, sloping down to a pointed beard of grizzled brown.
A touch of red in nose and cheeks, with a slight
tremor of his extended hand, recalled Holmes’ surmise as to his habits. His rusty black frock-coat was
buttoned right up in front, with the collar turned
up, and his lank wrists protruded from his sleeves
without a sign of cuff or shirt. He spoke in a slow
staccato fashion, choosing his words with care, and
gave the impression generally of a man of learning
and letters who had had ill-usage at the hands of
fortune.
“We have retained these things for some days,”
said Holmes, “because we expected to see an advertisement from you giving your address. I am at
a loss to know now why you did not advertise.”
Our visitor gave a rather shamefaced laugh.
“Shillings have not been so plentiful with me as
they once were,” he remarked. “I had no doubt
that the gang of roughs who assaulted me had
carried off both my hat and the bird. I did not
care to spend more money in a hopeless attempt at
recovering them.”
“Very naturally. By the way, about the bird, we
were compelled to eat it.”
“To eat it!” Our visitor half rose from his chair
in his excitement.
“Yes, it would have been of no use to anyone
had we not done so. But I presume that this other
goose upon the sideboard, which is about the same
weight and perfectly fresh, will answer your purpose equally well?”
“Oh, certainly, certainly,” answered Mr. Baker
with a sigh of relief.
“Of course, we still have the feathers, legs, crop,
and so on of your own bird, so if you wish—”
The man burst into a hearty laugh. “They might
be useful to me as relics of my adventure,” said
he, “but beyond that I can hardly see what use the
205
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
“Ah! yes, I see. But you see, sir, them’s not our
geese.”
“It is straight enough. I should like to know
who sold you the geese which you supplied to the
Alpha.”
“Well then, I shan’t tell you. So now!”
“Oh, it is a matter of no importance; but I don’t
know why you should be so warm over such a
trifle.”
“Warm! You’d be as warm, maybe, if you were
as pestered as I am. When I pay good money for a
good article there should be an end of the business;
but it’s ‘Where are the geese?’ and ‘Who did you
sell the geese to?’ and ‘What will you take for the
geese?’ One would think they were the only geese
in the world, to hear the fuss that is made over
them.”
“Well, I have no connection with any other people who have been making inquiries,” said Holmes
carelessly. “If you won’t tell us the bet is off, that
is all. But I’m always ready to back my opinion on
a matter of fowls, and I have a fiver on it that the
bird I ate is country bred.”
“Well, then, you’ve lost your fiver, for it’s town
bred,” snapped the salesman.
“It’s nothing of the kind.”
“I say it is.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“D’you think you know more about fowls than I,
who have handled them ever since I was a nipper?
I tell you, all those birds that went to the Alpha
were town bred.”
“You’ll never persuade me to believe that.”
“Will you bet, then?”
“It’s merely taking your money, for I know that
I am right. But I’ll have a sovereign on with you,
just to teach you not to be obstinate.”
The salesman chuckled grimly. “Bring me the
books, Bill,” said he.
The small boy brought round a small thin volume and a great greasy-backed one, laying them
out together beneath the hanging lamp.
“Now then, Mr. Cocksure,” said the salesman,
“I thought that I was out of geese, but before I finish you’ll find that there is still one left in my shop.
You see this little book?”
“Well?”
“That’s the list of the folk from whom I buy.
D’you see? Well, then, here on this page are the
country folk, and the numbers after their names
are where their accounts are in the big ledger. Now,
then! You see this other page in red ink? Well, that
is a list of my town suppliers. Now, look at that
third name. Just read it out to me.”
“Indeed! Whose, then?”
“Well, I got the two dozen from a salesman in
Covent Garden.”
“Indeed? I know some of them. Which was it?”
“Breckinridge is his name.”
“Ah! I don’t know him. Well, here’s your
good health landlord, and prosperity to your house.
Good-night.”
“Now for Mr. Breckinridge,” he continued, buttoning up his coat as we came out into the frosty
air. “Remember, Watson that though we have so
homely a thing as a goose at one end of this chain,
we have at the other a man who will certainly get
seven years’ penal servitude unless we can establish his innocence. It is possible that our inquiry
may but confirm his guilt; but, in any case, we have
a line of investigation which has been missed by
the police, and which a singular chance has placed
in our hands. Let us follow it out to the bitter end.
Faces to the south, then, and quick march!”
We passed across Holborn, down Endell Street,
and so through a zigzag of slums to Covent Garden Market. One of the largest stalls bore the
name of Breckinridge upon it, and the proprietor
a horsey-looking man, with a sharp face and trim
side-whiskers was helping a boy to put up the shutters.
“Good-evening. It’s a cold night,” said Holmes.
The salesman nodded and shot a questioning
glance at my companion.
“Sold out of geese, I see,” continued Holmes,
pointing at the bare slabs of marble.
“Let you have five hundred to-morrow morning.”
“That’s no good.”
“Well, there are some on the stall with the gasflare.”
“Ah, but I was recommended to you.”
“Who by?”
“The landlord of the Alpha.”
“Oh, yes; I sent him a couple of dozen.”
“Fine birds they were, too. Now where did you
get them from?”
To my surprise the question provoked a burst
of anger from the salesman.
“Now, then, mister,” said he, with his head
cocked and his arms akimbo, “what are you driving at? Let’s have it straight, now.”
206
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
“Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road—249,” read
Holmes.
“Well, you can ask the King of Proosia, for all
I care. I’ve had enough of it. Get out of this!” He
rushed fiercely forward, and the inquirer flitted
away into the darkness.
“Ha! this may save us a visit to Brixton Road,”
whispered Holmes. “Come with me, and we will
see what is to be made of this fellow.” Striding
through the scattered knots of people who lounged
round the flaring stalls, my companion speedily
overtook the little man and touched him upon the
shoulder. He sprang round, and I could see in
the gas-light that every vestige of colour had been
driven from his face.
“Who are you, then? What do you want?” he
asked in a quavering voice.
“You will excuse me,” said Holmes blandly,
“but I could not help overhearing the questions
which you put to the salesman just now. I think
that I could be of assistance to you.”
“You? Who are you? How could you know
anything of the matter?”
“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business
to know what other people don’t know.”
“But you can know nothing of this?”
“Excuse me, I know everything of it. You are
endeavouring to trace some geese which were sold
by Mrs. Oakshott, of Brixton Road, to a salesman
named Breckinridge, by him in turn to Mr. Windigate, of the Alpha, and by him to his club, of which
Mr. Henry Baker is a member.”
“Oh, sir, you are the very man whom I have
longed to meet,” cried the little fellow with outstretched hands and quivering fingers. “I can
hardly explain to you how interested I am in this
matter.”
Sherlock Holmes hailed a four-wheeler which
was passing. “In that case we had better discuss
it in a cosy room rather than in this wind-swept
market-place,” said he. “But pray tell me, before
we go farther, who it is that I have the pleasure of
assisting.”
The man hesitated for an instant. “My name
is John Robinson,” he answered with a sidelong
glance.
“No, no; the real name,” said Holmes sweetly.
“It is always awkward doing business with an
alias.”
A flush sprang to the white cheeks of the
stranger. “Well then,” said he, “my real name is
James Ryder.”
“Precisely so. Head attendant at the Hotel Cosmopolitan. Pray step into the cab, and I shall soon
be able to tell you everything which you would
wish to know.”
“Quite so. Now turn that up in the ledger.”
Holmes turned to the page indicated. “Here
you are, ‘Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road, egg and
poultry supplier.’ ”
“Now, then, what’s the last entry?”
“ ‘December 22nd. Twenty-four geese at 7s.
6d.’ ”
“Quite so. There you are. And underneath?”
“ ‘Sold to Mr. Windigate of the Alpha, at 12s.’ ”
“What have you to say now?”
Sherlock Holmes looked deeply chagrined. He
drew a sovereign from his pocket and threw it
down upon the slab, turning away with the air of
a man whose disgust is too deep for words. A
few yards off he stopped under a lamp-post and
laughed in the hearty, noiseless fashion which was
peculiar to him.
“When you see a man with whiskers of that cut
and the ‘Pink ’un’ protruding out of his pocket, you
can always draw him by a bet,” said he. “I daresay
that if I had put £100 down in front of him, that
man would not have given me such complete information as was drawn from him by the idea that he
was doing me on a wager. Well, Watson, we are, I
fancy, nearing the end of our quest, and the only
point which remains to be determined is whether
we should go on to this Mrs. Oakshott to-night, or
whether we should reserve it for to-morrow. It is
clear from what that surly fellow said that there are
others besides ourselves who are anxious about the
matter, and I should—”
His remarks were suddenly cut short by a loud
hubbub which broke out from the stall which we
had just left. Turning round we saw a little ratfaced fellow standing in the centre of the circle of
yellow light which was thrown by the swinging
lamp, while Breckinridge, the salesman, framed in
the door of his stall, was shaking his fists fiercely
at the cringing figure.
“I’ve had enough of you and your geese,” he
shouted. “I wish you were all at the devil together.
If you come pestering me any more with your silly
talk I’ll set the dog at you. You bring Mrs. Oakshott
here and I’ll answer her, but what have you to do
with it? Did I buy the geese off you?”
“No; but one of them was mine all the same,”
whined the little man.
“Well, then, ask Mrs. Oakshott for it.”
“She told me to ask you.”
207
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
The little man stood glancing from one to the
other of us with half-frightened, half-hopeful eyes,
as one who is not sure whether he is on the verge
of a windfall or of a catastrophe. Then he stepped
into the cab, and in half an hour we were back in
the sitting-room at Baker Street. Nothing had been
said during our drive, but the high, thin breathing
of our new companion, and the claspings and unclaspings of his hands, spoke of the nervous tension
within him.
“It was Catherine Cusack who told me of it,”
said he in a crackling voice.
“I see—her ladyship’s waiting-maid. Well, the
temptation of sudden wealth so easily acquired
was too much for you, as it has been for better men
before you; but you were not very scrupulous in
the means you used. It seems to me, Ryder, that
there is the making of a very pretty villain in you.
You knew that this man Horner, the plumber, had
been concerned in some such matter before, and
that suspicion would rest the more readily upon
him. What did you do, then? You made some
small job in my lady’s room—you and your confederate Cusack—and you managed that he should
be the man sent for. Then, when he had left, you
rifled the jewel-case, raised the alarm, and had this
unfortunate man arrested. You then—”
“Here we are!” said Holmes cheerily as we filed
into the room. “The fire looks very seasonable in
this weather. You look cold, Mr. Ryder. Pray take
the basket-chair. I will just put on my slippers before we settle this little matter of yours. Now, then!
You want to know what became of those geese?”
“Yes, sir.”
Ryder threw himself down suddenly upon the
rug and clutched at my companion’s knees. “For
God’s sake, have mercy!” he shrieked. “Think of
my father! Of my mother! It would break their
hearts. I never went wrong before! I never will
again. I swear it. I’ll swear it on a Bible. Oh, don’t
bring it into court! For Christ’s sake, don’t!”
“Or rather, I fancy, of that goose. It was one bird,
I imagine in which you were interested—white,
with a black bar across the tail.”
Ryder quivered with emotion. “Oh, sir,” he
cried, “can you tell me where it went to?”
“It came here.”
“Here?”
“Get back into your chair!” said Holmes sternly.
“It is very well to cringe and crawl now, but you
thought little enough of this poor Horner in the
dock for a crime of which he knew nothing.”
“Yes, and a most remarkable bird it proved. I
don’t wonder that you should take an interest in
it. It laid an egg after it was dead—the bonniest,
brightest little blue egg that ever was seen. I have
it here in my museum.”
“I will fly, Mr. Holmes. I will leave the country,
sir. Then the charge against him will break down.”
Our visitor staggered to his feet and clutched
the mantelpiece with his right hand. Holmes unlocked his strong-box and held up the blue carbuncle, which shone out like a star, with a cold,
brilliant, many-pointed radiance. Ryder stood glaring with a drawn face, uncertain whether to claim
or to disown it.
“Hum! We will talk about that. And now let us
hear a true account of the next act. How came the
stone into the goose, and how came the goose into
the open market? Tell us the truth, for there lies
your only hope of safety.”
Ryder passed his tongue over his parched lips.
“I will tell you it just as it happened, sir,” said
he. “When Horner had been arrested, it seemed to
me that it would be best for me to get away with
the stone at once, for I did not know at what moment the police might not take it into their heads to
search me and my room. There was no place about
the hotel where it would be safe. I went out, as if on
some commission, and I made for my sister’s house.
She had married a man named Oakshott, and lived
in Brixton Road, where she fattened fowls for the
market. All the way there every man I met seemed
to me to be a policeman or a detective; and, for
all that it was a cold night, the sweat was pouring
down my face before I came to the Brixton Road.
My sister asked me what was the matter, and why
I was so pale; but I told her that I had been upset
by the jewel robbery at the hotel. Then I went into
“The game’s up, Ryder,” said Holmes quietly.
“Hold up, man, or you’ll be into the fire! Give him
an arm back into his chair, Watson. He’s not got
blood enough to go in for felony with impunity.
Give him a dash of brandy. So! Now he looks a
little more human. What a shrimp it is, to be sure!”
For a moment he had staggered and nearly
fallen, but the brandy brought a tinge of colour
into his cheeks, and he sat staring with frightened
eyes at his accuser.
“I have almost every link in my hands, and all
the proofs which I could possibly need, so there is
little which you need tell me. Still, that little may as
well be cleared up to make the case complete. You
had heard, Ryder, of this blue stone of the Countess
of Morcar’s?”
208
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
the back yard and smoked a pipe and wondered
what it would be best to do.
“ ‘That white one with the barred tail, right in
the middle of the flock.’
“ ‘Oh, very well. Kill it and take it with you.’
“Well, I did what she said, Mr. Holmes, and I
carried the bird all the way to Kilburn. I told my
pal what I had done, for he was a man that it was
easy to tell a thing like that to. He laughed until he
choked, and we got a knife and opened the goose.
My heart turned to water, for there was no sign of
the stone, and I knew that some terrible mistake
had occurred. I left the bird, rushed back to my
sister’s, and hurried into the back yard. There was
not a bird to be seen there.
“ ‘Where are they all, Maggie?’ I cried.
“ ‘Gone to the dealer’s, Jem.’
“ ‘Which dealer’s?’
“ ‘Breckinridge, of Covent Garden.’
“ ‘But was there another with a barred tail?’ I
asked, ‘the same as the one I chose?’
“ ‘Yes, Jem; there were two barred-tailed ones,
and I could never tell them apart.’
“Well, then, of course I saw it all, and I ran off
as hard as my feet would carry me to this man
Breckinridge; but he had sold the lot at once, and
not one word would he tell me as to where they
had gone. You heard him yourselves to-night. Well,
he has always answered me like that. My sister
thinks that I am going mad. Sometimes I think
that I am myself. And now—and now I am myself
a branded thief, without ever having touched the
wealth for which I sold my character. God help me!
God help me!” He burst into convulsive sobbing,
with his face buried in his hands.
There was a long silence, broken only by his
heavy breathing and by the measured tapping of
Sherlock Holmes’ finger-tips upon the edge of the
table. Then my friend rose and threw open the
door.
“Get out!” said he.
“What, sir! Oh, Heaven bless you!”
“No more words. Get out!”
And no more words were needed. There was a
rush, a clatter upon the stairs, the bang of a door,
and the crisp rattle of running footfalls from the
street.
“After all, Watson,” said Holmes, reaching up
his hand for his clay pipe, “I am not retained by
the police to supply their deficiencies. If Horner
were in danger it would be another thing; but this
fellow will not appear against him, and the case
must collapse. I suppose that I am commuting a
felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a
soul. This fellow will not go wrong again; he is
“I had a friend once called Maudsley, who went
to the bad, and has just been serving his time in
Pentonville. One day he had met me, and fell into
talk about the ways of thieves, and how they could
get rid of what they stole. I knew that he would be
true to me, for I knew one or two things about him;
so I made up my mind to go right on to Kilburn,
where he lived, and take him into my confidence.
He would show me how to turn the stone into
money. But how to get to him in safety? I thought
of the agonies I had gone through in coming from
the hotel. I might at any moment be seized and
searched, and there would be the stone in my waistcoat pocket. I was leaning against the wall at the
time and looking at the geese which were waddling
about round my feet, and suddenly an idea came
into my head which showed me how I could beat
the best detective that ever lived.
“My sister had told me some weeks before that
I might have the pick of her geese for a Christmas
present, and I knew that she was always as good
as her word. I would take my goose now, and in
it I would carry my stone to Kilburn. There was a
little shed in the yard, and behind this I drove one
of the birds—a fine big one, white, with a barred
tail. I caught it, and prying its bill open, I thrust
the stone down its throat as far as my finger could
reach. The bird gave a gulp, and I felt the stone
pass along its gullet and down into its crop. But
the creature flapped and struggled, and out came
my sister to know what was the matter. As I turned
to speak to her the brute broke loose and fluttered
off among the others.
“ ‘Whatever were you doing with that bird, Jem?’
says she.
“ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘you said you’d give me one for
Christmas, and I was feeling which was the fattest.’
“ ‘Oh,’ says she, ‘we’ve set yours aside for
you—Jem’s bird, we call it. It’s the big white one
over yonder. There’s twenty-six of them, which
makes one for you, and one for us, and two dozen
for the market.’
“ ‘Thank you, Maggie,’ says I; ‘but if it is all the
same to you, I’d rather have that one I was handling
just now.’
“ ‘The other is a good three pound heavier,’ said
she, ‘and we fattened it expressly for you.’
“ ‘Never mind. I’ll have the other, and I’ll take
it now,’ said I.
“ ‘Oh, just as you like,’ said she, a little huffed.
‘Which is it you want, then?’
209
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
too terribly frightened. Send him to jail now, and
you make him a jail-bird for life. Besides, it is the
season of forgiveness. Chance has put in our way
a most singular and whimsical problem, and its
solution is its own reward. If you will have the
goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin
another investigation, in which, also a bird will be
the chief feature.”
210
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
O
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
n glancing over my notes of the seventy
odd cases in which I have during the
last eight years studied the methods of
my friend Sherlock Holmes, I find many
tragic, some comic, a large number merely strange,
but none commonplace; for, working as he did
rather for the love of his art than for the acquirement of wealth, he refused to associate himself with
any investigation which did not tend towards the
unusual, and even the fantastic. Of all these varied
cases, however, I cannot recall any which presented
more singular features than that which was associated with the well-known Surrey family of the
Roylotts of Stoke Moran. The events in question
occurred in the early days of my association with
Holmes, when we were sharing rooms as bachelors
in Baker Street. It is possible that I might have
placed them upon record before, but a promise of
secrecy was made at the time, from which I have
only been freed during the last month by the untimely death of the lady to whom the pledge was
given. It is perhaps as well that the facts should
now come to light, for I have reasons to know that
there are widespread rumours as to the death of Dr.
Grimesby Roylott which tend to make the matter
even more terrible than the truth.
admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis
with which he unravelled the problems which were
submitted to him. I rapidly threw on my clothes
and was ready in a few minutes to accompany my
friend down to the sitting-room. A lady dressed in
black and heavily veiled, who had been sitting in
the window, rose as we entered.
“Good-morning, madam,” said Holmes cheerily.
“My name is Sherlock Holmes. This is my intimate
friend and associate, Dr. Watson, before whom you
can speak as freely as before myself. Ha! I am glad
to see that Mrs. Hudson has had the good sense to
light the fire. Pray draw up to it, and I shall order
you a cup of hot coffee, for I observe that you are
shivering.”
“It is not cold which makes me shiver,” said
the woman in a low voice, changing her seat as
requested.
“What, then?”
“It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror.” She raised
her veil as she spoke, and we could see that she
was indeed in a pitiable state of agitation, her face
all drawn and grey, with restless frightened eyes,
like those of some hunted animal. Her features
and figure were those of a woman of thirty, but her
hair was shot with premature grey, and her expression was weary and haggard. Sherlock Holmes ran
her over with one of his quick, all-comprehensive
glances.
It was early in April in the year ’83 that I woke
one morning to find Sherlock Holmes standing,
fully dressed, by the side of my bed. He was a late
riser, as a rule, and as the clock on the mantelpiece
showed me that it was only a quarter-past seven, I
blinked up at him in some surprise, and perhaps
just a little resentment, for I was myself regular in
my habits.
“You must not fear,” said he soothingly, bending forward and patting her forearm. “We shall
soon set matters right, I have no doubt. You have
come in by train this morning, I see.”
“Very sorry to knock you up, Watson,” said he,
“but it’s the common lot this morning. Mrs. Hudson has been knocked up, she retorted upon me,
and I on you.”
“You know me, then?”
“No, but I observe the second half of a return
ticket in the palm of your left glove. You must have
started early, and yet you had a good drive in a
dog-cart, along heavy roads, before you reached
the station.”
“What is it, then—a fire?”
“No; a client. It seems that a young lady has
arrived in a considerable state of excitement, who
insists upon seeing me. She is waiting now in the
sitting-room. Now, when young ladies wander
about the metropolis at this hour of the morning,
and knock sleepy people up out of their beds, I
presume that it is something very pressing which
they have to communicate. Should it prove to be
an interesting case, you would, I am sure, wish to
follow it from the outset. I thought, at any rate,
that I should call you and give you the chance.”
The lady gave a violent start and stared in bewilderment at my companion.
“There is no mystery, my dear madam,” said
he, smiling. “The left arm of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven places. The
marks are perfectly fresh. There is no vehicle save
a dog-cart which throws up mud in that way, and
then only when you sit on the left-hand side of the
driver.”
“My dear fellow, I would not miss it for anything.”
“Whatever your reasons may be, you are perfectly correct,” said she. “I started from home before six, reached Leatherhead at twenty past, and
came in by the first train to Waterloo. Sir, I can
I had no keener pleasure than in following
Holmes in his professional investigations, and in
213
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
stand this strain no longer; I shall go mad if it continues. I have no one to turn to—none, save only
one, who cares for me, and he, poor fellow, can
be of little aid. I have heard of you, Mr. Holmes; I
have heard of you from Mrs. Farintosh, whom you
helped in the hour of her sore need. It was from her
that I had your address. Oh, sir, do you not think
that you could help me, too, and at least throw a
little light through the dense darkness which surrounds me? At present it is out of my power to
reward you for your services, but in a month or six
weeks I shall be married, with the control of my
own income, and then at least you shall not find
me ungrateful.”
was left save a few acres of ground, and the twohundred-year-old house, which is itself crushed
under a heavy mortgage. The last squire dragged
out his existence there, living the horrible life of an
aristocratic pauper; but his only son, my stepfather,
seeing that he must adapt himself to the new conditions, obtained an advance from a relative, which
enabled him to take a medical degree and went out
to Calcutta, where, by his professional skill and his
force of character, he established a large practice.
In a fit of anger, however, caused by some robberies
which had been perpetrated in the house, he beat
his native butler to death and narrowly escaped
a capital sentence. As it was, he suffered a long
term of imprisonment and afterwards returned to
England a morose and disappointed man.
“When Dr. Roylott was in India he married my
mother, Mrs. Stoner, the young widow of MajorGeneral Stoner, of the Bengal Artillery. My sister
Julia and I were twins, and we were only two years
old at the time of my mother’s re-marriage. She had
a considerable sum of money—not less than £1000
a year—and this she bequeathed to Dr. Roylott entirely while we resided with him, with a provision
that a certain annual sum should be allowed to each
of us in the event of our marriage. Shortly after
our return to England my mother died—she was
killed eight years ago in a railway accident near
Crewe. Dr. Roylott then abandoned his attempts to
establish himself in practice in London and took us
to live with him in the old ancestral house at Stoke
Moran. The money which my mother had left was
enough for all our wants, and there seemed to be
no obstacle to our happiness.
“But a terrible change came over our stepfather
about this time. Instead of making friends and exchanging visits with our neighbours, who had at
first been overjoyed to see a Roylott of Stoke Moran
back in the old family seat, he shut himself up in
his house and seldom came out save to indulge in
ferocious quarrels with whoever might cross his
path. Violence of temper approaching to mania has
been hereditary in the men of the family, and in my
stepfather’s case it had, I believe, been intensified
by his long residence in the tropics. A series of
disgraceful brawls took place, two of which ended
in the police-court, until at last he became the terror of the village, and the folks would fly at his
approach, for he is a man of immense strength, and
absolutely uncontrollable in his anger.
“Last week he hurled the local blacksmith over
a parapet into a stream, and it was only by paying
over all the money which I could gather together
that I was able to avert another public exposure. He
had no friends at all save the wandering gypsies,
Holmes turned to his desk and, unlocking it,
drew out a small case-book, which he consulted.
“Farintosh,” said he. “Ah yes, I recall the case;
it was concerned with an opal tiara. I think it was
before your time, Watson. I can only say, madam,
that I shall be happy to devote the same care to
your case as I did to that of your friend. As to
reward, my profession is its own reward; but you
are at liberty to defray whatever expenses I may be
put to, at the time which suits you best. And now I
beg that you will lay before us everything that may
help us in forming an opinion upon the matter.”
“Alas!” replied our visitor, “the very horror of
my situation lies in the fact that my fears are so
vague, and my suspicions depend so entirely upon
small points, which might seem trivial to another,
that even he to whom of all others I have a right to
look for help and advice looks upon all that I tell
him about it as the fancies of a nervous woman. He
does not say so, but I can read it from his soothing
answers and averted eyes. But I have heard, Mr.
Holmes, that you can see deeply into the manifold
wickedness of the human heart. You may advise me
how to walk amid the dangers which encompass
me.”
“I am all attention, madam.”
“My name is Helen Stoner, and I am living with
my stepfather, who is the last survivor of one of
the oldest Saxon families in England, the Roylotts
of Stoke Moran, on the western border of Surrey.”
Holmes nodded his head. “The name is familiar
to me,” said he.
“The family was at one time among the richest
in England, and the estates extended over the borders into Berkshire in the north, and Hampshire in
the west. In the last century, however, four successive heirs were of a dissolute and wasteful disposition, and the family ruin was eventually completed
by a gambler in the days of the Regency. Nothing
214
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
and he would give these vagabonds leave to encamp upon the few acres of bramble-covered land
which represent the family estate, and would accept
in return the hospitality of their tents, wandering
away with them sometimes for weeks on end. He
has a passion also for Indian animals, which are
sent over to him by a correspondent, and he has at
this moment a cheetah and a baboon, which wander freely over his grounds and are feared by the
villagers almost as much as their master.
had not retired to rest, for my sister was troubled
by the smell of the strong Indian cigars which it
was his custom to smoke. She left her room, therefore, and came into mine, where she sat for some
time, chatting about her approaching wedding. At
eleven o’clock she rose to leave me, but she paused
at the door and looked back.
“ ‘Tell me, Helen,’ said she, ‘have you ever heard
anyone whistle in the dead of the night?’
“ ‘Never,’ said I.
“ ‘I suppose that you could not possibly whistle,
yourself, in your sleep?’
“ ‘Certainly not. But why?’
“ ‘Because during the last few nights I have always, about three in the morning, heard a low, clear
whistle. I am a light sleeper, and it has awakened
me. I cannot tell where it came from—perhaps from
the next room, perhaps from the lawn. I thought
that I would just ask you whether you had heard
it.’
“ ‘No, I have not. It must be those wretched
gipsies in the plantation.’
“ ‘Very likely. And yet if it were on the lawn, I
wonder that you did not hear it also.’
“ ‘Ah, but I sleep more heavily than you.’
“ ‘Well, it is of no great consequence, at any rate.’
She smiled back at me, closed my door, and a few
moments later I heard her key turn in the lock.”
“Indeed,” said Holmes. “Was it your custom
always to lock yourselves in at night?”
“Always.”
“And why?”
“I think that I mentioned to you that the doctor
kept a cheetah and a baboon. We had no feeling of
security unless our doors were locked.”
“Quite so. Pray proceed with your statement.”
“I could not sleep that night. A vague feeling
of impending misfortune impressed me. My sister and I, you will recollect, were twins, and you
know how subtle are the links which bind two souls
which are so closely allied. It was a wild night. The
wind was howling outside, and the rain was beating and splashing against the windows. Suddenly,
amid all the hubbub of the gale, there burst forth
the wild scream of a terrified woman. I knew that
it was my sister’s voice. I sprang from my bed,
wrapped a shawl round me, and rushed into the
corridor. As I opened my door I seemed to hear
a low whistle, such as my sister described, and a
few moments later a clanging sound, as if a mass
of metal had fallen. As I ran down the passage, my
sister’s door was unlocked, and revolved slowly
upon its hinges. I stared at it horror-stricken, not
“You can imagine from what I say that my poor
sister Julia and I had no great pleasure in our lives.
No servant would stay with us, and for a long time
we did all the work of the house. She was but
thirty at the time of her death, and yet her hair had
already begun to whiten, even as mine has.”
“Your sister is dead, then?”
“She died just two years ago, and it is of her
death that I wish to speak to you. You can understand that, living the life which I have described, we
were little likely to see anyone of our own age and
position. We had, however, an aunt, my mother’s
maiden sister, Miss Honoria Westphail, who lives
near Harrow, and we were occasionally allowed
to pay short visits at this lady’s house. Julia went
there at Christmas two years ago, and met there
a half-pay major of marines, to whom she became
engaged. My stepfather learned of the engagement
when my sister returned and offered no objection
to the marriage; but within a fortnight of the day
which had been fixed for the wedding, the terrible
event occurred which has deprived me of my only
companion.”
Sherlock Holmes had been leaning back in his
chair with his eyes closed and his head sunk in
a cushion, but he half opened his lids now and
glanced across at his visitor.
“Pray be precise as to details,” said he.
“It is easy for me to be so, for every event of
that dreadful time is seared into my memory. The
manor-house is, as I have already said, very old,
and only one wing is now inhabited. The bedrooms
in this wing are on the ground floor, the sittingrooms being in the central block of the buildings.
Of these bedrooms the first is Dr. Roylott’s, the
second my sister’s, and the third my own. There
is no communication between them, but they all
open out into the same corridor. Do I make myself
plain?”
“Perfectly so.”
“The windows of the three rooms open out
upon the lawn. That fatal night Dr. Roylott had
gone to his room early, though we knew that he
215
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
knowing what was about to issue from it. By the
light of the corridor-lamp I saw my sister appear
at the opening, her face blanched with terror, her
hands groping for help, her whole figure swaying
to and fro like that of a drunkard. I ran to her
and threw my arms round her, but at that moment
her knees seemed to give way and she fell to the
ground. She writhed as one who is in terrible pain,
and her limbs were dreadfully convulsed. At first
I thought that she had not recognised me, but as I
bent over her she suddenly shrieked out in a voice
which I shall never forget, ‘Oh, my God! Helen!
It was the band! The speckled band!’ There was
something else which she would fain have said,
and she stabbed with her finger into the air in the
direction of the doctor’s room, but a fresh convulsion seized her and choked her words. I rushed
out, calling loudly for my stepfather, and I met
him hastening from his room in his dressing-gown.
When he reached my sister’s side she was unconscious, and though he poured brandy down her
throat and sent for medical aid from the village, all
efforts were in vain, for she slowly sank and died
without having recovered her consciousness. Such
was the dreadful end of my beloved sister.”
quite alone when she met her end. Besides, there
were no marks of any violence upon her.”
“How about poison?”
“The doctors examined her for it, but without
success.”
“What do you think that this unfortunate lady
died of, then?”
“It is my belief that she died of pure fear and
nervous shock, though what it was that frightened
her I cannot imagine.”
“Were there gipsies in the plantation at the
time?”
“Yes, there are nearly always some there.”
“Ah, and what did you gather from this allusion
to a band—a speckled band?”
“Sometimes I have thought that it was merely
the wild talk of delirium, sometimes that it may
have referred to some band of people, perhaps to
these very gipsies in the plantation. I do not know
whether the spotted handkerchiefs which so many
of them wear over their heads might have suggested
the strange adjective which she used.”
Holmes shook his head like a man who is far
from being satisfied.
“These are very deep waters,” said he; “pray go
on with your narrative.”
“Two years have passed since then, and my life
has been until lately lonelier than ever. A month
ago, however, a dear friend, whom I have known
for many years, has done me the honour to ask my
hand in marriage. His name is Armitage—Percy Armitage—the second son of Mr. Armitage, of Crane
Water, near Reading. My stepfather has offered no
opposition to the match, and we are to be married
in the course of the spring. Two days ago some repairs were started in the west wing of the building,
and my bedroom wall has been pierced, so that I
have had to move into the chamber in which my
sister died, and to sleep in the very bed in which
she slept. Imagine, then, my thrill of terror when
last night, as I lay awake, thinking over her terrible fate, I suddenly heard in the silence of the
night the low whistle which had been the herald
of her own death. I sprang up and lit the lamp,
but nothing was to be seen in the room. I was too
shaken to go to bed again, however, so I dressed,
and as soon as it was daylight I slipped down, got
a dog-cart at the Crown Inn, which is opposite, and
drove to Leatherhead, from whence I have come on
this morning with the one object of seeing you and
asking your advice.”
“You have done wisely,” said my friend. “But
have you told me all?”
“Yes, all.”
“One moment,” said Holmes, “are you sure
about this whistle and metallic sound? Could you
swear to it?”
“That was what the county coroner asked me at
the inquiry. It is my strong impression that I heard
it, and yet, among the crash of the gale and the
creaking of an old house, I may possibly have been
deceived.”
“Was your sister dressed?”
“No, she was in her night-dress. In her right
hand was found the charred stump of a match, and
in her left a match-box.”
“Showing that she had struck a light and looked
about her when the alarm took place. That is important. And what conclusions did the coroner come
to?”
“He investigated the case with great care, for Dr.
Roylott’s conduct had long been notorious in the
county, but he was unable to find any satisfactory
cause of death. My evidence showed that the door
had been fastened upon the inner side, and the windows were blocked by old-fashioned shutters with
broad iron bars, which were secured every night.
The walls were carefully sounded, and were shown
to be quite solid all round, and the flooring was
also thoroughly examined, with the same result.
The chimney is wide, but is barred up by four large
staples. It is certain, therefore, that my sister was
216
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
“Miss Roylott, you have not. You are screening
your stepfather.”
“Yet if the lady is correct in saying that the flooring and walls are sound, and that the door, window,
and chimney are impassable, then her sister must
have been undoubtedly alone when she met her
mysterious end.”
“Why, what do you mean?”
For answer Holmes pushed back the frill of
black lace which fringed the hand that lay upon
our visitor’s knee. Five little livid spots, the marks
of four fingers and a thumb, were printed upon the
white wrist.
“What becomes, then, of these nocturnal whistles, and what of the very peculiar words of the
dying woman?”
“I cannot think.”
“You have been cruelly used,” said Holmes.
“When you combine the ideas of whistles at
night, the presence of a band of gipsies who are
on intimate terms with this old doctor, the fact that
we have every reason to believe that the doctor has
an interest in preventing his stepdaughter’s marriage, the dying allusion to a band, and, finally, the
fact that Miss Helen Stoner heard a metallic clang,
which might have been caused by one of those
metal bars that secured the shutters falling back
into its place, I think that there is good ground to
think that the mystery may be cleared along those
lines.”
The lady coloured deeply and covered over her
injured wrist. “He is a hard man,” she said, “and
perhaps he hardly knows his own strength.”
There was a long silence, during which Holmes
leaned his chin upon his hands and stared into the
crackling fire.
“This is a very deep business,” he said at last.
“There are a thousand details which I should desire to know before I decide upon our course of
action. Yet we have not a moment to lose. If we
were to come to Stoke Moran to-day, would it be
possible for us to see over these rooms without the
knowledge of your stepfather?”
“But what, then, did the gipsies do?”
“I cannot imagine.”
“As it happens, he spoke of coming into town
to-day upon some most important business. It is
probable that he will be away all day, and that there
would be nothing to disturb you. We have a housekeeper now, but she is old and foolish, and I could
easily get her out of the way.”
“I see many objections to any such theory.”
“And so do I. It is precisely for that reason that
we are going to Stoke Moran this day. I want to
see whether the objections are fatal, or if they may
be explained away. But what in the name of the
devil!”
“Excellent. You are not averse to this trip, Watson?”
The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the fact that our door had been suddenly
dashed open, and that a huge man had framed
himself in the aperture. His costume was a peculiar
mixture of the professional and of the agricultural,
having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a
pair of high gaiters, with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand. So tall was he that his hat actually brushed the cross bar of the doorway, and
his breadth seemed to span it across from side to
side. A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles,
burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other
of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and his
high, thin, fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the
resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey.
“By no means.”
“Then we shall both come. What are you going
to do yourself?”
“I have one or two things which I would wish
to do now that I am in town. But I shall return by
the twelve o’clock train, so as to be there in time
for your coming.”
“And you may expect us early in the afternoon.
I have myself some small business matters to attend
to. Will you not wait and breakfast?”
“No, I must go. My heart is lightened already
since I have confided my trouble to you. I shall
look forward to seeing you again this afternoon.”
She dropped her thick black veil over her face and
glided from the room.
“Which of you is Holmes?” asked this apparition.
“And what do you think of it all, Watson?”
asked Sherlock Holmes, leaning back in his chair.
“My name, sir; but you have the advantage of
me,” said my companion quietly.
“It seems to me to be a most dark and sinister
business.”
“I am Dr. Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran.”
“Indeed, Doctor,” said Holmes blandly. “Pray
take a seat.”
“Dark enough and sinister enough.”
217
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
“I will do nothing of the kind. My stepdaughter
has been here. I have traced her. What has she been
saying to you?”
obliged to work out the present prices of the investments with which it is concerned. The total
income, which at the time of the wife’s death was
little short of £1100, is now, through the fall in agricultural prices, not more than £750. Each daughter
can claim an income of £250, in case of marriage.
It is evident, therefore, that if both girls had married, this beauty would have had a mere pittance,
while even one of them would cripple him to a
very serious extent. My morning’s work has not
been wasted, since it has proved that he has the
very strongest motives for standing in the way of
anything of the sort. And now, Watson, this is too
serious for dawdling, especially as the old man is
aware that we are interesting ourselves in his affairs; so if you are ready, we shall call a cab and
drive to Waterloo. I should be very much obliged
if you would slip your revolver into your pocket.
An Eley’s No. 2 is an excellent argument with gentlemen who can twist steel pokers into knots. That
and a tooth-brush are, I think, all that we need.”
“It is a little cold for the time of the year,” said
Holmes.
“What has she been saying to you?” screamed
the old man furiously.
“But I have heard that the crocuses promise
well,” continued my companion imperturbably.
“Ha! You put me off, do you?” said our new visitor, taking a step forward and shaking his huntingcrop. “I know you, you scoundrel! I have heard of
you before. You are Holmes, the meddler.”
My friend smiled.
“Holmes, the busybody!”
His smile broadened.
“Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!”
Holmes chuckled heartily. “Your conversation
is most entertaining,” said he. “When you go out
close the door, for there is a decided draught.”
At Waterloo we were fortunate in catching a
train for Leatherhead, where we hired a trap at the
station inn and drove for four or five miles through
the lovely Surrey lanes. It was a perfect day, with a
bright sun and a few fleecy clouds in the heavens.
The trees and wayside hedges were just throwing
out their first green shoots, and the air was full
of the pleasant smell of the moist earth. To me
at least there was a strange contrast between the
sweet promise of the spring and this sinister quest
upon which we were engaged. My companion sat
in the front of the trap, his arms folded, his hat
pulled down over his eyes, and his chin sunk upon
his breast, buried in the deepest thought. Suddenly,
however, he started, tapped me on the shoulder,
and pointed over the meadows.
“I will go when I have said my say. Don’t you
dare to meddle with my affairs. I know that Miss
Stoner has been here. I traced her! I am a dangerous man to fall foul of! See here.” He stepped
swiftly forward, seized the poker, and bent it into
a curve with his huge brown hands.
“See that you keep yourself out of my grip,”
he snarled, and hurling the twisted poker into the
fireplace he strode out of the room.
“He seems a very amiable person,” said Holmes,
laughing. “I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him that my grip was
not much more feeble than his own.” As he spoke
he picked up the steel poker and, with a sudden
effort, straightened it out again.
“Look there!” said he.
A heavily timbered park stretched up in a gentle
slope, thickening into a grove at the highest point.
From amid the branches there jutted out the grey
gables and high roof-tree of a very old mansion.
“Fancy his having the insolence to confound me
with the official detective force! This incident gives
zest to our investigation, however, and I only trust
that our little friend will not suffer from her imprudence in allowing this brute to trace her. And now,
Watson, we shall order breakfast, and afterwards
I shall walk down to Doctors’ Commons, where I
hope to get some data which may help us in this
matter.”
“Stoke Moran?” said he.
“Yes, sir, that be the house of Dr. Grimesby Roylott,” remarked the driver.
“There is some building going on there,” said
Holmes; “that is where we are going.”
It was nearly one o’clock when Sherlock Holmes
returned from his excursion. He held in his hand a
sheet of blue paper, scrawled over with notes and
figures.
“There’s the village,” said the driver, pointing
to a cluster of roofs some distance to the left; “but
if you want to get to the house, you’ll find it shorter
to get over this stile, and so by the foot-path over
the fields. There it is, where the lady is walking.”
“I have seen the will of the deceased wife,” said
he. “To determine its exact meaning I have been
218
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
“And the lady, I fancy, is Miss Stoner,” observed
Holmes, shading his eyes. “Yes, I think we had
better do as you suggest.”
and the one next to the main building to Dr. Roylott’s chamber?”
“Exactly so. But I am now sleeping in the middle one.”
We got off, paid our fare, and the trap rattled
back on its way to Leatherhead.
“Pending the alterations, as I understand. By
the way, there does not seem to be any very pressing need for repairs at that end wall.”
“I thought it as well,” said Holmes as we
climbed the stile, “that this fellow should think
we had come here as architects, or on some definite
business. It may stop his gossip. Good-afternoon,
Miss Stoner. You see that we have been as good as
our word.”
“There were none. I believe that it was an excuse to move me from my room.”
“Ah! that is suggestive. Now, on the other side
of this narrow wing runs the corridor from which
these three rooms open. There are windows in it,
of course?”
Our client of the morning had hurried forward
to meet us with a face which spoke her joy. “I have
been waiting so eagerly for you,” she cried, shaking hands with us warmly. “All has turned out
splendidly. Dr. Roylott has gone to town, and it is
unlikely that he will be back before evening.”
“Yes, but very small ones. Too narrow for anyone to pass through.”
“As you both locked your doors at night, your
rooms were unapproachable from that side. Now,
would you have the kindness to go into your room
and bar your shutters?”
“We have had the pleasure of making the doctor’s acquaintance,” said Holmes, and in a few
words he sketched out what had occurred. Miss
Stoner turned white to the lips as she listened.
Miss Stoner did so, and Holmes, after a careful
examination through the open window, endeavoured in every way to force the shutter open, but
without success. There was no slit through which a
knife could be passed to raise the bar. Then with
his lens he tested the hinges, but they were of solid
iron, built firmly into the massive masonry. “Hum!”
said he, scratching his chin in some perplexity, “my
theory certainly presents some difficulties. No one
could pass these shutters if they were bolted. Well,
we shall see if the inside throws any light upon the
matter.”
“Good heavens!” she cried, “he has followed
me, then.”
“So it appears.”
“He is so cunning that I never know when I am
safe from him. What will he say when he returns?”
“He must guard himself, for he may find that
there is someone more cunning than himself upon
his track. You must lock yourself up from him tonight. If he is violent, we shall take you away to
your aunt’s at Harrow. Now, we must make the
best use of our time, so kindly take us at once to
the rooms which we are to examine.”
The building was of grey, lichen-blotched stone,
with a high central portion and two curving wings,
like the claws of a crab, thrown out on each side.
In one of these wings the windows were broken
and blocked with wooden boards, while the roof
was partly caved in, a picture of ruin. The central
portion was in little better repair, but the right-hand
block was comparatively modern, and the blinds
in the windows, with the blue smoke curling up
from the chimneys, showed that this was where
the family resided. Some scaffolding had been
erected against the end wall, and the stone-work
had been broken into, but there were no signs of
any workmen at the moment of our visit. Holmes
walked slowly up and down the ill-trimmed lawn
and examined with deep attention the outsides of
the windows.
A small side door led into the whitewashed
corridor from which the three bedrooms opened.
Holmes refused to examine the third chamber, so
we passed at once to the second, that in which Miss
Stoner was now sleeping, and in which her sister
had met with her fate. It was a homely little room,
with a low ceiling and a gaping fireplace, after
the fashion of old country-houses. A brown chest
of drawers stood in one corner, a narrow whitecounterpaned bed in another, and a dressing-table
on the left-hand side of the window. These articles,
with two small wicker-work chairs, made up all the
furniture in the room save for a square of Wilton
carpet in the centre. The boards round and the
panelling of the walls were of brown, worm-eaten
oak, so old and discoloured that it may have dated
from the original building of the house. Holmes
drew one of the chairs into a corner and sat silent,
while his eyes travelled round and round and up
and down, taking in every detail of the apartment.
“This, I take it, belongs to the room in which
you used to sleep, the centre one to your sister’s,
“Where does that bell communicate with?” he
asked at last pointing to a thick bell-rope which
219
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
hung down beside the bed, the tassel actually lying
upon the pillow.
slowly round and examined each and all of them
with the keenest interest.
“What’s in here?” he asked, tapping the safe.
“My stepfather’s business papers.”
“Oh! you have seen inside, then?”
“Only once, some years ago. I remember that it
was full of papers.”
“There isn’t a cat in it, for example?”
“No. What a strange idea!”
“Well, look at this!” He took up a small saucer
of milk which stood on the top of it.
“No; we don’t keep a cat. But there is a cheetah
and a baboon.”
“Ah, yes, of course! Well, a cheetah is just a big
cat, and yet a saucer of milk does not go very far
in satisfying its wants, I daresay. There is one point
which I should wish to determine.” He squatted
down in front of the wooden chair and examined
the seat of it with the greatest attention.
“Thank you. That is quite settled,” said he, rising and putting his lens in his pocket. “Hullo! Here
is something interesting!”
The object which had caught his eye was a small
dog lash hung on one corner of the bed. The lash,
however, was curled upon itself and tied so as to
make a loop of whipcord.
“What do you make of that, Watson?”
“It’s a common enough lash. But I don’t know
why it should be tied.”
“That is not quite so common, is it? Ah, me! it’s
a wicked world, and when a clever man turns his
brains to crime it is the worst of all. I think that I
have seen enough now, Miss Stoner, and with your
permission we shall walk out upon the lawn.”
I had never seen my friend’s face so grim or his
brow so dark as it was when we turned from the
scene of this investigation. We had walked several
times up and down the lawn, neither Miss Stoner
nor myself liking to break in upon his thoughts
before he roused himself from his reverie.
“It is very essential, Miss Stoner,” said he, “that
you should absolutely follow my advice in every
respect.”
“I shall most certainly do so.”
“The matter is too serious for any hesitation.
Your life may depend upon your compliance.”
“I assure you that I am in your hands.”
“In the first place, both my friend and I must
spend the night in your room.”
Both Miss Stoner and I gazed at him in astonishment.
“It goes to the housekeeper’s room.”
“It looks newer than the other things?”
“Yes, it was only put there a couple of years
ago.”
“Your sister asked for it, I suppose?”
“No, I never heard of her using it. We used
always to get what we wanted for ourselves.”
“Indeed, it seemed unnecessary to put so nice
a bell-pull there. You will excuse me for a few
minutes while I satisfy myself as to this floor.” He
threw himself down upon his face with his lens
in his hand and crawled swiftly backward and forward, examining minutely the cracks between the
boards. Then he did the same with the wood-work
with which the chamber was panelled. Finally he
walked over to the bed and spent some time in
staring at it and in running his eye up and down
the wall. Finally he took the bell-rope in his hand
and gave it a brisk tug.
“Why, it’s a dummy,” said he.
“Won’t it ring?”
“No, it is not even attached to a wire. This is
very interesting. You can see now that it is fastened
to a hook just above where the little opening for
the ventilator is.”
“How very absurd! I never noticed that before.”
“Very strange!” muttered Holmes, pulling at the
rope. “There are one or two very singular points
about this room. For example, what a fool a builder
must be to open a ventilator into another room,
when, with the same trouble, he might have communicated with the outside air!”
“That is also quite modern,” said the lady.
“Done about the same time as the bell-rope?”
remarked Holmes.
“Yes, there were several little changes carried
out about that time.”
“They seem to have been of a most interesting character—dummy bell-ropes, and ventilators
which do not ventilate. With your permission, Miss
Stoner, we shall now carry our researches into the
inner apartment.”
Dr. Grimesby Roylott’s chamber was larger than
that of his step-daughter, but was as plainly furnished. A camp-bed, a small wooden shelf full of
books, mostly of a technical character, an armchair
beside the bed, a plain wooden chair against the
wall, a round table, and a large iron safe were the
principal things which met the eye. Holmes walked
220
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
“Yes, it must be so. Let me explain. I believe
that that is the village inn over there?”
few minutes later we saw a sudden light spring up
among the trees as the lamp was lit in one of the
sitting-rooms.
“Do you know, Watson,” said Holmes as we sat
together in the gathering darkness, “I have really
some scruples as to taking you to-night. There is a
distinct element of danger.”
“Can I be of assistance?”
“Your presence might be invaluable.”
“Then I shall certainly come.”
“It is very kind of you.”
“You speak of danger. You have evidently seen
more in these rooms than was visible to me.”
“No, but I fancy that I may have deduced a little
more. I imagine that you saw all that I did.”
“I saw nothing remarkable save the bell-rope,
and what purpose that could answer I confess is
more than I can imagine.”
“You saw the ventilator, too?”
“Yes, but I do not think that it is such a very
unusual thing to have a small opening between two
rooms. It was so small that a rat could hardly pass
through.”
“I knew that we should find a ventilator before
ever we came to Stoke Moran.”
“My dear Holmes!”
“Oh, yes, I did. You remember in her statement
she said that her sister could smell Dr. Roylott’s
cigar. Now, of course that suggested at once that
there must be a communication between the two
rooms. It could only be a small one, or it would
have been remarked upon at the coroner’s inquiry.
I deduced a ventilator.”
“But what harm can there be in that?”
“Well, there is at least a curious coincidence of
dates. A ventilator is made, a cord is hung, and
a lady who sleeps in the bed dies. Does not that
strike you?”
“I cannot as yet see any connection.”
“Did you observe anything very peculiar about
that bed?”
“No.”
“It was clamped to the floor. Did you ever see a
bed fastened like that before?”
“I cannot say that I have.”
“The lady could not move her bed. It must
always be in the same relative position to the ventilator and to the rope—or so we may call it, since it
was clearly never meant for a bell-pull.”
“Holmes,” I cried, “I seem to see dimly what
you are hinting at. We are only just in time to
prevent some subtle and horrible crime.”
“Yes, that is the Crown.”
“Very good. Your windows would be visible
from there?”
“Certainly.”
“You must confine yourself to your room, on
pretence of a headache, when your stepfather
comes back. Then when you hear him retire for the
night, you must open the shutters of your window,
undo the hasp, put your lamp there as a signal
to us, and then withdraw quietly with everything
which you are likely to want into the room which
you used to occupy. I have no doubt that, in spite of
the repairs, you could manage there for one night.”
“Oh, yes, easily.”
“The rest you will leave in our hands.”
“But what will you do?”
“We shall spend the night in your room, and we
shall investigate the cause of this noise which has
disturbed you.”
“I believe, Mr. Holmes, that you have already
made up your mind,” said Miss Stoner, laying her
hand upon my companion’s sleeve.
“Perhaps I have.”
“Then, for pity’s sake, tell me what was the
cause of my sister’s death.”
“I should prefer to have clearer proofs before I
speak.”
“You can at least tell me whether my own
thought is correct, and if she died from some sudden fright.”
“No, I do not think so. I think that there was
probably some more tangible cause. And now, Miss
Stoner, we must leave you for if Dr. Roylott returned
and saw us our journey would be in vain. Goodbye, and be brave, for if you will do what I have
told you, you may rest assured that we shall soon
drive away the dangers that threaten you.”
Sherlock Holmes and I had no difficulty in engaging a bedroom and sitting-room at the Crown
Inn. They were on the upper floor, and from our
window we could command a view of the avenue
gate, and of the inhabited wing of Stoke Moran
Manor House. At dusk we saw Dr. Grimesby Roylott drive past, his huge form looming up beside
the little figure of the lad who drove him. The boy
had some slight difficulty in undoing the heavy
iron gates, and we heard the hoarse roar of the doctor’s voice and saw the fury with which he shook
his clinched fists at him. The trap drove on, and a
221
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
“Subtle enough and horrible enough. When a
doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals.
He has nerve and he has knowledge. Palmer and
Pritchard were among the heads of their profession.
This man strikes even deeper, but I think, Watson,
that we shall be able to strike deeper still. But we
shall have horrors enough before the night is over;
for goodness’ sake let us have a quiet pipe and
turn our minds for a few hours to something more
cheerful.”
that it was all that I could do to distinguish the
words:
“The least sound would be fatal to our plans.”
I nodded to show that I had heard.
“We must sit without light. He would see it
through the ventilator.”
I nodded again.
“Do not go asleep; your very life may depend
upon it. Have your pistol ready in case we should
need it. I will sit on the side of the bed, and you in
that chair.”
I took out my revolver and laid it on the corner
of the table.
Holmes had brought up a long thin cane, and
this he placed upon the bed beside him. By it he
laid the box of matches and the stump of a candle.
Then he turned down the lamp, and we were left
in darkness.
How shall I ever forget that dreadful vigil? I
could not hear a sound, not even the drawing of
a breath, and yet I knew that my companion sat
open-eyed, within a few feet of me, in the same
state of nervous tension in which I was myself. The
shutters cut off the least ray of light, and we waited
in absolute darkness.
From outside came the occasional cry of a nightbird, and once at our very window a long drawn
catlike whine, which told us that the cheetah was
indeed at liberty. Far away we could hear the deep
tones of the parish clock, which boomed out every
quarter of an hour. How long they seemed, those
quarters! Twelve struck, and one and two and three,
and still we sat waiting silently for whatever might
befall.
Suddenly there was the momentary gleam of a
light up in the direction of the ventilator, which vanished immediately, but was succeeded by a strong
smell of burning oil and heated metal. Someone
in the next room had lit a dark-lantern. I heard a
gentle sound of movement, and then all was silent
once more, though the smell grew stronger. For
half an hour I sat with straining ears. Then suddenly another sound became audible—a very gentle, soothing sound, like that of a small jet of steam
escaping continually from a kettle. The instant that
we heard it, Holmes sprang from the bed, struck
a match, and lashed furiously with his cane at the
bell-pull.
“You see it, Watson?” he yelled. “You see it?”
But I saw nothing. At the moment when
Holmes struck the light I heard a low, clear whistle,
but the sudden glare flashing into my weary eyes
made it impossible for me to tell what it was at
About nine o’clock the light among the trees
was extinguished, and all was dark in the direction
of the Manor House. Two hours passed slowly
away, and then, suddenly, just at the stroke of
eleven, a single bright light shone out right in front
of us.
“That is our signal,” said Holmes, springing to
his feet; “it comes from the middle window.”
As we passed out he exchanged a few words
with the landlord, explaining that we were going
on a late visit to an acquaintance, and that it was
possible that we might spend the night there. A
moment later we were out on the dark road, a chill
wind blowing in our faces, and one yellow light
twinkling in front of us through the gloom to guide
us on our sombre errand.
There was little difficulty in entering the
grounds, for unrepaired breaches gaped in the old
park wall. Making our way among the trees, we
reached the lawn, crossed it, and were about to
enter through the window when out from a clump
of laurel bushes there darted what seemed to be a
hideous and distorted child, who threw itself upon
the grass with writhing limbs and then ran swiftly
across the lawn into the darkness.
“My God!” I whispered; “did you see it?”
Holmes was for the moment as startled as I. His
hand closed like a vice upon my wrist in his agitation. Then he broke into a low laugh and put his
lips to my ear.
“It is a nice household,” he murmured. “That
is the baboon.”
I had forgotten the strange pets which the doctor affected. There was a cheetah, too; perhaps we
might find it upon our shoulders at any moment.
I confess that I felt easier in my mind when, after
following Holmes’ example and slipping off my
shoes, I found myself inside the bedroom. My companion noiselessly closed the shutters, moved the
lamp onto the table, and cast his eyes round the
room. All was as we had seen it in the daytime.
Then creeping up to me and making a trumpet of
his hand, he whispered into my ear again so gently
222
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
which my friend lashed so savagely. I could, however, see that his face was deadly pale and filled
with horror and loathing. He had ceased to strike
and was gazing up at the ventilator when suddenly
there broke from the silence of the night the most
horrible cry to which I have ever listened. It swelled
up louder and louder, a hoarse yell of pain and fear
and anger all mingled in the one dreadful shriek.
They say that away down in the village, and even in
the distant parsonage, that cry raised the sleepers
from their beds. It struck cold to our hearts, and
I stood gazing at Holmes, and he at me, until the
last echoes of it had died away into the silence from
which it rose.
As he spoke he drew the dog-whip swiftly from
the dead man’s lap, and throwing the noose round
the reptile’s neck he drew it from its horrid perch
and, carrying it at arm’s length, threw it into the
iron safe, which he closed upon it.
Such are the true facts of the death of Dr.
Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran. It is not necessary that I should prolong a narrative which has
already run to too great a length by telling how we
broke the sad news to the terrified girl, how we
conveyed her by the morning train to the care of
her good aunt at Harrow, of how the slow process
of official inquiry came to the conclusion that the
doctor met his fate while indiscreetly playing with
a dangerous pet. The little which I had yet to learn
of the case was told me by Sherlock Holmes as we
travelled back next day.
“What can it mean?” I gasped.
“It means that it is all over,” Holmes answered.
“And perhaps, after all, it is for the best. Take your
pistol, and we will enter Dr. Roylott’s room.”
“I had,” said he, “come to an entirely erroneous
conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how
dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient
data. The presence of the gipsies, and the use of
the word ‘band,’ which was used by the poor girl,
no doubt, to explain the appearance which she
had caught a hurried glimpse of by the light of
her match, were sufficient to put me upon an entirely wrong scent. I can only claim the merit that
I instantly reconsidered my position when, however, it became clear to me that whatever danger
threatened an occupant of the room could not come
either from the window or the door. My attention
was speedily drawn, as I have already remarked to
you, to this ventilator, and to the bell-rope which
hung down to the bed. The discovery that this was
a dummy, and that the bed was clamped to the
floor, instantly gave rise to the suspicion that the
rope was there as a bridge for something passing
through the hole and coming to the bed. The idea
of a snake instantly occurred to me, and when I
coupled it with my knowledge that the doctor was
furnished with a supply of creatures from India, I
felt that I was probably on the right track. The idea
of using a form of poison which could not possibly
be discovered by any chemical test was just such
a one as would occur to a clever and ruthless man
who had had an Eastern training. The rapidity with
which such a poison would take effect would also,
from his point of view, be an advantage. It would
be a sharp-eyed coroner, indeed, who could distinguish the two little dark punctures which would
show where the poison fangs had done their work.
Then I thought of the whistle. Of course he must
recall the snake before the morning light revealed
it to the victim. He had trained it, probably by the
use of the milk which we saw, to return to him
when summoned. He would put it through this
With a grave face he lit the lamp and led the way
down the corridor. Twice he struck at the chamber door without any reply from within. Then he
turned the handle and entered, I at his heels, with
the cocked pistol in my hand.
It was a singular sight which met our eyes. On
the table stood a dark-lantern with the shutter half
open, throwing a brilliant beam of light upon the
iron safe, the door of which was ajar. Beside this
table, on the wooden chair, sat Dr. Grimesby Roylott clad in a long grey dressing-gown, his bare
ankles protruding beneath, and his feet thrust into
red heelless Turkish slippers. Across his lap lay the
short stock with the long lash which we had noticed during the day. His chin was cocked upward
and his eyes were fixed in a dreadful, rigid stare at
the corner of the ceiling. Round his brow he had
a peculiar yellow band, with brownish speckles,
which seemed to be bound tightly round his head.
As we entered he made neither sound nor motion.
“The band! the speckled band!” whispered
Holmes.
I took a step forward. In an instant his strange
headgear began to move, and there reared itself
from among his hair the squat diamond-shaped
head and puffed neck of a loathsome serpent.
“It is a swamp adder!” cried Holmes; “the deadliest snake in India. He has died within ten seconds
of being bitten. Violence does, in truth, recoil upon
the violent, and the schemer falls into the pit which
he digs for another. Let us thrust this creature back
into its den, and we can then remove Miss Stoner
to some place of shelter and let the county police
know what has happened.”
223
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
ventilator at the hour that he thought best, with the
certainty that it would crawl down the rope and
land on the bed. It might or might not bite the
occupant, perhaps she might escape every night for
a week, but sooner or later she must fall a victim.
“I had come to these conclusions before ever I
had entered his room. An inspection of his chair
showed me that he had been in the habit of standing on it, which of course would be necessary in
order that he should reach the ventilator. The sight
of the safe, the saucer of milk, and the loop of
whipcord were enough to finally dispel any doubts
which may have remained. The metallic clang
heard by Miss Stoner was obviously caused by her
stepfather hastily closing the door of his safe upon
its terrible occupant. Having once made up my
mind, you know the steps which I took in order to
put the matter to the proof. I heard the creature
hiss as I have no doubt that you did also, and I
instantly lit the light and attacked it.”
“With the result of driving it through the ventilator.”
“And also with the result of causing it to turn
upon its master at the other side. Some of the blows
of my cane came home and roused its snakish temper, so that it flew upon the first person it saw. In
this way I am no doubt indirectly responsible for Dr.
Grimesby Roylott’s death, and I cannot say that it is
likely to weigh very heavily upon my conscience.”
224
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
O
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
f all the problems which have been
submitted to my friend, Mr. Sherlock
Holmes, for solution during the years of
our intimacy, there were only two which
I was the means of introducing to his notice—that
of Mr. Hatherley’s thumb, and that of Colonel Warburton’s madness. Of these the latter may have
afforded a finer field for an acute and original observer, but the other was so strange in its inception
and so dramatic in its details that it may be the
more worthy of being placed upon record, even if it
gave my friend fewer openings for those deductive
methods of reasoning by which he achieved such
remarkable results. The story has, I believe, been
told more than once in the newspapers, but, like
all such narratives, its effect is much less striking
when set forth en bloc in a single half-column of
print than when the facts slowly evolve before your
own eyes, and the mystery clears gradually away
as each new discovery furnishes a step which leads
on to the complete truth. At the time the circumstances made a deep impression upon me, and the
lapse of two years has hardly served to weaken the
effect.
away. There he is, all safe and sound. I must go
now, Doctor; I have my dooties, just the same as
you.” And off he went, this trusty tout, without
even giving me time to thank him.
I entered my consulting-room and found a gentleman seated by the table. He was quietly dressed
in a suit of heather tweed with a soft cloth cap
which he had laid down upon my books. Round
one of his hands he had a handkerchief wrapped,
which was mottled all over with bloodstains. He
was young, not more than five-and-twenty, I should
say, with a strong, masculine face; but he was exceedingly pale and gave me the impression of a
man who was suffering from some strong agitation,
which it took all his strength of mind to control.
“I am sorry to knock you up so early, Doctor,”
said he, “but I have had a very serious accident
during the night. I came in by train this morning,
and on inquiring at Paddington as to where I might
find a doctor, a worthy fellow very kindly escorted
me here. I gave the maid a card, but I see that she
has left it upon the side-table.”
I took it up and glanced at it. “Mr. Victor Hatherley, hydraulic engineer, 16A, Victoria Street (3rd
floor).” That was the name, style, and abode of my
morning visitor. “I regret that I have kept you waiting,” said I, sitting down in my library-chair. “You
are fresh from a night journey, I understand, which
is in itself a monotonous occupation.”
It was in the summer of ’89, not long after my
marriage, that the events occurred which I am now
about to summarise. I had returned to civil practice
and had finally abandoned Holmes in his Baker
Street rooms, although I continually visited him
and occasionally even persuaded him to forgo his
Bohemian habits so far as to come and visit us. My
practice had steadily increased, and as I happened
to live at no very great distance from Paddington
Station, I got a few patients from among the officials. One of these, whom I had cured of a painful
and lingering disease, was never weary of advertising my virtues and of endeavouring to send me
on every sufferer over whom he might have any
influence.
“Oh, my night could not be called monotonous,”
said he, and laughed. He laughed very heartily,
with a high, ringing note, leaning back in his chair
and shaking his sides. All my medical instincts
rose up against that laugh.
“Stop it!” I cried; “pull yourself together!” and
I poured out some water from a caraffe.
It was useless, however. He was off in one
of those hysterical outbursts which come upon a
strong nature when some great crisis is over and
gone. Presently he came to himself once more, very
weary and pale-looking.
One morning, at a little before seven o’clock, I
was awakened by the maid tapping at the door to
announce that two men had come from Paddington
and were waiting in the consulting-room. I dressed
hurriedly, for I knew by experience that railway
cases were seldom trivial, and hastened downstairs.
As I descended, my old ally, the guard, came out of
the room and closed the door tightly behind him.
“I have been making a fool of myself,” he
gasped.
“Not at all. Drink this.” I dashed some brandy
into the water, and the colour began to come back
to his bloodless cheeks.
“I’ve got him here,” he whispered, jerking his
thumb over his shoulder; “he’s all right.”
“That’s better!” said he. “And now, Doctor, perhaps you would kindly attend to my thumb, or
rather to the place where my thumb used to be.”
“What is it, then?” I asked, for his manner suggested that it was some strange creature which he
had caged up in my room.
He unwound the handkerchief and held out his
hand. It gave even my hardened nerves a shudder
to look at it. There were four protruding fingers
and a horrid red, spongy surface where the thumb
“It’s a new patient,” he whispered. “I thought
I’d bring him round myself; then he couldn’t slip
227
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
should have been. It had been hacked or torn right
out from the roots.
“I’ll do better. I’ll take you round to him myself.”
“Good heavens!” I cried, “this is a terrible injury.
It must have bled considerably.”
“I should be immensely obliged to you.”
“We’ll call a cab and go together. We shall just
be in time to have a little breakfast with him. Do
you feel equal to it?”
“Yes, it did. I fainted when it was done, and
I think that I must have been senseless for a long
time. When I came to I found that it was still bleeding, so I tied one end of my handkerchief very
tightly round the wrist and braced it up with a
twig.”
“Yes; I shall not feel easy until I have told my
story.”
“Then my servant will call a cab, and I shall
be with you in an instant.” I rushed upstairs, explained the matter shortly to my wife, and in five
minutes was inside a hansom, driving with my new
acquaintance to Baker Street.
“Excellent! You should have been a surgeon.”
“It is a question of hydraulics, you see, and
came within my own province.”
“This has been done,” said I, examining the
wound, “by a very heavy and sharp instrument.”
Sherlock Holmes was, as I expected, lounging
about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown, reading the agony column of The Times and smoking
his before-breakfast pipe, which was composed of
all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the
day before, all carefully dried and collected on the
corner of the mantelpiece. He received us in his
quietly genial fashion, ordered fresh rashers and
eggs, and joined us in a hearty meal. When it was
concluded he settled our new acquaintance upon
the sofa, placed a pillow beneath his head, and laid
a glass of brandy and water within his reach.
“A thing like a cleaver,” said he.
“An accident, I presume?”
“By no means.”
“What! a murderous attack?”
“Very murderous indeed.”
“You horrify me.”
I sponged the wound, cleaned it, dressed it, and
finally covered it over with cotton wadding and
carbolised bandages. He lay back without wincing,
though he bit his lip from time to time.
“It is easy to see that your experience has been
no common one, Mr. Hatherley,” said he. “Pray, lie
down there and make yourself absolutely at home.
Tell us what you can, but stop when you are tired
and keep up your strength with a little stimulant.”
“How is that?” I asked when I had finished.
“Capital! Between your brandy and your bandage, I feel a new man. I was very weak, but I have
had a good deal to go through.”
“Thank you,” said my patient. “but I have felt
another man since the doctor bandaged me, and I
think that your breakfast has completed the cure.
I shall take up as little of your valuable time as
possible, so I shall start at once upon my peculiar
experiences.”
“Perhaps you had better not speak of the matter.
It is evidently trying to your nerves.”
“Oh, no, not now. I shall have to tell my tale to
the police; but, between ourselves, if it were not for
the convincing evidence of this wound of mine, I
should be surprised if they believed my statement,
for it is a very extraordinary one, and I have not
much in the way of proof with which to back it up;
and, even if they believe me, the clues which I can
give them are so vague that it is a question whether
justice will be done.”
Holmes sat in his big armchair with the weary,
heavy-lidded expression which veiled his keen and
eager nature, while I sat opposite to him, and we
listened in silence to the strange story which our
visitor detailed to us.
“You must know,” said he, “that I am an orphan and a bachelor, residing alone in lodgings
in London. By profession I am a hydraulic engineer, and I have had considerable experience of my
work during the seven years that I was apprenticed
to Venner & Matheson, the well-known firm, of
Greenwich. Two years ago, having served my time,
and having also come into a fair sum of money
through my poor father’s death, I determined to
start in business for myself and took professional
chambers in Victoria Street.
“Ha!” cried I, “if it is anything in the nature of
a problem which you desire to see solved, I should
strongly recommend you to come to my friend,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes, before you go to the official
police.”
“Oh, I have heard of that fellow,” answered my
visitor, “and I should be very glad if he would
take the matter up, though of course I must use
the official police as well. Would you give me an
introduction to him?”
228
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
“I suppose that everyone finds his first independent start in business a dreary experience. To
me it has been exceptionally so. During two years
I have had three consultations and one small job,
and that is absolutely all that my profession has
brought me. My gross takings amount to £27 10s.
Every day, from nine in the morning until four in
the afternoon, I waited in my little den, until at last
my heart began to sink, and I came to believe that I
should never have any practice at all.
“He looked very hard at me as I spoke, and it
seemed to me that I had never seen so suspicious
and questioning an eye.
“ ‘Do you promise, then?’ said he at last.
“ ‘Yes, I promise.’
“ ‘Absolute and complete silence before, during,
and after? No reference to the matter at all, either
in word or writing?’
“ ‘I have already given you my word.’
“ ‘Very good.’ He suddenly sprang up, and darting like lightning across the room he flung open
the door. The passage outside was empty.
“ ‘That’s all right,’ said he, coming back. ‘I know
that clerks are sometimes curious as to their master’s affairs. Now we can talk in safety.’ He drew
up his chair very close to mine and began to stare at
me again with the same questioning and thoughtful
look.
“A feeling of repulsion, and of something akin
to fear had begun to rise within me at the strange
antics of this fleshless man. Even my dread of losing a client could not restrain me from showing my
impatience.
“ ‘I beg that you will state your business, sir,’
said I; ‘my time is of value.’ Heaven forgive me for
that last sentence, but the words came to my lips.
“ ‘How would fifty guineas for a night’s work
suit you?’ he asked.
“ ‘Most admirably.’
“ ‘I say a night’s work, but an hour’s would be
nearer the mark. I simply want your opinion about
a hydraulic stamping machine which has got out of
gear. If you show us what is wrong we shall soon
set it right ourselves. What do you think of such a
commission as that?’
“ ‘The work appears to be light and the pay
munificent.’
“ ‘Precisely so. We shall want you to come tonight by the last train.’
“ ‘Where to?’
“ ‘To Eyford, in Berkshire. It is a little place near
the borders of Oxfordshire, and within seven miles
of Reading. There is a train from Paddington which
would bring you there at about 11.15.’
“ ‘Very good.’
“ ‘I shall come down in a carriage to meet you.’
“ ‘There is a drive, then?’
“ ‘Yes, our little place is quite out in the country.
It is a good seven miles from Eyford Station.’
“ ‘Then we can hardly get there before midnight.
I suppose there would be no chance of a train back.
I should be compelled to stop the night.’
“ ‘Yes, we could easily give you a shake-down.’
“Yesterday, however, just as I was thinking of
leaving the office, my clerk entered to say there
was a gentleman waiting who wished to see me
upon business. He brought up a card, too, with the
name of ‘Colonel Lysander Stark’ engraved upon
it. Close at his heels came the colonel himself, a
man rather over the middle size, but of an exceeding thinness. I do not think that I have ever seen
so thin a man. His whole face sharpened away
into nose and chin, and the skin of his cheeks was
drawn quite tense over his outstanding bones. Yet
this emaciation seemed to be his natural habit, and
due to no disease, for his eye was bright, his step
brisk, and his bearing assured. He was plainly but
neatly dressed, and his age, I should judge, would
be nearer forty than thirty.
“ ‘Mr. Hatherley?’ said he, with something of a
German accent. ‘You have been recommended to
me, Mr. Hatherley, as being a man who is not only
proficient in his profession but is also discreet and
capable of preserving a secret.’
“I bowed, feeling as flattered as any young man
would at such an address. ‘May I ask who it was
who gave me so good a character?’
“ ‘Well, perhaps it is better that I should not tell
you that just at this moment. I have it from the
same source that you are both an orphan and a
bachelor and are residing alone in London.’
“ ‘That is quite correct,’ I answered; ‘but you
will excuse me if I say that I cannot see how all
this bears upon my professional qualifications. I
understand that it was on a professional matter that
you wished to speak to me?’
“ ‘Undoubtedly so. But you will find that all
I say is really to the point. I have a professional
commission for you, but absolute secrecy is quite
essential—absolute secrecy, you understand, and of
course we may expect that more from a man who
is alone than from one who lives in the bosom of
his family.’
“ ‘If I promise to keep a secret,’ said I, ‘you may
absolutely depend upon my doing so.’
229
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
“ ‘That is very awkward. Could I not come at
some more convenient hour?’
then, if the facts came out, it would be good-bye to
any chance of getting these fields and carrying out
our plans. That is why I have made you promise
me that you will not tell a human being that you
are going to Eyford to-night. I hope that I make it
all plain?’
“ ‘We have judged it best that you should come
late. It is to recompense you for any inconvenience
that we are paying to you, a young and unknown
man, a fee which would buy an opinion from the
very heads of your profession. Still, of course, if
you would like to draw out of the business, there
is plenty of time to do so.’
“ ‘I quite follow you,’ said I. ‘The only point
which I could not quite understand was what use
you could make of a hydraulic press in excavating
fuller’s-earth, which, as I understand, is dug out
like gravel from a pit.’
“I thought of the fifty guineas, and of how very
useful they would be to me. ‘Not at all,’ said I,
‘I shall be very happy to accommodate myself to
your wishes. I should like, however, to understand
a little more clearly what it is that you wish me to
do.’
“ ‘Ah!’ said he carelessly, ‘we have our own process. We compress the earth into bricks, so as to
remove them without revealing what they are. But
that is a mere detail. I have taken you fully into my
confidence now, Mr. Hatherley, and I have shown
you how I trust you.’ He rose as he spoke. ‘I shall
expect you, then, at Eyford at 11.15.’
“ ‘Quite so. It is very natural that the pledge of
secrecy which we have exacted from you should
have aroused your curiosity. I have no wish to commit you to anything without your having it all laid
before you. I suppose that we are absolutely safe
from eavesdroppers?’
“ ‘I shall certainly be there.’
“ ‘And not a word to a soul.’ He looked at me
with a last long, questioning gaze, and then, pressing my hand in a cold, dank grasp, he hurried from
the room.
“ ‘Entirely.’
“ ‘Then the matter stands thus. You are probably aware that fuller’s-earth is a valuable product,
and that it is only found in one or two places in
England?’
“Well, when I came to think it all over in cool
blood I was very much astonished, as you may both
think, at this sudden commission which had been
intrusted to me. On the one hand, of course, I was
glad, for the fee was at least tenfold what I should
have asked had I set a price upon my own services,
and it was possible that this order might lead to
other ones. On the other hand, the face and manner
of my patron had made an unpleasant impression
upon me, and I could not think that his explanation of the fuller’s-earth was sufficient to explain
the necessity for my coming at midnight, and his
extreme anxiety lest I should tell anyone of my errand. However, I threw all fears to the winds, ate
a hearty supper, drove to Paddington, and started
off, having obeyed to the letter the injunction as to
holding my tongue.
“ ‘I have heard so.’
“ ‘Some little time ago I bought a small place—a
very small place—within ten miles of Reading. I
was fortunate enough to discover that there was a
deposit of fuller’s-earth in one of my fields. On examining it, however, I found that this deposit was a
comparatively small one, and that it formed a link
between two very much larger ones upon the right
and left—both of them, however, in the grounds of
my neighbours. These good people were absolutely
ignorant that their land contained that which was
quite as valuable as a gold-mine. Naturally, it was
to my interest to buy their land before they discovered its true value, but unfortunately I had no
capital by which I could do this. I took a few of my
friends into the secret, however, and they suggested
that we should quietly and secretly work our own
little deposit and that in this way we should earn
the money which would enable us to buy the neighbouring fields. This we have now been doing for
some time, and in order to help us in our operations
we erected a hydraulic press. This press, as I have
already explained, has got out of order, and we
wish your advice upon the subject. We guard our
secret very jealously, however, and if it once became
known that we had hydraulic engineers coming to
our little house, it would soon rouse inquiry, and
“At Reading I had to change not only my carriage but my station. However, I was in time for
the last train to Eyford, and I reached the little
dim-lit station after eleven o’clock. I was the only
passenger who got out there, and there was no one
upon the platform save a single sleepy porter with
a lantern. As I passed out through the wicket gate,
however, I found my acquaintance of the morning
waiting in the shadow upon the other side. Without
a word he grasped my arm and hurried me into a
carriage, the door of which was standing open. He
drew up the windows on either side, tapped on the
wood-work, and away we went as fast as the horse
could go.”
230
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
“One horse?” interjected Holmes.
whispered something in her ear, and then, pushing
her back into the room from whence she had come,
he walked towards me again with the lamp in his
hand.
“ ‘Perhaps you will have the kindness to wait
in this room for a few minutes,’ said he, throwing
open another door. It was a quiet, little, plainly
furnished room, with a round table in the centre,
on which several German books were scattered.
Colonel Stark laid down the lamp on the top of a
harmonium beside the door. ‘I shall not keep you
waiting an instant,’ said he, and vanished into the
darkness.
“I glanced at the books upon the table, and in
spite of my ignorance of German I could see that
two of them were treatises on science, the others being volumes of poetry. Then I walked across to the
window, hoping that I might catch some glimpse of
the country-side, but an oak shutter, heavily barred,
was folded across it. It was a wonderfully silent
house. There was an old clock ticking loudly somewhere in the passage, but otherwise everything was
deadly still. A vague feeling of uneasiness began
to steal over me. Who were these German people,
and what were they doing living in this strange,
out-of-the-way place? And where was the place?
I was ten miles or so from Eyford, that was all I
knew, but whether north, south, east, or west I had
no idea. For that matter, Reading, and possibly
other large towns, were within that radius, so the
place might not be so secluded, after all. Yet it was
quite certain, from the absolute stillness, that we
were in the country. I paced up and down the room,
humming a tune under my breath to keep up my
spirits and feeling that I was thoroughly earning
my fifty-guinea fee.
“Suddenly, without any preliminary sound in
the midst of the utter stillness, the door of my room
swung slowly open. The woman was standing in
the aperture, the darkness of the hall behind her,
the yellow light from my lamp beating upon her
eager and beautiful face. I could see at a glance
that she was sick with fear, and the sight sent a
chill to my own heart. She held up one shaking
finger to warn me to be silent, and she shot a few
whispered words of broken English at me, her eyes
glancing back, like those of a frightened horse, into
the gloom behind her.
“ ‘I would go,’ said she, trying hard, as it
seemed to me, to speak calmly; ‘I would go. I
should not stay here. There is no good for you to
do.’
“ ‘But, madam,’ said I, ‘I have not yet done what
I came for. I cannot possibly leave until I have seen
the machine.’
“Yes, only one.”
“Did you observe the colour?”
“Yes, I saw it by the side-lights when I was
stepping into the carriage. It was a chestnut.”
“Tired-looking or fresh?”
“Oh, fresh and glossy.”
“Thank you. I am sorry to have interrupted you.
Pray continue your most interesting statement.”
“Away we went then, and we drove for at least
an hour. Colonel Lysander Stark had said that it
was only seven miles, but I should think, from the
rate that we seemed to go, and from the time that
we took, that it must have been nearer twelve. He
sat at my side in silence all the time, and I was
aware, more than once when I glanced in his direction, that he was looking at me with great intensity.
The country roads seem to be not very good in
that part of the world, for we lurched and jolted
terribly. I tried to look out of the windows to see
something of where we were, but they were made
of frosted glass, and I could make out nothing save
the occasional bright blur of a passing light. Now
and then I hazarded some remark to break the
monotony of the journey, but the colonel answered
only in monosyllables, and the conversation soon
flagged. At last, however, the bumping of the road
was exchanged for the crisp smoothness of a graveldrive, and the carriage came to a stand. Colonel
Lysander Stark sprang out, and, as I followed after
him, pulled me swiftly into a porch which gaped
in front of us. We stepped, as it were, right out
of the carriage and into the hall, so that I failed to
catch the most fleeting glance of the front of the
house. The instant that I had crossed the threshold
the door slammed heavily behind us, and I heard
faintly the rattle of the wheels as the carriage drove
away.
“It was pitch dark inside the house, and the
colonel fumbled about looking for matches and
muttering under his breath. Suddenly a door
opened at the other end of the passage, and a long,
golden bar of light shot out in our direction. It grew
broader, and a woman appeared with a lamp in
her hand, which she held above her head, pushing
her face forward and peering at us. I could see that
she was pretty, and from the gloss with which the
light shone upon her dark dress I knew that it was
a rich material. She spoke a few words in a foreign
tongue in a tone as though asking a question, and
when my companion answered in a gruff monosyllable she gave such a start that the lamp nearly
fell from her hand. Colonel Stark went up to her,
231
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
“ ‘It is not worth your while to wait,’ she went
on. ‘You can pass through the door; no one hinders.’ And then, seeing that I smiled and shook
my head, she suddenly threw aside her constraint
and made a step forward, with her hands wrung
together. ‘For the love of Heaven!’ she whispered,
‘get away from here before it is too late!’
the ground floor, while the plaster was peeling off
the walls, and the damp was breaking through in
green, unhealthy blotches. I tried to put on as unconcerned an air as possible, but I had not forgotten
the warnings of the lady, even though I disregarded
them, and I kept a keen eye upon my two companions. Ferguson appeared to be a morose and silent
man, but I could see from the little that he said that
he was at least a fellow-countryman.
“But I am somewhat headstrong by nature, and
the more ready to engage in an affair when there
is some obstacle in the way. I thought of my fiftyguinea fee, of my wearisome journey, and of the
unpleasant night which seemed to be before me.
Was it all to go for nothing? Why should I slink
away without having carried out my commission,
and without the payment which was my due? This
woman might, for all I knew, be a monomaniac.
With a stout bearing, therefore, though her manner had shaken me more than I cared to confess, I
still shook my head and declared my intention of
remaining where I was. She was about to renew
her entreaties when a door slammed overhead, and
the sound of several footsteps was heard upon the
stairs. She listened for an instant, threw up her
hands with a despairing gesture, and vanished as
suddenly and as noiselessly as she had come.
“Colonel Lysander Stark stopped at last before
a low door, which he unlocked. Within was a small,
square room, in which the three of us could hardly
get at one time. Ferguson remained outside, and
the colonel ushered me in.
“ ‘We are now,’ said he, ‘actually within the
hydraulic press, and it would be a particularly unpleasant thing for us if anyone were to turn it on.
The ceiling of this small chamber is really the end
of the descending piston, and it comes down with
the force of many tons upon this metal floor. There
are small lateral columns of water outside which
receive the force, and which transmit and multiply it in the manner which is familiar to you. The
machine goes readily enough, but there is some
stiffness in the working of it, and it has lost a little
of its force. Perhaps you will have the goodness to
look it over and to show us how we can set it right.’
“The newcomers were Colonel Lysander Stark
and a short thick man with a chinchilla beard growing out of the creases of his double chin, who was
introduced to me as Mr. Ferguson.
“I took the lamp from him, and I examined the
machine very thoroughly. It was indeed a gigantic
one, and capable of exercising enormous pressure.
When I passed outside, however, and pressed down
the levers which controlled it, I knew at once by
the whishing sound that there was a slight leakage,
which allowed a regurgitation of water through one
of the side cylinders. An examination showed that
one of the india-rubber bands which was round the
head of a driving-rod had shrunk so as not quite
to fill the socket along which it worked. This was
clearly the cause of the loss of power, and I pointed
it out to my companions, who followed my remarks
very carefully and asked several practical questions
as to how they should proceed to set it right. When
I had made it clear to them, I returned to the main
chamber of the machine and took a good look at
it to satisfy my own curiosity. It was obvious at a
glance that the story of the fuller’s-earth was the
merest fabrication, for it would be absurd to suppose that so powerful an engine could be designed
for so inadequate a purpose. The walls were of
wood, but the floor consisted of a large iron trough,
and when I came to examine it I could see a crust of
metallic deposit all over it. I had stooped and was
scraping at this to see exactly what it was when I
heard a muttered exclamation in German and saw
“ ‘This is my secretary and manager,’ said the
colonel. ‘By the way, I was under the impression
that I left this door shut just now. I fear that you
have felt the draught.’
“ ‘On the contrary,’ said I, ‘I opened the door
myself because I felt the room to be a little close.’
“He shot one of his suspicious looks at me. ‘Perhaps we had better proceed to business, then,’ said
he. ‘Mr. Ferguson and I will take you up to see the
machine.’
“ ‘I had better put my hat on, I suppose.’
“ ‘Oh, no, it is in the house.’
“ ‘What, you dig fuller’s-earth in the house?’
“ ‘No, no. This is only where we compress it.
But never mind that. All we wish you to do is to
examine the machine and to let us know what is
wrong with it.’
“We went upstairs together, the colonel first
with the lamp, the fat manager and I behind him.
It was a labyrinth of an old house, with corridors,
passages, narrow winding staircases, and little low
doors, the thresholds of which were hollowed out
by the generations who had crossed them. There
were no carpets and no signs of any furniture above
232
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
the cadaverous face of the colonel looking down at
me.
closed again behind me, but the crash of the lamp,
and a few moments afterwards the clang of the two
slabs of metal, told me how narrow had been my
escape.
“I was recalled to myself by a frantic plucking
at my wrist, and I found myself lying upon the
stone floor of a narrow corridor, while a woman
bent over me and tugged at me with her left hand,
while she held a candle in her right. It was the
same good friend whose warning I had so foolishly
rejected.
“ ‘Come! come!’ she cried breathlessly. ‘They
will be here in a moment. They will see that you
are not there. Oh, do not waste the so-precious
time, but come!’
“This time, at least, I did not scorn her advice.
I staggered to my feet and ran with her along the
corridor and down a winding stair. The latter led to
another broad passage, and just as we reached it we
heard the sound of running feet and the shouting of
two voices, one answering the other from the floor
on which we were and from the one beneath. My
guide stopped and looked about her like one who
is at her wit’s end. Then she threw open a door
which led into a bedroom, through the window of
which the moon was shining brightly.
“ ‘It is your only chance,’ said she. ‘It is high,
but it may be that you can jump it.’
“As she spoke a light sprang into view at the
further end of the passage, and I saw the lean figure
of Colonel Lysander Stark rushing forward with a
lantern in one hand and a weapon like a butcher’s
cleaver in the other. I rushed across the bedroom,
flung open the window, and looked out. How quiet
and sweet and wholesome the garden looked in
the moonlight, and it could not be more than thirty
feet down. I clambered out upon the sill, but I
hesitated to jump until I should have heard what
passed between my saviour and the ruffian who
pursued me. If she were ill-used, then at any risks
I was determined to go back to her assistance. The
thought had hardly flashed through my mind before he was at the door, pushing his way past her;
but she threw her arms round him and tried to
hold him back.
“ ‘Fritz! Fritz!’ she cried in English, ‘remember
your promise after the last time. You said it should
not be again. He will be silent! Oh, he will be
silent!’
“ ‘You are mad, Elise!’ he shouted, struggling
to break away from her. ‘You will be the ruin of
us. He has seen too much. Let me pass, I say!’ He
dashed her to one side, and, rushing to the window,
cut at me with his heavy weapon. I had let myself
“ ‘What are you doing there?’ he asked.
“I felt angry at having been tricked by so elaborate a story as that which he had told me. ‘I was
admiring your fuller’s-earth,’ said I; ‘I think that
I should be better able to advise you as to your
machine if I knew what the exact purpose was for
which it was used.’
“The instant that I uttered the words I regretted
the rashness of my speech. His face set hard, and a
baleful light sprang up in his grey eyes.
“ ‘Very well,’ said he, ‘you shall know all about
the machine.’ He took a step backward, slammed
the little door, and turned the key in the lock. I
rushed towards it and pulled at the handle, but
it was quite secure, and did not give in the least
to my kicks and shoves. ‘Hullo!’ I yelled. ‘Hullo!
Colonel! Let me out!’
“And then suddenly in the silence I heard a
sound which sent my heart into my mouth. It was
the clank of the levers and the swish of the leaking cylinder. He had set the engine at work. The
lamp still stood upon the floor where I had placed
it when examining the trough. By its light I saw
that the black ceiling was coming down upon me,
slowly, jerkily, but, as none knew better than myself, with a force which must within a minute grind
me to a shapeless pulp. I threw myself, screaming, against the door, and dragged with my nails
at the lock. I implored the colonel to let me out,
but the remorseless clanking of the levers drowned
my cries. The ceiling was only a foot or two above
my head, and with my hand upraised I could feel
its hard, rough surface. Then it flashed through
my mind that the pain of my death would depend
very much upon the position in which I met it. If
I lay on my face the weight would come upon my
spine, and I shuddered to think of that dreadful
snap. Easier the other way, perhaps; and yet, had
I the nerve to lie and look up at that deadly black
shadow wavering down upon me? Already I was
unable to stand erect, when my eye caught something which brought a gush of hope back to my
heart.
“I have said that though the floor and ceiling
were of iron, the walls were of wood. As I gave a
last hurried glance around, I saw a thin line of yellow light between two of the boards, which broadened and broadened as a small panel was pushed
backward. For an instant I could hardly believe that
here was indeed a door which led away from death.
The next instant I threw myself through, and lay
half-fainting upon the other side. The panel had
233
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
go, and was hanging by the hands to the sill, when
his blow fell. I was conscious of a dull pain, my
grip loosened, and I fell into the garden below.
ponderous commonplace books in which he placed
his cuttings.
“Here is an advertisement which will interest
you,” said he. “It appeared in all the papers about
a year ago. Listen to this:
“ ‘Lost, on the 9th inst., Mr. Jeremiah
Hayling, aged twenty-six, a hydraulic engineer. Left his lodgings at ten o’clock at
night, and has not been heard of since. Was
dressed in—’
etc., etc. Ha! That represents the last time that the
colonel needed to have his machine overhauled, I
fancy.”
“Good heavens!” cried my patient. “Then that
explains what the girl said.”
“Undoubtedly. It is quite clear that the colonel
was a cool and desperate man, who was absolutely
determined that nothing should stand in the way of
his little game, like those out-and-out pirates who
will leave no survivor from a captured ship. Well,
every moment now is precious, so if you feel equal
to it we shall go down to Scotland Yard at once as
a preliminary to starting for Eyford.”
Some three hours or so afterwards we were
all in the train together, bound from Reading to
the little Berkshire village. There were Sherlock
Holmes, the hydraulic engineer, Inspector Bradstreet, of Scotland Yard, a plain-clothes man, and
myself. Bradstreet had spread an ordnance map of
the county out upon the seat and was busy with
his compasses drawing a circle with Eyford for its
centre.
“There you are,” said he. “That circle is drawn
at a radius of ten miles from the village. The place
we want must be somewhere near that line. You
said ten miles, I think, sir.”
“It was an hour’s good drive.”
“And you think that they brought you back all
that way when you were unconscious?”
“They must have done so. I have a confused
memory, too, of having been lifted and conveyed
somewhere.”
“What I cannot understand,” said I, “is why
they should have spared you when they found you
lying fainting in the garden. Perhaps the villain
was softened by the woman’s entreaties.”
“I hardly think that likely. I never saw a more
inexorable face in my life.”
“Oh, we shall soon clear up all that,” said Bradstreet. “Well, I have drawn my circle, and I only
wish I knew at what point upon it the folk that we
are in search of are to be found.”
“I think I could lay my finger on it,” said
Holmes quietly.
“I was shaken but not hurt by the fall; so I
picked myself up and rushed off among the bushes
as hard as I could run, for I understood that I was
far from being out of danger yet. Suddenly, however, as I ran, a deadly dizziness and sickness came
over me. I glanced down at my hand, which was
throbbing painfully, and then, for the first time, saw
that my thumb had been cut off and that the blood
was pouring from my wound. I endeavoured to tie
my handkerchief round it, but there came a sudden
buzzing in my ears, and next moment I fell in a
dead faint among the rose-bushes.
“How long I remained unconscious I cannot tell.
It must have been a very long time, for the moon
had sunk, and a bright morning was breaking when
I came to myself. My clothes were all sodden with
dew, and my coat-sleeve was drenched with blood
from my wounded thumb. The smarting of it recalled in an instant all the particulars of my night’s
adventure, and I sprang to my feet with the feeling
that I might hardly yet be safe from my pursuers.
But to my astonishment, when I came to look round
me, neither house nor garden were to be seen. I
had been lying in an angle of the hedge close by the
highroad, and just a little lower down was a long
building, which proved, upon my approaching it,
to be the very station at which I had arrived upon
the previous night. Were it not for the ugly wound
upon my hand, all that had passed during those
dreadful hours might have been an evil dream.
“Half dazed, I went into the station and asked
about the morning train. There would be one to
Reading in less than an hour. The same porter was
on duty, I found, as had been there when I arrived.
I inquired of him whether he had ever heard of
Colonel Lysander Stark. The name was strange to
him. Had he observed a carriage the night before
waiting for me? No, he had not. Was there a policestation anywhere near? There was one about three
miles off.
“It was too far for me to go, weak and ill as I
was. I determined to wait until I got back to town
before telling my story to the police. It was a little past six when I arrived, so I went first to have
my wound dressed, and then the doctor was kind
enough to bring me along here. I put the case into
your hands and shall do exactly what you advise.”
We both sat in silence for some little time after
listening to this extraordinary narrative. Then Sherlock Holmes pulled down from the shelf one of the
234
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
“Really, now!” cried the inspector, “you have
formed your opinion! Come, now, we shall see who
agrees with you. I say it is south, for the country is
more deserted there.”
“Whose house is it?”
“Dr. Becher’s.”
“Tell me,” broke in the engineer, “is Dr. Becher
a German, very thin, with a long, sharp nose?”
The station-master laughed heartily. “No, sir,
Dr. Becher is an Englishman, and there isn’t a man
in the parish who has a better-lined waistcoat. But
he has a gentleman staying with him, a patient, as I
understand, who is a foreigner, and he looks as if a
little good Berkshire beef would do him no harm.”
The station-master had not finished his speech
before we were all hastening in the direction of the
fire. The road topped a low hill, and there was a
great widespread whitewashed building in front of
us, spouting fire at every chink and window, while
in the garden in front three fire-engines were vainly
striving to keep the flames under.
“That’s it!” cried Hatherley, in intense excitement. “There is the gravel-drive, and there are the
rose-bushes where I lay. That second window is
the one that I jumped from.”
“Well, at least,” said Holmes, “you have had
your revenge upon them. There can be no question that it was your oil-lamp which, when it was
crushed in the press, set fire to the wooden walls,
though no doubt they were too excited in the chase
after you to observe it at the time. Now keep your
eyes open in this crowd for your friends of last
night, though I very much fear that they are a good
hundred miles off by now.”
And Holmes’ fears came to be realised, for from
that day to this no word has ever been heard either
of the beautiful woman, the sinister German, or the
morose Englishman. Early that morning a peasant
had met a cart containing several people and some
very bulky boxes driving rapidly in the direction
of Reading, but there all traces of the fugitives disappeared, and even Holmes’ ingenuity failed ever
to discover the least clue as to their whereabouts.
The firemen had been much perturbed at the
strange arrangements which they had found within,
and still more so by discovering a newly severed
human thumb upon a window-sill of the second
floor. About sunset, however, their efforts were at
last successful, and they subdued the flames, but
not before the roof had fallen in, and the whole
place been reduced to such absolute ruin that, save
some twisted cylinders and iron piping, not a trace
remained of the machinery which had cost our unfortunate acquaintance so dearly. Large masses of
nickel and of tin were discovered stored in an outhouse, but no coins were to be found, which may
have explained the presence of those bulky boxes
which have been already referred to.
“And I say east,” said my patient.
“I am for west,” remarked the plain-clothes man.
“There are several quiet little villages up there.”
“And I am for north,” said I, “because there are
no hills there, and our friend says that he did not
notice the carriage go up any.”
“Come,” cried the inspector, laughing; “it’s a
very pretty diversity of opinion. We have boxed the
compass among us. Who do you give your casting
vote to?”
“You are all wrong.”
“But we can’t all be.”
“Oh, yes, you can. This is my point.” He placed
his finger in the centre of the circle. “This is where
we shall find them.”
“But the twelve-mile drive?” gasped Hatherley.
“Six out and six back. Nothing simpler. You
say yourself that the horse was fresh and glossy
when you got in. How could it be that if it had
gone twelve miles over heavy roads?”
“Indeed, it is a likely ruse enough,” observed
Bradstreet thoughtfully. “Of course there can be no
doubt as to the nature of this gang.”
“None at all,” said Holmes. “They are coiners
on a large scale, and have used the machine to form
the amalgam which has taken the place of silver.”
“We have known for some time that a clever
gang was at work,” said the inspector. “They have
been turning out half-crowns by the thousand. We
even traced them as far as Reading, but could get
no farther, for they had covered their traces in a
way that showed that they were very old hands.
But now, thanks to this lucky chance, I think that
we have got them right enough.”
But the inspector was mistaken, for those criminals were not destined to fall into the hands of
justice. As we rolled into Eyford Station we saw a
gigantic column of smoke which streamed up from
behind a small clump of trees in the neighbourhood
and hung like an immense ostrich feather over the
landscape.
“A house on fire?” asked Bradstreet as the train
steamed off again on its way.
“Yes, sir!” said the station-master.
“When did it break out?”
“I hear that it was during the night, sir, but it
has got worse, and the whole place is in a blaze.”
235
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
How our hydraulic engineer had been conveyed
from the garden to the spot where he recovered
his senses might have remained forever a mystery
were it not for the soft mould, which told us a very
plain tale. He had evidently been carried down by
two persons, one of whom had remarkably small
feet and the other unusually large ones. On the
whole, it was most probable that the silent Englishman, being less bold or less murderous than his
companion, had assisted the woman to bear the
unconscious man out of the way of danger.
“Well,” said our engineer ruefully as we took
our seats to return once more to London, “it has
been a pretty business for me! I have lost my thumb
and I have lost a fifty-guinea fee, and what have I
gained?”
“Experience,” said Holmes, laughing. “Indirectly it may be of value, you know; you have only
to put it into words to gain the reputation of being excellent company for the remainder of your
existence.”
236
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
T
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
he Lord St. Simon marriage, and its curious termination, have long ceased to be
a subject of interest in those exalted circles in which the unfortunate bridegroom
moves. Fresh scandals have eclipsed it, and their
more piquant details have drawn the gossips away
from this four-year-old drama. As I have reason to
believe, however, that the full facts have never been
revealed to the general public, and as my friend
Sherlock Holmes had a considerable share in clearing the matter up, I feel that no memoir of him
would be complete without some little sketch of
this remarkable episode.
It was a few weeks before my own marriage,
during the days when I was still sharing rooms
with Holmes in Baker Street, that he came home
from an afternoon stroll to find a letter on the table
waiting for him. I had remained indoors all day, for
the weather had taken a sudden turn to rain, with
high autumnal winds, and the Jezail bullet which
I had brought back in one of my limbs as a relic
of my Afghan campaign throbbed with dull persistence. With my body in one easy-chair and my
legs upon another, I had surrounded myself with
a cloud of newspapers until at last, saturated with
the news of the day, I tossed them all aside and
lay listless, watching the huge crest and monogram
upon the envelope upon the table and wondering
lazily who my friend’s noble correspondent could
be.
“Here is a very fashionable epistle,” I remarked
as he entered. “Your morning letters, if I remember
right, were from a fish-monger and a tide-waiter.”
“Yes, my correspondence has certainly the
charm of variety,” he answered, smiling, “and the
humbler are usually the more interesting. This
looks like one of those unwelcome social summonses which call upon a man either to be bored
or to lie.”
He broke the seal and glanced over the contents.
“Oh, come, it may prove to be something of
interest, after all.”
“Not social, then?”
“No, distinctly professional.”
“And from a noble client?”
“One of the highest in England.”
“My dear fellow, I congratulate you.”
“I assure you, Watson, without affectation, that
the status of my client is a matter of less moment
to me than the interest of his case. It is just possible, however, that that also may not be wanting in
this new investigation. You have been reading the
papers diligently of late, have you not?”
“It looks like it,” said I ruefully, pointing to a
huge bundle in the corner. “I have had nothing else
to do.”
“It is fortunate, for you will perhaps be able
to post me up. I read nothing except the criminal
news and the agony column. The latter is always
instructive. But if you have followed recent events
so closely you must have read about Lord St. Simon
and his wedding?”
“Oh, yes, with the deepest interest.”
“That is well. The letter which I hold in my
hand is from Lord St. Simon. I will read it to you,
and in return you must turn over these papers and
let me have whatever bears upon the matter. This
is what he says:
“ ‘My dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes:
“ ‘Lord Backwater tells me that I may
place implicit reliance upon your judgment and discretion. I have determined,
therefore, to call upon you and to consult you in reference to the very painful
event which has occurred in connection
with my wedding. Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, is acting already in the matter, but he assures me that he sees no
objection to your co-operation, and that
he even thinks that it might be of some
assistance. I will call at four o’clock in
the afternoon, and, should you have any
other engagement at that time, I hope
that you will postpone it, as this matter
is of paramount importance.
— “ ‘Yours faithfully,
“ ‘St. Simon.’
“It is dated from Grosvenor Mansions, written
with a quill pen, and the noble lord has had the
misfortune to get a smear of ink upon the outer
side of his right little finger,” remarked Holmes as
he folded up the epistle.
“He says four o’clock. It is three now. He will
be here in an hour.”
“Then I have just time, with your assistance,
to get clear upon the subject. Turn over those papers and arrange the extracts in their order of time,
while I take a glance as to who our client is.” He
picked a red-covered volume from a line of books
of reference beside the mantelpiece. “Here he is,”
said he, sitting down and flattening it out upon
his knee. “ ‘Lord Robert Walsingham de Vere St.
Simon, second son of the Duke of Balmoral.’ Hum!
‘Arms: Azure, three caltrops in chief over a fess
sable. Born in 1846.’ He’s forty-one years of age,
which is mature for marriage. Was Under-Secretary
239
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
currently reported that her dowry will run
to considerably over the six figures, with
expectancies for the future. As it is an open
secret that the Duke of Balmoral has been
compelled to sell his pictures within the last
few years, and as Lord St. Simon has no
property of his own save the small estate
of Birchmoor, it is obvious that the Californian heiress is not the only gainer by an
alliance which will enable her to make the
easy and common transition from a Republican lady to a British peeress.’ ”
“Anything else?” asked Holmes, yawning.
“Oh, yes; plenty. Then there is another note in
the Morning Post to say that the marriage would
be an absolutely quiet one, that it would be at St.
George’s, Hanover Square, that only half a dozen intimate friends would be invited, and that the party
would return to the furnished house at Lancaster
Gate which has been taken by Mr. Aloysius Doran.
Two days later—that is, on Wednesday last—there
is a curt announcement that the wedding had taken
place, and that the honeymoon would be passed
at Lord Backwater’s place, near Petersfield. Those
are all the notices which appeared before the disappearance of the bride.”
“Before the what?” asked Holmes with a start.
“The vanishing of the lady.”
“When did she vanish, then?”
“At the wedding breakfast.”
“Indeed. This is more interesting than it
promised to be; quite dramatic, in fact.”
“Yes; it struck me as being a little out of the
common.”
“They often vanish before the ceremony, and
occasionally during the honeymoon; but I cannot
call to mind anything quite so prompt as this. Pray
let me have the details.”
“I warn you that they are very incomplete.”
“Perhaps we may make them less so.”
“Such as they are, they are set forth in a single
article of a morning paper of yesterday, which I
will read to you. It is headed, ‘Singular Occurrence
at a Fashionable Wedding’:
“ ‘The family of Lord Robert St. Simon has
been thrown into the greatest consternation by the strange and painful episodes
which have taken place in connection with
his wedding. The ceremony, as shortly
announced in the papers of yesterday, occurred on the previous morning; but it is
only now that it has been possible to confirm the strange rumours which have been
so persistently floating about. In spite of
for the colonies in a late administration. The Duke,
his father, was at one time Secretary for Foreign
Affairs. They inherit Plantagenet blood by direct
descent, and Tudor on the distaff side. Ha! Well,
there is nothing very instructive in all this. I think
that I must turn to you Watson, for something more
solid.”
“I have very little difficulty in finding what I
want,” said I, “for the facts are quite recent, and the
matter struck me as remarkable. I feared to refer
them to you, however, as I knew that you had an
inquiry on hand and that you disliked the intrusion
of other matters.”
“Oh, you mean the little problem of the
Grosvenor Square furniture van. That is quite
cleared up now—though, indeed, it was obvious
from the first. Pray give me the results of your
newspaper selections.”
“Here is the first notice which I can find. It is in
the personal column of the Morning Post, and dates,
as you see, some weeks back:
“ ‘A marriage has been arranged [it says]
and will, if rumour is correct, very shortly
take place, between Lord Robert St. Simon,
second son of the Duke of Balmoral, and
Miss Hatty Doran, the only daughter of
Aloysius Doran. Esq., of San Francisco,
Cal., U.S.A.’
That is all.”
“Terse and to the point,” remarked Holmes,
stretching his long, thin legs towards the fire.
“There was a paragraph amplifying this in one
of the society papers of the same week. Ah, here it
is:
“ ‘There will soon be a call for protection
in the marriage market, for the present
free-trade principle appears to tell heavily
against our home product. One by one the
management of the noble houses of Great
Britain is passing into the hands of our
fair cousins from across the Atlantic. An
important addition has been made during
the last week to the list of the prizes which
have been borne away by these charming
invaders. Lord St. Simon, who has shown
himself for over twenty years proof against
the little god’s arrows, has now definitely
announced his approaching marriage with
Miss Hatty Doran, the fascinating daughter of a California millionaire. Miss Doran, whose graceful figure and striking face
attracted much attention at the Westbury
House festivities, is an only child, and it is
240
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
the attempts of the friends to hush the matter up, so much public attention has now
been drawn to it that no good purpose can
be served by affecting to disregard what is
a common subject for conversation.
“And is that all?”
“Only one little item in another of the morning
papers, but it is a suggestive one.”
“And it is—”
“That Miss Flora Millar, the lady who had
caused the disturbance, has actually been arrested.
It appears that she was formerly a danseuse at the
Allegro, and that she has known the bridegroom
for some years. There are no further particulars,
and the whole case is in your hands now—so far as
it has been set forth in the public press.”
“And an exceedingly interesting case it appears
to be. I would not have missed it for worlds. But
there is a ring at the bell, Watson, and as the clock
makes it a few minutes after four, I have no doubt
that this will prove to be our noble client. Do not
dream of going, Watson, for I very much prefer
having a witness, if only as a check to my own
memory.”
“Lord Robert St. Simon,” announced our pageboy, throwing open the door. A gentleman entered,
with a pleasant, cultured face, high-nosed and pale,
with something perhaps of petulance about the
mouth, and with the steady, well-opened eye of a
man whose pleasant lot it had ever been to command and to be obeyed. His manner was brisk, and
yet his general appearance gave an undue impression of age, for he had a slight forward stoop and a
little bend of the knees as he walked. His hair, too,
as he swept off his very curly-brimmed hat, was
grizzled round the edges and thin upon the top.
As to his dress, it was careful to the verge of foppishness, with high collar, black frock-coat, white
waistcoat, yellow gloves, patent-leather shoes, and
light-coloured gaiters. He advanced slowly into
the room, turning his head from left to right, and
swinging in his right hand the cord which held his
golden eyeglasses.
“Good-day, Lord St. Simon,” said Holmes, rising and bowing. “Pray take the basket-chair. This
is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson. Draw up a
little to the fire, and we will talk this matter over.”
“A most painful matter to me, as you can most
readily imagine, Mr. Holmes. I have been cut to
the quick. I understand that you have already managed several delicate cases of this sort, sir, though I
presume that they were hardly from the same class
of society.”
“No, I am descending.”
“I beg pardon.”
“My last client of the sort was a king.”
“Oh, really! I had no idea. And which king?”
“The King of Scandinavia.”
“ ‘The ceremony, which was performed at
St. George’s, Hanover Square, was a very
quiet one, no one being present save the
father of the bride, Mr. Aloysius Doran,
the Duchess of Balmoral, Lord Backwater,
Lord Eustace and Lady Clara St. Simon
(the younger brother and sister of the bridegroom), and Lady Alicia Whittington. The
whole party proceeded afterwards to the
house of Mr. Aloysius Doran, at Lancaster
Gate, where breakfast had been prepared. It
appears that some little trouble was caused
by a woman, whose name has not been
ascertained, who endeavoured to force her
way into the house after the bridal party,
alleging that she had some claim upon Lord
St. Simon. It was only after a painful
and prolonged scene that she was ejected
by the butler and the footman. The bride,
who had fortunately entered the house before this unpleasant interruption, had sat
down to breakfast with the rest, when she
complained of a sudden indisposition and
retired to her room. Her prolonged absence
having caused some comment, her father
followed her, but learned from her maid that
she had only come up to her chamber for
an instant, caught up an ulster and bonnet, and hurried down to the passage. One
of the footmen declared that he had seen a
lady leave the house thus apparelled, but
had refused to credit that it was his mistress, believing her to be with the company. On ascertaining that his daughter
had disappeared, Mr. Aloysius Doran, in
conjunction with the bridegroom, instantly
put themselves in communication with the
police, and very energetic inquiries are being made, which will probably result in
a speedy clearing up of this very singular business. Up to a late hour last night,
however, nothing had transpired as to the
whereabouts of the missing lady. There are
rumours of foul play in the matter, and it is
said that the police have caused the arrest of
the woman who had caused the original disturbance, in the belief that, from jealousy or
some other motive, she may have been concerned in the strange disappearance of the
bride.’ ”
241
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
“What! Had he lost his wife?”
name which I have the honour to bear”—he gave
a little stately cough—“had not I thought her to
be at bottom a noble woman. I believe that she is
capable of heroic self-sacrifice and that anything
dishonourable would be repugnant to her.”
“Have you her photograph?”
“I brought this with me.” He opened a locket
and showed us the full face of a very lovely woman.
It was not a photograph but an ivory miniature,
and the artist had brought out the full effect of the
lustrous black hair, the large dark eyes, and the
exquisite mouth. Holmes gazed long and earnestly
at it. Then he closed the locket and handed it back
to Lord St. Simon.
“The young lady came to London, then, and
you renewed your acquaintance?”
“Yes, her father brought her over for this last
London season. I met her several times, became
engaged to her, and have now married her.”
“She brought, I understand, a considerable
dowry?”
“A fair dowry. Not more than is usual in my
family.”
“And this, of course, remains to you, since the
marriage is a fait accompli?”
“I really have made no inquiries on the subject.”
“Very naturally not. Did you see Miss Doran on
the day before the wedding?”
“Yes.”
“Was she in good spirits?”
“Never better. She kept talking of what we
should do in our future lives.”
“Indeed! That is very interesting. And on the
morning of the wedding?”
“She was as bright as possible—at least until
after the ceremony.”
“And did you observe any change in her then?”
“Well, to tell the truth, I saw then the first signs
that I had ever seen that her temper was just a little sharp. The incident however, was too trivial to
relate and can have no possible bearing upon the
case.”
“Pray let us have it, for all that.”
“Oh, it is childish. She dropped her bouquet
as we went towards the vestry. She was passing
the front pew at the time, and it fell over into the
pew. There was a moment’s delay, but the gentleman in the pew handed it up to her again, and
it did not appear to be the worse for the fall. Yet
when I spoke to her of the matter, she answered me
abruptly; and in the carriage, on our way home, she
seemed absurdly agitated over this trifling cause.”
“You can understand,” said Holmes suavely,
“that I extend to the affairs of my other clients the
same secrecy which I promise to you in yours.”
“Of course! Very right! very right! I’m sure
I beg pardon. As to my own case, I am ready to
give you any information which may assist you in
forming an opinion.”
“Thank you. I have already learned all that is
in the public prints, nothing more. I presume that I
may take it as correct—this article, for example, as
to the disappearance of the bride.”
Lord St. Simon glanced over it. “Yes, it is correct,
as far as it goes.”
“But it needs a great deal of supplementing before anyone could offer an opinion. I think that I
may arrive at my facts most directly by questioning
you.”
“Pray do so.”
“When did you first meet Miss Hatty Doran?”
“In San Francisco, a year ago.”
“You were travelling in the States?”
“Yes.”
“Did you become engaged then?”
“No.”
“But you were on a friendly footing?”
“I was amused by her society, and she could see
that I was amused.”
“Her father is very rich?”
“He is said to be the richest man on the Pacific
slope.”
“And how did he make his money?”
“In mining. He had nothing a few years ago.
Then he struck gold, invested it, and came up by
leaps and bounds.”
“Now, what is your own impression as to the
young lady’s—your wife’s character?”
The nobleman swung his glasses a little faster
and stared down into the fire. “You see, Mr.
Holmes,” said he, “my wife was twenty before
her father became a rich man. During that time she
ran free in a mining camp and wandered through
woods or mountains, so that her education has
come from Nature rather than from the schoolmaster. She is what we call in England a tomboy, with
a strong nature, wild and free, unfettered by any
sort of traditions. She is impetuous—volcanic, I
was about to say. She is swift in making up her
mind and fearless in carrying out her resolutions.
On the other hand, I would not have given her the
242
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
“Indeed! You say that there was a gentleman in
the pew. Some of the general public were present,
then?”
“Ah, yes. I should like a few particulars as to
this young lady, and your relations to her.”
Lord St. Simon shrugged his shoulders and
raised his eyebrows. “We have been on a friendly
footing for some years—I may say on a very
friendly footing. She used to be at the Allegro.
I have not treated her ungenerously, and she had
no just cause of complaint against me, but you
know what women are, Mr. Holmes. Flora was a
dear little thing, but exceedingly hot-headed and
devotedly attached to me. She wrote me dreadful
letters when she heard that I was about to be married, and, to tell the truth, the reason why I had the
marriage celebrated so quietly was that I feared lest
there might be a scandal in the church. She came
to Mr. Doran’s door just after we returned, and
she endeavoured to push her way in, uttering very
abusive expressions towards my wife, and even
threatening her, but I had foreseen the possibility
of something of the sort, and I had two police fellows there in private clothes, who soon pushed her
out again. She was quiet when she saw that there
was no good in making a row.”
“Did your wife hear all this?”
“No, thank goodness, she did not.”
“And she was seen walking with this very
woman afterwards?”
“Yes. That is what Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland
Yard, looks upon as so serious. It is thought that
Flora decoyed my wife out and laid some terrible
trap for her.”
“Well, it is a possible supposition.”
“You think so, too?”
“I did not say a probable one. But you do not
yourself look upon this as likely?”
“I do not think Flora would hurt a fly.”
“Still, jealousy is a strange transformer of characters. Pray what is your own theory as to what
took place?”
“Well, really, I came to seek a theory, not to
propound one. I have given you all the facts. Since
you ask me, however, I may say that it has occurred
to me as possible that the excitement of this affair,
the consciousness that she had made so immense
a social stride, had the effect of causing some little
nervous disturbance in my wife.”
“In short, that she had become suddenly deranged?”
“Well, really, when I consider that she has
turned her back—I will not say upon me, but upon
so much that many have aspired to without success—I can hardly explain it in any other fashion.”
“Well, certainly that is also a conceivable hypothesis,” said Holmes, smiling. “And now, Lord
“Oh, yes. It is impossible to exclude them when
the church is open.”
“This gentleman was not one of your wife’s
friends?”
“No, no; I call him a gentleman by courtesy, but
he was quite a common-looking person. I hardly
noticed his appearance. But really I think that we
are wandering rather far from the point.”
“Lady St. Simon, then, returned from the wedding in a less cheerful frame of mind than she had
gone to it. What did she do on re-entering her
father’s house?”
“I saw her in conversation with her maid.”
“And who is her maid?”
“Alice is her name. She is an American and
came from California with her.”
“A confidential servant?”
“A little too much so. It seemed to me that her
mistress allowed her to take great liberties. Still, of
course, in America they look upon these things in
a different way.”
“How long did she speak to this Alice?”
“Oh, a few minutes. I had something else to
think of.”
“You did not overhear what they said?”
“Lady St. Simon said something about ‘jumping
a claim.’ She was accustomed to use slang of the
kind. I have no idea what she meant.”
“American slang is very expressive sometimes.
And what did your wife do when she finished
speaking to her maid?”
“She walked into the breakfast-room.”
“On your arm?”
“No, alone. She was very independent in little matters like that. Then, after we had sat down
for ten minutes or so, she rose hurriedly, muttered
some words of apology, and left the room. She
never came back.”
“But this maid, Alice, as I understand, deposes
that she went to her room, covered her bride’s dress
with a long ulster, put on a bonnet, and went out.”
“Quite so. And she was afterwards seen walking into Hyde Park in company with Flora Millar,
a woman who is now in custody, and who had
already made a disturbance at Mr. Doran’s house
that morning.”
243
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
St. Simon, I think that I have nearly all my data.
May I ask whether you were seated at the breakfasttable so that you could see out of the window?”
“Really! You surprise me.”
“Who ever heard of such a mixed affair? Every
clue seems to slip through my fingers. I have been
at work upon it all day.”
“We could see the other side of the road and
the Park.”
“And very wet it seems to have made you,”
said Holmes laying his hand upon the arm of the
pea-jacket.
“Quite so. Then I do not think that I need to
detain you longer. I shall communicate with you.”
“Should you be fortunate enough to solve this
problem,” said our client, rising.
“Yes, I have been dragging the Serpentine.”
“In heaven’s name, what for?”
“I have solved it.”
“In search of the body of Lady St. Simon.”
“Eh? What was that?”
Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his chair and
laughed heartily.
“I say that I have solved it.”
“Where, then, is my wife?”
“Have you dragged the basin of Trafalgar
Square fountain?” he asked.
“That is a detail which I shall speedily supply.”
“Why? What do you mean?”
Lord St. Simon shook his head. “I am afraid
that it will take wiser heads than yours or mine,” he
remarked, and bowing in a stately, old-fashioned
manner he departed.
“Because you have just as good a chance of finding this lady in the one as in the other.”
Lestrade shot an angry glance at my companion.
“I suppose you know all about it,” he snarled.
“It is very good of Lord St. Simon to honour my
head by putting it on a level with his own,” said
Sherlock Holmes, laughing. “I think that I shall
have a whisky and soda and a cigar after all this
cross-questioning. I had formed my conclusions as
to the case before our client came into the room.”
“Well, I have only just heard the facts, but my
mind is made up.”
“Oh, indeed! Then you think that the Serpentine plays no part in the matter?”
“I think it very unlikely.”
“My dear Holmes!”
“Then perhaps you will kindly explain how it is
that we found this in it?” He opened his bag as he
spoke, and tumbled onto the floor a wedding-dress
of watered silk, a pair of white satin shoes and a
bride’s wreath and veil, all discoloured and soaked
in water. “There,” said he, putting a new weddingring upon the top of the pile. “There is a little nut
for you to crack, Master Holmes.”
“I have notes of several similar cases, though
none, as I remarked before, which were quite as
prompt. My whole examination served to turn my
conjecture into a certainty. Circumstantial evidence
is occasionally very convincing, as when you find
a trout in the milk, to quote Thoreau’s example.”
“But I have heard all that you have heard.”
“Without, however, the knowledge of preexisting cases which serves me so well. There was
a parallel instance in Aberdeen some years back,
and something on very much the same lines at Munich the year after the Franco-Prussian War. It is
one of these cases—but, hullo, here is Lestrade!
Good-afternoon, Lestrade! You will find an extra
tumbler upon the sideboard, and there are cigars
in the box.”
“Oh, indeed!” said my friend, blowing blue
rings into the air. “You dragged them from the
Serpentine?”
“No. They were found floating near the margin
by a park-keeper. They have been identified as her
clothes, and it seemed to me that if the clothes were
there the body would not be far off.”
“By the same brilliant reasoning, every man’s
body is to be found in the neighbourhood of his
wardrobe. And pray what did you hope to arrive
at through this?”
The official detective was attired in a pea-jacket
and cravat, which gave him a decidedly nautical
appearance, and he carried a black canvas bag in
his hand. With a short greeting he seated himself
and lit the cigar which had been offered to him.
“At some evidence implicating Flora Millar in
the disappearance.”
“I am afraid that you will find it difficult.”
“What’s up, then?” asked Holmes with a twinkle in his eye. “You look dissatisfied.”
“Are you, indeed, now?” cried Lestrade with
some bitterness. “I am afraid, Holmes, that you
are not very practical with your deductions and
your inferences. You have made two blunders in
“And I feel dissatisfied. It is this infernal St.
Simon marriage case. I can make neither head nor
tail of the business.”
244
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
as many minutes. This dress does implicate Miss
Flora Millar.”
myth. There is not, and there never has been, any
such person.”
Lestrade looked sadly at my companion. Then
he turned to me, tapped his forehead three times,
shook his head solemnly, and hurried away.
He had hardly shut the door behind him when
Holmes rose to put on his overcoat. “There is something in what the fellow says about outdoor work,”
he remarked, “so I think, Watson, that I must leave
you to your papers for a little.”
It was after five o’clock when Sherlock Holmes
left me, but I had no time to be lonely, for within
an hour there arrived a confectioner’s man with a
very large flat box. This he unpacked with the help
of a youth whom he had brought with him, and
presently, to my very great astonishment, a quite
epicurean little cold supper began to be laid out
upon our humble lodging-house mahogany. There
were a couple of brace of cold woodcock, a pheasant, a pâté de foie gras pie with a group of ancient
and cobwebby bottles. Having laid out all these
luxuries, my two visitors vanished away, like the
genii of the Arabian Nights, with no explanation
save that the things had been paid for and were
ordered to this address.
Just before nine o’clock Sherlock Holmes
stepped briskly into the room. His features were
gravely set, but there was a light in his eye which
made me think that he had not been disappointed
in his conclusions.
“They have laid the supper, then,” he said, rubbing his hands.
“You seem to expect company. They have laid
for five.”
“Yes, I fancy we may have some company dropping in,” said he. “I am surprised that Lord St.
Simon has not already arrived. Ha! I fancy that I
hear his step now upon the stairs.”
It was indeed our visitor of the afternoon who
came bustling in, dangling his glasses more vigorously than ever, and with a very perturbed expression upon his aristocratic features.
“My messenger reached you, then?” asked
Holmes.
“Yes, and I confess that the contents startled
me beyond measure. Have you good authority for
what you say?”
“The best possible.”
Lord St. Simon sank into a chair and passed his
hand over his forehead.
“What will the Duke say,” he murmured, “when
he hears that one of the family has been subjected
to such humiliation?”
“And how?”
“In the dress is a pocket. In the pocket is a
card-case. In the card-case is a note. And here is
the very note.” He slapped it down upon the table
in front of him. “Listen to this:
“ ‘You will see me when all is ready.
Come at once.
— “ ‘F.H.M.’
Now my theory all along has been that Lady St.
Simon was decoyed away by Flora Millar, and that
she, with confederates, no doubt, was responsible
for her disappearance. Here, signed with her initials, is the very note which was no doubt quietly
slipped into her hand at the door and which lured
her within their reach.”
“Very good, Lestrade,” said Holmes, laughing.
“You really are very fine indeed. Let me see it.” He
took up the paper in a listless way, but his attention
instantly became riveted, and he gave a little cry of
satisfaction. “This is indeed important,” said he.
“Ha! you find it so?”
“Extremely so. I congratulate you warmly.”
Lestrade rose in his triumph and bent his head
to look. “Why,” he shrieked, “you’re looking at the
wrong side!”
“On the contrary, this is the right side.”
“The right side? You’re mad! Here is the note
written in pencil over here.”
“And over here is what appears to be the fragment of a hotel bill, which interests me deeply.”
“There’s nothing in it. I looked at it before,”
said Lestrade.
“ ‘Oct. 4th, rooms 8s., breakfast 2s. 6d.,
cocktail 1s., lunch 2s. 6d., glass sherry,
8d.’ I see nothing in that.”
“Very likely not. It is most important, all the
same. As to the note, it is important also, or at least
the initials are, so I congratulate you again.”
“I’ve wasted time enough,” said Lestrade, rising.
“I believe in hard work and not in sitting by the fire
spinning fine theories. Good-day, Mr. Holmes, and
we shall see which gets to the bottom of the matter
first.” He gathered up the garments, thrust them
into the bag, and made for the door.
“Just one hint to you, Lestrade,” drawled
Holmes before his rival vanished; “I will tell you
the true solution of the matter. Lady St. Simon is a
245
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
“It is the purest accident. I cannot allow that
there is any humiliation.”
“Then I’ll tell our story right away,” said the
lady. “Frank here and I met in ’84, in McQuire’s
camp, near the Rockies, where pa was working a
claim. We were engaged to each other, Frank and
I; but then one day father struck a rich pocket and
made a pile, while poor Frank here had a claim that
petered out and came to nothing. The richer pa
grew the poorer was Frank; so at last pa wouldn’t
hear of our engagement lasting any longer, and he
took me away to ’Frisco. Frank wouldn’t throw up
his hand, though; so he followed me there, and he
saw me without pa knowing anything about it. It
would only have made him mad to know, so we
just fixed it all up for ourselves. Frank said that he
would go and make his pile, too, and never come
back to claim me until he had as much as pa. So
then I promised to wait for him to the end of time
and pledged myself not to marry anyone else while
he lived. ‘Why shouldn’t we be married right away,
then,’ said he, ‘and then I will feel sure of you; and I
won’t claim to be your husband until I come back?’
Well, we talked it over, and he had fixed it all up so
nicely, with a clergyman all ready in waiting, that
we just did it right there; and then Frank went off
to seek his fortune, and I went back to pa.
“Ah, you look on these things from another
standpoint.”
“I fail to see that anyone is to blame. I can
hardly see how the lady could have acted otherwise, though her abrupt method of doing it was
undoubtedly to be regretted. Having no mother,
she had no one to advise her at such a crisis.”
“It was a slight, sir, a public slight,” said Lord
St. Simon, tapping his fingers upon the table.
“You must make allowance for this poor girl,
placed in so unprecedented a position.”
“I will make no allowance. I am very angry
indeed, and I have been shamefully used.”
“I think that I heard a ring,” said Holmes. “Yes,
there are steps on the landing. If I cannot persuade
you to take a lenient view of the matter, Lord St. Simon, I have brought an advocate here who may be
more successful.” He opened the door and ushered
in a lady and gentleman. “Lord St. Simon,” said he
“allow me to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Francis
Hay Moulton. The lady, I think, you have already
met.”
“The next I heard of Frank was that he was in
Montana, and then he went prospecting in Arizona,
and then I heard of him from New Mexico. After
that came a long newspaper story about how a miners’ camp had been attacked by Apache Indians,
and there was my Frank’s name among the killed.
I fainted dead away, and I was very sick for months
after. Pa thought I had a decline and took me to half
the doctors in ’Frisco. Not a word of news came
for a year and more, so that I never doubted that
Frank was really dead. Then Lord St. Simon came
to ’Frisco, and we came to London, and a marriage
was arranged, and pa was very pleased, but I felt
all the time that no man on this earth would ever
take the place in my heart that had been given to
my poor Frank.
At the sight of these newcomers our client had
sprung from his seat and stood very erect, with his
eyes cast down and his hand thrust into the breast
of his frock-coat, a picture of offended dignity. The
lady had taken a quick step forward and had held
out her hand to him, but he still refused to raise
his eyes. It was as well for his resolution, perhaps,
for her pleading face was one which it was hard to
resist.
“You’re angry, Robert,” said she. “Well, I guess
you have every cause to be.”
“Pray make no apology to me,” said Lord St.
Simon bitterly.
“Oh, yes, I know that I have treated you real bad
and that I should have spoken to you before I went;
but I was kind of rattled, and from the time when I
saw Frank here again I just didn’t know what I was
doing or saying. I only wonder I didn’t fall down
and do a faint right there before the altar.”
“Still, if I had married Lord St. Simon, of course
I’d have done my duty by him. We can’t command
our love, but we can our actions. I went to the altar
with him with the intention to make him just as
good a wife as it was in me to be. But you may
imagine what I felt when, just as I came to the altar
rails, I glanced back and saw Frank standing and
looking at me out of the first pew. I thought it was
his ghost at first; but when I looked again there he
was still, with a kind of question in his eyes, as if
to ask me whether I were glad or sorry to see him.
I wonder I didn’t drop. I know that everything was
turning round, and the words of the clergyman
were just like the buzz of a bee in my ear. I didn’t
“Perhaps, Mrs. Moulton, you would like my
friend and me to leave the room while you explain
this matter?”
“If I may give an opinion,” remarked the strange
gentleman, “we’ve had just a little too much secrecy
over this business already. For my part, I should
like all Europe and America to hear the rights of it.”
He was a small, wiry, sunburnt man, clean-shaven,
with a sharp face and alert manner.
246
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
know what to do. Should I stop the service and
make a scene in the church? I glanced at him again,
and he seemed to know what I was thinking, for
he raised his finger to his lips to tell me to be still.
Then I saw him scribble on a piece of paper, and I
knew that he was writing me a note. As I passed
his pew on the way out I dropped my bouquet
over to him, and he slipped the note into my hand
when he returned me the flowers. It was only a
line asking me to join him when he made the sign
to me to do so. Of course I never doubted for a
moment that my first duty was now to him, and I
determined to do just whatever he might direct.
Holmes, came round to us this evening, though
how he found us is more than I can think, and he
showed us very clearly and kindly that I was wrong
and that Frank was right, and that we should be
putting ourselves in the wrong if we were so secret.
Then he offered to give us a chance of talking to
Lord St. Simon alone, and so we came right away
round to his rooms at once. Now, Robert, you have
heard it all, and I am very sorry if I have given you
pain, and I hope that you do not think very meanly
of me.”
Lord St. Simon had by no means relaxed his
rigid attitude, but had listened with a frowning
brow and a compressed lip to this long narrative.
“Excuse me,” he said, “but it is not my custom
to discuss my most intimate personal affairs in this
public manner.”
“Then you won’t forgive me? You won’t shake
hands before I go?”
“Oh, certainly, if it would give you any pleasure.” He put out his hand and coldly grasped that
which she extended to him.
“I had hoped,” suggested Holmes, “that you
would have joined us in a friendly supper.”
“I think that there you ask a little too much,”
responded his Lordship. “I may be forced to acquiesce in these recent developments, but I can hardly
be expected to make merry over them. I think that
with your permission I will now wish you all a very
good-night.” He included us all in a sweeping bow
and stalked out of the room.
“Then I trust that you at least will honour me
with your company,” said Sherlock Holmes. “It is
always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton,
for I am one of those who believe that the folly
of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in
far-gone years will not prevent our children from
being some day citizens of the same world-wide
country under a flag which shall be a quartering of
the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.”
“The case has been an interesting one,” remarked Holmes when our visitors had left us, “because it serves to show very clearly how simple the
explanation may be of an affair which at first sight
seems to be almost inexplicable. Nothing could be
more natural than the sequence of events as narrated by this lady, and nothing stranger than the
result when viewed, for instance, by Mr. Lestrade
of Scotland Yard.”
“You were not yourself at fault at all, then?”
“From the first, two facts were very obvious
to me, the one that the lady had been quite willing to undergo the wedding ceremony, the other
that she had repented of it within a few minutes
“When I got back I told my maid, who had
known him in California, and had always been his
friend. I ordered her to say nothing, but to get a
few things packed and my ulster ready. I know I
ought to have spoken to Lord St. Simon, but it was
dreadful hard before his mother and all those great
people. I just made up my mind to run away and
explain afterwards. I hadn’t been at the table ten
minutes before I saw Frank out of the window at
the other side of the road. He beckoned to me and
then began walking into the Park. I slipped out,
put on my things, and followed him. Some woman
came talking something or other about Lord St. Simon to me—seemed to me from the little I heard as
if he had a little secret of his own before marriage
also—but I managed to get away from her and soon
overtook Frank. We got into a cab together, and
away we drove to some lodgings he had taken in
Gordon Square, and that was my true wedding
after all those years of waiting. Frank had been a
prisoner among the Apaches, had escaped, came
on to ’Frisco, found that I had given him up for
dead and had gone to England, followed me there,
and had come upon me at last on the very morning
of my second wedding.”
“I saw it in a paper,” explained the American.
“It gave the name and the church but not where the
lady lived.”
“Then we had a talk as to what we should
do, and Frank was all for openness, but I was so
ashamed of it all that I felt as if I should like to
vanish away and never see any of them again—just
sending a line to pa, perhaps, to show him that I
was alive. It was awful to me to think of all those
lords and ladies sitting round that breakfast-table
and waiting for me to come back. So Frank took my
wedding-clothes and things and made a bundle of
them, so that I should not be traced, and dropped
them away somewhere where no one could find
them. It is likely that we should have gone on to
Paris to-morrow, only that this good gentleman, Mr.
247
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
of returning home. Obviously something had occurred during the morning, then, to cause her to
change her mind. What could that something be?
She could not have spoken to anyone when she
was out, for she had been in the company of the
bridegroom. Had she seen someone, then? If she
had, it must be someone from America because
she had spent so short a time in this country that
she could hardly have allowed anyone to acquire
so deep an influence over her that the mere sight
of him would induce her to change her plans so
completely. You see we have already arrived, by a
process of exclusion, at the idea that she might have
seen an American. Then who could this American
be, and why should he possess so much influence
over her? It might be a lover; it might be a husband. Her young womanhood had, I knew, been
spent in rough scenes and under strange conditions. So far I had got before I ever heard Lord
St. Simon’s narrative. When he told us of a man
in a pew, of the change in the bride’s manner, of
so transparent a device for obtaining a note as the
dropping of a bouquet, of her resort to her confidential maid, and of her very significant allusion to
claim-jumping—which in miners’ parlance means
taking possession of that which another person has
a prior claim to—the whole situation became absolutely clear. She had gone off with a man, and
the man was either a lover or was a previous husband—the chances being in favour of the latter.”
“And how in the world did you find them?”
“It might have been difficult, but friend Lestrade
held information in his hands the value of which he
did not himself know. The initials were, of course,
of the highest importance, but more valuable still
was it to know that within a week he had settled
his bill at one of the most select London hotels.”
“How did you deduce the select?”
“By the select prices. Eight shillings for a bed
and eightpence for a glass of sherry pointed to one
of the most expensive hotels. There are not many
in London which charge at that rate. In the second
one which I visited in Northumberland Avenue,
I learned by an inspection of the book that Francis H. Moulton, an American gentleman, had left
only the day before, and on looking over the entries
against him, I came upon the very items which I
had seen in the duplicate bill. His letters were to
be forwarded to 226 Gordon Square; so thither I
travelled, and being fortunate enough to find the
loving couple at home, I ventured to give them
some paternal advice and to point out to them that
it would be better in every way that they should
make their position a little clearer both to the general public and to Lord St. Simon in particular. I
invited them to meet him here, and, as you see, I
made him keep the appointment.”
“But with no very good result,” I remarked.
“His conduct was certainly not very gracious.”
“Ah, Watson,” said Holmes, smiling, “perhaps
you would not be very gracious either, if, after all
the trouble of wooing and wedding, you found
yourself deprived in an instant of wife and of fortune. I think that we may judge Lord St. Simon very
mercifully and thank our stars that we are never
likely to find ourselves in the same position. Draw
your chair up and hand me my violin, for the only
problem we have still to solve is how to while away
these bleak autumnal evenings.”
248
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
H
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
olmes,” said I as I stood one morning
in our bow-window looking down the
street, “here is a madman coming along.
It seems rather sad that his relatives
should allow him to come out alone.”
head against the wall with such force that we both
rushed upon him and tore him away to the centre
of the room. Sherlock Holmes pushed him down
into the easy-chair and, sitting beside him, patted
his hand and chatted with him in the easy, soothing
tones which he knew so well how to employ.
“You have come to me to tell your story, have
you not?” said he. “You are fatigued with your
haste. Pray wait until you have recovered yourself,
and then I shall be most happy to look into any
little problem which you may submit to me.”
The man sat for a minute or more with a heaving chest, fighting against his emotion. Then he
passed his handkerchief over his brow, set his lips
tight, and turned his face towards us.
“No doubt you think me mad?” said he.
“I see that you have had some great trouble,”
responded Holmes.
“God knows I have!—a trouble which is enough
to unseat my reason, so sudden and so terrible is
it. Public disgrace I might have faced, although I
am a man whose character has never yet borne a
stain. Private affliction also is the lot of every man;
but the two coming together, and in so frightful
a form, have been enough to shake my very soul.
Besides, it is not I alone. The very noblest in the
land may suffer unless some way be found out of
this horrible affair.”
“Pray compose yourself, sir,” said Holmes, “and
let me have a clear account of who you are and
what it is that has befallen you.”
“My name,” answered our visitor, “is probably
familiar to your ears. I am Alexander Holder, of
the banking firm of Holder & Stevenson, of Threadneedle Street.”
The name was indeed well known to us as belonging to the senior partner in the second largest
private banking concern in the City of London.
What could have happened, then, to bring one of
the foremost citizens of London to this most pitiable
pass? We waited, all curiosity, until with another
effort he braced himself to tell his story.
“I feel that time is of value,” said he; “that is
why I hastened here when the police inspector suggested that I should secure your co-operation. I
came to Baker Street by the Underground and hurried from there on foot, for the cabs go slowly
through this snow. That is why I was so out of
breath, for I am a man who takes very little exercise. I feel better now, and I will put the facts before
you as shortly and yet as clearly as I can.
“It is, of course, well known to you that in a successful banking business as much depends upon
our being able to find remunerative investments for
My friend rose lazily from his armchair and
stood with his hands in the pockets of his dressinggown, looking over my shoulder. It was a bright,
crisp February morning, and the snow of the day
before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering
brightly in the wintry sun. Down the centre of
Baker Street it had been ploughed into a brown
crumbly band by the traffic, but at either side and
on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still
lay as white as when it fell. The grey pavement
had been cleaned and scraped, but was still dangerously slippery, so that there were fewer passengers than usual. Indeed, from the direction of
the Metropolitan Station no one was coming save
the single gentleman whose eccentric conduct had
drawn my attention.
He was a man of about fifty, tall, portly, and imposing, with a massive, strongly marked face and a
commanding figure. He was dressed in a sombre
yet rich style, in black frock-coat, shining hat, neat
brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-grey trousers. Yet
his actions were in absurd contrast to the dignity
of his dress and features, for he was running hard,
with occasional little springs, such as a weary man
gives who is little accustomed to set any tax upon
his legs. As he ran he jerked his hands up and
down, waggled his head, and writhed his face into
the most extraordinary contortions.
“What on earth can be the matter with him?”
I asked. “He is looking up at the numbers of the
houses.”
“I believe that he is coming here,” said Holmes,
rubbing his hands.
“Here?”
“Yes; I rather think he is coming to consult me
professionally. I think that I recognise the symptoms. Ha! did I not tell you?” As he spoke, the
man, puffing and blowing, rushed at our door and
pulled at our bell until the whole house resounded
with the clanging.
A few moments later he was in our room, still
puffing, still gesticulating, but with so fixed a look
of grief and despair in his eyes that our smiles
were turned in an instant to horror and pity. For a
while he could not get his words out, but swayed
his body and plucked at his hair like one who has
been driven to the extreme limits of his reason.
Then, suddenly springing to his feet, he beat his
251
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
our funds as upon our increasing our connection
and the number of our depositors. One of our most
lucrative means of laying out money is in the shape
of loans, where the security is unimpeachable. We
have done a good deal in this direction during the
last few years, and there are many noble families
to whom we have advanced large sums upon the
security of their pictures, libraries, or plate.
magnificent piece of jewellery which he had named.
‘There are thirty-nine enormous beryls,’ said he,
‘and the price of the gold chasing is incalculable.
The lowest estimate would put the worth of the
coronet at double the sum which I have asked. I
am prepared to leave it with you as my security.’
“I took the precious case into my hands and
looked in some perplexity from it to my illustrious
client.
“Yesterday morning I was seated in my office
at the bank when a card was brought in to me by
one of the clerks. I started when I saw the name,
for it was that of none other than—well, perhaps
even to you I had better say no more than that it
was a name which is a household word all over
the earth—one of the highest, noblest, most exalted
names in England. I was overwhelmed by the honour and attempted, when he entered, to say so,
but he plunged at once into business with the air
of a man who wishes to hurry quickly through a
disagreeable task.
“ ‘You doubt its value?’ he asked.
“ ‘Not at all. I only doubt—’
“ ‘The propriety of my leaving it. You may set
your mind at rest about that. I should not dream of
doing so were it not absolutely certain that I should
be able in four days to reclaim it. It is a pure matter
of form. Is the security sufficient?’
“ ‘Ample.’
“ ‘You understand, Mr. Holder, that I am giving
you a strong proof of the confidence which I have
in you, founded upon all that I have heard of you.
I rely upon you not only to be discreet and to refrain from all gossip upon the matter but, above
all, to preserve this coronet with every possible precaution because I need not say that a great public
scandal would be caused if any harm were to befall it. Any injury to it would be almost as serious
as its complete loss, for there are no beryls in the
world to match these, and it would be impossible
to replace them. I leave it with you, however, with
every confidence, and I shall call for it in person on
Monday morning.’
“ ‘Mr. Holder,’ said he, ‘I have been informed
that you are in the habit of advancing money.’
“ ‘The firm does so when the security is good.’
I answered.
“ ‘It is absolutely essential to me,’ said he, ‘that
I should have £50,000 at once. I could, of course,
borrow so trifling a sum ten times over from my
friends, but I much prefer to make it a matter of
business and to carry out that business myself. In
my position you can readily understand that it is
unwise to place one’s self under obligations.’
“ ‘For how long, may I ask, do you want this
sum?’ I asked.
“Seeing that my client was anxious to leave, I
said no more but, calling for my cashier, I ordered
him to pay over fifty £1000 notes. When I was alone
once more, however, with the precious case lying
upon the table in front of me, I could not but think
with some misgivings of the immense responsibility which it entailed upon me. There could be no
doubt that, as it was a national possession, a horrible scandal would ensue if any misfortune should
occur to it. I already regretted having ever consented to take charge of it. However, it was too
late to alter the matter now, so I locked it up in my
private safe and turned once more to my work.
“ ‘Next Monday I have a large sum due to me,
and I shall then most certainly repay what you advance, with whatever interest you think it right to
charge. But it is very essential to me that the money
should be paid at once.’
“ ‘I should be happy to advance it without further parley from my own private purse,’ said I,
‘were it not that the strain would be rather more
than it could bear. If, on the other hand, I am to
do it in the name of the firm, then in justice to my
partner I must insist that, even in your case, every
businesslike precaution should be taken.’
“When evening came I felt that it would be an
imprudence to leave so precious a thing in the office
behind me. Bankers’ safes had been forced before
now, and why should not mine be? If so, how terrible would be the position in which I should find
myself! I determined, therefore, that for the next
few days I would always carry the case backward
and forward with me, so that it might never be
really out of my reach. With this intention, I called
“ ‘I should much prefer to have it so,’ said he,
raising up a square, black morocco case which he
had laid beside his chair. ‘You have doubtless heard
of the Beryl Coronet?’
“ ‘One of the most precious public possessions
of the empire,’ said I.
“ ‘Precisely.’ He opened the case, and there,
imbedded in soft, flesh-coloured velvet, lay the
252
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
a cab and drove out to my house at Streatham, carrying the jewel with me. I did not breathe freely
until I had taken it upstairs and locked it in the
bureau of my dressing-room.
finger-tips, one who had been everywhere, seen
everything, a brilliant talker, and a man of great
personal beauty. Yet when I think of him in cold
blood, far away from the glamour of his presence, I
am convinced from his cynical speech and the look
which I have caught in his eyes that he is one who
should be deeply distrusted. So I think, and so, too,
thinks my little Mary, who has a woman’s quick
insight into character.
“And now there is only she to be described. She
is my niece; but when my brother died five years
ago and left her alone in the world I adopted her,
and have looked upon her ever since as my daughter. She is a sunbeam in my house—sweet, loving,
beautiful, a wonderful manager and housekeeper,
yet as tender and quiet and gentle as a woman
could be. She is my right hand. I do not know
what I could do without her. In only one matter
has she ever gone against my wishes. Twice my
boy has asked her to marry him, for he loves her
devotedly, but each time she has refused him. I
think that if anyone could have drawn him into
the right path it would have been she, and that his
marriage might have changed his whole life; but
now, alas! it is too late—forever too late!
“Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who
live under my roof, and I shall continue with my
miserable story.
“When we were taking coffee in the drawingroom that night after dinner, I told Arthur and
Mary my experience, and of the precious treasure
which we had under our roof, suppressing only the
name of my client. Lucy Parr, who had brought
in the coffee, had, I am sure, left the room; but I
cannot swear that the door was closed. Mary and
Arthur were much interested and wished to see
the famous coronet, but I thought it better not to
disturb it.
“ ‘Where have you put it?’ asked Arthur.
“ ‘In my own bureau.’
“ ‘Well, I hope to goodness the house won’t be
burgled during the night.’ said he.
“ ‘It is locked up,’ I answered.
“ ‘Oh, any old key will fit that bureau. When I
was a youngster I have opened it myself with the
key of the box-room cupboard.’
“He often had a wild way of talking, so that I
thought little of what he said. He followed me to
my room, however, that night with a very grave
face.
“ ‘Look here, dad,’ said he with his eyes cast
down, ‘can you let me have £200?’
“ ‘No, I cannot!’ I answered sharply. ‘I have
been far too generous with you in money matters.’
“And now a word as to my household, Mr.
Holmes, for I wish you to thoroughly understand
the situation. My groom and my page sleep out
of the house, and may be set aside altogether. I
have three maid-servants who have been with me
a number of years and whose absolute reliability
is quite above suspicion. Another, Lucy Parr, the
second waiting-maid, has only been in my service a
few months. She came with an excellent character,
however, and has always given me satisfaction. She
is a very pretty girl and has attracted admirers who
have occasionally hung about the place. That is the
only drawback which we have found to her, but we
believe her to be a thoroughly good girl in every
way.
“So much for the servants. My family itself is
so small that it will not take me long to describe it.
I am a widower and have an only son, Arthur. He
has been a disappointment to me, Mr. Holmes—a
grievous disappointment. I have no doubt that I am
myself to blame. People tell me that I have spoiled
him. Very likely I have. When my dear wife died I
felt that he was all I had to love. I could not bear to
see the smile fade even for a moment from his face.
I have never denied him a wish. Perhaps it would
have been better for both of us had I been sterner,
but I meant it for the best.
“It was naturally my intention that he should
succeed me in my business, but he was not of a
business turn. He was wild, wayward, and, to
speak the truth, I could not trust him in the handling of large sums of money. When he was young
he became a member of an aristocratic club, and
there, having charming manners, he was soon the
intimate of a number of men with long purses and
expensive habits. He learned to play heavily at
cards and to squander money on the turf, until he
had again and again to come to me and implore
me to give him an advance upon his allowance,
that he might settle his debts of honour. He tried
more than once to break away from the dangerous
company which he was keeping, but each time the
influence of his friend, Sir George Burnwell, was
enough to draw him back again.
“And, indeed, I could not wonder that such
a man as Sir George Burnwell should gain an influence over him, for he has frequently brought
him to my house, and I have found myself that I
could hardly resist the fascination of his manner.
He is older than Arthur, a man of the world to his
253
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
“ ‘You have been very kind,’ said he, ‘but I must
have this money, or else I can never show my face
inside the club again.’
out of bed, all palpitating with fear, and peeped
round the corner of my dressing-room door.
“ ‘Arthur!’ I screamed, ‘you villain! you thief!
How dare you touch that coronet?’
“The gas was half up, as I had left it, and my
unhappy boy, dressed only in his shirt and trousers,
was standing beside the light, holding the coronet
in his hands. He appeared to be wrenching at it,
or bending it with all his strength. At my cry he
dropped it from his grasp and turned as pale as
death. I snatched it up and examined it. One of
the gold corners, with three of the beryls in it, was
missing.
“ ‘You blackguard!’ I shouted, beside myself
with rage. ‘You have destroyed it! You have dishonoured me forever! Where are the jewels which you
have stolen?’
“ ‘Stolen!’ he cried.
“ ‘Yes, thief!’ I roared, shaking him by the shoulder.
“ ‘There are none missing. There cannot be any
missing,’ said he.
“ ‘There are three missing. And you know
where they are. Must I call you a liar as well as a
thief? Did I not see you trying to tear off another
piece?’
“ ‘You have called me names enough,’ said he, ‘I
will not stand it any longer. I shall not say another
word about this business, since you have chosen to
insult me. I will leave your house in the morning
and make my own way in the world.’
“ ‘You shall leave it in the hands of the police!’
I cried half-mad with grief and rage. ‘I shall have
this matter probed to the bottom.’
“ ‘You shall learn nothing from me,’ said he with
a passion such as I should not have thought was in
his nature. ‘If you choose to call the police, let the
police find what they can.’
“By this time the whole house was astir, for I
had raised my voice in my anger. Mary was the
first to rush into my room, and, at the sight of the
coronet and of Arthur’s face, she read the whole
story and, with a scream, fell down senseless on
the ground. I sent the house-maid for the police
and put the investigation into their hands at once.
When the inspector and a constable entered the
house, Arthur, who had stood sullenly with his
arms folded, asked me whether it was my intention
to charge him with theft. I answered that it had
ceased to be a private matter, but had become a
public one, since the ruined coronet was national
property. I was determined that the law should
have its way in everything.
“ ‘And a very good thing, too!’ I cried.
“ ‘Yes, but you would not have me leave it a
dishonoured man,’ said he. ‘I could not bear the
disgrace. I must raise the money in some way, and
if you will not let me have it, then I must try other
means.’
“I was very angry, for this was the third demand
during the month. ‘You shall not have a farthing
from me,’ I cried, on which he bowed and left the
room without another word.
“When he was gone I unlocked my bureau,
made sure that my treasure was safe, and locked it
again. Then I started to go round the house to see
that all was secure—a duty which I usually leave to
Mary but which I thought it well to perform myself
that night. As I came down the stairs I saw Mary
herself at the side window of the hall, which she
closed and fastened as I approached.
“ ‘Tell me, dad,’ said she, looking, I thought, a
little disturbed, ‘did you give Lucy, the maid, leave
to go out to-night?’
“ ‘Certainly not.’
“ ‘She came in just now by the back door. I have
no doubt that she has only been to the side gate to
see someone, but I think that it is hardly safe and
should be stopped.’
“ ‘You must speak to her in the morning, or I
will if you prefer it. Are you sure that everything
is fastened?’
“ ‘Quite sure, dad.’
“ ‘Then, good-night.’ I kissed her and went up
to my bedroom again, where I was soon asleep.
“I am endeavouring to tell you everything, Mr.
Holmes, which may have any bearing upon the
case, but I beg that you will question me upon any
point which I do not make clear.”
“On the contrary, your statement is singularly
lucid.”
“I come to a part of my story now in which
I should wish to be particularly so. I am not a
very heavy sleeper, and the anxiety in my mind
tended, no doubt, to make me even less so than
usual. About two in the morning, then, I was awakened by some sound in the house. It had ceased
ere I was wide awake, but it had left an impression
behind it as though a window had gently closed
somewhere. I lay listening with all my ears. Suddenly, to my horror, there was a distinct sound of
footsteps moving softly in the next room. I slipped
254
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
“ ‘At least,’ said he, ‘you will not have me arrested at once. It would be to your advantage as
well as mine if I might leave the house for five
minutes.’
“She is of a quiet nature. Besides, she is not so
very young. She is four-and-twenty.”
“This matter, from what you say, seems to have
been a shock to her also.”
“Terrible! She is even more affected than I.”
“You have neither of you any doubt as to your
son’s guilt?”
“How can we have when I saw him with my
own eyes with the coronet in his hands.”
“I hardly consider that a conclusive proof. Was
the remainder of the coronet at all injured?”
“Yes, it was twisted.”
“Do you not think, then, that he might have
been trying to straighten it?”
“God bless you! You are doing what you can
for him and for me. But it is too heavy a task.
What was he doing there at all? If his purpose were
innocent, why did he not say so?”
“Precisely. And if it were guilty, why did he not
invent a lie? His silence appears to me to cut both
ways. There are several singular points about the
case. What did the police think of the noise which
awoke you from your sleep?”
“They considered that it might be caused by
Arthur’s closing his bedroom door.”
“A likely story! As if a man bent on felony
would slam his door so as to wake a household.
What did they say, then, of the disappearance of
these gems?”
“They are still sounding the planking and probing the furniture in the hope of finding them.”
“Have they thought of looking outside the
house?”
“Yes, they have shown extraordinary energy.
The whole garden has already been minutely examined.”
“Now, my dear sir,” said Holmes. “is it not obvious to you now that this matter really strikes very
much deeper than either you or the police were at
first inclined to think? It appeared to you to be a
simple case; to me it seems exceedingly complex.
Consider what is involved by your theory. You suppose that your son came down from his bed, went,
at great risk, to your dressing-room, opened your
bureau, took out your coronet, broke off by main
force a small portion of it, went off to some other
place, concealed three gems out of the thirty-nine,
with such skill that nobody can find them, and then
returned with the other thirty-six into the room in
which he exposed himself to the greatest danger of
being discovered. I ask you now, is such a theory
tenable?”
“ ‘That you may get away, or perhaps that you
may conceal what you have stolen,’ said I. And
then, realising the dreadful position in which I was
placed, I implored him to remember that not only
my honour but that of one who was far greater
than I was at stake; and that he threatened to raise
a scandal which would convulse the nation. He
might avert it all if he would but tell me what he
had done with the three missing stones.
“ ‘You may as well face the matter,’ said I; ‘you
have been caught in the act, and no confession
could make your guilt more heinous. If you but
make such reparation as is in your power, by telling
us where the beryls are, all shall be forgiven and
forgotten.’
“ ‘Keep your forgiveness for those who ask for
it,’ he answered, turning away from me with a sneer.
I saw that he was too hardened for any words of
mine to influence him. There was but one way
for it. I called in the inspector and gave him into
custody. A search was made at once not only of
his person but of his room and of every portion of
the house where he could possibly have concealed
the gems; but no trace of them could be found, nor
would the wretched boy open his mouth for all our
persuasions and our threats. This morning he was
removed to a cell, and I, after going through all
the police formalities, have hurried round to you
to implore you to use your skill in unravelling the
matter. The police have openly confessed that they
can at present make nothing of it. You may go
to any expense which you think necessary. I have
already offered a reward of £1000. My God, what
shall I do! I have lost my honour, my gems, and
my son in one night. Oh, what shall I do!”
He put a hand on either side of his head and
rocked himself to and fro, droning to himself like a
child whose grief has got beyond words.
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for some few minutes, with his brows knitted and his eyes fixed upon
the fire.
“Do you receive much company?” he asked.
“None save my partner with his family and an
occasional friend of Arthur’s. Sir George Burnwell
has been several times lately. No one else, I think.”
“Do you go out much in society?”
“Arthur does. Mary and I stay at home. We
neither of us care for it.”
“That is unusual in a young girl.”
255
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
“But what other is there?” cried the banker with
a gesture of despair. “If his motives were innocent,
why does he not explain them?”
woman of strong character, with immense capacity
for self-restraint. Disregarding my presence, she
went straight to her uncle and passed her hand over
his head with a sweet womanly caress.
“You have given orders that Arthur should be
liberated, have you not, dad?” she asked.
“No, no, my girl, the matter must be probed to
the bottom.”
“But I am so sure that he is innocent. You know
what woman’s instincts are. I know that he has
done no harm and that you will be sorry for having
acted so harshly.”
“Why is he silent, then, if he is innocent?”
“Who knows? Perhaps because he was so angry
that you should suspect him.”
“How could I help suspecting him, when I actually saw him with the coronet in his hand?”
“Oh, but he had only picked it up to look at
it. Oh, do, do take my word for it that he is innocent. Let the matter drop and say no more. It is so
dreadful to think of our dear Arthur in a prison!”
“I shall never let it drop until the gems are
found—never, Mary! Your affection for Arthur
blinds you as to the awful consequences to me. Far
from hushing the thing up, I have brought a gentleman down from London to inquire more deeply
into it.”
“This gentleman?” she asked, facing round to
me.
“No, his friend. He wished us to leave him
alone. He is round in the stable lane now.”
“The stable lane?” She raised her dark eyebrows.
“What can he hope to find there? Ah! this, I suppose, is he. I trust, sir, that you will succeed in proving, what I feel sure is the truth, that my cousin
Arthur is innocent of this crime.”
“I fully share your opinion, and I trust, with
you, that we may prove it,” returned Holmes, going back to the mat to knock the snow from his
shoes. “I believe I have the honour of addressing
Miss Mary Holder. Might I ask you a question or
two?”
“Pray do, sir, if it may help to clear this horrible
affair up.”
“You heard nothing yourself last night?”
“Nothing, until my uncle here began to speak
loudly. I heard that, and I came down.”
“You shut up the windows and doors the night
before. Did you fasten all the windows?”
“Yes.”
“Were they all fastened this morning?”
“Yes.”
“It is our task to find that out,” replied Holmes;
“so now, if you please, Mr. Holder, we will set off for
Streatham together, and devote an hour to glancing
a little more closely into details.”
My friend insisted upon my accompanying
them in their expedition, which I was eager enough
to do, for my curiosity and sympathy were deeply
stirred by the story to which we had listened. I confess that the guilt of the banker’s son appeared to
me to be as obvious as it did to his unhappy father,
but still I had such faith in Holmes’ judgment that
I felt that there must be some grounds for hope as
long as he was dissatisfied with the accepted explanation. He hardly spoke a word the whole way out
to the southern suburb, but sat with his chin upon
his breast and his hat drawn over his eyes, sunk in
the deepest thought. Our client appeared to have
taken fresh heart at the little glimpse of hope which
had been presented to him, and he even broke into
a desultory chat with me over his business affairs.
A short railway journey and a shorter walk brought
us to Fairbank, the modest residence of the great
financier.
Fairbank was a good-sized square house of
white stone, standing back a little from the road.
A double carriage-sweep, with a snow-clad lawn,
stretched down in front to two large iron gates
which closed the entrance. On the right side was a
small wooden thicket, which led into a narrow path
between two neat hedges stretching from the road
to the kitchen door, and forming the tradesmen’s
entrance. On the left ran a lane which led to the
stables, and was not itself within the grounds at
all, being a public, though little used, thoroughfare.
Holmes left us standing at the door and walked
slowly all round the house, across the front, down
the tradesmen’s path, and so round by the garden
behind into the stable lane. So long was he that
Mr. Holder and I went into the dining-room and
waited by the fire until he should return. We were
sitting there in silence when the door opened and
a young lady came in. She was rather above the
middle height, slim, with dark hair and eyes, which
seemed the darker against the absolute pallor of
her skin. I do not think that I have ever seen such
deadly paleness in a woman’s face. Her lips, too,
were bloodless, but her eyes were flushed with
crying. As she swept silently into the room she
impressed me with a greater sense of grief than
the banker had done in the morning, and it was
the more striking in her as she was evidently a
256
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
“You have a maid who has a sweetheart? I think
that you remarked to your uncle last night that she
had been out to see him?”
Sherlock Holmes took it up and opened the
bureau.
“It is a noiseless lock,” said he. “It is no wonder
that it did not wake you. This case, I presume,
contains the coronet. We must have a look at it.”
He opened the case, and taking out the diadem he
laid it upon the table. It was a magnificent specimen of the jeweller’s art, and the thirty-six stones
were the finest that I have ever seen. At one side
of the coronet was a cracked edge, where a corner
holding three gems had been torn away.
“Now, Mr. Holder,” said Holmes, “here is the
corner which corresponds to that which has been
so unfortunately lost. Might I beg that you will
break it off.”
The banker recoiled in horror. “I should not
dream of trying,” said he.
“Then I will.” Holmes suddenly bent his
strength upon it, but without result. “I feel it give
a little,” said he; “but, though I am exceptionally
strong in the fingers, it would take me all