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Full text of "The return of Sherlock Holmes"

4* 






RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 



OTHER BOOKS 
BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

r 

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the 
Baskervilles, The Adventures of Gerard, etc. 




MR. JOXAS OLDACRK 



THE RETURN OF 

SHERLOCK HOLMES 

BY 

A. CONAN DOYLE 




ILLUSTRATED BY CHARLES RAYMOND MACAULEY 



NEW YORK 

McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO 
MCMV 



Copyright, 1905, by 
McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO. 

Published February, 1905 



Copyright, 1905, 1904, 1905, by A. Conan Doyle and Collier's Weekly 



CONTENTS 

I THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE ... 3 

II THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER . . 31 

III THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN . . .61 

IV THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST . . 93 
V THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL . . .119 

VI THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER .... 159 

VII THE ADVENTURE OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON 187 

VIII THE ADVENTURE OF THE Six NAPOLEONS . . . 209 

IX THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS . . 237 

X THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ . . 261 

XI THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER . 291 

XII THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE . . . 319 

XIII THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN . . 349 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



MR. JONAS OLD ACRE ..... Frontispiece 

FACING 
PAGE 

I KNOCKED DOWN SEVERAL BOOKS WHICH HE WAS CARRYING 8 

"THREE DAYS LATER A MESSAGE WAS LEFT UNDER A PEBBLE 

UPON THE SUN -DIAL" ...... 70 

A SOLITARY CYCLIST WAS COMING TOWARDS US . .110 

AN INSTANT LATER, HIS FEET WERE ON MY SHOULDERS . 148 

"I GOT A SHAKE WHEN I PUT MY HEAD INTO THAT LITTLE 

HOUSE" ......... 164 

HE FELL FORWARD UPON THE TABLE, COUGHING FURIOUSLY 

AND CLAWING AMONG THE PAPERS .... 206 

WE SAW THAT HE CARRIED SOMETHING WHITE UNDER HIS 

ARM 228 

THREE YELLOW SQUARES OF LIGHT SHONE ABOVE us IN THE 

GATHERING GLOOM ....... 250 

IT WAS A GAUNT, AQUILINE FACE WHICH WAS TURNED 

TOWARDS US ........ 276 

I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE OF DR. ARMSTRONG WITHIN . . 314 

"THESE THREE GLASSES UPON THE SIDEBOARD HAVE BEEN 

UNTOUCHED, I SUPPOSE?" ..... 330 

HE FOUND HOLMES LEANING LANGUIDLY AGAINST THE MAN- 
TELPIECE 372 



THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 



I 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE EMPTY HOUSE 

IT was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was 
interested, and the fashionable world dismayed, by the murder 
of the Honourable Ronald Adair under most unusual and inex- 
plicable circumstances. The public has already learned those 
particulars of the crime which came out in the police investiga- 
tion, but a good deal was suppressed upon that occasion, since 
the case for the prosecution was so overwhelmingly strong that 
it was not necessary to bring forward all the facts. Only now, 
at the end of nearly ten years, am I allowed to supply those 
missing links which make up the whole of that remarkable 
chain. The crime was of interest in itself, but that interest 
was as nothing to me compared to the inconceivable sequel, 
which afforded me the greatest shock and surprise of any event 
in my adventurous life. Even now, after this long interval, I 
find myself thrilling as I think of it, and feeling once more that 
sudden flood of joy, amazement, and incredulity which utterly 
submerged my mind. Let me say to that public, which has 
shown some interest in those glimpses which I have occa- 
sionally given them of the thoughts and actions of a very re- 
markable man, that they are not to blame me if I have not 



4 THE RETURN OP SHERLOCK HOLMES 

shared my knowledge with them, for I should have considered 
it my first duty to have done so, had I not been barred by a 
positive prohibition from his own lips, which was only with- 
drawn upon the third of last month. 

It can be imagined that my close intimacy with Sherlock 
Holmes had interested me deeply in crime, and that after his 
disappearance I never failed to read with care the various prob- 
lems which came before the public. And I even attempted, more 
than once, for my own private satisfaction, to employ his meth- 
ods in their solution, though with indifferent success. There 
was none, however, which appealed to me like this tragedy of 
Ronald Adair. As I read the evidence at the inquest, which led 
up to a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons 
unknown, I realized more clearly than I had ever done the loss 
which the community had sustained by the death of Sherlock 
Holmes. There were points about this strange business which 
would, I was sure, have specially appealed to him, and the 
efforts of the police would have been supplemented, or more 
probably anticipated, by the trained observation and the alert 
mind of the first criminal agent in Europe. All day, as I drove 
upon my round, I turned over the case in my mind, and found 
no explanation which appeared to me to be adequate. At the 
risk of telling a twice-told tale, I will recapitulate the facts as 
they were known to the public at the conclusion of the inquest. 

The Honourable Ronald Adair was the second son of the Earl 
of Maynooth, at that time governor of one of the Australian 
colonies. Adair's mother had returned from Australia to un- 
dergo the operation for cataract, and she, her son Ronald, and 
her daughter Hilda were living together at 427 Park Lane. The 
youth moved in the best society had, so far as was known, 
no enemies, and no particular vices. He had been engaged to 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 5 

Miss Edith Woodley, of Carstairs, but the engagement had been 
broken off by mutual consent some months before, and there 
was no sign that it had left any very profound feeling behind it. 
For the rest the man's life moved in a narrow and conventional 
circle, for his habits were quiet and his nature unemotional. 
Yet is was upon this easy-going young aristocrat that death 
came, in most strange and unexpected form, between the hours 
of ten and eleven -twenty on the night of March 30, 1894. 

Ronald Adair was fond of cards playing continually, but 
never for such stakes as would hurt him. He was a member 
of the Baldwin, the Cavendish, and the Bagatelle card clubs. 
It was shown that, after dinner on the day of his death, he had 
played a rubber of whist at the latter club. He had also played 
there in the afternoon. The evidence of those who had played 
with him Mr. Murray, Sir John Hardy, and Colonel Moran 
showed that the game was whist, and that there was a fairly 
equal fall of the cards. Adair might have lost five pounds, 
but not more. His fortune was a considerable one, and such 
a loss could not in any way affect him. He had played nearly 
every day at one club or other, but he was a cautious player, 
and usually rose a winner. It came out in evidence that, in 
partnership with Colonel Moran, he had actually won as much 
as four hundred and twenty pounds in a sitting, some weeks 
before, from Godfrey Milner and Lord Balmoral. So much 
for his recent history as it came out at the inquest. 

On the evening of the crime, he returned from the club ex- 
actly at ten. His mother and sister were out spending the even- 
ing with a relation. The servant deposed that she heard him 
enter the front room on the second floor, generally used as his 
sitting-room. She had lit a fire there, and as it smoked she had 
opened the window. No sound was heard from the room until 



6 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

eleven-twenty, the hour of the return of Lady Maynooth and 
her daughter. Desiring to say good-night, she attempted to 
enter her son's room. The door was locked on the inside, 
and no answer could be got to their cries and knocking. Help 
was obtained, and the door forced. The unfortunate young 
man was found lying near the table. His head had been 
horribly mutilated by an expanding revolver bullet, but no 
weapon of any sort was to be found in the room. On the 
table lay two banknotes for ten pounds each and seventeen 
pounds ten in silver and gold, the money arranged in 1'ttle 
piles of varying amount. There were some figures also upon 
a sheet of paper, with the names of some club friends opposite 
to them, from which it was conjectured that before his death he 
was endeavouring to make out his losses or winnings at cards. 

A minute examination of the circumstances served only to 
make the case more complex. In the first place, no reason 
could be given why the young man should have fastened the 
door upon the inside. There was the possibility that the mur- 
derer had done this, and had afterwards escaped by the win- 
dow. The drop was at least twenty feet, however, and a bed of 
crocuses in full bloom lay beneath. Neither the flowers nor the 
earth showed any sign of having been disturbed, nor were there 
any marks upon the narrow strip of grass which separated the 
house from the road. Apparently, therefore, it was the young 
man himself who had fastened the door. But how did he come 
by his death ? No one could have climbed up to the window 
without leaving traces. Suppose a man had fired through the 
window, he would indeed be a remarkable shot who could with 
a revolver inflict so deadly a wound. Again, Park Lane is a 
frequented thoroughfare ; there is a cabstand within a hundred 
yards of the house. No one had heard a shot. And yet there 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 7 

was the dead man, and there the revolver bullet, which had 
mushroomed out, as soft-nosed bullets will, and so inflicted a 
wound which must have caused instantaneous death. Such 
were the circumstances of the Park Lane Mystery, which were 
further complicated by entire absence of motive, since, as I 
have said, young Adair was not known to have any enemy, and 
no attempt had been made to remove the money or valuables 
in the room. 

All day I turned these facts over in my mind, endeavouring 
to hit upon some theory which could reconcile them all, and to 
find that line of least resistance which my poor friend had de- 
clared to be the starting-point of every investigation. I confess 
that I made little progress. In the evening I strolled across the 
park, and found myself about six o'clock at the Oxford Street 
end of Park Lane. A group of loafers upon the pavements, all 
staring up at a particular window, directed me to the house 
which I had come to see. A tall, thin man with coloured 
glasses, whom I strongly suspected of being a plain-clothes 
detective, was pointing out some theory of his own, while the 
others crowded round to listen to what he said. I got as near 
him as I could, but his observations seemed to me to be 
absurd, so I withdrew again in some disgust. As I did so I 
struck against an elderly, deformed man, who had been be- 
hind me, and I knocked down several books which he was 
carrying. I remember that as I picked them up, I observed the 
title of one of them, " The Origin of Tree Worship, " and it 
struck me that the fellow must be some poor bibliophile, who, 
either as a trade or as a hobby, was a collector of obscure 
volumes. I endeavoured to apologize for the accident, but it 
was evident that these books which I had so unfortunately 
maltreated were very precious objects in the eyes of their 



8 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

owner. With a snarl of contempt he turned upon his heel, 
and I saw his curved back and white side-whiskers disappear 
among the throng. 

My observations of No. 427 Park Lane did little to clear up 
the problem in which I was interested. The house was sepa- 
rated from the street by a low wall and railing, the whole not 
more than five feet high. It was perfectly easy, therefore, for 
any one to get into the garden, but the window was entirely in- 
accessible, since there was no waterpipe or anything which 
could help the most active man to climb it. More puzzled than 
ever, I retraced my steps to Kensington. I had not been in my 
study five minutes when the maid entered to say that a person 
desired to see me. To my astonishment it was none other than 
my strange old book collector, his sharp, wizened face peering 
out from a frame of white hair, and his precious volumes, a 
dozen of them at least, wedged under his right arm. 

" You're surprised to see me, sir, " said he, in a strange, 
croaking voice. 

I acknowledged that I was. 

" Well, I've a conscience, sir, and when I chanced to see you 
go into this house, as I came hobbling after you, I thought to 
myself, I'll just step in and see that kind gentleman, and tell 
him that if I was a bit gruff in my manner there was not any 
harm meant, and that I am much obliged to him for picking 
up my books. " 

<f You make too much of a trifle, " said I. " May I ask how 
you knew who I was ? " 

" Well, sir, if it isn't too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of 
yours, for you'll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church 
Street, and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you col- 
lect yourself, sir. Here's ' British Birds, ' and ' Catullus,' and 




KVOCKF. r> no\vv SKVKRAI. BOOKS WHICH UK WAS CARRYING 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 9 

' The Holy War' a bargain, every one of them. With five vol- 
umes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It looks 
untidy, does it not, sir ? " 

I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I 
turned again, Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me 
across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for 
some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I 
must have fainted for the first and the last time in my life. 
Certainly a grey mist swirled before my eyes, and when it 
cleared I found my collar-ends undone and the tingling after- 
taste of brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending over my 
chair, his flask in his hand. 

" My dear Watson, " said the well-remembered voice, " I owe 
you a thousand apologies. I had no idea that you would be so 
affected. " 

I gripped him by the arms. 

"Holmes!" I cried. "Is it really you? Can it indeed be 
that you are alive ? Is it possible that you succeeded in climb- 
ing out of that awful abyss ? " 

"Wait a moment," said he. "Are you sure that you are 
really fit to discuss things ? I have given you a serious shock 
by my unnecessarily dramatic reappearance. " 

" I am all right, but indeed, Holmes, I can hardly believe my 
eyes. Good Heavens ! to think that you you of all men 
should be standing in my study. " Again I gripped him by the 
sleeve, and felt the thin, sinewy arm beneath it. " Well, you're 
not a spirit, anyhow, " said I. " My dear chap, I'm overjoyed 
to see you. Sit down, and tell me how you came alive out of 
that dreadful chasm. " 

He sat opposite to me, and lit a cigarette in his old, noncha- 
lant manner. He was dressed in the seedy frock-coat of the 



10 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

book merchant, but the rest of that individual lay in a pile of 
white hair and old books upon the table. Holmes looked even 
thinner and keener than of old, but there was a dead- white 
tinge in his aquiline face which told me that his life recently had 
not been a healthy one. 

" I am glad to stretch myself, Watson, " said he. " It is no 
joke when a tall man has to take a foot off his stature for several 
hours on end. Now, my dear fellow, in the matter of these 
explanations, we have, if I may ask for your co-operation, a 
hard and dangerous night's work in front of us. Perhaps it 
would be better if I gave you an account of the whole situation 
when that work is finished. " 

" I am full of curiosity. I should much prefer to hear now." 

'* You'll come with me to-night ? " 

" When you like and where you like. " 

" This is, indeed, like the old days. We shall have time for 
a mouthful of dinner before we need go. Well, then, about 
that chasm. I had no serious difficulty in getting out of it, for 
the very simple reason that I never was in it. " 

" You never were in it ? " 

" No, Watson, I never was in it. My note to you was abso- 
lutely genuine. I had little doubt that I had come to the end 
of my career when I perceived the somewhat sinister figure of 
the late Professor Moriarty standing upon the narrow path- 
way which led to safety. I read an inexorable purpose in his 
grey eyes. I exchanged some remarks with him, therefore, and 
obtained his courteous permission to write the short note 
which you afterwards received. I left it with my cigarette- 
box and my stick, and I walked along the pathway, Moriarty 
still at my heels. When I reached the end I stood at bay. He 
drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and threw his long 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 11 

arms around me. He knew that his own game was up, and 
was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered 
together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, 
however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, 
which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped 
through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly 
for a few seconds, and clawed the air with both his hands. 
But for ah 1 his efforts he could not get his balance, and over 
he went. With my face over the brink, I saw him fall for a 
long way. Then he struck a rock, bounded off, and splashed 
into the water. " 

I listened with amazement to this explanation, which Holmes 
delivered between the puffs of his cigarette. 

"But the tracks!" I cried. "I saw, with my own eyes, 
that two went down the path and none returned. " 

" It came about in this way. The instant that the Profes- 
sor had disappeared, it struck me what a really extraordinarily 
lucky chance Fate had placed in my way. I knew that Moriarty 
was not the only man who had sworn my death. There were 
at least three others whose desire for vengeance upon me would 
only be increased by the death of their leader. They were all 
most dangerous men. One or other would certainly get me. 
On the other hand, if all the world was convinced that I was 
dead they would take liberties, these men, they would soon lay 
themselves open, and sooner or later I could destroy them. 
Then it would be time for me to announce that I was still in the 
land of the living. So rapidly does the brain act that I believe 
I had thought this all out before Professor Moriarty had reached 
the bottom of the Reichenbach Fall. 

"I stood up and examined the rocky wall behind me. In 
your picturesque account of the matter, which I read with great 



12 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

interest some months later, you assert that the wall was sheer. 
That was not literally true. A few small footholds presented 
themselves, and there was some indication of a ledge. The 
cliff is so high that to climb it all was an obvious impossibility, 
and it was equally impossible to make my way along the wet 
path without leaving some tracks. I might, it is true, have re- 
versed my boots, as I have done on similar occasions, but the 
sight of three sets of tracks in one direction would certainly 
have suggested a deception. On the whole, then, it was best 
that I should risk the climb. It was not a pleasant business, 
Watson. The fall roared beneath me. I am not a fanciful 
person, but I give you my word that I seemed to hear Mori- 
arty's voice screaming at me out of the abyss. A mistake would 
have been fatal. More than once, as tufts of grass came out 
in my hand or my foot slipped in the wet notches of the rock, 
I thought that I was gone. But I struggled upward, and at 
last I reached a ledge several feet deep and covered with soft 
green moss, where I could lie unseen in the most perfect com- 
fort. There I was stretched, when you, my dear Watson, and 
all your following were investigating in the most sympathetic 
and inefficient manner the circumstances of my death. 

" At last, when you had all formed your inevitable and totally 
erroneous conclusions, you departed for the hotel, and I was left 
alone. I had imagined that I had reached the end of my ad- 
ventures, but a very unexpected occurrence showed me that 
there were surprises still in store for me. A huge rock, falling 
from above, boomed past me, struck the path, and bounded 
over into the chasm. For an instant I thought that it was an 
accident, but a moment later, looking up, I saw a man's head 
against the darkening sky, and another stone struck the very 
ledge upon which I was stretched, within a foot of my head. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 13 

Of course, the meaning of this was obvious. Moriarty had not 
been alone. A confederate and even that one glance had 
told me how dangerous a man that confederate was had kept 
guard while the Professor had attacked me. From a distance, 
unseen by me, he had been a witness of his friend's death and 
of my escape. He had waited, and then making his way 
round to the top of the cliff, he had endeavoured to succeed 
where his comrade had failed. 

" I did not take long to think about it, Watson. Again I saw 
that grim face look over the cliff, and I knew that it was the 
precursor of another stone. I scrambled down on to the path. 
I don't think I could have done it in cold blood. It was a hun- 
dred times more difficult than getting up. But I had no time 
to think of the danger, for another stone sang past me as I hung 
by my hands from the edge of the ledge. Half-way down I 
slipped, but, by the blessing of God, I landed, torn and bleed- 
ing, upon the path. I took to my heels, did ten miles over the 
mountains in the darkness, and a week later, I found myself in 
Florence, with the certainty that no one in the world knew what 
had become of me. 

" I had only one confidant my brother Mycroft. I owe you 
many apologies, my dear Watson, but it was all-important that 
it should be thought I was dead, and it is quite certain that you 
would not have written so convincing an account of my unhappy 
end had you not yourself thought that it was true. Several 
times during the last three years, I have taken up my pen to write 
to you, but always I feared lest your affectionate regard for me 
should tempt you to some indiscretion which would betray my 
secret. For that reason I turned away from you this evening 
when you upset my books, for I was in danger at the time, and 
any show of surprise and emotion upon your part might have 



14 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

drawn attention to my identity and led to the most deplorable 
and irreparable results. As to Mycroft, I had to confide in him 
in order to obtain the money which I needed. The course of 
events in London did not run so well as I had hoped, for the 
trial of the Moriarty gang left two of its most dangerous mem- 
bers, my own most vindictive enemies, at liberty. I travelled 
for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting 
Lhassa, and spending some days with the head Llama. You 
may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian 
named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you 
that you were receiving news of your frined. I then passed 
through Persia, looked in at Mecca, and paid a short but inter- 
esting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum, the results of which I 
have communicated to the Foreign Office. Returning to 
France, I spent some months in a research into the coal-tar 
derivatives, which I conducted in a laboratory at Montpellier, 
in the South of France. Having concluded this to my satis- 
faction, and learning that only one of my enemies was now left 
in London, I was about to return when my movements were 
hastened by the news of this very remarkable Park Lane Mys- 
tery, which not only appealed to me by its own merits, but 
which seemed to offer some most peculiar personal opportu- 
nities. I came over at once to London, called in my own per- 
son at Baker Street, threw Mrs. Hudson into violent hysterics, 
and found that Mycroft had preserved my rooms and my pa- 
pers exactly as they had always been. So it was, my dear Wat- 
son, that at two o'clock to day I found myself in my old arm- 
chair in my own old room, and only wishing that I could have 
seen my old friend Watson in the other chair which he has so 
often adorned. " 

Such was the remarkable narrative to which I listened on 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 15 

that April evening a narrative which would have been utterly 
incredible to me had it not been confirmed by the actual sight 
of the tall, spare figure and the keen, eager face, which I had 
never thought to see again. In some manner he had learned 
of my own sad bereavement, and his sympathy was shown in his 
manner rather than in his words. " Work is the best antidote 
to sorrow, my dear Watson, " said he; "and I have a piece of 
work for us both to-night which, if we can bring it to a success- 
ful conclusion, will in itself justify a man's life on this planet. " 
In vain I begged him to tell me more. " You will hear and see 
enough before morning, " he answered. " We have three years 
of the past to discuss. Let that suffice until half -past nine, 
when we start upon the notable adventure of the empty house." 

It was indeed like old times when, at that hour, I found my- 
self seated beside him in a hansom, my revolver in my pocket, 
and the thrill of adventure in my heart. Holmes was cold and 
stern and silent. As the gleam of the street-lamps flashed upon 
his austere features, I saw that his brows were drawn down in 
thought and his thin lips compressed. I knew not what wild 
beast we were about to hunt down in the dark jungle of crimi- 
nal London, but I was well assured, from the bearing of this 
master huntsman, that the adventure was a most grave one 
while the sardonic smile which occasionally broke through his 
ascetic gloom boded little good for the object of our quest. 

I had imagined that we were bound for Baker Street, but 
Holmes stopped the cab at the corner of Cavendish Square. I 
observed that as he stepped out he gave a most searching glance 
to right and left, and at every subsequent street corner he took 
the utmost pains to assure that he was not followed. Our route 
was certainly a singular one. Holmes' knowledge of the by- 
ways of London was extraordinary, and on this occasion he 



16 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

passed rapidly and with an assured step through a network of 
mews and stables, the very existence of which I had never 
known. We emerged at last into a small road, lined with old, 
gloomy houses, which led us into Manchester Street, and so to 
Blandford Street. Here he turned swiftly down a narrow pas- 
sage, passed through a wooden gate into a deserted yard, and 
then opened with a key the back door of a house. We entered 
together, and he closed it behind us. 

The place was pitch-dark, but it was evident to me that it was 
an empty house. Our feet creaked and crackled over the bare 
planking, and my outstretched hand touched a wall from which 
the paper was hanging in ribbons. Holmes' cold, thin fingers 
closed round my wrist and led me forwards down a long hall, 
until I dimly saw the murky fanlight over the door. Here 
Holmes turned suddenly to the right, and we found ourselves in 
a large, square, empty room, heavily shadowed in the corners, 
but faintly lit in the centre from the lights of the street beyond. 
There was no lamp near, and the window was thick with dust, 
so that we could only just discern each other's figures within. 
My companion put his hand upon my shoulder and his lips 
close to my ear. 

" Do you know where we are ? " he whispered. 

" Surely that is Baker Street, " I answered, staring through 
the dim window. 

"Exactly. We are in Camden House, which stands oppo- 
site to our own old quarters. " 

" But why are we here ? " 

" Because it commands so excellent a view of that pictur- 
esque pile. Might I trouble you, my dear Watson, to draw a 
little nearer to the window, taking every precaution not to show 
yourself, and then to look up at our old rooms the starting- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 17 

point of so many of your little fairy-tales ? We will see if my 
three years of absence have entirely taken away my power to 
surprise you." 

I crept forward and looked across at the familiar window. 
As my eyes fell upon it, I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. 
The blind was down, and a strong light was burning in the room. 
The shadow of a man who was seated in a chair within was 
thrown in hard, black outline upon the luminous screen of the 
window. There was no mistaking the poise of the head, the 
squareness of the shoulders, the sharpness of the features. The 
face was turned half-round, and the effect was that of one of 
those black silhouettes which our grandparents loved to frame. 
It was a perfect reproduction of Holmes. So amazed was I 
that I threw out my hand to make sure that the man himself was 
standing beside me. He was quivering with silent laughter. 

"Well?" said he. 

" Good Heavens ! " I cried. " It is marvellous. " 

" I trust that age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite 
variety, " said he, and I recognized in his voice the joy and pride 
which the artist takes in his own creation. " It really is rather 
like me, is it not ? " 

" I should be prepared to swear that it was you. " 

" The credit of the execution is due to Monsieur Oscar Meu- 
nier, of Grenoble, who spent some days in doing the moulding. 
It is a bust in wax. The rest I arranged myself during my visit 
to Baker Street this afternoon. " 

"But why?" 

" Because, my dear Watson, I had the strongest possible rea- 
son for wishing certain people to think that I was there when I 
was really elsewhere. " 

" And you thought the rooms were watched ? " 



18 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" I knew that they were watched. " 

"By whom?" 

"By my old enemies, Watson. By the charming society 
whose leader lies in the Reichenbach Fall. You must remem- 
ber that they knew, and only they knew, that I was still alive. 
Sooner or later they believed that I should come back to my 
rooms. They watched them continuously, and this morning 
they saw me arrive. " 

" How do you know ? " 

" Because I recognized their sentinel when I glanced out of 
my window. He is a harmless enough fellow, Parker by name, 
a garroter by trade, and a remarkable performer upon the Jew's- 
harp. I cared nothing for him. But I cared a great deal for 
the much more formidable person who was behind him, the 
bosom friend of Moriarty, the man who dropped the rocks over 
the cliff, the most cunning and dangerous criminal in London. 
That is the man who is after me to-night, Watson, and that is 
the man who is quite unaware that we are after him. " 

My friend's plans were gradually revealing themselves. 
From this convenient retreat, the watchers were being watched 
and the trackers tracked. That angular shadow up yonder 
was the bait, and we were the hunters. In silence we stood to- 
gether in the darkness, and watched the hurrying figures who 
passed and repassed in front of us. Holmes was silent and 
motionless ; but I could tell that he was keenly alert, and that 
his eyes were fixed intently upon the stream of passers-by. It 
was a bleak and boisterous night, and the wind whistled shrilly 
down the long street. Many people were moving to and fro, 
most of them muffled in their coats and cravats. Once or 
twice it seemed to me that I had seen the same figure before, 
and I especially noticed two men who appeared to be sheltering 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 19 

themselves from the wind in the doorway of a house some dis- 
tance up the street. I tried to draw my companion's attention 
to them; but he gave a little ejaculation of impatience, and con- 
tinued to stare into the street. More than once he fidgeted 
with his feet and tapped rapidly with his fingers upon the 
wall. It was evident to me that he was becoming uneasy, and 
that his plans were not working out altogether as he had hoped. 
At last, as midnight approached and the street gradually 
cleared, he paced up and down the room in uncontrollable 
agitation. I was about to make some remark to him, when I 
raised my eyes to the lighted window, and again experienced 
almost as great a surprise as before. I clutched Holmes' arm, 
and pointed upwards. 

" The shadow has moved ! " I cried. 

It was indeed no longer the profile, but the back, which was 
turned toward us. 

Three years had certainly not smoothed the asperities of his 
temper or his impatience with a less active intelligence than his 
own. 

" Of course it has moved, " said he. " Am I such a farcical 
bungler, Watson, that I should erect an obvious dummy, and 
expect that some of the sharpest men in Europe would be de- 
ceived by it ? We have been in this room two hours, and Mrs. 
Hudson has made some change in that figure eight times, or 
once in every quarter of an hour. She works it from the front, 
so that her shadow may never be seen. Ah!" He drew in his 
breath with a shrill, excited intake. In the dim light I saw his 
head thrown forward, his whole attitude rigid with attention. 
Outside the street was absolutely deserted. Those two men 
might still be crouching in the doorway, but I could no longer 
see them. All was still and dark, save only that brilliant yel- 



30 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

low screen in front of us with the black figure outlined upon its 
centre. Again in the utter silence I heard that thin, sibilant 
note which spoke of intense suppressed excitement. An in- 
stant later he pulled me back into the blackest corner of the 
room, and I felt his warning hand upon my lips. The fingers 
which clutched me were quivering. Never had I known my 
friend more moved, and yet the dark street still stretched lonely 
and motionless before us. 

But suddenly I was aware of that which his keener senses had 
already distinguished. A low, stealthy sound came to my ears, 
not from the direction of Baker Street, but from the back of the 
very house in which we lay concealed. A door opened and shut. 
An instant later steps crept down the passage steps which 
were meant to be silent, but which reverberated harshly through 
the empty house. Holmes crouched back against the wall and 
I did the same, my hand closing upon the handle of my revol- 
ver. Peering through the gloom, I saw the vague outline of a 
man, a shade blacker than the blackness of the open door. He 
stood for an instant, and then he crept forward, crouching, 
menacing, into the room. He was within three yards of us, 
this sinister figure, and I had braced myself to meet his spring, 
before I realized that he had no idea of our presence. He passed 
close beside us, stole over to the window, and very softly and 
noiselessly raised it for half a foot. As he sank to the level of this 
opening, the light of the street, no longer dimmed by the dusty 
glass, fell full upon his face. The man seemed to be beside 
himself with excitement. His two eyes shone like stars, and his 
features were working convulsively. He was an elderly man, 
with a thin, projecting nose, a high, bald forehead, and a huge 
grizzled moustache. An opera hat was pushed to the back of 
his head, and an evening dress shirt-front gleamed out through 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 21 

his open overcoat. His face was gaunt and swarthy, scored 
with deep, savage lines. In his hand he carried what appeared 
to be a stick, but as he laid it down upon the floor it gave a me- 
tallic clang. Then from the pocket of his overcoat he drew a 
bulky object, and he busied himself in some task which ended 
with a loud, sharp click, as if a spring or bolt had fallen into 
its place. Still kneeling upon the floor he bent forward and 
threw all his weight and strength upon some lever, with the re- 
sult that there came a long, whirling, grinding noise, ending 
once more in a powerful click. He straightened himself then, 
and I saw that what he held in his hand was a sort of a gun, with 
a curiously misshapen butt. He opened it at the breech, put 
something in, and snapped the breech-block. Then, crouch- 
ing down, he rested the end of the barrel upon the ledge of the 
open window, and I saw his long moustache droop over the stock 
and his eye gleam as it peered along the sights. I heard a little 
sigh of satisfaction as he cuddled the butt into his shoulder, and 
saw that amazing target, the black man on the yellow ground, 
standing clear at the end of his fore-sight. For an instant he 
was rigid and motionless. Then his finger tightened on the trig- 
ger. There was a strange, loud whiz and a long, silvery tin- 
kle of broken glass. At that instant Holmes sprang like a 
tiger on to the marksman's back, and hurled him flat upon 
his face. He was up again in a moment, and with con- 
vulsive strength he seized Holmes by the throat, but I struck 
him on the head with the butt of my revolver, and he dropped 
again upon the floor. I fell upon him, and as I held him my 
comrade blew a shrill call upon a whistle. There was the clat- 
ter of running feet upon the pavement, and two policemen in 
uniform, with one plain-clothes detective, rushed through the 
front entrance and into the room. 



22 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" That you, Lestrade ? " said Holmes. 

" Yes, Mr. Holmes. I took the job myself. It's good to see 
you back in London, sir. " 

" I think you want a little unofficial help. Three undetected 
murders in one year won't do, Lestrade. But you handled the 
Molesey Mystery with less than your usual that's to say, you 
handled it fairly well. " 

We had all risen to our feet, our prisoner breathing hard, with 
a stalwart constable on each side of him. Already a few loiterers 
had begun to collect in the street. Holmes stepped up to the 
window, closed it, and dropped the blinds. Lestrade had 
produced two candles, and the policemen had uncovered 
their lanterns. I was able at last to have a good look at our 
prisoner. 

It was a tremendously virile and yet sinister face which was 
turned towards us. With the brow of a philosopher above and 
the jaw of a sensualist below, the man must have started with 
great capacities for good or for evil. But one could not look upon 
his cruel blue eyes, with their drooping, cynical lids, or upon the 
fierce, aggressive nose and the threatening, deep-lined brow, 
without reading Nature's plainest danger-signals. He took no 
heed of any of us, but his eyes were fixed upon Holmes' face 
with an expression in which hatred and amazement were equally 
blended. "You fiend!" he kept on muttering, "you clever, 
clever fiend ! " 

"Ah, Colonel!" said Holmes, arranging his rumpled collar, 

4 journeys end in lovers' meetings,' as the old play says. I don't 
think I have had the pleasure of seeing you since you favoured 
me with those attentions as I lay on the ledge above the Reichen- 
bachFall." 

The Colonel still stared at my friend like a man in 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 23 

a trance. "You cunning, cunning fiend!" was all that he 
could say. 

" I have not introduced you yet, " said Holmes. " This gen- 
tlemen, is Colonel Sebastian Moran, once of her Majesty's 
Indian Army, and the best heavy-game shot that our Eastern 
Empire has ever produced. I believe I am correct, Colonel, in 
saying that your bag of tigers still remains unrivalled ? " 

The fierce old man said nothing, but still glared at my com- 
panionist with his savage eyes and bristling moustache he was 
wonderfully like a tiger himself. 

" I wonder that my very simple stratagem could deceive so old 
a shikari," said Holmes. "It must be very familiar to you. 
Have you not tethered a young kid under a tree, lain above it 
with your rifle, and waited for the bait to bring up your tiger ? 
This empty house is my tree, and you are my tiger. You have 
possibly had other guns in reserve in case there should be several 
tigers, or in the unlikely supposition of your own aim failing you. 
These, " he pointed around, " are my other guns. The parallel 
is exact. " 

Colonel Moran sprang forward with a snarl of rage, but the 
constables dragged him back. The fury upon his face was ter- 
rible to look at. 

"I confess that you had one small surprise for me," said 
Holmes. " I did not anticipate that you would yourself make 
use of this empty house and this convenient front window. I 
had imagined you as operating from the street, where my friend 
Lestrade and his merry men were awaiting you. With that 
exception, all has gone as I expected. " 

Colonel Moran turned to the official detective. 

" You may or may not have just cause for arresting me, " said 
he, " but at least there can be no reason why I should submit to 



24 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

the gibes of this person. If I am in the hands of the law, let 
things be done in a legal way. " 

" Well, that's reasonable enough, " said Lestrade. " Nothing 
further you have to say, Mr. Holmes, before we go ? " 

Holmes had picked up the powerful air-gun from the floor, 
and was examining its mechanism. 

"An admirable and unique weapon, " said he, " noiseless and 
of tremendous power. I knew Von Herder, the blind German 
mechanic, who constructed it to the order of the late Professor 
Moriarty. For years I have been aware of its existence, though 
I have never before had the opportunity of handling it. I com- 
mend it very specially to your attention, Lestrade, and also the 
bullets which fit it. " 

" You can trust us to look after that, Mr. Holmes, " said Les- 
trade, as the whole party moved towards the door. " Anything 
further to say ? " 

" Only to ask what charge you intend to prefer ? " 

" What charge, sir ? Why, of course, the attempted murder of 
Mr. Sherlock Holmes. " 

" Not so, Lestrade. I do not propose to appear in the matter 
at all. To you, and to you only, belongs the credit of the re- 
markable arrest which you have effected. Yes, Lestrade, I con- 
gratulate you ! With your usual happy mixture of cunning and 
audacity, you have got him. " 

" Got him ! Got whom, Mr. Holmes ? " 

" The man that the whole force has been seeking in vain 
Colonel Sebastian Moran, who shot the Honourable Ronald 
Adair with an expanding bullet from an air-gun through the open 
window of the second-floor front of No. 427, Park Lane, upon 
the 30th of last month. That's the charge, Lestrade. And 
now, Watson, if you can endure the draught from a broken 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 25 

window, I think that half an hour in my study over a cigar may 
afford you some profitable amusement. " 

Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the super- 
vision of Mycroft Holmes and the immediate care of Mrs. Hud- 
son. As I entered I saw, it is true, an unwonted tidiness, but the 
old landmarks were all in their place. There was the chemical 
corner and the acid-stained, deal-topped table. There upon a 
shelf was the row of formidable scrap-books and books of refer- 
ence which many of our fellow-citizens would have been so glad 
to burn. The diagrams, the violin-case, and the pipe-rack 
even the Persian slipper which contained the tobacco all met 
my eyes as I glanced round me. There were two occupants of 
the room one, Mrs. Hudson, who beamed upon us both as we 
entered the other, the strange dummy which had played so im- 
portant a part in the evening's adventures. It was a wax-col- 
oured model of my friend, so admirably done that it was a per- 
fect facsimile. It stood on a small pedestal table with an old 
dressing-gown of Holmes' so draped round it that the illusion 
from the street was absolutely perfect. 

" I hope you preserved all precautions, Mrs. Hudson ? " said 
Holmes. 

" I went to it on my knees, sir, just as you told me. " 

" Excellent. You carried the thing out very well. Did you 
observe where the bullet went ? " 

" Yes, sir. I'm afraid it has spoilt your beautiful bust, for it 
passed right through the head and flattened itself on the wall. I 
picked it up from the carpet. Here it is ! " 

Holmes held it out to me. " A soft revolver bullet, as you per- 
ceive, Watson. There's genius in that, for who would expect to 
find such a thing fired from an air-gun. All right, Mrs. Hudson, 



26 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

I am much obliged for your assistance. And now, Watson, let 
me see you in your old seat once more, for there are several points 
which I should like to discuss with you. " 

He had thrown off the seedy frock-coat, and now he was the 
Holmes of old in the mouse-coloured dressing-gown which he 
took from his effigy. 

"The old shikari's nerves have not lost their steadiness, nor 
his eyes their keenness, " said he, with a laugh, as he inspected 
the shattered forehead of his bust. 

"Plumb in the middle of the back of the head and smack 
through the brain. He was the best shot in India, and I expect 
that there are few better in London. Have you heard the 
name ? " 

"No, I have not." 

" Well, well, such is fame ! But, then, if I remember right, you 
had not heard the name of Professor James Moriarty, who had 
one of the great brains of the century. Just give me down my 
index of biographies from the shelf. " 

He turned over the pages lazily, leaning back in his chair and 
blowing great clouds from his cigar. 

"My collection of M's is a fine one," said he. "Moriarty 
himself is enough to make any letter illustrious, and here is Mor- 
gan the poisoner, and Merridew of abominable memory, and 
Mathews, who knocked out my left canine in the waiting-room 
at Charing Cross, and, finally, here is our friend of to-night. " 

He handed over the book, and I read : " Moran, Sebastian, 
Colonel. Unemployed. Formerly 1st Bengalore Pioneers. 
Born London, 1840. Son of Sir Augustus Moran, C.B., once 
British Minister to Persia. Educated Eton and Oxford. Served 
in Jowaki Campaign, Afghan Campaign, Charasiab (des- 
patches), Sherpur, and Cabul. Author of 'Heavy Game of the 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 27 

Western Himalayas' (1881); 'Three Months in the Jungle' 
(1884). Address: Conduit Street. Clubs: The Anglo-Indian, 
the Tankerville, the Bagatelle Card Club. " 

On the margin was written, in Holmes' precise hand: "The 
second most dangerous man in London. " 

" This is astonishing, " said I, as I handed back the volume. 
" The man's career is that of an honourable soldier. " 

" It is true," Holmes answered. " Up to a certain point he did 
well. He was always a man of iron nerve, and the story is still 
told in India how he crawled down a drain after a wounded man- 
eating tiger. There are some trees, Watson, which grow to a 
certain height, and then suddenly develop some unsightly eccen- 
tricity. You will see it often in humans. I have a theory that 
the individual represents in his development the whole procession 
of his ancestors, and that such a sudden turn to good or evil 
stands for some strong influence which came into the line of his 
pedigree. The person becomes, as it were, the epitome of the 
history of his own family. " 

" It is surely rather fanciful. " 

" Well, I don't insist upon it. Whatever the cause, Colonel 
Moran began to go wrong. Without any open scandal, he still 
made India too hot to hold him. He retired, came to London, 
and again acquired an evil name. It was at this time that he 
was sought out by Professor Moriarty, to whom for a time he was 
chief of the staff. Moriarty supplied him liberally with money, 
and used him only in one or two very high-class jobs, which no 
ordinary criminal could have undertaken. You may have some 
recollection of the death of Mrs. Stewart, of Lauder, in 1887. 
Not ? Well, I am sure Moran was at the bottom of it, but noth- 
ing could be proved. So cleverly was the Colonel concealed that, 
even when the Moriarty gang was broken up, we could not in- 



28 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

criminate him You remember at that date, when I called upon 
you in your rooms, how I put up the shutters for fear of air-guns ? 
No doubt you thought me fanciful. I knew exactly what I was 
doing, for I knew of the existence of this remarkable gun, and 
I knew also that one of the best shots in the world would be be- 
hind it. When we were in Switzerland he followed us with Mori- 
arty, and it was undoubtedly he who gave me that evil five min- 
utes on the Reichenbach ledge. 

" You may think that I read the papers with some attention 
during my sojourn in France, on the look-out for any chance of 
laying him by the heels. So long as he was free in London, my 
life would really not have been worth living. Night and day the 
shadow would have been over me, and sooner or later his chance 
must have come. What could I do ? I could not shoot him at 
sight, or I should myself be in the dock. There was no use 
appealing to a magistrate. They cannot interfere on the strength 
of what would appear to them to be a wild suspicion. So I could 
do nothing. But I watched the criminal news, knowing that 
sooner or later I should get him. Then came the death of this 
Ronald Adair. My chance had come at last. Knowing what I 
did, was it not certain that Colonel Moran had done it ? He had 
played cards with the lad, he had followed him home from the 
club, he had shot him through the open window. There was 
not a doubt of it. The bullets alone are enough to put his head 
in a noose. I came over at once. I was seen by the sentinel, 
who would, I knew, direct the Colonel's attention to my presence. 
He could not fail to connect my sudden return with his crime, 
and to be terribly alarmed. I was sure that he would make 
an attempt to get me out of the way at once, and would bring 
round his murderous weapon for that purpose. I left him an 
excellent mark in the window, and, having warned the police 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE 29 

that they might be needed by the way, Watson, you spotted 
their presence in that doorway with unerring accuracy I took 
up what seemed to me to be a judicious post for observation, 
never dreaming that he would choose the same spot for his attack. 
Now, my dear Watson, does anything remain for me to explain ? " 

" Yes, " said I. " You have not made it clear what was Colo- 
nel Moran's motive in murdering the Honourable Ronald 
Adair?" 

"Ah! my dear Watson, there we come into those realms of 
conjecture, where the most logical mind may be at fault. Each 
may form his own hypothesis upon the present evidence, and 
yours is as likely to be correct as mine. " 

" You have formed one, then ? " 

" I think that it is not difficult to explain the facts. It came 
out in evidence that Colonel Moran and young Adair had, be- 
tween them, won a considerable amount of money. Now, Mo- 
ran undoubtedly played foul of that I have long been aware. 
I believe that on the day of the murder Adair had discovered that 
Moran was cheating. Very likely he had spoken to him pri- 
vately, and had threatened to expose him unless he voluntarily 
resigned his membership of the club, and promised not to play 
cards again. It is unlikely that a youngster like Adair would 
at once make a hideous scandal by exposing a well-known man 
so much older than himself. Probably he acted as I suggest. 
The exclusion from his clubs would mean ruin to Moran, who 
lived by his ill-gotten card-gains. He therefore murdered Adair, 
who at the time was endeavouring to work out how much money 
he should himself return, since he could not profit by his partner's 
foul play. He locked the door lest the ladies should surprise 
him and insist upon knowing what he was doing with these 
names and coins. Will it pass ? " 



30 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" I have no doubt that you have hit upon the truth. " 
"It will be verified or disproved at the trial. Meanwhile, 
come what may, Colonel Moran will trouble us no more. The 
famous air-gun of Von Herder will embellish the Scotland Yard 
Museum, and once again Mr. Sherlock Holmes is free to devote 
his life to examining those interesting little problems which the 
complex life of London so plentifully presents. " 



n 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE NORWOOD BUILDER 

JT ROM the point of view of the criminal expert," said Mr. 
Sherlock Holmes, "London has become a singularly unin- 
teresting city since the death of the late lamented Professor 
Moriarty." 

" I can hardly think that you would find many decent citizens 
to agree with you," I answered. 

" Well, well, I must not be selfish," said he, with a smile, as 
he pushed back his chair from the breakfast-table. " The com- 
munity is certainly the gainer, and no one the loser, save the 
poor out-of-work specialist, whose occupation has gone. With 
that man in the field, one's morning paper presented infinite 
possibilities. Often it was only the smallest trace, Watson, 
the faintest indication, and yet it was enough to tell me that 
the great malignant brain was there, as the gentlest tremors of 
the edges of the web remind one of the foul spider which lurks 
in the centre. Petty thefts, wanton assaults, purposeless out- 
rage to the man who held the clue all could be worked into 
one connected whole. To the scientific student of the higher 
criminal world, no capital in Europe offered the advantages 
which London then possessed. But now " He shrugged 



32 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

his shoulders in humorous deprecation of the state of things 
which he had himself done so much to produce. 

At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for some 
months, and I at his request had sold my practice and returned 
to share the old quarters in Baker Street. A young doctor, 
named Verner, had purchased my small Kensington practice, 
and given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that 
I ventured to ask an incident which only explained itself 
some years later, when I found that Verner was a distant relation 
of Holmes, and that it was my friend who had really found 
the money. 

Our months of partnership had not been so uneventful as 
he had stated, for I find, on looking over my notes, that this 
period includes the case of the papers of ex-President Murillo, 
and also the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, 
which so nearly cost us both our lives. His cold and proud 
nature was always averse, however, from anything in the shape 
of public applause, and he bound me in the most stringent terms 
to say no further word of himself, his methods, or his successes 
a prohibition which, as I have explained, has only now been 
removed. 

Mr. Sherlock Holmes was leaning back in his chair after his 
whimsical protest, and was unfolding his morning paper in a 
leisurely fashion, when our attention was arrested by a tre- 
mendous ring at the bell, followed immediately by a hollow 
drumming sound, as if someone were beating on the outer door 
with his fist. As it opened there came a tumultuous rush into 
the hall, rapid feet clattered up the stair, and an instant later 
a wild-eyed and frantic young man, pale, dishevelled, and 
palpitating, burst into the room. He looked from one to 
the other of us, and under our gaze of inquiry he became 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 83 

conscious that some apology was needed for this unceremo- 
nious entry. 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Holmes," he cried. "You musn't blame 
me. I am nearly mad. Mr. Holmes, I am the unhappy John 
Hector McFarlane." 

He made the announcement as if the name alone would ex- 
plain both his visit and its manner, but I could see, by my com- 
panion's unresponsive face, that it meant no more to him than 
to me. 

"Have a cigarette, Mr. McFarlane," said he, pushing his 
case across. " I am sure that, with your symptoms, my friend 
Dr. Watson here would prescribe a sedative. The weather 
has been so very warm these last few days. Now, if you feel 
a little more composed, I should be glad if you would sit down 
in that chair, and tell us very slowly and quietly who you are, and 
what it is that you want. You mentioned your name, as if I 
should recognise it, but I assure you that, beyond the obvious 
facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an 
asthmatic, I know nothing whatever about you." 

Familiar as I was with my friend's methods, it was not diffi- 
cult for me to follow his deductions, and to observe the untidi- 
ness of attire, the sheaf of legal papers, the watch-charm, and 
the breathing which had prompted them. Our client, how- 
ever, stared in amazement. 

"Yes, I am all that, Mr. Holmes; and, in addition, I am the 
most unfortunate man at this moment in London. For Heaven's 
sake, don't abandon me, Mr. Holmes ! If they come to arrest 
me before I have finished my story, make them give me time, so 
that I may tell you the whole truth. I could go to gaol happy 
if I knew that you were working for me outside." 

" Arrest you ! " said Holmes. " This is really most grati 



34 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

most interesting. On what charge do you expect to be ar- 
rested ? " 

"Upon the charge of murdering Mr. Jonas Oldacre, of 
Lower Norwood." 

My companion's expressive face showed a sympathy which 
was not, I am afraid, entirely unmixed with satisfaction. 

" Dear me," said he, " it was only this moment at breakfast 
that I was saying to my friend, Dr. Watson, that sensational 
cases had disappeared out of our papers." 

Our visitor stretched forward a quivering hand and picked 
up the Daily Telegraph, which still lay upon Holmes' knee. 

" If you had looked at it, sir, you would have seen at a glance 
what the errand is on which I have come to you this morning. 
I feel as if my name and my misfortune must be in every man's 
mouth." He turned it over to expose the central page. " Here 
it is, and with your permission I will read it to you. Listen to 
this, Mr. Holmes. The head-lines are: 'Mysterious Affair 
at Lower Norwood. Disappearance of a Well-known Builder. 
Suspicion of Murder and Arson. A Clue to the Criminal.' 
That is the clue which they are already following, Mr. Holmes, 
and I know that it leads infallibly to me. I have been followed 
from London Bridge Station, and I am sure that they are only 
waiting for the warrant to arrest me. It will break my mother's 
heart it will break her heart! " He wrung his hands in an 
agony of apprehension, and swayed backwards and forwards 
in his chair. 

I looked with interest upon this man, who was accused of 
being the perpetrator of a crime of violence. He was flaxen- 
haired and handsome, in a washed-out negative fashion, with 
frightened blue eyes, and a clean-shaven face, with a weak, 
sensitive mouth. His age may have been about twenty-seven, 



THE ADVENTURE OF THF, NORWOOD BUILDER 35 

his dress ,ind bearing that of a gentleman. From the pocket 
of his Ugh"; summer overcoat protruded the bundle of indorsed 
papers which proclaimed his profession. 

" We must use what time we have," said Holmes. " Watson, 
would you have the kindness to take the paper and to read 
the paragraph in question ? " 

Underneath the vigorous head-lines which our client had 
quoted, I read the following suggestive narrative: 

Late last night, or early this morning, an incident occurred at Lower Nor- 
wood which points, it is feared, to a serious crime. Mr. Jonas Oldacre is a 
well-known resident of that suburb, where he has carried on his business as a 
builder for many years. Mr. Oldacre is a bachelor, fifty-two years of age, 
and lives in Deep Dene House, at the Sydenham end of the road of that name. 
He has had the reputation of being a man of eccentric habits, secretive and 
retiring. For some years he has practically withdrawn from the business, in 
which he is said to have amassed considerable wealth. A small timber-yard 
still exists, however, at the back of the house, and last night, about twelve 
o'clock, an alarm was given that one of the stacks was on fire. The engines 
were soon upon the spot, but the dry wood burned with great fury, and it was 
impossible to arrest the conflagration until the stack had been entirely con- 
sumed. Up 1 to this point the incident bore the appearance of an ordinary acci- 
dent, but fresh indications seem to point to serious crime. Surprise was ex- 
pressed at the absence of the master of the establishment from the scene of the 
fire, and an inquiry followed, which showed that he had disappeared from the 
house. An examination of his room revealed that the bed had not been slept 
in, that a safe which stood in it was open, that a number of important papers 
were scattered about the room, and, finally, that there were signs of a murder- 
ous struggle, slight traces of blood being found within the room, and an oaken 
walking-stick, which also showed stains of blood upon the handle. It is known 
that Mr. Jonas Oldacre had received a late visitor in his bedroom upon that 
night, and the stick found has been identified as the property of this person, 
who is a young London solicitor named John Hector McFarlane, junior part- 
ner of Graham and McFarlane, of 426, Gresham Buildings, E. C. The police 
believe that they have evidence in their possession which supplies a very con- 
vincing motive for the crime, and altogether it cannot be doubted that sensa- 
tional developments will follow. 

LATER. It is rumoured as we go to press that Mr. John Hector McFarlane 



36 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

has actually been arrested on the charge of the murder of Mr. Jeaas Oldacre. 
It is at least certain that a warrant has been issued. There have been further 
and sinister developments in the investigation at Norwood. Betides the signs 
of a struggle in the room of the unfortunate builder it is now known that the 
French windows of his bedroom (which is on the ground floor) were found to 
be open, that there were marks as if some bulky object had been dragged 
across to the wood-pile, and, finally, it is asserted that charred remains have 
been found among the charcoal ashes of the fire. The police theory is that a 
most sensational crime has been committed, that the victim was clubbed to 
death in his own bedroom, his papers rifled, and his dead boc y dragged across 
to the wood-stack, which was then ignited so as to hide all traces of the crime. 
The conduct of the criminal investigation has been left in the experienced hands 
of Inspector Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, who is following up the clues with 
his accustomed energy and sagacity. 

Sherlock Holmes listened with closed eyes and finger-tips 
together to this remarkable account. 

"The case has certainly some points of interest," said he, in 
his languid fashion. " May I ask, in the first place, Mr. Mc- 
Farlane, how it is that you are still at liberty, since there appears 
to be enough evidence to justify your arrest ?" 

" I live at Torrington Lodge, Blackheath, with my parents, 
Mr. Holmes, but last night, having to do business very late 
with Mr. Jonas Oldacre, I stayed at an hotel in Norwood, and 
came to my business from there. I knew nothing of this affair 
until I was in the train, when I read what you have just heard. 
I at once saw the horrible danger of my position, and I hurried 
to put the case into your hands. I have no doubt that I should 
have been arrested either at my city office or at my home. A 
man followed me from London Bridge Station, and I have no 
doubt Great Heaven ! what is that ? " 

It was a clang of the bell, followed instantly by heavy steps 
upon the stair. A moment later, our old friend Lestrade ap- 
peared in the doorway. Over his shoulder I caught a glimpse 
of one or two uniformed policemen outside. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 37 

" Mr. John Hector McFarlane ? " said Lestrade. 

Our unfortunate client rose with a ghastly face. 

" I arrest you for the wilful murder of Mr. Jonas Oldacre, of 
Lower Norwood." 

McFarlane turned to us with a gesture of despair, and sank 
into his chair once more like one who is crushed. 

"One moment, Lestrade," said Holmes. "Half an hour 
more or less can make no difference to you, and the gentleman 
was about to give us an account of this very interesting affair, 
which might aid us in clearing it up." 

"I think there will be no difficulty in clearing it up," said 
Lestrade, grimly. 

" None the less, with your permission, I should be much 
interested to hear his account." 

" Well, Mr. Holmes, it is difficult for me to refuse you any- 
thing, for you have been of use to the force once or twice in the 
past, and we owe you a good turn at Scotland Yard," said Les- 
trade. "At the same time I must remain with my prisoner, 
and I am bound to warn him that anything he may say will 
appear in evidence against him." 

" I wish nothing better," said our client. " All I ask is that 
you should hear and recognise the absolute truth." 

Lestrade looked at his watch. " I'll give you half an hour," 
said he. 

" I must explain first," said McFarlane, " that I knew nothing 
of Mr. Jonas Oldacre. His name was familiar to me, for many 
years ago my parents were acquainted with him, but they 
drifted apart. I was very much surprised, therefore, when 
yesterday, about three o'clock in the afternoon, he walked into 
my office in the city. But I was still more astonished when he 
told me the object of his visit. He had in his hand several 



38 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

sheets of a note-book, covered with scribbled writing here 
they are and he laid them on my table. 

"' Here is my will,' said he. 'I want you, Mr. McFarlane, 
to cast it into proper legal shape. I will sit here while you do 
so.' 

" I set myself to copy it, and you can imagine my astonish- 
ment when I found that, with some reservations, he had left all 
his property to me. He was a strange little ferret-like man, 
with white eyelashes, and when I looked up at him I found his 
keen, grey eyes fixed upon me with an amused expression. I 
could hardly believe my own senses as I read the terms of the 
will ; but he explained that he was a bachelor with hardly any 
living relation, that he had known my parents in his youth, and 
that he had always heard of me as a very deserving young man, 
and was assured that his money would be in worthy hands. 
Of course, I could only stammer out my thanks. The will was 
duly finished, signed, and witnessed by my clerk. This is it on 
the blue paper, and these slips, as I have explained, are the 
rough draft. Mr. Jonas Oldacre then informed me that there 
were a number of documents building leases, title-deeds, 
mortgages, scrip, and so forth which it was necessary that I 
should see and understand. He said that his mind would not 
be easy until the whole thing was settled, and he begged me to 
come out to his house at Norwood that night, bringing the will 
with me, and to arrange matters. 'Remember, my boy, not 
one word to your parents about the affair until everything is 
settled. We will keep it as a little surprise for them.' He was 
very insistent upon this point, and made me promise it faith- 
fully. 

" You can imagine, Mr. Holmes, that I was not in a humour 
to refuse him anything that he might ask. He was my bene- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 39 

factor, and all my desire was to carry out his wishes in every 
particular. I sent a telegram home, therefore, to say that I 
had important business on hand, and that it was impossible 
for me to say how late I might be. Mr. Oldacre had told me 
that he would like me to have supper with him at nine, as he 
might not be home before that hour. I had some difficulty in 
finding his house, however, and it was nearly half-past before 
I reached it. I found him " 

" One moment ! " said Holmes. " Who opened the door ?" 

"A middle-aged woman, who was, I suppose, his house- 
keeper." 

" And it was she, I presume, who mentioned your name ?" 

" Exactly," said McFarlane. 

"Pray proceed." 

McFarlane wiped his damp brow, and then continued his 
narrative : 

"I was shown by this woman into a sitting-room, where a 
frugal supper was laid out. Afterwards, Mr. Jonas Oldacre 
led me into his bedroom, in which there stood a heavy safe. 
This he opened and took out a mass of documents, which we 
went over together. It was between eleven and twelve when 
we finished. He remarked that we must not disturb the house- 
keeper. He showed me out through his own French window, 
which had been open all this time." 

" Was the blind down ? " asked Holmes. 

" I will not be sure, but I believe that it was only half down. 
Yes, I remember how he pulled it up in order to swing open the 
window. I could not find my stick, and he said, ' Never mind, 
my boy, I shall see a good deal of you now, I hope, and I will 
keep your stick until you come back to claim it.' I left him 
there, the safe open, and the papers made up in packets upon 



40 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

the table. It was so late that I could not get back to Black- 
heath, so I spent the night at the Anerley Arms, and I knew 
nothing more until I read of this horrible affair in the morning." 

"Anything more that you would like to ask, Mr. Holmes ? " 
said Lestrade, whose eyebrows had gone up once or twice 
during this remarkable explanation. 

" Not until I have been to Blackheath." 

" You mean to Norwood," said Lestrade. 

" Oh, yes, no doubt that is what I must have meant," said 
Holmes, with his enigmatical smile. Lestrade had learned by 
more experiences than he would care to acknowledge that that 
razor-like brain could cut through that which was impenetrable 
to him. I saw him look curiously at my companion. 

"I think I should like to have a word with you presently, 
Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said he. "Now, Mr. McFarlane, two 
of my constables are at the door, and there is a four-wheeler 
waiting." The wretched young man arose, and with a last 
beseeching glance at us walked from the room. The officers 
conducted him to the cab, but Lestrade remained. 

Holmes had picked up the pages which formed the rough 
draft of the will, and was looking at them with the keenest in- 
terest upon his face. 

" There are some points about that document, Lestrade, are 
there not ? " said he, pushing them over. 

The official looked at them with a puzzled expression. 

" I can read the first few lines, and these in the middle of the 
second page, and one or two at the end. Those are as clear as 
print," said he, " but the writing in between is very bad, and 
there are three places where I cannot read it at all." 

" What do you make of that ? " said Holmes. 

" Well, what do you make of it ? " 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 41 

" That it was written in a train. The good writing represents 
stations, the bad writing movement, and the very bad writing 
passing over points. A scientific expert would pronounce at 
once that this was drawn up on a suburban line, since nowhere 
save in the immediate vicinity of a great city could there be so 
quick a succession of points. Granting that his whole journey 
was occupied in drawing up the will, then the train was an 
express, only stopping once between Norwood and London 
Bridge." 

Lestrade began to laugh. 

"You are too many for me when you begin to get on your 
theories, Mr. Holmes," said he. " How does this bear on the 
case? " 

"Well, it corroborates the young man's story to the extent 
that the will was drawn up by Jonas Oldacre in his journey 
yesterday. It is curious is it not ? that a man should 
draw up so important a document in so haphazard a fashion. 
It suggests that he did not think it was going to be of much 
practical importance. If a man drew up a will which he did 
not intend ever to be effective, he might do it so." 

" Well, he drew up his own death warrant at the same time," 
said Lestrade. 

"Oh, you think so?" 

"Don't you?" 

" Well, it is quite possible, but the case is not clear to me yet." 

" Not clear ? Well, if that isn't clear, what could be clear ? 
Here is a young man who learns suddenly that, if a certain older 
man dies, he will succeed to a fortune. What does he do ? He 
says nothing to anyone, but he arranges that he shall go out 
on some pretext to see his client that night. He waits until the 
only other person in the house is in bed, and then in the solitude 



42 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

of the man's room he murders him, burns his body in the wood- 
pile, and departs to a neighbouring hotel. The blood-stains 
in the room and also on the stick are very slight. It is prob- 
able that he imagined his crime to be a bloodless one, and 
hoped that if the body were consumed it would hide all traces 
of the method of his death traces which, for some reason, 
must have pointed to him. Is not all this obvious ? " 

" It strikes me, my good Lestrade, as being just a trifle too 
obvious," said Holmes. " You do not add imagination to your 
other great qualities, but if you could for one moment put your- 
self in the place of this young man, would you choose the very 
night after the will had been made to commit your crime? 
Would it not seem dangerous to you to make so very close a 
relation between the two incidents ? Again, would you choose 
an occasion when you are known to be in the house, when a 
servant has let you in ? And, finally, would you take the great 
pains to conceal the body, and yet leave your own stick as a sign 
that you were the criminal ? Confess, Lestrade, that all this 
is very unlikely." 

" As to the stick, Mr. Holmes, you know as well as I do that 
a criminal is often flurried, and does such things, which a cool 
man would avoid. He was very likely afraid to go back to the 
room. Give me another theory that would fit the facts." 

"I could very easily give you half a dozen," said Holmes. 
" Here, for example, is a very possible and even probable one. 
I make you a free present of it. The older man is showing 
documents which are of evident value. A passing tramp sees 
them through the window, the blind of which is only half 
down. Exit the solicitor. Enter the tramp ! He seizes a stick, 
which he observes there, kills Oldacre, and departs after burn- 
ing the body." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 43 

" Why should the tramp burn the body ? " 

" For the matter of that, why should McFarlane ? " 

" To hide some evidence." 

" Possibly the tramp wanted to hide that any murder at all 
had been committed." 

" And why did the tramp take nothing ? " 

" Because they were papers that he could not negotiate." 

Lestrade shook his head, though it seemed to me that his 
manner was less absolutely assured than before. 

" Well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you may look for your tramp, 
and while you are finding him we will hold on to our man. 
The future will show which is right. Just notice this point, Mr. 
Holmes : that so far as we know, none of the papers were re- 
moved, and that the prisoner is the one man in the world who 
had no reason for removing them, since he was heir-at-law, and 
would come into them in any case." 

My friend seemed struck by this remark. 

"I don't mean to deny that the evidence is in some ways 
very strongly in favour of your theory," said he. " I only wish 
to point out that there are other theories possible. As you say, 
the future will decide. Good morning! I dare say that in 
the course of the day, I shall drop in at Norwood and see how 
you are getting on." 

When the detective departed, my friend rose and made his 
preparations for the day's work with the alert air of a man who 
has a congenial task before him. 

"My first movement, Watson," said he, as he bustled into 
his frock-coat, " must, as I said, be in the direction of Black- 
heath." 

" And why not Norwood ? " 

" Because we have in this case one singular incident coming 



44 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

close to the heels of another singular incident. The police are 
making the mistake of concentrating their attention upon the 
second, because it happens to be the one which is actually 
criminal. But it is evident to me that the logical way to ap- 
proach the case is to begin by trying to throw some light upon 
the first incident the curious will, so suddenly made, and to 
so unexpected an heir. It may do something to simplify what 
followed. No, my dear fellow, I don't think you can help me. 
There is no prospect of danger, or I should not dream of stirring 
out without you. I trust that when I see you in the evening, 
I will be able to report that I have been able to do something 
for this unfortunate youngster, who has thrown himself upon 
my protection." 

It was late when my friend returned, and I could see, by a 
glance at his haggard and anxious face, that the high hopes 
with which he had started had not been fulfilled. For an hour 
he droned away upon his violin, endeavouring to soothe his own 
ruffled spirits. At last he flung down the instrument, and 
plunged into a detailed account of his misadventures. 

" It's all going wrong, Watson all as wrong as it can go. 
I kept a bold face before Lestrade, but, upon my soul, I believe 
that for once the fellow is on the right track and we are on the 
wrong. All my instincts are one way, and all the facts are the 
other, and I much fear that British juries have not yet attained 
that pitch of intelligence when they will give the preference to 
my theories over Lestrade's facts." 

" Did you go to Blackheath ? " 

" Yes, Watson, I went there, and I found very quickly that the 
late lamented Oldacre was a pretty considerable blackguard. 
The father was away in search of his son. The mother was at 
home a little, fluffy, blue-eyed person, in a tremor of fear 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 45 

and indignation. Of course, she would not admit even the pos- 
sibility of his guilt. But she would not express either surprise 
or regret over the fate of Oldacre. On the contrary, she spoke 
of him with such bitterness that she was unconsciously con- 
siderably strengthening the case of the police for, of course, if 
her son had heard her speak of the man in this fashion, it would 
predispose him towards hatred and violence. 'He was more 
like a malignant and cunning ape than a human being/ said 
she, ' and he always was, ever since he was a young man.' 

" * You knew him at that time ? ' said I. 

" ' Yes, I knew him well, in fact, he was an old suitor of mine. 
Thank Heaven, that I had the sense to turn away from him, 
and to marry a better, if poorer, man. I was engaged to him, 
Mr. Holmes, when I heard a shocking story of how he had 
turned a cat loose in an aviary, and I was so horrified at his 
brutal cruelty that I would have nothing more to do with him.' 
She rummaged in a bureau, and presently she produced a 
photograph of a woman, shamefully defaced and mutilated with 
a knife. ' That is my own photograph,' she said. ' He sent it to 
me in that state, with his curse, upon my wedding morning.' 

" 'Well,' said I, ' at least he has forgiven you now, since he has 
left all his property to your son.' 

: ' Neither my son nor I want anything from Jonas Oldacre, 
dead or alive! ' she cried, with a proper spirit. ' There is a God 
in Heaven, Mr. Holmes, and that same God who has punished 
that wicked man will show, in His own good time, that my 
son's hands are guiltless of his blood.' 

" Well, I tried one or two leads, but could get at nothing which 
would help our hypothesis, and several points which would make 
against it. I gave it up at last, and off I went to Norwood. 

"This place, Deep Dene House, is a big modern villa of 



46 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

staring brick, standing back in its own grounds, with a laurel- 
clumped lawn in front of it. To the right and some distance 
back from the road was the timber-yard which had been the 
scene of the fire. Here's a rough plan on a leaf of my note- 
book. This window on the left is the one which opens into 
Oldacre's room. You can look into it from the road, you see. 
That is about the only bit of consolation I have had to-day. 
Lestrade was not there, but his head constable did the honours. 
They had just found a great treasure-trove. They had spent 
the morning raking among the ashes of the burned wood-pile, 
and besides the charred organic remains they had secured 
several discoloured metal discs. I examined them with care, 
and there was no doubt that they were trouser buttons. I 
even distinguished that one of them was marked with the 
name of ' Hyams,' who was Oldacre's tailor. I then worked 
the lawn very carefully for signs and traces, but this drought 
has made everything as hard as iron. Nothing was to be seen 
save that some body or bundle had been dragged through a 
low privet hedge which is in a line with the wood-pile. All 
that, of course, fits in with the official theory. I crawled about 
the lawn with an August sun on my back, but I got up at the 
end of an hour no wiser than before. 

" Well, after this fiasco I went into the bedroom and exam- 
ined that also. The blood-stains were very slight, mere smears 
and discolorations, but undoubtedly fresh. The stick had been 
removed, but there also the marks were slight. There is no 
doubt about the stick belonging to our client. He admits it. 
Footmarks of both men could be made out on the carpet, but 
none of any third person, which again is a trick for the other 
side. They were piling up their score all the time, and we 
were at a standstill. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 47 

" Only on little gleam of hope did I get and yet it amount- 
ed to nothing. I examined the contents of the safe, most of 
which had been taken out and left on the table. The papers 
had been made up into sealed envelopes, one or two of which 
had been opened by the police. They were not, so far as I 
could judge, of any great value, nor did the bank-book show 
that Mr. Oldacre was in such very affluent circumstances. 
But it seemed to me that all the papers were not there. There 
were allusions to some deeds possibly the more valuable 
which I could not find. This, of course, if we could definitely 
prove it, would turn Lestrade's argument against himself; for 
who would steal a thing if he knew that he would shortly in- 
herit it? 

" Finally, having drawn every other cover and picked up no 
scent, I tried my luck with the housekeeper. Mrs. Lexington 
is her name a little, dark, silent person, with suspicious and 
sidelong eyes. She could tell us something if she would I 
am convinced of it. But she was as close as wax. Yes, she 
had let Mr. McFarlane in at half-past nine. She wished her 
hand had withered before she had done so. She had gone to 
bed at half -past ten. Her room was at the other end of the 
house, and she could hear nothing of what passed. Mr. Mc- 
Farlane had left his hat, and to the best of her belief his stick, 
in the hall. She had been awakened by the alarm of fire. Her 
poor, dear master had certainly been murdered. Had he any 
enemies ? Well, every man had enemies, but Mr. Oldacre kept 
himself very much to himself, and only met people in the way 
of business. She had seen the buttons, and was sure that they 
belonged to the clothes which he had worn last night. The 
wood-pile was very dry, for it had not rained for a month. It 
burned like tinder, and by the time she reached the spot, noth- 



48 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

ing could be seen but flames. She and all the firemen smelled 
the burned flesh from inside it. She knew nothing of the 
papers, nor of Mr. Oldacre's private affairs. 

" So, my dear Watson, there's my report of a failure. And 
yet and yet " he clenched his thin hands in a par- 
oxysm of conviction "I know it's all wrong. I feel it in my 
bones. There is something that has not come out, and that 
housekeeper knows it. There was a sort of sulky defiance in 
her eyes, which only goes with guilty knowledge. However, 
there's no good talking any more about it, Watson ; but unless 
some lucky chance comes our way I fear that the Norwood 
Disappearance Case will not figure in that chronicle of our 
successes which I foresee that a patient public will sooner or 
later have to endure." 

" Surely," said I, " the man's appearance would go far with 
any jury ? " 

"That is a dangerous argument, my dear Watson. You 
remember that terrible murderer, Bert Stevens, who wanted 
us to get him off in '87 ? Was there ever a more mild-man- 
nered, Sunday-school young man ? " 

" It is true." 

"Unless we succeed in establishing an alternative theory, 
this man is lost. You can hardly find a flaw in the case which 
can now be presented against him, and all further investigation 
has served to strengthen it. By the way, there is one curious 
little point about those papers which may serve us as the start- 
ing-point for an inquiry. On looking over the bank-book I 
found that the low state of the balance was principally due to 
large cheques which have been made out during the last year to 
Mr. Cornelius. I confess that I should be interested to know 
who this Mr. Cornelius may be with whom a retired builder 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 49 

has such very large transactions. Is it possible that he has 
had a hand in the affair ? Cornelius might be a broker, but 
we have found no scrip to correspond with these large pay- 
ments. Failing any other indication, my researches must now 
take the direction of an inquiry at the bank for the gentleman 
who has cashed these cheques. But I fear my dear fellow, 
that our case will end ingloriously by Lestrade hanging our 
client, which will certainly be a triumph for Scotland Yard." 

I do not know how far Sherlock Holmes took any sleep that 
night, but when I came down to breakfast I found him pale and 
harassed, his bright eyes the brighter for the dark shadows 
round them. The carpet round his chair was littered with 
cigarette-ends and with the early editions of the morning papers. 
An open telegram lay upon the table. 

" What do you think of this, Watson ? " he asked, tossing it 
across. 

It was from Norwood, and ran as follows : 

"IMPORTANT FRESH EVIDENCE TO HAND. MCFARLANE'S 
GUILT DEFINITELY ESTABLISHED. ADVISE YOU TO ABANDON 
CASE. LESTRADE." 

"This sounds serious," said I. 

"It is Lestrade's little cock-a-doodle of victory," Holmes 
answered, with a bitter smile. " And yet it may be premature 
to abandon the case. After all, important fresh evidence is a 
two-edged thing, and may possibly cut in a very different direc- 
tion to that which Lestrade imagines. Take your breakfast, 
Watson, and we will go out together and see what we can do. 
I feel as if I shall need your company and your moral support 
to-day." 

My friend had no breakfast himself, for it was one of his 
peculiarities that in his more intense moments he would permit 



50 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

himself no food, and I have known him presume upon his iron 
strength until he has fainted from pure inanition. " At present 
I cannot spare energy and nerve force for digestion," he would 
say in answer to my medical remonstrances. I was not sur- 
prised, therefore, when this morning he left his untouched meal 
behind him, and started with me for Norwood. A crowd of 
morbid sightseers were still gathered round Deep Dene House, 
which was just such a suburban villa as I had pictured. With- 
in the gates Lestrade met us, his face flushed with victory, his 
manner grossly triumphant. 

" Well, Mr. Holmes, have you proved us to be wrong yet ? 
Have you found your tramp ? " he cried. 

"I have formed no conclusion whatever," my companion 
answered. 

"But we formed ours yesterday, and now it proves to be 
correct, so you must acknowledge that we have been a little in 
front of you this time, Mr. Holmes." 

"You certainly have the air of something unusual having 
occurred," said Holmes. 

Lestrade laughed loudly. 

" You don't like being beaten any more than the rest of us 
do," said he. " A man can't expect always to have it his own 
way, can he, Dr. Watson ? Step this way, if you please, gentle- 
men, and I think I can convince you once for all that it was 
John McFarlane who did this crime." 

He led us through the passage and out into a dark hall 
beyond. 

" This is where young McFarlane must have come out to get 
his hat after the crime was done," said he. "Now look at 
this." With dramatic suddenness he struck a match, and by 
its light exposed a stain of blood upon the whitewashed wall. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 51 

As he held the match nearer, I saw that it was more than a stain. 
It was the well-marked print of a thumb. 

" Look at that with your magnifying glass, Mr. Holmes." 

" Yes, I am doing so." 

" You are aware that no two thumb-marks are alike ? " 

" I have heard something of the kind." 

"Well, then, will you please compare that print with this 
wax impression of young McFarlane's right thumb, taken by 
my orders this morning ? " 

As he held the waxen print close to the blood-stain, it did not 
take a magnifying glass to see that the two were undoubtedly 
from the same thumb. It was evident to me that our unfor- 
tunate client was lost. 

" That is final," said Lestrade. 

"Yes, that is final," I involuntarily echoed. 

" It is final," said Holmes. 

Something in his tone caught my ear, and I turned to look at 
him. An extraordinary change had come over his face. It 
was writhing with inward merriment. His two eyes were shin- 
ing like stars. It seemed to me that he was making desperate 
efforts to restrain a convulsive attack of laughter. 

"Dear me! Dear me!" he said at last. "Well, now, who 
would have thought it ? And how deceptive appearances may 
be, to be sure ! Such a nice young man to look at ! It is a les- 
son to us not to trust our own judgment, is it not, Lestrade ? " 

" Yes, some of us are a little too much inclined to be cock- 
sure, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade. The man's insolence was 
maddening, but we could not resent it. 

"What a providential thing that this young man should 
press his right thumb against the wall in taking his hat from 
the peg ! Such a very natural action, too, if you come to think 



52 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

of it." Holmes was outwardly calm, but his whole body gave 
a wriggle of suppressed excitement as he spoke. " By the way, 
Lestrade, who made this remarkable discovery ? " 

"It was the housekeeper, Mrs. Lexington, who drew the 
night constable's attention to it." 

" Where was the night constable ? " 

"He remained on guard in the bedroom where the crime 
was committed, so as to see that nothing was touched." 

" But why didn't the police see this mark yesterday ? " 

" Well, we had no particular reason to make a careful exam- 
ination of the hall. Besides, it's not in a very prominent place, 
as you see." 

" No, no of course not. I suppose there is no doubt that 
the mark was there yesterday ? " 

Lestrade looked at Holmes as if he thought he was going out 
of his mind. I confess that I was myself surprised both at his 
hilarious manner and at his rather wild observation. 

" I don't know whether you think that McFarlane came out 
of gaol in the dead of the night in order to strengthen the evi- 
dence against himself," said Lestrade. " I leave it to any ex- 
pert in the world whether that is not the mark of his thumb." 

" It is unquestionably the mark of his thumb." 

"There, that's enough," said Lestrade. "I am a practical 
man, Mr. Holmes, and when I have got my evidence I come to 
my conclusions. If you have anything to say, you will find me 
writing my report in the sitting-room." 

Holmes had recovered his equanimity, though I still seemed 
to detect gleams of amusement in his expression. 

" Dear me, this is a very sad development, Watson, is it not ? " 
said he. "And yet there are singular points about it which 
hold out some hopes for our client." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 53 

" I am delighted to hear it," said I, heartily. " I was afraid 
it was all up with him." 

" I would hardly go so far as to say that, my dear Watson. 
The fact is that there is one really serious flaw in this evidence 
to which our friend attaches so much importance." 

" Indeed, Holmes ! What is it ? " 

" Only this : that I know that that mark was not there when 
I examined the hall yesterday. And now, Watson, let us have 
a little stroll round in the sunshine." 

With a confused brain, but with a heart into which some 
warmth of hope was returning, I accompanied my friend in a 
walk round the garden. Holmes took each face of the house 
in turn, and examined it with great interest. He then led the 
way inside, and went over the whole building from basement 
to attic. Most of the rooms were unfurnished, but none 
the less Holmes inspected them all minutely. Finally, on the 
top corridor, which ran outside three untenanted bedrooms, 
he again was seized with a spasm of merriment. 

" There are really some very unique features about this case, 
Watson," said he. "I think it is time now that we took our 
friend Lestrade into our confidence. He has had his little 
smile at our expense, and perhaps we may do as much by him, 
if my reading of this problem proves to be correct. Yes, yes, 
I think I see how we should approach it." 

The Scotland Yard inspector was still writing in the parlour 
when Holmes interrupted him. 

" I understood that you were writing a report of this case," 
said he. 

"So I am." 

" Don't you think it may be a little premature ? I can't help 
thinking that your evidence is not complete." 



54 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Lestrade knew my friend too well to disregard his words. 
He laid down his pen and looked curiously at him. 

" What do you mean, Mr. Holmes ? " 

"Only that there is an important witness whom you have 
not seen." 

" Can you produce him ? " 

"I think I can." 

"Then do so." 

" I will do my best. How many constables have you ? " 

" There are three within call." 

" Excellent ! " said Holmes. " May I ask if they are all large, 
able-bodied men with powerful voices ? " 

"I have no doubt they are, though I fail to see what their 
voices have to do with it." 

"Perhaps I can help you to see that and one or two other 
things as well," said Holmes. "Kindly summon your men, 
and I will try." 

Five minutes later, three policemen had assembled in the hall. 

"In the outhouse you will find a considerable quantity of 
straw," said Holmes. " I will ask you to carry in two bundles 
of it. I think it will be of the greatest assistance in producing 
the witness whom I require. Thank you very much. I believe 
you have some matches in your pocket, Watson. Now, Mr. Lest- 
rade, I will ask you all to accompany me to the top landing." 

As I have said, there was a broad corridor there, which ran 
outside three empty bedrooms. At one end of the corridor we 
were all marshalled by Sherlock Holmes, the constables grin- 
ning and Lestrade staring at my friend with amazement, ex- 
pectation, and derision chasing each other across his features. 
Holmes stood before us with the air of a conjurer who is per- 
forming a trick. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 55 

"Would you kindly send one of your constables for two 
buckets of water? Put the straw on the floor here, free 
from the wall on either side. Now I think that we are all 
ready." 

Lestrade's face had begun to grow red and angry. 

" I don't know whether you are playing a game with us, Mr. 
Sherlock Holmes," said he. " If you know anything, you can 
surely say it without all this tomfoolery." 

"I assure you, my good Lestrade, that I have an excellent 
reason for everything that I do. You may possibly remember 
that you chaffed me a little, some hours ago, when the sun 
seemed on your side of the hedge, so you must not grudge me 
a little pomp and ceremony now. Might I ask you, Watson, 
to open that window, and then to put a match to the edge of 
the straw ? " 

I did so, and driven by the draught, a coil of grey smoke 
swirled down the corridor, while the dry straw crackled and 
flamed. 

" Now we must see if we can find this witness for you, Les- 
trade. Might I ask you all to join in the cry of ' Fire ! ' ? Now, 
then; one, two, three " 

"Fire! "we all yelled. 

" Thank you. I will trouble you once again." 

"Fire!" 

" Just once more, gentlemen, and all together." 

" Fire ! " The shout must have rung over Norwood. 

It had hardly died away when an amazing thing happened. 
A door suddenly flew open out of what appeared to be solid 
wall at the end of the corridor, and a little, wizened man darted 
out of it, like a rabbit out of its burrow. 

"Capital!" said Holmes, calmly. "Watson, a bucket of 



56 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

water over the straw. That will do ! Lestrade, allow me to 
present you with your principal missing witness, Mr. Jonas 
Oldacre." 

The detective stared at the newcomer with blank amaze- 
ment. The latter was blinking in the bright light of the cor- 
ridor, and peering at us and at the smouldering fire. It was 
an odious face crafty, vicious, malignant, with shifty, light- 
grey eyes and white lashes. 

"What's this, then?" said Lestrade, at last. "What have 
you been doing all this time, eh ? " 

Oldacre gave an uneasy laugh, shrinking back from the furi- 
ous red face of the angry detective. 

" I have done no harm." 

" No harm ? You have done your best to get an innocent 
man hanged. If it wasn't for this gentleman here, I am not 
sure that you would not have succeeded." 

The wretched creature began to whimper. 

" I am sure, sir, it was only my practical joke." 

" Oh ! a joke, was it ? You won't find the laugh on your 
side, I promise you. Take him down, and keep him in the 
sitting-room until I come. Mr. Holmes," he continued, when 
they had gone, " I could not speak before the constables, but I 
don't mind saying, in the presence of Dr. Watson, that this is 
the brightest thing that you have done yet, though it is a mys- 
tery to me how you did it. You have saved an innocent man's 
life, and you have prevented a very grave scandal, which would 
have ruined my reputation in the Force." 

Holmes smiled, and clapped Lestrade upon the shoulder. 

"Instead of being ruined, my good sir, you will find that 
your reputation has been enormously enhanced. Just make a 
few alterations in that report which you were writing, and they 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 57 

will understand how hard it is to throw dust in the eyes of 
Inspector Lestrade." 

" And you don't want your name to appear ? " 

" Not at all. The work is its own reward. Perhaps I shall 
get the credit also at some distant day, when I permit my zealous 
historian to lay out his foolscap once more eh, Watson ? 
Well, now, let us see where this rat has been lurking." 

A lath-and-plaster partition had been run across the passage 
six feet from the end, with a door cunningly concealed in it. 
It was lit within by slits under the eaves. A few articles of 
furniture and a supply of food and water were within, together 
with a number of books and papers. 

"There's the advantage of being a builder," said Holmes, 
as we came out. " He was able to fix up his own little hiding- 
place without any confederate save, of course, that precious 
housekeeper of his, whom I should lose no time in adding to 
your bag, Lestrade." 

" I'll take your advice. But how did you know of this place, 
Mr. Holmes ? " 

"I made up my mind that the fellow was in hiding in the 
house. When I paced one corridor and found it six feet shorter 
than the corresponding one below, it was pretty clear where 
he was. I thought he had not the nerve to lie quiet before an 
alarm of fire We could, of course, have gone in and taken him, 
but it amused me to make him reveal himself, besides, I owed 
you a little mystification, Lestrade, for your chaff in the morn- 
ing." 

"Well, sir, you certainly got equal with me on that. But 
how in the world did you know that he was in the house at all ? " 

" The thumb-mark, Lestrade. You said it was final ; and so 
it was, in a very different sense. I knew it had not been there 



58 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

the day before. I pay a good deal of attention to matters of 
detail, as you may have observed, and I had examined the hall, 
and was sure that the wall was clear. Therefore, it had been 
put on during the night." 

"But how?" 

"Very simply. When those packets were sealed up, Jonas 
Oldacre got McFarlane to secure one of the seals by putting 
his thumb upon the soft wax. It would be done so quickly and 
so naturally, that I dare say the young man himself has no recol- 
lection of it. Very likely it just so happened, and Oldacre had 
himself no notion of the use he would put it to. Brooding over 
the case in that den of his, it suddenly struck him what abso- 
lutely damning evidence he could make against McFarlane by 
using that thumb-mark. It was the simplest thing in the 
world for him to take a wax impression from the seal, to moisten 
it in as much blood as he could get from a pin-prick, and to 
put the mark upon the wall during the night, either with his 
own hand or with that of his housekeeper. If you examine 
among those documents which he took with him into his retreat, 
I will lay you a wager that you find the seal with the thumb- 
mark upon it." 

" Wonderful ! " said Lestrade. " Wonderful ! It's all as clear 
as crystal, as you put it. But what is the object of this deep 
deception, Mr. Holmes ? " 

It was amusing to me to see how the detective's overbearing 
manner had changed suddenly to that of a child asking ques- 
tions of its teacher. 

"Well, I don't think that is very hard to explain. A very 
deep, malicious, vindictive person is the gentleman who is now 
waiting us downstairs. You know that he was once refused by 
McFarlane's mother ? You don't ! I told you that you should 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER 59 

go to Blackheath first and Norwood afterwards. Well, this 
injury, as he would consider it, has rankled in his wicked, 
scheming brain, and all his life he has longed for vengeance, 
but never seen his chance. During the last year or two, things 
have gone against him secret speculation, I think and 
he finds himself in a bad way. He determines to swindle 
his creditors, and for this purpose he pays large cheques 
to a certain Mr. Cornelius, who is, I imagine, himself 
under another name. I have not traced these cheques 
yet, but I have no doubt that they were banked under that 
name at some provincial town where Oldacre from time to 
time led a double existence. He intended to change his 
name altogether, draw this money, and vanish, starting life 
again elsewhere." 

"Well, that's likely enough." 

" It would strike him that in disappearing he might throw all 
pursuit off his track, and at the same time have an ample and 
crushing revenge upon his old sweetheart, if he could give the 
impression that he had been murdered by her only child. It 
was a masterpiece of villainy, and he carried it out like a master. 
The idea of the will, which would give an obvious motive for 
the crime, the secret visit unknown to his own parents, the re- 
tention of the stick, the blood, and the animal remains and but- 
tons in the wood-pile, all were admirable. It was a net from 
which it seemed to me, a few hours ago, that there was no pos- 
sible escape. But he had not that supreme gift of the artist, 
the knowledge of when to stop. He wished to improve that 
which was already perfect to draw the rope tighter yet round 
the neck of his unfortunate victim and so he ruined all. Let 
us descend, Lestrade. There are just one or two questions 
that I would ask him." 



60 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

The malignant creature was seated in his own parlour, with 
a policeman upon each side of him. 

" It was a joke, my good sir a practical joke, nothing more," 
he whined incessantly. " I assure you, sir, that I simply con- 
cealed myself in order to see the effect of my disappearance, 
and I am sure that you would not be so unjust as to imagine 
that I would have allowed any harm to befall poor young Mr. 
McFarlane." 

"That's for a jury to decide," said Lestrade. "Anyhow, 
we shall have you on a charge of conspiracy, if not for attempt- 
ed murder." 

"And you'll probably find that your creditors will impound 
the banking account of Mr. Cornelius," said Holmes. 

The little man started, and turned his malignant eyes upon 
my friend. 

" I have to thank you for a good deal," said he. " Perhaps 
I'll pay my debt some day." 

Holmes smiled indulgently. 

" I fancy that, for some few years, you will find your time very 
fully occupied," said he. "By the way, what was it you put 
into the wood-pile besides your old trousers ? A dead dog, 
or rabbits, or what ? You won't tell ? Dear me, how very un- 
kind of you! Well, well, I dare say that a couple of rabbits 
would account both for the blood and for the charred ashes. 
If ever you write an account, Watson, you can make rabbits 
serve your turn." 



Ill 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE DANCING MEN 

1J.OLMES had been seated for some hours in silence with 
his long, thin back curved over a chemical vessel in which 
he was brewing a particularly malodorous product. His head 1 
was sunk upon his breast, and he looked from my point of 
view like a strange, lank bird, with dull grey plumage and a 
black top-knot. 

"So, Watson," said he, suddenly, "you do not propose to 
invest in South African securities ? " 

I gave a start of astonishment. Accustomed as I was to 
Holmes' curious faculties, this sudden intrusion into my most 
intimate thoughts was utterly inexplicable. 

" How on earth do you know that ? " I asked. 

He wheeled round upon his stool, with a steaming test-tube 
in his hand, and a gleam of amusement in his deep-set eyes. 

" Now,Watson, confess yourself utterly taken aback," said he. 

" I am." 

" I ought to make you sign a paper to that effect." 

"Why?" 

" Because in five minutes you will say that it is all so absurdly 
simple." 



62 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" I am sure that I shall say nothing of the kind." 

"You see, my dear Watson" he propped his test-tube in 
the rack, and began to lecture with the air of a professor address- 
ing his class " it is not really difficult to construct a series of 
inferences, each dependent upon its predecessor and each sim- 
ple in itself. If, after doing so, one simply knocks out all the 
central inferences and presents one's audience with the starting- 
point and the conclusion, one may produce a startling, though 
possibly a meretricious, effect. Now, it was not really difficult, 
by an inspection of the groove between your left forefinger and 
thumb, to feel sure that you did not propose to invest your 
small capital in the goldfields." 

"I see no connection." 

" Very likely not ; but I can quickly show you a close 
connection. Here are the missing links of the very simple 
chain: 1. You had chalk between your left finger and 
thumb when you returned from the club last night. 2. You 
put chalk there when you play billiards to steady the cue. 
3. You never play billiards except with Thurston. 4. You 
told me, four weeks ago, that Thurston had an option on 
some South African property which would expire in a month, 
and which he desired you to share with him. 5. Your 
cheque-book is locked in my drawer, and you have not 
asked for the key. 6. You do not propose to invest your 
money in this manner." 

" How absurdly simple! " I cried. 

"Quite so!" said he, a little nettled. "Every problem be- 
comes very childish when once it is explained to you. Here is 
an unexplained one. See what you can make of that, friend 
Watson." He tossed a sheet of paper upon the table, and 
turned once more to his chemical analysis. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 63 

I looked with amazement at the absurd hieroglyphics upon 
the paper. 

" Why, Holmes, it is a child's drawing," I cried. 

"Oh, that's your idea!" 

" What else should it be ? " 

" That is what Mr. Hilton Cubitt, of Riding Thorpe Manor, 
Norfolk, is very anxious to know. This little conundrum came 
by the first post, and he was to follow by the next train. There's 
a ring at the bell, Watson. I should not be very much sur- 
prised if this were he." 

A heavy step was heard upon the stairs, and an instant later 
there entered a tall, ruddy, clean-shaven gentleman, whose 
clear eyes and florid cheeks told of a life led far from the fogs 
of Baker Street. He seemed to bring a whiff of his strong, 
fresh, bracing, east-coast air with him as he entered. Having 
shaken hands with each of us, he was about to sit down, when , 
his eye rested upon the paper with the curious markings, which 
I had just examined and left upon the table. 

" Well, Mr. Holmes, what do you make of these ? " he cried. 
" They told me that you were fond of queer mysteries, and I don't 
think you can find a queerer one than that. I sent the paper on 
ahead, so that you might have time to study it before I came." 

"It is certainly rather a curious production," said Holmes. 
" At first sight it would appear to be some childish prank. It 
consists of a number of absurd little figures dancing across the 
paper upon which they are drawn. Why should you attribute 
any importance to so grotesque an object ? " 

" I never should, Mr. Holmes. But my wife does. It is 
frightening her to death. She says nothing, but I can see 
terror in her eyes. That's why I want to sift the matter to the 
bottom." 



64 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Holmes held up the paper so that the sunlight shone full upon 
it. It was a page torn from a note-book. The markings were 
done in pencil, and ran in this way: 




Holmes examined it for some time, and then, folding it care- 
fully up, he placed it in his pocket-book. 

" This promises to be a most interesting and unusual case," 
said he. " You gave me a few particulars in your letter, Mr. 
Hilton Cubitt, but I should be very much obliged if you would 
kindly go over it all again for the benefit of my friend, Dr. 
Watson." 

" I'm not much of a story-teller," said our visitor, nervously 
clasping and unclasping his great, strong hands. " You'll just 
ask me anything that I don't make clear. I'll begin at the 
time of my marriage last year, but I want to say first of all that, 
though I'm not a rich man, my people have been at Riding 
Thorpe for a matter of five centuries, and there is no better- 
known family in the County of Norfolk. Last year I came up 
to London for the Jubilee, and I stopped at a boarding-house in 
Russell Square, because Parker, the vicar of our parish, was 
staying in it. There was an American young lady there 
Patrick was the name Elsie Patrick. In some way we be- 
came friends, until before my month was up I was as much in 
love as man could be. We were quietly married at a registry 
office, and we returned to Norfolk a wedded couple. You'll 
think it very mad, Mr. Holmes, that a man of a good old family 
should marry a wife in this fashion, knowing nothing of her 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 65 

past or of her people, but if you saw her and knew her, it 
would help you to understand. 

"She was very straight about it, was Elsie. I can't say 
that she did not give me every chance of getting out of it if I 
wished to do so. * I have had some very disagreeable associa- 
tions in my life,' said she, ' I wish to forget all about them. I 
would rather never allude to the past, for it is very painful to 
me. If you take me, Hilton, you will take a woman who has 
nothing that she need be personally ashamed of; but you will 
have to be content with my word for it, and to allow me to be 
silent as to all that passed up to the time when I became yours. 
If these conditions are too hard, then go back to Norfolk, and 
leave me to the lonely life in which you found me.' It was only 
the day before our wedding that she said those very words to 
me. I told her that I was content to take her on her own 
terms, and I have been as good as my word. 

" Well, we have been married now for a year, and very happy 
we have been. But about a month ago, at the end of June, I 
saw for the first time signs of trouble. One day my wife re- 
ceived a letter from America. I saw the American stamp. She 
turned deadly white, read the letter, and threw it into the fire. 
She made no allusion to it afterwards, and I made none, for a 
promise is a promise, but she has never known an easy hour 
from that moment. There is always a look of fear upon her 
face a look as if she were waiting and expecting. She 
would do better to trust me. She would find that I was her 
best friend. But until she speaks, I can say nothing. Mind 
you, she is a truthful woman, Mr. Holmes, and whatever trou- 
ble there may have been in her past life it has been no fault of 
hers. I am only a simple Norfolk squire, but there is not a 
man in England who ranks his family honour more highly than 



66 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

I do. She knows it well, and she knew it well before she mar- 
ried me. She would never bring any stain upon it of that I 
am sure. 

" Well, now I come to the queer part of my story. About a 
week ago it was the Tuesday of last week I found on one 
of the window-sills a number of absurd little dancing figures 
like these upon the paper. They were scrawled with chalk. 
I thought that it was the stable-boy who had drawn them, but 
the lad swore he knew nothing about it. Anyhow, they had 
come there during the night. I had them washed out, and I 
only mentioned the matter to my wife afterwards. To my sur- 
prise, she took it very seriously, and begged me if any more came 
to let her see them. None did come for a week, and then yester- 
day morning I found this paper lying on the sun-dial in the 
garden. I showed it to Elsie, and down she dropped in a dead 
faint. Since then she has looked like a woman in a dream, 
half dazed, and with terror always lurking in her eyes. It was 
then that I wrote and sent the paper to you, Mr. Holmes. It 
was not a thing that I could take to the police, for they would 
have laughed at me, but you will tell me what to do. I am not 
a rich man, but if there is any danger threatening my little 
woman, I would spend my last copper to shield her." 

He was a fine creature, this man of the old English soil sim- 
ple, straight, and gentle, with his great, earnest blue eyes and 
broad, comely face. His love for his wife and his trust in her 
shone in his features. Holmes had listened to his story with 
the utmost attention, and now he sat for some time in silent 
thought. 

"Don't you think, Mr. Cubitt," said he, at last, "that your 
best plan would be to make a direct appeal to your wife, and 
to ask her to share her secret with you ? " 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 67 

Hilton Cubitt shook his massive head. 

"A promise is a promise, Mr. Holmes. If Elsie wished to 
tell me she would. If not, it is not for me to force her con- 
fidence. But I am justified in taking my own line and I 
will." 

" Then I will help you with all my heart. In the first place, 
have you heard of any strangers being seen in your neighbour- 
hood?" 

"No." 

"I presume that it is a very quiet place. Any fresh face 
would cause comment ? " 

" In the immediate neighbourhood, yes. But we have several 
small watering-places not very far away. And the farmers 
take in lodgers." 

"These hieroglyphics have evidently a meaning. If it is 
a purely arbitrary one, it may be impossible for us to solve it. 
If, on the other hand, it is systematic, I have no doubt that we 
shall get to the bottom of it. But this particular sample is 
so short that I can do nothing, and the facts which you have 
brought me are so indefinite that we have no basis for an in- 
vestigation. I would suggest that you return to Norfolk, that 
you keep a keen look-out, and that you take an exact copy of 
any fresh dancing men which may appear. It is a thousand 
pities that we have not a reproduction of those which were done 
in chalk upon the window-sill. Make a discreet inquiry also 
as to any strangers in the neighbourhood. When you have 
collected some fresh evidence, come to me again. That is the 
best advice which I can give you, Mr. Hilton Cubitt. If there 
are any pressing fresh developments, I shall be always ready to 
run down and see you in your Norfolk home." 

The interview left Sherlock Holmes very thoughtful, and 



68 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

several times in the next few days I saw him take his slip of 
paper from his note-book and look long and earnestly at the 
curious figures inscribed upon it. He made no allusion to the 
affair, however, until one afternoon a fortnight or so later. I 
was going out when he called me back. 

" You had better stay here, Watson." 

"Why?" 

" Because I had a wire from Hilton Cubitt this morning. 
You remember Hilton Cubitt, of the dancing men ? He was to 
reach Liverpool Street at one-twenty. He may be here at any 
moment. I gather from his wire that there have been some 
new incidents of importance." 

We had not long to wait, for our Norfolk squire came straight 
from the station as fast as a hansom could bring him. He was 
looking worried and depressed, with tired eyes and a lined fore- 
head. 

" It's getting on my nerves, this business, Mr. Holmes," said 
he, as he sank, like a wearied man, into an armchair. " It's 
bad enough to feel that you are surrounded by unseen, unknown 
folk, who have some kind of design upon you, but when, in 
addition to that, you know that it is just killing your wife by 
inches, then it becomes as much as flesh and blood can endure. 
She's wearing away under it just wearing away before my 
eyes." 

" Has she said anything yet ? " 

"No, Mr. Holmes, she has not. And yet there have been 
times when the poor girl has wanted to speak, and yet could not 
quite bring herself to take the plunge. I have tried to help 
her, but I dare say I did it clumsily, and scared her from it. 
She has spoken about my old family, and our reputation in the 
county, and our pride in our unsullied honour, and I always 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 60 

felt it was leading to the point, but somehow it turned off before 
we got there." 

" But you have found out something for yourself ? " 

"A good deal, Mr. Holmes. I have several fresh dancing- 
men pictures for you to examine, and, what is more important, 
I have seen the fellow." 

" What, the man who draws them ? " 

"Yes, I saw him at his work. But I will tell you every- 
thing in order. When I got back after my visit to you, the very 
first thing I saw next morning was a fresh crop of dancing men. 
They had been drawn in chalk upon the black wooden door of 
the tool-house, which stands beside the lawn in full view of the 
front windows. I took an exact copy, and here it is." He 
unfolded a paper and laid it upon the table. Here is a copy of 
the hieroglyphics: 



" Excellent !" said Holmes. "Excellent! Pray continue." 
" When I had taken the copy, I rubbed out the marks, but, 

two mornings later, a fresh inscription had appeared. I have a 

copy of it here " : 



Holmes rubbed his hands and chuckled with delight. 

" Our material is rapidly accumulating," said he. 

" Three days later a message was left scrawled upon paper, 
and placed under a pebble upon the sun-dial. Here it is. The 
characters are, as you see, exactly the same as the last one. 
After that I determined to lie in wait, so I got out my revolver 
and I sat up in my study, which overlooks the lawn and garden. 



70 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

About two in the morning I was seated by the window, all being 
dark save for the moonlight outside, when I heard steps behind 
me, and there was my wife in her dressing-gown. She implored 
me to come to bed. I told her frankly that I wished to see who 
it was who played such absurd tricks upon us. She answered 
that it was some senseless practical joke, and that I should not 
take any notice of it. 

" ' If it really annoys you, Hilton, we might go and travel, 
you and I, and so avoid this nuisance.' 

" 'What, be driven out of our own house by a practical 
joker ? ' said I. ' Why, we should have the whole county laugh- 
ing at us.' 

" ' Well, come to bed,' said she, * and we can discuss it in the 
morning.' 

" Suddenly, as she spoke, I saw her white face grow whiter 
yet in the moonlight, and her hand tightened upon my shoulder. 
Something was moving in the shadow of the tool-house. I saw 
a dark, creeping figure which crawled round the corner and 
squatted in front of the door. Seizing my pistol, I was rushing 
out, when my wife threw her arms round me and held me with 
convulsive strength. I tried to throw her off, but she clung to 
me most desperately. At last I got clear, but by the time I had 
opened the door and reached the house the creature was gohe. 
He had left a trace of his presence, however, for there on the 
door was the very same arrangement of dancing men which had 
already twice appeared, and which I have copied on that paper. 
There was no other sign of the fellow anywhere, though I ran 
all over the grounds. And yet the amazing thing is that he 
must have been there all the time, for when I examined the 
door again in the morning he had scrawled some more of his 
pictures under the line which I had already seen." 




" T H R K K DAYS LATER A M E S S A Ci K WAS LEFT I" X D E R A P K B B L E 

CPOV THE sux -DIAL'' 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 71 

" Have you that fresh drawing ? " 

" Yes, it is very short, but I made a copy of it, and here it is." 
Again he produced a paper. The new dance was in this 
form: 

XXiTf- 

" Tell me," said Holmes and I could see by his eyes that 
he was much excited " was this a mere addition to the first, 
or did it appear to be entirely separate ? " 

" It was on a different panel of the door." 

"Excellent! This is far the most important of all for our 
purpose. It fills me with hopes. Now, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, 
please continue your most interesting statement." 

" I have nothing more to say, Mr. Holmes, except that I was 
angry with my wife that night for having held me back when I 
might have caught the skulking rascal. She said that she 
feared that I might come to harm. For an instant it had crossed 
my mind that perhaps what she really feared was that he 
might come to harm, for I could not doubt that she knew who 
this man was, and what he meant by these strange signals. But 
there is a tone in my wife's voice, Mr. Holmes, and a look in 
her eyes which forbid doubt, and I am sure that it was 
indeed my own safety that was in her mind. There's the 
whole case, and now I want your advice as to what I ought 
to do. My own inclination is to put half a dozen of my 
farm lads in the shrubbery, and when this fellow comes 
again to give him such a hiding that he will leave us in peace 
for the future." 

" I fear it is too deep a case for such simple remedies," said 
Holmes. " How long can you stay in London ? " 

" I must go back to-day. I would not leave my wife alone 



72 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

at night for anything. She is very nervous, and begged me to 
come back." 

" I dare say you are right. But if you could have stopped, 
I might possibly have been able to return with you in a day or 
two. Meanwhile you will leave me these papers, and I think 
that it is very likely that I shall be able to pay you a visit shortly 
and to throw some light upon your case." 

Sherlock Holmes preserved his calm professional manner 
until our visitor had left us, although it was easy for me, who 
knew him so well, to see that he was profoundly excited. The 
moment that Hilton Cubitt's broad back had disappeared 
through the door my comrade rushed to the table, laid out all 
the slips of paper containing dancing men in front of him, and 
threw himself into an intricate and elaborate calculation. For 
two hours I watched him as he covered sheet after sheet of 
paper with figures and letters, so completely absorbed in his 
task that he had evidently forgotten my presence. Sometimes 
he was making progress and whistled and sang at his work; 
sometimes he was puzzled, and would sit for long spells with 
a furrowed brow and a vacant eye. Finally he sprang from 
his chair with a cry of satisfaction, and walked up and down 
the room rubbing his hands together Then he wrote a long 
telegram upon a cable form. "If my answer to this is as I 
hope, you will have a very pretty case to add to your collection, 
Watson," said he. " I expect that we shall be able to go down 
to Norfolk to-morrow, and to take our friend some very definite 
news as to the secret of his annoyance." 

I confess that I was filled with curiosity, but I was aware 
that Holmes liked to make his disclosures at his own time and 
in his own way, so I waited until it should suit him to take me 
into his confidence. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 78 

But there was a delay in that answering telegram, and two 
days of impatience followed, during which Holmes pricked up 
his ears at every ring of the bell. On the evening of the second 
there came a letter from Hilton Cubitt. All was quiet with 
him, save that a long inscription had appeared that morning 
upon the pedestal of the sun-dial. He inclosed a copy of it, 
which is here reproduced : 



Holmes bent over this grotesque frieze for some minutes, and 
then suddenly sprang to his feet with an exclamation of sur- 
prise and dismay. His face was haggard with anxiety. 

" We have let this affair go far enough," said he. " Is there 
a train to North Walsham to-night ? " 

I turned up the time-table. The last had just gone. 

" Then we shall breakfast early and take the very first in the 
morning," said Holmes. "Our presence is most urgently 
needed. Ah ! here is our expected cablegram. One moment, 
Mrs. Hudson, there may be an answer. No, that is quite as I 
expected. This message makes it even more essential that we 
should not lose an hour in letting Hilton Cubitt know how 
matters stand, for it is a singular and a dangerous web in which 
our simple Norfolk squire is entangled." 

So, indeed, it proved, and as I come to the dark conclusion 
of a story which had seemed to me to be only childish and bi- 
zarre, I experience once again the dismay and horror with which 
I was filled. Would that I had some brighter ending to com- 
municate to my readers, but these are the chronicles of fact, 
and I must follow to their dark crisis the strange chain of events 



74 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

which for some days made Riding Thorpe Manor a household 
word through the length and breadth of England. 

We had hardly alighted at North Walsham, and mentioned 
the name of our destination, when the station-master hurried 
towards us. " I suppose that you are the detectives from Lon- 
don ? " said he. 

A look of annoyance passed over Holmes' face. 

" What makes you think such a thing ? " 

"Because Inspector Martin from Norwich has just passed 
through. But maybe you are the surgeons. She's not dead 
or wasn't by last accounts. You may be in time to save her 
yet though it be for the gallows." 

Holmes' brow was dark with anxiety. 

"We are going to Riding Thorpe Manor," said he, "but we 
have heard nothing of what has passed there." 

" It's a terrible business," said the station-master. " They 
are shot, both Mr. Hilton Cubitt and his wife. She shot him 
and then herself so the servants say. He's dead and her 
life is despaired of. Dear, dear, one of the oldest families in 
the County of Norfolk, and one of the most honoured." 

Without a word Holmes hurried to a carriage, and during 
the long seven miles drive he never opened his mouth. Sel- 
dom have I seen him so utterly despondent. He had been 
uneasy during all our journey from town, and I had observed 
that he had turned over the morning papers with anxious atten- 
tion, but now this sudden realization of his worst fears left him 
in a blank melancholy. He leaned back in his seat, lost in 
gloomy speculation. Yet there was much around to interest 
us, for we were passing through as singular a country-side as 
any in England, where a few scattered cottages represented the 
population of to-day, while on every hand enormous square- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 75 

towered churches bristled up from the flat, green landscape 
and told of the glory and prosperity of old East Anglia. At 
last the violet rim of the German Ocean appeared over the 
green edge of the Norfolk coast, and the driver pointed with his 
whip to two old brick and timber gables which projected from 
a grove of trees. " That's Riding Thorpe Manor," said he. 

As we drove up to the porticoed front door, I observed in 
front of it, beside the tennis lawn, the black tool-house and the 
pedestalled sun-dial with which we had such strange associa- 
tions. A dapper little man, with a quick, alert manner and a 
waxed moustache, had just descended from a high dog-cart. 
He introduced himself as Inspector Martin, of the Norfolk 
Constabulary, and he was considerably astonished when he 
heard the name of my companion. 

" Why, Mr. Holmes, the crime was only committed at three 
this morning. How could you hear of it in London and get 
to the spot as soon as I ? " 

" I anticipated it. I came in the hope of preventing it." 

" Then you must have important evidence, of which we are 
ignorant, for they were said to be a most united couple." 

" I have only the evidence of the dancing men," said Holmes. 
" I will explain the matter to you later. Meanwhile, since it 
is too late to prevent this tragedy, I am very anxious that I 
should use the knowledge which I possess in order to insure 
that justice be done. Will you associate me in your investiga- 
tion, or will you prefer that I should act independently ? " 

" I should be proud to feel that we were acting together, Mr. 
Holmes," said the inspector, earnestly. 

" In that case I should be glad to hear the evidence and to 
examine the premises without an instant of unnecessary delay." 

Inspector Martin had the good sense to allow my friend to 



76 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

do things in his own fashion, and contented himself with care- 
fully noting the results. The local surgeon, an old, white- 
haired man, had just come down from Mrs. Hilton Cubitt's 
room, and he reported that her injuries were serious, but not 
necessarily fatal. The bullet had passed through the front 
of her brain, and it would probably be some time before she 
could regain consciousness. On the question of whether she 
had been shot or had shot herself, he would not venture to ex- 
press any decided opinion. Certainly the bullet had been dis- 
charged at very close quarters. There was only the one pistol 
found in the room, two barrels of which had been emptied. 
Mr. Hilton Cubitt had been shot through the heart. It was 
equally conceivable that he had shot her and then himself, or 
that she had been the criminal, for the revolver lay upon the 
floor midway between them. 

" Has he been moved ? " asked Holmes. 

"We have moved nothing except the lady. We could not 
leave her lying wounded upon the floor." 

" How long have you been here, doctor ? " 

" Since four o'clock." 

" Anyone else ? " 

"Yes, the constable here." 

" And you have touched nothing ? " 

"Nothing." 

" You have acted with great discretion. Who sent for you ? " 

" The housemaid, Saunders." 

" Was it she who gave the alarm ? " 

"She and Mrs. King, the cook." 

" Where are they now ? " 

" In the kitchen, I believe." 

" Then I think we had better hear their story at once." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 77 

The old hall, oak-panelled and high-windowed, had been 
turned into a court of investigation. Holmes sat in a great, 
old-fashioned chair, his inexorable eyes gleaming out of his 
haggard face. I could read in them a set purpose to devote his 
life to this quest until the client whom he had failed to save 
should at last be avenged. The trim Inspector Martin, the 
old, grey-headed country doctor, myself, and a stolid village 
policeman made up the rest of that strange company. 

The two women told their story clearly enough. They had 
been aroused from their sleep by the sound of an explosion, 
which had been followed a minute later by a second one. They 
slept in adjoining rooms, and Mrs. King had rushed in to Saun- 
ders. Together they had descended the stairs. The door of 
the study was open, and a candle was burning upon the table. 
Their master lay upon his face in the centre of the room. He 
was quite dead. Near the window his wife was crouching, her 
head leaning against the wall. She was horribly wounded, 
and the side of her face was red with blood. She breathed 
heavily, but was incapable of saying anything. The passage, 
as well as the room, was full of smoke and the smell of powder. 
The window was certainly shut and fastened upon the inside. 
Both women were positive upon the point. They had at once 
sent for the doctor and for the constable. Then, with the aid 
of the groom and the stable-boy, they had conveyed their in- 
jured mistress to her room. Both she and her husband had 
occupied the bed. She was clad in her dress he in his dress- 
ing gown, over his night-clothes. Nothing had been moved in 
the study. So far as they knew, there had never been any quar- 
rel between husband and wife. They had always looked upon 
them as a very united couple. 

These were the main points of the servants' evidence. In 



78 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

answer to Inspector Martin, they were clear that every door was 
fastened upon the inside, and that no one could have escaped 
from the house. In answer to Holmes, they both remembered 
that they were conscious of the smell of powder from the mo- 
ment that they ran out of their rooms upon the top floor. " I 
commend that fact very carefully to your attention," said 
Holmes to his professional colleague. " And now I think that 
we are in a position to undertake a thorough examination of 
the room." 

The study proved to be a small chamber, lined on three sides 
with books, and with a writing-table facing an ordinary win- 
dow, which looked out upon the garden. Our first attention 
was given to the body of the unfortunate squire, whose huge 
frame lay stretched across the room. His disordered dress 
showed that he had been hastily aroused from sleep. The 
bullet had been fired at him from the front, and had remained 
in his body after penetrating the heart. His death had cer- 
tainly been instantaneous and painless. There was no pow- 
der-marking either upon his dressing-gown or on his hands. 
According to the country surgeon, the lady had stains upon 
her face, but none upon her hand. 

" The absence of the latter means nothing, though its presence 
may mean everything," said Holmes. " Unless the powder from 
a badly fitting cartridge happens to spurt backwards, one may 
fire many shots without leaving a sign. I would suggest that 
Mr. Cubitt's body may now be removed. I suppose, Doctor, 
you have not recovered the bullet which wounded the lady ? " 

"A serious operation will be necessary before that can be 
done. But there are still four cartridges in the revolver. Two 
have been fired and two wounds inflicted, so that each bullet 
can be accounted for. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 79 

"So it would seem," said Holmes. "Perhaps you can 
account also for the bullet which has so obviously struck the 
edge of the window ? " 

He had turned suddenly, and his long, thin finger was pointing 
to a hole which had been drilled right through the lower win- 
dow-sash, about an inch above the bottom. 

" By George! " cried the inspector. " How ever did you see 
that?" 

" Because I looked for it." 

" Wonderful ! " said the country doctor. " You are certainly 
right, sir. Then a third shot has been fired, and therefore a 
third person must have been present. But who could that 
have been, and how could he have got away ? " 

"That is the problem which we are now about to solve," 
said Sherlock Holmes. "You remember, Inspector Martin, 
when the servants said that on leaving their room they were at 
once conscious of a smell of powder, I remarked that the point 
was an extremely important one ? " 

" Yes, sir; but I confess I did not quite follow you." 

" It suggested that at the time of the firing, the window as well 
as the door of the room had been open. Otherwise the fumes 
of powder could not have been blown so rapidly through the 
house. A draught in the room was necessary for that. Both 
door and window were only open for a very short time, how- 
ever." 

" How do you prove that ? " 

"Because the candle was not guttered." 

" Capital ! " cried the inspector. " Capital ! " 

" Feeling sure that the window had been open at the time of 
the tragedy, I conceived that there might have been a third per- 
son in the affair, who stood outside this opening and fired 



80 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

through it. Any shot directed at this person might hit the sash. 
I looked, and there, sure enough, was the bullet mark! " 

" But how came the window to be shut and fastened ? " 

" The woman's first instinct would be to shut and fasten the 
window. But, halloa! what is this ? " 

It was a lady's hand-bag which stood upon the study table 
a trim little hand-bag of crocodile-skin and silver. Holmes 
opened it and turned the contents out. There were twenty 
fifty-pound notes of the Bank of England, held together by an 
india-rubber band nothing else. 

" This must be preserved, for it will figure in the trial," said 
Holmes, as he handed the bag with its contents to the inspector. 
" It is now necessary that we should try to throw some light 
upon this third bullet, which has clearly, from the splintering 
of the wood, been fired from inside the room. I should like 
to see Mrs. King, the cook, again. You said, Mrs. King, that 
you were awakened by a loud explosion. When you said that, 
did you mean that it seemed to you to be louder than the second 
one?" 

" Well, sir, it wakened me from my sleep, and so it is hard 
to judge. But it did seem very loud." 

" You don't think that it might have been two shots fired 
almost at the same instant ? " 

" I am sure I couldn't say, sir." 

" I believe that it was undoubtedly so. I rather think, In- 
spector Martin, that we have now exhausted all that this room 
can teach us. If you will kindly step round with me, we shall 
see what fresh evidence the garden has to offer." 

A flower-bed extended up to the study window, and we all 
broke into an exclamation as we approached it. The flowers 
were trampled down, and the soft soil was imprinted all over 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 81 

with footmarks. Large, masculine feet they were, with pecu- 
liarly long, sharp toes. Holmes hunted about among the grass 
and leaves like a retriever after a wounded bird. Then, with 
a cry of satisfaction, he bent forward and picked up a little 
brazen cylinder. 

"I thought so," said he; "the revolver had an ejector, and 
here is the third cartridge. I really think, Inspector Martin, 
that our case is almost complete." 

The country inspector's face had shown his intense amaze- 
ment at the rapid and masterful progress of Holmes' investiga- 
tion. At first he had shown some disposition to assert his own 
position, but now he was overcome with admiration, and ready 
to follow without question wherever Holmes led. 

" Whom do you suspect ? " he asked. 

" I'll go into that later. There are several points in this prob- 
lem which I have not been able to explain to you yet. Now 
that I have got so far, I had best proceed on my own lines, and 
then clear the whole matter up once and for all." 

" Just as you wish, Mr. Holmes, so long as we get our man." 

" I have no desire to make mysteries, but it is impossible at 
the moment of action to enter into long and complex explana- 
tions. I have the threads of this affair all in my hand. Even 
if this lady should never recover consciousness, we can still 
reconstruct the events of last night, and insure that justice be 
done. First of all, I wish to know whether there is any inn in 
this neighbourhood known as ' Elrige's ' ? " 

The servants were cross -questioned, but none of them had 
heard of such a place. The stable-boy threw a light upon the 
matter by remembering that a farmer of that name lived some 
miles off, in the direction of East Ruston. 

" Is it a lonely farm ? " 



82 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

"Very lonely, sir." 

" Perhaps they have not heard yet of all that happened here 
during the night ? " 

" Maybe not, sir." 

Holmes thought for a little, and then a curious smile played 
over his face. 

"Saddle a horse, my lad," said he. "I shall wish you to 
take a note to Elrige's Farm." 

He took from his pocket the various slips of the dancing men. 
With these in front of him, he worked for some time at the 
study-table. Finally he handed a note to the boy, with direc- 
tions to put it into the hands of the person to whom it was ad- 
dressed, and especially to answer no questions of any sort which 
might be put to him. I saw the outside of the note, addressed 
in straggling, irregular characters, very unlike Holmes' usual 
precise hand. It was consigned to Mr. Abe Slaney, Elrige's 
Farm, East Ruston, Norfolk. 

" I think, Inspector," Holmes remarked, " that you would do 
well to telegraph for an escort, as, if my calculations prove to 
be correct, you may have a particularly dangerous prisoner to 
convey to the county gaol. The boy who takes this note 
could no doubt forward your telegram. If there is an afternoon 
train to town, Watson, I think we should do well to take it, as 
I have a chemical analysis of some interest to finish, and this 
investigation draws rapidly to a close." 

When the youth had been dispatched with the note, Sherlock 
Holmes gave his instructions to the servants. If any visitor 
were to call asking for Mrs. Hilton Cubitt, no information 
should be given as to her condition, but he was to be shown at 
once into the drawing-room. He impressed these points upon 
them with the utmost earnestness. Finally he led the way into 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 88 

the drawing-room, with the remark that the business was now 
out of our hands, and that we must while away the time as best 
we might until we could see what was in store for us. The 
doctor had departed to his patients, and only the inspector and 
myself remained. 

" I think that I can help you to pass an hour in an interesting 
and profitable manner," said Holmes, drawing his chair up to 
the table, and spreading out in front of him the various papers 
upon which were recorded the antics of the dancing men. " As 
to you, friend Watson, I owe you every atonement for having 
allowed you natural curiosity to remain so long unsatisfied. To 
you, Inspector, the whole incident may appeal as a remarkable 
professional study. I must tell you, first of all, the interesting 
circumstances connected with the previous consultations which 
Mr. Hilton Cubitt has had with me in Baker Street." He 
then shortly recapitulated the facts which have already 
been recorded. " I have here in front of me these singular 
productions, at which one might smile, had they not 
proved themselves to be the forerunners of so terrible a 
tragedy. I am fairly familiar with all forms of secret writ- 
ings, and am myself the author of a trifling monograph upon 
the subject, in which I analyse one hundred and sixty separate 
ciphers, but I confess that this is entirely new to me. The 
object of those who invented the system has apparently 
been to conceal that these characters convey a message, 
and to give the idea that they are the mere random sketches 
of children. 

" Having once recognised, however, that the symbols stood 
for letters, and having applied the rules which guide us in all 
forms of secret writings, the solution was easy enough. The 
first message submitted to me was so short that it was impos- 



84 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

sible for me to do more than to say, with some confidence, that 
the symbol T stood for E. As you are aware, E is the most 
common letter in the English alphabet, and it predominates to 
so marked an extent that even in a short sentence one would 
expect to find it most often. Out of fifteen symbols in the 
first message, four were the same, so it was reasonable to set 
this down as E. It is true that in some cases the figure was 
bearing a flag, and in some cases not, but it was probable, 
from the way in which the flags were distributed, that they 
were used to break the sentence up into words. I accepted 
this as a hypothesis, and noted that E was represented by ^ 

"But now came the real difficulty of the inquiry. The 
order of the English letters after E is by no means well marked, 
and any preponderance which may be shown in an average 
of a printed sheet may be reversed in a single short sentence. 
Speaking roughly, T, A, O, I, N, S, H, R, D, and L are the 
numerical order in which letters occur; but T, A, O, and I are 
very nearly abreast of each other, and it would be an endless 
task to try each combination until a meaning was arrived at. 
I therefore waited for fresh material. In my second inter- 
view with Mr. Hilton Cubitt he was able to give me two other 
short sentences and one message, which appeared since 
there was no flag to be a single word. Here are the symbols. 
Now, in the single word I have already got the two E's coming 
second and fourth in a word of five letters. It might be * sever,' 
or ' lever,' or ' never.' There can be no question that the latter 
as a reply to an appeal is far the most probable, and the circum- 
stances pointed to its being a reply written by the lady. Accept- 
ing it as correct, we are now able to say that the symbols _I 'tl 
stand respectively for N, V, and R. 

"Even now I was in considerable difficulty, but a happy 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 85 

thought put me in possession of several other letters. It occur- 
red to me that if these appeals came, as I expected, from some- 
one who had been intimate with the lady in her early life, a 
combination which contained two E's with three letters between 
might very well stand for the name * ELSIE.' On examination 
I found that such a combination formed the termination of 
the message which was three times repeated. It was certainly 
some appeal to ' Elsie.' In this way I had got my L, S, and I. 
But what appeal could it be ? There were only four letters 
in the word which preceded ' Elsie,' and it ended in E. Surely 
the word must be ' COME.' I tried all other four letters end- 
ing in E, but could find none to fit the case. So now I was in 
possession of C, O, and M, and I was in a position to attack 
the first message once more, dividing it into words and putting 
dots for each symbol which was still unknown. So treated, it 
worked out in this fashion : 

.M .ERE ..E SL.NE. 

" Now the first letter can only be A, which is a most useful 
discovery, since it occurs no fewer than three times in this short 
sentence, and the H is also apparent in the second word. Now 
it becomes : 

AM HERE A . E SLANE. 

Or, filling in the obvious vacancies in the name : 
AM HERE ABE SLANEY. 

I had so many letters now that I could proceed with consider- 
able confidence to the second message, which worked out in 
this fashion : 

A. ELRI.ES. 

Here I could only make sense by putting T and G for the miss- 



86 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

ing letters, and supposing that the name was that of some 
house or inn at which the writer was staying." 

Inspector Martin and I had listened with the utmost interest 
to the full and clear account of how my friend had produced 
results which had led to so complete a command over our diffi- 
culties. 

" What did you do then, sir ? " asked the inspector. 

" I had every reason to suppose that this Abe Slaney was an 
American, since Abe is an American contraction, and since a 
letter from America had been the starting-point of all the trou- 
ble. I had also every cause to think that there was some 
criminal secret in the matter. The lady's allusions to her past, 
and her refusal to take her husband into her confidence, both 
pointed in that direction. I therefore cabled to my friend, 
Wilson Hargreave, of the New York Police Bureau, who has 
more than once made use of my knowledge of London crime. 
I asked him whether the name of Abe Slaney was known to 
him. Here is his reply: 'The most dangerous crook in 
Chicago.' On the very evening upon which I had his answer, 
Hilton Cubitt sent me the last message from Slaney. Working 
with known letters, it took this form: 

ELSIE . RE . ARE TO MEET THY GO . 

The addition of a P and a D completed a message which showed 
me that the rascal was proceeding from persuasion to threats, 
and my knowledge of the crooks of Chicago prepared me to 
find that he might very rapidly put his words into action. I at 
once came to Norfolk with my friend and colleague, Dr. Wat- 
son, but, unhappily, only in time to find that the worst had 
already occurred." 

" It is a privilege to be associated with you in the handling 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 87 

of a case," said the inspector, warmly. " You will excuse me, 
however, if I speak frankly to you. You are only answerable 
to yourself, but I have to answer to my superiors. If this Abe 
Slaney, living at Elrige's, is indeed the murderer, and if he has 
made his escape while I am seated here, I should certainly get 
into serious trouble." 

" You need not be uneasy. He will not try to escape." 

" How do you know ? " 

" To fly would be a confession of guilt.'* 

" Then let us go to arrest him." 

" I expect him here every instant." 

" But why should he come ? " 

" Because I have written and asked him.'* 

" But this is incredible, Mr. Holmes ! Why should he come 
because you have asked him? Would not such a request 
rather rouse his suspicions and cause him to fly ? " 

" I think I have known how to frame the letter," said Sherlock 
Holmes. "In fact, if I am not very much mistaken, here is 
the gentleman himself coming up the drive." 

A man was striding up the path which led to the door. He 
was a tall, handsome, swarthy fellow, clad in a suit of grey 
flannel, with a Panama hat, a bristling black beard, and a 
great, aggressive hooked nose, and flourishing a cane as he 
walked. He swaggered up the path as if the place belonged 
to him, and we heard his loud, confident peal at the bell. 

" I think, gentlemen," said Holmes, quietly, " that we had 
best take up our position behind the door. Every precaution 
is necessary when dealing with such a fellow. You will need 
your handcuffs, Inspector. You can leave the talking to me." 

We waited in silence for a minute one of those minutes 
which one can never forget. Then the door opened and the 



88 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

man stepped in. In an instant Holmes clapped a pistol to his 
head, and Martin slipped the handcuffs over his wrists. It 
was all done so swiftly and deftly that the fellow was helpless 
before he knew that he was attacked. He glared from one to 
the other of us with a pair of blazing black eyes. Then he 
burst into a bitter laugh. 

"Well, gentlemen, you have the drop on me this time. I 
seem to have knocked up against something hard. But I 
came here in answer to a letter from Mrs. Hilton Cubitt. Don't 
tell me that she is in this ? Don't tell me that she helped to 
set a trap for me ? " 

" Mrs. Hilton Cubitt was seriously injured, and is at death's 
door." 

The man gave a hoarse cry of grief, which rang through the 
house. 

"You're crazy!" he cried, fiercely. "It was he that was 
hurt, not she. Who would have hurt little Elsie ? I may have 
threatened her God forgive me ! but I would not hare 
touched a hair of her pretty head. Take it back you ! Say 
that she is not hurt! " 

" She was found, badly wounded, by the side of her dead 
husband." 

He sank with a deep groan on to the settee, and buried his 
face in his manacled hands. For five minutes he was silent. 
Then he raised his face once more, and spoke with the cold 
composure of despair. 

"I have nothing to hide from you, gentlemen," said he. 
" If I shot the man he had his shot at me, and there's no murder 
in that. But if you think I could have hurt that woman, then 
you don't know either me or her. I tell you, there was never 
a man in this world loved a woman more than I loved her. I 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 89 

had a right to her. She was pledged to me years ago. Who 
was this Englishman that he should come between us ? I tell 
you that I had the first right to her, and that I was only claim- 
ing my own." 

"She broke away from your influence when she found the 
man that you are," said Holmes, sternly. "She fled from 
America to avoid you, and she married an honourable gentle- 
man in England. You dogged her and followed her and made 
her life a misery to her, in order to induce her to abandon the 
husband whom she loved and respected in order to fly with you, 
whom she feared and hated. You have ended by bringing 
about the death of a noble man and driving his wife to suicide. 
That is your record in this business, Mr. Abe Slaney, and you 
will answer for it to the law." 

" If Elsie dies, I care nothing what becomes of me," said the 
American. He opened one of his hands, and looked at a note 
crumpled up in his palm. " See here, mister," he cried, with 
a gleam of suspicion in his eyes, " you're not trying to scare me 
over this, are you ? If the lady is hurt as bad as you say, who 
was it that wrote this note ? " He tossed it forwards on to the 
table. 

" I wrote it, to bring you here." 

"You wrote it? There was no one on earth outside the 
Joint who knew the secret of the dancing men. How came 
you to write it ? " 

"What one man can invent another can discover," said 
Holmes. " There is a cab coming to convey you to Norwich, 
Mr. Slaney. But, meanwhile, you have time to make some 
small reparation for the injury you have wrought. Are you 
aware that Mrs. Hilton Cubitt has herself lain under grave 
suspicion of the murder of her husband, and that it was only 



90 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

my presence here, and the knowledge which I happened to 
possess, which has saved her from the accusation ? The least 
that you owe her is to make it clear to the whole world that 
she was in no way, directly or indirectly, responsible for his 
tragic end." 

"I ask nothing better," said the American. "I guess the 
very best case I can make for myself is the absolute naked 
truth." 

" It is my duty to warn you that it will be used against you," 
cried the inspector, with the magnificent fair-play of the British 
criminal law. 

Slaney shrugged his shoulders. 

*' I'll chance that," said he. " First of all, I want you gentle- 
men to understand that I have known this lady since she was 
a child. There were seven of us in a gang in Chicago, and 
Elsie's father was the boss of the Joint. He was a clever man, 
was old Patrick. It was he who invented that writing, which 
would pass as a child's scrawl unless you just happened to 
have the key to it. Well, Elsie learned some of our ways, but 
she couldn't stand the business, and she had a bit of honest 
money of her own, so she gave us all the slip and got away to 
London. She had been engaged to me, and she would have 
married me, I believe, if I had taken over another profession, 
but she would have nothing to do with anything on the cross. 
It was only after her marriage to this Englishman that I was 
able to find out where she was. I wrote to her, but got no 
answer. After that I came over, and, as letters were no use, 
I put my messages where she could read them. 

" Well, I have been here a month now. I lived in that farm, 
where I had a room down below, and could get in and out every 
night, and no one the wiser. I tried all I could to coax Elsie 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN 91 

away. I knew that she read the messages, for once she wrote 
an answer under one of them. Then my temper got the better 
of me, and I began to threaten her. She sent me a letter then, 
imploring me to go away, and saying that it would break her 
heart if any scandal should come upon her husband. She said 
that she would come down when her husband was asleep at 
three in the morning, and speak with me through the end win- 
dow, if I would go away afterwards and leave her in peace. 
She came down and brought money with her, trying to bribe 
me to go. This made me mad, and I caught her arm and 
tried to pull her through the window. At that moment in 
rushed the husband with his revolver in his hand. Elsie had 
sunk down upon the floor, and we were face to face. I was 
heeled also, and I held up my gun to scare him off and let me 
get away. He fired and missed me. I pulled off almost at the 
same instant, and down he dropped. I made away across the 
garden, and as I went I heard the window shut behind me. 
That's God's truth, gentlemen, every word of it; and I heard 
no more about it until that lad came riding up with a note 
which made me walk in here, like a jay, and give myself into 
your hands." 

A cab had driven up whilst the American had been talking. 
Two uniformed policemen sat inside. Inspector Martin rose 
and touched his prisoner on the shoulder. 

" It is time for us to go." 

"Can I see her first?" 

"No, she is not conscious. Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I only 
hope that, if ever again I have an important case, I shall have 
the good fortune to have you by my side." 

We stood at the window and watched the cab drive away. 
As I turned back, my eye caught the pellet of paper which the 



92 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

prisoner had tossed upon the table. It was the note with 
which Holmes had decoyed him. 

" See if you can read it, Watson," said he, with a smile. 

It contained no word, but this little line of dancing men : 



" If you use the code which I have explained," said Holmes, 
"you will find that it simply means 'Come here at once.' I 
was convinced that it was an invitation which he would not 
refuse, since he could never imagine that it could come from 
anyone but the lady. And so, my dear Watson, we have 
ended by turning the dancing men to good when they have so 
often been the agents of evil, and I think that I have fulfilled 
my promise of giving you something unusual for your note- 
book. Three-forty is our train, and I fancy we should be back 
in Baker Street for dinner. 

Only one word of epilogue. The American, Abe Slaney, 
was condemned to death at the winter assizes at Norwich, but 
his penalty was changed to penal servitude in consideration of 
mitigating circumstances, and the certainty that Hilton Cubitt 
had fired the first shot. Of Mrs. Hilton Cubitt I only know 
that I have heard she recovered entirely, and that she still 
remains a widow, devoting her whole life to the care of the poor 
and to the administration of her husband's estate. 



IV 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 

F ROM the years 1894 to 1901 inclusive, Mr. Sherlock 
Holmes was a very busy man. It is safe to say that there was no 
public case of any difficulty in which he was not consulted during 
those eight years, and there were hundreds of private cases, some 
of them of the most intricate and extraordinary character, in 
which he played a prominent part. Many startling successes 
and a few unavoidable failures were the outcome of this long 
period of continuous work. As I have preserved very full notes of 
all these cases, and was myself personally engaged in many of 
them, it may be imagined that it is no easy task to know which I 
should select to lay before the public. I shall, however, preserve 
my former rule, and give the preference to those cases which de- 
rive their interest not so much from the brutality of the crime as 
from the ingenuity and dramatic quality of the solution. For 
this reason I will now lay before the reader the facts connected 
with Miss Violet Smith, the solitary cyclist of Charlington, and 
the curious sequel of our investigation, which culminated in 
unexpected tragedy. It is true that the circumstance did not ad- 
mit of any striking illustration of those powers for which my 
friend was famous, but there were some points about the case 



94 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

which made it stand out in those long records of crime from 
which I gather the material for these little narratives. 

On referring to my note-book for the year 1895, I find that it 
was upon Saturday, the 23rd of April, that we first heard of Miss 
Violet Smith. Her visit was, I remember, extremely unwelcome 
to Holmes, for he was immersed at the moment in a very ab- 
struse and complicated problem concerning the peculiar perse- 
cution to which John Vincent Harden, the well-known tobacco 
millionaire had been subjected. My friend, who loved above all 
things precision and concentration of thought, resented anything 
which distracted his attention from the matter in hand. And 
yet, without a harshness which was foreign to his nature, it was 
impossible to refuse to listen to the story of the young and beau- 
tiful woman, tall, graceful, and queenly, who presented herself 
at Baker Street late in the evening, and implored his assistance 
and advice. It was vain to urge that his time was already fully 
occupied, for the young lady had come with the determination 
to tell her story, and it was evident that nothing short of force 
could get her out of the room until she had done so. With a 
resigned air and a somewhat weary smile, Holmes begged the 
beautiful intruder to take a seat, and to inform us what it was 
that was troubling her. 

"At least it cannot be your health," said he, as his keen 
eyes darted over her; "so ardent a bicyclist must be full 
of energy. " 

She glanced down in surprise at her own feet, and I observed 
the slight roughening of the side of the sole caused by the friction 
of the edge of the pedal. 

" Yes, I bicycle a good deal, Mr. Holmes, and that has some- 
thing to do with my visit to you to-day. " 

My friend took the lady's ungloved hand, and examined it with 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 95 

as close an attention and as little sentiment as a scientist would 
show to a specimen. 

" You will excuse me, I am sure. It is my business, " said he, 
as he dropped it. " I nearly fell into the error of supposing that 
you were typewriting. Of course, it is obvious that it is music. 
You observe the spatulate finger-ends, Watson, which is com- 
mon to both professions ? There is a spirituality about the face, 
however " she gently turned it towards the light " which 
the typewriter does not generate. This lady is a musician. " 

" Yes, Mr. Holmes, I teach music. " 

" In the country, I presume, from your complexion. " 

" Yes, sir, near Farnham, on the borders of Surrey. " 

" A beautiful neighbourhood, and full of the most interesting 
associations. You remember, Watson, that it was near there that 
we took Archie Stamford, the forger. Now, Miss Violet, what 
has happened to you, near Farnham, on the borders of Surrey ? " 

The young lady, with great clearness and composure, made 
the following curious statement : 

" My father is dead, Mr. Holmes. He was James Smith, who 
conducted the orchestra at the old Imperial Theatre. My 
mother and I were left without a relation in the world except one 
uncle, Ralph Smith, who went to Africa twenty-five years ago, 
and we have never had a word from him since. When father 
died, we were left very poor, but one day we were told that there 
was an advertisement in the Times, inquiring for our where- 
abouts. You can imagine how excited we were, for we thought 
that some one had left us a fortune. We went at once to the 
lawyer whose name was given in the paper. There we met 
two gentlemen, Mr. Carruthers and Mr. Woodley, who were 
home on a visit from South Africa. They said that my uncle 
was a friend of theirs, that he had died some months before 



96 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

in great poverty in Johannesburg, and that he had asked them 
with his last breath to hunt up his relations, and see that they 
were in no want. It seemed strange to us that Uncle Ralph, 
who took no notice of us when he was alive, should be so careful 
to look after us when he was dead, but Mr. Carruthers ex- 
plained that the reason was that my uncle had just heard of the 
death of his brother, and so felt responsible for our fate. " 

" Excuse me, " said Holmes. " When was this interview ? " 

" Last December four months ago. " 

"Pray proceed." 

i{ Mr. Woodley seemed to me to be a most odious person. He 
was for ever making eyes at me a coarse, puffy-faced, red- 
moustached young man, with his hair plastered down on each 
side of his forehead. I thought that he was perfectly hateful 
and I was sure that Cyril would not wish me to know such a 
person. " 

" Oh, Cyril is his name ! " said Holmes, smiling. 

The young lady blushed and laughed. 

" Yes, Mr. Holmes, Cyril Morton, an electrical engineer, and 
we hope to be married at the end of the summer. Dear me, how 
did I get talking about him ? What I wished to say was that Mr. 
Woodley was perfectly odious, but that Mr. Carruthers, who was 
a much older man, was more agreeable. He was a dark, sallow, 
clean-shaven, silent person, but he had polite manners and a 
pleasant smile. He inquired how we were left, and on finding 
that we were very poor, he suggested that I should come and teach 
music to his only daughter, aged ten. I said that I did not like 
to leave my mother, on which he suggested that I should go home 
to her every week-end, and he offered me a hundred a year, 
which was certainly splendid pay. So it ended by my accepting, 
and I went down to Chiltern Grange, about six miles from Farn- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST OT 

ham. Mr. Carruthers was a widower, but he had engaged a 
lady housekeeper, a very respectable, elderly person, called Mrs. 
Dixon, to look after his establishment. The child was a dear, 
and everything promised well. Mr. Carruthers was very kind 
and very musical, and we had most pleasant evenings together. 
Every week-end I went home to my mother in town. 

"The first flaw in my happiness was the arrival of the red- 
moustached Mr. Woodley. He came for a visit of a week, and 
oh ! it seemed three months to me. He was a dreadful person a 
bully to everyone else, but to me something infinitely worse. He 
made odious love to me, boasted of his wealth,' said that if I mar- 
ried him I could have the finest diamonds in London, and finally 
when I would have nothing to do with him, he seized me in his 
arms one day after dinner he was hideously strong and 
swore that he would not let me go until I had kissed him. Mr. 
Carruthers came in and tore him from me, on which he turned 
upon his own host, knocking him down and cutting his face open. 
That was the end of his visit, as you can imagine. Mr. Carruth- 
ers apologized to me next day, and assured me that I should 
never be exposed to such an insult again. I have not seen Mr. 
Woodley since. 

" And now, Mr. Holmes, I come at last to the special thing 
which has caused me to ask your advice to-day. You must know 
that every Saturday forenoon I ride on my bicycle to Farnham 
Station, in order to get the 12.22 to Town. The road from Chil- 
tern Grange is a lonely one, and at one spot it is particularly so, 
for it lies for over a mile between Charlington Heath upon one 
side and the woods which lie round Charlington Hall upon the 
other. You could not find a more lonely tract of road anywhere, 
and it is quite rare to meet so much as a cart, or a peasant, until 
you reach the high road near Crooksbury Hill. Two weeks ago 



98 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

I was passing this place, when I chanced to look back over my 
shoulder, and about two hundred yards behind me I saw a man, 
also on a bicycle. He seemed to be a middle-aged man, with a 
short, dark beard. I looked back before I reached Farnham, 
but the man was gone, so I thought no more about it. But you 
can imagine how surprised I was, Mr. Holmes, when, on my 
return on the Monday, I saw the same man on the same stretch 
of road. My astonishment was increased when the incident 
occurred again, exactly as before, on the following Saturday and 
Monday. He always kept his distance and did not molest me in 
any way, but still it certainly was very odd. I mentioned it to 
Mr. Carruthers, who seemed interested in what I said, and told 
me that he had ordered a horse and trap, so that in future I 
should not pass over these lonely roads without some companion. 
"The horse and trap were to have come this week, but for 
some reason they were not delivered, and again I had to cycle to 
the station. That was this morning. You can think that I 
looked out when I came to Charlington Heath, and there, sure 
enough, was the man, exactly as he had been the two weeks be- 
fore. He always kept so far from me that I could not clearly 
see his face, but it was certainly someone whom I did not know. 
He was dressed in a dark suit with a cloth cap. The only 
thing about his face that I could clearly see was his dark beard. 
To-day I was not alarmed, but I was filled with curiosity, and I 
determined to find out who he was and what he wanted. I 
slowed down my machine, but he slowed down his. Then I 
stopped altogether, but he stopped also. Then I laid a trap for 
him. There is a sharp turning of the road, and I pedalled very 
quickly round this, and then I stopped and waited. I expected 
him to shoot round and pass me before he could stop. But he 
never appeared. Then I went back and looked round the 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 99 

corner. I could see a mile of road, but he was not on it. To 
make it the more extraordinary, there was no side road at this 
point down which he could have gone. " 

Holmes chuckled and rubbed his hands. "This case cer- 
tainly presents some features of its own, " said he. " How much 
time elapsed between your turning the corner and your discov- 
ery that the road was clear ? " 

" Two or three minutes. " 

" Then he could not have retreated down the road, and you 
say that there are no side roads ? " 

"None." 

"Then he certainly took a footpath on one side or the 
other." 

" It could not have been on the side of the heath, or I should 
have seen him. " 

" So, by the process of exclusion, we arrive at the fact that he 
made his way toward Charlington Hall, which, as I understand, 
is situated in its own grounds on one side of the road. Anything 
else?" 

"Nothing, Mr. Holmes, save that I was so perplexed that I 
felt I should not be happy until I had seen you and had your 
advice. " 

Holmes sat in silence for some little time. 

"Where is the gentleman to whom you are engaged?" he 
asked at last. 

" He is in the Midland Electrical Company, at Coventry. " 

" He would not pay you a surprise visit ? " 

" Oh, Mr. Holmes ! As if I should not know him ! " 

" Have you had any other admirers ? " 

" Several before I knew Cyril. " 

"And since?" 



100 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" There was this dreadful man, Woodley, if you can call him 
an admirer. " 

"No one else?" 

Our fair client seemed a little confused. 

" Who was he ? " asked Holmes. 

" Oh, it may be a mere fancy of mine; but it had seemed to me 
sometimes that my employer, Mr. Carruthers, takes a great deal 
of interest in me. We are thrown rather together. I play his 
accompaniments in the evening. He has never said anything. 
He is a perfect gentleman. But a girl always knows. " 

" Ha ! " Holmes looked grave. " What does he do for a 
living ? " 

" He is a rich man. " 

" No carriages or horses ? " 

" Well, at least he is fairly well-to-do. But he goes into the 
city two or three times a week. He is deeply interested in South 
African gold shares. " 

" You will let me know any fresh development, Miss Smith. I 
am very busy just now, but I will find time to make some inqui- 
ries into your case. In the meantime, take no step without let- 
ing me know. Good-bye, and I trust that we shall have nothing 
but good news from you. " 

" It is part of the settled order of Nature that such a girl should 
have followers, " said Holmes, as he pulled at his meditative 
pipe, "but for choice not on bicycles in lonely country roads. 
Some secretive lover, beyond all doubt. But there are curious 
and suggestive details about the case, Watson. " 

" That he should appear only at that point ? " 

" Exactly. Our first effort must be to find who are the tenants 
of Charlington Hall. Then, again, how about the connection 
between Carruthers and Woodley, since they appear to be men 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 101 

of such a different type ? How came they both to be so keen 
upon looking up Ralph Smith's relations? One more point. 
What sort of a menage is it which pays double the market price 
for a governess, but does not keep a horse, although six miles 
from the station ? Odd, Watson very odd ! " 

" You will go down ? " 

" No, my dear fellow, you will go down. This may be some 
trifling intrigue, and I cannot break my other important research 
for the sake of it. On Monday you will arrive early at Farnham ; 
you will conceal yourself near Charlington Heath; you will ob- 
serve these facts for yourself, and act as your own judgment ad- 
vises. Then, having inquired as to the occupants of the Hall, 
you will come back to me and report. And now, Watson, 
not another word of the matter until we have a few solid 
stepping-stones on which we may hope to get across to our 
solution. " 

We had ascertained from the lady that she went down upon the 
Monday by the train which leaves Waterloo at 9.50, so I started 
early and caught the 9.13. At Farnham Station I had no diffi- 
culty in being directed to Charlington Heath. It was impossible 
to mistake the scene of the young lady's adventure, for the road 
runs between the open heath on one side and an old yew hedge 
upon the other, surrounding a park which is studded with mag- 
nificent trees. There was a main gateway of lichen-studded 
stone, each side pillar surmounted by mouldering heraldic em- 
blems, but besides this central carriage drive I observed several 
points where there were gaps in the hedge, and paths leading 
through them. The house was invisible from the road, but the 
surroundings all spoke of gloom and decay. 

The heath was covered with golden patches of flowering gorse, 
gleaming magnificently in the light of the bright spring sunshine. 



102 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Behind one of these clumps I took up my position, so as to com- 
mand both the gateway of the Hall and a long stretch of the road 
upon either side. It had been deserted when I left it, but now I 
saw a cyclist riding down it from the opposite direction to that 
in which I had come. He was clad in a dark suit, and I saw that 
he had a black beard. On reaching the end of the Charlington 
grounds, he sprang from his machine and led it through a gap in 
the hedge, disappearing from my view. 

A quarter of an hour passed, and then a second cyclist ap- 
peared. This time it was the young lady coming from the sta- 
tion. I saw her look about her as she came to the Charlington 
hedge. An instant later the man emerged from his hiding-place, 
sprang upon his cycle, and followed her. In all the broad land- 
scape those were the only moving figures, the graceful girl sitting 
very straight upon her machine, and the man behind her bend- 
ing low over his handle-bar with a curiously furtive suggestion in 
every movement. She looked back at him and slowed her pace. 
He slowed also. She stopped. He at once stopped, too, keep- 
ing two hundred yards behind her. Her next movement was as 
unexpected as it was spirited. She suddenly whisked her wheels 
round and dashed straight at him. He was as quick as she, how- 
ever, and darted off in desperate flight. Presently she came back 
up the road again, her head haughtily in the air, not deigning to 
take any further notice of her silent attendant. He had turned 
also, and still kept his distance until the curve of the road hid 
them from my sight. 

I remained in my hiding-place, and it was well that I did so, 
for presently the man reappeared, cycling slowly back. He 
turned in at the Hall gates, and dismounted from his machine. 
For some minutes I could see him standing among the trees. His 
hands were raised, and he seemed to be settling his necktie. Then 



103 

he mounted his cycle, and rode away from me down the drive 
towards the hall. I ran across the heath and peered through the 
trees. Far away I could catch glimpses of the old grey building 
with its bristling Tudor chimneys, but the drive ran through a 
dense shrubbery, and I saw no more of my man. 

However, it seemed to me that I had done a fairly good morn- 
ing's work, and I walked back in high spirits to Farnham. The 
local house agent could tell me nothing about Charlington Hall, 
and referred me to a well-known firm in Pall Mall. There I 
halted on my way home, and met with courtesy from the repre- 
sentative. No, I could not have Charlington Hall for the sum- 
mer. I was just too late. It had been let about a month ago. 
Mr. Williamson was the name of the tenant. He was a respect- 
able, elderly gentleman. The polite agent was afraid he could 
say no more, as the affairs of his clients were not matters which 
he could discuss. 

Mr. Sherlock Holmes listened with attention to the long report 
which I was able to present to him that evening, but it did not 
elicit that word of curt praise which I had hoped for, and should 
have valued. On the contrary, his austere face was even more 
severe than usual as he commented upon the things that I had 
done and the things that I had not. 

" Your hiding-place, my dear Watson, was very faulty. You 
should have been behind the hedge, then you would have had 
a close view of this interesting person. As it is, you were some 
hundreds of yards away, and can tell me even less than Miss 
Smith. She thinks she does not know the man; I am convinced 
she does. Why, otherwise, should he be so desperately anxious 
that she should not get so near him as to see his features ? You 
describe him as bending over the handle-bar. Concealment 
again, you see. You really have done remarkably badly. He 



104 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

returns to the house, and you want to find out who he is. You 
come to a London house-agent ! " 

" What should I have done ? " I cried, with some heat. 

"Gone to the nearest public-house. That is the centre of 
country gossip. They would have told you every name, from 
the master to the scullery-maid. Williamson ? It conveys noth- 
ing to my mind. If he is an elderly man he is not this active 
cyclist, who sprints away from that young lady's athletic pursuit. 
What have we gained by your expedition ? The knowledge that 
the girl's story is true. I never doubted it. That there is a con- 
nection between the cyclist and the Hall. I never doubted that 
either. That the Hall is tenanted by Williamson. Who's the 
better for that ? Well, well, my dear sir, don't look so depressed. 
We can do little more until next Saturday, and in the meantime 
I may make one or two inquiries myself. " 

Next morning, we had a note from Miss Smith, recounting 
shortly and accurately the very incidents which I had seen, but 
the pith of the letter lay in the postscript : 

" I am sure that you will respect my confidence, Mr. Holmes, 
when I tell you that my place here has become difficult, 
owing to the fact that my employer has proposed marriage 
to me. I am convinced that his feelings are most deep and 
most honourable. At the same time, my promise is of course 
given. He took my refusal very seriously, but also very 
gently. You can understand, however, that the situation is 
a little strained." 

"Our young friend seems to be getting into deep waters," 
said Holmes, thoughtfully, as he finished the letter. " The case 
certainly presents more features of interest and more possibility 
of development than I had originally thought. I should be none 
the worse for a quiet, peaceful day in the country, and I am in- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 105 

clined to run down this afternoon and test one or two theories 
which I have formed. " 

Holmes' quiet day in the country had a singular termination, 
for he arrived at Baker Street late in the evening, with a cut lip 
and a discoloured lump upon his forehead, besides a general air 
of dissipation which would have made his own person the fitting 
object of a Scotland Yard investigation. He was immensely 
tickled by his own adventures, and laughed heartily as he re- 
counted them. 

" I get so little active exercise that it is always a treat, " said he. 
"You are aware that I have some proficiency in the good old 
British sport of boxing. Occasionally, it is of service; to-day, 
for example, I should have come to very ignominious grief with- 
out it. " 

I begged him to tell me what had occurred'. 

" I found that country pub which I had already recommended 
to your notice, and there I made my discreet inquiries. I was in 
the bar, and a garrulous landlord was giving me all that I 
wanted. Williamson is a white-bearded man, and he lives 
alone with a small staff of servants at the Hall. There is some 
rumour that he is or has been a clergyman, but one or two inci- 
dents of his short residence at the Hall struck me as peculiarly un- 
ecclesiastical. I have already made some inquiries at a clerical 
agency, and they tell me that there was a man of that name in 
orders, whose career has been a singularly dark one. The land- 
lord further informed me that there are usually week-end visi- 
tors ' a warm lot, sir ' at the Hall, and especially one gentle- 
man with a red moustache, Mr. Woodley by name, who was al- 
ways there. We had got as far as this, when who should walk in 
but the gentleman himself, who had been drinking his beer in 
the tap-room and had heard the whole conversation. Who was 



106 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

I ? What did I want ? What did I mean by asking questions ? 
He had a fine flow of language, and his adjectives were very vig- 
orous. He ended a string of abuse by a vicious back-hander, 
which I failed to entirely avoid. The next few minutes were 
delicious. It was a straight left against a slogging ruffian. I 
emerged as you see me. Mr. Woodley went home in a cart. So 
ended my country trip, and it must be confessed that, however 
enjoyable, my day on the Surrey border has not been much more 
profitable than your own. " 

The Thursday brought us another letter from our client. 

" You will not be surprised, Mr. Holmes, " said she, " to hear 
that I am leaving Mr. Carruthers' employment. Even the high 
pay cannot reconcile me to the discomforts of my situation. On 
Saturday I come up to town, and I do not intend to return. Mr. 
Carruthers has got a trap, and so the dangers of the lonely road, 
if there ever were any dangers, are now over. 

"As to the special cause of my leaving, it is not merely the 
strained situation with Mr. Carruthers, but it is the reappearance 
of that odious man, Mr. Woodley. He was always hideous, but 
he looks more awful than ever now, for he appears to have had 
an accident, and he is much disfigured. I saw him out of the win- 
dow, but I am glad to say I did not meet him. He had a long 
talk with Mr. Carruthers, who seemed much excited afterwards. 
Woodley must be staying in the neighbourhood, for he did not 
sleep here, and yet I caught a glimpse of him again this morning, 
slinking about in the shrubbery. I would sooner have a savage 
wild animal loose about the place. I loathe and fear him more 
than I can say. How can Mr. Carruthers endure such a crea- 
ture for a moment ? However, all my troubles will be over on 
Saturday. " 

"So I trust, Watson, so I trust," said Holmes, gravely. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 107 

" There is some deep intrigue going on round that little woman, 
and it is our duty to see that no one molests her upon that last 
journey. I think, Watson, that we must spare time to run down 
together on Saturday morning, and make sure that this curious 
and inclusive investigation has no untoward ending. " 

I confess that I had not up to now taken a very serious view of 
the case, which had seemed to me rather grotesque and bizarre 
than dangerous. That a man should lie in wait for and follow 
a very handsome woman is no unheard-of thing, and if he has so 
little audacity that he not only dared not address her, but even 
fled from her approach, he was not a very formidable assailant. 
The ruffian Woodley was a very different person, but, except on 
one occasion, he had not molested our client, and now he visited 
the house of Carruthers without intruding upon her presence. 
The man on the bicycle was doubtless a member of those week- 
end parties at the Hall of which the publican had spoken, but 
who he was, or what he wanted, was as obscure as ever. It was 
the severity of Holmes' manner, and the fact that he slipped a 
revolver into his pocket, before leaving our rooms which im- 
pressed me with the feeling that tragedy might prove to lurk 
behind this curious train of events. 

A rainy night had been followed by a glorious morning, and 
the heath-covered country-side, with the glowing clumps of 
flowering gorse, seemed all the more beautiful to eyes which were 
weary of the duns and drabs and slate-greys of London. Holmes 
and I walked along the broad, sandy road inhaling the fresh 
morning air, and rejoicing in the music of the birds and the 
fresh breath of the spring. From a rise of the road on the shoul- 
der of Crooksbury Hill, we could see the grim Hall bristling out 
from amidst the ancient oaks, which, old as they were, were still 
younger than the building which they surrounded. Holmes 



108 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

pointed down the long tract of road which wound, a reddish 
yellow band, between the brown of the heath and the budding 
green of the woods. Far away, a black dot, we could see a ve- 
hicle moving in our direction. Holmes gave an exclamation of 
impatience. 

" I have given a margin of half an hour, " said he. " If that 
is her trap, she must be making for the earlier train. I fear, 
Watson, that she will be past Charlington before we can pos- 
sibly meet her. " 

From the instant that we passed the rise, we could no longer 
see the vehicle, but we hastened onwards at such a pace that my 
sedentary life began to tell upon me, and I was compelled to fall 
behind. Holmes, however, was always in training, for he had 
inexhaustible stores of nervous energy upon which to draw. 
His springy step never slowed until suddenly, when he was a 
hundred yards in front of me, he halted, and I saw him throw 
up his hand with a gesture of grief and despair. At the same 
instant an empty dog-cart, the horse cantering, the reins trail- 
ing, appeared round the curve of the road and rattled swiftly 
towards us. 

" Too late, Watson, too late ! " cried Holmes, as I ran pant- 
ing to his side. " Fool that I was, not to allow for that earlier 
train ! It's abduction, Watson abduction ! Murder ! Heaven 
knows what! Block the road! Stop the horse! That's right. 
Now, jump in, and let us see if I can repair the consequences of 
my own blunder. " 

We had sprung into the dog-cart, and Holmes, after turning 
the horse, gave it a sharp cut with the whip, and we flew back 
along the road. As we turned the curve, the whole stretch of 
road between the Hall and the heath was opened up. I grasped 
Holmes' arm. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 109 

" That's the man ! " I gasped. 

A solitary cyclist was coming towards us. His head was 
down and his shoulders rounded, as he put every ounce of 
energy that he possessed on to the pedals. He was flying like 
a racer. Suddenly he raised his bearded face, saw us close to 
him, and pulled up, springing from his machine. That coal- 
black beard was in singular contrast to the pallor of his face, 
and his eyes were as bright as if he had a fever. He stared at 
us and at the dog-cart. Then a look of amazement came over 
his face. 

"Halloa! Stop there!" he shouted, holding his bicycle to 
block our road. " Where did you get that dog-cart ? Pull up, 
man ! he yelled, drawing a pistol from his side pocket. " Pull 
up, I say, or, by George, I'll put a bullet into your horse. " 

Holmes threw the reins into my lap, and sprang down from 
the cart. 

"You're the man we want to see. Where is Miss Violet 
Smith ? " he said, in his quick, clear way. 

" That's what I'm asking you. You're in her dog-cart. You 
ought to know where she is. " 

" We met the dog-cart on the road. There was no one in it. 
We drove back to help the young lady. " 

" Good Lord ! Good Lord ! what shall I do ? " cried the 
stranger, in an ecstasy of despair. " They've got her, that hell- 
hound Woodley and the blackguard parson. Come, man, 
come, if you really are her friend. Stand by me and we'll save 
her, if I have to leave my carcase in Charlington Wood. " 

He ran distractedly, his pistol in his hand, towards a gap in 
the hedge. Holmes followed him, and I, leaving the horse 
grazing beside the road, followed Holmes. 

" This is where they came through, " said he, pointing to the 



110 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

marks of several feet upon the muddy path. " Halloa ! Stop a 
minute ! Who's this in the bush ? " 

It was a young fellow about seventeen, dressed like an ostler, 
with leather cords and gaiters. He lay upon his back, his 
knees drawn up, a terrible cut upon his head, He was in- 
sensible, but alive. A glance at his wound told me that it had 
not penetrated the bone. 

" That's Peter, the groom, " cried the stranger. " He drove 
her. The beasts have pulled him off and clubbed him. Let 
him lie ; we can't do him any good, but we may save her from 
the worst fate that can befall a woman. " 

We ran frantically down the path, which wound among the 
trees. We had reached the shrubbery which surrounded the 
house when Holmes pulled up. 

" They didn't go to the house. Here are their marks on the 
left here, beside the laurel bushes. Ah ! I said so. " 

As he spoke, a woman's shrill scream a scream which 
vibrated with a f enzy of horror burst from the thick, green 
clump of bushes in front of us. It ended suddenly on its 
highest note with a choke and a gurgle. 

" This way ! This way ! They are in the bowling-alley, " cried 
the stranger, darting through the bushes. " Ah, the cowardly 
dogs ! Follow me, gentlemen ! Too late ! too late ! by the living 
Jingo!" 

We had broken suddenly into a lovely glade of greensward 
surrounded by ancient trees. On the farther side of it, under 
the shadow of a mighty oak, there stood a singular group of 
three people. One was a woman, our client, drooping and 
faint, a handkerchief round her mouth. Opposite her stood 
a brutal, heavy-faced, red-moustached young man, his gaitered 
legs parted wide, one arm akimbo, the other waving a riding- 




A SOLITARY CYCLIST \V A S COMING TOWARDS US 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 111 

crop, his whole attitude suggestive of triumphant bravado. Be- 
tween them an elderly, grey-bearded man, wearing a short sur- 
plice over a light tweed suit, had evidently just completed the 
wedding service, for he pocketed his prayer-book as we ap- 
peared, and slapped the sinister bridegroom upon the back in 
jovial congratulation. 

"They're married!" I gasped. 

"Come on!" cried our guide; "come on!" He rushed 
across the glade, Holmes and I at his heels. At we approached, 
the lady staggered against the trunk of the tree for support. 
Williamson, the ex-clergyman, bowed to us with mock polite- 
ness, and the bully, Woodley, advanced with a shout of brutal 
and exultant laughter. 

" You can take your beard off, Bob, " said he. " I know you, 
right enough. Well, you and your pals have just come in time 
for me to be able to introduce you to Mrs. Woodley. " 

Our guide's answer was a singular one. He snatched off 
the dark beard which had disguised him and threw it on the 
ground, disclosing a long, sallow, clean-shaven face below it. 
Then he raised his revolver and covered the young ruffian, who 
was advancing upon him with his dangerous riding-crop 
swinging in his hand. 

" Yes, " said our ally, " I am Bob Carruthers, and I'll see this 
woman righted, if I have to swing for it. I told you what I'd do 
if you molested her, and, by the Lord ! I'll be as good as my 
word." 

" You're too late. She's my wife. " 

" No, she's your widow. " 

His revolver cracked, and I saw the blood spurt from the 
front of Woodley's waistcoat. He spun round with a scream 
and fell upon his back, his hideous red face turning suddenly to 



112 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

a dreadful mottled pallor. The old man, still clad in his sur- 
plice, burst into such a string of foul oaths as I have never heard, 
and pulled out a revolver of his own, but, before he could raise 
it, he was looking down the barrel of Holmes' weapon. 

" Enough of this, said my friend, coldly. " Drop that pistol ! 
Watson, pick it up! Hold it to his head! Thank you. You, 
Carruthers, give me that revolver. We'll have no more vio- 
lence. Come, hand it over ! " 

" Who are you, then ? " 

" My name is Sherlock Holmes. " 

"Good Lord!" 

" You have heard of me, I see. I will represent the official 
police until their arrival. Here, you!" he shouted to a fright- 
ened groom, who had appeared at the edge of the glade. " Come 
here. Take this note, as hard as you can ride, to Farnham. " 
He scribbled a few words upon a leaf from his note-book. " Give 
it to the superintendent at the police-station. Until he comes, 
I must detain you all under my personal custody. " 

The strong, masterful personality of Holmes dominated the 
tragic scene, and all were equally puppets in his hands. Wil- 
liamson and Carruthers found themselves carrying the wound- 
ed Woodley into the house, and I gave my arm to the fright- 
ened girl. The injured man was laid on his bed, and at 
Holmes' request I examined him. I carried my report to 
where he sat in the old tapestry-hung dining-room with his two 
prisoners before him. 

"He will live, "said I. 

" What ! " cried Carruthers, springing out of his chair. " I'll 
go upstairs and finish him first. Do you tell me that that girl, 
that angel, is to be tied to Roaring Jack Woodley for life ? " 

" You need not concern yourself about that, " said Holmes. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 113 

" There are two very good reasons why she should, under no 
circumstances, be his wife. In the first place, we are very safe 
in questioning Mr. Williamson's right to solemnize a marriage." 

" I have been ordained, " cried the old rascal. 

" And also unfrocked. " 

" Once a clergyman, always a clergyman. " 

" I think not. How about the licence ? " 

" We had a licence for the marriage. I have it here in my 
pocket. " 

" Then you got it by a trick. But, in any case, a forced mar- 
riage is no marriage, but it is a very serious felony, as you will 
discover before you have finished. You'll have time to think 
the point out during the next ten years or so, unless I am mis- 
taken. As to you, Camithers, you would have done better to 
keep your pistol in your pocket. " 

" I begin to think so, Mr. Holmes, but when I thought of all 
the precaution I had taken to shield this girl for I loved her, 
Mr. Holmes, and it is the only time that ever I knew what love 
was it fairly drove me mad to think that she was in the power 
of the greatest brute and bully in South Africa a man whose 
name is a holy terror from Kimberley to Johannesburg. Why, 
Mr. Holmes, you'll hardly believe it, but ever since that girl 
has been in my employment I never once let her go past this 
house, where I knew the rascals were lurking, without follow- 
ing her on my bicycle, just to see that she came to no harm. I 
kept my distance from her, and I wore a beard, so that she 
should not recognise me, for she is a good and high-spirited girl, 
and she wouldn't have stayed in my employment long if she 
had thought that I was following her about the country roads. " 

" Why didn't you tell her of her danger ? " 

" Because, then, again, she would have left me, and I couldn't 



114 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

bear to face that. Even if she couldn't love me, it was a great 
deal to me just to see her dainty form about the house, and to 
hear the sound of her voice. " 

"Well, said I, "you call that love, Mr. Carnithers, but I 
should call it selfishness. " 

"Maybe the two things go together. Anyhow, I couldn't 
let her go. Besides, with this crowd about, it was well that she 
should have someone near to look after her. Then, when the 
cable came, I knew they were bound to make a move. " 

"What cable?" 

Carnithers took a telegram from his pocket. 

"That's it," said he. 

It was short and concise : 

"The old man is dead." 

"Hum!" said Holmes. " I think I see how things worked, 
and I can understand how this message would, as you say, bring 
them to a head. But while you wait, you might tell me what 
you can. " 

The old reprobate with the surplice burst into a volley of bad 
language. 

"By Heaven!" said he, if you squeal on us, Bob Carruthers, 
I'll serve you as you served Jack Woodley. You can bleat 
about the girl to your heart's content, for that's your own affair, 
but if you round on your pals to this plain-clothes copper, it will 
be the worst day's work that ever you did. " 

" Your reverence need not be excited, " said Holmes, lighting 
a cigarette. "The case is clear enough against you, and 
all I ask is a few details for my private curiosity. However, 
if there's any difficulty in your telling me, I'll do the talk- 
ing, and then you will see how far you have a chance of 
holding back your secrets. In the first place, three of you 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 115 

came from South Africa on this game you Williamson, you 
Carruthers, and Woodley. " 

" Lie number one, " said the old man ; " I never saw either of 
them until two months ago, and I have never been in Africa in 
my life, so you can put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Busy- 
body Holmes ! " 

" What he says is true, " said Carruthers. 

" Well, well, two of you came over. His reverence is our own 

home-made article. You had known Ralph Smith in South 

Africa. You had reason to believe he would not live long. You 

found out that his niece would inherit his fortune. How's that 

-eh?" 

Carruthers nodded and Williamson swore. 

" She was next of kin, no doubt, and you were aware that the 
old fellow would make no will. " 

" Couldn't read or write, " said Carruthers. 

" So you came over the two of you, and hunted up the girl. 
The idea was that one of you was to marry her, and the other 
have a share of the plunder. For some reason, Woodley was 
chosen as the husband. Why was that ? " 

" We played cards for her on the voyage. He won. " 

" I see. You got the young lady into your service, and there 
Woodley was to do the courting. She recognised the drunken 
brute that he was, and would have nothing to do with him. 
Meanwhile, your arrangement was rather upset by the fact that 
you had yourself fallen in love with the lady. You could no 
longer bear the idea of this ruffian owning her ? " 

"No, by George, I couldn't!" 

There was a quarrel between you. He left you in a rage, and 
began to make his own plans independently of you. " 

" It strikes me, Williamson, there isn't very much that we can 



116 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

tell this gentleman, " cried Carruthers, with a bitter laugh. 
"Yes, we quarrelled, and he knocked me down. I am level 
with him on that, anyhow. Then I lost sight of him. That 
was when he picked up with this cast padre here. I found 
that they had set up housekeeping together at this place on the 
line that she had to pass for the station. I kept my eye on her 
after that, for I knew there was some devilry in the wind. I 
saw them from time to time, for I was anxious to know what 
they were after. Two days ago Woodley came up to my house 
with this cable, which showed that Ralph Smith was dead. He 
asked me if I would stand by the bargain. I said I would not. 
He asked me if I would marry the girl myself, and give him a 
share. I said I would willingly do so, but that she would not 
have me. He said, 'Let us get her married first, and after a 
week or two she may see things a bit different.' I said I would 
have nothing to do with violence. So he went off cursing, like 
the foul-mouthed blackguard that he was, and swearing that 
he would have her yet. She was leaving me this week-end, and 
I had got a trap to take her to the station, but I was so uneasy 
in my mind that I followed her on my bicycle. She had got a 
start, however, and before I could catch her, the mischief was 
done. The first thing I knew about it was when I saw you two 
gentlemen driving back in her dog-cart. " 

Holmes rose and tossed the end of his cigarette into the grate. 
" I have been very obtuse, Watson, " said he. " When in your 
report you said that you had seen the cyclist as you thought ar- 
range his necktie in the shrubbery, that alone should have told 
me all. However, we may congratulate ourselves upon a curi- 
ous and, in some respects, a unique case. I perceive three of the 
county constabulary in the drive, and I am glad to see that the 
little ostler is able to keep pace with them, so it is likely that 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST 117 

neither he nor the interesting bridegroom will be permanently 
damaged by their morning's adventures. I think, Watson, that 
in your medical capacity, you might wait upon Miss Smith and 
tell her that if she is sufficiently recovered, we shall be happy to 
escort her to her mother's home. If she is not quite convales- 
cent, you will find that a hint that we were about to telegraph to 
a young electrician in the Midlands would probably complete 
the cure. As to you, Mr. Carruthers, I think that you have 
done what you could to make amends for your share in an evil 
plot. There is my card, sir, and if my evidence can be of help 
to you in your trial, it shall be at your disposal. " 

In the whirl of our incessant activity, it has often been diffi- 
cult for me, as the reader has probably observed, to round off 
my narratives, and to give those final details which the curious 
might expect. Each case has been the prelude to another, and 
the crisis once over the actors have passed for ever out of our 
busy lives. I find, however, a short note at the end of my manu- 
script dealing with this case, in which I have put it upon rec- 
ord that Miss Violet Smith did indeed inherit a large fortune, 
and that she is now the wife of Cyril Morton, the senior partner 
of Morton & Kennedy, the famous Westminster electricians. 
Williamson and Woodley were both tried for abduction and 
assault, the former getting seven years and the latter ten. Of 
the fate of Carruthers, I have no record, but I am sure that his 
assault was not viewed very gravely by the court, since Woodley 
had the reputation of being a most dangerous ruffian, and I 
think that a few months were sufficient to satisfy the demands of 
justice. 



V 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE PRIORY SCHOOL 

W E have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our 
small stage at Baker Street, but I cannot recollect any- 
thing more sudden and startling than the first appearance of 
Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. His card, 
which seemed too small to carry the weight of his academic 
distinctions, preceded him by a few seconds, and then he entered 
himself so large, so pompous, and so dignified that he was 
the very embodiment of self-possession and solidity. And yet 
his first action, when the door had closed behind him, was to 
stagger against the table, whence he slipped down upon the 
floor, and there was that majestic figure prostrate and insen- 
sible upon our bearskin hearthrug. 

We had sprung to our feet, and for a few moments we stared 
in silent amazement at this ponderous piece of wreckage, 
which told of some sudden and fatal storm far out on the ocean 
of life. Then Holmes hurried with a cushion for his head, and 
I with brandy for his lips. The heavy, white face was seamed 
with lines of trouble, the hanging pouches under the closed 
eyes were leaden in colour, the loose mouth drooped dolorously 
at the corners, the rolling chins were unshaven. Collar and 



120 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

shirt bore the grime of a long journey, and the hair bristled 
unkempt from the well-shaped head. It was a sorely stricken 
man who lay before us. 

" What is it, Watson ? " asked Holmes. 

"Absolute exhaustion possibly mere hunger and fatigue," 
said I, with my finger on the thready pulse, where the stream 
of life trickled thin and small. 

"Return ticket from Mackleton, in the North of England," 
said Holmes, drawing it from the watch-pocket. "It is not 
twelve o'clock yet. He has certainly been an early starter." 

The puckered eyelids had begun to quiver, and now 
a pair of vacant, grey eyes looked up at us. An instant 
later the man had scrambled on to his feet, his face crimson 
with shame. 

"Forgive this weakness, Mr. Holmes, I have been a little 
overwrought. Thank you, if I might have a glass of milk and 
a biscuit, I have no doubt that I should be better. I came per- 
sonally, Mr. Holmes, in order to insure that you would return 
with me. I feared that no telegram would convince you of the 
absolute urgency of the case." 

" When you are quite restored " 

"I am quite well again. I cannot imagine how I came to 
be so weak. I wish you, Mr. Holmes, to come to Mackleton 
with me by the next train." 

My friend shook his head. 

"My colleague, Dr. Watson, could tell you that we are very 
busy at present. I am retained in this case of the Ferrers 
Documents, and the Abergavenny murder is coming up for 
trial. Only a very important issue could call me from London 
at present." 

"Important!" Our visitor threw up his hands. "Have 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 121 

you heard nothing of the abduction of the only son of the Duke 
of Holdernesse ? " 

"What! the late Cabinet Minister?" 

" Exactly. We had tried to keep it out of the papers, but 
there was some rumour in the Globe last night. I thought it 
might have reached your ears." 

Holmes shot out his long, thin arm and picked out Volume 
" H " in his encyclopaedia of reference. 

"'Holdernesse, 6th Duke, K.G., P.C.' half the alphabet! 
'Baron Beverley, Earl of Carston' dear me, what a list! 
' Lord Lieutenant of Hallamshire since 1900. Married Edith, 
daughter of Sir Charles Appledore, 1888. Heir and only child, 
Lord Saltire. Owns about two hundred and fifty thousand 
acres. Minerals in Lancashire and Wales. Address: Carl- 
ton House Terrace; Holdernesse Hall, Hallamshire; Carston 
Castle, Bangor, Wales. Lord of the Admiralty, 1872; Chief 
Secretary of State for ' Well, well, this man is certainly 
one of the greatest subjects of the Crown ! " 

"The greatest and perhaps the wealthiest. I am aware, 
Mr. Holmes, that you take a very high line in professional mat- 
ters, and that you are prepared to work for the work's sake. 
I may tell you, however, that his Grace has already intimated 
that a cheque for five thousand pounds will be handed over to 
the person who can tell him where his son is, and another thou- 
sand to him who can name the man or men who have taken 
him." 

"It is a princely offer," said Holmes. "Watson, I think 
that we shall accompany Dr. Huxtable back to the North of 
England. And now, Dr. Huxtable, when you have consumed 
that milk, you will kindly tell me what has happened, when it 
happened, how it happened, and, finally, what Dr. Thorney- 



122 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

croft Huxtable, of the Priory School, near Mackleton, has to 
do with the matter, and why he comes three days after an 
event the state of your chin gives the date to ask for my 
humble services." 

Our visitor had consumed his milk and biscuits. The light 
had come back to his eyes and the colour to his cheeks, as he set 
himself with great vigour and lucidity to explain the situation. 

" I must inform you, gentlemen, that the Priory is a prepar- 
atory school, of which I am the founder and principal. ' Hux- 
table's Sidelights on Horace' may possibly recall my name to 
your memories. The Priory is, without exception, the best 
and most select preparatory school in England. Lord Lever- 
stoke, the Earl of Blackwater, Sir Cathcart Soames they all 
have intrusted their sons to me. But I felt that my school 
had reached its zenith when, three weeks ago, the Duke of 
Holdernesse sent Mr. James Wilder, his secretary, with the 
intimation that young Lord Saltire, ten years old, his only son 
and heir, was about to be committed to my charge. Little did 
I think that this would be the prelude to the most crushing 
misfortune of my life. 

" On May 1st the boy arrived, that being the beginning of the 
summer term. He was a charming youth, and he soon fell 
into our ways. I may tell you I trust that I am not indis- 
creet, but half-confidences are absurd in such a case that 
he was not entirely happy at home. It is an open secret that 
the Duke's married life had not been a peaceful one, and the 
matter had ended in a separation by mutual consent, the 
Duchess taking up her residence in the South of France. This 
had occurred very shortly before, and the boy's sympathies are 
known to have been strongly with his mother. He moped 
after her departure from Holdernesse Hall, and it was for this 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 123 

reason that the Duke desired to send him to my establishment. 
In a fortnight the boy was quite at home with us, and was 
apparently absolutely happy. 

" He was last seen on the night of May 13th that is, the 
night of last Monday. His room was on the second floor, and 
was approached through another larger room, in which two 
boys were sleeping. These boys saw and heard nothing, so 
that it is certain that young Saltire did not pass out that way. 
His window was open, and there is a stout ivy plant leading to 
the ground. We could trace no footmarks below, but it is sure 
that this is the only possible exit. 

"His absence was discovered at seven o'clock on Tuesday 
morning. His bed had been slept in. He had dressed him- 
self fully, before going off, in his usual school suit of black Eton 
jacket and dark grey trousers. There were no signs that any- 
one had entered the room, and it is quite certain that anything 
in the nature of cries or a struggle would have been heard, 
since Gaunter, the elder boy in the inner room, is a very light 
sleeper. 

" When Lord Saltire's disappearance was discovered, I at 
once called a roll of the whole establishment boys, masters, 
and servants. It was then that we ascertained that Lord Sal- 
tire had not been alone in his flight. Heidegger, the German 
master, was missing. His room was on the second floor, at the 
farther end of the building, facing the same way as Lord Sal- 
tire's. His bed had also been slept in, but he had apparently 
gone away partly dressed, since his shirt and socks were lying 
on the floor. He had undoubtedly let himself down by the 
ivy, for we could see the marks of his feet where he had landed 
on the lawn. His bicycle was kept m a small shed beside this 
lawn, and it also was gone. 



124 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" He had been with me for two years, and came with the best 
references, but he was a silent, morose man, not very popular 
either with masters or boys. No trace could be found of the 
fugitives, and now, on Thursday morning, we are as ignorant as 
we were on Tuesday. Inquiry was, of course, made at once at 
Holdernesse Hall. It is only a few miles away, and we imag- 
ined that, in some sudden attack of homesickness, he had gone 
back to his father, but nothing had been heard of him. The 
Duke is greatly agitated, and, as to me, you have seen your- 
selves the state of nervous prostration to which the suspense 
and the responsibility have reduced me. Mr. Holmes, if ever 
you put forward your full powers, I implore you to do so now, 
for never in your life could you have a case which is more 
worthy of them." 

Sherlock Holmes had listened with the utmost intentness to 
the statement of the unhappy schoolmaster. His drawn brows 
and the deep furrow between them showed that he needed no 
exhortation to concentrate all his attention upon a problem 
which, apart from the tremendous interests involved, must 
appeal so directly to his love of the complex and the unusual. 
He now drew out his note-book, and jotted down one or two 
memoranda. 

"You have been very remiss in not coming to me sooner," 
said he, severely. "You start me on my investigation with a 
very serious handicap. It is inconceivable, for example, that 
this ivy and this lawn would have yielded nothing to an expert 
observer." 

" I am not to blame, Mr. Holmes. His Grace was extremely 
desirous to avoid all public scandal. He was afraid of his 
family unhappiness being dragged before the world. He has 
a deep horror of anything of the kind." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 125 

" But there has been some official investigation ? " 

" Yes, sir, and it has proved most disappointing. An appar- 
ent clue was at once obtained, since a boy and a young man 
were reported to have been seen leaving a neighbouring station 
by an early train. Only last night we had news that the couple 
had been hunted down in Liverpool, and they prove to have no 
connection whatever with the matter in hand. Then it was 
that in my despair and disappointment, after a sleepless night, 
I came straight to you by the early train." 

"I suppose the local investigation was relaxed while this 
false clue was being followed up ? " 

" It was entirely dropped." 

" So that three days have been wasted. The affair has been 
most deplorably handled." 

" I feel it, and admit it." 

"And yet the problem should be capable of ultimate solu- 
tion. I shall be very happy to look into it. Have you been 
able to trace any connection between the missing boy and this 
German master ? " 

"None at all." 

" Was he in the master's class ? " 

" No, he never exchanged a word with him, so far as I know." 

" That is certainly very singular. Had the boy a bicycle ? " 

"No." 

" Was any other bicycle missing ? " 

"No." 

"Is that certain?" 

"Quite." 

" Well, now, you do not mean to seriously suggest that this 
German rode off upon a bicycle in the dead of the night, bearing 
the boy in his arms ? " 



126 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

"Certainly not." 

" Then what is the theory in your mind ? " 

"The bicycle may have been a blind. It may have been 
hidden somewhere, and the pair gone off on foot." 

" Quite so, but it seems rather an absurd blind, does it not ? 
Were there other bicycles in this shed ? " 

"Several." 

" Would he not have hidden a couple, had he desired to give 
the idea that they had gone off upon them ? " 

" I suppose he would." 

" Of course he would. The blind theory won't do. But the 
incident is an admirable starting-point for an investigation. 
After all, a bicycle is not an easy thing to conceal or to destroy. 
One other question. Did anyone call to see the boy on the day 
before he disappeared ? " 

"No." 

" Did he get any letters ? " 

"Yes, one letter.'* 

"From whom?" 

"From his father." 

" Do you open the boys' letters ? " 

"No." 

" How do you know it was from the father ?" 

" The coat of arms was on the envelope, and it was addressed 
in the Duke's peculiar stiff hand. Besides, the Duke remem- 
bers having written." 

" When had he a letter before that ? " 

" Not for several days." 

" Had he ever one from France ? '* 

" No, never." 

" You see the point of my questions, of course. Either the 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 127 

boy was carried off by force or he went of his own free-will. 
In the latter case, you would expect that some prompting from 
outside would be needed to make so young a lad do such a 
thing. If he has had no visitors, that prompting must have 
come in letters; hence I try to find out who were his corre- 
spondents." 

" I fear I cannot help you much. His only correspondent, so 
far as I know, was his own father." 

" Who wrote to him on the very day of his disappearance. 
Were the relations between father and son very friendly ? " 

" His Grace is never very friendly with anyone. He is com- 
pletely immersed in large public questions, and is rather in- 
accessible to all ordinary emotions. But he was always kind 
to the boy in his own way." 

" But the sympathies of the latter were with the mother?" 

"Yes." 

"Did he say so?" 

"No." 

"The Duke, then?" 

" Good Heavens, no!" 

" Then how could you know ? " 

** I have had some confidential talks with Mr. James Wilder, 
his Grace's secretary. It was he who gave me the infor- 
mation about Lord Saltire's feelings." 

" I see. By the way, that last letter of the Duke's was it 
found in the boy's room after he was gone ? " 

" No, he had taken it with him. I think, Mr. Holmes, it is 
time that we were leaving for Euston." 

" I will order a four-wheeler. In a quarter of an hour, we 
shall be at your service. If you are telegraphing home, Mr. 
Huxtable, it would be well to allow the people in your neigh- 



128 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

bourhood to imagine that the inquiry is still going on in Liver- 
pool, or wherever else that red herring led your pack. In the 
meantime I will do a little quiet work at your own doors, and 
perhaps the scent is not so cold but that two old hounds like 
Watson and myself may get a sniff of it." 

That evening found us in the cold, bracing atmosphere of the 
Peak country, in which Dr. Huxtable's famous school is situ- 
ated. It was already dark when we reached it. A card was 
lying on the hall table, and the butler whispered something to 
his master, who turned to us with agitation in every heavy 
feature. 

" The Duke is here," said he. " The Duke and Mr. Wilder 
are in the study. Come, gentlemen, and I will introduce 
you." 

I was, of course, familiar with the pictures of the famous 
statesman, but the man himself was very different from his 
representation. He was a tall and stately person, scrupulously 
dressed, with a drawn, thin face, and a nose which was gro- 
tesquely curved and long. His complexion was of a dead 
pallor, which was more startling by contrast with a long, 
dwindling beard of vivid red, which flowed down over his white 
waistcoat, with his watch-chain gleaming through its fringe. 
Such was the stately presence who looked stonily at us from the 
centre of Dr. Huxtable's hearthrug. Beside him stood a very 
young man, whom I understood to be Wilder, the private 
secretary. He was small, nervous, alert, with intelligent, light- 
blue eyes and mobile features. It was he who at once, in an 
incisive and positive tone, opened the conversation. 

"I called this morning, Dr. Huxtable, too late to prevent 
you from starting for London. I learned that your object 
was to invite Mr. Sherlock Holmes to undertake the conduct 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 129 

of this case. His Grace is surprised, Dr. Huxtable, that you 
should have taken such a step without consulting him." 

" When I learned that the police had failed " 

" His Grace is by no means convinced that the police have 
failed." 

" But surely, Mr. Wilder " 

"You are well aware, Dr. Huxtable, that his Grace is par- 
ticularly anxious to avoid all public scandal. He prefers to 
take as few people as possible into his confidence." 

" The matter can be easily remedied," said the brow-beaten 
doctor; "Mr. Sherlock Holmes can return to London by the 
morning train." 

"Hardly that, doctor, hardly that," said Holmes, in his 
blandest voice. " This northern air is invigorating and pleas- 
ant, so I propose to spend a few days upon your moors, 
and to occupy my mind as best I may. Whether I have 
the shelter of your roof or of the village inn is, of course, for 
you to decide." 

I could see that the unfortunate doctor was in the last stage 
of indecision, from which he was rescued by the deep, sonorous 
voice of the red-bearded Duke, which boomed out like a din- 
ner-gong. 

"I agree with Mr. Wilder, Dr. Huxtable, that you would 
have done wisely to consult me. But since Mr. Holmes has 
already been taken into your confidence, it would indeed be 
absurd that we should not avail ourselves of his services. Far 
from going to the inn, Mr. Holmes, I should be pleased if you 
would come and stay with me at Holdernesse Hall." 

" I thank your Grace. For the purposes of my investigation, 
I think that it would be wiser for me to remain at the scene of 
the mystery." 



130 

"Just as you like, Mr. Holmes. Any information which 
Mr. Wilder or I can give you is, of course, at your disposal." 

" It will probably be necessary for me to see you at the Hall," 
said Holmes. "I would only ask you now, sir, whether you 
have formed any explanation in your own mind as to the mys- 
terious disappearance of your son ? " 

" No, sir, I have not." 

" Excuse me if I allude to that which is painful to you, but 
I have no alternative. Do you think that the Duchess had 
anything to do with the matter ? " 

The great Minister showed perceptible hesitation. 

" I do not think so," he said, at last. 

"The other most obvious explanation is that the child has 
been kidnapped for the purpose of levying ransom. You have 
not had any demand of the sort ? " 

"No, sir." 

"One more question, your Grace. I understand that 
you wrote to your son upon the day when this incident 
occurred." 

"No, I wrote upon the day before." 

" Exactly. But he received it on that day ? " 

"Yes." 

"Was there anything in your letter which might have un- 
balanced him or induced him to take such a step ? " 

" No, sir, certainly not." 

" Did you post that letter yourself ? " 

The nobleman's reply was interrupted by his secretary, who 
broke in with some heat. 

" His Grace is not in the habit of posting letters himself," said 
he. "This letter was laid with others upon the study table, 
and I myself put them in the post-bag." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 131 

" You are sure this one was among them ? " 

"Yes, I observed it." 

" How many letters did your Grace write that day ? " 

"Twenty or thirty. I have a large correspondence. But 
surely this is somewhat irrelevant ? " 

" Not entirely," said Holmes. 

" For my own part," the Duke continued, " I have advised 
the police to turn their attention to the South of France. I 
have already said that I do not believe that the Duchess would 
encourage so monstrous an action, but the lad had the most 
wrong-headed opinions, and it is possible that he may have 
fled to her, aided and abetted by this German. I think, Dr. 
Huxtable, that we will now return to the Hall." 

I could see that there were other questions which Holmes 
would have wished to put, but the nobleman's abrupt manner 
showed that the interview was at an end. It was evident that 
to his intensely aristocratic nature this discussion of his intimate 
family affairs with a stranger was most abhorrent, and that he 
feared lest every fresh question would throw a fiercer light into 
the discreetly shadowed corners of his ducal history. 

When the nobleman and his secretary had left, my friend 
flung himself at once with characteristic eagerness into the 
investigation. 

The boy's chamber was carefully examined, and yielded 
nothing save the absolute conviction that it was only through 
the window that he could have escaped. The German mas- 
ter's room and effects gave no further clue. In his case a 
trailer of ivy had given way under his weight, and we saw by 
the light of a lantern the mark on the lawn where his heels had 
come down. That one dint in the short, green grass was the 
only material witness left of this inexplicable nocturnal flight. 



132 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Sherlock Holmes left the house alone, and only returned after 
eleven. He had obtained a large ordnance map of the neigh- 
bourhood, and this he brought into my room, where he laid it 
out on the bed, and, having balanced the lamp in the middle 





X^^iflU, 



CtO SMAtf \ 



HOLMES' MAP OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE SCHOOL 

of it, he began to smoke over it, and occasionally to point out 
objects of interest with the reeking amber of his pipe. 

" This case grows upon me, Watson," said he. " There are 
decidedly some points of interest in connection with it. In 
this early stage, I want you to realize those geographical features 
which may have a good deal to do with our investigation. 

" Look at this map. This dark square is the priory school. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 188 

I'll put a pin in it. Now, this line is the main road. You see 
that it runs east and west past the school, and you see also that 
there is no side road for a mile either way. If these two folk 
passed away by road, it was this road." 

"Exactly." 

" By a singular and happy chance, we are able to some extent 
to check what passed along this road during the night in ques- 
tion. At this point, where my pipe is now resting, a county 
constable was on duty from twelve to six. It is, as you perceive, 
the first cross-road on the east side. This man declares that 
he was not absent from his post for an instant, and he is posi- 
tive that neither boy nor man could have gone that way un- 
seen. I have spoken with this policeman to-night, and he 
appears to me to be a perfectly reliable person. That blocks 
this end. We have now to deal with the other. There is an 
inn here, the Red Bull, the landlady of which was ill. She had 
sent to Mackleton for a doctor, but he did not arrive until morn- 
ing, being absent at another case. The people at the inn were 
alert all night, awaiting his coming, and one or other of them 
seems to have continually had an eye upon the road. They 
declare that no one passed. If their evidence is good, then we 
are fortunate enough to be able to block the west, and also to 
be able to say that the fugitives did not use the road at all." 

" But the bicycle ? " I objected. 

" Quite so. We will come to the bicycle presently. To con- 
tinue our reasoning: if these people did not go by the road, 
they must have traversed the country to the north of the house 
or to the south of the house. That is certain. Let us weigh 
the one against the other. On the south of the house is, as 
you perceive, a large district of arable land, cut up into small 
fields, with stone walls between them. There, I admit that a 



134 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

bicycle is impossible. We can dismiss the idea. We turn to 
the country on the north. Here there lies a grove of trees, 
marked as the ' Ragged Shaw,' and on the farther side stretches 
a great rolling moor, Lower Gill Moor, extending for ten miles 
and sloping gradually upwards. Here, at one side of this 
wilderness, is Holdernesse Hall ten miles by road, but only 
six across the moor. It is a peculiarly desolate plain. A few 
moor farmers have small holdings, where they rear sheep and 
cattle. Except these, the plover and the curlew are the only 
inhabitants until you come to the Chesterfield high road. There 
is a church there, you see, a few cottages, and an inn. Beyond 
that the hills become precipitous. Surely it is here to the north 
that our quest must lie." 

" But the bicycle ? " I persisted. 

"Well, well!" said Holmes, impatiently. "A good cyclist 
does not need a high road. The moor is intersected with paths, 
and the moon was at the full. Halloa ! what is this ? " 

There was an agitated knock at the door, and an 
instant afterwards Dr. Huxtable was in the room. In 
his hand he held a blue cricket-cap, with a white chevron 
on the peak. 

"At last we have a clue!" he cried. "Thank Heaven! at 
last we are on the dear boy's track ! It is his cap." 

" Where was it found ? " 

" In the van of the gipsies who camped on the moor. They 
left on Tuesday. To-day the police traced them down and 
examined their caravan. This was found." 

" How do they account for it ? " 

" They shuffled and lied said that they found it on the 
moor on Tuesday morning. They know where he is, the ras- 
cals! Thank goodness, they are all safe under lock and key. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 135 

Either the fear of the law or the Duke's purse will certainly get 
out of them all that they know." 

" So far, so good," said Holmes, when the doctor had at last 
left the room. " It at least bears out the theory that it is on 
the side of the Lower Gill Moor that we must hope for results. 
The police have really done nothing locally, save the arrest of 
these gipsies. Look here, Watson! There is a watercourse 
across the moor. You see it marked here in the map. In 
some parts it widens into a morass. This is particularly so in 
the region between Holdernesse Hall and the school. It is 
vain to look elsewhere for tracks in this dry weather, but at 
that point there is certainly a chance of some record being left. 
I will call you early to-morrow morning, and you and I will 
try if we can throw some little light upon the mystery." 

The day was just breaking when I woke to find the long, 
thin form of Holmes by my bedside. He was fully dressed, 
and had apparently already been out. 

" I have done the lawn and the bicycle shed," said he. " I 
have also had a ramble through the Ragged Shaw. Now, 
Watson, there is cocoa ready in the next room. I must beg you 
to hurry, for we have a great day before us." 

His eyes shone, and his cheek was flushed with the exhila- 
ration of the master workman who sees his work lie ready before 
him. A very different Holmes, this active, alert man, from the 
introspective and pallid dreamer of Baker Street. I felt, as 
I looked upon that supple figure, alive with nervous energy, 
that it was indeed a strenuous day that awaited us. 

And yet it opened in the blackest disappointment. With 
high hopes we struck across the peaty, russet moor, intersected 
with a thousand sheep paths, until we came to the broad, light- 
green belt which marked the morass between us and Holder- 



136 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

nesse. Certainly, if the lad had gone homewards, he must 
have passed this, and he could not pass it without leaving his 
traces. But no sign of him or the German could be seen. 
With a darkening face my friend strode along the margin, 
eagerly observant of every muddy stain upon the mossy surface. 
Sheep-marks there were in profusion, and at one place, some 
miles down, cows had left their tracks. Nothing more. 

"Check number one," said Holmes, looking gloomily over 
the rolling expanse of the moor. "There is another morass 
down yonder, and a narrow neck between. Halloa ! halloa ! 
halloa ! what have we here ? " 

We had come on a small black ribbon of pathway. In the 
middle of it, clearly marked on the sodden soil, was the track 
of a bicycle. 

" Hurrah ! " I cried. "We have it." 

But Holmes was shaking his head, and his face was puzzled 
and expectant rather than joyous. 

"A bicycle, certainly, but not the bicycle," said he. " I am 
familiar with forty-two different impressions left by tyres. 
This, as you perceive, is a Dunlop, with a patch upon the outer 
cover. Heidegger's tyres were Palmer's, leaving longitudinal 
stripes. Aveling, the mathematical master, was sure upon the 
point. Therefore, it is not Heidegger's track." 

"The boy's, then?" 

"Possibly, if we could prove a bicycle to have been in his 
possession. But this we have utterly failed to do. This track, 
as you perceive, was made by a rider who was going from the 
direction of the school." 

"Or towards it?" 

"No, no, my dear Watson. The more deeply sunk impres- 
sion is, of course, the hind wheel, upon which the weight rests. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 137 

You perceive several places where it has passed across and 
obliterated the more shallow mark of the front one. It was 
undoubtedly heading away from the school. It may or may 
not be connected with our inquiry, but we will follow it back- 
wards before we go any farther." 

We did so, and at the end of a few hundred yards lost the 
tracks as we emerged from the boggy portion of the moor. 
Following the path backwards, we picked out another spot, 
where a spring trickled across it. Here, once again, was the 
mark of the bicycle, though nearly obliterated by the hoofs 
of cows. After that there was no sign, but the path ran right 
on into Ragged Shaw, the wood which backed on to the school. 
From this wood the cycle must have emerged. Holmes sat 
down on a boulder, and rested his chin in his hands. I had 
smoked two cigarettes before he moved. 

"Well, well," said he, at last. "It is, of course, possible 
.that a cunning man might change the tyre of his bicycle in order 
to leave unfamiliar tracks. A criminal who was capable of 
such a thought is a man whom I should be proud to do business 
with. We will leave this question undecided and hark back 
to our morass again, for we have left a good deal unexplored." 

We continued our systematic survey of the edge of the sod- 
den portion of the moor, and soon our perseverance was glo- 
riously rewarded. Right across the lower part of the bog lay 
a miry path. Holmes gave a cry of delight as he approached 
it. An impression like a fine bundle of telegraph wires ran 
down the centre of it. It was the Palmer tyre. 

" Here is Herr Heidegger, sure enough! " cried Holmes, exult- 
antly. " My reasoning seems to have been pretty sound, Wat- 
son." 

" I congratulate you." 



138 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

"But we have a long way still to go. Kindly walk clear 
of the path. Now let us follow the trail. I fear that it will 
not lead very far." 

We found, however, as we advanced that this portion of the 
moor is intersected with soft patches, and, though we frequently 
lost sight of the track, we always succeeded in picking it up 
once more. 

"Do you observe," said Holmes, "that the rider is now un- 
doubtedly forcing the pace? There can be no doubt of it. 
Look at this impression, where you get both tyres clear. The 
one is as deep as the other. That can only mean that the rider 
is throwing his weight on to the handle-bar, as a man does when 
he is sprinting. By Jove! he has had a fall." 

There was a broad, irregular smudge covering some yards 
of the track. Then there were a few footmarks, and the tyre 
reappeared once more. 

" A side-slip," I suggested. 

Holmes held up a crumpled branch of flowering gorse. To 
my horror, I perceived that the yellow blossoms were all dab- 
bled with crimson. On the path, too, and among the heather 
were dark stains of clotted blood. 

"Bad!" said Holmes. "Bad! Stand clear, Watson! Not 
an unnecessary footstep! What do I read here? He fell 
wounded he stood up he remounted he proceeded. But 
there is no other track. Cattle on this side path. He was 
surely not gored by a bull ? Impossible ! But I see no traces 
of anyone else. We must push on, Watson. Surely, with 
stains as well as the track to guide us, he cannot escape us now." 

Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tyre 
began to curve fantastically upon the wet and shining path. 
Suddenly, as I looked ahead, the gleam of metal caught my eye 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 139 

from amid the thick gorse-bushes. Out of them we dragged 
a bicycle, Palmer-tyred, one pedal bent, and the whole front of 
it horribly smeared and slobbered with blood. On the other 
side of the bushes, a shoe was projecting. We ran round, and 
there lay the unfortunate rider. He was a tall man, full-beard- 
ed, with spectacles, one glass of which had been knocked out. 
The cause of his death was a frightful blow upon the head, 
which had crushed in part of his skull. That he could have 
gone on after receiving such an injury said much for the vitality 
and courage of the man. He wore shoes, but no socks, and his 
open coat disclosed a night-shirt beneath it. It was undoubt- 
edly the German master. 

Holmes turned the body over reverently, and examined it 
with great attention. He then sat in deep thought for a time, 
and I could see by his ruffled brow that this grim discovery had 
not, in his opinion, advanced us much in our inquiry. 

" It is a little difficult to know what to do, Watson," said he, 
at last. " My own inclinations are to push this inquiry on, for 
we have already lost so much time that we cannot afford to 
waste another hour. On the other hand, we are bound to 
inform the police of the discovery, and to see that this poor 
fellow's body is looked after." 

" I could take a note back." 

"But I need your company and assistance. Wait a bit! 
There is a fellow cutting peat up yonder. Bring him over here, 
and he will guide the police." 

I brought the peasant across, and Holmes dispatched the 
frightened man with a note to Dr. Huxtable. 

"Now, Watson," said he, "we have picked up two clues 
this morning. One is the bicycle with the Palmer tyre, and we 
see what that has led to. The other is the bicycle with the 



140 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

patched Dtmlop. Before we start to investigate that, let us 
try to realize what we do know, so as to make the most of it, and 
to separate the essential from the accidental. " 

" First of all, I wish to impress upon you that the boy certainly 
left of his own free-will. He got down from his window and 
he went off, either alone or with someone. That is sure." 

I assented. 

" Well, now, let us turn to this unfortunate German master. 
The boy was fully dressed when he fled. Therefore, he fore- 
saw what he would do. But the German went without his 
socks. He certainly acted on very short notice." 

"Undoubtedly." 

" Why did he go ? Because, from his bedroom window, he 
saw the flight of the boy; because he wished to overtake him 
and bring him back. He seized his bicycle, pursued the lad, 
and in pursuing him met his death." 

" So it would seem." 

"Now I come to the critical part of my argument. The 
natural action of a man in pursuing a little boy would be to run 
after him. He would know that he could overtake him. But 
the German does not do so. He turns to his bicycle. I am 
told that he was an excellent cyclist. He would not do this, if 
he did not see that the boy had some swift means of escape." 

"The other bicycle." 

"Let us continue our reconstruction. He meets his death 
five miles from the school not by a bullet, mark you, which 
even a lad might conceivably discharge, but by a savage blow 
dealt by a vigorous arm. The lad, then, had a companion in 
his flight. And the flight was a swift one, since it took five 
miles before an expert cyclist could overtake them. Yet we 
survey the ground round the scene of the tragedy. What do 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 141 

we find ? A few cattle-tracks, nothing more. I took a wide 
sweep round, and there is no path within fifty yards. Another 
cyclist could have had nothing to do with the actual murder, 
nor were there any human footmarks." 

"Holmes," I cried, "this is impossible." 

"Admirable!" he said. "A most illuminating remark. It 
is impossible as I state it, and therefore I must in some 
respect have stated it wrong. Yet you saw for yourself. Can 
you suggest any fallacy ? " 

" He could not have fractured his skull in a fall ? " 

" In a morass, Watson ? " 

" I am at my wits' end." 

"Tut, tut, we have solved some worse problems. At least 
we have plenty of material, if we can only use it. Come, then, 
and, having exhausted the Palmer, let us see what the Dunlop 
with the patched cover has to offer us." 

We picked up the track and followed it onwards for some 
distance, but soon the moor rose into a long, heather-tufted 
curve, and we left the watercourse behind us. No further 
help from tracks could be hoped for. At the spot where we saw 
the last of the Dunlop tyre it might equally have led to Holder- 
nesse Hall, the stately towers of which rose some miles to our 
left, or to a low, grey village which lay in front of us, and 
marked the position of the Chesterfield high road. 

As we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the 
sign of a game-cock above the door, Holmes gave a sudden 
groan, and clutched me by the shoulder to save himself from 
falling. He had had one of those violent strains of the ankle 
which leave a man helpless. With difficulty he limped up to 
the door, where a squat, dark, elderly man was smoking a black 
clay pipe. 



142 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" How are you, Mr. Reuben Hayes ? " said Holmes. 

" Who are you, and how do you get my name so pat ? " the 
countryman answered, with a suspicious flash of a pair of cun- 
ning eyes. 

"Well, it's printed on the board above your head. It's 
easy to see a man who is master of his own house. 
I suppose you haven't such a thing as a carriage in your 
stables ? " 

"No, I have not." 

" I can hardly put my foot to the ground." 

" Don't put it to the ground." 

"But I can't walk." 

"Well, then, hop." 

Mr. Reuben Hayes' manner was far from gracious, but 
Holmes took it with admirable good-humour. 

"Look here my man," said he. "This is really rather an 
awkward fix for me. I don't mind how I get on." 

" Neither do I," said the morose landlord. 

" The matter is very important. I would offer you a sover- 
eign for the use of a bicycle." 

The landlord pricked up his ears. 

" Where do you want to go ? " 

"ToHoldernesseHall." 

" Pals of the Dook, I suppose ? " said the landlord, survey- 
ing our mud-stained garments with ironical eyes. 

Holmes laughed good naturedly. 

" He'll be glad to see us, anyhow." 

"Why?" 

" Because we bring him news of his lost son." 

The landlord gave a very visible start. 

" What, you're on his track ? " 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 143 

"He has been heard of in Liverpool. They expect to get 
him every hour." 

Again a swift change passed over the heavy, unshaven face. 
His manner was suddenly genial. 

"I've less reason to wish the Dook well than most men," 
said he, " for I was his head coachman once, and cruel bad he 
treated me. It was him that sacked me without a character 
on the word of a lying corn-chandler. But I'm glad to hear 
that the young lord was heard of in Liverpool, and I'll help you 
to take the news to the Hall." 

"Thank you," said Holmes. "We'll have some food first. 
Then you can bring round the bicycle." 

"I haven't got a bicycle." 

Holmes held up a sovereign. 

" I tell you, man, that I haven't got one. I'll let you have 
two horses as far as the Hall." 

"Well, well," said Holmes, "we'll talk about it when we've 
had something to eat." 

When we were left alone in the stone-flagged kitchen, it was 
astonishing how rapidly that sprained ankle recovered. It 
was nearly nightfall, and we had eaten nothing since early 
morning, so that we spent some time over our meal. Holmes 
was lost in thought, and once or twice he walked over to the 
window and stared earnestly out. It opened on to a squalid 
courtyard. In the far corner was a smithy, where a grimy lad 
was at work. On the other side were the stables. Holmes 
had sat down again after one of these excursions, when he sud- 
denly sprang out of his chair with a loud exclamation. 

"By Heaven, Watson, I believe that I've got it!" he cried. 
"Yes, yes, it must be so. Watson, do you remember seeing 
any cow-tracks to-day ? " 



144 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

"Yes, several." 

"Where?" 

"Well, everywhere. They were at the morass, and again 
on the path, and again near where poor Heidegger met his 
death." 

" Exactly. Well, now, Watson, how many cows did you see 
on the moor ? " 

" I don't remember seeing any." 

"Strange, Watson, that we should see tracks all along our 
line, but never a cow on the whole moor. Very strange, Watson, 
eh?" 

" Yes, it is strange." 

"Now, Watson, make an effort, throw your mind back. 
Can you see those tracks upon the path ? " 

"Yes, I can." 

"Can you recall that the tracks were sometimes like that, 
Watson " he arranged a number of bread-crumbs in this 
fashion : : : : : " and sometimes like this " : . : . : . : . 
" and occasionally like this " .*.'.. " Can you re- 
member that ? " 

" No, I cannot." 

" But I can. I could swear to it. However, we will go back 
at our leisure and verify it. What a blind beetle I have been, 
not to draw my conclusion ! " 

" And what is your conclusion ? " 

" Only that it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters, and 
gallops. By George! Watson, it was no brain of a country 
publican that thought out such a blind as that. The coast 
seems to be clear, save for that lad in the smithy. Let us slip 
out and see what we can see." 

There were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 145 

down stable. Holmes raised the hind leg of one of them and 
laughed aloud. 

" Old shoes, but newly shod old shoes, but new nails. 
This case deserves to be a classic. Let us go across to the 
smithy." 

The lad continued his work without regarding us. I saw 
Holmes' eye darting to right and left among the litter of 
iron and wood which was scattered abov_"- the floor. Sud- 
denly, however, we heard a step behind us, and there was the 
landlord, his heavy eyebrows drawn down over his savage eyes, 
his swarthy features convulsed with passion. He held a short, 
metal-headed stick in his hand, and he advanced in so 
menacing a fashion that I was right glad to feel the revolver 
in my pocket. 

'* You infernal spies ! " the man cried. ** What are you doing 
there?" 

" Why, Mr. Reuben Hayes," said Holmes, coolly, " one might 
think that you were afraid of our finding something out." 

The man mastered himself with a violent effort, and his grim 
mouth loosened into a false laugh, which was more menacing 
than his frown. 

" You're welcome to all you can find out in my smithy," said 
he. " But look here, mister, I don't care for folk poking about 
my place without my leave, so the sooner you pay your score 
and get out of this the better I shall be pleased." 

"All right, Mr. Hayes, no harm meant," said Holmes. 
" We have been having a look at your horses, but I think I'll 
walk, after all. It's not far, I believe." 

"Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. That's the 
road to the left." He watched us with sullen eyes until we had 
left his premises. 



146 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

We did not go very far along the road, for Holmes stopped 
the instant that the curve hid us from the landlord's view. 

"We were warm, as the children say, at that inn," said he. 
"I seem to grow colder every step that I take away from it. 
No, no, I can't possibly leave it." 

" I am convinced," said I, " that this Reuben Hayes knows 
all about it. A more self-evident villain I never saw." 

" Oh ! he impressed you in that way, did he ? There are the 
horses, there is the smithy. Yes, it is an interesting place, this 
Fighting Cock. I think we shall have another look at it in an 
unobtrusive way." 

A long, sloping hillside, dotted with grey limestone boulders, 
stretched behind us. We had turned off the road, and were 
making our way up the hill, when, looking in the direction of 
Holdernesse Hall, I saw a cyclist coming swiftly along. 

"Get down, Watson!" cried Holmes, with a heavy hand 
upon my shoulder. We had hardly sunk from view when the 
man flew past us on the road. Amid a rolling cloud of dust, I 
caught a glimpse of a pale, agitated face a face with horror 
in every lineament, the mouth open, the eyes staring wildly in 
front. It was like some strange caricature of the dapper James 
Wilder whom we had seen the night before. 

"The Duke's secretary!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, 
let us see what he does." 

We scrambled from rock to rock, until in a few moments we 
had made our way to a point from which we could see the front 
door of the inn. Wilder's bicycle was leaning against the wall 
beside it. No one was moving about the house, nor could we 
catch a glimpse of any faces at the windows. Slowly the twi- 
light crept down as the sun sank behind the high towers of 
Holdernesse Hall. Then, in the gloom, we saw the two side- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 147 

lamps of a trap light up in the stable-yard of the inn, and shortly 
afterwards heard the rattle of hoofs, as it wheeled out into the 
road and tore off at a furious pace in the direction of Chester- 
field. 

" What do you make of that, Watson ? " Holmes whispered. 

" It looks like a flight." 

" A single man in a dog-cart, so far as I could see. Well, it 
certainly was not Mr. James Wilder, for there he is at the door." 

A red square of light had sprung out of the darkness. In the 
middle of it was the black figure of the secretary, his head 
advanced, peering out into the night. It was evident that he 
was expecting someone. Then at last there were steps in the 
road, a second figure was visible for an instant against the light, 
the door shut, and all was black once more. Five minutes later 
a lamp was lit in a room upon the first floor. 

" It seems to be a curious class of custom that is done by the 
Fighting Cock," said Holmes. 

" The bar is on the other side." 

" Quite so. These are what one may call the private guests. 
Now, what in the world is Mr. James Wilder doing in that den 
at this hour of night, and who is the companion who comes to 
meet him there ? Come, Watson, we must really take a risk, 
and try to investigate this a little more closely." 

Together we stole down to the road and crept across to the 
door of the inn. The bicycle still leaned against the wall. 
Holmes struck a match and held it to the back wheel, and I 
heard him chuckle as the light fell upon a patched Dunlop tyre. 
Up above us was the lighted window. 

"I must have a peep through that, Watson. If you bend 
your back and support yourself upon the wall, I think that I 
can manage." 



148 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

An instant later, his feet were on my shoulders, but he was 
hardly up before he was down again. 

" Come, my friend," said he, " our day's work has been 
quite long enough. I think that we have gathered all that we 
can. It's a long walk to the school, and the sooner we get 
started the better." 

He hardly opened his lips during that weary trudge across 
the moor, nor would he enter the school when he reached it, 
but went on to Mackleton Station, whence he could send some 
telegrams. Late at night I heard him consoling Dr. Huxtable, 
prostrated by the tragedy of his master's death, and later still 
he entered my room as alert and vigorous as he had been when 
he started in the morning. " All goes well, my friend," said he. 
"I promise that before to-morrow evening we shall have 
reached the solution of the mystery." 

At eleven o'clock next morning my friend and I were walk- 
ing up the famous yew avenue of Holdernesse Hall. We were 
ushered through the magnificent Elizabethan doorway and 
into his Grace's study. There we found Mr. James Wilder, 
demure and courtly, but with some trace of that wild terror 
of the night before still lurking in his furtive eyes and in his 
twitching features. 

" You have come to see his Grace ? I am sorry, but the fact 
is that the Duke is far from well. He has been very much 
upset by the tragic news. We received a telegram from Dr. 
Huxtable yesterday afternoon, which told us of your discovery." 

** I must see the Duke, Mr. Wilder." 

" But he is in his room." 

" Then I must go to his room." 

** I believe he is in his bed." 




AN INSTANT 1. A T E K , HIS K t K T \VEKK ON MY S II O I 1. I) K K S 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 149 

" I will see him there. " 

Holmes' cold and inexorable manner showed the secretary 
that it was useless to argue with him. 

"Very good, Mr. Holmes, I will tell him that you are 
here. " 

After an hour's delay, the great nobleman appeared. His 
face was more cadaverous than ever, his shoulders had rounded, 
and he seemed to me to be an altogether older man than he had 
been the morning before. He greeted us with a stately cour- 
tesy and seated himself at his desk, his red beard streaming 
down on the table. 

" Well, Mr. Holmes ? " said he. 

But my friend's eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who 
stood by his master's chair. 

*' I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in Mr. 
Wilder's absence. " 

The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance 
at Holmes. 

" If your Grace wishes " 

"Yes, yes, you had better go. Now, Mr. Holmes, what 
have you to say ? " 

My friend waited until the door had closed behind the retreat- 
ing secretary. 

" The fact is, your Grace, " said he, " that my colleague, Dr. 
Watson, and myself had an assurance from Dr. Huxtable that 
a reward had been offered in this case. I should like to have 
this confirmed from your own lips. " 

"Certainly, Mr. Holmes." 

" It amounted, if I am correctly informed, to five thousand 
pounds to anyone who will tell you where your son is ? " 

"Exactly." 



150 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

. " And another thousand to the man who will name the per- 
son or persons who keep him in custody ? " 

"Exactly." 

"Under the latter heading is included, no doubt, not only 
those who may have taken him away, but also those who con- 
spire to keep him in his present position ? " 

"Yes, yes," cried the Duke, impatiently. "If you do your 
work well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you will have no reason to 
complain of niggardly treatment." 

My friend rubbed his thin hands together with an appear- 
ance of avidity which was a surprise to me, who knew his frugal 
tastes. 

"I fancy that I see your Grace's cheque-book upon the 
table," said he. " I should be glad if you would make me out 
a cheque for six thousand pounds. It would be as well, per- 
haps, for you to cross it. The Capital and Counties Bank, 
Oxford Street branch, are my agents." 

His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair, and looked 
stonily at my friend. 

"Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for 
pleasantry." 

" Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my 
life." 

" What do you mean, then ? " 

" I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your 
son is, and I know some, at least, of those who are holding him." 

The Duke's beard had turned more aggressively red than 
ever against his ghastly white face. 

" Where is he ? " he gasped. 

" He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn, about 
two miles from your park gate." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 151 

The Duke fell back in his chair. 

" And whom do you accuse ? " 

Sherlock Holmes' answer was an astounding one. He 
stepped swiftly forward and touched the Duke upon the 
shoulder, 

" I accuse you," said he. " And now, your Grace, I'll trouble 
you for that cheque." 

Never shall I forget the Duke's appearance as he sprang up 
and clawed with his hands, like one who is sinking into an abyss. 
Then, with an extraordinary effort of aristocratic self-command, 
he sat down and sank his face in his hands. It was some min- 
utes before he spoke. 

" How much do you know ? " he asked at last, without rais- 
ing his head. 

" I saw you together last night." 

" Does anyone else beside your friend know ? " 

" I have spoken to no one." 

The Duke took a pen in his quivering fingers and opened 
his cheque-book. 

" I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about 
to write your cheque, however unwelcome the information 
which you have gained may be to me. When the offer was 
first made, I little thought the turn which events might 
take. But you and your friend are men of discretion, 
Mr. Holmes?" 

" I hardly understand your Grace." 

" I must put it plainly, Mr. Holmes. If only you two know 
of this incident, there is no reason why it should go any farther. 
I think twelve thousand pounds is the sum that I owe you, 
is it not ? " 

But Holmes smiled and shook his head. 



152 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" I fear, your Grace, that matters can hardly be arranged so 
easily. There is the death of this schoolmaster to be accounted 
for." 

"But James knew nothing of that. You cannot hold him 
responsible for that. It was the work of this brutal ruffian 
whom he had the misfortune to employ." 

"I must take the view, your Grace, that when a man em- 
barks upon a crime, he is morally guilty of any other crime 
which may spring from it." 

"Morally, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right. But 
surely not in the eyes of the law. A man cannot be condemned 
for a murder at which he was not present, and which he loathes 
and abhors as much as you do. The instant that he heard of 
it he made a complete confession to me, so filled was he with 
horror and remorse. He lost not an hour in breaking entirely 
with the murderer. Oh, Mr. Holmes, you must save him 
you must save him ! I tell you that you must save him ! " The 
Duke had dropped the last attempt at self-command, and was 
pacing the room with a convulsed face and with his clenched 
hands raving in the air. At last he mastered himself, and sat 
down once more at his desk. " I appreciate your conduct in 
coming here before you spoke to anyone else," said he. "At 
least, we may take counsel how far we can minimize this hideous 
scandal." 

"Exactly," said Holmes. "I think, your Grace, that this 
can only be done by absolute frankness between us. I am 
disposed to help your Grace to the best of my ability, but, in 
order to do so, I must understand to the last detail how the mat- 
ter stands. I realize that your words applied to Mr. James 
Wilder, and that he is not the murderer " 

" No, the murderer has escaped." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 153 

Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely. 

" Your Grace can hardly have heard of any small reputation 
which I possess, or you would not imagine that it is so easy to 
escape me. Mr. Reuben Hayes was arrested at Chesterfield, 
on my information, at eleven o'clock last night. I had a tele- 
gram from the head of the local police before I left the school 
this morning." 

The Duke leaned back in his chair and stared with amaze- 
ment at my friend. 

" You seem to have powers that are hardly human," said he. 
" So Reuben Hayes is taken ? I am right glad to hear it, if it 
will not react upon the fate of James." 

" Your secretary ? " 

"No, sir, my son." 

It was Holmes' turn to look astonished. 

"I confess that this is entirely new to me, your Grace. I 
must beg you to be more explicit." 

"I will conceal nothing from you. I agree with you that 
complete frankness, however painful it may be to me, is the 
best policy in this desperate situation to which James' folly 
and jealousy have reduced us. When I was a very young man, 
Mr. Holmes, I loved with such a love as comes only once in a 
lifetime. I offered the lady marriage, but she refused it on the 
grounds that such a match might mar my career. Had she 
lived, I would certainly never have married anyone else. She 
died, and left this one child, whom for her sake I have cherished 
and cared for. I could not acknowledge the paternity to the 
world, but I gave him the best of educations, and since he came 
to manhood I have kept him near my person. He surprised my 
secret, and has presumed ever since upon the claim which he 
has upon me, and upon his power of provoking a scandal 



154 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

which would be abhorrent to me. His presence had something 
to do with the unhappy issue of my marriage. Above all, he 
hated my young legitimate heir from the first with a persistent 
hatred. You may well ask me why, under these circumstances, 
I still kept James under my roof. I answer that it was because 
I could see his mother's face in his, and that for her dear sake 
there was no end to my long-suffering. All her pretty ways 
too there was not one of them which he could not suggest 
and bring back to my memory. I could not send him away. 
But I feared so much lest he should do Arthur that is, Lord 
Saltire a mischief, that I dispatched him for safety to Dr. 
Huxtable's school. 

"James came into contact with this fellow Hayes, because 
the man was a tenant of mine, and James acted as agent. The 
fellow was a rascal from the beginning, but, in some extraordi- 
nary way, James became intimate with him. He had always a 
taste for low company. When James determined to kidnap 
Lord Saltire, it was of this man's service that he availed himself. 
You remember that I wrote to Arthur upon that last day. Well, 
James opened the letter and inserted a note asking Arthur to 
meet him in a little wood called the Ragged Shaw, which is 
near to the school. He used the Duchess' name, and in that 
way got the boy to come. That evening James bicycled over 
I am telling you what he has himself confessed to me and 
he told Arthur, whom he met in the wood, that his mother 
longed to see him, that she was awaiting him on the moor, and 
that if he would come back into the wood at midnight he would 
find a man with a horse, who would take him to her. Poor 
Arthur fell into the trap. He came to the appointment, and 
found this fellow Hayes with a led pony. Arthur mounted, 
and they set off together. It appears though this James 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 155 

only heard yesterday that they were pursued, that Hayes 
struck the pursuer with his stick, and that the man died of his 
injuries. Hayes brought Arthur to his public-house, the Fight- 
ing Cock, where he was confined in an upper room, under the 
care of Mrs. Hayes, who is a kindly woman, but entirely under 
the control of her brutal husband. 

" Well, Mr. Holmes, that was the state of affairs when I first 
saw you two days ago. I had no more idea of the truth than 
you. You will ask me what was James' motive in doing such 
a deed. I answer that there was a great deal which was un- 
reasoning and fanatical in the hatred which he bore my heir. 
In his view he should himself have been heir of all my estates, 
and he deeply resented those social laws which made it im- 
possible. At the same time, he had a definite motive also. He 
was eager that I should break the entail, and he was of opinion 
that it lay in my power to do so. He intended to make a bar- 
gain with me to restore Arthur if I would break the entail, 
and so make it possible for the estate to be left to him by will. 
He knew well that I should never willingly invoke the aid of the 
police against him. I say that he would have proposed such 
a bargain to me ; but he did not actually do so, for events 
moved too quickly for him, and he had not time to put his plans 
into practice. 

"What brought all his wicked scheme to wreck was your 
discovery of this man Heidegger's dead body. James was 
seized with horror at the news. It came to us yesterday, as we 
sat together in this study. Dr. Huxtable had sent a telegram. 
James was so overwhelmed with grief and agitation that my 
suspicions, which had never been entirely absent, rose instantly 
to a certainty, and I taxed him with the deed. He made a com- 
plete voluntary confession. Then he implored me to keep his 



15 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

secret for three days longer, so as to give his wretched accom- 
plice a chance of saving his guilty life. I yielded as I have 
always yielded to his prayers, and instantly James hurried 
off to the Fighting Cock to warn Hayes and give him the means 
of flight. I could not go there by daylight without provoking 
comment, but as soon as night fell I hurried off to see my dear 
Arthur. I found him safe and well, but horrified beyond ex- 
pression by the dreadful deed he had witnessed. In deference 
to my promise, and much against my will, I consented to leave 
him there for three days, under the charge of Mrs. Hayes, since 
it was evident that it was impossible to inform the police where 
he was without telling them also who was the murderer, and I 
could not see how that murderer could be punished without 
ruin to my unfortunate James. You asked for frankness, Mr. 
Holmes, and I have taken you at your word, for I have now 
told you everything without an attempt at circumlocution or 
concealment. Do you in your turn be as frank with me." 

" I will," said Holmes. " In the first place, your Grace, I 
am bound to tell you that you have placed yourself in a most 
serious position in the eyes of the law. You have condoned a 
felony, and you have aided the escape of a murderer, for I can- 
not doubt that any money which was taken by James Wilder 
to aid his accomplice in his flight came from your Grace's 
purse." 

The Duke bowed his assent. 

" This is, indeed, a most serious matter. Even more culpable 
in my opinion, your Grace, is your attitude towards your 
younger son. You leave him in this den for three days." 

" Under solemn promises 

"What are promises to such people as these? You have 
no guarantee that he will not be spirited away again. To 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL 157 

humour your guilty elder son, you have exposed your innocent 
younger son to imminent and unnecessary danger. It was a 
most unjustifiable action." 

The proud lord of Holdernesse was not accustomed to be 
so rated in his own ducal hall. The blood flushed into his high 
forehead, but his conscience held him dumb. 

"I will help you, but on one condition only. It is that you 
ring for the footman, and let me give such orders as I like." 

Without a word, the Duke pressed the electric bell. A ser- 
vant entered. 

" You will be glad to hear," said Holmes, " that your young 
master is found. It is the Duke's desire that the carriage shall 
go at once to the Fighting Cock Inn to bring Lord Saltire home. 

"Now," said Holmes, when the rejoicing lackey had dis- 
appeared, "having secured the future, we can afford to be 
more lenient with the past. I am not in an official position, 
and there is no reason, so long as the ends of justice are served, 
why I should disclose all that I know. As to Hayes, I say noth- 
ing. The gallows awaits him, and I would do nothing to save 
him from it. What he will divulge I cannot tell, but I have no 
doubt that your Grace could make him understand that it is to 
his interest to be silent. From the police point of view he will 
have kidnapped the boy for the purpose of ransom. If they 
do not themselves find it out, I see no reason why I should 
prompt them to take a broader point of view. I would warn 
your Grace, however, that the continued presence of Mr. James 
Wilder in your household can only lead to misfortune." 

" I understand that, Mr. Holmes, and it is already settled 
that he shall leave me forever, and go to seek his fortune in 
Australia." 

" In that case, your Grace, since you have yourself stated that 



158 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

any unhappiness in your married life was caused by his pres- 
ence, I would suggest that you make such amends as you can 
to the Duchess, and that you try to resume those relations 
which have been so unhappily interrupted." 

"That also I have arranged, Mr. Holmes. I wrote to the 
Duchess this morning." 

" In that case," said Holmes, rising, " I think that my friend 
and I can congratulate ourselves upon several most happy re- 
sults from our little visit to the North. There is one other 
small point upon which I desire some light. This fellow 
Hayes had shod his horses with shoes which counterfeited 
the tracks of cows. Was it from Mr. Wilder that he learned 
so extraordinary a device ? " 

The Duke stood in thought for a moment, with a look of in- 
tense surprise on his face. Then he opened a door and showed 
us into a large room furnished as a museum. He led the way 
to a glass case in a corner, and pointed to the inscription. 

" These shoes," it ran, " were dug up in the moat of Holder- 
nesse Hall. They are for the use of horses, but they are 
shaped below with a cloven foot of iron, so as to throw pursuers 
off the track. They are supposed to have belonged to some 
of the marauding Barons of Holdernesse in the Middle Ages." 

Holmes opened the case, and moistening his finger he passed 
it along the shoe. A thin film of recent mud was left upon his 
skin. 

" Thank you," said he, as he replaced the glass. " It is the 
second most interesting object that I have seen in the North." 

"And the first?" 

Holmes folded up his cheque and placed it carefully in his 
note-book. " I am a poor man," said he, as he patted it affec- 
tionately, and thrust it into the depths of his inner pocket. 



VI 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
BLACK PETER 

I HAVE never known my friend to be in better form, both 
mental and physical, than in the year '95. His increasing 
fame had brought with it an immense practice, and I should be 
guilty of an indiscretion if I were even to hint at the identity of 
some of the illustrious clients who crossed our humble threshold 
in Baker Street. Holmes, however, like all great artists, lived 
for his art's sake, and, save in the case of the Duke of Holder- 
nesse, I have seldom known him claim any large reward for his 
inestimable services. So unworldly was he or so capricious 
that he frequently refused his help to the powerful and wealthy 
where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while he 
would devote weeks of most intense application to the affairs of 
some humble client whose case presented those strange and dra- 
matic qualities which appealed to his imagination and chal- 
lenged his ingenuity. 

In this memorable year '95, a curious and incongruous succes- 
sion of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous 
investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca an in- 
quiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His 
Holiness the Pope down to his arrest of Wilson, the notorious 



160 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East End 
of London. Close on the heels of these two famous cases came 
the tragedy of Woodman's Lee, and the very obscure circum- 
stances which surrounded the death of Captain Peter Carey. 
No record of the doings of Mr. Sherlock Holmes would be com- 
plete which did not include some account of this very unusual 
affair. 

During the first week of July, my friend had been absent so 
often and so long from our lodgings that I knew he had some- 
thing on hand. The fact that several rough-looking men called 
during that time and inquired for Captain Basil made me under- 
stand that Holmes was working somewhere under one of the nu- 
merous disguises and names with which he concealed his own 
formidable identity. He had at least five small refuges in dif- 
ferent parts of London, in which he was able to change his per- 
sonality. He said nothing of his business to me, and it was not 
my habit to force a confidence. The first positive sign which he 
gave me of the direction which his investigation was taking was 
an extraordinary one. He had gone out before breakfast, and 
I had sat down to mine when he strode into the room, his hat 
upon his head and a huge barbed-headed spear tucked like an 
umbrella under his arm. 

" Good gracious, Holmes ! " I cried. " You don't mean to 
say that you have been walking about London with that thing ?" 

" I drove to the butcher's and back. " 

"The butcher's?'* 

"And I return with an excellent appetite. There can be no 
question, my dear Watson, of the value of exercise before break- 
fast. But I am prepared to bet that you will not guess the form 
that my exercise has taken. " 

" I will not attempt it " 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 161 

He chuckled as he poured out the coffee. 

"* If you could have looked into Allardyce's back shop, you 
would have seen a dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, 
and a gentleman in his shirt sleeves furiously stabbing at it with 
this weapon. I was that energetic person, and I have satisfied 
myself that by no exertion of my strength can I transfix the pig 
with a single blow. Perhaps you would care to try ? " 

" Not for worlds. But why were you doing this ? " 

" Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon 
the mystery of Woodman's Lee. Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire 
last night, and I have been expecting you. Come and join us." 

Our visitor was an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age, 
dressed in a quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of 
one who was accustomed to official uniform. I recognised him 
at once as Stanley Hopkins, a young police inspector, for whose 
future Holmes had high hopes, while he in turn professed the 
admiration and respect of a pupil for the scientific methods of 
the famous amateur. Hopkins' brow was clouded, and he sat 
down with an air of deep dejection. 

" No, thank you, sir. I breakfasted before I came round. I 
spent the night in town, for I came up yesterday to report. " 

" And what had you to report ? " 

" Failure, sir, absolute lailure. " 

" You have made no progress ? " 

"None." 

" Dear me! I must have a look at the matter. " 

" I wish to Heavens that you would, Mr. Holmes. It's my 
first big chance, and I am at my wits' end. For goodness' sake, 
come down and lend me a hand. " 

" Well, well, it just happens that I have already read all the 
available evidence, including the report of the inquest, with 



162 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

some care. By the way, what do you make of that tobacco- 
pouch, found on the scene of the crime ? Is there no clue 
there?" 

Hopkins looked surprised. 

" It was the man's own pouch, sir. His initials were inside 
it. And it was of sealskin and he was an old sealer. " 

" But he had no pipe. " 

" No, sir, we could find no pipe. Indeed, he smoked very 
little, and yet he might have kept some tobacco for his 
friends. " 

" No doubt. I only mention it because, if I had been hand- 
ling the case, I should have been inclined to make that the start- 
ing-point of my investigation. However, my friend, Dr. Wat- 
son, knows nothing of this matter, and I should be none the 
worse for hearing the sequence of events once more. Just 
give us some short sketches of the essentials. " 

Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket. 

" I have a few dates here which will give you the career of the 
dead man, Captain Peter Carey. He was born in '45 fifty 
years of age. He was a most daring and successful seal and 
whale fisher. In 1883 he commanded the steam sealer Sea 
Unicorn, of Dundee. He had then had several successful 
voyages in succession, and in the following year, 1884, he re- 
tired. After that he travelled for some years, and finally he 
bought a small place called Woodman's Lee, near Forest Row, 
in Sussex. There he has lived for six years, and there he died 
just a week ago to-day. 

" There were some most singular points about the man. In 
ordinary life, he was a strict Puritan a silent, gloomy fellow. 
His household consisted of his wife, his daughter, aged twenty, 
and two female servants. These last were continually chang- 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 163 

ing, for it was never a very cheery situation, and sometimes it 
became past all bearing. The man was an intermittent drunk- 
ard, and when he had the fit on him he was a perfect fiend. He 
has been known to drive his wife and daughter out of doors in 
the middle of the night, and flog them through the park until 
the whole village outside the gates was aroused by their 
screams. 

" He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the old 
vicar, who had called upon him to remonstrate with him upon 
his conduct. In short, Mr. Holmes, you would go far before 
you found a more dangerous man than Peter Carey, and I have 
heard that he bore the same character when he commanded his 
ship. He was known in the trade as Black Peter, and the 
name was given him, not only on account of his swarthy features 
and the colour of his huge beard, but for the humours which 
were the terror of all around him. I need not say that he 
was loathed and avoided by every one of his neighbours, 
and that I have not heard one single word of sorrow about 
his terrible end. 

" You must have read in the account of the inquest about the 
man's cabin, Mr. Holmes, but perhaps your friend here has not 
heard of it. He had built himself a wooden outhouse he al- 
ways called it the ' cabin' a few hundred yards from his house, 
and it was here that he slept every night. It was a little, single- 
roomed hut, sixteen feet by ten. He kept the key in his pocket, 
made his own bed, cleaned it himself, and allowed no other foot 
to cross the threshold. There are small windows on each side, 
which were covered by curtains and never opened. One of these 
windows was turned towards the high road, and when the light 
burned in it at night the folk used to point it out to each other 
and wonder what Black Peter was doing in there. That's the 



164 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

window, Mr. Holmes, which gave us one of the few bits of posi- 
tive evidence that came out at the inquest. 

" You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking 
from Forest Row about one o'clock in the morning two days 
before the murder stopped as he passed the grounds and 
looked at the square of light still shining among the trees. He 
swears that the shadow of a man's head turned sideways was 
clearly visible on the blind, and that this shadow was certainly 
not that of Peter Carey, whom he knew well. It was that of a 
bearded man, but the beard was short and bristled forwards in 
a way very different from that of the captain. So he says, but 
he had been two hours in the public-house, and it is some dis- 
tance from the road to the window. Besides, this refers to the 
Monday, and the crime was done upon the Wednesday. 

"On the Tuesday, Peter Carey was in one of his blackest 
moods, flushed with drink and as savage as a dangerous wild 
beast. He roamed about the house, and the women ran for it 
when they heard him coming. Late in the evening, he went 
down to his own hut. About two o'clock the following morn- 
ing, his daughter, who slept with her window open, heard a most 
fearful yell from that direction, but it was no unusual thing for 
him to bawl and shout when he was in drink, so no notice was 
taken. On rising at seven, one of the maids noticed that the 
door of the hut was open, but so great was the terror which the 
man caused that it was midday before anyone would venture 
down to see what had become of him. Peeping into the open 
door, they saw a sight which sent them flying, with white faces, 
into the village. Within an hour, I was on the spot and had 
taken over the case. 

" Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr. Holmes, 
but I give you my word, that I got a shake when I put my head 




I GOT A SHAKE \V II K X 1 P I" T MY 11 K A D INTO THAT LITTLE HOUSE 



165 

into that little house. It was droning like a harmonium with 
the flies and bluebottles, and the floor and walls were like a 
slaughter-house. He had called it a cabin, and a cabin it was, 
sure enough, for you would have thought that you were in a 
ship. There was a bunk at one end, a sea-chest, maps and 
charts, a picture of the Sea Unicorn, a line of logbooks on a 
shelf, all exactly as one would expect to find it in a captain's 
room. And there, in the middle of it, was the man himself his 
face twisted like a lost soul in torment, and his great brindled 
beard stuck upwards in his agony. Right through his broad 
breast a steel harpoon had been driven, and it had sunk deep 
into the wood of the wall behind him. He was pinned like a 
beetle on a card. Of course, he was quite dead, and had been 
so from the instant that he had uttered that last yell of agony. 

" I know your methods, sir, and I applied them. Before I 
permitted anything to be moved, I examined most carefully the 
ground outside, and also the floor of the room. There were no 
footmarks. " 

" Meaning that you saw none ? " 

" I assure you, sir, that there were none. " 

" My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I 
have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying crea- 
ture. As long as the criminal remains upon two legs so long 
must there be some indentation, some abrasion, some trifling 
displacement which can be detected by the scientific searcher. 
It is incredible that this blood-bespattered room contained no 
trace which could have aided us. I understand, however, from 
the inquest that there were some objects which you failed to 
overlook ? " 

The young inspector winced at my companion's ironical 
Comments. 



166 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" I was a fool not to call you in at the time, Mr. Holmes. How- 
ever, that's past praying for now. Yes, there were several ob- 
jects in the room which called for special attention. One was 
the harpoon with which the deed was committed. It had been 
snatched down from a rack on the wall. Two others remained 
there, and there was a vacant place for the third. On the stock 
was engraved 'Ss. Sea Unicorn, Dundee.' This seemed to 
establish that the crime had been done in a moment of fury, 
and that the murderer had seized the first weapon which came 
in his way. The fact that the crime was committed at two in 
the morning, and yet Peter Carey was fully dressed, suggested 
that he had an appointment with the murderer, which is borne 
out by the fact that a bottle of rum and two dirty glasses stood 
upon the table." 

"Yes, " said Holmes; " I think that both inferences are per- 
missible. Was there any other spirit but rum in the room ? " 

" Yes, there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky on 
the sea-chest. It is of no importance to us, however, since the 
decanters were full, and it had therefore not been used. " 

"For all that, its presence has some significance," said 
Holmes. " However, let us hear some more about the objects 
which do seem to you to bear upon the case. " 

" There was this tobacco-pouch upon the table. " 

" What part of the table ? " 

"It lay in the middle. It was of coarse sealskin the 
straight-haired skin, with a leather thong to bind it. Inside 
was 'P. C.' on the flap. There was half an ounce of strong 
ship's tobacco in it. " 

" Excellent ! What more ? " 

Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket a drab-covered note- 
book. The outside was rough and worn, the leaves discoloured. 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 167 

On the first page were written the initials " J. H. N. " and the 
date " 1883. " Holmes laid it on the table and examined it in 
his minute way, while Hopkins and I gazed over each shoulder. 
On the second page were the printed letters "C. P. R.," and 
then came several sheets of numbers. Another heading was 
" Argentine," another "Costa Rica," and another " San Paulo," 
each with pages of signs and figures after it. 

" What do you make of these ? " asked Holmes. 

"They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities. I 
thought that ' J. H. N.' were the initials of a broker, and that 
'C. P. R.' may have been his client. " 

" Try Canadian Pacific Railway, " said Holmes. 

Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth, and struck his 
thigh with his clenched hand. 

" What a fool I have been ! " he cried. " Of course, it is as 
you say. Then ' J. H. N.' are the only initials we have to solve. 
I have already examined the old Stock Exchange lists, and I can 
find no one in 1883, either in the house or among the outside 
brokers, whose initials correspond with these. Yet I feel that 
the clue is the most important one that I hold. You will ad- 
mit, Mr. Holmes, that there is a possibility that these initials are 
those of the second person who was present in other words, of 
the murderer. I would also urge that the introduction into 
the case of a document relating to large masses of valuable secu- 
rities gives us for the first time some indication of a motive 
for the crime. " 

Sherlock Holmes' face showed that he was thoroughly taken 
aback by this new development. 

" I must admit both your points, " said he. " I confess that 
this note-book, which did not appear at the inquest, modifies 
any views which I may have formed. I had come to a theory 



168 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

of the crime in which I can find no place for this. Have you 
endeavoured to trace any of the securities here mentioned ? " 

*' Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but I fear that 
the complete register of the stockholders of these South Ameri- 
can concerns is in South America, and that some weeks must 
elapse before we can trace the shares. " 

Holmes had been examining the cover of the note-book with 
his magnifying lens. 

" Surely there is some discolouration here, " said he. 

"Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. I told you that I picked the 
book off the floor. " 

" Was the blood-stain above or below ? " 

" On the side next the boards. " 

" Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after 
the crime was committed. " 

" Exactly, Mr. Holmes. I appreciated that point, and I 
conjectured that it was dropped by the murderer in his hurried 
flight. It lay near the door. " 

"I suppose that none of these securities have been found 
among the property of the dead man ? " 

"No, sir." 

" Have you any reason to suspect robbery ? " 

" No, sir. Nothing seemed to have been touched. " 

" Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case. Then there 
was a knife, was there not ? " 

" A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. It lay at the feet of the 
dead man. Mrs. Carey has identified it as being her husband's 
property. " 

Holmes was lost in thought for some time. 

" Well, " said he, at last, " I suppose I shall have to come out 
and have a look at it. " 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 169 

Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy. 

"Thank you, sir. That will, indeed, be a weight off my 
mind. " 

Holmes shook his finger at the inspector. 

" It would have been an easier task a week ago, " said he. 
" But even now my visit may not be entirely fruitless. Watson, 
if you can spare the time, I should be very glad of your company. 
If you will call a four-wheeler, Hopkins, we shall be ready to 
start for Forest Row in a quarter of an hour. " 

Alighting at the small wayside station, we drove for some 
miles through the remains of wide-spread woods, which were 
once part of that great forest which for so long held the Saxon 
invaders at bay the impenetrable " weald, " for sixty years 
the bulwark of Britain. Vast sections of it have been cleared, 
for this is the seat of the first iron-works of the country, and the 
trees have been felled to smelt the ore. Now the richer fields 
of the North have absorbed the trade, and nothing save these 
ravaged groves and great scars in the earth show the work of 
the past. Here, in a clearing upon the green slope of a hill, 
stood a long, low, stone house, approached by a curving drive 
running through the fields. Nearer the road, and surrounded 
on three sides by bushes, was a small outhouse, one window 
and the door facing in our direction. It was the scene of the 
murder. 

Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced 
us to a haggard, grey-haired woman, the widow of the mur- 
dered man, whose gaunt and deep-lined face, with the furtive 
look of terror in the depths of her red-rimmed eyes, told of the 
years of hardship and ill-usage which she had endured. With 
her was her daughter, a pale, fair-haired girl, whose eyes blazed 



170 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

defiantly at us as she told us that she was glad that her father 
was dead, and that she blessed the hand which had struck him 
down. It was a terrible household that Black Peter Carey had 
made for himself, and it was with a sense of relief that we found 
ourselves in the sunlight again, and making our way along a 
path which had been worn across the fields by the feet of the 
dead man. 

The outhouse was the simplest of dwellings, wooden-walled, 
shingle-roofed, one window beside the door and one on the far- 
ther side. Stanley Hopkins drew the key from his pocket and 
had stooped to the lock, when he paused with a look of attention 
and surprise upon his face. 

" Someone has been tampering with it, " he said. 

There could be no doubt of the fact. The woodwork was cut, 
and the scratches showed white through the paint, as if they had 
been that instant done. Holmes had been examining the win- 
dow. 

" Someone has tried to force this also. Whoever it was has 
failed to make his way in. He must have been a very poor 
burglar. " 

" This is a most extraordinary thing, " said the inspector, 
"I could swear that these marks were not here yesterday 
evening. " 

"Some curious person from the village, perhaps," I sug- 
gested. 

" Very unlikely. Few of them would dare to set foot in the 
grounds, far less try to force their way into the cabin. What 
do you think of it, Mr. Holmes ? " 

" I think that fortune is very kind to us. " 

" You mean that the person will come again ? " 

" It is very probable. He came expecting to find the door 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 171 

open. He tried to get in with the blade of a very small penknife. 
He could not manage it. What would he do ? " 

" Come again next night with a more useful tool. " 

" So I should say. It will be our fault if we are not there to 
receive him. Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin. " 

The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture 
within the little room still stood as it had been on the night of 
the crime. For two hours, with most intense concentration, 
Holmes examined every object in turn, but his face showed that 
his quest was not a successful one. Once only he paused in his 
patient investigation. 

" Have you taken anything off this shelf, Hopkins ? " 

" No, I have moved nothing. " 

" Something has been taken. There is less dust in this cor- 
ner of the shelf than elsewhere. It may have been a book lying 
on its side. It may have been a box. Well, well, I can do noth- 
ing more. Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson, and 
give a few hours to the birds and the flowers. We shall meet 
you here later, Hopkins, and see if we can come to closer quar- 
ters with the gentleman who has paid this visit in the night. " 

It was past eleven o'clock when we formed our little ambus- 
cade. Hopkins was for leaving the door of the hut open, but 
Holmes was of the opinion that this would rouse the suspicions 
of the stranger. The lock was a perfectly simple one, and only 
a strong blade was needed to push it back. Holmes also sug- 
gested that we should wait, not inside the hut, but outside it 
among the bushes which grew round the farther window. In 
this way we should be able to watch our man if he struck a light, 
and see what his object was in this stealthy nocturnal visit. 

It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it 
something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies be- 



172 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

side the water-pool, and waits for the coming of the thirsty beast 
of prey. What savage creature was it which might steal upon 
us out of the darkness ? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which 
could only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, 
or would it prove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous only to 
the weak and unguarded ? 

In absolute silence we crouched amongst the bushes, waiting 
for whatever might come. At first the steps of a few belated 
villagers, or the sound of voices from the village, lightened our 
vigil, but one by one these interruptions died away, and an abso- 
lute stillness fell upon us, save for the chimes of the distant 
church, which told us of the progress of the night, and for the 
rustle and whisper of a fine rain falling amid the foliage which 
roofed us in. 

Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which 
precedes the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click 
came from the direction of the gate. Someone had entered the 
drive. Again there was a long silence, and I had begun to fear 
that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon 
the other side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic scraping 
and clinking. The man was trying to force the lock. This time 
his skill was greater or his tool was better, for there was a sud- 
den snap and the creak of the hinges. Then a match was 
struck, and next instant the steady light from a candle filled 
the interior of the hut. Through the gauze curtain our eyes 
were all riveted upon the scene within. 

The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with a 
black moustache, which intensified the deadly pallor of his face. 
He could not have been much above twenty years of age. I 
have never seen any human being who appeared to be in such a 
pitiable fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering, and he was 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER ITS 

shaking in every limb. He was dressed like a gentleman, in 
Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, with a cloth cap upon his 
head. We watched him staring round with frightened eyes. 
Then he laid the candle-end upon the table, and disappeared 
from our view into one of the corners. He returned with a large 
book, one of the logbooks which formed a line upon the shelves. 
Leaning on the table, he rapidly turned over the leaves of this 
volume until he came to the entry which he sought. Then, 
with an angry gesture of his clenched hand, he closed the book, 
replaced it in the corner, and put out the light. He had hardly 
turned to leave the hut when Hopkins' hand was on the fellow's 
collar, and I heard his loud gasp of terror as he understood that 
he was taken. The candle was relit, and there was our wretched 
captive, shivering and cowering in the grasp of the detective. 
He sank down upon the sea-chest, and looked helplessly from 
one of us to the other. 

" Now, my fine fellow, " said Stanley Hopkins, " who are you, 
and what do you want here ? " 

The man pulled himself together, and faced us with an effort 
at self -composure. 

"You are detectives, I suppose?" said he. "You imagine 
I am connected with the death of Captain Peter Carey. I 
assure you that I am innocent. " 

" We'll see about that, " said Hopkins. " First of all, what 
is your name ? " 

" It is John Hopley Neligan. " 

I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance. 

" What are you doing here ? " 

" Can I speak confidentially ? " 

" No, certainly not. " 

"Why should I tell you?" 



174 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" If you have no answer, it may go badly with you at the trial." 

The young man winced. 

" Well, I will tell you, " he said. " Why should I not ? And 
yet I hate to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of life. 
Did you ever hear of Dawson and Neligan ? " 

I could see, from Hopkins' face, that he never had, but 
Holmes was keenly interested. 

"You mean the West-country bankers," said he. "They 
failed for a million, ruined half the county families of Corn- 
wall, and Neligan disappeared. " 

" Exactly. Neligan was my father. " 

At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed 
a long gap between an absconding banker and Captain Peter 
Carey pinned against the wall with one of his own harpoons. 
We all listened intently to the young man's words. 

" It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had 
retired. I was only ten years of age at the time, but I was old 
enough to feel the shame and horror of it all. It has always 
been said that my father stole all the securities and fled. It is 
not true. It was his belief that if he were given time in which to 
realize them, all would be well and every creditor paid in full. 
He started in his little yacht for Norway just before the warrant 
was issued for his arrest. I can remember that last night, when 
he bade farewell to my mother. He left us a list of the securi- 
ties he was taking, and he swore that he would come back with 
his honour cleared, and that none who had trusted him would 
suffer. Well, no word was ever heard from him again. Both 
the yacht and he vanished utterly. We believed, my mother 
and I, that he and it, with the securities that he had taken with 
him, were at the bottom of the sea. We had a faithful friend, 
however, who is a business man, and it was he who discovered 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 175 

some time ago that some of the securities which my father had 
with him had reappeared on the London market. You can 
imagine our amazement. I spent months in trying to trace 
them, and at last, after many doubtings and difficulties, I dis- 
covered that the original seller had been Captain Peter Carey, 
the owner of this hut. 

" Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found 
that he had been in command of a whaler which was due to 
return from the Arctic seas at the very time when my father was 
crossing to Norway. The autumn of that year was a stormy 
one, and there was a long succession of southerly gales. My 
father's yacht may well have been blown to the north, and 
there met by Captain Peter Carey's ship. If that were so, 
what had become of my father ? In any case, if I could prove 
from Peter Carey's evidence how these securities came on 
the market it would be a proof that my father had not 
sold them, and that he had no view to personal profit when 
he took them. 

" I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the cap- 
tain, but it was at this moment that his terrible death occurred. 
I read at the inquest a description of his cabin, in which it 
stated that the old logbooks of his vessel were preserved in it. 
It struck me that if I could see what occurred in the month of 
August, 1883, on board the Sea Unicorn, I might settle the mys- 
tery of my father's fate. I tried last night to get at these log- 
books, but was unable to open the door. To-night I tried again 
and succeeded, but I find that the pages which deal with that 
month have been torn from the book. It was at that moment I 
found myself a prisoner in your hands. " 

" Is that all ? " asked Hopkins. 

" Yes, that is all. " His eyes shifted as he said it. 



176 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

** You have nothing else to tell us ? " 

He hesitated. 

" No, there is nothing. " 

" You have not been here before last night ? " 

"No." 

" Then how do you account for that ? " cried Hopkins, as he 
held up the damning note-book, with the initials of our prisoner 
on the first leaf and the blood-stain on the cover. 

The wretched man collapsed. He sank his face in his 
hands, and trembled all over. 

" Where did you get it ? " he groaned. " I did not know. I 
thought I had lost it at the hotel. " 

** That is enough, " said Hopkins, sternly. " Whatever else 
you have to say, you must say in court. You will walk down 
with me now to the police-station. Well, Mr. Holmes, I am 
very much obliged to you and to your friend for coming down 
to help me. As it turns out your presence was unnecessary, and 
I would have brought the case to this successful issue without 
you, but, none the less, I am grateful. Rooms have been re- 
served for you at the Brambletye Hotel, so we can all walk down 
to the village together. " 

'* Well, Watson, what do you think of it ? " asked Holmes, as 
we travelled back next morning. 

" I can see that you are not satisfied. " 

" Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At the 
same time, Stanley Hopkins' methods do not commend them- 
selves to me. I am disappointed in Stanley Hopkins. I had 
hoped for better things from him. One should always look for 
a possible alternative, and provide against it. It is the first rule 
of criminal investigation. " 

"What, then, is the alternative?" 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 177 

"The line of investigation which I have myself been pur- 
suing. It may give us nothing. I cannot tell. But at least I 
shall follow it to the end. " 

Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He 
snatched one of them up, opened it, and burst out into a trium- 
phant chuckle of laughter. 

" Excellent, Watson ! The alternative develops. Have you 
telegraph forms? Just write a couple of messages for me: 
' Sumner, Shipping Agent, Ratcliff Highway. Send three men 
on, to arrive ten to-morrow morning. Basil.' That's my 
name in those parts. The other is : ' Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 
46, Lord Street, Brixton. Come breakfast to-morrow at nine- 
thirty. Important. Wire if unable to come. Sherlock 
Holmes.' There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me 
for ten days. I hereby banish it completely from my presence. 
To-morrow, I trust, that we shall hear the last of it for ever. " 

Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins ap- 
peared, and we sat down together to the excellent breakfast 
which Mrs. Hudson had prepared. The young detective was 
in high spirits at his success. 

" You really think that your solution must be correct ? " asked 
Holmes. 

" I could not imagine a more complete case. " 

" It did not seem to me conclusive. " 

" You astonish me, Mr. Holmes. What more could one ask 
for?" 

" Does your explanation cover every point ? " 

"Undoubtedly. I find that young Neligan arrived at the 
Brambletye Hotel on the very day of the crime. He came on 
the pretence of playing golf. His room was on the ground- 
floor, and he could get out when he liked. That very night he 



178 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

went down to Woodman's Lee, saw Peter Carey at the hut, 
quarrelled with him, and killed him with the harpoon. Then, 
horrified by what he had done, he fled out of the hut, dropping 
the note-book which he had brought with him in order to ques- 
tion Peter Carey about these different securities. You may 
have observed that some of them were marked with ticks, and 
the others the great majority were not. Those which are 
ticked have been traced on the London market, but the others, 
presumably, were still in the possession of Carey, and young 
Neligan, according to his own account, was anxious to recover 
them in order to do the right thing by his father's creditors. 
After his flight he did not dare to approach the hut again for 
some time, but at last he forced himself to do so in order to ob- 
tain the information which he needed. Surely that is all simple 
and obvious ? " 

Holmes smiled and shook his head. 

" It seems to me to have only one drawback, Hopkins, and 
that is that it is intrinsically impossible. Have you tried to drive 
a harpoon through a body ? No ? Tut, tut, my dear sir, you 
must really pay attention to these details. My friend Watson 
could tell you that I spent a whole morning in that exercise. It 
is no easy matter, and requires a strong and practised arm. But 
this blow was delivered with such violence that the head of the 
weapon sank deep into the wall. Do you imagine that this 
anaemic youth was capable of so frightful an assault ? Is he the 
man who hobnobbed in rum and water with Black Peter in the 
dead of the night ? Was it his profile that was seen on the blind 
two nights before ? No, no, Hopkins, it is another and more 
formidable person for whom we must seek. " 

The detective's face had grown longer and longer during 
Holmes' speech. His hopes and his ambitions were all crum- 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 179 

bling about him. But he would not abandon his position with- 
out a struggle. 

"You can't deny that Neligan was present that night, Mr. 
Holmes. The book will prove that. I fancy that I have evi- 
dence enough to satisfy a jury, even if you are able to pick a hole 
in it. Besides, Mr. Holmes, I have laid my hand upon my man. 
As to this terrible person of yours, where is he ? " 

" I rather fancy that he is on the stair, " said Holmes, serenely. 
" I think, Watson, that you would do well to put that revolver 
where you can reach it. " He rose and laid a written paper 
upon a side-table. " Now we are ready, " said he. 

There had been some talking in gruff voices outside, and now 
Mrs. Hudson opened the door to say that there were three men 
inquiring for Captain Basil. 

" Show them in one by one, " said Holmes. 

The first who entered was a little ribston-pippin of a man, 
with ruddy cheeks and fluffy white side- whiskers. Holmes had 
drawn a letter from his pocket. 

" What name ? " he asked. 

" James Lancaster. " 

" I am sorry, Lancaster, but the berth is full. Here is half a 
sovereign for your trouble. Just step into this room, and wait 
there for a few minutes. " 

The second man was a long, dried-up creature, with lank 
hair and sallow cheeks. His name was Hugh Pattins. He also 
received his dismissal, his half -sovereign, and the order to wait. 

The third applicant was a man of remarkable appearance. 
A fierce bull-dog face was framed in a tangle of hair and beard, 
and two bold, dark eyes gleamed behind the cover of thick, 
tufted, overhung eyebrows. He saluted and stood sailor-fash- 
ion, turning his cap round in his hands. 



180 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" Your name ? " asked Holmes. 

"Patrick Cairns." 

" Harpooner ? " 

" Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages. " 

" Dundee, I suppose ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" And ready to start with an exploring ship ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

"What wages?" 

" Eight pounds a month. " 

" Could you start at once ? " 

" As soon as I get my kit. " 

" Have you your papers ? " 

" Yes, sir. " He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms 
from his pocket. Holmes glanced over them and returned 
them. 

" You are just the man I want, " said he. " Here's the agree- 
ment on the side-table. If you sign it the whole matter will be 
settled. " 

The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen. 

" Shall I sign here ? " he asked, stooping over the table. 

Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over 
his neck. 

"This will do, "said he. 

I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull. The 
next instant Holmes and the seaman were rolling on the ground 
together. He was a man of such gigantic strength that, even 
with the handcuffs which Holmes had so deftly fastened upon 
his wrists, he would have very quickly overpowered my friend 
had Hopkins and I not rushed to his rescue. Only when I 
pressed the cold muzzle of the revolver to his temple did he at 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 181 

last understand that resistance was vain. We lashed his ankles 
with cord, and rose breathless from the struggle. 

" I must really apologize, Hopkins, " said Sherlock Holmes, 
" I fear that the scrambled eggs are cold. However, you will 
enjoy the rest of your breakfast all the better, will you not, for 
the thought that you have brought your case to a triumphant 
conclusion. " 

Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement. 

" I don't know what to say, Mr. Holmes, he blurted out at 
last, with a very red face. " It seems to me that I have been 
making a fool of myself from the beginning. I understand 
now, what I should never have forgotten, that I am the pupil 
and you are the master. Even now I see what you have done, 
but I don't know how you did it, or what it signifies. " 

"Well, well," said Holmes, good humouredly. "We all 
learn by experience, and your lesson this time is that you should 
never lose sight of the alternative. You were so absorbed in 
young Neligan that you could not spare a thought to Patrick 
Cairns, the true murderer of Peter Carey. " 

The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation. 

" See here, mister, " said he, " I make no complaint of being 
man-handled in this fashion, but I would have you call things 
by their right names. You say I murdered Peter Carey, I 
say I killed Peter Carey, and there's all the difference. Maybe 
you don't believe what I say. Maybe you think I am just sling- 
ing you a yarn. " 

" Not at all, " said Holmes. " Let us hear what you have to 
say." 

" It's soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it is truth. 
I knew Black Peter, and when he pulled out his knife I whipped 
a harpoon through him sharp, for I knew that it was him or me. 



182 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

That's how he died. You can call it murder. Anyhow, I'd as 
soon die with a rope round my neck as with Black Peter's knife 
in my heart. " 

" How came you there ? " asked Holmes. 

" I'll tell it you from the beginning. Just sit me up a little, so 
as I can speak easy. It was in '83 that it happened August of 
that year. Peter Carey was master of the Sea Unicorn, and I 
was spare harpooner. We were coming out of the ice-pack on 
our way home, with head winds and a week's southerly gale, 
when we picked up a little craft that had been blown north. 
There was one man on her a landsman. The crew had 
thought she would founder, and had made for the Norwegian 
coast in the dinghy. I guess they were all drowned. Well, we 
took him on board, this man, and he and the skipper had some 
long talks in the cabin. All the baggage we took off with him 
was one tin box. So far as I know, the man's name was never 
mentioned, and on the second night he disappeared as if he had 
never been. It was given out that he had either thrown him- 
self overboard or fallen overboard in the heavy weather that we 
were having. Only one man knew what had happened to him, 
and that was me, for, with my own eyes, I saw the skipper tip 
up his heels and put him over the rail in the middle watch of 
a dark night, two days before we sighted the Shetland Lights. 

" Well, I kept my knowledge to myself, and waited to see 
what would come of it. When we got back to Scotland it was 
easily hushed up, and nobody asked any questions. A stranger 
died by accident, and it was nobody's business to inquire. 
Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the sea, and it was long years 
before I could find where he was. I guessed that he had done 
the deed for the sake of what was in that tin box, and that he 
could afford now to pay me well for keeping my mouth shut. 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 183 

" I found out where he was through a sailor man that had met 
him in London, and down I went to squeeze him. The first 
night he was reasonable enough, and was ready to give me what 
would make me free of the sea for life. We were to fix it all two 
nights later. When I came, I found him three parts drunk and 
in a vile temper. We sat down and we drank and we yarned 
about old times, but the more he drank the less I liked the look 
on his face. I spotted that harpoon upon the wall, and I 
thought I might need it before I was through. Then at last he 
broke out at me, spitting and cursing, with murder in his eyes 
and a great clasp-knife in his hand. He had not time to get it 
from the sheath before I had the harpoon through him. Heav- 
ens ! what a yell he gave ! and his face gets between me and my 
sleep. I stood there, with his blood splashing round me, and I 
waited for a bit, but all was quiet, so I took heart once more. I 
looked round, and there was the tin box on the shelf. I had as 
much right to it as Peter Carey, anyhow, so I took it with me 
and left the hut. Like a fool I left my baccy-pouch upon the 
table. 

" Now I'll tell you the queerest part of the whole story. I 
had hardly got outside the hut when I heard someone coming, 
and I hid among the bushes. A man came slinking along, went 
into the hut, gave a cry as if he had seen a ghost, and legged it as 
hard as he could run until he was out of sight. Who he was or 
what he wanted is more than I can tell. For my part I walked 
ten miles, got a train at Tunbridge Wells, and so reached Lon- 
don, and no one the wiser. 

" Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was no 
money in it, and nothing but papers that I would not dare to 
sell. I had lost my hold on Black Peter, and was stranded in 
London without a shilling. There was only my trade left. I 



184 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

saw these advertisements about harpooners, and high wages, so 
I went to the shipping agents, and they sent me here. That's 
all I know, and I say again that if I killed Black Peter, the law 
should give me thanks, for I saved them the price of a hempen 
rope. " 

" A very clear statement, " said Holmes, rising and lighting 
his pipe. " I think, Hopkins, that you should lose no time in 
conveying your prisoner to a place of safety. This room is not 
well adapted for a cell, and Mr. Patrick Cairns occupies too 
large a proportion of our carpet. " 

" Mr. Holmes, " said Hopkins, " I do not know how to express 
my gratitude. Even now I do not understand how you attained 
this result. " 

" Simply by having the good fortune to get the right clue from 
the beginning. It is very possible if I had known about this 
note-book it might have led away my thoughts, as it did yours. 
But all I heard pointed in the one direction. The amazing 
strength, the skill in the use of the harpoon, the rum and water, 
the sealskin tobacco-pouch with the coarse tobacco all these 
pointed to a seaman, and one who had been a whaler. I was 
convinced that the initials ' P. C. ' upon the pouch were a coin- 
cidence, and not those of Peter Carey, since he seldom smoked, 
and no pipe was found in his cabin. You remember that I 
asked whether whisky and brandy were in the cabin. You 
said they were. How many landsmen are there who would 
drink rum when they could get these other spirits ? Yes, I was 
certain it was a seaman. " 

" And how did you find him ? " 

" My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one. If 
it were a seaman, it could only be a seaman who had been with 
him on the Sea Unicorn. So far as I could learn he had sailed 



THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER 185 

in no other ship. I spent three days in wiring to Dundee, and 
at the end of that time I had ascertained the names of the crew 
of the Sea Unicorn in 1883. When I found Patrick Cairns 
among the harpooners, my research was nearing its end. I ar- 
gued that the man was probably in London, and that he would 
desire to leave the country for a time. I therefore spent some 
days in the East End, devised an Arctic expedition, put forth 
tempting terms for harpooners who would serve under Captain 
Basil and behold the result ! " 

"Wonderful!" cried Hopkins. "Wonderful!" 
" You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon as 
possible, " said Holmes. " I confess that I think you owe him 
some apology. The tin box must be returned to him, but, of 
course, the securities which Peter Carey has sold are lost for 
ever. There's the cab, Hopkins, and you can remove your 
man. If you want me for the trial, my address and that of Wat- 
son will be somewhere in Norway I'll send particulars later." 



VII 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON 

IT is years since the incidents of which I speak took place, 
and yet it is with diffidence that I allude to them. For a long 
time, even with the utmost discretion and reticence, it would 
have been impossible to make the facts public, but now the 
principal person concerned is beyond the reach of human law, 
and with due suppression the story may be told in such fashion 
as to injure no one. It records an absolutely unique experience 
in the career both of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and of myself. The 
reader will excuse me if I conceal the date or any other fact by 
which he might trace the actual occurrence. 

We had been out for one of our evening rambles, Holmes and 
I, and had returned about six o'clock on a cold, frosty, winter's 
evening. As Holmes turned up the lamp the light fell upon a 
card on the table. He glanced at it, and then, with an ejacula- 
tion of disgust, threw it on the floor. I picked it up and read : 

CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON, 

APPLEDORE TOWERS, 
AGENT. HAMPSTEAD. 

"Who is he?" I asked. 



188 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" The worst man in London, " Holmes answered, as he sat 
down and stretched his legs before the fire. " Is anything on 
the back of the card ? " 

I turned it over. 

" Will call at 6.30 C. A. M., " I read. 

"Hum! He's about due. Do you feel a creeping, shrink- 
ing sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in 
the Zoo, and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with 
their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that's 
how Milverton impresses me. I've had to do with fifty mur- 
derers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the 
repulsion which I have for this fellow. And yet I can't get out 
of doing business with him indeed, he is here at my invita- 
tion. " 

"But who is he?" 

" I'll tell you, Watson. He is the king of all the blackmail- 
ers. Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose 
secret and reputation come into the power of Milverton ! With 
a smiling face and a heart of marble, he will squeeze and squeeze 
until he has drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his 
way, and would have made his mark in some more savoury 
trade. His method is as follows : He allows it to be known that 
he is prepared to pay very high sums for letters which compro- 
mise people of wealth and position. He receives these wares 
not only from treacherous valets or maids, but frequently from 
genteel ruffians, who have gained the confidence and affection of 
trusting women. He deals with no niggard hand. I happen 
to know that he paid seven hundred pounds to a footman for a 
note two lines in length, and that the ruin of a noble family was 
the result. Everything which is in the market goes to Milverton, 
and there are hundreds in this great city who turn white at 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 189 

his name. No one knows where his grip may fall, for he is 
far too rich and far too cunning to work from hand to mouth. 
He will hold a card back for years in order to play it at the mo- 
ment when the stake is best worth winning. I have said that 
he is the worst man in London, and I would ask you how could 
one compare the ruffian, who in hot blood bludgeons his mate, 
with this man, who methodically and at his leisure tortures the 
soul and wrings the nerves in order to add to his already swollen 
money-bags ? " 

I had seldom heard my friend speak with such intensity of 
feeling. 

'* But surely, " said I, " the fellow must be within the grasp of 
the law?" 

" Technically, no doubt, but practically not. What would it 
profit a woman, for example, to get him a few months' impris- 
onment, if her own ruin must immediately follow ? His victims 
dare not hit back. If ever he blackmailed an innocent person, 
then indeed we should have him, but he is as cunning as the 
Evil One. No, no, we must find other ways to fight him. " 

" And why is he here ? " 

* Because an illustrious client has placed her piteous case in 
my hands. It is the Lady Eva Blackwell, the most beautiful 
debutante of last season. She is to be married in a fortnight to 
the Earl of Dovercourt. This fiend has several imprudent let- 
ters imprudent, Watson, nothing worse which were written 
to an impecunious young squire in the country. They would 
suffice to break off the match. Milverton will send the letters 
to the Earl unless a large sum of money is paid him. I have 
been commissioned to meet him, and to make the best terms 
I can." 

At that instant there was a clatter and a rattle in the street 



190 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

below. Looking down I saw a stately carriage and pair, the 
brilliant lamps gleaming on the glossy haunches of the noble 
chestnuts. A footman opened the door, and a small, stout man 
in a shaggy astrakhan overcoat descended. A minute later he 
was in the room. 

Charles Augustus Milverton was a man of fifty, with a large, 
intellectual head, a round, plump, hairless face, a perpetual, 
frozen smile, and two keen grey eyes, which gleamed brightly 
from behind broad, gold-rimmed glasses. There was some- 
thing of Mr. Pickwick's benevolence in his appearance, marred 
only by the insincerity of the fixed smile and by the hard glitter 
of those restless and penetrating eyes. His voice was as smooth 
and suave as his countenance, as he advanced with a plump 
little hand extended, murmuring his regret for having missed 
us at his first visit. Holmes disregarded the outstretched hand 
and looked at him with a face of granite. Milverton's smile 
broadened, he shrugged his shoulders, removed his overcoat, 
folded it with great deliberation over the back of a chair, and 
then took a seat. 

" This gentleman ? " said he, with a wave in my direction. 
" Is it discreet ? Is it right ? " 

" Dr. Watson is my friend and partner. " 

" Very good, Mr. Holmes. It is only in your client's interests 
that I protested. The matter is so very delicate " 

" Dr. Watson has already heard of it. " 

"Then we can proceed to business. You say that you are 
acting for Lady Eva. Has she empowered you to accept my 
terms ? " 

" What are your terms ? " 

" Seven thousand pounds. " 

" And the alternative . " 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 191 

" My dear sir, it is painful for me to discuss it, but if the 
money is not paid on the 14th, there certainly will be no marriage 
on the 18th. " His insufferable smile was more complacent 
than ever 

Holmes thought for a little. 

" You appear to me, " he said, at last, " to be taking matters 
too much for granted. I am, of course, familiar with the con- 
tents of these letters. My client will certainly do what I may 
advise. I shall counsel her to tell her future husband the 
whole story, and to trust to his generosity. " 

Milverton chuckled. 

" You evidently do not know the Earl, " said he. 

From the baffled look upon Holmes' face, I could see clearly 
that he did. 

" What harm is there in the letters ? " he asked. 

" They are sprightly very sprightly, " Milverton answered. 
"The lady was a charming correspondent. But I can assure 
you that the Earl of Dovercourt would fail to appreciate them. 
However, since you think otherwise, we will let it rest at that. 
It is purely a matter of business. If you think that it is in the 
best interests of your client that these letters should be placed 
in the hands of the Earl, then you would indeed be foolish to 
pay so large a sum of money to regain them. " He rose and 
seized his astrakhan coat. 

Holmes was grey with anger and mortification. 

" Wait a little, " he said. " You go too fast. We should cer- 
tainly make every effort to avoid scandal in so delicate a mat- 
ter. " 

Milverton relapsed into his chair. 

" I was sure that you would see it in that light, " he purred. 

" At the same time, " Holmes continued, " Lady Eva is not a 



192 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

wealthy woman. I assure you that two thousand pounds would 
be a drain upon her resources, and that the sum you name is 
utterly beyond her power. I beg, therefore, that you will mod- 
erate your demands, and that you will return the letters at the 
price I indicate, which is, I assure you, the highest that you can 
get." 

Milverton's smile broadened and his eyes twinkled humor- 
ously. 

" I am aware that what you say is true about the lady's re- 
sources, " said he. "At the same time you must admit that 
the occasion of a lady's marriage is a very suitable time for her 
friends and relatives to make some little effort upon her behalf. 
They may hesitate as to an acceptable wedding present. Let 
me assure them that this little bundle of letters would give more 
joy than all the candelabra and butter-dishes in London. " 

" It is impossible, " said Holmes. 

"Dear me, dear me, how unfortunate!" cried Milverton, 
taking out a bulky pocket-book. " I cannot help thinking that 
ladies are ill-advised in not making an effort. Look at this ! " 
He held up a little note with a coat-of-arms upon the envelope. 
" That belongs to well, perhaps it is hardly fair to tell the 
name until to-morrow morning. But at that time it will be in 
the hands of the lady's husband. And all because she will not 
find a beggarly sum which she could get by turning her dia- 
monds into paste. It is such a pity ! Now, you remember the 
sudden end of the engagement between the Honourable Miss 
Miles and Colonel Dorking ? Only two days before the wed- 
ding, there was a paragraph in the Morning Post to say that it 
was all off. And why ? It is almost incredible, but the absurd 
sum of twelve hundred pounds would have settled the whole 
question. Is it not pitiful ? And here I find you, a man of 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 183 

sense, boggling about terms, when your client's future and hon- 
our are at stake. You surprise me, Mr. Holmes. " 

" What I say is true, " Holmes answered. " The money can- 
not be found. Surely it is better for you to take the substantial 
sum which I offer than to ruin this woman's career, which can 
profit you in no way ? " 

"There you make a mistake, Mr. Holmes. An exposure 
would profit me indirectly to a considerable extent. I have 
eight or ten similar cases maturing. If it was circulated among 
them that I had made a severe example of the Lady Eva, I 
should find all of them much more open to reason. You see my 
point ? " 

Holmes sprang from his chair. 

" Get behind him, Watson ! " Don't let him out ! Now, sir, 
let us see the contents of that note-book. " 

Milverton had glided as quick as a rat to the side of the room, 
and stood with his back against the wall. 

" Mr. Holmes, Mr. Holmes, " he said, turning the front of his 
coat and exhibiting the butt of a large revolver, which projected 
from the inside pocket. "I have been expecting you to do 
something original. This has been done so often, and what 
good has ever come from it ? I assure you that I am armed to the 
teeth, and I am perfectly prepared to use my weapons, knowing 
that the law will support me. Besides, your supposition that I 
would bring the letters here in a note-book is entirely mistaken. 
I would do nothing so foolish. And now, gentlemen, I have one 
or two little interviews this evening, and it is a long drive to 
Hampstead. " He stepped forward, took up his coat, laid his 
hand on his revolver, and turned to the door. I picked up a 
chair, but Holmes shook his head, and I laid it down again. 
With a bow, a smile, and a twinkle, Milverton was out of the 



194 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

room, and a few moments after we heard the slam of the car- 
riage door and the rattle of the wheels as he drove away. 

Holmes sat motionless by the fire, his hands buried deep in 
his trouser pockets, his chin sunk upon his breast, his eyes fixed 
upon the glowing embers. For half an hour he was silent and 
still. Then, with the gesture of a man who has taken his de- 
cision, he sprang to his feet and passed into his bedroom. A 
little later a rakish young workman, with a goatee beard and a 
swagger, lit his clay pipe at the lamp before descending into the 
street. " I'll be back some time, Watson, " said he, and van- 
ished into the night. I understood that he had opened his cam- 
paign against Charles Augustus Milverton, but I little dreamed 
the strange shape which that campaign was destined to take. " 

For some days Holmes -came and went at all hours in this 
attire, but beyond a remark that his time was spent at Hamp- 
stead, and that it was not wasted, I knew nothing of what he 
was doing. At last, however, on a wild, tempestuous evening, 
when the wind screamed and rattled against the windows, he 
returned from his last expedition, and having removed his dis- 
guise he sat before the fire and laughed heartily in his silent 
inward fashion. 

" You would not call me a marrying man, Watson ? " 

"No, indeed!" 

" You'll be interested to hear that I'm engaged. " 

" My dear fellow ! I congrat " 

" To Milverton's housemaid. " 

"Good Heavens, Holmes!" 

" I wanted information, Watson. " 

" Surely you have gone too far ? " 

" It was a most necessary step. I am a plumber with a rising 
business, Escott by name. I have walked out with her each 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 195 

evening, and I have talked with her. Good Heavens, those 
talks ! " However, I have got all I wanted. I know Milverton's 
house as I know the palm of my hand. " 

" But the girl, Holmes ? " 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

" You can't help it, my dear Watson. You must play your 
cards as best you can when such a stake is on the table. How- 
ever, I rejoice to say that I have a hated rival, who will certainly 
cut me out the instant that my back is turned. What a splendid 
night it is!" 

" You like this weather ? " 

"It suits my purpose. Watson, I mean to burgle Milver- 
ton's house to-night. " 

I had a catching of the breath, and my skin went cold at the 
words, which were slowly uttered in a tone of concentrated reso- 
lution. As a flash of lightning in the night shows up in an in- 
stant every detail of a wild landscape, so at one glance I seemed 
to see every possible result of such an action the detection, the 
capture, the honoured career ending in irreparable failure and 
disgrace, my friend himself lying at the mercy of the odious 
Milverton. 

" For Heaven's sake, Holmes, think what you are doing, " I 
cried. 

" My dear fellow, I have given it every consideration. I am 
never precipitate in my actions, nor would I adopt so energetic 
and, indeed, so dangerous a course, if any other were possible. 
Let us look at the matter clearly and fairly. I suppose that you 
will admit that the action is morally justifiable, though technic- 
ally criminal. To burgle his house is no more than to forcibly 
take his pocket-book an action in which you were prepared 
to aid me. " 



196 

I turned it over in my mind. 

" Yes, " I said, " it is morally justifiable so long as our object 
is to take no articles save those which are used for an illegal 
purpose. " 

" Exactly. Since it is morally justifiable, I have only to con- 
sider the question of personal risk. Surely a gentleman should 
not lay much stress upon this, when a lady is in most desperate 
need of his help ? " 

" You will be in such a false position. " 

"Well, that is part of the risk. There is no other possible 
way of regaining these letters. The unfortunate lady has not 
the money, and there are none of her people in whom she could 
confide. To-morrow is the last day of grace, and unless we can 
get the letters to-night, this villain will be as good as his word 
and will bring about her ruin. I must, therefore, abandon my 
client to her fate or I must play this last card. Between our- 
selves, Watson, it's a sporting duel between this fellow Milver- 
ton and me. He had, as you saw, the best of the first exchanges, 
but my self-respect and my reputation are concerned to fight it 
to a finish. " 

"Well, I don't like it, but I suppose it must be," said I. 
"When do we start?" 

" You are not coming. " 

" Then you are not going, " said I. " I give you my word of 
honour and I never broke it in my life that I will take a 
cab straight to the police-station and give you away, unless 
you let me share this adventure with you. " 

" You can't help me. " 

" How do you know that ? You can't tell what may happen. 
Anyway, my resolution is taken. Other people beside you have 
self-respect, and even reputations. " 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 197 

Holmes had looked annoyed, but his brow cleared, and he 
clapped me on the shoulder. 

"Well, well, my dear fellow, be it so. We have shared this 
same room for some years, and it would be amusing if we ended 
by sharing the same cell. You know, Watson, I don't mind 
confessing to you that I have always had an idea that I would 
have made a highly efficient criminal. This is the chance of my 
lifetime in that direction. See here!" He took a neat little 
leather case out of a drawer, and opening it he exhibited a num- 
ber of shining instruments. " This is a first-class, up-to-date 
burgling kit, with nickel-plated jemmy, diamond-tipped glass- 
cutter, adaptable keys, and every modern improvement which 
the march of civilization demands. Here, too, is my dark 
lantern. Everything is in order. Have you a pair of silent 
shoes ? " 

" I have rubber-soled tennis shoes. " 

" Excellent ! And a mask ? " 

" I can make a couple out of black silk. " 

" I can see that you have a strong, natural turn for this sort of 
thing. Very good, do you make the masks. We shall have 
some cold supper before we start. It is now nine-thirty. At 
eleven we shall drive as far as Church Row. It is a quarter of 
an hour's walk from there to Appledore Towers. We shall 
be at work before midnight. Milverton is a heavy sleeper, and 
retires punctually at ten-thirty. With any luck we should be 
back here by two, with the Lady Eva's letters in my pocket. " 

Holmes and I put on our dress-clothes, so that we might, 
appear to be two theatre-goers homeward bound. In Ox- 
ford Street we picked up a hansom and drove to an address 
in Hampstead. Here we paid off our cab, and with our 
great coats buttoned up, for it was bitterly cold and the wind 



198 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

seemed to blow through us, we walked along the edge of 
the heath. 

" It's a business that needs delicate treatment, " said Holmes. 
" These documents are contained in a safe in the fellow's study, 
and the study is the ante-room of his bed-chamber. On the 
other hand, like all these stout, little men who do themselves 
well, he is a plethoric sleeper. Agatha that's my fiancee 
says it is a joke in the servants' hall that it's impossible to wake 
the master. He has a secretary who is devoted to his interests, 
and never budges from the study all day. That's why we are 
going at night. Then he has a beast of a dog which roams the 
garden. I met Agatha late the last two evenings, and she locks 
the brute up so as to give me a clear run. This is the house, 
this big one in its own grounds. Through the gate now to 
the right among the laurels. We might put on our masks here, 
I think. You see, there is not a glimmer of light in any of the 
windows, and everything is working splendidly. " 

With our black silk face-coverings, which turned us into two 
of the most truculent figures in London, we stole up to the silent, 
gloomy house. A sort of tiled veranda extended along one side 
of it, lined by several windows and two doors. 

"That's his bedroom," Holmes whispered. "This door 
opens straight into the study. It would suit us best, but it is 
bolted as well as locked, and we should make too much noise 
getting in. Come round here. There's a greenhouse which 
opens into the drawing-room. " 

The place was locked, but Holmes removed a circle of glass 
and turned the key from the inside. An instant afterwards he 
had closed the door behind us, and we had become felons in the 
eyes of the law. The thick, warm air of the conservatory and 
the rich, choking fragrance of exotic plants took us by the throat. 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 199 

He seized my hand in the darkness and led me swiftly past 
banks of shrubs which brushed against our faqes. Holmes had 
remarkable powers, carefully cultivated, of seeing in the dark. 
Still holding my hand in one of his, he opened a door, and I was 
vaguely conscious that we had entered a large room in which a 
cigar had been smoked not long before. He felt his way among 
the furniture, opened another door, and closed it behind us. 
Putting out my hand I felt several coats hanging from the wall, 
and I understood that I was in a passage. We passed along it, 
and Holmes very gently opened a door upon the right-hand side. 
Something rushed out at us and my heart sprang into my mouth, 
but I could have laughed when I realized that it was the cat. 
A fire was burning in this new room, and again the air was 
heavy with tobacco smoke. Holmes entered on tiptoe, waited 
for me to follow, and then very gently closed the door. We 
were in Milverton's study, and a portiere at the farther side 
showed the entrance to his bedroom. 

It was a good fire, and the room was illuminated by it. Near 
the door I saw the gleam of an electric switch, but it was un- 
necessary, even if it had been safe, to turn it on. At one side of 
the fireplace was a heavy curtain which covered the bay win- 
dow we had seen from outside. On the other side was the door 
which communicated with the veranda. A desk stood in the 
centre, with a turning-chair of shining red leather. Opposite 
was a large bookcase, with a marble bust of Athene on the top. 
In the corner, between the bookcase and the wall, there stood 
a tall, green safe, the firelight flashing back from the polished 
brass knobs upon its face. Holmes stole across and looked at 
it. Then he crept to the door of the bedroom, and stood with 
slanting head listening intently. No sound came from within. 
Meanwhile it had struck me that it would be wise to secure 



200 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

our retreat through the outer door, so I examined it. To 
my amazement, it was neither locked nor bolted. I touched 
Holmes on the arm, and he turned his masked face in that 
direction. I saw him start, and he was evidently as sur- 
prised as I. 

" I don't like it, " he whispered, putting his lips to my very 
ear. " I can't quite make it out. Anyhow, we have no time to 
lose." 

"Can I do anything?" 

'* Yes, stand by the door. If you hear anyone come, bolt it 
on the inside, and we can get away as we came. If they come 
the other way, we can get through the door if our job is done, or 
hide behind these window curtains if it is not. Do you under- 
stand?" 

I nodded, and stood by the door. My first feeling of fear had 
passed away, and I thrilled now with a keener zest than I had 
ever enjoyed when we were the defenders of the law instead 
of its defiers. The high object of our mission, the conscious- 
ness that it was unselfish and chivalrous, the villainous char- 
acter of our opponent, all added to the sporting interest of the 
adventure. Far from feeling guilty, I rejoiced and exulted in 
our dangers. With a glow of admiration I watched Holmes 
unrolling his case of instruments and choosing his tool with the 
calm, scientific accuracy of a surgeon who performs a delicate 
operation. I knew that the opening of safes was a particular 
hobby with him, and I understood the joy which it gave him 
to be confronted with this green and gold monster, the dragon 
which held in its maw the reputations of many fair ladies. 
Turning up the cuffs of his dress-coat he had placed his 
overcoat on a chair Holmes laid out two drills, a jemmy, 
and several skeleton keys. I stood at the centre door with my 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 201 

eyes glancing at each of the others, ready for any emergency, 
though, indeed, my plans were somewhat vague as to what I 
should do if we were interrupted. For half an hour, Holmes 
worked with concentrated energy, laying down one tool, picking 
up another, handling each with the strength and delicacy of the 
trained mechanic. Finally I heard a click, the broad green 
door swung open, and inside I had a glimpse of a number of 
paper packets, each tied, sealed, and inscribed. Holmes picked 
one out, but it was hard to read by the flickering fire, and he 
drew out his little dark lantern, for it was too dangerous, with 
Milverton in the next room, to switch on the electric light. 
Suddenly I saw him halt, listen intently, and then in an instant 
he had swung the door of the safe to, picked up his coat, stuffed 
his tools into the pockets, and darted behind the window 
curtain, motioning me to do the same. 

It was only when I had joined him there that I heard what 
had alarmed his quicker senses. There was a noise some- 
where within the house. A door slammed in the distance. 
Then a confused, dull murmur broke itself into the measured 
thud of heavy footsteps rapidly approaching. They were' in 
the passage outside the room. They paused at the door. The 
door opened. There was a sharp snick as the electric light 
was turned on. The door closed once more, and the pungent 
reek of a strong cigar was borne to our nostrils. Then the foot- 
steps continued backwards and forwards, backwards and for- 
wards, within a few yards of us. Finally there was a creak 
from a chair, and the footsteps ceased. Then a key clicked 
in a lock, and I heard the rustle of papers. 

So far I had not dared to look out, but now I gently parted 
the division of the curtains in front of me and peeped through. 
From the pressure of Holmes' shoulder against mine, I knew 



202 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

that he was sharing my observations. Right in front of 
us, and almost within our reach, was the broad, rounded 
back of Milverton. It was evident that we had entirely 
miscalculated his movements, that he had never been to 
his bedroom, but that he had been sitting up in some 
smoking or billiard room in the farther wing of the house, 
the windows of which we had not seen. His broad, grizzled 
head, with its shining patch of baldness, was in the immedi- 
ate foreground of our vision. He was leaning far back in 
the red leather chair, his legs outstretched, a long, black 
cigar projecting at an angle from his mouth. He wore a 
semi-military smoking jacket, claret-coloured, with a black 
velvet collar. In his hand he held a long, legal document 
which he was reading in an indolent fashion, blowing rings of 
tobacco smoke from his lips as he did so. There was no 
promise of a speedy departure in his composed bearing and 
his comfortable attitude. 

I felt Holmes' hand steal into mine and give me a reassuring 
shake, as if to say that the situation was within his powers, and 
that he was easy in his mind. I was not sure whether he had 
seen what was only too obvious from my position, that the door 
of the safe was imperfectly closed, and that Milverton might at 
any moment observe it. In my own mind I had determined 
that if I were sure, from the rigidity of his gaze, that it had 
caught his eye, I would at once spring out, throw my great coat 
over his head, pinion him, and leave the rest to Holmes. But 
Milverton never looked up. He was languidly interested by 
the papers in his hand, and page after page was turned as he 
followed the argument of the lawyer. At least, I thought, when 
he had finished the document and the cigar he will go to his 
room, but before he had reached the end of either, there came a 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 203 

remarkable development, which turned our thoughts into quite 
another channel. 

Several times I had observed that Milverton looked at his 
watch, and once he had risen and sat down again, with a ges- 
ture of impatience. The idea, however, that he might have an 
appointment at so strange an hour never occurred to me until 
a faint sound reached my ears from the veranda outside. Mil- 
verton dropped his papers and sat rigid in his chair. The 
sound was repeated, and then there came a gentle tap at the 
door. Milverton rose and opened it. 

" Well, " said he, curtly, " you are nearly half an hour late. " 

So this was the explanation of the unlocked door and of the 
nocturnal vigil of Milverton. There was the gentle rustle of a 
woman's dress. I had closed the slit between the curtains as 
Milverton's face had turned in our direction, but now I ventured 
very carefully to open it once more. He had resumed his seat, 
the cigar still projecting at an insolent angle from the corner of 
his mouth. In front of him, in the full glare of the electric 
light, there stood a tall, slim, dark woman, a veil over her face, 
a mantle drawn round her chin. Her breath came quick and 
fast, and every inch of the lithe figure was quivering with strong 
emotion. 

" Well, " said Milverton, " you've made me lose a good night's 
rest, my dear. I hope you'll prove worth it. You couldn't 
come any other time eh ? " 

The woman shook her head. 

"Well, if you couldn't you couldn't. If the Countess is a 
hard mistress, you have your chance to get level with her now. 
Bless the girl, what are you shivering about? That's right. 
Pull yourself together. Now, let us get down to business. " He 
took a note-book from the drawer of his desk. " You say that 



204 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

you have five letters which compromise the Countess d'Albert. 
You want to sell them. I want to buy them. So far so good. 
It only remains to fix a price. I should want to inspect the 
letters, of course. If they are really good specimens Great 
Heavens, is it you ? " 

The woman, without a word, had raised her veil and dropped 
the mantle from her chin. It was a dark, handsome, clear-cut 
face which confronted Milverton a face with a curved nose, 
strong, dark eyebrows shading hard, glittering eyes, and a 
straight, thin-lipped mouth set in a dangerous smile. 

" It is I, " she said, " the woman whose life you have ruined." 

Milverton laughed, but fear vibrated in his voice. " You were 
so very obstinate, " said he. " Why did you drive me to such 
extremities ? I assure you I wouldn't hurt a fly of my own 
accord, but every man has his business, and what was I to do ? 
I put the price well within your means. You would not pay. " 

" So you sent the letters to my husband, and he the noblest 
gentleman that ever lived, a man whose boots I was never 
worthy to lace he broke his gallant heart and died. You 
remember that last night, when I came through that door, I 
begged and prayed you for mercy, and you laughed in my 
face as you are trying to laugh now, only your coward heart 
cannot keep your lips from twitching ? Yes, you never thought 
to see me here again, but it was that night which taught me 
how I could meet you face to face, and alone. Well, Charles 
Milverton, what have you to sa^ ? " 

" Don't imagine that you can bully me, " said he, rising to his 
feet. " I have only to raise my voice, and I could call my serv- 
ants and have you arrested. But I will make allowance for 
your natural anger. Leave the room at once as you came, and 
I will say no more. " 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 205 

The woman stood with her hand buried in her bosom, and the 
same deadly smile on her thin lips. 

" You will ruin no more lives as you have ruined mine. You 
will wring no more hearts as you wrung mine. I will free the 
world of a poisonous thing. Take that, you hound and that ! 
and that ! and that ! and that ! " 

She had drawn a little gleaming revolver, and emptied barrel 
after barrel into Milverton's body, the muzzle within two feet of 
his shirt front. He shrank away and then fell forward upon the 
table, coughing furiously and clawing among the papers. Then 
he staggered to his feet, received another shot, and rolled 
upon the floor. " You've done me," he cried, and lay still. The 
woman looked at him intently, and ground her heel into his 
upturned face. She looked again, but there was no sound 
or movement. I heard a sharp rustle, the night air blew into 
the heated room, and the avenger was gone. 

No interference upon our part could have saved the man from 
his fate, but, as the woman poured bullet after bullet into Mil- 
verton's shrinking body I was about to spring out, when I 
felt Holmes' cold, strong grasp upon my wrist. I understood 
the whole argument of that firm, restraining grip that it 
was no affair of ours, that justice had overtaken a villain, that 
we had our own duties and our own objects, which were not to 
be lost sight of. But hardly had the woman rushed from the 
room when Holmes, with swift, silent steps, was over at the 
other door. He turned the key in the lock. At the same 
instant we heard voices in the house and the sound of hurrying 
feet. The revolver shots had roused the household. With 
perfect coolness Holmes slipped across to the safe, filled his 
two arms with bundles of letters, and poured them all into the 
fire. Again and again he did it, until the safe was empty. 



206 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Someone turned the handle, and beat upon the outside of the 
door. Holmes looked swiftly round. The letter which had 
been the messenger of death for Milverton lay, all mottled 
with his blood, upon the table. Holmes tossed it in among 
the blazing papers. Then he drew the key from the outer door, 
passed through after me, and locked it on the outside. " This 
way, Watson, " said he, " we can scale the garden wall in this 
direction. " 

I could not have believed that an alarm could have spread so 
swiftly. Looking back, the huge house was one blaze of light. 
The front door was open, and figures were rushing down the 
drive. The whole garden was alive with people, and one fel- 
low raised a view-halloa as we emerged from the veranda and fol- 
lowed hard at our heels. Holmes seemed to know the grounds 
perfectly, and he threaded his way swiftly among a plantation 
of small trees, I close at his heels, and our foremost pursuer 
panting behind us. It was a six-foot wall which barred our 
path, but he sprang to the top and over. As I did the same I 
felt the hand of the man behind me grab at my ankle, but I 
kicked myself free and scrambled over a grass-strewn coping. 
I fell upon my face among some bushes, but Holmes had me 
on my feet in an instant, and together we dashed away across 
the huge expanse of Hampstead Heath. We had run two miles, 
1 suppose, before Holmes at last halted and listened intently. 
All was absolute silence behind us. We had shaken off our 
pursuers and were safe. 

We had breakfasted and were smoking our morning pipe on 
the day after the remarkable experience which I have recorded, 
when Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, very solemn and im- 
pressive, was ushered into our modest sitting-room. 




HE FELL FORWARD UPON T H F. TABLK, COT (ill INC FURIOUSLY 
AND CLAW INC AMONG THE PAPERS 



THE ADVENTURE OF MILVERTON 207 

"Good morning, Mr. Holmes," said he; "good morning. 
May I ask if you are very busy just now ? " 

" Not too busy to listen to you. " 

" I thought that, perhaps, if you had nothing particular on 
hand, you might care to assist us in a most remarkable case, 
which occurred only last night at Hampstead. " 

"Dear me!" said Holmes. " What was that ?" 

" A murder a most dramatic and remarkable murder. I 
know how keen you are upon these things, and I would take it 
as a great favour if you would step down to Appledore Towers, 
and give us the benefit of your advice. It is no ordinary crime. 
We have had our eyes upon this Mr. Milverton for some time, 
and, between ourselves, he was a bit of a villain. He is known 
to have held papers which he used for blackmailing purposes. 
These papers have all been burned by the murderers. No ar- 
ticle of value was taken, as it is probable that the criminals were 
men of good position, whose sole object was to prevent social 
exposure. " 

"Criminals?" said Holmes. "Plural?" 

"Yes, there were two of them. They were as nearly as pos- 
sible captured red-handed. We have their footmarks, we 
have their description, it's ten to one that we trace them. The 
first fellow was a bit too active, but the second was caught by 
the under-gardner, and only got away after a struggle. He 
was a middle-sized, strongly built man square jaw, thick 
neck, moustache, a mask over his eyes. " 

" That's rather vague, " said Sherlock Holmes. " Why, it 
might be a description of Watson! " 

" It's true, " said the inspector, with amusement. " It might 
be a description of Watson. " 

"Well, I'm afraid I can't help you, Lestrade, " said Holmes. 



208 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" The fact is that I knew this fellow Milverton, that I considered 
him one of the most dangerous men in London, and that I 
think there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and 
which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge. No, 
it's no use arguing. I have made up my mind. My sympa- 
thies are with the criminals rather than with the victim, and I 
will not handle this case. " 

Holmes had not said one word to me about the tragedy which 
we had witnessed, but I observed all the morning that he was in 
his most thoughtful mood, and he gave me the impression, from 
his vacant eyes and his abstracted manner, of a man who is 
striving to recall something to his memory. We were in the 
middle of our lunch, when he suddenly sprang to his feet. " By 
Jove, Watson, I've got it!" he cried. " Take your hat ! Come 
with me ! " He hurried at his top speed down Baker Street and 
along Oxford Street, until we had almost reached Regent Cir- 
cus. Here, on the left hand, there stands a shop window filled 
with photographs of the celebrities and beauties of the day. 
Holmes' eyes fixed themselves upon one of them, and follow- 
ing his gaze I saw the picture of a regal and stately lady in Court 
dress, with a high diamond tiara upon her noble head. I 
looked at that delicately curved nose, at the marked eyebrows, 
at the straight mouth, and the strong little chin beneath it. 
Then I caught my breath as I read the time-honoured title of 
the great nobleman and statesman whose wife she had been. 
My eyes met those of Holmes, and he put his finger to his 
lips as we turned away from the window. 



VIII 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE SIX NAPOLEONS 

IT was no very unusual thing for Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland 
Yard, to look in upon us of an evening, and his visits were 
welcome to Sherlock Holmes, for they enabled him to keep in 
touch with all that was going on at the police headquarters. 
In return for the news which Lestrade would bring, Holmes 
was always ready to listen with attention to the details of any 
case upon which the detective was engaged, and was able occa- 
sionally, without any active interference, to give some hint or 
suggestion drawn from his own vast knowledge and experience. 

On this particular evening, Lestrade had spoken of the 
weather and the newspapers. Then he had fallen silent, puf- 
fing thoughtfully at his cigar. Holmes looked keenly at him. 

" Anything remarkable on hand ? " he asked. 

"Oh, no, Mr. Holmes nothing very particular." 

" Then tell me about it." 

Lestrade laughed. 

"Well, Mr. Holmes, there is no use denying that there is 
something on my mind. And yet it is such an absurd business, 
that I hesitated to bother you about it. On the other hand, 
although it is trivial, it is undoubtedly queer, and I know that 



210 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

you have a taste for all that is out of the common. But, in my 
opinion, it comes more in Dr. Watson's line than ours." 

" Disease ? " said I. 

"Madness, anyhow. And a queer madness, too. You 
wouldn't think there was anyone living at this time of day who 
had such a hatred of Napoleon the First that he would break 
any image of him that he could see." 

Holmes sank back in his chair. 

" That's no business of mine," said he. 

"Exactly. That's what I said. But then, when the man 
commits burglary in order to break images which are not his 
own, that brings it away from the doctor and on to the police- 
man." 

Holmes sat up again. 

"Burglary! This is more interesting. Let me hear the 
details." 

Lestrade took out his official note-book, and refreshed his 
memory from its pages. 

"The first case reported was four days ago," said he. "It 
was at the shop of Morse Hudson, who has a place for the sale 
of pictures and statues in the Kennington Road. The assistant 
had left the front shop for an instant, when he heard a crash, 
and hurrying in he found a plaster bust of Napoleon, which 
stood with several other works of art upon the counter, lying 
shivered into fragments. He rushed out into the road, but, 
although several passers-by declared that they had noticed 
a man run out of the shop, he could neither see anyone nor 
could he find any means of identifying the rascal. It seemed to 
be one of those senseless acts of Hooliganism which occur from 
time to time, and it was reported to the constable on the beat 
as such. The plaster cast was not worth more than a few shil- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 211 

lings, and the whole affair appeared to be too childish for any 
particular investigation. 

"The second case, however, was more serious, and also more 
singular. It occurred only last night. 

" In Kennington Road, and within a few hundred yards of 
Morse Hudson's shop, there lives a well-known medical prac- 
titioner, named Dr. Barnicot, who has one of the largest prac- 
tices upon the south side of the Thames. His residence and 
principal consulting-room is at Kennington Road, but he has 
a branch surgery and dispensary at Lower Brixton Road, two 
miles away. This Dr. Barnicot is an enthusiastic admirer of 
Napoleon, and his house is full of books, pictures, and relics 
of the French Emperor. Some little time ago he purchased 
from Morse Hudson two duplicate plaster casts of the famous 
head of Napoleon by the French sculptor, Devine. One of 
these he placed in his hall in the house at Kennington Road, 
and the other on the mantelpiece of the surgery at Lower Brix- 
ton. Well, when Dr. Barnicot came down this morning he 
was astonished to find that his house had been burgled during 
the night, but that nothing had been taken save the plaster 
head from the hall. It had been carried out and had been 
dashed savagely against the garden wall, under which its 
splintered fragments were discovered." 

Holmes rubbed his hands. 

" This is certainly very novel," said he. 

" I thought it would please you. But I have not got to the 
end yet. Dr. Barnicot was due at his surgery at twelve o'clock, 
and you can imagine his amazement when, on arriving there, 
he found that the window had been opened in the night, and 
that the broken pieces of his second bust were strewn all over 
the room. It had been smashed to atoms where it stood. In 



212 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

neither case were there any signs which could give us a clue as 
to the criminal or lunatic who had done the mischief. Now, 
Mr. Holmes, you have got the facts." 

"They are singular, not to say grotesque," said Holmes. 
" May I ask whether the two busts smashed in Dr. Barnicot's 
rooms were the exact duplicates of the one which was destroyed 
in Morse Hudson's shop ? " 

" They were taken from the same mould." 

" Such a fact must tell against the theory that the man who 
breaks them is influenced by any general hatred of Napoleon. 
Considering how many hundreds of statues of the great Em- 
peror must exist in London, it is too much to suppose such a 
coincidence as that a promiscuous iconoclast should chance 
to begin upon three specimens of the same bust." 

" Well, I thought as you do," said Lestrade. " On the other 
hand, this Morse Hudson is the purveyor of busts in that part 
of London, and these three were the only ones which had been 
in his shop for years. So, although, as you say, there are many 
hundreds of statues in London, it is very probable that these 
three were the only ones in that district. Therefore, a local 
fanatic would begin with them. What do you think, Dr. 
Watson?" 

"There are no limits to the possibilities of monomania," I 
answered. " There is the condition which the modern French 
psychologists have called the ' idee fixe,' which may be trifling 
in character, and accompanied by complete sanity in every 
other way. A man who had read deeply about Napoleon, or 
who had possibly received some hereditary family injury 
through the great war, might conceivably form such an ' idee 
fixe' and under its influence be capable of any fantastic out- 
rage." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 213 

"That won't do, my dear Watson," said Holmes, shaking 
his head, " for no amount of ' idee fixe ' would enable your in- 
teresting monomaniac to find out where these busts were situ- 
ated." 

" Well, how do you explain it ? " 

" I don't attempt to do so. I would only observe that there 
is a certain method in the gentleman's eccentric proceedings. 
For example, in Dr. Barnicot's hall, where a sound might 
arouse the family, the bust was taken outside before being 
broken, whereas in the surgery, where there was less danger 
of an alarm, it was smashed where it stood. The affair seems 
absurdly trifling, and yet I dare call nothing trivial when I 
reflect that some of my most classic cases have had the least 
promising commencement. You will remember, Watson, how 
the dreadful business of the Abernetty family was first brought 
to my notice by the depth which the parsley had sunk into the 
butter upon a hot day. I can't afford, therefore, to smile at 
your three broken busts, Lestrade, and I shall be very much 
obliged to you if you will let me hear of any fresh develop- 
ment of so singular a chain of events." 

The development for which my friend had asked came in a 
quicker and an infinitely more tragic form than he could have 
imagined. I was still dressing in my bedroom next morning, 
when there was a tap at the door and Holmes entered, a tele- 
gram in his hand. He read it aloud : 

" Come instantly, 131, Pitt Street, Kensington. Lestrade." 

" What is it, then ? " I asked. 

" Don't know rnay be anything. But I suspect it is the 
sequel of the story of the statues. In that case our friend, the 
image-breaker, has begun operations in another quarter of 



214 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

London. There's coffee on the table, Watson, and I have a 
cab at the door." 

In half an hour we had reached Pitt Street, a quiet little 
backwater just beside one of the briskest currents of London 
life. No. 131 was one of a row, all flat-chested, respectable, 
and most unromantic dwellings. As we drove up, we found the 
railings in front of the house lined by a curious crowd. Holmes 
whistled. 

"By George! it's attempted murder at the least. Nothing 
less will hold the London message-boy. There's a deed of 
violence indicated in that fellow's round shoulders and out- 
stretched neck. What's this, Watson ? The top steps swilled 
down and the other ones dry. Footsteps enough, anyhow! 
Well, well, there's Lestrade at the front window, and we shall 
soon know all about it." 

The official received us with a very grave face and showed 
us into a sitting-room, where an exceedingly unkempt and 
agitated elderly man, clad in a flannel dressing-gown, was 
pacing up and down. He was introduced to us as the owner of 
the house Mr. Horace Harker, of the Central Press Syndi- 
cate. 

"It's the Napoleon bust business again," said Lestrade. 
"You seemed interested last night, Mr. Holmes, so I thought 
perhaps you would be glad to be present now that the affair 
has taken a very much graver turn." 

" What has it turned to, then ? " 

"To murder. Mr. Harker, will you tell these gentlemen 
exactly what has occurred ? " 

The man in the dressing-gown turned upon us with a most 
melancholy face. 

"It's an extraordinary thing," said he, "that all my life I 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 215 

have been collecting other people's news, and now that a real 
piece of news has come my own way I am so confused and 
bothered that I can't put two words together. If I had come 
in here as a journalist, I should have interviewed myself and 
had two columns in every evening paper. As it is, I am giving 
away valuable copy by telling my story over and over to a 
string of different people, and I can make no use of it myself. 
However, I've heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and 
if you'll only explain this queer business, I shall be paid for my 
trouble in telling you the story." 

Holmes sat down and listened. 

"It all seems to centre round that bust of Napoleon which 
I bought for. this very room about four months ago. I picked 
it up cheap from Harding Brothers two doors from the High 
Street Station. A great deal of my journalistic work is done 
at night, and I often write until the early morning. So it was 
to-day. I was sitting in my den, which is at the back of the 
top of the house, about three o'clock, when I was convinced 
that I heard some sounds downstairs. I listened, but they 
were not repeated, and I concluded that they came from 
outside. Then suddenly, about five minutes later, there came 
a most horrible yell the most dreadful sound, Mr. Holmes, 
that ever I heard. It will ring in my ears as long as I live. I 
sat frozen with horror for a minute or two. Then I seized the 
poker and went downstairs. When I entered this room I found 
the window wide open, and I at once observed that the bust 
was gone from the mantelpiece. Why any burglar should take 
such a thing passes my understanding, for it was only a 
plaster cast, and of no real value whatever. 

"You can see for yourself that anyone going out through 
that open window could reach the front doorstep by taking a 



216 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

long stride. This was clearly what the burglar had done, so I 
went round and opened the door. Stepping out into the dark, 
I nearly fell over a dead man, who was lying there. I ran back 
for a light, and there was the poor fellow, a great gash in his 
throat and the whole place swimming in blood. He lay on his 
back, his knees drawn up, and his mouth horribly open. I 
shall see him in my dreams. I had just time to blow on my 
police- whistle, and then I must have fainted, for I knew noth- 
ing more until I found the policeman standing over me in the 
hall." 

" Well, who was the murdered man ? " asked Holmes. 

" There's nothing to show who he was," said Lestrade. " You 
shall see the body at the mortuary, but we have made nothing 
of it up to now. He is a tall man, sunburned, very powerful, 
not more than thirty. He is poorly dressed, and yet does not 
appear to be a labourer. A horn-handled clasp knife was lying 
in a pool of blood beside him. Whether it was the weapon 
which did the deed, or whether it belonged to the dead man, 
I do not know. There was no name on his clothing, and noth- 
ing in his pockets save an apple, some string, a shilling map of 
London, and a photograph. Here it is." 

It was evidently taken by a snap-shot from a small camera. 
It represented an alert, sharp-featured simian man, with thick 
eyebrows and a very peculiar projection of the lower part of 
the face, like the muzzle of a baboon. 

" And what became of the bust ? " asked Holmes, after a care- 
ful study of this picture. 

"We had news of it just before you came. It has been 
found in the front garden of an empty house in Campden 
House Road. It was broken into fragments. I am going 
round now to see it. Will you come ? " 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 217 

"Certainly. I must just take one look round." He examined 
the carpet and the window. " The fellow had either very long 
legs or was a most active man," said he. " With an area be- 
neath, it was no mean feat to reach that window-ledge and open 
that window. Getting back was comparatively simple. Are 
you coming with us to see the remains of your bust, Mr. Har- 
ker?" 

The disconsolate journalist had seated himself at a writing- 
table. 

" I must try and make something of it," said he, " though 
I have no doubt that the first editions of the evening papers are 
out already with full details. It's like my luck ! You remem- 
ber when the stand fell at Doncaster? Well, I was the only 
journalist in the stand, and my journal the only one that had no 
account of it, for I was too shaken to write it. And now I'll 
be too late with a murder done on my own doorstep." 

As we left the room, we heard his pen travelling shrilly over 
the foolscap. 

The spot where the fragments of the bust had been found 
was only a few hundred yards away. For the first time our eyes 
rested upon this presentment of the great Emperor, which 
seemed to raise such frantic and destructive hatred in the mind 
of the unknown. It lay scattered, in splintered shards, upon 
the grass. Holmes picked up several of them and examined 
them carefully. I was convinced, from his intent face and his 
purposeful manner, that at last he was upon a clue. 

" Well ? " asked Lestrade. 

Holmes shrugged his shoulders. 

" We have a long way to go yet," said he. " And yet and 
yet well, we have some suggestive facts to act upon. The 
possession of this trifling bust was worth mor, in the eyes of 



218 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

this strange criminal, than a human life. That is one point. 
Then there is the singular fact that he did not break it in the 
house, or immediately outside the house, if to break it was his 
sole object." 

"He was rattled and bustled by meeting this other fellow. 
He hardly knew what he was doing." 

"Well, that's likely enough. But I wish to call your atten- 
tion very particularly to the position of this house in the garden 
of which the bust was destroyed." 

Lestrade looked about him. 

" It was an emply house, and so he knew that he would not 
be disturbed in the garden." 

" Yes, but there is another empty house farther up the street 
which he must have passed before he came to this one. Why 
did he not break it there, since it is evident that every yard 
that he carried it increased the risk of someone meeting him ? " 

" I give it up," said Lestrade. 

Holmes pointed to the street lamp above our heads. 

" He could see what he was doing here, and he could not 
there. That was his reason." 

"By Jove! that's true," said the detective. "Now that I 
come to think of it, Dr. Barnicot's bust was broken not far 
from his red lamp. Well, Mr. Holmes, what are we to do with 
that fact?" 

" To remember it to docket it. We may come on some- 
thing later which will bear upon it. What steps do you pro- 
pose to take now, Lestrade ? " 

"The most practical way of getting at it, in my opinion, is 
to identify the dead man. There should be no difficulty about 
that. When we have found who he is and who his associates 
are, we should have a good start in learning what he was doing 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 219 

in Pitt Street last night, and who it was who met him and killed 
him on the doorstep of Mr. Horace Harker. Don't you think 
so?" 

" No doubt; and yet it is not quite the way in which I should 
approach the case." 

" What would you do then ? " 

" Oh, you must not let me influence you in any way. I sug- 
gest that you go on your line and I on mine. We can compare 
notes afterwards, and each will supplement the other." 

" Very good," said Lestrade. 

"If you are going back to Pitt Street, you might see Mr. 
Horace Harker. Tell him from me that I have quite made up 
my mind, and that it is certain that a dangerous homicidal 
lunatic, with Napoleonic delusions, was in his house last night. 
It will be useful for his article." 

Lestrade stared. 

" You don't seriously believe that ? " 

Holmes smiled. 

"Don't I? Well, perhaps I don't. But I am sure that it 
will interest Mr. Horace Harker and the subscribers of the 
Central Press Syndicate. Now, Watson, I think that we shall 
find that we have a long and rather complex day's work before 
us. I should be glad, Lestrade, if you could make it convenient 
to meet us at Baker Street at six o'clock this evening. Until 
then I should like to keep this photograph, found in the dead 
man's pocket. It is possible that I may have to ask your com- 
pany and assistance upon a small expedition which will have 
to be undertaken to-night, if my chain of reasoning should 
prove to be correct. Until then, good-bye and good luck! " 

Sherlock Holmes and I walked together to the High Street, 
where we stopped at the shop of Harding Brothers, whence 



220 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

the bust had been purchased. A young assistant informed us 
that Mr. Harding would be absent until after noon, and that he 
was himself a newcomer, who could give us no information. 
Holmes' face showed his disappointment and annoyance. 

" Well, well, we can't expect to have it all our own way, Wat- 
son," he said, at last. "We must come back in the afternoon, 
if Mr. Harding will not be here until then. I am, as you have 
no doubt surmised, endeavouring to trace these busts to their 
source, in order to find if there is not something peculiar which 
may account for their remarkable fate. Let us make for Mr. 
Morse Hudson, of the Kennington Road, and see if he can 
throw any light upon the problem." 

A drive of an hour brought us to the picture-dealer's estab- 
lishment. He was a small, stout man with a red face and a 
peppery manner. 

"Yes, sir. On my very counter, sir," said he. "What we 
pay rates and taxes for I don't know, when any ruffian can 
come in and break one's goods. Yes, sir, it was I who sold 
Dr. Barnicot his two statues. Disgraceful sir! A Nihilist 
plot that's what I make it. No one but an anarchist would 
go about breaking statues. Red republicans that's what I 
call 'em. Who did I get the statues from ? I don't see what 
that has to do with it. Well, if you really want to know, I got 
them from Gelder and Co., in Church Street, Stepney. They 
are a well-known house in the trade, and have been this twenty 
years. How many had I ? Three two and one are three 
two of Dr. Barnicot's, and one smashed in broad daylight on 
my own counter. Do I know that photograph ? No, I don't. 
Yes, I do, though. Why, it's Beppo. He was a kind of 
Italian piece-work man, who made himself useful in the shop. 
He could carve a bit and gild and frame, and do odd jobs. The 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 22P3 

fellow left me last week, and I've heard nothing of him since. 
No, I don't know where he came from nor where he went to. 
I had nothing against him while he was here. He was gone 
two days before the bust was smashed." 

"Well, that's all we could reasonably expect from Morse 
Hudson," said Holmes, as we emerged from the shop. "We 
have this Beppo as a common factor, both in Kennington and 
in Kensington, so that is worth a ten-mile drive. Now, Wat- 
son, let us make for Gelder and Co., of Stepney, the source 
and origin of the busts. I shall be surprised if we don't get 
some help down there." 

In rapid succession we passed through the fringe of fashion- 
able London, hotel London, theatrical London, literary Lon- 
don, commercial London, and, finally, maritime London, till 
we came to a riverside city of a hundred thousand souls, where 
the tenement houses swelter and reek with the outcasts of 
Europe. Here, in a broad thoroughfare, once the abode of 
wealthy City merchants, we found the sculpture works for 
which we searched. Outside was a considerable yard full of 
monumental masonry. Inside was a large room in which 
fifty workers were carving or moulding. The manager, a big 
blonde German, received us civilly, and gave a clear answer to 
all Holmes' questions. A reference to his books showed 
that hundreds of casts had been taken from a marble copy of 
Devine's head of Napoleon, but that the three which had been 
sent to Morse Hudson a year or so before had been half of a 
batch of six, the other three being sent to Harding Brothers, of 
Kensington. There was no reason why those six should be 
different to any of the other casts. He could suggest no pos- 
sible cause why anyone should wish to destroy them in 
fact, he laughed at the idea. Their wholesale price was six 



222 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

shillings, but the retailer would get twelve or more. The cast 
was taken in two moulds from each side of the face, and then 
these two profiles of plaster of Paris were joined together to 
make the complete bust. The work was usually done by 
Italians, in the room we were in. When finished, the busts 
were put on a table in the passage to dry, and afterwards 
stored. That was all he could tell us. 

But the production of the photograph had a remarkable 
effect upon the manager. His face flushed with anger, and 
his brows knotted over his blue Teutonic eyes. 

"Ah, the rascal!" he cried. "Yes, indeed, I know him 
very well. This has always been a respectable establishment, 
and the only time that we have ever had the police in it was 
over this very fellow. It was more than a year ago now. He 
knifed another Italian in the street, and then he came to the 
works with the police on his heels, and he was taken here. 
Beppo was his name his second name I never knew. Serve 
me right for engaging a man with such a face. But he was a 
good workman one of the best." 

"What did he get?" 

"The man lived and he got off with a year. I have no 
doubt he is out now, but he has not dared to show his nose 
here. We have a cousin of his here, and I dare say he could 
tell you where he is.' 

" No, no," cried Holmes, " not a word to the cousin not 
a word, I beg of you. The matter is very important, and the 
farther I go with it, the more important it seems to grow. When 
you referred in your ledger to the sale of those casts I observed 
that the date was June 3rd of last year. Could you give me 
the date when Beppo was arrested ? " 

"I could tell you roughly by the pay-list," the manager 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 223 

answered. "Yes," he continued, after some turning over of 
pages, " he was paid last on May 20th." 

"Thank you," said Holmes. " I don't think that I need in- 
trude upon your time and patience any more." With a last 
word of caution that he should say nothing as to our re- 
searches, we turned our faces westward once more. 

The afternoon was far advanced before we were able to 
snatch a hasty luncheon at a restaurant. A news-bill at the 
entrance announced "Kensington Outrage. Murder by a 
Madman," and the contents of the paper showed that Mr. 
Horace Harker had got his account into print after all. Two 
columns were occupied with a highly sensational and flowery 
rendering of the whole incident. Holmes propped it against 
the cruet-stand and read it while he ate. Once or twice he 
chuckled. 

"This is all right, Watson," said he. "Listen to this: 'It 
is satisfactory to know that there can be no difference of opinion 
upon this case, since Mr. Lestrade, one of the most experienced 
members of the official force, and Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the 
well-known consulting expert, have each come to the conclu- 
sion that the grotesque series of incidents, which have ended in 
so tragic a fashion, arise from lunacy rather than from delib- 
erate crime. No explanation save mental aberration can cover 
the facts.' The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution, 
if you only know how to use it. And now, if you have quite 
finished, we will hark back to Kensington, and see what the 
manager of Harding Brothers has to say on the matter." 

The founder of that great emporium proved to be a brisk, 
crisp little person, very dapper and quick, with a clear head 
and a ready tongue. 

"Yes, sir, I have already read the account in the evening 



224 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

papers. Mr. Horace Harker is a customer of ours. We sup- 
plied him with the bust some months ago. We ordered three 
busts of that sort from Gelder and Co., of Stepney. They are 
all sold now. To whom ? Oh, I dare say by consulting our 
sales-book we could very easily tell you. Yes, we have the 
entries here. One to Mr. Harker, you see, and one to Mr. 
Josiah Brown, of Laburnum Lodge, Laburnum Vale, Chiswick, 
and one to Mr. Sandeford, of Lower Grove Road, Reading. 
No, I have never seen this face which you show me in the 
photograph. You would hardly forget it, would you, sir, for 
I've seldom seen an uglier. Have we any Italians on the staff ? 
Yes, sir, we have several among our workpeople and cleaners. 
I dare say they might get a peep at that sales-book if they 
wanted to. There is no particular reason for keeping a watch 
upon that book. Well, well, it's a very strange business, and 
I hope that you will let me know if anything comes of your 
inquiries." 

Holmes had taken several notes during Mr. Harding's evi- 
dence, and I could see that he was thoroughly satisfied by the 
turn which affairs were taking- He made no remark, however, 
save that, unless we hurried, we should be late for our appoint- 
ment with Lestrade. Sure enough, when we reached Baker 
Street the detective was already there, and we found him pacing 
up and down in a fever of impatience. His look of importance 
showed that his day's work had not been in vain, 

" Well ? " he asked. " What luck, Mr. Holmes ? " 

"We have had a very busy day, and not entirely a wasted 
one," my friend explained. " We have seen both the retailers 
and also the wholesale manufacturers. I can trace each of 
the busts now from the beginning." 

"The busts!" cried Lestrade. "Well, well, you have your 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 225 

own methods, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and it is not for me to 
say a word against them, but I think I have done a better day's 
work than you. I have identified the dead man." 

" You don't say so ? " 

" And found a cause for the crime." 

"Splendid!" 

" We have an inspector who makes a speciality of Saffron 
Hill and the Italian Quarter. Well, this dead man had some 
Catholic emblem round his neck, and that, along with his col- 
our, made me think he was from the South. Inspector Hill 
knew him the moment he caught sight of him. His name is 
Pietro Venucci, from Naples, and he is one of the greatest 
cut-throats in London. He is connected with the Mafia, 
which, as you know, is a secret political society, enforcing its 
decrees by murder. Now, you see how the affair begins to 
clear up. The other fellow is probably an Italian also, and 
a member of the Mafia. He has broken the rules in some 
fashion. Pietro is set upon his track. Probably the photo- 
graph we found in his pocket is the man himself, so that he 
may not knife the wrong person. He dogs the fellow, he sees 
him enter a house, he waits outside for him, and in the scuffle 
he receives his own death-wound. How is that, Mr. Sherlock 
Holmes?" 

Holmes clapped his hands approvingly. 

"Excellent, Lestrade, excellent!" he cried. "But I didn't 
quite follow your explanation of the destruction of the busts." 

"The busts! You never can get those busts out of your 
head. After all, that is nothing; petty larceny, six months at 
the most. It is the murder that we are really investigating, and 
I tell you that I am gathering all the threads into my hands." 

" And the next stage ? " 



226 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

"Is a very simple one. I shall go down with Hill to the 
Italian quarter, find the man whose photograph we have got, 
and arrest him on the charge of murder. Will you come with 
us?" 

"I think not. I fancy we can attain our end in a simpler 
way. I can't say for certain, because it all depends well, 
it all depends upon a factor which is completely outside our 
control. But I have great hopes in fact, the betting is 
exactly two to one that if you will come with us to-night 
I shall be able to help you to lay him by the heels." 

" In the Italian Quarter ? " 

"No, I fancy Chiswick is an address which is more likely 
to find him. If you will come with me to Chiswick to-night, 
Lestrade, I'll promise to go to the Italian Quarter with you 
to-morrow, and no harm will be done by the delay. And now 
I think that a few hours' sleep would do us all good, for I do 
not propose to leave before eleven o'clock, and it is unlikely 
that we shall be back before morning. You'll dine with us, 
Lestrade, and then you are welcome to the sofa until it is time 
for us to start. In the meantime, Watson, I should be glad if 
you would ring for an express messenger, for I have a letter to 
send, and it is important that it should go at once." 

Holmes spent the evening in rummaging among the files of 
the old daily papers with which one of our lumber-rooms was 
packed. When at last he descended, it was with triumph in 
his eyes, but he said nothing to either of us as to the result of 
his researches. For my own part, I had followed step by step 
the methods by which he had traced the various windings of 
this complex case, and, though I could not yet perceive the goal 
which we would reach, I understood clearly that Holmes ex- 
pected this grotesque criminal to make an attempt upon the 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 227 

two remaining busts, one of which, I remembered, was at Chis- 
wick. No doubt the object of our journey was to catch him in 
the very act, and I could not but admire the cunning with which 
my friend had inserted a wrong clue in the evening paper, so 
as to give the fellow the idea that he could continue his scheme 
with impunity. I was not surprised when Holmes suggested 
that I should take my revolver with me. He had himself 
picked up the loaded hunting-crop, which was his favourite 
weapon. 

A four-wheeler was at the door at eleven, and in it we drove 
to a spot at the other side of Hammersmith Bridge. Here the 
cabman was directed to wait. A short walk brought us to a 
secluded road fringed with pleasant houses, each standing in 
its own grounds. In the light of a street lamp we read " Labur- 
num Villa" upon the gate-post of one of them. The occu- 
pants had evidently retired to rest, for all was dark save for a 
fanlight over the hall door, which shed a single blurred circle 
on to the garden path. The wooden fence which separated 
the grounds from the road threw a dense black shadow upon 
the inner side, and here it was that we crouched. 

"I fear that you'll have a long wait," Holmes whispered. 
" We may thank our stars that it is not raining. I don't think 
we can even venture to smoke to pass the time. However, 
it's a two to one chance that we get something to pay us for our 
trouble." 

It proved, however, that our vigil was not to be so long as 
Holmes had led us to fear, and it ended in a very sudden and 
singular fashion. In an instant, without the least sound to 
warn us of his coming, the garden gate swung open, and a 
lithe, dark figure, as swift and active as an ape, rushed up the 
garden path. We saw it whisk past the light thrown from 



228 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

over the door and disappear against the black shadow of the 
house. There was a long pause, during which we held our 
breath, and then a very gentle creaking sound came to our 
ears. The window was being opened. The noise ceased, 
and again there was a long silence. The fellow was making 
his way into the house. We saw the sudden flash of a dark 
lantern inside the room. What he sought was evidently not 
there, for again we saw the flash through another blind, and 
then through another. 

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

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

But it was not our prisoner to whom Holmes was giving his 
attention. Squatted on the doorstep, he was engaged in most 
carefully examining that which the man had brought from the 
house. It was a bust of Napoleon, like the one which we had 
seen that morning, and it had been broken into similar frag- 
ments. Carefully Holmes held each separate shard to the light, 




WE SAW THAT HE CARRIED SOMETHING WHITE UNDER HIS ARM 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 229 

but in no way did it differ from any other shattered piece of 
plaster. He had just completed his examination when the 
hall lights flew up, the door opened, and the owner of the house, 
a jovial, rotund figure in shirt and trousers, presented himself. 

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

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

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

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

" I fear it is rather too late an hour for explanations," said 
Holmes. " Besides, there are one or two details which are not 
finished off, and it is one of those cases which are worth work- 
ing out to the very end. If you will come round once more 
to my rooms at six o'clock to-morrow, I think I shall be able 



230 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

to show you that even now you have not grasped the entire 
meaning of this business, which presents some features which 
make it absolutely original in the history of crime. If ever I 
permit you to chronicle any more of my little problems, Wat- 
son, I foresee that you will enliven your pages by an account of 
the singular adventure of the Napoleonic busts." 

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

" Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here ? " 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 231 

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

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

"Exactly." 

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

" Certainly." 

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

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

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

"No, he did not." 

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

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

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

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



232 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

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

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

"Yes, gentlemen," said he, "it is the most famous pearl 
now existing in the world, and it has been my good fortune, 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 233 

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

" The main fact is that he had the pearl, and at that moment, 
when it was on his person, he was pursued by the police. He 
made for the factory in which he worked, and he knew that he 
had only a few minutes in which to conceal this enormously 
valuable prize, which would otherwise be found on him when he 
was searched. Six plaster casts of Napoleon were drying in 



234 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

" If he was his confederate, why should he carry his photo- 
graph ? " I asked. 

"As a means of tracing him, if he wished to inquire about 
him from any third person. That was the obvious reason. 
Well, after the murder I calculated that Beppo would probably 
hurry rather than delay his movements. He would fear that 
the police would read his secret, and so he hastened on before 
they should get ahead of him. Of course, I could not say that 
he had not found the pearl in Barker's bust. I had not even 
concluded for certain that it was the pearl, but it was evident 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS 235 

to me that he was looking for something, since he carried the 
bust past the other houses in order to break it in the garden 
which had a lamp overlooking it. Since Marker's bust was one 
in three, the chances were exactly as I told you two to one 
against the pearl being inside it. There remained two busts, 
and it was obvious that he would go for the London one first. 
I warned the inmates of the house, so as to avoid a second 
tragedy, and we went down with the happiest results. By that 
time, of course, I knew for certain that it was the Borgia pearl 
that we were after. The name of the murdered man linked 
the one event with the other. There only remained a single 
bust the Reading one and the pearl must be there. I 
bought it in your presence from the owner and there it lies." 

We sat in silence for a moment. 

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

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



IX 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE THREE STUDENTS 

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

We were residing at the time in furnished lodgings close to 
a library where Sherlock Holmes was pursuing some laborious 
researches in early English charters researches which led to 
results so striking that they may be the subject of one of my 
future narratives. Here it was that one evening we received 
a visit from an acquaintance, Mr. Hilton Soames, tutor and 



238 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

lecturer at the College of St. Luke's. Mr. Soames was a tall, 
spare man, of a nervous and excitable temperament. I had 
always known him to be restless in his manner, but on this 
particular occasion he was in such a state of uncontrollable 
agitation that it was clear something very unusual had occurred. 

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

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

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

My friend's temper had not improved since he had been 
deprived of the congenial surroundings of Baker Street. With- 
out his scrap-books, his chemicals, and his homely untidiness, 
he was an uncomfortable man. He shrugged his shoulders in 
ungracious acquiescence, while our visitor in hurried words 
and with much excitable gesticulation poured forth his story. 

" I must explain to you, Mr. Holmes, that to-morrow is the 
first day of the examination for the Fortescue Scholarship. I 
am one of the examiners. My subject is Greek, and the first 
of the papers consists of a large passage of Greek translation 
which the candidate has not seen. This passage is printed on 
the examination paper, and it would naturally be an immense 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 239 

advantage if the candidate could prepare it in advance. For 
this reason, great care is taken to keep the paper secret. 

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

"You are aware, Mr. Holmes, that our college doors are 
double a green baize one within and a heavy oak one with- 
out. As I approached my outer door, I was amazed to see a 
key in it. For an instant I imagined that I had left my own 
there, but on feeling in my pocket I found that it was all right. 
The only duplicate which existed, so far as I knew, was that 
t which belonged to my servant, Bannister a man who has 
looked after my room for ten years, and whose honesty is abso- 
lutely above suspicion. I found that the key was indeed his, 
that he had entered my room to know if I wanted tea, and that 
he had very carelessly left the key in the door when he came 
out. His visit to my room must have been within a very few 
minutes of my leaving it. His forgetfulness about the key 
would have mattered little upon any other occasion, but on 
this one day it has produced the most deplorable con- 
sequences. 

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

Holmes stirred for the first time. 



240 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

" Pray continue your very interesting statement." 

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

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

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

"This was not all. I have a new writing-table with a fine 
surface of red leather. I am prepared to swear, and so is Ban- 
nister, that it was smooth and unstained. Now I found a clean 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 241 

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

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

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

" For which he was entered ? " 

"Yes." 

" And the papers were on your table ? " 

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

" But might be recognised as proofs ? " 

"Possibly." 

" No one else in your room ? " 

"No." 



242 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

" No one save the printer." 

" Did this man Bannister know ? " 

" No, certainly not. No one knew." 

" Where is Bannister now ? " 

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

" You left your door open ? " 

" I locked up the papers first." 

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

" So it seems to me." 

Holmes gave an enigmatic smile. 

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

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

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

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



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 243 

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

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

" By the window there." 

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

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

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

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

" Well, he wrote so furiously that he broke his pencil, and 
had, as you observe, to sharpen it again. This is of interest, 
Watson. The pencil was not an ordinary one. It was above 



244 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

the usual size, with a soft lead, the outer colour was dark blue, 
the maker's name was printed in silver lettering, and the piece 
remaining is only about an inch and a half long. Look for 
such a pencil, Mr. Soames, and you have got your man. When 
I add that he possesses a large and very blunt knife, you have 
an additional aid." 

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

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

"You see?" 

" No, I fear that even now " 

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

"To my bedroom." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 245 

" Have you been in it since your adventure ? " 

" No, I came straight away for you." 

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

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

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

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

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

" What could he have wanted there ? " 

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

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

" So I read it." 



246 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

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

Holmes shook his head impatiently. 

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

"Yes, there are." 

" And they are all in for this examination ? ' 

"Yes." 

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

Soames hesitated. 

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

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

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

" The second floor is inhabited by Daulat Ras, the Indian. 
He is a quiet, inscrutable fellow, as most of those Indians are. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 247 

He is well up in his work, though his Greek is his weak subject. 
He is steady and methodical. 

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

" Then it is he whom you suspect ? " 

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

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

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

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

"Yes, sir." 

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

"Yes, sir." 

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

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

" When did you enter the room ? " 

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

" How long did you stay ? " 



248 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

" No, sir certainly not." 

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

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

" Has the outer door a spring lock ? " 

"No, sir." 

" Then it was open all the time ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" Anyone in the room could get out ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

" You stayed here when your master left ? " 

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

" Whom do you suspect ? " 

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



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 249 

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

" No, sir not a word." 

" You haven't seen any of them ? " 

"No, sir." 

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

Three yellow squares of light shone above us in the gather- 
ing gloom. 

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

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

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

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

"No names, please!" said Holmes, as we knocked at Gil- 
christ's door. A tall, flaxen-haired, slim young fellow opened 
it, and made us welcome when he understood our errand. 
There were some really curious pieces of mediaeval domestic 
architecture within. Holmes was so charmed with one of them 
that he insisted on drawing it in his note-book, broke his pen- 
cil, had to borrow one from our host, and finally borrowed 
a knife to sharpen his own. The same curious accident hap- 
pened to him in the rooms of the Indian a silent, little, 
hook-nosed fellow, who eyed us askance, and was obviously 



250 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

glad when Holmes' architectural studies had come to an end. 
I could not see that in either case Holmes had come upon the 
clue for which he was searching. Only at the third did 
our visit prove abortive. The outer door would not open to 
our knock, and nothing more substantial than a torrent of bad 
language came from behind it. " I don't care who you are. 
You can go to blazes ! " roared the angry voice. " To-morrow's 
the exam, and I won't be drawn by anyone." 

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

Holmes' response was a curious one. 

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

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

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

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

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




<; ATHBRINQ GLOOM 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 251 

"Very good, Mr. Holmes." 

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

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

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

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

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

" He looked at us in a queer way." 

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

"Who?" 

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

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

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

There were only four stationers of any consequence in the 



252 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

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

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

"Certainly." 

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

" Have you anything positive to tell him ? " 

"I think so." 

" You have formed a conclusion ? " 

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

" But what fresh evidence could you have got ? " 

" Aha ! It is not for nothing that I have turned myself out 
of bed at the untimely hour of six. I have put in two hours' 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 253 

hard work and covered at least five miles, with something to 
show for it. Look at that ! " 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" But this rascal ?" 

" He shall not compete." 

"You know him?" 

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

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



254 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

The man turned white to the roots of his hair. 

"I have told you everything, sir." 

"Nothing to add?" 

"Nothing at all, sir." 

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

Bannister's face was ghastly. 

" No, sir, certainly not." 

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

Bannister licked his dry lips. 

"There was no man, sir." 

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

The man's face set in sullen defiance. 

"There was no man, sir." 

"Come, come, Bannister!" 

" No, sir, there was no one." 

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

An instant later the tutor returned, bringing with him the 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 255 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"From the moment, Mr. Soames, that you said to me that 
no one, not even Bannister, could have told that the papers 
were in your room, the case began to take a definite shape in 



256 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

my mind. The printer one could, of course, dismiss. He 
could examine the papers in his own office. The Indian I 
also thought nothing of. If the proofs were in roll, he could 
not possibly know what they were. On the other hand, it 
seemed an unthinkable coincidence that a man should dare to 
enter the room, and that by chance on that very day the papers 
were on the table. I dismissed that. The man who entered 
knew that the papers were there. How did he know ? 

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

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

"What happened was this. This young fellow had em- 
ployed his afternoon at the athletic grounds, where he had 
been practising the jump. He returned carrying his jumping- 
shoes, which are provided, as you are aware, with several sharp 
spikes. As he passed your window he saw, by means of his 
great height, these proofs upon your table, and conjectured 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 257 

what they were. No harm would have been done had it not 
been that, as he passed your door, he perceived the key which 
had been left by the carelessness of your servant. A sudden 
impulse came over him to enter, and see if they were indeed 
the proofs. It was not a dangerous exploit, for he could 
always pretend that he had simply looked in to ask a question. 

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

" Gloves," said the young man. 

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

The student had drawn himself erect. 

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

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



258 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

Gilchrist pointed to Bannister. 

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

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

" It was simple enough, sir, if you only had known, but, with 
all your cleverness, it was impossible that you could know. 
Time was, sir, when I was butler to old Sir Jabez Gilchrist, 
this young gentleman's father. When he was ruined I came 
to the college as servant, but I never forgot my old employer 
because he was down in the world. I watched his son all I 
could for the sake of the old days. Well, sir, when I came 
into this room yesterday, when the alarm was given, the very 
first thing I saw was Mr. Gilchrist's tan gloves a-lying in that 
chair. I knew those gloves well, and I understood their mes- 
sage. If Mr. Soames saw them, the game was up. I flopped 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS 259 

down into that chair, and nothing would budge me until Mr. 
Soames he went for you. Then out came my poor young 
master, whom I had dandled on my knee, and confessed it all 
to me. Wasn't it natural, sir, that I should save him, and 
wasn't it natural also that I should try to speak to him as his 
dead father would have done, and make him understand that 
he could not profit by such a deed ? Could you blame me, sir ? " 
"No, indeed," said Holmes, heartily, springing to his feet. 
" Well, Soames, I think we have cleared your little problem up, 
and our breakfast awaits us at home. Come, Watson! As 
to you, sir, I trust that a bright future awaits you in Rhodesia. 
For once you have fallen low. Let us see, in the future, how 
high you can rise." 



X 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 

WHEN I look at the three massive manuscript volumes 
which contain our work for the year 1894, 1 confess that it is very 
difficult for me, out of such a wealth of material, to select the 
cases which are most interesting in themselves, and at the same 
time most conducive to a display of those peculiar powers for 
which my friend was famous. As I turn over the pages, I see 
my notes upon the repulsive story of the red leech and the ter- 
rible death of Crosby, the banker. Here also I find an account 
of the Addleton tragedy, and the singular contents of the 
ancient British barrow. The famous Smith-Mortimer suc- 
cession case comes also within this period, and so does the 
tracking and arrest of Huret, the Boulevard assassin an 
exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks 
from the French President and the Order of the Legion of 
Honour. Each of these would furnish a narrative, but on the 
whole I am of opinion that none of them unites so many sin- 
gular points of interest as the episode of Yoxley Old Place, 
which includes not only the lamentable death of young Wil- 
loughby Smith, but also those subsequent developments which 
threw so curious a light upon the causes of the crime. 



262 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

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

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

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



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 263 

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

" Is he in ? " he asked, eagerly. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

" It means that I can make neither head nor tail of it. So far 
as I can see,it is just as tangled a business as ever I handled, and 
yet at first, it seemed so simple that one couldn't go wrong. 



264 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

There's no motive, Mr. Holmes. That's what bothers me I 
can't put my hand on a motive. Here's a man dead there's 
no denying that but, so far as I can see, no reason on earth 
why anyone should wish him harm. " 

Holmes lit his cigar and leaned back in his chair. 

" Let us hear about it, " said he. 

" I've got my facts pretty clear, " said Stanley Hopkins. " All 
I want now is to know what they all mean. The story, so far as 
I can make it out, is like this. Some years ago this country 
house, Yoxley Old Place, was taken by an elderly man, who 
gave the name of Professor Coram. He was an invalid, keeping 
his bed hah* the time, and the other hah* hobbling round the 
house with a stick or being pushed about the grounds by the 
gardener in a bath-chair. He was well-liked by the few neigh- 
bours who called upon him, and he has the reputation down 
there of being a very learned man. His household used to con- 
sist of an elderly housekeeper, Mrs. Marker, and of a maid, Su- 
san Tarlton. These have both been with him since his arrival, 
and they seem to be women of excellent character. The Pro- 
fessor is writing a learned book, and he found it necessary, about 
a year ago, to engage a secretary. The first two that he tried 
were not successes, but the third, Mr. Willoughby Smith, a very 
young man straight from the University, seems to have been 
just what his employer wanted. His work consisted in writing 
all the morning to the Professor's dictation, and he usually spent 
the evening in hunting up references and passages which bore 
upon the next day's work. This Willoughby Smith has noth- 
ing against him, either as a boy at Uppingham or as a young 
man at Cambridge. I have seen his testimonials, and from the 
first he was a decent, quiet, hardworking fellow, with no weak 
spot in him at all. And yet this is the lad who has met his death 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 265 

this morning in the Professor's study under circumstances 
which can point only to murder. " 

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

" If you were to search all England, " said he, " I don't sup- 
pose you could find a household more self-contained or freer 
from outside influences. Whole weeks would pass, and not one 
of them go past the garden gate. The Professor was buried in 
his work and existed for nothing else. Young Smith knew no- 
body in the neighbourhood, and lived very much as his employ- 
er did. The two women had nothing to take them from the 
house. Mortimer, the gardener, who wheels the bath-chair, is 
an army pensioner an old Crimean man of excellent charac- 
ter. He does not live in the house, but in a three-roomed cot- 
tage at the other end of the garden. Those are the only people 
that you would find within the grounds of Yoxley Old Place. 
At the same time, the gate of the garden is a hundred yards from 
the main London to Chatham road. It opens with a latch, and 
there is nothing to prevent anyone from walking in. 

" Now I will give you the evidence of Susan Tarlton, who is 
the only person who can say anything positive about the matter. 
It was in the forenoon, between eleven and twelve. She was 
engaged at the moment in hanging some curtains in the upstairs 
front bedroom. Professor Coram was still in bed, for when the 
weather is bad he seldom rises before midday. The house- 
keeper was busied with some work in the back of the house. 
Willoughby Smith had been in his bedroom, which he uses as 
a sitting-roonc , but the maid heard him at that moment pass 
along the passage and descend to the study immediately below 
her. She did not see him, but she says that she could not be 



266 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

mistaken in his quick, firm tread. She did not hear the study 
door close, but a minute or so later there was a dreadful cry in 
the room below. It was a wild, hoarse scream, so strange and 
unnatural that it might have come either from a man or a wo- 
man. At the same instant there was a heavy thud, which shook 
the old house, and then all was silence. The maid stood petri- 
fied for a moment, and then, recovering her courage, she ran 
downstairs. The study door was shut and she opened it. In- 
side, young Mr. Willoughby Smith was stretched upon the floor. 
At first she could see no injury, but as she tried to raise him she 
saw that blood was pouring from the underside of his neck. It 
was pierced by a very small but very deep wound, which had 
divided the carotid artery. The instrument with which the 
injury had been inflicted lay upon the carpet beside him. It 
was one of those small sealing-wax knives to be found on old- 
fashioned writing-tables, with an ivory handle and a stiff blade. 
It was part of the fittings of the Professor's own desk. 

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

" In the meantime the housekeeper had also arrived upon the 
scene, but she was just too late to catch the young man's dying 
words. Leaving Susan with the body, she hurried to the Pro- 
fessor's room. He was sitting up in bed horribly agitated, for 
he had heard enough to convince him that something terrible 
had occurred. Mrs. Marker is prepared to swear that the Pro- 
fessor was still in his night-clothes, and indeed it was impos- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 267 

sible for him to dress without the help of Mortimer, whose or- 
ders were to come at twelve o'clock. The Professor declares 
that he heard the distant cry, but that he knows nothing more. 
He can give no explanation of the young man's last words, ' The 
Professor it was she,' but imagines that they were the out- 
come of delirium. He believes that Willoughby Smith had 
not an enemy in the world, and can give no reason for the crime. 
His first action was to send Mortimer, the gardener, for the 




local police. A little later the chief constable sent for me. 
Nothing was moved before I got there, and strict orders were 
given that no one should walk upon the paths leading to the 
house. It was a splendid chance of putting your theories 
into practice, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. There was really nothing 
wanting. " 

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

" I must ask you first, Mr. Holmes, to glance at this rough 
plan, which will give you a general idea of the position of the 



268 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Professor's study and the various points of the case. It will 
help you in following my investigation. " 

He unfolded the rough chart, which I here reproduce, and he 
laid it across Holmes's 'knee. I rose, and, standing behind 
Holmes, studied it over his shoulder. 

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

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

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

"To the road." 

"How long is it?" 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 269 

" A hundred yards or so. " 

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

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

" Well, on the road itself ? " 

" No, it was all trodden into mire. " 

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

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

" A large foot or a small ? " 

" You could not distinguish. " 

Holmes gave an ejaculation of impatience. 

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

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

" I come now to the body of the young man. It was found 



370 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

near the bureau, and just to the left of it, as marked upon that 
chart. The stab was on the right side of the neck and from be- 
hind forwards, so that it is almost impossible that it could have 
been self-inflicted. " 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" Wanted, a woman of good address, attired like a lady. She 
has a remarkably thick nose, with eyes which are set close upon 
either side of it. She has a puckered forehead, a peering expres- 



sion, and probably rounded shoulders. There are indications 
that she has had recourse to an optician at least twice during the 
last few months. As her glasses are of remarkable strength, 
and as opticians are not very numerous, there should be no dif- 
ficulty in tracing her. " 

Holmes smiled at the astonishment of Hopkins, which must 
have been reflected upon my features. 

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

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



272 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Holmes took the glasses in his hand. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" Then we shall take it. Your case has certainly some fea- 
tures of great interest, and I shall be delighted to look into it. 
Well, it's nearly one, and we had best get a few hours' sleep. 
I dare say you can manage all right on the sofa in front of. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 273 

the fire. I'll light my spirit lamp, and give you a cup of coffee 
before we start. " 

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

" Well, Wilson, any news ? " 

" No, sir nothing. " 

" No reports of any stranger seen ? " 

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, yes: someone has passed along," said Holmes, stoop- 
ing over the grass border. " Our lady must have picked her 



274 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

steps carefully, must she not, since on the one side she would 
leave a track on the path, and on the other an even clearer one 
on the soft bed ? " 

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

I saw an intent look pass over Holmes' face. 

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

" Yes, sir, there is no other. " 

" On this strip of grass ? " 

"Certainly, Mr. Holmes." 

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

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

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

The mark which he was examining began upon the brass- 
work on the right-hand side of the keyhole, and extended for 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 275 

about four inches, where it had scratched the varnish from the 
surface. 

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

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

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

" Did you dust this bureau yesterday morning ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" Did you notice this scratch ? " 

"No, sir, I did not." 

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

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

" Is it a simple key ? " 

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

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



276 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

"No, sir." 

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

" Well, sir, what of that ? " 

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

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

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




IT WAS A GAUNT, AQUILINE FACE WHICH WAS TURNED 
TOWARDS US 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 277 

with stale tobacco-smoke. As he held out his hand to Holmes, 
I perceived that it was also stained with yellow nicotine. 

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

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

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

" I have not yet made up my mind. " 

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

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

" Yes, sir, it is a crushing blow, " said the old man. " That is 



278 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

Holmes smiled. 

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

The Professor shook his head. 

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

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

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

" But the eye-glasses ? " 

" Ah ! I am only a student a man of dreams. I cannot ex- 
plain the practical things of life. But still, we are aware, my 
friend, that love-gages may take strange shapes. By all means 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 279 

take another cigarette. It is a pleasure to see anyone appre- 
ciate them so. A fan, a glove, glasses who knows what article 
may be carried as a token or treasured when a man puts an end 
to his life ? This gentleman speaks of footsteps in the grass, 
but, after all, it is easy to be mistaken on such a point. As to 
the knife, it might well be thrown far from the unfortunate 
man as he fell. It is possible that I speak as a child, but 
to me it seems that Willoughby Smith has met his fate by 
his own hand." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

" It depends upon those cigarettes that I smoked, " said he. 



280 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" It is possible that I am utterly mistaken. The cigarettes will 
show me. " 

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

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

"Yes, Mr. Holmes, it is as you say, sir. He does smoke 
something terrible. All day and sometimes all night, sir. I've 
seen that room of a morning well, sir you'd have thought it 
was a London fog. Poor young Mr. Smith, he was a smoker 
also, but not as bad as the Professor. His health well, I 
don't know that it's better nor worse for the smoking. " 
"Ah!" said Holmes, "but it kills the appetite. " 
"Well, I don't know about that, sir. " 
" I suppose the Professor eats hardly anything ? " 
" Well, he is variable. I'll say that for him. " 
" I'll wager he took no breakfast this morning, and won't face 
his lunch after all the cigarettes I saw him consume. " 

" Well, you're out there, sir, as it happens, for he ate a remark- 
able big breakfast this morning. I don't know when I've 
known him make a better one, and he's ordered a good dish of 
cutlets for his lunch. I'm surprised myself, for since I came 
into that room yesterday and saw young Mr. Smith lying there 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 281 

on the floor, I couldn't bear to look at food. Well, it takes all 
sorts to make a world, and the Professor hasn't let it take his 
appetite away. " 

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

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

"Well, Mr. Holmes, have you solved this mystery yet?" 
He shoved the large tin of cigarettes which stood on a table be- 



282 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

side him towards my companion. Holmes stretched out his 
hand at the same moment, and between them they tipped the 
box over the edge. For a minute or two we were all on our 
knees retrieving stray cigarettes from impossible places. When 
we rose again, I observed Holmes' eyes were shining and his 
cheeks tinged with colour. Only at a crisis have I seen those 
battle-signals flying. 

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

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

" Indeed ! In the garden ? " 

"No, here." 

"Here! When?" 

"This instant." 

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

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

" A lady yesterday entered your study. She came with the 
intention of possessing herself of certain documents which were 
in your bureau. She had a key of her own. I have had an op- 
portunity of examining yours, and I do not find that slight dis- 
colouration which the scratch made upon the varnish would 
have produced. You were not an accessory, therefore, and 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 283 

she came, so far as I can read the evidence, without your 
knowledge to rob you. " 

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

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

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

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

" I am aware of that, Professor Coram. " 



284 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanley Hopkins had laid his hand upon her arm and 
claimed her as his prisoner, but she waved him aside gently, and 
yet with an overmastering dignity which compelled obedience. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 285 

The old man lay back in his chair with a twitching face, and 
stared at her with brooding eyes. 

" Yes, sir, I am your prisoner, " she said. " From where I 
stood I could hear everything, and I know that you have learned 
the truth. I confess it all. It was I who killed the young man. 
But you are right you who say it was an accident. I did not 
even know that it was a knife which I held in my hand, for in 
my despair I snatched anything from the table and struck at him 
to make him let me go. It is the truth that I tell. " 

" Madam, " said Holmes, " I am sure that it is the truth. I 
fear that you are far from well. " 

She had turned a dreadful colour, the more ghastly under the 
dark dust-streaks upon her face. She seated herself on the 
side of the bed ; then she resumed. 

" I have only a little time here, " she said, " but I would have 
you to know the whole truth. I am this man's wife. He is not 
an Englishman. He is a Russian. His name I will not tell. " 

For the first time the old man stirred. "God bless you, 
Anna ! " he cried. " God bless you ! " 

She cast a look of the deepest disdain in his direction. " Why 
should you cling so hard to that wretched life of yours, Ser- 
gius ? " said she. " It has done harm to many, and good to 
none not even to yourself. However, it is not for me to 
cause the frail thread to be snapped before God's time. I have 
enough already upon my soul since I crossed the threshold of 
this cursed house. But I must speak or I shall be too late. 

" I have said, gentlemen, that I am this man's wife. He was 
fifty and I a foolish girl of twenty when we married. It was in a 
city of Russia, a University I will not name the place. " 

" God bless you, Anna! " murmured the old man again. 

" We were reformers revolutionists Nihilists, you under- 



286 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

stand. He and I and many more. Then there came a time of 
trouble, a police officer was killed, many were arrested, evidence 
was wanted, and in order to save his own life and to earn a great 
reward, my husband betrayed his own wife and his compan- 
ions. Yes, we were all arrested upon his confession. Some of 
us found our way to the gallows, and some to Siberia. I was 
among these last, but my term was not for life. My husband 
came to England with his ill-gotten gains, and has lived in quiet 
ever since, knowing well that if the Brotherhood knew where he 
was not a week would pass before justice would be done. " 

The old man reached out a trembling hand, and helped 
himself to a cigarette. " I am in your hands, Anna, " said 
he. " You were always good to me. " 

" I have not yet told you the height of his villainy, " said she. 
" Among our comrades of the Order, there was one who was 
the friend of my heart. He was noble, unselfish, loving all 
that my husband was not. He hated violence. We were all 
guilty if that is guilt but he was not. He wrote for ever dis- 
suading us from such a course. These letters would have 
saved him. So would my diary, in which, from day to day, I 
had entered both my feelings towards him and the view which 
each of us had taken. My husband found and kept both diary 
and letters. He hid them, and he tried hard to swear away the 
young man's life. In this he failed, but Alexis was sent a con- 
vict to Siberia, where now, at this moment, he works in a salt 
mine. Think of that, you villain, you villain! now, now, at 
this very moment, Alexis, a man whose name you are not 
worthy to speak, works and lives like a slave, and yet I have 
your life in my hands, and I let you go. " 

" You were always a noble woman, Anna, " said the old man, 
puffing at his cigarette. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 287 

She had risen, but she fell back again with a little cry of pain. 

" I must finish, " she said. " When my term was over I set 
myself to get the diary and letters which, if sent to the Russian 
Government, would procure my friend's release. I knew that 
my husband had come to England. After months of searching 
I discovered where he was. I knew that he still had the diary, 
for when I was in Siberia I had a letter from him once, re- 
proaching me and quoting some passages from its pages. Yet 
I was sure that, with his revengeful nature, he would never give 
it to me of his own free-will. I must get it for myself. With 
this object I engaged an agent from a private detective firm, 
who entered my husband's house as a secretary it was your 
second secretary, Sergius, the one who left you so hurriedly. He 
found that papers were kept in the cupboard, and he got an im- 
pression of the key. He would not go farther. He furnished 
me with a plan of the house, and he told me that in the fore- 
noon the study was always empty, as the secretary was em- 
ployed up here. So at last I took my courage in both hands, 
and I came down to get the papers for myself. I succeeded ; 
but at what a cost ! 

" I had just taken the papers and was locking the cupboard, 
when the young man seized me. I had seen him already that 
morning. He had met me on the road, and I had asked him to 
tell me where Professor Coram lived, not knowing that he was 
in his employ. " 

"Exactly! exactly!" said Holmes. "The secretary came 
back, and told his employer of the woman he had met. Then 
in his last breath, he tried to send a message that it was she 
the she whom he had just discussed with him. " 

" You must let me speak, " said the woman, in an imperative 
voice, and her face contracted as if in pain. "When he had 



288 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

fallen I rushed from the room, chose the wrong door, and found 
myself in my husband's room. He spoke of giving me up. I 
showed him that if he did so, his life was in my hands. If he 
gave me to the law, I could give him to the Brotherhood. It was 
not that I wished to live for my own sake, but it was that I 
desired to accomplish my purpose. He knew that I would do 
what I said that his own fate was involved in mine. For that 
reason, and for no other, he shielded me. He thrust me into that 
dark hiding-place a relic of old days, known only to himself. 
He took his meals in his own room, and so was able to give me 
part of his food. It was agreed that when the police left the 
house I should slip away by night and come back no more. But 
in some way you have read our plans. " She tore from the bosom 
of her dress a small packet. " These are my last words, " said 
she; " here is the packet which will save Alexis. I confide it to 
your honour and to your love of justice. Take it ! You will de- 
liver it at the Russian Embassy. Now, I have done my duty, 
and " 

"Stop her!" cried Holmes. He had bounded across the 
room, and had wrenched a small phial from her hand. 

" Too late ! " she said, sinking back on the bed. " Too late ! 
I took the poison before I left my hiding-place. My head 
swims! I am going! I charge you, sir, to remember the 
packet. " 

"A simple case, and yet, in some ways, an instructive one, " 
Holmes remarked, as we travelled back to town. " It hinged 
from the outset upon the pince-nez. But for the fortunate 
chance of the dying man having seized these, I am not sure that 
we could ever have reached our solution. It was clear to me, 
from the strength of the glasses, that the wearer must have been 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ 289 

very blind and helpless when deprived of them. When you 
asked me to believe that she walked along a narrow strip of 
grass without once making a false step, I remarked, as you may 
remember, that it was a noteworthy performance. In my mind 
I set it down as an impossible performance, save in the unlikely 
case that she had a second pair of glasses. I was forced, there- 
fore, to seriously consider the hypothesis that she had remained 
within the house. On perceiving the similarity of the two cor- 
ridors, it became clear that she might very easily have made 
such a mistake, and, in that case, it was evident that she must 
have entered the Professor's room. I was keenly on the alert, 
therefore, for whatever would bear out this supposition, and 
I examined the room narrowly for anything in the shape of a 
hiding-place. The carpet seemed continuous and firmly nailed, 
so I dismissed the idea of a trap-door. There might well be 
a recess behind the books. As you are aware, such devices are 
common in old libraries. I observed that books were piled on 
the floor at all other points, but that one bookcase was left 
clear. This, then, might be the door. I could see no marks 
to guide me, but the carpet was of a dun colour, which lends 
itself very well to examination. I therefore smoked a great 
number of those excellent cigarettes, and I dropped the ash all 
over the space in front of the suspected bookcase. It was 
a simple trick, but exceedingly effective. I then went down- 
stairs, and I ascertained, in your presence, Watson, without 
your perceiving the drift of my remarks, that Professor 
Coram's consumption of food had increased as one would 
expect when he is supplying a second person. We then as- 
cended to the room again, when, by upsetting the cigarette-box, 
I obtained a very excellent view of the floor, and was able to 
see quite clearly, from the traces upon the cigarette ash, that 



990 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

the prisoner had in our absence come out from her retreat. 
Well, Hopkins, here we are at Charing Cross, and I congratulate 
you on having brought your case to a successful conclusion. 
You are going to headquarters, no doubt. I think, Watson, 
you and I will drive together to the Russian Embassy. " 




XI 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 

W E were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at 
Baker Street, but I have a particular recollection of one 
which reached us on a gloomy February morning, some seven 
or eight years ago, and gave Mr. Sherlock Holmes a puzzled 
quarter of an hour. It was addressed to him, and ran thus : 

"Please await me. Terrible misfortune. Right wing three- 
quarter missing, indispensable to-morrow. OVERTON." 

"Strand postmark, and dispatched ten-thirty-six," said 
Holmes, reading it over and over. " Mr. Overton was evidently 
considerably excited when he sent it, and somewhat incoherent 
in consequence. Well, well, he will be here, I dare say, by the 
time I have looked through the Times, and then we shall know 
all about it. Even the most insignificant problem would be 
welcome in these stagnant days." 

Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned 
to dread such periods of inaction, for I knew by experience 
that my companion's brain was so abnormally active that it 
was dangerous to leave it without material upon which to 
work. For years I had gradually weaned him from that drug- 
mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable 



292 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

career. Now I knew that under ordinary conditions he no 
longer craved for this artificial stimulus, but I was well aware 
that the fiend was not dead but sleeping, and I have known 
that the sleep was a light one and the waking near when in 
periods of idleness I have seen the drawn look upon Holmes' 
ascetic face, and the brooding of his deep-set and inscrutable 
eyes. Therefore I blessed this Mr. Overton, whoever he might 
be, since he had come with his enigmatic message to break that 
dangerous calm which brought more peril to my friend than all 
the storms of his tempestuous life. 

As we had expected, the telegram was soon followed by its 
sender, and the card of Mr. Cyril Overton, Trinity College, 
Cambridge, announced the arrival of an enormous young man, 
sixteen stone of solid bone and muscle, who spanned the door- 
way with his broad shoulders, and looked from one of us to the 
other with a comely face which was haggard with anxiety. 

"Mr. Sherlock Holmes?" 

My companion bowed. 

"I've been down to Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes. I saw 
Inspector Stanley Hopkins. He advised me to come to you. 
He said the case, so far as he could see, was more in your line 
than in that of the regular police." 

" Pray sit down and tell me what is the matter." 

" It's awful, Mr. Holmes simply awful ! I wonder my hair 
isn't grey. Godfrey Staunton you've heard of him, of 
course ? He's simply the hinge that the whole team turns on. 
I'd rather spare two from the pack, and have Godfrey for my 
three-quarter line. Whether it's passing, or tackling, or drib- 
bling, there's no one to touch him, and then, he's got the head, 
and can hold us all together. What am I to do ? That's what 
I ask you, Mr. Holmes. There's Moorhouse, first reserve, 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 293 

but he is trained as a half, and he always edges right in on to 
the scrum instead of keeping out on the touchline. He's a 
fine place-kick, it's true, but then he has no judgment, and he 
can't sprint for nuts. Why, Morton or Johnson, the Oxford 
fliers, could romp round him. Stevenson is fast enough, but 
he couldn't drop from the twenty-five line, and a three-quarter 
who can't either punt or drop isn't worth a place for pace alone. 
No, Mr. Holmes, we are done unless you can help me to find 
Godfrey Staunton." 

My friend had listened with amused surprise to this long 
speech, which was poured forth with extraordinary vigour and 
earnestness, every point being driven home by the slapping of 
a brawny hand upon the speaker's knee. When our visitor 
was silent Holmes stretched out his hand and took down letter 
" S " of his commonplace book. For once he dug in vain into 
that mine of varied information. 

"There is Arthur H. Staunton, the rising young forger," 
said he, "and there was Henry Staunton, whom I helped to 
hang, but Godfrey Staunton is a new name to me." 

It was our visitor's turn to look surprised. 

"Why, Mr. Holmes, I thought you knew things," said he. 
" I suppose, then, if you have never heard of Godfrey Staunton, 
you don't know Cyril Overton either ? " 

Holmes shook his head good humouredly. 

" Great Scot ! " cried the athlete. " Why, I was first reserve 
for England against Wales, and I've skippered the 'Varsity all 
this year. But that's nothing! I didn't think there was a 
soul in England who didn't know Godfrey Staunton, the crack 
three-quarter, Cambridge, Blackheath, and five Internationals, 
Good Lord ! Mr. Holmes, where have you lived ? " 

Holmes laughed at the young giant's naive astonishment. 



294 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overton a sweeter 
and healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many 
sections of society, but never, I am happy to say, into amateur 
sport, which is the best and soundest thing in England. How- 
ever, your unexpected visit this morning shows me that even 
in that world of fresh air and fair play, there may be work for 
me to do. So now, my good sir, I beg you to sit down and to tell 
me, slowly and quietly, exactly what it is that has occurred, and 
how you desire that I should help you." 

Young Overton's face assumed the bothered look of the man 
who is more accustomed to using his muscles than his wits, 
but by degrees, with many repetitions and obscurities which I 
may omit from his narrative, he laid his strange story before us. 

" It's this way, Mr. Holmes. As I have said, I am the skip- 
per of the Rugger team of Cambridge 'Varsity, and Godfrey 
Staunton is my best man. To-morrow we play Oxford. Yes- 
terday we all came up, and we settled at Bentley's private hotel. 
At ten o'clock I went round and saw that all the fellows had 
gone to roost, for I believe in strict training and plenty of sleep 
to keep a team fit. I had a word or two with Godfrey before 
he turned in. He seemed to me to be pale and bothered. I 
asked him what was the matter. He said he was all right 
just a touch of headache. I bade him good-night and left 
him. Half an hour later, the porter tells me that a rough-look- 
ing man with a beard called with a note for Godfrey. He had 
not gone to bed, and the note was taken to his room. Godfrey 
read it, and fell back in a chair as if he had been pole-axed. 
The porter was so scared that he was going to fetch me, but 
Godfrey stopped him, had a drink of water, and pulled him- 
self together. Then he went downstairs, said a few words 
to the man who was waiting in the hall, and the two of them 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 295 

went off together. The last that the porter saw of them, they 
were almost running down the street in the direction of the 
Strand. This morning Godfrey's room was empty, his bed 
had never been slept in, and his things were all just as I had 
seen them the night before. He had gone off at a moment's 
notice with this stranger, and no word has come from him 
since. I don't believe he will ever come back. He was a 
sportsman, was Godfrey, down to his marrow, and he wouldn't 
have stopped his training and let in his skipper if it were not 
for some cause that was too strong for him. No : I feel as if he 
were gone for good, and we should never see him again." 

Sherlock Holmes listened with the deepest attention to this 
singular narrative. 

" What did you do ? " he asked. 

" I wired to Cambridge to learn if anything had been heard 
of him there. I have had an answer. No one has seen him." 

" Could he have got back to Cambridge ? " 

" Yes, there is a late train quarter-past eleven." 

" But, so far as you can ascertain, he did not take it ? " 

" No, he has not been seen." 

" What did you do next ? " 

" I wired to Lord Mount-James." 

" Why to Lord Mount-James ? " 

" Godfrey is an orphan, and Lord Mount-James is his nearest 
relative his uncle, I believe." 

"Indeed. This throws new light upon the matter. Lord 
Mount-James is one of the richest men in England." 

" So I've heard Godfrey say." 

" And your friend was closely related ? " 

" Yes, he was his heir, and the old boy is nearly eighty 



296 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

cram full of gout, too. They say he could chalk his billiard- 
cue with his knuckles. He never allowed Godfrey a shilling 
in his life, for he is an absolute miser, but it will all come to 
him right enough." 

" Have you heard from Lord Mount- James ? " 

"No." 

"What motive could your friend have in going to Lord 
Mount- James ? " 

" Well, something was worrying him the night before, and if 
it was to do with money it is possible that he would make for 
his nearest relative who had so much of it, though from all I 
have heard he would not have much chance of getting it. God- 
frey was not fond of the old man. He would not go if he could 
help it." 

"Well, we can soon determine that. If your friend was 
going to his relative, Lord Mount- James, you have then to 
explain the visit of this rough-looking fellow at so late an hour, 
and the agitation that was caused by his coming." 

Cyril Overton pressed his hands to his head. " I can make 
nothing of it," said he. 

" Well, well, I have a clear day, and I shall be happy to look 
into the matter," said Holmes. " I should strongly recommend 
you to make your preparations for your match without refer- 
ence to this young gentleman. It must, as you say, have been 
an overpowering necessity which tore him away in such a 
fashion, and the same necessity is likely to hold him away. 
Let us step round together to the hotel, and see if the porter 
can throw any fresh light upon the matter." 

Sherlock Holmes was a past-master in the art of putting a 
humble witness at his ease, and very soon, in the privacy of 
Godfrey Staunton's abandoned room, he had extracted aj 1 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 297 

that the porter had to tell. The visitor of the night before was 
not a gentleman, neither was he a workingman. He was 
simply what the porter described as a " medium-looking chap ", 
a man of fifty, beard grizzled, pale face, quietly dressed. He 
seemed himself to be agitated. The porter had observed his 
hand trembling when he had held out the note. Godfrey 
Staunton had crammed the note into his pocket. Staunton 
had not shaken hands with the man in the hall. They had 
exchanged a few sentences, of which the porter had only dis- 
tinguished the one word " time." Then they had hurried off in 
the manner described. It was just half -past ten by the hall clock. 

"Let me see," said Holmes, seating himself on Staunton's 
bed. " You are the day porter, are you not ? " 

"Yes, sir, I go off duty at eleven." 

" The night porter saw nothing, I suppose ? " 

" No, sir, one theatre party came in late. No one else." 

" Were you on duty all day yesterday ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" Did you take any messages to Mr. Staunton ? " 

"Yes, sir, one telegram." 

" Ah ! that's interesting. What o'clock was this ? " 

" About six." 

" Where was Mr. Staunton when he received it ? " 

" Here in his room." , 

" Were you present when he opened it ? " 

" Yes, sir, I waited to see if there was an answer." 

" Well, was there ? " 

" Yes, sir, he wrote an answer." 

" Did you take it ? " 

" No, he took it himself." 

" But he wrote it in your presence ? " 



298 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" Yes, sir. I was standing by the door, and he with his back 
turned at that table. When he had written it, he said: 'All 
right, porter, I will take this myself.' " 

" What did he write it with ? " 

"A pen, sir." 

" Was the telegraphic form one of these on the table ? " 

" Yes, sir, it was the top one." 

Holmes rose. Taking the forms, he carried them over 
to the window and carefully examined that which was up- 
permost. 

" It is a pity he did not write in pencil," said he, throwing 
them down again with a shrug of disappointment. "As you 
have no doubt frequently observed, Watson, the impression 
usually goes through a fact which has dissolved many a 
happy marriage. However, I can find no trace here. I re- 
joice, however, to perceive that he wrote with a broad-pointed 
quill pen, and I can hardly doubt that we will find some im- 
pression upon this blotting-pad. Ah, yes, surely this is the very 
thing!" 

He tore off a strip of the blotting-paper and turned towards 
us the following hieroglyphic : 




Cyril Overton was much excited. " Hold it to the glass ! " 
he cried. 

" That is unnecessary," said Holmes. " The paper is thin, 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 299 

and the reverse will give the message. Here it is." He turned 
it over, and we read : 




" So that is the tail end of the telegram which Godfrey Staim- 
ton dispatched within a few hours of his disappearance. There 
are at least six words of the message which have escaped us; 
but what remains ' Stand by us for God's sake ! ' proves 
that this young man saw a formidable danger which approached 
him, and from which someone else could protect him. ' Us,' 
mark you ! Another person was involved. Who should it be 
but the pale-faced, bearded man, who seemed himself in so 
nervous a state ? What, then, is the connection between God- 
frey Staunton and the bearded man ? And what is the third 
source from which each of them sought for help against pressing 
danger ? Our inquiry has already narrowed down to that." 

"We have only to find to whom that telegram is addressed," 
I suggested. 

" Exactly, my dear Watson. Your reflection, though pro- 
found, had already crossed my mind. But I dare say it may 
have come to your notice that, if you walk into a post-office and 
demand to see the counterfoil of another man's message, there 
may be some disinclination on the part of the officials to oblige 
you. There is so much red tape in these matters. However, 
I have no doubt that with a little delicacy and finesse the end 
may be attained. Meanwhile, I should like in your presence, 



300 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Mr. Overton, to go through these papers which have been left 
upon the table." 

There were a number of letters, bills, and note-books, which 
Holmes turned over and examined with quick, nervous fingers 
and darting, penetrating eyes. " Nothing here," he said, at last. 
" By the way, I suppose your friend was a healthy young fel- 
low nothing amiss with him ? " 

"Sound as a bell." 

" Have you ever known him ill ? " 

" Not a day. He has been laid up with a hack, and once he 
slipped his knee-cap, but that was nothing." 

"Perhaps he was not so strong as you suppose. I should 
think he may have had some secret trouble. With your assent, 
I will put one or two of these papers in my pocket, in case they 
should bear upon our future inquiry." 

" One moment one moment ! " cried a querulous voice, and 
we looked up to find a queer little old man, jerking and twitch- 
ing in the doorway. He was dressed in rusty black, with a very 
broad brimmed top-hat and a loose white necktie the whole 
effect being that of a very rustic parson or of an undertaker's 
mute. Yet, in spite of his shabby and even absurd appearance, 
his voice had a sharp crackle, and his manner a quick intensity 
which commanded attention. 

"Who are you, sir, and by what right do you touch this 
gentleman's papers ? " he asked. 

" I am a private detective, and I am endeavouring to explain 
his disappearance." 

" Oh, you are, are you ? And who instructed you, eh ? " 

"This gentleman, Mr. Staunton's friend, was referred to me 
by Scotland Yard." 

" Who are you, sir ? " 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 801 

" I am Cyril Overtoil." 

" Then it is you who sent me a telegram. My name is Lord 
Mount-James. I came round as quickly as the Bayswater 
'bus would bring me. So you have instructed a detective ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" And are you prepared to meet the cost ? " 

" I have no doubt, sir, that my friend Godfrey, when we find 
him, will be prepared to do that." 

" But if he is never found, eh ? Answer me that ! " 

" In that case, no doubt his family " 

" Nothing of the sort, sir! " screamed the little man. " Don't 
look to me for a penny not a penny ! You understand that, 
Mr. Detective! I am all the family that this young man has 
got, and I tell you that I am not responsible. If he has any 
expectations it is due to the fact that I have never wasted money, 
and I do not propose to begin to do so now. As to those papers 
with which you are making so free, I may tell you that in case 
there should be anything of any value among them, you will be 
held strictly to account for what you do with them." 

" Very good, sir," said Sherlock Holmes. " May I ask, in the 
meanwhile, whether you have yourself any theory to account 
for this young man's disappearance ? " 

" No, sir, I have not. He is big enough and old enough to 
look after himself, and if he is so foolish as to lose himself, 
I entirely refuse to accept the responsibility of hunting for 
him." 

" I quite understand your position," said Holmes, with a mis- 
chievous twinkle in his eyes. " Perhaps you don't quite under- 
stand mine. Godfrey Staunton appears to have been a poor 
man. If he has been kidnapped, it could not have been for 
anything which he himself possesses. The fame of your wealth 



SOS THE RETURN OP SHERLOCK HOLMES 

has gone abroad, Lord Mount- James, and it is entirely possible 
that a gang of thieves have secured your nephew in order to 
gain from him some information as to your house, your 
habits, and your treasure." 

The face of our unpleasant little visitor turned as white as 
his neckcloth. 

" Heavens, sir, what an idea ! I never thought of such vil- 
lainy! What inhuman rogues there are in the world! But 
Godfrey is a fine lad a staunch lad. Nothing would induce 
him to give his old uncle away. I'll have the plate moved over 
to the bank this evening. In the meantime spare no pains, Mr. 
Detective ! I beg you to leave no stone unturned to bring him 
safely back. As to money, well, so far as a fiver, or even a 
tenner goes you can always look to me." 

Even in his chastened frame of mind, the noble miser could 
give us no information which could help us, for he knew little 
of the private life of his nephew. Our only clue lay in the trun- 
cated telegram, and with a copy of this in his hand Holmes set 
forth to find a second link for his chain. We had shaken off 
Lord Mount-James, and Overton had gone to consult with the 
other members of his team over the misfortune which had 
befallen them. 

There was a telegraph-office at a short distance from the 
hotel. We halted outside it. 

"It's worth trying, Watson," said Holmes. "Of course, 
with a warrant we could demand to see the counterfoils, but we 
have not reached that stage yet. I don't suppose they remem- 
ber faces in so busy a place. Let us venture it." 

" I am sorry to trouble you," said he, in his blandest manner, 
to the young woman behind the grating ; " there is some small 
mistake about a telegram I sent yesterday. I have had no 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 303 

answer, and I very much fear that I must have omitted to put 
my name at the end. Could you tell me if this was so ? " 

The young woman turned over a sheaf of counterfoils. 

" What o'clock was it ? " she asked. 

"A little after six." 

"Whom was it to?" 

Holmes put his finger to his lips and glanced at me. " The 
last words in it were ' for God's sake,' " he whispered, confi- 
dentially; " I am very anxious at getting no answer." 

The young woman separated one of the forms. 

" This is it. There is no name," said she, smoothing it out 
upon the counter. 

" Then that, of course, accounts for my getting no answer," 
said Holmes. "Dear me, how very stupid of me, to be sure! 
Good morning, miss, and many thanks for having relieved my 
mind." He chuckled and rubbed his hands when we found 
ourselves in the street once more. 

"Well?" I asked. 

" We progress, my dear Watson, we progress. I had seven 
different schemes for getting a glimpse of that telegram, but I 
could hardly hope to succeed the very first time." 

" And what have you gained ? " 

" A starting-point for our investigation." He hailed a cab. 
" King's Cross Station," said he. 

" We have a journey, then ? " 

" Yes, I think we must run down to Cambridge together. All 
the indications seem to me to point in that direction." 

" Tell me," I asked, as we rattled up Gray's Inn Road, " have 
you any suspicion yet as to the cause of the disappearance ? I 
don't think that among all our cases I have known one where 
the motives are more obscure. Surely you don't really imagine 



804 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

that he may be kidnapped in order to give information against 
his wealthy uncle ? " 

" I confess, my dear Watson, that that does not appeal to me 
as a very probable explanation. It struck me, however, as 
being the one which was most likely to interest that exceedingly 
unpleasant old person." 

" It certainly did that ; but what are your alternatives ? " 
" I could mention several. You must admit that it is curious 
and suggestive that this incident should occur on the eve of 
this important match, and should involve the only man whose 
presence seems essential to the success of the side. It may, 
of course, be a coincidence, but it is interesting. Amateur sport 
is free from betting, but a good deal of outside betting goes on 
among the public, and it is possible that it might be worth 
someone's while to get at a player as the ruffians of the turf get 
at a race-horse. There is one explanation. A second very 
obvious one is that this young man really is the heir of a great 
property, however modest his means may at present be, and it 
is not impossible that a plot to hold him for ransom might be 
concocted." 

" These theories take no account of the telegram." 
" Quite true, Watson. The telegram still remains the only 
solid thing with which we have to deal, and we must not permit 
our attention to wander away from it. It is to gain light upon 
the purpose of this telegram that we are now upon our way 
to Cambridge. The path of our investigation is at present 
obscure, but I shall be very much surprised if before evening 
we have not cleared it up, or made a considerable advance 
along it." 

It was already dark when we reached the old University City. 
Holmes took a cab at the station, and ordered the man to drive 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 305 

to the house of Dr. Leslie Armstrong. A few minutes later, we 
had stopped at a large mansion in the busiest thoroughfare. 
We were shown in, and after a long wait were at last admitted 
into the consulting-room, where we found the doctor seated 
behind his table. 

It argues the degree in which I had lost touch with my pro- 
fession that the name of Leslie Armstrong was unknown to 
me. Now I am aware that he is not only one of the heads of 
the medical school of the University, but a thinker of European 
reputation in more than one branch of science. Yet even with- 
out knowing his brilliant record one could not fail to be im- 
pressed by a mere glance at the man, the square, massive face, 
the brooding eyes under the thatched brows, and the granite 
moulding of the inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a 
man with an alert mind, grim, ascetic, self-contained, formi- 
dable so I read Dr. Leslie Armstrong. He held my friend's 
card in his hand, and he looked up with no very pleased 
expression upon his dour features. 

"I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I 
am aware of your profession one of which I by no means 
approve." 

" In that, Doctor, you will find yourself in agreement with 
every criminal in the country," said my friend, quietly. 

" So far as your efforts are directed towards the suppression 
of crime, sir, they must have the support of every reasonable 
member of the community, though I cannot doubt that the 
official machinery is amply sufficient for the purpose. Where 
your calling is more open to criticism is when you pry into the 
secrets of private individuals, when you rake up family matters 
which are better hidden, and when you incidentally waste the 
time of men who are more busy than yourself. At the present 



306 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

moment, for example, I should be writing a treatise instead of 
conversing with you." 

" No doubt, Doctor; and yet the conversation may prove more 
important than the treatise. Incidentally, I may tell you that 
we are doing the reverse of what you very justly blame, and that 
we are endeavouring to prevent anything like public exposure of 
private matters which must necessarily follow when once the 
case is fairly in the hands of the official police. You may look 
upon me simply as an irregular pioneer, who goes in front of the 
regular forces of the country. I have come to ask you about 
Mr. Godfrey Staunton." 

"What about him?" 

" You know him, do you not ? " 

" He is an intimate friend of mine." 

" You are aware that he has disappeared ? " 

"Ah, indeed!" There was no change of expression in the 
rugged features of the doctor. 

" He left his hotel last night he has not been heard of." 

" No doubt he will return." 

"To-morrow is the 'Varsity football match." 

"I have no sympathy with these childish games. The 
young man's fate interests me deeply, since I know him and 
like him. The football match does not come within my 
horizon at all." 

"I claim your sympathy, then, in my investigation of Mr. 
Staunton's fate. Do you know where he is ? " 

"Certainly not." 

" You have not seen him since yesterday ? " 

"No, I have not." 

" Was Mr. Staunton a healthy man ? " 

"Absolutely." 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 807 

" Did you ever know him ill ? " 

"Never." 

Holmes popped a sheet of paper before the doctor's eyes. 
" Then perhaps you will explain this receipted bill for thirteen 
guineas, paid by Mr. Godfrey Staunton last month to Dr. Les- 
lie Armstrong, of Cambridge. I picked it out from among the 
papers upon his desk." 

The doctor flushed with anger. 

" I do not feel that there is any reason why I should render 
an explanation to you, Mr. Holmes." 

Holmes replaced the bill in his note-book. " If you prefer 
a public explanation, it must come sooner or later," said he. 
" I have already told you that I can hush up that which others 
will be bound to publish, and you would really be wiser to take 
me into your complete confidence." 

" I know nothing about it." 

" Did you hear from Mr. Staunton in London ? " 

" Certainly not." 

" Dear me, dear me the post-office again ! " Holmes sighed, 
wearily. "A most urgent telegram was dispatched to you 
from London by Godfrey Staunton at six-fifteen yesterday 
evening a telegram which is undoubtedly associated with his 
disappearance and yet you have not had it. It is most cul- 
pable. I shall certainly go down to the office here and register 
a complaint." 

Dr. Leslie Armstrong sprang up from behind his desk, and 
his dark face was crimson with fury. 

" I'll trouble you to walk out of my house, sir," said he. " You 
can tell your employer, Lord Mount- James, that I do not wish 
to have anything to do either with him or with his agents. No, 
sir not another word ! " He rang the bell furiously. " John, 



308 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

show these gentlemen out." A pompous butler ushered us 
severely to the door, and we found ourselves in the street. 
Holmes burst out laughing. 

" Dr. Leslie Armstrong is certainly a man of energy and char- 
acter," said he. " I have not seen a man who, if he turns his 
talents that way, was more calculated to fill the gap left by the 
illustrious Moriarity. And now, my poor Watson, here we are, 
stranded and friendless in this inhospitable town, which we 
cannot leave without abandoning our case. This little inn just 
opposite Armstrong's house is singularly adapted to our needs. 
If you would engage a front room and purchase the necessaries 
for the night, I may have time to make a few inquiries." 

These few inquiries proved, however, to be a more lengthy 
proceeding than Holmes had imagined, for he did not return to 
the inn until nearly nine o'clock. He was pale and dejected, 
stained with dust, and exhausted with hunger and fatigue. A 
cold supper was ready upon the table, and when his needs were 
satisfied and his pipe alight he was ready to take that half comic 
and wholly philosophic view which was natural to him when his 
affairs were going awry. The sound of carriage wheels caused 
him to rise and glance out of the window. A brougham and 
pair of greys, under the glare of a gas-lamp, stood before the 
doctor's door. 

"It's been out three hours," said Holmes; "started at half- 
past six, and here it is back again. That gives a radius 
of ten or twelve miles, and he does it once, or sometimes 
twice, a day." 

" No unusual thing for a doctor in practice." 

"But Armstrong is not really a doctor in practice. He is 
a lecturer and a consultant, but he does not care for general 
practice, which distracts him from his literary work. Why, 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 309 

then, does he make these long journeys, which must be exceed- 
ingly irksome to him, and who is it that he visits ? " 

" His coachman " 

" My dear Watson, can you doubt that it was to him that I 
first applied ? I do not know whether it came from his own 
innate depravity or from the promptings of his master, but he 
was rude enough to set a dog at me. Neither dog nor man 
liked the look of my stick, however, and the matter fell through. 
Relations were strained after that, and further inquiries out of 
the question. All that I have learned I got from a friendly 
native in the yard of our own inn. It was he who told me of the 
doctor's habits and of his daily journey. At that instant, to 
give point to his words, the carriage came round to the door." 

" Could you not foUow it ? " 

"Excellent, Watson! You are scintillating this evening. 
The idea did cross my mind. There is, as you may have ob- 
served, a bicycle shop next to our inn. Into this I rushed, en- 
gaged a bicycle, and was able to get started before the carriage 
was quite out of sight. I rapidly overtook it, and then, keeping 
at a discreet distance of a hundred yards or so I followed its lights 
until we were clear of the town. We had got well out on the 
country road, when a somewhat mortifying incident occurred. 
The carriage stopped, the doctor alighted, walked swiftly 
back to where I had also halted, and told me in an excellent 
sardonic fashion that he feared the road was narrow, and that 
he hoped his carriage did not impede the passage of my bicycle. 
Nothing could have been more admirable than his way of put- 
ting it. I at once rode past the carriage, and, keeping to the 
main road, I went on for a few miles, and then halted in a con- 
venient place to see if the carriage passed. There was no sign 
of it, however, and so it became evident that it had turned down 



310 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

one of several side roads which I had observed. I rode back, 
but again saw nothing of the carriage, and now, as you per- 
ceive, it has returned after me. Of course, I had at the outset 
no particular reason to connect these journeys with the dis- 
appearance of Godfrey Staunton, and was only inch'ned to in- 
vestigate them on the general grounds that everything which 
concerns Dr. Armstrong is at present of interest to us, but, 
now that I find he keeps so keen a look-out upon anyone who 
may follow him on these excursions, the affair appears more 
important, and I shall not be satisfied until I have made the 
matter clear." 

" We can follow him to-morrow." 

" Can we ? It is not so easy as you seem to think. You are 
not familiar with Cambridgeshire scenery, are you ? It does 
not lend itself to concealment. All this country that I passed 
over to-night is as flat and clean as the palm of your hand, and 
the man we are following is no fool, as he very clearly showed 
to-night. I have wired to Overton to let us know any fresh 
London developments at this address, and in the meantime 
we can only concentrate our attention upon Dr. Armstrong, 
whose name the obliging young lady at the office allowed me 
to read upon the counterfoil of Staunton's urgent message. He 
knows where the young man is to that I'll swear, and if 
he knows, then it must be our own fault if we cannot manage 
to know also. At present it must be admitted that the odd 
trick is in his possession, and, as you are aware, Watson, it is 
not my habit to leave the game in that condition." 

And yet the next day brought us no nearer to the solution of 
the mystery. A note was handed in after breakfast, which 
Holmes passed across to me with a smile. 

" Sir," it ran, " I can assure you that you are wasting your 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 311 

time in dogging my movements. I have, as you discovered 
last night, a window at the back of my brougham, and if you 
desire a twenty-mile ride which will lead you to the spot from 
which you started, you have only to follow me. Meanwhile, 
I can inform you that no spying upon me can in any way help 
Mr. Godfrey Staunton, and I am convinced that the best ser- 
vice you can do to that gentleman is to return at once to London 
and to report to your employer that you are unable to trace him. 
Your time in Cambridge will certainly be wasted. 
"Yours faithfully, 

"LESLIE ARMSTRONG." 

"An outspoken, honest antagonist is the doctor," said 
Holmes. " Well, well, he excites my curiosity, and I must really 
know before I leave him." 

" His carriage is at his door now," said I. " There he is step- 
ping into it. I saw him glance up at our window as he did so. 
Suppose I try my luck upon the bicycle ?" 

" No, no, my dear Watson ! With all respect for your natural 
acumen, I do not think that you are quite a match for the worthy 
doctor. I think that possibly I can attain our end by some in- 
dependent explorations of my own. I am afraid that I mflst 
leave you to your own devices, as the appearance of two inquir- 
ing strangers upon a sleepy countryside might excite more gos- 
sip than I care for. No doubt you will find some sights to 
amuse you in this venerable city, and I hope to bring back a 
more favourable report to you before evening." 

Once more, however, my friend was destined to be disap- 
pointed. He came back at night weary and unsuccessful. 

" I have had a blank day, Watson. Having got the doctor's 
general direction, I spent the day in visiting all the villages 
upon that side of Cambridge, and comparing notes with pub- 



312 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

licans and other local news agencies. I have covered some 
ground. Chesterton, Histon, Waterbeach, and Oakington have 
each been explored, and have each proved disappointing. The 
daily appearance of a brougham and pair could hardly have 
been overlooked in such Sleepy Hollows. The doctor has 
scored once more. Is there a telegram for me ? " 

"Yes, I opened it. Here it is: 'Ask for Pompey from 
Jeremy Dixon, Trinity College.' I don't understand it." 

"Oh, it is clear enough. It is from our friend Overton, 
and is in answer to a question from me. I'll just send round 
a note to Mr. Jeremy Dixon, and then I have no doubt 
that our luck will turn. By the way, is there any news of 
the match?" 

"Yes, the local evening paper has an excellent account in 
its last edition. Oxford won by a goal and two tries. The 
last sentences of the description say: ' The defeat of the Light 
Blues may be entirely attributed to the unfortunate absence 
of the crack International, Godfrey Staunton, whose want was 
felt at every instant of the game. The lack of combination 
in the three-quarter line and their weakness both in attack 
a*hd defence more than neutralized the efforts of a heavy and 
hard-working pack.' " 

" Then our friend Overton's forebodings have been justified," 
said Holmes. " Personally I am in agreement with Dr. Arm- 
strong, and football does not come within my horizon. Early 
to bed to-night, Watson, for I foresee that to-morrow may be 
an eventful day." 

I was horrified by my first glimpse of Holmes next morning, 
for he sat by the fire holding his tiny hypodermic syringe. I 
associated that instrument with the single weakness of his na- 
ture, and I feared the worst when I saw it glittering in his 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 313 

hand. He laughed at my expression of dismay, and laid it 
upon the table. 

" No, no, my dear fellow, there is no cause for alarm. It is 
not upon this occasion the instrument of evil, but it will rather 
prove to be the key which will unlock our mystery. On this 
syringe I base all my hopes. I have just returned from a small 
scouting expedition, and everything is favourable. Eat a good 
breakfast, Watson, for I propose to get upon Dr. Armstrong's 
trail to-day, and once on it I will not stop for rest or food until 
I run him to his burrow." 

"In that case," said I, "we had best carry our breakfast 
with us, for he is making an early start. His carriage is at 
the door." 

"Never mind. Let him go. He will be clever if he can 
drive where I cannot follow him. When you have finished, 
come downstairs with me, and I will introduce you to a detec- 
tive who is a very eminent specialist in the work that lies before 
us." 

When we descended I followed Holmes into the stable yard, 
where he opened the door of a loose-box and led out a squat, 
lop-eared, white-and-tan dog, something between a beagle and 
a foxhound. 

"Let me introduce you to Pompey," said he. "Pompey is 
the pride of the local draghounds no very great flier, as his 
build will show, but a staunch hound on a scent. Well, Pom- 
pey, you may not be fast, but I expect you will be too fast for 
a couple of middle-aged London gentlemen, so I will take the 
liberty of fastening this leather leash to your collar. Now, 
boy, come along, and show what you can do." He led him 
across to the doctor's door. The dog sniffed round for an in- 
stant, and then with a shrill whine of excitement started off 



314 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

down the street, tugging at his leash in his efforts to go faster. 
In half an hour, we were clear of the town and hastening down 
a country road. 

" What have you done, Holmes ? " I asked. 

"A threadbare and venerable device, but useful upon occa- 
sion. I walked into the doctor's yard this morning, and shot 
my syringe full of aniseed over the hind wheel. A draghound 
will follow aniseed from here to John o' Groat's, and our 
friend, Armstrong, would have to drive through the Cam 
before he would shake Pompey off his trail. Oh, the cunning 
rascal ! This is how he gave me the slip the other night." 

The dog had suddenly turned out of the main road into a 
grass-grown lane. Half a mile farther this opened into an- 
other broad road, and the trail turned hard to the right in the 
direction of the town, which we had just quitted. The road 
took a sweep to the south of the town, and continued in the oppo- 
site direction to that in which we started. 

" This detour has been entirely for our benefit, then ? " said 
Holmes. " No wonder that my inquiries among those villages 
led to nothing. The doctor has certainly played the game for 
all it is worth, and one would like to know the reason for such 
elaborate deception. This should be the village of Trumping- 
ton to the right of us. And, by Jove! here is the brougham 
coming round the corner. Quick, Watson quick, or we are 
done ! " 

He sprang through a gate into a field, dragging the reluctant 
Pompey after him. We had hardly got under the shelter of 
the hedge when the carriage rattled past. I caught a glimpse 
of Dr. Armstrong within, his shoulders bowed, his head sunk 
on his hands, the very image of distress. I could tell, by my 
companion's graver face, that he also had seen. 




I CATGUT A (! I. IMPS E OF DR. ARMSTRONG WITHIN 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 315 

"I fear there is some dark ending to our quest," said he. 
" It cannot be long before we know it. Come, Pompey ! Ah, 
it is the cottage in the field ! " 

There could be no doubt that we had reached the end of our 
journey. Pompey ran about and whined eagerly outside the 
gate, where the marks of the brougham's wheels were still to be 
seen. A footpath led across to the lonely cottage. Holmes tied 
the dog to the hedge, and we hastened onwards. My friend 
knocked at the little rustic door, and knocked again without 
response. And yet the cottage was not deserted, for a low 
sound came to our ears a kind of drone of misery and de- 
spair, which was indescribably melancholy. Holmes paused 
irresolute, and then he glanced back at the road which he had 
just traversed. A brougham was coming down it, and there 
could be no mistaking those grey horses. 

" By Jove, the doctor is coming back ! " cried Holmes. " That 
settles it. We are bound to see what it means before he comes." 

He opened the door, and we stepped into the hall. The 
droning sound swelled louder upon our ears until it became 
one long, deep wail of distress. It came from upstairs. Holmes 
darted up, and I followed him. He pushed open a half- 
closed door, and we both stood appalled at the sight before us. 

A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the 
bed. Her calm, pale face, with dim, wide-opened blue eyes, 
looked upwards from amid a great tangle of golden hair. At 
the foot of the bed, half sitting, half kneeling, his face buried 
in the clothes, was a young man, whose frame was racked by 
his sobs. So absorbed was he by his bitter grief, that he never 
looked up until Holmes' hand was on his shoulder. 

" Are you Mr. Godfrey Staunton ? " 

" Yes, yes, I am but you are too late. She is dead." 



316 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

The man was so dazed that he could not be made to under- 
stand that we were anything but doctors who had been sent to 
his assistance. Holmes was endeavouring to utter a few words 
of consolation, and to explain the alarm which had been caused 
to his friends by his sudden disappearance, when there was a 
step upon the stairs, and there was the heavy, stern, question- 
ing face of Dr. Armstrong at the door. 

"So, gentlemen," said he, "you have attained your end, and 
have certainly chosen a particularly delicate moment for your 
intrusion. I would not brawl in the presence of death, but I 
can assure you that if I were a younger man your monstrous 
conduct would not pass with impunity." 

" Excuse me, Dr. Armstrong, I think we are a little at cross- 
purposes," said my friend, with dignity. " If you could step 
downstairs with us, we may each be able to give some light to 
the other upon this miserable affair." 

A minute later, the grim doctor and ourselves were in the 
sitting-room below. 

"Well, sir? "said he. 

" I wish you to understand, in the first place, that I am not 
employed by Lord Mount-James, and that my sympathies in 
this matter are entirely against that nobleman. When a man 
is lost it is my duty to ascertain his fate, but having done so 
the matter ends so far as I am concerned, and so long as there 
is nothing criminal, I am much more anxious to hush up 
private scandals than to give them publicity. If, as I imagine 
there is no breach of the law in this matter, you can absolutely 
depend upon my discretion and my co-operation in keeping 
the facts out of the papers." 

Dr. Armstrong took a quick step forward and wrung Holmes 
by the hand. 



THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER 317 

"You are a good fellow," said he. "I had misjudged you. 
I thank Heaven that my compunction at leaving poor Staunton 
all alone in this plight caused me to turn my carriage back, 
and so to make your acquaintance. Knowing as much as you 
do, the situation is very easily explained. A year ago Godfrey 
Staunton lodged in London for a time, and became passionately 
attached to his landlady's daughter, whom he married. She 
was as good as she was beautiful, and as intelligent as she was 
good. No man need be ashamed of such a wife. But God- 
frey was the heir to this crabbed old nobleman, and it was 
quite certain that the news of his marriage would have been 
the end of his inheritance. I knew the lad well, and I loved 
him for his many excellent qualities. I did all I could to help 
him to keep things straight. We did our very best to keep 
the thing from everyone, for, when once such a whisper gets 
about, it is not long before everyone has heard it. Thanks to 
this lonely cottage and his own discretion, Godfrey has up 
to now succeeded. Their secret was known to no one save to 
me and to one excellent servant, who has at present gone for 
assistance to Trumpington. But at last there came a terrible 
blow in the shape of dangerous illness to his wife. It was con- 
sumption of the most virulent kind. The poor boy was half 
crazed with grief, and yet he had to go to London to play this 
match, for he could not get out of it without explanations which 
would expose his secret. I tried to cheer him up by wire, and 
he sent me one in reply, imploring me to do all I could. This 
was the telegram which you appear in some inexplicable way 
to have seen. I did not tell him how urgent the danger was, 
for I knew that he could do no good here, but I sent the truth 
to the girl's father, and he very injudiciously communicated it 
to Godfrey. The result was that he came straight away in a 



818 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

state bordering on frenzy, and has remained in the same state, 
kneeling at the end of her bed, until this morning death put an 
end to her sufferings. That is all, Mr. Holmes, and I am sure 
that I can rely upon your discretion and that of your friend." 

Holmes grasped the doctor's hand. 

" Come, Watson," said he, and we passed from that house of 
grief into the pale sunlight of the winter day. 




IT was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning, towards the end 
of the winter of '97, that I was awakened by a tugging at my 
shoulder. It was Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon 
his eager, stooping face, and told me at a glance that something 
was amiss. 

"Come, Watson, come!" he cried. " The game is afoot. Not 
a word ! Into your clothes and come ! " 

Ten minutes later we were both in a cab, and rattling through 
the silent streets on our way to Charing Cross Station. The 
first faint winter's dawn was beginning to appear, and we could 
dimly see the occasional figure of an early workman as he passed 
us, blurred and indistinct in the opalescent London reek. 
Holmes nestled in silence into his heavy coat, and I was glad to 
do the same, for the air was most bitter and neither of us had 
broken our fast. 

It was not until we had consumed some hot tea at 
the station, and taken our places in the Kentish train, 
that we were sufficiently thawed, he to speak and I to 
listen. Holmes drew a note from his pocket, and read 
it aloud: 



320 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Abbey Grange, Marsham, Kent, 

3.30 A. M. 

MY DEAR MR. HOLMES, I should be very glad of your 
immediate assistance in what promises to be a most remark- 
able case. It is something quite in your line. Except for re- 
leasing the lady I will see that everything is kept exactly as I 
have found it, but I beg you not to lose an instant, as it is difficult 
to leave Sir Eustace there. 

Yours faithfully, 

STANLEY HOPKINS. 

"Hopkins has called me in seven times, and on each occa- 
sion his summons has been entirely justified," said Holmes. 
" I fancy that every one of his cases has found its way into your 
collection, and I must admit, Watson, that you have some power 
of selection, which atones for much which I deplore in your nar- 
ratives. Your fatal habit of looking at everything from the 
point of view of a story instead of as a scientific exercise has 
ruined what might have been an instructive and even classical 
series of demonstrations. You slur over work of the utmost 
finesse and delicacy, in order to dwell upon sensational details 
which may excite, but cannot possibly instruct, the reader. " 

" Why do you not write them yourself ? " I said, with some 
bitterness. 

" I will, my dear Watson, I will. At present I am, as you 
know, fairly busy, but I propose to devote my declining years 
to the composition of a text-book, which shall focus the whole 
art of detection into one volume. Our present research appears 
to be a case of murder. " 

"You think this Sir Eustace is dead, then ?" 

"I should say so. Hopkins' writing shows considerable 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 321 

agitation, and he is not an emotional man. Yes, I gather there 
has been violence, and that the body is left for our inspection. 
A mere suicide would not have caused him to send for me. As 
to the release of the lady, it would appear that she has been 
locked in her room during the tragedy. We are moving in high 
life, Watson, crackh'ng paper, 'E. B.' monogram, coat-of- 
arms, picturesque address. I think that friend Hopkins will 
live up to his reputation, and that we shall have an interesting 
morning. The crime was committed before twelve last night." 

" How can you possibly tell ? " 

" By an inspection of the trains, and by reckoning the time. 
The local police had to be called in, they had to communicate 
with Scotland Yard, Hopkins had to go out, and he in turn had 
to send for me. All that makes a fair night's work. Well, here] 
we are at Chiselhurst Station, and we shall soon set our doubts 
at rest. " 

A drive of a couple of miles through narrow country lanes 
brought us to a park gate, which was opened for us by an old 
lodge-keeper, whose haggard face bore the reflection of some 
great disaster. The avenue ran through a noble park, between 
lines of ancient elms, and ended in a low, widespread house, pil- 
lared in front after the fashion of Palladio. The central part 
was evidently of a great age, and shrouded in ivy, but the large 
windows showed that modern changes had been carried out, 
and one wing of the house appeared to be entirely new. The 
youthful figure and alert, eager face of Inspector Stanley Hop- 
kins confronted us in the open doorway. 

" I'm very glad you have come, Mr. Holmes. And you too, 
Dr. Watson. But, indeed, if I had my time over again, I should 
not have troubled you, for since the lady has come to herself, 
she has given so clear an account of the affair that there is not 



322 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

much left for us to do. You remember that Lewisham gang 
of burglars ? " 

" What, the three Randalls ? " 

"Exactly; the father and two sons. It's their work. I 
have not a doubt of it. They did a job at Sydenham a fort- 
night ago, and were seen and described. Rather cool to do 
another so soon and so near, but it is they, beyond all doubt. 
It's a hanging matter this time. " 

"Sir Eustace is dead, then?" 

" Yes, his head was knocked in with his own poker. " 

" Sir Eustace Brackenstall, the driver tells me. " 

" Exactly one of the richest men in Kent Lady Bracken- 
stall is in the morning-room. Poor lady, she has had a most 
dreadful experience. She seemed half dead when I saw her 
first. I think you had best see her, and hear her account of the 
facts. Then we will examine the dining-room together." 

Lady Brackenstall was no ordinary person. Seldom have I 
seen so graceful a figure, so womanly a presence, and so beauti- 
ful a face. She was a blonde, golden-haired, blue-eyed, and 
would no doubt have had the perfect complexion which goes 
with such colouring, had not her recent experience left her 
drawn and haggard. Her sufferings were physical as well as 
mental, for over one eye rose a hideous, plum-coloured swelling, 
which her maid, a tall, austere woman, was bathing assiduously 
with vinegar and water. The lady lay back exhausted upon a 
couch, but her quick, observant gaze, as we entered the room, 
and the alert expression of her beautiful features, showed that 
neither her wits nor her courage had been shaken by her terri- 
ble experience. She was enveloped in a loose dressing-gown 
of blue and silver, but a black sequin-covered dinner-dress was 
hung upon the couch beside her. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 323 

" I have told you all that happened, Mr. Hopkins, " she said, 
wearily, " could you not repeat it for me ? Well, if you think it 
necessary, I will tell these gentlemen what occurred. Have 
they been in the dining-room yet ? " 

" I thought they had better hear your ladyship's story first. " 

" I shall be glad when you can arrange matters. It is horri- 
ble to me to think of him still lying there. " She shuddered and 
buried her face in her hands. As she did so, the loose gown fell 
back from her forearms. Holmes uttered an exclamation. 

"You have other injuries, madam! What is this?" Two 
vivid red spots stood out on one of the white, round limbs. She 
hastily covered it. 

" It is nothing. It has no connection with this hideous busi- 
ness to-night. If you and your friend will sit down, I will tell 
you all I can. 

"I am the wife of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. I have been 
married about a year. I suppose that it is no use my attempting 
to conceal that our marriage has not been a happy one. I fear 
that all our neighbours would tell you that, even if I were to at- 
tempt to deny it. Perhaps the fault may be partly mine. I 
was brought up in the freer, less conventional atmosphere of 
South Australia, and this English life, with its proprieties and 
its primness, is not congenial to me. But the main reason lies 
in the one fact, which is notorious to everyone, and that is that 
Sir Eustace was a confirmed drunkard. To be with such a man 
for an hour is unpleasant. Can you imagine what it means for 
a sensitive and high-spirited woman to be tied to him for day 
and night ? It is a sacrilege, a crime, a villainy to hold that such 
a marriage is binding. I say that these monstrous laws of yours 
will bring a curse upon the land God will not let such 
wickedness endure. " For an instant she sat up, her cheeks 



324 THE RETURN Or 

flushed, and her eyes blazing from under the terrible mark 
upon her brow. Then the strong, soothing hand of the austere 
maid drew her head down on to the cushion, and the wild anger 
died away into passionate sobbing. At last she continued : 

" I will tell you about last night. You are aware, perhaps, 
that in this house all the servants sleep in the modern wing. 
This central block is made up of the dwelling-rooms, with the 
kitchen behind and our bedroom above. My maid, Theresa, 
sleeps above my room. There is no one else, and no sound 
could alarm those who are in the farther wing. This must 
have been well known to the robbers, or they would not have 
acted as they did. 

" Sir Eustace retired about half -past ten. The servants had 
already gone to their quarters. Only my maid was up, and 
she had remained in her room at the top of the house until I 
needed her services. I sat until after eleven in this room, 
absorbed in a book. Then I walked round to see that all 
was right before I went upstairs. It was my custom to do 
this myself, for, as I have explained, Sir Eustace was not 
always to be trusted. I went into the kitchen, the butler's 
pantry, the gun-room, the billiard-room, the drawing-room, and 
finally the dining-room, As I approached the window, which 
is covered with thick curtains, I suddenly felt the wind blow 
upon my face, and realized that it was open. I flung the 
curtain aside, and found myself face to face with a broad- 
shouldered, elderly man, who had just stepped into the room. 
The window is a long French one, which really forms a door 
leading to the lawn. I held my bedroom candle lit in my hand, 
and, by its light; behind the first man I saw two others, who 
were in the act of entering. I stepped back, but the fellow was 
on me in an instant. He caught me first by the wrist, and then 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 325 

by the throat. I opened my mouth to scream, but he struck me 
a savage blow with his fist over the eye, and felled me to the 
ground. I must have been unconscious for a few minutes, for 
when I came to myself, I found that they had torn down the bell- 
rope, and had secured me tightly to the oaken chair which stands 
at the head of the dining-table. I was so firmly bound that I 
could not move, and a handkerchief round my mouth prevented 
me from uttering a sound. It was at this instant that my un- 
fortunate husband entered the room. He had evidently heard 
some suspicious sounds, and he came prepared for such a scene 
as he found. He was dressed in his shirt and trousers, with his 
favourite blackthorn cudgel in his hand. He rushed at the 
burglars, but another it was an elderly man, stooped, picked 
the poker out of the grate, and struck him a horrible blow as he 
passed. He fell with a groan, and never moved again. I 
fainted once more, but again it could only have been for a very 
few minutes during which I was insensible. When I opened my 
eyes I found that they had collected the silver from the side- 
board, and they had drawn a bottle of wine which stood there. 
Each of them had a glass in his hand. I have already told you, 
have I not, that one was elderly, with a beard, and the others 
young, hairless lads. They might have been a father with his 
two sons. They talked together in whispers. Then they came 
over and made sure that I was securely bound. Finally they 
withdrew, closing the window after them. It was quite a 
quarter of an hour before I got my mouth free. When I did so, 
my screams brought the maid to my assistance. The other 
servants were soon alarmed, and we sent for the local police, 
who instantly communicated with London. That is really all 
that I can tell you, gentlemen, and I trust that it will not be 
necessary for me to go over so painful a story again. " 



326 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" Any questions, Mr. Holmes ? " asked Hopkins. 

" I will not impose any further tax upon Lady Brackenstall's 
patience and time, " said Holmes. " Before I go into the din- 
ing-room, I should like to hear your experience. " He looked 
at the maid. " 

" I saw the men before ever they came into the house, " said 
she. " As I sat by my bedroom window I saw three men in the 
moonlight down by the lodge gate yonder, but I thought noth- 
ing of it at the time. It was more than an hour after that I 
heard my mistress scream, and down I ran, to find her, poor 
lamb, just as she says, and him on the floor, with his blood and 
brains over the room. It was enough to drive a woman out of 
her wits, tied there, and her very dress spotted with him, but 
she never wanted courage, did Miss Mary Eraser of Adelaide, 
and Lady Brackenstall of Abbey Grange hasn't learned new 
ways. You've questioned her long enough, you gentlemen, 
and now she is coming to her own room, just with her old 
Theresa, to get the rest that she badly needs. " 

With a motherly tenderness the gaunt woman put her arm 
round her mistress and led her from the room. 

" She has been with her all her life, " said Hopkins. " Nursed 
her as a baby, and came with her to England when they first 
left Australia, eighteen months ago. Theresa Wright is her 
name, and the kind of maid you don't pick up nowadays. This 
way, Mr. Holmes, if you please ! " 

The keen interest had passed out of Holmes' expressive face, 
and I knew that with the mystery all the charm of the case had 
departed. There still remained an arrest to be effected, but 
what were these commonplace rogues, that he should soil his 
hands with them? An abstruse and learned specialist who 
finds that he has been called in for a case of measles would 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 327 

experience something of the annoyance which I read in my 
friend's eyes. Yet the scene in the dining-room of the Abbey 
Grange was sufficiently strange to arrest his attention and to 
recall his waning interest. 

It was a very large and high chamber, with carved oak ceil- 
ing, oaken panelling, and a fine array of deer's heads and an- 
cient weapons around the walls. At the further end from the 
door was the high, French window of which we had heard. 
Three smaller windows on the right-hand side filled the apart- 
ment with cold winter sunshine. On the left was a large, deep 
fireplace, with a massive, overhanging oak mantelpiece. Be- 
side the fireplace was a heavy oaken chair with arms and cross- 
bars at the bottom. In and out through the open woodwork 
was woven a crimson cord, which was secured at each side to 
the crosspiece below. In releasing the lady, the cord had been 
slipped off her, but the knots with which it had been secured 
still remained. These details only struck our attention after- 
wards, for our thoughts were entirely absorbed by the terrible 
object which lay upon the tiger-skin hearthrug in front of the 
fire. 

It was the body of a tall, well-made man, about forty years of 
age. He lay upon his back, his face upturned, with his white 
teeth grinning through his short, black beard. His two clenched 
hands were raised above his head, and a heavy, blackthorn 
stick lay across them. His dark, handsome, aquiline features 
were convulsed into a spasm of vindictive hatred, which had set 
his dead face in a terribly fiendish expression. He had evi- 
dently been in his bed when the alarm had broken out, for he 
wore a foppish, embroidered night-shirt, and his bare feet pro- 
jected from his trousers. His head was horribly injured, and 
the whole room bore witness to the savage ferocity of the 



328 

blow which had struck him down. Beside him lay the heavy 
poker, bent into a curve by the concussion. Holmes examined 
both it and the indescribable wreck which it had wrought. 

"He must be a powerful man, this elder Randall," he 
remarked. 

'* Yes, " said Hopkins. " I have some record of the fellow, 
and he is a rough customer. " 

" You should have no difficulty in getting him. " 

" Not the slightest. We have been on the lookout for him, 
and there was some idea that he had got away to America. 
Now that we know that the gang are here, I don't see how they 
can escape. We have the news at every seaport already, and a 
reward will be offered before evening. What beats me is how 
they could have done so mad a thing, knowing that the lady 
could describe them, and that we could not fail to recognise the 
description. " 

" Exactly. One would have expected that they would have 
silenced Lady Brackenstall as well. " 

** They may not have realized, " I suggested, " that she had 
recovered from her faint. " 

" That is likely enough. If she seemed to be senseless, they 
would not take her life. What about this poor fellow, Hop- 
kins ? I seem to have heard some queer stories about him. " 

" He was a good-hearted man when he was sober, but a per- 
fect fiend when he was drunk, or rather when he was half 
drunk, for he seldom really went the whole way. The devil 
seemed to be in him at such times, and he was capable of 
anything. From what I hear, in spite of all his wealth and his 
title, he very nearly came our way once or twice. There was 
a scandal about his drenching a dog with petroleum and setting 
it on fire her ladyship's dog, to make the matter worse and 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 329 

that was only hushed up with difficulty. Then he threw a 
decanter at that maid, Theresa Wright, there was trouble 
about that. On the whole, and between ourselves, it will be 
a brighter house without him. What are you looking at now ? " 

Holmes was down on his knees, examining with great atten- 
tion the knots upon the red cord with which the lady had been 
secured. Then he carefully scrutinized the broken and frayed 
end where it had snapped off when the burglar had dragged it 
it down. 

"When this was pulled down, the bell in the kitchen must 
have rung loudly, " he remarked. 

'* No one could hear it. The kitchen stands right at the back 
of the house. " 

" How did the burglar know no one would hear it ? How 
dared he pull at a bell-rope in that reckless fashion ? " 

" Exactly, Mr. Holmes, exactly. You put the very question 
which I have asked myself again and again. There can be no 
doubt that this fellow must have known the house and its habits. 
He must have perfectly understood that the servants would all 
be in bed at that comparatively early hour, and that no one 
could possibly hear a bell ring in the kitchen. Therefore, he 
must have been in close league with one of the servants. Surely 
that is evident. But there are eight servants, and all of good 
character. " 

" Other things being equal, " said Holmes, " one would sus- 
pect the one at whose head the master threw a decanter. And 
yet that would involve treachery towards the mistress to whom 
this woman seems devoted. Well, well, the point is a minor 
one, and when you have Randall you will probably find no 
difficulty in securing his accomplice. The lady's story certainly 
seems to be corroborated, if it needed corroboration, by every 



330 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

detail which we see before us. " He walked to the French 
window and threw it open. " There are no signs here, but the 
ground is iron hard, and one would not expect them. I see that 
these candles in the mantelpiece have been lighted. " 

"Yes, it was by their light, and that of the lady's bedroom 
candle, that the burglars saw their way about. " 

" And what did they take ? " 

" Well, they did not take much only half a dozen articles of 
plate off the sideboard. Lady Brackenstall thinks that they 
were themselves so disturbed by the death of Sir Eustace that 
they did not ransack the house, as they would otherwise have 
done." 

" No doubt that is true, and yet they drank some wine, I 
understand. " 

" To steady their nerves. " 

"Exactly. These three glasses upon the sideboard have 
been untouched, I suppose?" 

" Yes, and the bottle stands as they left it. " 

" Let us look at it. Halloa, halloa ! What is this ? " 

The three glasses were grouped together, all of them tinged 
with wine, and one of them containing some dregs of beeswing. 
The bottle stood near them, two-thirds full, and beside it lay a 
long, deeply stained cork. Its appearance and the dust upon 
the bottle showed that was no common vintage which the mur- 
derers had enjoyed. 

A change had come over Holmes' manner. He had lost his list- 
less expression, and again I saw an alert light of interest in his 
keen,deep-set eyes. He raised the cork and examined it minutely. 

" How did they draw it ? " he asked. 

Hopkins pointed to a half-opened drawer. In it lay some 
table linen and a large cork-screw. 




THF.SE THREE GLASSES UPON. THE SIDEBOARD HAVE BEEN 
I'NTOUCHED, I SUPPOSE?" 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 331 

" Did Lady Brackenstall say that screw was used ? " 

" No, you remember that she was senseless at the moment 
when the bottle was opened. " 

"Quite so. As a matter of fact, that screw was not used. 
This bottle was opened by a pocket screw, probably contained 
in a knife, and not more than an inch and a half long. If you 
will examine the top of the cork, you will observe that the screw 
was driven in three times before the cork was extracted. It 
has never been transfixed. This long screw would have trans- 
fixed it and drawn it up with a single pull. When you catch 
this fellow, you will find that he has one of these multiplex 
knives in his possession." 

"Excellent!" said Hopkins. 

" But these glasses do puzzle me, I confess. Lady Bracken- 
stall actually saw the three men drinking, did she not ? " 

" Yes : she was clear about that. " 

" Then there is an end of it. What more is to be said ? And 
yet, you must admit, that the three glasses are very remarkable, 
Hopkins. What ? You see nothing remarkable ? Well, well, 
let it pass. Perhaps, when a man has special knowledge and 
special powers like my own, it rather encourages him to seek 
a complex explanation when a simpler one is at hand. Of 
course, it must be a mere chance about the glasses. Well, 
good morning, Hopkins. I don't see that I can be of any use 
to you, and you appear to have your case very clear. You will 
let me know when Randall is arrested, and any further de- 
velopments which may occur. I trust that I shall soon have to 
congratulate you upon a successful conclusion. Come, Wat- 
son, I fancy that we may employ ourselves more profitably at 
home. " 

During our return journey, I could see by Holmes' face that 



332 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

he was much puzzled by something which he had observed. 
Every now and then, by an effort, he would throw off the im- 
pression, and talk as if the matter were clear, but then his doubts 
would settle down upon him again, and his knitted brows and 
abstracted eyes would show that his thoughts had gone back 
once more to the great dining-room of the Abbey Grange, in 
which this midnight tragedy had been enacted. At last, by a 
sudden impulse, just as our train was crawling out of a subur- 
ban station, he sprang on to the platform and pulled me out 
after him. 

" Excuse me, my dear fellow, " said he, as we watched the 
rear carriages of our train disappearing round a curve, " I am 
sorry to make you the victim of what may seem a mere whim, 
but on my life, Watson, I simply can't leave that case in this con- 
dition. Every instinct that I possess cries out against it. It's 
wrong it's all wrong I'll swear that it's wrong. And yet the 
lady's story was complete, the maid's corroboration was suffi- 
cient, the detail was fairly exact. What have I to put up against 
that ? Three wineglasses, that is all. But if I had not taken 
things for granted, if I had examined everything with care which 
I should have shown had we approached the case de novo and 
had no cut-and-dried story to warp my mind, should I not then 
have found something more definite to go upon ? Of course I 
should. Sit down on this bench, Watson, until a train for 
Chiselhurst arrives, and allow me to lay the evidence before 
you, imploring you in the first instance to dismiss from your 
mind the idea that anything which the maid or her mistress 
may have said must necessarily be true. The lady's charming 
personality must not be permitted to warp our judgment. 

" Surely there are details in her story which, if we looked at in 
cold blood, would excite our suspicion. These burglars made a 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 333 

considerable haul at Sydenham, a fortnight ago. Some account 
of them and of their appearance was in the papers, and would 
naturally occur to anyone who wished to invent a story in which 
imaginary robbers should play a part. As a matter of fact, bur- 
glars who have done a good stroke of business are, as a rule, only 
too glad to enjoy the proceeds in peace and quiet without em- 
barking on another perilous undertaking. Again, it is unusual 
for burglars to operate at so early an hour, it is unusual for burg- 
lars to strike a lady to prevent her screaming, since one would 
imagine that was the sure way to make her scream, it is unusual 
for them to commit murder when their numbers are sufficient 
to overpower one man, it is unusual for them to be content with 
a limited plunder when there was much more within their 
reach, and finally, I should say, that it was very unusual for 
such men to leave a bottle half empty. How do all these un- 
usuals strike you, Watson ? " 

"Their cumulative effect is certainly considerable, and yet 
each of them is quite possible in itself. The most unusual thing 
of all, as it seems to me, is that the lady should be tied to the 
chair." 

" Well, I am not so clear about that, Watson, for it is evident 
that they must either kill her or else secure her in such a way 
that she could not give immediate notice of their escape. But 
at any rate I have shown, have I not, that there is a certain ele- 
ment of improbability about the lady's story ? And now, on 
the top of this, comes the incident of the wineglasses. " 

" What about the wineglasses ? " 

" Can you see them in your mind's eye ? " 

" I see them clearly. " 

'* We are told that three men drank from them. Does that 
strike you as likely ? " 



834 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" Why not ? There was wine in each glass. " 

"Exactly, but there was beeswing only in one glass. You 
must have noticed that fact. What does that suggest to your 
mind?" 

" The last glass filled would be most likely to contain bees- 
wing. " 

" Not at all. The bottle was full of it, and it is inconceivable 
that the first two glasses were clear and the third heavily 
charged with it. There are two possible explanations, and 
only two. One is that after the second glass was filled the bot- 
tle was violently agitated, and so the third glass received the 
beeswing. That does not appear probable. No, no, I am 
sure that I am right. " 

"What, then, do you suppose?" 

" That only two glasses were used, and that the dregs of both 
were poured into a third glass, so as to give the false impression 
that three people had been here. In that way all the beeswing 
would be in the last glass, would it not? Yes, I am con- 
vinced that this is so. But if I have hit upon the true explana- 
tion of this one small phenomenon, then in an instant the case 
rises from the commonplace to the exceedingly remarkable, for 
it can only mean that Lady Brackenstall and her maid have de- 
liberately lied to us, that not one word of their story is to be be- 
lieved, that they have some very strong reason for covering the 
real criminal, and that we must construct our case for ourselves 
without any help from them. That is the mission which now 
lies before us, and here, Watson, is the Sydenham train. " 

The household at the Abbey Grange were much surprised 
at our return, but Sherlock Holmes, finding that Stanley Hop- 
kins had gone off to report to headquarters, took possession 
of the dining-room, locked the door upon the inside, and de- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 335 

voted himself for two hours to one of those minute and 
laborious investigations which form the solid basis on 
which his brilliant edifices of deduction were reared. Seated 
in a corner like an interested student who observes the 
demonstration of his professor, I followed every step of 
that remarkable research. The window, the curtains, the 
carpet, the chair, the rope each in turn was minutely ex- 
amined and duly pondered. The body of the unfortunate 
baronet had been removed, and all else remained as we 
had seen it in the morning. Finally, to my astonishment, 
Holmes climbed up on to the massive mantelpiece. Far 
above his head hung the few inches of red cord which were 
still attached to the wire. For a long time he gazed upwards 
at it, and then in an attempt to get nearer to it he rested his 
knee upon a wooden bracket on the wall. This brought his 
hand within a few inches of the broken end of the rope, 
but it was not this so much as the bracket itself which 
seemed to engage his attention. Finally, he sprang down 
with an ejaculation of satisfaction. 

" It's all right, Watson," said he. " We have got our case 
one of the most remarkable in our collection. But, dear me, 
how slow-witted I have been, and how nearly I have committed 
the blunder of my lifetime ! Now, I think that, with a few miss- 
ing links, my chain is almost complete." 

" You have got your men ? " 

" Man, Watson, man. Only one, but a very formidable per- 
son. Strong as a lion witness the blow that bent that 
poker! Six foot three in height, active as a squirrel, dexter- 
ous with his fingers, finally, remarkably quick-witted, for this 
whole ingenious story is of his concoction. Yes, Watson, we 
have come upon the handiwork of a very remarkable individual. 



336 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

And yet, in that bell-rope, he has given us a clue which should 
not have left us a doubt." 

" Where was the clue ? " 

" Well, if you were to pull down a bell-rope, Watson, where 
would you expect it to break ? Surely at the spot where it is 
attached to the wire. Why should it break three inches from 
the top, as this one has done ? " 

" Because it is frayed there ? " 

" Exactly. This end, which we can examine, is frayed. He 
was cunning enough to do that with his knife. But the other 
end is not frayed. You could not observe that from here, but 
if you were on the mantelpiece you would see that it is cut clean 
off without any mark of fraying whatever. You can recon- 
struct what occurred. The man needed the rope. He would 
not tear it down for fear of giving the alarm by ringing the bell. 
What did he do ? He sprang up on the mantelpiece, could not 
quite reach it, put his knee on the bracket you will see the 
impression in the dust and so got his knife to bear upon the 
cord. I could not reach the place by at least three inches from 
which I infer that he is at least three inches a bigger man than I. 
Look at that mark upon the seat of the oaken chair ! What is it ? " 

"Blood." 

" Undoubtedly it is blood. This alone puts the lady's story 
out of court. If she were seated on the chair when the crime 
was done, how comes that mark. No, no, she was placed in 
the chair after the death of her husband. I'll wager that the 
black-dress shows a corresponding mark to this. We have not 
yet met our Waterloo, Watson, but this is our Marengo, for it 
begins in defeat and ends in victory. I should like now to have 
a few words with the nurse, Theresa. We must be wary for 
awhile, if we are to get the information which we want." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 337 

She was an interesting person, this stern Australian nurse 
taciturn, suspicious, ungracious, it took some time be- 
fore Holmes' pleasant manner and frank acceptance of 
all that she said thawed her into a corresponding amiability. 
She did not attempt to conceal her hatred for her late 
employer. 

"Yes, sir, it is true that he threw the decanter at me. I 
heard him call my mistress a name, and I told him that he would 
not dare to speak so if her brother had been there. Then it 
was that he threw it at me. He might have thrown a dozen 
if he had but left my bonny bird alone. He was forever ill- 
treating her, and she too proud to complain. She will not even 
tell me all that he has done to her. She never told me of those 
marks on her arm that you saw this morning, but I know very 
well that they come from a stab with a hatpin. The sly devil 
God forgive me that I should speak of him so, now that he is 
dead ! But a devil he was, if ever one walked the earth. He was 
all honey when first we met him only eighteen months ago, 
and we both feel as if it were eighteen years. She had only just 
arrived in London. Yes, it was her first voyage she had 
never been from home before. He won her with his title and 
his money and his false London ways. If she made a mistake 
she was paid for it, if ever a woman did. What month did we 
meet him ? Well, I tell you it was just after we arrived. We 
arrived in June, and it was July. They were married in Janu- 
ary of last year. Yes, she is down in the morning-room again, 
and I have no doubt she will see you, but you must not ask too 
much of her, for she has gone through all that flesh and blood 
will stand." 

Lady Brackenstall was reclining on the same couch, but 
looked brighter than before. The maid had entered with us, 



338 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

and began once more to foment the bruise upon her mistress' 
brow. 

" I hope," said the lady, " that you have not come to cross- 
examine me again ? " 

** No," Holmes answered, in his gentlest voice, " I will not 
cause you any unnecessary trouble, Lady Brackenstall, and 
my whole desire is to make things easy for you, for I am con- 
vinced that you are a much-tried woman. If you will treat me 
as a friend and trust me, you may find that I will justify your 
trust." 

" What do you want me to do ? " 

" To tell me the truth." 

"Mr. Holmes!" 

" No, no, Lady Brackenstall it is no use. You may have 
heard of any little reputation which I possess. I will stake it all 
on the fact that your story is an absolute fabrication." 

Mistress and maid were both staring at Holmes with pale 
faces and frightened eyes. 

"You are an impudent fellow!" cried Theresa. "Do you 
mean to say that my mistress has told a lie ? " 

Holmes rose from his chair. 

" Have you nothing to tell me ? " 

" I have told you everything." 

"Think once more, Lady Brackenstall. Would it not be 
better to be frank ? " 

For an instant there was hesitation in her beautiful face. 
Then some new strong thought caused it to set like a mask. 

" I have told you all I know." 

Holmes took his hat and shrugged his shoulders. "I am 
sorry," he said, and without another word we left the room and 
the house. There was a pond in the park, and to this my 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 339 

friend led the way. It was frozen over, but a single hole was 
left for the convenience of a solitary swan. Holmes gazed at 
it, and then passed on to the lodge gate. There he scribbled 
a short note for Stanley Hopkins, and left it with the lodge- 
keeper. 

" It may be a hit, or it may be a miss, but we are bound to 
do something for friend Hopkins, just to justify this second 
visit," said he. " I will not quite take him into my confidence 
yet. I think our next scene of operations must be the shipping 
office of the Adelaide-Southampton line, which stands at the 
end of Pall Mall, if I remember right. There is a second line 
of steamers which connect South Australia with England, but 
we will draw the larger cover first." 

Holmes' card sent in to the manager ensured instant atten- 
tion, and he was not long in acquiring all the information he 
needed. In June of '95, only one of their line had reached a 
home port. It was the Rock of Gibraltar, their largest and best 
boat. A reference to the passenger list showed that Miss 
Fraser, of Adelaide, with her maid had made the voyage in her. 
The boat was now on her way to Australia somewhere in the 
south of the Suez Canal. Her officers were the same as in '95, 
with one exception. The first officer, Mr. Jack Crocker, had 
been made a captain, and was to take charge of their new ship, 
The Bass Rock, sailing in two days ' time from Southampton. 
He lived at Sydenham, but he was likely to be in that morning 
for instructions, if we cared to wait for him. 

No : Mr. Holmes had no desire to see him, but would be glad 
to know more about his record and character. 

His record was magnificent. There was not an officer in the 
fleet to touch him. As to his character, he was reliable on duty, 
but a wild, desperate fellow off the deck of his ship hot-headed, 



340 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

excitable, but loyal, honest, and kind-hearted. That was the 
pith of the information with which Holmes left the office of the 
Adelaide-Southampton company. Thence he drove to Scot- 
land Yard, but, instead of entering, he sat in his cab with his 
brows drawn down, lost in profound thought. Finally he 
drove round to the Chariag Cross telegraph office, sent off a 
message, and then, at last, we made for Baker Street once 
more. 

" No, I couldn't do it, Watson," said he, as we re-entered our 
room. " Once that warrant was made out, nothing on earth 
would save him. Once or twice in my career I feel that I have 
done more real harm by my discovery of the criminal than 
ever he had done by his crime. I have learned caution now, 
and I had rather play tricks with the law of England than with 
my own conscience. Let us know a little more before we act." 

Before evening, we had a visit from Inspector Stanley Hop- 
kins. Things were not going very well with him. 

" I believe that you are a wizard, Mr. Holmes. I really do 
sometimes think that you have powers that are not human. 
Now, how on earth could you know that the stolen silver was at 
the bottom of that pond ? " 

"I didn't know it." 

" But you told me to examine it." 

"You got it, then?" 

"Yes, I got it." 

" I am very glad if I have helped you." 

"But you haven't helped me. You have made the affair 
far more difficult. What sort of burglars are they who steal 
silver, and then throw it into the nearest pond ? " 

" It was certainly rather eccentric behaviour. I was merely 
going on the idea that if the silver had been taken by persons 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 341 

who did not want it who merely took it for a blind, as it 
were, then they would naturally be anxious to get rid of it." 

" But why should such an idea cross your mind ? " 

"Well, I thought it was possible. When they came out 
through the French window, there was the pond with one tempt- 
ing little hole in the ice, right in front of their noses. Could 
there be a better hiding-place ? " 

"Ah, a hiding-place that is better!" cried Stanley Hop- 
kins. "Yes, yes, I see it all now! It was early, there were 
folk upon the roads, they were afraid of being seen with the 
silver, so they sank it in the pond, intending to return for it 
when the coast was clear. Excellent, Mr. Holmes that is 
better than your idea of a blind." 

" Quite so, you have got an admirable theory. I have no 
doubt that my own ideas were quite wild, but you must admit 
that they have ended in discovering the silver." 

"Yes, sir yes. It was all your doing. But I have had a 
bad setback." 

"A setback?" 

"Yes, Mr. Holmes. The Randall gang were arrested in 
New York this morning." 

" Dear me, Hopkins ! That is certainly rather against your 
theory, that they committed a murder in Kent last night." 

"It is fatal, Mr. Holmes absolutely fatal. Still, there are 
other gangs of three besides the Randalls, or it may be some new 
gang of which the police have never heard." 

" Quite so, it is perfectly possible. What, are you off ? " 

** Yes, Mr. Holmes, there is no rest for me until I have got 
to the bottom of the business. I suppose you have no hint 
to give me ? " 

" I have given you one." 



342 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

"Which?" 

" Well, I suggested a blind." 

" But why, Mr. Holmes, why ? " 

"Ah, that's the question, of course. But I commend the 
idea to your mind. You might possibly find that there was 
something in it. You won't stop for dinner ? Well, good-bye, 
and let us know how you get on." 

Dinner was over, and the table cleared before Holmes alluded 
to the matter again. He had lit his pipe and held his slippered 
feet to the cheerful blaze of the fire. Suddenly he looked at 
his watch. 

" I expect developments, Watson." 

"When?" 

" Now within a few minutes. I dare say you thought I 
acted rather badly to Stanley Hopkins just now ? " 

" I trust your judgment." 

"A very sensible reply, Watson. You must look at it this 
way: what I know is unofficial, what he knows is official. I 
have the right to private judgment, but he has none. He 
must disclose all, or he is a traitor to his service. In a doubt- 
ful case I would not put him in so painful a position, and so 
I reserve my information until my own mind is clear upon the 
matter." 

" But when will that be ? " 

" The time has come. You will now be present at the last 
scene of a remarkable little drama." 

There was a sound upon the stairs, and our door was opened 
to admit as fine a specimen of manhood as ever passed through 
it. He was a very tall young man, golden-moustached, blue- 
eyed, with a skin which had been burned by tropical suns, and 
a springy step, which showed that the huge frame was as active 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 343 

as it was strong. He closed the door behind him, and then he 
stood with clenched hands and heaving breast, choking down 
some overmastering emotion. 

" Sit down, Captain Crocker. You got my telegram ? " 

Our visitor sank into an arm-chair, and looked from one to 
the other of us with questioning eyes. 

" I got your telegram, and I came at the hour you said. I 
heard that you had been down to the office. There was no 
getting away from you. Let's hear the worst. What are you 
going to do with me? Arrest me? Speak out, man! You 
can't sit there and play with me like a cat with a mouse." 

" Give him a cigar," said Holmes. " Bite on that, Captain 
Crocker, and don't let your nerves run away with you. I 
should not sit here smoking with you if I thought that you 
were a common criminal, you may be sure of that. Be frank 
with me and we may do some good. Play tricks with me, and 
I'll crush you." 

" What do you wish me to do ? " 

" To give me a true account of all that happened at the Abbey 
Grange last night a true account, mind you, with nothing 
added and nothing taken off. I know so much already that if 
you go one inch off the straight, I'll blow this police whistle 
from my window and the affair goes out of my hands forever." 

The sailor thought for a little. Then he struck his leg with 
his great sun-burned hand. 

" I'll chance it," he cried, " I believe you are a man of your 
word, and a white man, and I'll tell you the whole story. But 
one thing I will say first. So far as I am concerned, I regret 
nothing and I fear nothing, and I would do it all again, and be 
proud of the job. Damn the beast, if he had as many lives as a 
cat, he would owe them all to me ! But it's the lady, Mary 



344 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

Mary Fraser for never will I call her by that accursed name. 
When I think of getting her into trouble, I who would give 
my life just to bring one smile to her dear face, it's that that 
turns my soul into water. And yet and yet what less 
could I do ? I'll tell you my story, gentlemen, and then I'll 
ask you, as man to man, what less could I do. 

" I must go back a bit. You seem to know everything, so 
I expect that you know that I met her when she was a passenger 
and I was first officer of the Rock of Gibraltar. From the first 
day I met her, she was the only woman to me. Every day of 
that voyage I loved her more, and many a time since have I 
kneeled down in the darkness of the night watch and kissed 
the deck of that ship because I knew her dear feet had trod it. 
She was never engaged to me. She treated me as fairly as ever 
a woman treated a man. I have no complaint to make. It 
was all love on my side, and all good comradeship and friend- 
ship on hers. When we parted she was a free woman, but I 
could never again be a free man. 

" Next time I came back from sea, I heard of her marriage. 
Well, why shouldn't she marry whom she liked ? Title and 
money who could carry them better than she ? She was 
born for all that is beautiful and dainty. I didn't grieve over 
her marriage. I was not such a selfish hound as that. I just 
rejoiced that good luck had come her way, and that she had 
not thrown herself away on a penniless sailor. That's how 
I loved Mary Fraser. 

*' Well, I never thought to see her again, but last voyage I 
was promoted, and the new boat was not yet launched, so I had 
to wait for a couple of months with my people at Sydenham. 
One day out in a country lane I met Theresa Wright, her old 
maid. She told me all about her, about him, about everything. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 345 

I tell you, gentlemen, it nearly drove me mad. This drunken 
hound, that he should dare to raise his hand to her, whose boots 
he was not worthy to lick ! I met Theresa again. Then I met 
Mary herself and met her again. Then she would meet 
me no more. But the other day I had a notice that I was to 
start on my voyage within a week, and I determined that I 
would see her once before I left. Theresa was always my 
friend, for she loved Mary and hated this villain almost as 
much as I did. From her I learned the ways of the house. 
Mary used to sit up reading in her own little room downstairs. 
I crept round there last night and scratched at the window. 
At first she would not open to me, but in her heart I know that 
now she loves me, and she could not leave me in the frosty 
night. She whispered to me to come round to the big front 
window, and I found it open before me, so as to let me into the 
dining-room. Again I heard from her own lips things that 
made my blood boil, and again I cursed this brute, who mishan- 
dled the woman I loved. Well, gentlemen, I was standing with 
her just inside the window, in all innocence as God is my judge, 
when he rushed like a madman into the room, called her the 
vilest name that a man could use to a woman, and welted 
her across the face with the stick he had in his hand. I 
had sprung for the poker, and it was a fair fight between us. 
See here, on my arm, where his first blow fell. Then it 
was my turn, and I went through him as if he had been a 
rotten pumpkin. Do you think I was sorry ? Not I ! 
It was his life or mine, but far more than that, it was his 
life or hers, for how could I leave her in the power of this 
madman ? That was how I killed him. Was I wrong ? Well, 
then, what would either of you gentlemen have done, if you 
had been in my position ? 



346 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" She had screamed when he struck her, and that brought 
old Theresa down from the room above. There was a bottle 
of wine on the sideboard, and I opened it and poured a little 
between Mary's lips, for she was half dead with shock. Then 
I took a drop myself. Theresa was as cool as ice, and it was 
her plot as much as mine. We must make it appear that bur- 
glars had done the thing. Theresa kept on repeating our 
story to her mistress, while I swarmed up and cut the rope of 
the bell. Then I lashed her in her chair, and frayed out the 
end of the rope to make it look natural, else they would wonder 
how in the world a burglar could have got up there to cut it. 
Then I gathered up a few plates and pots of silver, to carry out 
the idea of the robbery, and there I left them, with orders to give 
the alarm when I had a quarter of an hour's start. I dropped 
the silver into the pond, and made off for Sydenham, feel- 
ing that for once in my life I had done a real good night's work. 
And that's the truth and the whole truth, Mr. Holmes, if it 
costs me my neck." 

Holmes smoked for some time in silence. Then he crossed 
the room, and shook our visitor by the hand. 

" That's what I think," said he. " I know that every word 
is true, for you have hardly said a word which I did not know. 
No one but an acrobat or a sailor could have got up to that bell- 
rope from the bracket, and no one but a sailor could have 
made the knots with which the cord was fastened to the chair. 
Only once had this lady been brought into contact with sailors, 
and that was on her voyage, and it was someone of her own 
class of life, since she was trying hard to shield him, and so 
showing that she loved him. You see how easy it was for me 
to lay my hands upon you when once I had started upon the 
right trail." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE 347 

"I thought the police never could have seen through our 
dodge." 

" And the police haven't, nor will they, to the best of my 
belief. Now, look here, Captain Crocker, this is a very serious 
matter, though I am willing to admit that you acted under the 
most extreme provocation to which any man could be sub- 
jected. I am not sure that in defence of your own h'fe your 
action will not be pronounced legitimate. However, that is 
for a British jury to decide. Meanwhile I have so much sym- 
pathy for you that, if you choose to disappear in the next twenty- 
four hours, I will promise you that no one will hinder you." 

" And then it will all come out ? " 

" Certainly it will come out." 

The sailor flushed with anger. 

" What sort of proposal is that to make a man ? I know 
enough of law to understand that Mary would be held as accom- 
plice. Do you think I would leave her alone to face the music 
while I slunk away? No, sir, let them do their worst upon 
me, but for Heaven's sake, Mr. Holmes, find some way of 
keeping my poor Mary out of the courts." 

Holmes for a second time held out his hand to the sailor. 

" I was only testing you, and you ring true every time. Well, 
it is a great responsibility that I take upon myself, but I have 
given Hopkins an excellent hint, and if he can't avail himself of 
it I can do no more. See here, Captain Crocker, we'll do this in 
due form of law. You are the prisoner. Watson, you are a 
British jury, and I never met a man who was more eminently 
fitted to represent one. I am the judge. Now, gentleman of 
the jury, you have heard the evidence. Do you find the prisoner 
guilty or not guilty ? " 

" Not guilty, my lord," said I. 



348 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" Vox populi, vox Dei. You are acquitted, Captaia Crocker. 
So long as the law does not find some other victim you are safe 
from me. Come back to this lady in a year, and may her fu- 
ture and yours justify us in the judgment which we have pro- 
nounced this night ! " 



XIII 

THE ADVENTURE OF 
THE SECOND STAIN 

1 HAD intended " The Adventure of the Abbey Grange " to 
be the last of those exploits of my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, 
which I should ever communicate to the public. This resolution 
of mine was not due to any lack of material, since I have notes 
of many hundreds of cases to which I have never alluded, nor 
was it caused by any waning interest on the part of my readers 
in the singular personality and unique methods of this remark- 
able man. The real reason lay in the reluctance which Mr. 
Holmes has shown to the continued publication of his experi- 
ences. So long as he was in actual professional practice the 
records of his successes were of some practical value to him, but 
since he has definitely retired from London and betaken him- 
self to study and bee-farming on the Sussex Downs, notoriety 
has become hateful to him, and he has peremptorily requested 
that his wishes in this matter should be strictly observed. It 
was only upon my representing to him that I had given a prom- 
ise that " The Adventure of the Second Stain " should be pub- 
lished when the times were ripe, and pointing out to him that 
it is only appropriate that this long series of episodes should 
culminate in the most important international case which he 



350 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

has ever been called upon to handle, that I at last succeeded 
in obtaining his consent that a carefully guarded account of 
the incident should at last be laid before the public. If in telling 
the story I seem to be somewhat vague in certain details, the 
public will readily understand that there is an excellent reason 
for my reticence. 

It was, then, in a year, and even in a decade, that shall be 
nameless, that upon one Tuesday morning in autumn we found 
two visitors of European fame within the walls of our humble 
room in Baker Street. The one, austere, high-nosed, eagle- 
eyed, and dominant, was none other than the illustrious 
Lord Bellinger, twice Premier of Britain. The other, dark, 
clear-cut, and elegant, hardly yet of middle age, and en- 
dowed with every beauty of body and of mind, was the 
Right Honourable Trelawney Hope, Secretary for European 
Affairs, and the most rising statesman in the country. They 
sat side by side upon our paper-littered settee, and it was easy 
to see from their worn and anxious faces that it was business 
of the most pressing importance which had brought them. 
The Premier's thin, blue-veined hands were clasped tightly 
over the ivory head of his umbrella, and his gaunt, ascetic face 
looked gloomily from Holmes to me. The European Secretary 
pulled nervously at his moustache and fidgeted with the seals 
of his watch-chain. 

"When I discovered my loss, Mr. Holmes, which was at 
eight o'clock this morning, I at once informed the Prime 
Minister. It was at his suggestion that we have both come 
to you." 

" Have you informed the police ? " 

"No, sir,'* said the Prime Minister, with the quick, decisive 
manner for which he was famous. *' We have not done so, nor 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 351 

is it possible that we should do so. To inform the police must, 
in the long run, mean to inform the public. This is what we 
particularly desire to avoid." 

"And why, sir?" 

"Because the document in question is of such immense 
importance that its publication might very easily I might 
almost say probably lead to European complications of the 
utmost moment. It is not too much to say that peace or war may 
hang upon the issue. Unless its recovery can be attended with 
the utmost secrecy, then it may as well not be recovered at all, 
for all that is aimed at by those who have taken it is that its con- 
tents should be generally known." 

"I understand. Now, Mr. Trelawney Hope, I should be 
much obliged if you would tell me exactly the circumstances 
under which this document disappeared." 

" That can be done in a very few words, Mr. Holmes. The 
letter for it was a letter from a foreign potentate was re- 
ceived six days ago. It was of such importance that I have never 
left it in my safe, but I have taken it across each evening to my 
house in Whitehall Terrace, and kept it in my bedroom in a 
locked despatch-box. It was there last night. Of that I am cer- 
tain. I actually opened the box while I was dressing for dinner, 
and saw the document inside. This morning it was gone. The 
despatch-box had stood beside the glass upon my dressing- 
table all night. I am a light sleeper, and so is my wife. We are 
both prepared to swear that no one could have entered the 
room during the night. And yet I repeat that the paper is 
gone." 

" What time did you dine ? " 

" Half-past seven." 

" How long was it before you went to bed ? " 



352 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" My wife had gone to the theatre. I waited up for her. It was 
half-past eleven before we went to our room." 

"Then for four hours the despatch-box had lain un- 
guarded ? " 

" No one is ever permitted to enter that room save the house- 
maid in the morning, and my valet, or my wife's maid, during 
the rest of the day. They are both trusty servants who have been 
with us for some time. Besides, neither of them could possibly 
have known that there was anything more valuable than the 
ordinary departmental papers in my despatch-box." 

" Who did know of the existence of that letter ? " 

** No one in the house." 

" Surely your wife knew ? " 

"No, sir. I had said nothing to my wife until I missed the 
paper this morning." 

The Premier nodded approvingly. 

"*I have long known, sir, how high is your sense of public 
duty," said he. ** I am convinced that in the case of a secret of 
this importance it would rise superior to the most intimate 
domestic ties." 

The European Secretary bowed. 

** You do me no more than justice, sir. Until this morning I 
have never breathed one word to my wife upon this matter." 

" Could she have guessed ? " 

* No, Mr. Holmes, she could not have guessed nor could 
anyone have guessed." 

" Have you lost any documents before ? " 

"No, sir." 

"Who is there in England who did know of the existence 
of this letter?" 

" Each member of the Cabinet was informed of it yesterday, 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 353 

but the pledge of secrecy which attends every Cabinet meeting 
was increased by the solemn warning which was given by the 
Prime Minister. Good heavens, to think that within a few 
hours I should myself have lost it ! " His handsome face was dis- 
torted with a spasm of despair, and his hands tore at his hair- 
For a moment we caught a glimpse of the natural man, impui- 
sive, ardent, keenly sensitive. The next the aristocratic mask 
was replaced, and the gentle voice had returned. " Besides the 
members of the Cabinet there are two, or possibly three, depart- 
mental officials who know of the letter. No one else in England, 
Mr. Holmes, I assure you." 

"But abroad?'* 

" I believe that no one abroad has seen it save the man who 
wrote it. I am well convinced that his Ministers that the 
usual official channels have not been employed." 

Holmes considered for some little time. 

" Now, sir, I must ask you more particularly what this docu- 
ment is, and why its disappearance should have such momen- 
tous consequences ? " 

The two statesmen exchanged a quick glance and the 
Premier's shaggy eyebrows gathered in a frown. 

" Mr. Holmes, the envelope is a long, thin one of pale blue 
colour. There is a seal of red wax stamped with a crouching lion. 
It is addressed in large,bold handwriting to " 

"I fear, sir," said Holmes, "that, interesting and indeed 
essential as these details are, my inquiries must go more to the 
root of things. What was the letter ? " 

" That is a State secret of the utmost importance, and I fear 
that I can not tell you, nor do I see that it is necessary. If by 
the aid of the powers which you are said to possess you can find 
such an envelope as I describe with its inclosure, you will have 



354 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

deserved well of your country, and earned any reward which it 
lies in our power to bestow." 

Sherlock Holmes rose with a smile. 

" You are two of the most busy men in the country," said he, 
" and hi my own small way I have also a good many calls upon 
me. I regret exceedingly that I can not help you in this matter, 
and any continuation of this interview would be a waste of 
tune." 

The Premier sprang to his feet with that quick, fierce gleam 
of his deep-set eyes before which a Cabinet has cowered. " I am 
not accustomed, sir," he began, but mastered his anger and re- 
sumed his seat. For a minute or more we all sat in silence. Then 
the old statesman shrugged his shoulders. 

"We must accept your terms, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you 
are right, and it is unreasonable for us to expect you to act 
unless we give you our entire confidence." 

" I agree with you," said the younger statesman. 

" Then I will tell you, relying entirely upon your honour and 
that of your colleague, Dr. Watson. I may appeal to your pa- 
triotism also, for I could not imagine a greater misfortune for 
the country than that this affair should come out." 

"You may safely trust us." 

"The letter, then, is from a certain foreign potentate who 
has been ruffled by some recent Colonial developments of this 
country. It has been written hurriedly and upon his own respon- 
sibility entirely. Inquiries have shown that his Ministers know 
nothing of the matter. At the same time it is couched in so un- 
fortunate a manner, and certain phrases in it are of so provo- 
cative a character, that its pubh'cation would undoubtedly lead 
to a most dangerous state of feeling in this country. There 
would be such a ferment, sir, that I do not hesitate to say that 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 355 

within a week of the publication of that letter this country 
would be involved in a great war." 

Holmes wrote a name upon a slip of paper and handed it to 
the Premier. 

" Exactly. It was he. And it is this letter this letter which 
may well mean the expenditure of a thousand millions and the 
lives of a hundred thousand men which has become lost in 
this unaccountable fashion." 

'* Have you informed the sender ? " 

" Yes, sir, a cipher telegram has been despatched." 

" Perhaps he desires the publication of the letter." 

"No, sir, we have strong reason to believe that he already 
understands that he has acted in an indiscreet and hot-headed 
manner. It would be a greater blow to him and to his country 
than to us if this letter were to come out." 

" If this is so, whose interest is it that the letter should come 
out ? Why should anyone desire to steal it or to publish it ? " 

"There, Mr. Holmes, you take me into regions of high in- 
ternational politics. But if you consider the European situation 
you will have no difficulty in perceiving the motive. The whole 
of Europe is an armed camp. There is a double league which 
makes a fair balance of military power. Great Britain holds the 
scales. If Britain were driven into war with one confederacy, it 
would assure the supremacy of the other confederacy, whether 
they joined in the war or not. Do you follow ? " 

"Very clearly. It is then the interest of the enemies of this 
potentate to secure and publish this letter, so as to make a 
breach between his country and ours ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" And to whom would this document be sent if it fell into the 
hands of an enemy ? " 



356 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" To any of the great Chancelleries of Europe. It is probably 
speeding on its way thither at the present instant as fast as steam 
can take it." 

Mr. Trelawney Hope dropped his head on his chest and 
groaned aloud. The Premier placed his hand kindly upon his 
shoulder. 

"It is your misfortune, my dear fellow. No one can blame 
you. There is no precaution which you have neglected. Now, 
Mr. Holmes, you are in full possession of the facts. What course 
do you recommend ? " 

Holmes shook his head mournfully. 

" You think, sir, that unless this document is recovered there 
will be war ? " 

" I think it is very probable." 

"Then, sir, prepare for war." 

"That is a hard saying, Mr. Holmes." 

" Consider the facts, sir. It is inconceivable that it was taken 
after eleven-thirty at night, since I understand that Mr. Hope 
and his wife were both in the room from that hour until the 
loss was found out. It was taken, then, yesterday evening be- 
tween seven-thirty and eleven-thirty, probably near the earlier 
hour, since whoever took it evidently knew that it was there, 
and would naturally secure it as early as possible. Now, sir, if a 
document of this importance were taken at that hour, where 
can it be now? No one has any reason to retain it. It has 
been passed rapidly on to those who need it. What chance 
have we now to overtake or even to trace it? It is beyond 
our reach." 

The Prime Minister rose from the settee. 

" What you say is perfectly logical, Mr. Holmes. I feel that 
the matter is indeed out of our hands." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 357 

"Let us presume, for argument's sake, that the document 
was taken by the maid or by the valet " 

" They are both old and tried servants." 

" I understand you to say that your room is on the second 
floor, that there is no entrance from without, and that from 
within no one could go up unobserved. It must, then, be some- 
body in the house who has taken it. To whom would the thief 
take it ? To one of several international spies and secret agents, 
whose names are tolerably familiar to me. There are three who 
may be said to be the heads of their profession. I will begin my 
research by going round and finding if each of them is at his 
post. If one is missing especially if he has disappeared since 
last night we will have some indication as to where the docu- 
ment has gone." 

"Why should he be missing?" asked the European Secre- 
tary. " He would take the letter to an Embassy in London, as 
likely as not." 

"I fancy not. These agents work independently, and their 
relations with the Embassies are often strained." 

The Prime Minister nodded his acquiescence. 

"I believe you are right, Mr. Holmes. He would take so 
valuable a prize to headquarters with his own hands. I think 
that your course of action is an excellent one. Meanwhile, Hope, 
we can not neglect all our other duties on account of this one 
misfortune. Should there be any fresh developments during the 
day we shall communicate with you, and you will no doubt let 
us know the results of your own inquiries." 

The two statesmen bowed and walked gravely from the 
room. 

When our illustrious visitors had departed Holmes lit his pipe 
in silence, and sat for some time lost in the deepest thought. 



358 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

I had opened the morning paper and was immersed in a sensa- 
tional crime which had occurred in London the night before, 
when my friend gave an exclamation, sprang to his feet, and 
laid his pipe down upon the mantelpiece. 

"Yes," said he, "there is no better way of approaching it. 
The situation is desperate, but not hopeless. Even now, if we 
could be sure which of them has taken it, it is just possible that 
it has not yet passed out of his hands. After all, it is a question of 
money with these fellows, and I have the British treasury be- 
hind me. If it's on the market I'll buy it if it means another 
penny on the income-tax. It is conceivable that the fellow 
might hold it back to see what bids come from this side before 
he tries his luck on the other. There are only those three 
capable of playing so bold a game - there are Oberstein, La 
Rothiere, and Eduardo Lucas. I will see each of them.'* 

I glanced at my morning paper. 

" Is that Eduardo Lucas of Godolphin Street ? " 

"Yes." 

" You will not see him." 

"Why not?" 

" He was murdered in his house last night." 

My friend has so often astonished me in the course of our 
adventures that it was with a sense of exultation that I real- 
ized how completely I had astonished him. He stared in amaze- 
ment, and then snatched the paper from my hands. This was 
the paragraph which I had been engaged in reading when he 
rose from his chair. 

MURDER IN WESTMINSTER 

A crime of mysterious character was committed last night at 16, Godolphin 
Street, one of the old-fashioned and secluded rows of eighteenth century houses 
which lie between the river and the Abbey, almost in the shadow of the great 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 359 

Tower of the Houses of Parliament. This small but select mansion has been in- 
habited for some years by Mr. Eduardo Lucas, well known in society circles 
both on account of his charming personality and because he has the well- 
deserved reputation of being one of the best amateur tenors in the country. 
Mr. Lucas is an unmarried man, thirty-four years of age, and his establishment 
consists of Mrs. Pringle, an elderly housekeeper, and of Mitton, his valet. The 
former retires early and sleeps at the top of the house. The valet was out for 
the evening, visiting a friend at Hammersmith. From ten o'clock onward Mr. 
Lucas had the house to himself. What occurred during that time has not yet 
transpired, but at a quarter to twelve Police-constable Barrett, passing along 
Godolphin Street, observed that the door of No. 16 was ajar. He knocked, 
but received no answer. Perceiving a light in the front room, he advanced 
into the passage and again knocked, but without reply. He then pushed open 
the door and entered. The room was in a state of wild disorder, the furniture 
being all swept to one side, and one chair lying on its back in the centre. 
Beside this chair, and still grasping one of its legs, lay the unfortunate tenant 
of the house. He had been stabbed to the heart and must have died instantly. 
The knife with which the crime had been committed was a curved Indian 
dagger, plucked down from a trophy of Oriental arms which adorned one of 
the walls. Robbery does not appear to have been the motive of the crime, for 
there had been no attempt to remove the valuable contents of the room. Mr. 
Eduardo Lucas was so well known and popular that his violent and mysterious 
fate will arouse painful interest and intense sympathy in a widespread circle of 
friends. 

"Well, Watson, what do you make of this ?" asked Holmes, 
after a long pause. 

" It is an amazing coincidence. " 

"A coincidence! Here is one of the three men whom we had 
named as possible actors in this drama, and he meets a violent 
death during the very hours when we know that that drama 
was being enacted. The odds are enormous against its being 
coincidence. No figures could express them. No, my dear 
Watson, the two events are connected must be connected. It 
is for us to find the connection." 

"But now the official police must know all." 

"Not at all. They know all they see at Godolphin Street. 



360 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

They know and shall know nothing of Whitehall Terrace. 
Only we know of both events, and can trace the relation between 
them. There is one obvious point which would, in any case, 
have turned my suspicions against Lucas. Godolphin Street, 
Westminster, is only a few minutes' walk from Whitehall Ter- 
race. The other secret agents whom I have named live in the 
extreme West End. It was easier, therefore, for Lucas than 
for the others to establish a connection or receive a message 
from the European Secretary's household a small thing, and 
yet where events are compressed into a few hours it may prove 
essential. Halloa ! what have we here ? " 

Mrs. Hudson had appeared with a lady's card upon her sal- 
ver. Holmes glanced at it, raised his eyebrows, and handed it 
over to me. 

"Ask Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope if she will be kind enough 
to step up," said he. 

A moment later our modest apartment, already so distin- 
guished that morning, was further honoured by the entrance of 
the most lovely woman in London. I had often heard of the 
beauty of the youngest daughter of the Duke of Belminster, 
but no description of it, and no contemplation of colourless pho- 
tographs, had prepared me for the subtle, delicate charm and 
the beautiful colouring of that exquisite head. And yet as we 
saw it that autumn morning, it was not its beauty which would 
be the first thing to impress the observer. The cheek was lovely 
but it was paled with emotion, the eyes were bright,but it was 
the brightness of fever, the sensitive mouth was tight and drawn 
in an effort after self-command. Terror not beauty was 
what sprang first to the eye as our fair visitor stood framed for 
an instant in the open door. 

" Has my husband been here, Mr. Holmes ? " 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 361 

" Yes, madam, he has been here." 

" Mr. Holmes, I implore you not to tell him that I came here." 
Holmes bowed coldly, and motioned the lady to a chair. 

" You ladyship places me in a very delicate position. I beg 
that you will sit down and tell me what you desire, but I fear 
that I can not make any unconditional promise." 

She swept across the room and seated herself with her back 
to the window. It was a queenly presence tall, graceful, and 
intensely womanly. 

" Mr. Holmes," she said and her white-gloved hands 
clasped and unclasped as she spoke " I will speak frankly to 
you in the hopes that it may induce you to speak frankly in re- 
turn. There is complete confidence between my husband and 
me on all matters save one. That one is politics. On this his 
lips are sealed. He tells me nothing. Now, I am aware that 
there was a most deplorable occurrence in our house last 
night. I know that a paper has disappeared. But because the 
matter is political my husband refuses to take me into his com- 
plete confidence. Now it is essential essential, I say that 
I should thoroughly understand it. You are the only other per- 
son, save only these politicians, who knows the true facts. I beg 
you then, Mr. Holmes, to tell me exactly what has happened 
and what it will lead to. Tell me all, Mr. Holmes. Let no re- 
gard for your client's interests keep you silent, for I assure you 
that his interests, if he would only see it, would be best served 
by taking me into his complete confidence. What was this paper 
which was stolen ? " 

" Madam, what you ask me is really impossible. " 

She groaned and sank her face -in her hands. 

"You must see that this is so, madam. If your husband 
thinks fit to keep you in the dark over this matter, is it for me, 



362 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

who have only learned the true facts under the pledge of pro- 
fessional secrecy, to tell what he has withheld ? It is not fair to 
ask it. It is him whom you must ask." . 

"I have asked him. I come to you as a last resource. But 
without your telling me anything definite, Mr. Holmes, you 
may do a great service if you would enlighten me on one point." 

" What is it, madam ? " 

"Is my husband's political career likely to suffer through 
this incident ? " 

" Well, madam, unless it is set right it may certainly have a 
very unfortunate effect." 

"Ah!" She drew in her breath sharply as one whose doubts 
are resolved. 

"One more question, Mr. Holmes. From an expression 
which my husband dropped in the first shock of this disaster I 
understood that terrible public consequences might arise from 
the loss of this document." 

" If he said so, I certainly can not deny it." 

" Of what nature are they ? " 

" Nay, madam, there again you ask me more than I can 
possibly answer." 

" Then I will take up no more of your time. I can not blame 
you, Mr. Holmes, for having refused to speak more freely, and 
you on your side will not, I am sure, think the worse of me 
because I desire, even against his will, to share my husband's 
anxieties. Once more I beg that you will say nothing of my 
visit." 

She looked back at us from the door, and I had a last 
impression of that beautiful haunted face, the startled eyes, and 
the drawn mouth. Then she was gone. 

"Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department," said 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 363 

Holmes, with a smile, when the dwindling frou-frou of skirts 
had ended in the slam of the front door. " What was the fair 
lady's game ? What did she really want ? " 

"Surely her own statement is clear and her anxiety very 
natural." 

" Hum ! Think of her appearance, Watson her manner, 
her suppressed excitement, her restlessness, her tenacity in ask- 
ing questions. Remember that she comes of a caste who do not 
lightly show emotion." 

" She was certainly much moved." 

" Remember also the curious earnestness with which she as- 
sured us that it was best for her husband that she should know 
all. What did she mean by that ? And you must have observed, 
Watson, how she manoeuvred to have the light at her back. She 
did not wish us to read her expression." 

" Yes, she chose the one chair in the room." 

" And yet the motives of women are so inscrutable. You 
remember the woman at Margate whom I suspected for the 
same reason. No powder on her nose that proved to be the 
correct solution. How can you build on such a quicksand? 
Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most ex- 
traordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling 
tongs. Good morning, Watson." 

"You are off?" 

"Yes, I will while away the morning at Godolphin Street 
with our friends of the regular establishment. With Eduardo 
Lucas lies the solution of our problem, though I must admit 
that I have not an inkling as to what form it may take. It is a 
capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. Do you stay 
on guard, my good Watson, and receive any fresh visitors. I'll 
join you at lunch if I am able." 



364 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

All that day and the next and the next Holmes was in a mood 
which his friends would call taciturn, and others morose. He 
ran out and ran in, smoked incessantly, played snatches on his 
violin, sank into reveries, devoured sandwiches at irregular 
hours, and hardly answered the casual questions which I put to 
him. It was evident to me that things were not going well with 
him or his quest. He would say nothing of the case, and it was 
from the papers that I learned the particulars of the inquest, and 
the arrest with the subsequent release of John Mitton, the valet 
of the deceased. The coroner's jury brought in the obvious 
" Wilful Murder," but the parties remained as unknown as ever. 
No motive was suggested. The room was full of articles of 
value, but none had been taken. The dead man's papers had 
not been tampered with. They were carefully examined, and 
showed that he was a keen student of international politics, an 
indefatigable gossip, a remarkable linguist, and an untiring 
letter writer. He had been on intimate terms with the leading 
politicians of several countries. But nothing sensational was 
discovered among the documents which filled his drawers. As 
to his relations with women, they appeared to have been pro- 
miscuous but superficial. He had many acquaintances among 
them, but few friends, and no one whom he loved. His habits 
were regular, his conduct inoffensive. His death was an abso- 
lute mystery, and likely to remain so. 

As to the arrest of John Mitton, the valet, it was a council 
of despair as an alternative to absolute inaction. But no case 
could be sustained against him. He had visited friends in Ham- 
mersmith that night. The alibi was complete. It is true that he 
started home at an hour which should have brought him to 
Westminster before the time when the crime was discovered, 
but his own explanation that he had walked part of the way 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 365 

seemed probable enough in view of the fineness of the night. 
He had actually arrived at twelve o'clock, and appeared to be 
overwhelmed by the unexpected tragedy. He had always been 
on good terms with his master. Several of the dead man's pos- 
sessions notably a small case of razors had been found in 
the valet's boxes, but he explained that they had been presents 
from the deceased, and the housekeeper was able to corrobo- 
rate the story. Mitton had been in Lucas' employment for three 
years. It was noticeable that Lucas did not take Mitton on the 
Continent with him. Sometimes he visited Paris for three 
months on end, but Mitton was left in charge of the Godolphin 
Street house. As to the housekeeper, she had heard nothing 
on the night of the crime. If her master had a visitor he had 
himself admitted him. 

So for three mornings the mystery remained, so far as I 
could follow it in the papers. If Holmes knew more, he kept his 
own counsel, but, as he told me that Inspector Lestrade had 
taken him into his confidence in the case, I knew that he was 
in close touch with every development. Upon the fourth day 
there appeared a long telegram from Paris which seemed to 
solve the whole question. 

" A discovery has just been made by the Parisian police," said 
the Daily Telegraph, " which raises the veil which hung round 
the tragic fate of Mr. Eduardo Lucas, who met his death by vio- 
lence last Monday night at Godolphin Street, Westminster. 
Our readers will remember that the deceased gentleman was 
found stabbed in his room, and that some suspicion attached 
to his valet, but that the case broke down on an alibi. Yester- 
day a lady, who has been known as Mme. Henri Fournaye, oc- 
cupying a small villa in the Rue Austerlitz, was reported to the 
authorities by her servants as being insane. An examination 



366 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

showed she had indeed developed mania of a dangerous and 
permanent form. On inquiry, the police have discovered that 
Mme. Henri Fournaye only returned from a journey to London 
on Tuesday last, and there-ds evidence to connect her with the 
crime at Westminster. A comparison of photographs has proved 
conclusively that M. Henri Fournaye and Eduardo Lucas 
were really one and the same person, and that the deceased had 
for some reason lived a double life in London and Paris. Mme. 
Fournaye, who is of Creole origin, is of an extremely excitable 
nature, and has suffered in the past from attacks of jealousy 
which have amounted to frenzy. It is conjectured that it was in 
one of these that she committed the terrible crime which has 
caused such a sensation in London. Her movements upon the 
Monday night have not yet been traced, but it is undoubted that a 
woman answering to her description attracted much attention at 
Charing Cross Station on Tuesday morning by the wildness of 
her appearance and the violence of her gestures. It is probable, 
therefore, that the crime was either committed when insane, or 
that its immediate effect was to drive the unhappy woman out of 
her mind. At present she is unable to give any coherent account 
of the past, and the doctors hold out no hopes of the re-estab- 
lishment of her reason. There is evidence that a woman, who 
might have been Mme. Fournaye, was seen for some hours 
upon Monday night watching the house in Godolphin Street." 

" What do you think of that, Holmes ? " I had read the ac- 
count aloud to him, while he finished his breakfast. 

" My dear Watson," said he, as he rose from the table and 
paced up and down the room, "you are most long-suffering, 
but if I have told you nothing in the last three days, it is be- 
cause there is nothing to tell. Even now this report from Paris 
does not help us much." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 367 

** Surely it is final as regards the man's death." 
" The man's death is a mere incident a trivial episode 
in comparison with our real task, which is to trace this docu- 
ment and save a European catastrophe. Only one important 
thing has happened in the last three days, and that is that noth- 
ing has happened. I get reports almost hourly from the Gov- 
ernment, and it is certain that nowhere in Europe is there any 
sign of trouble. Now, if this letter were loose no, it can't be 
loose but if it isn't loose, where can it be ? Who has it ? 
Why is it held back ? That's the question that beats in my brain 
like a hammer. Was it, indeed, a coincidence that Lucas should 
meet his death on the night when the letter disappeared ? Did 
the letter ever reach him? If so, why is it not among his 
papers ? Did this mad wife of his carry it off with her ? If so, is 
it in her house in Paris ? How could I search for it without the 
French police having their suspicions aroused ? It is a case, my 
dear Watson, where the law is as dangerous to us as the 
criminals are. Every man's hand is against us, and yet the 
interests at stake are colossal. Should I bring it to a successful 
conclusion, it will certainly represent the crowning glory of my 
career. Ah, here is my latest from the front!" He glanced 
hurriedly at the note which had been handed in. "Halloa! 
Lestrade seems to have observed something of interest. Put 
on your hat, Watson, and we will stroll down together to 
Westminster." 

It was my first visit to the scene of the crime a high, dingy, 
narrow-chested house, prim, formal, and solid, like the cen- 
tury which gave it birth. Lestrade's bull-dog features gazed out 
at us from the front window, and he greeted us warmly when 
a big constable had opened the door and let us in. The room 
into which we were shown was that in which the crime had been 



368 

committed, but no trace of it now remained, save an ugly, ir- 
regular stain upon the carpet. This carpet was a small square 
drugget in the centre of the room, surrounded by a broad ex- 
panse of beautiful, old-fashioned wood-flooring in square blocks 
highly polished. Over the fireplace was a magnificent trophy 
of weapons, one of which had been used on that tragic night. 
In the window was a sumptuous writing-desk, and every de- 
tail of the apartment, the pictures, the rugs, and the hangings, 
all pointed to a taste which was luxurious to the verge of 
effeminacy. 

" Seen the Paris news ? " asked Lestrade. 

Holmes nodded. 

"Our French friends seem to have touched the spot this 
time. No doubt it's just as they say. She knocked at the door 
surprise visit, I guess, for he kept his life in water-tight com- 
partments he let her in, couldn't keep her in the street. 
She told him how she had traced him, reproached him, one 
thing led to another, and then with that dagger so handy the 
end soon came. It wasn't all done in an instant, though, for 
these chairs were all swept over yonder, and he had one in his 
hand as if he had tried to hold her off with it. We've got it all 
clear as if we had seen it." 

Holmes raised his eyebrows. 

" And yet you have sent for me ? " 

" Ah, yes, that's another matter a mere trifle, but the sort 
of thing you take an interest in queer, you know, and what 
you might call freakish. It has nothing to do with the main 
fact can't have, on the face of it." 

"What is it, then?" 

" Well, you know, after a crime of this sort we are very careful 
to keep things in their position. Nothing has been moved. Of- 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 369 

ficer in charge here day and night. This morning, as the man 
was buried and the investigation over so far as this room is 
concerned we thought we could tidy up a bit. This carpet. 
You see, it is not fastened down, only just laid there. We had 
occasion to raise it. We found " ' 

"Yes? You found" 

Holmes' face grew tense with anxiety. 

" Well, I'm sure you would never guess in a hundred years 
what we did find. You see that stain on the carpet? Well, a 
great deal must have soaked through, must it not ? " 

" Undoubtedly it must." 

" Well, you will be surprised to hear that there is no stain on 
the white woodwork to correspond." 

" No stain ! But there must " 

"Yes, so you would say. But the fact remains that there 
isn't." 

He took the corner of the carpet in his hand and, turning it 
over, he showed that it was indeed as he said. 

" But the underside is as stained as the upper. It must have 
left a mark." 

Lestrade chuckled with delight at having puzzled the famous 
expert. 

"Now, I'll show you the explanation. There is a second 
stain, but it does not correspond with the other. See for your- 
self." As he spoke he turned over another portion of the carpet, 
and there, sure enough, was a great crimson spill upon the 
square white facing of the old-fashioned floor. " What do you 
make of that, Mr. Holmes ? " 

" Why, it is simple enough. The two stains did correspond, 
but the carpet has been turned round. As it was square and un- 
fastened it was easily done." 



370 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" The official police don't need you, Mr. Holmes, to tell them 
that the carpet must have been turned round. That's clear 
enough, for the stains lie above each other if you lay it over 
this way. But what I want to know is, who shifted the carpet, 
and why ? " 

I could see from Holmes' rigid face that he was vibrating 
with inward excitement. 

" Look here, Lestrade," said he, " has that constable in the 
passage been in charge of the place all the time ? " 

"Yes, he has." 

"Well, take my advice. Examine him carefully. Don't do 
it before us. We'll wait here. You take him into the back room. 
You'll be more likely to get a confession out of him alone. 
Ask him how he dared to admit people and leave them alone in 
this room. Don't ask him if he has done it. Take it for granted. 
Tell him you know someone has been here. Press him. Tell 
him that a full confession is his only chance of forgiveness. Do 
exactly what I tell you ! " 

" By George, if he knows I'll have it out of him ! " cried Les- 
trade. He darted into the hall, and a few moments later his bul- 
lying voice sounded from the back room. 

"Now, Watson, now!" cried Holmes with frenzied eager- 
ness. All the demoniacal force of the man masked behind 
that listless manner burst out in a paroxysm of energy. He 
tore the drugget from the floor, and in an instant was down on 
his hands and knees clawing at each of the squares of wood be- 
neath it. One turned sideways as he dug his nails into the edge 
of it. It hinged back like the lid of a box. A small black cav- 
ity opened beneath it. Holmes plunged his eager hand into it, 
and drew it out with a bitter snarl of anger and disappointment. 
It was empty. 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 371 

" Quick, Watson, quick ! Get it back again!" The wooden 
lid was replaced, and the drugget had only just been drawn 
straight when Lestrade's voice was heard in the passage. He 
found Holmes leaning languidly against the mantelpiece, re- 
signed and patient, endeavouring to conceal his irrepressible 
yawns. 

" Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Holmes. I can see that you 
are bored to death with the whole affair. Well, he has con- 
fessed, all right. Come in here, MacPherson. Let these gen- 
tlemen hear of your most inexcusable conduct. " 

The big constable, very hot and penitent, sidled into the 
room. 

" I meant no harm, sir, I'm sure. The young woman came 
to the door last evening mistook the house, she did. And 
then we got talking. It's lonesome, when you're on duty here 
all day." 

" Well, what happened then ? " 

" She wanted to see where the crime was done had read 
about it in the papers, she said. She was a very respectable, 
well-spoken young woman, sir, and I saw no harm in letting her 
have a peep. When she saw that mark on the carpet, down she 
dropped on the floor, and lay as if she were dead. I ran to the 
back and got some water, but I could not bring her to. Then I 
went round the corner to the Ivy Plant for some brandy, and 
by the time I had brought it back the young woman had recov- 
ered and was off ashamed of herself, I daresay, and dared not 
face me. " 

" How about moving that drugget ? " 

" Well, sir, it was a bit rumpled, certainly, when I came back. 
You see, she fell on it and it lies on a polished floor with nothing 
to keep it in place. I straightened it out afterward. " 



372 THE RETURN OP SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" It's a lesson to you that you can't deceive me, Constable 
MacPherson, " said Lestrade, with dignity. "No doubt you 
thought that your breach of duty could never be discovered, 
and yet a mere glance at that drugget was enough to convince 
me that someone had been admitted to the room. It's lucky 
for you, my man, that nothing is missing, or you would find 
yourself in Queer Street. I'm sorry to have called you down 
over such a petty business, Mr. Holmes, but I thought the point 
of the second stain not corresponding with the first would 
interest you. " 

" Certainly, it was most interesting. Has this woman only 
been here once, constable ? " 

" Yes, sir, only once. " 

"Who was she?" 

" Don't know the name, sir. Was answering an advertise- 
ment about typewriting, and came to the wrong number 
very pleasant, genteel young woman, sir. " 

"Tall? Handsome?" 

" Yes, sir, she was a well-grown young woman. I suppose 
you might say she was handsome. Perhaps some would say 
she was very handsome. * Oh, officer, do let me have a peep ! ' 
says she. She had pretty,coaxing ways, as you might say, and I 
thought there was no harm in letting her just put her head 
through the door. " 

" How was she dressed ? " 

" Quiet, sir a long mantle down to her feet. " 

"What time was it?" 

" It was just growing dusk at the time. They were lighting 
the lamps as I came back with the brandy. " 

"Very good," said Holmes. "Come, Watson, I think that 
we have more important work elsewhere. " 




MANTELPIECE 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 373 

As we left the house Lestrade remained in the front room, 
while the repentant constable opened the door to let us out. 
Holmes turned on the step and held up something in his hand. 
The constable stared intently. 

"Good Lord, sir!" he cried, with amazement on his face. 
Holmes put his finger on his lips, replaced his hand in his breast 
pocket, and burst out laughing as we turned down the street. 
"Excellent!" said he. "Come, friend Watson, the curtain 
rings up for the last act. You will be relieved to hear that there 
will be no war, that the Right Honourable Trelawney Hope will 
suffer no setback in his brilliant career, that the indiscreet 
Sovereign will receive no punishment for his indiscretion, that 
the Prime Minister will have no European complication to deal 
with, and that with a little tact and management upon our part 
nobody will be a penny the worse for what might have been a 
very ugly incident. " 

My mind filled with admiration for this extraordinary man. 

" You have solved it ! " I cried. 

. " Hardly that, Watson. There are some points which are as 
dark as ever. But we have so much that it will be our own 
fault if we cannot get the rest. We will go straight to White- 
hall Terrace and bring the matter to a head. " 

When we arrived at the residence of the European Secretary 
it was for Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope that Sherlock Holmes 
inquired. We were shown into the morning-room. 

" Mr. Holmes ! " said the lady, and her face was pink with her 
indignation, " this is surely most unfair and ungenerous upon 
your part. I desired, as I have explained, to keep my visit to 
you a secret, lest my husband should think that I was intruding 
into his affairs. And yet you compromise me by coming here 
and so showing that there are business relations between us. " 



374 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

"Unfortunately, madam, I had no possible alternative. I 
have been commissioned to recover this immensely important 
paper. I must therefore ask you, madam, to be kind enough 
to place it in my hands. " 

The lady sprang to her feet, with the colour all dashed in an 
instant from her beautiful face. Her eyes glazed she totter- 
ed I thought that she would faint. Then with a grand effort 
she rallied from the shock, and a supreme astonishment and in- 
dignation chased every other expression from her features. 

'* You you insult me, Mr. Holmes. " 

" Come, come, madam, it is useless. Give up the letter. " 

She darted to the bell. 

" The butler shall show you out. " 

" Do not ring, Lady Hilda. If you do, then all my earnest 
efforts to avoid a scandal will be frustrated. Give up the letter 
and all will be set right. If you will work with me I can arrange 
everything. If you work against me I must expose you. " 

She stood grandly defiant, a queenly figure, her eyes fixed 
upon his as if she would read his very soul. Her hand was on 
the bell, but she had forborne to ring it. 

"You are trying to frighten me. It is not a very manly 
thing, Mr. Holmes, to come here and browbeat a woman. You 
say that you know something. What is it that you know ? " 

" Pray sit down, madam. You will hurt yourself there if you 
fall. I will not speak until you sit down. Thank you. " 

" I give you five minutes, Mr. Holmes. " 

"One is enough, Lady Hilda. I know of your visit to 
Eduardo Lucas, of your giving him this document, of your 
ingenious return to the room last night, and of the manner 
in which you took the letter from the hiding-place under 
the carpet." 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 375 

She stared at him with an ashen face and gulped twice before 
she could speak. 

"You are mad, Mr. Holmes you are mad!" she cried, at 
last. 

He drew a small piece of cardboard from his pocket. It was 
the face of a woman cut out of a portrait. 

" I have carried this because I thought it might be useful, " 
said he. " The policeman has recognised it. " 

She gave a gasp and her head dropped back in the chair. 

" Come, Lady Hilda. You have the letter. The matter may 
still be adjusted. I have no desire to bring trouble to you. My 
duty ends when I have returned the lost letter to your husband. 
Take my advice and be frank with me. It is your only chance." 

Her courage was admirable. Even now she would not own 
defeat. 

" I tell you again, Mr. Holmes, that you are under some 
absurd illusion. " 

Holmes rose from his chair. 

" I am sorry for you, Lady Hilda. I have done my best for 
you. I can see that it is all in vain. " 

He rang the bell. The butler entered. 

" Is Mr. Trelawney Hope at home ? " 

" He will be home, sir, at a quarter to one. " 

Holmes glanced at his watch. 

" Still a quarter of an hour, " said he. " Very good, I shall 
wait. " 

The butler had hardly closed the door behind him when Lady 
Hilda was down on her knees at Holmes' feet, her hands out- 
stretched, her beautiful face upturned and wet with her tears. 

"Oh, spare me, Mr. Holmes! Spare me!" she pleaded, in a 
frenzy of supplication. "For heaven's sake, don't tell him! 



376 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

I love him so! I would not bring one shadow on his life, and 
this I know would break his noble heart. " 

Holmes raised the lady. " I am thankful, madam, that you 
have come to your senses even at this last moment! There is 
not an instant to lose. Where is the letter ? " 

She darted across to a writing-desk, unlocked it, and drew 
out a long blue envelope. 

" Here it is, Mr. Holmes. Would to heaven I had never seen 
it!" 

"How can we return it?" Holmes muttered. "Quick, 
quick, we must think of some way ! Where is the despatch- 
box?" 

"Still in his bedroom." 

"What a stroke of luck! Quick, madam, bring it here!" 

A moment later she had appeared with a red flat box in her 
hand. 

" How did you open it before ? You have a duplicate key ? 
Yes, of course you have. Open it! " 

From out of her bosom Lady Hilda had drawn a small key. 
The box flew open. It was stuffed with papers. Holmes 
thrust the blue envelope deep down into the heart of them, be- 
tween the leaves of some other document. The box was shut, 
locked, and returned to the bedroom. 

" Now we are ready for him, " said Holmes. " We have still 
ten minutes. I am going far to screen you, Lady Hilda. In 
return you will spend the time in telling me frankly the real 
meaning of this extraordinary affair. " 

"Mr. Holmes, I will tell you everything," cried the lady. 
" Oh, Mr. Holmes, I would cut off my right hand before I gave 
him a moment of sorrow ! There is no woman in all London who 
loves her husband as I do, and yet if he knew how I have acted 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 377 

how I have been compelled to act he would never forgive 
me. For his own honour stands so high that he could not for- 
get or pardon a lapse in another. Help me, Mr. Holmes ! My 
happiness, his happiness, our very lives are at stake!" 

"Quick, madam, the time grows short!" 

"It was a letter of mine, Mr. Holmes, an indiscreet letter 
written before my marriage a foolish letter, a letter of an im- 
pulsive, loving girl. I meant no harm, and yet he would have 
thought it criminal. Had he read that letter his confidence 
would have been forever destroyed. It is years since I wrote it. 
I had thought that the whole matter was forgotten. Then at 
last I heard from this man, Lucas, that it had passed into his 
hands, and that he would lay it before my husband. I implored 
his mercy. He said that he would return my letter if I would 
bring him a certain document which he described in my hus- 
band's despatch-box. He had some spy in the office who had 
told him of its existence. He assured me that no harm could 
come to my husband. Put yourself in my position, Mr. 
Holmes ! What was I to do ? " 

" Take your husband into your confidence. " 

"I could not, Mr. Holmes, I could not! On the one side 
seemed certain ruin, on the other, terrible as it seemed to take 
my husband's paper, still in a matter of politics I could not un- 
derstand the consequences, while in a matter of love and trust 
they were only too clear to me. I did it, Mr. Holmes ! I took 
an impression of his key. This man, Lucas, furnished a 
duplicate. I opened his despatch-box, took the paper, and 
conveyed it to Godolphin Street. " 

" What happened there, madam ? " 

" I tapped at the door as agreed. Lucas opened it. I fol- 
lowed him into his room, leaving the hall door ajar behind me, 



378 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

for I feared to be alone with the man. I remember that there 
was a woman outside as I entered. Our business was soon 
done. He had my letter on his desk, I handed him the docu- 
ment. He gave me the letter. At this instant there was a 
sound at the door. There were steps in the passage. Lucas 
quickly turned back the drugget, thrust the document into 
some hiding-place there, and covered it over. 

"What happened after that is like some fearful dream. I 
have a vision of a dark,frantic face, of a woman's voice, which 
screamed in French, 'My waiting is not in vain. At last, at 
last I have found you with her! ' There was a savage struggle. 
I saw him with a chair in his hand, a knife gleamed in hers. I 
rushed from the horrible scene, ran from the house, and only 
next morning in the paper did I learn the dreadful result. That 
night I was happy, for I had my letter, and I had not seen yet 
what the future would bring. 

" It was the next morning that I realized that I had only ex- 
changed one trouble for another. My husband's anguish at 
the loss of his paper went to my heart. I could hardly prevent 
myself from there and then kneeling down at his feet and telling 
him what I had done. But that again would mean a confes- 
sion of the past. I came to you that morning in order to under- 
stand the full enormity of my offence. From the instant that I 
grasped it my whole mind was turned to the one thought of get- 
ting back my husband's paper. It must still be where Lucas 
had placed it, for it was concealed before this dreadful woman 
entered the room. If it had not been for her coming, I should 
not have known where his hiding-place was. How was I to 
get into the room ? For two days I watched the place, but the 
door was never left open. Last night I made a last attempt. 
What I did and how I succeeded, you have already learned. I 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 879 

brought the paper back with me, and thought of destroying it, 
since I could see no way of returning it without confessing my 
guilt to my husband. Heavens, I hear his step upon the 
stair!" 

The European Secretary burst excitedly into the room. 

" Any news, Mr. Holmes, any news ? " he cried. 

" I have some hopes. " 

" Ah, thank heaven! " His face became radiant. " The Prime 
Minister is lunching with me. May he share your hopes ? He 
has nerves of steel, and yet I know that he has hardly slept since 
this terrible event. Jacobs, will you ask the Prime Minister to 
come up ? As to you, dear, I fear that this is a matter of poli- 
tics. We will join you in a few minutes in the dining-room. " 

The Prime Minister's manner was subdued, but I could see 
by the gleam of his eyes and the twitchings of his bony hands 
that he shared the excitement of his young colleague. 

" I understand that you have something to report, Mr. 
Holmes?" 

" Purely negative as yet, " my friend answered. " I have in- 
quired at every point where it might be, and I am sure that 
there is no danger to be apprehended. " 

" But that is not enough, Mr. Holmes. We can not live for- 
ever on such a volcano. We must have something definite. " 

" I am in hopes of getting it. That is why I am here. The 
more I think of the matter the more convinced I am that the 
letter has never left this house. " 

"Mr. Holmes!" 

" If it had it would certainly have been public by now. " 

" But why should anyone take it in order to keep it in this 
house ? " 

" I am not convinced that anyone did take it. " 



380 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES 

" Then ho\v could it leave the despatch-box ? " 

" I am not convinced that it ever did leave the despatch-box. " 

"Mr. Holmes, this joking is very ill-timed. You have my 
assurance that it left the box. " 

" Have you examined the box since Tuesday morning ? " 

" No. It was not necessary. " 

" You may conceivably have overlooked it. " 

" Impossible, I say. " 

" But I am not convinced of it. I have known such things to 
happen. I presume there are other papers there. Well, it may 
have got mixed with them. " 

" It was on the top. " 

" Someone may have shaken the box and displaced it. " 

" No, no, I had everything out. " 

" Surely it is easily decided, Hope, " said the Premier. " Let 
us have the despatch-box brought in. " 

The Secretary rang the bell. 

" Jacobs, bring down my despatch-box. This is a farcical 
waste of time, but still, if nothing else will satisfy you, it shall 
be done. Thank you, Jacobs, put it here. I have always had the 
key on my watch-chain. Here are the papers, you see. Let- 
ter from Lord Merrow, report from Sir Charles Hardy, memo- 
randum from Belgrade, note on the Russo-German grain 
taxes, letter from Madrid, note from Lord Flowers Good 
heavens ! what is this ? Lord Bellinger ! Lord Bellinger ! " 

The Premier snatched the blue envelope from his hand. 

" Yes, it is it and the letter is intact. Hope, I congratu- 
late you. " 

" Thank you ! Thank you ! What a weight from my heart. 
But this is inconceivable impossible. Mr. Holmes, you are 
a wizard, a sorcerer! How did you know it was there ? " 



THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN 381 

" Because I knew it was nowhere else. " 

" I can not believe my eyes ! " He ran wildly to the door. 
" Where is my wife ? I must tell her that all is well. Hilda ! 
Hilda! " we heard his voice on the stairs. 

The Premier looked at Holmes with twinkling eyes. 

" Come, sir, " said he. " There is more in this than meets the 
eye. How came the letter back in the box ? " 

Holmes turned away smiling from the keen scrutiny of those 
wonderful eyes. 

" We also have our diplomatic secrets, " said he and, picking 
up his hat, he turned to the door. 

THE END 



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