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Camden House



The Sherlock Holmes stories are illustrated with artwork by Sidney Paget, Richard
Gutschmidt, Frank Wiles, Frederic Dorr Steele and other artists. Explanatory notes will be
added eventually, but as this will be a long-term project, your patience is requested.
The page numbers (seen here as links; in the text in brackets) refer to the relevant pages
in The Complete Sherlock Holmes published by Doubleday / Penguin Books.



Part 1: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D., Late of the Army
Medical Department
1. Mr. Sherlock Holmes 15
2. The Science of Deduction 19
3. The Lauriston Garden Mystery 25
4. What John Rance Had to Tell 32
5. Our Advertisement Brings a Visitor 36
6. Tobias Gregson Shows What He Can Do 41
7. Light in the Darkness 46
Part 2: The Country of the Saints
1. On the Great Alkali Plain 52
2. The Flower of Utah 58
3. John Ferrier Talks with the Prophet 62
4. A Flight for Life 65
5. The Avenging Angels 71
6. A Continuation of the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D. 76
7. The Conclusion 83


1. The Science of Deduction 89

2. The Statement of the Case 94
3. In Quest of a Solution 97
4. The Story of the Bald-headed Man 100
5. The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge 106
6. Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstartion 110
7. The Episode of the Barrel 115
8. The Baker Street Irregulars 122
9. A Break in the Chain 128
10. The End of the Islander 134
11. The Great Agra Treasure 139
12. The Strange Story of Jonathan Small 143


A Scandal in Bohemia 161

The Red-headed League 176
A Case of Identity 190
The Boscombe Valley Mystery 202
The Five Orange Pips 217
The Man with the Twisted Lip 229
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle 244
The Adventure of the Speckled Band 257
The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb 273
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor 287
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet 301
The Adventure of the Copper Beeches 316


Silver Blaze 335

The Yellow Face 350
The Stock-broker’s Clerk 362
The “Gloria Scott” 373
The Musgrave Ritual 386
The Reigate Puzzle 398
The Crooked Man 411
The Resident Patient 422
The Greek Interpreter 435
The Naval Treaty 447
The Final Problem 469


The Adventure of the Empty House 483

The Adventure of the Norwood Builder 496
The Adventure of the Dancing Men 511
The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist 526
The Adventure of the Priory School 538
The Adventure of Black Peter 558
The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton 572
The Adventure of the Six Napoleons 582
The Adventure of the Three Students 596
The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez 607
The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter 622
The Adventure of the Abbey Grange 635
The Adventure of the Second Stain 650


1. Mr. Sherlock Holmes 669

2. The Curse of the Baskervilles 673
3. The Problem 679
4. Sir Henry Baskerville 685
5. Three Broken Threads 692
6. Baskerville Hall 698
7. The Stapletons of the Merripit House 704
8. First Report of Dr. Watson 712
9. Second Report of Dr. Watson 716
10. Extract from the Diary of Dr. Watson 726
11. The Man on the Tor 732
12. Death on the Moor 740
13. Fixing the Nets 747
14. The Hound of the Baskervilles 754
15. A Retrospection 761

Part 1: The Tragedy of Birlstone

1. The Warning 769
2. Sherlock Holmes Discourses 774
3. The Tragedy of Birlstone 779
4. Darkness 784
5. The People of the Drama 791
6. A Dawning Light 798
7. The Solution 806
Part 2: The Scowres
1. The Man 815
2. The Bodymaster 820
3. Lodge 341, Vermissa 830
4. The Valley of Fear 839
5. The Darkest Hour 846
6. Danger 853
7. The Trapping of Biry Edwards 859
Epilogue 865


The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge

1. The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles 869
2. The Tiger of San Pedro 877
The Adventure of the Cardboard Box 888
The Adventure of the Red Circle 901
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans 913
The Adventure of the Dying Detective 932
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax 942
The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot 954
His Last Bow 970


The Adventure of the Illustrious Client 984
The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier 1000
The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone 1012
The Adventure of the Three Gables 1023
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire 1033
The Adventure of the Three Garridebs 1044
The Problem of Thor Bridge 1054
The Adventure of the Creeping Man 1070
The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane 1083
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger 1095
The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place 1102
The Adventure of the Retired Colourman 1113


There are two famous lists of favourite stories—Arthur Conan Doyle’s own list from
March 1927, and the list published in 1959 in the Baker Street Journal:


The Speckled Band 1 The Speckled Band

The Red-Headed League 2 The Red-Headed League
The Dancing Men 3 The Blue Carbuncle
The Final Problem 4 Silver Blaze
A Scandal in Bohemia 5 A Scandal in Bohemia
The Empty House 6 The Musgrave Ritual
The Five Orange Pips 7 The Bruce-Partington Plans
The Second Stain 8 The Six Napoleons
The Devil's Foot 9 The Dancing Men
The Priory School 10 The Empty House
The Musgrave Ritual 11
The Reigate Squires 12
Nancy Blakestad &
David Soucek, 1998
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Please watch this page for information about the new location.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes

Illustrated with the original artwork

Pinacotheca Holmesiana
The largest collection of Holmesian graphics online

Phonotheca Holmesiana
Sounds from various adaptations of the Canon
(currently not active due to lack of webspace)

St. James’s Hall

Music, musicians and composers in the Canon

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The people behind:

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The Complete Sherlock Holmes


First edition, 1887

Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D., Late of
the Army Medical Department
Chapter 1. Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Chapter 2. The Science of Deduction
Chapter 3. The Lauriston Garden Mystery
Chapter 4. What John Rance Had to Tell
Chapter 5. Our Advertisement Brings a Visitor
Chapter 6. Tobias Gregson Shows What He Can Do
Chapter 7. Light in the Darkness

The Country of the Saints
Chapter 1. On the Great Alkali Plain
Chapter 2. The Flower of Utah
Chapter 3. John Ferrier Talks with the Prophet
Chapter 4. A Flight for Life
Chapter 5. The Avenging Angels
Chapter 6. A Continuation of the Reminiscences of John
Watson, M.D.
Chapter 7. The Conclusion

First published in Nov. 1887 as the main part of Beeton’s Christmas Annual. First
book edition by Ward, Lock & Co. in July 1888 with illustrations by Charles Doyle,
father of ACD. The second edition (1889) was illustrated by George Hutchinson. –
The first American edition published by J. B. Lippincott Co. in 1890.

First book edition, 1888 Second book edition, 1889

A Study in Scarlet




Chapter 1


IN THE YEAR 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the
University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course
prescribed for surgeons in the Army. Having completed my studies there,
I was duly attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as assistant
surgeon. The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before I
could join it, the second Afghan war had broken out. On landing at
Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced through the passes, and
was already deep in the enemy’s country. I followed, however, with many
other officers who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded in
reaching Candahar in safety, where I found my regiment, and at once
entered upon my new duties.
The campaign brought honours and promotion to many, but for me it
had nothing but misfortune and disaster. I was removed from my brigade
and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I served at the fatal battle of
Maiwand. There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which
shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery. I should have fallen
into the hands of the murderous Ghazis had it not been for the devotion
and courage shown by Murray, my orderly, who threw me across a pack-
horse, and succeeded in bringing me safely to the British lines.
Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships which I had
undergone, I was removed, with a great train of wounded sufferers, to the
base hospital at Peshawar. Here I rallied, and had already improved so far
as to be able to walk about the wards, and even to bask a little upon the
veranda, when I was struck down by enteric fever, that curse of our Indian
possessions. For months my life was despaired of, and when at last I came
to myself and became convalescent, I was so weak and emaciated that a
medical board determined that not a day should be lost in sending me
back to England. I was despatched, accordingly, in the troopship Orontes,
and landed a month later on Portsmouth jetty, with my health irretrievably
ruined, but with permission from a paternal government to spend the next
nine months in attempting to improve it.
I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air–or
as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a
man to be. Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London,
that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are
irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the
Strand, leading a comfortless, [16] meaningless existence, and spending
such money as I had, considerably more freely than I ought. So alarming
did the state of my finances become, that I soon realized that I must either
leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the country, or that I
must make a complete alteration in my style of living. Choosing the latter
alternative, I began by making up my mind to leave the hotel, and take up
my quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.
On the very day that I had come to this conclusion, I was standing at
the Criterion Bar, when someone tapped me on the shoulder, and turning
round I recognized young Stamford, who had been a dresser under me at
Bart’s. The sight of a friendly face in the great wilderness of London is a
pleasant thing indeed to a lonely man. In old days Stamford had never
been a particular crony of mine, but now I hailed him with enthusiasm,
and he, in his turn, appeared to be delighted to see me. In the exuberance
of my joy, I asked him to lunch with me at the Holborn, and we started
off together in a hansom.
“Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?” he asked in
undisguised wonder, as we rattled through the crowded London streets.
“You are as thin as a lath and as brown as a nut.”
I gave him a short sketch of my adventures, and had hardly concluded
it by the time that we reached our destination.
“Poor devil!” he said, commiseratingly, after he had listened to my
misfortunes. “What are you up to now?”
“Looking for lodgings,” I answered. “Trying to solve the problem as to
whether it is possible to get comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.”
“That’s a strange thing,” remarked my companion; “you are the second
man to-day that has used that expression to me.”
“And who was the first?” I asked.
“A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory up at the hospital.
He was bemoaning himself this morning because he could not get
someone to go halves with him in some nice rooms which he had found,
and which were too much for his purse.”
“By Jove!” I cried; “if he really wants someone to share the rooms and
the expense, I am the very man for him. I should prefer having a partner
to being alone.”
Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wineglass.
“You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet,” he said; “perhaps you would not
care for him as a constant companion.”
“Why, what is there against him?”
“Oh, I didn’t say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in
his ideas–an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know he
is a decent fellow enough.”
“A medical student, I suppose?” said I.
“No–I have no idea what he intends to go in for. I believe he is well up
in anatomy, and he is a first-class chemist; but, as far as I know, he has
never taken out any systematic medical classes. His studies are very
desultory and eccentric, but he has amassed a lot of out-of-the-way
knowledge which would astonish his professors.”
“Did you never ask him what he was going in for?” I asked.
“No; he is not a man that it is easy to draw out, though he can be
communicative enough when the fancy seizes him.”
“I should like to meet him,” I said. “If I am to lodge with anyone, I
should [17] prefer a man of studious and quiet habits. I am not strong
enough yet to stand much noise or excitement. I had enough of both in
Afghanistan to last me for the remainder of my natural existence. How
could I meet this friend of yours?”
“He is sure to be at the laboratory,” returned my companion. “He either
avoids the place for weeks, or else he works there from morning till night.
If you like, we will drive round together after luncheon.”
“Certainly,” I answered, and the conversation drifted away into other
As we made our way to the hospital after leaving the Holborn,
Stamford gave me a few more particulars about the gentleman whom I
proposed to take as a fellow-lodger.
“You mustn’t blame me if you don’t get on with him,” he said; “I know
nothing more of him than I have learned from meeting him occasionally
in the laboratory. You proposed this arrangement, so you must not hold
me responsible.”
“If we don’t get on it will be easy to part company,” I answered. “It
seems to me, Stamford,” I added, looking hard at my companion, “that
you have some reason for washing your hands of the matter. Is this
fellow’s temper so formidable, or what is it? Don’t be mealymouthed
about it.”
“It is not easy to express the inexpressible,” he answered with a laugh.
“Holmes is a little too scientific for my tastes–it approaches to cold-
bloodedness. I could imagine his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest
vegetable alkaloid, not out of malevolence, you understand, but simply
out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects.
To do him justice, I think that he would take it himself with the same
readiness. He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.”
“Very right too.”
“Yes, but it may be pushed to excess. When it comes to beating the
subjects in the dissecting-rooms with a stick, it is certainly taking rather a
bizarre shape.”
“Beating the subjects!”
“Yes, to verify how far bruises may be produced after death. I saw him
at it with my own eyes.”
“And yet you say he is not a medical student?”
“No. Heaven knows what the objects of his studies are. But here we
are, and you must form your own impressions about him.” As he spoke,
we turned down a narrow lane and passed through a small side-door,
which opened into a wing of the great hospital. It was familiar ground to
me, and I needed no guiding as we ascended the bleak stone staircase and
made our way down the long corridor with its vista of whitewashed wall
and dun-coloured doors. Near the farther end a low arched passage
branched away from it and led to the chemical laboratory.
This was a lofty chamber, lined and littered with countless bottles.
Broad, low tables were scattered about, which bristled with retorts, test-
tubes, and little Bunsen lamps, with their blue flickering flames. There
was only one student in the room, who was bending over a distant table
absorbed in his work. At the sound of our steps he glanced round and
sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure. “I’ve found it! I’ve found it,” he
shouted to my companion, running towards us with a test-tube in his
hand. “I have found a re-agent which is precipitated by haemoglobin, and
by nothing else.” Had he discovered a gold mine, greater delight could
not have shone upon his features.

“Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Stamford, introducing us.

“How are you?” he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for
which [18] I should hardly have given him credit. “You have been in
Afghanistan, I perceive.”
“How on earth did you know that?” I asked in astonishment.
“Never mind,” said he, chuckling to himself. “The question now is
about haemoglobin. No doubt you see the significance of this discovery
of mine?”
“It is interesting, chemically, no doubt,” I answered, “but practically– –”
“Why, man, it is the most practical medico-legal discovery for years.
Don’t you see that it gives us an infallible test for blood stains? Come
over here now!” He seized me by the coat-sleeve in his eagerness, and
drew me over to the table at which he had been working. “Let us have
some fresh blood,” he said, digging a long bodkin into his finger, and
drawing off the resulting drop of blood in a chemical pipette. “Now, I add
this small quantity of blood to a litre of water. You perceive that the
resulting mixture has the appearance of pure water. The proportion of
blood cannot be more than one in a million. I have no doubt, however,
that we shall be able to obtain the characteristic reaction.” As he spoke, he
threw into the vessel a few white crystals, and then added some drops of a
transparent fluid. In an instant the contents assumed a dull mahogany
colour, and a brownish dust was precipitated to the bottom of the glass jar.
“Ha! ha!” he cried, clapping his hands, and looking as delighted as a
child with a new toy. “What do you think of that?”
“It seems to be a very delicate test,” I remarked.
“Beautiful! beautiful! The old guaiacum test was very clumsy and
uncertain. So is the microscopic examination for blood corpuscles. The
latter is valueless if the stains are a few hours old. Now, this appears to
act as well whether the blood is old or new. Had this test been invented,
there are hundreds of men now walking the earth who would long ago
have paid the penalty of their crimes.”
“Indeed!” I murmured.
“Criminal cases are continually hinging upon that one point. A man is
suspected of a crime months perhaps after it has been committed. His
linen or clothes are examined and brownish stains discovered upon them.
Are they blood stains, or mud stains, or rust stains, or fruit stains, or what
are they? That is a question which has puzzled many an expert, and why?
Because there was no reliable test. Now we have the Sherlock Holmes’s
test, and there will no longer be any difficulty.”
His eyes fairly glittered as he spoke, and he put his hand over his heart
and bowed as if to some applauding crowd conjured up by his
“You are to be congratulated,” I remarked, considerably surprised at his
“There was the case of Von Bischoff at Frankfort last year. He would
certainly have been hung had this test been in existence. Then there was
Mason of Bradford, and the notorious Muller, and Lefevre of Montpellier,
and Samson of New Orleans. I could name a score of cases in which it
would have been decisive.”
“You seem to be a walking calendar of crime,” said Stamford with a
laugh. “You might start a paper on those lines. Call it the ‘Police News of
the Past.’”
“Very interesting reading it might be made, too,” remarked Sherlock
Holmes, sticking a small piece of plaster over the prick on his finger. “I
have to be careful,” he continued, turning to me with a smile, “for I
dabble with poisons a good deal.” He held out his hand as he spoke, and I
noticed that it was all mottled over with similar pieces of plaster, and
discoloured with strong acids.
“We came here on business,” said Stamford, sitting down on a high
three-legged stool, and pushing another one in my direction with his foot.
“My friend [19] here wants to take diggings; and as you were complaining
that you could get no one to go halves with you, I thought that I had better
bring you together.”
Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea of sharing his rooms
with me. “I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street,” he said, “which
would suit us down to the ground. You don’t mind the smell of strong
tobacco, I hope?”
“I always smoke ‘ship’s’ myself,” I answered.
“That’s good enough. I generally have chemicals about, and
occasionally do experiments. Would that annoy you?”
“By no means.”
“Let me see–what are my other shortcomings? I get in the dumps at
times, and don’t open my mouth for days on end. You must not think I am
sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I’ll soon be right. What have
you to confess now? It’s just as well for two fellows to know the worst of
one another before they begin to live together.”
I laughed at this cross-examination. “I keep a bull pup,” I said, “and I
object to rows because my nerves are shaken, and I get up at all sorts of
ungodly hours, and I am extremely lazy. I have another set of vices when
I’m well, but those are the principal ones at present.”
“Do you include violin playing in your category of rows?” he asked,
“It depends on the player,” I answered. “A well-played violin is a treat
for the gods–a badly played one– –”
“Oh, that’s all right,” he cried, with a merry laugh. “I think we may
consider the thing as settled–that is, if the rooms are agreeable to you.”
“When shall we see them?”
“Call for me here at noon to-morrow, and we’ll go together and settle
everything,” he answered.
“All right–noon exactly,” said I, shaking his hand. We left him working
among his chemicals, and we walked together towards my hotel.
“By the way,” I asked suddenly, stopping and turning upon Stamford,
“how the deuce did he know that I had come from Afghanistan?”
My companion smiled an enigmatical smile. “That’s just his little
peculiarity,” he said. “A good many people have wanted to know how he
finds things out.”
“Oh! a mystery is it?” I cried, rubbing my hands. “This is very piquant.
I am much obliged to you for bringing us together. ‘The proper study of
mankind is man,’ you know.”
“You must study him, then,” Stamford said, as he bade me good-bye.
“You’ll find him a knotty problem, though. I’ll wager he learns more
about you than you about him. Good-bye.”
“Good-bye,” I answered, and strolled on to my hotel, considerably
interested in my new acquaintance.

Chapter 2
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 2


WE MET next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms at No.
221B, Baker Street, of which he had spoken at our meeting. They
consisted of a couple of [20] comfortable bedrooms and a single large airy
sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad
windows. So desirable in every way were the apartments, and so
moderate did the terms seem when divided between us, that the bargain
was concluded upon the spot, and we at once entered into possession.
That very evening I moved my things round from the hotel, and on the
following morning Sherlock Holmes followed me with several boxes and
portmanteaus. For a day or two we were busily employed in unpacking
and laying out our property to the best advantage. That done, we
gradually began to settle down and to accommodate ourselves to our new
Holmes was certainly not a difficult man to live with. He was quiet in
his ways, and his habits were regular. It was rare for him to be up after ten
at night, and he had invariably breakfasted and gone out before I rose in
the morning. Sometimes he spent his day at the chemical laboratory,
sometimes in the dissecting-rooms, and occasionally in long walks, which
appeared to take him into the lowest portions of the city. Nothing could
exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again
a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the
sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from
morning to night. On these occasions I have noticed such a dreamy,
vacant expression in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being
addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and
cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.
As the weeks went by, my interest in him and my curiosity as to his
aims in life gradually deepened and increased. His very person and
appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual
observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean
that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and
piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded;
and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness
and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which
mark the man of determination. His hands were invariably blotted with
ink and stained with chemicals, yet he was possessed of extraordinary
delicacy of touch, as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched
him manipulating his fragile philosophical instruments.
The reader may set me down as a hopeless busybody, when I confess
how much this man stimulated my curiosity, and how often I endeavoured
to break through the reticence which he showed on all that concerned
himself. Before pronouncing judgment, however, be it remembered how
objectless was my life, and how little there was to engage my attention.
My health forbade me from venturing out unless the weather was
exceptionally genial, and I had no friends who would call upon me and
break the monotony of my daily existence. Under these circumstances, I
eagerly hailed the little mystery which hung around my companion, and
spent much of my time in endeavouring to unravel it.
He was not studying medicine. He had himself, in reply to a question,
confirmed Stamford’s opinion upon that point. Neither did he appear to
have pursued any course of reading which might fit him for a degree in
science or any other recognized portal which would give him an entrance
into the learned world. Yet his zeal for certain studies was remarkable,
and within eccentric limits his knowledge was so extraordinarily ample
and minute that his observations have fairly astounded me. Surely no man
would work so hard or attain such precise information unless he had some
definite end in view. Desultory readers are seldom [21] remarkable for the
exactness of their learning. No man burdens his mind with small matters
unless he has some very good reason for doing so.
His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary
literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing.
Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he
might be and what he had done. My surprise reached a climax, however,
when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory
and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human
being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth
travelled round the sun appeared to me to be such an extraordinary fact
that I could hardly realize it.
“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of
surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”
“To forget it!”
“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is
like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you
choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across,
so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or
at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty
in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful
indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but
the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a
large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think
that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent.
Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge
you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest
importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful
“But the Solar System!” I protested.
“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently: “you say that
we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a
pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
I was on the point of asking him what that work might be, but
something in his manner showed me that the question would be an
unwelcome one. I pondered over our short conversation, however, and
endeavoured to draw my deductions from it. He said that he would
acquire no knowledge which did not bear upon his object. Therefore all
the knowledge which he possessed was such as would be useful to him. I
enumerated in my own mind all the various points upon which he had
shown me that he was exceptionally well informed. I even took a pencil
and jotted them down. I could not help smiling at the document when I
had completed it. It ran in this way:

Sherlock Holmes–his limits

1. Knowledge of Literature.–Nil.
2. ” ” Philosophy.–Nil.
3. ” ” Astronomy.–Nil.
4. ” ” Politics.–Feeble.
5. ” ” Botany.–Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium,
and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Knowledge of Geology.–Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance
different soils from each other. After walks has [22] shown me
splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and
consistence in what part of London he had received them.
7. Knowledge of Chemistry.–Profound.
8. ” ” Anatomy.–Accurate, but unsystematic.
9. ” ” Sensational Literature.–Immense. He appears to
know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

When I had got so far in my list I threw it into the fire in despair. “If I
can only find what the fellow is driving at by reconciling all these
accomplishments, and discovering a calling which needs them all,” I said
to myself, “I may as well give up the attempt at once.”
I see that I have alluded above to his powers upon the violin. These
were very remarkable, but as eccentric as all his other accomplishments.
That he could play pieces, and difficult pieces, I knew well, because at
my request he has played me some of Mendelssohn’s Lieder, and other
favourites. When left to himself, however, he would seldom produce any
music or attempt any recognized air. Leaning back in his armchair of an
evening, he would close his eyes and scrape carelessly at the fiddle which
was thrown across his knee. Sometimes the chords were sonorous and
melancholy. Occasionally they were fantastic and cheerful. Clearly they
reflected the thoughts which possessed him, but whether the music aided
those thoughts, or whether the playing was simply the result of a whim or
fancy, was more than I could determine. I might have rebelled against
these exasperating solos had it not been that he usually terminated them
by playing in quick succession a whole series of my favourite airs as a
slight compensation for the trial upon my patience.

During the first week or so we had no callers, and I had begun to think
that my companion was as friendless a man as I was myself. Presently,
however, I found that he had many acquaintances, and those in the most
different classes of society. There was one little sallow, rat-faced, dark-
eyed fellow, who was introduced to me as Mr. Lestrade, and who came
three or four times in a single week. One morning a young girl called,
fashionably dressed, and stayed for half an hour or more. The same
afternoon brought a gray-headed, seedy visitor, looking like a Jew
peddler, who appeared to me to be much excited, and who was closely
followed by a slipshod elderly woman. On another occasion an old white-
haired gentleman had an interview with my companion; and on another, a
railway porter in his velveteen uniform. When any of these nondescript
individuals put in an appearance, Sherlock Holmes used to beg for the use
of the sitting-room, and I would retire to my bedroom. He always
apologized to me for putting me to this inconvenience. “I have to use this
room as a place of business,” he said, “and these people are my clients.”
Again I had an opportunity of asking him a point-blank question, and
again my delicacy prevented me from forcing another man to confide in
me. I imagined at the time that he had some strong reason for not alluding
to it, but he soon dispelled the idea by coming round to the subject of his
own accord.
It was upon the 4th of March, as I have good reason to remember, that I
rose [23] somewhat earlier than usual, and found that Sherlock Holmes
had not yet finished his breakfast. The landlady had become so
accustomed to my late habits that my place had not been laid nor my
coffee prepared. With the unreasonable petulance of mankind I rang the
bell and gave a curt intimation that I was ready. Then I picked up a
magazine from the table and attempted to while away the time with it,
while my companion munched silently at his toast. One of the articles had
a pencil mark at the heading, and I naturally began to run my eye through
Its somewhat ambitious title was “The Book of Life,” and it attempted
to show how much an observant man might learn by an accurate and
systematic examination of all that came in his way. It struck me as being a
remarkable mixture of shrewdness and of absurdity. The reasoning was
close and intense, but the deductions appeared to me to be far fetched and
exaggerated. The writer claimed by a momentary expression, a twitch of a
muscle or a glance of an eye, to fathom a man’s inmost thoughts. Deceit,
according to him, was an impossibility in the case of one trained to
observation and analysis. His conclusions were as infallible as so many
propositions of Euclid. So startling would his results appear to the
uninitiated that until they learned the processes by which he had arrived at
them they might well consider him as a necromancer.
“From a drop of water,” said the writer, “a logician could infer the
possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one
or the other. So all life is a great chain, the nature of which is known
whenever we are shown a single link of it. Like all other arts, the Science
of Deduction and Analysis is one which can only be acquired by long and
patient study, nor is life long enough to allow any mortal to attain the
highest possible perfection in it. Before turning to those moral and mental
aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties, let the
inquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems. Let him, on
meeting a fellow-mortal, learn at a glance to distinguish the history of the
man, and the trade or profession to which he belongs. Puerile as such an
exercise may seem, it sharpens the faculties of observation, and teaches
one where to look and what to look for. By a man’s finger-nails, by his
coat-sleeve, by his boots, by his trouser-knees, by the callosities of his
forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt-cuffs–by each of
these things a man’s calling is plainly revealed. That all united should fail
to enlighten the competent inquirer in any case is almost inconceivable.”
“What ineffable twaddle!” I cried, slapping the magazine down on the
table; “I never read such rubbish in my life.”
“What is it?” asked Sherlock Holmes.
“Why, this article,” I said, pointing at it with my eggspoon as I sat
down to my breakfast. “I see that you have read it since you have marked
it. I don’t deny that it is smartly written. It irritates me, though. It is
evidently the theory of some armchair lounger who evolves all these neat
little paradoxes in the seclusion of his own study. It is not practical. I
should like to see him clapped down in a third-class carriage on the
Underground, and asked to give the trades of all his fellow-travellers. I
would lay a thousand to one against him.”
“You would lose your money,” Holmes remarked calmly. “As for the
article, I wrote it myself.”
“Yes; I have a turn both for observation and for deduction. The theories
which I have expressed there, and which appear to you to be so
chimerical, are really [24] extremely practical–so practical that I depend
upon them for my bread and cheese.”
“And how?” I asked involuntarily.
“Well, I have a trade of my own. I suppose I am the only one in the
world. I’m a consulting detective, if you can understand what that is. Here
in London we have lots of government detectives and lots of private ones.
When these fellows are at fault, they come to me, and I manage to put
them on the right scent. They lay all the evidence before me, and I am
generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of crime, to set
them straight. There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and
if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if
you can’t unravel the thousand and first. Lestrade is a well-known
detective. He got himself into a fog recently over a forgery case, and that
was what brought him here.”
“And these other people?”
“They are mostly sent on by private inquiry agencies. They are all
people who are in trouble about something and want a little enlightening.
I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my
“But do you mean to say,” I said, “that without leaving your room you
can unravel some knot which other men can make nothing of, although
they have seen every detail for themselves?”
“Quite so. I have a kind of intuition that way. Now and again a case
turns up which is a little more complex. Then I have to bustle about and
see things with my own eyes. You see I have a lot of special knowledge
which I apply to the problem, and which facilitates matters wonderfully.
Those rules of deduction laid down in that article which aroused your
scorn are invaluable to me in practical work. Observation with me is
second nature. You appeared to be surprised when I told you, on our first
meeting, that you had come from Afghanistan.”
“You were told, no doubt.”
“Nothing of the sort. I knew you came from Afghanistan. From long
habit the train of thoughts ran so swiftly through my mind that I arrived at
the conclusion without being conscious of intermediate steps. There were
such steps, however. The train of reasoning ran, ‘Here is a gentleman of a
medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly an army doctor,
then. He has just come from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is
not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are fair. He has undergone
hardship and sickness, as his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has
been injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner. Where in the
tropics could an English army doctor have seen much hardship and got
his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan.’ The whole train of thought
did not occupy a second. I then remarked that you came from
Afghanistan, and you were astonished.”
“It is simple enough as you explain it,” I said, smiling. “You remind me
of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist
outside of stories.”
Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. “No doubt you think that you are
complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin,” he observed. “Now, in
my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of
breaking in on his friends’ thoughts with an apropos remark after a
quarter of an hour’s silence is really very showy and superficial. He had
some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a
phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine.”
[25] “Have you read Gaboriau’s works?” I asked. “Does Lecoq come up
to your idea of a detective?”
Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. “Lecoq was a miserable
bungler,” he said, in an angry voice; “he had only one thing to
recommend him, and that was his energy. That book made me positively
ill. The question was how to identify an unknown prisoner. I could have
done it in twenty-four hours. Lecoq took six months or so. It might be
made a textbook for detectives to teach them what to avoid.”
I felt rather indignant at having two characters whom I had admired
treated in this cavalier style. I walked over to the window and stood
looking out into the busy street. “This fellow may be very clever,” I said
to myself, “but he is certainly very conceited.”
“There are no crimes and no criminals in these days,” he said,
querulously. “What is the use of having brains in our profession? I know
well that I have it in me to make my name famous. No man lives or has
ever lived who has brought the same amount of study and of natural talent
to the detection of crime which I have done. And what is the result? There
is no crime to detect, or, at most, some bungling villainy with a motive so
transparent that even a Scotland Yard official can see through it.”
I was still annoyed at his bumptious style of conversation. I thought it
best to change the topic.
“I wonder what that fellow is looking for?” I asked, pointing to a
stalwart, plainly dressed individual who was walking slowly down the
other side of the street, looking anxiously at the numbers. He had a large
blue envelope in his hand, and was evidently the bearer of a message.
“You mean the retired sergeant of Marines,” said Sherlock Holmes.
“Brag and bounce!” thought I to myself. “He knows that I cannot verify
his guess.”
The thought had hardly passed through my mind when the man whom
we were watching caught sight of the number on our door, and ran rapidly
across the roadway. We heard a loud knock, a deep voice below, and
heavy steps ascending the stair.
“For Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” he said, stepping into the room and
handing my friend the letter.
Here was an opportunity of taking the conceit out of him. He little
thought of this when he made that random shot. “May I ask, my lad,” I
said, in the blandest voice, “what your trade may be?”
“Commissionaire, sir,” he said, gruffly. “Uniform away for repairs.”
“And you were?” I asked, with a slightly malicious glance at my
“A sergeant, sir, Royal Marine Light Infantry, sir. No answer? Right,
He clicked his heels together, raised his hand in salute, and was gone.

Chapter 3
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 3


I CONFESS that I was considerably startled by this fresh proof of the
practical nature of my companion’s theories. My respect for his powers of
analysis increased [26] wondrously. There still remained some lurking
suspicion in my mind, however, that the whole thing was a prearranged
episode, intended to dazzle me, though what earthly object he could have
in taking me in was past my comprehension. When I looked at him, he
had finished reading the note, and his eyes had assumed the vacant, lack-
lustre expression which showed mental abstraction.
“How in the world did you deduce that?” I asked.
“Deduce what?” said he, petulantly.
“Why, that he was a retired sergeant of Marines.”
“I have no time for trifles,” he answered, brusquely; then with a smile,
“Excuse my rudeness. You broke the thread of my thoughts; but perhaps
it is as well. So you actually were not able to see that that man was a
sergeant of Marines?”
“No, indeed.”
“It was easier to know it than to explain why I know it. If you were
asked to prove that two and two made four, you might find some
difficulty, and yet you are quite sure of the fact. Even across the street I
could see a great blue anchor tattooed on the back of the fellow’s hand.
That smacked of the sea. He had a military carriage, however, and
regulation side whiskers. There we have the marine. He was a man with
some amount of self-importance and a certain air of command. You must
have observed the way in which he held his head and swung his cane. A
steady, respectable, middle-aged man, too, on the face of him–all facts
which led me to believe that he had been a sergeant.”
“Wonderful!” I ejaculated.
“Commonplace,” said Holmes, though I thought from his expression
that he was pleased at my evident surprise and admiration. “I said just
now that there were no criminals. It appears that I am wrong–look at
this!” He threw me over the note which the commissionaire had brought.
“Why,” I cried, as I cast my eye over it, “this is terrible!”
“It does seem to be a little out of the common,” he remarked, calmly.
“Would you mind reading it to me aloud?”
This is the letter which I read to him,–


“There has been a bad business during the night at 3, Lauriston
Gardens, off the Brixton Road. Our man on the beat saw a light
there about two in the morning, and as the house was an empty
one, suspected that something was amiss. He found the door open,
and in the front room, which is bare of furniture, discovered the
body of a gentleman, well dressed, and having cards in his pocket
bearing the name of ‘Enoch J. Drebber, Cleveland, Ohio, U. S. A.’
There had been no robbery, nor is there any evidence as to how the
man met his death. There are marks of blood in the room, but there
is no wound upon his person. We are at a loss as to how he came
into the empty house; indeed, the whole affair is a puzzler. If you
can come round to the house any time before twelve, you will find
me there. I have left everything in statu quo until I hear from you.
If you are unable to come, I shall give you fuller details, and
would esteem it a great kindness if you would favour me with your
“Yours faithfully,

“Gregson is the smartest of the Scotland Yarders,” my friend remarked;

“he [27] and Lestrade are the pick of a bad lot. They are both quick and
energetic, but conventional–shockingly so. They have their knives into
one another, too. They are as jealous as a pair of professional beauties.
There will be some fun over this case if they are both put upon the scent.”
I was amazed at the calm way in which he rippled on. “Surely there is
not a moment to be lost,” I cried; “shall I go and order you a cab?”
“I’m not sure about whether I shall go. I am the most incurably lazy
devil that ever stood in shoe leather–that is, when the fit is on me, for I
can be spry enough at times.”
“Why, it is just such a chance as you have been longing for.”
“My dear fellow, what does it matter to me? Supposing I unravel the
whole matter, you may be sure that Gregson, Lestrade, and Co. will
pocket all the credit. That comes of being an unofficial personage.”
“But he begs you to help him.”
“Yes. He knows that I am his superior, and acknowledges it to me; but
he would cut his tongue out before he would own it to any third person.
However, we may as well go and have a look. I shall work it out on my
own hook. I may have a laugh at them, if I have nothing else. Come on!”
He hustled on his overcoat, and bustled about in a way that showed that
an energetic fit had superseded the apathetic one.
“Get your hat,” he said.
“You wish me to come?”
“Yes, if you have nothing better to do.” A minute later we were both in
a hansom, driving furiously for the Brixton Road.
It was a foggy, cloudy morning, and a dun-coloured veil hung over the
housetops, looking like the reflection of the mud-coloured streets beneath.
My companion was in the best of spirits, and prattled away about
Cremona fiddles and the difference between a Stradivarius and an Amati.
As for myself, I was silent, for the dull weather and the melancholy
business upon which we were engaged depressed my spirits.
“You don’t seem to give much thought to the matter in hand,” I said at
last, interrupting Holmes’s musical disquisition.
“No data yet,” he answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before
you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.”
“You will have your data soon,” I remarked, pointing with my finger;
“this is the Brixton Road, and that is the house, if I am not very much
“So it is. Stop, driver, stop!” We were still a hundred yards or so from
it, but he insisted upon our alighting, and we finished our journey upon
Number 3, Lauriston Gardens wore an ill-omened and minatory look. It
was one of four which stood back some little way from the street, two
being occupied and two empty. The latter looked out with three tiers of
vacant melancholy windows, which were blank and dreary, save that here
and there a “To Let” card had developed like a cataract upon the bleared
panes. A small garden sprinkled over with a scattered eruption of sickly
plants separated each of these houses from the street, and was traversed
by a narrow pathway, yellowish in colour, and consisting apparently of a
mixture of clay and of gravel. The whole place was very sloppy from the
rain which had fallen through the night. The garden was bounded by a
three-foot brick wall with a fringe of wood rails upon the top, and against
this wall was leaning a stalwart police constable, surrounded by a small
knot of loafers, [28] who craned their necks and strained their eyes in the
vain hope of catching some glimpse of the proceedings within.
I had imagined that Sherlock Holmes would at once have hurried into
the house and plunged into a study of the mystery. Nothing appeared to
be further from his intention. With an air of nonchalance which, under the
circumstances, seemed to me to border upon affectation, he lounged up
and down the pavement, and gazed vacantly at the ground, the sky, the
opposite houses and the line of railings. Having finished his scrutiny, he
proceeded slowly down the path, or rather down the fringe of grass which
flanked the path, keeping his eyes riveted upon the ground. Twice he
stopped, and once I saw him smile, and heard him utter an exclamation of
satisfaction. There were many marks of footsteps upon the wet clayey
soil; but since the police had been coming and going over it, I was unable
to see how my companion could hope to learn anything from it. Still I had
had such extraordinary evidence of the quickness of his perceptive
faculties, that I had no doubt that he could see a great deal which was
hidden from me.
At the door of the house we were met by a tall, white-faced, flaxen-
haired man, with a notebook in his hand, who rushed forward and wrung
my companion’s hand with effusion. “It is indeed kind of you to come,”
he said, “I have had everything left untouched.”
“Except that!” my friend answered, pointing at the pathway. “If a herd
of buffaloes had passed along, there could not be a greater mess. No
doubt, however, you had drawn your own conclusions, Gregson, before
you permitted this.”
“I have had so much to do inside the house,” the detective said
evasively. “My colleague, Mr. Lestrade, is here. I had relied upon him to
look after this.”
Holmes glanced at me and raised his eyebrows sardonically. “With two
such men as yourself and Lestrade upon the ground, there will not be
much for a third party to find out,” he said.
Gregson rubbed his hands in a self-satisfied way. “I think we have done
all that can be done,” he answered; “it’s a queer case, though, and I knew
your taste for such things.”
“You did not come here in a cab?” asked Sherlock Holmes.
“No, sir.”
“Nor Lestrade?”
“No, sir.”
“Then let us go and look at the room.” With which inconsequent
remark he strode on into the house followed by Gregson, whose features
expressed his astonishment.
A short passage, bare-planked and dusty, led to the kitchen and offices.
Two doors opened out of it to the left and to the right. One of these had
obviously been closed for many weeks. The other belonged to the dining-
room, which was the apartment in which the mysterious affair had
occurred. Holmes walked in, and I followed him with that subdued
feeling at my heart which the presence of death inspires.
It was a large square room, looking all the larger from the absence of
all furniture. A vulgar flaring paper adorned the walls, but it was blotched
in places with mildew, and here and there great strips had become
detached and hung down, exposing the yellow plaster beneath. Opposite
the door was a showy fireplace, surmounted by a mantelpiece of imitation
white marble. On one corner of this was stuck the stump of a red wax
candle. The solitary window was so dirty that the [29] light was hazy and
uncertain, giving a dull gray tinge to everything, which was intensified by
the thick layer of dust which coated the whole apartment.
All these details I observed afterwards. At present my attention was
centred upon the single, grim, motionless figure which lay stretched upon
the boards, with vacant, sightless eyes staring up at the discoloured
ceiling. It was that of a man about forty-three or forty-four years of age,
middle-sized, broad-shouldered, with crisp curling black hair, and a short,
stubbly beard. He was dressed in a heavy broadcloth frock coat and
waistcoat, with light-coloured trousers, and immaculate collar and cuffs.
A top hat, well brushed and trim, was placed upon the floor beside him.
His hands were clenched and his arms thrown abroad, while his lower
limbs were interlocked, as though his death struggle had been a grievous
one. On his rigid face there stood an expression of horror, and, as it
seemed to me, of hatred, such as I have never seen upon human features.
This malignant and terrible contortion, combined with the low forehead,
blunt nose, and prognathous jaw, gave the dead man a singularly simious
and ape-like appearance, which was increased by his writhing, unnatural
posture. I have seen death in many forms, but never has it appeared to me
in a more fearsome aspect than in that dark, grimy apartment, which
looked out upon one of the main arteries of suburban London.
Lestrade, lean and ferret-like as ever, was standing by the doorway, and
greeted my companion and myself.
“This case will make a stir, sir,” he remarked. “It beats anything I have
seen, and I am no chicken.”
“There is no clue?” said Gregson.
“None at all,” chimed in Lestrade.
Sherlock Holmes approached the body, and, kneeling down, examined
it intently. “You are sure that there is no wound?” he asked, pointing to
numerous gouts and splashes of blood which lay all round.
“Positive!” cried both detectives.
“Then, of course, this blood belongs to a second individual–presumably
the murderer, if murder has been committed. It reminds me of the
circumstances attendant on the death of Van Jansen, in Utrecht, in the
year ’34. Do you remember the case, Gregson?”
“No, sir.”
“Read it up–you really should. There is nothing new under the sun. It
has all been done before.”
As he spoke, his nimble fingers were flying here, there, and
everywhere, feeling, pressing, unbuttoning, examining, while his eyes
wore the same far-away expression which I have already remarked upon.
So swiftly was the examination made, that one would hardly have
guessed the minuteness with which it was conducted. Finally, he sniffed
the dead man’s lips, and then glanced at the soles of his patent leather
“He has not been moved at all?” he asked.
“No more than was necessary for the purpose of our examination.”
“You can take him to the mortuary now,” he said. “There is nothing
more to be learned.”
Gregson had a stretcher and four men at hand. At his call they entered
the room, and the stranger was lifted and carried out. As they raised him,
a ring tinkled down and rolled across the floor. Lestrade grabbed it up and
stared at it with mystified eyes.
[30] “There’s been a woman here,” he cried. “It’s a woman’s wedding
He held it out, as he spoke, upon the palm of his hand. We all gathered
round him and gazed at it. There could be no doubt that that circlet of
plain gold had once adorned the finger of a bride.
“This complicates matters,” said Gregson. “Heaven knows, they were
complicated enough before.”
“You’re sure it doesn’t simplify them?” observed Holmes. “There’s
nothing to be learned by staring at it. What did you find in his pockets?”
“We have it all here,” said Gregson, pointing to a litter of objects upon
one of the bottom steps of the stairs. “A gold watch, No. 97163, by
Barraud, of London. Gold Albert chain, very heavy and solid. Gold ring,
with masonic device. Gold pin–bull-dog’s head, with rubies as eyes.
Russian leather cardcase, with cards of Enoch J. Drebber of Cleveland,
corresponding with the E. J. D. upon the linen. No purse, but loose money
to the extent of seven pounds thirteen. Pocket edition of Boccaccio’s
‘Decameron,’ with name of Joseph Stangerson upon the flyleaf. Two
letters–one addressed to E. J. Drebber and one to Joseph Stangerson.”
“At what address?”
“American Exchange, Strand–to be left till called for. They are both
from the Guion Steamship Company, and refer to the sailing of their boats
from Liverpool. It is clear that this unfortunate man was about to return to
New York.”
“Have you made any inquiries as to this man Stangerson?”
“I did it at once, sir,” said Gregson. “I have had advertisements sent to
all the newspapers, and one of my men has gone to the American
Exchange, but he has not returned yet.”
“Have you sent to Cleveland?”
“We telegraphed this morning.”
“How did you word your inquiries?”
“We simply detailed the circumstances, and said that we should be glad
of any information which could help us.”
“You did not ask for particulars on any point which appeared to you to
be crucial?”
“I asked about Stangerson.”
“Nothing else? Is there no circumstance on which this whole case
appears to hinge? Will you not telegraph again?”
“I have said all I have to say,” said Gregson, in an offended voice.
Sherlock Holmes chuckled to himself, and appeared to be about to
make some remark, when Lestrade, who had been in the front room while
we were holding this conversation in the hall, reappeared upon the scene,
rubbing his hands in a pompous and self-satisfied manner.
“Mr. Gregson,” he said, “I have just made a discovery of the highest
importance, and one which would have been overlooked had I not made a
careful examination of the walls.”
The little man’s eyes sparkled as he spoke, and he was evidently in a
state of suppressed exultation at having scored a point against his
“Come here,” he said, bustling back into the room, the atmosphere of
which felt clearer since the removal of its ghastly inmate. “Now, stand
He struck a match on his boot and held it up against the wall.
“Look at that!” he said, triumphantly.
I have remarked that the paper had fallen away in parts. In this
particular corner [31] of the room a large piece had peeled off, leaving a
yellow square of coarse plastering. Across this bare space there was
scrawled in blood-red letters a single word–


“What do you think of that?” cried the detective, with the air of a
showman exhibiting his show. “This was overlooked because it was in the
darkest corner of the room, and no one thought of looking there. The
murderer has written it with his or her own blood. See this smear where it
has trickled down the wall! That disposes of the idea of suicide anyhow.
Why was that corner chosen to write it on? I will tell you. See that candle
on the mantelpiece. It was lit at the time, and if it was lit this corner
would be the brightest instead of the darkest portion of the wall.”
“And what does it mean now that you have found it?” asked Gregson in
a depreciatory voice.
“Mean? Why, it means that the writer was going to put the female
name Rachel, but was disturbed before he or she had time to finish. You
mark my words, when this case comes to be cleared up, you will find that
a woman named Rachel has something to do with it. It’s all very well for
you to laugh, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You may be very smart and clever,
but the old hound is the best, when all is said and done.”
“I really beg your pardon!” said my companion, who had ruffled the
little man’s temper by bursting into an explosion of laughter. “You
certainly have the credit of being the first of us to find this out and, as you
say, it bears every mark of having been written by the other participant in
last night’s mystery. I have not had time to examine this room yet, but
with your permission I shall do so now.”
As he spoke, he whipped a tape measure and a large round magnifying
glass from his pocket. With these two implements he trotted noiselessly
about the room, sometimes stopping, occasionally kneeling, and once
lying flat upon his face. So engrossed was he with his occupation that he
appeared to have forgotten our presence, for he chattered away to himself
under his breath the whole time, keeping up a running fire of
exclamations, groans, whistles, and little cries suggestive of
encouragement and of hope. As I watched him I was irresistibly reminded
of a pure-blooded, well-trained foxhound, as it dashes backward and
forward through the covert, whining in its eagerness, until it comes across
the lost scent. For twenty minutes or more he continued his researches,
measuring with the most exact care the distance between marks which
were entirely invisible to me, and occasionally applying his tape to the
walls in an equally incomprehensible manner. In one place he gathered up
very carefully a little pile of gray dust from the floor, and packed it away
in an envelope. Finally he examined with his glass the word upon the
wall, going over every letter of it with the most minute exactness. This
done, he appeared to be satisfied, for he replaced his tape and his glass in
his pocket.
“They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains,” he
remarked with a smile. “It’s a very bad definition, but it does apply to
detective work.”
Gregson and Lestrade had watched the manoeuvres of their amateur
companion with considerable curiosity and some contempt. They
evidently failed to appreciate the fact, which I had begun to realize, that
Sherlock Holmes’s smallest actions were all directed towards some
definite and practical end.
“What do you think of it, sir?” they both asked.
“It would be robbing you of the credit of the case if I were to presume
to help [32] you,” remarked my friend. “You are doing so well now that it
would be a pity for anyone to interfere.” There was a world of sarcasm in
his voice as he spoke. “If you will let me know how your investigations
go,” he continued, “I shall be happy to give you any help I can. In the
meantime I should like to speak to the constable who found the body. Can
you give me his name and address?”
Lestrade glanced at his notebook. “John Rance,” he said. “He is off
duty now. You will find him at 46, Audley Court, Kennington Park Gate.”
Holmes took a note of the address.
“Come along, Doctor,” he said: “we shall go and look him up. I’ll tell
you one thing which may help you in the case,” he continued, turning to
the two detectives. “There has been murder done, and the murderer was a
man. He was more than six feet high, was in the prime of life, had small
feet for his height, wore coarse, square-toed boots and smoked a
Trichinopoly cigar. He came here with his victim in a four-wheeled cab,
which was drawn by a horse with three old shoes and one new one on his
off fore-leg. In all probability the murderer had a florid face, and the
finger-nails of his right hand were remarkably long. These are only a few
indications, but they may assist you.”
Lestrade and Gregson glanced at each other with an incredulous smile.
“If this man was murdered, how was it done?” asked the former.
“Poison,” said Sherlock Holmes curtly, and strode off. “One other
thing, Lestrade,” he added, turning round at the door: “‘Rache,’ is the
German for ‘revenge’; so don’t lose your time looking for Miss Rachel.”
With which Parthian shot he walked away, leaving the two rivals open
mouthed behind him.

Chapter 4
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 4


IT WAS one o’clock when we left No. 3, Lauriston Gardens. Sherlock
Holmes led me to the nearest telegraph office, whence he dispatched a
long telegram. He then hailed a cab, and ordered the driver to take us to
the address given us by Lestrade.
“There is nothing like first-hand evidence,” he remarked; “as a matter
of fact, my mind is entirely made up upon the case, but still we may as
well learn all that is to be learned.”
“You amaze me, Holmes,” said I. “Surely you are not as sure as you
pretend to be of all those particulars which you gave.”
“There’s no room for a mistake,” he answered. “The very first thing
which I observed on arriving there was that a cab had made two ruts with
its wheels close to the curb. Now, up to last night, we have had no rain for
a week, so that those wheels which left such a deep impression must have
been there during the night. There were the marks of the horse’s hoofs,
too, the outline of one of which was far more clearly cut than that of the
other three, showing that that was a new shoe. Since the cab was there
after the rain began, and was not there at any time during the morning–I
have Gregson’s word for that–it follows that it must have been there
during the night, and therefore, that it brought those two individuals to the
[33] “That seems simple enough,” said I; “but how about the other
man’s height?”
“Why, the height of a man, in nine cases out of ten, can be told from
the length of his stride. It is a simple calculation enough, though there is
no use my boring you with figures. I had this fellow’s stride both on the
clay outside and on the dust within. Then I had a way of checking my
calculation. When a man writes on a wall, his instinct leads him to write
above the level of his own eyes. Now that writing was just over six feet
from the ground. It was child’s play.”
“And his age?” I asked.
“Well, if a man can stride four and a half feet without the smallest
effort, he can’t be quite in the sere and yellow. That was the breadth of a
puddle on the garden walk which he had evidently walked across. Patent-
leather boots had gone round, and Square-toes had hopped over. There is
no mystery about it at all. I am simply applying to ordinary life a few of
those precepts of observation and deduction which I advocated in that
article. Is there anything else that puzzles you?”
“The finger-nails and the Trichinopoly,” I suggested.
“The writing on the wall was done with a man’s forefinger dipped in
blood. My glass allowed me to observe that the plaster was slightly
scratched in doing it, which would not have been the case if the man’s
nail had been trimmed. I gathered up some scattered ash from the floor. It
was dark in colour and flaky –such an ash is only made by a
Trichinopoly. I have made a special study of cigar ashes–in fact, I have
written a monograph upon the subject. I flatter myself that I can
distinguish at a glance the ash of any known brand either of cigar or of
tobacco. It is just in such details that the skilled detective differs from the
Gregson and Lestrade type.”
“And the florid face?” I asked.
“Ah, that was a more daring shot, though I have no doubt that I was
right. You must not ask me that at the present state of the affair.”
I passed my hand over my brow. “My head is in a whirl,” I remarked;
“the more one thinks of it the more mysterious it grows. How came these
two men– if there were two men–into an empty house? What has become
of the cabman who drove them? How could one man compel another to
take poison? Where did the blood come from? What was the object of the
murderer, since robbery had no part in it? How came the woman’s ring
there? Above all, why should the second man write up the German word
RACHE before decamping? I confess that I cannot see any possible way of
reconciling all these facts.”
My companion smiled approvingly.
“You sum up the difficulties of the situation succinctly and well,” he
said. “There is much that is still obscure, though I have quite made up my
mind on the main facts. As to poor Lestrade’s discovery, it was simply a
blind intended to put the police upon a wrong track, by suggesting
Socialism and secret societies. It was not done by a German. The A, if
you noticed, was printed somewhat after the German fashion. Now, a real
German invariably prints in the Latin character, so that we may safely say
that this was not written by one, but by a clumsy imitator who overdid his
part. It was simply a ruse to divert inquiry into a wrong channel. I’m not
going to tell you much more of the case, Doctor. You know a conjurer
gets no credit when once he has explained his trick; and if I show you too
much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I
am a very ordinary individual after all.”
“I shall never do that,” I answered; “you have brought detection as near
an exact science as it ever will be brought in this world.”
[34] My companion flushed up with pleasure at my words, and the
earnest way in which I uttered them. I had already observed that he was as
sensitive to flattery on the score of his art as any girl could be of her
“I’ll tell you one other thing,” he said. “Patent-leathers and Square-toes
came in the same cab, and they walked down the pathway together as
friendly as possible–arm-in-arm, in all probability. When they got inside,
they walked up and down the room–or rather, Patent-leathers stood still
while Square-toes walked up and down. I could read all that in the dust;
and I could read that as he walked he grew more and more excited. That
is shown by the increased length of his strides. He was talking all the
while, and working himself up, no doubt, into a fury. Then the tragedy
occurred. I’ve told you all I know myself now, for the rest is mere
surmise and conjecture. We have a good working basis, however, on
which to start. We must hurry up, for I want to go to Halle’s concert to
hear Norman Neruda this afternoon.”
This conversation had occurred while our cab had been threading its
way through a long succession of dingy streets and dreary byways. In the
dingiest and dreariest of them our driver suddenly came to a stand.
“That’s Audley Court in there,” he said, pointing to a narrow slit in the
line of dead-coloured brick. “You’ll find me here when you come back.”
Audley Court was not an attractive locality. The narrow passage led us
into a quadrangle paved with flags and lined by sordid dwellings. We
picked our way among groups of dirty children, and through lines of
discoloured linen, until we came to Number 46, the door of which was
decorated with a small slip of brass on which the name Rance was
engraved. On inquiry we found that the constable was in bed, and we
were shown into a little front parlour to await his coming.

He appeared presently, looking a little irritable at being disturbed in his

slumbers. “I made my report at the office,” he said.
Holmes took a half-sovereign from his pocket and played with it
pensively. “We thought that we should like to hear it all from your own
lips,” he said.
“I shall be most happy to tell you anything I can,” the constable
answered, with his eyes upon the little golden disc.
“Just let us hear it all in your own way as it occurred.”
Rance sat down on the horsehair sofa, and knitted his brows, as though
determined not to omit anything in his narrative.
“I’ll tell it ye from the beginning,” he said. “My time is from ten at
night to six in the morning. At eleven there was a fight at the White Hart;
but bar that all was quiet enough on the beat. At one o’clock it began to
rain, and I met Harry Murcher–him who has the Holland Grove beat–and
we stood together at the corner of Henrietta Street a-talkin’.
Presently–maybe about two or a little after–I thought I would take a look
round and see that all was right down the Brixton Road. It was precious
dirty and lonely. Not a soul did I meet all the way down, though a cab or
two went past me. I was a-strollin’ down, thinkin’ between ourselves how
uncommon handy a four of gin hot would be, when suddenly the glint of a
light caught my eye in the window of that same house. Now, I knew that
them two houses in Lauriston Gardens was empty on account of him that
owns them who won’t have the drains seed to, though the very last tenant
what lived in one of them died o’ typhoid fever. I was knocked all in a
heap, therefore, at seeing a light in the window, and I suspected as
something was wrong. When I got to the door– –”
[35] “You stopped, and then walked back to the garden gate,” my
companion interrupted. “What did you do that for?”
Rance gave a violent jump, and stared at Sherlock Holmes with the
utmost amazement upon his features.
“Why, that’s true, sir,” he said; “though how you come to know it,
Heaven only knows. Ye see when I got up to the door, it was so still and
so lonesome, that I thought I’d be none the worse for someone with me. I
ain’t afeared of anything on this side o’ the grave; but I thought that
maybe it was him that died o’ the typhoid inspecting the drains what
killed him. The thought gave me a kind o’ turn, and I walked back to the
gate to see if I could see Murcher’s lantern, but there wasn’t no sign of
him nor of anyone else.”
“There was no one in the street?”
“Not a livin’ soul, sir, nor as much as a dog. Then I pulled myself
together and went back and pushed the door open. All was quiet inside, so
I went into the room where the light was a-burnin’. There was a candle
flickerin’ on the mantelpiece–a red wax one–and by its light I saw– –”
“Yes, I know all that you saw. You walked round the room several
times, and you knelt down by the body, and then you walked through and
tried the kitchen door, and then– –”
John Rance sprang to his feet with a frightened face and suspicion in
his eyes. “Where was you hid to see all that?” he cried. “It seems to me
that you knows a deal more than you should.”
Holmes laughed and threw his card across the table to the constable.
“Don’t go arresting me for the murder,” he said. “I am one of the hounds
and not the wolf; Mr. Gregson or Mr. Lestrade will answer for that. Go
on, though. What did you do next?”
Rance resumed his seat, without, however, losing his mystified
expression. “I went back to the gate and sounded my whistle. That
brought Murcher and two more to the spot.”
“Was the street empty then?”
“Well, it was, as far as anybody that could be of any good goes.”
“What do you mean?”
The constable’s features broadened into a grin. “I’ve seen many a
drunk chap in my time,” he said, “but never anyone so cryin’ drunk as
that cove. He was at the gate when I came out, a-leanin’ up ag’in the
railings, and a-singin’ at the pitch o’ his lungs about Columbine’s New-
fangled Banner, or some such stuff. He couldn’t stand, far less help.”

“What sort of a man was he?” asked Sherlock Holmes.

John Rance appeared to be somewhat irritated at this digression. “He
was an uncommon drunk sort o’ man,” he said. “He’d ha’ found hisself in
the station if we hadn’t been so took up.”
“His face–his dress–didn’t you notice them?” Holmes broke in
“I should think I did notice them, seeing that I had to prop him up–me
and Murcher between us. He was a long chap, with a red face, the lower
part muffled round– –”
“That will do,” cried Holmes. “What became of him?”
“We’d enough to do without lookin’ after him,” the policeman said, in
an aggrieved voice. “I’ll wager he found his way home all right.”
“How was he dressed?”
[36] “A brown overcoat.”
“Had he a whip in his hand?”
“A whip–no.”
“He must have left it behind,” muttered my companion. “You didn’t
happen to see or hear a cab after that?”
“There’s a half-sovereign for you,” my companion said, standing up
and taking his hat. “I am afraid, Rance, that you will never rise in the
force. That head of yours should be for use as well as ornament. You
might have gained your sergeant’s stripes last night. The man whom you
held in your hands is the man who holds the clue of this mystery, and
whom we are seeking. There is no use of arguing about it now; I tell you
that it is so. Come along, Doctor.”
We started off for the cab together, leaving our informant incredulous,
but obviously uncomfortable.
“The blundering fool!” Holmes said, bitterly, as we drove back to our
lodgings. “Just to think of his having such an incomparable bit of good
luck, and not taking advantage of it.”
“I am rather in the dark still. It is true that the description of this man
tallies with your idea of the second party in this mystery. But why should
he come back to the house after leaving it? That is not the way of
“The ring, man, the ring: that was what he came back for. If we have no
other way of catching him, we can always bait our line with the ring. I
shall have him, Doctor–I’ll lay you two to one that I have him. I must
thank you for it all. I might not have gone but for you, and so have missed
the finest study I ever came across: a study in scarlet, eh? Why shouldn’t
we use a little art jargon. There’s the scarlet thread of murder running
through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and
isolate it, and expose every inch of it. And now for lunch, and then for
Norman Neruda. Her attack and her bowing are splendid. What’s that
little thing of Chopin’s she plays so magnificently: Tra-la-la-lira-lira-lay.”
Leaning back in the cab, this amateur bloodhound carolled away like a
lark while I meditated upon the many-sidedness of the human mind.

Chapter 5
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 5


OUR morning’s exertions had been too much for my weak health, and I
was tired out in the afternoon. After Holmes’s departure for the concert, I
lay down upon the sofa and endeavoured to get a couple of hours’ sleep.
It was a useless attempt. My mind had been too much excited by all that
had occurred, and the strangest fancies and surmises crowded into it.
Every time that I closed my eyes I saw before me the distorted, baboon-
like countenance of the murdered man. So sinister was the impression
which that face had produced upon me that I found it difficult to feel
anything but gratitude for him who had removed its owner from the
world. If ever human features bespoke vice of the most malignant type,
they were certainly those of Enoch J. Drebber, of Cleveland. Still I
recognized that justice must be [37] done, and that the depravity of the
victim was no condonement in the eyes of the law.
The more I thought of it the more extraordinary did my companion’s
hypothesis, that the man had been poisoned, appear. I remembered how
he had sniffed his lips, and had no doubt that he had detected something
which had given rise to the idea. Then, again, if not poison, what had
caused this man’s death, since there was neither wound nor marks of
strangulation? But, on the other hand, whose blood was that which lay so
thickly upon the floor? There were no signs of a struggle, nor had the
victim any weapon with which he might have wounded an antagonist. As
long as all these questions were unsolved, I felt that sleep would be no
easy matter, either for Holmes or myself. His quiet, self-confident manner
convinced me that he had already formed a theory which explained all the
facts, though what it was I could not for an instant conjecture.
He was very late in returning–so late that I knew that the concert could
not have detained him all the time. Dinner was on the table before he
“It was magnificent,” he said, as he took his seat. “Do you remember
what Darwin says about music? He claims that the power of producing
and appreciating it existed among the human race long before the power
of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced
by it. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries
when the world was in its childhood.”
“That’s rather a broad idea,” I remarked.
“One’s ideas must be as broad as Nature if they are to interpret Nature,
” he answered. “What’s the matter? You’re not looking quite yourself.
This Brixton Road affair has upset you.”
“To tell the truth, it has,” I said. “I ought to be more case-hardened
after my Afghan experiences. I saw my own comrades hacked to pieces at
Maiwand without losing my nerve.”
“I can understand. There is a mystery about this which stimulates the
imagination; where there is no imagination there is no horror. Have you
seen the evening paper?”
“It gives a fairly good account of the affair. It does not mention the fact
that when the man was raised up a woman’s wedding ring fell upon the
floor. It is just as well it does not.”
“Look at this advertisement,” he answered. “I had one sent to every
paper this morning immediately after the affair.”
He threw the paper across to me and I glanced at the place indicated. It
was the first announcement in the “Found” column. “In Brixton Road,
this morning,” it ran, “a plain gold wedding ring, found in the roadway
between the White Hart Tavern and Holland Grove. Apply Dr. Watson,
221B, Baker Street, between eight and nine this evening.”
“Excuse my using your name,” he said. “If I used my own, some of
these dunderheads would recognize it, and want to meddle in the affair.”
“That is all right,” I answered. “But supposing anyone applies, I have
no ring.”
“Oh, yes, you have,” said he, handing me one. “This will do very well.
It is almost a facsimile.”
“And who do you expect will answer this advertisement?”
[38] “Why, the man in the brown coat–our florid friend with the square
toes. If he does not come himself, he will send an accomplice.”
“Would he not consider it as too dangerous?”
“Not at all. If my view of the case is correct, and I have every reason to
believe that it is, this man would rather risk anything than lose the ring.
According to my notion he dropped it while stooping over Drebber’s
body, and did not miss it at the time. After leaving the house he
discovered his loss and hurried back, but found the police already in
possession, owing to his own folly in leaving the candle burning. He had
to pretend to be drunk in order to allay the suspicions which might have
been aroused by his appearance at the gate. Now put yourself in that
man’s place. On thinking the matter over, it must have occurred to him
that it was possible that he had lost the ring in the road after leaving the
house. What would he do then? He would eagerly look out for the
evening papers in the hope of seeing it among the articles found. His eye,
of course, would light upon this. He would be overjoyed. Why should he
fear a trap? There would be no reason in his eyes why the finding of the
ring should be connected with the murder. He would come. He will come.
You shall see him within an hour.”
“And then?” I asked.
“Oh, you can leave me to deal with him then. Have you any arms?”
“I have my old service revolver and a few cartridges.”
“You had better clean it and load it. He will be a desperate man; and
though I shall take him unawares, it is as well to be ready for anything.”
I went to my bedroom and followed his advice. When I returned with
the pistol, the table had been cleared, and Holmes was engaged in his
favourite occupation of scraping upon his violin.
“The plot thickens,” he said, as I entered; “I have just had an answer to
my American telegram. My view of the case is the correct one.”
“And that is– –?” I asked eagerly.
“My fiddle would be the better for new strings,” he remarked. “Put
your pistol in your pocket. When the fellow comes, speak to him in an
ordinary way. Leave the rest to me. Don’t frighten him by looking at him
too hard.”
“It is eight o’clock now,” I said, glancing at my watch.
“Yes. He will probably be here in a few minutes. Open the door
slightly. That will do. Now put the key on the inside. Thank you! This is a
queer old book I picked up at a stall yesterday–De Jure inter
Gentes–published in Latin at Liege in the Lowlands, in 1642. Charles’s
head was still firm on his shoulders when this little brown-backed volume
was struck off.”
“Who is the printer?”
“Philippe de Croy, whoever he may have been. On the flyleaf, in very
faded ink, is written ‘Ex libris Guliolmi Whyte.’ I wonder who William
Whyte was. Some pragmatical seventeenth-century lawyer, I suppose. His
writing has a legal twist about it. Here comes our man, I think.”
As he spoke there was a sharp ring at the bell. Sherlock Holmes rose
softly and moved his chair in the direction of the door. We heard the
servant pass along the hall, and the sharp click of the latch as she opened
“Does Dr. Watson live here?” asked a clear but rather harsh voice. We
could not hear the servant’s reply, but the door closed, and someone
began to ascend the stairs. The footfall was an uncertain and shuffling
one. A look of surprise passed [39] over the face of my companion as he
listened to it. It came slowly along the passage, and there was a feeble tap
at the door.
“Come in,” I cried.
At my summons, instead of the man of violence whom we expected, a
very old and wrinkled woman hobbled into the apartment. She appeared
to be dazzled by the sudden blaze of light, and after dropping a curtsey,
she stood blinking at us with her bleared eyes and fumbling in her pocket
with nervous, shaky fingers. I glanced at my companion, and his face had
assumed such a disconsolate expression that it was all I could do to keep
my countenance.
The old crone drew out an evening paper, and pointed at our
advertisement. “It’s this as has brought me, good gentlemen,” she said,
dropping another curtsey; “a gold wedding ring in the Brixton Road. It
belongs to my girl Sally, as was married only this time twelvemonth,
which her husband is steward aboard a Union boat, and what he’d say if
he comes ’ome and found her without her ring is more than I can think, he
being short enough at the best o’ times, but more especially when he has
the drink. If it please you, she went to the circus last night along with– –”
“Is that her ring?” I asked.
“The Lord be thanked!” cried the old woman; “Sally will be a glad
woman this night. That’s the ring.”
“And what may your address be?” I inquired, taking up a pencil.
“13, Duncan Street, Houndsditch. A weary way from here.”
“The Brixton Road does not lie between any circus and Houndsditch,”
said Sherlock Holmes sharply.
The old woman faced round and looked keenly at him from her little
red-rimmed eyes. “The gentleman asked me for my address,” she said.
“Sally lives in lodgings at 3, Mayfield Place, Peckham.”
“And your name is– –?”
“My name is Sawyer–hers is Dennis, which Tom Dennis married
her–and a smart, clean lad, too, as long as he’s at sea, and no steward in
the company more thought of; but when on shore, what with the women
and what with liquor shops– –”
“Here is your ring, Mrs. Sawyer,” I interrupted, in obedience to a sign
from my companion; “it clearly belongs to your daughter, and I am glad
to be able to restore it to the rightful owner.”
With many mumbled blessings and protestations of gratitude the old
crone packed it away in her pocket, and shuffled off down the stairs.
Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet the moment that she was gone and
rushed into his room. He returned in a few seconds enveloped in an ulster
and a cravat. “I’ll follow her,” he said, hurriedly; “she must be an
accomplice, and will lead me to him. Wait up for me.” The hall door had
hardly slammed behind our visitor before Holmes had descended the stair.
Looking through the window I could see her walking feebly along the
other side, while her pursuer dogged her some little distance behind.
“Either his whole theory is incorrect,” I thought to myself, “or else he will
be led now to the heart of the mystery.” There was no need for him to ask
me to wait up for him, for I felt that sleep was impossible until I heard the
result of his adventure.
It was close upon nine when he set out. I had no idea how long he
might be, but I sat stolidly puffing at my pipe and skipping over the pages
of Henri Murger’s [40] Vie de Boheme. Ten o’clock passed, and I heard
the footsteps of the maid as she pattered off to bed. Eleven, and the more
stately tread of the landlady passed my door, bound for the same
destination. It was close upon twelve before I heard the sharp sound of his
latchkey. The instant he entered I saw by his face that he had not been
successful. Amusement and chagrin seemed to be struggling for the
mastery, until the former suddenly carried the day, and he burst into a
hearty laugh.
“I wouldn’t have the Scotland Yarders know it for the world,” he cried,
dropping into his chair; “I have chaffed them so much that they would
never have let me hear the end of it. I can afford to laugh, because I know
that I will be even with them in the long run.”
“What is it then?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t mind telling a story against myself. That creature had gone
a little way when she began to limp and show every sign of being
footsore. Presently she came to a halt, and hailed a four-wheeler which
was passing. I managed to be close to her so as to hear the address, but I
need not have been so anxious, for she sang it out loud enough to be
heard at the other side of the street, ‘Drive to 13, Duncan Street,
Houndsditch,’ she cried. This begins to look genuine, I thought, and
having seen her safely inside, I perched myself behind. That’s an art
which every detective should be an expert at. Well, away we rattled, and
never drew rein until we reached the street in question. I hopped off
before we came to the door, and strolled down the street in an easy,
lounging way. I saw the cab pull up. The driver jumped down, and I saw
him open the door and stand expectantly. Nothing came out though.
When I reached him, he was groping about frantically in the empty cab,
and giving vent to the finest assorted collection of oaths that ever I
listened to. There was no sign or trace of his passenger, and I fear it will
be some time before he gets his fare. On inquiring at Number 13 we
found that the house belonged to a respectable paperhanger, named
Keswick, and that no one of the name either of Sawyer or Dennis had
ever been heard of there.”
“You don’t mean to say,” I cried, in amazement, “that that tottering,
feeble old woman was able to get out of the cab while it was in motion,
without either you or the driver seeing her?”
“Old woman be damned!” said Sherlock Holmes, sharply. “We were
the old women to be so taken in. It must have been a young man, and an
active one, too, besides being an incomparable actor. The get-up was
inimitable. He saw that he was followed, no doubt, and used this means of
giving me the slip. It shows that the man we are after is not as lonely as I
imagined he was, but has friends who are ready to risk something for him.
Now, Doctor, you are looking done-up. Take my advice and turn in.”
I was certainly feeling very weary, so I obeyed his injunction. I left
Holmes seated in front of the smouldering fire, and long into the watches
of the night I heard the low melancholy wailings of his violin, and knew
that he was still pondering over the strange problem which he had set
himself to unravel.

Chapter 6
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 6


THE papers next day were full of the “Brixton Mystery,” as they termed
it. Each had a long account of the affair, and some had leaders upon it in
addition. There was some information in them which was new to me. I
still retain in my scrapbook numerous clippings and extracts bearing upon
the case. Here is a condensation of a few of them:
The Daily Telegraph remarked that in the history of crime there had
seldom been a tragedy which presented stranger features. The German
name of the victim, the absence of all other motive, and the sinister
inscription on the wall, all pointed to its perpetration by political refugees
and revolutionists. The Socialists had many branches in America, and the
deceased had, no doubt, infringed their unwritten laws, and been tracked
down by them. After alluding airily to the Vehmgericht, aqua tofana,
Carbonari, the Marchioness de Brinvilliers, the Darwinian theory, the
principles of Malthus, and the Ratcliff Highway murders, the article
concluded by admonishing the government and advocating a closer watch
over foreigners in England.
The Standard commented upon the fact that lawless outrages of the sort
usually occurred under a Liberal administration. They arose from the
unsettling of the minds of the masses, and the consequent weakening of
all authority. The deceased was an American gentleman who had been
residing for some weeks in the metropolis. He had stayed at the boarding-
house of Madame Charpentier, in Torquay Terrace, Camberwell. He was
accompanied in his travels by his private secretary, Mr. Joseph
Stangerson. The two bade adieu to their landlady upon Tuesday, the 4th
inst., and departed to Euston Station with the avowed intention of
catching the Liverpool express. They were afterwards seen together upon
the platform. Nothing more is known of them until Mr. Drebber’s body
was, as recorded, discovered in an empty house in the Brixton Road,
many miles from Euston. How he came there, or how he met his fate, are
questions which are still involved in mystery. Nothing is known of the
whereabouts of Stangerson. We are glad to learn that Mr. Lestrade and
Mr. Gregson, of Scotland Yard, are both engaged upon the case, and it is
confidently anticipated that these well-known officers will speedily throw
light upon the matter.
The Daily News observed that there was no doubt as to the crime being
a political one. The despotism and hatred of Liberalism which animated
the Continental governments had had the effect of driving to our shores a
number of men who might have made excellent citizens were they not
soured by the recollection of all that they had undergone. Among these
men there was a stringent code of honour, any infringement of which was
punished by death. Every effort should be made to find the secretary,
Stangerson, and to ascertain some particulars of the habits of the
deceased. A great step had been gained by the discovery of the address of
the house at which he had boarded–a result which was entirely due to the
acuteness and energy of Mr. Gregson of Scotland Yard.
[42] Sherlock Holmes and I read these notices over together at
breakfast, and they appeared to afford him considerable amusement.
“I told you that, whatever happened, Lestrade and Gregson would be
sure to score.”
“That depends on how it turns out.”
“Oh, bless you, it doesn’t matter in the least. If the man is caught, it
will be on account of their exertions; if he escapes, it will be in spite of
their exertions. It’s heads I win and tails you lose. Whatever they do, they
will have followers. ‘Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l’admire.’”
“What on earth is this?” I cried, for at this moment there came the
pattering of many steps in the hall and on the stairs, accompanied by
audible expressions of disgust upon the part of our landlady.
“It’s the Baker Street division of the detective police force,” said my
companion gravely; and as he spoke there rushed into the room half a
dozen of the dirtiest and most ragged street Arabs that ever I clapped eyes
“’Tention!” cried Holmes, in a sharp tone, and the six dirty little
scoundrels stood in a line like so many disreputable statuettes. “In future
you shall send up Wiggins alone to report, and the rest of you must wait
in the street. Have you found it, Wiggins?”
“No, sir, we hain’t,” said one of the youths.
“I hardly expected you would. You must keep on until you do. Here are
your wages.” He handed each of them a shilling. “Now, off you go, and
come back with a better report next time.”
He waved his hand, and they scampered away downstairs like so many
rats, and we heard their shrill voices next moment in the street.
“There’s more work to be got out of one of those little beggars than out
of a dozen of the force,” Holmes remarked. “The mere sight of an official-
looking person seals men’s lips. These youngsters, however, go
everywhere and hear everything. They are as sharp as needles, too; all
they want is organization.”
“Is it on this Brixton case that you are employing them?” I asked.
“Yes; there is a point which I wish to ascertain. It is merely a matter of
time. Hullo! we are going to hear some news now with a vengeance! Here
is Gregson coming down the road with beatitude written upon every
feature of his face. Bound for us, I know. Yes, he is stopping. There he
There was a violent peal at the bell, and in a few seconds the fair-haired
detective came up the stairs, three steps at a time, and burst into our
“My dear fellow,” he cried, wringing Holmes’s unresponsive hand,
“congratulate me! I have made the whole thing as clear as day.”
A shade of anxiety seemed to me to cross my companion’s expressive
“Do you mean that you are on the right track?” he asked.
“The right track! Why, sir, we have the man under lock and key.”
“And his name is?”
“Arthur Charpentier, sub-lieutenant in Her Majesty’s navy,” cried
Gregson pompously rubbing his fat hands and inflating his chest.
Sherlock Holmes gave a sigh of relief and relaxed into a smile.
“Take a seat, and try one of these cigars,” he said. “We are anxious to
know how you managed it. Will you have some whisky and water?”
“I don’t mind if I do,” the detective answered. “The tremendous
exertions which I have gone through during the last day or two have worn
me out. Not so much [43] bodily exertion, you understand, as the strain
upon the mind. You will appreciate that, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, for we are
both brain-workers.”
“You do me too much honour,” said Holmes, gravely. “Let us hear how
you arrived at this most gratifying result.”
The detective seated himself in the armchair, and puffed complacently
at his cigar. Then suddenly he slapped his thigh in a paroxysm of
“The fun of it is,” he cried, “that that fool Lestrade, who thinks himself
so smart, has gone off upon the wrong track altogether. He is after the
secretary Stangerson, who had no more to do with the crime than the babe
unborn. I have no doubt that he has caught him by this time.”
The idea tickled Gregson so much that he laughed until he choked.
“And how did you get your clue?”
“Ah, I’ll tell you all about it. Of course, Dr. Watson, this is strictly
between ourselves. The first difficulty which we had to contend with was
the finding of this American’s antecedents. Some people would have
waited until their advertisements were answered, or until parties came
forward and volunteered information. That is not Tobias Gregson’s way
of going to work. You remember the hat beside the dead man?”
“Yes,” said Holmes; “by John Underwood and Sons, 129, Camberwell
Gregson looked quite crestfallen.
“I had no idea that you noticed that,” he said. “Have you been there?”
“Ha!” cried Gregson, in a relieved voice; “you should never neglect a
chance, however small it may seem.”
“To a great mind, nothing is little,” remarked Holmes, sententiously.
“Well, I went to Underwood, and asked him if he had sold a hat of that
size and description. He looked over his books, and came on it at once.
He had sent the hat to a Mr. Drebber, residing at Charpentier’s Boarding
Establishment, Torquay Terrace. Thus I got at his address.”
“Smart–very smart!” murmured Sherlock Holmes.
“I next called upon Madame Charpentier,” continued the detective. “I
found her very pale and distressed. Her daughter was in the room, too–an
uncommonly fine girl she is, too; she was looking red about the eyes and
her lips trembled as I spoke to her. That didn’t escape my notice. I began
to smell a rat. You know the feeling, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, when you
come upon the right scent–a kind of thrill in your nerves. ‘Have you heard
of the mysterious death of your late boarder Mr. Enoch J. Drebber, of
Cleveland?’ I asked.
“The mother nodded. She didn’t seem able to get out a word. The
daughter burst into tears. I felt more than ever that these people knew
something of the matter.
“‘At what o’clock did Mr. Drebber leave your house for the train?’ I
“‘At eight o’clock,’ she said, gulping in her throat to keep down her
agitation. ‘His secretary, Mr. Stangerson, said that there were two trains–
one at 9:15 and one at 11. He was to catch the first.’
“‘And was that the last which you saw of him?’
“A terrible change came over the woman’s face as I asked the question.
Her features turned perfectly livid. It was some seconds before she could
get out the single word ‘Yes’–and when it did come it was in a husky,
unnatural tone.
[44] “There was silence for a moment, and then the daughter spoke in a
calm, clear voice.
“‘No good can ever come of falsehood, mother,’ she said. ‘Let us be
frank with this gentleman. We did see Mr. Drebber again.’
“‘God forgive you!’ cried Madame Charpentier, throwing up her hands
and sinking back in her chair. ‘You have murdered your brother.’
“‘Arthur would rather that we spoke the truth,’ the girl answered firmly.
“‘You had best tell me all about it now,’ I said. ‘Half-confidences are
worse than none. Besides, you do not know how much we know of it.’
“‘On your head be it, Alice!’ cried her mother; and then, turning to me,
‘I will tell you all, sir. Do not imagine that my agitation on behalf of my
son arises from any fear lest he should have had a hand in this terrible
affair. He is utterly innocent of it. My dread is, however, that in your eyes
and in the eyes of others he may appear to be compromised. That,
however, is surely impossible. His high character, his profession, his
antecedents would all forbid it.’
“‘Your best way is to make a clean breast of the facts,’ I answered.
‘Depend upon it, if your son is innocent he will be none the worse.’
“‘Perhaps, Alice, you had better leave us together,’ she said, and her
daughter withdrew. ‘Now, sir,’ she continued, ‘I had no intention of
telling you all this, but since my poor daughter has disclosed it I have no
alternative. Having once decided to speak, I will tell you all without
omitting any particular.’
“‘It is your wisest course,’ said I.
“‘Mr. Drebber has been with us nearly three weeks. He and his
secretary, Mr. Stangerson, had been travelling on the Continent. I noticed
a Copenhagen label upon each of their trunks, showing that that had been
their last stopping place. Stangerson was a quiet, reserved man, but his
employer, I am sorry to say, was far otherwise. He was coarse in his
habits and brutish in his ways. The very night of his arrival he became
very much the worse for drink, and, indeed, after twelve o’clock in the
day he could hardly ever be said to be sober. His manners towards the
maid-servants were disgustingly free and familiar. Worst of all, he
speedily assumed the same attitude towards my daughter, Alice, and
spoke to her more than once in a way which, fortunately, she is too
innocent to understand. On one occasion he actually seized her in his
arms and embraced her–an outrage which caused his own secretary to
reproach him for his unmanly conduct.’
“‘But why did you stand all this?’ I asked. ‘I suppose that you can get
rid of your boarders when you wish.’
“Mrs. Charpentier blushed at my pertinent question. ‘Would to God
that I had given him notice on the very day that he came,’ she said. ‘But it
was a sore temptation. They were paying a pound a day each–fourteen
pounds a week, and this is the slack season. I am a widow, and my boy in
the Navy has cost me much. I grudged to lose the money. I acted for the
best. This last was too much, however, and I gave him notice to leave on
account of it. That was the reason of his going.’
“‘My heart grew light when I saw him drive away. My son is on leave
just now, but I did not tell him anything of all this, for his temper is
violent, and he is passionately fond of his sister. When I closed the door
behind them a load seemed to be lifted from my mind. Alas, in less than
an hour there was a ring at the bell, and I learned that Mr. Drebber had
returned. He was much excited, and evidently the worse for drink. He
forced his way into the room, where I was sitting with my [45] daughter,
and made some incoherent remark about having missed his train. He then
turned to Alice, and before my very face, proposed to her that she should
fly with him. “You are of age,” he said, “and there is no law to stop you. I
have money enough and to spare. Never mind the old girl here, but come
along with me now straight away. You shall live like a princess.” Poor
Alice was so frightened that she shrunk away from him, but he caught her
by the wrist and endeavoured to draw her towards the door. I screamed,
and at that moment my son Arthur came into the room. What happened
then I do not know. I heard oaths and the confused sounds of a scuffle. I
was too terrified to raise my head. When I did look up I saw Arthur
standing in the doorway laughing, with a stick in his hand. “I don’t think
that fine fellow will trouble us again,” he said. “I will just go after him
and see what he does with himself.” With those words he took his hat and
started off down the street. The next morning we heard of Mr. Drebber’s
mysterious death.’
“This statement came from Mrs. Charpentier’s lips with many gasps
and pauses. At times she spoke so low that I could hardly catch the words.
I made shorthand notes of all that she said, however, so that there should
be no possibility of a mistake.”
“It’s quite exciting,” said Sherlock Holmes, with a yawn. “What
happened next?”
“When Mrs. Charpentier paused,” the detective continued, “I saw that
the whole case hung upon one point. Fixing her with my eye in a way
which I always found effective with women, I asked her at what hour her
son returned.
“‘I do not know,’ she answered.
“‘Not know?’
“‘No; he has a latchkey, and he let himself in.’
“‘After you went to bed?’
“‘When did you go to bed?’
“‘About eleven.’
“‘So your son was gone at least two hours?’
“‘Possibly four or five?’
“‘What was he doing during that time?’
“‘I do not know,’ she answered, turning white to her very lips.
“Of course after that there was nothing more to be done. I found out
where Lieutenant Charpentier was, took two officers with me, and
arrested him. When I touched him on the shoulder and warned him to
come quietly with us, he answered us as bold as brass, ‘I suppose you are
arresting me for being concerned in the death of that scoundrel Drebber,’
he said. We had said nothing to him about it, so that his alluding to it had
a most suspicious aspect.”
“Very,” said Holmes.
“He still carried the heavy stick which the mother described him as
having with him when he followed Drebber. It was a stout oak cudgel.”
“What is your theory, then?”
“Well, my theory is that he followed Drebber as far as the Brixton
Road. When there, a fresh altercation arose between them, in the course
of which Drebber received a blow from the stick, in the pit of the stomach
perhaps, which killed him without leaving any mark. The night was so
wet that no one was about, so Charpentier dragged the body of his victim
into the empty house. As to the candle, [46] and the blood, and the writing
on the wall, and the ring, they may all be so many tricks to throw the
police on to the wrong scent.”
“Well done!” said Holmes in an encouraging voice. “Really, Gregson,
you are getting along. We shall make something of you yet.”
“I flatter myself that I have managed it rather neatly,” the detective
answered, proudly. “The young man volunteered a statement, in which he
said that after following Drebber some time, the latter perceived him, and
took a cab in order to get away from him. On his way home he met an old
shipmate, and took a long walk with him. On being asked where this old
shipmate lived, he was unable to give any satisfactory reply. I think the
whole case fits together uncommonly well. What amuses me is to think of
Lestrade, who had started off upon the wrong scent. I am afraid he won’t
make much of it. Why, by Jove, here’s the very man himself!”
It was indeed Lestrade, who had ascended the stairs while we were
talking, and who now entered the room. The assurance and jauntiness
which generally marked his demeanour and dress were, however,
wanting. His face was disturbed and troubled, while his clothes were
disarranged and untidy. He had evidently come with the intention of
consulting with Sherlock Holmes, for on perceiving his colleague he
appeared to be embarrassed and put out. He stood in the centre of the
room, fumbling nervously with his hat and uncertain what to do. “This is
a most extraordinary case,” he said at last–“a most incomprehensible

“Ah, you find it so, Mr. Lestrade!” cried Gregson, triumphantly. “I

thought you would come to that conclusion. Have you managed to find
the secretary, Mr. Joseph Stangerson?”
“The secretary, Mr. Joseph Stangerson,” said Lestrade, gravely, “was
murdered at Halliday’s Private Hotel about six o’clock this morning.”

Chapter 7
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 7


THE intelligence with which Lestrade greeted us was so momentous and
so unexpected that we were all three fairly dumfounded. Gregson sprang
out of his chair and upset the remainder of his whisky and water. I stared
in silence at Sherlock Holmes, whose lips were compressed and his brows
drawn down over his eyes.
“Stangerson too!” he muttered. “The plot thickens.”
“It was quite thick enough before,” grumbled Lestrade, taking a chair.
“I seem to have dropped into a sort of council of war.”
“Are you–are you sure of this piece of intelligence?” stammered
“I have just come from his room,” said Lestrade. “I was the first to
discover what had occurred.”
“We have been hearing Gregson’s view of the matter,” Holmes
observed. “Would you mind letting us know what you have seen and
“I have no objection,” Lestrade answered, seating himself. “I freely
confess that I was of the opinion that Stangerson was concerned in the
death of Drebber. This fresh development has shown me that I was
completely mistaken. Full of the one idea, I set myself to find out what
had become of the secretary. They had been [47] seen together at Euston
Station about half-past eight on the evening of the 3rd. At two in the
morning Drebber had been found in the Brixton Road. The question
which confronted me was to find out how Stangerson had been employed
between 8:30 and the time of the crime, and what had become of him
afterwards. I telegraphed to Liverpool, giving a description of the man,
and warning them to keep a watch upon the American boats. I then set to
work calling upon all the hotels and lodging-houses in the vicinity of
Euston. You see, I argued that if Drebber and his companion had become
separated, the natural course for the latter would be to put up somewhere
in the vicinity for the night, and then to hang about the station again next
“They would be likely to agree on some meeting-place beforehand,”
remarked Holmes.
“So it proved. I spent the whole of yesterday evening in making
inquiries entirely without avail. This morning I began very early, and at
eight o’clock I reached Halliday’s Private Hotel, in Little George Street.
On my inquiry as to whether a Mr. Stangerson was living there, they at
once answered me in the affirmative.
“‘No doubt you are the gentleman whom he was expecting,’ they said.
‘He has been waiting for a gentleman for two days.’
“‘Where is he now?’ I asked.
“‘He is upstairs in bed. He wished to be called at nine.’
“‘I will go up and see him at once,’ I said.
“It seemed to me that my sudden appearance might shake his nerves
and lead him to say something unguarded. The boots volunteered to show
me the room: it was on the second floor, and there was a small corridor
leading up to it. The boots pointed out the door to me, and was about to
go downstairs again when I saw something that made me feel sickish, in
spite of my twenty years’ experience. From under the door there curled a
little red ribbon of blood, which had meandered across the passage and
formed a little pool along the skirting at the other side. I gave a cry, which
brought the boots back. He nearly fainted when he saw it. The door was
locked on the inside, but we put our shoulders to it, and knocked it in. The
window of the room was open, and beside the window, all huddled up,
lay the body of a man in his nightdress. He was quite dead, and had been
for some time, for his limbs were rigid and cold. When we turned him
over, the boots recognized him at once as being the same gentleman who
had engaged the room under the name of Joseph Stangerson. The cause of
death was a deep stab in the left side, which must have penetrated the
heart. And now comes the strangest part of the affair. What do you
suppose was above the murdered man?”
I felt a creeping of the flesh, and a presentiment of coming horror, even
before Sherlock Holmes answered.
“The word RACHE, written in letters of blood,” he said.
“That was it,” said Lestrade, in an awestruck voice; and we were all
silent for a while.
There was something so methodical and so incomprehensible about the
deeds of this unknown assassin, that it imparted a fresh ghastliness to his
crimes. My nerves, which were steady enough on the field of battle,
tingled as I thought of it.
“The man was seen,” continued Lestrade. “A milk boy, passing on his
way to the dairy, happened to walk down the lane which leads from the
mews at the back of the hotel. He noticed that a ladder, which usually lay
there, was raised against one of the windows of the second floor, which
was wide open. After passing, he [48] looked back and saw a man descend
the ladder. He came down so quietly and openly that the boy imagined
him to be some carpenter or joiner at work in the hotel. He took no
particular notice of him, beyond thinking in his own mind that it was
early for him to be at work. He has an impression that the man was tall,
had a reddish face, and was dressed in a long, brownish coat. He must
have stayed in the room some little time after the murder, for we found
blood-stained water in the basin, where he had washed his hands, and
marks on the sheets where he had deliberately wiped his knife.”
I glanced at Holmes on hearing the description of the murderer which
tallied so exactly with his own. There was, however, no trace of
exultation or satisfaction upon his face.
“Did you find nothing in the room which could furnish a clue to the
murderer?” he asked.
“Nothing. Stangerson had Drebber’s purse in his pocket, but it seems
that this was usual, as he did all the paying. There was eighty-odd pounds
in it, but nothing had been taken. Whatever the motives of these
extraordinary crimes, robbery is certainly not one of them. There were no
papers or memoranda in the murdered man’s pocket, except a single
telegram, dated from Cleveland about a month ago, and containing the
words, ‘J. H. is in Europe.’ There was no name appended to this message.”
“And there was nothing else?” Holmes asked.
“Nothing of any importance. The man’s novel, with which he had read
himself to sleep, was lying upon the bed, and his pipe was on a chair
beside him. There was a glass of water on the table, and on the window-
sill a small chip ointment box containing a couple of pills.”
Sherlock Holmes sprang from his chair with an exclamation of delight.
“The last link,” he cried, exultantly. “My case is complete.”
The two detectives stared at him in amazement.
“I have now in my hands,” my companion said, confidently, “all the
threads which have formed such a tangle. There are, of course, details to
be filled in, but I am as certain of all the main facts, from the time that
Drebber parted from Stangerson at the station, up to the discovery of the
body of the latter, as if I had seen them with my own eyes. I will give you
a proof of my knowledge. Could you lay your hand upon those pills?”
“I have them,” said Lestrade, producing a small white box; “I took
them and the purse and the telegram, intending to have them put in a
place of safety at the police station. It was the merest chance my taking
these pills, for I am bound to say that I do not attach any importance to
“Give them here,” said Holmes. “Now, Doctor,” turning to me, “are
those ordinary pills?”
They certainly were not. They were of a pearly gray colour, small,
round, and almost transparent against the light. “From their lightness and
transparency, I should imagine that they are soluble in water,” I remarked.
“Precisely so,” answered Holmes. “Now would you mind going down
and fetching that poor little devil of a terrier which has been bad so long,
and which the landlady wanted you to put out of its pain yesterday?”
I went downstairs and carried the dog upstairs in my arms. Its laboured
breathing and glazing eye showed that it was not far from its end. Indeed,
its snow-white [49] muzzle proclaimed that it had already exceeded the
usual term of canine existence. I placed it upon a cushion on the rug.
“I will now cut one of these pills in two,” said Holmes, and drawing his
penknife he suited the action to the word. “One half we return into the
box for future purposes. The other half I will place in this wineglass, in
which is a teaspoonful of water. You perceive that our friend, the doctor,
is right, and that it readily dissolves.”
“This may be very interesting,” said Lestrade, in the injured tone of one
who suspects that he is being laughed at; “I cannot see, however, what it
has to do with the death of Mr. Joseph Stangerson.”
“Patience, my friend, patience! You will find in time that it has
everything to do with it. I shall now add a little milk to make the mixture
palatable, and on presenting it to the dog we find that he laps it up readily

As he spoke he turned the contents of the wineglass into a saucer and

placed it in front of the terrier, who speedily licked it dry. Sherlock
Holmes’s earnest demeanour had so far convinced us that we all sat in
silence, watching the animal intently, and expecting some startling effect.
None such appeared, however. The dog continued to lie stretched upon
the cushion, breathing in a laboured way, but apparently neither the better
nor the worse for its draught.
Holmes had taken out his watch, and as minute followed minute
without result, an expression of the utmost chagrin and disappointment
appeared upon his features. He gnawed his lip, drummed his fingers upon
the table, and showed every other symptom of acute impatience. So great
was his emotion that I felt sincerely sorry for him, while the two
detectives smiled derisively, by no means displeased at this check which
he had met.
“It can’t be a coincidence,” he cried, at last springing from his chair and
pacing wildly up and down the room; “it is impossible that it should be a
mere coincidence. The very pills which I suspected in the case of Drebber
are actually found after the death of Stangerson. And yet they are inert.
What can it mean? Surely my whole chain of reasoning cannot have been
false. It is impossible! And yet this wretched dog is none the worse. Ah, I
have it! I have it!” With a perfect shriek of delight he rushed to the box,
cut the other pill in two, dissolved it, added milk, and presented it to the
terrier. The unfortunate creature’s tongue seemed hardly to have been
moistened in it before it gave a convulsive shiver in every limb, and lay as
rigid and lifeless as if it had been struck by lightning.
Sherlock Holmes drew a long breath, and wiped the perspiration from
his forehead. “I should have more faith,” he said; “I ought to know by this
time that when a fact appears to be opposed to a long train of deductions,
it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation. Of
the two pills in that box, one was of the most deadly poison, and the other
was entirely harmless. I ought to have known that before ever I saw the
box at all.”
This last statement appeared to me to be so startling that I could hardly
believe that he was in his sober senses. There was the dead dog, however,
to prove that his conjecture had been correct. It seemed to me that the
mists in my own mind were gradually clearing away, and I began to have
a dim, vague perception of the truth.
“All this seems strange to you,” continued Holmes, “because you failed
at the beginning of the inquiry to grasp the importance of the single real
clue which was presented to you. I had the good fortune to seize upon
that, and everything [50] which has occurred since then has served to
confirm my original supposition, and, indeed, was the logical sequence of
it. Hence things which have perplexed you and made the case more
obscure have served to enlighten me and to strengthen my conclusions. It
is a mistake to confound strangeness with mystery. The most
commonplace crime is often the most mysterious, because it presents no
new or special features from which deductions may be drawn. This
murder would have been infinitely more difficult to unravel had the body
of the victim been simply found lying in the roadway without any of those
outré and sensational accompaniments which have rendered it
remarkable. These strange details, far from making the case more
difficult, have really had the effect of making it less so.”
Mr. Gregson, who had listened to this address with considerable
impatience, could contain himself no longer. “Look here, Mr. Sherlock
Holmes,” he said, “we are all ready to acknowledge that you are a smart
man, and that you have your own methods of working. We want
something more than mere theory and preaching now, though. It is a case
of taking the man. I have made my case out, and it seems I was wrong.
Young Charpentier could not have been engaged in this second affair.
Lestrade went after his man, Stangerson, and it appears that he was wrong
too. You have thrown out hints here, and hints there, and seem to know
more than we do, but the time has come when we feel that we have a right
to ask you straight how much you do know of the business. Can you name
the man who did it?”
“I cannot help feeling that Gregson is right, sir,” remarked Lestrade.
“We have both tried, and we have both failed. You have remarked more
than once since I have been in the room that you had all the evidence
which you require. Surely you will not withhold it any longer.”
“Any delay in arresting the assassin,” I observed, “might give him time
to perpetrate some fresh atrocity.”
Thus pressed by us all, Holmes showed signs of irresolution. He
continued to walk up and down the room with his head sunk on his chest
and his brows drawn down, as was his habit when lost in thought.
“There will be no more murders,” he said at last, stopping abruptly and
facing us. “You can put that consideration out of the question. You have
asked me if I know the name of the assassin. I do. The mere knowing of
his name is a small thing, however, compared with the power of laying
our hands upon him. This I expect very shortly to do. I have good hopes
of managing it through my own arrangements; but it is a thing which
needs delicate handling, for we have a shrewd and desperate man to deal
with, who is supported, as I have had occasion to prove, by another who
is as clever as himself. As long as this man has no idea that anyone can
have a clue there is some chance of securing him; but if he had the
slightest suspicion, he would change his name, and vanish in an instant
among the four million inhabitants of this great city. Without meaning to
hurt either of your feelings, I am bound to say that I consider these men to
be more than a match for the official force, and that is why I have not
asked your assistance. If I fail, I shall, of course, incur all the blame due
to this omission; but that I am prepared for. At present I am ready to
promise that the instant that I can communicate with you without
endangering my own combinations, I shall do so.”
Gregson and Lestrade seemed to be far from satisfied by this assurance,
or by the depreciating allusion to the detective police. The former had
flushed up to the roots of his flaxen hair, while the other’s beady eyes
glistened with curiosity and resentment. Neither of them had time to
speak, however, before there was a tap [51] at the door, and the
spokesman of the street Arabs, young Wiggins, introduced his
insignificant and unsavoury person.
“Please, sir,” he said, touching his forelock, “I have the cab downstairs.”
“Good boy,” said Holmes, blandly. “Why don’t you introduce this
pattern at Scotland Yard?” he continued, taking a pair of steel handcuffs
from a drawer. “See how beautifully the spring works. They fasten in an
“The old pattern is good enough,” remarked Lestrade, “if we can only
find the man to put them on.”
“Very good, very good,” said Holmes, smiling. “The cabman may as
well help me with my boxes. Just ask him to step up, Wiggins.”
I was surprised to find my companion speaking as though he were
about to set out on a journey, since he had not said anything to me about
it. There was a small portmanteau in the room, and this he pulled out and
began to strap. He was busily engaged at it when the cabman entered the
“Just give me a help with this buckle, cabman,” he said, kneeling over
his task, and never turning his head.
The fellow came forward with a somewhat sullen, defiant air, and put
down his hands to assist. At that instant there was a sharp click, the
jangling of metal, and Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet again.
“Gentlemen,” he cried, with flashing eyes, “let me introduce you to Mr.
Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Enoch Drebber and of Joseph
The whole thing occurred in a moment–so quickly that I had no time to
realize it. I have a vivid recollection of that instant, of Holmes’s
triumphant expression and the ring of his voice, of the cabman’s dazed,
savage face, as he glared at the glittering handcuffs, which had appeared
as if by magic upon his wrists. For a second or two we might have been a
group of statues. Then with an inarticulate roar of fury, the prisoner
wrenched himself free from Holmes’s grasp, and hurled himself through
the window. Woodwork and glass gave way before him; but before he got
quite through, Gregson, Lestrade, and Holmes sprang upon him like so
many staghounds. He was dragged back into the room, and then
commenced a terrific conflict. So powerful and so fierce was he that the
four of us were shaken off again and again. He appeared to have the
convulsive strength of a man in an epileptic fit. His face and hands were
terribly mangled by his passage through the glass, but loss of blood had
no effect in diminishing his resistance. It was not until Lestrade
succeeded in getting his hand inside his neckcloth and half-strangling him
that we made him realize that his struggles were of no avail; and even
then we felt no security until we had pinioned his feet as well as his
hands. That done, we rose to our feet breathless and panting.
“We have his cab,” said Sherlock Holmes. “It will serve to take him to
Scotland Yard. And now, gentlemen,” he continued, with a pleasant
smile, “we have reached the end of our little mystery. You are very
welcome to put any questions that you like to me now, and there is no
danger that I will refuse to answer them.”
Part 2, Chapter 1
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet



Chapter 1


IN THE central portion of the great North American Continent there lies
an arid and repulsive desert, which for many a long year served as a
barrier against the advance of civilization. From the Sierra Nevada to
Nebraska, and from the Yellowstone River in the north to the Colorado
upon the south, is a region of desolation and silence. Nor is Nature always
in one mood throughout this grim district. It comprises snow-capped and
lofty mountains, and dark and gloomy valleys. There are swift-flowing
rivers which dash through jagged canons; and there are enormous plains,
which in winter are white with snow, and in summer are gray with the
saline alkali dust. They all preserve, however, the common characteristics
of barrenness, inhospitality, and misery.
There are no inhabitants of this land of despair. A band of Pawnees or
of Blackfeet may occasionally traverse it in order to reach other hunting-
grounds, but the hardiest of the braves are glad to lose sight of those
awesome plains, and to find themselves once more upon their prairies.
The coyote skulks among the scrub, the buzzard flaps heavily through the
air, and the clumsy grizzly bear lumbers through the dark ravines, and
picks up such sustenance as it can amongst the rocks. These are the sole
dwellers in the wilderness.
In the whole world there can be no more dreary view than that from the
northern slope of the Sierra Blanco. As far as the eye can reach stretches
the great flat plain-land, all dusted over with patches of alkali, and
intersected by clumps of the dwarfish chaparral bushes. On the extreme
verge of the horizon lie a long chain of mountain peaks, with their rugged
summits flecked with snow. In this great stretch of country there is no
sign of life, nor of anything appertaining to life. There is no bird in the
steel-blue heaven, no movement upon the dull, gray earth–above all, there
is absolute silence. Listen as one may, there is no shadow of a sound in all
that mighty wilderness; nothing but silence–complete and heart-subduing
It has been said there is nothing appertaining to life upon the broad
plain. That is hardly true. Looking down from the Sierra Blanco, one sees
a pathway traced out across the desert, which winds away and is lost in
the extreme distance. It is rutted with wheels and trodden down by the
feet of many adventurers. Here and there there are scattered white objects
which glisten in the sun, and stand out against the dull deposit of alkali.
Approach, and examine them! They are bones: some large and coarse,
others smaller and more delicate. The former have belonged to oxen, and
the latter to men. For fifteen hundred miles one may trace this [53] ghastly
caravan route by these scattered remains of those who had fallen by the
Looking down on this very scene, there stood upon the fourth of May,
eighteen hundred and forty-seven, a solitary traveller. His appearance was
such that he might have been the very genius or demon of the region. An
observer would have found it difficult to say whether he was nearer to
forty or to sixty. His face was lean and haggard, and the brown parchment-
like skin was drawn tightly over the projecting bones; his long, brown
hair and beard were all flecked and dashed with white; his eyes were
sunken in his head, and burned with an unnatural lustre; while the hand
which grasped his rifle was hardly more fleshy than that of a skeleton. As
he stood, he leaned upon his weapon for support, and yet his tall figure
and the massive framework of his bones suggested a wiry and vigorous
constitution. His gaunt face, however, and his clothes, which hung so
baggily over his shrivelled limbs, proclaimed what it was that gave him
that senile and decrepit appearance. The man was dying–dying from
hunger and from thirst.
He had toiled painfully down the ravine, and on to this little elevation,
in the vain hope of seeing some signs of water. Now the great salt plain
stretched before his eyes, and the distant belt of savage mountains,
without a sign anywhere of plant or tree, which might indicate the
presence of moisture. In all that broad landscape there was no gleam of
hope. North, and east, and west he looked with wild, questioning eyes,
and then he realized that his wanderings had come to an end, and that
there, on that barren crag, he was about to die. “Why not here, as well as
in a feather bed, twenty years hence?” he muttered, as he seated himself
in the shelter of a boulder.
Before sitting down, he had deposited upon the ground his useless rifle,
and also a large bundle tied up in a gray shawl, which he had carried
slung over his right shoulder. It appeared to be somewhat too heavy for
his strength, for in lowering it, it came down on the ground with some
little violence. Instantly there broke from the gray parcel a little moaning
cry, and from it there protruded a small, scared face, with very bright
brown eyes, and two little speckled dimpled fists.
“You’ve hurt me!” said a childish voice, reproachfully.
“Have I, though?” the man answered penitently; “I didn’t go for to do
it.” As he spoke he unwrapped the gray shawl and extricated a pretty little
girl of about five years of age, whose dainty shoes and smart pink frock
with its little linen apron, all bespoke a mother’s care. The child was pale
and wan, but her healthy arms and legs showed that she had suffered less
than her companion.
“How is it now?” he answered anxiously, for she was still rubbing the
tousy golden curls which covered the back of her head.
“Kiss it and make it well,” she said, with perfect gravity, showing the
injured part up to him. “That’s what mother used to do. Where’s mother?”
“Mother’s gone. I guess you’ll see her before long.”
“Gone, eh!” said the little girl. “Funny, she didn’t say good-bye; she
’most always did if she was just goin’ over to auntie’s for tea, and now
she’s been away three days. Say, it’s awful dry, ain’t it? Ain’t there no
water nor nothing to eat?”
“No, there ain’t nothing, dearie. You’ll just need to be patient awhile,
and then you’ll be all right. Put your head up ag’in me like that, and then
you’ll feel bullier. It ain’t easy to talk when your lips is like leather, but I
guess I’d best let you know how the cards lie. What’s that you’ve got?”
“Pretty things! fine things!” cried the little girl enthusiastically, holding
up two [54] glittering fragments of mica. “When we goes back to home
I’ll give them to brother Bob.”
“You’ll see prettier things than them soon,” said the man confidently.
“You just wait a bit. I was going to tell you though–you remember when
we left the river?”
“Oh, yes.”
“Well, we reckoned we’d strike another river soon, d’ye see. But there
was somethin’ wrong; compasses, or map, or somethin’, and it didn’t turn
up. Water ran out. Just except a little drop for the likes of you, and–and–
“And you couldn’t wash yourself,” interrupted his companion gravely,
staring up at his grimy visage.
“No, nor drink. And Mr. Bender, he was the fust to go, and then Indian
Pete, and then Mrs. McGregor, and then Johnny Hones, and then, dearie,
your mother.”
“Then mother’s a deader too,” cried the little girl, dropping her face in
her pinafore and sobbing bitterly.
“Yes, they all went except you and me. Then I thought there was some
chance of water in this direction, so I heaved you over my shoulder and
we tramped it together. It don’t seem as though we’ve improved matters.
There’s an almighty small chance for us now!”
“Do you mean that we are going to die too?” asked the child, checking
her sobs, and raising her tear-stained face.
“I guess that’s about the size of it.”
“Why didn’t you say so before?” she said, laughing gleefully. “You
gave me such a fright. Why, of course, now as long as we die we’ll be
with mother again.”
“Yes, you will, dearie.”
“And you too. I’ll tell her how awful good you’ve been. I’ll bet she
meets us at the door of heaven with a big pitcher of water, and a lot of
buckwheat cakes, hot, and toasted on both sides, like Bob and me was
fond of. How long will it be first?”
“I don’t know–not very long.” The man’s eyes were fixed upon the
northern horizon. In the blue vault of the heaven there had appeared three
little specks which increased in size every moment, so rapidly did they
approach. They speedily resolved themselves into three large brown birds,
which circled over the heads of the two wanderers, and then settled upon
some rocks which overlooked them. They were buzzards, the vultures of
the West, whose coming is the forerunner of death.
“Cocks and hens,” cried the little girl gleefully, pointing at their ill-
omened forms, and clapping her hands to make them rise. “Say, did God
make this country?”
“Of course He did,” said her companion, rather startled by this
unexpected question.
“He made the country down in Illinois, and He made the Missouri,” the
little girl continued. “I guess somebody else made the country in these
parts. It’s not nearly so well done. They forgot the water and the trees.”
“What would ye think of offering up prayer?” the man asked diffidently.
“It ain’t night yet,” she answered.
“It don’t matter. It ain’t quite regular, but He won’t mind that, you bet.
You say over them ones that you used to say every night in the wagon
when we was on the plains.”
[55] “Why don’t you say some yourself?” the child asked, with
wondering eyes.
“I disremember them,” he answered. “I hain’t said none since I was
half the height o’ that gun. I guess it’s never too late. You say them out,
and I’ll stand by and come in on the choruses.”

“Then you’ll need to kneel down, and me too,” she said, laying the
shawl out for that purpose. “You’ve got to put your hands up like this. It
makes you feel kind of good.”
It was a strange sight, had there been anything but the buzzards to see
it. Side by side on the narrow shawl knelt the two wanderers, the little
prattling child and the reckless, hardened adventurer. Her chubby face
and his haggard, angular visage were both turned up to the cloudless
heaven in heartfelt entreaty to that dread Being with whom they were face
to face, while the two voices–the one thin and clear, the other deep and
harsh–united in the entreaty for mercy and forgiveness. The prayer
finished, they resumed their seat in the shadow of the boulder until the
child fell asleep, nestling upon the broad breast of her protector. He
watched over her slumber for some time, but Nature proved to be too
strong for him. For three days and three nights he had allowed himself
neither rest nor repose. Slowly the eyelids drooped over the tired eyes,
and the head sunk lower and lower upon the breast, until the man’s
grizzled beard was mixed with the gold tresses of his companion, and
both slept the same deep and dreamless slumber.
Had the wanderer remained awake for another half-hour a strange sight
would have met his eyes. Far away on the extreme verge of the alkali
plain there rose up a little spray of dust, very slight at first, and hardly to
be distinguished from the mists of the distance, but gradually growing
higher and broader until it formed a solid, well-defined cloud. This cloud
continued to increase in size until it became evident that it could only be
raised by a great multitude of moving creatures. In more fertile spots the
observer would have come to the conclusion that one of those great herds
of bisons which graze upon the prairie land was approaching him. This
was obviously impossible in these arid wilds. As the whirl of dust drew
nearer to the solitary bluff upon which the two castaways were reposing,
the canvas-covered tilts of wagons and the figures of armed horsemen
began to show up through the haze, and the apparition revealed itself as
being a great caravan upon its journey for the West. But what a caravan!
When the head of it had reached the base of the mountains, the rear was
not yet visible on the horizon. Right across the enormous plain stretched
the straggling array, wagons and carts, men on horseback, and men on
foot. Innumerable women who staggered along under burdens, and
children who toddled beside the wagons or peeped out from under the
white coverings. This was evidently no ordinary party of immigrants, but
rather some nomad people who had been compelled from stress of
circumstances to seek themselves a new country. There rose through the
clear air a confused clattering and rumbling from this great mass of
humanity, with the creaking of wheels and the neighing of horses. Loud
as it was, it was not sufficient to rouse the two tired wayfarers above them.
At the head of the column there rode a score or more of grave, iron-
faced men, clad in sombre homespun garments and armed with rifles. On
reaching the base of the bluff they halted, and held a short council among
“The wells are to the right, my brothers,” said one, a hard-lipped, clean-
shaven man with grizzly hair.
[56] “To the right of the Sierra Blanco–so we shall reach the Rio
Grande,” said another.
“Fear not for water,” cried a third. “He who could draw it from the
rocks will not now abandon His own chosen people.”
“Amen! amen!” responded the whole party.
They were about to resume their journey when one of the youngest and
keenest-eyed uttered an exclamation and pointed up at the rugged crag
above them. From its summit there fluttered a little wisp of pink, showing
up hard and bright against the gray rocks behind. At the sight there was a
general reining up of horses and unslinging of guns, while fresh horsemen
came galloping up to reinforce the vanguard. The word “Redskins” was
on every lip.
“There can’t be any number of Injuns here,” said the elderly man who
appeared to be in command. “We have passed the Pawnees, and there are
no other tribes until we cross the great mountains.”
“Shall I go forward and see, Brother Stangerson?” asked one of the
“And I,” “And I,” cried a dozen voices.
“Leave your horses below and we will await you here,” the elder
answered. In a moment the young fellows had dismounted, fastened their
horses, and were ascending the precipitous slope which led up to the
object which had excited their curiosity. They advanced rapidly and
noiselessly, with the confidence and dexterity of practised scouts. The
watchers from the plain below could see them flit from rock to rock until
their figures stood out against the sky-line. The young man who had first
given the alarm was leading them. Suddenly his followers saw him throw
up his hands, as though overcome with astonishment, and on joining him
they were affected in the same way by the sight which met their eyes.
On the little plateau which crowned the barren hill there stood a single
giant boulder, and against this boulder there lay a tall man, long-bearded
and hard-featured, but of an excessive thinness. His placid face and
regular breathing showed that he was fast asleep. Beside him lay a child,
with her round white arms encircling his brown sinewy neck, and her
golden-haired head resting upon the breast of his velveteen tunic. Her
rosy lips were parted, showing the regular line of snow-white teeth
within, and a playful smile played over her infantile features. Her plump
little white legs, terminating in white socks and neat shoes with shining
buckles, offered a strange contrast to the long shrivelled members of her
companion. On the ledge of rock above this strange couple there stood
three solemn buzzards, who, at the sight of the newcomers, uttered
raucous screams of disappointment and flapped sullenly away.
The cries of the foul birds awoke the two sleepers, who stared about
them in bewilderment. The man staggered to his feet and looked down
upon the plain which had been so desolate when sleep had overtaken him,
and which was now traversed by this enormous body of men and of
beasts. His face assumed an expression of incredulity as he gazed, and he
passed his bony hand over his eyes. “This is what they call delirium, I
guess,” he muttered. The child stood beside him, holding on to the skirt of
his coat, and said nothing, but looked all round her with the wondering,
questioning gaze of childhood.
The rescuing party were speedily able to convince the two castaways
that their appearance was no delusion. One of them seized the little girl
and hoisted her upon his shoulder, while two others supported her gaunt
companion, and assisted him towards the wagons.
[57] “My name is John Ferrier,” the wanderer explained; “me and that
little un are all that’s left o’ twenty-one people. The rest is all dead o’
thirst and hunger away down in the south.”
“Is she your child?” asked someone.
“I guess she is now,” the other cried, defiantly; “she’s mine ’cause I
saved her. No man will take her from me. She’s Lucy Ferrier from this
day on. Who are you, though?” he continued, glancing with curiosity at
his stalwart, sunburned rescuers; “there seems to be a powerful lot of ye.”
“Nigh unto ten thousand,” said one of the young men; “we are the
persecuted children of God–the chosen of the Angel Moroni.”
“I never heard tell on him,” said the wanderer. “He appears to have
chosen a fair crowd of ye.”
“Do not jest at that which is sacred,” said the other, sternly. “We are of
those who believe in those sacred writings, drawn in Egyptian letters on
plates of beaten gold, which were handed unto the holy Joseph Smith at
Palmyra. We have come from Nauvoo, in the state of Illinois, where we
had founded our temple. We have come to seek a refuge from the violent
man and from the godless, even though it be the heart of the desert.”
The name of Nauvoo evidently recalled recollections to John Ferrier. “I
see,” he said; “you are the Mormons.”
“We are the Mormons,” answered his companions with one voice.
“And where are you going?”
“We do not know. The hand of God is leading us under the person of
our Prophet. You must come before him. He shall say what is to be done
with you.”
They had reached the base of the hill by this time, and were surrounded
by crowds of the pilgrims–pale-faced, meek-looking women; strong,
laughing children; and anxious, earnest-eyed men. Many were the cries of
astonishment and of commiseration which arose from them when they
perceived the youth of one of the strangers and the destitution of the
other. Their escort did not halt, however, but pushed on, followed by a
great crowd of Mormons, until they reached a wagon, which was
conspicuous for its great size and for the gaudiness and smartness of its
appearance. Six horses were yoked to it, whereas the others were
furnished with two, or, at most, four apiece. Beside the driver there sat a
man who could not have been more than thirty years of age, but whose
massive head and resolute expression marked him as a leader. He was
reading a brown-backed volume, but as the crowd approached he laid it
aside, and listened attentively to an account of the episode. Then he
turned to the two castaways.
“If we take you with us,” he said, in solemn words, “it can only be as
believers in our own creed. We shall have no wolves in our fold. Better
far that your bones should bleach in this wilderness than that you should
prove to be that little speck of decay which in time corrupts the whole
fruit. Will you come with us on these terms?”
“Guess I’ll come with you on any terms,” said Ferrier, with such
emphasis that the grave Elders could not restrain a smile. The leader alone
retained his stern, impressive expression.
“Take him, Brother Stangerson,” he said, “give him food and drink, and
the child likewise. Let it be your task also to teach him our holy creed.
We have delayed long enough. Forward! On, on to Zion!”
“On, on to Zion!” cried the crowd of Mormons, and the words rippled
down [58] the long caravan, passing from mouth to mouth until they died
away in a dull murmur in the far distance. With a cracking of whips and a
creaking of wheels the great wagons got into motion, and soon the whole
caravan was winding along once more. The Elder to whose care the two
waifs had been committed led them to his wagon, where a meal was
already awaiting them.
“You shall remain here,” he said. “In a few days you will have
recovered from your fatigues. In the meantime, remember that now and
forever you are of our religion. Brigham Young has said it, and he has
spoken with the voice of Joseph Smith, which is the voice of God.”

Chapter 2
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 2


THIS is not the place to commemorate the trials and privations endured by
the immigrant Mormons before they came to their final haven. From the
shores of the Mississippi to the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains
they had struggled on with a constancy almost unparalleled in history.
The savage man, and the savage beast, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and
disease–every impediment which Nature could place in the way–had all
been overcome with Anglo-Saxon tenacity. Yet the long journey and the
accumulated terrors had shaken the hearts of the stoutest among them.
There was not one who did not sink upon his knees in heartfelt prayer
when they saw the broad valley of Utah bathed in the sunlight beneath
them, and learned from the lips of their leader that this was the promised
land, and that these virgin acres were to be theirs for evermore.
Young speedily proved himself to be a skilful administrator as well as a
resolute chief. Maps were drawn and charts prepared, in which the future
city was sketched out. All around farms were apportioned and allotted in
proportion to the standing of each individual. The tradesman was put to
his trade and the artisan to his calling. In the town streets and squares
sprang up as if by magic. In the country there was draining and hedging,
planting and clearing, until the next summer saw the whole country
golden with the wheat crop. Everything prospered in the strange
settlement. Above all, the great temple which they had erected in the
centre of the city grew ever taller and larger. From the first blush of dawn
until the closing of the twilight, the clatter of the hammer and the rasp of
the saw were never absent from the monument which the immigrants
erected to Him who had led them safe through many dangers.
The two castaways, John Ferrier and the little girl, who had shared his
fortunes and had been adopted as his daughter, accompanied the
Mormons to the end of their great pilgrimage. Little Lucy Ferrier was
borne along pleasantly enough in Elder Stangerson’s wagon, a retreat
which she shared with the Mormon’s three wives and with his son, a
headstrong, forward boy of twelve. Having rallied, with the elasticity of
childhood, from the shock caused by her mother’s death, she soon became
a pet with the women, and reconciled herself to this new life in her
moving canvas-covered home. In the meantime Ferrier having recovered
from his privations, distinguished himself as a useful guide and an
indefatigable hunter. So rapidly did he gain the esteem of his new
companions, that when they reached [59] the end of their wanderings, it
was unanimously agreed that he should be provided with as large and as
fertile a tract of land as any of the settlers, with the exception of Young
himself, and of Stangerson, Kemball, Johnston, and Drebber, who were
the four principal Elders.
On the farm thus acquired John Ferrier built himself a substantial log-
house, which received so many additions in succeeding years that it grew
into a roomy villa. He was a man of a practical turn of mind, keen in his
dealings and skilful with his hands. His iron constitution enabled him to
work morning and evening at improving and tilling his lands. Hence it
came about that his farm and all that belonged to him prospered
exceedingly. In three years he was better off than his neighbours, in six he
was well-to-do, in nine he was rich, and in twelve there were not half a
dozen men in the whole of Salt Lake City who could compare with him.
From the great inland sea to the distant Wasatch Mountains there was no
name better known than that of John Ferrier.
There was one way and only one in which he offended the
susceptibilities of his co-religionists. No argument or persuasion could
ever induce him to set up a female establishment after the manner of his
companions. He never gave reasons for this persistent refusal, but
contented himself by resolutely and inflexibly adhering to his
determination. There were some who accused him of lukewarmness in his
adopted religion, and others who put it down to greed of wealth and
reluctance to incur expense. Others, again, spoke of some early love
affair, and of a fair-haired girl who had pined away on the shores of the
Atlantic. Whatever the reason, Ferrier remained strictly celibate. In every
other respect he conformed to the religion of the young settlement, and
gained the name of being an orthodox and straight-walking man.
Lucy Ferrier grew up within the log-house, and assisted her adopted
father in all his undertakings. The keen air of the mountains and the
balsamic odour of the pine trees took the place of nurse and mother to the
young girl. As year succeeded to year she grew taller and stronger, her
cheek more ruddy and her step more elastic. Many a wayfarer upon the
high road which ran by Ferrier’s farm felt long-forgotten thoughts revive
in his mind as he watched her lithe, girlish figure tripping through the
wheatfields, or met her mounted upon her father’s mustang, and
managing it with all the ease and grace of a true child of the West. So the
bud blossomed into a flower, and the year which saw her father the
richest of the farmers left her as fair a specimen of American girlhood as
could be found in the whole Pacific slope.
It was not the father, however, who first discovered that the child had
developed into the woman. It seldom is in such cases. That mysterious
change is too subtle and too gradual to be measured by dates. Least of all
does the maiden herself know it until the tone of a voice or the touch of a
hand sets her heart thrilling within her, and she learns, with a mixture of
pride and of fear, that a new and a larger nature has awakened within her.
There are few who cannot recall that day and remember the one little
incident which heralded the dawn of a new life. In the case of Lucy
Ferrier the occasion was serious enough in itself, apart from its future
influence on her destiny and that of many besides.
It was a warm June morning, and the Latter Day Saints were as busy as
the bees whose hive they have chosen for their emblem. In the fields and
in the streets rose the same hum of human industry. Down the dusty high
roads defiled long streams of heavily laden mules, all heading to the west,
for the gold fever had [60] broken out in California, and the overland route
lay through the city of the Elect. There, too, were droves of sheep and
bullocks coming in from the outlying pasture lands, and trains of tired
immigrants, men and horses equally weary of their interminable journey.
Through all this motley assemblage, threading her way with the skill of an
accomplished rider, there galloped Lucy Ferrier, her fair face flushed with
the exercise and her long chestnut hair floating out behind her. She had a
commission from her father in the city, and was dashing in as she had
done many a time before, with all the fearlessness of youth, thinking only
of her task and how it was to be performed. The travel-stained
adventurers gazed after her in astonishment, and even the unemotional
Indians, journeying in with their peltries, relaxed their accustomed
stoicism as they marvelled at the beauty of the pale-faced maiden.
She had reached the outskirts of the city when she found the road
blocked by a great drove of cattle, driven by a half-dozen wild-looking
herdsmen from the plains. In her impatience she endeavoured to pass this
obstacle by pushing her horse into what appeared to be a gap. Scarcely
had she got fairly into it, however, before the beasts closed in behind her,
and she found herself completely embedded in the moving stream of
fierce-eyed, long-horned bullocks. Accustomed as she was to deal with
cattle, she was not alarmed at her situation, but took advantage of every
opportunity to urge her horse on, in the hopes of pushing her way through
the cavalcade. Unfortunately the horns of one of the creatures, either by
accident or design, came in violent contact with the flank of the mustang,
and excited it to madness. In an instant it reared up upon its hind legs with
a snort of rage, and pranced and tossed in a way that would have unseated
any but a skilful rider. The situation was full of peril. Every plunge of the
excited horse brought it against the horns again, and goaded it to fresh
madness. It was all that the girl could do to keep herself in the saddle, yet
a slip would mean a terrible death under the hoofs of the unwieldy and
terrified animals. Unaccustomed to sudden emergencies, her head began
to swim, and her grip upon the bridle to relax. Choked by the rising cloud
of dust and by the steam from the struggling creatures, she might have
abandoned her efforts in despair, but for a kindly voice at her elbow
which assured her of assistance. At the same moment a sinewy brown
hand caught the frightened horse by the curb, and forcing a way through
the drove, soon brought her to the outskirts.
“You’re not hurt, I hope, miss,” said her preserver, respectfully.
She looked up at his dark, fierce face, and laughed saucily. “I’m awful
frightened,” she said, naively; “whoever would have thought that Poncho
would have been so scared by a lot of cows?”
“Thank God, you kept your seat,” the other said, earnestly. He was a
tall, savage-looking young fellow, mounted on a powerful roan horse, and
clad in the rough dress of a hunter, with a long rifle slung over his
shoulders. “I guess you are the daughter of John Ferrier,” he remarked; “I
saw you ride down from his house. When you see him, ask him if he
remembers the Jefferson Hopes of St. Louis. If he’s the same Ferrier, my
father and he were pretty thick.”
“Hadn’t you better come and ask yourself?” she asked, demurely.
The young fellow seemed pleased at the suggestion, and his dark eyes
sparkled with pleasure. “I’ll do so,” he said; “we’ve been in the
mountains for two months, and are not over and above in visiting
condition. He must take us as he finds us.”
“He has a good deal to thank you for, and so have I,” she answered;
“he’s [61] awful fond of me. If those cows had jumped on me he’d have
never got over it.”
“Neither would I,” said her companion.
“You! Well, I don’t see that it would make much matter to you,
anyhow. You ain’t even a friend of ours.”
The young hunter’s dark face grew so gloomy over this remark that
Lucy Ferrier laughed aloud.
“There, I didn’t mean that,” she said; “of course, you are a friend now.
You must come and see us. Now I must push along, or father won’t trust
me with his business any more. Good-bye!”
“Good-bye,” he answered, raising his broad sombrero, and bending
over her little hand. She wheeled her mustang round, gave it a cut with
her riding-whip, and darted away down the broad road in a rolling cloud
of dust.
Young Jefferson Hope rode on with his companions, gloomy and
taciturn. He and they had been among the Nevada Mountains prospecting
for silver, and were returning to Salt Lake City in the hope of raising
capital enough to work some lodes which they had discovered. He had
been as keen as any of them upon the business until this sudden incident
had drawn his thoughts into another channel. The sight of the fair young
girl, as frank and wholesome as the Sierra breezes, had stirred his
volcanic, untamed heart to its very depths. When she had vanished from
his sight, he realized that a crisis had come in his life, and that neither
silver speculations nor any other questions could ever be of such
importance to him as this new and all-absorbing one. The love which had
sprung up in his heart was not the sudden, changeable fancy of a boy, but
rather the wild, fierce passion of a man of strong will and imperious
temper. He had been accustomed to succeed in all that he undertook. He
swore in his heart that he would not fail in this if human effort and human
perseverance could render him successful.
He called on John Ferrier that night, and many times again, until his
face was a familiar one at the farmhouse. John, cooped up in the valley,
and absorbed in his work, had had little chance of learning the news of the
outside world during the last twelve years. All this Jefferson Hope was
able to tell him, and in a style which interested Lucy as well as her father.
He had been a pioneer in California, and could narrate many a strange tale
of fortunes made and fortunes lost in those wild, halcyon days. He had
been a scout too, and a trapper, a silver explorer, and a ranchman.
Wherever stirring adventures were to be had, Jefferson Hope had been
there in search of them. He soon became a favourite with the old farmer,
who spoke eloquently of his virtues. On such occasions, Lucy was silent,
but her blushing cheek and her bright, happy eyes showed only too clearly
that her young heart was no longer her own. Her honest father may not
have observed these symptoms, but they were assuredly not thrown away
upon the man who had won her affections.
One summer evening he came galloping down the road and pulled up at
the gate. She was at the doorway, and came down to meet him. He threw
the bridle over the fence and strode up the pathway.
“I am off, Lucy,” he said, taking her two hands in his, and gazing
tenderly down into her face: “I won’t ask you to come with me now, but
will you be ready to come when I am here again?”
“And when will that be?” she asked, blushing and laughing.
“A couple of months at the outside. I will come and claim you then, my
darling. There’s no one who can stand between us.”
“And how about father?” she asked.
[62] “He has given his consent, provided we get these mines working all
right. I have no fear on that head.”
“Oh, well; of course, if you and father have arranged it all, there’s no
more to be said,” she whispered, with her cheek against his broad breast.

“Thank God!” he said, hoarsely, stooping and kissing her. “It is settled,
then. The longer I stay, the harder it will be to go. They are waiting for
me at the canon. Good-bye, my own darling–good-bye. In two months
you shall see me.”
He tore himself from her as he spoke, and, flinging himself upon his
horse, galloped furiously away, never even looking round, as though
afraid that his resolution might fail him if he took one glance at what he
was leaving. She stood at the gate, gazing after him until he vanished
from her sight. Then she walked back into the house, the happiest girl in
all Utah.

Chapter 3
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 3

THREE weeks had passed since Jefferson Hope and his comrades had
departed from Salt Lake City. John Ferrier’s heart was sore within him
when he thought of the young man’s return, and of the impending loss of
his adopted child. Yet her bright and happy face reconciled him to the
arrangement more than any argument could have done. He had always
determined, deep down in his resolute heart, that nothing would ever
induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such marriage he
regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace. Whatever
he might think of the Mormon doctrines, upon that one point he was
inflexible. He had to seal his mouth on the subject, however, for to
express an unorthodox opinion was a dangerous matter in those days in
the Land of the Saints.
Yes, a dangerous matter–so dangerous that even the most saintly dared
only whisper their religious opinions with bated breath, lest something
which fell from their lips might be misconstrued, and bring down a swift
retribution upon them. The victims of persecution had now turned
persecutors on their own account, and persecutors of the most terrible
description. Not the Inquisition of Seville, nor the German Vehmgericht,
nor the secret societies of Italy, were ever able to put a more formidable
machinery in motion than that which cast a cloud over the state of Utah.
Its invisibility, and the mystery which was attached to it, made this
organization doubly terrible. It appeared to be omniscient and omnipotent,
and yet was neither seen nor heard. The man who held out against the
Church vanished away, and none knew whither he had gone or what had
befallen him. His wife and his children awaited him at home, but no
father ever returned to tell them how he had fared at the hands of his
secret judges. A rash word or a hasty act was followed by annihilation,
and yet none knew what the nature might be of this terrible power which
was suspended over them. No wonder that men went about in fear and
trembling, and that even in the heart of the wilderness they dared not
whisper the doubts which oppressed them.
At first this vague and terrible power was exercised only upon the
recalcitrants [63] who, having embraced the Mormon faith, wished
afterwards to pervert or to abandon it. Soon, however, it took a wider
range. The supply of adult women was running short, and polygamy
without a female population on which to draw was a barren doctrine
indeed. Strange rumours began to be bandied about –rumours of
murdered immigrants and rifled camps in regions where Indians had
never been seen. Fresh women appeared in the harems of the
Elders–women who pined and wept, and bore upon their faces the traces
of an unextinguishable horror. Belated wanderers upon the mountains
spoke of gangs of armed men, masked, stealthy, and noiseless, who flitted
by them in the darkness. These tales and rumours took substance and
shape, and were corroborated and recorroborated, until they resolved
themselves into a definite name. To this day, in the lonely ranches of the
West, the name of the Danite Band, or the Avenging Angels, is a sinister
and an ill-omened one.
Fuller knowledge of the organization which produced such terrible
results served to increase rather than to lessen the horror which it inspired
in the minds of men. None knew who belonged to this ruthless society.
The names of the participators in the deeds of blood and violence done
under the name of religion were kept profoundly secret. The very friend
to whom you communicated your misgivings as to the Prophet and his
mission might be one of those who would come forth at night with fire
and sword to exact a terrible reparation. Hence every man feared his
neighbour, and none spoke of the things which were nearest his heart.
One fine morning John Ferrier was about to set out to his wheatfields,
when he heard the click of the latch, and, looking through the window,
saw a stout, sandy-haired, middle-aged man coming up the pathway. His
heart leapt to his mouth, for this was none other than the great Brigham
Young himself. Full of trepidation–for he knew that such a visit boded
him little good–Ferrier ran to the door to greet the Mormon chief. The
latter, however, received his salutations coldly, and followed him with a
stern face into the sitting-room.
“Brother Ferrier,” he said, taking a seat, and eyeing the farmer keenly
from under his light-coloured eyelashes, “the true believers have been
good friends to you. We picked you up when you were starving in the
desert, we shared our food with you, led you safe to the Chosen Valley,
gave you a goodly share of land, and allowed you to wax rich under our
protection. Is not this so?”
“It is so,” answered John Ferrier.
“In return for all this we asked but one condition: that was, that you
should embrace the true faith, and conform in every way to its usages.
This you promised to do, and this, if common report says truly, you have
“And how have I neglected it?” asked Ferrier, throwing out his hands in
expostulation. “Have I not given to the common fund? Have I not
attended at the Temple? Have I not– –?”
“Where are your wives?” asked Young, looking round him. “Call them
in, that I may greet them.”
“It is true that I have not married,” Ferrier answered. “But women were
few, and there were many who had better claims than I. I was not a lonely
man: I had my daughter to attend to my wants.”
“It is of that daughter that I would speak to you,” said the leader of the
Mormons. “She has grown to be the flower of Utah, and has found favour
in the eyes of many who are high in the land.”
[64] John Ferrier groaned internally.
“There are stories of her which I would fain disbelieve–stories that she
is sealed to some Gentile. This must be the gossip of idle tongues. What is
the thirteenth rule in the code of the sainted Joseph Smith? ‘Let every
maiden of the true faith marry one of the elect; for if she wed a Gentile,
she commits a grievous sin.’ This being so, it is impossible that you, who
profess the holy creed, should suffer your daughter to violate it.”
John Ferrier made no answer, but he played nervously with his riding-
“Upon this one point your whole faith shall be tested–so it has been
decided in the Sacred Council of Four. The girl is young, and we would
not have her wed gray hairs, neither would we deprive her of all choice.
We Elders have many heifers,1 but our children must also be provided.
Stangerson has a son, and Drebber has a son, and either of them would
gladly welcome your daughter to his house. Let her choose between them.
They are young and rich, and of the true faith. What say you to that?”
Ferrier remained silent for some little time with his brows knitted.
“You will give us time,” he said at last. “My daughter is very young–
she is scarce of an age to marry.”
“She shall have a month to choose,” said Young, rising from his seat.
“At the end of that time she shall give her answer.”

He was passing through the door, when he turned with flushed face and
flashing eyes. “It were better for you, John Ferrier,” he thundered, “that
you and she were now lying blanched skeletons upon the Sierra Blanco,
than that you should put your weak wills against the orders of the Holy
With a threatening gesture of his hand, he turned from the door, and
Ferrier heard his heavy steps scrunching along the shingly path.
He was still sitting with his elbow upon his knee, considering how he
should broach the matter to his daughter, when a soft hand was laid upon
his, and looking up, he saw her standing beside him. One glance at her
pale, frightened face showed him that she had heard what had passed.
“I could not help it,” she said, in answer to his look. “His voice rang
through the house. Oh, father, father, what shall we do?”
“Don’t you scare yourself,” he answered, drawing her to him, and
passing his broad, rough hand caressingly over her chestnut hair. “We’ll
fix it up somehow or another. You don’t find your fancy kind o’ lessening
for this chap, do you?”
A sob and a squeeze of his hand were her only answer.
“No; of course not. I shouldn’t care to hear you say you did. He’s a
likely lad, and he’s a Christian, which is more than these folks here, in
spite o’ all their praying and preaching. There’s a party starting for
Nevada to-morrow, and I’ll manage to send him a message letting him
know the hole we are in. If I know anything o’ that young man, he’ll be
back with a speed that would whip electro-telegraphs.”
Lucy laughed through her tears at her father’s description.
“When he comes, he will advise us for the best. But it is for you that I
am frightened, dear. One hears–one hears such dreadful stories about
those who oppose the Prophet; something terrible always happens to
“But we haven’t opposed him yet,” her father answered. “It will be
time to [65] look out for squalls when we do. We have a clear month
before us; at the end of that, I guess we had best shin out of Utah.”
“Leave Utah!”
“That’s about the size of it.”
“But the farm?”
“We will raise as much as we can in money, and let the rest go. To tell
the truth, Lucy, it isn’t the first time I have thought of doing it. I don’t
care about knuckling under to any man, as these folk do to their darned
Prophet. I’m a free-born American, and it’s all new to me. Guess I’m too
old to learn. If he comes browsing about this farm, he might chance to run
up against a charge of buckshot travelling in the opposite direction.”
“But they won’t let us leave,” his daughter objected.
“Wait till Jefferson comes, and we’ll soon manage that. In the
meantime, don’t you fret yourself, my dearie, and don’t get your eyes
swelled up, else he’ll be walking into me when he sees you. There’s
nothing to be afeared about, and there’s no danger at all.”
John Ferrier uttered these consoling remarks in a very confident tone,
but she could not help observing that he paid unusual care to the fastening
of the doors that night, and that he carefully cleaned and loaded the rusty
old shot-gun which hung upon the wall of his bedroom.
1Heber C. Kemball, in one of his sermons, alludes to his hundred wives under this
endearing epithet.

Chapter 4
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 4


ON THE morning which followed his interview with the Mormon Prophet,
John Ferrier went in to Salt Lake City, and having found his
acquaintance, who was bound for the Nevada Mountains, he entrusted
him with his message to Jefferson Hope. In it he told the young man of
the imminent danger which threatened them, and how necessary it was
that he should return. Having done thus he felt easier in his mind, and
returned home with a lighter heart.
As he approached his farm, he was surprised to see a horse hitched to
each of the posts of the gate. Still more surprised was he on the entering
to find two young men in possession of his sitting-room. One, with a long
pale face, was leaning back in the rocking-chair, with his feet cocked up
upon the stove. The other, a bull-necked youth with coarse, bloated
features, was standing in front of the window with his hands in his
pockets whistling a popular hymn. Both of them nodded to Ferrier as he
entered, and the one in the rocking-chair commenced the conversation.
“Maybe you don’t know us,” he said. “This here is the son of Elder
Drebber, and I’m Joseph Stangerson, who travelled with you in the desert
when the Lord stretched out His hand and gathered you into the true fold.”
“As He will all the nations in His own good time,” said the other in a
nasal voice; “He grindeth slowly but exceeding small.”
John Ferrier bowed coldly. He had guessed who his visitors were.
“We have come,” continued Stangerson, “at the advice of our fathers to
solicit the hand of your daughter for whichever of us may seem good to
you and to her. [66] As I have but four wives and Brother Drebber here
has seven, it appears to me that my claim is the stronger one.”
“Nay, nay, Brother Stangerson,” cried the other; “the question is not
how many wives we have, but how many we can keep. My father has
now given over his mills to me, and I am the richer man.”
“But my prospects are better,” said the other, warmly. “When the Lord
removes my father, I shall have his tanning yard and his leather factory.
Then I am your elder, and am higher in the Church.”
“It will be for the maiden to decide,” rejoined young Drebber, smirking
at his own reflection in the glass. “We will leave it all to her decision.”
During this dialogue John Ferrier had stood fuming in the doorway,
hardly able to keep his riding-whip from the backs of his two visitors.
“Look here,” he said at last, striding up to them, “when my daughter
summons you, you can come, but until then I don’t want to see your faces
The two young Mormons stared at him in amazement. In their eyes this
competition between them for the maiden’s hand was the highest of
honours both to her and her father.
“There are two ways out of the room,” cried Ferrier; “there is the door,
and there is the window. Which do you care to use?”
His brown face looked so savage, and his gaunt hands so threatening,
that his visitors sprang to their feet and beat a hurried retreat. The old
farmer followed them to the door.
“Let me know when you have settled which it is to be,” he said,
“You shall smart for this!” Stangerson cried, white with rage. “You
have defied the Prophet and the Council of Four. You shall rue it to the
end of your days.”
“The hand of the Lord shall be heavy upon you,” cried young Drebber;
“He will arise and smite you!”
“Then I’ll start the smiting,” exclaimed Ferrier, furiously, and would
have rushed upstairs for his gun had not Lucy seized him by the arm and
restrained him. Before he could escape from her, the clatter of horses’
hoofs told him that they were beyond his reach.
“The young canting rascals!” he exclaimed, wiping the perspiration
from his forehead; “I would sooner see you in your grave, my girl, than
the wife of either of them.”
“And so should I, father,” she answered, with spirit; “but Jefferson will
soon be here.”
“Yes. It will not be long before he comes. The sooner the better, for we
do not know what their next move may be.”
It was, indeed, high time that someone capable of giving advice and
help should come to the aid of the sturdy old farmer and his adopted
daughter. In the whole history of the settlement there had never been such
a case of rank disobedience to the authority of the Elders. If minor errors
were punished so sternly, what would be the fate of this arch rebel?
Ferrier knew that his wealth and position would be of no avail to him.
Others as well known and as rich as himself had been spirited away
before now, and their goods given over to the Church. He was a brave
man, but he trembled at the vague, shadowy terrors which hung over him.
Any known danger he could face with a firm lip, but this suspense was
unnerving. He concealed his fears from his daughter, however, and
affected to make light [67] of the whole matter, though she, with the keen
eye of love, saw plainly that he was ill at ease.
He expected that he would receive some message or remonstrance from
Young as to his conduct, and he was not mistaken, though it came in an
unlooked-for manner. Upon rising next morning he found, to his surprise,
a small square of paper pinned on to the coverlet of his bed just over his
chest. On it was printed, in bold, straggling letters:–
“Twenty-nine days are given you for amendment, and then– –”
The dash was more fear-inspiring than any threat could have been.
How this warning came into his room puzzled John Ferrier sorely, for his
servants slept in an outhouse, and the doors and windows had all been
secured. He crumpled the paper up and said nothing to his daughter, but
the incident struck a chill into his heart. The twenty-nine days were
evidently the balance of the month which Young had promised. What
strength or courage could avail against an enemy armed with such
mysterious powers? The hand which fastened that pin might have struck
him to the heart, and he could never have known who had slain him.
Still more shaken was he next morning. They had sat down to their
breakfast, when Lucy with a cry of surprise pointed upwards. In the
centre of the ceiling was scrawled, with a burned stick apparently, the
number 28. To his daughter it was unintelligible, and he did not enlighten
her. That night he sat up with his gun and kept watch and ward. He saw
and he heard nothing, and yet in the morning a great 27 had been painted
upon the outside of his door.
Thus day followed day; and as sure as morning came he found that his
unseen enemies had kept their register, and had marked up in some
conspicuous position how many days were still left to him out of the
month of grace. Sometimes the fatal numbers appeared upon the walls,
sometimes upon the floors, occasionally they were on small placards
stuck upon the garden gate or the railings. With all his vigilance John
Ferrier could not discover whence these daily warnings proceeded. A
horror which was almost superstitious came upon him at the sight of
them. He became haggard and restless, and his eyes had the troubled look
of some hunted creature. He had but one hope in life now, and that was
for the arrival of the young hunter from Nevada.
Twenty had changed to fifteen, and fifteen to ten, but there was no
news of the absentee. One by one the numbers dwindled down, and still
there came no sign of him. Whenever a horseman clattered down the
road, or a driver shouted at his team, the old farmer hurried to the gate,
thinking that help had arrived at last. At last, when he saw five give way
to four and that again to three, he lost heart, and abandoned all hope of
escape. Singlehanded, and with his limited knowledge of the mountains
which surrounded the settlement, he knew that he was powerless. The
more frequented roads were strictly watched and guarded, and none could
pass along them without an order from the Council. Turn which way he
would, there appeared to be no avoiding the blow which hung over him.
Yet the old man never wavered in his resolution to part with life itself
before he consented to what he regarded as his daughter’s dishonour.
He was sitting alone one evening pondering deeply over his troubles,
and searching vainly for some way out of them. That morning had shown
the figure 2 upon the wall of his house, and the next day would be the last
of the allotted time. What was to happen then? All manner of vague and
terrible fancies filled his imagination. And his daughter–what was to
become of her after he was gone? [68] Was there no escape from the
invisible network which was drawn all round them? He sank his head
upon the table and sobbed at the thought of his own impotence.
What was that? In the silence he heard a gentle scratching sound–low,
but very distinct in the quiet of the night. It came from the door of the
house. Ferrier crept into the hall and listened intently. There was a pause
for a few moments, and then the low, insidious sound was repeated.
Someone was evidently tapping very gently upon one of the panels of the
door. Was it some midnight assassin who had come to carry out the
murderous orders of the secret tribunal? Or was it some agent who was
marking up that the last day of grace had arrived? John Ferrier felt that
instant death would be better than the suspense which shook his nerves
and chilled his heart. Springing forward, he drew the bolt and threw the
door open.

Outside all was calm and quiet. The night was fine, and the stars were
twinkling brightly overhead. The little front garden lay before the
farmer’s eyes bounded by the fence and gate, but neither there nor on the
road was any human being to be seen. With a sigh of relief, Ferrier looked
to right and to left, until, happening to glance straight down at his own
feet, he saw to his astonishment a man lying flat upon his face upon the
ground, with arms and legs all asprawl.
So unnerved was he at the sight that he leaned up against the wall with
his hand to his throat to stifle his inclination to call out. His first thought
was that the prostrate figure was that of some wounded or dying man, but
as he watched it he saw it writhe along the ground and into the hall with
the rapidity and noiselessness of a serpent. Once within the house the man
sprang to his feet, closed the door, and revealed to the astonished farmer
the fierce face and resolute expression of Jefferson Hope.
“Good God!” gasped John Ferrier. “How you scared me! Whatever
made you come in like that?”
“Give me food,” the other said, hoarsely. “I have had no time for bite or
sup for eight-and-forty hours.” He flung himself upon the cold meat and
bread which were still lying upon the table from his host’s supper, and
devoured it voraciously. “Does Lucy bear up well?” he asked, when he
had satisfied his hunger.
“Yes. She does not know the danger,” her father answered.
“That is well. The house is watched on every side. That is why I
crawled my way up to it. They may be darned sharp, but they’re not quite
sharp enough to catch a Washoe hunter.”
John Ferrier felt a different man now that he realized that he had a
devoted ally. He seized the young man’s leathery hand and wrung it
cordially. “You’re a man to be proud of,” he said. “There are not many
who would come to share our danger and our troubles.”
“You’ve hit it there, pard,” the young hunter answered. “I have a
respect for you, but if you were alone in this business I’d think twice
before I put my head into such a hornet’s nest. It’s Lucy that brings me
here, and before harm comes on her I guess there will be one less o’ the
Hope family in Utah.”
“What are we to do?”
“To-morrow is your last day, and unless you act to-night you are lost. I
have a mule and two horses waiting in the Eagle Ravine. How much
money have you?”
“Two thousand dollars in gold, and five in notes.”
“That will do. I have as much more to add to it. We must push for
Carson City [69] through the mountains. You had best wake Lucy. It is as
well that the servants do not sleep in the house.”
While Ferrier was absent, preparing his daughter for the approaching
journey, Jefferson Hope packed all the eatables that he could find into a
small parcel, and filled a stoneware jar with water, for he knew by
experience that the mountain wells were few and far between. He had
hardly completed his arrangements before the farmer returned with his
daughter all dressed and ready for a start. The greeting between the lovers
was warm, but brief, for minutes were precious, and there was much to be
“We must make our start at once,” said Jefferson Hope, speaking in a
low but resolute voice, like one who realizes the greatness of the peril, but
has steeled his heart to meet it. “The front and back entrances are
watched, but with caution we may get away through the side window and
across the fields. Once on the road we are only two miles from the Ravine
where the horses are waiting. By daybreak we should be halfway through
the mountains.”
“What if we are stopped?” asked Ferrier.
Hope slapped the revolver butt which protruded from the front of his
tunic. “If they are too many for us, we shall take two or three of them
with us,” he said with a sinister smile.
The lights inside the house had all been extinguished, and from the
darkened window Ferrier peered over the fields which had been his own,
and which he was now about to abandon forever. He had long nerved
himself to the sacrifice, however, and the thought of the honour and
happiness of his daughter outweighed any regret at his ruined fortunes.
All looked so peaceful and happy, the rustling trees and the broad silent
stretch of grainland, that it was difficult to realize that the spirit of murder
lurked through it all. Yet the white face and set expression of the young
hunter showed that in his approach to the house he had seen enough to
satisfy him upon that head.
Ferrier carried the bag of gold and notes, Jefferson Hope had the scanty
provisions and water, while Lucy had a small bundle containing a few of
her more valued possessions. Opening the window very slowly and
carefully, they waited until a dark cloud had somewhat obscured the
night, and then one by one passed through into the little garden. With
bated breath and crouching figures they stumbled across it, and gained the
shelter of the hedge, which they skirted until they came to the gap which
opened into the cornfield. They had just reached this point when the
young man seized his two companions and dragged them down into the
shadow, where they lay silent and trembling.
It was as well that his prairie training had given Jefferson Hope the ears
of a lynx. He and his friends had hardly crouched down before the
melancholy hooting of a mountain owl was heard within a few yards of
them, which was immediately answered by another hoot at a small
distance. At the same moment a vague, shadowy figure emerged from the
gap for which they had been making, and uttered the plaintive signal cry
again, on which a second man appeared out of the obscurity.
“To-morrow at midnight,” said the first, who appeared to be in
authority. “When the whippoorwill calls three times.”
“It is well,” returned the other. “Shall I tell Brother Drebber?”
“Pass it on to him, and from him to the others. Nine to seven!”
“Seven to five!” repeated the other; and the two figures flitted away in
different directions. Their concluding words had evidently been some
form of sign and [70] countersign. The instant that their footsteps had
died away in the distance, Jefferson Hope sprang to his feet, and helping
his companions through the gap, led the way across the fields at the top of
his speed, supporting and half-carrying the girl when her strength
appeared to fail her.
“Hurry on! hurry on!” he gasped from time to time. “We are through
the line of sentinels. Everything depends on speed. Hurry on!”
Once on the high road, they made rapid progress. Only once did they
meet anyone, and then they managed to slip into a field, and so avoid
recognition. Before reaching the town the hunter branched away into a
rugged and narrow footpath which led to the mountains. Two dark, jagged
peaks loomed above them through the darkness, and the defile which led
between them was the Eagle Canon in which the horses were awaiting
them. With unerring instinct Jefferson Hope picked his way among the
great boulders and along the bed of a dried-up watercourse, until he came
to the retired corner screened with rocks, where the faithful animals had
been picketed. The girl was placed upon the mule, and old Ferrier upon
one of the horses, with his money-bag, while Jefferson Hope led the other
along the precipitous and dangerous path.
It was a bewildering route for anyone who was not accustomed to face
Nature in her wildest moods. On the one side a great crag towered up a
thousand feet or more, black, stern, and menacing, with long basaltic
columns upon its rugged surface like the ribs of some petrified monster.
On the other hand a wild chaos of boulders and debris made all advance
impossible. Between the two ran the irregular tracks, so narrow in places
that they had to travel in Indian file, and so rough that only practised
riders could have traversed it at all. Yet, in spite of all dangers and
difficulties, the hearts of the fugitives were light within them, for every
step increased the distance between them and the terrible despotism from
which they were flying.
They soon had a proof, however, that they were still within the
jurisdiction of the Saints. They had reached the very wildest and most
desolate portion of the pass when the girl gave a startled cry, and pointed
upwards. On a rock which overlooked the track, showing out dark and
plain against the sky, there stood a solitary sentinel. He saw them as soon
as they perceived him, and his military challenge of “Who goes there?”
rang through the silent ravine.
“Travellers for Nevada,” said Jefferson Hope, with his hand upon the
rifle which hung by his saddle.
They could see the lonely watcher fingering his gun, and peering down
at them as if dissatisfied at their reply.
“By whose permission?” he asked.
“The Holy Four,” answered Ferrier. His Mormon experiences had
taught him that that was the highest authority to which he could refer.

“Nine to seven,” cried the sentinel.

“Seven to five,” returned Jefferson Hope promptly, remembering the
countersign which he had heard in the garden.
“Pass, and the Lord go with you,” said the voice from above. Beyond
his post the path broadened out, and the horses were able to break into a
trot. Looking back, they could see the solitary watcher leaning upon his
gun, and knew that they had passed the outlying post of the chosen
people, and that freedom lay before them.

Chapter 5
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 5


ALL night their course lay through intricate defiles and over irregular and
rock-strewn paths. More than once they lost their way, but Hope’s
intimate knowledge of the mountains enabled them to regain the track
once more. When morning broke, a scene of marvellous though savage
beauty lay before them. In every direction the great snow-capped peaks
hemmed them in, peeping over each other’s shoulders to the far horizon.
So steep were the rocky banks on either side of them that the larch and the
pine seemed to be suspended over their heads, and to need only a gust of
wind to come hurtling down upon them. Nor was the fear entirely an
illusion, for the barren valley was thickly strewn with trees and boulders
which had fallen in a similar manner. Even as they passed, a great rock
came thundering down with a hoarse rattle which woke the echoes in the
silent gorges, and startled the weary horses into a gallop.
As the sun rose slowly above the eastern horizon, the caps of the great
mountains lit up one after the other, like lamps at a festival, until they
were all ruddy and glowing. The magnificent spectacle cheered the hearts
of the three fugitives and gave them fresh energy. At a wild torrent which
swept out of a ravine they called a halt and watered their horses, while
they partook of a hasty breakfast. Lucy and her father would fain have
rested longer, but Jefferson Hope was inexorable. “They will be upon our
track by this time,” he said. “Everything depends upon our speed. Once
safe in Carson, we may rest for the remainder of our lives.”
During the whole of that day they struggled on through the defiles, and
by evening they calculated that they were more than thirty miles from
their enemies. At night-time they chose the base of a beetling crag, where
the rocks offered some protection from the chill wind, and there, huddled
together for warmth, they enjoyed a few hours’ sleep. Before daybreak,
however, they were up and on their way once more. They had seen no
signs of any pursuers, and Jefferson Hope began to think that they were
fairly out of the reach of the terrible organization whose enmity they had
incurred. He little knew how far that iron grasp could reach, or how soon
it was to close upon them and crush them.
About the middle of the second day of their flight their scanty store of
provisions began to run out. This gave the hunter little uneasiness,
however, for there was game to be had among the mountains, and he had
frequently before had to depend upon his rifle for the needs of life.
Choosing a sheltered nook, he piled together a few dried branches and
made a blazing fire, at which his companions might warm themselves, for
they were now nearly five thousand feet above the sea level, and the air
was bitter and keen. Having tethered the horses, and bid Lucy adieu, he
threw his gun over his shoulder, and set out in search of whatever chance
might throw in his way. Looking back, he saw the old man and the young
girl crouching over the blazing fire, while the three animals stood
motionless in the background. Then the intervening rocks hid them from
his view.
He walked for a couple of miles through one ravine after another
without [72] success, though, from the marks upon the bark of the trees,
and other indications, he judged that there were numerous bears in the
vicinity. At last, after two or three hours’ fruitless search, he was thinking
of turning back in despair, when casting his eyes upwards he saw a sight
which sent a thrill of pleasure through his heart. On the edge of a jutting
pinnacle, three or four hundred feet above him, there stood a creature
somewhat resembling a sheep in appearance, but armed with a pair of
gigantic horns. The big-horn–for so it is called–was acting, probably, as a
guardian over a flock which were invisible to the hunter; but fortunately it
was heading in the opposite direction, and had not perceived him. Lying
on his face, he rested his rifle upon a rock, and took a long and steady aim
before drawing the trigger. The animal sprang into the air, tottered for a
moment upon the edge of the precipice, and then came crashing down
into the valley beneath.
The creature was too unwieldy to lift, so the hunter contented himself
with cutting away one haunch and part of the flank. With this trophy over
his shoulder, he hastened to retrace his steps, for the evening was already
drawing in. He had hardly started, however, before he realized the
difficulty which faced him. In his eagerness he had wandered far past the
ravines which were known to him, and it was no easy matter to pick out
the path which he had taken. The valley in which he found himself
divided and sub-divided into many gorges, which were so like each other
that it was impossible to distinguish one from the other. He followed one
for a mile or more until he came to a mountain torrent which he was sure
that he had never seen before. Convinced that he had taken the wrong
turn, he tried another, but with the same result. Night was coming on
rapidly, and it was almost dark before he at last found himself in a defile
which was familiar to him. Even then it was no easy matter to keep to the
right track, for the moon had not yet risen, and the high cliffs on either
side made the obscurity more profound. Weighed down with his burden,
and weary from his exertions, he stumbled along, keeping up his heart by
the reflection that every step brought him nearer to Lucy, and that he
carried with him enough to ensure them food for the remainder of their
He had now come to the mouth of the very defile in which he had left
them. Even in the darkness he could recognize the outline of the cliffs
which bounded it. They must, he reflected, be awaiting him anxiously, for
he had been absent nearly five hours. In the gladness of his heart he put
his hands to his mouth and made the glen reecho to a loud halloo as a
signal that he was coming. He paused and listened for an answer. None
came save his own cry, which clattered up the dreary, silent ravines, and
was borne back to his ears in countless repetitions. Again he shouted,
even louder than before, and again no whisper came back from the friends
whom he had left such a short time ago. A vague, nameless dread came
over him, and he hurried onward frantically, dropping the precious food
in his agitation.
When he turned the corner, he came full in sight of the spot where the
fire had been lit. There was still a glowing pile of wood ashes there, but it
had evidently not been tended since his departure. The same dead silence
still reigned all round. With his fears all changed to convictions, he
hurried on. There was no living creature near the remains of the fire:
animals, man, maiden, all were gone. It was only too clear that some
sudden and terrible disaster had occurred during his absence–a disaster
which had embraced them all, and yet had left no traces behind it.

Bewildered and stunned by this blow, Jefferson Hope felt his head spin
round, [73] and had to lean upon his rifle to save himself from falling. He
was essentially a man of action, however, and speedily recovered from his
temporary impotence. Seizing a half-consumed piece of wood from the
smouldering fire, he blew it into a flame, and proceeded with its help to
examine the little camp. The ground was all stamped down by the feet of
horses, showing that a large party of mounted men had overtaken the
fugitives, and the direction of their tracks proved that they had afterwards
turned back to Salt Lake City. Had they carried back both of his
companions with them? Jefferson Hope had almost persuaded himself
that they must have done so, when his eye fell upon an object which made
every nerve of his body tingle within him. A little way on one side of the
camp was a low-lying heap of reddish soil, which had assuredly not been
there before. There was no mistaking it for anything but a newly dug
grave. As the young hunter approached it, he perceived that a stick had
been planted on it, with a sheet of paper stuck in the cleft fork of it. The
inscription upon the paper was brief, but to the point:

Died August 4th, 1860.

The sturdy old man, whom he had left so short a time before, was gone,
then, and this was all his epitaph. Jefferson Hope looked wildly round to
see if there was a second grave, but there was no sign of one. Lucy had
been carried back by their terrible pursuers to fulfil her original destiny,
by becoming one of the harem of an Elder’s son. As the young fellow
realized the certainty of her fate, and his own powerlessness to prevent it,
he wished that he, too, was lying with the old farmer in his last silent
Again, however, his active spirit shook off the lethargy which springs
from despair. If there was nothing else left to him, he could at least devote
his life to revenge. With indomitable patience and perseverance, Jefferson
Hope possessed also a power of sustained vindictiveness, which he may
have learned from the Indians amongst whom he had lived. As he stood
by the desolate fire, he felt that the only one thing which could assuage
his grief would be thorough and complete retribution, brought by his own
hand upon his enemies. His strong will and untiring energy should, he
determined, be devoted to that one end. With a grim, white face, he
retraced his steps to where he had dropped the food, and having stirred up
the smouldering fire, he cooked enough to last him for a few days. This
he made up into a bundle, and, tired as he was, he set himself to walk
back through the mountains upon the track of the Avenging Angels.
For five days he toiled footsore and weary through the defiles which he
had already traversed on horseback. At night he flung himself down
among the rocks, and snatched a few hours of sleep; but before daybreak
he was always well on his way. On the sixth day, he reached the Eagle
Canon, from which they had commenced their ill-fated flight. Thence he
could look down upon the home of the Saints. Worn and exhausted, he
leaned upon his rifle and shook his gaunt hand fiercely at the silent
widespread city beneath him. As he looked at it, he observed that there
were flags in some of the principal streets, and other signs of festivity. He
was still speculating as to what this might mean when he heard the clatter
of horse’s hoofs, and saw a mounted man riding towards him. As he
approached, he recognized him as a Mormon named Cowper, to whom he
had rendered services [74] at different times. He therefore accosted him
when he got up to him, with the object of finding out what Lucy Ferrier’s
fate had been.
“I am Jefferson Hope,” he said. “You remember me.”
The Mormon looked at him with undisguised astonishment–indeed, it
was difficult to recognize in this tattered, unkempt wanderer, with ghastly
white face and fierce, wild eyes, the spruce young hunter of former days.
Having, however, at last satisfied himself as to his identity, the man’s
surprise changed to consternation.
“You are mad to come here,” he cried. “It is as much as my own life is
worth to be seen talking with you. There is a warrant against you from the
Holy Four for assisting the Ferriers away.”
“I don’t fear them, or their warrant,” Hope said, earnestly. “You must
know something of this matter, Cowper. I conjure you by everything you
hold dear to answer a few questions. We have always been friends. For
God’s sake, don’t refuse to answer me.”
“What is it?” the Mormon asked, uneasily. “Be quick. The very rocks
have ears and the trees eyes.”
“What has become of Lucy Ferrier?”
“She was married yesterday to young Drebber. Hold up, man, hold up;
you have no life left in you.”
“Don’t mind me,” said Hope faintly. He was white to the very lips, and
had sunk down on the stone against which he had been leaning. “Married,
you say?”
“Married yesterday–that’s what those flags are for on the Endowment
House. There was some words between young Drebber and young
Stangerson as to which was to have her. They’d both been in the party
that followed them, and Stangerson had shot her father, which seemed to
give him the best claim; but when they argued it out in council, Drebber’s
party was the stronger, so the Prophet gave her over to him. No one won’t
have her very long though, for I saw death in her face yesterday. She is
more like a ghost than a woman. Are you off, then?”
“Yes, I am off,” said Jefferson Hope, who had risen from his seat. His
face might have been chiselled out of marble, so hard and set was its
expression, while its eyes glowed with a baleful light.
“Where are you going?”
“Never mind,” he answered; and, slinging his weapon over his
shoulder, strode off down the gorge and so away into the heart of the
mountains to the haunts of the wild beasts. Amongst them all there was
none so fierce and so dangerous as himself.
The prediction of the Mormon was only too well fulfilled. Whether it
was the terrible death of her father or the effects of the hateful marriage
into which she had been forced, poor Lucy never held up her head again,
but pined away and died within a month. Her sottish husband, who had
married her principally for the sake of John Ferrier’s property, did not
affect any great grief at his bereavement; but his other wives mourned
over her, and sat up with her the night before the burial, as is the Mormon
custom. They were grouped round the bier in the early hours of the
morning, when, to their inexpressible fear and astonishment, the door was
flung open, and a savage-looking, weather-beaten man in tattered
garments strode into the room. Without a glance or a word to the
cowering women, he walked up to the white silent figure which had once
contained the pure soul of Lucy Ferrier. Stooping over her, he pressed his
lips reverently to her cold forehead, and then, snatching up her hand, he
took the wedding ring from her finger. “She [75] shall not be buried in
that,” he cried with a fierce snarl, and before an alarm could be raised
sprang down the stairs and was gone. So strange and so brief was the
episode that the watchers might have found it hard to believe it
themselves or persuade other people of it, had it not been for the
undeniable fact that the circlet of gold which marked her as having been a
bride had disappeared.
For some months Jefferson Hope lingered among the mountains,
leading a strange, wild life, and nursing in his heart the fierce desire for
vengeance which possessed him. Tales were told in the city of the weird
figure which was seen prowling about the suburbs, and which haunted the
lonely mountain gorges. Once a bullet whistled through Stangerson’s
window and flattened itself upon the wall within a foot of him. On
another occasion, as Drebber passed under a cliff a great boulder crashed
down on him, and he only escaped a terrible death by throwing himself
upon his face. The two young Mormons were not long in discovering the
reason of these attempts upon their lives, and led repeated expeditions
into the mountains in the hope of capturing or killing their enemy, but
always without success. Then they adopted the precaution of never going
out alone or after nightfall, and of having their houses guarded. After a
time they were able to relax these measures, for nothing was either heard
or seen of their opponent, and they hoped that time had cooled his
Far from doing so, it had, if anything, augmented it. The hunter’s mind
was of a hard, unyielding nature, and the predominant idea of revenge had
taken such complete possession of it that there was no room for any other
emotion. He was, however, above all things, practical. He soon realized
that even his iron constitution could not stand the incessant strain which
he was putting upon it. Exposure and want of wholesome food were
wearing him out. If he died like a dog among the mountains, what was to
become of his revenge then? And yet such a death was sure to overtake
him if he persisted. He felt that that was to play his enemy’s game, so he
reluctantly returned to the old Nevada mines, there to recruit his health
and to amass money enough to allow him to pursue his object without
His intention had been to be absent a year at the most, but a
combination of unforeseen circumstances prevented his leaving the mines
for nearly five. At the end of that time, however, his memory of his
wrongs and his craving for revenge were quite as keen as on that
memorable night when he had stood by John Ferrier’s grave. Disguised,
and under an assumed name, he returned to Salt Lake City, careless what
became of his own life, as long as he obtained what he knew to be justice.
There he found evil tidings awaiting him. There had been a schism among
the Chosen People a few months before, some of the younger members of
the Church having rebelled against the authority of the Elders, and the
result had been the secession of a certain number of the malcontents, who
had left Utah and become Gentiles. Among these had been Drebber and
Stangerson; and no one knew whither they had gone. Rumour reported
that Drebber had managed to convert a large part of his property into
money, and that he had departed a wealthy man, while his companion,
Stangerson, was comparatively poor. There was no clue at all, however,
as to their whereabouts.
Many a man, however vindictive, would have abandoned all thought of
revenge in the face of such a difficulty, but Jefferson Hope never faltered
for a moment. With the small competence he possessed, eked out by such
employment as he could pick up, he travelled from town to town through
the United States in quest [76] of his enemies. Year passed into year, his
black hair turned grizzled, but still he wandered on, a human bloodhound,
with his mind wholly set upon the one object to which he had devoted his
life. At last his perseverance was rewarded. It was but a glance of a face
in a window, but that one glance told him that Cleveland in Ohio
possessed the men whom he was in pursuit of. He returned to his
miserable lodgings with his plan of vengeance all arranged. It chanced,
however, that Drebber, looking from his window, had recognized the
vagrant in the street, and had read murder in his eyes. He hurried before a
justice of the peace accompanied by Stangerson, who had become his
private secretary, and represented to him that they were in danger of their
lives from the jealousy and hatred of an old rival. That evening Jefferson
Hope was taken into custody, and not being able to find sureties, was
detained for some weeks. When at last he was liberated it was only to find
that Drebber’s house was deserted, and that he and his secretary had
departed for Europe.
Again the avenger had been foiled, and again his concentrated hatred
urged him to continue the pursuit. Funds were wanting, however, and for
some time he had to return to work, saving every dollar for his
approaching journey. At last, having collected enough to keep life in him,
he departed for Europe, and tracked his enemies from city to city,
working his way in any menial capacity, but never overtaking the
fugitives. When he reached St. Petersburg, they had departed for Paris;
and when he followed them there, he learned that they had just set off for
Copenhagen. At the Danish capital he was again a few days late, for they
had journeyed on to London, where he at last succeeded in running them
to earth. As to what occurred there, we cannot do better than quote the old
hunter’s own account, as duly recorded in Dr. Watson’s Journal, to which
we are already under such obligations.

Chapter 6
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 6


OUR prisoner’s furious resistance did not apparently indicate any ferocity
in his disposition towards ourselves, for on finding himself powerless, he
smiled in an affable manner, and expressed his hopes that he had not hurt
any of us in the scuffle. “I guess you’re going to take me to the police-
station,” he remarked to Sherlock Holmes. “My cab’s at the door. If
you’ll loose my legs I’ll walk down to it. I’m not so light to lift as I used
to be.”
Gregson and Lestrade exchanged glances, as if they thought this
proposition rather a bold one; but Holmes at once took the prisoner at his
word, and loosened the towel which we had bound round his ankles. He
rose and stretched his legs, as though to assure himself that they were free
once more. I remember that I thought to myself, as I eyed him, that I had
seldom seen a more powerfully built man; and his dark, sunburned face
bore an expression of determination and energy which was as formidable
as his personal strength.
“If there’s a vacant place for a chief of the police, I reckon you are the
man for [77] it,” he said, gazing with undisguised admiration at my fellow-
lodger. “The way you kept on my trail was a caution.”
“You had better come with me,” said Holmes to the two detectives.
“I can drive you,” said Lestrade.
“Good! and Gregson can come inside with me. You too, Doctor. You
have taken an interest in the case, and may as well stick to us.”
I assented gladly, and we all descended together. Our prisoner made no
attempt at escape, but stepped calmly into the cab which had been his, and
we followed him. Lestrade mounted the box, whipped up the horse, and
brought us in a very short time to our destination. We were ushered into a
small chamber, where a police inspector noted down our prisoner’s name
and the names of the men with whose murder he had been charged. The
official was a white-faced, unemotional man, who went through his duties
in a dull, mechanical way. “The prisoner will be put before the
magistrates in the course of the week,” he said; “in the meantime, Mr.
Jefferson Hope, have you anything that you wish to say? I must warn you
that your words will be taken down, and may be used against you.”
“I’ve got a good deal to say,” our prisoner said slowly. “I want to tell
you gentlemen all about it.”
“Hadn’t you better reserve that for your trial?” asked the inspector.
“I may never be tried,” he answered. “You needn’t look startled. It isn’t
suicide I am thinking of. Are you a doctor?” He turned his fierce dark
eyes upon me as he asked this last question.
“Yes, I am,” I answered.
“Then put your hand here,” he said, with a smile, motioning with his
manacled wrists towards his chest.
I did so; and became at once conscious of an extraordinary throbbing
and commotion which was going on inside. The walls of his chest seemed
to thrill and quiver as a frail building would do inside when some
powerful engine was at work. In the silence of the room I could hear a
dull humming and buzzing noise which proceeded from the same source.
“Why,” I cried, “you have an aortic aneurism!”
“That’s what they call it,” he said, placidly. “I went to a doctor last
week about it, and he told me that it is bound to burst before many days
passed. It has been getting worse for years. I got it from overexposure and
under-feeding among the Salt Lake Mountains. I’ve done my work now,
and I don’t care how soon I go, but I should like to leave some account of
the business behind me. I don’t want to be remembered as a common cut-
The inspector and the two detectives had a hurried discussion as to the
advisability of allowing him to tell his story.
“Do you consider, Doctor, that there is immediate danger?” the former
“Most certainly there is,” I answered.
“In that case it is clearly our duty, in the interests of justice, to take his
statement,” said the inspector. “You are at liberty, sir, to give your
account, which I again warn you will be taken down.”
“I’ll sit down, with your leave,” the prisoner said, suiting the action to
the word. “This aneurism of mine makes me easily tired, and the tussle
we had half an hour ago has not mended matters. I’m on the brink of the
grave, and I am not likely [78] to lie to you. Every word I say is the
absolute truth, and how you use it is a matter of no consequence to me.”
With these words, Jefferson Hope leaned back in his chair and began
the following remarkable statement. He spoke in a calm and methodical
manner, as though the events which he narrated were commonplace
enough. I can vouch for the accuracy of the subjoined account, for I have
had access to Lestrade’s notebook, in which the prisoner’s words were
taken down exactly as they were uttered.
“It don’t much matter to you why I hated these men,” he said; “it’s
enough that they were guilty of the death of two human beings–a father
and daughter–and that they had, therefore, forfeited their own lives. After
the lapse of time that has passed since their crime, it was impossible for
me to secure a conviction against them in any court. I knew of their guilt
though, and I determined that I should be judge, jury, and executioner all
rolled into one. You’d have done the same, if you have any manhood in
you, if you had been in my place.
“That girl that I spoke of was to have married me twenty years ago. She
was forced into marrying that same Drebber, and broke her heart over it. I
took the marriage ring from her dead finger, and I vowed that his dying
eyes should rest upon that very ring, and that his last thoughts should be
of the crime for which he was punished. I have carried it about with me,
and have followed him and his accomplice over two continents until I
caught them. They thought to tire me out, but they could not do it. If I die
to-morrow, as is likely enough, I die knowing that my work in this world
is done, and well done. They have perished, and by my hand. There is
nothing left for me to hope for, or to desire.
“They were rich and I was poor, so that it was no easy matter for me to
follow them. When I got to London my pocket was about empty, and I
found that I must turn my hand to something for my living. Driving and
riding are as natural to me as walking, so I applied at a cab-owner’s
office, and soon got employment. I was to bring a certain sum a week to
the owner, and whatever was over that I might keep for myself. There was
seldom much over, but I managed to scrape along somehow. The hardest
job was to learn my way about, for I reckon that of all the mazes that ever
were contrived, this city is the most confusing. I had a map beside me,
though, and when once I had spotted the principal hotels and stations, I
got on pretty well.
“It was some time before I found out where my two gentlemen were
living; but I inquired and inquired until at last I dropped across them.
They were at a boarding-house at Camberwell, over on the other side of
the river. When once I found them out, I knew that I had them at my
mercy. I had grown my beard, and there was no chance of their
recognizing me. I would dog them and follow them until I saw my
opportunity. I was determined that they should not escape me again.
“They were very near doing it for all that. Go where they would about
London, I was always at their heels. Sometimes I followed them on my
cab, and sometimes on foot, but the former was the best, for then they
could not get away from me. It was only early in the morning or late at
night that I could earn anything, so that I began to get behindhand with
my employer. I did not mind that, however, as long as I could lay my
hand upon the men I wanted.
“They were very cunning, though. They must have thought that there
was some chance of their being followed, for they would never go out
alone, and never after nightfall. During two weeks I drove behind them
every day, and never once [79] saw them separate. Drebber himself was
drunk half the time, but Stangerson was not to be caught napping. I
watched them late and early, but never saw the ghost of a chance; but I
was not discouraged, for something told me that the hour had almost
come. My only fear was that this thing in my chest might burst a little too
soon and leave my work undone.
“At last, one evening I was driving up and down Torquay Terrace, as
the street was called in which they boarded, when I saw a cab drive up to
their door. Presently some luggage was brought out and after a time
Drebber and Stangerson followed it, and drove off. I whipped up my
horse and kept within sight of them, feeling very ill at ease, for I feared
that they were going to shift their quarters. At Euston Station they got out,
and I left a boy to hold my horse and followed them on to the platform. I
heard them ask for the Liverpool train, and the guard answer that one had
just gone, and there would not be another for some hours. Stangerson
seemed to be put out at that, but Drebber was rather pleased than
otherwise. I got so close to them in the bustle that I could hear every word
that passed between them. Drebber said that he had a little business of his
own to do, and that if the other would wait for him he would soon rejoin
him. His companion remonstrated with him, and reminded him that they
had resolved to stick together. Drebber answered that the matter was a
delicate one, and that he must go alone. I could not catch what Stangerson
said to that, but the other burst out swearing, and reminded him that he
was nothing more than his paid servant, and that he must not presume to
dictate to him. On that the secretary gave it up as a bad job, and simply
bargained with him that if he missed the last train he should rejoin him at
Halliday’s Private Hotel; to which Drebber answered that he would be
back on the platform before eleven, and made his way out of the station.
“The moment for which I had waited so long had at last come. I had my
enemies within my power. Together they could protect each other, but
singly they were at my mercy. I did not act, however, with undue
precipitation. My plans were already formed. There is no satisfaction in
vengeance unless the offender has time to realize who it is that strikes
him, and why retribution has come upon him. I had my plans arranged by
which I should have the opportunity of making the man who had wronged
me understand that his old sin had found him out. It chanced that some
days before a gentleman who had been engaged in looking over some
houses in the Brixton Road had dropped the key of one of them in my
carriage. It was claimed that same evening, and returned; but in the
interval I had taken a moulding of it, and had a duplicate constructed. By
means of this I had access to at least one spot in this great city where I
could rely upon being free from interruption. How to get Drebber to that
house was the difficult problem which I had now to solve.
“He walked down the road and went into one or two liquor shops,
staying for nearly half an hour in the last of them. When he came out, he
staggered in his walk, and was evidently pretty well on. There was a
hansom just in front of me, and he hailed it. I followed it so close that the
nose of my horse was within a yard of his driver the whole way. We
rattled across Waterloo Bridge and through miles of streets, until, to my
astonishment, we found ourselves back in the terrace in which he had
boarded. I could not imagine what his intention was in returning there; but
I went on and pulled up my cab a hundred yards or so from the house. He
entered it, and his hansom drove away. Give me a glass of water, if you
please. My mouth gets dry with the talking.”
[80] I handed him the glass, and he drank it down.
“That’s better,” he said. “Well, I waited for a quarter of an hour, or
more, when suddenly there came a noise like people struggling inside the
house. Next moment the door was flung open and two men appeared, one
of whom was Drebber, and the other was a young chap whom I had never
seen before. This fellow had Drebber by the collar, and when they came
to the head of the steps he gave him a shove and a kick which sent him
half across the road. ‘You hound!’ he cried, shaking his stick at him; ‘I’ll
teach you to insult an honest girl!’ He was so hot that I think he would
have thrashed Drebber with his cudgel, only that the cur staggered away
down the road as fast as his legs would carry him. He ran as far as the
corner, and then seeing my cab, he hailed me and jumped in. ‘Drive me to
Halliday’s Private Hotel,’ said he.
“When I had him fairly inside my cab, my heart jumped so with joy
that I feared lest at this last moment my aneurism might go wrong. I drove
along slowly, weighing in my own mind what it was best to do. I might
take him right out into the country, and there in some deserted lane have
my last interview with him. I had almost decided upon this, when he
solved the problem for me. The craze for drink had seized him again, and
he ordered me to pull up outside a gin palace. He went in, leaving word
that I should wait for him. There he remained until closing time, and
when he came out he was so far gone that I knew the game was in my
own hands.
“Don’t imagine that I intended to kill him in cold blood. It would only
have been rigid justice if I had done so, but I could not bring myself to do
it. I had long determined that he should have a show for his life if he
chose to take advantage of it. Among the many billets which I have filled
in America during my wandering life, I was once janitor and sweeper-out
of the laboratory at York College. One day the professor was lecturing on
poisons, and he showed his students some alkaloid, as he called it, which
he had extracted from some South American arrow poison, and which
was so powerful that the least grain meant instant death. I spotted the
bottle in which this preparation was kept, and when they were all gone, I
helped myself to a little of it. I was a fairly good dispenser, so I worked
this alkaloid into small, soluble pills, and each pill I put in a box with a
similar pill made without the poison. I determined at the time that when I
had my chance my gentlemen should each have a draw out of one of these
boxes, while I ate the pill that remained. It would be quite as deadly and a
good deal less noisy than firing across a handkerchief. From that day I
had always my pill boxes about with me, and the time had now come
when I was to use them.
“It was nearer one than twelve, and a wild, bleak night, blowing hard
and raining in torrents. Dismal as it was outside, I was glad within–so
glad that I could have shouted out from pure exultation. If any of you
gentlemen have ever pined for a thing, and longed for it during twenty
long years, and then suddenly found it within your reach, you would
understand my feelings. I lit a cigar, and puffed at it to steady my nerves,
but my hands were trembling and my temples throbbing with excitement.
As I drove, I could see old John Ferrier and sweet Lucy looking at me out
of the darkness and smiling at me, just as plain as I see you all in this
room. All the way they were ahead of me, one on each side of the horse
until I pulled up at the house in the Brixton Road.
“There was not a soul to be seen, nor a sound to be heard, except the
dripping of the rain. When I looked in at the window, I found Drebber all
huddled [81] together in a drunken sleep. I shook him by the arm, ‘It’s
time to get out,’ I said.
“‘All right, cabby,’ said he.
“I suppose he thought we had come to the hotel that he had mentioned,
for he got out without another word, and followed me down the garden. I
had to walk beside him to keep him steady, for he was still a little top-
heavy. When we came to the door, I opened it and led him into the front
room. I give you my word that all the way, the father and the daughter
were walking in front of us.
“‘It’s infernally dark,’ said he, stamping about.
“‘We’ll soon have a light,’ I said, striking a match and putting it to a
wax candle which I had brought with me. ‘Now, Enoch Drebber,’ I
continued, turning to him, and holding the light to my own face, ‘who am
“He gazed at me with bleared, drunken eyes for a moment, and then I
saw a horror spring up in them, and convulse his whole features, which
showed me that he knew me. He staggered back with a livid face, and I
saw the perspiration break out upon his brow, while his teeth chattered in
his head. At the sight I leaned my back against the door and laughed loud
and long. I had always known that vengeance would be sweet, but I had
never hoped for the contentment of soul which now possessed me.
“‘You dog!’ I said; ‘I have hunted you from Salt Lake City to St.
Petersburg, and you have always escaped me. Now, at last your
wanderings have come to an end, for either you or I shall never see to-
morrow’s sun rise.’ He shrunk still farther away as I spoke, and I could
see on his face that he thought I was mad. So I was for the time. The
pulses in my temples beat like sledge-hammers, and I believe I would
have had a fit of some sort if the blood had not gushed from my nose and
relieved me.
“‘What do you think of Lucy Ferrier now?’ I cried, locking the door,
and shaking the key in his face. ‘Punishment has been slow in coming,
but it has overtaken you at last.’ I saw his coward lips tremble as I spoke.
He would have begged for his life, but he knew well that it was useless.
“‘Would you murder me?’ he stammered.
“‘There is no murder,’ I answered. ‘Who talks of murdering a mad
dog? What mercy had you upon my poor darling, when you dragged her
from her slaughtered father, and bore her away to your accursed and
shameless harem?’
“‘It was not I who killed her father,’ he cried.
“‘But it was you who broke her innocent heart,’ I shrieked, thrusting
the box before him. ‘Let the high God judge between us. Choose and eat.
There is death in one and life in the other. I shall take what you leave. Let
us see if there is justice upon the earth, or if we are ruled by chance.’
“He cowered away with wild cries and prayers for mercy, but I drew
my knife and held it to his throat until he had obeyed me. Then I
swallowed the other, and we stood facing one another in silence for a
minute or more, waiting to see which was to live and which was to die.
Shall I ever forget the look which came over his face when the first
warning pangs told him that the poison was in his system? I laughed as I
saw it, and held Lucy’s marriage ring in front of his eyes. It was but for a
moment, for the action of the alkaloid is rapid. A spasm of pain contorted
his features; he threw his hands out in front of him, staggered, and then,
with a hoarse cry, fell heavily upon the floor. I turned him over with my
foot, and placed my hand upon his heart. There was no movement. He
was dead!
“The blood had been streaming from my nose, but I had taken no notice
of it. [82] I don’t know what it was that put it into my head to write upon
the wall with it. Perhaps it was some mischievous idea of setting the
police upon a wrong track, for I felt light-hearted and cheerful. I
remember a German being found in New York with RACHE written up
above him, and it was argued at the time in the newspapers that the secret
societies must have done it. I guessed that what puzzled the New Yorkers
would puzzle the Londoners, so I dipped my finger in my own blood and
printed it on a convenient place on the wall. Then I walked down to my
cab and found that there was nobody about, and that the night was still
very wild. I had driven some distance, when I put my hand into the pocket
in which I usually kept Lucy’s ring, and found that it was not there. I was
thunderstruck at this, for it was the only memento that I had of her.
Thinking that I might have dropped it when I stooped over Drebber’s
body, I drove back, and leaving my cab in a side street, I went boldly up
to the house–for I was ready to dare anything rather than lose the ring.
When I arrived there, I walked right into the arms of a police-officer who
was coming out, and only managed to disarm his suspicions by
pretending to be hopelessly drunk.
“That was how Enoch Drebber came to his end. All I had to do then
was to do as much for Stangerson, and so pay off John Ferrier’s debt. I
knew that he was staying at Halliday’s Private Hotel, and I hung about all
day, but he never came out. I fancy that he suspected something when
Drebber failed to put in an appearance. He was cunning, was Stangerson,
and always on his guard. If he thought he could keep me off by staying
indoors he was very much mistaken. I soon found out which was the
window of his bedroom, and early next morning I took advantage of some
ladders which were lying in the lane behind the hotel, and so made my
way into his room in the gray of the dawn. I woke him up and told him
that the hour had come when he was to answer for the life he had taken so
long before. I described Drebber’s death to him, and I gave him the same
choice of the poisoned pills. Instead of grasping at the chance of safety
which that offered him, he sprang from his bed and flew at my throat. In
self-defence I stabbed him to the heart. It would have been the same in
any case, for Providence would never have allowed his guilty hand to
pick out anything but the poison.
“I have little more to say, and it’s as well, for I am about done up. I
went on cabbing it for a day or so, intending to keep at it until I could
save enough to take me back to America. I was standing in the yard when
a ragged youngster asked if there was a cabby there called Jefferson
Hope, and said that his cab was wanted by a gentleman at 221B, Baker
Street. I went round suspecting no harm, and the next thing I knew, this
young man here had the bracelets on my wrists, and as neatly shackled as
ever I saw in my life. That’s the whole of my story, gentlemen. You may
consider me to be a murderer; but I hold that I am just as much an officer
of justice as you are.”
So thrilling had the man’s narrative been and his manner was so
impressive that we had sat silent and absorbed. Even the professional
detectives, blase as they were in every detail of crime, appeared to be
keenly interested in the man’s story. When he finished, we sat for some
minutes in a stillness which was only broken by the scratching of
Lestrade’s pencil as he gave the finishing touches to his shorthand
“There is only one point on which I should like a little more
information,” Sherlock Holmes said at last. “Who was your accomplice
who came for the ring which I advertised?”
[83] The prisoner winked at my friend jocosely. “I can tell my own
secrets,” he said, “but I don’t get other people into trouble. I saw your
advertisement, and I thought it might be a plant, or it might be the ring
which I wanted. My friend volunteered to go and see. I think you’ll own
he did it smartly.”
“Not a doubt of that,” said Holmes, heartily.
“Now, gentlemen,” the inspector remarked gravely, “the forms of the
law must be complied with. On Thursday the prisoner will be brought
before the magistrates, and your attendance will be required. Until then I
will be responsible for him.” He rang the bell as he spoke, and Jefferson
Hope was led off by a couple of warders, while my friend and I made our
way out of the station and took a cab back to Baker Street.

Chapter 7
David Soucek, 1998
A Study in Scarlet

Chapter 7

WE HAD all been warned to appear before the magistrates upon the
Thursday; but when the Thursday came there was no occasion for our
testimony. A higher Judge had taken the matter in hand, and Jefferson
Hope had been summoned before a tribunal where strict justice would be
meted out to him. On the very night after his capture the aneurism burst,
and he was found in the morning stretched upon the floor of the cell, with
a placid smile upon his face, as though he had been able in his dying
moments to look back upon a useful life, and on work well done.
“Gregson and Lestrade will be wild about his death,” Holmes
remarked, as we chatted it over next evening. “Where will their grand
advertisement be now?”
“I don’t see that they had very much to do with his capture,” I answered.
“What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence,” returned
my companion, bitterly. “The question is, what can you make people
believe that you have done? Never mind,” he continued, more brightly,
after a pause. “I would not have missed the investigation for anything.
There has been no better case within my recollection. Simple as it was,
there were several most instructive points about it.”
“Simple!” I ejaculated.
“Well, really, it can hardly be described as otherwise,” said Sherlock
Holmes, smiling at my surprise. “The proof of its intrinsic simplicity is,
that without any help save a few very ordinary deductions I was able to
lay my hand upon the criminal within three days.”
“That is true,” said I.
“I have already explained to you that what is out of the common is
usually a guide rather than a hindrance. In solving a problem of this sort,
the grand thing is to be able to reason backward. That is a very useful
accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practise it much.
In the everyday affairs of life it is more useful to reason forward, and so
the other comes to be neglected. There are fifty who can reason
synthetically for one who can reason analytically.”
“I confess,” said I, “that I do not quite follow you.”
“I hardly expected that you would. Let me see if I can make it clearer.
Most people, if you describe a train of events to them, will tell you what
the result would be. They can put those events together in their minds,
and argue from them [84] that something will come to pass. There are few
people, however, who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve
from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to
that result. This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backward,
or analytically.”
“I understand,” said I.
“Now this was a case in which you were given the result and had to
find everything else for yourself. Now let me endeavour to show you the
different steps in my reasoning. To begin at the beginning. I approached
the house, as you know, on foot, and with my mind entirely free from all
impressions. I naturally began by examining the roadway, and there, as I
have already explained to you, I saw clearly the marks of a cab, which, I
ascertained by inquiry, must have been there during the night. I satisfied
myself that it was a cab and not a private carriage by the narrow gauge of
the wheels. The ordinary London growler is considerably less wide than a
gentleman’s brougham.
“This was the first point gained. I then walked slowly down the garden
path, which happened to be composed of a clay soil, peculiarly suitable
for taking impressions. No doubt it appeared to you to be a mere trampled
line of slush, but to my trained eyes every mark upon its surface had a
meaning. There is no branch of detective science which is so important
and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps. Happily, I have
always laid great stress upon it, and much practice has made it second
nature to me. I saw the heavy footmarks of the constables, but I saw also
the track of the two men who had first passed through the garden. It was
easy to tell that they had been before the others, because in places their
marks had been entirely obliterated by the others coming upon the top of
them. In this way my second link was formed, which told me that the
nocturnal visitors were two in number, one remarkable for his height (as I
calculated from the length of his stride), and the other fashionably
dressed, to judge from the small and elegant impression left by his boots.
“On entering the house this last inference was confirmed. My well-
booted man lay before me. The tall one, then, had done the murder, if
murder there was. There was no wound upon the dead man’s person, but
the agitated expression upon his face assured me that he had foreseen his
fate before it came upon him. Men who die from heart disease, or any
sudden natural cause, never by any chance exhibit agitation upon their
features. Having sniffed the dead man’s lips, I detected a slightly sour
smell, and I came to the conclusion that he had had poison forced upon
him. Again, I argued that it had been forced upon him from the hatred and
fear expressed upon his face. By the method of exclusion, I had arrived at
this result, for no other hypothesis would meet the facts. Do not imagine
that it was a very unheard-of idea. The forcible administration of poison is
by no means a new thing in criminal annals. The cases of Dolsky in
Odessa, and of Leturier in Montpellier, will occur at once to any
“And now came the great question as to the reason why. Robbery had
not been the object of the murder, for nothing was taken. Was it politics,
then, or was it a woman? That was the question which confronted me. I
was inclined from the first to the latter supposition. Political assassins are
only too glad to do their work and to fly. This murder had, on the
contrary, been done most deliberately, and the perpetrator had left his
tracks all over the room, showing that he had been there all the time. It
must have been a private wrong, and not a political one, which called for
such a methodical revenge. When the inscription was discovered [85]
upon the wall, I was more inclined than ever to my opinion. The thing
was too evidently a blind. When the ring was found, however, it settled
the question. Clearly the murderer had used it to remind his victim of
some dead or absent woman. It was at this point that I asked Gregson
whether he had inquired in his telegram to Cleveland as to any particular
point in Mr. Drebber’s former career. He answered, you remember, in the
“I then proceeded to make a careful examination of the room, which
confirmed me in my opinion as to the murderer’s height, and furnished
me with the additional details as to the Trichinopoly cigar and the length
of his nails. I had already come to the conclusion, since there were no
signs of a struggle, that the blood which covered the floor had burst from
the murderer’s nose in his excitement. I could perceive that the track of
blood coincided with the track of his feet. It is seldom that any man,
unless he is very full-blooded, breaks out in this way through emotion, so
I hazarded the opinion that the criminal was probably a robust and ruddy-
faced man. Events proved that I had judged correctly.
“Having left the house, I proceeded to do what Gregson had neglected.
I telegraphed to the head of the police at Cleveland, limiting my inquiry
to the circumstances connected with the marriage of Enoch Drebber. The
answer was conclusive. It told me that Drebber had already applied for
the protection of the law against an old rival in love, named Jefferson
Hope, and that this same Hope was at present in Europe. I knew now that
I held the clue to the mystery in my hand, and all that remained was to
secure the murderer.
“I had already determined in my own mind that the man who had
walked into the house with Drebber was none other than the man who had
driven the cab. The marks in the road showed me that the horse had
wandered on in a way which would have been impossible had there been
anyone in charge of it. Where, then, could the driver be, unless he were
inside the house? Again, it is absurd to suppose that any sane man would
carry out a deliberate crime under the very eyes, as it were, of a third
person, who was sure to betray him. Lastly, supposing one man wished to
dog another through London, what better means could he adopt than to
turn cabdriver? All these considerations led me to the irresistible
conclusion that Jefferson Hope was to be found among the jarveys of the
“If he had been one, there was no reason to believe that he had ceased
to be. On the contrary, from his point of view, any sudden change would
be likely to draw attention to himself. He would probably, for a time at
least, continue to perform his duties. There was no reason to suppose that
he was going under an assumed name. Why should he change his name in
a country where no one knew his original one? I therefore organized my
street Arab detective corps, and sent them systematically to every cab
proprietor in London until they ferreted out the man that I wanted. How
well they succeeded, and how quickly I took advantage of it, are still fresh
in your recollection. The murder of Stangerson was an incident which
was entirely unexpected, but which could hardly in any case have been
prevented. Through it, as you know, I came into possession of the pills,
the existence of which I had already surmised. You see, the whole thing is
a chain of logical sequences without a break or flaw.”
“It is wonderful!” I cried. “Your merits should be publicly recognized.
You should publish an account of the case. If you won’t, I will for you.”
“You may do what you like, Doctor,” he answered. “See here!” he
continued, handing a paper over to me, “look at this!”
[86] It was the Echo for the day, and the paragraph to which he pointed
was devoted to the case in question.
“The public,” it said, “have lost a sensational treat through the sudden
death of the man Hope, who was suspected of the murder of Mr. Enoch
Drebber and of Mr. Joseph Stangerson. The details of the case will
probably be never known now, though we are informed upon good
authority that the crime was the result of an old-standing and romantic
feud, in which love and Mormonism bore a part. It seems that both the
victims belonged, in their younger days, to the Latter Day Saints, and
Hope, the deceased prisoner, hails also from Salt Lake City. If the case
has had no other effect, it, at least, brings out in the most striking manner
the efficiency of our detective police force, and will serve as a lesson to
all foreigners that they will do wisely to settle their feuds at home, and not
to carry them on to British soil. It is an open secret that the credit of this
smart capture belongs entirely to the well-known Scotland Yard officials,
Messrs. Lestrade and Gregson. The man was apprehended, it appears, in
the rooms of a certain Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who has himself, as an
amateur, shown some talent in the detective line and who, with such
instructors, may hope in time to attain to some degree of their skill. It is
expected that a testimonial of some sort will be presented to the two
officers as a fitting recognition of their services.”
“Didn’t I tell you so when we started?” cried Sherlock Holmes with a
laugh. “That’s the result of all our Study in Scarlet: to get them a
“Never mind,” I answered; “I have all the facts in my journal, and the
public shall know them. In the meantime you must make yourself
contented by the consciousness of success, like the Roman miser–

“Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo

Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplar in arca.”

The Sign of Four

David Soucek, 1998
The Complete Sherlock Holmes


First edition in Lippincott’s Magazine, 1890

Chapter 1. The Science of Deduction

Chapter 2. The Statement of the Case
Chapter 3. In Quest of a Solution
Chapter 4. The Story of the Bald-headed Man
Chapter 5. The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge
Chapter 6. Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstartion
Chapter 7. The Episode of the Barrel
Chapter 8. The Baker Street Irregulars
Chapter 9. A Break in the Chain
Chapter 10. The End of the Islander
Chapter 11. The Great Agra Treasure
Chapter 12. The Strange Story of Jonathan Small

First published in the Lippincott’s Magazine, Philadelphia and London, in February

1890. First book edition by S. Blackett in Oct. 1890.
The second book edition, 1892

David Soucek, 1998

The Sign of Four

Chapter 1


SHERLOCK HOLMES took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece,
and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long,
white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle and rolled back his
left shirtcuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the
sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable
puncture-marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the
tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh
of satisfaction.
Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this performance,
but custom had not reconciled my mind to it. On the contrary, from day to
day I had become more irritable at the sight, and my conscience swelled
nightly within me at the thought that I had lacked the courage to protest.
Again and again I had registered a vow that I should deliver my soul upon
the subject; but there was that in the cool, nonchalant air of my
companion which made him the last man with whom one would care to
take anything approaching to a liberty. His great powers, his masterly
manner, and the experience which I had had of his many extraordinary
qualities, all made me diffident and backward in crossing him.
Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which I had taken
with my lunch or the additional exasperation produced by the extreme
deliberation of his manner, I suddenly felt that I could hold out no longer.
“Which is it to-day,” I asked, “morphine or cocaine?”
He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he
had opened.
“It is cocaine,” he said, “a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to
try it?”
“No, indeed,” I answered brusquely. “My constitution has not got over
the Afghan campaign yet. I cannot afford to throw any extra strain upon
He smiled at my vehemence. “Perhaps you are right, Watson,” he said.
“I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one. I find it, however, so
transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary
action is a matter of small moment.”
“But consider!” I said earnestly. “Count the cost! Your brain may, as
you say, be roused and excited, but it is a pathological and morbid process
which involves increased tissue-change and may at least leave a
permanent weakness. You know, too, what a black reaction comes upon
you. Surely the game is hardly worth the candle. Why should you, for a
mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which you
have been endowed? Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to
another but as a medical man to one for whose constitution he is to some
extent answerable.”
He did not seem offended. On the contrary, he put his finger-tips
together, and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair, like one who has
a relish for conversation.
“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me
work, [90] give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate
analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with
artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for
mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular
profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
“The only unofficial detective?” I said, raising my eyebrows.
“The only unofficial consulting detective,” he answered. “I am the last
and highest court of appeal in detection. When Gregson, or Lestrade, or
Athelney Jones are out of their depths–which, by the way, is their normal
state–the matter is laid before me. I examine the data, as an expert, and
pronounce a specialist’s opinion. I claim no credit in such cases. My
name figures in no newspaper. The work itself, the pleasure of finding a
field for my peculiar powers, is my highest reward. But you have yourself
had some experience of my methods of work in the Jefferson Hope case.”
“Yes, indeed,” said I cordially. “I was never so struck by anything in
my life. I even embodied it in a small brochure, with the somewhat
fantastic title of ‘A Study in Scarlet.’”
He shook his head sadly.
“I glanced over it,” said he. “Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon
it. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in
the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it
with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked
a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.”
“But the romance was there,” I remonstrated. “I could not tamper with
the facts.”
“Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of
proportion should be observed in treating them. The only point in the case
which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects
to causes, by which I succeeded in unravelling it.”
I was annoyed at this criticism of a work which had been specially
designed to please him. I confess, too, that I was irritated by the egotism
which seemed to demand that every line of my pamphlet should be
devoted to his own special doings. More than once during the years that I
had lived with him in Baker Street I had observed that a small vanity
underlay my companion’s quiet and didactic manner. I made no remark,
however, but sat nursing my wounded leg. I had had a Jezail bullet
through it some time before, and though it did not prevent me from
walking it ached wearily at every change of the weather.
“My practice has extended recently to the Continent,” said Holmes
after a while, filling up his old brier-root pipe. “I was consulted last week
by Francois le Villard, who, as you probably know, has come rather to the
front lately in the French detective service. He has all the Celtic power of
quick intuition, but he is deficient in the wide range of exact knowledge
which is essential to the higher developments of his art. The case was
concerned with a will and possessed some features of interest. I was able
to refer him to two parallel cases, the one at Riga in 1857, and the other at
St. Louis in 1871, which have suggested to him the true solution. Here is
the letter which I had this morning acknowledging my assistance.”
He tossed over, as he spoke, a crumpled sheet of foreign notepaper. I
glanced my eyes down it, catching a profusion of notes of admiration,
with stray magnifiques, [91] coup-de-maîtres and tours-de-force, all
testifying to the ardent admiration of the Frenchman.
“He speaks as a pupil to his master,” said I.
“Oh, he rates my assistance too highly,” said Sherlock Holmes lightly.
“He has considerable gifts himself. He possesses two out of the three
qualities necessary for the ideal detective. He has the power of
observation and that of deduction. He is only wanting in knowledge, and
that may come in time. He is now translating my small works into
“Your works?”
“Oh, didn’t you know?” he cried, laughing. “Yes, I have been guilty of
several monographs. They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for
example, is one ‘Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various
Tobaccos.’ In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette,
and pipe tobacco, with coloured plates illustrating the difference in the
ash. It is a point which is continually turning up in criminal trials, and
which is sometimes of supreme importance as a clue. If you can say
definitely, for example, that some murder had been done by a man who
was smoking an Indian lunkah, it obviously narrows your field of search.
To the trained eye there is as much difference between the black ash of a
Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird’s-eye as there is between a
cabbage and a potato.”
“You have an extraordinary genius for minutiae,” I remarked.
“I appreciate their importance. Here is my monograph upon the tracing
of footsteps, with some remarks upon the uses of plaster of Paris as a
preserver of impresses. Here, too, is a curious little work upon the
influence of a trade upon the form of the hand, with lithotypes of the
hands of slaters, sailors, cork-cutters, compositors, weavers, and diamond-
polishers. That is a matter of great practical interest to the scientific
detective–especially in cases of unclaimed bodies, or in discovering the
antecedents of criminals. But I weary you with my hobby.”
“Not at all,” I answered earnestly. “It is of the greatest interest to me,
especially since I have had the opportunity of observing your practical
application of it. But you spoke just now of observation and deduction.
Surely the one to some extent implies the other.”
“Why, hardly,” he answered, leaning back luxuriously in his armchair
and sending up thick blue wreaths from his pipe. “For example,
observation shows me that you have been to the Wigmore Street Post-
Office this morning, but deduction lets me know that when there you
dispatched a telegram.”
“Right!” said I. “Right on both points! But I confess that I don’t see
how you arrived at it. It was a sudden impulse upon my part, and I have
mentioned it to no one.”
“It is simplicity itself,” he remarked, chuckling at my surprise–“so
absurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous; and yet it may serve to
define the limits of observation and of deduction. Observation tells me
that you have a little reddish mould adhering to your instep. Just opposite
the Wigmore Street Office they have taken up the pavement and thrown
up some earth, which lies in such a way that it is difficult to avoid
treading in it in entering. The earth is of this peculiar reddish tint which is
found, as far as I know, nowhere else in the neighbourhood. So much is
observation. The rest is deduction.”
“How, then, did you deduce the telegram?”
“Why, of course I knew that you had not written a letter, since I sat
opposite [92] to you all morning. I see also in your open desk there that
you have a sheet of stamps and a thick bundle of postcards. What could
you go into the post-office for, then, but to send a wire? Eliminate all
other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.”
“In this case it certainly is so,” I replied after a little thought. “The
thing, however, is, as you say, of the simplest. Would you think me
impertinent if I were to put your theories to a more severe test?”
“On the contrary,” he answered, “it would prevent me from taking a
second dose of cocaine. I should be delighted to look into any problem
which you might submit to me.”
“I have heard you say it is difficult for a man to have any object in
daily use without leaving the impress of his individuality upon it in such a
way that a trained observer might read it. Now, I have here a watch which
has recently come into my possession. Would you have the kindness to let
me have an opinion upon the character or habits of the late owner?”
I handed him over the watch with some slight feeling of amusement in
my heart, for the test was, as I thought, an impossible one, and I intended
it as a lesson against the somewhat dogmatic tone which he occasionally
assumed. He balanced the watch in his hand, gazed hard at the dial,
opened the back, and examined the works, first with his naked eyes and
then with a powerful convex lens. I could hardly keep from smiling at his
crestfallen face when he finally snapped the case to and handed it back.

“There are hardly any data,” he remarked. “The watch has been
recently cleaned, which robs me of my most suggestive facts.”
“You are right,” I answered. “It was cleaned before being sent to me.”
In my heart I accused my companion of putting forward a most lame and
impotent excuse to cover his failure. What data could he expect from an
uncleaned watch?
“Though unsatisfactory, my research has not been entirely barren,” he
observed, staring up at the ceiling with dreamy, lack-lustre eyes. “Subject
to your correction, I should judge that the watch belonged to your elder
brother, who inherited it from your father.”
“That you gather, no doubt, from the H. W. upon the back?”
“Quite so. The W. suggests your own name. The date of the watch is
nearly fifty years back, and the initials are as old as the watch: so it was
made for the last generation. Jewellery usually descends to the eldest son,
and he is most likely to have the same name as the father. Your father has,
if I remember right, been dead many years. It has, therefore, been in the
hands of your eldest brother.”
“Right, so far,” said I. “Anything else?”
“He was a man of untidy habits–very untidy and careless. He was left
with good prospects, but he threw away his chances, lived for some time
in poverty with occasional short intervals of prosperity, and finally, taking
to drink, he died. That is all I can gather.”
I sprang from my chair and limped impatiently about the room with
considerable bitterness in my heart.
“This is unworthy of you, Holmes,” I said. “I could not have believed
that you would have descended to this. You have made inquiries into the
history of my unhappy brother, and you now pretend to deduce this
knowledge in some fanciful way. You cannot expect me to believe that
you have read all this from [93] his old watch! It is unkind and, to speak
plainly, has a touch of charlatanism in it.”
“My dear doctor,” said he kindly, “pray accept my apologies. Viewing
the matter as an abstract problem, I had forgotten how personal and
painful a thing it might be to you. I assure you, however, that I never even
knew that you had a brother until you handed me the watch.”
“Then how in the name of all that is wonderful did you get these facts?
They are absolutely correct in every particular.”
“Ah, that is good luck. I could only say what was the balance of
probability. I did not at all expect to be so accurate.”
“But it was not mere guesswork?”
“No, no: I never guess. It is a shocking habit–destructive to the logical
faculty. What seems strange to you is only so because you do not follow
my train of thought or observe the small facts upon which large
inferences may depend. For example, I began by stating that your brother
was careless. When you observe the lower part of that watch-case you
notice that it is not only dinted in two places but it is cut and marked all
over from the habit of keeping other hard objects, such as coins or keys,
in the same pocket. Surely it is no great feat to assume that a man who
treats a fifty-guinea watch so cavalierly must be a careless man. Neither is
it a very far-fetched inference that a man who inherits one article of such
value is pretty well provided for in other respects.”
I nodded to show that I followed his reasoning.
“It is very customary for pawnbrokers in England, when they take a
watch, to scratch the numbers of the ticket with a pin-point upon the
inside of the case. It is more handy than a label as there is no risk of the
number being lost or transposed. There are no less than four such
numbers visible to my lens on the inside of this case. Inference–that your
brother was often at low water. Secondary inference–that he had
occasional bursts of prosperity, or he could not have redeemed the pledge.
Finally, I ask you to look at the inner plate, which contains the keyhole.
Look at the thousands of scratches all round the hole–marks where the
key has slipped. What sober man’s key could have scored those grooves?
But you will never see a drunkard’s watch without them. He winds it at
night, and he leaves these traces of his unsteady hand. Where is the
mystery in all this?”
“It is as clear as daylight,” I answered. “I regret the injustice which I
did you. I should have had more faith in your marvellous faculty. May I
ask whether you have any professional inquiry on foot at present?”
“None. Hence the cocaine. I cannot live without brainwork. What else
is there to live for? Stand at the window here. Was ever such a dreary,
dismal, unprofitable world? See how the yellow fog swirls down the
street and drifts across the dun-coloured houses. What could be more
hopelessly prosaic and material? What is the use of having powers,
Doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them? Crime is
commonplace, existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those
which are commonplace have any function upon earth.”
I had opened my mouth to reply to this tirade when, with a crisp knock,
our landlady entered, bearing a card upon the brass salver.
“A young lady for you, sir,” she said, addressing my companion.
“Miss Mary Morstan,” he read. “Hum! I have no recollection of the
name. Ask the young lady to step up, Mrs. Hudson. Don’t go, Doctor. I
should prefer that you remain.”

Chapter 2
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 2


MISS MORSTAN entered the room with a firm step and an outward
composure of manner. She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well
gloved, and dressed in the most perfect taste. There was, however, a
plainness and simplicity about her costume which bore with it a
suggestion of limited means. The dress was a sombre grayish beige,
untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore a small turban of the same dull
hue, relieved only by a suspicion of white feather in the side. Her face had
neither regularity of feature nor beauty of complexion, but her expression
was sweet and amiable, and her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual
and sympathetic. In an experience of women which extends over many
nations and three separate continents, I have never looked upon a face
which gave a clearer promise of a refined and sensitive nature. I could not
but observe that as she took the seat which Sherlock Holmes placed for
her, her lip trembled, her hand quivered, and she showed every sign of
intense inward agitation.
“I have come to you, Mr. Holmes,” she said, “because you once
enabled my employer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, to unravel a little domestic
complication. She was much impressed by your kindness and skill.”
“Mrs. Cecil Forrester,” he repeated thoughtfully. “I believe that I was
of some slight service to her. The case, however, as I remember it, was a
very simple one.”
“She did not think so. But at least you cannot say the same of mine. I
can hardly imagine anything more strange, more utterly inexplicable, than
the situation in which I find myself.”
Holmes rubbed his hands, and his eyes glistened. He leaned forward in
his chair with an expression of extraordinary concentration upon his clear-
cut, hawklike features.
“State your case,” said he in brisk business tones.
I felt that my position was an embarrassing one.
“You will, I am sure, excuse me,” I said, rising from my chair.
To my surprise, the young lady held up her gloved hand to detain me.
“If your friend,” she said, “would be good enough to stop, he might be
of inestimable service to me.”
I relapsed into my chair.
“Briefly,” she continued, “the facts are these. My father was an officer
in an Indian regiment, who sent me home when I was quite a child. My
mother was dead, and I had no relative in England. I was placed,
however, in a comfortable boarding establishment at Edinburgh, and there
I remained until I was seventeen years of age. In the year 1878 my father,
who was senior captain of his regiment, obtained twelve months’ leave
and came home. He telegraphed to me from London that he had arrived
all safe and directed me to come down at once, giving the Langham Hotel
as his address. His message, as I remember, was full of kindness and love.
On reaching London I drove to the Langham and was informed that
Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out the night
before and had not returned. I waited all day without news of him. That
night, on the [95] advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with
the police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our inquiries
led to no result; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of
my unfortunate father. He came home with his heart full of hope to find
some peace, some comfort, and instead– –”
She put her hand to her throat, and a choking sob cut short the sentence.
“The date?” asked Holmes, opening his notebook.
“He disappeared upon the third of December, 1878–nearly ten years
“His luggage?”
“Remained at the hotel. There was nothing in it to suggest a clue–some
clothes, some books, and a considerable number of curiosities from the
Andaman Islands. He had been one of the officers in charge of the
convict-guard there.”
“Had he any friends in town?”
“Only one that we know of–Major Sholto, of his own regiment, the
Thirty-fourth Bombay Infantry. The major had retired some little time
before and lived at Upper Norwood. We communicated with him, of
course, but he did not even know that his brother officer was in England.”
“A singular case,” remarked Holmes.
“I have not yet described to you the most singular part. About six years
ago–to be exact, upon the fourth of May, 1882–an advertisement
appeared in the Times asking for the address of Miss Mary Morstan, and
stating that it would be to her advantage to come forward. There was no
name or address appended. I had at that time just entered the family of
Mrs. Cecil Forrester in the capacity of governess. By her advice I
published my address in the advertisement column. The same day there
arrived through the post a small cardboard box addressed to me, which I
found to contain a very large and lustrous pearl. No word of writing was
enclosed. Since then every year upon the same date there has always
appeared a similar box, containing a similar pearl, without any clue as to
the sender. They have been pronounced by an expert to be of a rare
variety and of considerable value. You can see for yourself that they are
very handsome.”
She opened a flat box as she spoke and showed me six of the finest
pearls that I had ever seen.
“Your statement is most interesting,” said Sherlock Holmes. “Has
anything else occurred to you?”
“Yes, and no later than to-day. That is why I have come to you. This
morning I received this letter, which you will perhaps read for yourself.”
“Thank you,” said Holmes. “The envelope, too, please. Post-mark,
London, S. W. Date, July 7. Hum! Man’s thumb-mark on
corner–probably postman. Best quality paper. Envelopes at sixpence a
packet. Particular man in his stationery. No address.

“Be at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre
to-night at seven o’clock. If you are distrustful bring two friends.
You are a wronged woman and shall have justice. Do not bring
police. If you do, all will be in vain. Your unknown friend.

Well, really, this is a very pretty little mystery! What do you intend to
do, Miss Morstan?”
“That is exactly what I want to ask you.”
“Then we shall most certainly go–you and I and–yes, why Dr. Watson
is the [96] very man. Your correspondent says two friends. He and I have
worked together before.”
“But would he come?” she asked with something appealing in her voice
and expression.
“I shall be proud and happy,” said I fervently, “if I can be of any
“You are both very kind,” she answered. “I have led a retired life and
have no friends whom I could appeal to. If I am here at six it will do, I
“You must not be later,” said Holmes. “There is one other point,
however. Is this handwriting the same as that upon the pearl-box
“I have them here,” she answered, producing half a dozen pieces of
“You are certainly a model client. You have the correct intuition. Let us
see, now.” He spread out the papers upon the table and gave little darting
glances from one to the other. “They are disguised hands, except the
letter,” he said presently; “but there can be no question as to the
authorship. See how the irrepressible Greek e will break out, and see the
twirl of the final s. They are undoubtedly by the same person. I should not
like to suggest false hopes, Miss Morstan, but is there any resemblance
between this hand and that of your father?”
“Nothing could be more unlike.”
“I expected to hear you say so. We shall look out for you, then, at six.
Pray allow me to keep the papers. I may look into the matter before then.
It is only half-past three. Au revoir, then.”
“Au revoir,” said our visitor; and with a bright, kindly glance from one
to the other of us, she replaced her pearl-box in her bosom and hurried
Standing at the window, I watched her walking briskly down the street
until the gray turban and white feather were but a speck in the sombre
“What a very attractive woman!” I exclaimed, turning to my
He had lit his pipe again and was leaning back with drooping eyelids.
“Is she?” he said languidly; “I did not observe.”
“You really are an automaton–a calculating machine,” I cried. “There is
something positively inhuman in you at times.”
He smiled gently.
“It is of the first importance,” he cried, “not to allow your judgment to
be biased by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere unit, a factor in a
problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I
assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for
poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most
repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly
a quarter of a million upon the London poor.”
“In this case, however– –”
“I never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule. Have you
ever had occasion to study character in handwriting? What do you make
of this fellow’s scribble?”
“It is legible and regular,” I answered. “A man of business habits and
some force of character.”
Holmes shook his head.
“Look at his long letters,” he said. “They hardly rise above the common
herd. That d might be an a, and that l an e. Men of character always
differentiate their long letters, however illegibly they may write. There is
vacillation in his k’s and self-esteem in his capitals. I am going out now. I
have some few references to [97] make. Let me recommend this book–one
of the most remarkable ever penned. It is Winwood Reade’s Martyrdom
of Man. I shall be back in an hour.”
I sat in the window with the volume in my hand, but my thoughts were
far from the daring speculations of the writer. My mind ran upon our late
visitor –her smiles, the deep rich tones of her voice, the strange mystery
which overhung her life. If she were seventeen at the time of her father’s
disappearance she must be seven-and-twenty now–a sweet age, when
youth has lost its self-consciousness and become a little sobered by
experience. So I sat and mused until such dangerous thoughts came into
my head that I hurried away to my desk and plunged furiously into the
latest treatise upon pathology. What was I, an army surgeon with a weak
leg and a weaker banking account, that I should dare to think of such
things? She was a unit, a factor–nothing more. If my future were black, it
was better surely to face it like a man than to attempt to brighten it by
mere will-o’-the-wisps of the imagination.

Chapter 3
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 3

IT WAS half-past five before Holmes returned. He was bright, eager, and
in excellent spirits, a mood which in his case alternated with fits of the
blackest depression.
“There is no great mystery in this matter,” he said, taking the cup of tea
which I had poured out for him; “the facts appear to admit of only one
“What! you have solved it already?”
“Well, that would be too much to say. I have discovered a suggestive
fact, that is all. It is, however, very suggestive. The details are still to be
added. I have just found, on consulting the back files of the Times, that
Major Sholto, of Upper Norwood, late of the Thirty-fourth Bombay
Infantry, died upon the twenty-eighth of April, 1882.”
“I may be very obtuse, Holmes, but I fail to see what this suggests.”
“No? You surprise me. Look at it in this way, then. Captain Morstan
disappears. The only person in London whom he could have visited is
Major Sholto. Major Sholto denies having heard that he was in London.
Four years later Sholto dies. Within a week of his death Captain Morstan’s
daughter receives a valuable present, which is repeated from year to year
and now culminates in a letter which describes her as a wronged woman.
What wrong can it refer to except this deprivation of her father? And why
should the presents begin immediately after Sholto’s death unless it is that
Sholto’s heir knows something of the mystery and desires to make
compensation? Have you any alternative theory which will meet the
“But what a strange compensation! And how strangely made! Why,
too, should he write a letter now, rather than six years ago? Again, the
letter speaks of giving her justice. What justice can she have? It is too
much to suppose that her father is still alive. There is no other injustice in
her case that you know of.”
“There are difficulties; there are certainly difficulties,” said Sherlock
Holmes pensively; “but our expedition of to-night will solve them all. Ah,
here is a [98] four-wheeler, and Miss Morstan is inside. Are you all ready?
Then we had better go down, for it is a little past the hour.”
I picked up my hat and my heaviest stick, but I observed that Holmes
took his revolver from his drawer and slipped it into his pocket. It was
clear that he thought that our night’s work might be a serious one.
Miss Morstan was muffled in a dark cloak, and her sensitive face was
composed but pale. She must have been more than woman if she did not
feel some uneasiness at the strange enterprise upon which we were
embarking, yet her self-control was perfect, and she readily answered the
few additional questions which Sherlock Holmes put to her.
“Major Sholto was a very particular friend of Papa’s,” she said. “His
letters were full of allusions to the major. He and Papa were in command
of the troops at the Andaman Islands, so they were thrown a great deal
together. By the way, a curious paper was found in Papa’s desk which no
one could understand. I don’t suppose that it is of the slightest
importance, but I thought you might care to see it, so I brought it with me.
It is here.”
Holmes unfolded the paper carefully and smoothed it out upon his
knee. He then very methodically examined it all over with his double lens.
“It is paper of native Indian manufacture,” he remarked. “It has at some
time been pinned to a board. The diagram upon it appears to be a plan of
part of a large building with numerous halls, corridors, and passages. At
one point is a small cross done in red ink, and above it is ‘3.37 from left,’
in faded pencil-writing. In the left-hand corner is a curious hieroglyphic
like four crosses in a line with their arms touching. Beside it is written, in
very rough and coarse characters, ‘The sign of the four–Jonathan Small,
Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan, Dost Akbar.’ No, I confess that I do not
see how this bears upon the matter. Yet it is evidently a document of
importance. It has been kept carefully in a pocketbook, for the one side is
as clean as the other.”
“It was in his pocketbook that we found it.”
“Preserve it carefully, then, Miss Morstan, for it may prove to be of use
to us. I begin to suspect that this matter may turn out to be much deeper
and more subtle than I at first supposed. I must reconsider my ideas.”
He leaned back in the cab, and I could see by his drawn brow and his
vacant eye that he was thinking intently. Miss Morstan and I chatted in an
undertone about our present expedition and its possible outcome, but our
companion maintained his impenetrable reserve until the end of our
It was a September evening and not yet seven o’clock, but the day had
been a dreary one, and a dense drizzly fog lay low upon the great city.
Mud-coloured clouds drooped sadly over the muddy streets. Down the
Strand the lamps were but misty splotches of diffused light which threw a
feeble circular glimmer upon the slimy pavement. The yellow glare from
the shop-windows streamed out into the steamy, vaporous air and threw a
murky, shifting radiance across the crowded thoroughfare. There was, to
my mind, something eerie and ghostlike in the endless procession of faces
which flitted across these narrow bars of light–sad faces and glad,
haggard and merry. Like all humankind, they flitted from the gloom into
the light and so back into the gloom once more. I am not subject to
impressions, but the dull, heavy evening, with the strange business upon
which we were engaged, combined to make me nervous and depressed. I
could see from Miss Morstan’s manner that she was suffering from the
same feeling. Holmes alone [99] could rise superior to petty influences.
He held his open notebook upon his knee, and from time to time he jotted
down figures and memoranda in the light of his pocket-lantern.
At the Lyceum Theatre the crowds were already thick at the side-
entrances. In front a continuous stream of hansoms and four-wheelers
were rattling up, discharging their cargoes of shirt-fronted men and
beshawled, bediamonded women. We had hardly reached the third pillar,
which was our rendezvous, before a small, dark, brisk man in the dress of
a coachman accosted us.

“Are you the parties who come with Miss Morstan?” he asked.
“I am Miss Morstan, and these two gentlemen are my friends,” said she.
He bent a pair of wonderfully penetrating and questioning eyes upon us.
“You will excuse me, miss,” he said with a certain dogged manner,
“but I was to ask you to give me your word that neither of your
companions is a police-officer.”
“I give you my word on that,” she answered.
He gave a shrill whistle, on which a street Arab led across a four-
wheeler and opened the door. The man who had addressed us mounted to
the box, while we took our places inside. We had hardly done so before
the driver whipped up his horse, and we plunged away at a furious pace
through the foggy streets.
The situation was a curious one. We were driving to an unknown place,
on an unknown errand. Yet our invitation was either a complete
hoax–which was an inconceivable hypothesis–or else we had good reason
to think that important issues might hang upon our journey. Miss
Morstan’s demeanour was as resolute and collected as ever. I
endeavoured to cheer and amuse her by reminiscences of my adventures
in Afghanistan; but, to tell the truth, I was myself so excited at our
situation and so curious as to our destination that my stories were slightly
involved. To this day she declares that I told her one moving anecdote as
to how a musket looked into my tent at the dead of night, and how I fired
a double-barrelled tiger cub at it. At first I had some idea as to the
direction in which we were driving; but soon, what with our pace, the fog,
and my own limited knowledge of London, I lost my bearings and knew
nothing save that we seemed to be going a very long way. Sherlock
Holmes was never at fault, however, and he muttered the names as the
cab rattled through squares and in and out by tortuous by-streets.
“Rochester Row,” said he. “Now Vincent Square. Now we come out on
the Vauxhall Bridge Road. We are making for the Surrey side apparently.
Yes, I thought so. Now we are on the bridge. You can catch glimpses of
the river.”
We did indeed get a fleeting view of a stretch of the Thames, with the
lamps shining upon the broad, silent water; but our cab dashed on and
was soon involved in a labyrinth of streets upon the other side.
“Wordsworth Road,” said my companion. “Priory Road. Lark Hall
Lane. Stockwell Place. Robert Street. Cold Harbour Lane. Our quest does
not appear to take us to very fashionable regions.”
We had indeed reached a questionable and forbidding neighbourhood.
Long lines of dull brick houses were only relieved by the coarse glare and
tawdry brilliancy of public-houses at the corner. Then came rows of two-
storied villas, each with a fronting of miniature garden, and then again
interminable lines of new, staring brick buildings–the monster tentacles
which the giant city was throwing out into the country. At last the cab
drew up at the third house in a new terrace. None of the other houses were
inhabited, and that at which we stopped was as dark as its neighbours,
save for a single glimmer in the kitchen-window. On our [100] knocking,
however, the door was instantly thrown open by a Hindoo servant, clad in
a yellow turban, white loose-fitting clothes, and a yellow sash. There was
something strangely incongruous in this Oriental figure framed in the
commonplace doorway of a third-rate suburban dwelling-house.
“The sahib awaits you,” said he, and even as he spoke, there came a
high, piping voice from some inner room.
“Show them in to me, khitmutgar,” it said. “Show them straight in to

Chapter 4
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 4


WE FOLLOWED the Indian down a sordid and common passage, ill-lit and
worse furnished, until he came to a door upon the right, which he threw
open. A blaze of yellow light streamed out upon us, and in the centre of
the glare there stood a small man with a very high head, a bristle of red
hair all round the fringe of it, and a bald, shining scalp which shot out
from among it like a mountain-peak from fir-trees. He writhed his hands
together as he stood, and his features were in a perpetual jerk–now
smiling, now scowling, but never for an instant in repose. Nature had
given him a pendulous lip, and a too visible line of yellow and irregular
teeth, which he strove feebly to conceal by constantly passing his hand
over the lower part of his face. In spite of his obtrusive baldness he gave
the impression of youth. In point of fact, he had just turned his thirtieth
“Your servant, Miss Morstan,” he kept repeating in a thin, high voice.
“Your servant, gentlemen. Pray step into my little sanctum. A small place,
miss, but furnished to my own liking. An oasis of art in the howling
desert of South London.”
We were all astonished by the appearance of the apartment into which
he invited us. In that sorry house it looked as out of place as a diamond of
the first water in a setting of brass. The richest and glossiest of curtains
and tapestries draped the walls, looped back here and there to expose
some richly mounted painting or Oriental vase. The carpet was of amber
and black, so soft and so thick that the foot sank pleasantly into it, as into
a bed of moss. Two great tiger-skins thrown athwart it increased the
suggestion of Eastern luxury, as did a huge hookah which stood upon a
mat in the corner. A lamp in the fashion of a silver dove was hung from
an almost invisible golden wire in the centre of the room. As it burned it
filled the air with a subtle and aromatic odour.
“Mr. Thaddeus Sholto,” said the little man, still jerking and smiling.
“That is my name. You are Miss Morstan, of course. And these
gentlemen– –”
“This is Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and this Dr. Watson.”
“A doctor, eh?” cried he, much excited. “Have you your stethoscope?
Might I ask you–would you have the kindness? I have grave doubts as to
my mitral valve, if you would be so very good. The aortic I may rely
upon, but I should value your opinion upon the mitral.”
I listened to his heart, as requested, but was unable to find anything
amiss, save, indeed, that he was in an ecstasy of fear, for he shivered from
head to foot.
“It appears to be normal,” I said. “You have no cause for uneasiness.”
“You will excuse my anxiety, Miss Morstan,” he remarked airily. “I am
a great [101] sufferer, and I have long had suspicions as to that valve. I am
delighted to hear that they are unwarranted. Had your father, Miss
Morstan, refrained from throwing a strain upon his heart, he might have
been alive now.”
I could have struck the man across the face, so hot was I at this callous
and offhand reference to so delicate a matter. Miss Morstan sat down, and
her face grew white to the lips.
“I knew in my heart that he was dead,” said she.
“I can give you every information,” said he; “and, what is more, I can
do you justice; and I will, too, whatever Brother Bartholomew may say. I
am so glad to have your friends here not only as an escort to you but also
as witnesses to what I am about to do and say. The three of us can show a
bold front to Brother Bartholomew. But let us have no outsiders–no
police or officials. We can settle everything satisfactorily among
ourselves without any interference. Nothing would annoy Brother
Bartholomew more than any publicity.”
He sat down upon a low settee and blinked at us inquiringly with his
weak, watery blue eyes.
“For my part,” said Holmes, “whatever you may choose to say will go
no further.”
I nodded to show my agreement.
“That is well! That is well!” said he. “May I offer you a glass of
Chianti, Miss Morstan? Or of Tokay? I keep no other wines. Shall I open
a flask? No? Well, then, I trust that you have no objection to tobacco-
smoke, to the balsamic odour of the Eastern tobacco. I am a little nervous,
and I find my hookah an invaluable sedative.”
He applied a taper to the great bowl, and the smoke bubbled merrily
through the rose-water. We sat all three in a semicircle, with our heads
advanced and our chins upon our hands, while the strange, jerky little
fellow, with his high, shining head, puffed uneasily in the centre.
“When I first determined to make this communication to you,” said he,
“I might have given you my address; but I feared that you might disregard
my request and bring unpleasant people with you. I took the liberty,
therefore, of making an appointment in such a way that my man Williams
might be able to see you first. I have complete confidence in his
discretion, and he had orders, if he were dissatisfied, to proceed no further
in the matter. You will excuse these precautions, but I am a man of
somewhat retiring, and I might even say refined, tastes, and there is
nothing more unaesthetic than a policeman. I have a natural shrinking
from all forms of rough materialism. I seldom come in contact with the
rough crowd. I live, as you see, with some little atmosphere of elegance
around me. I may call myself a patron of the arts. It is my weakness. The
landscape is a genuine Corot, and though a connoisseur might perhaps
throw a doubt upon that Salvator Rosa, there cannot be the least question
about the Bouguereau. I am partial to the modern French school.”
“You will excuse me, Mr. Sholto,” said Miss Morstan, “but I am here at
your request to learn something which you desire to tell me. It is very
late, and I should desire the interview to be as short as possible.”
“At the best it must take some time,” he answered; “for we shall
certainly have to go to Norwood and see Brother Bartholomew. We shall
all go and try if we can get the better of Brother Bartholomew. He is very
angry with me for taking the course which has seemed right to me. I had
quite high words with him last night. You cannot imagine what a terrible
fellow he is when he is angry.”
[102] “If we are to go to Norwood, it would perhaps be as well to start at
once,” I ventured to remark.
He laughed until his ears were quite red.
“That would hardly do,” he cried. “I don’t know what he would say if I
brought you in that sudden way. No, I must prepare you by showing you
how we all stand to each other. In the first place, I must tell you that there
are several points in the story of which I am myself ignorant. I can only
lay the facts before you as far as I know them myself.
“My father was, as you may have guessed, Major John Sholto, once of
the Indian Army. He retired some eleven years ago and came to live at
Pondicherry Lodge in Upper Norwood. He had prospered in India and
brought back with him a considerable sum of money, a large collection of
valuable curiosities, and a staff of native servants. With these advantages
he bought himself a house, and lived in great luxury. My twin-brother
Bartholomew and I were the only children.
“I very well remember the sensation which was caused by the
disappearance of Captain Morstan. We read the details in the papers, and
knowing that he had been a friend of our father’s we discussed the case
freely in his presence. He used to join in our speculations as to what could
have happened. Never for an instant did we suspect that he had the whole
secret hidden in his own breast, that of all men he alone knew the fate of
Arthur Morstan.
“We did know, however, that some mystery, some positive danger,
overhung our father. He was very fearful of going out alone, and he
always employed two prize-fighters to act as porters at Pondicherry
Lodge. Williams, who drove you to-night, was one of them. He was once
lightweight champion of England. Our father would never tell us what it
was he feared, but he had a most marked aversion to men with wooden
legs. On one occasion he actually fired his revolver at a wooden-legged
man, who proved to be a harmless tradesman canvassing for orders. We
had to pay a large sum to hush the matter up. My brother and I used to
think this a mere whim of my father’s, but events have since led us to
change our opinion.
“Early in 1882 my father received a letter from India which was a great
shock to him. He nearly fainted at the breakfast-table when he opened it,
and from that day he sickened to his death. What was in the letter we
could never discover, but I could see as he held it that it was short and
written in a scrawling hand. He had suffered for years from an enlarged
spleen, but he now became rapidly worse, and towards the end of April
we were informed that he was beyond all hope, and that he wished to
make a last communication to us.
“When we entered his room he was propped up with pillows and
breathing heavily. He besought us to lock the door and to come upon
either side of the bed. Then grasping our hands he made a remarkable
statement to us in a voice which was broken as much by emotion as by
pain. I shall try and give it to you in his own very words.
“‘I have only one thing,’ he said, ‘which weighs upon my mind at this
supreme moment. It is my treatment of poor Morstan’s orphan. The
cursed greed which has been my besetting sin through life has withheld
from her the treasure, half at least of which should have been hers. And
yet I have made no use of it myself, so blind and foolish a thing is
avarice. The mere feeling of possession has been so dear to me that I
could not bear to share it with another. See that chaplet tipped with pearls
beside the quinine-bottle. Even that I could not bear to part with, [103]
although I had got it out with the design of sending it to her. You, my
sons, will give her a fair share of the Agra treasure. But send her
nothing–not even the chaplet–until I am gone. After all, men have been as
bad as this and have recovered.

“‘I will tell you how Morstan died,’ he continued. ‘He had suffered for
years from a weak heart, but he concealed it from every one. I alone knew
it. When in India, he and I, through a remarkable chain of circumstances,
came into possession of a considerable treasure. I brought it over to
England, and on the night of Morstan’s arrival he came straight over here
to claim his share. He walked over from the station and was admitted by
my faithful old Lal Chowdar, who is now dead. Morstan and I had a
difference of opinion as to the division of the treasure, and we came to
heated words. Morstan had sprung out of his chair in a paroxysm of
anger, when he suddenly pressed his hand to his side, his face turned a
dusky hue, and he fell backward, cutting his head against the corner of the
treasure-chest. When I stooped over him I found, to my horror, that he
was dead.
“‘For a long time I sat half distracted, wondering what I should do. My
first impulse was, of course, to call for assistance; but I could not but
recognize that there was every chance that I would be accused of his
murder. His death at the moment of a quarrel, and the gash in his head,
would be black against me. Again, an official inquiry could not be made
without bringing out some facts about the treasure, which I was
particularly anxious to keep secret. He had told me that no soul upon
earth knew where he had gone. There seemed to be no necessity why any
soul ever should know.
“‘I was still pondering over the matter, when, looking up, I saw my
servant, Lal Chowdar, in the doorway. He stole in and bolted the door
behind him. “Do not fear, sahib,” he said; “no one need know that you
have killed him. Let us hide him away, and who is the wiser?” “I did not
kill him,” said I. Lal Chowdar shook his head and smiled. “I heard it all,
sahib,” said he; “I heard you quarrel, and I heard the blow. But my lips
are sealed. All are asleep in the house. Let us put him away together.”
That was enough to decide me. If my own servant could not believe my
innocence, how could I hope to make it good before twelve foolish
tradesmen in a jury-box? Lal Chowdar and I disposed of the body that
night, and within a few days the London papers were full of the
mysterious disappearance of Captain Morstan. You will see from what I
say that I can hardly be blamed in the matter. My fault lies in the fact that
we concealed not only the body but also the treasure and that I have clung
to Morstan’s share as well as to my own. I wish you, therefore, to make
restitution. Put your ears down to my mouth. The treasure is hidden in– –’
“At this instant a horrible change came over his expression; his eyes
stared wildly, his jaw dropped, and he yelled in a voice which I can never
forget, ‘Keep him out! For Christ’s sake keep him out!’ We both stared
round at the window behind us upon which his gaze was fixed. A face
was looking in at us out of the darkness. We could see the whitening of
the nose where it was pressed against the glass. It was a bearded, hairy
face, with wild cruel eyes and an expression of concentrated malevolence.
My brother and I rushed towards the window, but the man was gone.
When we returned to my father his head had dropped and his pulse had
ceased to beat.
“We searched the garden that night but found no sign of the intruder
save that just under the window a single footmark was visible in the
flower-bed. But for that [104] one trace, we might have thought that our
imaginations had conjured up that wild, fierce face. We soon, however,
had another and a more striking proof that there were secret agencies at
work all round us. The window of my father’s room was found open in
the morning, his cupboards and boxes had been rifled, and upon his chest
was fixed a torn piece of paper with the words ‘The sign of the four’
scrawled across it. What the phrase meant or who our secret visitor may
have been, we never knew. As far as we can judge, none of my father’s
property had been actually stolen, though everything had been turned out.
My brother and I naturally associated this peculiar incident with the fear
which haunted my father during his life, but it is still a complete mystery
to us.”
The little man stopped to relight his hookah and puffed thoughtfully for
a few moments. We had all sat absorbed, listening to his extraordinary
narrative. At the short account of her father’s death Miss Morstan had
turned deadly white, and for a moment I feared that she was about to
faint. She rallied, however, on drinking a glass of water which I quietly
poured out for her from a Venetian carafe upon the side-table. Sherlock
Holmes leaned back in his chair with an abstracted expression and the lids
drawn low over his glittering eyes. As I glanced at him I could not but
think how on that very day he had complained bitterly of the
commonplaceness of life. Here at least was a problem which would tax
his sagacity to the utmost. Mr. Thaddeus Sholto looked from one to the
other of us with an obvious pride at the effect which his story had
produced and then continued between the puffs of his overgrown pipe.
“My brother and I,” said he, “were, as you may imagine, much excited
as to the treasure which my father had spoken of. For weeks and for
months we dug and delved in every part of the garden without
discovering its whereabouts. It was maddening to think that the hiding-
place was on his very lips at the moment that he died. We could judge the
splendour of the missing riches by the chaplet which he had taken out.
Over this chaplet my brother Bartholomew and I had some little
discussion. The pearls were evidently of great value, and he was averse to
part with them, for, between friends, my brother was himself a little
inclined to my father’s fault. He thought, too, that if we parted with the
chaplet it might give rise to gossip and finally bring us into trouble. It was
all that I could do to persuade him to let me find out Miss Morstan’s
address and send her a detached pearl at fixed intervals so that at least she
might never feel destitute.”
“It was a kindly thought,” said our companion earnestly; “it was
extremely good of you.”
The little man waved his hand deprecatingly.
“We were your trustees,” he said; “that was the view which I took of it,
though Brother Bartholomew could not altogether see it in that light. We
had plenty of money ourselves. I desired no more. Besides, it would have
been such bad taste to have treated a young lady in so scurvy a fashion.
‘Le mauvais goût mène au crime.’ The French have a very neat way of
putting these things. Our difference of opinion on this subject went so far
that I thought it best to set up rooms for myself; so I left Pondicherry
Lodge, taking the old khitmutgar and Williams with me. Yesterday,
however, I learned that an event of extreme importance has occurred. The
treasure has been discovered. I instantly communicated with Miss
Morstan, and it only remains for us to drive out to Norwood and demand
our share. I explained my views last night to Brother Bartholomew, so we
shall be expected, if not welcome, visitors.”
[105] Mr. Thaddeus Sholto ceased and sat twitching on his luxurious
settee. We all remained silent, with our thoughts upon the new
development which the mysterious business had taken. Holmes was the
first to spring to his feet.
“You have done well, sir, from first to last,” said he. “It is possible that
we may be able to make you some small return by throwing some light
upon that which is still dark to you. But, as Miss Morstan remarked just
now, it is late, and we had best put the matter through without delay.”
Our new acquaintance very deliberately coiled up the tube of his
hookah and produced from behind a curtain a very long befrogged topcoat
with astrakhan collar and cuffs. This he buttoned tightly up in spite of the
extreme closeness of the night and finished his attire by putting on a
rabbit-skin cap with hanging lappets which covered the ears, so that no
part of him was visible save his mobile and peaky face.
“My health is somewhat fragile,” he remarked as he led the way down
the passage. “I am compelled to be a valetudinarian.”
Our cab was awaiting us outside, and our programme was evidently
prearranged, for the driver started off at once at a rapid pace. Thaddeus
Sholto talked incessantly in a voice which rose high above the rattle of the
“Bartholomew is a clever fellow,” said he. “How do you think he found
out where the treasure was? He had come to the conclusion that it was
somewhere indoors, so he worked out all the cubic space of the house and
made measurements everywhere so that not one inch should be
unaccounted for. Among other things, he found that the height of the
building was seventy-four feet, but on adding together the heights of all
the separate rooms and making every allowance for the space between,
which he ascertained by borings, he could not bring the total to more than
seventy feet. There were four feet unaccounted for. These could only be
at the top of the building. He knocked a hole, therefore, in the lath and
plaster ceiling of the highest room, and there, sure enough, he came upon
another little garret above it, which had been sealed up and was known to
no one. In the centre stood the treasure-chest resting upon two rafters. He
lowered it through the hole, and there it lies. He computes the value of the
jewels at not less than half a million sterling.”
At the mention of this gigantic sum we all stared at one another open-
eyed. Miss Morstan, could we secure her rights, would change from a
needy governess to the richest heiress in England. Surely it was the place
of a loyal friend to rejoice at such news, yet I am ashamed to say that
selfishness took me by the soul and that my heart turned as heavy as lead
within me. I stammered out some few halting words of congratulation and
then sat downcast, with my head drooped, deaf to the babble of our new
acquaintance. He was clearly a confirmed hypochondriac, and I was
dreamily conscious that he was pouring forth interminable trains of
symptoms, and imploring information as to the composition and action of
innumerable quack nostrums, some of which he bore about in a leather
case in his pocket. I trust that he may not remember any of the answers
which I gave him that night. Holmes declares that he overheard me
caution him against the great danger of taking more than two drops of
castor-oil, while I recommended strychnine in large doses as a sedative.
However that may be, I was certainly relieved when our cab pulled up
with a jerk and the coachman sprang down to open the door.
“This, Miss Morstan, is Pondicherry Lodge,” said Mr. Thaddeus Sholto
as he handed her out.

Chapter 5
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 5


IT WAS nearly eleven o’clock when we reached this final stage of our
night’s adventures. We had left the damp fog of the great city behind us,
and the night was fairly fine. A warm wind blew from the westward, and
heavy clouds moved slowly across the sky, with half a moon peeping
occasionally through the rifts. It was clear enough to see for some
distance, but Thaddeus Sholto took down one of the side-lamps from the
carriage to give us a better light upon our way.
Pondicherry Lodge stood in its own grounds and was girt round with a
very high stone wall topped with broken glass. A single narrow iron-
clamped door formed the only means of entrance. On this our guide
knocked with a peculiar postman-like rat-tat.
“Who is there?” cried a gruff voice from within.
“It is I, McMurdo. You surely know my knock by this time.”
There was a grumbling sound and a clanking and jarring of keys. The
door swung heavily back, and a short, deep-chested man stood in the
opening, with the yellow light of the lantern shining upon his protruded
face and twinkling, distrustful eyes.
“That you, Mr. Thaddeus? But who are the others? I had no orders
about them from the master.”
“No, McMurdo? You surprise me! I told my brother last night that I
should bring some friends.”
“He hain’t been out o’ his rooms to-day, Mr. Thaddeus, and I have no
orders. You know very well that I must stick to regulations. I can let you
in, but your friends they must just stop where they are.”
This was an unexpected obstacle. Thaddeus Sholto looked about him in
a perplexed and helpless manner.
“This is too bad of you, McMurdo!” he said. “If I guarantee them, that
is enough for you. There is the young lady, too. She cannot wait on the
public road at this hour.”
“Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus,” said the porter inexorably. “Folk may be
friends o’ yours, and yet no friend o’ the master’s. He pays me well to do
my duty, and my duty I’ll do. I don’t know none o’ your friends.”
“Oh, yes you do, McMurdo,” cried Sherlock Holmes genially. “I don’t
think you can have forgotten me. Don’t you remember that amateur who
fought three rounds with you at Alison’s rooms on the night of your
benefit four years back?”
“Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!” roared the prize-fighter. “God’s truth!
how could I have mistook you? If instead o’ standin’ there so quiet you
had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I’d
ha’ known you without a question. Ah, you’re one that has wasted your
gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy.”
“You see, Watson, if all else fails me, I have still one of the scientific
professions open to me,” said Holmes, laughing. “Our friend won’t keep
us out in the cold now, I am sure.”
“In you come, sir, in you come–you and your friends,” he answered.
“Very sorry, [107] Mr. Thaddeus, but orders are very strict. Had to be
certain of your friends before I let them in.”
Inside, a gravel path wound through desolate grounds to a huge clump
of a house, square and prosaic, all plunged in shadow save where a
moonbeam struck one corner and glimmered in a garret window. The vast
size of the building, with its gloom and its deathly silence, struck a chill
to the heart. Even Thaddeus Sholto seemed ill at ease, and the lantern
quivered and rattled in his hand.
“I cannot understand it,” he said. “There must be some mistake. I
distinctly told Bartholomew that we should be here, and yet there is no
light in his window. I do not know what to make of it.”
“Does he always guard the premises in this way?” asked Holmes.
“Yes; he has followed my father’s custom. He was the favourite son
you know, and I sometimes think that my father may have told him more
than he ever told me. That is Bartholomew’s window up there where the
moonshine strikes. It is quite bright, but there is no light from within, I
“None,” said Holmes. “But I see the glint of a light in that little window
beside the door.”
“Ah, that is the housekeeper’s room. That is where old Mrs. Bernstone
sits. She can tell us all about it. But perhaps you would not mind waiting
here for a minute or two, for if we all go in together, and she has had no
word of our coming, she may be alarmed. But, hush! what is that?”
He held up the lantern, and his hand shook until the circles of light
flickered and wavered all round us. Miss Morstan seized my wrist, and
we all stood, with thumping hearts, straining our ears. From the great
black house there sounded through the silent night the saddest and most
pitiful of sounds–the shrill, broken whimpering of a frightened woman.
“It is Mrs. Bernstone,” said Sholto. “She is the only woman in the
house. Wait here. I shall be back in a moment.”
He hurried for the door and knocked in his peculiar way. We could see
a tall old woman admit him and sway with pleasure at the very sight of
“Oh, Mr. Thaddeus, sir, I am so glad you have come! I am so glad you
have come, Mr. Thaddeus, sir!”
We heard her reiterated rejoicings until the door was closed and her
voice died away into a muffled monotone.
Our guide had left us the lantern. Holmes swung it slowly round and
peered keenly at the house and at the great rubbish-heaps which cumbered
the grounds. Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand was in
mine. A wondrous subtle thing is love, for here were we two, who had
never seen each other before that day, between whom no word or even
look of affection had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our
hands instinctively sought for each other. I have marvelled at it since, but
at the time it seemed the most natural thing that I should go out to her so,
and, as she has often told me, there was in her also the instinct to turn to
me for comfort and protection. So we stood hand in hand like two
children, and there was peace in our hearts for all the dark things that
surrounded us.
“What a strange place!” she said, looking round.
“It looks as though all the moles in England had been let loose in it. I
have seen something of the sort on the side of a hill near Ballarat, where
the prospectors had been at work.”
[108] “And from the same cause,” said Holmes. “These are the traces of
the treasure-seekers. You must remember that they were six years looking
for it. No wonder that the grounds look like a gravel-pit.”
At that moment the door of the house burst open, and Thaddeus Sholto
came running out, with his hands thrown forward and terror in his eyes.
“There is something amiss with Bartholomew!” he cried. “I am
frightened! My nerves cannot stand it.”
He was, indeed, half blubbering with fear, and his twitching, feeble
face peeping out from the great astrakhan collar had the helpless,
appealing expression of a terrified child.
“Come into the house,” said Holmes in his crisp, firm way.
“Yes, do!” pleaded Thaddeus Sholto. “I really do not feel equal to
giving directions.”
We all followed him into the housekeeper’s room, which stood upon
the left-hand side of the passage. The old woman was pacing up and
down with a scared look and restless, picking fingers, but the sight of
Miss Morstan appeared to have a soothing effect upon her.
“God bless your sweet, calm face!” she cried with a hysterical sob. “It
does me good to see you. Oh, but I have been sorely tried this day!”
Our companion patted her thin, work-worn hand and murmured some
few words of kindly, womanly comfort which brought the colour back
into the other’s bloodless cheeks.
“Master has locked himself in and will not answer me,” she explained.
“All day I have waited to hear from him, for he often likes to be alone;
but an hour ago I feared that something was amiss, so I went up and
peeped through the keyhole. You must go up, Mr. Thaddeus–you must go
up and look for yourself. I have seen Mr. Bartholomew Sholto in joy and
in sorrow for ten long years, but I never saw him with such a face on him
as that.”
Sherlock Holmes took the lamp and led the way, for Thaddeus Sholto’s
teeth were chattering in his head. So shaken was he that I had to pass my
hand under his arm as we went up the stairs, for his knees were trembling
under him. Twice as we ascended, Holmes whipped his lens out of his
pocket and carefully examined marks which appeared to me to be mere
shapeless smudges of dust upon the cocoanut-matting which served as a
stair-carpet. He walked slowly from step to step, holding the lamp low,
and shooting keen glances to right and left. Miss Morstan had remained
behind with the frightened housekeeper.
The third flight of stairs ended in a straight passage of some length,
with a great picture in Indian tapestry upon the right of it and three doors
upon the left. Holmes advanced along it in the same slow and methodical
way, while we kept close at his heels, with our long black shadows
streaming backward down the corridor. The third door was that which we
were seeking. Holmes knocked without receiving any answer, and then
tried to turn the handle and force it open. It was locked on the inside,
however, and by a broad and powerful bolt, as we could see when we set
our lamp up against it. The key being turned, however, the hole was not
entirely closed. Sherlock Holmes bent down to it and instantly rose again
with a sharp intaking of the breath.
“There is something devilish in this, Watson,” said he, more moved
than I had ever before seen him. “What do you make of it?”
[109] I stooped to the hole and recoiled in horror. Moonlight was
streaming into the room, and it was bright with a vague and shifty
radiance. Looking straight at me and suspended, as it were, in the air, for
all beneath was in shadow, there hung a face–the very face of our
companion Thaddeus. There was the same high, shining head, the same
circular bristle of red hair, the same bloodless countenance. The features
were set, however, in a horrible smile, a fixed and unnatural grin, which
in that still and moonlit room was more jarring to the nerves than any
scowl or contortion. So like was the face to that of our little friend that I
looked round at him to make sure that he was indeed with us. Then I
recalled to mind that he had mentioned to us that his brother and he were
twins.“This is terrible!” I said to Holmes. “What is to be done?”
“The door must come down,” he answered, and springing against it, he
put all his weight upon the lock.
It creaked and groaned but did not yield. Together we flung ourselves
upon it once more, and this time it gave way with a sudden snap, and we
found ourselves within Bartholomew Sholto’s chamber.
It appeared to have been fitted up as a chemical laboratory. A double
line of glass-stoppered bottles was drawn up upon the wall opposite the
door, and the table was littered over with Bunsen burners, test-tubes, and
retorts. In the corners stood carboys of acid in wicker baskets. One of
these appeared to leak or to have been broken, for a stream of dark-
coloured liquid had trickled out from it, and the air was heavy with a
peculiarly pungent, tarlike odour. A set of steps stood at one side of the
room in the midst of a litter of lath and plaster, and above them there was
an opening in the ceiling large enough for a man to pass through. At the
foot of the steps a long coil of rope was thrown carelessly together.
By the table in a wooden armchair the master of the house was seated
all in a heap, with his head sunk upon his left shoulder and that ghastly,
inscrutable smile upon his face. He was stiff and cold and had clearly
been dead many hours. It seemed to me that not only his features but all
his limbs were twisted and turned in the most fantastic fashion. By his
hand upon the table there lay a peculiar instrument–a brown, close-
grained stick, with a stone head like a hammer, rudely lashed on with
coarse twine. Beside it was a torn sheet of note-paper with some words
scrawled upon it. Holmes glanced at it and then handed it to me.
“You see,” he said with a significant raising of the eyebrows.
In the light of the lantern I read with a thrill of horror, “The sign of the
“In God’s name, what does it all mean?” I asked.
“It means murder,” said he, stooping over the dead man. “Ah! I
expected it. Look here!”
He pointed to what looked like a long dark thorn stuck in the skin just
above the ear.
“It looks like a thorn,” said I.
“It is a thorn. You may pick it out. But be careful, for it is poisoned.”
I took it up between my finger and thumb. It came away from the skin
so readily that hardly any mark was left behind. One tiny speck of blood
showed where the puncture had been.
“This is all an insoluble mystery to me,” said I. “It grows darker instead
of clearer.”
“On the contrary,” he answered, “it clears every instant. I only require a
few missing links to have an entirely connected case.”
[110] We had almost forgotten our companion’s presence since we
entered the chamber. He was still standing in the doorway, the very
picture of terror, wringing his hands and moaning to himself. Suddenly,
however, he broke out into a sharp, querulous cry.
“The treasure is gone!” he said. “They have robbed him of the treasure!
There is the hole through which we lowered it. I helped him to do it! I
was the last person who saw him! I left him here last night, and I heard
him lock the door as I came downstairs.”
“What time was that?”
“It was ten o’clock. And now he is dead, and the police will be called
in, and I shall be suspected of having had a hand in it. Oh, yes, I am sure I
shall. But you don’t think so, gentlemen? Surely you don’t think that it
was I? Is it likely that I would have brought you here if it were I? Oh,
dear! oh, dear! I know that I shall go mad!”
He jerked his arms and stamped his feet in a kind of convulsive frenzy.
“You have no reason for fear, Mr. Sholto,” said Holmes kindly, putting
his hand upon his shoulder; “take my advice and drive down to the station
to report the matter to the police. Offer to assist them in every way. We
shall wait here until your return.”
The little man obeyed in a half-stupefied fashion, and we heard him
stumbling down the stairs in the dark.

Chapter 6
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 6

“NOW, Watson,” said Holmes, rubbing his hands, “we have half an hour
to ourselves. Let us make good use of it. My case is, as I have told you,
almost complete; but we must not err on the side of overconfidence.
Simple as the case seems now, there may be something deeper underlying
“Simple!” I ejaculated.
“Surely,” said he with something of the air of a clinical professor
expounding to his class. “Just sit in the corner there, that your footprints
may not complicate matters. Now to work! In the first place, how did
these folk come and how did they go? The door has not been opened
since last night. How of the window?” He carried the lamp across to it,
muttering his observations aloud the while but addressing them to himself
rather than to me. “Window is snibbed on the inner side. Frame-work is
solid. No hinges at the side. Let us open it. No water-pipe near. Roof
quite out of reach. Yet a man has mounted by the window. It rained a
little last night. Here is the print of a foot in mould upon the sill. And here
is a circular muddy mark, and here again upon the floor, and here again
by the table. See here, Watson! This is really a very pretty demonstration.”
I looked at the round, well-defined muddy discs.
“That is not a foot-mark,” said I.
“It is something much more valuable to us. It is the impression of a
wooden stump. You see here on the sill is the boot-mark, a heavy boot
with a broad metal heel, and beside it is the mark of the timber-toe.”
[111] “It is the wooden-legged man.”
“Quite so. But there has been someone else–a very able and efficient
ally. Could you scale that wall, Doctor?”
I looked out of the open window. The moon still shone brightly on that
angle of the house. We were a good sixty feet from the ground, and, look
where I would, I could see no foothold, nor as much as a crevice in the
“It is absolutely impossible,” I answered.
“Without aid it is so. But suppose you had a friend up here who
lowered you this good stout rope which I see in the corner, securing one
end of it to this great hook in the wall. Then, I think, if you were an active
man, you might swarm up, wooden leg and all. You would depart, of
course, in the same fashion, and your ally would draw up the rope, untie it
from the hook, shut the window, snib it on the inside, and get away in the
way that he originally came. As a minor point, it may be noted,” he
continued, fingering the rope, “that our wooden-legged friend, though a
fair climber, was not a professional sailor. His hands were far from horny.
My lens discloses more than one blood-mark, especially towards the end
of the rope, from which I gather that he slipped down with such velocity
that he took the skin off his hands.”
“This is all very well,” said I; “but the thing becomes more
unintelligible than ever. How about this mysterious ally? How came he
into the room?”
“Yes, the ally!” repeated Holmes pensively. “There are features of
interest about this ally. He lifts the case from the regions of the
commonplace. I fancy that this ally breaks fresh ground in the annals of
crime in this country–though parallel cases suggest themselves from India
and, if my memory serves me, from Senegambia.”
“How came he, then?” I reiterated. “The door is locked; the window is
inaccessible. Was it through the chimney?”
“The grate is much too small,” he answered. “I had already considered
that possibility.”
“How, then?” I persisted.
“You will not apply my precept,” he said, shaking his head. “How often
have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? We know that
he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney. We also
know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no
concealment possible. When, then, did he come?”
“He came through the hole in the roof!” I cried.
“Of course he did. He must have done so. If you will have the kindness
to hold the lamp for me, we shall now extend our researches to the room
above–the secret room in which the treasure was found.”
He mounted the steps, and, seizing a rafter with either hand, he swung
himself up into the garret. Then, lying on his face, he reached down for
the lamp and held it while I followed him.
The chamber in which we found ourselves was about ten feet one way
and six the other. The floor was formed by the rafters, with thin lath and
plaster between, so that in walking one had to step from beam to beam.
The roof ran up to an apex and was evidently the inner shell of the true
roof of the house. There was no furniture of any sort, and the accumulated
dust of years lay thick upon the floor.
“Here you are, you see,” said Sherlock Holmes, putting his hand
against the [112] sloping wall. “This is a trapdoor which leads out on to
the roof. I can press it back, and here is the roof itself, sloping at a gentle
angle. This, then, is the way by which Number One entered. Let us see if
we can find some other traces of his individuality?”
He held down the lamp to the floor, and as he did so I saw for the
second time that night a startled, surprised look come over his face. For
myself, as I followed his gaze, my skin was cold under my clothes. The
floor was covered thickly with the prints of a naked foot–clear, well-
defined, perfectly formed, but scarce half the size of those of an ordinary
“Holmes,” I said in a whisper, “a child has done this horrid thing.”
He had recovered his self-possession in an instant.
“I was staggered for the moment,” he said, “but the thing is quite
natural. My memory failed me, or I should have been able to foretell it.
There is nothing more to be learned here. Let us go down.”
“What is your theory, then, as to those footmarks?” I asked eagerly
when we had regained the lower room once more.
“My dear Watson, try a little analysis yourself,” said he with a touch of
impatience. “You know my methods. Apply them, and it will be
instructive to compare results.”
“I cannot conceive anything which will cover the facts,” I answered.
“It will be clear enough to you soon,” he said, in an offhand way. “I
think that there is nothing else of importance here, but I will look.”
He whipped out his lens and a tape measure and hurried about the room
on his knees, measuring, comparing, examining, with his long thin nose
only a few inches from the planks and his beady eyes gleaming and deep-
set like those of a bird. So swift, silent, and furtive were his movements,
like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent, that I could not but
think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his
energy and sagacity against the law instead of exerting them in its
defence. As he hunted about, he kept muttering to himself, and finally he
broke out into a loud crow of delight.
“We are certainly in luck,” said he. “We ought to have very little
trouble now. Number One has had the misfortune to tread in the creosote.
You can see the outline of the edge of his small foot here at the side of
this evil-smelling mess. The carboy has been cracked, you see, and the
stuff has leaked out.”
“What then?” I asked.
“Why, we have got him, that’s all,” said he.
“I know a dog that would follow that scent to the world’s end. If a pack
can track a trailed herring across a shire, how far can a specially trained
hound follow so pungent a smell as this? It sounds like a sum in the rule
of three. The answer should give us the– – But hallo! here are the
accredited representatives of the law.”
Heavy steps and the clamour of loud voices were audible from below,
and the hall door shut with a loud crash.
“Before they come,” said Holmes, “just put your hand here on this poor
fellow’s arm, and here on his leg. What do you feel?”
“The muscles are as hard as a board,” I answered.
“Quite so. They are in a state of extreme contraction, far exceeding the
usual rigor mortis. Coupled with this distortion of the face, this
Hippocratic smile, or ‘risus sardonicus,’ as the old writers called it, what
conclusion would it suggest to your mind?”
[113] “Death from some powerful vegetable alkaloid,” I answered,
“some strychnine-like substance which would produce tetanus.”
“That was the idea which occurred to me the instant I saw the drawn
muscles of the face. On getting into the room I at once looked for the
means by which the poison had entered the system. As you saw, I
discovered a thorn which had been driven or shot with no great force into
the scalp. You observe that the part struck was that which would be
turned towards the hole in the ceiling if the man were erect in his chair.
Now examine this thorn.”
I took it up gingerly and held it in the light of the lantern. It was long,
sharp, and black, with a glazed look near the point as though some
gummy substance had dried upon it. The blunt end had been trimmed and
rounded off with a knife.
“Is that an English thorn?” he asked.
“No, it certainly is not.”
“With all these data you should be able to draw some just inference.
But here are the regulars, so the auxiliary forces may beat a retreat.”
As he spoke, the steps which had been coming nearer sounded loudly
on the passage, and a very stout, portly man in a gray suit strode heavily
into the room. He was red-faced, burly, and plethoric, with a pair of very
small twinkling eyes which looked keenly out from between swollen and
puffy pouches. He was closely followed by an inspector in uniform and
by the still palpitating Thaddeus Sholto.
“Here’s a business!” he cried in a muffled, husky voice. “Here’s a
pretty business! But who are all these? Why, the house seems to be as full
as a rabbit-warren!”
“I think you must recollect me, Mr. Athelney Jones,” said Holmes
“Why, of course I do!” he wheezed. “It’s Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the
theorist. Remember you! I’ll never forget how you lectured us all on
causes and inferences and effects in the Bishopgate jewel case. It’s true
you set us on the right track; but you’ll own now that it was more by good
luck than good guidance.”
“It was a piece of very simple reasoning.”
“Oh, come, now, come! Never be ashamed to own up. But what is all
this? Bad business! Bad business! Stern facts here–no room for theories.
How lucky that I happened to be out at Norwood over another case! I was
at the station when the message arrived. What d’you think the man died
“Oh, this is hardly a case for me to theorize over,” said Holmes dryly.
“No, no. Still, we can’t deny that you hit the nail on the head
sometimes. Dear me! Door locked, I understand. Jewels worth half a
million missing. How was the window?”
“Fastened; but there are steps on the sill.”
“Well, well, if it was fastened the steps could have nothing to do with
the matter. That’s common sense. Man might have died in a fit; but then
the jewels are missing. Ha! I have a theory. These flashes come upon me
at times.– Just step outside, Sergeant, and you, Mr. Sholto. Your friend
can remain.– What do you think of this, Holmes? Sholto was, on his own
confession, with his brother last night. The brother died in a fit, on which
Sholto walked off with the treasure? How’s that?”
“On which the dead man very considerately got up and locked the door
on the inside.”
“Hum! There’s a flaw there. Let us apply common sense to the matter.
This Thaddeus Sholto was with his brother; there was a quarrel: so much
we know. [114] The brother is dead and the jewels are gone. So much also
we know. No one saw the brother from the time Thaddeus left him. His
bed had not been slept in. Thaddeus is evidently in a most disturbed state
of mind. His appearance is –well, not attractive. You see that I am
weaving my web round Thaddeus. The net begins to close upon him.”
“You are not quite in possession of the facts yet,” said Holmes. “This
splinter of wood, which I have every reason to believe to be poisoned,
was in the man’s scalp where you still see the mark; this card, inscribed as
you see it, was on the table, and beside it lay this rather curious stone-
headed instrument. How does all that fit into your theory?”
“Confirms it in every respect,” said the fat detective pompously.
“House is full of Indian curiosities. Thaddeus brought this up, and if this
splinter be poisonous Thaddeus may as well have made murderous use of
it as any other man. The card is some hocus-pocus–a blind, as like as not.
The only question is, how did he depart? Ah, of course, here is a hole in
the roof.”
With great activity, considering his bulk, he sprang up the steps and
squeezed through into the garret, and immediately afterwards we heard
his exulting voice proclaiming that he had found the trapdoor.
“He can find something,” remarked Holmes, shrugging his shoulders;
“he has occasional glimmerings of reason. Il n’y a pas des sots si
incommodes que ceux qui ont de l’esprit!”
“You see!” said Athelney Jones, reappearing down the steps again;
“facts are better than theories, after all. My view of the case is confirmed.
There is a trapdoor communicating with the roof, and it is partly open.”
“It was I who opened it.”
“Oh, indeed! You did notice it, then?” He seemed a little crestfallen at
the discovery. “Well, whoever noticed it, it shows how our gentleman got
away. Inspector!”
“Yes, sir,” from the passage.
“Ask Mr. Sholto to step this way.–Mr. Sholto, it is my duty to inform
you that anything which you may say will be used against you. I arrest
you in the Queen’s name as being concerned in the death of your brother.”

“There, now! Didn’t I tell you!” cried the poor little man, throwing out
his hands and looking from one to the other of us.
“Don’t trouble yourself about it, Mr. Sholto,” said Holmes; “I think that
I can engage to clear you of the charge.”
“Don’t promise too much, Mr. Theorist, don’t promise too much!”
snapped the detective. “You may find it a harder matter than you think.”
“Not only will I clear him, Mr. Jones, but I will make you a free present
of the name and description of one of the two people who were in this
room last night. His name, I have every reason to believe, is Jonathan
Small. He is a poorly educated man, small, active, with his right leg off,
and wearing a wooden stump which is worn away upon the inner side.
His left boot has a coarse, square-toed sole, with an iron band round the
heel. He is a middle-aged man, much sunburned, and has been a convict.
These few indications may be of some assistance to you, coupled with the
fact that there is a good deal of skin missing from the palm of his hand.
The other man– –”
“Ah! the other man?” asked Athelney Jones in a sneering voice, but
impressed none the less, as I could easily see, by the precision of the
other’s manner.
[115] “Is a rather curious person,” said Sherlock Holmes, turning upon
his heel. “I hope before very long to be able to introduce you to the pair of
them. A word with you, Watson.”
He led me out to the head of the stair.
“This unexpected occurrence,” he said, “has caused us rather to lose
sight of the original purpose of our journey.”
“I have just been thinking so,” I answered; “it is not right that Miss
Morstan should remain in this stricken house.”
“No. You must escort her home. She lives with Mrs. Cecil Forrester in
Lower Camberwell, so it is not very far. I will wait for you here if you
will drive out again. Or perhaps you are too tired?”
“By no means. I don’t think I could rest until I know more of this
fantastic business. I have seen something of the rough side of life, but I
give you my word that this quick succession of strange surprises to-night
has shaken my nerve completely. I should like, however, to see the matter
through with you, now that I have got so far.”
“Your presence will be of great service to me,” he answered. “We shall
work the case out independently and leave this fellow Jones to exult over
any mare’s-nest which he may choose to construct. When you have
dropped Miss Morstan, I wish you to go on to No. 3 Pinchin Lane, down
near the water’s edge at Lambeth. The third house on the right-hand side
is a bird-stuffer’s; Sherman is the name. You will see a weasel holding a
young rabbit in the window. Knock old Sherman up and tell him, with my
compliments, that I want Toby at once. You will bring Toby back in the
cab with you.”
“A dog, I suppose.”
“Yes, a queer mongrel with a most amazing power of scent. I would
rather have Toby’s help than that of the whole detective force of London.”
“I shall bring him then,” said I. “It is one now. I ought to be back
before three if I can get a fresh horse.”
“And I,” said Holmes, “shall see what I can learn from Mrs. Bernstone
and from the Indian servant, who, Mr. Thaddeus tells me, sleeps in the
next garret. Then I shall study the great Jones’s methods and listen to his
not too delicate sarcasms.“

‘Wir sind gewohnt, daß die Menschen verhöhnen was sie nicht

“Goethe is always pithy.”

Chapter 7
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 7


THE police had brought a cab with them, and in this I escorted Miss
Morstan back to her home. After the angelic fashion of women, she had
borne trouble with a calm face as long as there was someone weaker than
herself to support, and I had found her bright and placid by the side of the
frightened housekeeper. In the cab, however, she first turned faint and
then burst into a passion of weeping–so sorely had she been tried by the
adventures of the night. She has told me since that [116] she thought me
cold and distant upon that journey. She little guessed the struggle within
my breast, or the effort of self-restraint which held me back. My
sympathies and my love went out to her, even as my hand had in the
garden. I felt that years of the conventionalities of life could not teach me
to know her sweet, brave nature as had this one day of strange
experiences. Yet there were two thoughts which sealed the words of
affection upon my lips. She was weak and helpless, shaken in mind and
nerve. It was to take her at a disadvantage to obtrude love upon her at
such a time. Worse still, she was rich. If Holmes’s researches were
successful, she would be an heiress. Was it fair, was it honourable, that a
half-pay surgeon should take such advantage of an intimacy which chance
had brought about? Might she not look upon me as a mere vulgar fortune-
seeker? I could not bear to risk that such a thought should cross her mind.
This Agra treasure intervened like an impassable barrier between us.
It was nearly two o’clock when we reached Mrs. Cecil Forrester’s. The
servants had retired hours ago, but Mrs. Forrester had been so interested
by the strange message which Miss Morstan had received that she had sat
up in the hope of her return. She opened the door herself, a middle-aged,
graceful woman, and it gave me joy to see how tenderly her arm stole
round the other’s waist and how motherly was the voice in which she
greeted her. She was clearly no mere paid dependant but an honoured
friend. I was introduced, and Mrs. Forrester earnestly begged me to step
in and tell her our adventures. I explained, however, the importance of my
errand and promised faithfully to call and report any progress which we
might make with the case. As we drove away I stole a glance back, and I
still seem to see that little group on the step–the two graceful, clinging
figures, the half-opened door, the hall-light shining through stained glass,
the barometer, and the bright stair-rods. It was soothing to catch even that
passing glimpse of a tranquil English home in the midst of the wild, dark
business which had absorbed us.
And the more I thought of what had happened, the wilder and darker it
grew. I reviewed the whole extraordinary sequence of events as I rattled
on through the silent, gas-lit streets. There was the original problem: that
at least was pretty clear now. The death of Captain Morstan, the sending
of the pearls, the advertisement, the letter–we had had light upon all those
events. They had only led us, however, to a deeper and far more tragic
mystery. The Indian treasure, the curious plan found among Morstan’s
baggage, the strange scene at Major Sholto’s death, the rediscovery of the
treasure immediately followed by the murder of the discoverer, the very
singular accompaniments to the crime, the footsteps, the remarkable
weapons, the words upon the card, corresponding with those upon
Captain Morstan’s chart–here was indeed a labyrinth in which a man less
singularly endowed than my fellow-lodger might well despair of ever
finding the clue.
Pinchin Lane was a row of shabby, two-storied brick houses in the
lower quarter of Lambeth. I had to knock for some time at No. 3 before I
could make any impression. At last, however, there was the glint of a
candle behind the blind, and a face looked out at the upper window.
“Go on, you drunken vagabond,” said the face. “If you kick up any
more row, I’ll open the kennels and let out forty-three dogs upon you.”
“If you’ll let one out, it’s just what I have come for,” said I.
“Go on!” yelled the voice. “So help me gracious, I have a wiper in this
bag, and I’ll drop it on your ’ead if you don’t hook it!”
“But I want a dog,” I cried.
[117] “I won’t be argued with!” shouted Mr. Sherman. “Now stand
clear; for when I say ‘three,’ down goes the wiper.”
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes– –” I began; but the words had a most magical
effect, for the window instantly slammed down, and within a minute the
door was unbarred and open. Mr. Sherman was a lanky, lean old man,
with stooping shoulders, a stringy neck, and blue-tinted glasses.
“A friend of Mr. Sherlock is always welcome,” said he. “Step in, sir.
Keep clear of the badger, for he bites. Ah, naughty, naughty; would you
take a nip at the gentleman?” This to a stoat which thrust its wicked head
and red eyes between the bars of its cage. “Don’t mind that, sir; it’s only a
slowworm. It hain’t got no fangs, so I gives it the run o’ the room, for it
keeps the beetles down. You must not mind my bein’ just a little short wi’
you at first, for I’m guyed at by the children, and there’s many a one just
comes down this lane to knock me up. What was it that Mr. Sherlock
Holmes wanted, sir?”
“He wanted a dog of yours.”
“Ah! that would be Toby.”
“Yes, Toby was the name.”
“Toby lives at No. 7 on the left here.”
He moved slowly forward with his candle among the queer animal
family which he had gathered round him. In the uncertain, shadowy light
I could see dimly that there were glancing, glimmering eyes peeping
down at us from every cranny and corner. Even the rafters above our
heads were lined by solemn fowls, who lazily shifted their weight from
one leg to the other as our voices disturbed their slumbers.
Toby proved to be an ugly, long-haired, lop-eared creature, half spaniel
and half lurcher, brown and white in colour, with a very clumsy, waddling
gait. It accepted, after some hesitation, a lump of sugar which the old
naturalist handed to me, and, having thus sealed an alliance, it followed
me to the cab and made no difficulties about accompanying me. It had
just struck three on the Palace clock when I found myself back once more
at Pondicherry Lodge. The ex-prize-fighter McMurdo had, I found, been
arrested as an accessory, and both he and Mr. Sholto had been marched
off to the station. Two constables guarded the narrow gate, but they
allowed me to pass with the dog on my mentioning the detective’s name.
Holmes was standing on the doorstep with his hands in his pockets,
smoking his pipe.
“Ah, you have him there!” said he. “Good dog, then! Athelney Jones
has gone. We have had an immense display of energy since you left. He
has arrested not only friend Thaddeus but the gatekeeper, the
housekeeper, and the Indian servant. We have the place to ourselves but
for a sergeant upstairs. Leave the dog here and come up.”
We tied Toby to the hall table and reascended the stairs. The room was
as we had left it, save that a sheet had been draped over the central figure.
A weary-looking police-sergeant reclined in the corner.
“Lend me your bull’s eye, Sergeant,” said my companion. “Now tie
this bit of card round my neck, so as to hang it in front of me. Thank you.
Now I must kick off my boots and stockings. Just you carry them down
with you, Watson. I am going to do a little climbing. And dip my
handkerchief into the creosote. That will do. Now come up into the garret
with me for a moment.”
We clambered up through the hole. Holmes turned his light once more
upon the footsteps in the dust.
[118] “I wish you particularly to notice these footmarks,” he said. “Do
you observe anything noteworthy about them?”
“They belong,” I said, “to a child or a small woman.”
“Apart from their size, though. Is there nothing else?”
“They appear to be much as other footmarks.”
“Not at all. Look here! This is the print of a right foot in the dust. Now
I make one with my naked foot beside it. What is the chief difference?”
“Your toes are all cramped together. The other print has each toe
distinctly divided.”
“Quite so. That is the point. Bear that in mind. Now, would you kindly
step over to that flap-window and smell the edge of the woodwork? I shall
stay over here, as I have this handkerchief in my hand.”
I did as he directed and was instantly conscious of a strong tarry smell.
“That is where he put his foot in getting out. If you can trace him, I
should think that Toby will have no difficulty. Now run downstairs, loose
the dog, and look out for Blondin.”
By the time that I got out into the grounds Sherlock Holmes was on the
roof, and I could see him like an enormous glow-worm crawling very
slowly along the ridge. I lost sight of him behind a stack of chimneys, but
he presently reappeared and then vanished once more upon the opposite
side. When I made my way round there I found him seated at one of the
corner eaves.
“That you, Watson?” he cried.
“This is the place. What is that black thing down there?”
“A water-barrel.”
“Top on it?”
“No sign of a ladder?”
“Confound the fellow! It’s a most breakneck place. I ought to be able to
come down where he could climb up. The water-pipe feels pretty firm.
Here goes, anyhow.”
There was a scuffling of feet, and the lantern began to come steadily
down the side of the wall. Then with a light spring he came on to the
barrel, and from there to the earth.
“It was easy to follow him,” he said, drawing on his stockings and
boots. “Tiles were loosened the whole way along, and in his hurry he had
dropped this. It confirms my diagnosis, as you doctors express it.”
The object which he held up to me was a small pocket or pouch woven
out of coloured grasses and with a few tawdry beads strung round it. In
shape and size it was not unlike a cigarette-case. Inside were half a dozen
spines of dark wood, sharp at one end and rounded at the other, like that
which had struck Bartholomew Sholto.
“They are hellish things,” said he. “Look out that you don’t prick
yourself. I’m delighted to have them, for the chances are that they are all
he has. There is the less fear of you or me finding one in our skin before
long. I would sooner face a Martini bullet, myself. Are you game for a six-
mile trudge, Watson?”
“Certainly,” I answered.
“Your leg will stand it?”
[119] “Oh, yes.”
“Here you are, doggy! Good old Toby! Smell it, Toby, smell it!” He
pushed the creosote handkerchief under the dog’s nose, while the creature
stood with its fluffy legs separated, and with a most comical cock to its
head, like a connoisseur sniffing the bouquet of a famous vintage. Holmes
then threw the handkerchief to a distance, fastened a stout cord to the
mongrel’s collar, and led him to the foot of the water-barrel. The creature
instantly broke into a succession of high, tremulous yelps and, with his
nose on the ground and his tail in the air, pattered off upon the trail at a
pace which strained his leash and kept us at the top of our speed.
The east had been gradually whitening, and we could now see some
distance in the cold gray light. The square, massive house, with its black,
empty windows and high, bare walls, towered up, sad and forlorn, behind
us. Our course led right across the grounds, in and out among the trenches
and pits with which they were scarred and intersected. The whole place,
with its scattered dirt-heaps and ill-grown shrubs, had a blighted, ill-
omened look which harmonized with the black tragedy which hung over
On reaching the boundary wall Toby ran along, whining eagerly,
underneath its shadow, and stopped finally in a corner screened by a
young beech. Where the two walls joined, several bricks had been
loosened, and the crevices left were worn down and rounded upon the
lower side, as though they had frequently been used as a ladder. Holmes
clambered up, and taking the dog from me he dropped it over upon the
other side.
“There’s the print of Wooden-leg’s hand,” he remarked as I mounted
up beside him. “You see the slight smudge of blood upon the white
plaster. What a lucky thing it is that we have had no very heavy rain since
yesterday! The scent will lie upon the road in spite of their eight-and-
twenty hours’ start.”
I confess that I had my doubts myself when I reflected upon the great
traffic which had passed along the London road in the interval. My fears
were soon appeased, however. Toby never hesitated or swerved but
waddled on in his peculiar rolling fashion. Clearly the pungent smell of
the creosote rose high above all other contending scents.
“Do not imagine,” said Holmes, “that I depend for my success in this
case upon the mere chance of one of these fellows having put his foot in
the chemical. I have knowledge now which would enable me to trace
them in many different ways. This, however, is the readiest, and, since
fortune has put it into our hands, I should be culpable if I neglected it. It
has, however, prevented the case from becoming the pretty little
intellectual problem which it at one time promised to be. There might
have been some credit to be gained out of it but for this too palpable clue.”
“There is credit, and to spare,” said I. “I assure you, Holmes, that I
marvel at the means by which you obtain your results in this case even
more than I did in the Jefferson Hope murder. The thing seems to me to
be deeper and more inexplicable. How, for example, could you describe
with such confidence the wooden-legged man?”
“Pshaw, my dear boy! it was simplicity itself. I don’t wish to be
theatrical. It is all patent and above-board. Two officers who are in
command of a convict-guard learn an important secret as to buried
treasure. A map is drawn for them by an Englishman named Jonathan
Small. You remember that we saw the name upon the [120] chart in
Captain Morstan’s possession. He had signed it in behalf of himself and
his associates–the sign of the four, as he somewhat dramatically called it.
Aided by this chart, the officers–or one of them–gets the treasure and
brings it to England, leaving, we will suppose, some condition under
which he received it unfulfilled. Now, then, why did not Jonathan Small
get the treasure himself? The answer is obvious. The chart is dated at a
time when Morstan was brought into close association with convicts.
Jonathan Small did not get the treasure because he and his associates were
themselves convicts and could not get away.”
“But this is mere speculation,” said I.
“It is more than that. It is the only hypothesis which covers the facts.
Let us see how it fits in with the sequel. Major Sholto remains at peace
for some years, happy in the possession of his treasure. Then he receives a
letter from India which gives him a great fright. What was that?”
“A letter to say that the men whom he had wronged had been set free.”
“Or had escaped. That is much more likely, for he would have known
what their term of imprisonment was. It would not have been a surprise to
him. What does he do then? He guards himself against a wooden-legged
man–a white man, mark you, for he mistakes a white tradesman for him
and actually fires a pistol at him. Now, only one white man’s name is on
the chart. The others are Hindoos or Mohammedans. There is no other
white man. Therefore we may say with confidence that the wooden-
legged man is identical with Jonathan Small. Does the reasoning strike
you as being faulty?”
“No: it is clear and concise.”
“Well, now, let us put ourselves in the place of Jonathan Small. Let us
look at it from his point of view. He comes to England with the double
idea of regaining what he would consider to be his rights and of having
his revenge upon the man who had wronged him. He found out where
Sholto lived, and very possibly he established communications with
someone inside the house. There is this butler, Lal Rao, whom we have
not seen. Mrs. Bernstone gives him far from a good character. Small
could not find out, however, where the treasure was hid, for no one ever
knew save the major and one faithful servant who had died. Suddenly
Small learns that the major is on his deathbed. In a frenzy lest the secret
of the treasure die with him, he runs the gauntlet of the guards, makes his
way to the dying man’s window, and is only deterred from entering by the
presence of his two sons. Mad with hate, however, against the dead man,
he enters the room that night, searches his private papers in the hope of
discovering some memorandum relating to the treasure, and finally leaves
a memento of his visit in the short inscription upon the card. He had
doubtless planned beforehand that, should he slay the major, he would
leave some such record upon the body as a sign that it was not a common
murder but, from the point of view of the four associates, something in
the nature of an act of justice. Whimsical and bizarre conceits of this kind
are common enough in the annals of crime and usually afford valuable
indications as to the criminal. Do you follow all this?”
“Very clearly.”
“Now what could Jonathan small do? He could only continue to keep a
secret watch upon the efforts made to find the treasure. Possibly he leaves
England and only comes back at intervals. Then comes the discovery of
the garret, and he is instantly informed of it. We again trace the presence
of some confederate in the household. Jonathan, with his wooden leg, is
utterly unable to reach the lofty [121] room of Bartholomew Sholto. He
takes with him, however, a rather curious associate, who gets over this
difficulty but dips his naked foot into creosote, whence come Toby, and a
six-mile limp for a half-pay officer with a damaged tendo Achillis.”
“But it was the associate and not Jonathan who committed the crime.”
“Quite so. And rather to Jonathan’s disgust, to judge by the way he
stamped about when he got into the room. He bore no grudge against
Bartholomew Sholto and would have preferred if he could have been
simply bound and gagged. He did not wish to put his head in a halter.
There was no help for it, however: the savage instincts of his companion
had broken out, and the poison had done its work: so Jonathan Small left
his record, lowered the treasure-box to the ground, and followed it
himself. That was the train of events as far as I can decipher them. Of
course, as to his personal appearance, he must be middle-aged and must
be sunburned after serving his time in such an oven as the Andamans. His
height is readily calculated from the length of his stride, and we know that
he was bearded. His hairiness was the one point which impressed itself
upon Thaddeus Sholto when he saw him at the window. I don’t know that
there is anything else.”
“The associate?”
“Ah, well, there is no great mystery in that. But you will know all about
it soon enough. How sweet the morning air is! See how that one little
cloud floats like a pink feather from some gigantic flamingo. Now the red
rim of the sun pushes itself over the London cloud-bank. It shines on a
good many folk, but on none, I dare bet, who are on a stranger errand than
you and I. How small we feel with our petty ambitions and strivings in the
presence of the great elemental forces of Nature! Are you well up in your
Jean Paul?”
“Fairly so. I worked back to him through Carlyle.”
“That was like following the brook to the parent lake. He makes one
curious but profound remark. It is that the chief proof of man’s real
greatness lies in his perception of his own smallness. It argues, you see, a
power of comparison and of appreciation which is in itself a proof of
nobility. There is much food for thought in Richter. You have not a pistol,
have you?”
“I have my stick.”
“It is just possible that we may need something of the sort if we get to
their lair. Jonathan I shall leave to you, but if the other turns nasty I shall
shoot him dead.”
He took out his revolver as he spoke, and, having loaded two of the
chambers, he put it back into the right-hand pocket of his jacket.

We had during this time been following the guidance of Toby down the
half-rural villa-lined roads which lead to the metropolis. Now, however,
we were beginning to come among continuous streets, where labourers
and dockmen were already astir, and slatternly women were taking down
shutters and brushing door-steps. At the square-topped corner public-
houses business was just beginning, and rough-looking men were
emerging, rubbing their sleeves across their beards after their morning
wet. Strange dogs sauntered up and stared wonderingly at us as we
passed, but our inimitable Toby looked neither to the right nor to the left
but trotted onward with his nose to the ground and an occasional eager
whine which spoke of a hot scent.
We had traversed Streatham, Brixton, Camberwell, and now found
ourselves in Kennington Lane, having borne away through the side streets
to the east of the [122] Oval. The men whom we pursued seemed to have
taken a curiously zigzag road, with the idea probably of escaping
observation. They had never kept to the main road if a parallel side street
would serve their turn. At the foot of Kennington Lane they had edged
away to the left through Bond Street and Miles Street. Where the latter
street turns into Knight’s Place, Toby ceased to advance but began to run
backward and forward with one ear cocked and the other drooping, the
very picture of canine indecision. Then he waddled round in circles,
looking up to us from time to time, as if to ask for sympathy in his
“What the deuce is the matter with the dog?” growled Holmes. “They
surely would not take a cab or go off in a balloon.”
“Perhaps they stood here for some time,” I suggested.
“Ah! it’s all right. He’s off again,” said my companion in a tone of
He was indeed off, for after sniffing round again he suddenly made up
his mind and darted away with an energy and determination such as he
had not yet shown. The scent appeared to be much hotter than before, for
he had not even to put his nose on the ground but tugged at his leash and
tried to break into a run. I could see by the gleam in Holmes’s eyes that he
thought we were nearing the end of our journey.
Our course now ran down Nine Elms until we came to Broderick and
Nelson’s large timber-yard just past the White Eagle tavern. Here the dog,
frantic with excitement, turned down through the side gate into the
enclosure, where the sawyers were already at work. On the dog raced
through sawdust and shavings, down an alley, round a passage, between
two wood-piles, and finally, with a triumphant yelp, sprang upon a large
barrel which still stood upon the hand-trolley on which it had been
brought. With lolling tongue and blinking eyes Toby stood upon the cask,
looking from one to the other of us for some sign of appreciation. The
staves of the barrel and the wheels of the trolley were smeared with a dark
liquid, and the whole air was heavy with the smell of creosote.
Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other and then burst
simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

Chapter 8
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 8


“WHAT now?” I asked. “Toby has lost his character for infallibility.”
“He acted according to his lights,” said Holmes, lifting him down from
the barrel and walking him out of the timber-yard. “If you consider how
much creosote is carted about London in one day, it is no great wonder
that our trail should have been crossed. It is much used now, especially
for the seasoning of wood. Poor Toby is not to blame.”
“We must get on the main scent again, I suppose.”
“Yes. And, fortunately, we have no distance to go. Evidently what
puzzled the dog at the corner of Knight’s Place was that there were two
different trails running in opposite directions. We took the wrong one. It
only remains to follow the other.”
There was no difficulty about this. On leading Toby to the place where
he [123] had committed his fault, he cast about in a wide circle and finally
dashed off in a fresh direction.
“We must take care that he does not now bring us to the place where
the creosote-barrel came from,” I observed.
“I had thought of that. But you notice that he keeps on the pavement,
whereas the barrel passed down the roadway. No, we are on the true scent
It tended down towards the riverside, running through Belmont Place
and Prince’s Street. At the end of Broad Street it ran right down to the
water’s edge, where there was a small wooden wharf. Toby led us to the
very edge of this and there stood whining, looking out on the dark current
“We are out of luck,” said Holmes. “They have taken to a boat here.”
Several small punts and skiffs were lying about in the water and on the
edge of the wharf. We took Toby round to each in turn, but though he
sniffed earnestly he made no sign.
Close to the rude landing-stage was a small brick house, with a wooden
placard slung out through the second window. “Mordecai Smith” was
printed across it in large letters, and, underneath, “Boats to hire by the
hour or day.” A second inscription above the door informed us that a
steam launch was kept–a statement which was confirmed by a great pile
of coke upon the jetty. Sherlock Holmes looked slowly round, and his
face assumed an ominous expression.
“This looks bad,” said he. “These fellows are sharper than I expected.
They seem to have covered their tracks. There has, I fear, been
preconcerted management here.”
He was approaching the door of the house, when it opened, and a little
curly-headed lad of six came running out, followed by a stoutish, red-
faced woman with a large sponge in her hand.
“You come back and be washed, Jack,” she shouted. “Come back, you
young imp; for if your father comes home and finds you like that he’ll let
us hear of it.”

“Dear little chap!” said Holmes strategically. “What a rosy-cheeked

young rascal! Now, Jack, is there anything you would like?”
The youth pondered for a moment.
“I’d like a shillin’,” said he.
“Nothing you would like better?”
“I’d like two shillin’ better,” the prodigy answered after some thought.
“Here you are, then! Catch!–A fine child, Mrs. Smith!”
“Lor’ bless you, sir, he is that, and forward. He gets a’most too much
for me to manage, ’specially when my man is away days at a time.”
“Away, is he?” said Holmes in a disappointed voice. “I am sorry for
that, for I wanted to speak to Mr. Smith.”
“He’s been away since yesterday mornin’, sir, and, truth to tell, I am
beginnin’ to feel frightened about him. But if it was about a boat, sir,
maybe I could serve as well.”
“I wanted to hire his steam launch.”
“Why, bless you, sir, it is in the steam launch that he has gone. That’s
what puzzles me; for I know there ain’t more coals in her than would take
her to about Woolwich and back. If he’s been away in the barge I’d ha’
thought nothin’; for many a time a job has taken him as far as Gravesend,
and then if there was much doin’ there he might ha’ stayed over. But what
good is a steam launch without coals?”
[124] “He might have bought some at a wharf down the river.”
“He might, sir, but it weren’t his way. Many a time I’ve heard him call
out at the prices they charge for a few odd bags. Besides, I don’t like that
wooden-legged man, wi’ his ugly face and outlandish talk. What did he
want always knockin’ about here for?”
“A wooden-legged man?” said Holmes with bland surprise.
“Yes, sir, a brown, monkey-faced chap that’s called more’n once for
my old man. It was him that roused him up yesternight, and, what’s more,
my man knew he was comin’, for he had steam up in the launch. I tell you
straight, sir, I don’t feel easy in my mind about it.”
“But, my dear Mrs. Smith,” said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders, “you
are frightening yourself about nothing. How could you possibly tell that it
was the wooden-legged man who came in the night? I don’t quite
understand how you can be so sure.”
“His voice, sir. I knew his voice, which is kind o’ thick and foggy. He
tapped at the winder–about three it would be. ‘Show a leg, matey,’ says
he: ‘time to turn out guard.’ My old man woke up Jim–that’s my
eldest–and away they went without so much as a word to me. I could hear
the wooden leg clackin’ on the stones.”
“And was this wooden-legged man alone?”
“Couldn’t say, I am sure, sir. I didn’t hear no one else.”
“I am sorry, Mrs. Smith, for I wanted a steam launch, and I have heard
good reports of the– – Let me see, what is her name?”
“The Aurora, sir.”
“Ah! She’s not that old green launch with a yellow line, very broad in
the beam?”
“No, indeed. She’s as trim a little thing as any on the river. She’s been
fresh painted, black with two red streaks.”
“Thanks. I hope that you will hear soon from Mr. Smith. I am going
down the river, and if I should see anything of the Aurora I shall let him
know that you are uneasy. A black funnel, you say?”
“No, sir. Black with a white band.”
“Ah, of course. It was the sides which were black. Good-morning, Mrs.
Smith. There is a boatman here with a wherry, Watson. We shall take it
and cross the river.”
“The main thing with people of that sort,” said Holmes as we sat in the
sheets of the wherry, “is never to let them think that their information can
be of the slightest importance to you. If you do they will instantly shut up
like an oyster. If you listen to them under protest, as it were, you are very
likely to get what you want.”
“Our course now seems pretty clear,” said I.
“What would you do, then?”
“I would engage a launch and go down the river on the track of the
“My dear fellow, it would be a colossal task. She may have touched at
any wharf on either side of the stream between here and Greenwich.
Below the bridge there is a perfect labyrinth of landing-places for miles. It
would take you days and days to exhaust them if you set about it alone.”
“Employ the police, then.”
“No. I shall probably call Athelney Jones in at the last moment. He is
not a bad fellow, and I should not like to do anything which would injure
him professionally. [125] But I have a fancy for working it out myself,
now that we have gone so far.”
“Could we advertise, then, asking for information from wharfingers?”
“Worse and worse! Our men would know that the chase was hot at their
heels, and they would be off out of the country. As it is, they are likely
enough to leave, but as long as they think they are perfectly safe they will
be in no hurry. Jones’s energy will be of use to us there, for his view of
the case is sure to push itself into the daily press, and the runaways will
think that everyone is off on the wrong scent.”
“What are we to do, then?” I asked as we landed near Millbank
“Take this hansom, drive home, have some breakfast, and get an hour’s
sleep. It is quite on the cards that we may be afoot to-night again. Stop at
a telegraph office, cabby! We will keep Toby, for he may be of use to us
We pulled up at the Great Peter Street Post-Office, and Holmes
dispatched his wire.
“Whom do you think that is to?” he asked as we resumed our journey.
“I am sure I don’t know.”
“You remember the Baker Street division of the detective police force
whom I employed in the Jefferson Hope case?”
“Well,” said I, laughing.
“This is just the case where they might be invaluable. If they fail I have
other resources, but I shall try them first. That wire was to my dirty little
lieutenant, Wiggins, and I expect that he and his gang will be with us
before we have finished our breakfast.”
It was between eight and nine o’clock now, and I was conscious of a
strong reaction after the successive excitements of the night. I was limp
and weary, befogged in mind and fatigued in body. I had not the
professional enthusiasm which carried my companion on, nor could I look
at the matter as a mere abstract intellectual problem. As far as the death of
Bartholomew Sholto went, I had heard little good of him and could feel
no intense antipathy to his murderers. The treasure, however, was a
different matter. That, or part of it, belonged rightfully to Miss Morstan.
While there was a chance of recovering it I was ready to devote my life to
the one object. True, if I found it, it would probably put her forever
beyond my reach. Yet it would be a petty and selfish love which would be
influenced by such a thought as that. If Holmes could work to find the
criminals, I had a tenfold stronger reason to urge me on to find the
A bath at Baker Street and a complete change freshened me up
wonderfully. When I came down to our room I found the breakfast laid
and Holmes pouring out the coffee.
“Here it is,” said he, laughing and pointing to an open newspaper. “The
energetic Jones and the ubiquitous reporter have fixed it up between
them. But you have had enough of the case. Better have your ham and
eggs first.”
I took the paper from him and read the short notice, which was headed
“Mysterious Business at Upper Norwood.”

About twelve o’clock last night [said the Standard] Mr.

Bartholomew Sholto, of Pondicherry Lodge, Upper Norwood, was
found dead in his room under circumstances which point to foul
play. As far as we can learn, no actual traces of violence were
found upon Mr. Sholto’s person, but a valuable collection of
Indian gems which the deceased gentleman had inherited [126]
from his father has been carried off. The discovery was first made
by Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who had called at the
house with Mr. Thaddeus Sholto, brother of the deceased. By a
singular piece of good fortune, Mr. Athelney Jones, the well-
known member of the detective police force, happened to be at the
Norwood police station and was on the ground within half an hour
of the first alarm. His trained and experienced faculties were at
once directed towards the detection of the criminals, with the
gratifying result that the brother, Thaddeus Sholto, has already
been arrested, together with the housekeeper, Mrs. Bernstone, an
Indian butler named Lal Rao, and a porter, or gatekeeper, named
McMurdo. It is quite certain that the thief or thieves were well
acquainted with the house, for Mr. Jones’s well-known technical
knowledge and his powers of minute observation have enabled
him to prove conclusively that the miscreants could not have
entered by the door or by the window but must have made their
way across the roof of the building, and so through a trapdoor into
a room which communicated with that in which the body was
found. This fact, which has been very clearly made out, proves
conclusively that it was no mere haphazard burglary. The prompt
and energetic action of the officers of the law shows the great
advantage of the presence on such occasions of a single vigorous
and masterful mind. We cannot but think that it supplies an
argument to those who would wish to see our detectives more de-
centralized, and so brought into closer and more effective touch
with the cases which it is their duty to investigate.

“Isn’t it gorgeous!” said Holmes, grinning over his coffee cup. “What
do you think of it?”
“I think that we have had a close shave ourselves of being arrested for
the crime.”
“So do I. I wouldn’t answer for our safety now if he should happen to
have another of his attacks of energy.”
At this moment there was a loud ring at the bell, and I could hear Mrs.
Hudson, our landlady, raising her voice in a wail of expostulation and
“By heavens, Holmes,” I said, half rising, “I believe that they are really
after us.”
“No, it’s not quite so bad as that. It is the unofficial force–the Baker
Street irregulars.”
As he spoke, there came a swift pattering of naked feet upon the stairs,
a clatter of high voices, and in rushed a dozen dirty and ragged little street
Arabs. There was some show of discipline among them, despite their
tumultuous entry, for they instantly drew up in line and stood facing us
with expectant faces. One of their number, taller and older than the others,
stood forward with an air of lounging superiority which was very funny in
such a disreputable little scarecrow.
“Got your message, sir,” said he, “and brought ’em on sharp. Three bob
and a tanner for tickets.”
“Here you are,” said Holmes, producing some silver. “In future they
can report to you, Wiggins, and you to me. I cannot have the house
invaded in this way. However, it is just as well that you should all hear
the instructions. I want to find the whereabouts of a steam launch called
the Aurora, owner Mordecai Smith, black with two red streaks, funnel
black with a white band. She is down the river somewhere. I want one
boy to be at Mordecai Smith’s landing-stage opposite [127] Millbank to
say if the boat comes back. You must divide it out among yourselves and
do both banks thoroughly. Let me know the moment you have news. Is
that all clear?”
“Yes, guv’nor,” said Wiggins.
“The old scale of pay, and a guinea to the boy who finds the boat.
Here’s a day in advance. Now off you go!”
He handed them a shilling each, and away they buzzed down the stairs,
and I saw them a moment later streaming down the street.
“If the launch is above water they will find her,” said Holmes as he rose
from the table and lit his pipe. “They can go everywhere, see everything,
overhear everyone. I expect to hear before evening that they have spotted
her. In the meanwhile, we can do nothing but await results. We cannot
pick up the broken trail until we find either the Aurora or Mr. Mordecai
“Toby could eat these scraps, I dare say. Are you going to bed,
“No: I am not tired. I have a curious constitution. I never remember
feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely. I am
going to smoke and to think over this queer business to which my fair
client has introduced us. If ever man had an easy task, this of ours ought
to be. Wooden-legged men are not so common, but the other man must, I
should think, be absolutely unique.”
“That other man again!”
“I have no wish to make a mystery of him to you, anyway. But you
must have formed your own opinion. Now, do consider the data.
Diminutive footmarks, toes never fettered by boots, naked feet, stone-
headed wooden mace, great agility, small poisoned darts. What do you
make of all this?”
“A savage!” I exclaimed. “Perhaps one of those Indians who were the
associates of Jonathan Small.”
“Hardly that,” said he. “When first I saw signs of strange weapons I
was inclined to think so, but the remarkable character of the footmarks
caused me to reconsider my views. Some of the inhabitants of the Indian
Peninsula are small men, but none could have left such marks as that. The
Hindoo proper has long and thin feet. The sandal-wearing Mohammedan
has the great toe well separated from the others because the thong is
commonly passed between. These little darts, too, could only be shot in
one way. They are from a blow-pipe. Now, then, where are we to find our
“South America,” I hazarded.
He stretched his hand up and took down a bulky volume from the shelf.
“This is the first volume of a gazetteer which is now being published. It
may be looked upon as the very latest authority. What have we here?

“Andaman Islands, situated 340 miles to the north of Sumatra,

in the Bay of Bengal.

Hum! hum! What’s all this? Moist climate, coral reefs, sharks, Port
Blair, convict barracks, Rutland Island, cottonwoods– – Ah, here we are!

“The aborigines of the Andaman Islands may perhaps claim the

distinction of being the smallest race upon this earth, though some
anthropologists prefer the Bushmen of Africa, the Digger Indians
of America, and the Terra del Fuegians. The average height is
rather below four feet, although many full-grown adults may be
found who are very much smaller than this. [128] They are a fierce,
morose, and intractable people, though capable of forming most
devoted friendships when their confidence has once been gained.

Mark that, Watson. Now, then listen to this.

“They are naturally hideous, having large, misshapen heads,

small fierce eyes, and distorted features. Their feet and hands,
however, are remarkably small. So intractable and fierce are they,
that all the efforts of the British officials have failed to win them
over in any degree. They have always been a terror to shipwrecked
crews, braining the survivors with their stone-headed clubs or
shooting them with their poisoned arrows. These massacres are
invariably concluded by a cannibal feast.

Nice, amiable people, Watson! If this fellow had been left to his own
unaided devices, this affair might have taken an even more ghastly turn. I
fancy that, even as it is, Jonathan Small would give a good deal not to
have employed him.”
“But how came he to have so singular a companion?”
“Ah, that is more than I can tell. Since, however, we had already
determined that Small had come from the Andamans, it is not so very
wonderful that this islander should be with him. No doubt we shall know
all about it in time. Look here, Watson; you look regularly done. Lie
down there on the sofa and see if I can put you to sleep.”
He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched myself out he
began to play some low, dreamy, melodious air–his own, no doubt, for he
had a remarkable gift for improvisation. I have a vague remembrance of
his gaunt limbs, his earnest face and the rise and fall of his bow. Then I
seemed to be floated peacefully away upon a soft sea of sound until I
found myself in dreamland, with the sweet face of Mary Morstan looking
down upon me.

Chapter 9
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 9


IT WAS late in the afternoon before I woke, strengthened and refreshed.
Sherlock Holmes still sat exactly as I had left him, save that he had laid
aside his violin and was deep in a book. He looked across at me as I
stirred, and I noticed that his face was dark and troubled.
“You have slept soundly,” he said. “I feared that our talk would wake
“I heard nothing,” I answered. “Have you had fresh news, then?”
“Unfortunately, no. I confess that I am surprised and disappointed. I
expected something definite by this time. Wiggins has just been up to
report. He says that no trace can be found of the launch. It is a provoking
check, for every hour is of importance.”
“Can I do anything? I am perfectly fresh now, and quite ready for
another night’s outing.”
“No; we can do nothing. We can only wait. If we go ourselves the
message might [129] come in our absence and delay be caused. You can
do what you will, but I must remain on guard.”
“Then I shall run over to Camberwell and call upon Mrs. Cecil
Forrester. She asked me to, yesterday.”
“On Mrs. Cecil Forrester?” asked Holmes with the twinkle of a smile in
his eyes.
“Well, of course on Miss Morstan, too. They were anxious to hear what
“I would not tell them too much,” said Holmes. “Women are never to
be entirely trusted–not the best of them.”
I did not pause to argue over this atrocious sentiment.
“I shall be back in an hour or two,” I remarked.
“All right! Good luck! But, I say, if you are crossing the river you may
as well return Toby, for I don’t think it is at all likely that we shall have
any use for him now.”
I took our mongrel accordingly and left him, together with a half-
sovereign, at the old naturalist’s in Pinchin Lane. At Camberwell I found
Miss Morstan a little weary after her night’s adventures but very eager to
hear the news. Mrs. Forrester, too, was full of curiosity. I told them all
that we had done, suppressing, however, the more dreadful parts of the
tragedy. Thus, although I spoke of Mr. Sholto’s death, I said nothing of
the exact manner and method of it. With all my omissions, however, there
was enough to startle and amaze them.
“It is a romance!” cried Mrs. Forrester. “An injured lady, half a million
in treasure, a black cannibal, and a wooden-legged ruffian. They take the
place of the conventional dragon or wicked earl.”
“And two knight-errants to the rescue,” added Miss Morstan with a
bright glance at me.
“Why, Mary, your fortune depends upon the issue of this search. I don’t
think that you are nearly excited enough. Just imagine what it must be to
be so rich and to have the world at your feet!”
It sent a little thrill of joy to my heart to notice that she showed no sign
of elation at the prospect. On the contrary, she gave a toss of her proud
head, as though the matter were one in which she took small interest.
“It is for Mr. Thaddeus Sholto that I am anxious,” she said. “Nothing
else is of any consequence; but I think that he has behaved most kindly
and honourably throughout. It is our duty to clear him of this dreadful and
unfounded charge.”
It was evening before I left Camberwell, and quite dark by the time I
reached home. My companion’s book and pipe lay by his chair, but he
had disappeared. I looked about in the hope of seeing a note, but there
was none.
“I suppose that Mr. Sherlock Holmes has gone out,” I said to Mrs.
Hudson as she came up to lower the blinds.
“No, sir. He has gone to his room, sir. Do you know, sir,” sinking her
voice into an impressive whisper, “I am afraid for his health.”
“Why so, Mrs. Hudson?”
“Well, he’s that strange, sir. After you was gone he walked and he
walked, up and down, and up and down, until I was weary of the sound of
his footstep. Then I heard him talking to himself and muttering, and every
time the bell rang out he came on the stairhead, with ‘What is that, Mrs.
Hudson?’ And now he has slammed off to his room, but I can hear him
walking away the same as ever. I [130] hope he’s not going to be ill, sir. I
ventured to say something to him about cooling medicine, but he turned
on me, sir, with such a look that I don’t know how ever I got out of the
“I don’t think that you have any cause to be uneasy, Mrs. Hudson,” I
answered. “I have seen him like this before. He has some small matter
upon his mind which makes him restless.”
I tried to speak lightly to our worthy landlady, but I was myself
somewhat uneasy when through the long night I still from time to time
heard the dull sound of his tread, and knew how his keen spirit was
chafing against this involuntary inaction.
At breakfast-time he looked worn and haggard, with a little fleck of
feverish colour upon either cheek.
“You are knocking yourself up, old man,” I remarked. “I heard you
marching about in the night.”
“No, I could not sleep,” he answered. “This infernal problem is
consuming me. It is too much to be balked by so petty an obstacle, when
all else had been overcome. I know the men, the launch, everything; and
yet I can get no news. I have set other agencies at work and used every
means at my disposal. The whole river has been searched on either side,
but there is no news, nor has Mrs. Smith heard of her husband. I shall
come to the conclusion soon that they have scuttled the craft. But there
are objections to that.”
“Or that Mrs. Smith has put us on a wrong scent.”
“No, I think that may be dismissed. I had inquiries made, and there is a
launch of that description.”
“Could it have gone up the river?”
“I have considered that possibility, too, and there is a search-party who
will work up as far as Richmond. If no news comes to-day I shall start off
myself to-morrow and go for the men rather than the boat. But surely,
surely, we shall hear something.”
We did not, however. Not a word came to us either from Wiggins or
from the other agencies. There were articles in most of the papers upon
the Norwood tragedy. They all appeared to be rather hostile to the
unfortunate Thaddeus Sholto. No fresh details were to be found, however,
in any of them, save that an inquest was to be held upon the following
day. I walked over to Camberwell in the evening to report our ill-success
to the ladies, and on my return I found Holmes dejected and somewhat
morose. He would hardly reply to my questions and busied himself all the
evening in an abstruse chemical analysis which involved much heating of
retorts and distilling of vapours, ending at last in a smell which fairly
drove me out of the apartment. Up to the small hours of the morning I
could hear the clinking of his test-tubes which told me that he was still
engaged in his malodorous experiment.
In the early dawn I woke with a start and was surprised to find him
standing by my bedside, clad in a rude sailor dress with a pea-jacket and a
coarse red scarf round his neck.
“I am off down the river, Watson,” said he. “I have been turning it over
in my mind, and I can see only one way out of it. It is worth trying, at all
“Surely I can come with you, then?” said I.
“No; you can be much more useful if you will remain here as my
representative. I am loath to go, for it is quite on the cards that some
message may come during [131] the day, though Wiggins was despondent
about it last night. I want you to open all notes and telegrams, and to act
on your own judgment if any news should come. Can I rely upon you?”
“Most certainly.”
“I am afraid that you will not be able to wire to me, for I can hardly tell
yet where I may find myself. If I am in luck, however, I may not be gone
so very long. I shall have news of some sort or other before I get back.”
I had heard nothing of him by breakfast time. On opening the Standard,
however, I found that there was a fresh allusion to the business.

With reference to the Upper Norwood tragedy [it remarked] we

have reason to believe that the matter promises to be even more
complex and mysterious than was originally supposed. Fresh
evidence has shown that it is quite impossible that Mr. Thaddeus
Sholto could have been in any way concerned in the matter. He
and the housekeeper, Mrs. Bernstone, were both released
yesterday evening. It is believed, however, that the police have a
clue as to the real culprits, and that it is being prosecuted by Mr.
Athelney Jones, of Scotland Yard, with all his well-known energy
and sagacity. Further arrests may be expected at any moment.

“That is satisfactory so far as it goes,” thought I. “Friend Sholto is safe,

at any rate. I wonder what the fresh clue may be, though it seems to be a
stereotyped form whenever the police have made a blunder.”
I tossed the paper down upon the table, but at that moment my eye
caught an advertisement in the agony column. It ran in this way:

LOST–Whereas Mordecai Smith, boatman, and his son Jim, left

Smith’s Wharf at or about three o’clock last Tuesday morning in
the steam launch Aurora, black with two red stripes, funnel black
with a white band, the sum of five pounds will be paid to anyone
who can give information to Mrs. Smith, at Smith’s Wharf, or at
221B, Baker Street, as to the whereabouts of the said Mordecai
Smith and the launch Aurora.

This was clearly Holmes’s doing. The Baker Street address was enough
to prove that. It struck me as rather ingenious because it might be read by
the fugitives without their seeing in it more than the natural anxiety of a
wife for her missing husband.
It was a long day. Every time that a knock came to the door or a sharp
step passed in the street, I imagined that it was either Holmes returning or
an answer to his advertisement. I tried to read, but my thoughts would
wander off to our strange quest and to the ill-assorted and villainous pair
whom we were pursuing. Could there be, I wondered, some radical flaw
in my companion’s reasoning? Might he not be suffering from some huge
self-deception? Was it not possible that his nimble and speculative mind
had built up this wild theory upon faulty premises? I had never known
him to be wrong, and yet the keenest reasoner may occasionally be
deceived. He was likely, I thought, to fall into error through the over-
refinement of his logic–his preference for a subtle and bizarre explanation
when a plainer and more commonplace one lay ready to his hand. Yet, on
the other hand, I had myself seen the evidence, and I had heard the
reasons for his deductions. When I looked back on the long chain of
curious circumstances, many of them trivial in themselves but all tending
in the same direction, I could not [132] disguise from myself that even if
Holmes’s explanation were incorrect the true theory must be equally outre
and startling.
At three o’clock on the afternoon there was a loud peal at the bell, an
authoritative voice in the hall, and, to my surprise, no less a person than
Mr. Athelney Jones was shown up to me. Very different was he, however,
from the brusque and masterful professor of common sense who had
taken over the case so confidently at Upper Norwood. His expression was
downcast, and his bearing meek and even apologetic.
“Good-day, sir; good-day,” said he. “Mr. Sherlock Holmes is out, I
“Yes, and I cannot be sure when he will be back. But perhaps you
would care to wait. Take that chair and try one of these cigars.”
“Thank you; I don’t mind if I do,” said he, mopping his face with a red
bandanna handkerchief.
“And a whisky and soda?”
“Well, half a glass. It is very hot for the time of year, and I have had a
good deal to worry and try me. You know my theory about this Norwood
“I remember that you expressed one.”
“Well, I have been obliged to reconsider it. I had my net drawn tightly
round Mr. Sholto, sir, when pop he went through a hole in the middle of
it. He was able to prove an alibi which could not be shaken. From the
time that he left his brother’s room he was never out of sight of someone
or other. So it could not be he who climbed over roofs and through
trapdoors. It’s a very dark case, and my professional credit is at stake. I
should be very glad of a little assistance.”
“We all need help sometimes,” said I.
“Your friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, is a wonderful man, sir,” said he in
a husky and confidential voice. “He’s a man who is not to be beat. I have
known that young man go into a good many cases, but I never saw the
case yet that he could not throw a light upon. He is irregular in his
methods and a little quick perhaps in jumping at theories, but, on the
whole, I think he would have made a most promising officer, and I don’t
care who knows it. I have had a wire from him this morning, by which I
understand that he has got some clue to this Sholto business. Here is his
He took the telegram out of his pocket and handed it to me. It was
dated from Poplar at twelve o’clock.

Go to Baker Street at once [it said]. If I have not returned, wait for me.
I am close on the track of the Sholto gang. You can come with us to-night
if you want to be in at the finish.

“This sounds well. He has evidently picked up the scent again,” said I.
“Ah, then he has been at fault too,” exclaimed Jones with evident
satisfaction. “Even the best of us are thrown off sometimes. Of course this
may prove to be a false alarm but it is my duty as an officer of the law to
allow no chance to slip. But there is someone at the door. Perhaps this is
A heavy step was heard ascending the stair, with a great wheezing and
rattling as from a man who was sorely put to it for breath. Once or twice
he stopped, as though the climb were too much for him, but at last he
made his way to our door and entered. His appearance corresponded to
the sounds which we had heard. He was an aged man, clad in seafaring
garb, with an old pea-jacket buttoned up to his throat. His back was
bowed, his knees were shaky, and his breathing was [133] painfully
asthmatic. As he leaned upon a thick oaken cudgel his shoulders heaved
in the effort to draw the air into his lungs. He had a coloured scarf round
his chin, and I could see little of his face save a pair of keen dark eyes,
overhung by bushy white brows and long gray side-whiskers. Altogether
he gave me the impression of a respectable master mariner who had fallen
into years and poverty.
“What is it, my man?” I asked.
He looked about him in the slow methodical fashion of old age.
“Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?” said he.
“No; but I am acting for him. You can tell me any message you have
for him.”
“It was to him himself I was to tell it,” said he.
“But I tell you that I am acting for him. Was it about Mordecai Smith’s
“Yes. I knows well where it is. An’ I knows where the men he is after
are. An’ I knows where the treasure is. I knows all about it.”
“Then tell me, and I shall let him know.”
“It was to him I was to tell it,” he repeated with the petulant obstinacy
of a very old man.
“Well, you must wait for him.”
“No, no; I ain’t goin’ to lose a whole day to please no one. If Mr.
Holmes ain’t here, then Mr. Holmes must find it all out for himself. I
don’t care about the look of either of you, and I won’t tell a word.”
He shuffled towards the door, but Athelney Jones got in front of him.
“Wait a bit, my friend,” said he. “You have important information, and
you must not walk off. We shall keep you, whether you like or not, until
our friend returns.”
The old man made a little run towards the door, but, as Athelney Jones
put his broad back up against it, he recognized the uselessness of
“Pretty sort o’ treatment this!” he cried, stamping his stick. “I come
here to see a gentleman, and you two, who I never saw in my life, seize
me and treat me in this fashion!”
“You will be none the worse,” I said. “We shall recompense you for the
loss of your time. Sit over here on the sofa, and you will not have long to
He came across sullenly enough and seated himself with his face
resting on his hands. Jones and I resumed our cigars and our talk.
Suddenly, however, Holmes’s voice broke in upon us.
“I think that you might offer me a cigar too,” he said.
We both started in our chairs. There was Holmes sitting close to us
with an air of quiet amusement.
“Holmes!” I exclaimed. “You here! But where is the old man?”
“Here is the old man,” said he, holding out a heap of white hair. “Here
he is–wig, whiskers, eyebrows, and all. I thought my disguise was pretty
good, but I hardly expected that it would stand that test.”
“Ah, you rogue!” cried Jones, highly delighted. “You would have made
an actor and a rare one. You had the proper workhouse cough, and those
weak legs of yours are worth ten pound a week. I thought I knew the glint
of your eye, though. You didn’t get away from us so easily, you see.”
“I have been working in that get-up all day,” said he, lighting his cigar.
“You see, a good many of the criminal classes begin to know
me–especially since our friend here took to publishing some of my cases:
so I can only go on the war-path under some simple disguise like this.
You got my wire?”
[134] “Yes; that was what brought me here.”
“How has your case prospered?”
“It has all come to nothing. I have had to release two of my prisoners,
and there is no evidence against the other two.”
“Never mind. We shall give you two others in the place of them. But
you must put yourself under my orders. You are welcome to all the
official credit, but you must act on the lines that I point out. Is that
“Entirely, if you will help me to the men.”
“Well, then, in the first place I shall want a fast police-boat–a steam
launch–to be at the Westminster Stairs at seven o’clock.”
“That is easily managed. There is always one about there, but I can step
across the road and telephone to make sure.”
“Then I shall want two staunch men in case of resistance.”
“There will be two or three in the boat. What else?”
“When we secure the men we shall get the treasure. I think that it
would be a pleasure to my friend here to take the box round to the young
lady to whom half of it rightfully belongs. Let her be the first to open it.
Eh, Watson?”
“It would be a great pleasure to me.”
“Rather an irregular proceeding,” said Jones, shaking his head.
“However, the whole thing is irregular, and I suppose we must wink at it.
The treasure must afterwards be handed over to the authorities until after
the official investigation.”
“Certainly. That is easily managed. One other point. I should much like
to have a few details about this matter from the lips of Jonathan Small
himself. You know I like to work the details of my cases out. There is no
objection to my having an unofficial interview with him, either here in my
rooms or elsewhere, as long as he is efficiently guarded?”
“Well, you are master of the situation. I have had no proof yet of the
existence of this Jonathan Small. However, if you can catch him, I don’t
see how I can refuse you an interview with him.”
“That is understood, then?”
“Perfectly. Is there anything else?”
“Only that I insist upon your dining with us. It will be ready in half an
hour. I have oysters and a brace of grouse, with something a little choice
in white wines.–Watson, you have never yet recognized my merits as a

Chapter 10
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 10


OUR meal was a merry one. Holmes could talk exceedingly well when he
chose, and that night he did choose. He appeared to be in a state of
nervous exaltation. I have never known him so brilliant. He spoke on a
quick succession of subjects–on miracle plays, on mediaeval pottery, on
Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the warships of
the future–handling each as though he had made a special study of it. His
bright humour marked the reaction from his black depression of the
preceding days. Athelney Jones proved to be a sociable soul in his hours
of relaxation and faced his dinner with the air of a bon vivant. For myself,
I felt elated at the thought that we were nearing the end of our task, and I
caught [135] something of Holmes’s gaiety. None of us alluded during
dinner to the cause which had brought us together.
When the cloth was cleared Holmes glanced at his watch and filled up
three glasses with port.
“One bumper,” said he, “to the success of our little expedition. And
now it is high time we were off. Have you a pistol, Watson?”
“I have my old service-revolver in my desk.”
“You had best take it, then. It is well to be prepared. I see that the cab is
at the door. I ordered it for half-past six.”
It was a little past seven before we reached the Westminster wharf and
found our launch awaiting us. Holmes eyed it critically.
“Is there anything to mark it as a police-boat?”
“Yes, that green lamp at the side.”
“Then take it off.”
The small change was made, we stepped on board, and the ropes were
cast off. Jones, Holmes, and I sat in the stern. There was one man at the
rudder, one to tend the engines, and two burly police-inspectors forward.
“Where to?” asked Jones.
“To the Tower. Tell them to stop opposite to Jacobson’s Yard.”
Our craft was evidently a very fast one. We shot past the long lines of
loaded barges as though they were stationary. Holmes smiled with
satisfaction as we overhauled a river steamer and left her behind us.
“We ought to be able to catch anything on the river,” he said.
“Well, hardly that. But there are not many launches to beat us.”
“We shall have to catch the Aurora, and she has a name for being a
clipper. I will tell you how the land lies, Watson. You recollect how
annoyed I was at being baulked by so small a thing?”
“Well, I gave my mind a thorough rest by plunging into a chemical
analysis. One of our greatest statesmen has said that a change of work is
the best rest. So it is. When I had succeeded in dissolving the hydrocarbon
which I was at work at, I came back to our problem of the Sholtos, and
thought the whole matter out again. My boys had been up the river and
down the river without result. The launch was not at any landing-stage or
wharf, nor had it returned. Yet it could hardly have been scuttled to hide
their traces, though that always remained as a possible hypothesis if all
else failed. I knew that this man Small had a certain degree of low
cunning, but I did not think him capable of anything in the nature of
delicate finesse. That is usually a product of higher education. I then
reflected that since he had certainly been in London some time–as we had
evidence that he maintained a continual watch over Pondicherry
Lodge–he could hardly leave at a moment’s notice, but would need some
little time, if it were only a day, to arrange his affairs. That was the
balance of probability, at any rate.”
“It seems to me to be a little weak,” said I; “it is more probable that he
had arranged his affairs before ever he set out upon his expedition.”
“No, I hardly think so. This lair of his would be too valuable a retreat in
case of need for him to give it up until he was sure that he could do
without it. But a second consideration struck me. Jonathan Small must
have felt that the peculiar appearance of his companion, however much he
may have top-coated him, would give rise to gossip, and possibly be
associated with this Norwood tragedy. He was [136] quite sharp enough to
see that. They had started from their headquarters under cover of
darkness, and he would wish to get back before it was broad light. Now, it
was past three o’clock, according to Mrs. Smith, when they got the boat.
It would be quite bright, and people would be about in an hour or so.
Therefore, I argued, they did not go very far. They paid Smith well to
hold his tongue, reserved his launch for the final escape, and hurried to
their lodgings with the treasure-box. In a couple of nights, when they had
time to see what view the papers took, and whether there was any
suspicion, they would make their way under cover of darkness to some
ship at Gravesend or in the Downs, where no doubt they had already
arranged for passages to America or the Colonies.”
“But the launch? They could not have taken that to their lodgings.”
“Quite so. I argued that the launch must be no great way off, in spite of
its invisibility. I then put myself in the place of Small and looked at it as a
man of his capacity would. He would probably consider that to send back
the launch or to keep it at a wharf would make pursuit easy if the police
did happen to get on his track. How, then, could he conceal the launch
and yet have her at hand when wanted? I wondered what I should do
myself if I were in his shoes. I could only think of one way of doing it. I
might hand the launch over to some boat-builder or repairer, with
directions to make a trifling change in her. She would then be removed to
his shed or yard, and so be effectually concealed, while at the same time I
could have her at a few hours’ notice.”
“That seems simple enough.”
“It is just these very simple things which are extremely liable to be
overlooked. However, I determined to act on the idea. I started at once in
this harmless seaman’s rig and inquired at all the yards down the river. I
drew blank at fifteen, but at the sixteenth–Jacobson’s–I learned that the
Aurora had been handed over to them two days ago by a wooden-legged
man, with some trivial directions as to her rudder. ‘There ain’t naught
amiss with her rudder,’ said the foreman. ‘There she lies, with the red
streaks.’ At that moment who should come down but Mordecai Smith, the
missing owner. He was rather the worse for liquor. I should not, of
course, have known him, but he bellowed out his name and the name of
his launch. ‘I want her to-night at eight o’clock,’ said he–‘eight o’clock
sharp, mind, for I have two gentlemen who won’t be kept waiting.’ They
had evidently paid him well, for he was very flush of money, chucking
shillings about to the men. I followed him some distance, but he subsided
into an alehouse; so I went back to the yard, and, happening to pick up
one of my boys on the way, I stationed him as a sentry over the launch.
He is to stand at the water’s edge and wave his handkerchief to us when
they start. We shall be lying off in the stream, and it will be a strange
thing if we do not take men, treasure, and all.”
“You have planned it all very neatly, whether they are the right men or
not,” said Jones; “but if the affair were in my hands I should have had a
body of police in Jacobson’s Yard and arrested them when they came
“Which would have been never. This man Small is a pretty shrewd
fellow. He would send a scout on ahead, and if anything made him
suspicious he would lie snug for another week.”
“But you might have stuck to Mordecai Smith, and so been led to their
hiding-place,” said I.
“In that case I should have wasted my day. I think that it is a hundred to
one against Smith knowing where they live. As long as he has liquor and
good pay, [137] why should he ask questions? They send him messages
what to do. No, I thought over every possible course, and this is the best.”
While this conversation had been proceeding, we had been shooting the
long series of bridges which span the Thames. As we passed the City the
last rays of the sun were gilding the cross upon the summit of St. Paul’s.
It was twilight before we reached the Tower.
“That is Jacobson’s Yard,” said Holmes, pointing to a bristle of masts
and rigging on the Surrey side. “Cruise gently up and down here under
cover of this string of lighters.” He took a pair of night-glasses from his
pocket and gazed some time at the shore. “I see my sentry at his post,” he
remarked, “but no sign of a handkerchief.”
“Suppose we go downstream a short way and lie in wait for them,” said
Jones eagerly.
We were all eager by this time, even the policemen and stokers, who
had a very vague idea of what was going forward.
“We have no right to take anything for granted,” Holmes answered. “It
is certainly ten to one that they go downstream, but we cannot be certain.
From this point we can see the entrance of the yard, and they can hardly
see us. It will be a clear night and plenty of light. We must stay where we
are. See how the folk swarm over yonder in the gaslight.”
“They are coming from work in the yard.”
“Dirty-looking rascals, but I suppose every one has some little
immortal spark concealed about him. You would not think it, to look at
them. There is no a priori probability about it. A strange enigma is man!”
“Someone calls him a soul concealed in an animal,” I suggested.
“Winwood Reade is good upon the subject,” said Holmes. “He remarks
that, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he
becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell
what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an
average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain
constant. So says the statistician. But do I see a handkerchief? Surely
there is a white flutter over yonder.”
“Yes, it is your boy,” I cried. “I can see him plainly.”
“And there is the Aurora,” exclaimed Holmes, “and going like the
devil! Full speed ahead, engineer. Make after that launch with the yellow
light. By heaven, I shall never forgive myself if she proves to have the
heels of us!”
She had slipped unseen through the yard-entrance and passed between
two or three small craft, so that she had fairly got her speed up before we
saw her. Now she was flying down the stream, near in to the shore, going
at a tremendous rate. Jones looked gravely at her and shook his head.
“She is very fast,” he said. “I doubt if we shall catch her.”
“We must catch her!” cried Holmes between his teeth. “Heap it on,
stokers! Make her do all she can! If we burn the boat we must have them!”
We were fairly after her now. The furnaces roared, and the powerful
engines whizzed and clanked like a great metallic heart. Her sharp, steep
prow cut through the still river-water and sent two rolling waves to right
and to left of us. With every throb of the engines we sprang and quivered
like a living thing. One great yellow lantern in our bows threw a long,
flickering funnel of light in front of us. Right ahead a dark blur upon the
water showed where the Aurora lay, and the swirl of white foam behind
her spoke of the pace at which she was going. We flashed [138] past
barges, steamers, merchant-vessels, in and out, behind this one and round
the other. Voices hailed us out of the darkness, but still the Aurora
thundered on, and still we followed close upon her track.
“Pile it on, men, pile it on!” cried Holmes, looking down into the
engine-room, while the fierce glow from below beat upon his eager,
aquiline face. “Get every pound of steam you can.”
“I think we gain a little,” said Jones with his eyes on the Aurora.
“I am sure of it,” said I. “We shall be up with her in a very few
At that moment, however, as our evil fate would have it, a tug with
three barges in tow blundered in between us. It was only by putting our
helm hard down that we avoided a collision, and before we could round
them and recover our way the Aurora had gained a good two hundred
yards. She was still, however, well in view, and the murky, uncertain
twilight was settling into a clear, starlit night. Our boilers were strained to
their utmost, and the frail shell vibrated and creaked with the fierce
energy which was driving us along. We had shot through the pool, past
the West India Docks, down the long Deptford Reach, and up again after
rounding the Isle of Dogs. The dull blur in front of us resolved itself now
clearly into the dainty Aurora. Jones turned our searchlight upon her, so
that we could plainly see the figures upon her deck. One man sat by the
stern, with something black between his knees, over which he stooped.
Beside him lay a dark mass, which looked like a Newfoundland dog. The
boy held the tiller, while against the red glare of the furnace I could see
old Smith, stripped to the waist, and shovelling coals for dear life. They
may have had some doubt at first as to whether we were really pursuing
them, but now as we followed every winding and turning which they took
there could no longer be any question about it. At Greenwich we were
about three hundred paces behind them. At Blackwall we could not have
been more than two hundred and fifty. I have coursed many creatures in
many countries during my checkered career, but never did sport give me
such a wild thrill as this mad, flying man-hunt down the Thames. Steadily
we drew in upon them, yard by yard. In the silence of the night we could
hear the panting and clanking of their machinery. The man in the stern
still crouched upon the deck, and his arms were moving as though he
were busy, while every now and then he would look up and measure with
a glance the distance which still separated us. Nearer we came and nearer.
Jones yelled to them to stop. We were not more than four boat’s-lengths
behind them, both boats flying at a tremendous pace. It was a clear reach
of the river, with Barking Level upon one side and the melancholy
Plumstead Marshes upon the other. At our hail the man in the stern sprang
up from the deck and shook his two clenched fists at us, cursing the while
in a high, cracked voice. He was a good-sized, powerful man, and as he
stood poising himself with legs astride I could see that from the thigh
downward there was but a wooden stump upon the right side. At the
sound of his strident, angry cries, there was movement in the huddled
bundle upon the deck. It straightened itself into a little black man–the
smallest I have ever seen–with a great, misshapen head and a shock of
tangled, dishevelled hair. Holmes had already drawn his revolver, and I
whipped out mine at the sight of this savage, distorted creature. He was
wrapped in some sort of dark ulster or blanket, which left only his face
exposed, but that face was enough to give a man a sleepless night. Never
have I seen features so deeply marked with all bestiality and cruelty. His
small eyes glowed and burned with a sombre light, and his thick lips were
writhed back from his teeth, which grinned and chattered at us with half
animal fury.
[139] “Fire if he raises his hand,” said Holmes quietly.
We were within a boat’s-length by this time, and almost within touch of
our quarry. I can see the two of them now as they stood, the white man
with his legs far apart, shrieking out curses, and the unhallowed dwarf
with his hideous face, and his strong yellow teeth gnashing at us in the
light of our lantern.

It was well that we had so clear a view of him. Even as we looked he

plucked out from under his covering a short, round piece of wood, like a
school-ruler, and clapped it to his lips. Our pistols rang out together. He
whirled round, threw up his arms, and, with a kind of choking cough, fell
sideways into the stream. I caught one glimpse of his venomous,
menacing eyes amid the white swirl of the waters. At the same moment
the wooden-legged man threw himself upon the rudder and put it hard
down, so that his boat made straight in for the southern bank, while we
shot past her stern, only clearing her by a few feet. We were round after
her in an instant, but she was already nearly at the bank. It was a wild and
desolate place, where the moon glimmered upon a wide expanse of marsh-
land, with pools of stagnant water and beds of decaying vegetation. The
launch, with a dull thud, ran up upon the mud-bank, with her bow in the
air and her stern flush with the water. The fugitive sprang out, but his
stump instantly sank its whole length into the sodden soil. In vain he
struggled and writhed. Not one step could he possibly take either forward
or backward. He yelled in impotent rage and kicked frantically into the
mud with his other foot, but his struggles only bored his wooden pin the
deeper into the sticky bank. When we brought our launch alongside he
was so firmly anchored that it was only by throwing the end of a rope
over his shoulders that we were able to haul him out and to drag him, like
some evil fish, over our side. The two Smiths, father and son, sat sullenly
in their launch but came aboard meekly enough when commanded. The
Aurora herself we hauled off and made fast to our stern. A solid iron
chest of Indian workmanship stood upon the deck. This, there could be no
question, was the same that had contained the ill-omened treasure of the
Sholtos. There was no key, but it was of considerable weight, so we
transferred it carefully to our own little cabin. As we steamed slowly
upstream again, we flashed our searchlight in every direction, but there
was no sign of the Islander. Somewhere in the dark ooze at the bottom of
the Thames lie the bones of that strange visitor to our shores.
“See here,” said Holmes, pointing to the wooden hatchway. “We were
hardly quick enough with our pistols.” There, sure enough, just behind
where we had been standing, stuck one of those murderous darts which
we knew so well. It must have whizzed between us at the instant we fired.
Holmes smiled at it and shrugged his shoulders in his easy fashion, but I
confess that it turned me sick to think of the horrible death which had
passed so close to us that night.

Chapter 11
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 11


OUR captive sat in the cabin opposite to the iron box which he had done
so much and waited so long to gain. He was a sunburned reckless-eyed
fellow, with a network of lines and wrinkles all over his mahogany
features, which told of a hard, open-air life. There was a singular
prominence about his bearded chin which marked a man [140] who was
not to be easily turned from his purpose. His age may have been fifty or
thereabouts, for his black, curly hair was thickly shot with gray. His face
in repose was not an unpleasing one, though his heavy brows and
aggressive chin gave him, as I had lately seen, a terrible expression when
moved to anger. He sat now with his handcuffed hands upon his lap, and
his head sunk upon his breast, while he looked with his keen, twinkling
eyes at the box which had been the cause of his ill-doings. It seemed to
me that there was more sorrow than anger in his rigid and contained
countenance. Once he looked up at me with a gleam of something like
humour in his eyes.
“Well, Jonathan Small,” said Holmes, lighting a cigar, “I am sorry that
it has come to this.”
“And so am I, sir,” he answered frankly. “I don’t believe that I can
swing over the job. I give you my word on the book that I never raised
hand against Mr. Sholto. It was that little hell-hound, Tonga, who shot
one of his cursed darts into him. I had no part in it, sir. I was as grieved as
if it had been my blood-relation. I welted the little devil with the slack end
of the rope for it, but it was done, and I could not undo it again.”
“Have a cigar,” said Holmes; “and you had best take a pull out of my
flask, for you are very wet. How could you expect so small and weak a
man as this black fellow to overpower Mr. Sholto and hold him while you
were climbing the rope?”
“You seem to know as much about it as if you were there, sir. The truth
is that I hoped to find the room clear. I knew the habits of the house pretty
well, and it was the time when Mr. Sholto usually went down to his
supper. I shall make no secret of the business. The best defence that I can
make is just the simple truth. Now, if it had been the old major I would
have swung for him with a light heart. I would have thought no more of
knifing him than of smoking this cigar. But it’s cursed hard that I should
be lagged over this young Sholto, with whom I had no quarrel whatever.”
“You are under the charge of Mr. Athelney Jones, of Scotland Yard. He
is going to bring you up to my rooms, and I shall ask you for a true
account of the matter. You must make a clean breast of it, for if you do I
hope that I may be of use to you. I think I can prove that the poison acts
so quickly that the man was dead before ever you reached the room.”
“That he was, sir. I never got such a turn in my life as when I saw him
grinning at me with his head on his shoulder as I climbed through the
window. It fairly shook me, sir. I’d have half killed Tonga for it if he had
not scrambled off. That was how he came to leave his club, and some of
his darts too, as he tells me, which I dare say helped to put you on our
track; though how you kept on it is more than I can tell. I don’t feel no
malice against you for it. But it does seem a queer thing,” he added with a
bitter smile, “that I, who have a fair claim to half a million of money,
should spend the first half of my life building a breakwater in the
Andamans, and am like to spend the other half digging drains at
Dartmoor. It was an evil day for me when first I clapped eyes upon the
merchant Achmet and had to do with the Agra treasure, which never
brought anything but a curse yet upon the man who owned it. To him it
brought murder, to Major Sholto it brought fear and guilt, to me it has
meant slavery for life.”
At this moment Athelney Jones thrust his broad face and heavy
shoulders into the tiny cabin.
“Quite a family party,” he remarked. “I think I shall have a pull at that
flask, [141] Holmes. Well, I think we may all congratulate each other. Pity
we didn’t take the other alive, but there was no choice. I say, Holmes, you
must confess that you cut it rather fine. It was all we could do to overhaul
“All is well that ends well,” said Holmes. “But I certainly did not know
that the Aurora was such a clipper.”
“Smith says she is one of the fastest launches on the river, and that if he
had had another man to help him with the engines we should never have
caught her. He swears he knew nothing of this Norwood business.”
“Neither he did,” cried our prisoner–“not a word. I chose his launch
because I heard that she was a flier. We told him nothing; but we paid
him well, and he was to get something handsome if we reached our
vessel, the Esmeralda, at Gravesend, outward bound for the Brazils.”
“Well, if he has done no wrong we shall see that no wrong comes to
him. If we are pretty quick in catching our men, we are not so quick in
condemning them.” It was amusing to notice how the consequential Jones
was already beginning to give himself airs on the strength of the capture.
From the slight smile which played over Sherlock Holmes’s face, I could
see that the speech had not been lost upon him.
“We will be at Vauxhall Bridge presently,” said Jones, “and shall land
you, Dr. Watson, with the treasure-box. I need hardly tell you that I am
taking a very grave responsibility upon myself in doing this. It is most
irregular, but of course an agreement is an agreement. I must, however, as
a matter of duty, send an inspector with you, since you have so valuable a
charge. You will drive, no doubt?”
“Yes, I shall drive.”
“It is a pity there is no key, that we may make an inventory first. You
will have to break it open. Where is the key, my man?”
“At the bottom of the river,” said Small shortly.
“Hum! There was no use your giving this unnecessary trouble. We
have had work enough already through you. However, Doctor, I need not
warn you to be careful. Bring the box back with you to the Baker Street
rooms. You will find us there, on our way to the station.”
They landed me at Vauxhall, with my heavy iron box, and with a bluff,
genial inspector as my companion. A quarter of an hour’s drive brought
us to Mrs. Cecil Forrester’s. The servant seemed surprised at so late a
visitor. Mrs. Cecil Forrester was out for the evening, she explained, and
likely to be very late. Miss Morstan, however, was in the drawing-room;
so to the drawing-room I went, box in hand, leaving the obliging
inspector in the cab.
She was seated by the open window, dressed in some sort of white
diaphanous material, with a little touch of scarlet at the neck and waist.
The soft light of a shaded lamp fell upon her as she leaned back in the
basket chair, playing over her sweet grave face, and tinting with a dull,
metallic sparkle the rich coils of her luxuriant hair. One white arm and
hand drooped over the side of the chair, and her whole pose and figure
spoke of an absorbing melancholy. At the sound of my footfall she sprang
to her feet, however, and a bright flush of surprise and of pleasure
coloured her pale cheeks.
“I heard a cab drive up,” she said. “I thought that Mrs. Forrester had
come back very early, but I never dreamed that it might be you. What
news have you brought me?”
“I have brought something better than news,” said I, putting down the
box upon the table and speaking jovially and boisterously, though my
heart was heavy [142] within me. “I have brought you something which is
worth all the news in the world. I have brought you a fortune.”
She glanced at the iron box.
“Is that the treasure then?” she asked, coolly enough.
“Yes, this is the great Agra treasure. Half of it is yours and half is
Thaddeus Sholto’s. You will have a couple of hundred thousand each.
Think of that! An annuity of ten thousand pounds. There will be few
richer young ladies in England. Is it not glorious?”
I think I must have been rather over-acting my delight, and that she
detected a hollow ring in my congratulations, for I saw her eyebrows rise
a little, and she glanced at me curiously.
“If I have it,” said she, “I owe it to you.”
“No, no,” I answered, “not to me but to my friend Sherlock Holmes.
With all the will in the world, I could never have followed up a clue
which has taxed even his analytical genius. As it was, we very nearly lost
it at the last moment.”
“Pray sit down and tell me all about it, Dr. Watson,” said she.
I narrated briefly what had occurred since I had seen her last. Holmes’s
new method of search, the discovery of the Aurora, the appearance of
Athelney Jones, our expedition in the evening, and the wild chase down
the Thames. She listened with parted lips and shining eyes to my recital
of our adventures. When I spoke of the dart which had so narrowly
missed us, she turned so white that I feared that she was about to faint.
“It is nothing,” she said as I hastened to pour her out some water. “I am
all right again. It was a shock to me to hear that I had placed my friends in
such horrible peril.”
“That is all over,” I answered. “It was nothing. I will tell you no more
gloomy details. Let us turn to something brighter. There is the treasure.
What could be brighter than that? I got leave to bring it with me, thinking
that it would interest you to be the first to see it.”
“It would be of the greatest interest to me,” she said. There was no
eagerness in her voice, however. It had struck her, doubtless, that it might
seem ungracious upon her part to be indifferent to a prize which had cost
so much to win.
“What a pretty box!” she said, stooping over it. “This is Indian work, I
“Yes; it is Benares metal-work.”
“And so heavy!” she exclaimed, trying to raise it. “The box alone must
be of some value. Where is the key?”
“Small threw it into the Thames,” I answered. “I must borrow Mrs.
Forrester’s poker.”
There was in the front a thick and broad hasp, wrought in the image of
a sitting Buddha. Under this I thrust the end of the poker and twisted it
outward as a lever. The hasp sprang open with a loud snap. With
trembling fingers I flung back the lid. We both stood gazing in
astonishment. The box was empty!
No wonder that it was heavy. The ironwork was two-thirds of an inch
thick all round. It was massive, well made, and solid, like a chest
constructed to carry things of great price, but not one shred or crumb of
metal or jewellery lay within it. It was absolutely and completely empty.
“The treasure is lost,” said Miss Morstan calmly.
As I listened to the words and realized what they meant, a great shadow
seemed to pass from my soul. I did not know how this Agra treasure had
weighed me down [143] until now that it was finally removed. It was
selfish, no doubt, disloyal, wrong, but I could realize nothing save that the
golden barrier was gone from between us.
“Thank God!” I ejaculated from my very heart.
She looked at me with a quick, questioning smile.
“Why do you say that?” she asked.
“Because you are within my reach again,” I said, taking her hand. She
did not withdraw it. “Because I love you, Mary, as truly as ever a man
loved a woman. Because this treasure, these riches, sealed my lips. Now
that they are gone I can tell you how I love you. That is why I said,
‘Thank God.’”

“Then I say ‘Thank God,’ too,” she whispered as I drew her to my side.
Whoever had lost a treasure, I knew that night that I had gained one.

Chapter 12
David Soucek, 1998
The Sign of Four

Chapter 12



A VERY patient man was that inspector in the cab, for it was a weary time
before I rejoined him. His face clouded over when I showed him the
empty box.
“There goes the reward!” said he gloomily. “Where there is no money
there is no pay. This night’s work would have been worth a tenner each to
Sam Brown and me if the treasure had been there.”
“Mr. Thaddeus Sholto is a rich man,” I said; “he will see that you are
rewarded, treasure or no.”
The inspector shook his head despondently, however.
“It’s a bad job,” he repeated; “and so Mr. Athelney Jones will think.”
His forecast proved to be correct, for the detective looked blank enough
when I got to Baker Street and showed him the empty box. They had only
just arrived, Holmes, the prisoner, and he, for they had changed their
plans so far as to report themselves at a station upon the way. My
companion lounged in his armchair with his usual listless expression,
while Small sat stolidly opposite to him with his wooden leg cocked over
his sound one. As I exhibited the empty box he leaned back in his chair
and laughed aloud.
“This is your doing, Small,” said Athelney Jones angrily.
“Yes, I have put it away where you shall never lay hand upon it,” he
cried exultantly. “It is my treasure, and if I can’t have the loot I’ll take
darned good care that no one else does. I tell you that no living man has
any right to it, unless it is three men who are in the Andaman convict-
barracks and myself. I know now that I cannot have the use of it, and I
know that they cannot. I have acted all through for them as much as for
myself. It’s been the sign of four with us always. Well, I know that they
would have had me do just what I have done, and throw the treasure into
the Thames rather than let it go to kith or kin of Sholto or Morstan. It was
not to make them rich that we did for Achmet. You’ll find the treasure
where the key is and where little Tonga is. When I saw that your launch
must catch us, I put the loot away in a safe place. There are no rupees for
you this journey.”
“You are deceiving us, Small,” said Athelney Jones sternly; “if you had
wished [144] to throw the treasure into the Thames, it would have been
easier for you to have thrown box and all.”
“Easier for me to throw and easier for you to recover,” he answered
with a shrewd, side-long look. “The man that was clever enough to hunt
me down is clever enough to pick an iron box from the bottom of a river.
Now that they are scattered over five miles or so, it may be a harder job.
It went to my heart to do it though. I was half mad when you came up
with us. However, there’s no good grieving over it. I’ve had ups in my
life, and I’ve had downs, but I’ve learned not to cry over spilled milk.”
“This is a very serious matter, Small,” said the detective. “If you had
helped justice, instead of thwarting it in this way, you would have had a
better chance at your trial.”
“Justice!” snarled the ex-convict. “A pretty justice! Whose loot is this,
if it is not ours? Where is the justice that I should give it up to those who
have never earned it? Look how I have earned it! Twenty long years in
that fever-ridden swamp, all day at work under the mangrove-tree, all
night chained up in the filthy convict-huts, bitten by mosquitoes, racked
with ague, bullied by every cursed black-faced policeman who loved to
take it out of a white man. That was how I earned the Agra treasure, and
you talk to me of justice because I cannot bear to feel that I have paid this
price only that another may enjoy it! I would rather swing a score of
times, or have one of Tonga’s darts in my hide, than live in a convict’s
cell and feel that another man is at his ease in a palace with the money
that should be mine.”
Small had dropped his mask of stoicism, and all this came out in a wild
whirl of words, while his eyes blazed, and the handcuffs clanked together
with the impassioned movement of his hands. I could understand, as I saw
the fury and the passion of the man, that it was no groundless or unnatural
terror which had possessed Major Sholto when he first learned that the
injured convict was upon his track.
“You forget that we know nothing of all this,” said Holmes quietly.
“We have not heard your story, and we cannot tell how far justice may
originally have been on your side.”
“Well, sir, you have been very fair-spoken to me, though I can see that
I have you to thank that I have these bracelets upon my wrists. Still, I bear
no grudge for that. It is all fair and above-board. If you want to hear my
story, I have no wish to hold it back. What I say to you is God’s truth,
every word of it. Thank you, you can put the glass beside me here, and
I’ll put my lips to it if I am dry.
“I am a Worcestershire man myself, born near Pershore. I dare say you
would find a heap of Smalls living there now if you were to look. I have
often thought of taking a look round there, but the truth is that I was never
much of a credit to the family, and I doubt if they would be so very glad
to see me. They were all steady, chapel-going folk, small farmers, well
known and respected over the countryside, while I was always a bit of a
rover. At last, however, when I was about eighteen, I gave them no more
trouble, for I got into a mess over a girl and could only get out of it again
by taking the Queen’s shilling and joining the Third Buffs, which was just
starting for India.
“I wasn’t destined to do much soldiering, however. I had just got past
the goose-step and learned to handle my musket, when I was fool enough
to go swimming in the Ganges. Luckily for me, my company sergeant,
John Holder, was in [145] the water at the same time, and he was one of
the finest swimmers in the service. A crocodile took me just as I was
halfway across and nipped off my right leg as clean as a surgeon could
have done it, just above the knee. What with the shock and the loss of
blood, I fainted, and should have been drowned if Holder had not caught
hold of me and paddled for the bank. I was five months in hospital over it,
and when at last I was able to limp out of it with this timber toe strapped
to my stump, I found myself invalided out of the Army and unfitted for
any active occupation.
“I was, as you can imagine, pretty down on my luck at this time, for I
was a useless cripple, though not yet in my twentieth year. However, my
misfortune soon proved to be a blessing in disguise. A man named Abel
White, who had come out there as an indigo-planter, wanted an overseer
to look after his coolies and keep them up to their work. He happened to
be a friend of our colonel’s, who had taken an interest in me since the
accident. To make a long story short, the colonel recommended me
strongly for the post, and, as the work was mostly to be done on
horseback, my leg was no great obstacle, for I had enough thigh left to
keep a good grip on the saddle. What I had to do was to ride over the
plantation, to keep an eye on the men as they worked, and to report the
idlers. The pay was fair, I had comfortable quarters, and altogether I was
content to spend the remainder of my life in indigo-planting. Mr. Abel
White was a kind man, and he would often drop into my little shanty and
smoke a pipe with me, for white folk out there feel their hearts warm to
each other as they never do here at home.
“Well, I was never in luck’s way long. Suddenly, without a note of
warning, the great mutiny broke upon us. One month India lay as still and
peaceful, to all appearance, as Surrey or Kent; the next there were two
hundred thousand black devils let loose, and the country was a perfect
hell. Of course you know all about it, gentlemen–a deal more than I do,
very like, since reading is not in my line. I only know what I saw with my
own eyes. Our plantation was at a place called Muttra, near the border of
the Northwest Provinces. Night after night the whole sky was alight with
the burning bungalows, and day after day we had small companies of
Europeans passing through our estate with their wives and children, on
their way to Agra, where were the nearest troops. Mr. Abel White was an
obstinate man. He had it in his head that the affair had been exaggerated,
and that it would blow over as suddenly as it had sprung up. There he sat
on his veranda, drinking whisky-pegs and smoking cheroots, while the
country was in a blaze about him. Of course we stuck by him, I and
Dawson, who, with his wife, used to do the book-work and the managing.
Well, one fine day the crash came. I had been away on a distant plantation
and was riding slowly home in the evening, when my eye fell upon
something all huddled together at the bottom of a steep nullah. I rode
down to see what it was, and the cold struck through my heart when I
found it was Dawson’s wife, all cut into ribbons, and half eaten by jackals
and native dogs. A little further up the road Dawson himself was lying on
his face, quite dead, with an empty revolver in his hand, and four sepoys
lying across each other in front of him. I reined up my horse, wondering
which way I should turn; but at that moment I saw thick smoke curling up
from Abel White’s bungalow and the flames beginning to burst through
the roof. I knew then that I could do my employer no good, but would
only throw my own life away if I meddled in the matter. From where I
stood I could see hundreds of the black fiends, with their [146] red coats
still on their backs, dancing and howling round the burning house. Some
of them pointed at me, and a couple of bullets sang past my head: so I
broke away across the paddy-fields, and found myself late at night safe
within the walls at Agra.

“As it proved, however, there was no great safety there, either. The
whole country was up like a swarm of bees. Wherever the English could
collect in little bands they held just the ground that their guns
commanded. Everywhere else they were helpless fugitives. It was a fight
of the millions against the hundreds; and the cruellest part of it was that
these men that we fought against, foot, horse, and gunners, were our own
picked troops, whom we had taught and trained, handling our own
weapons and blowing our own bugle-calls. At Agra there were the Third
Bengal Fusiliers, some Sikhs, two troops of horse, and a battery of
artillery. A volunteer corps of clerks and merchants had been formed, and
this I joined, wooden leg and all. We went out to meet the rebels at
Shahgunge early in July, and we beat them back for a time, but our
powder gave out, and we had to fall back upon the city.
“Nothing but the worst news came to us from every side–which is not
to be wondered at, for if you look at the map you will see that we were
right in the heart of it. Lucknow is rather better than a hundred miles to
the east, and Cawnpore about as far to the south. From every point on the
compass there was nothing but torture and murder and outrage.
“The city of Agra is a great place, swarming with fanatics and fierce
devil-worshippers of all sorts. Our handful of men were lost among the
narrow, winding streets. Our leader moved across the river, therefore, and
took up his position in the old fort of Agra. I don’t know if any of you
gentlemen have ever read or heard anything of that old fort. It is a very
queer place–the queerest that ever I was in, and I have been in some rum
corners, too. First of all it is enormous in size. I should think that the
enclosure must be acres and acres. There is a modern part, which took all
our garrison, women, children, stores, and everything else, with plenty of
room over. But the modern part is nothing like the size of the old quarter,
where nobody goes, and which is given over to the scorpions and the
centipedes. It is all full of great deserted halls, and winding passages, and
long corridors twisting in and out, so that it is easy enough for folk to get
lost in it. For this reason it was seldom that anyone went into it, though
now and again a party with torches might go exploring.
“The river washes along the front of the old fort, and so protects it, but
on the sides and behind there are many doors, and these had to be
guarded, of course, in the old quarter as well as in that which was actually
held by our troops. We were short-handed, with hardly men enough to
man the angles of the building and to serve the guns. It was impossible for
us, therefore, to station a strong guard at every one of the innumerable
gates. What we did was to organize a central guard-house in the middle of
the fort, and to leave each gate under the charge of one white man and
two or three natives. I was selected to take charge during certain hours of
the night of a small isolated door upon the south-west side of the building.
Two Sikh troopers were placed under my command, and I was instructed
if anything went wrong to fire my musket, when I might rely upon help
coming at once from the central guard. As the guard was a good two
hundred paces away, however, and as the space between was cut up into a
labyrinth of passages and corridors, I had great doubts as to whether they
could arrive in time to be of any use in case of an actual attack.
[147] “Well, I was pretty proud at having this small command given me,
since I was a raw recruit, and a game-legged one at that. For two nights I
kept the watch with my Punjabees. They were tall, fierce-looking chaps,
Mahomet Singh and Abdullah Khan by name, both old fighting men, who
had borne arms against us at Chilian Wallah. They could talk English
pretty well, but I could get little out of them. They preferred to stand
together, and jabber all night in their queer Sikh lingo. For myself, I used
to stand outside the gateway, looking down on the broad, winding river
and on the twinkling lights of the great city. The beating of drums, the
rattle of tomtoms, and the yells and howls of the rebels, drunk with opium
and with bang, were enough to remind us all night of our dangerous
neighbours across the stream. Every two hours the officer of the night
used to come round to all the posts to make sure that all was well.
“The third night of my watch was dark and dirty, with a small driving
rain. It was dreary work standing in the gateway hour after hour in such
weather. I tried again and again to make my Sikhs talk, but without much
success. At two in the morning the rounds passed and broke for a moment
the weariness of the night. Finding that my companions would not be led
into conversation, I took out my pipe and laid down my musket to strike
the match. In an instant the two Sikhs were upon me. One of them
snatched my firelock up and levelled it at my head, while the other held a
great knife to my throat and swore between his teeth that he would plunge
it into me if I moved a step.

“My first thought was that these fellows were in league with the rebels,
and that this was the beginning of an assault. If our door were in the
hands of the sepoys the place must fall, and the women and children be
treated as they were in Cawnpore. Maybe you gentlemen think that I am
just making out a case for myself, but I give you my word that when I
thought of that, though I felt the point of the knife at my throat, I opened
my mouth with the intention of giving a scream, if it was my last one,
which might alarm the main guard. The man who held me seemed to
know my thoughts; for, even as I braced myself to it, he whispered:
‘Don’t make a noise. The fort is safe enough. There are no rebel dogs on
this side of the river.’ There was the ring of truth in what he said, and I
knew that if I raised my voice I was a dead man. I could read it in the
fellow’s brown eyes. I waited, therefore, in silence, to see what it was that
they wanted from me.
“‘Listen to me, sahib,’ said the taller and fiercer of the pair, the one
whom they called Abdullah Khan. ‘You must either be with us now, or
you must be silenced forever. The thing is too great a one for us to
hesitate. Either you are heart and soul with us on your oath on the cross of
the Christians, or your body this night shall be thrown into the ditch, and
we shall pass over to our brothers in the rebel army. There is no middle
way. Which is it to be–death or life? We can only give you three minutes
to decide, for the time is passing, and all must be done before the rounds
come again.’
“‘How can I decide?’ said I. ‘You have not told me what you want of
me. But I tell you now that if it is anything against the safety of the fort I
will have no truck with it, so you can drive home your knife and
“‘It is nothing against the fort,’ said he. ‘We only ask you to do that
which your countrymen come to this land for. We ask you to be rich. If
you will be one of us this night, we will swear to you upon the naked
knife, and by the threefold oath which no Sikh was ever known to break,
that you shall have your fair share of the loot. A quarter of the treasure
shall be yours. We can say no fairer.’
[148] “‘But what is the treasure then?’ I asked. ‘I am as ready to be rich
as you can be if you will but show me how it can be done.’
“‘You will swear, then,’ said he, ‘by the bones of your father, by the
honour of your mother, by the cross of your faith, to raise no hand and
speak no word against us, either now or afterwards?’
“‘I will swear it,’ I answered, ‘provided that the fort is not endangered.’
“‘Then my comrade and I will swear that you shall have a quarter of
the treasure which shall be equally divided among the four of us.’
“‘There are but three,’ said I.
“‘No; Dost Akbar must have his share. We can tell the tale to you while
we wait them. Do you stand at the gate, Mahomet Singh, and give notice
of their coming. The thing stands thus, sahib, and I tell it to you because I
know that an oath is binding upon a Feringhee, and that we may trust you.
Had you been a lying Hindoo, though you had sworn by all the gods in
their false temples, your blood would have been upon the knife and your
body in the water. But the Sikh knows the Englishman, and the
Englishman knows the Sikh. Hearken, then, to what I have to say.
“‘There is a rajah in the northern provinces who has much wealth,
though his lands are small. Much has come to him from his father, and
more still he has set by himself, for he is of a low nature and hoards his
gold rather than spend it. When the troubles broke out he would be
friends both with the lion and the tiger–with the sepoy and with the
Company’s raj. Soon, however, it seemed to him that the white men’s day
was come, for through all the land he could hear of nothing but of their
death and their overthrow. Yet, being a careful man, he made such plans
that, come what might, half at least of his treasure should be left to him.
That which was in gold and silver he kept by him in the vaults of his
palace, but the most precious stones and the choicest pearls that he had he
put in an iron box and sent it by a trusty servant, who, under the guise of a
merchant, should take it to the fort at Agra, there to lie until the land is at
peace. Thus, if the rebels won he would have his money, but if the
Company conquered, his jewels would be saved to him. Having thus
divided his hoard, he threw himself into the cause of the sepoys, since
they were strong upon his borders. By his doing this, mark you, sahib, his
property becomes the due of those who have been true to their salt.
“‘This pretended merchant, who travels under the name of Achmet, is
now in the city of Agra and desires to gain his way into the fort. He has
with him as travelling-companion my foster-brother Dost Akbar, who
knows his secret. Dost Akbar has promised this night to lead him to a side-
postern of the fort, and has chosen this one for his purpose. Here he will
come presently, and here he will find Mahomet Singh and myself
awaiting him. The place is lonely, and none shall know of his coming.
The world shall know the merchant Achmet no more, but the great
treasure of the rajah shall be divided among us. What say you to it, sahib?’
“In Worcestershire the life of a man seems a great and a sacred thing;
but it is very different when there is fire and blood all round you, and you
have been used to meeting death at every turn. Whether Achmet the
merchant lived or died was a thing as light as air to me, but at the talk
about the treasure my heart turned to it, and I thought of what I might do
in the old country with it, and how my folk would stare when they saw
their ne’er-do-well coming back with his pockets full of gold moidores. I
had, therefore, already made up my mind. [149] Abdullah Khan, however,
thinking that I hesitated, pressed the matter more closely.
“‘Consider, sahib,’ said he, ‘that if this man is taken by the
commandant he will be hung or shot, and his jewels taken by the
government, so that no man will be a rupee the better for them. Now,
since we do the taking of him, why should we not do the rest as well? The
jewels will be as well with us as in the Company’s coffers. There will be
enough to make every one of us rich men and great chiefs. No one can
know about the matter, for here we are cut off from all men. What could
be better for the purpose? Say again, then, sahib, whether you are with us,
or if we must look upon you as an enemy.’
“‘I am with you heart and soul,’ said I.
“‘It is well,’ he answered, handing me back my firelock. ‘You see that
we trust you, for your word, like ours, is not to be broken. We have now
only to wait for my brother and the merchant.’
“‘Does your brother know, then, of what you will do?’ I asked.
“‘The plan is his. He has devised it. We will go to the gate and share
the watch with Mahomet Singh.’
“The rain was still falling steadily, for it was just the beginning of the
wet season. Brown, heavy clouds were drifting across the sky, and it was
hard to see more than a stonecast. A deep moat lay in front of our door,
but the water was in places nearly dried up, and it could easily be crossed.
It was strange to me to be standing there with those two wild Punjabees
waiting for the man who was coming to his death.
“Suddenly my eye caught the glint of a shaded lantern at the other side
of the moat. It vanished among the mound-heaps, and then appeared again
coming slowly in our direction.
“‘Here they are!’ I exclaimed.
“‘You will challenge him, sahib, as usual,’ whispered Abdullah. ‘Give
him no cause for fear. Send us in with him, and we shall do the rest while
you stay here on guard. Have the lantern ready to uncover, that we may
be sure that it is indeed the man.’
“The light had flickered onward, now stopping and now advancing,
until I could see two dark figures upon the other side of the moat. I let
them scramble down the sloping bank, splash through the mire, and climb
halfway up to the gate before I challenged them.
“‘Who goes there?’ said I in a subdued voice.
“‘Friends,’ came the answer. I uncovered my lantern and threw a flood
of light upon them. The first was an enormous Sikh with a black beard
which swept nearly down to his cummerbund. Outside of a show I have
never seen so tall a man. The other was a little fat, round fellow with a
great yellow turban and a bundle in his hand, done up in a shawl. He
seemed to be all in a quiver with fear, for his hands twitched as if he had
the ague, and his head kept turning to left and right with two bright little
twinkling eyes, like a mouse when he ventures out from his hole. It gave
me the chills to think of killing him, but I thought of the treasure, and my
heart set as hard as a flint within me. When he saw my white face he gave
a little chirrup of joy and came running up towards me.
“‘Your protection, sahib,’ he panted, ‘your protection for the unhappy
merchant Achmet. I have travelled across Rajpootana, that I might seek
the shelter of the fort at Agra. I have been robbed and beaten and abused
because I have been the [150] friend of the Company. It is a blessed night
this when I am once more in safety–I and my poor possessions.’
“‘What have you in the bundle?’ I asked.
“‘An iron box,’ he answered, ‘which contains one or two little family
matters which are of no value to others but which I should be sorry to
lose. Yet I am not a beggar; and I shall reward you, young sahib, and your
governor also if he will give me the shelter I ask.’
“I could not trust myself to speak longer with the man. The more I
looked at his fat, frightened face, the harder did it seem that we should
slay him in cold blood. It was best to get it over.
“‘Take him to the main guard,’ said I. The two Sikhs closed in upon
him on each side, and the giant walked behind, while they marched in
through the dark gateway. Never was a man so compassed round with
death. I remained at the gateway with the lantern.
“I could hear the measured tramp of their footsteps sounding through
the lonely corridors. Suddenly it ceased, and I heard voices and a scuffle,
with the sound of blows. A moment later there came, to my horror, a rush
of footsteps coming in my direction, with a loud breathing of a running
man. I turned my lantern down the long straight passage, and there was
the fat man, running like the wind, with a smear of blood across his face,
and close at his heels, bounding like a tiger, the great black-bearded Sikh,
with a knife flashing in his hand. I have never seen a man run so fast as
that little merchant. He was gaining on the Sikh, and I could see that if he
once passed me and got to the open air he would save himself yet. My
heart softened to him, but again the thought of his treasure turned me hard
and bitter. I cast my firelock between his legs as he raced past, and he
rolled twice over like a shot rabbit. Ere he could stagger to his feet the
Sikh was upon him and buried his knife twice in his side. The man never
uttered moan nor moved muscle but lay where he had fallen. I think
myself that he may have broken his neck with the fall. You see,
gentlemen, that I am keeping my promise. I am telling you every word of
the business just exactly as it happened, whether it is in my favour or not.”
He stopped and held out his manacled hands for the whisky and water
which Holmes had brewed for him. For myself, I confess that I had now
conceived the utmost horror of the man not only for this cold-blooded
business in which he had been concerned but even more for the somewhat
flippant and careless way in which he narrated it. Whatever punishment
was in store for him, I felt that he might expect no sympathy from me.
Sherlock Holmes and Jones sat with their hands upon their knees, deeply
interested in the story but with the same disgust written upon their faces.
He may have observed it, for there was a touch of defiance in his voice
and manner as he proceeded.
“It was all very bad, no doubt,” said he. “I should like to know how
many fellows in my shoes would have refused a share of this loot when
they knew that they would have their throats cut for their pains. Besides,
it was my life or his when once he was in the fort. If he had got out, the
whole business would come to light, and I should have been court-
martialled and shot as likely as not; for people were not very lenient at a
time like that.”
“Go on with your story,” said Holmes shortly.
“Well, we carried him in, Abdullah, Akbar, and I. A fine weight he
was, too, for all that he was so short. Mahomet Singh was left to guard the
door. We took [151] him to a place which the Sikhs had already prepared.
It was some distance off, where a winding passage leads to a great empty
hall, the brick walls of which were all crumbling to pieces. The earth floor
had sunk in at one place, making a natural grave, so we left Achmet the
merchant there, having first covered him over with loose bricks. This
done, we all went back to the treasure.
“It lay where he had dropped it when he was first attacked. The box
was the same which now lies open upon your table. A key was hung by a
silken cord to that carved handle upon the top. We opened it, and the light
of the lantern gleamed upon a collection of gems such as I have read of
and thought about when I was a little lad at Pershore. It was blinding to
look upon them. When we had feasted our eyes we took them all out and
made a list of them. There were one hundred and forty-three diamonds of
the first water, including one which has been called, I believe, ‘the Great
Mogul,’ and is said to be the second largest stone in existence. Then there
were ninety-seven very fine emeralds, and one hundred and seventy
rubies, some of which, however, were small. There were forty carbuncles,
two hundred and ten sapphires, sixty-one agates, and a great quantity of
beryls, onyxes, cats’-eyes, turquoises, and other stones, the very names of
which I did not know at the time, though I have become more familiar
with them since. Besides this, there were nearly three hundred very fine
pearls, twelve of which were set in a gold coronet. By the way, these last
had been taken out of the chest, and were not there when I recovered it.
“After we had counted our treasures we put them back into the chest
and carried them to the gateway to show them to Mahomet Singh. Then
we solemnly renewed our oath to stand by each other and be true to our
secret. We agreed to conceal our loot in a safe place until the country
should be at peace again, and then to divide it equally among ourselves.
There was no use dividing it at present, for if gems of such value were
found upon us it would cause suspicion, and there was no privacy in the
fort nor any place where we could keep them. We carried the box,
therefore, into the same hall where we had buried the body, and there,
under certain bricks in the best-preserved wall, we made a hollow and put
our treasure. We made careful note of the place, and next day I drew four
plans, one for each of us, and put the sign of the four of us at the bottom,
for we had sworn that we should each always act for all, so that none
might take advantage. That is an oath that I can put my hand to my heart
and swear that I have never broken.
“Well, there’s no use my telling you gentlemen what came of the
Indian mutiny. After Wilson took Delhi and Sir Colin relieved Lucknow
the back of the business was broken. Fresh troops came pouring in, and
Nana Sahib made himself scarce over the frontier. A flying column under
Colonel Greathed came round to Agra and cleared the Pandies away from
it. Peace seemed to be settling upon the country, and we four were
beginning to hope that the time was at hand when we might safely go off
with our shares of the plunder. In a moment, however, our hopes were
shattered by our being arrested as the murderers of Achmet.
“It came about in this way. When the rajah put his jewels into the hands
of Achmet he did it because he knew that he was a trusty man. They are
suspicious folk in the East, however: so what does this rajah do but take a
second even more trusty servant and set him to play the spy upon the first.
This second man was ordered never to let Achmet out of his sight, and he
followed him like his shadow. He went after him that night and saw him
pass through the doorway. Of course [152] he thought he had taken refuge
in the fort and applied for admission there himself next day, but could
find no trace of Achmet. This seemed to him so strange that he spoke
about it to a sergeant of guides, who brought it to the ears of the
commandant. A thorough search was quickly made, and the body was
discovered. Thus at the very moment that we thought that all was safe we
were all four seized and brought to trial on a charge of murder –three of
us because we had held the gate that night, and the fourth because he was
known to have been in the company of the murdered man. Not a word
about the jewels came out at the trial, for the rajah had been deposed and
driven out of India: so no one had any particular interest in them. The
murder, however, was clearly made out, and it was certain that we must
all have been concerned in it. The three Sikhs got penal servitude for life,
and I was condemned to death, though my sentence was afterwards
commuted to the same as the others.
“It was rather a queer position that we found ourselves in then. There
we were all four tied by the leg and with precious little chance of ever
getting out again, while we each held a secret which might have put each
of us in a palace if we could only have made use of it. It was enough to
make a man eat his heart out to have to stand the kick and the cuff of
every petty jack-in-office, to have rice to eat and water to drink, when that
gorgeous fortune was ready for him outside, just waiting to be picked up.
It might have driven me mad; but I was always a pretty stubborn one, so I
just held on and bided my time.
“At last it seemed to me to have come. I was changed from Agra to
Madras, and from there to Blair Island in the Andamans. There are very
few white convicts at this settlement, and, as I had behaved well from the
first, I soon found myself a sort of privileged person. I was given a hut in
Hope Town, which is a small place on the slopes of Mount Harriet, and I
was left pretty much to myself. It is a dreary, fever-stricken place, and all
beyond our little clearings was infested with wild cannibal natives, who
were ready enough to blow a poisoned dart at us if they saw a chance.
There was digging and ditching and yam-planting, and a dozen other
things to be done, so we were busy enough all day; though in the evening
we had a little time to ourselves. Among other things, I learned to
dispense drugs for the surgeon, and picked up a smattering of his
knowledge. All the time I was on the lookout for a chance to escape; but
it is hundreds of miles from any other land, and there is little or no wind
in those seas: so it was a terribly difficult job to get away.
“The surgeon, Dr. Somerton, was a fast, sporting young chap, and the
other young officers would meet in his rooms of an evening and play
cards. The surgery, where I used to make up my drugs, was next to his
sitting-room, with a small window between us. Often, if I felt lonesome, I
used to turn out the lamp in the surgery, and then, standing there, I could
hear their talk and watch their play. I am fond of a hand at cards myself,
and it was almost as good as having one to watch the others. There was
Major Sholto, Captain Morstan, and Lieutenant Bromley Brown, who
were in command of the native troops, and there was the surgeon himself,
and two or three prison-officials, crafty old hands who played a nice sly
safe game. A very snug little party they used to make.
“Well, there was one thing which very soon struck me, and that was
that the soldiers used always to lose and the civilians to win. Mind, I
don’t say there was anything unfair, but so it was. These prison-chaps had
done little else than play cards ever since they had been at the Andamans,
and they knew each other’s [153] game to a point, while the others just
played to pass the time and threw their cards down anyhow. Night after
night the soldiers got up poorer men, and the poorer they got the more
keen they were to play. Major Sholto was the hardest hit. He used to pay
in notes and gold at first, but soon it came to notes of hand and for big
sums. He sometimes would win for a few deals just to give him heart, and
then the luck would set in against him worse than ever. All day he would
wander about as black as thunder, and he took to drinking a deal more
than was good for him.
“One night he lost even more heavily than usual. I was sitting in my hut
when he and Captain Morstan came stumbling along on the way to their
quarters. They were bosom friends, those two, and never far apart. The
major was raving about his losses.
“‘It’s all up, Morstan,’ he was saying as they passed my hut. ‘I shall
have to send in my papers. I am a ruined man.’
“‘Nonsense, old chap!’ said the other, slapping him upon the shoulder.
‘I’ve had a nasty facer myself, but– –’ That was all I could hear, but it
was enough to set me thinking.
“A couple of days later Major Sholto was strolling on the beach: so I
took the chance of speaking to him.
“‘I wish to have your advice, Major,’ said I.
“‘Well, Small, what is it?’ he asked, taking his cheroot from his lips.
“‘I wanted to ask you, sir,’ said I, ‘who is the proper person to whom
hidden treasure should be handed over. I know where half a million worth
lies, and, as I cannot use it myself, I thought perhaps the best thing that I
could do would be to hand it over to the proper authorities, and then
perhaps they would get my sentence shortened for me.’
“‘Half a million, Small?’ he gasped, looking hard at me to see if I was
in earnest.
“‘Quite that, sir–in jewels and pearls. It lies there ready for anyone.
And the queer thing about it is that the real owner is outlawed and cannot
hold property, so that it belongs to the first comer.’
“‘To government, Small,’ he stammered, ‘to government.’ But he said
it in a halting fashion, and I knew in my heart that I had got him.
“‘You think, then, sir, that I should give the information to the
governor-general?’ said I quietly.
“‘Well, well, you must not do anything rash, or that you might repent.
Let me hear all about it, Small. Give me the facts.’
“I told him the whole story, with small changes, so that he could not
identify the places. When I had finished he stood stock still and full of
thought. I could see by the twitch of his lip that there was a struggle going
on within him.
“‘This is a very important matter, Small,’ he said at last. ‘You must not
say a word to anyone about it, and I shall see you again soon.’
“Two nights later he and his friend, Captain Morstan, came to my hut
in the dead of the night with a lantern.
“‘I want you just to let Captain Morstan hear that story from your own
lips, Small,’ said he.
“I repeated it as I had told it before.
“‘It rings true, eh?’ said he. ‘It’s good enough to act upon?’
“Captain Morstan nodded.
“‘Look here, Small,’ said the major. ‘We have been talking it over, my
friend here and I, and we have come to the conclusion that this secret of
yours is hardly a [154] government matter, after all, but is a private
concern of your own, which of course you have the power of disposing of
as you think best. Now the question is, What price would you ask for it?
We might be inclined to take it up, and at least look into it, if we could
agree as to terms.’ He tried to speak in a cool, careless way, but his eyes
were shining with excitement and greed.
“‘Why, as to that, gentlemen,’ I answered, trying also to be cool but
feeling as excited as he did, ‘there is only one bargain which a man in my
position can make. I shall want you to help me to my freedom, and to help
my three companions to theirs. We shall then take you into partnership
and give you a fifth share to divide between you.’
“‘Hum!’ said he. ‘A fifth share! That is not very tempting.’
“‘It would come to fifty thousand apiece,’ said I.
“‘But how can we gain your freedom? You know very well that you
ask an impossibility.’
“‘Nothing of the sort,’ I answered. ‘I have thought it all out to the last
detail. The only bar to our escape is that we can get no boat fit for the
voyage, and no provisions to last us for so long a time. There are plenty of
little yachts and yawls at Calcutta or Madras which would serve our turn
well. Do you bring one over. We shall engage to get aboard her by night,
and if you will drop us on any part of the Indian coast you will have done
your part of the bargain.’
“‘If there were only one,’ he said.
“‘None or all,’ I answered. ‘We have sworn it. The four of us must
always act together.’
“‘You see, Morstan,’ said he, ‘Small is a man of his word. He does not
flinch from his friends. I think we may very well trust him.’
“‘It’s a dirty business,’ the other answered. ‘Yet, as you say, the money
will save our commissions handsomely.’
“‘Well, Small,’ said the major, ‘we must, I suppose, try and meet you.
We must first, of course, test the truth of your story. Tell me where the
box is hid, and I shall get leave of absence and go back to India in the
monthly relief-boat to inquire into the affair.’
“‘Not so fast,’ said I, growing colder as he got hot. ‘I must have the
consent of my three comrades. I tell you that it is four or none with us.’
“‘Nonsense!’ he broke in. ‘What have three black fellows to do with
our agreement?’
“‘Black or blue,’ said I, ‘they are in with me, and we all go together.’
“Well, the matter ended by a second meeting, at which Mahomet
Singh, Abdullah Khan, and Dost Akbar were all present. We talked the
matter over again, and at last we came to an arrangement. We were to
provide both the officers with charts of the part of the Agra fort, and mark
the place in the wall where the treasure was hid. Major Sholto was to go
to India to test our story. If he found the box he was to leave it there, to
send out a small yacht provisioned for a voyage, which was to lie off
Rutland Island, and to which we were to make our way, and finally to
return to his duties. Captain Morstan was then to apply for leave of
absence, to meet us at Agra, and there we were to have a final division of
the treasure, he taking the major’s share as well as his own. All this we
sealed by the most solemn oaths that the mind could think or the lips
utter. I sat up all night with paper and ink, and by the morning I had the
two charts all ready, signed with the sign of four–that is, of Abdullah,
Akbar, Mahomet, and myself.
[155] “Well, gentlemen, I weary you with my long story, and I know
that my friend Mr. Jones is impatient to get me safely stowed in chokey.
I’ll make it as short as I can. The villain Sholto went off to India, but he
never came back again. Captain Morstan showed me his name among a
list of passengers in one of the mail-boats very shortly afterwards. His
uncle had died, leaving him a fortune, and he had left the Army; yet he
could stoop to treat five men as he had treated us. Morstan went over to
Agra shortly afterwards and found, as we expected, that the treasure was
indeed gone. The scoundrel had stolen it all without carrying out one of
the conditions on which we had sold him the secret. From that I lived only
for vengeance. I thought of it by day and I nursed it by night. It became
an overpowering, absorbing passion with me. I cared nothing for the
law–nothing for the gallows. To escape, to track down Sholto, to have my
hand upon his throat–that was my one thought. Even the Agra treasure
had come to be a smaller thing in my mind than the slaying of Sholto.
“Well, I have set my mind on many things in this life, and never one
which I did not carry out. But it was weary years before my time came. I
have told you that I had picked up something of medicine. One day when
Dr. Somerton was down with a fever a little Andaman Islander was
picked up by a convict-gang in the woods. He was sick to death and had
gone to a lonely place to die. I took him in hand, though he was as
venomous as a young snake, and after a couple of months I got him all
right and able to walk. He took a kind of fancy to me then, and would
hardly go back to his woods, but was always hanging about my hut. I
learned a little of his lingo from him, and this made him all the fonder of
“Tonga–for that was his name–was a fine boatman and owned a big,
roomy canoe of his own. When I found that he was devoted to me and
would do anything to serve me, I saw my chance of escape. I talked it
over with him. He was to bring his boat round on a certain night to an old
wharf which was never guarded, and there he was to pick me up. I gave
him directions to have several gourds of water and a lot of yams,
cocoanuts, and sweet potatoes.
“He was staunch and true, was little Tonga. No man ever had a more
faithful mate. At the night named he had his boat at the wharf. As it
chanced, however, there was one of the convict-guard down there–a vile
Pathan who had never missed a chance of insulting and injuring me. I had
always vowed vengeance, and now I had my chance. It was as if fate had
placed him in my way that I might pay my debt before I left the island. He
stood on the bank with his back to me, and his carbine on his shoulder. I
looked about for a stone to beat out his brains with, but none could I see.
“Then a queer thought came into my head and showed me where I
could lay my hand on a weapon. I sat down in the darkness and
unstrapped my wooden leg. With three long hops I was on him. He put
his carbine to his shoulder, but I struck him full, and knocked the whole
front of his skull in. You can see the split in the wood now where I hit
him. We both went down together, for I could not keep my balance; but
when I got up I found him still lying quiet enough. I made for the boat,
and in an hour we were well out at sea. Tonga had brought all his earthly
possessions with him, his arms and his gods. Among other things, he had
a long bamboo spear, and some Andaman cocoanut matting, with which I
made a sort of a sail. For ten days we were beating about, trusting to luck,
and on the eleventh we were picked up by a trader which was going from
Singapore to Jiddah with a cargo of Malay pilgrims. They were a rum
crowd, and Tonga and I soon [156] managed to settle down among them.
They had one very good quality: they let you alone and asked no
“Well, if I were to tell you all the adventures that my little chum and I
went through, you would not thank me, for I would have you here until
the sun was shining. Here and there we drifted about the world,
something always turning up to keep us from London. All the time,
however, I never lost sight of my purpose. I would dream of Sholto at
night. A hundred times I have killed him in my sleep. At last, however,
some three or four years ago, we found ourselves in England. I had no
great difficulty in finding where Sholto lived, and I set to work to
discover whether he had realized on the treasure, or if he still had it. I
made friends with someone who could help me–I name no names, for I
don’t want to get anyone else in a hole–and I soon found that he still had
the jewels. Then I tried to get at him in many ways; but he was pretty sly
and had always two prize-fighters, besides his sons and his khitmutgar, on
guard over him.
“One day, however, I got word that he was dying. I hurried at once to
the garden, mad that he should slip out of my clutches like that, and,
looking through the window, I saw him lying in his bed, with his sons on
each side of him. I’d have come through and taken my chance with the
three of them, only even as I looked at him his jaw dropped, and I knew
that he was gone. I got into his room that same night, though, and I
searched his papers to see if there was any record of where he had hidden
our jewels. There was not a line, however, so I came away, bitter and
savage as a man could be. Before I left I bethought me that if I ever met
my Sikh friends again it would be a satisfaction to know that I had left
some mark of our hatred; so I scrawled down the sign of the four of us, as
it had been on the chart, and I pinned it on his bosom. It was too much
that he should be taken to the grave without some token from the men
whom he had robbed and befooled.
“We earned a living at this time by my exhibiting poor Tonga at fairs
and other such places as the black cannibal. He would eat raw meat and
dance his war-dance: so we always had a hatful of pennies after a day’s
work. I still heard all the news from Pondicherry Lodge, and for some
years there was no news to hear, except that they were hunting for the
treasure. At last, however, came what we had waited for so long. The
treasure had been found. It was up at the top of the house in Mr.
Bartholomew Sholto’s chemical laboratory. I came at once and had a look
at the place, but I could not see how, with my wooden leg, I was to make
my way up to it. I learned, however, about a trapdoor in the roof, and also
about Mr. Sholto’s supper-hour. It seemed to me that I could manage the
thing easily through Tonga. I brought him out with me with a long rope
wound round his waist. He could climb like a cat, and he soon made his
way through the roof, but, as ill luck would have it, Bartholomew Sholto
was still in the room, to his cost. Tonga thought he had done something
very clever in killing him, for when I came up by the rope I found him
strutting about as proud as a peacock. Very much surprised was he when I
made at him with the rope’s end and cursed him for a little bloodthirsty
imp. I took the treasure box and let it down, and then slid down myself,
having first left the sign of the four upon the table to show that the jewels
had come back at last to those who had most right to them. Tonga then
pulled up the rope, closed the window, and made off the way that he had
“I don’t know that I have anything else to tell you. I had heard a
waterman speak of the speed of Smith’s launch, the Aurora, so I thought
she would be a handy craft [157] for our escape. I engaged with old Smith,
and was to give him a big sum if he got us safe to our ship. He knew, no
doubt, that there was some screw loose, but he was not in our secrets. All
this is the truth, and if I tell it to you, gentlemen, it is not to amuse
you–for you have not done me a very good turn–but it is because I believe
the best defence I can make is just to hold back nothing, but let all the
world know how badly I have myself been served by Major Sholto, and
how innocent I am of the death of his son.”
“A very remarkable account,” said Sherlock Holmes. “A fitting windup
to an extremely interesting case. There is nothing at all new to me in the
latter part of your narrative except that you brought your own rope. That I
did not know. By the way, I had hoped that Tonga had lost all his darts;
yet he managed to shoot one at us in the boat.”
“He had lost them all, sir, except the one which was in his blow-pipe at
the time.”
“Ah, of course,” said Holmes. “I had not thought of that.”
“Is there any other point which you would like to ask about?” asked the
convict affably.
“I think not, thank you,” my companion answered.
“Well, Holmes,” said Athelney Jones, “you are a man to be humoured,
and we all know that you are a connoisseur of crime; but duty is duty, and
I have gone rather far in doing what you and your friend asked me. I shall
feel more at ease when we have our story-teller here safe under lock and
key. The cab still waits, and there are two inspectors downstairs. I am
much obliged to you both for your assistance. Of course you will be
wanted at the trial. Good-night to you.”
“Good-night, gentlemen both,” said Jonathan Small.

“You first, Small,” remarked the wary Jones as they left the room. “I’ll
take particular care that you don’t club me with your wooden leg,
whatever you may have done to the gentleman at the Andaman Isles.”
“Well, and there is the end of our little drama,” I remarked, after we
had sat some time smoking in silence. “I fear that it may be the last
investigation in which I shall have the chance of studying your methods.
Miss Morstan has done me the honour to accept me as a husband in
He gave a most dismal groan.
“I feared as much,” said he. “I really cannot congratulate you.”
I was a little hurt.
“Have you any reason to be dissatisfied with my choice?” I asked.
“Not at all. I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever
met and might have been most useful in such work as we have been
doing. She had a decided genius that way; witness the way in which she
preserved that Agra plan from all the other papers of her father. But love
is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true
cold reason which I place above all things. I should never marry myself,
lest I bias my judgment.”
“I trust,” said I, laughing, “that my judgment may survive the ordeal.
But you look weary.”
“Yes, the reaction is already upon me. I shall be as limp as a rag for a
“Strange,” said I, “how terms of what in another man I should call
laziness alternate with your fits of splendid energy and vigour.”
“Yes,” he answered, “there are in me the makings of a very fine loafer,
and also of a pretty spry sort of a fellow. I often think of those lines of old

[158] ”Schade, daß die Natur nur einen Mensch aus dir schuf,
Denn zum würdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff.

By the way, apropos of this Norwood business, you see that they had, as I
surmised, a confederate in the house, who could be none other than Lal
Rao, the butler: so Jones actually has the undivided honour of having
caught one fish in his great haul.”
“The division seems rather unfair,” I remarked. “You have done all the
work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray
what remains for you?”
“For me,” said Sherlock Holmes, “there still remains the cocaine-
bottle.” And he stretched his long white hand up for it.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

David Soucek, 1998
The Complete Sherlock Holmes


First edition of The Adventures, 1892

A Scandal in Bohemia
First published in the Strand Magazine, July 1891, with 10 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Red-headed League

First published in the Strand Magazine, Aug. 1891, with 10 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

A Case of Identity
First published in the Strand Magazine, Sept. 1891, with 7 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Boscombe Valley Mystery

First published in the Strand Magazine, Oct. 1891, with 10 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Five Orange Pips

First published in the Strand Magazine, Nov. 1891, with 6 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Man with the Twisted Lip

First published in the Strand Magazine, Dec. 1891, with 10 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
First published in the Strand Magazine, Jan. 1892, with 8 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band

First published in the Strand Magazine, Feb. 1892, with 9 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb

First published in the Strand Magazine, Mar. 1892, with 8 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor

First published in the Strand Magazine, Apr. 1892, with 8 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet

First published in the Strand Magazine, May 1892, with 9 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

First published in the Strand Magazine, June 1892, with 9 illustrations by
Sidney Paget.

The whole collection was first published on 14 Oct. 1892 by G. Newnes Ltd in an
edition of 10,000 copies.

David Soucek, 1998

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

TO SHERLOCK HOLMES she is always the woman. I have seldom heard
him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and
predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion
akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were
abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take
it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has
seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He
never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They
were admirable things for the observer–excellent for drawing the veil
from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit
such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was
to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his
mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own
high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in
a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that
woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
I had seen little of Holmes lately. My marriage had drifted us away
from each other. My own complete happiness, and the home-centred
interests which rise up around the man who first finds himself master of
his own establishment, were sufficient to absorb all my attention, while
Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian
soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old
books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition,
the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.
He was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied
his immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in
following out those clues, and clearing up those mysteries which had been
abandoned as hopeless by the official police. From time to time I heard
some vague account of his doings: of his summons to Odessa in the case
of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of the
Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee, and finally of the mission which he
had accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family of
Holland. Beyond these signs of his activity, however, which I merely
shared with all the readers of the daily press, I knew little of my former
friend and companion.
One night–it was on the twentieth of March, 1888–I was returning from
a journey to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when my
way led me through Baker Street. As I passed the well-remembered door,
which must always be associated in my mind with my wooing, and with
the dark incidents of the Study in Scarlet, I was seized with a keen desire
to see Holmes again, and to know how he was employing his
extraordinary powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked
up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the
blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon
his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me, who knew his every
mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their own story. He was at
work again. He had risen out of his drug-created dreams and was hot
upon the scent of [162] some new problem. I rang the bell and was shown
up to the chamber which had formerly been in part my own.
His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to
see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me
to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case
and a gasogene in the corner. Then he stood before the fire and looked me
over in his singular introspective fashion.
“Wedlock suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Watson, that you have put
on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”
“Seven!” I answered.
“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy,
Watson. And in practice again, I observe. You did not tell me that you
intended to go into harness.”
“Then, how do you know?”
“I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting
yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless
servant girl?”
“My dear Holmes,” said I, “this is too much. You would certainly have
been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I had a
country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful mess, but as I
have changed my clothes I can’t imagine how you deduce it. As to Mary
Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice; but there,
again, I fail to see how you work it out.”
He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long, nervous hands together.
“It is simplicity itself,” said he; “my eyes tell me that on the inside of
your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by
six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone
who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to
remove crusted mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that
you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly
malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavey. As to your
practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with
a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on
the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secreted his
stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce him to be an
active member of the medical profession.”
I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his
process of deduction. “When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked,
“the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could
easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I
am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes
are as good as yours.”
“Quite so,” he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself
down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction
is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up
from the hall to this room.”
“How often?”
“Well, some hundreds of times.”
“Then how many are there?”
“How many? I don’t know.”
“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just
my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both
seen and [163] observed. By the way, since you are interested in these
little problems, and since you are good enough to chronicle one or two of
my trifling experiences, you may be interested in this.” He threw over a
sheet of thick, pink-tinted note-paper which had been lying open upon the
table. “It came by the last post,” said he. “Read it aloud.”
The note was undated, and without either signature or address.

“There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eight o’clock

[it said], a gentleman who desires to consult you upon a matter of
the very deepest moment. Your recent services to one of the royal
houses of Europe have shown that you are one who may safely be
trusted with matters which are of an importance which can hardly
be exaggerated. This account of you we have from all quarters
received. Be in your chamber then at that hour, and do not take it
amiss if your visitor wear a mask.

“This is indeed a mystery,” I remarked. “What do you imagine that it

“I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has
data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of
theories to suit facts. But the note itself. What do you deduce from it?”
I carefully examined the writing, and the paper upon which it was
“The man who wrote it was presumably well to do,” I remarked,
endeavouring to imitate my companion’s processes. “Such paper could
not be bought under half a crown a packet. It is peculiarly strong and
“Peculiar–that is the very word,” said Holmes. “It is not an English
paper at all. Hold it up to the light.”
I did so, and saw a large “E” with a small “g,” a “P,” and a large “G”
with a small “t” woven into the texture of the paper.
“What do you make of that?” asked Holmes.
“The name of the maker, no doubt; or his monogram, rather.”
“Not at all. The ‘G’ with the small ‘t’ stands for ‘Gesellschaft,’ which
is the German for ‘Company.’ It is a customary contraction like our ‘Co.’
‘P,’ of course, stands for ‘Papier.’ Now for the ‘Eg.’ Let us glance at our
Continental Gazetteer.” He took down a heavy brown volume from his
shelves. “Eglow, Eglonitz–here we are, Egria. It is in a German-speaking
country–in Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad. ‘Remarkable as being the
scene of the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous glass-factories
and paper-mills.’ Ha, ha, my boy, what do you make of that?” His eyes
sparkled, and he sent up a great blue triumphant cloud from his cigarette.
“The paper was made in Bohemia,” I said.
“Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is a German. Do you note
the peculiar construction of the sentence–‘This account of you we have
from all quarters received.’ A Frenchman or Russian could not have
written that. It is the German who is so uncourteous to his verbs. It only
remains, therefore, to discover what is wanted by this German who writes
upon Bohemian paper and prefers wearing a mask to showing his face.
And here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts.”
As he spoke there was the sharp sound of horses’ hoofs and grating
wheels against the curb, followed by a sharp pull at the bell. Holmes
“A pair, by the sound,” said he. “Yes,” he continued, glancing out of
the window. “A nice little brougham and a pair of beauties. A hundred
and fifty guineas apiece. There’s money in this case, Watson, if there is
nothing else.”
[164] “I think that I had better go, Holmes.”
“Not a bit, Doctor. Stay where you are. I am lost without my Boswell.
And this promises to be interesting. It would be a pity to miss it.”
“But your client– –”
“Never mind him. I may want your help, and so may he. Here he
comes. Sit down in that armchair, Doctor, and give us your best attention.”
A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs and in the
passage, paused immediately outside the door. Then there was a loud and
authoritative tap.
“Come in!” said Holmes.
A man entered who could hardly have been less than six feet six inches
in height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules. His dress was rich with
a richness which would, in England, be looked upon as akin to bad taste.
Heavy bands of astrakhan were slashed across the sleeves and fronts of
his double-breasted coat, while the deep blue cloak which was thrown
over his shoulders was lined with flame-coloured silk and secured at the
neck with a brooch which consisted of a single flaming beryl. Boots
which extended halfway up his calves, and which were trimmed at the
tops with rich brown fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulence
which was suggested by his whole appearance. He carried a broad-
brimmed hat in his hand, while he wore across the upper part of his face,
extending down past the cheekbones, a black vizard mask, which he had
apparently adjusted that very moment, for his hand was still raised to it as
he entered. From the lower part of the face he appeared to be a man of
strong character, with a thick, hanging lip, and a long, straight chin
suggestive of resolution pushed to the length of obstinacy.
“You had my note?” he asked with a deep harsh voice and a strongly
marked German accent. “I told you that I would call.” He looked from
one to the other of us, as if uncertain which to address.
“Pray take a seat,” said Holmes. “This is my friend and colleague, Dr.
Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me in my cases. Whom
have I the honour to address?”
“You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian
nobleman. I understand that this gentleman, your friend, is a man of
honour and discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of the most
extreme importance. If not, I should much prefer to communicate with
you alone.”
I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist and pushed me back
into my chair. “It is both, or none,” said he. “You may say before this
gentleman anything which you may say to me.”
The Count shrugged his broad shoulders. “Then I must begin,” said he,
“by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two years; at the end of that
time the matter will be of no importance. At present it is not too much to
say that it is of such weight it may have an influence upon European
“I promise,” said Holmes.
“And I.”
“You will excuse this mask,” continued our strange visitor. “The august
person who employs me wishes his agent to be unknown to you, and I
may confess at once that the title by which I have just called myself is not
exactly my own.”
“I was aware of it,” said Holmes drily.
“The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every precaution has to
be taken to quench what might grow to be an immense scandal and
seriously compromise [165] one of the reigning families of Europe. To
speak plainly, the matter implicates the great House of Ormstein,
hereditary kings of Bohemia.”
“I was also aware of that,” murmured Holmes, settling himself down in
his armchair and closing his eyes.
Our visitor glanced with some apparent surprise at the languid,
lounging figure of the man who had been no doubt depicted to him as the
most incisive reasoner and most energetic agent in Europe. Holmes
slowly reopened his eyes and looked impatiently at his gigantic client.
“If your Majesty would condescend to state your case,” he remarked, “I
should be better able to advise you.”
The man sprang from his chair and paced up and down the room in
uncontrollable agitation. Then, with a gesture of desperation, he tore the
mask from his face and hurled it upon the ground. “You are right,” he
cried; “I am the King. Why should I attempt to conceal it?”

“Why, indeed?” murmured Holmes. “Your Majesty had not spoken

before I was aware that I was addressing Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond
von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein, and hereditary King of
“But you can understand,” said our strange visitor, sitting down once
more and passing his hand over his high white forehead, “you can
understand that I am not accustomed to doing such business in my own
person. Yet the matter was so delicate that I could not confide it to an
agent without putting myself in his power. I have come incognito from
Prague for the purpose of consulting you.”
“Then, pray consult,” said Holmes, shutting his eyes once more.
“The facts are briefly these: Some five years ago, during a lengthy visit
to Warsaw, I made the acquaintance of the well-known adventuress, Irene
Adler. The name is no doubt familiar to you.”
“Kindly look her up in my index, Doctor,” murmured Holmes without
opening his eyes. For many years he had adopted a system of docketing
all paragraphs concerning men and things, so that it was difficult to name
a subject or a person on which he could not at once furnish information.
In this case I found her biography sandwiched in between that of a
Hebrew rabbi and that of a staff-commander who had written a
monograph upon the deep-sea fishes.
“Let me see!” said Holmes. “Hum! Born in New Jersey in the year
1858. Contralto–hum! La Scala, hum! Prima donna Imperial Opera of
Warsaw–yes! Retired from operatic stage–ha! Living in London–quite so!
Your Majesty, as I understand, became entangled with this young person,
wrote her some compromising letters, and is now desirous of getting
those letters back.”
“Precisely so. But how– –”
“Was there a secret marriage?”
“No legal papers or certificates?”
“Then I fail to follow your Majesty. If this young person should
produce her letters for blackmailing or other purposes, how is she to
prove their authenticity?”
“There is the writing.”
“Pooh, pooh! Forgery.”
“My private note-paper.”
“My own seal.”
[166] “Imitated.”
“My photograph.”
“We were both in the photograph.”
“Oh, dear! That is very bad! Your Majesty has indeed committed an
“I was mad–insane.”
“You have compromised yourself seriously.”
“I was only Crown Prince then. I was young. I am but thirty now.”
“It must be recovered.”
“We have tried and failed.”
“Your Majesty must pay. It must be bought.”
“She will not sell.”
“Stolen, then.”
“Five attempts have been made. Twice burglars in my pay ransacked
her house. Once we diverted her luggage when she travelled. Twice she
has been waylaid. There has been no result.”
“No sign of it?”
“Absolutely none.”
Holmes laughed. “It is quite a pretty little problem,” said he.
“But a very serious one to me,” returned the King reproachfully.
“Very, indeed. And what does she propose to do with the photograph?”
“To ruin me.”
“But how?”
“I am about to be married.”
“So I have heard.”
“To Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meningen, second daughter of the
King of Scandinavia. You may know the strict principles of her family.
She is herself the very soul of delicacy. A shadow of a doubt as to my
conduct would bring the matter to an end.”
“And Irene Adler?”
“Threatens to send them the photograph. And she will do it. I know that
she will do it. You do not know her, but she has a soul of steel. She has
the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most
resolute of men. Rather than I should marry another woman, there are no
lengths to which she would not go–none.”
“You are sure that she has not sent it yet?”
“I am sure.”
“And why?”
“Because she has said that she would send it on the day when the
betrothal was publicly proclaimed. That will be next Monday.”
“Oh, then we have three days yet,” said Holmes with a yawn. “That is
very fortunate, as I have one or two matters of importance to look into
just at present. Your Majesty will, of course, stay in London for the
“Certainly. You will find me at the Langham under the name of the
Count Von Kramm.”
“Then I shall drop you a line to let you know how we progress.”
“Pray do so. I shall be all anxiety.”
“Then, as to money?”
“You have carte blanche.”
[167] “Absolutely?”
“I tell you that I would give one of the provinces of my kingdom to
have that photograph.”
“And for present expenses?”
The King took a heavy chamois leather bag from under his cloak and
laid it on the table.
“There are three hundred pounds in gold and seven hundred in notes,”
he said.
Holmes scribbled a receipt upon a sheet of his note-book and handed it
to him.
“And Mademoiselle’s address?” he asked.
“Is Briony Lodge, Serpentine Avenue, St. John’s Wood.”
Holmes took a note of it. “One other question,” said he. “Was the
photograph a cabinet?”
“It was.”
“Then, good-night, your Majesty, and I trust that we shall soon have
some good news for you. And good-night, Watson,” he added, as the
wheels of the royal brougham rolled down the street. “If you will be good
enough to call to-morrow afternoon at three o’clock I should like to chat
this little matter over with you.”

At three o’clock precisely I was at Baker Street, but Holmes had not yet
returned. The landlady informed me that he had left the house shortly
after eight o’clock in the morning. I sat down beside the fire, however,
with the intention of awaiting him, however long he might be. I was
already deeply interested in his inquiry, for, though it was surrounded by
none of the grim and strange features which were associated with the two
crimes which I have already recorded, still, the nature of the case and the
exalted station of his client gave it a character of its own. Indeed, apart
from the nature of the investigation which my friend had on hand, there
was something in his masterly grasp of a situation, and his keen, incisive
reasoning, which made it a pleasure to me to study his system of work,
and to follow the quick, subtle methods by which he disentangled the
most inextricable mysteries. So accustomed was I to his invariable
success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter into my

It was close upon four before the door opened, and a drunken-looking
groom, ill-kempt and side-whiskered, with an inflamed face and
disreputable clothes, walked into the room. Accustomed as I was to my
friend’s amazing powers in the use of disguises, I had to look three times
before I was certain that it was indeed he. With a nod he vanished into the
bedroom, whence he emerged in five minutes tweed-suited and
respectable, as of old. Putting his hands into his pockets, he stretched out
his legs in front of the fire and laughed heartily for some minutes.
“Well, really!” he cried, and then he choked and laughed again until he
was obliged to lie back, limp and helpless, in the chair.
“What is it?”
“It’s quite too funny. I am sure you could never guess how I employed
my morning, or what I ended by doing.”
“I can’t imagine. I suppose that you have been watching the habits, and
perhaps the house, of Miss Irene Adler.”
“Quite so; but the sequel was rather unusual. I will tell you, however. I
left the house a little after eight o’clock this morning in the character of a
groom out of work. There is a wonderful sympathy and freemasonry
among horsy men. Be one [168] of them, and you will know all that there
is to know. I soon found Briony Lodge. It is a bijou villa, with a garden at
the back, but built out in front right up to the road, two stories. Chubb
lock to the door. Large sitting-room on the right side, well furnished, with
long windows almost to the floor, and those preposterous English window
fasteners which a child could open. Behind there was nothing remarkable,
save that the passage window could be reached from the top of the coach-
house. I walked round it and examined it closely from every point of
view, but without noting anything else of interest.
“I then lounged down the street and found, as I expected, that there was
a mews in a lane which runs down by one wall of the garden. I lent the
ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses, and received in exchange
twopence, a glass of half and half, two fills of shag tobacco, and as much
information as I could desire about Miss Adler, to say nothing of half a
dozen other people in the neighbourhood in whom I was not in the least
interested, but whose biographies I was compelled to listen to.”
“And what of Irene Adler?” I asked.
“Oh, she has turned all the men’s heads down in that part. She is the
daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet. So say the Serpentine-mews,
to a man. She lives quietly, sings at concerts, drives out at five every day,
and returns at seven sharp for dinner. Seldom goes out at other times,
except when she sings. Has only one male visitor, but a good deal of him.
He is dark, handsome, and dashing, never calls less than once a day, and
often twice. He is a Mr. Godfrey Norton, of the Inner Temple. See the
advantages of a cabman as a confidant. They had driven him home a
dozen times from Serpentine-mews, and knew all about him. When I had
listened to all they had to tell, I began to walk up and down near Briony
Lodge once more, and to think over my plan of campaign.
“This Godfrey Norton was evidently an important factor in the matter.
He was a lawyer. That sounded ominous. What was the relation between
them, and what the object of his repeated visits? Was she his client, his
friend, or his mistress? If the former, she had probably transferred the
photograph to his keeping. If the latter, it was less likely. On the issue of
this question depended whether I should continue my work at Briony
Lodge, or turn my attention to the gentleman’s chambers in the Temple. It
was a delicate point, and it widened the field of my inquiry. I fear that I
bore you with these details, but I have to let you see my little difficulties,
if you are to understand the situation.”
“I am following you closely,” I answered.
“I was still balancing the matter in my mind when a hansom cab drove
up to Briony Lodge, and a gentleman sprang out. He was a remarkably
handsome man, dark, aquiline, and moustached–evidently the man of
whom I had heard. He appeared to be in a great hurry, shouted to the
cabman to wait, and brushed past the maid who opened the door with the
air of a man who was thoroughly at home.
“He was in the house about half an hour, and I could catch glimpses of
him in the windows of the sitting-room, pacing up and down, talking
excitedly, and waving his arms. Of her I could see nothing. Presently he
emerged, looking even more flurried than before. As he stepped up to the
cab, he pulled a gold watch from his pocket and looked at it earnestly,
‘Drive like the devil,’ he shouted, ‘first to Gross & Hankey’s in Regent
Street, and then to the Church of St. Monica in the Edgeware Road. Half a
guinea if you do it in twenty minutes!’
“Away they went, and I was just wondering whether I should not do
well to follow them when up the lane came a neat little landau, the
coachman with his [169] coat only half-buttoned, and his tie under his ear,
while all the tags of his harness were sticking out of the buckles. It hadn’t
pulled up before she shot out of the hall door and into it. I only caught a
glimpse of her at the moment, but she was a lovely woman, with a face
that a man might die for.
“‘The Church of St. Monica, John,’ she cried, ‘and half a sovereign if
you reach it in twenty minutes.’
“This was quite too good to lose, Watson. I was just balancing whether
I should run for it, or whether I should perch behind her landau when a
cab came through the street. The driver looked twice at such a shabby
fare, but I jumped in before he could object. ‘The Church of St. Monica,’
said I, ‘and half a sovereign if you reach it in twenty minutes.’ It was
twenty-five minutes to twelve, and of course it was clear enough what
was in the wind.
“My cabby drove fast. I don’t think I ever drove faster, but the others
were there before us. The cab and the landau with their steaming horses
were in front of the door when I arrived. I paid the man and hurried into
the church. There was not a soul there save the two whom I had followed
and a surpliced clergyman, who seemed to be expostulating with them.
They were all three standing in a knot in front of the altar. I lounged up
the side aisle like any other idler who has dropped into a church.
Suddenly, to my surprise, the three at the altar faced round to me, and
Godfrey Norton came running as hard as he could towards me.
“‘Thank God,’ he cried. ‘You’ll do. Come! Come!’
“‘What then?’ I asked.
“‘Come, man, come, only three minutes, or it won’t be legal.’
“I was half-dragged up to the altar, and before I knew where I was I
found myself mumbling responses which were whispered in my ear, and
vouching for things of which I knew nothing, and generally assisting in
the secure tying up of Irene Adler, spinster, to Godfrey Norton, bachelor.
It was all done in an instant, and there was the gentleman thanking me on
the one side and the lady on the other, while the clergyman beamed on me
in front. It was the most preposterous position in which I ever found
myself in my life, and it was the thought of it that started me laughing just
now. It seems that there had been some informality about their license,
that the clergyman absolutely refused to marry them without a witness of
some sort, and that my lucky appearance saved the bridegroom from
having to sally out into the streets in search of a best man. The bride gave
me a sovereign, and I mean to wear it on my watch-chain in memory of
the occasion.”
“This is a very unexpected turn of affairs,” said I; “and what then?”
“Well, I found my plans very seriously menaced. It looked as if the pair
might take an immediate departure, and so necessitate very prompt and
energetic measures on my part. At the church door, however, they
separated, he driving back to the temple, and she to her own house. ‘I
shall drive out in the park at five as usual,’ she said as she left him. I
heard no more. They drove away in different directions, and I went off to
make my own arrangements.”
“Which are?”
“Some cold beef and a glass of beer,” he answered, ringing the bell. “I
have been too busy to think of food, and I am likely to be busier still this
evening. By the way, Doctor, I shall want your cooperation.”
“I shall be delighted.”
“You don’t mind breaking the law?”
“Not in the least.”
[170] “Nor running a chance of arrest?”
“Not in a good cause.”
“Oh, the cause is excellent!”
“Then I am your man.”
“I was sure that I might rely on you.”
“But what is it you wish?”
“When Mrs. Turner has brought in the tray I will make it clear to you.
Now,” he said as he turned hungrily on the simple fare that our landlady
had provided, “I must discuss it while I eat, for I have not much time. It is
nearly five now. In two hours we must be on the scene of action. Miss
Irene, or Madame, rather, returns from her drive at seven. We must be at
Briony Lodge to meet her.”
“And what then?”
“You must leave that to me. I have already arranged what is to occur.
There is only one point on which I must insist. You must not interfere,
come what may. You understand?”
“I am to be neutral?”
“To do nothing whatever. There will probably be some small
unpleasantness. Do not join in it. It will end in my being conveyed into
the house. Four or five minutes afterwards the sitting-room window will
open. You are to station yourself close to that open window.”
“You are to watch me, for I will be visible to you.”
“And when I raise my hand–so–you will throw into the room what I
give you to throw, and will, at the same time, raise the cry of fire. You
quite follow me?”
“It is nothing very formidable,” he said, taking a long cigar-shaped roll
from his pocket. “It is an ordinary plumber’s smoke-rocket, fitted with a
cap at either end to make it self-lighting. Your task is confined to that.
When you raise your cry of fire, it will be taken up by quite a number of
people. You may then walk to the end of the street, and I will rejoin you
in ten minutes. I hope that I have made myself clear?”
“I am to remain neutral, to get near the window, to watch you, and at
the signal to throw in this object, then to raise the cry of fire, and to wait
you at the corner of the street.”
“Then you may entirely rely on me.”
“That is excellent. I think, perhaps, it is almost time that I prepare for
the new role I have to play.”
He disappeared into his bedroom and returned in a few minutes in the
character of an amiable and simple-minded Nonconformist clergyman.
His broad black hat, his baggy trousers, his white tie, his sympathetic
smile, and general look of peering and benevolent curiosity were such as
Mr. John Hare alone could have equalled. It was not merely that Holmes
changed his costume. His expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to
vary with every fresh part that he assumed. The stage lost a fine actor,
even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in
It was a quarter past six when we left Baker Street, and it still wanted
ten minutes to the hour when we found ourselves in Serpentine Avenue. It
was already [171] dusk, and the lamps were just being lighted as we paced
up and down in front of Briony Lodge, waiting for the coming of its
occupant. The house was just such as I had pictured it from Sherlock
Holmes’s succinct description, but the locality appeared to be less private
than I expected. On the contrary, for a small street in a quiet
neighbourhood, it was remarkably animated. There was a group of
shabbily dressed men smoking and laughing in a corner, a scissors-
grinder with his wheel, two guardsmen who were flirting with a nurse-
girl, and several well-dressed young men who were lounging up and
down with cigars in their mouths.
“You see,” remarked Holmes, as we paced to and fro in front of the
house, “this marriage rather simplifies matters. The photograph becomes
a double-edged weapon now. The chances are that she would be as averse
to its being seen by Mr. Godfrey Norton, as our client is to its coming to
the eyes of his princess. Now the question is, Where are we to find the
“Where, indeed?”
“It is most unlikely that she carries it about with her. It is cabinet size.
Too large for easy concealment about a woman’s dress. She knows that
the King is capable of having her waylaid and searched. Two attempts of
the sort have already been made. We may take it, then, that she does not
carry it about with her.”
“Where, then?”
“Her banker or her lawyer. There is that double possibility. But I am
inclined to think neither. Women are naturally secretive, and they like to
do their own secreting. Why should she hand it over to anyone else? She
could trust her own guardianship, but she could not tell what indirect or
political influence might be brought to bear upon a business man.
Besides, remember that she had resolved to use it within a few days. It
must be where she can lay her hands upon it. It must be in her own house.”
“But it has twice been burgled.”
“Pshaw! They did not know how to look.”
“But how will you look?”
“I will not look.”
“What then?”
“I will get her to show me.”
“But she will refuse.”
“She will not be able to. But I hear the rumble of wheels. It is her
carriage. Now carry out my orders to the letter.”
As he spoke the gleam of the side-lights of a carriage came round the
curve of the avenue. It was a smart little landau which rattled up to the
door of Briony Lodge. As it pulled up, one of the loafing men at the
corner dashed forward to open the door in the hope of earning a copper,
but was elbowed away by another loafer, who had rushed up with the
same intention. A fierce quarrel broke out, which was increased by the
two guardsmen, who took sides with one of the loungers, and by the
scissors-grinder, who was equally hot upon the other side. A blow was
struck, and in an instant the lady, who had stepped from her carriage, was
the centre of a little knot of flushed and struggling men, who struck
savagely at each other with their fists and sticks. Holmes dashed into the
crowd to protect the lady; but just as he reached her he gave a cry and
dropped to the ground, with the blood running freely down his face. At
his fall the guardsmen took to their heels in one direction and the loungers
in the other, while a number of better-dressed people, who had watched
the scuffle without taking part in it, crowded in [172] to help the lady and
to attend to the injured man. Irene Adler, as I will still call her, had
hurried up the steps; but she stood at the top with her superb figure
outlined against the lights of the hall, looking back into the street.
“Is the poor gentleman much hurt?” she asked.
“He is dead,” cried several voices.
“No, no, there’s life in him!” shouted another. “But he’ll be gone
before you can get him to hospital.”
“He’s a brave fellow,” said a woman. “They would have had the lady’s
purse and watch if it hadn’t been for him. They were a gang, and a rough
one, too. Ah, he’s breathing now.”
“He can’t lie in the street. May we bring him in, marm?”
“Surely. Bring him into the sitting-room. There is a comfortable sofa.
This way, please!”
Slowly and solemnly he was borne into Briony Lodge and laid out in
the principal room, while I still observed the proceedings from my post by
the window. The lamps had been lit, but the blinds had not been drawn, so
that I could see Holmes as he lay upon the couch. I do not know whether
he was seized with compunction at that moment for the part he was
playing, but I know that I never felt more heartily ashamed of myself in
my life than when I saw the beautiful creature against whom I was
conspiring, or the grace and kindliness with which she waited upon the
injured man. And yet it would be the blackest treachery to Holmes to
draw back now from the part which he had intrusted to me. I hardened my
heart, and took the smoke-rocket from under my ulster. After all, I
thought, we are not injuring her. We are but preventing her from injuring
Holmes had sat up upon the couch, and I saw him motion like a man
who is in need of air. A maid rushed across and threw open the window.
At the same instant I saw him raise his hand, and at the signal I tossed my
rocket into the room with a cry of “Fire!” The word was no sooner out of
my mouth than the whole crowd of spectators, well dressed and
ill–gentlemen, ostlers, and servant-maids–joined in a general shriek of
“Fire!” Thick clouds of smoke curled through the room and out at the
open window. I caught a glimpse of rushing figures, and a moment later
the voice of Holmes from within assuring them that it was a false alarm.
Slipping through the shouting crowd I made my way to the corner of the
street, and in ten minutes was rejoiced to find my friend’s arm in mine,
and to get away from the scene of uproar. He walked swiftly and in
silence for some few minutes until we had turned down one of the quiet
streets which lead towards the Edgeware Road.
“You did it very nicely, Doctor,” he remarked. “Nothing could have
been better. It is all right.”
“You have the photograph?”
“I know where it is.”
“And how did you find out?”
“She showed me, as I told you she would.”
“I am still in the dark.”
“I do not wish to make a mystery,” said he, laughing. “The matter was
perfectly simple. You, of course, saw that everyone in the street was an
accomplice. They were all engaged for the evening.”
“I guessed as much.”
“Then, when the row broke out, I had a little moist red paint in the palm
of my hand. I rushed forward, fell down, clapped my hand to my face,
and became a piteous spectacle. It is an old trick.”
[173] “That also I could fathom.”
“Then they carried me in. She was bound to have me in. What else
could she do? And into her sitting-room, which was the very room which
I suspected. It lay between that and her bedroom, and I was determined to
see which. They laid me on a couch, I motioned for air, they were
compelled to open the window, and you had your chance.”
“How did that help you?”
“It was all-important. When a woman thinks that her house is on fire,
her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which she values most. It is a
perfectly overpowering impulse, and I have more than once taken
advantage of it. In the case of the Darlington substitution scandal it was of
use to me, and also in the Arnsworth Castle business. A married woman
grabs at her baby; an unmarried one reaches for her jewel-box. Now it
was clear to me that our lady of to-day had nothing in the house more
precious to her than what we are in quest of. She would rush to secure it.
The alarm of fire was admirably done. The smoke and shouting were
enough to shake nerves of steel. She responded beautifully. The
photograph is in a recess behind a sliding panel just above the right bell-
pull. She was there in an instant, and I caught a glimpse of it as she half-
drew it out. When I cried out that it was a false alarm, she replaced it,
glanced at the rocket, rushed from the room, and I have not seen her
since. I rose, and, making my excuses, escaped from the house. I hesitated
whether to attempt to secure the photograph at once; but the coachman
had come in, and as he was watching me narrowly it seemed safer to wait.
A little over-precipitance may ruin all.”
“And now?” I asked.
“Our quest is practically finished. I shall call with the King to-morrow,
and with you, if you care to come with us. We will be shown into the
sitting-room to wait for the lady, but it is probable that when she comes
she may find neither us nor the photograph. It might be a satisfaction to
his Majesty to regain it with his own hands.”
“And when will you call?”
“At eight in the morning. She will not be up, so that we shall have a
clear field. Besides, we must be prompt, for this marriage may mean a
complete change in her life and habits. I must wire to the King without
We had reached Baker Street and had stopped at the door. He was
searching his pockets for the key when someone passing said:

“Good-night, Mister Sherlock Holmes.”

There were several people on the pavement at the time, but the greeting
appeared to come from a slim youth in an ulster who had hurried by.
“I’ve heard that voice before,” said Holmes, staring down the dimly lit
street. “Now, I wonder who the deuce that could have been.”

I slept at Baker Street that night, and we were engaged upon our toast
and coffee in the morning when the King of Bohemia rushed into the
“You have really got it!” he cried, grasping Sherlock Holmes by either
shoulder and looking eagerly into his face.
“Not yet.”
“But you have hopes?”
“I have hopes.”
[174] “Then, come. I am all impatience to be gone.”
“We must have a cab.”
“No, my brougham is waiting.”
“Then that will simplify matters.” We descended and started off once
more for Briony Lodge.
“Irene Adler is married,” remarked Holmes.
“Married! When?”
“But to whom?”
“To an English lawyer named Norton.”
“But she could not love him.”
“I am in hopes that she does.”
“And why in hopes?”
“Because it would spare your Majesty all fear of future annoyance. If
the lady loves her husband, she does not love your Majesty. If she does
not love your Majesty, there is no reason why she should interfere with
your Majesty’s plan.”
“It is true. And yet– – Well! I wish she had been of my own station!
What a queen she would have made!” He relapsed into a moody silence,
which was not broken until we drew up in Serpentine Avenue.
The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an elderly woman stood upon
the steps. She watched us with a sardonic eye as we stepped from the
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I believe?” said she.
“I am Mr. Holmes,” answered my companion, looking at her with a
questioning and rather startled gaze.
“Indeed! My mistress told me that you were likely to call. She left this
morning with her husband by the 5:15 train from Charing Cross for the
“What!” Sherlock Holmes staggered back, white with chagrin and
surprise. “Do you mean that she has left England?”
“Never to return.”
“And the papers?” asked the King hoarsely. “All is lost.”
“We shall see.” He pushed past the servant and rushed into the drawing-
room, followed by the King and myself. The furniture was scattered about
in every direction, with dismantled shelves and open drawers, as if the
lady had hurriedly ransacked them before her flight. Holmes rushed at the
bell-pull, tore back a small sliding shutter, and, plunging in his hand,
pulled out a photograph and a letter. The photograph was of Irene Adler
herself in evening dress, the letter was superscribed to “Sherlock Holmes,
Esq. To be left till called for.” My friend tore it open, and we all three
read it together. It was dated at midnight of the preceding night and ran in
this way:


You really did it very well. You took me in completely. Until
after the alarm of fire, I had not a suspicion. But then, when I
found how I had betrayed myself, I began to think. I had been
warned against you months ago. I had been told that if the King
employed an agent it would certainly be you. And your address
had been given me. Yet, with all this, you made me reveal what
you wanted to know. Even after I became suspicious, I found it
hard to think evil of such a dear, kind old clergyman. But, you
know, I have been trained as an actress myself. Male costume [175]
is nothing new to me. I often take advantage of the freedom which
it gives. I sent John, the coachman, to watch you, ran upstairs, got
into my walking-clothes, as I call them, and came down just as you
Well, I followed you to your door, and so made sure that I was
really an object of interest to the celebrated Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
Then I, rather imprudently, wished you good-night, and started for
the Temple to see my husband.
We both thought the best resource was flight, when pursued by
so formidable an antagonist; so you will find the nest empty when
you call to-morrow. As to the photograph, your client may rest in
peace. I love and am loved by a better man than he. The King may
do what he will without hindrance from one whom he has cruelly
wronged. I keep it only to safeguard myself, and to preserve a
weapon which will always secure me from any steps which he
might take in the future. I leave a photograph which he might care
to possess; and I remain, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,

Very truly yours,


“What a woman–oh, what a woman!” cried the King of Bohemia, when

we had all three read this epistle. “Did I not tell you how quick and
resolute she was? Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not
a pity that she was not on my level?”
“From what I have seen of the lady she seems indeed to be on a very
different level to your Majesty,” said Holmes coldly. “I am sorry that I
have not been able to bring your Majesty’s business to a more successful
“On the contrary, my dear sir,” cried the King; “nothing could be more
successful. I know that her word is inviolate. The photograph is now as
safe as if it were in the fire.”
“I am glad to hear your Majesty say so.”
“I am immensely indebted to you. Pray tell me in what way I can
reward you. This ring– –” He slipped an emerald snake ring from his
finger and held it out upon the palm of his hand.
“Your Majesty has something which I should value even more highly,”
said Holmes.
“You have but to name it.”
“This photograph!”
The King stared at him in amazement.
“Irene’s photograph!” he cried. “Certainly, if you wish it.”
“I thank your Majesty. Then there is no more to be done in the matter. I
have the honour to wish you a very good-morning.” He bowed, and,
turning away without observing the hand which the King had stretched
out to him, he set off in my company for his chambers.

And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the kingdom of
Bohemia, and how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by
a woman’s wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but
I have not heard him do it of late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler, or
when he refers to her photograph, it is always under the honourable title
of the woman.

David Soucek, 1998 The Red-headed League

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


I HAD called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the
autumn of last year and found him in deep conversation with a very stout,
florid-faced, elderly gentleman with fiery red hair. With an apology for
my intrusion, I was about to withdraw when Holmes pulled me abruptly
into the room and closed the door behind me.
“You could not possibly have come at a better time, my dear Watson,”
he said cordially.
“I was afraid that you were engaged.”
“So I am. Very much so.”
“Then I can wait in the next room.”
“Not at all. This gentleman, Mr. Wilson, has been my partner and
helper in many of my most successful cases, and I have no doubt that he
will be of the utmost use to me in yours also.”
The stout gentleman half rose from his chair and gave a bob of
greeting, with a quick little questioning glance from his small, fat-
encircled eyes.
“Try the settee,” said Holmes, relapsing into his armchair and putting
his finger-tips together, as was his custom when in judicial moods. “I
know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and
outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life. You have
shown your relish for it by the enthusiasm which has prompted you to
chronicle, and, if you will excuse my saying so, somewhat to embellish so
many of my own little adventures.”
“Your cases have indeed been of the greatest interest to me,” I observed.
“You will remember that I remarked the other day, just before we went
into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary Sutherland, that for
strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself,
which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination.”
“A proposition which I took the liberty of doubting.”
“You did, Doctor, but none the less you must come round to my view,
for otherwise I shall keep on piling fact upon fact on you until your
reason breaks down under them and acknowledges me to be right. Now,
Mr. Jabez Wilson here has been good enough to call upon me this
morning, and to begin a narrative which promises to be one of the most
singular which I have listened to for some time. You have heard me
remark that the strangest and most unique things are very often connected
not with the larger but with the smaller crimes, and occasionally, indeed,
where there is room for doubt whether any positive crime has been
committed. As far as I have heard it is impossible for me to say whether
the present case is an instance of crime or not, but the course of events is
certainly among the most singular that I have ever listened to. Perhaps,
Mr. Wilson, you would have the great kindness to recommence your
narrative. I ask you not merely because my friend Dr. Watson has not
heard the opening part but also because the peculiar nature of the story
makes me anxious to have every possible detail from your lips. As a rule,
when I have heard some slight indication of the course of events, I am
able to guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur
to my [177] memory. In the present instance I am forced to admit that the
facts are, to the best of my belief, unique.”
The portly client puffed out his chest with an appearance of some little
pride and pulled a dirty and wrinkled newspaper from the inside pocket of
his great-coat. As he glanced down the advertisement column, with his
head thrust forward and the paper flattened out upon his knee, I took a
good look at the man and endeavoured, after the fashion of my
companion, to read the indications which might be presented by his dress
or appearance.

I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection. Our visitor bore
every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman, obese,
pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy gray shepherd’s check
trousers, a not over-clean black frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a
drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain, and a square pierced bit
of metal dangling down as an ornament. A frayed top-hat and a faded
brown overcoat with a wrinkled velvet collar lay upon a chair beside him.
Altogether, look as I would, there was nothing remarkable about the man
save his blazing red head, and the expression of extreme chagrin and
discontent upon his features.
Sherlock Holmes’s quick eye took in my occupation, and he shook his
head with a smile as he noticed my questioning glances. “Beyond the
obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes
snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has
done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”
Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair, with his forefinger upon the
paper, but his eyes upon my companion.
“How, in the name of good-fortune, did you know all that, Mr.
Holmes?” he asked. “How did you know, for example, that I did manual
labour? It’s as true as gospel, for I began as a ship’s carpenter.”
“Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is quite a size larger than
your left. You have worked with it, and the muscles are more developed.”
“Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?”
“I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that,
especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc-
and-compass breastpin.”
“Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?”
“What else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for five
inches, and the left one with the smooth patch near the elbow where you
rest it upon the desk?”
“Well, but China?”
“The fish that you have tattooed immediately above your right wrist
could only have been done in China. I have made a small study of tattoo
marks and have even contributed to the literature of the subject. That trick
of staining the fishes’ scales of a delicate pink is quite peculiar to China.
When, in addition, I see a Chinese coin hanging from your watch-chain,
the matter becomes even more simple.”
Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. “Well, I never!” said he. “I thought
at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was
nothing in it, after all.”
“I begin to think, Watson,” said Holmes, “that I make a mistake in
explaining. ‘Omne ignotum pro magnifico,’ you know, and my poor little
reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid. Can you
not find the advertisement, Mr. Wilson?”
[178] “Yes, I have got it now,” he answered with his thick red finger
planted halfway down the column. “Here it is. This is what began it all.
You just read it for yourself, sir.”
I took the paper from him and read as follows:


On account of the bequest of the late Ezekiah Hopkins, of
Lebanon, Pennsylvania, U. S. A., there is now another vacancy
open which entitles a member of the League to a salary of £4 a
week for purely nominal services. All red-headed men who are
sound in body and mind, and above the age of twenty-one years,
are eligible. Apply in person on Monday, at eleven o’clock, to
Duncan Ross, at the offices of the League, 7 Pope’s Court, Fleet

“What on earth does this mean?” I ejaculated after I had twice read
over the extraordinary announcement.
Holmes chuckled and wriggled in his chair, as was his habit when in
high spirits. “It is a little off the beaten track, isn’t it?” said he. “And now,
Mr. Wilson, off you go at scratch and tell us all about yourself, your
household, and the effect which this advertisement had upon your
fortunes. You will first make a note, Doctor, of the paper and the date.”
“It is The Morning Chronicle of April 27, 1890. Just two months ago.”
“Very good. Now, Mr. Wilson?”
“Well, it is just as I have been telling you, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said
Jabez Wilson, mopping his forehead; “I have a small pawnbroker’s
business at Coburg Square, near the City. It’s not a very large affair, and
of late years it has not done more than just give me a living. I used to be
able to keep two assistants, but now I only keep one; and I would have a
job to pay him but that he is willing to come for half wages so as to learn
the business.”
“What is the name of this obliging youth?” asked Sherlock Holmes.
“His name is Vincent Spaulding, and he’s not such a youth, either. It’s
hard to say his age. I should not wish a smarter assistant, Mr. Holmes; and
I know very well that he could better himself and earn twice what I am
able to give him. But, after all, if he is satisfied, why should I put ideas in
his head?”
“Why, indeed? You seem most fortunate in having an employee who
comes under the full market price. It is not a common experience among
employers in this age. I don’t know that your assistant is not as
remarkable as your advertisement.”
“Oh, he has his faults, too,” said Mr. Wilson. “Never was such a fellow
for photography. Snapping away with a camera when he ought to be
improving his mind, and then diving down into the cellar like a rabbit into
its hole to develop his pictures. That is his main fault, but on the whole
he’s a good worker. There’s no vice in him.”
“He is still with you, I presume?”
“Yes, sir. He and a girl of fourteen, who does a bit of simple cooking
and keeps the place clean–that’s all I have in the house, for I am a
widower and never had any family. We live very quietly, sir, the three of
us; and we keep a roof over our heads and pay our debts, if we do nothing
“The first thing that put us out was that advertisement. Spaulding, he
came down into the office just this day eight weeks, with this very paper
in his hand, and he says:
“‘I wish to the Lord, Mr. Wilson, that I was a red-headed man.’
[179] “‘Why that?’ I asks.

“‘Why,’ says he, ‘here’s another vacancy on the League of the Red-
headed Men. It’s worth quite a little fortune to any man who gets it, and I
understand that there are more vacancies than there are men, so that the
trustees are at their wits’ end what to do with the money. If my hair would
only change colour, here’s a nice little crib all ready for me to step into.’
“‘Why, what is it, then?’ I asked. You see, Mr. Holmes, I am a very
stay-at-home man, and as my business came to me instead of my having
to go to it, I was often weeks on end without putting my foot over the
door-mat. In that way I didn’t know much of what was going on outside,
and I was always glad of a bit of news.
“‘Have you never heard of the League of the Red-headed Men?’ he
asked with his eyes open.
“‘Why, I wonder at that, for you are eligible yourself for one of the
“‘And what are they worth?’ I asked.
“‘Oh, merely a couple of hundred a year, but the work is slight, and it
need not interfere very much with one’s other occupations.’
“Well, you can easily think that that made me prick up my ears, for the
business has not been over-good for some years, and an extra couple of
hundred would have been very handy.
“‘Tell me all about it,’ said I.
“‘Well,’ said he, showing me the advertisement, ‘you can see for
yourself that the League has a vacancy, and there is the address where
you should apply for particulars. As far as I can make out, the League was
founded by an American millionaire, Ezekiah Hopkins, who was very
peculiar in his ways. He was himself red-headed, and he had a great
sympathy for all red-headed men; so when he died it was found that he
had left his enormous fortune in the hands of trustees, with instructions to
apply the interest to the providing of easy berths to men whose hair is of
that colour. From all I hear it is splendid pay and very little to do.’
“‘But,’ said I, ‘there would be millions of red-headed men who would
“‘Not so many as you might think,’ he answered. ‘You see it is really
confined to Londoners, and to grown men. This American had started
from London when he was young, and he wanted to do the old town a
good turn. Then, again, I have heard it is no use your applying if your hair
is light red, or dark red, or anything but real bright, blazing, fiery red.
Now, if you cared to apply, Mr. Wilson, you would just walk in; but
perhaps it would hardly be worth your while to put yourself out of the
way for the sake of a few hundred pounds.’
“Now, it is a fact, gentlemen, as you may see for yourselves, that my
hair is of a very full and rich tint, so that it seemed to me that if there was
to be any competition in the matter I stood as good a chance as any man
that I had ever met. Vincent Spaulding seemed to know so much about it
that I thought he might prove useful, so I just ordered him to put up the
shutters for the day and to come right away with me. He was very willing
to have a holiday, so we shut the business up and started off for the
address that was given us in the advertisement.
“I never hope to see such a sight as that again, Mr. Holmes. From
north, south, east, and west every man who had a shade of red in his hair
had tramped into the city to answer the advertisement. Fleet Street was
choked with red-headed folk, and Pope’s Court looked like a coster’s
orange barrow. I should not have thought there were so many in the
whole country as were brought together by that single [180] advertisement.
Every shade of colour they were–straw, lemon, orange, brick, Irish-setter,
liver, clay; but, as Spaulding said, there were not many who had the real
vivid flame-coloured tint. When I saw how many were waiting, I would
have given it up in despair; but Spaulding would not hear of it. How he
did it I could not imagine, but he pushed and pulled and butted until he
got me through the crowd, and right up to the steps which led to the
office. There was a double stream upon the stair, some going up in hope,
and some coming back dejected; but we wedged in as well as we could
and soon found ourselves in the office.”
“Your experience has been a most entertaining one,” remarked Holmes
as his client paused and refreshed his memory with a huge pinch of snuff.
“Pray continue your very interesting statement.”
“There was nothing in the office but a couple of wooden chairs and a
deal table, behind which sat a small man with a head that was even redder
than mine. He said a few words to each candidate as he came up, and then
he always managed to find some fault in them which would disqualify
them. Getting a vacancy did not seem to be such a very easy matter, after
all. However, when our turn came the little man was much more
favourable to me than to any of the others, and he closed the door as we
entered, so that he might have a private word with us.
“‘This is Mr. Jabez Wilson,’ said my assistant, ‘and he is willing to fill
a vacancy in the League.’
“‘And he is admirably suited for it,’ the other answered. ‘He has every
requirement. I cannot recall when I have seen anything so fine.’ He took a
step backward, cocked his head on one side, and gazed at my hair until I
felt quite bashful. Then suddenly he plunged forward, wrung my hand,
and congratulated me warmly on my success.

“‘It would be injustice to hesitate,’ said he. ‘You will, however, I am

sure, excuse me for taking an obvious precaution.’ With that he seized my
hair in both his hands, and tugged until I yelled with the pain. ‘There is
water in your eyes,’ said he as he released me. ‘I perceive that all is as it
should be. But we have to be careful, for we have twice been deceived by
wigs and once by paint. I could tell you tales of cobbler’s wax which
would disgust you with human nature.’ He stepped over to the window
and shouted through it at the top of his voice that the vacancy was filled.
A groan of disappointment came up from below, and the folk all trooped
away in different directions until there was not a red-head to be seen
except my own and that of the manager.
“‘My name,’ said he, ‘is Mr. Duncan Ross, and I am myself one of the
pensioners upon the fund left by our noble benefactor. Are you a married
man, Mr. Wilson? Have you a family?’
“I answered that I had not.
“His face fell immediately.
“‘Dear me!’ he said gravely, ‘that is very serious indeed! I am sorry to
hear you say that. The fund was, of course, for the propagation and spread
of the red-heads as well as for their maintenance. It is exceedingly
unfortunate that you should be a bachelor.’
“My face lengthened at this, Mr. Holmes, for I thought that I was not to
have the vacancy after all; but after thinking it over for a few minutes he
said that it would be all right.
“‘In the case of another,’ said he, ‘the objection might be fatal, but we
must stretch a point in favour of a man with such a head of hair as yours.
When shall you be able to enter upon your new duties?’
[181] “‘Well, it is a little awkward, for I have a business already,’ said I.
“‘Oh, never mind about that, Mr. Wilson!’ said Vincent Spaulding. ‘I
should be able to look after that for you.’
“‘What would be the hours?’ I asked.
“‘Ten to two.’
“Now a pawnbroker’s business is mostly done of an evening, Mr.
Holmes, especially Thursday and Friday evening, which is just before pay-
day; so it would suit me very well to earn a little in the mornings. Besides,
I knew that my assistant was a good man, and that he would see to
anything that turned up.
“‘That would suit me very well,’ said I. ‘And the pay?’
“‘Is £4 a week.’
“‘And the work?’
“‘Is purely nominal.’
“‘What do you call purely nominal?’
“‘Well, you have to be in the office, or at least in the building, the
whole time. If you leave, you forfeit your whole position forever. The will
is very clear upon that point. You don’t comply with the conditions if you
budge from the office during that time.’
“‘It’s only four hours a day, and I should not think of leaving,’ said I.
“‘No excuse will avail,’ said Mr. Duncan Ross; ‘neither sickness nor
business nor anything else. There you must stay, or you lose your billet.’
“‘And the work?’
“‘Is to copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannica. There is the first volume
of it in that press. You must find your own ink, pens, and blotting-paper,
but we provide this table and chair. Will you be ready to-morrow?’
“‘Certainly,’ I answered.
“‘Then, good-bye, Mr. Jabez Wilson, and let me congratulate you once
more on the important position which you have been fortunate enough to
gain.’ He bowed me out of the room, and I went home with my assistant,
hardly knowing what to say or do, I was so pleased at my own good
“Well, I thought over the matter all day, and by evening I was in low
spirits again; for I had quite persuaded myself that the whole affair must
be some great hoax or fraud, though what its object might be I could not
imagine. It seemed altogether past belief that anyone could make such a
will, or that they would pay such a sum for doing anything so simple as
copying out the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Vincent Spaulding did what he
could to cheer me up, but by bedtime I had reasoned myself out of the
whole thing. However, in the morning I determined to have a look at it
anyhow, so I bought a penny bottle of ink, and with a quill-pen, and seven
sheets of foolscap paper, I started off for Pope’s Court.
“Well, to my surprise and delight, everything was as right as possible.
The table was set out ready for me, and Mr. Duncan Ross was there to see
that I got fairly to work. He started me off upon the letter A, and then he
left me; but he would drop in from time to time to see that all was right
with me. At two o’clock he bade me good-day, complimented me upon
the amount that I had written, and locked the door of the office after me.
“This went on day after day, Mr. Holmes, and on Saturday the manager
came in and planked down four golden sovereigns for my week’s work. It
was the same next week, and the same the week after. Every morning I
was there at ten, and every afternoon I left at two. By degrees Mr. Duncan
Ross took to coming in only once of a morning, and then, after a time, he
did not come in at all. Still, of course, I [182] never dared to leave the
room for an instant, for I was not sure when he might come, and the billet
was such a good one, and suited me so well, that I would not risk the loss
of it.
“Eight weeks passed away like this, and I had written about Abbots and
Archery and Armour and Architecture and Attica, and hoped with
diligence that I might get on to the B’s before very long. It cost me
something in foolscap, and I had pretty nearly filled a shelf with my
writings. And then suddenly the whole business came to an end.”
“To an end?”
“Yes, sir. And no later than this morning. I went to my work as usual at
ten o’clock, but the door was shut and locked, with a little square of card-
board hammered on to the middle of the panel with a tack. Here it is, and
you can read for yourself.”
He held up a piece of white card-board about the size of a sheet of note-
paper. It read in this fashion:


October 9, 1890.

Sherlock Holmes and I surveyed this curt announcement and the rueful
face behind it, until the comical side of the affair so completely
overtopped every other consideration that we both burst out into a roar of
“I cannot see that there is anything very funny,” cried our client,
flushing up to the roots of his flaming head. “If you can do nothing better
than laugh at me, I can go elsewhere.”
“No, no,” cried Holmes, shoving him back into the chair from which he
had half risen. “I really wouldn’t miss your case for the world. It is most
refreshingly unusual. But there is, if you will excuse my saying so,
something just a little funny about it. Pray what steps did you take when
you found the card upon the door?”
“I was staggered, sir. I did not know what to do. Then I called at the
offices round, but none of them seemed to know anything about it.
Finally, I went to the landlord, who is an accountant living on the ground-
floor, and I asked him if he could tell me what had become of the Red-
headed League. He said that he had never heard of any such body. Then I
asked him who Mr. Duncan Ross was. He answered that the name was
new to him.
“‘Well,’ said I, ‘the gentleman at No. 4.’
“‘What, the red-headed man?’
“‘Oh,’ said he, ‘his name was William Morris. He was a solicitor and
was using my room as a temporary convenience until his new premises
were ready. He moved out yesterday.’
“‘Where could I find him?’
“‘Oh, at his new offices. He did tell me the address. Yes, 17 King
Edward Street, near St. Paul’s.’
“I started off, Mr. Holmes, but when I got to that address it was a
manufactory of artificial knee-caps, and no one in it had ever heard of
either Mr. William Morris or Mr. Duncan Ross.”
“And what did you do then?” asked Holmes.
[183] “I went home to Saxe-Coburg Square, and I took the advice of my
assistant. But he could not help me in any way. He could only say that if I
waited I should hear by post. But that was not quite good enough, Mr.
Holmes. I did not wish to lose such a place without a struggle, so, as I had
heard that you were good enough to give advice to poor folk who were in
need of it, I came right away to you.”
“And you did very wisely,” said Holmes. “Your case is an exceedingly
remarkable one, and I shall be happy to look into it. From what you have
told me I think that it is possible that graver issues hang from it than
might at first sight appear.”
“Grave enough!” said Mr. Jabez Wilson. “Why, I have lost four pound
a week.”
“As far as you are personally concerned,” remarked Holmes, “I do not
see that you have any grievance against this extraordinary league. On the
contrary, you are, as I understand, richer by some £30, to say nothing of
the minute knowledge which you have gained on every subject which
comes under the letter A. You have lost nothing by them.”
“No, sir. But I want to find out about them, and who they are, and what
their object was in playing this prank–if it was a prank–upon me. It was a
pretty expensive joke for them, for it cost them two and thirty pounds.”
“We shall endeavour to clear up these points for you. And, first, one or
two questions, Mr. Wilson. This assistant of yours who first called your
attention to the advertisement–how long had he been with you?”
“About a month then.”
“How did he come?”
“In answer to an advertisement.”
“Was he the only applicant?”
“No, I had a dozen.”
“Why did you pick him?”
“Because he was handy and would come cheap.”
“At half-wages, in fact.”
“What is he like, this Vincent Spaulding?”
“Small, stout-built, very quick in his ways, no hair on his face, though
he’s not short of thirty. Has a white splash of acid upon his forehead.”
Holmes sat up in his chair in considerable excitement. “I thought as
much,” said he. “Have you ever observed that his ears are pierced for
“Yes, sir. He told me that a gypsy had done it for him when he was a
“Hum!” said Holmes, sinking back in deep thought. “He is still with
“Oh, yes, sir; I have only just left him.”
“And has your business been attended to in your absence?”
“Nothing to complain of, sir. There’s never very much to do of a
“That will do, Mr. Wilson. I shall be happy to give you an opinion upon
the subject in the course of a day or two. To-day is Saturday, and I hope
that by Monday we may come to a conclusion.”
“Well, Watson,” said Holmes when our visitor had left us, “what do
you make of it all?”
“I make nothing of it,” I answered frankly. “It is a most mysterious
“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more bizarre a thing is the less
mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes
which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult
to identify. But I must be prompt over this matter.”
[184] “What are you going to do, then?” I asked.
“To smoke,” he answered. “It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg
that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.” He curled himself up in his
chair, with his thin knees drawn up to his hawk-like nose, and there he sat
with his eyes closed and his black clay pipe thrusting out like the bill of
some strange bird. I had come to the conclusion that he had dropped
asleep, and indeed was nodding myself, when he suddenly sprang out of
his chair with the gesture of a man who has made up his mind and put his
pipe down upon the mantelpiece.
“Sarasate plays at the St. James’s Hall this afternoon,” he remarked.
“What do you think, Watson? Could your patients spare you for a few
“I have nothing to do to-day. My practice is never very absorbing.”
“Then put on your hat and come. I am going through the City first, and
we can have some lunch on the way. I observe that there is a good deal of
German music on the programme, which is rather more to my taste than
Italian or French. It is introspective, and I want to introspect. Come
We travelled by the Underground as far as Aldersgate; and a short walk
took us to Saxe-Coburg Square, the scene of the singular story which we
had listened to in the morning. It was a poky, little, shabby-genteel place,
where four lines of dingy two-storied brick houses looked out into a small
railed-in enclosure, where a lawn of weedy grass and a few clumps of
faded laurel-bushes made a hard fight against a smoke-laden and
uncongenial atmosphere. Three gilt balls and a brown board with “JABEZ
WILSON” in white letters, upon a corner house, announced the place
where our red-headed client carried on his business. Sherlock Holmes
stopped in front of it with his head on one side and looked it all over, with
his eyes shining brightly between puckered lids. Then he walked slowly
up the street, and then down again to the corner, still looking keenly at the
houses. Finally he returned to the pawnbroker’s, and, having thumped
vigorously upon the pavement with his stick two or three times, he went
up to the door and knocked. It was instantly opened by a bright-looking,
clean-shaven young fellow, who asked him to step in.
“Thank you,” said Holmes, “I only wished to ask you how you would
go from here to the Strand.”
“Third right, fourth left,” answered the assistant promptly, closing the
“Smart fellow, that,” observed Holmes as we walked away. “He is, in
my judgment, the fourth smartest man in London, and for daring I am not
sure that he has not a claim to be third. I have known something of him
“Evidently,” said I, “Mr. Wilson’s assistant counts for a good deal in
this mystery of the Red-headed League. I am sure that you inquired your
way merely in order that you might see him.”
“Not him.”
“What then?”
“The knees of his trousers.”
“And what did you see?”
“What I expected to see.”
“Why did you beat the pavement?”
“My dear doctor, this is a time for observation, not for talk. We are
spies in an enemy’s country. We know something of Saxe-Coburg
Square. Let us now explore the parts which lie behind it.”
The road in which we found ourselves as we turned round the corner
from the retired Saxe-Coburg Square presented as great a contrast to it as
the front of a [185] picture does to the back. It was one of the main arteries
which conveyed the traffic of the City to the north and west. The roadway
was blocked with the immense stream of commerce flowing in a double
tide inward and outward, while the foot-paths were black with the
hurrying swarm of pedestrians. It was difficult to realize as we looked at
the line of fine shops and stately business premises that they really
abutted on the other side upon the faded and stagnant square which we
had just quitted.
“Let me see,” said Holmes, standing at the corner and glancing along
the line, “I should like just to remember the order of the houses here. It is
a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of London. There is
Mortimer’s, the tobacconist, the little newspaper shop, the Coburg branch
of the City and Suburban Bank, the Vegetarian Restaurant, and
McFarlane’s carriage-building depot. That carries us right on to the other
block. And now, Doctor, we’ve done our work, so it’s time we had some
play. A sandwich and a cup of coffee, and then off to violin-land, where
all is sweetness and delicacy and harmony, and there are no red-headed
clients to vex us with their conundrums.”
My friend was an enthusiastic musician, being himself not only a very
capable performer but a composer of no ordinary merit. All the afternoon
he sat in the stalls wrapped in the most perfect happiness, gently waving
his long, thin fingers in time to the music, while his gently smiling face
and his languid, dreamy eyes were as unlike those of Holmes, the sleuth-
hound, Holmes the relentless, keen-witted, ready-handed criminal agent,
as it was possible to conceive. In his singular character the dual nature
alternately asserted itself, and his extreme exactness and astuteness
represented, as I have often thought, the reaction against the poetic and
contemplative mood which occasionally predominated in him. The swing
of his nature took him from extreme languor to devouring energy; and, as
I knew well, he was never so truly formidable as when, for days on end,
he had been lounging in his armchair amid his improvisations and his
black-letter editions. Then it was that the lust of the chase would suddenly
come upon him, and that his brilliant reasoning power would rise to the
level of intuition, until those who were unacquainted with his methods
would look askance at him as on a man whose knowledge was not that of
other mortals. When I saw him that afternoon so enwrapped in the music
at St. James’s Hall I felt that an evil time might be coming upon those
whom he had set himself to hunt down.
“You want to go home, no doubt, Doctor,” he remarked as we emerged.
“Yes, it would be as well.”
“And I have some business to do which will take some hours. This
business at Coburg Square is serious.”
“Why serious?”
“A considerable crime is in contemplation. I have every reason to
believe that we shall be in time to stop it. But to-day being Saturday
rather complicates matters. I shall want your help to-night.”
“At what time?”
“Ten will be early enough.”
“I shall be at Baker Street at ten.”
“Very well. And, I say, Doctor, there may be some little danger, so
kindly put your army revolver in your pocket.” He waved his hand, turned
on his heel, and disappeared in an instant among the crowd.
I trust that I am not more dense than my neighbours, but I was always
oppressed with a sense of my own stupidity in my dealings with Sherlock
Holmes. Here I had [186] heard what he had heard, I had seen what he had
seen, and yet from his words it was evident that he saw clearly not only
what had happened but what was about to happen, while to me the whole
business was still confused and grotesque. As I drove home to my house
in Kensington I thought over it all, from the extraordinary story of the red-
headed copier of the Encyclopaedia down to the visit to Saxe-Coburg
Square, and the ominous words with which he had parted from me. What
was this nocturnal expedition, and why should I go armed? Where were
we going, and what were we to do? I had the hint from Holmes that this
smooth-faced pawnbroker’s assistant was a formidable man–a man who
might play a deep game. I tried to puzzle it out, but gave it up in despair
and set the matter aside until night should bring an explanation.
It was a quarter-past nine when I started from home and made my way
across the Park, and so through Oxford Street to Baker Street. Two
hansoms were standing at the door, and as I entered the passage I heard
the sound of voices from above. On entering his room I found Holmes in
animated conversation with two men, one of whom I recognized as Peter
Jones, the official police agent, while the other was a long, thin, sad-faced
man, with a very shiny hat and oppressively respectable frock-coat.
“Ha! our party is complete,” said Holmes, buttoning up his pea-jacket
and taking his heavy hunting crop from the rack. “Watson, I think you
know Mr. Jones, of Scotland Yard? Let me introduce you to Mr.
Merryweather, who is to be our companion in to-night’s adventure.”
“We’re hunting in couples again, Doctor, you see,” said Jones in his
consequential way. “Our friend here is a wonderful man for starting a
chase. All he wants is an old dog to help him to do the running down.”
“I hope a wild goose may not prove to be the end of our chase,”
observed Mr. Merryweather gloomily.
“You may place considerable confidence in Mr. Holmes, sir,” said the
police agent loftily. “He has his own little methods, which are, if he won’t
mind my saying so, just a little too theoretical and fantastic, but he has the
makings of a detective in him. It is not too much to say that once or twice,
as in that business of the Sholto murder and the Agra treasure, he has
been more nearly correct than the official force.”
“Oh, if you say so, Mr. Jones, it is all right,” said the stranger with
deference. “Still, I confess that I miss my rubber. It is the first Saturday
night for seven-and-twenty years that I have not had my rubber.”
“I think you will find,” said Sherlock Holmes, “that you will play for a
higher stake to-night than you have ever done yet, and that the play will
be more exciting. For you, Mr. Merryweather, the stake will be some
£30,000; and for you, Jones, it will be the man upon whom you wish to
lay your hands.”
“John Clay, the murderer, thief, smasher, and forger. He’s a young
man, Mr. Merryweather, but he is at the head of his profession, and I
would rather have my bracelets on him than on any criminal in London.
He’s a remarkable man, is young John Clay. His grandfather was a royal
duke, and he himself has been to Eton and Oxford. His brain is as cunning
as his fingers, and though we meet signs of him at every turn, we never
know where to find the man himself. He’ll crack a crib in Scotland one
week, and be raising money to build an orphanage in Cornwall the next.
I’ve been on his track for years and have never set eyes on him yet.”
“I hope that I may have the pleasure of introducing you to-night. I’ve
had one or two little turns also with Mr. John Clay, and I agree with you
that he is [187] at the head of his profession. It is past ten, however, and
quite time that we started. If you two will take the first hansom, Watson
and I will follow in the second.”
Sherlock Holmes was not very communicative during the long drive
and lay back in the cab humming the tunes which he had heard in the
afternoon. We rattled through an endless labyrinth of gas-lit streets until
we emerged into Farrington Street.
“We are close there now,” my friend remarked. “This fellow
Merryweather is a bank director, and personally interested in the matter. I
thought it as well to have Jones with us also. He is not a bad fellow,
though an absolute imbecile in his profession. He has one positive virtue.
He is as brave as a bulldog and as tenacious as a lobster if he gets his
claws upon anyone. Here we are, and they are waiting for us.”
We had reached the same crowded thoroughfare in which we had found
ourselves in the morning. Our cabs were dismissed, and, following the
guidance of Mr. Merryweather, we passed down a narrow passage and
through a side door, which he opened for us. Within there was a small
corridor, which ended in a very massive iron gate. This also was opened,
and led down a flight of winding stone steps, which terminated at another
formidable gate. Mr. Merryweather stopped to light a lantern, and then
conducted us down a dark, earth-smelling passage, and so, after opening a
third door, into a huge vault or cellar, which was piled all round with
crates and massive boxes.

“You are not very vulnerable from above,” Holmes remarked as he

held up the lantern and gazed about him.
“Nor from below,” said Mr. Merryweather, striking his stick upon the
flags which lined the floor. “Why, dear me, it sounds quite hollow!” he
remarked, looking up in surprise.
“I must really ask you to be a little more quiet!” said Holmes severely.
“You have already imperilled the whole success of our expedition. Might
I beg that you would have the goodness to sit down upon one of those
boxes, and not to interfere?”
The solemn Mr. Merryweather perched himself upon a crate, with a
very injured expression upon his face, while Holmes fell upon his knees
upon the floor and, with the lantern and a magnifying lens, began to
examine minutely the cracks between the stones. A few seconds sufficed
to satisfy him, for he sprang to his feet again and put his glass in his
“We have at least an hour before us,” he remarked, “for they can hardly
take any steps until the good pawnbroker is safely in bed. Then they will
not lose a minute, for the sooner they do their work the longer time they
will have for their escape. We are at present, Doctor–as no doubt you
have divined–in the cellar of the City branch of one of the principal
London banks. Mr. Merryweather is the chairman of directors, and he will
explain to you that there are reasons why the more daring criminals of
London should take a considerable interest in this cellar at present.”
“It is our French gold,” whispered the director. “We have had several
warnings that an attempt might be made upon it.”
“Your French gold?”
“Yes. We had occasion some months ago to strengthen our resources
and borrowed for that purpose 30,000 napoleons from the Bank of France.
It has become known that we have never had occasion to unpack the
money, and that it is still lying in our cellar. The crate upon which I sit
contains 2,000 napoleons packed between layers of lead foil. Our reserve
of bullion is much larger at present than is [188] usually kept in a single
branch office, and the directors have had misgivings upon the subject.”
“Which were very well justified,” observed Holmes. “And now it is time
that we arranged our little plans. I expect that within an hour matters will
come to a head. In the meantime, Mr. Merryweather, we must put the
screen over that dark lantern.”
“And sit in the dark?”
“I am afraid so. I had brought a pack of cards in my pocket, and I
thought that, as we were a partie carree, you might have your rubber after
all. But I see that the enemy’s preparations have gone so far that we
cannot risk the presence of a light. And, first of all, we must choose our
positions. These are daring men, and though we shall take them at a
disadvantage, they may do us some harm unless we are careful. I shall
stand behind this crate, and do you conceal yourselves behind those.
Then, when I flash a light upon them, close in swiftly. If they fire,
Watson, have no compunction about shooting them down.”
I placed my revolver, cocked, upon the top of the wooden case behind
which I crouched. Holmes shot the slide across the front of his lantern and
left us in pitch darkness–such an absolute darkness as I have never before
experienced. The smell of hot metal remained to assure us that the light
was still there, ready to flash out at a moment’s notice. To me, with my
nerves worked up to a pitch of expectancy, there was something
depressing and subduing in the sudden gloom, and in the cold dank air of
the vault.
“They have but one retreat,” whispered Holmes. “That is back through
the house into Saxe-Coburg Square. I hope that you have done what I
asked you, Jones?”
“I have an inspector and two officers waiting at the front door.”
“Then we have stopped all the holes. And now we must be silent and
What a time it seemed! From comparing notes afterwards it was but an
hour and a quarter, yet it appeared to me that the night must have almost
gone, and the dawn be breaking above us. My limbs were weary and stiff,
for I feared to change my position; yet my nerves were worked up to the
highest pitch of tension, and my hearing was so acute that I could not only
hear the gentle breathing of my companions, but I could distinguish the
deeper, heavier in-breath of the bulky Jones from the thin, sighing note of
the bank director. From my position I could look over the case in the
direction of the floor. Suddenly my eyes caught the glint of a light.
At first it was but a lurid spark upon the stone pavement. Then it
lengthened out until it became a yellow line, and then, without any
warning or sound, a gash seemed to open and a hand appeared; a white,
almost womanly hand, which felt about in the centre of the little area of
light. For a minute or more the hand, with its writhing fingers, protruded
out of the floor. Then it was withdrawn as suddenly as it appeared, and all
was dark again save the single lurid spark which marked a chink between
the stones.
Its disappearance, however, was but momentary. With a rending,
tearing sound, one of the broad, white stones turned over upon its side and
left a square, gaping hole, through which streamed the light of a lantern.
Over the edge there peeped a clean-cut, boyish face, which looked keenly
about it, and then, with a hand on either side of the aperture, drew itself
shoulder-high and waist-high, until one knee rested upon the edge. In
another instant he stood at the side of the hole and was hauling after him a
companion, lithe and small like himself, with a pale face and a shock of
very red hair.
[189] “It’s all clear,” he whispered. “Have you the chisel and the bags?
Great Scott! Jump, Archie, jump, and I’ll swing for it!”
Sherlock Holmes had sprung out and seized the intruder by the collar.
The other dived down the hole, and I heard the sound of rending cloth as
Jones clutched at his skirts. The light flashed upon the barrel of a
revolver, but Holmes’s hunting crop came down on the man’s wrist, and
the pistol clinked upon the stone floor.
“It’s no use, John Clay,” said Holmes blandly. “You have no chance at
“So I see,” the other answered with the utmost coolness. “I fancy that
my pal is all right, though I see you have got his coat-tails.”
“There are three men waiting for him at the door,” said Holmes.
“Oh, indeed! You seem to have done the thing very completely. I must
compliment you.”
“And I you,” Holmes answered. “Your red-headed idea was very new
and effective.”
“You’ll see your pal again presently,” said Jones. “He’s quicker at
climbing down holes than I am. Just hold out while I fix the derbies.”
“I beg that you will not touch me with your filthy hands,” remarked our
prisoner as the handcuffs clattered upon his wrists. “You may not be
aware that I have royal blood in my veins. Have the goodness, also, when
you address me always to say ‘sir’ and ‘please.’”
“All right,” said Jones with a stare and a snigger. “Well, would you
please, sir, march upstairs, where we can get a cab to carry your Highness
to the police-station?”
“That is better,” said John Clay serenely. He made a sweeping bow to
the three of us and walked quietly off in the custody of the detective.
“Really, Mr. Holmes,” said Mr. Merryweather as we followed them
from the cellar, “I do not know how the bank can thank you or repay you.
There is no doubt that you have detected and defeated in the most
complete manner one of the most determined attempts at bank robbery
that have ever come within my experience.”
“I have had one or two little scores of my own to settle with Mr. John
Clay,” said Holmes. “I have been at some small expense over this matter,
which I shall expect the bank to refund, but beyond that I am amply
repaid by having had an experience which is in many ways unique, and
by hearing the very remarkable narrative of the Red-headed League.”

“You see, Watson,” he explained in the early hours of the morning as

we sat over a glass of whisky and soda in Baker Street, “it was perfectly
obvious from the first that the only possible object of this rather fantastic
business of the advertisement of the League, and the copying of the
Encyclopaedia, must be to get this not over-bright pawnbroker out of the
way for a number of hours every day. It was a curious way of managing
it, but, really, it would be difficult to suggest a better. The method was no
doubt suggested to Clay’s ingenious mind by the colour of his
accomplice’s hair. The £4 a week was a lure which must draw him, and
what was it to them, who were playing for thousands? They put in the
advertisement, one rogue has the temporary office, the other rogue incites
the man to apply for it, and together they manage to secure his absence
every morning in the week. From the time that I heard of the assistant
having come for half wages, it was obvious to me that he had some strong
motive for securing the situation.”
[190] “But how could you guess what the motive was?”
“Had there been women in the house, I should have suspected a mere
vulgar intrigue. That, however, was out of the question. The man’s
business was a small one, and there was nothing in his house which could
account for such elaborate preparations, and such an expenditure as they
were at. It must, then, be something out of the house. What could it be? I
thought of the assistant’s fondness for photography, and his trick of
vanishing into the cellar. The cellar! There was the end of this tangled
clue. Then I made inquiries as to this mysterious assistant and found that I
had to deal with one of the coolest and most daring criminals in London.
He was doing something in the cellar–something which took many hours
a day for months on end. What could it be, once more? I could think of
nothing save that he was running a tunnel to some other building.
“So far I had got when we went to visit the scene of action. I surprised
you by beating upon the pavement with my stick. I was ascertaining
whether the cellar stretched out in front or behind. It was not in front.
Then I rang the bell, and, as I hoped, the assistant answered it. We have
had some skirmishes, but we had never set eyes upon each other before. I
hardly looked at his face. His knees were what I wished to see. You must
yourself have remarked how worn, wrinkled, and stained they were. They
spoke of those hours of burrowing. The only remaining point was what
they were burrowing for. I walked round the corner, saw the City and
Suburban Bank abutted on our friend’s premises, and felt that I had
solved my problem. When you drove home after the concert I called upon
Scotland Yard and upon the chairman of the bank directors, with the
result that you have seen.”
“And how could you tell that they would make their attempt to-night?”
I asked.
“Well, when they closed their League offices that was a sign that they
cared no longer about Mr. Jabez Wilson’s presence–in other words, that
they had completed their tunnel. But it was essential that they should use
it soon, as it might be discovered, or the bullion might be removed.
Saturday would suit them better than any other day, as it would give them
two days for their escape. For all these reasons I expected them to come
“You reasoned it out beautifully,” I exclaimed in unfeigned admiration.
“It is so long a chain, and yet every link rings true.”
“It saved me from ennui,” he answered, yawning. “Alas! I already feel
it closing in upon me. My life is spent in one long effort to escape from
the commonplaces of existence. These little problems help me to do so.”
“And you are a benefactor of the race,” said I.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Well, perhaps, after all, it is of some little
use,” he remarked. “‘L’homme c’est rien–l’oeuvre c’est tout,’ as Gustave
Flaubert wrote to George Sand.”

David Soucek, 1998 A Case of Identity

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

“MY DEAR fellow,” said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side of the
fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, “life is infinitely stranger than
anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to
conceive the things which are [191] really mere commonplaces of
existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over
this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things
which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-
purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations,
and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its
conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”

“And yet I am not convinced of it,” I answered. “The cases which come
to light in the papers are, as a rule, bald enough, and vulgar enough. We
have in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the
result is, it must be confessed, neither fascinating nor artistic.”
“A certain selection and discretion must be used in producing a realistic
effect,” remarked Holmes. “This is wanting in the police report, where
more stress is laid, perhaps, upon the platitudes of the magistrate than
upon the details, which to an observer contain the vital essence of the
whole matter. Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the
I smiled and shook my head. “I can quite understand your thinking so,”
I said. “Of course, in your position of unofficial adviser and helper to
everybody who is absolutely puzzled, throughout three continents, you
are brought in contact with all that is strange and bizarre. But here”–I
picked up the morning paper from the ground–“let us put it to a practical
test. Here is the first heading upon which I come. ‘A husband’s cruelty to
his wife.’ There is half a column of print, but I know without reading it
that it is all perfectly familiar to me. There is, of course, the other woman,
the drink, the push, the blow, the bruise, the sympathetic sister or
landlady. The crudest of writers could invent nothing more crude.”
“Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one for your argument,” said
Holmes, taking the paper and glancing his eye down it. “This is the
Dundas separation case, and, as it happens, I was engaged in clearing up
some small points in connection with it. The husband was a teetotaler,
there was no other woman, and the conduct complained of was that he
had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out his false
teeth and hurling them at his wife, which, you will allow, is not an action
likely to occur to the imagination of the average story-teller. Take a pinch
of snuff, Doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over you in your
He held out his snuffbox of old gold, with a great amethyst in the centre
of the lid. Its splendour was in such contrast to his homely ways and
simple life that I could not help commenting upon it.
“Ah,” said he, “I forgot that I had not seen you for some weeks. It is a
little souvenir from the King of Bohemia in return for my assistance in the
case of the Irene Adler papers.”
“And the ring?” I asked, glancing at a remarkable brilliant which
sparkled upon his finger.
“It was from the reigning family of Holland, though the matter in which
I served them was of such delicacy that I cannot confide it even to you,
who have been good enough to chronicle one or two of my little
“And have you any on hand just now?” I asked with interest.
“Some ten or twelve, but none which present any feature of interest.
They are important, you understand, without being interesting. Indeed, I
have found that it is usually in unimportant matters that there is a field for
the observation, and for the quick analysis of cause and effect which gives
the charm to an investigation. [192] The larger crimes are apt to be the
simpler, for the bigger the crime the more obvious, as a rule, is the
motive. In these cases, save for one rather intricate matter which has been
referred to me from Marseilles, there is nothing which presents any
features of interest. It is possible, however, that I may have something
better before very many minutes are over, for this is one of my clients, or
I am much mistaken.”
He had risen from his chair and was standing between the parted blinds,
gazing down into the dull neutral-tinted London street. Looking over his
shoulder, I saw that on the pavement opposite there stood a large woman
with a heavy fur boa round her neck, and a large curling red feather in a
broad-brimmed hat which was tilted in a coquettish Duchess of
Devonshire fashion over her ear. From under this great panoply she
peeped up in a nervous, hesitating fashion at our windows, while her body
oscillated backward and forward, and her fingers fidgeted with her glove
buttons. Suddenly, with a plunge, as of the swimmer who leaves the bank,
she hurried across the road, and we heard the sharp clang of the bell.
“I have seen those symptoms before,” said Holmes, throwing his
cigarette into the fire. “Oscillation upon the pavement always means an
affaire de coeur. She would like advice, but is not sure that the matter is
not too delicate for communication. And yet even here we may
discriminate. When a woman has been seriously wronged by a man she
no longer oscillates, and the usual symptom is a broken bell wire. Here
we may take it that there is a love matter, but that the maiden is not so
much angry as perplexed, or grieved. But here she comes in person to
resolve our doubts.”

As he spoke there was a tap at the door, and the boy in buttons entered
to announce Miss Mary Sutherland, while the lady herself loomed behind
his small black figure like a full-sailed merchant-man behind a tiny pilot
boat. Sherlock Holmes welcomed her with the easy courtesy for which he
was remarkable, and, having closed the door and bowed her into an
armchair, he looked her over in the minute and yet abstracted fashion
which was peculiar to him.
“Do you not find,” he said, “that with your short sight it is a little trying
to do so much typewriting?”
“I did at first,” she answered, “but now I know where the letters are
without looking.” Then, suddenly realizing the full purport of his words,
she gave a violent start and looked up, with fear and astonishment upon
her broad, good-humoured face. “You’ve heard about me, Mr. Holmes,”
she cried, “else how could you know all that?”
“Never mind,” said Holmes, laughing; “it is my business to know
things. Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook. If not,
why should you come to consult me?”
“I came to you, sir, because I heard of you from Mrs. Etherege, whose
husband you found so easy when the police and everyone had given him
up for dead. Oh, Mr. Holmes, I wish you would do as much for me. I’m
not rich, but still I have a hundred a year in my own right, besides the
little that I make by the machine, and I would give it all to know what has
become of Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
“Why did you come away to consult me in such a hurry?” asked
Sherlock Holmes, with his finger-tips together and his eyes to the ceiling.
Again a startled look came over the somewhat vacuous face of Miss
Mary Sutherland. “Yes, I did bang out of the house,” she said, “for it
made me angry to see the easy way in which Mr. Windibank–that is, my
father–took it all. He would not [193] go to the police, and he would not
go to you, and so at last, as he would do nothing and kept on saying that
there was no harm done, it made me mad, and I just on with my things
and came right away to you.”
“Your father,” said Holmes, “your stepfather, surely, since the name is
“Yes, my stepfather. I call him father, though it sounds funny, too, for
he is only five years and two months older than myself.”
“And your mother is alive?”
“Oh, yes, mother is alive and well. I wasn’t best pleased, Mr. Holmes,
when she married again so soon after father’s death, and a man who was
nearly fifteen years younger than herself. Father was a plumber in the
Tottenham Court Road, and he left a tidy business behind him, which
mother carried on with Mr. Hardy, the foreman; but when Mr. Windibank
came he made her sell the business, for he was very superior, being a
traveller in wines. They got £4700 for the goodwill and interest, which
wasn’t near as much as father could have got if he had been alive.”
I had expected to see Sherlock Holmes impatient under this rambling
and inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary, he had listened with
the greatest concentration of attention.
“Your own little income,” he asked, “does it come out of the business?”
“Oh, no, sir. It is quite separate and was left me by my uncle Ned in
Auckland. It is in New Zealand stock, paying 4½ per cent. Two thousand
five hundred pounds was the amount, but I can only touch the interest.”
“You interest me extremely,” said Holmes. “And since you draw so
large a sum as a hundred a year, with what you earn into the bargain, you
no doubt travel a little and indulge yourself in every way. I believe that a
single lady can get on very nicely upon an income of about £60.”
“I could do with much less than that, Mr. Holmes, but you understand
that as long as I live at home I don’t wish to be a burden to them, and so
they have the use of the money just while I am staying with them. Of
course, that is only just for the time. Mr. Windibank draws my interest
every quarter and pays it over to mother, and I find that I can do pretty
well with what I earn at typewriting. It brings me twopence a sheet, and I
can often do from fifteen to twenty sheets in a day.”
“You have made your position very clear to me,” said Holmes. “This is
my friend, Dr. Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as before
myself. Kindly tell us now all about your connection with Mr. Hosmer

A flush stole over Miss Sutherland’s face, and she picked nervously at
the fringe of her jacket. “I met him first at the gasfitters’ ball,” she said.
“They used to send father tickets when he was alive, and then afterwards
they remembered us, and sent them to mother. Mr. Windibank did not
wish us to go. He never did wish us to go anywhere. He would get quite
mad if I wanted so much as to join a Sunday-school treat. But this time I
was set on going, and I would go; for what right had he to prevent? He
said the folk were not fit for us to know, when all father’s friends were to
be there. And he said that I had nothing fit to wear, when I had my purple
plush that I had never so much as taken out of the drawer. At last, when
nothing else would do, he went off to France upon the business of the
firm, but we went, mother and I, with Mr. Hardy, who used to be our
foreman, and it was there I met Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
“I suppose,” said Holmes, “that when Mr. Windibank came back from
France he was very annoyed at your having gone to the ball.”
[194] “Oh, well, he was very good about it. He laughed, I remember,
and shrugged his shoulders, and said there was no use denying anything
to a woman, for she would have her way.”
“I see. Then at the gasfitters’ ball you met, as I understand, a gentleman
called Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
“Yes, sir. I met him that night, and he called next day to ask if we had
got home all safe, and after that we met him–that is to say, Mr. Holmes, I
met him twice for walks, but after that father came back again, and Mr.
Hosmer Angel could not come to the house any more.”
“Well, you know, father didn’t like anything of the sort. He wouldn’t
have any visitors if he could help it, and he used to say that a woman
should be happy in her own family circle. But then, as I used to say to
mother, a woman wants her own circle to begin with, and I had not got
mine yet.”
“But how about Mr. Hosmer Angel? Did he make no attempt to see
“Well, father was going off to France again in a week, and Hosmer
wrote and said that it would be safer and better not to see each other until
he had gone. We could write in the meantime, and he used to write every
day. I took the letters in in the morning, so there was no need for father to
“Were you engaged to the gentleman at this time?”
“Oh, yes, Mr. Holmes. We were engaged after the first walk that we
took. Hosmer–Mr. Angel–was a cashier in an office in Leadenhall
Street–and– –”
“What office?”
“That’s the worst of it, Mr. Holmes, I don’t know.”
“Where did he live, then?”
“He slept on the premises.”
“And you don’t know his address?”
“No–except that it was Leadenhall Street.”
“Where did you address your letters, then?”
“To the Leadenhall Street Post-Office, to be left till called for. He said
that if they were sent to the office he would be chaffed by all the other
clerks about having letters from a lady, so I offered to typewrite them,
like he did his, but he wouldn’t have that, for he said that when I wrote
them they seemed to come from me, but when they were typewritten he
always felt that the machine had come between us. That will just show
you how fond he was of me, Mr. Holmes, and the little things that he
would think of.”
“It was most suggestive,” said Holmes. “It has long been an axiom of
mine that the little things are infinitely the most important. Can you
remember any other little things about Mr. Hosmer Angel?”
“He was a very shy man, Mr. Holmes. He would rather walk with me in
the evening than in the daylight, for he said that he hated to be
conspicuous. Very retiring and gentlemanly he was. Even his voice was
gentle. He’d had the quinsy and swollen glands when he was young, he
told me, and it had left him with a weak throat, and a hesitating,
whispering fashion of speech. He was always well dressed, very neat and
plain, but his eyes were weak, just as mine are, and he wore tinted glasses
against the glare.”
“Well, and what happened when Mr. Windibank, your stepfather,
returned to France?”
“Mr. Hosmer Angel came to the house again and proposed that we
should marry before father came back. He was in dreadful earnest and
made me swear, with [195] my hands on the Testament, that whatever
happened I would always be true to him. Mother said he was quite right to
make me swear, and that it was a sign of his passion. Mother was all in
his favour from the first and was even fonder of him than I was. Then,
when they talked of marrying within the week, I began to ask about
father; but they both said never to mind about father, but just to tell him
afterwards, and mother said she would make it all right with him. I didn’t
quite like that, Mr. Holmes. It seemed funny that I should ask his leave, as
he was only a few years older than me; but I didn’t want to do anything
on the sly, so I wrote to father at Bordeaux, where the company has its
French offices, but the letter came back to me on the very morning of the
“It missed him, then?”
“Yes, sir; for he had started to England just before it arrived.”
“Ha! that was unfortunate. Your wedding was arranged, then, for the
Friday. Was it to be in church?”

“Yes, sir, but very quietly. It was to be at St. Saviour’s, near King’s
Cross, and we were to have breakfast afterwards at the St. Pancras Hotel.
Hosmer came for us in a hansom, but as there were two of us he put us
both into it and stepped himself into a four-wheeler, which happened to
be the only other cab in the street. We got to the church first, and when
the four-wheeler drove up we waited for him to step out, but he never did,
and when the cabman got down from the box and looked there was no
one there! The cabman said that he could not imagine what had become
of him, for he had seen him get in with his own eyes. That was last
Friday, Mr. Holmes, and I have never seen or heard anything since then to
throw any light upon what became of him.”
“It seems to me that you have been very shamefully treated,” said
“Oh, no, sir! He was too good and kind to leave me so. Why, all the
morning he was saying to me that, whatever happened, I was to be true;
and that even if something quite unforeseen occurred to separate us, I was
always to remember that I was pledged to him, and that he would claim
his pledge sooner or later. It seemed strange talk for a wedding-morning,
but what has happened since gives a meaning to it.”
“Most certainly it does. Your own opinion is, then, that some
unforeseen catastrophe has occurred to him?”
“Yes, sir. I believe that he foresaw some danger, or else he would not
have talked so. And then I think that what he foresaw happened.”
“But you have no notion as to what it could have been?”
“One more question. How did your mother take the matter?”
“She was angry, and said that I was never to speak of the matter again.”
“And your father? Did you tell him?”
“Yes; and he seemed to think, with me, that something had happened,
and that I should hear of Hosmer again. As he said, what interest could
anyone have in bringing me to the doors of the church, and then leaving
me? Now, if he had borrowed my money, or if he had married me and got
my money settled on him, there might be some reason, but Hosmer was
very independent about money and never would look at a shilling of
mine. And yet, what could have happened? And why could he not write?
Oh, it drives me half-mad to think of it, and I can’t sleep a wink at night.”
She pulled a little handkerchief out of her muff and began to sob heavily
into it.
“I shall glance into the case for you,” said Holmes, rising, “and I have
no doubt [196] that we shall reach some definite result. Let the weight of
the matter rest upon me now, and do not let your mind dwell upon it
further. Above all, try to let Mr. Hosmer Angel vanish from your
memory, as he has done from your life.”
“Then you don’t think I’ll see him again?”
“I fear not.”
“Then what has happened to him?”
“You will leave that question in my hands. I should like an accurate
description of him and any letters of his which you can spare.”
“I advertised for him in last Saturday’s Chronicle,” said she. “Here is
the slip and here are four letters from him.”
“Thank you. And your address?”
“No. 31 Lyon Place, Camberwell.”
“Mr. Angel’s address you never had, I understand. Where is your
father’s place of business?”
“He travels for Westhouse & Marbank, the great claret importers of
Fenchurch Street.”
“Thank you. You have made your statement very clearly. You will
leave the papers here, and remember the advice which I have given you.
Let the whole incident be a sealed book, and do not allow it to affect your
“You are very kind, Mr. Holmes, but I cannot do that. I shall be true to
Hosmer. He shall find me ready when he comes back.”

For all the preposterous hat and the vacuous face, there was something
noble in the simple faith of our visitor which compelled our respect. She
laid her little bundle of papers upon the table and went her way, with a
promise to come again whenever she might be summoned.
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for a few minutes with his finger-tips still
pressed together, his legs stretched out in front of him, and his gaze
directed upward to the ceiling. Then he took down from the rack the old
and oily clay pipe, which was to him as a counsellor, and, having lit it, he
leaned back in his chair, with the thick blue cloud-wreaths spinning up
from him, and a look of infinite languor in his face.
“Quite an interesting study, that maiden,” he observed. “I found her
more interesting than her little problem, which, by the way, is rather a
trite one. You will find parallel cases, if you consult my index, in
Andover in ’77, and there was something of the sort at The Hague last
year. Old as is the idea, however, there were one or two details which
were new to me. But the maiden herself was most instructive.”
“You appeared to read a good deal upon her which was quite invisible
to me,” I remarked.
“Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson. You did not know where to look,
and so you missed all that was important. I can never bring you to realize
the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of thumb-nails, or the great
issues that may hang from a boot-lace. Now, what did you gather from
that woman’s appearance? Describe it.”
“Well, she had a slate-coloured, broad-brimmed straw hat, with a
feather of a brickish red. Her jacket was black, with black beads sewn
upon it, and a fringe of little black jet ornaments. Her dress was brown,
rather darker than coffee colour, with a little purple plush at the neck and
sleeves. Her gloves were grayish and were worn through at the right
forefinger. Her boots I didn’t observe. She had [197] small round, hanging
gold earrings, and a general air of being fairly well-to-do in a vulgar,
comfortable, easy-going way.”
Sherlock Holmes clapped his hands softly together and chuckled.
“‘Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along wonderfully. You have
really done very well indeed. It is true that you have missed everything of
importance, but you have hit upon the method, and you have a quick eye
for colour. Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate
yourself upon details. My first glance is always at a woman’s sleeve. In a
man it is perhaps better first to take the knee of the trouser. As you
observe, this woman had plush upon her sleeves, which is a most useful
material for showing traces. The double line a little above the wrist,
where the typewritist presses against the table, was beautifully defined.
The sewing-machine, of the hand type, leaves a similar mark, but only on
the left arm, and on the side of it farthest from the thumb, instead of being
right across the broadest part, as this was. I then glanced at her face, and,
observing the dint of a pince-nez at either side of her nose, I ventured a
remark upon short sight and typewriting, which seemed to surprise her.”
“It surprised me.”
“But, surely, it was obvious. I was then much surprised and interested
on glancing down to observe that, though the boots which she was
wearing were not unlike each other, they were really odd ones; the one
having a slightly decorated toe-cap, and the other a plain one. One was
buttoned only in the two lower buttons out of five, and the other at the
first, third, and fifth. Now, when you see that a young lady, otherwise
neatly dressed, has come away from home with odd boots, half-buttoned,
it is no great deduction to say that she came away in a hurry.”
“And what else?” I asked, keenly interested, as I always was, by my
friend’s incisive reasoning.
“I noted, in passing, that she had written a note before leaving home but
after being fully dressed. You observed that her right glove was torn at
the forefinger, but you did not apparently see that both glove and finger
were stained with violet ink. She had written in a hurry and dipped her
pen too deep. It must have been this morning, or the mark would not
remain clear upon the finger. All this is amusing, though rather
elementary, but I must go back to business, Watson. Would you mind
reading me the advertised description of Mr. Hosmer Angel?”
I held the little printed slip to the light.

“Missing [it said] on the morning of the fourteenth, a gentleman

named Hosmer Angel. About five feet seven inches in height;
strongly built, sallow complexion, black hair, a little bald in the
centre, bushy, black side-whiskers and moustache; tinted glasses,
slight infirmity of speech. Was dressed, when last seen, in black
frock-coat faced with silk, black waistcoat, gold Albert chain, and
gray Harris tweed trousers, with brown gaiters over elastic-sided
boots. Known to have been employed in an office in Leadenhall
Street. Anybody bringing––”

“That will do,” said Holmes. “As to the letters,” he continued, glancing
over them, “they are very commonplace. Absolutely no clue in them to
Mr. Angel, save that he quotes Balzac once. There is one remarkable
point, however, which will no doubt strike you.”
“They are typewritten,” I remarked.
“Not only that, but the signature is typewritten. Look at the neat little
[198] ‘Hosmer Angel’ at the bottom. There is a date, you see, but no
superscription except Leadenhall Street, which is rather vague. The point
about the signature is very suggestive–in fact, we may call it conclusive.”
“Of what?”
“My dear fellow, is it possible you do not see how strongly it bears
upon the case?”
“I cannot say that I do unless it were that he wished to be able to deny
his signature if an action for breach of promise were instituted.”
“No, that was not the point. However, I shall write two letters, which
should settle the matter. One is to a firm in the City, the other is to the
young lady’s stepfather, Mr. Windibank, asking him whether he could
meet us here at six o’clock to-morrow evening. It is just as well that we
should do business with the male relatives. And now, Doctor, we can do
nothing until the answers to those letters come, so we may put our little
problem upon the shelf for the interim.”
I had had so many reasons to believe in my friend’s subtle powers of
reasoning and extraordinary energy in action that I felt that he must have
some solid grounds for the assured and easy demeanour with which he
treated the singular mystery which he had been called upon to fathom.
Once only had I known him to fail, in the case of the King of Bohemia
and of the Irene Adler photograph; but when I looked back to the weird
business of ‘The Sign of Four’, and the extraordinary circumstances
connected with ‘A Study in Scarlet’, I felt that it would be a strange
tangle indeed which he could not unravel.
I left him then, still puffing at his black clay pipe, with the conviction
that when I came again on the next evening I would find that he held in
his hands all the clues which would lead up to the identity of the
disappearing bridegroom of Miss Mary Sutherland.
A professional case of great gravity was engaging my own attention at
the time, and the whole of next day I was busy at the bedside of the
sufferer. It was not until close upon six o’clock that I found myself free
and was able to spring into a hansom and drive to Baker Street, half afraid
that I might be too late to assist at the denouement of the little mystery. I
found Sherlock Holmes alone, however, half asleep, with his long, thin
form curled up in the recesses of his armchair. A formidable array of
bottles and test-tubes, with the pungent cleanly smell of hydrochloric
acid, told me that he had spent his day in the chemical work which was so
dear to him.

“Well, have you solved it?” I asked as I entered.

“Yes. It was the bisulphate of baryta.”
“No, no, the mystery!” I cried.
“Oh, that! I thought of the salt that I have been working upon. There
was never any mystery in the matter, though, as I said yesterday, some of
the details are of interest. The only drawback is that there is no law, I fear,
that can touch the scoundrel.”
“Who was he, then, and what was his object in deserting Miss
The question was hardly out of my mouth, and Holmes had not yet
opened his lips to reply, when we heard a heavy footfall in the passage
and a tap at the door.
“This is the girl’s stepfather, Mr. James Windibank,” said Holmes. “He
has written to me to say that he would be here at six. Come in!”
The man who entered was a sturdy, middle-sized fellow, some thirty
years of age, clean-shaven, and sallow-skinned, with a bland, insinuating
manner, and a pair [199] of wonderfully sharp and penetrating gray eyes.
He shot a questioning glance at each of us, placed his shiny top-hat upon
the sideboard, and with a slight bow sidled down into the nearest chair.
“Good-evening, Mr. James Windibank,” said Holmes. “I think that this
typewritten letter is from you, in which you made an appointment with
me for six o’clock?”
“Yes, sir. I am afraid that I am a little late, but I am not quite my own
master, you know. I am sorry that Miss Sutherland has troubled you about
this little matter, for I think it is far better not to wash linen of the sort in
public. It was quite against my wishes that she came, but she is a very
excitable, impulsive girl, as you may have noticed, and she is not easily
controlled when she has made up her mind on a point. Of course, I did not
mind you so much, as you are not connected with the official police, but it
is not pleasant to have a family misfortune like this noised abroad.
Besides, it is a useless expense, for how could you possibly find this
Hosmer Angel?”
“On the contrary,” said Holmes quietly; “I have every reason to believe
that I will succeed in discovering Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
Mr. Windibank gave a violent start and dropped his gloves. “I am
delighted to hear it,” he said.
“It is a curious thing,” remarked Holmes, “that a typewriter has really
quite as much individuality as a man’s handwriting. Unless they are quite
new, no two of them write exactly alike. Some letters get more worn than
others, and some wear only on one side. Now, you remark in this note of
yours, Mr. Windibank, that in every case there is some little slurring over
of the ‘e,’ and a slight defect in the tail of the ‘r.’ There are fourteen other
characteristics, but those are the more obvious.”
“We do all our correspondence with this machine at the office, and no
doubt it is a little worn,” our visitor answered, glancing keenly at Holmes
with his bright little eyes.
“And now I will show you what is really a very interesting study, Mr.
Windibank,” Holmes continued. “I think of writing another little
monograph some of these days on the typewriter and its relation to crime.
It is a subject to which I have devoted some little attention. I have here
four letters which purport to come from the missing man. They are all
typewritten. In each case, not only are the ‘e’s’ slurred and the ‘r’s’
tailless, but you will observe, if you care to use my magnifying lens, that
the fourteen other characteristics to which I have alluded are there as
Mr. Windibank sprang out of his chair and picked up his hat. “I cannot
waste time over this sort of fantastic talk, Mr. Holmes,” he said. “If you
can catch the man, catch him, and let me know when you have done it.”
“Certainly,” said Holmes, stepping over and turning the key in the
door. “I let you know, then, that I have caught him!”
“What! where?” shouted Mr. Windibank, turning white to his lips and
glancing about him like a rat in a trap.
“Oh, it won’t do–really it won’t,” said Holmes suavely. “There is no
possible getting out of it, Mr. Windibank. It is quite too transparent, and it
was a very bad compliment when you said that it was impossible for me
to solve so simple a question. That’s right! Sit down and let us talk it
[200] Our visitor collapsed into a chair, with a ghastly face and a glitter
of moisture on his brow. “It–it’s not actionable,” he stammered.
“I am very much afraid that it is not. But between ourselves,
Windibank, it was as cruel and selfish and heartless a trick in a petty way
as ever came before me. Now, let me just run over the course of events,
and you will contradict me if I go wrong.”
The man sat huddled up in his chair, with his head sunk upon his
breast, like one who is utterly crushed. Holmes stuck his feet up on the
corner of the mantelpiece and, leaning back with his hands in his pockets,
began talking, rather to himself, as it seemed, than to us.
“The man married a woman very much older than himself for her
money,” said he, “and he enjoyed the use of the money of the daughter as
long as she lived with them. It was a considerable sum, for people in their
position, and the loss of it would have made a serious difference. It was
worth an effort to preserve it. The daughter was of a good, amiable
disposition, but affectionate and warm-hearted in her ways, so that it was
evident that with her fair personal advantages, and her little income, she
would not be allowed to remain single long. Now her marriage would
mean, of course, the loss of a hundred a year, so what does her stepfather
do to prevent it? He takes the obvious course of keeping her at home and
forbidding her to seek the company of people of her own age. But soon he
found that that would not answer forever. She became restive, insisted
upon her rights, and finally announced her positive intention of going to a
certain ball. What does her clever stepfather do then? He conceives an
idea more creditable to his head than to his heart. With the connivance
and assistance of his wife he disguised himself, covered those keen eyes
with tinted glasses, masked the face with a moustache and a pair of bushy
whiskers, sunk that clear voice into an insinuating whisper, and doubly
secure on account of the girl’s short sight, he appears as Mr. Hosmer
Angel, and keeps off other lovers by making love himself.”
“It was only a joke at first,” groaned our visitor. “We never thought that
she would have been so carried away.”
“Very likely not. However that may be, the young lady was very
decidedly carried away, and, having quite made up her mind that her
stepfather was in France, the suspicion of treachery never for an instant
entered her mind. She was flattered by the gentleman’s attentions, and the
effect was increased by the loudly expressed admiration of her mother.
Then Mr. Angel began to call, for it was obvious that the matter should be
pushed as far as it would go if a real effect were to be produced. There
were meetings, and an engagement, which would finally secure the girl’s
affections from turning towards anyone else. But the deception could not
be kept up forever. These pretended journeys to France were rather
cumbrous. The thing to do was clearly to bring the business to an end in
such a dramatic manner that it would leave a permanent impression upon
the young lady’s mind and prevent her from looking upon any other suitor
for some time to come. Hence those vows of fidelity exacted upon a
Testament, and hence also the allusions to a possibility of something
happening on the very morning of the wedding. James Windibank wished
Miss Sutherland to be so bound to Hosmer Angel, and so uncertain as to
his fate, that for ten years to come, at any rate, she would not listen to
another man. As far as the church door he brought her, and then, as he
could go no farther, he conveniently vanished away by the old trick [201]
of stepping in at one door of a four-wheeler and out at the other. I think
that that was the chain of events, Mr. Windibank!”
Our visitor had recovered something of his assurance while Holmes
had been talking, and he rose from his chair now with a cold sneer upon
his pale face.
“It may be so, or it may not, Mr. Holmes,” said he, “but if you are so
very sharp you ought to be sharp enough to know that it is you who are
breaking the law now, and not me. I have done nothing actionable from
the first, but as long as you keep that door locked you lay yourself open to
an action for assault and illegal constraint.”
“The law cannot, as you say, touch you,” said Holmes, unlocking and
throwing open the door, “yet there never was a man who deserved
punishment more. If the young lady has a brother or a friend, he ought to
lay a whip across your shoulders. By Jove!” he continued, flushing up at
the sight of the bitter sneer upon the man’s face, “it is not part of my
duties to my client, but here’s a hunting crop handy, and I think I shall
just treat myself to– –” He took two swift steps to the whip, but before he
could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon the stairs, the heavy
hall door banged, and from the window we could see Mr. James
Windibank running at the top of his speed down the road.

“There’s a cold-blooded scoundrel!” said Holmes, laughing, as he

threw himself down into his chair once more. “That fellow will rise from
crime to crime until he does something very bad, and ends on a gallows.
The case has, in some respects, been not entirely devoid of interest.”
“I cannot now entirely see all the steps of your reasoning,” I remarked.
“Well, of course it was obvious from the first that this Mr. Hosmer
Angel must have some strong object for his curious conduct, and it was
equally clear that the only man who really profited by the incident, as far
as we could see, was the stepfather. Then the fact that the two men were
never together, but that the one always appeared when the other was
away, was suggestive. So were the tinted spectacles and the curious voice,
which both hinted at a disguise, as did the bushy whiskers. My suspicions
were all confirmed by his peculiar action in typewriting his signature,
which, of course, inferred that his handwriting was so familiar to her that
she would recognize even the smallest sample of it. You see all these
isolated facts, together with many minor ones, all pointed in the same
“And how did you verify them?”
“Having once spotted my man, it was easy to get corroboration. I knew
the firm for which this man worked. Having taken the printed description,
I eliminated everything from it which could be the result of a disguise–the
whiskers, the glasses, the voice, and I sent it to the firm, with a request
that they would inform me whether it answered to the description of any
of their travellers. I had already noticed the peculiarities of the typewriter,
and I wrote to the man himself at his business address, asking him if he
would come here. As I expected, his reply was typewritten and revealed
the same trivial but characteristic defects. The same post brought me a
letter from Westhouse & Marbank, of Fenchurch Street, to say that the
description tallied in every respect with that of their employee, James
Windibank. Voila tout!”
“And Miss Sutherland?”
“If I tell her she will not believe me. You may remember the old
Persian saying, ‘There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and
danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.’ There is as
much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much knowledge of the world.”

David Soucek, 1998 The Boscombe Valley Mystery

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


WE WERE seated at breakfast one morning, my wife and I, when the maid
brought in a telegram. It was from Sherlock Holmes and ran in this way:

Have you a couple of days to spare? Have just been wired for
from the west of England in connection with Boscombe Valley
tragedy. Shall be glad if you will come with me. Air and scenery
perfect. Leave Paddington by the 11:15.

“What do you say, dear?” said my wife, looking across at me. “Will
you go?”
“I really don’t know what to say. I have a fairly long list at present.”
“Oh, Anstruther would do your work for you. You have been looking a
little pale lately. I think that the change would do you good, and you are
always so interested in Mr. Sherlock Holmes’s cases.”
“I should be ungrateful if I were not, seeing what I gained through one
of them,” I answered. “But if I am to go, I must pack at once, for I have
only half an hour.”
My experience of camp life in Afghanistan had at least had the effect of
making me a prompt and ready traveller. My wants were few and simple,
so that in less than the time stated I was in a cab with my valise, rattling
away to Paddington Station. Sherlock Holmes was pacing up and down
the platform, his tall, gaunt figure made even gaunter and taller by his
long gray travelling-cloak and close-fitting cloth cap.
“It is really very good of you to come, Watson,” said he. “It makes a
considerable difference to me, having someone with me on whom I can
thoroughly rely. Local aid is always either worthless or else biassed. If
you will keep the two corner seats I shall get the tickets.”
We had the carriage to ourselves save for an immense litter of papers
which Holmes had brought with him. Among these he rummaged and
read, with intervals of note-taking and of meditation, until we were past
Reading. Then he suddenly rolled them all into a gigantic ball and tossed
them up onto the rack.
“Have you heard anything of the case?” he asked.
“Not a word. I have not seen a paper for some days.”
“The London press has not had very full accounts. I have just been
looking through all the recent papers in order to master the particulars. It
seems, from what I gather, to be one of those simple cases which are so
extremely difficult.”
“That sounds a little paradoxical.”
“But it is profoundly true. Singularity is almost invariably a clue. The
more featureless and commonplace a crime is, the more difficult it is to
bring it home. In this case, however, they have established a very serious
case against the son of the murdered man.”
“It is a murder, then?”
“Well, it is conjectured to be so. I shall take nothing for granted until I
have the opportunity of looking personally into it. I will explain the state
of things to you, as far as I have been able to understand it, in a very few
[203] “Boscombe Valley is a country district not very far from Ross, in
Herefordshire. The largest landed proprietor in that part is a Mr. John
Turner, who made his money in Australia and returned some years ago to
the old country. One of the farms which he held, that of Hatherley, was let
to Mr. Charles McCarthy, who was also an ex-Australian. The men had
known each other in the colonies, so that it was not unnatural that when
they came to settle down they should do so as near each other as possible.
Turner was apparently the richer man, so McCarthy became his tenant but
still remained, it seems, upon terms of perfect equality, as they were
frequently together. McCarthy had one son, a lad of eighteen, and Turner
had an only daughter of the same age, but neither of them had wives
living. They appear to have avoided the society of the neighbouring
English families and to have led retired lives, though both the McCarthys
were fond of sport and were frequently seen at the race-meetings of the
neighbourhood. McCarthy kept two servants–a man and a girl. Turner had
a considerable household, some half-dozen at the least. That is as much as
I have been able to gather about the families. Now for the facts.
“On June 3d, that is, on Monday last, McCarthy left his house at
Hatherley about three in the afternoon and walked down to the Boscombe
Pool, which is a small lake formed by the spreading out of the stream
which runs down the Boscombe Valley. He had been out with his serving-
man in the morning at Ross, and he had told the man that he must hurry,
as he had an appointment of importance to keep at three. From that
appointment he never came back alive.
“From Hatherley Farmhouse to the Boscombe Pool is a quarter of a
mile, and two people saw him as he passed over this ground. One was an
old woman, whose name is not mentioned, and the other was William
Crowder, a game-keeper in the employ of Mr. Turner. Both these
witnesses depose that Mr. McCarthy was walking alone. The game-
keeper adds that within a few minutes of his seeing Mr. McCarthy pass he
had seen his son, Mr. James McCarthy, going the same way with a gun
under his arm. To the best of his belief, the father was actually in sight at
the time, and the son was following him. He thought no more of the
matter until he heard in the evening of the tragedy that had occurred.
“The two McCarthys were seen after the time when William Crowder,
the game-keeper, lost sight of them. The Boscombe Pool is thickly
wooded round, with just a fringe of grass and of reeds round the edge. A
girl of fourteen, Patience Moran, who is the daughter of the lodge-keeper
of the Boscombe Valley estate, was in one of the woods picking flowers.
She states that while she was there she saw, at the border of the wood and
close by the lake, Mr. McCarthy and his son, and that they appeared to be
having a violent quarrel. She heard Mr. McCarthy the elder using very
strong language to his son, and she saw the latter raise up his hand as if to
strike his father. She was so frightened by their violence that she ran away
and told her mother when she reached home that she had left the two
McCarthys quarrelling near Boscombe Pool, and that she was afraid that
they were going to fight. She had hardly said the words when young Mr.
McCarthy came running up to the lodge to say that he had found his
father dead in the wood, and to ask for the help of the lodge-keeper. He
was much excited, without either his gun or his hat, and his right hand
and sleeve were observed to be stained with fresh blood. On following
him they found the dead body stretched out upon the grass beside the
pool. The head had been beaten in by repeated blows of some heavy and
blunt weapon. The injuries were such as might very well have been [204]
inflicted by the butt-end of his son’s gun, which was found lying on the
grass within a few paces of the body. Under these circumstances the
young man was instantly arrested, and a verdict of ‘wilful murder’ having
been returned at the inquest on Tuesday, he was on Wednesday brought
before the magistrates at Ross, who have referred the case to the next
assizes. Those are the main facts of the case as they came out before the
coroner and the police-court.”

“I could hardly imagine a more damning case,” I remarked. “If ever

circumstantial evidence pointed to a criminal it does so here.”
“Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing,” answered Holmes
thoughtfully. “It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you
shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an
equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different. It must
be confessed, however, that the case looks exceedingly grave against the
young man, and it is very possible that he is indeed the culprit. There are
several people in the neighbourhood, however, and among them Miss
Turner, the daughter of the neighbouring land-owner, who believe in his
innocence, and who have retained Lestrade, whom you may recollect in
connection with ‘A Study in Scarlet’, to work out the case in his interest.
Lestrade, being rather puzzled, has referred the case to me, and hence it is
that two middle-aged gentlemen are flying westward at fifty miles an hour
instead of quietly digesting their breakfasts at home.”
“I am afraid,” said I, “that the facts are so obvious that you will find
little credit to be gained out of this case.”
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact,” he answered,
laughing. “Besides, we may chance to hit upon some other obvious facts
which may have been by no means obvious to Mr. Lestrade. You know
me too well to think that I am boasting when I say that I shall either
confirm or destroy his theory by means which he is quite incapable of
employing, or even of understanding. To take the first example to hand, I
very clearly perceive that in your bedroom the window is upon the right-
hand side, and yet I question whether Mr. Lestrade would have noted
even so self-evident a thing as that.”
“How on earth– –”
“My dear fellow, I know you well. I know the military neatness which
characterizes you. You shave every morning, and in this season you shave
by the sunlight; but since your shaving is less and less complete as we get
farther back on the left side, until it becomes positively slovenly as we get
round the angle of the jaw, it is surely very clear that that side is less
illuminated than the other. I could not imagine a man of your habits
looking at himself in an equal light and being satisfied with such a result.
I only quote this as a trivial example of observation and inference.
Therein lies my métier, and it is just possible that it may be of some
service in the investigation which lies before us. There are one or two
minor points which were brought out in the inquest, and which are worth
“What are they?”
“It appears that his arrest did not take place at once, but after the return
to Hatherley Farm. On the inspector of constabulary informing him that
he was a prisoner, he remarked that he was not surprised to hear it, and
that it was no more than his deserts. This observation of his had the
natural effect of removing any traces of doubt which might have remained
in the minds of the coroner’s jury.”
“It was a confession,” I ejaculated.
“No, for it was followed by a protestation of innocence.”
[205] “Coming on the top of such a damning series of events, it was at
least a most suspicious remark.”
“On the contrary,” said Holmes, “it is the brightest rift which I can at
present see in the clouds. However innocent he might be, he could not be
such an absolute imbecile as not to see that the circumstances were very
black against him. Had he appeared surprised at his own arrest, or feigned
indignation at it, I should have looked upon it as highly suspicious,
because such surprise or anger would not be natural under the
circumstances, and yet might appear to be the best policy to a scheming
man. His frank acceptance of the situation marks him as either an
innocent man, or else as a man of considerable self-restraint and firmness.
As to his remark about his deserts, it was also not unnatural if you
consider that he stood beside the dead body of his father, and that there is
no doubt that he had that very day so far forgotten his filial duty as to
bandy words with him, and even, according to the little girl whose
evidence is so important, to raise his hand as if to strike him. The self-
reproach and contrition which are displayed in his remark appear to me to
be the signs of a healthy mind rather than of a guilty one.”
I shook my head. “Many men have been hanged on far slighter
evidence,” I remarked.
“So they have. And many men have been wrongfully hanged.”
“What is the young man’s own account of the matter?”
“It is, I am afraid, not very encouraging to his supporters, though there
are one or two points in it which are suggestive. You will find it here, and
may read it for yourself.”
He picked out from his bundle a copy of the local Herefordshire paper,
and having turned down the sheet he pointed out the paragraph in which
the unfortunate young man had given his own statement of what had
occurred. I settled myself down in the corner of the carriage and read it
very carefully. It ran in this way:

Mr. James McCarthy, the only son of the deceased, was then
called and gave evidence as follows: “I had been away from home
for three days at Bristol, and had only just returned upon the
morning of last Monday, the 3d. My father was absent from home
at the time of my arrival, and I was informed by the maid that he
had driven over to Ross with John Cobb, the groom. Shortly after
my return I heard the wheels of his trap in the yard, and, looking
out of my window, I saw him get out and walk rapidly out of the
yard, though I was not aware in which direction he was going. I
then took my gun and strolled out in the direction of the Boscombe
Pool, with the intention of visiting the rabbit-warren which is upon
the other side. On my way I saw William Crowder, the game-
keeper, as he had stated in his evidence; but he is mistaken in
thinking that I was following my father. I had no idea that he was
in front of me. When about a hundred yards from the pool I heard
a cry of ‘Cooee!’ which was a usual signal between my father and
myself. I then hurried forward, and found him standing by the
pool. He appeared to be much surprised at seeing me and asked me
rather roughly what I was doing there. A conversation ensued
which led to high words and almost to blows, for my father was a
man of a very violent temper. Seeing that his passion was
becoming ungovernable, I left him and returned towards Hatherley
Farm. I had not gone more than 150 yards, however, [206] when I
heard a hideous outcry behind me, which caused me to run back
again. I found my father expiring upon the ground, with his head
terribly injured. I dropped my gun and held him in my arms, but he
almost instantly expired. I knelt beside him for some minutes, and
then made my way to Mr. Turner’s lodge-keeper, his house being
the nearest, to ask for assistance. I saw no one near my father
when I returned, and I have no idea how he came by his injuries.
He was not a popular man, being somewhat cold and forbidding in
his manners; but he had, as far as I know, no active enemies. I
know nothing further of the matter.”
The Coroner: Did your father make any statement to you before
he died?
Witness: He mumbled a few words, but I could only catch some
allusion to a rat.
The Coroner: What did you understand by that?
Witness: It conveyed no meaning to me. I thought that he was
The Coroner: What was the point upon which you and your
father had this final quarrel?
Witness: I should prefer not to answer.
The Coroner: I am afraid that I must press it.
Witness: It is really impossible for me to tell you. I can assure
you that it has nothing to do with the sad tragedy which followed.
The Coroner: That is for the court to decide. I need not point out
to you that your refusal to answer will prejudice your case
considerably in any future proceedings which may arise.
Witness: I must still refuse.
The Coroner: I understand that the cry of “Cooee” was a
common signal between you and your father?
Witness: It was.
The Coroner: How was it, then, that he uttered it before he saw
you, and before he even knew that you had returned from Bristol?
Witness (with considerable confusion): I do not know.
A Juryman: Did you see nothing which aroused your suspicions
when you returned on hearing the cry and found your father fatally
Witness: Nothing definite.
The Coroner: What do you mean?
Witness: I was so disturbed and excited as I rushed out into the
open, that I could think of nothing except of my father. Yet I have
a vague impression that as I ran forward something lay upon the
ground to the left of me. It seemed to me to be something gray in
colour, a coat of some sort, or a plaid perhaps. When I rose from
my father I looked round for it, but it was gone.
“Do you mean that it disappeared before you went for help?”
“Yes, it was gone.”
“You cannot say what it was?”
“No, I had a feeling something was there.”
“How far from the body?”
“A dozen yards or so.”
“And how far from the edge of the wood?”
“About the same.”
“Then if it was removed it was while you were within a dozen
yards of it?”
[207] “Yes, but with my back towards it.”
This concluded the examination of the witness.

“I see,” said I as I glanced down the column, “that the coroner in his
concluding remarks was rather severe upon young McCarthy. He calls
attention, and with reason, to the discrepancy about his father having
signalled to him before seeing him, also to his refusal to give details of his
conversation with his father, and his singular account of his father’s dying
words. They are all, as he remarks, very much against the son.”
Holmes laughed softly to himself and stretched himself out upon the
cushioned seat. “Both you and the coroner have been at some pains,” said
he, “to single out the very strongest points in the young man’s favour.
Don’t you see that you alternately give him credit for having too much
imagination and too little? Too little, if he could not invent a cause of
quarrel which would give him the sympathy of the jury; too much, if he
evolved from his own inner consciousness anything so outre as a dying
reference to a rat, and the incident of the vanishing cloth. No, sir, I shall
approach this case from the point of view that what this young man says
is true, and we shall see whither that hypothesis will lead us. And now
here is my pocket Petrarch, and not another word shall I say of this case
until we are on the scene of action. We lunch at Swindon, and I see that
we shall be there in twenty minutes.”
It was nearly four o’clock when we at last, after passing through the
beautiful Stroud Valley, and over the broad gleaming Severn, found
ourselves at the pretty little country-town of Ross. A lean, ferret-like man,
furtive and sly-looking, was waiting for us upon the platform. In spite of
the light brown dustcoat and leather-leggings which he wore in deference
to his rustic surroundings, I had no difficulty in recognizing Lestrade, of
Scotland Yard. With him we drove to the Hereford Arms where a room
had already been engaged for us.
“I have ordered a carriage,” said Lestrade as we sat over a cup of tea. “I
knew your energetic nature, and that you would not be happy until you
had been on the scene of the crime.”
“It was very nice and complimentary of you,” Holmes answered. “It is
entirely a question of barometric pressure.”
Lestrade looked startled. “I do not quite follow,” he said.
“How is the glass? Twenty-nine, I see. No wind, and not a cloud in the
sky. I have a caseful of cigarettes here which need smoking, and the sofa
is very much superior to the usual country hotel abomination. I do not
think that it is probable that I shall use the carriage to-night.”
Lestrade laughed indulgently. “You have, no doubt, already formed
your conclusions from the newspapers,” he said. “The case is as plain as a
pikestaff, and the more one goes into it the plainer it becomes. Still, of
course, one can’t refuse a lady, and such a very positive one, too. She had
heard of you, and would have your opinion, though I repeatedly told her
that there was nothing which you could do which I had not already done.
Why, bless my soul! here is her carriage at the door.”
He had hardly spoken before there rushed into the room one of the most
lovely young women that I have ever seen in my life. Her violet eyes
shining, her lips parted, a pink flush upon her cheeks, all thought of her
natural reserve lost in her overpowering excitement and concern.

[208] “Oh, Mr. Sherlock Holmes!” she cried, glancing from one to the
other of us, and finally, with a woman’s quick intuition, fastening upon
my companion, “I am so glad that you have come. I have driven down to
tell you so. I know that James didn’t do it. I know it, and I want you to
start upon your work knowing it, too. Never let yourself doubt upon that
point. We have known each other since we were little children, and I
know his faults as no one else does; but he is too tender-hearted to hurt a
fly. Such a charge is absurd to anyone who really knows him.”
“I hope we may clear him, Miss Turner,” said Sherlock Holmes. “You
may rely upon my doing all that I can.”
“But you have read the evidence. You have formed some conclusion?
Do you not see some loophole, some flaw? Do you not yourself think that
he is innocent?”
“I think that it is very probable.”
“There, now!” she cried, throwing back her head and looking defiantly
at Lestrade. “You hear! He gives me hopes.”

Lestrade shrugged his shoulders. “I am afraid that my colleague has

been a little quick in forming his conclusions,” he said.
“But he is right. Oh! I know that he is right. James never did it. And
about his quarrel with his father, I am sure that the reason why he would
not speak about it to the coroner was because I was concerned in it.”
“In what way?” asked Holmes.
“It is no time for me to hide anything. James and his father had many
disagreements about me. Mr. McCarthy was very anxious that there
should be a marriage between us. James and I have always loved each
other as brother and sister; but of course he is young and has seen very
little of life yet, and– and–well, he naturally did not wish to do anything
like that yet. So there were quarrels, and this, I am sure, was one of them.”
“And your father?” asked Holmes. “Was he in favour of such a union?”
“No, he was averse to it also. No one but Mr. McCarthy was in favour
of it.” A quick blush passed over her fresh young face as Holmes shot one
of his keen, questioning glances at her.
“Thank you for this information,” said he. “May I see your father if I
call to-morrow?”
“I am afraid the doctor won’t allow it.”
“The doctor?”
“Yes, have you not heard? Poor father has never been strong for years
back, but this has broken him down completely. He has taken to his bed,
and Dr. Willows says that he is a wreck and that his nervous system is
shattered. Mr. McCarthy was the only man alive who had known dad in
the old days in Victoria.”
“Ha! In Victoria! That is important.”
“Yes, at the mines.”
“Quite so; at the gold-mines, where, as I understand, Mr. Turner made
his money.”
“Yes, certainly.”
“Thank you, Miss Turner. You have been of material assistance to me.”
“You will tell me if you have any news to-morrow. No doubt you will
go to the prison to see James. Oh, if you do, Mr. Holmes, do tell him that
I know him to be innocent.”
“I will, Miss Turner.”
“I must go home now, for dad is very ill, and he misses me so if I leave
him. [209] Good-bye, and God help you in your undertaking.” She hurried
from the room as impulsively as she had entered, and we heard the wheels
of her carriage rattle off down the street.
“I am ashamed of you, Holmes,” said Lestrade with dignity after a few
minutes’ silence. “Why should you raise up hopes which you are bound to
disappoint? I am not over-tender of heart, but I call it cruel.”
“I think that I see my way to clearing James McCarthy,” said Holmes.
“Have you an order to see him in prison?”
“Yes, but only for you and me.”
“Then I shall reconsider my resolution about going out. We have still
time to take a train to Hereford and see him to-night?”
“Then let us do so. Watson, I fear that you will find it very slow, but I
shall only be away a couple of hours.”

I walked down to the station with them, and then wandered through the
streets of the little town, finally returning to the hotel, where I lay upon
the sofa and tried to interest myself in a yellow-backed novel. The puny
plot of the story was so thin, however, when compared to the deep
mystery through which we were groping, and I found my attention
wander so continually from the fiction to the fact, that I at last flung it
across the room and gave myself up entirely to a consideration of the
events of the day. Supposing that this unhappy young man’s story were
absolutely true, then what hellish thing, what absolutely unforeseen and
extraordinary calamity could have occurred between the time when he
parted from his father, and the moment when, drawn back by his screams,
he rushed into the glade? It was something terrible and deadly. What
could it be? Might not the nature of the injuries reveal something to my
medical instincts? I rang the bell and called for the weekly county paper,
which contained a verbatim account of the inquest. In the surgeon’s
deposition it was stated that the posterior third of the left parietal bone
and the left half of the occipital bone had been shattered by a heavy blow
from a blunt weapon. I marked the spot upon my own head. Clearly such
a blow must have been struck from behind. That was to some extent in
favour of the accused, as when seen quarrelling he was face to face with
his father. Still, it did not go for very much, for the older man might have
turned his back before the blow fell. Still, it might be worth while to call
Holmes’s attention to it. Then there was the peculiar dying reference to a
rat. What could that mean? It could not be delirium. A man dying from a
sudden blow does not commonly become delirious. No, it was more likely
to be an attempt to explain how he met his fate. But what could it
indicate? I cudgelled my brains to find some possible explanation. And
then the incident of the gray cloth seen by young McCarthy. If that were
true the murderer must have dropped some part of his dress, presumably
his overcoat, in his flight, and must have had the hardihood to return and
to carry it away at the instant when the son was kneeling with his back
turned not a dozen paces off. What a tissue of mysteries and
improbabilities the whole thing was! I did not wonder at Lestrade’s
opinion, and yet I had so much faith in Sherlock Holmes’s insight that I
could not lose hope as long as every fresh fact seemed to strengthen his
conviction of young McCarthy’s innocence.
It was late before Sherlock Holmes returned. He came back alone, for
Lestrade was staying in lodgings in the town.
“The glass still keeps very high,” he remarked as he sat down. “It is of
[210] importance that it should not rain before we are able to go over the
ground. On the other hand, a man should be at his very best and keenest
for such nice work as that, and I did not wish to do it when fagged by a
long journey. I have seen young McCarthy.”
“And what did you learn from him?”
“Could he throw no light?”
“None at all. I was inclined to think at one time that he knew who had
done it and was screening him or her, but I am convinced now that he is
as puzzled as everyone else. He is not a very quick-witted youth, though
comely to look at and, I should think, sound at heart.”
“I cannot admire his taste,” I remarked, “if it is indeed a fact that he
was averse to a marriage with so charming a young lady as this Miss
“Ah, thereby hangs a rather painful tale. This fellow is madly, insanely,
in love with her, but some two years ago, when he was only a lad, and
before he really knew her, for she had been away five years at a boarding-
school, what does the idiot do but get into the clutches of a barmaid in
Bristol and marry her at a registry office? No one knows a word of the
matter, but you can imagine how maddening it must be to him to be
upbraided for not doing what he would give his very eyes to do, but what
he knows to be absolutely impossible. It was sheer frenzy of this sort
which made him throw his hands up into the air when his father, at their
last interview, was goading him on to propose to Miss Turner. On the
other hand, he had no means of supporting himself, and his father, who
was by all accounts a very hard man, would have thrown him over utterly
had he known the truth. It was with his barmaid wife that he had spent the
last three days in Bristol, and his father did not know where he was. Mark
that point. It is of importance. Good has come out of evil, however, for
the barmaid, finding from the papers that he is in serious trouble and
likely to be hanged, has thrown him over utterly and has written to him to
say that she has a husband already in the Bermuda Dockyard, so that there
is really no tie between them. I think that that bit of news has consoled
young McCarthy for all that he has suffered.”
“But if he is innocent, who has done it?”
“Ah! who? I would call your attention very particularly to two points.
One is that the murdered man had an appointment with someone at the
pool, and that the someone could not have been his son, for his son was
away, and he did not know when he would return. The second is that the
murdered man was heard to cry ‘Cooee!’ before he knew that his son had
returned. Those are the crucial points upon which the case depends. And
now let us talk about George Meredith, if you please, and we shall leave
all minor matters until to-morrow.”
There was no rain, as Holmes had foretold, and the morning broke
bright and cloudless. At nine o’clock Lestrade called for us with the
carriage, and we set off for Hatherley Farm and the Boscombe Pool.
“There is serious news this morning,” Lestrade observed. “It is said that
Mr. Turner, of the Hall, is so ill that his life is despaired of.”
“An elderly man, I presume?” said Holmes.
“About sixty; but his constitution has been shattered by his life abroad,
and he has been in failing health for some time. This business has had a
very bad effect upon him. He was an old friend of McCarthy’s, and, I may
add, a great benefactor to him, for I have learned that he gave him
Hatherley Farm rent free.”
[211] “Indeed! That is interesting,” said Holmes.
“Oh, yes! In a hundred other ways he has helped him. Everybody about
here speaks of his kindness to him.”
“Really! Does it not strike you as a little singular that this McCarthy,
who appears to have had little of his own, and to have been under such
obligations to Turner, should still talk of marrying his son to Turner’s
daughter, who is, presumably, heiress to the estate, and that in such a very
cocksure manner, as if it were merely a case of a proposal and all else
would follow? It is the more strange, since we know that Turner himself
was averse to the idea. The daughter told us as much. Do you not deduce
something from that?”
“We have got to the deductions and the inferences,” said Lestrade,
winking at me. “I find it hard enough to tackle facts, Holmes, without
flying away after theories and fancies.”
“You are right,” said Holmes demurely; “you do find it very hard to
tackle the facts.”
“Anyhow, I have grasped one fact which you seem to find it difficult to
get hold of,” replied Lestrade with some warmth.
“And that is– –”
“That McCarthy senior met his death from McCarthy junior and that all
theories to the contrary are the merest moonshine.”
“Well, moonshine is a brighter thing than fog,” said Holmes, laughing.
“But I am very much mistaken if this is not Hatherley Farm upon the left.”
“Yes, that is it.” It was a widespread, comfortable-looking building,
two-storied, slate-roofed, with great yellow blotches of lichen upon the
gray walls. The drawn blinds and the smokeless chimneys, however, gave
it a stricken look, as though the weight of this horror still lay heavy upon
it. We called at the door, when the maid, at Holmes’s request, showed us
the boots which her master wore at the time of his death, and also a pair
of the son’s, though not the pair which he had then had. Having measured
these very carefully from seven or eight different points, Holmes desired
to be led to the court-yard, from which we all followed the winding track
which led to Boscombe Pool.

Sherlock Holmes was transformed when he was hot upon such a scent
as this. Men who had only known the quiet thinker and logician of Baker
Street would have failed to recognize him. His face flushed and darkened.
His brows were drawn into two hard black lines, while his eyes shone out
from beneath them with a steely glitter. His face was bent downward, his
shoulders bowed, his lips compressed, and the veins stood out like
whipcord in his long, sinewy neck. His nostrils seemed to dilate with a
purely animal lust for the chase, and his mind was so absolutely
concentrated upon the matter before him that a question or remark fell
unheeded upon his ears, or, at the most, only provoked a quick, impatient
snarl in reply. Swiftly and silently he made his way along the track which
ran through the meadows, and so by way of the woods to the Boscombe
Pool. It was damp, marshy ground, as is all that district, and there were
marks of many feet, both upon the path and amid the short grass which
bounded it on either side. Sometimes Holmes would hurry on, sometimes
stop dead, and once he made quite a little detour into the meadow.
Lestrade and I walked behind him, the detective indifferent and
contemptuous, while I watched my friend with the interest which sprang
from the conviction that every one of his actions was directed towards a
definite end.

[212] The Boscombe Pool, which is a little reed-girt sheet of water some
fifty yards across, is situated at the boundary between the Hatherley Farm
and the private park of the wealthy Mr. Turner. Above the woods which
lined it upon the farther side we could see the red, jutting pinnacles which
marked the site of the rich land-owner’s dwelling. On the Hatherley side
of the pool the woods grew very thick, and there was a narrow belt of
sodden grass twenty paces across between the edge of the trees and the
reeds which lined the lake. Lestrade showed us the exact spot at which the
body had been found, and, indeed, so moist was the ground, that I could
plainly see the traces which had been left by the fall of the stricken man.
To Holmes, as I could see by his eager face and peering eyes, very many
other things were to be read upon the trampled grass. He ran round, like a
dog who is picking up a scent, and then turned upon my companion.
“What did you go into the pool for?” he asked.
“I fished about with a rake. I thought there might be some weapon or
other trace. But how on earth– –”
“Oh, tut, tut! I have no time! That left foot of yours with its inward
twist is all over the place. A mole could trace it, and there it vanishes
among the reeds. Oh, how simple it would all have been had I been here
before they came like a herd of buffalo and wallowed all over it. Here is
where the party with the lodge-keeper came, and they have covered all
tracks for six or eight feet round the body. But here are three separate
tracks of the same feet.” He drew out a lens and lay down upon his
waterproof to have a better view, talking all the time rather to himself
than to us. “These are young McCarthy’s feet. Twice he was walking, and
once he ran swiftly, so that the soles are deeply marked and the heels
hardly visible. That bears out his story. He ran when he saw his father on
the ground. Then here are the father’s feet as he paced up and down.
What is this, then? It is the butt-end of the gun as the son stood listening.
And this? Ha, ha! What have we here? Tiptoes! tiptoes! Square, too, quite
unusual boots! They come, they go, they come again–of course that was
for the cloak. Now where did they come from?” He ran up and down,
sometimes losing, sometimes finding the track until we were well within
the edge of the wood and under the shadow of a great beech, the largest
tree in the neighbourhood. Holmes traced his way to the farther side of
this and lay down once more upon his face with a little cry of satisfaction.
For a long time he remained there, turning over the leaves and dried
sticks, gathering up what seemed to me to be dust into an envelope and
examining with his lens not only the ground but even the bark of the tree
as far as he could reach. A jagged stone was lying among the moss, and
this also he carefully examined and retained. Then he followed a pathway
through the wood until he came to the highroad, where all traces were lost.

“It has been a case of considerable interest,” he remarked, returning to

his natural manner. “I fancy that this gray house on the right must be the
lodge. I think that I will go in and have a word with Moran, and perhaps
write a little note. Having done that, we may drive back to our luncheon.
You may walk to the cab, and I shall be with you presently.”
It was about ten minutes before we regained our cab and drove back
into Ross, Holmes still carrying with him the stone which he had picked
up in the wood.
“This may interest you, Lestrade,” he remarked, holding it out. “The
murder was done with it.”
“I see no marks.”
[213] “There are none.”
“How do you know, then?”
“The grass was growing under it. It had only lain there a few days.
There was no sign of a place whence it had been taken. It corresponds
with the injuries. There is no sign of any other weapon.”
“And the murderer?”
“Is a tall man, left-handed, limps with the right leg, wears thick-soled
shooting-boots and a gray cloak, smokes Indian cigars, uses a cigar-
holder, and carries a blunt pen-knife in his pocket. There are several other
indications, but these may be enough to aid us in our search.”
Lestrade laughed. “I am afraid that I am still a sceptic,” he said.
“Theories are all very well, but we have to deal with a hard-headed
British jury.”
“Nous verrons,” answered Holmes calmly. “You work your own
method, and I shall work mine. I shall be busy this afternoon, and shall
probably return to London by the evening train.”
“And leave your case unfinished?”
“No, finished.”
“But the mystery?”
“It is solved.”
“Who was the criminal, then?”
“The gentleman I describe.”
“But who is he?”
“Surely it would not be difficult to find out. This is not such a populous
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders. “I am a practical man,” he said, “and I
really cannot undertake to go about the country looking for a left-handed
gentleman with a game-leg. I should become the laughing-stock of
Scotland Yard.”
“All right,” said Holmes quietly. “I have given you the chance. Here
are your lodgings. Good-bye. I shall drop you a line before I leave.”
Having left Lestrade at his rooms, we drove to our hotel, where we
found lunch upon the table. Holmes was silent and buried in thought with
a pained expression upon his face, as one who finds himself in a
perplexing position.
“Look here, Watson,” he said when the cloth was cleared; “just sit
down in this chair and let me preach to you for a little. I don’t know quite
what to do, and I should value your advice. Light a cigar and let me
“Pray do so.”
“Well, now, in considering this case there are two points about young
McCarthy’s narrative which struck us both instantly, although they
impressed me in his favour and you against him. One was the fact that his
father should, according to his account, cry ‘Cooee!’ before seeing him.
The other was his singular dying reference to a rat. He mumbled several
words, you understand, but that was all that caught the son’s ear. Now
from this double point our research must commence, and we will begin it
by presuming that what the lad says is absolutely true.”
“What of this ‘Cooee!’ then?”
“Well, obviously it could not have been meant for the son. The son, as
far as he knew, was in Bristol. It was mere chance that he was within
earshot. The ‘Cooee!’ was meant to attract the attention of whoever it was
that he had the appointment with. But ‘Cooee’ is a distinctly Australian
cry, and one which is used between Australians. There is a strong
presumption that the person whom [214] McCarthy expected to meet him
at Boscombe Pool was someone who had been in Australia.”
“What of the rat, then?”
Sherlock Holmes took a folded paper from his pocket and flattened it
out on the table. “This is a map of the Colony of Victoria,” he said. “I
wired to Bristol for it last night.” He put his hand over part of the map.
“What do you read?”
“ARAT,” I read.
“And now?” He raised his hand.
“Quite so. That was the word the man uttered, and of which his son
only caught the last two syllables. He was trying to utter the name of his
murderer. So and so, of Ballarat.”
“It is wonderful!” I exclaimed.
“It is obvious. And now, you see, I had narrowed the field down
considerably. The possession of a gray garment was a third point which,
granting the son’s statement to be correct, was a certainty. We have come
now out of mere vagueness to the definite conception of an Australian
from Ballarat with a gray cloak.”
“And one who was at home in the district, for the pool can only be
approached by the farm or by the estate, where strangers could hardly
“Quite so.”
“Then comes our expedition of to-day. By an examination of the
ground I gained the trifling details which I gave to that imbecile Lestrade,
as to the personality of the criminal.”
“But how did you gain them?”
“You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.”
“His height I know that you might roughly judge from the length of his
stride. His boots, too, might be told from their traces.”
“Yes, they were peculiar boots.”
“But his lameness?”
“The impression of his right foot was always less distinct than his left.
He put less weight upon it. Why? Because he limped–he was lame.”
“But his left-handedness.”
“You were yourself struck by the nature of the injury as recorded by the
surgeon at the inquest. The blow was struck from immediately behind,
and yet was upon the left side. Now, how can that be unless it were by a
left-handed man? He had stood behind that tree during the interview
between the father and son. He had even smoked there. I found the ash of
a cigar, which my special knowledge of tobacco ashes enables me to
pronounce as an Indian cigar. I have, as you know, devoted some
attention to this, and written a little monograph on the ashes of 140
different varieties of pipe, cigar, and cigarette tobacco. Having found the
ash, I then looked round and discovered the stump among the moss where
he had tossed it. It was an Indian cigar, of the variety which are rolled in

“And the cigar-holder?”

“I could see that the end had not been in his mouth. Therefore he used a
holder. The tip had been cut off, not bitten off, but the cut was not a clean
one, so I deduced a blunt pen-knife.”
“Holmes,” I said, “you have drawn a net round this man from which he
cannot escape, and you have saved an innocent human life as truly as if
you had cut the [215] cord which was hanging him. I see the direction in
which all this points. The culprit is– –”
“Mr. John Turner,” cried the hotel waiter, opening the door of our
sitting-room, and ushering in a visitor.
The man who entered was a strange and impressive figure. His slow,
limping step and bowed shoulders gave the appearance of decrepitude,
and yet his hard, deep-lined, craggy features, and his enormous limbs
showed that he was possessed of unusual strength of body and of
character. His tangled beard, grizzled hair, and outstanding, drooping
eyebrows combined to give an air of dignity and power to his appearance,
but his face was of an ashen white, while his lips and the corners of his
nostrils were tinged with a shade of blue. It was clear to me at a glance
that he was in the grip of some deadly and chronic disease.
“Pray sit down on the sofa,” said Holmes gently. “You had my note?”
“Yes, the lodge-keeper brought it up. You said that you wished to see
me here to avoid scandal.”
“I thought people would talk if I went to the Hall.”
“And why did you wish to see me?” He looked across at my companion
with despair in his weary eyes, as though his question was already
“Yes,” said Holmes, answering the look rather than the words. “It is so.
I know all about McCarthy.”
The old man sank his face in his hands. “God help me!” he cried. “But I
would not have let the young man come to harm. I give you my word that
I would have spoken out if it went against him at the Assizes.”
“I am glad to hear you say so,” said Holmes gravely.
“I would have spoken now had it not been for my dear girl. It would
break her heart–it will break her heart when she hears that I am arrested.”
“It may not come to that,” said Holmes.
“I am no official agent. I understand that it was your daughter who
required my presence here, and I am acting in her interests. Young
McCarthy must be got off, however.”
“I am a dying man,” said old Turner. “I have had diabetes for years. My
doctor says it is a question whether I shall live a month. Yet I would
rather die under my own roof than in a jail.”
Holmes rose and sat down at the table with his pen in his hand and a
bundle of paper before him. “Just tell us the truth,” he said. “I shall jot
down the facts. You will sign it, and Watson here can witness it. Then I
could produce your confession at the last extremity to save young
McCarthy. I promise you that I shall not use it unless it is absolutely
“It’s as well,” said the old man; “it’s a question whether I shall live to
the Assizes, so it matters little to me, but I should wish to spare Alice the
shock. And now I will make the thing clear to you; it has been a long time
in the acting, but will not take me long to tell.
“You didn’t know this dead man, McCarthy. He was a devil incarnate. I
tell you that. God keep you out of the clutches of such a man as he. His
grip has been upon me these twenty years, and he has blasted my life. I’ll
tell you first how I came to be in his power.
“It was in the early ’60’s at the diggings. I was a young chap then, hot-
blooded and reckless, ready to turn my hand at anything; I got among bad
companions, took [216] to drink, had no luck with my claim, took to the
bush, and in a word became what you would call over here a highway
robber. There were six of us, and we had a wild, free life of it, sticking up
a station from time to time, or stopping the wagons on the road to the
diggings. Black Jack of Ballarat was the name I went under, and our party
is still remembered in the colony as the Ballarat Gang.
“One day a gold convoy came down from Ballarat to Melbourne, and
we lay in wait for it and attacked it. There were six troopers and six of us,
so it was a close thing, but we emptied four of their saddles at the first
volley. Three of our boys were killed, however, before we got the swag. I
put my pistol to the head of the wagon-driver, who was this very man
McCarthy. I wish to the Lord that I had shot him then, but I spared him,
though I saw his wicked little eyes fixed on my face, as though to
remember every feature. We got away with the gold, became wealthy
men, and made our way over to England without being suspected. There I
parted from my old pals and determined to settle down to a quiet and
respectable life. I bought this estate, which chanced to be in the market,
and I set myself to do a little good with my money, to make up for the
way in which I had earned it. I married, too, and though my wife died
young she left me my dear little Alice. Even when she was just a baby her
wee hand seemed to lead me down the right path as nothing else had ever
done. In a word, I turned over a new leaf and did my best to make up for
the past. All was going well when McCarthy laid his grip upon me.
“I had gone up to town about an investment, and I met him in Regent
Street with hardly a coat to his back or a boot to his foot.
“‘Here we are, Jack,’ says he, touching me on the arm; ‘we’ll be as
good as a family to you. There’s two of us, me and my son, and you can
have the keeping of us. If you don’t–it’s a fine, law-abiding country is
England, and there’s always a policeman within hail.’
“Well, down they came to the west country, there was no shaking them
off, and there they have lived rent free on my best land ever since. There
was no rest for me, no peace, no forgetfulness; turn where I would, there
was his cunning, grinning face at my elbow. It grew worse as Alice grew
up, for he soon saw I was more afraid of her knowing my past than of the
police. Whatever he wanted he must have, and whatever it was I gave him
without question, land, money, houses, until at last he asked a thing which
I could not give. He asked for Alice.
“His son, you see, had grown up, and so had my girl, and as I was
known to be in weak health, it seemed a fine stroke to him that his lad
should step into the whole property. But there I was firm. I would not
have his cursed stock mixed with mine; not that I had any dislike to the
lad, but his blood was in him, and that was enough. I stood firm.
McCarthy threatened. I braved him to do his worst. We were to meet at
the pool midway between our houses to talk it over.
“When I went down there I found him talking with his son, so I smoked
a cigar and waited behind a tree until he should be alone. But as I listened
to his talk all that was black and bitter in me seemed to come uppermost.
He was urging his son to marry my daughter with as little regard for what
she might think as if she were a slut from off the streets. It drove me mad
to think that I and all that I held most dear should be in the power of such
a man as this. Could I not snap the bond? I was already a dying and a
desperate man. Though clear of mind and fairly strong of limb, I knew
that my own fate was sealed. But my memory and my girl! Both could be
saved if I could but silence that foul tongue. I did it, Mr. Holmes. [217] I
would do it again. Deeply as I have sinned, I have led a life of martyrdom
to atone for it. But that my girl should be entangled in the same meshes
which held me was more than I could suffer. I struck him down with no
more compunction than if he had been some foul and venomous beast.
His cry brought back his son; but I had gained the cover of the wood,
though I was forced to go back to fetch the cloak which I had dropped in
my flight. That is the true story, gentlemen, of all that occurred.”
“Well, it is not for me to judge you,” said Holmes as the old man
signed the statement which had been drawn out. “I pray that we may
never be exposed to such a temptation.”
“I pray not, sir. And what do you intend to do?”
“In view of your health, nothing. You are yourself aware that you will
soon have to answer for your deed at a higher court than the Assizes. I
will keep your confession, and if McCarthy is condemned I shall be
forced to use it. If not, it shall never be seen by mortal eye; and your
secret, whether you be alive or dead, shall be safe with us.”
“Farewell, then,” said the old man solemnly. “Your own deathbeds,
when they come, will be the easier for the thought of the peace which you
have given to mine.” Tottering and shaking in all his giant frame, he
stumbled slowly from the room.
“God help us!” said Holmes after a long silence. “Why does fate play
such tricks with poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this
that I do not think of Baxter’s words, and say, ‘There, but for the grace of
God, goes Sherlock Holmes.’”
James McCarthy was acquitted at the Assizes on the strength of a
number of objections which had been drawn out by Holmes and
submitted to the defending counsel. Old Turner lived for seven months
after our interview, but he is now dead; and there is every prospect that
the son and daughter may come to live happily together in ignorance of
the black cloud which rests upon their past.

David Soucek, 1998 The Five Orange Pips

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


WHEN I glance over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes cases
between the years ’82 and ’90, I am faced by so many which present
strange and interesting features that it is no easy matter to know which to
choose and which to leave. Some, however, have already gained publicity
through the papers, and others have not offered a field for those peculiar
qualities which my friend possessed in so high a degree, and which it is
the object of these papers to illustrate. Some, too, have baffled his
analytical skill, and would be, as narratives, beginnings without an
ending, while others have been but partially cleared up, and have their
explanations founded rather upon conjecture and surmise than on that
absolute logical proof which was so dear to him. There is, however, one
of these last which was so remarkable in its details and so startling in its
results that I am tempted to give some account of it in spite of the fact that
there are points in connection with it which never have been, and
probably never will be, entirely cleared up.
[218] The year ’87 furnished us with a long series of cases of greater or
less interest, of which I retain the records. Among my headings under this
one twelve months I find an account of the adventure of the Paradol
Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club
in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the facts connected with
the loss of the British bark Sophy Anderson, of the singular adventures of
the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally of the Camberwell
poisoning case. In the latter, as may be remembered, Sherlock Holmes
was able, by winding up the dead man’s watch, to prove that it had been
wound up two hours before, and that therefore the deceased had gone to
bed within that time–a deduction which was of the greatest importance in
clearing up the case. All these I may sketch out at some future date, but
none of them present such singular features as the strange train of
circumstances which I have now taken up my pen to describe.
It was in the latter days of September, and the equinoctial gales had set
in with exceptional violence. All day the wind had screamed and the rain
had beaten against the windows, so that even here in the heart of great,
hand-made London we were forced to raise our minds for the instant from
the routine of life, and to recognize the presence of those great elemental
forces which shriek at mankind through the bars of his civilization, like
untamed beasts in a cage. As evening drew in, the storm grew higher and
louder, and the wind cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney.
Sherlock Holmes sat moodily at one side of the fireplace cross-indexing
his records of crime, while I at the other was deep in one of Clark
Russell’s fine sea-stories until the howl of the gale from without seemed
to blend with the text, and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into the
long swash of the sea waves. My wife was on a visit to her mother’s, and
for a few days I was a dweller once more in my old quarters at Baker
“Why,” said I, glancing up at my companion, “that was surely the bell.
Who could come to-night? Some friend of yours, perhaps?”
“Except yourself I have none,” he answered. “I do not encourage
“A client, then?”
“If so, it is a serious case. Nothing less would bring a man out on such
a day and at such an hour. But I take it that it is more likely to be some
crony of the landlady’s.”
Sherlock Holmes was wrong in his conjecture, however, for there came
a step in the passage and a tapping at the door. He stretched out his long
arm to turn the lamp away from himself and towards the vacant chair
upon which a newcomer must sit. “Come in!” said he.
The man who entered was young, some two-and-twenty at the outside,
well-groomed and trimly clad, with something of refinement and delicacy
in his bearing. The streaming umbrella which he held in his hand, and his
long shining waterproof told of the fierce weather through which he had
come. He looked about him anxiously in the glare of the lamp, and I
could see that his face was pale and his eyes heavy, like those of a man
who is weighed down with some great anxiety.
“I owe you an apology,” he said, raising his golden pince-nez to his
eyes. “I trust that I am not intruding. I fear that I have brought some traces
of the storm and rain into your snug chamber.”
“Give me your coat and umbrella,” said Holmes. “They may rest here
on the hook and will be dry presently. You have come up from the south-
west, I see.”
“Yes, from Horsham.”
[219] “That clay and chalk mixture which I see upon your toe caps is
quite distinctive.”
“I have come for advice.”
“That is easily got.”
“And help.”
“That is not always so easy.”
“I have heard of you, Mr. Holmes. I heard from Major Prendergast how
you saved him in the Tankerville Club scandal.”
“Ah, of course. He was wrongfully accused of cheating at cards.”
“He said that you could solve anything.”
“He said too much.”
“That you are never beaten.”
“I have been beaten four times–three times by men, and once by a
“But what is that compared with the number of your successes?”
“It is true that I have been generally successful.”
“Then you may be so with me.”
“I beg that you will draw your chair up to the fire and favour me with
some details as to your case.”
“It is no ordinary one.”
“None of those which come to me are. I am the last court of appeal.”
“And yet I question, sir, whether, in all your experience, you have ever
listened to a more mysterious and inexplicable chain of events than those
which have happened in my own family.”
“You fill me with interest,” said Holmes. “Pray give us the essential
facts from the commencement, and I can afterwards question you as to
those details which seem to me to be most important.”
The young man pulled his chair up and pushed his wet feet out towards
the blaze.
“My name,” said he, “is John Openshaw, but my own affairs have, as
far as I can understand, little to do with this awful business. It is a
hereditary matter; so in order to give you an idea of the facts, I must go
back to the commencement of the affair.
“You must know that my grandfather had two sons–my uncle Elias and
my father Joseph. My father had a small factory at Coventry, which he
enlarged at the time of the invention of bicycling. He was a patentee of
the Openshaw unbreakable tire, and his business met with such success
that he was able to sell it and to retire upon a handsome competence.
“My uncle Elias emigrated to America when he was a young man and
became a planter in Florida, where he was reported to have done very
well. At the time of the war he fought in Jackson’s army, and afterwards
under Hood, where he rose to be a colonel. When Lee laid down his arms
my uncle returned to his plantation, where he remained for three or four
years. About 1869 or 1870 he came back to Europe and took a small
estate in Sussex, near Horsham. He had made a very considerable fortune
in the States, and his reason for leaving them was his aversion to the
negroes, and his dislike of the Republican policy in extending the
franchise to them. He was a singular man, fierce and quick-tempered,
very foul-mouthed when he was angry, and of a most retiring disposition.
During all the years that he lived at Horsham, I doubt if ever he set foot in
the town. He had a garden and two or three fields round his house, and
there he would take his exercise, though very often for weeks on end he
would never leave his room. He drank [220] a great deal of brandy and
smoked very heavily, but he would see no society and did not want any
friends, not even his own brother.
“He didn’t mind me; in fact, he took a fancy to me, for at the time when
he saw me first I was a youngster of twelve or so. This would be in the
year 1878, after he had been eight or nine years in England. He begged
my father to let me live with him, and he was very kind to me in his way.
When he was sober he used to be fond of playing backgammon and
draughts with me, and he would make me his representative both with the
servants and with the tradespeople, so that by the time that I was sixteen I
was quite master of the house. I kept all the keys and could go where I
liked and do what I liked, so long as I did not disturb him in his privacy.
There was one singular exception, however, for he had a single room, a
lumber-room up among the attics, which was invariably locked, and
which he would never permit either me or anyone else to enter. With a
boy’s curiosity I have peeped through the keyhole, but I was never able to
see more than such a collection of old trunks and bundles as would be
expected in such a room.
“One day–it was in March, 1883–a letter with a foreign stamp lay upon
the table in front of the colonel’s plate. It was not a common thing for him
to receive letters, for his bills were all paid in ready money, and he had no
friends of any sort. ‘From India!’ said he as he took it up, ‘Pondicherry
postmark! What can this be?’ Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five
little dried orange pips, which pattered down upon his plate. I began to
laugh at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight of his
face. His lip had fallen, his eyes were protruding, his skin the colour of
putty, and he glared at the envelope which he still held in his trembling
hand, ‘K. K. K.!’ he shrieked, and then, ‘My God, my God, my sins have
overtaken me!’
“‘What is it, uncle?’ I cried.
“‘Death,’ said he, and rising from the table he retired to his room,
leaving me palpitating with horror. I took up the envelope and saw
scrawled in red ink upon the inner flap, just above the gum, the letter K
three times repeated. There was nothing else save the five dried pips.
What could be the reason of his overpowering terror? I left the breakfast-
table, and as I ascended the stair I met him coming down with an old
rusty key, which must have belonged to the attic, in one hand, and a small
brass box, like a cashbox, in the other.
“‘They may do what they like, but I’ll checkmate them still,’ said he
with an oath. ‘Tell Mary that I shall want a fire in my room to-day, and
send down to Fordham, the Horsham lawyer.’
“I did as he ordered, and when the lawyer arrived I was asked to step
up to the room. The fire was burning brightly, and in the grate there was a
mass of black, fluffy ashes, as of burned paper, while the brass box stood
open and empty beside it. As I glanced at the box I noticed, with a start,
that upon the lid was printed the treble K which I had read in the morning
upon the envelope.
“‘I wish you, John,’ said my uncle, ‘to witness my will. I leave my
estate, with all its advantages and all its disadvantages, to my brother,
your father, whence it will, no doubt, descend to you. If you can enjoy it
in peace, well and good! If you find you cannot, take my advice, my boy,
and leave it to your deadliest enemy. I am sorry to give you such a two-
edged thing, but I can’t say what turn things are going to take. Kindly
sign the paper where Mr. Fordham shows you.’
“I signed the paper as directed, and the lawyer took it away with him.
The singular incident made, as you may think, the deepest impression
upon me, and [221] I pondered over it and turned it every way in my mind
without being able to make anything of it. Yet I could not shake off the
vague feeling of dread which it left behind, though the sensation grew less
keen as the weeks passed, and nothing happened to disturb the usual
routine of our lives. I could see a change in my uncle, however. He drank
more than ever, and he was less inclined for any sort of society. Most of
his time he would spend in his room, with the door locked upon the
inside, but sometimes he would emerge in a sort of drunken frenzy and
would burst out of the house and tear about the garden with a revolver in
his hand, screaming out that he was afraid of no man, and that he was not
to be cooped up, like a sheep in a pen, by man or devil. When these hot
fits were over, however, he would rush tumultuously in at the door and
lock and bar it behind him, like a man who can brazen it out no longer
against the terror which lies at the roots of his soul. At such times I have
seen his face, even on a cold day, glisten with moisture, as though it were
new raised from a basin.
“Well, to come to an end of the matter, Mr. Holmes, and not to abuse
your patience, there came a night when he made one of those drunken
sallies from which he never came back. We found him, when we went to
search for him, face downward in a little green-scummed pool, which lay
at the foot of the garden. There was no sign of any violence, and the water
was but two feet deep, so that the jury, having regard to his known
eccentricity, brought in a verdict of ‘suicide.’ But I, who knew how he
winced from the very thought of death, had much ado to persuade myself
that he had gone out of his way to meet it. The matter passed, however,
and my father entered into possession of the estate, and of some £14,000,
which lay to his credit at the bank.”
“One moment,” Holmes interposed, “your statement is, I foresee, one
of the most remarkable to which I have ever listened. Let me have the
date of the reception by your uncle of the letter, and the date of his
supposed suicide.”
“The letter arrived on March 10, 1883. His death was seven weeks
later, upon the night of May 2d.”
“Thank you. Pray proceed.”
“When my father took over the Horsham property, he, at my request,
made a careful examination of the attic, which had been always locked
up. We found the brass box there, although its contents had been
destroyed. On the inside of the cover was a paper label, with the initials of
K. K. K. repeated upon it, and ‘Letters, memoranda, receipts, and a
register’ written beneath. These, we presume, indicated the nature of the
papers which had been destroyed by Colonel Openshaw. For the rest,
there was nothing of much importance in the attic save a great many
scattered papers and note-books bearing upon my uncle’s life in America.
Some of them were of the war time and showed that he had done his duty
well and had borne the repute of a brave soldier. Others were of a date
during the reconstruction of the Southern states, and were mostly
concerned with politics, for he had evidently taken a strong part in
opposing the carpet-bag politicians who had been sent down from the
“Well, it was the beginning of ’84 when my father came to live at
Horsham, and all went as well as possible with us until the January of ’85.
On the fourth day after the new year I heard my father give a sharp cry of
surprise as we sat together at the breakfast-table. There he was, sitting
with a newly opened envelope in one hand and five dried orange pips in
the outstretched palm of the other one. He had always laughed at what he
called my cock-and-bull story about the colonel, but [222] he looked very
scared and puzzled now that the same thing had come upon himself.

“‘Why, what on earth does this mean, John?’ he stammered.

“My heart had turned to lead. ‘It is K. K. K.,’ said I.
“He looked inside the envelope. ‘So it is,’ he cried. ‘Here are the very
letters. But what is this written above them?’
“‘Put the papers on the sundial,’ I read, peeping over his shoulder.
“‘What papers? What sundial?’ he asked.
“‘The sundial in the garden. There is no other,’ said I; ‘but the papers
must be those that are destroyed.’
“‘Pooh!’ said he, gripping hard at his courage. ‘We are in a civilized
land here, and we can’t have tomfoolery of this kind. Where does the
thing come from?’
“‘From Dundee,’ I answered, glancing at the postmark.
“‘Some preposterous practical joke,’ said he. ‘What have I to do with
sundials and papers? I shall take no notice of such nonsense.’
“‘I should certainly speak to the police,’ I said.
“‘And be laughed at for my pains. Nothing of the sort.’
“‘Then let me do so?’
“‘No, I forbid you. I won’t have a fuss made about such nonsense.’
“It was in vain to argue with him, for he was a very obstinate man. I
went about, however, with a heart which was full of forebodings.
“On the third day after the coming of the letter my father went from
home to visit an old friend of his, Major Freebody, who is in command of
one of the forts upon Portsdown Hill. I was glad that he should go, for it
seemed to me that he was farther from danger when he was away from
home. In that, however, I was in error. Upon the second day of his
absence I received a telegram from the major, imploring me to come at
once. My father had fallen over one of the deep chalk-pits which abound
in the neighbourhood, and was lying senseless, with a shattered skull. I
hurried to him, but he passed away without having ever recovered his
consciousness. He had, as it appears, been returning from Fareham in the
twilight, and as the country was unknown to him, and the chalk-pit
unfenced, the jury had no hesitation in bringing in a verdict of ‘death
from accidental causes.’ Carefully as I examined every fact connected
with his death, I was unable to find anything which could suggest the idea
of murder. There were no signs of violence, no footmarks, no robbery, no
record of strangers having been seen upon the roads. And yet I need not
tell you that my mind was far from at ease, and that I was well-nigh
certain that some foul plot had been woven round him.
“In this sinister way I came into my inheritance. You will ask me why I
did not dispose of it? I answer, because I was well convinced that our
troubles were in some way dependent upon an incident in my uncle’s life,
and that the danger would be as pressing in one house as in another.
“It was in January, ’85, that my poor father met his end, and two years
and eight months have elapsed since then. During that time I have lived
happily at Horsham, and I had begun to hope that this curse had passed
away from the family, and that it had ended with the last generation. I had
begun to take comfort too soon, however; yesterday morning the blow fell
in the very shape in which it had come upon my father.”
The young man took from his waistcoat a crumpled envelope, and
turning to the table he shook out upon it five little dried orange pips.
“This is the envelope,” he continued. “The postmark is London–eastern
[223] division. Within are the very words which were upon my father’s
last message: ‘K. K. K.’; and then ‘Put the papers on the sundial.’”
“What have you done?” asked Holmes.
“To tell the truth”–he sank his face into his thin, white hands–“I have
felt helpless. I have felt like one of those poor rabbits when the snake is
writhing towards it. I seem to be in the grasp of some resistless,
inexorable evil, which no foresight and no precautions can guard against.”
“Tut! tut!” cried Sherlock Holmes. “You must act, man, or you are lost.
Nothing but energy can save you. This is no time for despair.”
“I have seen the police.”
“But they listened to my story with a smile. I am convinced that the
inspector has formed the opinion that the letters are all practical jokes,
and that the deaths of my relations were really accidents, as the jury
stated, and were not to be connected with the warnings.”
Holmes shook his clenched hands in the air. “Incredible imbecility!” he
“They have, however, allowed me a policeman, who may remain in the
house with me.”
“Has he come with you to-night?”
“No. His orders were to stay in the house.”
Again Holmes raved in the air.
“Why did you come to me,” he cried, “and, above all, why did you not
come at once?”
“I did not know. It was only to-day that I spoke to Major Prendergast
about my troubles and was advised by him to come to you.”
“It is really two days since you had the letter. We should have acted
before this. You have no further evidence, I suppose, than that which you
have placed before us–no suggestive detail which might help us?”
“There is one thing,” said John Openshaw. He rummaged in his coat
pocket, and, drawing out a piece of discoloured, blue-tinted paper, he laid
it out upon the table. “I have some remembrance,” said he, “that on the
day when my uncle burned the papers I observed that the small, unburned
margins which lay amid the ashes were of this particular colour. I found
this single sheet upon the floor of his room, and I am inclined to think that
it may be one of the papers which has, perhaps, fluttered out from among
the others, and in that way has escaped destruction. Beyond the mention
of pips, I do not see that it helps us much. I think myself that it is a page
from some private diary. The writing is undoubtedly my uncle’s.”
Holmes moved the lamp, and we both bent over the sheet of paper,
which showed by its ragged edge that it had indeed been torn from a
book. It was headed, “March, 1869,” and beneath were the following
enigmatical notices:

4th.Hudson came. Same old platform.

7th.Set the pips on McCauley, Paramore, and John Swain, of
St. Augustine.
9th.McCauley cleared.
10th.John Swain cleared.
12th.Visited Paramore. All well.

[224] “Thank you!” said Holmes, folding up the paper and returning it
to our visitor. “And now you must on no account lose another instant. We
cannot spare time even to discuss what you have told me. You must get
home instantly and act.”
“What shall I do?”
“There is but one thing to do. It must be done at once. You must put
this piece of paper which you have shown us into the brass box which you
have described. You must also put in a note to say that all the other papers
were burned by your uncle, and that this is the only one which remains.
You must assert that in such words as will carry conviction with them.
Having done this, you must at once put the box out upon the sundial, as
directed. Do you understand?”
“Do not think of revenge, or anything of the sort, at present. I think that
we may gain that by means of the law; but we have our web to weave,
while theirs is already woven. The first consideration is to remove the
pressing danger which threatens you. The second is to clear up the
mystery and to punish the guilty parties.”
“I thank you,” said the young man, rising and pulling on his overcoat.
“You have given me fresh life and hope. I shall certainly do as you
“Do not lose an instant. And, above all, take care of yourself in the
meanwhile, for I do not think that there can be a doubt that you are
threatened by a very real and imminent danger. How do you go back?”
“By train from Waterloo.”
“It is not yet nine. The streets will be crowded, so I trust that you may
be in safety. And yet you cannot guard yourself too closely.”
“I am armed.”
“That is well. To-morrow I shall set to work upon your case.”
“I shall see you at Horsham, then?”
“No, your secret lies in London. It is there that I shall seek it.”
“Then I shall call upon you in a day, or in two days, with news as to the
box and the papers. I shall take your advice in every particular.” He shook
hands with us and took his leave. Outside the wind still screamed and the
rain splashed and pattered against the windows. This strange, wild story
seemed to have come to us from amid the mad elements–blown in upon
us like a sheet of sea-weed in a gale–and now to have been reabsorbed by
them once more.

Sherlock Holmes sat for some time in silence, with his head sunk
forward and his eyes bent upon the red glow of the fire. Then he lit his
pipe, and leaning back in his chair he watched the blue smoke-rings as
they chased each other up to the ceiling.
“I think, Watson,” he remarked at last, “that of all our cases we have
had none more fantastic than this.”
“Save, perhaps, the Sign of Four.”
“Well, yes. Save, perhaps, that. And yet this John Openshaw seems to
me to be walking amid even greater perils than did the Sholtos.”
“But have you,” I asked, “formed any definite conception as to what
these perils are?”
“There can be no question as to their nature,” he answered.
“Then what are they? Who is this K. K. K., and why does he pursue
this unhappy family?”
Sherlock Holmes closed his eyes and placed his elbows upon the arms
of his chair, with his finger-tips together. “The ideal reasoner,” he
remarked, “would, [225] when he had once been shown a single fact in all
its bearings, deduce from it not only all the chain of events which led up
to it but also all the results which would follow from it. As Cuvier could
correctly describe a whole animal by the contemplation of a single bone,
so the observer who has thoroughly understood one link in a series of
incidents should be able to accurately state all the other ones, both before
and after. We have not yet grasped the results which the reason alone can
attain to. Problems may be solved in the study which have baffled all
those who have sought a solution by the aid of their senses. To carry the
art, however, to its highest pitch, it is necessary that the reasoner should
be able to utilize all the facts which have come to his knowledge; and this
in itself implies, as you will readily see, a possession of all knowledge,
which, even in these days of free education and encyclopaedias, is a
somewhat rare accomplishment. It is not so impossible, however, that a
man should possess all knowledge which is likely to be useful to him in
his work, and this I have endeavoured in my case to do. If I remember
rightly, you on one occasion, in the early days of our friendship, defined
my limits in a very precise fashion.”
“Yes,” I answered, laughing. “It was a singular document. Philosophy,
astronomy, and politics were marked at zero, I remember. Botany
variable, geology profound as regards the mud-stains from any region
within fifty miles of town, chemistry eccentric, anatomy unsystematic,
sensational literature and crime records unique, violin-player, boxer,
swordsman, lawyer, and self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco. Those, I
think, were the main points of my analysis.”
Holmes grinned at the last item. “Well,” he said, “I say now, as I said
then, that a man should keep his little brain-attic stocked with all the
furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the
lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it. Now, for
such a case as the one which has been submitted to us to-night, we need
certainly to muster all our resources. Kindly hand me down the letter K of
the American Encyclopaedia which stands upon the shelf beside you.
Thank you. Now let us consider the situation and see what may be
deduced from it. In the first place, we may start with a strong presumption
that Colonel Openshaw had some very strong reason for leaving America.
Men at his time of life do not change all their habits and exchange
willingly the charming climate of Florida for the lonely life of an English
provincial town. His extreme love of solitude in England suggests the
idea that he was in fear of someone or something, so we may assume as a
working hypothesis that it was fear of someone or something which drove
him from America. As to what it was he feared, we can only deduce that
by considering the formidable letters which were received by himself and
his successors. Did you remark the postmarks of those letters?”
“The first was from Pondicherry, the second from Dundee, and the
third from London.”
“From East London. What do you deduce from that?”
“They are all seaports. That the writer was on board of a ship.”
“Excellent. We have already a clue. There can be no doubt that the
probability–the strong probability–is that the writer was on board of a
ship. And now let us consider another point. In the case of Pondicherry,
seven weeks elapsed between the threat and its fulfillment, in Dundee it
was only some three or four days. Does that suggest anything?”
“A greater distance to travel.”
“But the letter had also a greater distance to come.”
[226] “Then I do not see the point.”
“There is at least a presumption that the vessel in which the man or
men are is a sailing-ship. It looks as if they always sent their singular
warning or token before them when starting upon their mission. You see
how quickly the deed followed the sign when it came from Dundee. If
they had come from Pondicherry in a steamer they would have arrived
almost as soon as their letter. But, as a matter of fact, seven weeks
elapsed. I think that those seven weeks represented the difference between
the mail-boat which brought the letter and the sailing vessel which
brought the writer.”
“It is possible.”
“More than that. It is probable. And now you see the deadly urgency of
this new case, and why I urged young Openshaw to caution. The blow has
always fallen at the end of the time which it would take the senders to
travel the distance. But this one comes from London, and therefore we
cannot count upon delay.”
“Good God!” I cried. “What can it mean, this relentless persecution?”
“The papers which Openshaw carried are obviously of vital importance
to the person or persons in the sailing-ship. I think that it is quite clear
that there must be more than one of them. A single man could not have
carried out two deaths in such a way as to deceive a coroner’s jury. There
must have been several in it, and they must have been men of resource
and determination. Their papers they mean to have, be the holder of them
who it may. In this way you see K. K. K. ceases to be the initials of an
individual and becomes the badge of a society.”
“But of what society?”
“Have you never–” said Sherlock Holmes, bending forward and sinking
his voice–“have you never heard of the Ku Klux Klan?”
“I never have.”
Holmes turned over the leaves of the book upon his knee. “Here it is,”
said he presently:

“Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the fanciful resemblance

to the sound produced by cocking a rifle. This terrible secret
society was formed by some ex-Confederate soldiers in the
Southern states after the Civil War, and it rapidly formed local
branches in different parts of the country, notably in Tennessee,
Louisiana, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Its power was used
for political purposes, principally for the terrorizing of the negro
voters and the murdering and driving from the country of those
who were opposed to its views. Its outrages were usually preceded
by a warning sent to the marked man in some fantastic but
generally recognized shape–a sprig of oak-leaves in some parts,
melon seeds or orange pips in others. On receiving this the victim
might either openly abjure his former ways, or might fly from the
country. If he braved the matter out, death would unfailingly come
upon him, and usually in some strange and unforeseen manner. So
perfect was the organization of the society, and so systematic its
methods, that there is hardly a case upon record where any man
succeeded in braving it with impunity, or in which any of its
outrages were traced home to the perpetrators. For some years the
organization flourished in spite of the efforts of the United States
government and of the better classes of the community in the
South. Eventually, in the year 1869, the movement rather suddenly
collapsed, although there have been sporadic outbreaks of the
same sort since that date.

[227] “You will observe,” said Holmes, laying down the volume, “that
the sudden breaking up of the society was coincident with the
disappearance of Openshaw from America with their papers. It may well
have been cause and effect. It is no wonder that he and his family have
some of the more implacable spirits upon their track. You can understand
that this register and diary may implicate some of the first men in the
South, and that there may be many who will not sleep easy at night until it
is recovered.”
“Then the page we have seen– –”
“Is such as we might expect. It ran, if I remember right, ‘sent the pips
to A, B, and C’–that is, sent the society’s warning to them. Then there are
successive entries that A and B cleared, or left the country, and finally
that C was visited, with, I fear, a sinister result for C. Well, I think,
Doctor, that we may let some light into this dark place, and I believe that
the only chance young Openshaw has in the meantime is to do what I
have told him. There is nothing more to be said or to be done to-night, so
hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the
miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen.”

It had cleared in the morning, and the sun was shining with a subdued
brightness through the dim veil which hangs over the great city. Sherlock
Holmes was already at breakfast when I came down.
“You will excuse me for not waiting for you,” said he; “I have, I
foresee, a very busy day before me in looking into this case of young
“What steps will you take?” I asked.
“It will very much depend upon the results of my first inquiries. I may
have to go down to Horsham, after all.”
“You will not go there first?”
“No, I shall commence with the City. Just ring the bell and the maid
will bring up your coffee.”
As I waited, I lifted the unopened newspaper from the table and
glanced my eye over it. It rested upon a heading which sent a chill to my
“Holmes,” I cried, “you are too late.”
“Ah!” said he, laying down his cup, “I feared as much. How was it
done?” He spoke calmly, but I could see that he was deeply moved.
“My eye caught the name of Openshaw, and the heading ‘Tragedy Near
Waterloo Bridge.’ Here is the account:

“Between nine and ten last night Police-Constable Cook, of the

H Division, on duty near Waterloo Bridge, heard a cry for help and
a splash in the water. The night, however, was extremely dark and
stormy, so that, in spite of the help of several passers-by, it was
quite impossible to effect a rescue. The alarm, however, was
given, and, by the aid of the water-police, the body was eventually
recovered. It proved to be that of a young gentleman whose name,
as it appears from an envelope which was found in his pocket, was
John Openshaw, and whose residence is near Horsham. It is
conjectured that he may have been hurrying down to catch the last
train from Waterloo Station, and that in his haste and the extreme
darkness he missed his path and walked over the edge of one of
the small landing-places for river steamboats. The body exhibited
no traces of violence, and there can be no doubt that the deceased
had been the victim of an unfortunate accident, which [228] should
have the effect of calling the attention of the authorities to the
condition of the riverside landing-stages.”

We sat in silence for some minutes, Holmes more depressed and

shaken than I had ever seen him.
“That hurts my pride, Watson,” he said at last. “It is a petty feeling, no
doubt, but it hurts my pride. It becomes a personal matter with me now,
and, if God sends me health, I shall set my hand upon this gang. That he
should come to me for help, and that I should send him away to his
death– –!” He sprang from his chair and paced about the room in
uncontrollable agitation, with a flush upon his sallow cheeks and a
nervous clasping and unclasping of his long thin hands.

“They must be cunning devils,” he exclaimed at last. “How could they

have decoyed him down there? The Embankment is not on the direct line
to the station. The bridge, no doubt, was too crowded, even on such a
night, for their purpose. Well, Watson, we shall see who will win in the
long run. I am going out now!”
“To the police?”
“No; I shall be my own police. When I have spun the web they may
take the flies, but not before.”
All day I was engaged in my professional work, and it was late in the
evening before I returned to Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes had not come
back yet. It was nearly ten o’clock before he entered, looking pale and
worn. He walked up to the sideboard, and tearing a piece from the loaf he
devoured it voraciously, washing it down with a long draught of water.
“You are hungry,” I remarked.
“Starving. It had escaped my memory. I have had nothing since
“Not a bite. I had no time to think of it.”
“And how have you succeeded?”
“You have a clue?”
“I have them in the hollow of my hand. Young Openshaw shall not
long remain unavenged. Why, Watson, let us put their own devilish trade-
mark upon them. It is well thought of!”
“What do you mean?”
He took an orange from the cupboard, and tearing it to pieces he
squeezed out the pips upon the table. Of these he took five and thrust
them into an envelope. On the inside of the flap he wrote “S. H. for J. O.”
Then he sealed it and addressed it to “Captain James Calhoun, Bark Lone
Star, Savannah, Georgia.”
“That will await him when he enters port,” said he, chuckling. “It may
give him a sleepless night. He will find it as sure a precursor of his fate as
Openshaw did before him.”
“And who is this Captain Calhoun?”
“The leader of the gang. I shall have the others, but he first.”
“How did you trace it, then?”
He took a large sheet of paper from his pocket, all covered with dates
and names.
“I have spent the whole day,” said he, “over Lloyd’s registers and files
of the old papers, following the future career of every vessel which
touched at Pondicherry in January and February in ’83. There were thirty-
six ships of fair tonnage which were reported there during those months.
Of these, one, the Lone Star, instantly [229] attracted my attention, since,
although it was reported as having cleared from London, the name is that
which is given to one of the states of the Union.”
“Texas, I think.”
“I was not and am not sure which; but I knew that the ship must have
an American origin.”
“What then?”
“I searched the Dundee records, and when I found that the bark Lone
Star was there in January, ’85, my suspicion became a certainty. I then
inquired as to the vessels which lay at present in the port of London.”
“The Lone Star had arrived here last week. I went down to the Albert
Dock and found that she had been taken down the river by the early tide
this morning, homeward bound to Savannah. I wired to Gravesend and
learned that she had passed some time ago, and as the wind is easterly I
have no doubt that she is now past the Goodwins and not very far from
the Isle of Wight.”
“What will you do, then?”
“Oh, I have my hand upon him. He and the two mates, are, as I learn,
the only native-born Americans in the ship. The others are Finns and
Germans. I know, also, that they were all three away from the ship last
night. I had it from the stevedore who has been loading their cargo. By
the time that their sailing-ship reaches Savannah the mail-boat will have
carried this letter, and the cable will have informed the police of
Savannah that these three gentlemen are badly wanted here upon a charge
of murder.”
There is ever a flaw, however, in the best laid of human plans, and the
murderers of John Openshaw were never to receive the orange pips which
would show them that another, as cunning and as resolute as themselves,
was upon their track. Very long and very severe were the equinoctial
gales that year. We waited long for news of the Lone Star of Savannah,
but none ever reached us. We did at last hear that somewhere far out in
the Atlantic a shattered stern-post of the boat was seen swinging in the
trough of a wave, with the letters “L. S.” carved upon it, and that is all
which we shall ever know of the fate of the Lone Star.

David Soucek, 1998 The Man with the Twisted Lip

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


ISA WHITNEY, brother of the late Elias Whitney, D. D., Principal of the
Theological College of St. George’s, was much addicted to opium. The
habit grew upon him, as I understand, from some foolish freak when he
was at college; for having read De Quincey’s description of his dreams
and sensations, he had drenched his tobacco with laudanum in an attempt
to produce the same effects. He found, as so many more have done, that
the practice is easier to attain than to get rid of, and for many years he
continued to be a slave to the drug, an object of mingled horror and pity
to his friends and relatives. I can see him now, with yellow, pasty face,
drooping lids, and pin-point pupils, all huddled in a chair, the wreck and
ruin of a noble man.
One night–it was in June, ’89–there came a ring to my bell, about the
hour [230] when a man gives his first yawn and glances at the clock. I sat
up in my chair, and my wife laid her needle-work down in her lap and
made a little face of disappointment.
“A patient!” said she. “You’ll have to go out.”
I groaned, for I was newly come back from a weary day.
We heard the door open, a few hurried words, and then quick steps
upon the linoleum. Our own door flew open, and a lady, clad in some
dark-coloured stuff, with a black veil, entered the room.
“You will excuse my calling so late,” she began, and then, suddenly
losing her self-control, she ran forward, threw her arms about my wife’s
neck, and sobbed upon her shoulder. “Oh, I’m in such trouble!” she cried;
“I do so want a little help.”
“Why,” said my wife, pulling up her veil, “it is Kate Whitney. How you
startled me, Kate! I had not an idea who you were when you came in.”
“I didn’t know what to do, so I came straight to you.” That was always
the way. Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-
“It was very sweet of you to come. Now, you must have some wine and
water, and sit here comfortably and tell us all about it. Or should you
rather that I sent James off to bed?”
“Oh, no, no! I want the doctor’s advice and help, too. It’s about Isa. He
has not been home for two days. I am so frightened about him!”
It was not the first time that she had spoken to us of her husband’s
trouble, to me as a doctor, to my wife as an old friend and school
companion. We soothed and comforted her by such words as we could
find. Did she know where her husband was? Was it possible that we could
bring him back to her?
It seems that it was. She had the surest information that of late he had,
when the fit was on him, made use of an opium den in the farthest east of
the City. Hitherto his orgies had always been confined to one day, and he
had come back, twitching and shattered, in the evening. But now the spell
had been upon him eight-and-forty hours, and he lay there, doubtless
among the dregs of the docks, breathing in the poison or sleeping off the
effects. There he was to be found, she was sure of it, at the Bar of Gold, in
Upper Swandam Lane. But what was she to do? How could she, a young
and timid woman, make her way into such a place and pluck her husband
out from among the ruffians who surrounded him?
There was the case, and of course there was but one way out of it.
Might I not escort her to this place? And then, as a second thought, why
should she come at all? I was Isa Whitney’s medical adviser, and as such
I had influence over him. I could manage it better if I were alone. I
promised her on my word that I would send him home in a cab within two
hours if he were indeed at the address which she had given me. And so in
ten minutes I had left my armchair and cheery sitting-room behind me,
and was speeding eastward in a hansom on a strange errand, as it seemed
to me at the time, though the future only could show how strange it was to
But there was no great difficulty in the first stage of my adventure.
Upper Swandam Lane is a vile alley lurking behind the high wharves
which line the north side of the river to the east of London Bridge.
Between a slop-shop and a gin-shop, approached by a steep flight of steps
leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave, I found the den of
which I was in search. Ordering my cab to wait, I passed down the steps,
worn hollow in the centre by the ceaseless tread [231] of drunken feet; and
by the light of a flickering oil-lamp above the door I found the latch and
made my way into a long, low room, thick and heavy with the brown
opium smoke, and terraced with wooden berths, like the forecastle of an
emigrant ship.
Through the gloom one could dimly catch a glimpse of bodies lying in
strange fantastic poses, bowed shoulders, bent knees, heads thrown back,
and chins pointing upward, with here and there a dark, lack-lustre eye
turned upon the newcomer. Out of the black shadows there glimmered
little red circles of light, now bright, now faint, as the burning poison
waxed or waned in the bowls of the metal pipes. The most lay silent, but
some muttered to themselves, and others talked together in a strange, low,
monotonous voice, their conversation coming in gushes, and then
suddenly tailing off into silence, each mumbling out his own thoughts and
paying little heed to the words of his neighbour. At the farther end was a
small brazier of burning charcoal, beside which on a three-legged wooden
stool there sat a tall, thin old man, with his jaw resting upon his two fists,
and his elbows upon his knees, staring into the fire.
As I entered, a sallow Malay attendant had hurried up with a pipe for
me and a supply of the drug, beckoning me to an empty berth.
“Thank you. I have not come to stay,” said I. “There is a friend of mine
here, Mr. Isa Whitney, and I wish to speak with him.”
There was a movement and an exclamation from my right, and peering
through the gloom I saw Whitney, pale, haggard, and unkempt, staring
out at me.
“My God! It’s Watson,” said he. He was in a pitiable state of reaction,
with every nerve in a twitter. “I say, Watson, what o’clock is it?”
“Nearly eleven.”
“Of what day?”
“Of Friday, June 19th.”
“Good heavens! I thought it was Wednesday. It is Wednesday. What
d’you want to frighten the chap for?” He sank his face onto his arms and
began to sob in a high treble key.
“I tell you that it is Friday, man. Your wife has been waiting this two
days for you. You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“So I am. But you’ve got mixed, Watson, for I have only been here a
few hours, three pipes, four pipes–I forget how many. But I’ll go home
with you. I wouldn’t frighten Kate–poor little Kate. Give me your hand!
Have you a cab?”
“Yes, I have one waiting.”
“Then I shall go in it. But I must owe something. Find what I owe,
Watson. I am all off colour. I can do nothing for myself.”
I walked down the narrow passage between the double row of sleepers,
holding my breath to keep out the vile, stupefying fumes of the drug, and
looking about for the manager. As I passed the tall man who sat by the
brazier I felt a sudden pluck at my skirt, and a low voice whispered,
“Walk past me, and then look back at me.” The words fell quite distinctly
upon my ear. I glanced down. They could only have come from the old
man at my side, and yet he sat now as absorbed as ever, very thin, very
wrinkled, bent with age, an opium pipe dangling down from between his
knees, as though it had dropped in sheer lassitude from his fingers. I took
two steps forward and looked back. It took all my self-control to prevent
me from breaking out into a cry of astonishment. He had turned his back
so that none could see him but I. His form had filled out, his wrinkles
were gone, the [232] dull eyes had regained their fire, and there, sitting by
the fire and grinning at my surprise, was none other than Sherlock
Holmes. He made a slight motion to me to approach him, and instantly, as
he turned his face half round to the company once more, subsided into a
doddering, loose-lipped senility.

“Holmes!” I whispered, “what on earth are you doing in this den?”

“As low as you can,” he answered; “I have excellent ears. If you would
have the great kindness to get rid of that sottish friend of yours I should
be exceedingly glad to have a little talk with you.”
“I have a cab outside.”
“Then pray send him home in it. You may safely trust him, for he
appears to be too limp to get into any mischief. I should recommend you
also to send a note by the cabman to your wife to say that you have
thrown in your lot with me. If you will wait outside, I shall be with you in
five minutes.”
It was difficult to refuse any of Sherlock Holmes’s requests, for they
were always so exceedingly definite, and put forward with such a quiet air
of mastery. I felt, however, that when Whitney was once confined in the
cab my mission was practically accomplished; and for the rest, I could not
wish anything better than to be associated with my friend in one of those
singular adventures which were the normal condition of his existence. In
a few minutes I had written my note, paid Whitney’s bill, led him out to
the cab, and seen him driven through the darkness. In a very short time a
decrepit figure had emerged from the opium den, and I was walking down
the street with Sherlock Holmes. For two streets he shuffled along with a
bent back and an uncertain foot. Then, glancing quickly round, he
straightened himself out and burst into a hearty fit of laughter.
“I suppose, Watson,” said he, “that you imagine that I have added
opium-smoking to cocaine injections, and all the other little weaknesses
on which you have favoured me with your medical views.”
“I was certainly surprised to find you there.”
“But not more so than I to find you.”
“I came to find a friend.”
“And I to find an enemy.”
“An enemy?”
“Yes; one of my natural enemies, or, shall I say, my natural prey.
Briefly, Watson, I am in the midst of a very remarkable inquiry, and I
have hoped to find a clue in the incoherent ramblings of these sots, as I
have done before now. Had I been recognized in that den my life would
not have been worth an hour’s purchase; for I have used it before now for
my own purposes, and the rascally lascar who runs it has sworn to have
vengeance upon me. There is a trap-door at the back of that building, near
the corner of Paul’s Wharf, which could tell some strange tales of what
has passed through it upon the moonless nights.”
“What! You do not mean bodies?”
“Ay, bodies, Watson. We should be rich men if we had £1000 for every
poor devil who has been done to death in that den. It is the vilest murder-
trap on the whole riverside, and I fear that Neville St. Clair has entered it
never to leave it more. But our trap should be here.” He put his two
forefingers between his teeth and whistled shrilly–a signal which was
answered by a similar whistle from the distance, followed shortly by the
rattle of wheels and the clink of horses’ hoofs.
“Now, Watson,” said Holmes, as a tall dog-cart dashed up through the
gloom, [233] throwing out two golden tunnels of yellow light from its side
lanterns. “You’ll come with me, won’t you?”
“If I can be of use.”
“Oh, a trusty comrade is always of use; and a chronicler still more so.
My room at The Cedars is a double-bedded one.”
“The Cedars?”
“Yes; that is Mr. St. Clair’s house. I am staying there while I conduct
the inquiry.”
“Where is it, then?”
“Near Lee, in Kent. We have a seven-mile drive before us.”
“But I am all in the dark.”
“Of course you are. You’ll know all about it presently. Jump up here.
All right, John; we shall not need you. Here’s half a crown. Look out for
me to-morrow, about eleven. Give her her head. So long, then!”
He flicked the horse with his whip, and we dashed away through the
endless succession of sombre and deserted streets, which widened
gradually, until we were flying across a broad balustraded bridge, with the
murky river flowing sluggishly beneath us. Beyond lay another dull
wilderness of bricks and mortar, its silence broken only by the heavy,
regular footfall of the policeman, or the songs and shouts of some belated
party of revellers. A dull wrack was drifting slowly across the sky, and a
star or two twinkled dimly here and there through the rifts of the clouds.
Holmes drove in silence, with his head sunk upon his breast, and the air
of a man who is lost in thought, while I sat beside him, curious to learn
what this new quest might be which seemed to tax his powers so sorely,
and yet afraid to break in upon the current of his thoughts. We had driven
several miles, and were beginning to get to the fringe of the belt of
suburban villas, when he shook himself, shrugged his shoulders, and lit
up his pipe with the air of a man who has satisfied himself that he is
acting for the best.
“You have a grand gift of silence, Watson,” said he. “It makes you
quite invaluable as a companion. ‘Pon my word, it is a great thing for me
to have someone to talk to, for my own thoughts are not over-pleasant. I
was wondering what I should say to this dear little woman to-night when
she meets me at the door.”
“You forget that I know nothing about it.”
“I shall just have time to tell you the facts of the case before we get to
Lee. It seems absurdly simple, and yet, somehow, I can get nothing to go
upon. There’s plenty of thread, no doubt, but I can’t get the end of it into
my hand. Now, I’ll state the case clearly and concisely to you, Watson,
and maybe you can see a spark where all is dark to me.”
“Proceed, then.”
“Some years ago–to be definite, in May, 1884–there came to Lee a
gentleman, Neville St. Clair by name, who appeared to have plenty of
money. He took a large villa, laid out the grounds very nicely, and lived
generally in good style. By degrees he made friends in the
neighbourhood, and in 1887 he married the daughter of a local brewer, by
whom he now has two children. He had no occupation, but was interested
in several companies and went into town as a rule in the morning,
returning by the 5:14 from Cannon Street every night. Mr. St. Clair is
now thirty-seven years of age, is a man of temperate habits, a good
husband, a very affectionate father, and a man who is popular with all
who know him. I may add that his whole debts at the present moment, as
far as we have been able to ascertain, amount to [234] £88 10s., while he
has £220 standing to his credit in the Capital and Counties Bank. There is
no reason, therefore, to think that money troubles have been weighing
upon his mind.
“Last Monday Mr. Neville St. Clair went into town rather earlier than
usual, remarking before he started that he had two important commissions
to perform, and that he would bring his little boy home a box of bricks.
Now, by the merest chance, his wife received a telegram upon this same
Monday, very shortly after his departure, to the effect that a small parcel
of considerable value which she had been expecting was waiting for her
at the offices of the Aberdeen Shipping Company. Now, if you are well
up in your London, you will know that the office of the company is in
Fresno Street, which branches out of Upper Swandam Lane, where you
found me to-night. Mrs. St. Clair had her lunch, started for the City, did
some shopping, proceeded to the company’s office, got her packet, and
found herself at exactly 4:35 walking through Swandam Lane on her way
back to the station. Have you followed me so far?”
“It is very clear.”
“If you remember, Monday was an exceedingly hot day, and Mrs. St.
Clair walked slowly, glancing about in the hope of seeing a cab, as she
did not like the neighbourhood in which she found herself. While she was
walking in this way down Swandam Lane, she suddenly heard an
ejaculation or cry, and was struck cold to see her husband looking down
at her and, as it seemed to her, beckoning to her from a second-floor
window. The window was open, and she distinctly saw his face, which
she describes as being terribly agitated. He waved his hands frantically to
her, and then vanished from the window so suddenly that it seemed to her
that he had been plucked back by some irresistible force from behind.
One singular point which struck her quick feminine eye was that although
he wore some dark coat, such as he had started to town in, he had on
neither collar nor necktie.
“Convinced that something was amiss with him, she rushed down the
steps– for the house was none other than the opium den in which you
found me to-night –and running through the front room she attempted to
ascend the stairs which led to the first floor. At the foot of the stairs,
however, she met this lascar scoundrel of whom I have spoken, who
thrust her back and, aided by a Dane, who acts as assistant there, pushed
her out into the street. Filled with the most maddening doubts and fears,
she rushed down the lane and, by rare good-fortune, met in Fresno Street
a number of constables with an inspector, all on their way to their beat.
The inspector and two men accompanied her back, and in spite of the
continued resistance of the proprietor, they made their way to the room in
which Mr. St. Clair had last been seen. There was no sign of him there. In
fact, in the whole of that floor there was no one to be found save a
crippled wretch of hideous aspect, who, it seems, made his home there.
Both he and the lascar stoutly swore that no one else had been in the front
room during the afternoon. So determined was their denial that the
inspector was staggered, and had almost come to believe that Mrs. St.
Clair had been deluded when, with a cry, she sprang at a small deal box
which lay upon the table and tore the lid from it. Out there fell a cascade
of children’s bricks. It was the toy which he had promised to bring home.
“This discovery, and the evident confusion which the cripple showed,
made the inspector realize that the matter was serious. The rooms were
carefully examined, and results all pointed to an abominable crime. The
front room was plainly furnished as a sitting-room and led into a small
bedroom, which looked out upon [235] the back of one of the wharves.
Between the wharf and the bedroom window is a narrow strip, which is
dry at low tide but is covered at high tide with at least four and a half feet
of water. The bedroom window was a broad one and opened from below.
On examination traces of blood were to be seen upon the window-sill, and
several scattered drops were visible upon the wooden floor of the
bedroom. Thrust away behind a curtain in the front room were all the
clothes of Mr. Neville St. Clair, with the exception of his coat. His boots,
his socks, his hat, and his watch–all were there. There were no signs of
violence upon any of these garments, and there were no other traces of
Mr. Neville St. Clair. Out of the window he must apparently have gone,
for no other exit could be discovered, and the ominous bloodstains upon
the sill gave little promise that he could save himself by swimming, for
the tide was at its very highest at the moment of the tragedy.
“And now as to the villains who seemed to be immediately implicated
in the matter. The lascar was known to be a man of the vilest antecedents,
but as, by Mrs. St. Clair’s story, he was known to have been at the foot of
the stair within a very few seconds of her husband’s appearance at the
window, he could hardly have been more than an accessory to the crime.
His defense was one of absolute ignorance, and he protested that he had
no knowledge as to the doings of Hugh Boone, his lodger, and that he
could not account in any way for the presence of the missing gentleman’s
“So much for the lascar manager. Now for the sinister cripple who lives
upon the second floor of the opium den, and who was certainly the last
human being whose eyes rested upon Neville St. Clair. His name is Hugh
Boone, and his hideous face is one which is familiar to every man who
goes much to the City. He is a professional beggar, though in order to
avoid the police regulations he pretends to a small trade in wax vestas.
Some little distance down Threadneedle Street, upon the left-hand side,
there is, as you may have remarked, a small angle in the wall. Here it is
that this creature takes his daily seat, cross-legged, with his tiny stock of
matches on his lap, and as he is a piteous spectacle a small rain of charity
descends into the greasy leather cap which lies upon the pavement beside
him. I have watched the fellow more than once before ever I thought of
making his professional acquaintance, and I have been surprised at the
harvest which he has reaped in a short time. His appearance, you see, is so
remarkable that no one can pass him without observing him. A shock of
orange hair, a pale face disfigured by a horrible scar, which, by its
contraction, has turned up the outer edge of his upper lip, a bulldog chin,
and a pair of very penetrating dark eyes, which present a singular contrast
to the colour of his hair, all mark him out from amid the common crowd
of mendicants, and so, too, does his wit, for he is ever ready with a reply
to any piece of chaff which may be thrown at him by the passers-by. This
is the man whom we now learn to have been the lodger at the opium den,
and to have been the last man to see the gentleman of whom we are in
“But a cripple!” said I. “What could he have done single-handed
against a man in the prime of life?”
“He is a cripple in the sense that he walks with a limp; but in other
respects he appears to be a powerful and well-nurtured man. Surely your
medical experience would tell you, Watson, that weakness in one limb is
often compensated for by exceptional strength in the others.”
“Pray continue your narrative.”
“Mrs. St. Clair had fainted at the sight of the blood upon the window,
and [236] she was escorted home in a cab by the police, as her presence
could be of no help to them in their investigations. Inspector Barton, who
had charge of the case, made a very careful examination of the premises,
but without finding anything which threw any light upon the matter. One
mistake had been made in not arresting Boone instantly, as he was
allowed some few minutes during which he might have communicated
with his friend the lascar, but this fault was soon remedied, and he was
seized and searched, without anything being found which could
incriminate him. There were, it is true, some blood-stains upon his right
shirt-sleeve, but he pointed to his ring-finger, which had been cut near the
nail, and explained that the bleeding came from there, adding that he had
been to the window not long before, and that the stains which had been
observed there came doubtless from the same source. He denied
strenuously having ever seen Mr. Neville St. Clair and swore that the
presence of the clothes in his room was as much a mystery to him as to
the police. As to Mrs. St. Clair’s assertion that she had actually seen her
husband at the window, he declared that she must have been either mad or
dreaming. He was removed, loudly protesting, to the police-station, while
the inspector remained upon the premises in the hope that the ebbing tide
might afford some fresh clue.
“And it did, though they hardly found upon the mud-bank what they
had feared to find. It was Neville St. Clair’s coat, and not Neville St.
Clair, which lay uncovered as the tide receded. And what do you think
they found in the pockets?”
“I cannot imagine.”
“No, I don’t think you would guess. Every pocket stuffed with pennies
and half-pennies–421 pennies and 270 half-pennies. It was no wonder that
it had not been swept away by the tide. But a human body is a different
matter. There is a fierce eddy between the wharf and the house. It seemed
likely enough that the weighted coat had remained when the stripped
body had been sucked away into the river.”
“But I understand that all the other clothes were found in the room.
Would the body be dressed in a coat alone?”
“No, sir, but the facts might be met speciously enough. Suppose that
this man Boone had thrust Neville St. Clair through the window, there is
no human eye which could have seen the deed. What would he do then? It
would of course instantly strike him that he must get rid of the tell-tale
garments. He would seize the coat, then, and be in the act of throwing it
out, when it would occur to him that it would swim and not sink. He has
little time, for he has heard the scuffle downstairs when the wife tried to
force her way up, and perhaps he has already heard from his lascar
confederate that the police are hurrying up the street. There is not an
instant to be lost. He rushes to some secret hoard, where he has
accumulated the fruits of his beggary, and he stuffs all the coins upon
which he can lay his hands into the pockets to make sure of the coat’s
sinking. He throws it out, and would have done the same with the other
garments had not he heard the rush of steps below, and only just had time
to close the window when the police appeared.”
“It certainly sounds feasible.”
“Well, we will take it as a working hypothesis for want of a better.
Boone, as I have told you, was arrested and taken to the station, but it
could not be shown that there had ever before been anything against him.
He had for years been known as a professional beggar, but his life
appeared to have been a very quiet and innocent one. There the matter
stands at present, and the questions which have to be solved–what Neville
St. Clair was doing in the opium den, what happened to him when there,
where is he now, and what Hugh Boone had to do with his disappearance–
[237] are all as far from a solution as ever. I confess that I cannot recall
any case within my experience which looked at the first glance so simple
and yet which presented such difficulties.”
While Sherlock Holmes had been detailing this singular series of
events, we had been whirling through the outskirts of the great town until
the last straggling houses had been left behind, and we rattled along with
a country hedge upon either side of us. Just as he finished, however, we
drove through two scattered villages, where a few lights still glimmered
in the windows.
“We are on the outskirts of Lee,” said my companion. “We have
touched on three English counties in our short drive, starting in
Middlesex, passing over an angle of Surrey, and ending in Kent. See that
light among the trees? That is The Cedars, and beside that lamp sits a
woman whose anxious ears have already, I have little doubt, caught the
clink of our horse’s feet.”
“But why are you not conducting the case from Baker Street?” I asked.
“Because there are many inquiries which must be made out here. Mrs.
St. Clair has most kindly put two rooms at my disposal, and you may rest
assured that she will have nothing but a welcome for my friend and
colleague. I hate to meet her, Watson, when I have no news of her
husband. Here we are. Whoa, there, whoa!”
We had pulled up in front of a large villa which stood within its own
grounds. A stable-boy had run out to the horse’s head, and springing
down I followed Holmes up the small, winding gravel-drive which led to
the house. As we approached, the door flew open, and a little blonde
woman stood in the opening, clad in some sort of light mousseline de
soie, with a touch of fluffy pink chiffon at her neck and wrists. She stood
with her figure outlined against the flood of light, one hand upon the door,
one half-raised in her eagerness, her body slightly bent, her head and face
protruded, with eager eyes and parted lips, a standing question.
“Well?” she cried, “well?” And then, seeing that there were two of us,
she gave a cry of hope which sank into a groan as she saw that my
companion shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“No good news?”
“No bad?”
“Thank God for that. But come in. You must be weary, for you have
had a long day.”
“This is my friend, Dr. Watson. He has been of most vital use to me in
several of my cases, and a lucky chance has made it possible for me to
bring him out and associate him with this investigation.”
“I am delighted to see you,” said she, pressing my hand warmly. “You
will, I am sure, forgive anything that may be wanting in our
arrangements, when you consider the blow which has come so suddenly
upon us.”
“My dear madam,” said I, “I am an old campaigner, and if I were not I
can very well see that no apology is needed. If I can be of any assistance,
either to you or to my friend here, I shall be indeed happy.”
“Now, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said the lady as we entered a well-lit
dining-room, upon the table of which a cold supper had been laid out, “I
should very much like to ask you one or two plain questions, to which I
beg that you will give a plain answer.”
“Certainly, madam.”
[238] “Do not trouble about my feelings. I am not hysterical, nor given
to fainting. I simply wish to hear your real, real opinion.”
“Upon what point?”
“In your heart of hearts, do you think that Neville is alive?”
Sherlock Holmes seemed to be embarrassed by the question. “Frankly,
now!” she repeated, standing upon the rug and looking keenly down at
him as he leaned back in a basket-chair.
“Frankly, then, madam, I do not.”
“You think that he is dead?”
“I do.”
“I don’t say that. Perhaps.”
“And on what day did he meet his death?”
“On Monday.”
“Then perhaps, Mr. Holmes, you will be good enough to explain how it
is that I have received a letter from him to-day.”
Sherlock Holmes sprang out of his chair as if he had been galvanized.
“What!” he roared.
“Yes, to-day.” She stood smiling, holding up a little slip of paper in the
“May I see it?”
He snatched it from her in his eagerness, and smoothing it out upon the
table he drew over the lamp and examined it intently. I had left my chair
and was gazing at it over his shoulder. The envelope was a very coarse
one and was stamped with the Gravesend postmark and with the date of
that very day, or rather of the day before, for it was considerably after
“Coarse writing,” murmured Holmes. “Surely this is not your
husband’s writing, madam.”
“No, but the enclosure is.”
“I perceive also that whoever addressed the envelope had to go and
inquire as to the address.”
“How can you tell that?”
“The name, you see, is in perfectly black ink, which has dried itself.
The rest is of the grayish colour, which shows that blotting-paper has
been used. If it had been written straight off, and then blotted, none would
be of a deep black shade. This man has written the name, and there has
then been a pause before he wrote the address, which can only mean that
he was not familiar with it. It is, of course, a trifle, but there is nothing so
important as trifles. Let us now see the letter. Ha! there has been an
enclosure here!”
“Yes, there was a ring. His signet-ring.”
“And you are sure that this is your husband’s hand?”
“One of his hands.”
“His hand when he wrote hurriedly. It is very unlike his usual writing,
and yet I know it well.”

“Dearest do not be frightened. All will come well. There is a

huge error which it may take some little time to rectify. Wait in

[239] Written in pencil upon the fly-leaf of a book, octavo size, no water-
mark. Hum! Posted to-day in Gravesend by a man with a dirty thumb. Ha!
And the flap has been gummed, if I am not very much in error, by a
person who had been chewing tobacco. And you have no doubt that it is
your husband’s hand, madam?”
“None. Neville wrote those words.”
“And they were posted to-day at Gravesend. Well, Mrs. St. Clair, the
clouds lighten, though I should not venture to say that the danger is over.”
“But he must be alive, Mr. Holmes.”
“Unless this is a clever forgery to put us on the wrong scent. The ring,
after all, proves nothing. It may have been taken from him.”
“No, no; it is, it is his very own writing!”
“Very well. It may, however, have been written on Monday and only
posted to-day.”
“That is possible.”
“If so, much may have happened between.”
“Oh, you must not discourage me, Mr. Holmes. I know that all is well
with him. There is so keen a sympathy between us that I should know if
evil came upon him. On the very day that I saw him last he cut himself in
the bedroom, and yet I in the dining-room rushed upstairs instantly with
the utmost certainty that something had happened. Do you think that I
would respond to such a trifle and yet be ignorant of his death?”
“I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may
be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner. And in
this letter you certainly have a very strong piece of evidence to
corroborate your view. But if your husband is alive and able to write
letters, why should he remain away from you?”
“I cannot imagine. It is unthinkable.”
“And on Monday he made no remarks before leaving you?”
“And you were surprised to see him in Swandam Lane?”
“Very much so.”
“Was the window open?”
“Then he might have called to you?”
“He might.”
“He only, as I understand, gave an inarticulate cry?”
“A call for help, you thought?”
“Yes. He waved his hands.”
“But it might have been a cry of surprise. Astonishment at the
unexpected sight of you might cause him to throw up his hands?”
“It is possible.”
“And you thought he was pulled back?”
“He disappeared so suddenly.”
“He might have leaped back. You did not see anyone else in the room?”
“No, but this horrible man confessed to having been there, and the
lascar was at the foot of the stairs.”
“Quite so. Your husband, as far as you could see, had his ordinary
clothes on?”
“But without his collar or tie. I distinctly saw his bare throat.”
“Had he ever spoken of Swandam Lane?”
[240] “Never.”
“Had he ever showed any signs of having taken opium?”
“Thank you, Mrs. St. Clair. Those are the principal points about which
I wished to be absolutely clear. We shall now have a little supper and then
retire, for we may have a very busy day to-morrow.”
A large and comfortable double-bedded room had been placed at our
disposal, and I was quickly between the sheets, for I was weary after my
night of adventure. Sherlock Holmes was a man, however, who, when he
had an unsolved problem upon his mind, would go for days, and even for
a week, without rest, turning it over, rearranging his facts, looking at it
from every point of view until he had either fathomed it or convinced
himself that his data were insufficient. It was soon evident to me that he
was now preparing for an all-night sitting. He took off his coat and
waistcoat, put on a large blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about
the room collecting pillows from his bed and cushions from the sofa and
armchairs. With these he constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon which
he perched himself cross-legged, with an ounce of shag tobacco and a box
of matches laid out in front of him. In the dim light of the lamp I saw him
sitting there, an old briar pipe between his lips, his eyes fixed vacantly
upon the corner of the ceiling, the blue smoke curling up from him, silent,
motionless, with the light shining upon his strong-set aquiline features. So
he sat as I dropped off to sleep, and so he sat when a sudden ejaculation
caused me to wake up, and I found the summer sun shining into the
apartment. The pipe was still between his lips, the smoke still curled
upward, and the room was full of a dense tobacco haze, but nothing
remained of the heap of shag which I had seen upon the previous night.
“Awake, Watson?” he asked.
“Game for a morning drive?”
“Then dress. No one is stirring yet, but I know where the stable-boy
sleeps, and we shall soon have the trap out.” He chuckled to himself as he
spoke, his eyes twinkled, and he seemed a different man to the sombre
thinker of the previous night.
As I dressed I glanced at my watch. It was no wonder that no one was
stirring. It was twenty-five minutes past four. I had hardly finished when
Holmes returned with the news that the boy was putting in the horse.
“I want to test a little theory of mine,” said he, pulling on his boots. “I
think, Watson, that you are now standing in the presence of one of the
most absolute fools in Europe. I deserve to be kicked from here to
Charing Cross. But I think I have the key of the affair now.”
“And where is it?” I asked, smiling.
“In the bathroom,” he answered. “Oh, yes, I am not joking,” he
continued, seeing my look of incredulity. “I have just been there, and I
have taken it out, and I have got it in this Gladstone bag. Come on, my
boy, and we shall see whether it will not fit the lock.”
We made our way downstairs as quietly as possible, and out into the
bright morning sunshine. In the road stood our horse and trap, with the
half-clad stable-boy waiting at the head. We both sprang in, and away we
dashed down the London Road. A few country carts were stirring, bearing
in vegetables to the metropolis, [241] but the lines of villas on either side
were as silent and lifeless as some city in a dream.
“It has been in some points a singular case,” said Holmes, flicking the
horse on into a gallop. “I confess that I have been as blind as a mole, but
it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all.”
In town the earliest risers were just beginning to look sleepily from
their windows as we drove through the streets of the Surrey side. Passing
down the Waterloo Bridge Road we crossed over the river, and dashing
up Wellington Street wheeled sharply to the right and found ourselves in
Bow Street. Sherlock Holmes was well known to the force, and the two
constables at the door saluted him. One of them held the horse’s head
while the other led us in.
“Who is on duty?” asked Holmes.
“Inspector Bradstreet, sir.”
“Ah, Bradstreet, how are you?” A tall, stout official had come down the
stone-flagged passage, in a peaked cap and frogged jacket. “I wish to
have a quiet word with you, Bradstreet.”
“Certainly, Mr. Holmes. Step into my room here.”
It was a small, office-like room, with a huge ledger upon the table, and
a telephone projecting from the wall. The inspector sat down at his desk.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Holmes?”
“I called about that beggarman, Boone–the one who was charged with
being concerned in the disappearance of Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee.”
“Yes. He was brought up and remanded for further inquiries.”
“So I heard. You have him here?”
“In the cells.”
“Is he quiet?”
“Oh, he gives no trouble. But he is a dirty scoundrel.”
“Yes, it is all we can do to make him wash his hands, and his face is as
black as a tinker’s. Well, when once his case has been settled, he will
have a regular prison bath; and I think, if you saw him, you would agree
with me that he needed it.”
“I should like to see him very much.”
“Would you? That is easily done. Come this way. You can leave your
“No, I think that I’ll take it.”
“Very good. Come this way, if you please.” He led us down a passage,
opened a barred door, passed down a winding stair, and brought us to a
whitewashed corridor with a line of doors on each side.
“The third on the right is his,” said the inspector. “Here it is!” He
quietly shot back a panel in the upper part of the door and glanced
“He is asleep,” said he. “You can see him very well.”
We both put our eyes to the grating. The prisoner lay with his face
towards us, in a very deep sleep, breathing slowly and heavily. He was a
middle-sized man, coarsely clad as became his calling, with a coloured
shirt protruding through the rent in his tattered coat. He was, as the
inspector had said, extremely dirty, but the grime which covered his face
could not conceal its repulsive ugliness. A broad wheal from an old scar
ran right across it from eye to chin, and by its contraction had turned up
one side of the upper lip, so that three teeth were exposed in a perpetual
snarl. A shock of very bright red hair grew low over his eyes and forehead.
“He’s a beauty, isn’t he?” said the inspector.
[242] “He certainly needs a wash,” remarked Holmes. “I had an idea
that he might, and I took the liberty of bringing the tools with me.” He
opened the Gladstone bag as he spoke, and took out, to my astonishment,
a very large bath-sponge.

“He! he! You are a funny one,” chuckled the inspector.

“Now, if you will have the great goodness to open that door very
quietly, we will soon make him cut a much more respectable figure.”
“Well, I don’t know why not,” said the inspector. “He doesn’t look a
credit to the Bow Street cells, does he?” He slipped his key into the lock,
and we all very quietly entered the cell. The sleeper half turned, and then
settled down once more into a deep slumber. Holmes stooped to the water-
jug, moistened his sponge, and then rubbed it twice vigorously across and
down the prisoner’s face.
“Let me introduce you,” he shouted, “to Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee,
in the county of Kent.”
Never in my life have I seen such a sight. The man’s face peeled off
under the sponge like the bark from a tree. Gone was the coarse brown
tint! Gone, too, was the horrid scar which had seamed it across, and the
twisted lip which had given the repulsive sneer to the face! A twitch
brought away the tangled red hair, and there, sitting up in his bed, was a
pale, sad-faced, refined-looking man, black-haired and smooth-skinned,
rubbing his eyes and staring about him with sleepy bewilderment. Then
suddenly realizing the exposure, he broke into a scream and threw himself
down with his face to the pillow.

“Great heavens!” cried the inspector, “it is, indeed, the missing man. I
know him from the photograph.”
The prisoner turned with the reckless air of a man who abandons
himself to his destiny. “Be it so,” said he. “And pray, what am I charged
“With making away with Mr. Neville St. – – Oh, come, you can’t be
charged with that unless they make a case of attempted suicide of it,” said
the inspector with a grin. “Well, I have been twenty-seven years in the
force, but this really takes the cake.”
“If I am Mr. Neville St. Clair, then it is obvious that no crime has been
committed, and that, therefore, I am illegally detained.”
“No crime, but a very great error has been committed,” said Holmes.
“You would have done better to have trusted your wife.”
“It was not the wife; it was the children,” groaned the prisoner. “God
help me, I would not have them ashamed of their father. My God! What
an exposure! What can I do?”
Sherlock Holmes sat down beside him on the couch and patted him
kindly on the shoulder.
“If you leave it to a court of law to clear the matter up,” said he, “of
course you can hardly avoid publicity. On the other hand, if you convince
the police authorities that there is no possible case against you, I do not
know that there is any reason that the details should find their way into
the papers. Inspector Bradstreet would, I am sure, make notes upon
anything which you might tell us and submit it to the proper authorities.
The case would then never go into court at all.”
“God bless you!” cried the prisoner passionately. “I would have
endured imprisonment, ay, even execution, rather than have left my
miserable secret as a family blot to my children.
“You are the first who have ever heard my story. My father was a
school-master in Chesterfield, where I received an excellent education. I
travelled in my youth, took [243] to the stage, and finally became a
reporter on an evening paper in London. One day my editor wished to
have a series of articles upon begging in the metropolis, and I volunteered
to supply them. There was the point from which all my adventures
started. It was only by trying begging as an amateur that I could get the
facts upon which to base my articles. When an actor I had, of course,
learned all the secrets of making up, and had been famous in the green-
room for my skill. I took advantage now of my attainments. I painted my
face, and to make myself as pitiable as possible I made a good scar and
fixed one side of my lip in a twist by the aid of a small slip of flesh-
coloured plaster. Then with a red head of hair, and an appropriate dress, I
took my station in the business part of the city, ostensibly as a match-
seller but really as a beggar. For seven hours I plied my trade, and when I
returned home in the evening I found to my surprise that I had received
no less than 26s. 4d.
“I wrote my articles and thought little more of the matter until, some
time later, I backed a bill for a friend and had a writ served upon me for
£25. I was at my wit’s end where to get the money, but a sudden idea
came to me. I begged a fortnight’s grace from the creditor, asked for a
holiday from my employers, and spent the time in begging in the City
under my disguise. In ten days I had the money and had paid the debt.
“Well, you can imagine how hard it was to settle down to arduous work
at £2 a week when I knew that I could earn as much in a day by smearing
my face with a little paint, laying my cap on the ground, and sitting still.
It was a long fight between my pride and the money, but the dollars won
at last, and I threw up reporting and sat day after day in the corner which I
had first chosen, inspiring pity by my ghastly face and filling my pockets
with coppers. Only one man knew my secret. He was the keeper of a low
den in which I used to lodge in Swandam Lane, where I could every
morning emerge as a squalid beggar and in the evenings transform myself
into a well-dressed man about town. This fellow, a lascar, was well paid
by me for his rooms, so that I knew that my secret was safe in his
“Well, very soon I found that I was saving considerable sums of
money. I do not mean that any beggar in the streets of London could earn
£700 a year– which is less than my average takings–but I had exceptional
advantages in my power of making up, and also in a facility of repartee,
which improved by practice and made me quite a recognized character in
the City. All day a stream of pennies, varied by silver, poured in upon me,
and it was a very bad day in which I failed to take £2.
“As I grew richer I grew more ambitious, took a house in the country,
and eventually married, without anyone having a suspicion as to my real
occupation. My dear wife knew that I had business in the City. She little
knew what.
“Last Monday I had finished for the day and was dressing in my room
above the opium den when I looked out of my window and saw, to my
horror and astonishment, that my wife was standing in the street, with her
eyes fixed full upon me. I gave a cry of surprise, threw up my arms to
cover my face, and, rushing to my confidant, the lascar, entreated him to
prevent anyone from coming up to me. I heard her voice downstairs, but I
knew that she could not ascend. Swiftly I threw off my clothes, pulled on
those of a beggar, and put on my pigments and wig. Even a wife’s eyes
could not pierce so complete a disguise. But then it occurred to me that
there might be a search in the room, and that the clothes might betray me.
I threw open the window, reopening by my violence a small cut which I
had [244] inflicted upon myself in the bedroom that morning. Then I
seized my coat, which was weighted by the coppers which I had just
transferred to it from the leather bag in which I carried my takings. I
hurled it out of the window, and it disappeared into the Thames. The other
clothes would have followed, but at that moment there was a rush of
constables up the stair, and a few minutes after I found, rather, I confess,
to my relief, that instead of being identified as Mr. Neville St. Clair, I was
arrested as his murderer.
“I do not know that there is anything else for me to explain. I was
determined to preserve my disguise as long as possible, and hence my
preference for a dirty face. Knowing that my wife would be terribly
anxious, I slipped off my ring and confided it to the lascar at a moment
when no constable was watching me, together with a hurried scrawl,
telling her that she had no cause to fear.”
“That note only reached her yesterday,” said Holmes.
“Good God! What a week she must have spent!”
“The police have watched this lascar,” said Inspector Bradstreet, “and I
can quite understand that he might find it difficult to post a letter
unobserved. Probably he handed it to some sailor customer of his, who
forgot all about it for some days.”
“That was it,” said Holmes, nodding approvingly; “I have no doubt of
it. But have you never been prosecuted for begging?”
“Many times; but what was a fine to me?”
“It must stop here, however,” said Bradstreet. “If the police are to hush
this thing up, there must be no more of Hugh Boone.”
“I have sworn it by the most solemn oaths which a man can take.”
“In that case I think that it is probable that no further steps may be
taken. But if you are found again, then all must come out. I am sure, Mr.
Holmes, that we are very much indebted to you for having cleared the
matter up. I wish I knew how you reach your results.”
“I reached this one,” said my friend, “by sitting upon five pillows and
consuming an ounce of shag. I think, Watson, that if we drive to Baker
Street we shall just be in time for breakfast.”

David Soucek, 1998 The Blue Carbuncle

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


I HAD called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning
after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the
season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-
rack within his reach upon the right, and a pile of crumpled morning
papers, evidently newly studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a
wooden chair, and on the angle of the back hung a very seedy and
disreputable hard-felt hat, much the worse for wear, and cracked in
several places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair
suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner for the purpose
of examination.

“You are engaged,” said I; “perhaps I interrupt you.”

“Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my
results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one”–he jerked his thumb in the
direction of the old [245] hat–“but there are points in connection with it
which are not entirely devoid of interest and even of instruction.”
I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his
crackling fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows were thick
with the ice crystals. “I suppose,” I remarked, “that, homely as it looks,
this thing has some deadly story linked on to it–that it is the clue which
will guide you in the solution of some mystery and the punishment of
some crime.”
“No, no. No crime,” said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. “Only one of
those whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have four
million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few
square miles. Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of
humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take
place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking
and bizarre without being criminal. We have already had experience of
“So much so,” I remarked, “that of the last six cases which I have
added to my notes, three have been entirely free of any legal crime.”
“Precisely. You allude to my attempt to recover the Irene Adler papers,
to the singular case of Miss Mary Sutherland, and to the adventure of the
man with the twisted lip. Well, I have no doubt that this small matter will
fall into the same innocent category. You know Peterson, the
“It is to him that this trophy belongs.”
“It is his hat.”
“No, no; he found it. Its owner is unknown. I beg that you will look
upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual problem. And,
first, as to how it came here. It arrived upon Christmas morning, in
company with a good fat goose, which is, I have no doubt, roasting at this
moment in front of Peterson’s fire. The facts are these: about four o’clock
on Christmas morning, Peterson, who, as you know, is a very honest
fellow, was returning from some small jollification and was making his
way homeward down Tottenham Court Road. In front of him he saw, in
the gaslight, a tallish man, walking with a slight stagger, and carrying a
white goose slung over his shoulder. As he reached the corner of Goodge
Street, a row broke out between this stranger and a little knot of roughs.
One of the latter knocked off the man’s hat, on which he raised his stick
to defend himself and, swinging it over his head, smashed the shop
window behind him. Peterson had rushed forward to protect the stranger
from his assailants; but the man, shocked at having broken the window,
and seeing an official-looking person in uniform rushing towards him,
dropped his goose, took to his heels, and vanished amid the labyrinth of
small streets which lie at the back of Tottenham Court Road. The roughs
had also fled at the appearance of Peterson, so that he was left in
possession of the field of battle, and also of the spoils of victory in the
shape of this battered hat and a most unimpeachable Christmas goose.”
“Which surely he restored to their owner?”
“My dear fellow, there lies the problem. It is true that ‘For Mrs. Henry
Baker’ was printed upon a small card which was tied to the bird’s left leg,
and it is also true that the initials ‘H. B.’ are legible upon the lining of this
hat; but as there are some thousands of Bakers, and some hundreds of
Henry Bakers in this city of ours, it is not easy to restore lost property to
any one of them.”
“What, then, did Peterson do?”
[246] “He brought round both hat and goose to me on Christmas
morning, knowing that even the smallest problems are of interest to me.
The goose we retained until this morning, when there were signs that, in
spite of the slight frost, it would be well that it should be eaten without
unnecessary delay. Its finder has carried it off, therefore, to fulfil the
ultimate destiny of a goose, while I continue to retain the hat of the
unknown gentleman who lost his Christmas dinner.”
“Did he not advertise?”
“Then, what clue could you have as to his identity?”
“Only as much as we can deduce.”
“From his hat?”
“But you are joking. What can you gather from this old battered felt?”
“Here is my lens. You know my methods. What can you gather
yourself as to the individuality of the man who has worn this article?”
I took the tattered object in my hands and turned it over rather ruefully.
It was a very ordinary black hat of the usual round shape, hard and much
the worse for wear. The lining had been of red silk, but was a good deal
discoloured. There was no maker’s name; but, as Holmes had remarked,
the initials “H. B.” were scrawled upon one side. It was pierced in the
brim for a hat-securer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was
cracked, exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places, although there
seemed to have been some attempt to hide the discoloured patches by
smearing them with ink.
“I can see nothing,” said I, handing it back to my friend.
“On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however,
to reason from what you see. You are too timid in drawing your
“Then, pray tell me what it is that you can infer from this hat?”
He picked it up and gazed at it in the peculiar introspective fashion
which was characteristic of him. “It is perhaps less suggestive than it
might have been,” he remarked, “and yet there are a few inferences which
are very distinct, and a few others which represent at least a strong
balance of probability. That the man was highly intellectual is of course
obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within
the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had
foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral
retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems
to indicate some evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him. This
may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love
“My dear Holmes!”
“He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect,” he continued,
disregarding my remonstrance. “He is a man who leads a sedentary life,
goes out little, is out of training entirely, is middle-aged, has grizzled hair
which he has had cut within the last few days, and which he anoints with
lime-cream. These are the more patent facts which are to be deduced from
his hat. Also, by the way, that it is extremely improbable that he has gas
laid on in his house.”
“You are certainly joking, Holmes.”
“Not in the least. Is it possible that even now, when I give you these
results, you are unable to see how they are attained?”
“I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I must confess that I am
unable to follow you. For example, how did you deduce that this man was
[247] For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his head. It came right
over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose. “It is a question
of cubic capacity,” said he; “a man with so large a brain must have
something in it.”
“The decline of his fortunes, then?”
“This hat is three years old. These flat brims curled at the edge came in
then. It is a hat of the very best quality. Look at the band of ribbed silk
and the excellent lining. If this man could afford to buy so expensive a hat
three years ago, and has had no hat since, then he has assuredly gone
down in the world.”
“Well, that is clear enough, certainly. But how about the foresight and
the moral retrogression?”
Sherlock Holmes laughed. “Here is the foresight,” said he, putting his
finger upon the little disc and loop of the hat-securer. “They are never
sold upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a sign of a certain amount of
foresight, since he went out of his way to take this precaution against the
wind. But since we see that he has broken the elastic and has not troubled
to replace it, it is obvious that he has less foresight now than formerly,
which is a distinct proof of a weakening nature. On the other hand, he has
endeavoured to conceal some of these stains upon the felt by daubing
them with ink, which is a sign that he has not entirely lost his self-
“Your reasoning is certainly plausible.”
“The further points, that he is middle-aged, that his hair is grizzled, that
it has been recently cut, and that he uses lime-cream, are all to be
gathered from a close examination of the lower part of the lining. The
lens discloses a large number of hair-ends, clean cut by the scissors of the
barber. They all appear to be adhesive, and there is a distinct odour of
lime-cream. This dust, you will observe, is not the gritty, gray dust of the
street but the fluffy brown dust of the house, showing that it has been
hung up indoors most of the time; while the marks of moisture upon the
inside are proof positive that the wearer perspired very freely, and could
therefore, hardly be in the best of training.”
“But his wife–you said that she had ceased to love him.”
“This hat has not been brushed for weeks. When I see you, my dear
Watson, with a week’s accumulation of dust upon your hat, and when
your wife allows you to go out in such a state, I shall fear that you also
have been unfortunate enough to lose your wife’s affection.”
“But he might be a bachelor.”
“Nay, he was bringing home the goose as a peace-offering to his wife.
Remember the card upon the bird’s leg.”
“You have an answer to everything. But how on earth do you deduce
that the gas is not laid on in his house?”
“One tallow stain, or even two, might come by chance; but when I see
no less than five, I think that there can be little doubt that the individual
must be brought into frequent contact with burning tallow–walks upstairs
at night probably with his hat in one hand and a guttering candle in the
other. Anyhow, he never got tallow-stains from a gas-jet. Are you
“Well, it is very ingenious,” said I, laughing; “but since, as you said
just now, there has been no crime committed, and no harm done save the
loss of a goose, all this seems to be rather a waste of energy.”
Sherlock Holmes had opened his mouth to reply, when the door flew
open, and [248] Peterson, the commissionaire, rushed into the apartment
with flushed cheeks and the face of a man who is dazed with
“The goose, Mr. Holmes! The goose, sir!” he gasped.
“Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to life and flapped off through
the kitchen window?” Holmes twisted himself round upon the sofa to get
a fairer view of the man’s excited face.
“See here, sir! See what my wife found in its crop!” He held out his
hand and displayed upon the centre of the palm a brilliantly scintillating
blue stone, rather smaller than a bean in size, but of such purity and
radiance that it twinkled like an electric point in the dark hollow of his
Sherlock Holmes sat up with a whistle. “By Jove, Peterson!” said he,
“this is treasure trove indeed. I suppose you know what you have got?”
“A diamond, sir? A precious stone. It cuts into glass as though it were
“It’s more than a precious stone. It is the precious stone.”
“Not the Countess of Morcar’s blue carbuncle!” I ejaculated.
“Precisely so. I ought to know its size and shape, seeing that I have
read the advertisement about it in The Times every day lately. It is
absolutely unique, and its value can only be conjectured, but the reward
offered of £1000 is certainly not within a twentieth part of the market
“A thousand pounds! Great Lord of mercy!” The commissionaire
plumped down into a chair and stared from one to the other of us.
“That is the reward, and I have reason to know that there are
sentimental considerations in the background which would induce the
Countess to part with half her fortune if she could but recover the gem.”
“It was lost, if I remember aright, at the Hotel Cosmopolitan,” I
“Precisely so, on December 22d, just five days ago. John Horner, a
plumber, was accused of having abstracted it from the lady’s jewel-case.
The evidence against him was so strong that the case has been referred to
the Assizes. I have some account of the matter here, I believe.” He
rummaged amid his newspapers, glancing over the dates, until at last he
smoothed one out, doubled it over, and read the following paragraph:

“Hotel Cosmopolitan Jewel Robbery. John Horner, 26, plumber,

was brought up upon the charge of having upon the 22d inst.,
abstracted from the jewel-case of the Countess of Morcar the
valuable gem known as the blue carbuncle. James Ryder, upper-
attendant at the hotel, gave his evidence to the effect that he had
shown Horner up to the dressing-room of the Countess of Morcar
upon the day of the robbery in order that he might solder the
second bar of the grate, which was loose. He had remained with
Horner some little time, but had finally been called away. On
returning, he found that Horner had disappeared, that the bureau
had been forced open, and that the small morocco casket in which,
as it afterwards transpired, the Countess was accustomed to keep
her jewel, was lying empty upon the dressing-table. Ryder
instantly gave the alarm, and Horner was arrested the same
evening; but the stone could not be found either upon his person or
in his rooms. Catherine Cusack, maid to the Countess, deposed to
having heard Ryder’s cry of dismay on discovering the robbery,
and to having rushed into the room, where she found matters as
described by the last witness. Inspector Bradstreet, B division,
gave evidence as to the arrest of Horner, who struggled [249]
frantically, and protested his innocence in the strongest terms.
Evidence of a previous conviction for robbery having been given
against the prisoner, the magistrate refused to deal summarily with
the offence, but referred it to the Assizes. Horner, who had shown
signs of intense emotion during the proceedings, fainted away at
the conclusion and was carried out of court.

“Hum! So much for the police-court,” said Holmes thoughtfully,

tossing aside the paper. “The question for us now to solve is the sequence
of events leading from a rifled jewel-case at one end to the crop of a
goose in Tottenham Court Road at the other. You see, Watson, our little
deductions have suddenly assumed a much more important and less
innocent aspect. Here is the stone; the stone came from the goose, and the
goose came from Mr. Henry Baker, the gentleman with the bad hat and all
the other characteristics with which I have bored you. So now we must set
ourselves very seriously to finding this gentleman and ascertaining what
part he has played in this little mystery. To do this, we must try the
simplest means first, and these lie undoubtedly in an advertisement in all
the evening papers. If this fail, I shall have recourse to other methods.”
“What will you say?”
“Give me a pencil and that slip of paper. Now, then:

“Found at the corner of Goodge Street, a goose and a black felt

hat. Mr. Henry Baker can have the same by applying at 6:30 this
evening at 221B, Baker Street.

That is clear and concise.”

“Very. But will he see it?”
“Well, he is sure to keep an eye on the papers, since, to a poor man, the
loss was a heavy one. He was clearly so scared by his mischance in
breaking the window and by the approach of Peterson that he thought of
nothing but flight, but since then he must have bitterly regretted the
impulse which caused him to drop his bird. Then, again, the introduction
of his name will cause him to see it, for everyone who knows him will
direct his attention to it. Here you are, Peterson, run down to the
advertising agency and have this put in the evening papers.”
“In which, sir?”
“Oh, in the Globe, Star, Pall Mall, St. James’s, Evening News
Standard, Echo, and any others that occur to you.”
“Very well, sir. And this stone?”
“Ah, yes, I shall keep the stone. Thank you. And, I say, Peterson, just
buy a goose on your way back and leave it here with me, for we must
have one to give to this gentleman in place of the one which your family
is now devouring.”
When the commissionaire had gone, Holmes took up the stone and held
it against the light. “It’s a bonny thing,” said he. “Just see how it glints
and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus of crime. Every good
stone is. They are the devil’s pet baits. In the larger and older jewels
every facet may stand for a bloody deed. This stone is not yet twenty
years old. It was found in the banks of the Amoy River in southern China
and is remarkable in having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save
that it is blue in shade instead of ruby red. In spite of its youth, it has
already a sinister history. There have been two murders, a vitriol-
throwing, a suicide, and several robberies brought about for the sake of
this forty-grain weight of crystallized charcoal. Who would think that so
pretty a toy would [250] be a purveyor to the gallows and the prison? I’ll
lock it up in my strong box now and drop a line to the Countess to say
that we have it.”
“Do you think that this man Horner is innocent?”
“I cannot tell.”
“Well, then, do you imagine that this other one, Henry Baker, had
anything to do with the matter?”
“It is, I think, much more likely that Henry Baker is an absolutely
innocent man, who had no idea that the bird which he was carrying was of
considerably more value than if it were made of solid gold. That,
however, I shall determine by a very simple test if we have an answer to
our advertisement.”
“And you can do nothing until then?”
“In that case I shall continue my professional round. But I shall come
back in the evening at the hour you have mentioned, for I should like to
see the solution of so tangled a business.”
“Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is a woodcock, I believe.
By the way, in view of recent occurrences, perhaps I ought to ask Mrs.
Hudson to examine its crop.”
I had been delayed at a case, and it was a little after half-past six when I
found myself in Baker Street once more. As I approached the house I saw
a tall man in a Scotch bonnet with a coat which was buttoned up to his
chin waiting outside in the bright semicircle which was thrown from the
fanlight. Just as I arrived the door was opened, and we were shown up
together to Holmes’s room.
“Mr. Henry Baker, I believe,” said he, rising from his armchair and
greeting his visitor with the easy air of geniality which he could so readily
assume. “Pray take this chair by the fire, Mr. Baker. It is a cold night, and
I observe that your circulation is more adapted for summer than for
winter. Ah, Watson, you have just come at the right time. Is that your hat,
Mr. Baker?”
“Yes, sir, that is undoubtedly my hat.”
He was a large man with rounded shoulders, a massive head, and a
broad, intelligent face, sloping down to a pointed beard of grizzled brown.
A touch of red in nose and cheeks, with a slight tremor of his extended
hand, recalled Holmes’s surmise as to his habits. His rusty black frock-
coat was buttoned right up in front, with the collar turned up, and his lank
wrists protruded from his sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt. He spoke
in a slow staccato fashion, choosing his words with care, and gave the
impression generally of a man of learning and letters who had had ill-
usage at the hands of fortune.
“We have retained these things for some days,” said Holmes, “because
we expected to see an advertisement from you giving your address. I am
at a loss to know now why you did not advertise.”
Our visitor gave a rather shamefaced laugh. “Shillings have not been so
plentiful with me as they once were,” he remarked. “I had no doubt that
the gang of roughs who assaulted me had carried off both my hat and the
bird. I did not care to spend more money in a hopeless attempt at
recovering them.”
“Very naturally. By the way, about the bird, we were compelled to eat
“To eat it!” Our visitor half rose from his chair in his excitement.
“Yes, it would have been of no use to anyone had we not done so. But I
presume that this other goose upon the sideboard, which is about the same
weight and perfectly fresh, will answer your purpose equally well?”
[251] “Oh, certainly, certainly,” answered Mr. Baker with a sigh of
“Of course, we still have the feathers, legs, crop, and so on of your own
bird, so if you wish– –”
The man burst into a hearty laugh. “They might be useful to me as
relics of my adventure,” said he, “but beyond that I can hardly see what
use the disjecta membra of my late acquaintance are going to be to me.
No, sir, I think that, with your permission, I will confine my attentions to
the excellent bird which I perceive upon the sideboard.”
Sherlock Holmes glanced sharply across at me with a slight shrug of
his shoulders.
“There is your hat, then, and there your bird,” said he. “By the way,
would it bore you to tell me where you got the other one from? I am
somewhat of a fowl fancier, and I have seldom seen a better grown
“Certainly, sir,” said Baker, who had risen and tucked his newly gained
property under his arm. “There are a few of us who frequent the Alpha
Inn, near the Museum–we are to be found in the Museum itself during the
day, you understand. This year our good host, Windigate by name,
instituted a goose club, by which, on consideration of some few pence
every week, we were each to receive a bird at Christmas. My pence were
duly paid, and the rest is familiar to you. I am much indebted to you, sir,
for a Scotch bonnet is fitted neither to my years nor my gravity.” With a
comical pomposity of manner he bowed solemnly to both of us and strode
off upon his way.

“So much for Mr. Henry Baker,” said Holmes when he had closed the
door behind him. “It is quite certain that he knows nothing whatever
about the matter. Are you hungry, Watson?”
“Not particularly.”
“Then I suggest that we turn our dinner into a supper and follow up this
clue while it is still hot.”
“By all means.”
It was a bitter night, so we drew on our ulsters and wrapped cravats
about our throats. Outside, the stars were shining coldly in a cloudless
sky, and the breath of the passers-by blew out into smoke like so many
pistol shots. Our footfalls rang out crisply and loudly as we swung
through the doctors’ quarter, Wimpole Street, Harley Street, and so
through Wigmore Street into Oxford Street. In a quarter of an hour we
were in Bloomsbury at the Alpha Inn, which is a small public-house at the
corner of one of the streets which runs down into Holborn. Holmes
pushed open the door of the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer
from the ruddy-faced, white-aproned landlord.
“Your beer should be excellent if it is as good as your geese,” said he.
“My geese!” The man seemed surprised.
“Yes. I was speaking only half an hour ago to Mr. Henry Baker, who
was a member of your goose club.”
“Ah! yes, I see. But you see, sir, them’s not our geese.”
“Indeed! Whose, then?”
“Well, I got the two dozen from a salesman in Covent Garden.”
“Indeed? I know some of them. Which was it?”
“Breckinridge is his name.”
“Ah! I don’t know him. Well, here’s your good health, landlord, and
prosperity to your house. Good-night.
[252] “Now for Mr. Breckinridge,” he continued, buttoning up his coat
as we came out into the frosty air. “Remember, Watson, that though we
have so homely a thing as a goose at one end of this chain, we have at the
other a man who will certainly get seven years’ penal servitude unless we
can establish his innocence. It is possible that our inquiry may but
confirm his guilt; but, in any case, we have a line of investigation which
has been missed by the police, and which a singular chance has placed in
our hands. Let us follow it out to the bitter end. Faces to the south, then,
and quick march!”
We passed across Holborn, down Endell Street, and so through a zigzag
of slums to Covent Garden Market. One of the largest stalls bore the
name of Breckinridge upon it, and the proprietor, a horsy-looking man,
with a sharp face and trim side-whiskers, was helping a boy to put up the
“Good-evening. It’s a cold night,” said Holmes.
The salesman nodded and shot a questioning glance at my companion.
“Sold out of geese, I see,” continued Holmes, pointing at the bare slabs
of marble.
“Let you have five hundred to-morrow morning.”
“That’s no good.”
“Well, there are some on the stall with the gas-flare.”
“Ah, but I was recommended to you.”
“Who by?”
“The landlord of the Alpha.”
“Oh, yes; I sent him a couple of dozen.”
“Fine birds they were, too. Now where did you get them from?”
To my surprise the question provoked a burst of anger from the
“Now, then, mister,” said he, with his head cocked and his arms
akimbo, “what are you driving at? Let’s have it straight, now.”
“It is straight enough. I should like to know who sold you the geese
which you supplied to the Alpha.”
“Well, then, I shan’t tell you. So now!”
“Oh, it is a matter of no importance; but I don’t know why you should
be so warm over such a trifle.”
“Warm! You’d be as warm, maybe, if you were as pestered as I am.
When I pay good money for a good article there should be an end of the
business; but it’s ‘Where are the geese?’ and ‘Who did you sell the geese
to?’ and ‘What will you take for the geese?’ One would think they were
the only geese in the world, to hear the fuss that is made over them.”
“Well, I have no connection with any other people who have been
making inquiries,” said Holmes carelessly. “If you won’t tell us the bet is
off, that is all. But I’m always ready to back my opinion on a matter of
fowls, and I have a fiver on it that the bird I ate is country bred.”
“Well, then, you’ve lost your fiver, for it’s town bred,” snapped the
“It’s nothing of the kind.”
“I say it is.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“D’you think you know more about fowls than I, who have handled
them ever since I was a nipper? I tell you, all those birds that went to the
Alpha were town bred.”
“You’ll never persuade me to believe that.”
[253] “Will you bet, then?”
“It’s merely taking your money, for I know that I am right. But I’ll
have a sovereign on with you, just to teach you not to be obstinate.”
The salesman chuckled grimly. “Bring me the books, Bill,” said he.
The small boy brought round a small thin volume and a great greasy-
backed one, laying them out together beneath the hanging lamp.
“Now then, Mr. Cocksure,” said the salesman, “I thought that I was out
of geese, but before I finish you’ll find that there is still one left in my
shop. You see this little book?”
“That’s the list of the folk from whom I buy. D’you see? Well, then,
here on this page are the country folk, and the numbers after their names
are where their accounts are in the big ledger. Now, then! You see this
other page in red ink? Well, that is a list of my town suppliers. Now, look
at that third name. Just read it out to me.”

“Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road–249,” read Holmes.

“Quite so. Now turn that up in the ledger.”
Holmes turned to the page indicated. “Here you are, ‘Mrs. Oakshott,
117, Brixton Road, egg and poultry supplier.’”
“Now, then, what’s the last entry?”
“ ‘December 22d. Twenty-four geese at 7s. 6d.’”
“Quite so. There you are. And underneath?”
“ ‘Sold to Mr. Windigate of the Alpha, at 12s.’”
“What have you to say now?”
Sherlock Holmes looked deeply chagrined. He drew a sovereign from
his pocket and threw it down upon the slab, turning away with the air of a
man whose disgust is too deep for words. A few yards off he stopped
under a lamp-post and laughed in the hearty, noiseless fashion which was
peculiar to him.
“When you see a man with whiskers of that cut and the ‘Pink ‘un’
protruding out of his pocket, you can always draw him by a bet,” said he.
“I daresay that if I had put £100 down in front of him, that man would not
have given me such complete information as was drawn from him by the
idea that he was doing me on a wager. Well, Watson, we are, I fancy,
nearing the end of our quest, and the only point which remains to be
determined is whether we should go on to this Mrs. Oakshott to-night, or
whether we should reserve it for to-morrow. It is clear from what that
surly fellow said that there are others besides ourselves who are anxious
about the matter, and I should– –”
His remarks were suddenly cut short by a loud hubbub which broke out
from the stall which we had just left. Turning round we saw a little rat-
faced fellow standing in the centre of the circle of yellow light which was
thrown by the swinging lamp, while Breckinridge, the salesman, framed
in the door of his stall, was shaking his fists fiercely at the cringing figure.
“I’ve had enough of you and your geese,” he shouted. “I wish you were
all at the devil together. If you come pestering me any more with your
silly talk I’ll set the dog at you. You bring Mrs. Oakshott here and I’ll
answer her, but what have you to do with it? Did I buy the geese off you?”
“No; but one of them was mine all the same,” whined the little man.
“Well, then, ask Mrs. Oakshott for it.”
“She told me to ask you.”
[254] “Well, you can ask the King of Proosia, for all I care. I’ve had
enough of it. Get out of this!” He rushed fiercely forward, and the inquirer
flitted away into the darkness.
“Ha! this may save us a visit to Brixton Road,” whispered Holmes.
“Come with me, and we will see what is to be made of this fellow.”
Striding through the scattered knots of people who lounged round the
flaring stalls, my companion speedily overtook the little man and touched
him upon the shoulder. He sprang round, and I could see in the gas-light
that every vestige of colour had been driven from his face.
“Who are you, then? What do you want?” he asked in a quavering
“You will excuse me,” said Holmes blandly, “but I could not help
overhearing the questions which you put to the salesman just now. I think
that I could be of assistance to you.”
“You? Who are you? How could you know anything of the matter?”
“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other
people don’t know.”
“But you can know nothing of this?”
“Excuse me, I know everything of it. You are endeavouring to trace
some geese which were sold by Mrs. Oakshott, of Brixton Road, to a
salesman named Breckinridge, by him in turn to Mr. Windigate, of the
Alpha, and by him to his club, of which Mr. Henry Baker is a member.”

“Oh, sir, you are the very man whom I have longed to meet,” cried the
little fellow with outstretched hands and quivering fingers. “I can hardly
explain to you how interested I am in this matter.”
Sherlock Holmes hailed a four-wheeler which was passing. “In that
case we had better discuss it in a cosy room rather than in this wind-swept
market-place,” said he. “But pray tell me, before we go farther, who it is
that I have the pleasure of assisting.”
The man hesitated for an instant. “My name is John Robinson,” he
answered with a sidelong glance.
“No, no; the real name,” said Holmes sweetly. “It is always awkward
doing business with an alias.”
A flush sprang to the white cheeks of the stranger. “Well, then,” said
he, “my real name is James Ryder.”
“Precisely so. Head attendant at the Hotel Cosmopolitan. Pray step into
the cab, and I shall soon be able to tell you everything which you would
wish to know.”
The little man stood glancing from one to the other of us with half-
frightened, half-hopeful eyes, as one who is not sure whether he is on the
verge of a windfall or of a catastrophe. Then he stepped into the cab, and
in half an hour we were back in the sitting-room at Baker Street. Nothing
had been said during our drive, but the high, thin breathing of our new
companion, and the claspings and unclaspings of his hands, spoke of the
nervous tension within him.
“Here we are!” said Holmes cheerily as we filed into the room. “The
fire looks very seasonable in this weather. You look cold, Mr. Ryder.
Pray take the basket-chair. I will just put on my slippers before we settle
this little matter of yours. Now, then! You want to know what became of
those geese?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Or rather, I fancy, of that goose. It was one bird, I imagine, in which
you were interested–white, with a black bar across the tail.”
[255] Ryder quivered with emotion. “Oh, sir,” he cried, “can you tell me
where it went to?”
“It came here.”
“Yes, and a most remarkable bird it proved. I don’t wonder that you
should take an interest in it. It laid an egg after it was dead–the bonniest,
brightest little blue egg that ever was seen. I have it here in my museum.”
Our visitor staggered to his feet and clutched the mantelpiece with his
right hand. Holmes unlocked his strong-box and held up the blue
carbuncle, which shone out like a star, with a cold, brilliant, many-pointed
radiance. Ryder stood glaring with a drawn face, uncertain whether to
claim or to disown it.
“The game’s up, Ryder,” said Holmes quietly. “Hold up, man, or you’ll
be into the fire! Give him an arm back into his chair, Watson. He’s not
got blood enough to go in for felony with impunity. Give him a dash of
brandy. So! Now he looks a little more human. What a shrimp it is, to be
For a moment he had staggered and nearly fallen, but the brandy
brought a tinge of colour into his cheeks, and he sat staring with
frightened eyes at his accuser.
“I have almost every link in my hands, and all the proofs which I could
possibly need, so there is little which you need tell me. Still, that little
may as well be cleared up to make the case complete. You had heard,
Ryder, of this blue stone of the Countess of Morcar’s?”
“It was Catherine Cusack who told me of it,” said he in a crackling
“I see–her ladyship’s waiting-maid. Well, the temptation of sudden
wealth so easily acquired was too much for you, as it has been for better
men before you; but you were not very scrupulous in the means you used.
It seems to me, Ryder, that there is the making of a very pretty villain in
you. You knew that this man Horner, the plumber, had been concerned in
some such matter before, and that suspicion would rest the more readily
upon him. What did you do, then? You made some small job in my lady’s
room–you and your confederate Cusack–and you managed that he should
be the man sent for. Then, when he had left, you rifled the jewel-case,
raised the alarm, and had this unfortunate man arrested. You then– –”
Ryder threw himself down suddenly upon the rug and clutched at my
companion’s knees. “For God’s sake, have mercy!” he shrieked. “Think
of my father! of my mother! It would break their hearts. I never went
wrong before! I never will again. I swear it. I’ll swear it on a Bible. Oh,
don’t bring it into court! For Christ’s sake, don’t!”
“Get back into your chair!” said Holmes sternly. “It is very well to
cringe and crawl now, but you thought little enough of this poor Horner in
the dock for a crime of which he knew nothing.”
“I will fly, Mr. Holmes. I will leave the country, sir. Then the charge
against him will break down.”
“Hum! We will talk about that. And now let us hear a true account of
the next act. How came the stone into the goose, and how came the goose
into the open market? Tell us the truth, for there lies your only hope of
Ryder passed his tongue over his parched lips. “I will tell you it just as
it happened, sir,” said he. “When Horner had been arrested, it seemed to
me that it would be best for me to get away with the stone at once, for I
did not know at what moment the police might not take it into their heads
to search me and my [256] room. There was no place about the hotel
where it would be safe. I went out, as if on some commission, and I made
for my sister’s house. She had married a man named Oakshott, and lived
in Brixton Road, where she fattened fowls for the market. All the way
there every man I met seemed to me to be a policeman or a detective; and,
for all that it was a cold night, the sweat was pouring down my face
before I came to the Brixton Road. My sister asked me what was the
matter, and why I was so pale; but I told her that I had been upset by the
jewel robbery at the hotel. Then I went into the back yard and smoked a
pipe, and wondered what it would be best to do.
“I had a friend once called Maudsley, who went to the bad, and has just
been serving his time in Pentonville. One day he had met me, and fell into
talk about the ways of thieves, and how they could get rid of what they
stole. I knew that he would be true to me, for I knew one or two things
about him; so I made up my mind to go right on to Kilburn, where he
lived, and take him into my confidence. He would show me how to turn
the stone into money. But how to get to him in safety? I thought of the
agonies I had gone through in coming from the hotel. I might at any
moment be seized and searched, and there would be the stone in my
waistcoat pocket. I was leaning against the wall at the time and looking at
the geese which were waddling about round my feet, and suddenly an
idea came into my head which showed me how I could beat the best
detective that ever lived.
“My sister had told me some weeks before that I might have the pick of
her geese for a Christmas present, and I knew that she was always as good
as her word. I would take my goose now, and in it I would carry my stone
to Kilburn. There was a little shed in the yard, and behind this I drove one
of the birds–a fine big one, white, with a barred tail. I caught it, and,
prying its bill open, I thrust the stone down its throat as far as my finger
could reach. The bird gave a gulp, and I felt the stone pass along its gullet
and down into its crop. But the creature flapped and struggled, and out
came my sister to know what was the matter. As I turned to speak to her
the brute broke loose and fluttered off among the others.
“ ‘Whatever were you doing with that bird, Jem?’ says she.
“ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘you said you’d give me one for Christmas, and I was
feeling which was the fattest.’
“ ‘Oh,’ says she, ‘we’ve set yours aside for you–Jem’s bird, we call it.
It’s the big white one over yonder. There’s twenty-six of them, which
makes one for you, and one for us, and two dozen for the market.’
“ ‘Thank you, Maggie,’ says I; ‘but if it is all the same to you, I’d rather
have that one I was handling just now.’
“ ‘The other is a good three pound heavier,’ said she, ‘and we fattened
it expressly for you.’
“ ‘Never mind. I’ll have the other, and I’ll take it now,’ said I.
“ ‘Oh, just as you like,’ said she, a little huffed. ‘Which is it you want,
“ ‘That white one with the barred tail, right in the middle of the flock.’
“ ‘Oh, very well. Kill it and take it with you.’
“Well, I did what she said, Mr. Holmes, and I carried the bird all the
way to Kilburn. I told my pal what I had done, for he was a man that it
was easy to tell a thing like that to. He laughed until he choked, and we
got a knife and opened the goose. My heart turned to water, for there was
no sign of the stone, and I knew that some terrible mistake had occurred. I
left the bird, rushed back to my sister’s, and hurried into the back yard.
There was not a bird to be seen there.
[257] “ ‘Where are they all, Maggie?’ I cried.
“ ‘Gone to the dealer’s, Jem.’
“ ‘Which dealer’s?’
“ ‘Breckinridge, of Covent Garden.’
“ ‘But was there another with a barred tail?’ I asked, ‘the same as the
one I chose?’
“ ‘Yes, Jem; there were two barred-tailed ones, and I could never tell
them apart.’
“Well, then, of course I saw it all, and I ran off as hard as my feet
would carry me to this man Breckinridge; but he had sold the lot at once,
and not one word would he tell me as to where they had gone. You heard
him yourselves to-night. Well, he has always answered me like that. My
sister thinks that I am going mad. Sometimes I think that I am myself.
And now–and now I am myself a branded thief, without ever having
touched the wealth for which I sold my character. God help me! God help
me!” He burst into convulsive sobbing, with his face buried in his hands.

There was a long silence, broken only by his heavy breathing, and by
the measured tapping of Sherlock Holmes’s finger-tips upon the edge of
the table. Then my friend rose and threw open the door.
“Get out!” said he.
“What, sir! Oh, Heaven bless you!”
“No more words. Get out!”
And no more words were needed. There was a rush, a clatter upon the
stairs, the bang of a door, and the crisp rattle of running footfalls from the
“After all, Watson,” said Holmes, reaching up his hand for his clay
pipe, “I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies. If
Horner were in danger it would be another thing; but this fellow will not
appear against him, and the case must collapse. I suppose that I am
commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul. This
fellow will not go wrong again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to
jail now, and you make him a jail-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of
forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical
problem, and its solution is its own reward. If you will have the goodness
to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin another investigation, in which,
also a bird will be the chief feature.”
David Soucek, 1998 The Speckled Band
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


ON GLANCING over my notes of the seventy odd cases in which I have
during the last eight years studied the methods of my friend Sherlock
Holmes, I find many tragic, some comic, a large number merely strange,
but none commonplace; for, working as he did rather for the love of his
art than for the acquirement of wealth, he refused to associate himself
with any investigation which did not tend towards the unusual, and even
the fantastic. Of all these varied cases, however, I cannot recall any which
presented more singular features than that which was associated with the
well-known Surrey family of the Roylotts of Stoke Moran. The events in
[258] question occurred in the early days of my association with Holmes,
when we were sharing rooms as bachelors in Baker Street. It is possible
that I might have placed them upon record before, but a promise of
secrecy was made at the time, from which I have only been freed during
the last month by the untimely death of the lady to whom the pledge was
given. It is perhaps as well that the facts should now come to light, for I
have reasons to know that there are widespread rumours as to the death of
Dr. Grimesby Roylott which tend to make the matter even more terrible
than the truth.
It was early in April in the year ’83 that I woke one morning to find
Sherlock Holmes standing, fully dressed, by the side of my bed. He was a
late riser, as a rule, and as the clock on the mantelpiece showed me that it
was only a quarter-past seven, I blinked up at him in some surprise, and
perhaps just a little resentment, for I was myself regular in my habits.
“Very sorry to knock you up, Watson,” said he, “but it’s the common
lot this morning. Mrs. Hudson has been knocked up, she retorted upon
me, and I on you.”
“What is it, then–a fire?”
“No; a client. It seems that a young lady has arrived in a considerable
state of excitement, who insists upon seeing me. She is waiting now in the
sitting-room. Now, when young ladies wander about the metropolis at this
hour of the morning, and knock sleepy people up out of their beds, I
presume that it is something very pressing which they have to
communicate. Should it prove to be an interesting case, you would, I am
sure, wish to follow it from the outset. I thought, at any rate, that I should
call you and give you the chance.”
“My dear fellow, I would not miss it for anything.”
I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his professional
investigations, and in admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions,
and yet always founded on a logical basis, with which he unravelled the
problems which were submitted to him. I rapidly threw on my clothes and
was ready in a few minutes to accompany my friend down to the sitting-
room. A lady dressed in black and heavily veiled, who had been sitting in
the window, rose as we entered.
“Good-morning, madam,” said Holmes cheerily. “My name is Sherlock
Holmes. This is my intimate friend and associate, Dr. Watson, before
whom you can speak as freely as before myself. Ha! I am glad to see that
Mrs. Hudson has had the good sense to light the fire. Pray draw up to it,
and I shall order you a cup of hot coffee, for I observe that you are
“It is not cold which makes me shiver,” said the woman in a low voice,
changing her seat as requested.
“What, then?”

“It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror.” She raised her veil as she spoke,
and we could see that she was indeed in a pitiable state of agitation, her
face all drawn and gray, with restless, frightened eyes, like those of some
hunted animal. Her features and figure were those of a woman of thirty,
but her hair was shot with premature gray, and her expression was weary
and haggard. Sherlock Holmes ran her over with one of his quick, all-
comprehensive glances.
“You must not fear,” said he soothingly, bending forward and patting
her forearm. “We shall soon set matters right, I have no doubt. You have
come in by train this morning, I see.”
“You know me, then?”
“No, but I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm of your
left [259] glove. You must have started early, and yet you had a good drive
in a dog-cart, along heavy roads, before you reached the station.”
The lady gave a violent start and stared in bewilderment at my
“There is no mystery, my dear madam,” said he, smiling. “The left arm
of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven places. The
marks are perfectly fresh. There is no vehicle save a dog-cart which
throws up mud in that way, and then only when you sit on the left-hand
side of the driver.”
“Whatever your reasons may be, you are perfectly correct,” said she. “I
started from home before six, reached Leatherhead at twenty past, and
came in by the first train to Waterloo. Sir, I can stand this strain no
longer; I shall go mad if it continues. I have no one to turn to–none, save
only one, who cares for me, and he, poor fellow, can be of little aid. I
have heard of you, Mr. Holmes; I have heard of you from Mrs. Farintosh,
whom you helped in the hour of her sore need. It was from her that I had
your address. Oh, sir, do you not think that you could help me, too, and at
least throw a little light through the dense darkness which surrounds me?
At present it is out of my power to reward you for your services, but in a
month or six weeks I shall be married, with the control of my own
income, and then at least you shall not find me ungrateful.”
Holmes turned to his desk and, unlocking it, drew out a small case-
book, which he consulted.
“Farintosh,” said he. “Ah yes, I recall the case; it was concerned with
an opal tiara. I think it was before your time, Watson. I can only say,
madam, that I shall be happy to devote the same care to your case as I did
to that of your friend. As to reward, my profession is its own reward; but
you are at liberty to defray whatever expenses I may be put to, at the time
which suits you best. And now I beg that you will lay before us
everything that may help us in forming an opinion upon the matter.”
“Alas!” replied our visitor, “the very horror of my situation lies in the
fact that my fears are so vague, and my suspicions depend so entirely
upon small points, which might seem trivial to another, that even he to
whom of all others I have a right to look for help and advice looks upon
all that I tell him about it as the fancies of a nervous woman. He does not
say so, but I can read it from his soothing answers and averted eyes. But I
have heard, Mr. Holmes, that you can see deeply into the manifold
wickedness of the human heart. You may advise me how to walk amid
the dangers which encompass me.”
“I am all attention, madam.”
“My name is Helen Stoner, and I am living with my stepfather, who is
the last survivor of one of the oldest Saxon families in England, the
Roylotts of Stoke Moran, on the western border of Surrey.”
Holmes nodded his head. “The name is familiar to me,” said he.
“The family was at one time among the richest in England, and the
estates extended over the borders into Berkshire in the north, and
Hampshire in the west. In the last century, however, four successive heirs
were of a dissolute and wasteful disposition, and the family ruin was
eventually completed by a gambler in the days of the Regency. Nothing
was left save a few acres of ground, and the two-hundred-year-old house,
which is itself crushed under a heavy mortgage. The last squire dragged
out his existence there, living the horrible life of an aristocratic pauper;
but his only son, my stepfather, seeing that he must adapt himself to the
new conditions, obtained an advance from a relative, which enabled him
to take a [260] medical degree and went out to Calcutta, where, by his
professional skill and his force of character, he established a large
practice. In a fit of anger, however, caused by some robberies which had
been perpetrated in the house, he beat his native butler to death and
narrowly escaped a capital sentence. As it was, he suffered a long term of
imprisonment and afterwards returned to England a morose and
disappointed man.
“When Dr. Roylott was in India he married my mother, Mrs. Stoner,
the young widow of Major-General Stoner, of the Bengal Artillery. My
sister Julia and I were twins, and we were only two years old at the time
of my mother’s re-marriage. She had a considerable sum of money–not
less than £1000 a year –and this she bequeathed to Dr. Roylott entirely
while we resided with him, with a provision that a certain annual sum
should be allowed to each of us in the event of our marriage. Shortly after
our return to England my mother died –she was killed eight years ago in a
railway accident near Crewe. Dr. Roylott then abandoned his attempts to
establish himself in practice in London and took us to live with him in the
old ancestral house at Stoke Moran. The money which my mother had left
was enough for all our wants, and there seemed to be no obstacle to our
“But a terrible change came over our stepfather about this time. Instead
of making friends and exchanging visits with our neighbours, who had at
first been overjoyed to see a Roylott of Stoke Moran back in the old
family seat, he shut himself up in his house and seldom came out save to
indulge in ferocious quarrels with whoever might cross his path. Violence
of temper approaching to mania has been hereditary in the men of the
family, and in my stepfather’s case it had, I believe, been intensified by
his long residence in the tropics. A series of disgraceful brawls took
place, two of which ended in the police-court, until at last he became the
terror of the village, and the folks would fly at his approach, for he is a
man of immense strength, and absolutely uncontrollable in his anger.
“Last week he hurled the local blacksmith over a parapet into a stream,
and it was only by paying over all the money which I could gather
together that I was able to avert another public exposure. He had no
friends at all save the wandering gypsies, and he would give these
vagabonds leave to encamp upon the few acres of bramble-covered land
which represent the family estate, and would accept in return the
hospitality of their tents, wandering away with them sometimes for weeks
on end. He has a passion also for Indian animals, which are sent over to
him by a correspondent, and he has at this moment a cheetah and a
baboon, which wander freely over his grounds and are feared by the
villagers almost as much as their master.
“You can imagine from what I say that my poor sister Julia and I had
no great pleasure in our lives. No servant would stay with us, and for a
long time we did all the work of the house. She was but thirty at the time
of her death, and yet her hair had already begun to whiten, even as mine
“Your sister is dead, then?”
“She died just two years ago, and it is of her death that I wish to speak
to you. You can understand that, living the life which I have described,
we were little likely to see anyone of our own age and position. We had,
however, an aunt, my mother’s maiden sister, Miss Honoria Westphail,
who lives near Harrow, and we were occasionally allowed to pay short
visits at this lady’s house. Julia went there at Christmas two years ago,
and met there a half-pay major of marines, to whom she became engaged.
My stepfather learned of the engagement when my sister [261] returned
and offered no objection to the marriage; but within a fortnight of the day
which had been fixed for the wedding, the terrible event occurred which
has deprived me of my only companion.”
Sherlock Holmes had been leaning back in his chair with his eyes
closed and his head sunk in a cushion, but he half opened his lids now and
glanced across at his visitor.
“Pray be precise as to details,” said he.
“It is easy for me to be so, for every event of that dreadful time is
seared into my memory. The manor-house is, as I have already said, very
old, and only one wing is now inhabited. The bedrooms in this wing are
on the ground floor, the sitting-rooms being in the central block of the
buildings. Of these bedrooms the first is Dr. Roylott’s, the second my
sister’s, and the third my own. There is no communication between them,
but they all open out into the same corridor. Do I make myself plain?”
“Perfectly so.”
“The windows of the three rooms open out upon the lawn. That fatal
night Dr. Roylott had gone to his room early, though we knew that he had
not retired to rest, for my sister was troubled by the smell of the strong
Indian cigars which it was his custom to smoke. She left her room,
therefore, and came into mine, where she sat for some time, chatting
about her approaching wedding. At eleven o’clock she rose to leave me,
but she paused at the door and looked back.
“ ‘Tell me, Helen,’ said she, ‘have you ever heard anyone whistle in the
dead of the night?’
“ ‘Never,’ said I.
“ ‘I suppose that you could not possibly whistle, yourself, in your
“ ‘Certainly not. But why?’
“ ‘Because during the last few nights I have always, about three in the
morning, heard a low, clear whistle. I am a light sleeper, and it has
awakened me. I cannot tell where it came from–perhaps from the next
room, perhaps from the lawn. I thought that I would just ask you whether
you had heard it.’
“ ‘No, I have not. It must be those wretched gypsies in the plantation.’
“ ‘Very likely. And yet if it were on the lawn, I wonder that you did not
hear it also.’
“ ‘Ah, but I sleep more heavily than you.’
“ ‘Well, it is of no great consequence, at any rate.’ She smiled back at
me, closed my door, and a few moments later I heard her key turn in the
“Indeed,” said Holmes. “Was it your custom always to lock yourselves
in at night?”
“And why?”
“I think that I mentioned to you that the doctor kept a cheetah and a
baboon. We had no feeling of security unless our doors were locked.”
“Quite so. Pray proceed with your statement.”
“I could not sleep that night. A vague feeling of impending misfortune
impressed me. My sister and I, you will recollect, were twins, and you
know how subtle are the links which bind two souls which are so closely
allied. It was a wild night. The wind was howling outside, and the rain
was beating and splashing against the windows. Suddenly, amid all the
hubbub of the gale, there burst forth the wild scream of a terrified woman.
I knew that it was my sister’s voice. I sprang from my bed, wrapped a
shawl round me, and rushed into the corridor. As I [262] opened my door I
seemed to hear a low whistle, such as my sister described, and a few
moments later a clanging sound, as if a mass of metal had fallen. As I ran
down the passage, my sister’s door was unlocked, and revolved slowly
upon its hinges. I stared at it horror-stricken, not knowing what was about
to issue from it. By the light of the corridor-lamp I saw my sister appear
at the opening, her face blanched with terror, her hands groping for help,
her whole figure swaying to and fro like that of a drunkard. I ran to her
and threw my arms round her, but at that moment her knees seemed to
give way and she fell to the ground. She writhed as one who is in terrible
pain, and her limbs were dreadfully convulsed. At first I thought that she
had not recognized me, but as I bent over her she suddenly shrieked out in
a voice which I shall never forget, ‘Oh, my God! Helen! It was the band!
The speckled band!’ There was something else which she would fain have
said, and she stabbed with her finger into the air in the direction of the
doctor’s room, but a fresh convulsion seized her and choked her words. I
rushed out, calling loudly for my stepfather, and I met him hastening from
his room in his dressing-gown. When he reached my sister’s side she was
unconscious, and though he poured brandy down her throat and sent for
medical aid from the village, all efforts were in vain, for she slowly sank
and died without having recovered her consciousness. Such was the