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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

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The Adventure of the Three Gables

 

1 I don't think that any of my adventures with Mr Sherlock Holmes opened quite so abruptly, or so dramatically, as that which I associate with The Three Gables. 2 I had not seen Holmes for some days, and had no idea of the new channel into which his activities had been directed. 3 He was in a chatty mood that morning, however, and had just settled me into the well-worn low arm-chair on one side of the fire, while he had curled down with his pipe in his mouth upon the opposite chair, when our visitor arrived. 4 If I had said that a mad bull had arrived, it would give a clearer impression of what occurred.
5 The door had flown open and a huge negro had burst into the room. 6 He would have been a comic figure if he had not been terrific, for he was dressed in a very loud grey check suit with a flowing salmon-coloured tie. 7 His broad face and flattened nose were thrust forward, as his sullen dark eyes, with a smouldering gleam of malice in them, turned from one of us to the other.
8 'Which of you genelmen is Masser Holmes?' he asked.
9 Holmes raised his pipe with a languid smile.
10 'Oh! it's you, is it?' said our visitor, coming with an unpleasant, stealthy step round the angle of the table. 11 'See here, Masser Holmes, you keep your hands out of other folks' business. 12 Leave folks to manage their own affairs. 13 Got that, Masser Holmes?'
14 'Keep on talking,' said Holmes. 15 'It's fine.'
16 'Oh! it's fine, is it?' growled the savage. 17 'It won't be so damn fine if I have to trim you up a bit. 18 I've handled your kind before now, and they didn't look fine when I was through with them. 19 Look at that, Masser Holmes!'
20 He swung a huge knotted lump of a fist under my friend's nose. 21 Holmes examined it closely with an air of great interest.
22 'Were you born so?' he asked. 23 'Or did it come by degrees?'
24 It may have been the icy coolness of my friend, or it may have been the slight clatter which I made as I picked up the poker. 25 In any case, our visitor's manner became less flamboyant.
26 'Well, I've given you fair warnin',' said he. 27 'I've a friend that's interested out Harrow way - you know what I'm meaning - and he don't intend to have no buttin' in by you. 28 Got that? 29 You ain't the law, and I ain't the law either, and if you come in I'll be on hand also. 30 Don't you forget it.'
31 'I've wanted to meet you for some time,' said Holmes. 32 'I won't ask you to sit down, for I don't like the smell of you, but aren't you Steve Dixie, the bruiser?'
33 'That's my name, Masser Holmes, and you'll get put through it for sure if you give me any lip.'
34 'It is certainly the last thing you need,' said Holmes, staring at our visitor's hideous mouth. 35 'But it was the killing of young Perkins outside the Holborn Bar - What! you're not going?'
36 The negro had sprung back, and his face was leaden. 37 'I won't listen to no such talk,' said he. 38 'What have I to do with this 'ere Perkins, Masser Holmes? 39 I was trainin' at the Bull Ring in Birmingham when this boy done gone get into trouble.'
40 'Yes, you'll tell the magistrate about it, Steve,' said Holmes. 41 'I've been watching you and Barney Stockdale-'
42 'So help me the Lord! 43 Masser Holmes-'
44 'That's enough. 45 Get out of it. 46 I'll pick you up when I want you.'
47 'Good mornin', Masser Holmes. 48 I hope there ain't no hard feelin's about this 'ere visit?'
49 'There will be unless you tell me who sent you.'
50 'Why, there ain't no secret about that, Masser Holmes. 51 It was the same gentleman that you have just done gone mention.'
52 'And who set him on to it?'
53 'S'elp me. 54 I don't know, Masser Holmes. 55 He just say, "Steve, you go see Mr Holmes, and tell him his life ain't safe if he go down Harrow way." 56 That's the whole truth.'
57 Without waiting for any further questioning, our visitor bolted out of the room almost as precipitately as he had entered. 58 Holmes knocked out the ashes of his pipe with a quiet chuckle.
59 'I am glad you were not forced to break his woolly head, Watson. 60 I observed your manoeuvres with the poker. 61 But he is really rather a harmless fellow, a great muscular, foolish, blustering baby, and easily cowed, as you have seen. 62 He is one of the Spencer John gang and has taken part in some dirty work of late which I may clear up when I have time. 63 His immediate principal, Barney, is a more astute person. 64 They specialize in assaults, intimidation, and the like. 65 What I want to know is, who is at the back of them on this particular occasion?'
66 'But why do they want to intimidate you?'
67 'It is this Harrow Weald case. 68 It decides me to look into the matter, for if it is worth anyone's while to take so much trouble, there must be something in it.'
69 'But what is it?'
70 'I was going to tell you when we had this comic interlude. 71 Here is Mrs Maberley's note. 72 If you care to come with me we will wire her and go out at once.'

73 DEAR MR SHERLOCK HOLMES, [I read]

74 I have had a succession of strange incidents occur to me in connection with this house, and I should much value your advice. 75 You would find me at home any time to-morrow. 76 The house is within a short walk of the Weald Station. 77 I believe that my late husband, Mortimer Maberley, was one of your early clients.

78
Yours faithfully, 79 MARY MABERLEY

80 The address was 'The Three Gables, Harrow Weald'.
81 'So that's that!' said Holmes. 82 'And now if you can spare the time, Watson, we will get upon our way.'
83 A short railway journey, and a shorter drive, brought us to the house, a brick and timber villa, standing in its own acre of undeveloped grassland. 84 Three small projections above the upper windows made a feeble attempt to justify its name. 85 Behind was a grove of melancholy, half-grown pines, and the whole aspect of the place was poor and depressing. 86 None the less, we found the house to be well furnished, and the lady who received us was a most engaging elderly person, who bore every mark of refinement and culture.
87 'I remember your husband well, madam,' said Holmes, 'though it is some years since he used my services in some trifling matter.'
88 'Probably you would be more familiar with the name of my son Douglas.'
89 Holmes looked at her with great interest.
90 'Dear me! 91 Are you the mother of Douglas Maberley? 92 I knew him slightly. 93 But, of course, all London knew him. 94 What a magnificent creature he was! 95 Where is he now?'
96 'Dead, Mr Holmes, dead! 97 He was Attaché at Rome, and he died there of pneumonia last month.'
98 'I am sorry. 99 One could not connect death with such a man. 100 I have never known anyone so vitally alive. 101 He lived intensely - every fibre of him!'
102 'Too intensely, Mr Holmes. 103 That was the ruin of him. 104 You remember him as he was - debonair and splendid. 105 You did not see the moody, morose, brooding creature into which he developed. 106 His heart was broken. 107 In a single month I seemed to see my gallant boy turn into a worn-out cynical man.'
108 'A love affair - a woman?'
109 'Or a fiend. 110 Well, it was not to talk of my poor lad that I asked you to come, Mr Holmes.'
111 'Dr Watson and I are at your service.'
112 'There have been some very strange happenings. 113 I have been in this house more than a year now, and as I wished to lead a retired life I have seen little of my neighbours. 114 Three days ago I had a call from a man who said that he was a house agent. 115 He said that this house would exactly suit a client of his and that if I would part with it money would be no object. 116 It seemed to me very strange, as there are several empty houses on the market which appear to be equally eligible, but naturally I was interested in what he said. 117 I therefore named a price which was five hundred pounds more than I gave. 118 He at once closed with the offer, but added that his client desired to buy the furniture as well and would I put a price upon it. 119 Some of this furniture is from my old home, and it is, as you see, very good, so that I named a good round sum. 120 To this also he at once agreed. 121 I had always wanted to travel, and the bargain was so good a one that it really seemed that I should be my own mistress for the rest of my life.
122 'Yesterday the man arrived with the agreement all drawn out. 123 Luckily I showed it to Mr Sutro, my lawyer, who lives in Harrow. 124 He said to me, "This is a very strange document. 125 Are you aware that if you sign it you could not legally take anything out of the house - not even your own private possessions?" 126 When the man came again in the evening I pointed this out, and I said that I meant only to sell the furniture.
127 '"No, no, everything," said he.
128 '"But my clothes? 129 My jewels?"
130 '"Well, well, some concession might be made for your personal effects. 131 But nothing shall go out of the house unchecked. 132 My client is a very liberal man, but he has his fads and his own way of doing things. 133 It is everything or nothing with him."
134 '"Then it must be nothing," said I. 135 And there the matter was left, but the whole thing seemed to me to be so unusual that I thought-'
136 Here we had a very extraordinary interruption.
137 Holmes raised his hand for silence. 138 Then he strode across the room, flung open the door, and dragged in a great gaunt woman whom he had seized by the shoulder. 139 She entered with ungainly struggles, like some huge awkward chicken, torn squawking out of its coop.
140 'Leave me alone! 141 What are you a-doin' of?' she screeched.
142 'Why, Susan, what is this?'
143 'Well, ma'am, I was comin' in to ask if the visitors was stayin' for lunch when this man jumped out at me.'
144 'I have been listening to her for the last five minutes, but did not wish to interrupt your most interesting narrative. 145 Just a little wheezy, Susan, are you not? 146 You breathe too heavily for that kind of work.'
147 Susan turned a sulky but amazed face upon her captor. 148 'Who be you, anyhow, and what right have you a-pullin' me about like this?'
149 'It was merely that I wished to ask a question in your presence. 150 Did you, Mrs Maberley, mention to anyone that you were going to write to me and consult me?'
151 'No, Mr Holmes, I did not.'
152 'Who posted your letter?'
153 'Susan did.'
154 'Exactly. 155 Now, Susan, to whom was it that you wrote or sent a message to say that your mistress was asking advice from me?'
156 'It's a lie. 157 I sent no message.'
158 'Now, Susan, wheezy people may not live long, you know. 159 It's a wicked thing to tell fibs. 160 Whom did you tell?'
161 'Susan!' cried her mistress, 'I believe you are a bad, treacherous woman. 162 I remember now that I saw you speaking to someone over the hedge.'
163 'That was my own business,' said the woman sullenly.
164 'Suppose I tell you that it was Barney Stockdale to whom you spoke?' said Holmes.
165 'Well, if you know, what do you want to ask for?'
166 'I was not sure, but I know now. 167 Well now, Susan, it will be worth ten pounds to you if you will tell me who is at the back of Barney.'
168 'Someone that could lay down a thousand pounds for every ten you have in the world.'
169 'So, a rich man? 170 No, you smiled - a rich woman. 171 Now we have got so far, you may as well give the name and earn the tenner.'
172 'I'll see you in hell first.'
173 'Oh, Susan! 174 Language!'
175 'I am clearing out of here. 176 I've had enough of you all. 177 I'll send for my box to-morrow.' 178 She flounced for the door.
179 'Good-bye, Susan. 180 Paregoric is the stuff... 181 Now,' he continued, turning suddenly from lively to severe when the door had closed behind the flushed and angry woman, 'this gang means business. 182 Look how close they play the game. 183 Your letter to me had the 10 p.m. postmark. 184 And yet Susan passes the word to Barney. 185 Barney has time to go to his employer and get instructions, he or she - I incline to the latter from Susan's grin when she thought I had blundered - forms a plan. 186 Black Steve is called in, and I am warned off by eleven o'clock next morning. 187 That's quick work, you know.'
188 'But what do they want?
189 'Yes, that's the question. 190 Who had the house before you?'
191 'A retired sea captain, called Ferguson.'
192 'Anything remarkable about him?'
193 'Not that ever I heard of.'
194 'I was wondering whether he could have buried something. 195 Of course, when people bury treasure nowadays they do it in the Post Office bank. 196 But there are always some lunatics about. 197 It would be a dull world without them. 198 At first I thought of some buried valuable. 199 But why, in that case, should they want your furniture? 200 You don't happen to have a Raphael or a first folio Shakespeare without knowing it?'
201 'No, I don't think I have anything rarer than a Crown Derby tea-set.'
202 'That would hardly justify all this mystery. 203 Besides, why should they not openly state what they want? 204 If they covet your tea-set, they can surely offer a price for it without buying you out, lock, stock, and barrel. 205 No, as I read it, there is something which you do not know that you have, and which you would not give up if you did know.'
206 'That is how I read it,' said I.
207 'Dr Watson agrees, so that settles it.'
208 'Well, Mr Holmes, what can it be?'
209 'Let us see whether by this purely mental analysis we can get it to a finer point. 210 You have been in this house a year.'
211 'Nearly two.'
212 'All the better. 213 During this long period no one wants anything from you. 214 Now suddenly within three or four days you have urgent demands. 215 What would you gather from that?'
216 'It can only mean,' said I, 'that the object, whatever it may be, has only just come into the house.'
217 'Settled once again,' said Holmes. 218 'Now, Mrs Maberley, has any object just arrived?'
219 'No, I have bought nothing new this year.'
220 'Indeed! 221 That is very remarkable. 222 Well, I think we had best let matters develop a little further until we have clearer data. 223 Is that lawyer of yours a capable man?'
224 'Mr Sutro is most capable.'
225 'Have you another maid, or was the fair Susan, who has just banged your front door, alone?'
226 'I have a young girl.'
227 'Try and get Sutro to spend a night or two in the house. 228 You might possibly want protection.'
229 'Against whom?'
230 'Who knows? 231 The matter is certainly obscure. 232 If I can't find what they are after, I must approach the matter from the other end, and try to get at the principal. 233 Did this house-agent man give any address?'
234 'Simply his card and occupation. 235 Haines-Johnson, Auctioneer and Valuer.'
236 'I don't think we shall find him in the Directory. 237 Honest businessmen don't conceal their place of business. 238 Well, you will let me know any fresh development. 239 I have taken up your case, and you may rely upon it that I shall see it through.'
240 As we passed through the hall Holmes's eyes, which missed nothing, lighted upon several trunks and cases which were piled in the corner The labels shone out upon them.
241 '"Milano." 242 "Lucerne." 243 These are from Italy.'
244 'They are poor Douglas's things.'
245 'You have not unpacked them? 246 How long have you had them?'
247 'They arrived last week.'
248 'But you said - why, surely this might be the missing link. 249 How do we know that there is not something of value there?'
250 'There could not possibly be, Mr Holmes. 251 Poor Douglas had only his pay and a small annuity. 252 What could he have of value?'
253 Holmes was lost in thought.
254 'Delay no longer, Mrs Maberley,' he said at last. 255 'Have these things taken upstairs to your bedroom. 256 Examine them as soon as possible and see what they contain. 257 I will come to-morrow and hear your report.'
258 It was quite evident that The Three Gables was under very close surveillance, for as we came round the high hedge at the end of the lane there was the negro prize-fighter standing in the shadow. 259 We came on him quite suddenly, and a grim and menacing figure he looked in that lonely place. 260 Holmes clapped his hand to his pocket.
261 'Lookin' for your gun, Masser Holmes?'
262 'No, for my scent-bottle, Steve.'
263 'You are funny, Masser Holmes, ain't you?'
264 'It won't be funny for you, Steve, if I get after you. 265 I gave you fair warning this morning.'
266 'Well, Masser Holmes, I done gone think over what you said, and I don't want no more talk about that affair of Masser Perkins. 267 S'pose I can help you, Masser Holmes, I will.'
268 'Well, then, tell me who is behind you on this job?'
269 'So help me the Lord! 270 Masser Holmes, I told you the truth before. 271 I don't know. 272 My boss Barney gives me orders and that's all.'
273 'Well, just bear in mind, Steve, that the lady in that house, and everything under that roof, is under my protection. 274 Don't you forget it.'
275 'All right, Masser Holmes. 276 I'll remember.'
277 'I've got him thoroughly frightened for his own skin, Watson,' Holmes remarked as we walked on. 278 'I think he would double-cross his employer if he knew who he was. 279 It was lucky I had some knowledge of the Spencer John crowd, and that Steve was one of them. 280 Now, Watson, this is a case for Langdale Pike, and I am going to see him now. 281 When I get back I may be clearer in the matter.'
282 I saw no more of Holmes during the day, but I could well imagine how he spent it, for Langdale Pike was his human book of reference upon all matters of social scandal. 283 This strange, languid creature spent his waking hours in the bow window of a St James's Street club, and was the receivingstation, as well as the transmitter, for all the gossip of the Metropolis. 284 He made, it was said, a four-figure income by the paragraphs which he contributed every week to the garbage papers which cater for an inquisitive public. 285 If ever, far down in the turbid depths of London life, there was some strange swirl or eddy, it was marked with automatic exactness by this human dial upon the surface. 286 Holmes discreetly helped Langdale to knowledge, and on occasion was helped in turn.
287 When I met my friend in his room early next morning, I was conscious from his bearing that all was well, but none the less a most unpleasant surprise was awaiting us. 288 It took the shape of the following telegram:

289 Please come out at once. 290 Client's house burgled in the night. 291 Police in possession.

292 SUTRO

293 Holmes whistled. 294 'The drama has come to a crisis, and quicker than I had expected. 295 There is a great driving-power at the back of this business, Watson, which does not surprise me after what I have heard. 296 This Sutro, of course, is her lawyer. 297 I made a mistake, I fear, in not asking you to spend the night on guard. 298 This fellow has clearly proved a broken reed. 299 Well, there is nothing for it but another journey to Harrow Weald.'
300 We found The Three Gables a very different establishment to the orderly household of the previous day. 301 A small group of idlers had assembled at the garden gate, while a couple of constables were examining the windows and the geranium beds. 302 Within we met a grey old gentleman, who introduced himself as the lawyer, together with a bustling, rubicund Inspector, who greeted Holmes as an old friend.
303 'Well, Mr Holmes, no chance for you in this case, I'm afraid. 304 Just a common, ordinary burglary, and well within the capacity of the poor old police. 305 No experts need apply.'
306 'I am sure the case is in very good hands,' said Holmes.
307 'Merely a common burglary, you say?'
308 'Quite so. 309 We know pretty well who the men are and where to find them. 310 It is that gang of Barney Stockdale, with the big nigger in it - they've been seen about here.'
311 'Excellent! 312 What did they get?'
313 'Well, they don't seem to have got much. 314 Mrs Maberley was chloroformed and the house was - Ah! here is the lady herself.'
315 Our friend of yesterday, looking very pale and ill, had entered the room, leaning upon a little maid-servant.
316 'You gave me good advice, Mr Holmes,' said she, smiling ruefully. 317 'Alas, I did not take it! 318 I did not wish to trouble Mr Sutro, and so I was unprotected.'
319 'I only heard of it this morning,' the lawyer explained.
320 'Mr Holmes advised me to have some friend in the house. 321 I neglected his advice, and I have paid for it.'
322 'You look wretchedly ill,' said Holmes. 323 'Perhaps you are hardly equal to telling me what occurred.'
324 'It is all here,' said the Inspector, tapping a bulky notebook.
325 'Still, if the lady is not too exhausted-'
326 'There is really so little to tell. 327 I have no doubt that wicked Susan had planned an entrance for them. 328 They must have known the house to an inch. 329 I was conscious for a moment of the chloroform rag which was thrust over my mouth, but I have no notion how long I may have been senseless. 330 When I woke, one man was at the bedside and another was rising with a bundle in his hand from among my son's baggage, which was partially opened and littered over the floor. 331 Before he could get away I sprang up and seized him.'
332 'You took a big risk,' said the Inspector.
333 'I clung to him, but he shook me off, and the other may have struck me, for I can remember no more. 334 Mary the maid heard the noise and began screaming out of the window. 335 That brought the police, but the rascals had got away.'
336 'What did they take?'
337 'Well, I don't think there is anything of value missing. 338 I am sure there was nothing in my son's trunks.'
339 'Did the men leave no clue?'
340 'There was one sheet of paper which I may have torn from the man that I grasped. 341 It was lying all crumpled on the floor. 342 It is in my son's handwriting.'
343 'Which means that it is not of much use,' said the Inspector. 344 'Now if it had been the burglar's-'
345 'Exactly,' said Holmes. 346 'What rugged common sense! 347 None the less, I should be curious to see it.'
348 The Inspector drew a folded sheet of foolscap from his pocket-book.
349 'I never pass anything, however trifling,' said he, with some pomposity. 350 'That is my advice to you, Mr Holmes. 351 In twenty-five years' experience I have learned my lesson. 352 There is always the chance of finger-marks or something.'
353 Holmes inspected the sheet of paper.
354 'What do you make of it, Inspector?'
355 'Seems to be the end of some queer novel, so far as I can see.'
356 'It may certainly prove to be the end of a queer tale,' said Holmes. 357 'You have noticed the number on the top of the page. 358 It is two hundred and forty-five. 359 Where are the odd two hundred and forty-four pages?'
360 'Well, I suppose the burglars got those. 361 Much good may it do them!'
362 'It seems a queer thing to break into a house in order to steal such papers as that. 363 Does it suggest anything to you, Inspector?'
364 'Yes, sir, it suggests that in their hurry the rascals just grabbed at what came first to hand. 365 I wish them joy of what they got.'
366 'Why should they go to my son's things?' asked Mrs Maberley.
367 'Well, they found nothing valuable downstairs, so they tried their luck upstairs. 368 That is how I read it. 369 What do you make of it, Mr Holmes?'
370 'I must think it over, Inspector. 371 Come to the window, Watson.' 372 Then, as we stood together, he read over the fragment of paper. 373 It began in the middle of a sentence and ran like this:
374 ... face bled considerably from the cuts and blows, but it was nothing to the bleeding of his heart as he saw that lovely face, the face for which he had been prepared to sacrifice his very life, looking out at his agony and humiliation. 375 She smiled — yes, by Heaven! she smiled, like the heartless fiend she was, as he looked up at her. 376 It was at that moment that love died and hate was born. 377 Man must live for something. 378 If it is not for your embrace, my lady, then it shall surely be for your undoing and my complete revenge.
379 'Queer grammar!' said Holmes, with a smile, as he handed the paper back to the Inspector. 380 'Did you notice how the "he" suddenly changed to "my"? 381 The writer was so carried away by his own story that he imagined himself at the supreme moment to be the hero.'
382 'It seemed mighty poor stuff,' said the Inspector, as he replaced it in his book. 383 'What! are you off, Mr Holmes?'
384 'I don't think there is anything more for me to do now that the case is in such capable hands. 385 By the way, Mrs Maberley, did you say you wished to travel?'
386 'It has always been my dream, Mr Holmes.'
387 'Where would you like to go - Cairo, Madeira, the Riviera?'
388 'Oh! if I had the money I would go round the world.'
389 'Quite so. 390 Round the world. 391 Well, good morning. 392 I may drop you a line in the evening.' 393 As we passed the window I caught a glimpse of the Inspector's smile and shake of the head. 394 'These clever fellows have always a touch of madness.' 395 That was what I read in the Inspector's smile.
396 'Now, Watson, we are at the last lap of our little journey,' said Holmes, when we were back in the roar of Central London once more. 397 'I think we had best clear the matter up at once, and it would be well that you should come with me, for it is safer to have a witness when you are dealing with such a lady as Isadora Klein.'
398 We had taken a cab and were speeding to some address in Grosvenor Square. 399 Holmes had been sunk in thought, but he roused himself suddenly.
400 'By the way, Watson, I suppose you see it all clearly?'
401 'No, I can't say that I do. 402 I only gather that we are going to see the lady who is behind all this mischief.'
403 'Exactly! 404 But does the name Isadora Klein convey nothing to you? 405 She was, of course, the celebrated beauty. 406 There was never a woman to touch her. 407 She is pure Spanish, the real blood of the masterful conquistadores, and her people have been leaders in Pernambuco for generations. 408 She married the aged German sugar king, Klein, and presently found herself the richest as well as the most lovely widow upon earth. 409 Then there was an interval of adventure when she pleased her own tastes. 410 She had several lovers, and Douglas Maberley, one of the most striking men in London, was one of them. 411 It was by all accounts more than an adventure with him. 412 He was not a Society butterfly, but a strong, proud man who gave and expected all. 413 But she is the "belle dame sans merci" of fiction. 414 When her caprice is satisfied, the matter is ended, and if the other party in the matter can't take her word for it, she knows how to bring it home to him.'
415 'Then that was his own story-'
416 'Ah! you are piecing it together now. 417 I hear that she is about to marry the young Duke of Lomond, who might almost be her son. 418 His Grace's ma might overlook the age, but a big scandal would be a different matter, so it is imperative - Ah! here we are.'
419 It was one of the finest corner-houses of the West End. 420 A machine-like footman took up our cards and returned with word that the lady was not at home. 421 'Then we shall wait until she is,' said Holmes cheerfully.
422 The machine broke down.
423 'Not at home means not at home to you,' said the footman.
424 'Good,' Holmes answered. 425 'That means that we shall not have to wait. 426 Kindly give this note to your mistress.'
427 He scribbled three or four words upon a sheet of his notebook, folded it, and handed it to the man.
428 'What did you say, Holmes?' I asked.
429 'I simply wrote "Shall it be the police, then?" 430 I think that should pass us in.'
431 It did - with amazing celerity. 432 A minute later we were in an Arabian Nights drawing-room, vast and wonderful, in a half gloom, picked out with an occasional pink electric light. 433 The lady had come, I felt, to that time of life when even the proudest beauty finds the half-light more welcome. 434 She rose from the settee as we entered: tall, queenly, a perfect figure, a lovely mask-like face, with two wonderful Spanish eyes which looked murder at us both.
435 'What is this intrusion - and this insulting message?' she asked, holding up the slip of paper.
436 'I need not explain, madame. 437 I have too much respect for your intelligence to do so - though I confess that intelligence has been surprisingly at fault of late.'
438 'How so, sir?'
439 'By supposing that your hired bullies could frighten me from my work. 440 Surely no man would take up my profession if it were not that danger attracts him. 441 It was you, then, who forced me to examine the case of young Maberley.'
442 'I have no idea what you are talking about. 443 What have I to do with hired bullies?'
444 Holmes turned away wearily.
445 'Yes, I have overrated your intelligence. 446 Well, good afternoon!'
447 'Stop! 448 Where are you going?'
449 'To Scotland Yard.'
450 We had not got half-way to the door before she had overtaken us and was holding his arm. 451 She had turned in a moment from steel to velvet.
452 'Come and sit down, gentlemen. 453 Let us talk this matter over. 454 I feel that I may be frank with you, Mr Holmes. 455 You have the feelings of a gentleman. 456 How quick a woman's instinct is to find it out. 457 I will treat you as a friend.'
458 'I cannot promise to reciprocate, madame. 459 I am not the law, but I represent justice so far as my feeble powers go. 460 I am ready to listen, and then I will tell you how I will act.'
461 'No doubt it was foolish of me to threaten a brave man like yourself.'
462 'What was really foolish, madame, is that you have placed yourself in the power of a band of rascals who may blackmail or give you away.'
463 'No, no! 464 I am not so simple. 465 Since I have promised to be frank, I may say that no one, save Barney Stockdale and Susan, his wife, have the least idea who their employer is. 466 As to them, well, it is not the first-' 467 She smiled and nodded, with a charming coquettish intimacy.
468 'I see. 469 You've tested them before.'
470 'They are good hounds who run silent.'
471 'Such hounds have a way sooner or later of biting the hand that feeds them. 472 They will be arrested for this burglary. 473 The police are already after them.'
474 'They will take what comes to them. 475 That is what they are paid for. 476 I shall not appear in the matter.'
477 'Unless I bring you into it.'
478 'No, no, you would not. 479 You are a gentleman. 480 It is a woman's secret.'
481 'In the first place you must give back this manuscript.'
482 She broke into a ripple of laughter, and walked to the fire-place. 483 There was a calcined mass which she broke up with the poker. 484 'Shall I give this back?' she asked. 485 So roguish and exquisite did she look as she stood before us with a challenging smile that I felt of all Holmes's criminals this was the one whom he would find it hardest to face. 486 However, he was immune from sentiment.
487 'That seals your fate,' he said coldly. 488 'You are very prompt in your actions, madame, but you have overdone it on this occasion.'
489 She threw the poker down with a clatter.
490 'How hard you are!' she cried. 491 'May I tell you the whole story?'
492 'I fancy I could tell it to you.'
493 'But you must look at it with my eyes, Mr Holmes. 494 You must realize it from the point of view of a woman who sees all her life's ambitions about to be ruined at the last moment. 495 Is such a woman to be blamed if she protects herself?'
496 'The original sin was yours.'
497 'Yes, yes! 498 I admit it. 499 He was a dear boy, Douglas, but it so chanced that he could not fit into my plans. 500 He wanted marriage - marriage, Mr Holmes - with a penniless commoner. 501 Nothing less would serve him. 502 Then he became pertinacious. 503 Because I had given he seemed to think that I still must give, and to him only. 504 It was intolerable. 505 At last I had to make him realize it.'
506 'By hiring ruffians to beat him under your own window.'
507 'You do indeed seem to know everything. 508 Well, it is true. 509 Barney and the boys drove him away, and were, I admit, a little rough in doing so. 510 But what did he do then? 511 Could I have believed that a gentleman would do such an act? 512 He wrote a book in which he described his own story. 513 I, of course, was the wolf, he was the lamb. 514 It was all there, under different names, of course, but who in all London would have failed to recognize it? 515 What do you say to that, Mr Holmes?'
516 'Well, he was within his rights.'
517 'It was as if the air of Italy had got into his blood and brought with it the old cruel Italian spirit. 518 He wrote to me and sent me a copy of his book that I might have the torture of anticipation. 519 There were two copies, he said - one for me, one for his publisher.'
520 'How did you know the publisher's had not reached him?'
521 'I knew who his publisher was. 522 It is not his only novel, you know. 523 I found out that he had not heard from Italy. 524 Then came Douglas's sudden death. 525 So long as that other manuscript was in the world there was no safety for me. 526 Of course, it must be among his effects, and these would be returned to his mother. 527 I set the gang at work. 528 One of them got into the house as servant. 529 I wanted to do the thing honestly. 530 I really and truly did. 531 I was ready to buy the house and everything in it. 532 I offered any price she cared to ask. 533 I only tried the other way when everything else had failed. 534 Now, Mr Holmes, granting that I was too hard on Douglas - and, God knows, I am sorry for it! - what else could I do with my whole future at stake?'
535 Sherlock Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
536 'Well, well,' said he, 'I suppose I shall have to compound a felony as usual. 537 How much does it cost to go round the world in first-class style?'
538 The lady stared in amazement.
539 'Could it be done on five thousand pounds?'
540 'Well, I should think so, indeed!'
541 'Very good. 542 I think you will sign me a cheque for that, and I will see that it comes to Mrs Maberley. 543 You owe her a little change of air. 544 Meantime, lady' - he wagged a cautionary forefinger - 'have a care! 545 Have a care! 546 You can't play with edged tools for ever without cutting those dainty hands.'


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