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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 Retired Colourman


1 Sherlock Holmes was in a melancholy and philosophic mood that morning. 2 His alert practical nature was subject to such reactions.
3 'Did you see him?' he asked.
4 'You mean the old fellow who has just gone out?'
5 'Precisely.'
6 'Yes, I met him at the door.'
7 'What did you think of him?'
8 'A pathetic, futile, broken creature.'
9 'Exactly, Watson. 10 Pathetic and futile. 11 But is not all life pathetic and futile? 12 Is not his story a microcosm of the whole? 13 We reach. 14 We grasp. 15 And what is left in our hands at the end? 16 A shadow. 17 Or worse than a shadow - misery.'
18 'Is he one of your clients?'
19 'Well, I suppose I may call him so. 20 He has been sent on by the Yard. 21 Just as medical men occasionally send their incurables to a quack. 22 They argue that they can do nothing more, and that whatever happens the patient can be no worse than he is.'
23 'What is the matter?'
24 Holmes took a rather soiled card from the table. 25 'Josiah Amberley. 26 He says he was junior partner of Brickfall and Amberley, who are manufacturers of artistic materials. 27 You will see their names upon paint-boxes. 28 He made his little pile, retired from business at the age of sixty-one, bought a house at Lewisham and settled down to rest after a life of ceaseless grind. 29 One would think his future was tolerably assured.'
30 'Yes, indeed.'
31 Holmes glanced over some notes which he had scribbled upon the back of an envelope.
32 'Retired in 1896, Watson. 33 Early in 1897 he married a woman twenty years younger than himself - a good-looking woman, too, if the photograph does not flatter. 34 A competence, a wife, leisure - it seemed a straight road which lay before him. 35 And yet within two years he is, as you have seen, as broken and miserable a creature as crawls beneath the sun.'
36 'But what has happened?'
37 'The old story, Watson. 38 A treacherous friend and a fickle wife. 39 It would appear that Amberley has one hobby in life, and it is chess. 40 Not far from him at Lewisham there lives a young doctor who is also a chess-player. 41 I have noted his name as Dr Ray Ernest. 42 Ernest was frequently in the house, and an intimacy between him and Mrs Amberley was a natural sequence, for you must admit that our unfortunate client has few outward graces, whatever his inner virtues may be. 43 The couple went off together last week - destination untraced. 44 What is more, the faithless spouse carried off the old man's deed-box as her personal luggage with a good part of his life's savings within. 45 Can we find the lady? 46 Can we save the money? 47 A commonplace problem so far as it has developed, and yet a vital one for Josiah Amberley.'
48 'What will you do about it?'
49 'Well, the immediate question, my dear Watson, happens to be, What will you do? - if you will be good enough to understudy me. 50 You know that I am preoccupied with this case of the two Coptic Patriarchs, which should come to a head to-day. 51 I really have not time to go out to Lewisham, and yet evidence taken on the spot has a special value. 52 The old fellow was quite insistent that I should go, but I explained my difficulty. 53 He is prepared to meet a representative.'
54 'By all means.' I answered. 55 'I confess I don't see that I can be of much service, but I am willing to do my best.' 56 And so it was that on a summer afternoon I set forth to Lewisham, little dreaming that within a week the affair in which I was engaging would be the eager debate of all England.
57 It was late that evening before I returned to Baker Street and gave an account of my mission. 58 Holmes lay with his gaunt figure stretched in his deep chair, his pipe curling forth slow wreaths of acrid tobacco, while his eyelids drooped over his eyes so lazily that he might almost have been asleep were it not that at any halt or questionable passage of my narrative they half lifted, and two grey eyes, as bright and keen as rapiers, transfixed me with their searching glance.
59 'The Haven is the name of Mr Josiah Amberley's house,' I explained. 60 'I think it would interest you, Holmes. 61 It is like some penurious patrician who has sunk into the company of his inferiors. 62 You know that particular quarter, the monotonous brick streets, the weary suburban highways. 63 Right in the middle of them, a little island of ancient culture and comfort, lies this old home, surrounded by a high sun-baked wall, mottled with lichens and topped with moss, the sort of wall-'
64 'Cut out the poetry, Watson,' said Holmes, severely. 65 'I note that it was a high brick wall.'
66 'Exactly. 67 I should not have known which was The Haven had I not asked a lounger who was smoking in the street. 68 I have reason for mentioning him. 69 He was a tall, dark, heavily-moustached, rather military-looking man. 70 He nodded in answer to my inquiry and gave me a curiously questioning glance, which came back to my memory a little later.
71 'I had hardly entered the gateway before I saw Mr Amberley coming down the drive. 72 I only had a glimpse of him this morning, and he certainly gave me the impression of a strange creature, but when I saw him in full light his appearance was even more abnormal.'
73 'I have, of course, studied it, and yet I should be interested to have your impression,' said Holmes.
74 'He seemed to me like a man who was literally bowed down by care. 75 His back was curved as though he carried a heavy burden. 76 Yet he was not the weakling that I had at first imagined, for his shoulders and chest have the framework of a giant, though his figure tapers away into a pair of spindled legs.'
77 'Left shoe wrinkled, right one smooth.'
78 'I did not observe that.'
79 'No, you wouldn't. 80 I spotted his artificial limb. 81 But proceed.'
82 'I was struck by the snaky locks of grizzled hair which curled from under his old straw hat, and his face with its fierce, eager expression and the deeply-lined features.'
83 'Very good, Watson. 84 What did he say?'
85 'He began pouring out the story of his grievances. 86 We walked down the drive together, and of course I took a good look round. 87 I have never seen a worse-kept place. 88 The garden was all running to seed, giving me an impression of wild neglect in which the plants had been allowed to find the way of nature rather than of art. 89 How any decent woman could have tolerated such a state of things, I don't know. 90 The house, too, was slatternly to the last degree, but the poor man seemed himself to be aware of it and to be trying to remedy it, for a great pot of green paint stood in the centre of the hall and he was carrying a thick brush in his left hand. 91 He had been working on the woodwork.
92 'He took me into his dingy sanctum, and we had a long chat. 93 Of course, he was disappointed that you had not come yourself. 94 "I hardly expected," he said, "that so humble an individual as myself, especially after my heavy financial loss, could obtain the complete attention of so famous a man as Mr Sherlock Holmes."
95 'I assured him that the financial question did not arise. 96 "No, of course, it is art for art's sake with him," said he, "but even on the artistic side of crime he might have found something here to study. 97 And human nature, Dr Watson-the black ingratitude of it all! 98 When did I ever refuse one of her requests? 99 Was ever a woman so pampered? 100 And that young man - he might have been my own son. 101 He had the run of my house. 102 And yet see how they have treated me! 103 Oh, Dr Watson, it is a dreadful, dreadful world!"
104 'That was the burden of his song for an hour or more. 105 He had, it seems, no suspicion of an intrigue. 106 They lived alone save for a woman who comes in by the day and leaves every evening at six. 107 On that particular evening old Amberley, wishing to give his wife a treat, had taken two upper circle seats at the Haymarket Theatre. 108 At the last moment she had complained of a headache and had refused to go. 109 He had gone alone. 110 There seemed to be no doubt about the fact, for he produced the unused ticket which he had taken for his wife.'
111 'That is remarkable - most remarkable,' said Holmes, whose interest in the case seemed to be rising. 112 'Pray continue, Watson. 113 I find your narrative most arresting. 114 Did you personally examine this ticket? 115 You did not, perchance, take the number?'
116 'It so happens that I did,' I answered with some pride. 117 'It chanced to be my old school number, thirty-one, and so it stuck in my head.'
118 'Excellent, Watson! 119 His seat, then, was either thirty or thirty-two.'
120 'Quite so,' I answered, with some mystification. 121 'And on B row.'
122 'That is most satisfactory. 123 What else did he tell you?'
124 'He showed me his strong-room, as he called it. 125 It really is a strong-room - like a bank - with iron door and shutter-burglar-proof, as he claimed. 126 However, the woman seems to have had a duplicate key, and between them they had carried off some seven thousand pounds' worth of cash and securities.'
127 'Securities! 128 How could they dispose of those?'
129 'He said that he had given the police a list and that he hoped they would be unsaleable. 130 He had got back from the theatre about midnight, and found the place plundered, the door and window open, and the fugitives gone. 131 There was no letter or message, nor has he heard a word since. 132 He at once gave the alarm to the police.'
133 Holmes brooded for some minutes.
134 'You say he was painting. 135 What was he painting?'
136 'Well, he was painting the passage. 137 But he had already painted the door and woodwork of this room I spoke of.'
138 'Does it strike you as a strange occupation in the circumstances?'
139 '"One must do something to ease an aching heart." 140 That was his own explanation. 141 It was eccentric, no doubt, but he is clearly an eccentric man. 142 He tore up one of his wife's photographs in my presence - tore it up furiously in a tempest of passion. 143 "I never wish to see her damned face again," he shrieked.'
144 'Anything more, Watson?'
145 'Yes, one thing which struck me more than anything else. 146 I had driven to the Blackheath Station and had caught my train there, when just as it was starting I saw a man dart into the carriage next to my own. 147 You know that I have a quick eye for faces, Holmes. 148 It was undoubtedly the tall, dark man whom I had addressed in the street. 149 I saw him once more at London Bridge, and then I lost him in the crowd. 150 But I am convinced that he was following me.'
151 'No doubt! 152 No doubt!' said Holmes. 153 'A tall, dark, heavilymoustached man, you say, with grey-tinted sunglasses?'
154 'Holmes, you are a wizard. 155 I did not say so, but he had grey-tinted sun-glasses.'
156 'And a Masonic tie-pin?'
157 'Holmes!'
158 'Quite simple, my dear Watson. 159 But let us get down to what is practical. 160 I must admit to you that the case, which seemed to me to be so absurdly simple as to be hardly worth my notice, is rapidly assuming a very different aspect. 161 It is true that though in your mission you have missed everything of importance, yet even those things which have obtruded themselves upon your notice give rise to serious thought.'
162 'What have I missed?'
163 'Don't be hurt, my dear fellow. 164 You know that I am quite impersonal. 165 No one else would have done better. 166 Some possibly not so well. 167 But clearly you have missed some vital points. 168 What is the opinion of the neighbours about this man Amberley and his wife? 169 That surely is of importance. 170 What of Dr Ernest? 171 Was he the gay Lothario one would expect? 172 With your natural advantages, Watson, every lady is your helper and accomplice. 173 What about the girl at the post office, or the wife of the greengrocer? 174 I can picture you whispering soft nothings with the young lady at the "Blue Anchor", and receiving hard somethings in exchange. 175 All this you have left undone.'
176 'It can still be done.'
177 'It has been done. 178 Thanks to the telephone and the help of the Yard, I can usually get my essentials without leaving this room. 179 As a matter of fact, my information confirms the man's story. 180 He has the local repute of being a miser as well as a harsh and exacting husband. 181 That he had a large sum of money in that strong-room of his is certain. 182 So also is it that young Dr Ernest, an unmarried man, played chess with Amberley, and probably played the fool with his wife. 183 All this seems plain sailing, and one would think that there was no more to be said - and yet! - and yet!'
184 'Where lies the difficulty?'
185 'In my imagination, perhaps. 186 Well, leave it there, Watson. 187 Let us escape from this weary workaday world by the side door of music. 188 Carina sings to-night at the Albert Hall, and we still have time to dress, dine and enjoy.'
189 In the morning I was up betimes, but some toast crumbs and two empty eggshells told me that my companion was earlier still. 190 I found a scribbled note on the table.

191 Dear Watson,
192 There are one or two points of contact which I should wish to establish with Mr Josiah Amberley. 193 When I have done so we can dismiss the case - or not. 194 I would only ask you to be on hand about three o'clock, as I conceive it possible that I may want you.
195 S. H.

196 I saw nothing of Holmes all day, but at the hour named he returned, grave, preoccupied and aloof. 197 At such times it was easier to leave him to himself.
198 'Has Amberley been here yet?'
199 'No.'
200 'Ah! 201 I am expecting him.'
202 He was not disappointed, for presently the old fellow arrived with a very worried and puzzled expression upon his austere face.
203 'I've had a telegram, Mr Holmes. 204 I can make nothing of it.' 205 He handed it over, and Holmes read it aloud.

206 Come at once without fail. 207 Can give you information as to your recent loss. 208 - ELMAN. 209 The Vicarage.

210 'Dispatched at two-ten from Little Purlington,' said Holmes. 211 'Little Purlington is in Essex, I believe, not far from Frinton. 212 Well, of course you will start at once. 213 This is evidently from a responsible person, the vicar of the place. 214 Where is my Crockford? 215 Yes, here we have him. 216 J. C. Elman, MA, Living of Mossmoor cum Little Purlington. 217 Look up the trains, Watson.'
218 'There is one at five-twenty from Liverpool Street.'
219 'Excellent. 220 You had best go with him, Watson. 221 He may need help or advice. 222 Clearly we have come to a crisis in this affair.'
223 But our client seemed by no means eager to start.
224 'It's perfectly absurd, Mr Holmes,' he said. 225 'What can this man possibly know of what has occurred? 226 It is waste of time and money.'
227 'He would not have telegraphed to you if he did not know something. 228 Wire at once that you are coming.'
229 'I don't think I shall go.'
230 Holmes assumed his sternest aspect.
231 'It would make the worst possible impression both on the police and upon myself, Mr Amberley, if when so obvious a clue arose you should refuse to follow it up. 232 We should feel that you were not really in earnest in this investigation.' 233 Our client seemed horrified at the suggestion.
234 'Why, of course I shall go if you look at it in that way,' said he. 235 'On the face of it, it seems absurd to suppose that this parson knows anything, but if you think-'
236 'I do think,' said Holmes, with emphasis, and so we were launched upon our journey. 237 Holmes took me aside before we left the room and gave me one word of counsel which showed that he considered the matter to be of importance. 238 'Whatever you do, see that he really does go,' said he. 239 'Should he break away or return, get to the nearest telephone exchange and send the single word "Bolted". 240 I will arrange here that it shall reach me wherever I am.'
241 Little Purlington is not an easy place to reach, for it is on a branch line. 242 My remembrance of the journey is not a pleasant one, for the weather was hot, the train slow, and my companion sullen and silent, hardly talking at all, save to make an occasional sardonic remark as to the futility of our proceedings. 243 When we at last reached the little station it was a two-mile drive before we came to the Vicarage, where a big, solemn, rather pompous clergyman received us in his study. 244 Our telegram lay before him.
245 'Well, gentlemen,' he asked, 'what can I do for you?'
246 'We came,' I explained, 'in answer to your wire.'
247 'My wire! 248 I sent no wire.'
249 'I mean the wire which you sent to Mr Josiah Amberley about his wife and his money.'
250 'If this is a joke, sir, it is a very questionable one,' said the vicar angrily. 251 'I have never heard of the gentleman you name, and I have not sent a wire to anyone.'
252 Our client and I looked at each other in amazement.
253 'Perhaps there is some mistake,' said I, 'are there perhaps two vicarages? 254 Here is the wire itself, signed Elman, and dated from the Vicarage.'
255 'There is only one vicarage, sir, and only one vicar, and this wire is a scandalous forgery, the origin of which shall certainly be investigated by the police. 256 Meanwhile, I can see no possible object in prolonging this interview.'
257 So Mr Amberley and I found ourselves on the roadside in what seemed to me to be the most primitive village in England. 258 We made for the telegraph office, but it was already closed. 259 There was a telephone, however, at the little 'Railway Arms', and by it I got into touch with Holmes, who shared in our amazement at the result of our journey.
260 'Most singular!' said the distant voice. 261 'Most remarkable! 262 I much fear, my dear Watson, that there is no return train tonight. 263 I have unwittingly condemned you to the horrors of a country inn. 264 However, there is always Nature, Watson - Nature and Josiah Amberley - you can be in close commune with both.' 265 I heard his dry chuckle as he turned away.
266 It was soon apparent to me that my companion's reputation as a miser was not undeserved. 267 He had grumbled at the expense of the journey, had insisted upon travelling thirdclass, and was now clamorous in his objections to the hotel bill. 268 Next morning, when we did at last arrive in London, it was hard to say which of us was in the worse humour.
269 'You had best take Baker Street as we pass,' said I. 270 'Mr Holmes may have some fresh instructions.'
271 'If they are not worth more than the last ones they are not of much use,' said Amberley, with a malevolent scowl. 272 None the less, he kept me company. 273 I had already warned Holmes by telegram of the hour of our arrival, but we found a message waiting that he was at Lewisham, and would expect us there. 274 That was a surprise, but an even greater one was to find that he was not alone in the sitting-room of our client. 275 A stern-looking, impassive man sat beside him, a dark man with grey-tinted glasses and a large Masonic pin projecting from his tie.
276 'This is my friend Mr Barker,' said Holmes. 277 'He has been interesting himself also in your business, Mr Josiah Amberley, though we have been working independently. 278 But we have both the same question to ask you!'
279 Mr Amberley sat down heavily. 280 He sensed impending danger. 281 I read it in his straining eyes and his twitching features.
282 'What is the question, Mr Holmes?'
283 'Only this: 284 What did you do with the bodies?'
285 The man sprang to his feet with a hoarse scream. 286 He clawed into the air with his bony hands. 287 His mouth was open and for the instant he looked like some horrible bird of prey. 288 In a flash we got a glimpse of the real Josiah Amberley, a misshapen demon with a soul as distorted as his body. 289 As he fell back into his chair he clapped his hand to his lips as if to stifle a cough. 290 Holmes sprang at his throat like a tiger, and twisted his face towards the ground. 291 A white pellet fell from between his gasping lips.
292 'No short cuts, Josiah Amberley. 293 Things must be done decently and in order. 294 What about it, Barker?'
295 'I have a cab at the door,' said our taciturn companion.
296 'It is only a few hundred yards to the station. 297 We will go together. 298 You can stay here, Watson. 299 I shall be back within half an hour.'
300 The old colourman had the strength of a lion in that great trunk of his, but he was helpless in the hands of the two experienced man-handlers. 301 Wriggling and twisting, he was dragged to the waiting cab, and I was left to my solitary vigil in the ill-omened house. 302 In less time than he had named, however, Holmes was back, in company with a smart young police inspector.
303 'I've left Barker to look after the formalities,' said Holmes. 304 'You had not met Barker, Watson. 305 He is my hated rival upon the Surrey shore. 306 When you said a tall dark man it was not difficult for me to complete the picture. 307 He has several good cases to his credit, has he not, Inspector?'
308 'He has certainly interfered several times,' the Inspector answered with reserve.
309 'His methods are irregular, no doubt, like my own. 310 The irregulars are useful sometimes, you know. 311 You, for example, with your compulsory warning about whatever he said being used against him, could never have bluffed this rascal into what is virtually a confession.'
312 'Perhaps not. 313 But we get there all the same, Mr Holmes. 314 Don't imagine that we had not formed our own views of this case, and that we would not have laid our hands on our man. 315 You will excuse us for feeling sore when you jump in with methods which we cannot use, and so rob us of the credit.'
316 'There shall be no such robbery, MacKinnon. 317 I assure you that I efface myself from now onwards, and as to Barker, he had done nothing save what I told him.'
318 The Inspector seemed considerably relieved.
319 'That is very handsome of you, Mr Holmes. 320 Praise or blame can matter little to you, but it is very different to us when the newspapers begin to ask questions.'
321 'Quite so. 322 But they are pretty sure to ask questions anyhow, so it would be as well to have answers. 323 What will you say, for example, when the intelligent and enterprising reporter asks you what the exact points were which aroused your suspicion, and finally gave you a certain conviction as to the real facts?'
324 The Inspector looked puzzled.
325 'We don't seem to have got any real facts yet, Mr Holmes. 326 You say that the prisoner, in the presence of three witnesses, practically confessed, by trying to commit suicide, that he had murdered his wife and her lover. 327 What other facts have you?'
328 'Have you arranged for a search?'
329 'There are three constables on their way.'
330 'Then you will soon get the clearest fact of all. 331 The bodies cannot be far away. 332 Try the cellars and the garden. 333 It should not take long to dig up the likely places. 334 This house is older than the water-pipes. 335 There must be a disused well somewhere. 336 Try your luck there.'
337 'But how did you know of it, and how was it done?'
338 'I'll show you first how it was done, and then I will give the explanation which is due to you, and even more to my long-suffering friend here, who has been invaluable throughout. 339 But, first, I would give you an insight into this man's mentality. 340 It is a very unusual one - so much so that I think his destination is more likely to be Broadmoor than the scaffold. 341 He has, to a high degree, the sort of mind which one associates with the medieval Italian nature rather than with the modern Briton. 342 He was a miserable miser who made his wife so wretched by his niggardly ways that she was a ready prey for any adventurer. 343 Such a one came upon the scene in the person of this chess-playing doctor. 344 Amberley excelled at chess - one mark, Watson, of a scheming mind. 345 Like all misers, he was a jealous man, and his jealousy became a frantic mania. 346 Rightly or wrongly, he suspected an intrigue. 347 He determined to have his revenge, and he planned it with diabolical cleverness. 348 Come here!'
349 Holmes led us along the passage with as much certainty as if he had lived in the house, and halted at the open door of the strong-room.
350 'Pooh! 351 What an awful smell of paint!' cried the Inspector.
352 'That was our first clue,' said Holmes. 353 'You can thank Dr Watson's observation for that, though he failed to draw the inference. 354 It set my foot upon the trail. 355 Why should this man at such a time be filling his house with strong odours? 356 Obviously, to cover some other smell which he wished to conceal - some guilty smell which would suggest suspicions. 357 Then came the idea of a room such as you see here with the iron door and shutter - a hermetically sealed room. 358 Put those two facts together, and whither do they lead? 359 I could only determine that by examining the house myself. 360 I was already certain that the case was serious, for I had examined the box-office chart at the Haymarket Theatre - another of Dr Watson's bull's-eyes - and ascertained that neither B thirty nor thirty-two of the upper circle had been occupied that night. 361 Therefore, Amberley had not been to the theatre, and his alibi fell to the ground. 362 He made a bad slip when he allowed my astute friend to notice the number of the seat taken for his wife. 363 The question now arose how I might be able to examine the house. 364 I sent an agent to the most impossible village I could think of, and summoned my man to it at such an hour that he could not possibly get back. 365 To prevent any miscarriage, Dr Watson accompanied him. 366 The good vicar's name I took, of course, out of my Crockford. 367 Do I make it all clear to you?'
368 'It is masterly,' said the Inspector, in an awed voice.
369 'There being no fear of interruption I proceeded to burgle the house. 370 Burglary has always been an alternative profession, had I cared to adopt it, and I have little doubt that I should have come to the front. 371 Observe what I found. 372 You see the gas-pipe along the skirting here. 373 Very good. 374 It rises in the angle of the wall, and there is a tap here in the corner. 375 The pipe runs out into the strong-room, as you can see, and ends in that plastered rose in the centre of the ceiling, where it is concealed by the ornamentation. 376 That end is wide open. 377 At any moment by turning the outside tap the room could be flooded with gas. 378 With door and shutter closed and the tap full on I would not give two minutes of conscious sensation to anyone shut up in that little chamber. 379 By what devilish device he decoyed them there I do not know, but once inside the door they were at his mercy.'
380 The Inspector examined the pipe with interest. 381 'One of our officers mentioned the smell of gas,' said he, 'but, of course, the window and door were open then, and the paint - or some of it - was already about. 382 He had begun the work of painting the day before, according to his story. 383 But what next, Mr Holmes?'
384 'Well, then came an incident which was rather unexpected to myself. 385 I was slipping through the pantry window in the early dawn when I felt a hand inside my collar, and a voice said: 386 "Now, you rascal, what are you doing in there?" 387 When I could twist my head round I looked into the tinted spectacles of my friend and rival, Mr Barker. 388 It was curious foregathering, and set us both smiling. 389 It seems that he had been engaged by Dr Ray Ernest's family to make some investigations, and had come to the same conclusion as to foul play. 390 He had watched the house for some days, and had spotted Dr Watson as one of the obviously suspicious characters who had called there. 391 He could hardly arrest Watson, but when he saw a man actually climbing out of the pantry window there came a limit to his restraint. 392 Of course, I told him how matters stood and we continued the case together.'
393 'Why him? 394 Why not us?'
395 'Because it was in my mind to put that little test which answered so admirably. 396 I fear you would not have gone so far.'
397 The Inspector smiled.
398 'Well, maybe not. 399 I understand that I have your word, Mr Holmes, that you step right out of the case now and that you turn all your results over to us.'
400 'Certainly, that is always my custom.'
401 'Well, in the name of the Force I thank you. 402 It seems a clear case, as you put it, and there can't be much difficulty over the bodies.'
403 'I'll show you a grim little bit of evidence,' said Holmes, and I am sure Amberley himself never observed it. 404 You'll get results, Inspector, by always putting yourself in the other fellow's place, and thinking what you would do yourself. 405 It takes some imagination, but it pays. 406 Now, we will suppose that you were shut up in this little room, had not two minutes to live, but wanted to get even with the fiend who was probably mocking at you from the other side of the door. 407 What would you do?'
408 'Write a message.'
409 'Exactly. 410 You would like to tell people how you died. 411 No use writing on paper. 412 That would be seen. 413 If you wrote on the wall some eye might rest upon it. 414 Now, look here! 415 Just above the skirting is scribbled with a purple indelible pencil: 416 "We we-" That's all.'
417 'What do you make of that?'
418 'Well, it's only a foot above the ground. 419 The poor devil was on the floor and dying when he wrote it. 420 He lost his senses before he could finish.'
421 'He was writing, "We were murdered."'
422 'That's how I read it. 423 If you find an indelible pencil on the body-'
424 'We'll look out for it, you may be sure. 425 But those securities? 426 Clearly there was no robbery at all. 427 And yet he did possess those bonds. 428 We verified that.'
429 'You may be sure he has them hidden in a safe place. 430 When the whole elopement had passed into history he would suddenly discover them, and announce that the guilty couple had relented and sent back the plunder or had dropped it on the way.'
431 'You certainly seem to have met every difficulty,' said the Inspector. 432 'Of course, he was bound to call us in, but why he should have gone to you I can't understand.'
433 'Pure swank!' Holmes answered. 434 'He felt so clever and so sure of himself that he imagined no one could touch him. 435 He could say to any suspicious neighbour, "Look at the steps I have taken. 436 I have consulted not only the police, but even Sherlock Holmes."'
437 The Inspector laughed.
438 'We must forgive you your "even", Mr Holmes,' said he, 'it's as workmanlike a job as I can remember.'
439 A couple of days later my friend tossed across to me a copy of the bi-weekly North Surrey Observer. 440 Under a series of flaming headlines, which began with 'The Haven Horror' and ended with 'Brilliant Police Investigation', there was a packed column of print which gave the first consecutive account of the affair. 441 The concluding paragraph is typical of the whole. 442 It ran thus:
443 The remarkable acumen by which Inspector MacKinnon deduced from the smell of paint that some other smell, that of gas, for example, might be concealed, the bold deduction that the strong-room might also be the death-chamber, and the subsequent inquiry which led to the discovery of the bodies in a disused well, cleverly concealed by a dog-kennel, should live in the history of crime as a standing example of the intelligence of our professional detectives.
444 'Well, well, MacKinnon is a good fellow,' said Holmes, with a tolerant smile. 445 'You can file it in our archives, Watson. 446 Some day the true story may be told.'

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