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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 Second Stain

 

1 I had intended 'The Adventure of the Abbey Grange' to be the last of those exploits of my friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes, which I should ever communicate to the public. 2 This resolution of mine was not due to any lack of material, since I have notes of many hundreds of cases to which I have never alluded, nor was it caused by any waning interest on the part of my readers in the singular personality and unique methods of this remarkable man. 3 The real reason lay in the reluctance which Mr Holmes has shown to the continued publication of his experiences. 4 So long as he was in actual professional practice the records of his successes were of some practical value to him; but since he has definitely retired from London and betaken himself to study and bee-farming on the Sussex Downs, notoriety has become hateful to him, and he has peremptorily requested that his wishes in this matter should be strictly observed. 5 It was only upon my representing to him that I had given a promise that The Adventure of the Second Stain' should be published when the time was ripe, and pointed out to him that it was only appropriate that this long series of episodes should culminate in the most important international case which he has ever been called upon to handle, that I at last succeeded in obtaining his consent that a carefully guarded account of the incident should at last be laid before the public. 6 If in telling the story I seem to be somewhat vague in certain details the public will readily understand that there is an excellent reason for my reticence.

7 It was, then, in a year, and even in a decade, that shall be nameless, that upon one Tuesday morning in autumn we found two visitors of European fame within the walls of our humble room in Baker Street. 8 The one, austere, high-nosed, eagle-eyed, and dominant, was none other than the illustrious Lord Bellinger, twice Premier of Britain. 9 The other, dark, clear-cut, and elegant, hardly yet of middle age, and endowed with every beauty of body and of mind, was the Right Honourable Trelawney Hope, Secretary for European Affairs, and the most rising statesman in the country. 10 They sat side by side upon our paper-littered settee, and it was easy to see from their worn and anxious faces that it was business of the most pressing importance which had brought them. 11 The Premier's thin, blue-veined hands were clasped tightly over the ivory head of his umbrella, and his gaunt, ascetic face looked gloomily from Holmes to me. 12 The European Secretary pulled nervously at his moustache and fidgeted with the seals of his watch-chain.
13 'When I discovered my loss, Mr Holmes, which was at eight o'clock this morning, I at once informed the Prime Minister. 14 It was at his suggestion that we have both come to you.'
15 'Have you informed the police?'
16 'No, sir,' said the Prime Minister, with the quick, decisive manner for which he was famous. 17 'We have not done so, nor is it possible that we should do so. 18 To inform the police must, in the long run, mean to inform the public. 19 This is what we particularly desire to avoid.'
20 'And why, sir?'
21 'Because the document in question is of such immense importance that its publication might very easily - I might almost say probably - lead to European complications of the utmost moment. 22 It is not too much to say that peace or war may hang upon the issue. 23 Unless its recovery can be attended with the utmost secrecy, then it may as well not be recovered at all, for all that is aimed at by those who have taken it is that its contents should be generally known.'
24 'I understand. 25 Now, Mr Trelawney Hope, I should be much obliged if you would tell me exactly the circumstances under which this document disappeared.'
26 'That can be done in a very few words, Mr Holmes. 27 The letter - for it was a letter from a foreign potentate - was received six days ago. 28 It was of such importance that I have never left it in my safe, but I have taken it across each evening to my house in Whitehall Terrace, and kept it in my bedroom in a locked dispatch-box. 29 It was there last night. 30 Of that I am certain. 31 I actually opened the box while I was dressing for dinner, and saw the document inside. 32 This morning it was gone. 33 The dispatch-box had stood beside the glass upon my dressing-table all night. 34 I am a light sleeper, and so is my wife. 35 We are both prepared to swear that no one could have entered the room during the night. 36 And yet I repeat that the paper is gone.'
37 'What time did you dine?'
38 'Half-past seven.'
39 'How long was it before you went to bed?'
40 'My wife had gone to the theatre. 41 I waited up for her. 42 It was half-past eleven before we went to our room.'
43 'Then for four hours the dispatch-box had lain unguarded?'
44 'No one is ever permitted to enter that room save the housemaid in the morning, and my valet, or my wife's maid, during the rest of the day. 45 They are both trusty servants who have been with us for some time. 46 Besides, neither of them could possibly have known that there was anything more valuable than the ordinary departmental papers in my dispatch-box.'
47 'Who did know of the existence of that letter?'
48 'No one in the house.'
49 'Surely your wife knew?'
50 'No, sir; I had said nothing to my wife until I missed the paper this morning.'
51 The Premier nodded approvingly.
52 'I have long known, sir, how high is your sense of public duty,' said he. 53 'I am convinced that in the case of a secret of this importance it would rise superior to the most intimate domestic ties.'
54 The European Secretary bowed.
55 'You do me no more than justice, sir. 56 Until this morning I have never breathed one word to my wife upon this matter.'
57 'Could she have guessed?'
58 'No, Mr Holmes, she could not have guessed - nor could anyone have guessed.'
59 'Have you lost any documents before?'
60 'No, sir.'
61 'Who is there in England who did know of the existence of this letter?'
62 'Each member of the Cabinet was informed of it yesterday; but the pledge of secrecy which attends every Cabinet meeting was increased by the solemn warning which was given by the Prime Minister. 63 Good God, to think that within a few hours I should myself have lost it!' 64 His handsome face was distorted with a spasm of despair, and his hands tore at his hair. 65 For a moment we caught a glimpse of the natural man - impulsive, ardent, keenly sensitive. 66 The next the aristocratic mask was replaced, and the gentle voice had returned. 67 'Besides the members of the Cabinet there are two, or possibly three, departmental officials who know of the letter. 68 No one else in England, Mr Holmes, I assure you.'
69 'But abroad?'
70 'I believe that no one abroad has seen it save the man who wrote it. 71 I am well convinced that his Ministers - that the usual official channels have not been employed.'
72 Holmes considered for some little time.
73 'Now, sir, I must ask you more particularly what this document is, and why its disappearance should have such momentous consequences?'
74 The two statesmen exchanged a quick glance, and the Premier's shaggy eyebrows gathered in a frown.
75 'Mr Holmes, the envelope is a long, thin one of pale blue colour. 76 There is a seal of red wax stamped with a crouching lion. 77 It is addressed in large, bold handwriting to-'
78 'I fear,' said Holmes, 'that, interesting and indeed essential as these details are, my inquiries must go more to the root of things. 79 What was the letter?'
80 'That is a State secret of the utmost importance, and I fear that I cannot tell you, nor do I see that it is necessary.
81 If by the aid of the powers which you are said to possess you can find such an envelope as I describe with its enclosure, you will have deserved well of your country, and earned any reward which it lies in our power to bestow.'
82 Sherlock Holmes rose with a smile.
83 'You are two of the most busy men in the country,' said he, 'and in my own small way I have also a good many calls upon me. 84 I regret exceedingly that I cannot help you in this matter, and any continuation of this interview would be a waste of time.'
85 The Premier sprang to his feet with that quick, fierce gleam of his deep-set eyes before which a Cabinet had cowered. 86 'I am not accustomed' he began, but mastered his anger and resumed his seat. 87 For a minute or more we all sat in silence. 88 Then the old statesman shrugged his shoulders.
89 'We must accept your terms, Mr Holmes. 90 No doubt you are right, and it is unreasonable for us to expect you to act unless we give you our entire confidence.'
91 'I agree with you, sir,' said the younger statesman.
92 'Then I will tell you, relying entirely upon your honour and that of your colleague, Dr Watson. 93 I may appeal to your patriotism also, for I could not imagine a greater misfortune for the country than that this affair should come out.'
94 'You may safely trust us.'
95 'The letter, then, is from a certain foreign potentate who has been ruffled by some recent Colonial developments of this country. 96 It has been written hurriedly and upon his own responsibility entirely. 97 Inquiries have shown that his Ministers know nothing of the matter. 98 At the same time it is couched in so unfortunate a manner, and certain phrases in it are of so provocative a character, that its publication would undoubtedly lead to a most dangerous state of feeling in this country. 99 There would be such a ferment, sir, that I do not hesitate to say that within a week of the publication of that letter this country would be involved in a great war.'
100 Holmes wrote a name upon a slip of paper and handed it to the Premier.
101 'Exactly. 102 It was he. 103 And it is this letter - this letter which may well mean the expenditure of a thousand millions and the lives of a hundred thousand men which has become lost in this unaccountable fashion.'
104 'Have you informed the sender?'
105 'Yes, sir, a cipher telegram has been dispatched.
106 'Perhaps he desires the publication of the letter.'
107 'No, sir, we have strong reason to believe that he already understands that he has acted in an indiscreet and hotheaded manner. 108 It would be a greater blow to him and to his country than to us if this letter were to come out.'
109 'If this is so, whose interest is it that the letter should come out? 110 Why should anyone desire to steal it or to publish it?'
111 'There, Mr Holmes, you take me into regions of high international politics. 112 But if you consider the European situation you will have no difficulty in perceiving the motive. 113 The whole of Europe is an armed camp. 114 There is a double league which makes a fair balance of military power. 115 Great Britain holds the scales. 116 If Britain were driven into war with one confederacy, it would assure the supremacy of the other confederacy, whether they joined in the war or not. 117 Do you follow?'
118 'Very clearly. 119 It is then the interest of the enemies of this potentate to secure and publish this letter, so as to make a breach between his country and ours?'
120 'Yes, sir.'
121 'And to whom would this document be sent if it fell into the hands of an enemy?'
122 'To any of the great Chancelleries of Europe. 123 It is probably speeding on its way thither at the present instant as fast as steam can take it.'
124 Mr Trelawney Hope dropped his head on his chest and groaned aloud. 125 The Premier placed his hand kindly upon his shoulder.
126 'It is your misfortune, my dear fellow. 127 No one can blame you. 128 There is no precaution which you have neglected. 129 Now, Mr Holmes, you are in full possession of the facts. 130 What course do you recommend?'
131 Holmes shook his head mournfully.
132 'You think, sir, that unless this document is recovered there will be war?'
133 'I think it is very probable.'
134 'Then, sir, prepare for war.'
135 'That is a hard saying, Mr Holmes.'
136 'Consider the facts, sir. 137 It is inconceivable that it was taken after eleven-thirty at night, since I understand that Mr Hope and his wife were both in the room from that hour until the loss was found out. 138 It was taken, then, yesterday evening between seven-thirty and eleven-thirty, probably near the earlier hour, since whoever took it evidently knew that it was there, and would naturally secure it as early as possible. 139 Now, sir, if a document of this importance were taken at that hour, where can it be now? 140 No one has any reason to retain it. 141 It has been passed rapidly on to those who need it. 142 What chance have we now to overtake or even to trace it? 143 It is beyond our reach.'
144 The Prime Minister rose from the settee.
145 'What you say is perfectly logical, Mr Holmes. 146 I feel that the matter is indeed out of our hands.'
147 'Let us presume, for argument's sake, that the document was taken by the maid or by the valet-'
148 'They are both old tried servants.'
149 'I understand you to say that your room is on the second floor, that there is no entrance from without, and that from within no one could go up unobserved. 150 It must, then, be somebody in the house who has taken it. 151 To whom would the thief take it? 152 To one of several international spies and secret agents, whose names are tolerably familiar to me. 153 There are three who may be said to be the heads of their profession. 154 I will begin my research by going round and finding if each of them is at his post. 155 If one is missing - especially if he had disappeared since last night - we will have some indication as to where the document has gone.'
156 'Why should he be missing?' asked the European Secretary. 157 'He would take the letter to an Embassy in London, as likely as not.'
158 'I fancy not. 159 These agents work independently, and their relations with the Embassies are often strained.'
160 The Prime Minister nodded his acquiescence.
161 'I believe you are right, Mr Holmes. 162 He would take so valuable a prize to headquarters with his own hands. 163 I think that your course of action is an excellent one. 164 Meanwhile, Hope, we cannot neglect our other duties on account of this one misfortune. 165 Should there be any fresh developments during the day we shall communicate with you, and you will no doubt let us know the results of your own inquiries.'
166 The two statesmen bowed and walked gravely from the room.
167 When our illustrious visitors had departed, Holmes lit his pipe in silence, and sat for some time lost in the deepest thought. 168 I had opened the morning paper and was immersed in a sensational crime which had occurred in London the night before, when my friend gave an exclamation, sprang to his feet, and laid his pipe down upon the mantel-piece.
169 'Yes,' said he, 'there is no better way of approaching it. 170 The situation is desperate, but not hopeless. 171 Even now, if we could be sure which of them has taken it, it is just possible that it has not yet passed out of his hands. 172 After all, it is a question of money with these fellows, and I have the British Treasury behind me. 173 If it's on the market I'll buy it - if it means another penny on the income tax. 174 It is conceivable that the fellow might hold it back to see what bids come from this side before he tries his luck on the other. 175 There are only those three capable of playing so bold a game; there are Oberstein, La Rothiere, and Eduardo Lucas. 176 I will see each of them.'
177 I glanced at my morning paper.
178 'Is that Eduardo Lucas of Godolphin Street?'
179 'Yes.'
180 'You will not see him.'
181 'Why not?'
182 'He was murdered in his house last night.'
183 My friend has so often astonished me in the course of our adventures that it was with a sense of exultation that I realized how completely I had astonished him. 184 He stared in amazement, and then snatched the paper from my hands. 185 This was the paragraph which I had been engaged in reading when he rose from his chair:

186 MURDER IN WESTMINSTER

187 A crime of a mysterious character was committed last night at 16, Godolphin Street, one of the old-fashioned and secluded rows of eighteenth-century houses which lie between the river and the Abbey, almost in the shadow of the great tower of the Houses of Parliament. 188 This small but select mansion has been inhabited for some years by Mr Eduardo Lucas, well known in society circles both on account of his charming personality and because he has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the best amateur tenors in the country. 189 Mr Lucas is an unmarried man, thirty-four years of age, and his establishment consists of Mrs Pringle, an elderly housekeeper, and of Mitton, his valet. 190 The former retires early and sleeps at the top of the house. 191 The valet was out for the evening, visiting a friend at Hammersmith. 192 From ten o'clock onwards Mr Lucas had the house to himself. 193 What occurred during that time has not yet transpired, but at a quarter to twelve Police-constable Barrett, passing along Godolphin Street, observed that the door of No. 16 was ajar. 194 He knocked, but received no answer. 195 Perceiving a light in the front room he advanced into the house and again knocked, but without reply. 196 He then pushed open the door and entered. 197 The room was in a state of wild disorder, the furniture being all swept to one side, and one chair lying on its back in the centre. 198 Beside this chair, and still grasping one of its legs, lay the unfortunate tenant of the house. 199 He had been stabbed to the heart, and must have died instantly. 200 The knife with which the crime had been committed was a curved Indian dagger, plucked down from a trophy of Oriental arms which adorned one of the walls. 201 Robbery does not appear to have been the motive of the crime, for there had been no attempt to remove the valuable contents of the room. 202 Mr Eduardo Lucas was so well known and popular that his violent and mysterious fate will arouse painful interest and intense sympathy in a widespread circle of friends.

203 'Well, Watson, what do you make of this?' asked Holmes, after a long pause.
204 'It is an amazing coincidence.'
205 'A coincidence! 206 Here is one of three men whom we had named as possible actors in this drama, and he meets a violent death during the very hours when we know that that drama was being enacted. 207 The odds are enormous against its being coincidence. 208 No figures could express them. 209 No, my dear Watson, the two events are connected - must be connected. 210 It is for us to find the connection.'
211 'But now the official police must know all.'
212 'Not at all. 213 They know all they see at Godolphin Street. 214 They know - and shall know - nothing of Whitehall Terrace. 215 Only we know of both events, and can trace the relation between them. 216 There is one obvious point which would, in any case, have turned my suspicions against Lucas. 217 Godolphin Street, Westminster, is only a few minutes' walk from Whitehall Terrace. 218 The other secret agents whom I have named live in the extreme West End. 219 It was easier, therefore, for Lucas than for the others to establish a connection or receive a message from the European Secretary's household - a small thing, and yet where events are compressed into a few hours it may prove essential. 220 Hullo! what have we here?'
221 Mrs Hudson had appeared with a lady's card upon her salver. 222 Holmes glanced at it, raised his eyebrows, and handed it over to me.
223 'Ask Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope if she will be kind enough to step up,' said he.
224 A moment later our modest apartment, already so distinguished that morning, was further honoured by the entrance of the most lovely woman in London. 225 I had often heard of the beauty of the youngest daughter of the Duke of Belminster, but no description of it, and no contemplation of colourless photographs, had prepared me for the subtle, delicate charm and the beautiful colouring of that exquisite head. 226 And yet as we saw it that autumn morning it was not its beauty which would be the first thing to impress the observer. 227 The cheek was lovely, but it was paled with emotion; the eyes were bright, but it was the brightness of fever; the sensitive mouth was tight and drawn in an effort after self-command. 228 Terror - not beauty - was what sprang first to the eye as our fair visitor stood framed for an instant in the open door.
229 'Has my husband been here, Mr Holmes?'
230 'Yes, madam, he has been here.'
231 'Mr Holmes, I implore you not to tell him that I came here.' 232 Holmes bowed coldly and motioned the lady to a chair.
233 'Your ladyship places me in a very delicate position. 234 I beg that you will sit down and tell me what you desire; but I fear that I cannot make any unconditional promise.'
235 She swept across the room and seated herself with her back to the window. 236 It was a queenly presence - tall, graceful, and intensely womanly.
237 'Mr Holmes,' she said - and her white-gloved hands clasped and unclasped as she spoke - 'I will speak frankly to you in the hope that it may induce you to speak frankly in return. 238 There is complete confidence between my husband and me on all matters save one. 239 That one is politics. 240 On this his lips are sealed. 241 He tells me nothing. 242 Now, I am aware that there was a most deplorable occurrence in our house last night. 243 I know that a paper has disappeared. 244 But because the matter is political my husband refuses to take me into his complete confidence. 245 Now it is essential - essential, I say - that I should thoroughly understand it. 246 You are the only other person, save these politicians, who knows the true facts. 247 I beg you, then, Mr Holmes, to tell me exactly what has happened and what it will lead to. 248 Tell me all, Mr Holmes. 249 Let no regard for your client's interests keep you silent, for I assure you that his interests, if he would only see it, would be best served by taking me into his complete confidence. 250 What was this paper that was stolen?'
251 'Madam, what you ask me is really impossible.'
252 She groaned and sank her face in her hands.
253 'You must see that this is so, madam. 254 If your husband thinks fit to keep you in the dark over this matter, is it for me, who have only learned the true facts under the pledge of professional secrecy, to tell what he has withheld? 255 It is not fair to ask it. 256 It is him whom you must ask.'
257 'I have asked him. 258 I come to you as a last resource. 259 But without your telling me anything definite, Mr Holmes, you may do a great service if you would enlighten me on one point.'
260 'What is it, madam?'
261 'Is my husband's political career likely to suffer through this incident?'
262 'Well, madam, unless it is set right it may certainly have a very unfortunate effect.'
263 'Ah!' 264 She drew in her breath sharply as one whose doubts are resolved.
265 'One more question, Mr Holmes. 266 From an expression which my husband dropped in the first shock of this disaster I understood that terrible public consequences might arise from the loss of this document.'
267 'If he said so, I certainly cannot deny it.'
268 'Of what nature are they?'
269 'Nay, madam, there again you ask me more than I can possibly answer.'
270 'Then I will take up no more of your time. 271 I cannot blame you, Mr Holmes, for having refused to speak more freely, and you on your side will not, I am sure, think the worse of me because I desire, even against his will, to share my husband's anxieties. 272 Once more I beg that you will say nothing of my visit.' 273 She looked back at us from the door, and I had a last impression of that beautiful, haunted face, the startled eyes, and the drawn mouth. 274 Then she was gone.
275 'Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department: said Holmes, with a smile, when the dwindling froufrou of skirts had ended in the slam of the door. 276 'What was the fair lady's game? 277 What did she really want?'
278 'Surely her own statement is clear and her anxiety very natural.'
279 'Hum! 280 Think of her appearance, Watson, her manner, her suppressed excitement, her restlessness, her tenacity in asking questions. 281 Remember that she comes of a caste who do not lightly show emotion.'
282 'She was certainly much moved.'
283 'Remember also the curious earnestness with which she assured us that it was best for her husband that she should know all. 284 What did she mean by that? 285 And you must have observed, Watson, how she manoeuvred to have the light at her back. 286 She did not wish us to read her expression.'
287 'Yes; she chose the one chair in the room.'
288 'And yet the motives of women are so inscrutable. 289 You remember the woman at Margate whom I suspected for the same reason. 290 No powder on her nose - that proved to be the correct solution. 291 How can you build on such a quicksand? 292 Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hair-pin or a curling-tongs. 293 Good morning, Watson.'
294 'You are off?'
295 'Yes; I will while away the morning at Godolphin Street with our friends of the regular establishment. 296 With Eduardo Lucas lies the solution of our problem, though I must admit that I have not an inkling as to what form it may take. 297 It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. 298 Do you stay on guard, my good Watson, and receive any fresh visitors. 299 I'll join you at lunch if I am able.'

300 All that day and the next and the next Holmes was in a mood which his friends would call taciturn, and others morose. 301 He ran out and ran in, smoked incessantly, played snatches on his violin, sank into reveries, devoured sandwiches at irregular hours, and hardly answered the casual questions which I put to him. 302 It was evident to me that things were not going well with him or his quest. 303 He would say nothing of the case, and it was from the papers that I learned the particulars of the inquest and the arrest with the subsequent release of John Mitton, the valet of the deceased. 304 The corner's jury brought in the obvious 'Wilful murder', but the parties remained as unknown as ever. 305 No motive was suggested. 306 The room was full of articles of value but none had been taken. 307 The dead man's papers had not been tampered with. 308 They were carefully examined, and showed that he was a keen student of international politics, an indefatigable gossip, a remarkable linguist, and an untiring letter-writer. 309 He had been on intimate terms with the leading politicians of several countries. 310 But nothing sensational was discovered among the documents which filled his drawers. 311 As to his relations with women, they appeared to have been promiscuous but superficial. 312 He had many acquaintances among them, but few friends, and no one whom he loved. 313 His habits were regular, his conduct inoffensive. 314 His death was an absolute mystery, and likely to remain so.
315 As to the arrest of John Mitton, the valet, it was a counsel of despair as an alternative to absolute inaction. 316 But no case could be sustained against him. 317 He had visited friends in Hammersmith that night. 318 The alibi was complete. 319 It is true that he started home at an hour which should have brought him to Westminster before the time when the crime was discovered, but his own explanation that he had walked part of the way seemed probable enough in view of the fineness of the night. 320 He had actually arrived at twelve o'clock, and appeared to be overwhelmed by the unexpected tragedy. 321 He had always been on good terms with his master. 322 Several of the dead man's possessions - notably a small case of razors - had been found in the valet's boxes, but he explained that they had been presents from the deceased, and the housekeeper was able to corroborate the story. 323 Mitton had been in Lucas's employment for three years. 324 It was noticeable that Lucas did not take Mitton on the Continent with him. 325 Sometimes he visited Paris for three months on end, but Mitton was left in charge of the Godolphin Street house. 326 As to the housekeeper, she had heard nothing on the night of the crime. 327 If her master had a visitor, he had himself admitted him.
328 So for three mornings the mystery remained, so far as I could follow it in the papers. 329 If Holmes knew more he kept his own counsel, but, as he told me that Inspector Lestrade had taken him into his confidence in the case, I knew that he was in close touch with every development. 330 Upon the fourth day there appeared a long telegram from Paris which seemed to solve the whole question:

331 A discovery has just been made by the Parisian police [said the Daily Telegraph] which raises the veil which hung round the tragic fate of Mr Eduardo Lucas, who met his death by violence last Monday night at Godolphin Street, Westminster. 332 Our readers will remember that the deceased gentleman was found stabbed in his room, and that some suspicion attached to his valet, but that the case broke down on an alibi. 333 Yesterday a lady, who has been known as Mme Henri Fournaye, occupying a small villa in the Rue Austerlitz, was reported to the authorities by her servants as being insane. 334 An examination showed that she had indeed developed mania of a dangerous and permanent form. 335 On inquiry the police have discovered that Mme Henri Fournaye only returned from a journey to London on Tuesday last, and there is evidence to connect her with the crime at Westminster. 336 A comparison of photographs has proved conclusively that M. 337 Henri Fournaye and Eduardo Lucas were really one and the same person, and that the deceased had for some reason lived a double life in London and Paris. 338 Mme Fournaye, who is of Creole origin, is of an extremely excitable nature, and has suffered in the past from attacks of jealousy which have amounted to frenzy. 339 It is conjectured that it was in one of these that she committed the terrible crime which has caused such a sensation in London. 340 Her movements upon the Monday night have not yet been traced, but it is undoubted that a woman answering to her description attracted much attention at Charing Cross Station on Tuesday morning by the wildness of her appearance and the violence of her gestures. 341 It is probable, therefore, that the crime was either committed when insane, or that its immediate effect was to drive the unhappy woman out of her mind. 342 At present she is unable to give any coherent account of the past, and the doctors hold out no hopes of the re-establishment of her reason. 343 There is evidence that a woman, who might have been Mme Fournaye, was seen for some hours on Monday night watching the house in Godolphin Street.

344 'What do you think of that, Holmes?' 345 I had read the account aloud to him, while he finished his breakfast.
346 'My dear Watson,' said he, as he rose from the table and paced up and down the room, 'you are most long-suffering, but if I have told you nothing in the last three days it is because there is nothing to tell. 347 Even now this report from Paris does not help us much.'
348 'Surely it is final as regards the man's death.'
349 'The man's death is a mere incident - a trivial episode - in comparison with our real task, which is to trace this document and save a European catastrophe. 350 Only one important thing has happened in the last three days, and that is that nothing has happened. 351 I get reports almost hourly from the Government, and it is certain that nowhere in Europe is there any sign of trouble. 352 Now, if this letter were loose - no, it can't be loose - but if it isn't loose, where can it be? 353 Who has it? 354 Why is it held back? 355 That's the question that beats in my brain like a hammer. 356 Was it, indeed, a coincidence that Lucas should meet his death on the night when the letter disappeared? 357 Did the letter ever reach him? 358 If so, why is it not among his papers? 359 Did this mad wife of his carry it off with her? 360 If so, is it in her house in Paris? 361 How could I search for it without the French police having their suspicions aroused? 362 It is a case, my dear Watson, where the law is as dangerous to us as the criminals are. 363 Every man's hand is against us, and yet the interests at stake are colossal. 364 Should I bring it to a successful conclusion, it will certainly represent the crowning glory of my career. 365 Ah, here is my latest from the front!' 366 He glanced hurriedly at the note which had been handed in. 367 'Hullo! 368 Lestrade seems to have observed something of interest. 369 Put on your hat, Watson, and we will stroll down together to Westminster.'
370 It was my first visit to the scene of the crime - a high, dingy, narrow-chested house, prim, formal, and solid, like the century which gave it birth. 371 Lestrade's bulldog features gazed out at us from the front window, and he greeted us warmly when a big constable had opened the door and let us in. 372 The room into which we were shown was that in which the crime had been committed, but no trace of it now remained, save an ugly, irregular stain upon the carpet.
373 This carpet was a small square drugget in the centre of the room, surrounded by a broad expanse of beautiful, old- fashioned, wood flooring in square blocks, highly polished. 374 Over the fireplace was a magnificent trophy of weapons, one of which had been used on that tragic night. 375 In the window was a sumptuous writing-desk, and every detail of the apartment, the pictures, the rugs, and the hangings, all pointed to a taste which was luxurious and the verge of effeminacy.
376 'Seen the Paris news?' asked Lestrade.
377 Holmes nodded.
378 'Our French friends seem to have touched the spot this time. 379 No doubt it's just as they say. 380 She knocked at the door - surprise visit, I guess, for he kept his life in watertight compartments. 381 He let her in - couldn't keep her in the street. 382 She told him how she had traced him, reproached him, one thing led to another, and then with that dagger so handy the end soon came. 383 It wasn't all done in an instant, though, for these chairs were all swept over yonder, and he had one in his hand as if he had tried to hold her off with it. 384 We've got it all as clear as if we had seen it.'
385 Holmes raised his eyebrows.
386 'And yet you have sent for me?'
387 'Ash, yes, that's another matter - a mere trifle, but the sort of thing you take an interest in - queer, you know, and what you might call freakish. 388 It has nothing to do with the main fact - can't have, on the face of it.'
389 'What is it, then?'
390 'Well, you know after a crime of this sort we are very careful to keep things in their position. 391 Nothing has been moved. 392 Officer in charge here day and night. 393 This morning, as the man was buried and the investigation over - so far as this room is concerned - we thought we could tidy up a bit. 394 This carpet. 395 You see, it is not fastened down; only just laid there. 396 We had occasion to raise it. 397 We found-'
398 '"Yes? 399 You found-'
400 Holmes's face grew tense with anxiety.
401 'Well, I'm sure you would never guess in a hundred years what we did find. 402 You see that stain on the carpet? 403 Well, a great deal must have soaked through, must it not?'
404 'Undoubtedly it must.'
405 'Well, you will be surprised to hear that there is no stain on the white woodwork to correspond.'
406 'No stain! 407 But there must-'
408 'Yes; so you would say. 409 But the fact remains that there isn't.'
410 He took the corner of the carpet in his hand and, turning it over, he showed that it was indeed as he said.
411 'But the underside is as stained as the upper. 412 It must have left a mark.'
413 Lestrade chuckled with delight at having puzzled the famous expert.
414 'Now I'll show you the explanation. 415 There is a second stain, but it does not correspond with the other. 416 See for yourself.' 417 As he spoke he turned over another portion of the carpet, and there, sure enough, was a great crimson spill upon the square white facing of the old-fashioned floor. 418 'What do you make of that, Mr Holmes?'
419 'Why, it is simple enough. 420 The two stains did correspond, but the carpet has been turned round. 421 As it was square and unfastened, it was easily done.'
422 The official police don't need you, Mr Holmes, to tell them that the carpet must have been turned round. 423 That's clear enough, for the stains lie above each other - if you lay it over this way. 424 But what I want to know is, who shifted the carpet, and why?'
425 I could see from Holmes's rigid face that he was vibrating with inward excitement.
426 'Look here, Lestrade!' said he. 427 'Has that constable in the passage been in charge of the place all the time?'
428 'Yes, he has.'
429 'Well, take my advice. 430 Examine him carefully. 431 Don't do it before us. 432 We'll wait here. 433 You take him into the back room. 434 You'll be more likely to get a confession out of him alone. 435 Ask him how he dared to admit people and leave them alone in this room. 436 Don't ask him if he has done it. 437 Take it for granted. 438 Tell him you know someone has been here. 439 Press him. 440 Tell him that a full confession is his only chance for forgiveness. 441 Do exactly what I tell you!'
442 'By George, if he knows I'll have it out of him!' cried Lestrade. 443 He darted into the hall, and a few moments later his bullying voice sounded from the back room.
444 'Now, Watson, now!' cried Holmes, with frenzied eagerness. 445 All the demoniacal force of the man masked behind that listless manner burst out in a paroxysm of energy. 446 He tore the drugget from the floor, and in an instant was down on his hands and knees clawing at each of the squares of wood beneath it. 447 One turned sideways as he dug his nails into the edge of it. 448 It hinged back like the lid of a box. 449 A small black cavity opened beneath it. 450 Holmes plunged his eager hand into it, and drew it out with a bitter snarl of anger and disappointment. 451 It was empty.
452 'Quick, Watson, quick! 453 Get it back again!' 454 The wooden lid was replaced, and the drugget had only just been drawn straight, when Lestrade's voice was heard in the passage. 455 He found Holmes leaning languidly against the mantelpiece, resigned and patient, endeavouring to conceal his irrepressible yawns.
456 'Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr Holmes, I can see that you are bored to death with the whole affair. 457 Well, he has confessed all right. 458 Come in here, MacPherson. 459 Let these gentlemen hear of your most inexcusable conduct.'
460 The big constable, very hot and penitent, sidled into the room.
461 'I meant no harm, sir, I'm sure. 462 The young woman came to the door last evening - mistook the house, she did. 463 And then we got talking. 464 It's lonesome, when you're on duty here all day.'
465 'Well, what happened then?'
466 'She wanted to see where the crime was done - had read about it in the papers, she said. 467 She was a very respectable, well-spoken young woman, sir, and I saw no harm in letting her have a peep. 468 When she saw that mark on the carpet, down she dropped on the floor, and lay as if she were dead. 469 I ran back and got some water, but I could not bring her to. 470 Then I went round the corner to the Ivy Plant for some brandy, and by the time I had brought it back the young woman had recovered and was off - ashamed of herself, I dare say, and dared not face me.'
471 'How about moving that drugget?'
472 'Well, sir, it was a bit rumpled, certainly when I came back. 473 You see, she fell on it, and it lies on a polished floor with nothing to keep it in place. 474 I straightened it out afterwards.'
475 'It's a lesson to you that you can't deceive me, Constable MacPherson,' said Lestrade, with dignity. 476 'No doubt you thought that your breach of duty could never be discovered, and yet a mere glance at that drugget was enough to convince me that someone had been admitted to the room. 477 It's lucky for you, my man, that nothing is missing, or you would find yourself in Queer Street. 478 I'm sorry to have to call you down over such a petty business, Mr Holmes, but I thought the point of the second stain not corresponding with the first would interest you.'
479 'Certainly it was most interesting. 480 Has this woman only been here once, constable?'
481 'Yes, sir, only once.'
482 'Who was she?'
483 'Don't know the name, sir. 484 Was answering an advertisement about typewriting, and came to the wrong number very pleasant, genteel young woman, sir.'
485 'Tall? 486 Handsome?'
487 'Yes, sir; she was a well-grown young woman. 488 I suppose you might say she was handsome. 489 Perhaps some would say she was very handsome. 490 "Oh, officer, do let me have a peep!" says she. 491 She had pretty, coaxing ways, as you might say, and I thought there was no harm in letting her just put her head through the door.'
492 'How was she dressed?'
493 'Quiet, sir - a long mantle down to her feet.'
494 'What time was it?'
495 'It was just growing dusk at the time. 496 They were fighting the lamps as I came back with the brandy.'
497 'Very good,' said Holmes. 498 'Come, Watson, I think that we have more important work elsewhere.'
499 As we left the house Lestrade remained in the front room, while the repentant constable opened the door to let us out. 500 Holmes turned on the step and held up something in his hand. 501 The constable stared intently.
502 'Good Lord, sir!' he cried, with amazement on his face. 503 Holmes put his finger on his lips, replaced his hand in his breast-pocket, and burst out laughing as we turned down the street. 504 'Excellent!' said he. 505 'Come, friend Watson, the curtain rings up for the last act. 506 You will be relieved to hear that there will be no war, that the Right Honourable Trelawney Hope will suffer no set-back in his brilliant career, that the indiscreet Sovereign will receive no punishment for his indiscretion, that the Prime Minister will have no European complication to deal with, and that with a little tact and management upon our part nobody will be a penny the worse for what might have been a very ugly accident.'
507 My mind filled with admiration for this extraordinary man.
508 'You have solved it!' I cried.
509 'Hardly that, Watson. 510 There are some points which are as dark as ever. 511 But we have so much that it will be our own fault if we cannot get the rest. 512 We will go straight to Whitehall Terrace and bring the matter to a head.'
513 When we arrived at the residence of the European Secretary it was for Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope that Sherlock Holmes inquired. 514 We were shown into the morning-room.
515 'Mr Holmes!' said the lady, and her face was pink with indignation, 'this is surely most unfair and ungenerous upon your part. 516 I desired, as I have explained, to keep my visit to you a secret, lest my husband should think that I was intruding into his affairs. 517 And yet you compromise me by coming here, and so showing that there are business relations between us.'
518 'Unfortunately, madam, I had no possible alternative. 519 I have been commissioned to recover this immensely important paper. 520 I must therefore ask you, madam, to be kind enough to place it in my hands.'
521 The lady sprang to her feet, with the colour all dashed in an instant from her beautiful face. 522 Her eyes glazed - she tottered I thought that she would faint. 523 Then with a grand effort she rallied from the shock, and a supreme astonishment and indignation chased every other expression from her features.
524 'You - you insult me, Mr Holmes.'
525 'Come, come, madam, it is useless. 526 Give up the letter.' 527 She darted to the bell.
528 'The butler shall show you out.'
529 'Do not ring, Lady Hilda. 530 If you do, then all my earnest efforts to avoid a scandal will be frustrated. 531 Give up the letter, and all will be set right. 532 If you will work with me, I can arrange everything. 533 If you work against me, I must expose you.'
534 She stood grandly defiant, a queenly figure, her eyes fixed upon his as if she would read his very soul. 535 Her hand was on the bell, but she had forborne to ring it.
536 'You are trying to frighten me. 537 It is not a very manly thing, Mr Holmes, to come here and browbeat a woman. 538 You say that you know something. 539 What is it that you know?'
540 'Pray sit down, madam. 541 You will hurt yourself there if you fall. 542 I will not speak until you sit down. 543 Thank you.'
544 'I give you five minutes, Mr Holmes.'
545 'One is enough, Lady Hilda. 546 I know of your visit to Eduardo Lucas, and of your giving him this document, of your ingenious return to the room last night, and of the manner in which you took the letter from the hiding-place under the carpet.'
547 She stared at him with an ashen face, and gulped twice before she could speak.
548 'You are mad, Mr Holmes - you are mad!' she cried at last.
549 He drew a small piece of cardboard from his pocket. 550 It was the face of a woman cut out of a portrait.
551 'I have carried this because I thought it might be useful,' said he. 552 'The policeman has recognized it.'
553 She gave a gasp, and her head dropped back in her chair.
554 'Come, Lady Hilda. 555 You have the letter. 556 The matter may still be adjusted. 557 I have no desire to bring trouble to you. 558 My duty ends when I have returned the lost letter to your husband. 559 Take my advice, and be frank with me; it is your only chance.'
560 Her courage was admirable. 561 Even now she would not own defeat.
562 'I tell you again, Mr Holmes, that you are under some absurd illusion.'
563 Holmes rose from his chair.
564 'I am sorry for you, Lady Hilda. 565 I have done my best for you; I can see that it is all in vain.'
566 He rang the bell. 567 The butler entered.
568 'Is Mr Trelawney Hope at home?'
569 'He will be home, sir, at a quarter to one.'
570 Holmes glanced at his watch.
571 'Still a quarter of an hour,' said he. 572 'Very good, I shall wait.'
573 The butler had hardly closed the door behind him when Lady Hilda was down on her knees at Holmes's feet, her hands outstretched, her beautiful face upturned and wet with her tears.
574 'Oh, spare me, Mr Holmes! 575 Spare me!' she pleaded, in a frenzy of supplication. 576 'For God's sake don't tell him! 577 I love him so! 578 I would not bring one shadow on his life, and this I know would break his noble heart.'
579 Holmes raised the lady. 580 'I thank God, madam, that you have come to your senses even at this last moment! 581 There is not an instant to lose. 582 Where is the letter?'
583 She darted across to a writing-desk, unlocked it, and drew out a long blue envelope.
584 'Here it is, Mr Holmes. 585 Would to Heaven I had never seen it!'
586 'How can we return it?' Holmes muttered. 587 'Quick, quick, we must think of some way! 588 Where is the dispatch-box?'
589 'Still in his bedroom.'
590 'What a stroke of luck! 591 Quick, madam, bring it here.'
592 A moment later she had appeared with a red flat box in her hand.
593 'How did you open it before? 594 You have a duplicate key? 595 Yes, of course you have. 596 Open it!'
597 From out of her bosom Lady Hilda had drawn a small key. 598 The box flew open. 599 It was stuffed with papers. 600 Holmes thrust the blue envelope deep down into the heart of them, between the leaves of some other document. 601 The box was shut, locked, and returned to his bedroom.
602 'Now we are ready for him,' said Holmes; 'we have still ten minutes. 603 I am going far to screen you, Lady Hilda. 604 In return you will spend the time in telling me frankly the real meaning of this extraordinary affair.'
605 'Mr Holmes, I will tell you everything,' cried the lady. 606 'Oh, Mr Holmes, I would cut off my right hand before I gave him a moment of sorrow! 607 There is no woman in all London who loves her husband as I do, and yet if he knew how I have acted - how I have been compelled to act - he would never forgive me. 608 For his own honour stands so high that he could not forget or pardon a lapse in another. 609 Help me, Mr Holmes! 610 My happiness, his happiness, our very lives are at stake!'
611 'Quick, madam, the time grows short!'
612 'It was a letter of mine, Mr Holmes, an indiscreet letter written before my marriage - a foolish letter, a letter of an impulsive, loving girl. 613 I meant no harm, and yet he would have thought it criminal. 614 Had he read that letter his confidence would have been for ever destroyed. 615 It is years since I wrote it. 616 I had thought that the whole matter was forgotten. 617 Then at last I heard from this man, Lucas, that it had passed into his hands, and that he would lay it before my husband. 618 I implored his mercy. 619 He said that he would return my letter if I would return him a certain document which he described in my husband's dispatch-box. 620 He had some spy in the office who had told him of its existence. 621 He assured me that no harm could come to my husband. 622 Put yourself in my position, Mr Holmes! 623 What was I to do?'
624 'Take your husband into your confidence.'
625 'I could not, Mr Holmes, I could not! 626 On the one side seemed certain ruin; on the other, terrible as it seemed to take my husband's papers, still in a matter of politics I could not understand the consequences, while in a matter of love and trust they were only too clear to me. 627 I did it, Mr Holmes! 628 I took an impression of his key; this man Lucas furnished a duplicate. 629 I opened his dispatch-box, took the paper, and coveyed it to Godolphin Street.'
630 'What happened there, madam?'
631 'I tapped at the door, as agreed. 632 Lucas opened it. 633 I followed him into his room, leaving the hall door ajar behind me, for I feared to be alone with the man. 634 I remember that there was a woman outside as I entered. 635 Our business was soon done. 636 He had my letter on his desk; I handed him the document. 637 He gave me the letter. 638 At this instant there was a sound at the door. 639 There were steps in the passage. 640 Lucas quickly turned back the drugget, thrust the document into some hiding-place there, and covered it over.
641 'What happened after that is like some fearful dream. 642 I have a vision of a dark, frantic face, of a woman's voice, which screamed in French, "My waiting is not in vain. 643 At last, at last I have found you with her!" 644 There was a savage struggle. 645 I saw him with a chair in his hand, a knife gleamed in hers. 646 I rushed from the horrible scene, ran from the house and only next morning in the paper did I learn the dreadful result. 647 That night I was happy, for I had my letter, and I had not seen yet what the future would bring.
648 'It was next morning that I realized that I had only exchanged one trouble for another. 649 My husband's anguish at the loss of his paper went to my heart. 650 I could hardly prevent myself from there and then kneeling down at his feet and telling him what I had done. 651 But that again would mean a confession of the past. 652 I came to you that morning in order to understand the full enormity of my offence. 653 From the instant that I grasped it my whole mind turned to the one thought of getting back my husband's paper. 654 It must still be where Lucas had placed it, for it was concealed before this dreadful woman entered the room. 655 If it had not been for her coming, I should not have known where his hiding-place was. 656 How was I to get into the room? 657 For two days I watched the place, but the door was never left open. 658 Last night I made a last attempt. 659 What I did and how I succeeded, you have already learned. 660 I brought the paper back with me, and thought of destroying it, since I could see no way of returning it without confessing my guilt to my husband. 661 Good God, I hear his step upon the stair!'
662 The European Secretary burst excitedly into the room.
663 'Any news, Mr Holmes, any news?' he cried.
664 'I have some hopes.'
665 'Ah, thank God!' 666 His face became radiant. 667 'The Prime Minister is lunching with me. 668 May he share your hopes? 669 He has nerves of steel, and yet I know that he has hardly slept since this terrible event. 670 Jacobs, will you ask the Prime Minister to come up? 671 As to you, dear, I fear that this is a matter of politics. 672 We will join you in a few minutes in the dining-room.'
673 The Prime Minister's manner was subdued, but I could see by the gleam of his eyes and the twitchings of his bony hands that he shared the excitement of his young colleague.
674 'I understand that you have something to report, Mr Holmes?'
675 'Purely negative as yet,' my friend answered. 676 'I have inquired at every point where it might be, and I am sure that there is no danger to be apprehended.'
677 'But that is not enough, Mr Holmes. 678 We cannot lie for ever on such a volcano. 679 We must have something definite.'
680 'I am in hopes of getting it. 681 That is why I am here. 682 The more I think of the matter the more convinced I am that the letter has never left this house.'
683 'Mr Holmes!'
684 'If it had it would certainly have been public by now.'
685 'But why should anyone take it in order to keep it in this house?'
686 'I am not convinced that anyone did take it.'
687 'Then how could it leave the dispatch-box?'
688 'I am not convinced that it ever did leave the dispatch-box.'
689 'Mr Holmes, this joking is very ill-timed. 690 You have my assurance that it left the box.'
691 'Have you examined the box since Tuesday morning?'
692 'No; it was not necessary.'
693 'You may conceivably have overlooked it.'
694 'Impossible, I say.'
695 'But I am not convinced of it; I have known such things happen. 696 I presume there are other papers there. 697 Well, it may have got mixed with them.'
698 'It was on the top.'
699 'Someone may have shaken the box and displaced it.'
700 'No, no; I had everything out.'
701 'Surely it is easily decided, Hope!' said the Premier. 702 'Let us have the dispatch-box brought in.'
703 The Secretary rang the bell.
704 'Jacobs, bring down my dispatch-box. 705 This is a farcical waste of time, but still, if nothing else will satisfy you, it shall be done. 706 Thank you, Jacobs; put it here. 707 I have always had the key on my watch-chain. 708 Here are the papers, you see. 709 Letter from Lord Merrow, report from Sir Charles Hardy, memorandum from Belgrade, note on the Russo-German grain taxes, letter from Madrid, note from Lord Flowers - good God! what is this? 710 Lord Bellinger! 711 Lord Bellinger!'
712 The Premier snatched the blue envelope from his hand.
713 'Yes, it is it - and the letter intact. 714 Hope, I congratulate you!'
715 'Thank you! 716 Thank you! 717 What a weight from my heart! 718 But this is inconceivable - impossible! 719 Mr Holmes, you are a wizard, a sorcerer! 720 How did you know it was there?'
721 'Because I knew it was nowhere else.'
722 'I cannot believe my eyes!' 723 He ran wildly to the door. 724 'Where is my wife! 725 I must tell her that all is well. 726 Hilda! 727 Hilda!' we heard his voice on the stairs.
728 The Premier looked at Holmes with twinkling eyes. 729 'Come, sir,' said he. 730 'There is more in this than meets the eye. 731 How came the letter back in the box?'
732 Holmes turned away smiling from the keen scrutiny of those wonderful eyes.
733 'We also have our diplomatic secrets,' said he, and picking up his hat he turned to the door.


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