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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 Return of Sherlock Holmes
The Three Students

 

1 It was in the year '95 that a combination of events, into which I need not enter, caused Mr Sherlock Holmes and myself to spend some weeks in one of our great University towns, and it was during this time that the small but instructive adventure which I am about to relate befell us. 2 It will be obvious that any details which would help the reader to exactly identify the college or the criminal would be injudicious and offensive. 3 So painful a scandal may well be allowed to die out. 4 With due discretion the incident itself may, however, be described, since it serves to illustrate some of those qualities for which my friend was remarkable. 5 I will endeavour in my statement to avoid such terms as would serve to limit the events to any particular place, or give a clue as to the people concerned.
6 We were residing at the time in furnished lodgings close to a library where Sherlock Holmes was pursuing some laborious researches in early English charters - researches which led to results so striking that they may be the subject of one of my future narratives. 7 Here it was that one evening we received a visit from an acquaintance, Mr Hilton Soames, tutor and lecturer at the College of St Luke's. 8 Mr Soames was a tall, spare man, of a nervous and excitable temperament. 9 I had always known him to be restless in his manner, but on this particular occasion he was in such a state of uncontrollable agitation that it was clear something very unusual had occurred.
10 'I trust, Mr Holmes, that you can spare me a few hours of your valuable time. 11 We have had a very painful incident at St Luke's, and really, but for the happy chance of your being in the town, I should have been at a loss what to do.'
12 'I am very busy just now, and I desire no distractions,' my friend answered. 13 'I should much prefer that you called in the aid of the police.'
14 'No, no, my dear sir; such a course is utterly impossible. 15 When once the law is evoked it cannot be stayed again, and this is just one of those cases where, for the credit of the college, it is most essential to avoid scandal. 16 Your discretion is as well known as your powers, and you are the one man in the world who can help me. 17 I beg you, Mr Holmes, to do what you can.'
18 My friend's temper had not improved since he had been deprived of the congenial surroundings of Baker Street. 19 Without his scrap-books, his chemicals, and his homely untidiness, he was an uncomfortable man. 20 He shrugged his shoulders in ungracious acquiescence, while our visitor in hurried words and with much excitable gesticulation poured forth his story.
21 'I must explain to you, Mr Holmes, that to-morrow is the first day of the examination for the Fortescue Scholarship. 22 I am one of the examiners. 23 My subject is Greek, and the first of the papers consists of a large passage of Greek translation which the candidate has not seen. 24 This passage is printed on the examination paper, and it would naturally be an immense advantage if the candidate could prepare it in advance. 25 For this reason great care is taken to keep the paper secret.
26 'To-day about three o'clock the proofs of this paper arrived from the printers. 27 The exercise consists of half a chapter of Thucydides. 28 I had to read it over carefully, as the text must be absolutely correct. 29 At four-thirty my task was not yet completed. 30 I had, however, promised to take tea in a friend's rooms, so I left the proof upon my desk. 31 I was absent rather more than an hour. 32 You are aware, Mr Holmes, that our college doors are double - a green baize one within and a heavy oak one without. 33 As I approached my outer door I was amazed to see a key in it. 34 For an instant I imagined that I had left my own there, but on feeling in my pocket I found that it was all right. 35 The only duplicate which existed, so far as I knew, was that which belonged to my servant, Bannister, a man who has looked after my room for ten years, and whose honesty is absolutely above suspicion. 36 I found that the key was indeed his, that he had entered my room to know if I wanted tea, and that he had very carelessly left the key in the door when he came out. 37 His visit to my room must have been within a very few minutes of my leaving it. 38 His forgetfulness about the key would have mattered little upon any other occasion, but on this one day it has produced the most deplorable consequences.
39 'The moment I looked at my table I was aware that someone had rummaged among my papers. 40 The proof was in three long slips. 41 I had left them all together. 42 Now I found that one of them was lying on the floor, one was on the side-table near the window, and the third was where I had left it.'
43 Holmes stirred for the first time.
44 'The first page on the floor, the second in the window, and the third where you left it,' said he.
45 'Exactly, Mr Holmes. 46 You amaze me. 47 How could you possibly know that?'
48 'Pray continue your very interesting statement.'
49 'For an instant I imagined that Bannister had taken the unpardonable liberty of examining my papers. 50 He denied it, however, with the utmost earnestness, and I am convinced that he was speaking the truth. 51 The alternative was that someone passing had observed the key in the door, had known that I was out, and had entered to look at the papers. 52 A large sum of money is at stake, for the scholarship is a very valuable one, and an unscrupulous man might very well run a risk in order to gain advantage over his fellows.
53 'Bannister was very much upset by the incident. 54 He had nearly fainted when we found that the papers had undoubtedly been tampered with. 55 I gave him a little brandy and left him collapsed in a chair while I made a most careful examination of the room. 56 I soon saw that the intruder had left other traces of his presence besides the rumpled papers. 57 On the table in the window were several shreds from a pencil which had been sharpened. 58 A broken tip of lead was lying there also. 59 Evidently the rascal had copied the paper in a great hurry, had broken his pencil, and had been compelled to put a fresh point to it.'
60 'Excellent!' said Holmes, who was recovering his good humour as his attention became more engrossed by the case. 61 'Fortune has been your friend.'
62 'This was not all I have a new writing-table with a fine surface of red leather. 63 I am prepared to swear, and so is Bannister, that it was smooth and unstained. 64 Now I found a clean cut in it about three inches long - not a mere scratch, but a positive cut. 65 Not only this, but on the table I found a small ball of black dough, or clay, with specks of something which looks like sawdust in it. 66 I am convinced that these marks were left by the man who rifled the papers. 67 There were no footmarks and no other evidence as to his identity. 68 I was at my wits' end, when suddenly the happy thought occurred to me that you were in the town, and I came straight round to put the matter into your hands. 69 Do help me, Mr Holmes! 70 You see my dilemma. 71 Either I must find the man, or else the examination must be postponed until fresh papers are prepared, and since this cannot be done without explanation, there will ensue a hideous scandal, which will throw a cloud not only on the college but on the University. 72 Above all things, I desire to settle the matter quietly and discreetly.'
73 'I shall be happy to look into it and to give you such advice as I can,' said Holmes, rising and putting on his overcoat. 74 'This case is not entirely devoid of interest. 75 Has anyone visited you in your room after the papers came to you?'
76 'Yes, young Daulat Ras, an Indian student who lives on the same stair, came in to ask me some particulars about the examination.'
77 'For which he was entered?'
78 'Yes.'
79 'And the papers were on your table?'
80 'To the best of my belief they were rolled up.'
81 'But might be recognized as proofs?'
82 'Possibly.'
83 'No one else in your room?'
84 'No.'
85 'Did anyone know that these proofs would be there?'
86 'No one save the printer.'
87 'Did this man Bannister know?'
88 'No, certainly not. 89 No one knew.'
90 'Where is Bannister now?'
91 'He was very ill, poor fellow! 92 I left him collapsed in the chair. 93 I was in such a hurry to come to you.'
94 'You left your door open?'
95 'I locked the papers up first.'
96 'Then it amounts to this, Mr Soames, that unless the Indian student recognized the roll as being proofs, the man who tampered with them came upon them accidentally without knowing that they were there.'
97 'So it seems to me.'
98 Holmes gave an enigmatic smile.
99 'Well,' said he, let us go round. 100 Not one of your cases, Watson - mental, not physical. 101 All right; come if you want to. 102 Now, Mr Soames - at your disposal!'

103 The sitting-room of our client opened by a long, low, latticed window on to the ancient lichen-tinted court of the old college. 104 A Gothic arched door led to a worn stone staircase. 105 On the ground floor was the tutor's room. 106 Above were three students, one on each storey. 107 It was already twilight when we reached the scene of our problem. 108 Holmes halted and looked earnestly at the window. 109 Then he approached it, and, standing on tiptoe, with his neck craned, he looked into the room.
110 'He must have entered through the door. 111 There is no opening except the one pane,' said our learned guide.
112 'Dear me!' said Holmes, and he smiled in a singular way as he glanced at our companion. 113 'Well, if there is nothing to be learned here we had best go inside.'
114 The lecturer unlocked the outer door and ushered us into his room. 115 We stood at the entrance while Holmes made an examination of the carpet.
116 'I am afraid there are no signs here,' said he. 117 'One could hardly hope for any upon so dry a day. 118 Your servant seems to have quite recovered. 119 You left him in a chair, you say; which chair?'
120 'By the window there.'
121 'I see. 122 Near this little table. 123 You can come in now. 124 I have finished with the carpet. 125 Let us take the little table first. 126 Of course, what has happened is very clear. 127 The man entered and took the papers, sheet by sheet, from the central table. 128 He carried them over to the window table, because from there he could see if you came across the courtyard, and so could effect an escape.'
129 'As a matter of fact, he could not,' said Soames, 'for I entered by the side-door.'
130 'Ah, that's good! 131 Well, anyhow, that was in his mind. 132 Let me see the three strips. 133 No finger impressions - no! 134 Well, he carried over this one first and he copied it. 135 How long would it take him to do that, using every possible contraction? 136 A quarter of an hour, not less. 137 Then he tossed it down and seized the next. 138 He was in the midst of that when your return caused him to make a very hurried retreat - very hurried, since he had not time to replace the papers which would tell you that he had been there. 139 You were not aware of any hurrying feet on the stair as you entered the outer door?'
140 'No, I can't say I was.'
141 'Well, he wrote so furiously that he broke his pencil, and had, as you observe, to sharpen it again. 142 This is of interest, Watson. 143 The pencil was not an ordinary one. 144 It was above the usual size with a soft lead; the outer colour was dark blue, the maker's name was printed in silver lettering, and the piece remaining is only about an inch and a half long. 145 Look for such a pencil, Mr Soames, and you have got your man. 146 When I add that he possesses a large and very blunt knife, you have an additional aid.'
147 Mr Soames was somewhat overwhelmed by this flood of information. 148 'I can follow the other points,' said he, 'but really in this matter of the length - '
149 Holmes held out a small chip with the letters NN and a space of clear wood after them.
150 'You see?'
151 'No, I fear that even now-'
152 'Watson, I have always done you an injustice. 153 There are others. 154 What could this NN be? 155 It is at the end of a word. 156 You are aware that Johann Faber is the most common maker's name. 157 Is it not clear that there is just as much of the pencil left as usually follows the Johann?' 158 He held the small table sideways to the electric light. 159 'I was hoping that if the paper on which he wrote was thin some trace of it might come through upon this polished surface. 160 No, I see nothing. 161 I don't think there is anything more to be learned here. 162 Now for the central table. 163 This small pellet is, I presume, the black doughy mass you spoke of. 164 Roughly pyramidal in shape and hollowed out, I perceive. 165 As you say, there appear to be grains of sawdust in it. 166 Dear me, this is very interesting. 167 And the cut - a positive tear, I see. 168 It began with a thin scratch and ended in a jagged hole. 169 I am much indebted to you for directing my attention to this case, Mr Soames. 170 Where does that door lead to?'
171 'To my bedroom.'
172 'Have you been in it since your adventure?'
173 'No; I came straight away for you.'
174 'I should like to have a glance round. 175 What a charming, old-fashioned room! 176 Perhaps you will kindly wait a minute until I have examined the floor. 177 No, I see nothing. 178 What about this curtain? 179 You hang your clothes behind it. 180 If anyone were forced to conceal himself in this room he must do it there, since the bed is too low and the wardrobe too shallow. 181 No one there, I suppose?'
182 As Holmes drew the curtain I was aware, from some little rigidity and alertness of his attitude, that he was prepared for an emergency. 183 As a matter of fact the drawn curtain disclosed nothing but three or four suits of clothes hanging from a line of pegs. 184 Holmes turned away, and stooped suddenly to the floor.
185 'Hullo! 186 What's this?' said he.
187 It was a small pyramid of black, putty-like stuff, exactly like the one upon the table of the study. 188 Holmes held it out on his open palm in the glare of the electric light.
189 'Your visitor seems to have left traces in your bedroom as well as in your sitting-room, Mr Soames.'
190 'What could he have wanted there?'
191 'I think it is clear enough. 192 You came back by an unexpected way, and so he had no warning until you were at the very door. 193 What could he do? 194 He caught up everything which would betray him, and he rushed into your bedroom to conceal himself.'
195 'Good gracious, Mr Holmes, do you mean to tell me that all the time I was talking to Bannister in this room we had the man prisoner if we had only known it?'
196 'So I read it.'
197 'Surely there is another alternative, Mr Holmes? 198 I don't know whether you observed my bedroom window.'
199 'Lattice-paned, lead framework, three separate windows, one swinging on a hinge and large enough to admit a man.'
200 'Exactly. 201 And it looks out on an angle of the courtyard so as to be partly invisible. 202 The man might have effected his entrance there, left traces as he passed through the bedroom, and, finally, finding the door open, have escaped that way.'
203 Holmes shook his head impatiently.
204 'Let us be practical,' said he. 205 'I understand you to say that there are three students who use this stair and are in the habit of passing your door?'
206 'Yes, there are.'
207 'And they are all in this examination?'
208 'Yes.'
209 'Have you any reason to suspect any one of them more than the others?'
210 Soames hesitated.
211 'It is a very delicate question,' said he. 212 'One hardly likes to throw suspicion where there are no proofs.'
213 'Let us hear the suspicions. 214 I will look after the proofs.'
215 'I will tell you, then, in a few words, the character of the three men who inhabit these rooms. 216 The lower of the three is Gilchrist, a fine scholar and athlete; plays in the Rugby team and the cricket team for the college, and got his Blue for the hurdles and the long jump. 217 He is a fine, manly fellow. 218 His father was the notorious Sir Jabez Gilchrist, who ruined himself on the Turf. 219 My scholar has been left very poor, but he is hard-working and industrious. 220 He will do well.
221 'The second floor is inhabited by Daulat Ras, the Indian. 222 He is a quiet, inscrutable fellow, as most of those Indians are. 223 He is well up in his work, though his Greek is his weak subject. 224 He is steady and methodical.
225 'The top floor belongs to Miles McLaren. 226 He is a brilliant fellow when he chooses to work - one of the brightest intellects of the University, but he is wayward, dissipated, and unprincipled. 227 He was nearly expelled over a card scandal in his first year. 228 He has been idling all this term, and he must look forward with dread to the examination.'
229 'Then it is he whom you suspect?'
230 'I dare not go so far as that. 231 But of the three he is perhaps the least unlikely.'
232 'Exactly. 233 Now, Mr Soames, let us have a look at your servant, Bannister.'
234 He was a little, white-faced, clean-shaven, grizzly-haired fellow of fifty. 235 He was still suffering from this sudden disturbance of the quiet routine of his life. 236 His plump face was twitching with his nervousness, and his fingers could not keep still.
237 'We are investigating this unhappy business, Bannister,' said his master.
238 'Yes, sir.'
239 'I understand,' said Holmes, 'that you left your key in the door?'
240 'Yes, sir.'
241 'Was it not very extraordinary that you should do this on the very day when there were these papers inside?'
242 'It was most unfortunate, sir. 243 But I have occasionally done the same thing at other times.'
244 'When did you enter the room?'
245 'It was about half-past four. 246 That is Mr Soames's teatime.'
247 'How long did you stay?'
248 'When I saw that he was absent I withdrew at once.'
249 'Did you look at these papers on the table?'
250 'No, sir; certainly not.'
251 'How came you to leave the key in the door?'
252 'I had the tea-tray in my hand. 253 I thought I would come back for the key. 254 Then I forgot.'
255 'Has the outer door a spring lock?'
256 'No, sir.'
257 'Then it was open all the time?'
258 'Yes, sir.'
259 'Anyone in the room could get out?'
260 'Yes, sir.'
261 'When Mr Soames returned and called for you, you were very much disturbed?'
262 'Yes, sir. 263 Such a thing has never happened during the many years that I have been here. 264 I nearly fainted, sir.'
265 'So I understand. 266 Where were you when you began to feel bad?'
267 'Where was I, sir? 268 Why, here, near the door.'
269 'That is singular, because you sat down in that chair over yonder near the corner. 270 Why did you pass these other chairs?'
271 'I don't know, sir. 272 It didn't matter to me where I sat.'
273 'I really don't think he knew much about it, Mr Holmes. 274 He was looking very bad - quite ghastly.'
275 'You stayed here when your master left?'
276 'Only for a minute or so. 277 Then I locked the door and went to my room.'
278 'Whom do you suspect?'
279 'Oh, I would not venture to say, sir. 280 I don't believe there is any gentleman in this University who is capable of profiting by such an action. 281 No, sir, I'll not believe it.'
282 'Thank you; that will do,' said Holmes. 283 'Oh, one more word. 284 You have not mentioned to any of the three gentlemen whom you attend that anything is amiss?'
285 'No, sir; not a word.'
286 'You haven't seen any of them?'
287 'No, sir.'
288 'Very good. 289 Now, Mr Soames, we will take a walk in the quadrangle, if you please.'
290 Three yellow squares of light shone above us in the gathering gloom.
291 'Your three birds are all in their nests,' said Holmes, looking up. 292 'Hullo! 293 What's that? 294 One of them seems restless enough.'
295 It was the Indian, whose dark silhouette appeared suddenly upon the blind. 296 He was pacing swiftly up and down his room.
297 'I should like to have a peep at each of them,' said Holmes. 298 'Is it possible?'
299 'No difficulty in the world,' Soames answered. 300 'This set of rooms is quite the oldest in the college, and it is not unusual for visitors to go over them. 301 Come along, and I will personally conduct you.'
302 'No names, please!' said Holmes, as we knocked at Gilchrist's door. 303 A tall, flaxen-haired, slim young fellow opened it, and made us welcome when he understood our errand. 304 There were some really curious pieces of medieval domestic architecture within. 305 Holmes was so charmed with one of them that he insisted on drawing it on his notebook, broke his pencil, had to borrow one from our host, and finally borrowed a knife to sharpen his own. 306 The same curious accident happened to him in the rooms of the Indian - a silent, little, hook-nosed fellow, who eyed us askance and was obviously glad when Holmes's architectural studies had come to an end. 307 I could not see that in either case Holmes had come upon the clue for which he was searching. 308 Only at the third did our visit prove abortive. 309 The outer door would not open to our knock, and nothing more substantial than a torrent of bad language came from behind it. 310 'I don't care who you are. 311 You can go to blazes!' roared the angry voice. 312 To-morrow's the exam, and I won't be drawn by anyone.'
313 'A rude fellow,' said our guide, flushing with anger as we withdrew down the stair. 314 'Of course, he did not realize that it was I who was knocking, but none the less his conduct was very uncourteous, and, indeed, under the circumstances, rather suspicious.'
315 Holmes's response was a curious one.
316 'Can you tell me his exact height?' he asked.
317 'Really, Mr Holmes, I cannot undertake to say. 318 He is taller than the Indian, not so tall as Gilchrist. 319 I suppose five foot six would be about it.'
320 'That is very important,' said Holmes. 321 'And now, Mr Soames, I wish you good-night.'
322 Our guide cried aloud in his astonishment and dismay. 323 'Good gracious, Mr Holmes, you are surely not going to leave me in this abrupt fashion! 324 You don't seem to realize the position. 325 To-morrow is the examination. 326 I must take some definite action tonight. 327 I cannot allow the examination to be held if one of the papers has been tampered with. 328 The situation must be faced.'
329 'You must leave it as it is. 330 I shall drop round early to-morrow morning and chat the matter over. 331 It is possible that I may be in a position then to indicate some course of action. 332 Meanwhile you change nothing - nothing at all.'
333 'Very good, Mr Holmes.'
334 'You can be perfectly easy in your mind. 335 We shall certainly find some way out of your difficulties. 336 I will take the black clay with me, also the pencil cuttings. 337 Good-bye.'
338 When we were out in the darkness of the quadrangle we again looked up at the windows. 339 The Indian still paced his room. 340 The others were invisible.
341 'Well, Watson, what do you think of it?' Holmes asked as we came out into the main street. 342 'Quite a little parlour game - sort of three-card trick, is it not? 343 There are your three men. 344 It must be one of them. 345 You take your choice. 346 Which is yours?'
347 'The foul-mouthed fellow at the top. 348 He is the one with the worst record. 349 And yet that Indian was a sly fellow also. 350 Why should he be pacing his room all the time?'
351 'There is nothing in that. 352 Many men do it when they are trying to learn anything by heart.'
353 'He looked at us in a queer way.'
354 'So would you if a flock of strangers came in on you when you were preparing for an examination next day, and every moment was of value. 355 No, I see nothing in that. 356 Pencils, too, and knives - all was satisfactory. 357 But that fellow does puzzle me.'
358 'Who?'
359 'Why, Bannister, the servant. 360 What's his game in the matter?'
361 'He impressed me as being a perfectly honest man.'
362 'So he did me. 363 That's the puzzling part. 364 Why should a perfectly honest man - well, well, here's a large stationer's. 365 We shall begin our researches here.'
366 There were only four stationers of any consequence in the town, and at each Holmes produced his pencil chips and bid high for a duplicate. 367 All were agreed that one could be ordered, but that it was not a usual size of pencil, and that It was seldom kept in stock. 368 My friend did not appear to be depressed by his failure, but shrugged his shoulders in half-humorous resignation.
369 'No good, my dear Watson. 370 This, the best and only final clue, has run to nothing. 371 But, indeed, I have little doubt that we can build up a sufficient case without it. 372 By Jove! my dear fellow, it is nearly nine, and the landlady babbled of green peas at seven-thirty. 373 What with your eternal tobacco, Watson, and your irregularity at meals, I expect that you will get notice to quit, and that I shall share your downfall - not, however, before we have solved the problem of the nervous tutor, the careless servant, and the three enterprising students.'

374 Holmes made no further allusion to the matter that day, though he sat lost in thought for a long time after our belated dinner. 375 At eight in the morning he came into my room just as I finished my toilet.
376 'Well, Watson,' said he, 'it is time we went down to St Luke's. 377 Can you do without breakfast?'
378 'Certainly.'
379 'Soames will be in a dreadful fidget until we are able to tell him something positive.'
380 'Have you anything positive to tell him?'
381 'I think so.'
382 'You have formed a conclusion?'
383 'Yes, my dear Watson; I have solved the mystery.'
384 'But what fresh evidence could you have got?'
385 'Aha! 386 It is not for nothing that I have turned myself out of bed at the untimely hour of six. 387 I have put in two hours' hard work and covered at least five miles, with something to show for it. 388 Look at that!'
389 He held out his hand. 390 On the palm were three little pyramids of black, doughy clay.
391 'Why, Holmes, you had only two yesterday!'
392 'And one more this morning. 393 It is a fair argument, that wherever No. 3 came from is also the source of Nos. 1 and 2. 394 Eh, Watson? 395 Well, come along and put friend Soames out of his pain.'
396 The unfortunate tutor was certainly in a state of pitiable agitation when we found him in his chambers. 397 In a few hours the examinations would commence and he was still in the dilemma between making the facts public and allowing the culprit to compete for the valuable scholarship. 398 He could hardly stand still, so great was his mental agitation, and he ran towards Holmes with two eager hands outstretched.
399 'Thank God that you have come! 400 I feared that you had given it up in despair. 401 What am I to do? 402 Shall the examination proceed?'
403 'Yes; let it proceed by all means.'
404 'But this rascal-?'
405 'He shall not compete.'
406 'You know him?'
407 'I think so. 408 If this matter is not to become public we must give ourselves certain powers, and resolve ourselves into a small private court-martial. 409 You there, if you please, Soames! 410 Watson, you here! 411 I'll take the arm-chair in the middle. 412 I think that we are now sufficiently imposing to strike terror into a guilty breast. 413 Kindly ring the bell!'
414 Bannister entered, and shrank back in evident surprise and fear at our judicial appearance.
415 'You will kindly close the door,' said Holmes. 416 'Now, Bannister, will you please tell us the truth about yesterday's incident?'
417 The man turned white to the roots of his hair.
418 'I have told you everything, sir.'
419 'Nothing to add?'
420 'Nothing at all, sir.'
421 'Well, then, I must make some suggestions to you. 422 When you sat down on that chair yesterday, did you do so in order to conceal some object which would have shown who had been in the room?'
423 Bannister's face was ghastly.
424 'No, sir; certainly not.'
425 'It is only a suggestion,' said Holmes, suavely. 426 'I frankly admit that I am unable to prove it. 427 But it seems probable enough, since the moment that Mr Soames's back was turned you released the man who was hiding in that bedroom.'
428 Bannister licked his dry lips.
429 'There was no man, sir.'
430 'Ah, that's a pity, Bannister. 431 Up to now you may have spoken the truth, but now I know that you have lied.' 432 The man's face set in sullen defiance.
433 'There was no man, sir.'
434 'Come, come, Bannister.'
435 'No, sir; there was no one.'
436 'In that case you can give us no further information. 437 Would you please remain in the room? 438 Stand over there near the bedroom door. 439 Now, Soames, I am going to ask you to have the great kindness to go up to the room of young Gilchrist, and to ask him to step down into yours.'
440 An instant later the tutor returned, bringing with him the student. 441 He was a fine figure of a man, tall, lithe, and agile, with a springy step and a pleasant, open face. 442 His troubled blue eyes glanced at each of us, and finally rested with an expression of blank dismay upon Bannister in the farther corner.
443 'Just close the door,' said Holmes. 444 'Now, Mr Gilchrist, we are all quite alone here, and no one need ever know one word of what passes between us. 445 We can be perfectly frank with each other. 446 We want to know, Mr Gilchrist, how you, an honourable man, ever came to commit such an action as that of yesterday?'
447 The unfortunate young man staggered back, and cast a look full of horror and reproach at Bannister.
448 'No, no, Mr Gilchrist, sir; I never said a word - never one word!' cried the servant.
449 'No, but you have now,' said Holmes. 450 'Now, sir, you must see that after Bannister's words your position is hopeless, and that your only chance lies in a frank confession.'
451 For a moment Gilchrist, with upraised hand, tried to control his writhing features. 452 The next he had thrown himself on his knees beside the table, and, burying his face in his hands, he burst into a storm of passionate sobbing.
453 'Come, come,' said Holmes kindly; 'it is human to err, and at least no one can accuse you of being a callous criminal. 454 Perhaps it would be easier for you if I were to tell Mr Soames what occurred, and you can check me where I am wrong. 455 Shall I do so? 456 Well, well, don't trouble to answer. 457 Listen, and see that I do you no injustice.
458 'From the moment, Mr Soames, that you said to me that no one, not even Bannister, could have told that the papers were in your room, the case began to take a definite shape in my mind. 459 The printer one could, of course, dismiss. 460 He could examine the papers in his own office. 461 The Indian I also thought nothing of. 462 If the proofs were in the roll he could not possibly know what they were. 463 On the other hand, it seemed an unthinkable coincidence that a man should dare to enter the room, and that by chance on that very day the papers were on the table. 464 I dismissed that. 465 The man who entered knew that the papers were there. 466 How did he know?
467 'When I approached your room I examined the window. 468 You amused me by supposing that I was contemplating the possibility of someone having in broad daylight, under the eyes of all these opposite rooms, forced himself through it. 469 Such an idea was absurd. 470 I was measuring how tall a man would need to be in order to see as he passed what papers were on the central table. 471 I am six feet high, and I could do it with an effort. 472 No one less than that would have a chance. 473 Already, you see, I had reason to think that if one of your three students was a man of unusual height he was the most worth watching of the three.
474 'I entered, and I took you into my confidence as to the suggestions of the side-table. 475 Of the centre table I could make nothing, until in your description of Gilchrist you mentioned that he was a long-distance jumper. 476 Then the whole thing came to me in an instant, and I only needed certain corroborative proofs, which I speedily obtained.
477 'What happened was this. 478 This young fellow had employed his afternoon at the athletic grounds, where he had been practising the jump. 479 He returned carrying his jumping- shoes, which are provided, as you are aware, with several spikes. 480 As he passed your window he saw, by means of his great height, these proofs upon your table, and conjectured what they were. 481 No harm would have been done had it not been that as he passed your door he perceived the key which had been left by the carelessness of your servant. 482 A sudden impulse came over him to enter and see if they were indeed the proofs. 483 It was not a dangerous exploit, for he could always pretend that he had simply looked in to ask a question.
484 'Well, when he saw that they were indeed the proofs, it was then that he yielded to temptation. 485 He put his shoes on the table. 486 What was it you put on that chair near the window?'
487 'Gloves,' said the young man.
488 Holmes looked triumphantly at Bannister.
489 'He put his gloves on the chair, and he took the proofs, sheet by sheet, to copy them. 490 He thought the tutor must return by the main gate, and that he would see him. 491 As we know, he came back by the side gate. 492 Suddenly he heard him at the very door. 493 There was no possible escape. 494 He forgot his gloves, but he caught up his shoes and darted into the bedroom. 495 You observe that the scratch on that table is slight at one side, but deepens in the direction of the bedroom door. 496 That in itself is enough to show us that the shoes had been drawn in that direction, and that the culprit had taken refuge there. 497 The earth round the spike had been left on the table, and a second sample was loosened and fell in the bedroom. 498 I may add that I walked out to the athletic grounds this morning, saw that tenacious black clay is used in the jumping-pit, and carried away a specimen of it, together with some of the fine tan or sawdust which is strewn over it to prevent the athlete from slipping. 499 Have I told the truth, Mr Gilchrist?'
500 The student had drawn himself erect.
501 'Yes, sir, it is true,' said he.
502 'Good God, have you nothing to add?' cried Soames.
503 'Yes, sir, I have, but the shock of this disgraceful exposure has bewildered me. 504 I have a letter here, Mr Soames, which I wrote to you early this morning in the middle of a restless night. 505 It was before I knew that my sin had found me out. 506 Here it is, sir. 507 You will see that I have said, "I have determined not to go in for the examination. 508 I have been offered a commission in the Rhodesian Police, and I am going out to South Africa at once."'
509 'I am indeed pleased to hear that you did not intend to profit by your unfair advantage,' said Soames. 510 'But why did you change your purpose?'
511 Gilchrist pointed to Bannister.
512 'There is the man who sent me in the right path,' said he.
513 'Come now, Bannister,' said Holmes. 514 'It will be clear to you from what I have said that only you could have let this young man out, since you were left in the room and must have locked the door when you went out. 515 As to his escaping by that window, it was incredible. 516 Can you not clear up the last point in this mystery, and tell us the reason for your action?'
517 'It was simple enough, sir, if you had only known; but with all your cleverness it was impossible that you could know. 518 Time was, sir, when I was butler to old Sir Jabez Gilchrist, this young gentleman's father. 519 When he was ruined I came to the college as servant, but I never forgot my old employer because he was down in the world. 520 I watched his son all I could for the sake of the old days. 521 Well, sir, when I came into this room yesterday when the alarm was given, the first thing I saw was Mr Gilchrist's tan gloves a-lying in that chair. 522 I knew those gloves well, and I understood their message. 523 If Mr Soames saw them the game was up. 524 I flopped down into that chair, and nothing would budge me until Mr Soames he went for you. 525 Then out came my poor young master, whom I had dandled on my knee, and confessed it all to me. 526 Wasn't it natural, sir, that I should save him, and wasn't it natural also that I should try to speak to him as his dead father would have done, and make him understand that he could not profit by such a deed? 527 Could you blame me, sir?'
528 'No, indeed!' said Holmes heartily, springing to his feet. 529 'Well, Soames, I think we have cleared your little problem up, and our breakfast awaits us at home. 530 Come, Watson! 531 As to you, sir, I trust that a bright future awaits you in Rhodesia. 532 For once you have fallen low. 533 Let us see in the Future how high you can rise.'


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