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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 Abbey Grange

 

1 It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning during the winter of '97 that I was wakened by a tugging at my shoulder. 2 It was Holmes. 3 The candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping face, and told me at a glance that something was amiss.
4 'Come, Watson, come!' he cried. 5 'The game is afoot. 6 Not a word! 7 Into your clothes and come!'
8 Ten minutes later we were both in a cab and rattling through the silent streets on our way to Charing Cross Station. 9 The first faint winter's dawn was beginning to appear, and we could dimly see the occasional figure of an early workman as he passed us, blurred and indistinct in the opalescent London reek. 10 Holmes nestled in silence into his heavy coat, and I was glad to do the same, for the air was most bitter, and neither of us had broken our fast. 11 It was not until we had consumed some hot tea at the station, and taken our places in the Kentish train, that we were sufficiently thawed, he to speak and I to listen. 12 Holmes drew a note from his pocket and read it aloud:

13 ABBEY GRANGE, MARSHAM, KENT, 3.30 am
14 My dear Mr Holmes - I should be very glad of your immediate assistance in what promises to be a most remarkable case. 15 It is something quite in your line. 16 Except for releasing the lady I will see that everything is kept exactly as I have found it, but I beg you not to lose an instant, as it is difficult to leave Sir Eustace there.
17 Yours faithfully,
18 STANLEY HOPKINS.

19 'Hopkins has called me in seven times, and on each occasion his summons has been entirely justified,' said Holmes. 20 'I fancy that every one of his cases has found its way into your collection, and I must admit, Watson, that you have some power of selection which atones for much which I deplore in your narratives. 21 Your fatal habit of looking at everything from the point of view of a story instead of as a scientific exercise has ruined what might have been an instructive and even classical series of demonstrations. 22 You slur over work of the utmost finesse and delicacy in order to dwell upon sensational details which may excite but cannot possibly instruct the reader.'
23 'Why do you not write them yourself?' I said, with some bitterness.
24 'I will, my dear Watson, I will. 25 At present I am, as you know, fairly busy, but I propose to devote my declining years to the composition of a textbook which shall focus the whole art of detection into one volume. 26 Our present research appears to be a case of murder.'
27 'You think this Sir Eustace is dead, then?'
28 'I should say so. 29 Hopkins's writing shows considerable agitation, and he is not an emotional man. 30 Yes, I gather there has been violence, and that the body is left for our inspection. 31 A mere suicide would not have caused him to send for me. 32 As to the release of the lady, it would appear that she has been locked in her room during the tragedy. 33 We are moving in high life, Watson - crackling paper, "EB" monogram, coat-of-arms, picturesque address. 34 I think that friend Hopkins will live up to his reputation, and that we shall have an interesting morning. 35 The crime was committed before twelve last night.'
36 'How can you possibly tell?'
37 'By an inspection of the trains and by reckoning the time. 38 The local police had to be called in, they had to communicate with Scotland Yard, Hopkins had to go out, and he in turn had to send for me. 39 All that makes a fair night's work. 40 Well, here we are at Chislehurst Station, and we shall soon set our doubts at rest.'
41 A drive of a couple of miles through narrow country lanes brought us to a park gate, which was opened for us by an old lodge-keeper, whose haggard face bore the reflection of some great disaster. 42 The avenue ran through a noble park, between lines of ancient elms, and ended in a low, widespread house, pillared in front after the fashion of Palladio. 43 The central part was evidently of a great age and shrouded in ivy, but the large windows showed that modern changes had been carried out, and one wing of the house appeared to be entirely new. 44 The youthful figure and alert, eager face of Inspector Stanley Hopkins confronted us in the open doorway.
45 'I'm very glad you have come, Mr Holmes. 46 And you, too, Dr Watson! 47 But, indeed, if I had my time over again I should not have troubled you, for since the lady has come to herself she has given so clear an account of the affair that there is not much left for us to do. 48 You remember that Lewisham gang of burglars?'
49 'What, the three Randalls?'
50 'Exactly; the father and two sons. 51 It's their work. 52 I have not a doubt of it. 53 They did a job at Sydenham a fortnight ago, and were seen and described. 54 Rather cool to do another so soon and so near; but it is they, beyond all doubt. 55 It's a hanging matter this time.'
56 'Sir Eustace is dead, then?'
57 'Yes; his head was knocked in with his own poker.'
58 'Sir Eustace Brackenstall, the driver tells me.'
59 'Exactly - one of the richest men in Kent. 60 Lady Brackenstall is in the morning-room. 61 Poor lady, she has had a most dreadful experience. 62 She seemed half dead when I saw her first. 63 I think you had best see her and hear her account of the facts. 64 Then we will examine the dining-room together.'
65 Lady Brackenstall was no ordinary person. 66 Seldom have I seen so graceful a figure, so womanly a presence, and so beautiful a face. 67 She was a blonde, golden-haired, blue- eyed, and would, no doubt, have had the perfect complexion which goes with such colouring had not her recent experience left her drawn and haggard. 68 Her sufferings were physical as well as mental, for over one eye rose a hideous, plum-coloured swelling, which her maid, a tall, austere woman, was bathing assiduously with vinegar and water. 69 The lady lay back exhausted upon a couch, but her quick, observant gaze as we entered the room, and the alert expression of her beautiful features, showed that neither her wits nor her courage had been shaken by her terrible experience. 70 She was enveloped in a loose dressing-gown of blue and silver, but a black sequin-covered dinner-dress was hung upon the couch beside her.
71 'I have told you all that happened, Mr Hopkins,' she said wearily; 'could you not repeat it for me? 72 Well, if you think it necessary, I will tell these gentlemen what occurred. 73 Have they been in the dining-room yet?'
74 'I thought they had better hear your ladyship's story first.'
75 'I shall be glad when you can arrange matters. 76 It is horrible to me to think of him still lying there.' 77 She shuddered and buried her face for a moment in her hands. 78 As she did so the loose gown fell back from her forearm. 79 Holmes uttered an exclamation.
80 'You have other injuries, madam! 81 What is this?' 82 Two vivid red spots stood out in one of the white, round limbs. 83 She hastily covered it.
84 'It is nothing. 85 It has no connection with the hideous business of last night. 86 If you and your friend will sit down I will tell you all I can.
87 'I am the wife of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. 88 I have been married about a year. 89 I suppose that it is no use my attempting to conceal that our marriage has not been a happy one. 90 I fear that all our neighbours would tell you that,- even if I were to attempt to deny it. 91 Perhaps the fault may be partly mine. 92 I was brought up in the freer, less conventional atmosphere of South Australia, and this English life, with its proprieties and its primness, is not congenial to me. 93 But the main reason lies in the one fact which is notorious to everyone, and that is that Sir Eustace was a confirmed drunkard. 94 To be with such a man for an hour is unpleasant. 95 Can you imagine what it means for a sensitive and high-spirited woman to be tied to him for day and night? 96 It is a sacrilege, a crime, a villainy to hold that such a marriage is binding. 97 I say that these monstrous laws of yours will bring a curse upon the land - Heaven will not let such wickedness endure.' 98 For an instant she sat up, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes blazing from under the terrible mark upon her brow. 99 Then the strong, soothing hand of the austere maid drew her head down on to the cushion, and the wild anger died away into passionate sobbing. 100 At last she continued:
101 'I will tell you about last night. 102 You are aware, perhaps, that in this house all servants sleep in the modern wing. 103 This central block is made up of the dwelling-rooms, with the kitchen behind and our bedroom above. 104 My maid Theresa sleeps above my room. 105 There is no one else, and no sound could alarm those who are in the farther wing. 106 This must have been well known to the robbers, or they would not have acted as they did.
107 'Sir Eustace retired about half-past ten. 108 The servants had already gone to their quarters. 109 Only my maid was up, and she had remained in her room at the top of the house until I needed her services. 110 I sat until after eleven in this room, absorbed in a book. 111 Then I walked round to see that all was right before I went upstairs. 112 It was my custom to do this myself, for, as I have explained, Sir Eustace was not always to be trusted. 113 I went into the kitchen, the butler's pantry, the gun-room, the billiard-room, the drawing-room, and finally the dining-room. 114 As I approached the window, which is covered with thick curtains, I suddenly felt the wind blown upon my face, and realized that it was open. 115 I flung the curtain aside, and found myself face to face with a broad- shouldered, elderly man who had just stepped into the room. 116 The window is a long French one, which really forms a door leading to the lawn. 117 I held my bedroom candle lit in my hand, and, by its light, behind the first man I saw two others, who were in the act of entering. 118 I stepped back, but the fellow was on me in an instant. 119 He caught me first by the wrist and then by the throat. 120 I opened my mouth to scream, but he struck me a savage blow with his fist over the eye, and felled me to the ground. 121 I must have been unconscious for a few minutes, for when I came to myself I found that they had torn down the bell-rope and had secured me tightly to the oaken chair which stands at the head of the dining-room table. 122 I was so firmly bound that I could not move, and a handkerchief round my mouth prevented me from uttering any sound. 123 It was at this instant that my unfortunate husband entered the room. 124 He had evidently heard some suspicious sounds, and he came prepared for such a scene as he found. 125 He was dressed in his shirt and trousers, with his favourite blackthorn cudgel in his hand. 126 He rushed at one of the burglars, but another - it was the elderly man - stooped, picked the poker out of the grate, and struck him a terrible blow as he passed He fell without a groan, and never moved again. 127 I fainted once more, but again it could only have been a very few minutes during which I was insensible. 128 When I opened my eyes I found that they had collected the silver from the sideboard, and they had drawn a bottle of wine which stood there. 129 Each of them had a glass in his hand. 130 I have already told you, have I not, that one was elderly, with a beard, and the others young, hairless lads. 131 They might have been a father with his two sons. 132 They talked together in whispers. 133 Then they came over and made sure that I was still securely bound. 134 Finally they withdrew, closing the window after them. 135 It was quite a quarter of an hour before I got my mouth free. 136 When I did so my screams brought the maid to my assistance. 137 The other servants were soon alarmed, and we sent for the local police, who instantly communicated with London. 138 That is really all I can tell you, gentlemen, and I trust that it will not be necessary for me to go over so painful a story again.'
139 'Any questions, Mr Holmes?' said Hopkins.
140 'I will not impose any further tax upon Lady Brackenstall's patience and time,' said Holmes. 141 'Before I go into the dining-room I should be glad to hear your experience.' 142 He looked at the maid.
143 'I saw the men before ever they came into the house,' said she. 144 'As I sat by my bedroom window I saw three men in the moonlight down by the lodge gate yonder, but I thought nothing of it at the time. 145 It was more than an hour after that I heard my mistress scream, and down I ran, to find her, poor lamb, just as she says, and him on the floor with his blood and brains over the room. 146 It was enough to drive a woman out of her wits, tied there, and her very dress spotted with him; but she never wanted courage, did Miss Mary Fraser of Adelaide, and Lady Brackenstall of Abbey Grange hasn't learned new ways. 147 You've questioned her long enough, you gentlemen, and now she is coming to her own room, just with her old Theresa, to get the rest that she badly needs.'
148 With a motherly tenderness the gaunt woman put her arm round her mistress and led her from the room.
149 'She has been with her all her life,' said Hopkins. 150 'Nursed her as a baby, and came with her to England when they first left Australia eighteen months ago. 151 Theresa Wright is her name, and the kind of maid you don't pick up nowadays. 152 This way, Mr Holmes, if you please!'
153 The keen interest had passed out of Holmes's expressive face, and I knew that with the mystery all the charm of the case had departed. 154 There still remained an arrest to be effected, but what were these commonplace rogues that he should soil his hands with them? 155 An abstruse and learned specialist who finds that he has been called in for a case of measles would experience something of the annoyance which I read in my friend's eyes. 156 Yet the scene in the dining-room of the Abbey Grange was sufficiently strange to arrest his attention and to recall his waning interest.
157 It was a very large and high chamber, with carved oak ceiling, oaken panelling, and a fine array of deers' heads and ancient weapons around the walls. 158 At the farther end from the door was the high French window of which we had heard. 159 Three smaller windows on the right-hand side filled the apartment with cold winter sunshine. 160 On the left was a large, deep fireplace, with a massive over-hanging oak mantelpiece. 161 Beside the fireplace was a heavy oaken chair with arms and cross-bars at the bottom. 162 In and out through the open woodwork was woven a crimson cord, which was secured at each side to the crosspiece below. 163 In releasing the lady the cord had been slipped off her, but the knots with which it had been secured still remained. 164 These details only struck our attention afterwards, for our thoughts were entirely absorbed by the terrible object which lay spread upon the tiger-skin hearthrug in front of the fire.
165 It was the body of a tall, well-made man, about forty years of age. 166 He lay upon his back, his face upturned, with his white teeth grinning through his short, black beard. 167 His two clenched hands were raised above his head, and a heavy blackthorn stick lay across them. 168 His dark, handsome, aquiline features were convulsed into a spasm of vindictive hatred, which had set his dead face in a terribly fiendish expression. 169 He had evidently been in his bed when the alarm had broken out, for he wore a foppish, embroidered night-shirt, and his bare feet projected from his trousers. 170 His head was horribly injured, and the whole room bore witness to the savage ferocity of the blow which had struck him down. 171 Beside him lay the heavy poker, bent into a curve by the concussion. 172 Holmes examined both it and the indescribable wreck which it had wrought.
173 'He must be a powerful man, this elder Randall,' he remarked.
174 'Yes,' said Hopkins. 175 'I have some record of the fellow, and he is a rough customer.'
176 'You should have no difficulty in getting him.'
177 'Not the slightest. 178 We have been on the look-out for him, and there was some idea that he had got away to America. 179 Now we know that the gang are here I don't see how they can escape. 180 We have the news at every seaport already, and a reward will be offered before evening. 181 What beats me is how they could have done so mad a thing, knowing that the lady would describe them, and that we could not fail to recognize the description.'
182 'Exactly. 183 One would have expected that they would have silenced Lady Brackenstall as well.'
184 'They may not have realized,' I suggested, 'that she had recovered from her faint.'
185 'That is likely enough. 186 If she seemed to be senseless they would not take her life. 187 What about this poor fellow, Hopkins? 188 I seem to have heard some queer stories about him.'
189 'He was a good-hearted man when he was sober, but a perfect devil when he was drunk, or rather when he was half drunk, for he seldom really went the whole way. 190 The devil seemed to be in him at such times, and he was capable of anything. 191 From what I hear, in spite of all his wealth and his title, he very nearly came our way once or twice. 192 There was a scandal about his drenching a dog with petroleum and setting it on fire her ladyship's dog, to make the matter worse - and that was only hushed up with difficulty. 193 Then he threw a decanter at that maid Theresa Wright; there was trouble about that. 194 On the whole, and between ourselves, it will be a brighter house without him. 195 What are you looking at now?'
196 Holmes was down on his knees examining with great attention the knots upon the red cord with which the lady had been secured. 197 Then he carefully scrutinized the broken and frayed end where it had snapped off when the burglar had dragged it down.
198 'When this was pulled down the bell in the kitchen must have rung loudly,' he remarked.
199 'No one could hear it. 200 The kitchen stands right at the back of the house.'
201 'How did the burglar know no one would hear it? 202 How dare he pull at a bell-rope in that reckless fashion?'
203 'Exactly, Mr Holmes, exactly. 204 You put the very question which I have asked myself again and again. 205 There can be no doubt that this fellow must have known the house and its habits. 206 He must have perfectly understood that the servants would all be in bed at that comparatively early hour, and that no one could possibly hear a bell ring in the kitchen. 207 Therefore he must have been in close league with one of the servants. 208 Surely that is evident. 209 But there are eight servants, and all of good character.'
210 'Other things being equal,' said Holmes, 'one would suspect the one at whose head the master threw a decanter. 211 And yet that would involve treachery towards the mistress to whom this woman seems devoted. 212 Well, well, the point is a minor one, and when you have Randall you will probably find no difficulty in securing his accomplices. 213 The lady's story certainly seems to be corroborated, if it needed corroboration, by every detail which we see before us.' 214 He walked to the French window and threw it open. 215 'There are no signs here, but the ground is iron hard, and one would not expect them. 216 I see that these candles on the mantelpiece have been lighted.'
217 'Yes, it was by their light and that of the lady's bedroom candle that the burglars saw their way about.'
218 'And what did they take?'
219 'Well, they did not take much - only half a dozen articles of plate off the sideboard. 220 Lady Brackenstall thinks that they were themselves so disturbed by the death of Sir Eustace that they did not ransack the house as they would otherwise have done.'
221 'No doubt that is true. 222 And yet they drank some wine, I understand.'
223 'To steady their own nerves.'
224 'Exactly. 225 These three glasses upon the sideboard have been untouched, I suppose?'
226 'Yes; and the bottle stands as they left it.'
227 'Let us look at it. 228 Hullo, hullo! what is this?'
229 The three glasses were grouped together, all of them tinged with wine, and one of them containing some dregs of bee-swing. 230 The bottle stood near them, two-thirds full, and beside it lay a long, deeply stained cork. 231 Its appearance and the dust upon the bottle showed that it was no common vintage which the murderers had enjoyed.
232 A change had come over Holmes's manner. 233 He had lost his listless expression, and again I saw an alert light of interest in his keen deep-set eyes. 234 He raised the cork and examined it minutely.
235 'How did they draw it?' he asked.
236 Hopkins pointed to a half-opened drawer. 237 In it lay some table linen and a large corkscrew.
238 'Did Lady Brackenstall say that screw was used?'
239 'No; you remember that she was senseless at the moment when the bottle was opened.'
240 'Quite so. 241 As a matter of fact, that screw was not used. 242 This bottle was opened by a pocket-screw, probably contained in a knife, and not more than an inch and a half long. 243 If you examine the top of the cork you will observe that the screw was driven in three times before the cork was extracted. 244 It has never been transfixed. 245 This long screw would have transfixed it and drawn it with a single pull. 246 When you catch this fellow you will find that he has one of these multiplex knives in his possession.'
247 'Excellent!' said Hopkins.
248 'But these glasses do puzzle me, I confess. 249 Lady Brackenstall actually saw the three men drinking, did she not?'
250 'Yes; she was clear about that.'
251 'Then there is an end of it. 252 What more is to be said? 253 And yet you must admit that the three glasses are very remarkable, Hopkins. 254 What, you see nothing remarkable? 255 Well, well, let it pass. 256 Perhaps when a man has special knowledge and special powers like my own it rather encourages him to seek a complex explanation when a simpler one is at hand. 257 Of course, it must be a mere chance about the glasses. 258 Well, good morning, Hopkins, I don't see that I can be of any use to you, and you appear to have your case very clear. 259 You will let me know when Randall is arrested, and any further developments which may occur. 260 I trust that I shall soon have to congratulate you upon a successful conclusion. 261 Come, Watson, I fancy that we may employ ourselves more profitably at home.'
262 During our return journey I could see by Holmes's face that he was much puzzled by something which he had observed. 263 Every now and then, by an effort, he would throw off the impression and talk as if the matter were clear, but then his doubts would settle down upon him again, and his knitted brows and abstracted eyes would show that his thoughts had gone back once more to the great dining-room of the Abbey Grange in which this midnight tragedy had been enacted. 264 At last, by a sudden impulse, just as our train was crawling out of a suburban station, he sprang on to the platform and pulled me out after him.
265 'Excuse me, my dear fellow,' said he, as we watched the rear carriages of our train disappearing round a curve; 'I am sorry to make you the victim of what may seem a mere whim, but on my life, Watson, I simply can't leave that case in this condition. 266 Every instinct that I possess cries out against it. 267 It's wrong - it's all wrong - I'll swear that it's wrong. 268 And yet the lady's story was complete, the maid's corroboration was sufficient, the detail was fairly exact. 269 What have I to put against that? 270 Three wine-glasses, that is all. 271 But if I had not taken things for granted, if I had examined everything with the care which I would have shown had we approached the case de novo and had no cut-and-dried story to warp my mind, would I not then have found something more definite to go upon? 272 Of course I should. 273 Sit down on this bench, Watson, until a train for Chislehurst arrives, and allow me to lay the evidence before you, imploring you in the first instance to dismiss from your mind the idea that anything which the maid or mistress may have said must necessarily be true. 274 The lady's charming personality must not be permitted to warp our judgement.
275 'Surely there are details in her story which, if we look at it in cold blood, would excite our suspicion. 276 These burglars made a considerable haul at Sydenham a fortnight ago. 277 Some account of them and their appearance was in the papers, and would naturally occur to anyone who wished to invent a story in which imaginary robbers should play a part. 278 As a matter of fact, burglars who have done a good stroke of business are, as a rule, only too glad to enjoy the proceeds in peace and quiet without embarking on another perilous undertaking. 279 Again, it is unusual for burglars to strike a lady to prevent her screaming, since one would imagine that was the sure way to make her scream; it is unusual for them to commit murder when their numbers are sufficient to overpower one man; it is unusual for them to be content with a limited plunder when there is much more within their reach; and, finally, I should say that it was very unusual for such men to leave a bottle half empty. 280 How do all these unusuals strike you, Watson?'
281 'Their cumulative effect is certainly considerable, and yet each of them is quite possible in itself. 282 The most unusual thing of all, as it seems to me, is that the lady should be tied to the chair.'
283 'Well, I am not so sure about that, Watson, for it is evident that they must either kill her or else secure her in such a way that she could not give immediate notice of their escape. 284 But at any rate I have shown, have I not, that there is a certain element of improbability about the lady's story? 285 And now on the top of this comes the incident of the wine-glasses.'
286 'What about the wine-glasses?'
287 'Can you see them in your mind's eye?'
288 'I see them clearly.'
289 'We are told that three men drank from them. 290 Does that strike you as likely?'
291 'Why not? 292 There was wine in each glass.'
293 'Exactly; but there was bee-swing only in one glass. 294 You must have noticed that fact. 295 What does that suggest to your mind?'
296 The last glass filled would be most likely to contain bee-swing.'
297 'Not at all. 298 The bottle was full of it, and it is inconceivable that the first two glasses were clear and the third heavily charged with it. 299 There are two possible explanations, and only two. 300 One is that after the second glass was filled the bottle was violently agitated, and so the third glass received the bee-swing. 301 That does not appear probable. 302 No, no; I am sure that I am right.'
303 'What, then, do you suppose?'
304 'That only two glasses were used, and that the dregs of both were poured into a third glass, so as to give the false impression that three people had been there. 305 In that way all the bee-swing would be in the last glass, would it not? 306 Yes, am convinced that this is so. 307 But if I have hit upon the true explanation of this one small phenomenon, then in an instant the case rises from the commonplace to the exceedingly remarkable, for it can only mean that Lady Brackenstall and her maid have deliberately lied to us, that not one word of their story is to be believed, that they have some very strong reason for covering the real criminal, and that we must construct our case for ourselves without any help from them. 308 That is the mission which now lies before us, and here, Watson, is the Chislehurst train?
309 The household of the Abbey Grange were much surprised at our return, but Sherlock Holmes, finding that Stanley Hopkins had gone off to report to headquarters, took possession of the dining-room, locked the door upon the inside and devoted himself for two hours to one of those minute and laborious investigations which formed the solid basis on which his brilliant edifices of deduction were reared. 310 Seated in a corner like an interested student who observes the demonstration of his professor, I followed every step of that remarkable research. 311 The window, the curtains, the carpet, the chair, the rope - each in turn was minutely examined and duly pondered. 312 The body of the unfortunate baronet had been removed, but all else remained as we had seen it in the morning. 313 Then, to my astonishment, Holmes climbed up on to the massive mantelpiece. 314 Far above his head hung the few inches of red cord which were still attached to the wire. 315 For a long time he gazed upwards at it, and then in an attempt to get nearer to it he rested his knee upon a wooden bracket on the wall. 316 This brought his hand within a few inches of' the broken end of the rope; but it was not this so much as the bracket itself which seemed to engage his attention. 317 Finally he sprang down with an ejaculation of satisfaction.
318 'It's all right, Watson,' said he. 319 'We have got our case - one of the most remarkable in our collection. 320 But, dear me, how slow-witted I have been, and how nearly I have committed the blunder of my lifetime! 321 Now, I think that with a few missing links my chain is almost complete.'
322 'You have got your men?'
323 'Man, Watson, man. 324 Only one, but a very formidable person. 325 Strong as a lion - witness the blow which bent that poker. 326 Six foot three in height, active as a squirrel, dexterous with his fingers; finally, remarkably quick-witted, for this whole ingenious story is of his concoction. 327 Yes, Watson, we have come upon the handiwork of a very remarkable individual. 328 And yet in that bell-rope he has given us a clue which should not have left us a doubt.'
329 'Where was the clue?'
330 'Well, if you were to pull down a bell-rope, Watson, where would you expect it to break? 331 Surely at the spot where it is attached to the wire. 332 Why should it break three inches from the top as this one has done?'
333 'Because it is frayed there?'
334 'Exactly. 335 This end, which we can examine, is frayed. 336 He was cunning enough to do that with his knife. 337 But the other end is not frayed. 338 You could not observe that from here, but if you were on the mantelpiece you would see that it is cut clean off without any mark of fraying whatever. 339 You can reconstruct what occurred. 340 The man needed the rope. 341 He would not tear it down for fear of giving the alarm by ringing the bell. 342 What did he do? 343 He sprang up on the mantelpiece, could not quite reach it, put his knee on the bracket - you will see the impression in the dust - and got his knife to bear upon the cord. 344 I could not reach the place by at least three inches, from which I infer that he is at least three inches a bigger man than I. 345 Look at that mark upon the seat of the oaken chair! 346 What is it?'
347 'Blood.'
348 'Undoubtedly it is blood. 349 This alone puts the lady's story out of court. 350 If she were seated on the chair when the crime was done, how comes that mark? 351 No, no; she was placed in the chair after the death of her husband. 352 I'll wager that the black dress shows a corresponding mark to this. 353 We have not yet met our Waterloo, Watson, but this is our Marengo, for it begins in defeat and ends in victory. 354 I should like now to have a few words with the nurse Theresa. 355 We must be wary for a while, if we are to get the information which we want.'
356 She was an interesting person, this stern Australian nurse. 357 Taciturn, suspicious, ungracious, it took some time before Holmes's pleasant manner and frank acceptance of all that she said thawed her into a corresponding amiability. 358 She did not attempt to conceal her hatred for her late employer.
359 'Yes, sir, it is true that he threw the decanter at me. 360 I heard him call my mistress a name, and I told him that he would not dare to speak so if her brother had been there. 361 Then it was that he threw it at me. 362 He might have thrown a dozen if he had but left my bonny bird alone. 363 He was for ever ill-treating her, and she too proud to complain. 364 She will not even tell me all that he has done to her. 365 She never told me of those marks on her arm that you saw this morning, but I know very well that they come from a stab with a hat-pin. 366 The sly devil - God forgive me that I should speak of him so, now that he is dead, but a devil he was if ever one walked the earth. 367 He was all honey when we first met him, only eighteen months ago, and we both feel as if it were eighteen years. 368 She had only just arrived in London.
369 'Yes, it was her first voyage she had never been from home before. 370 He won her with his tide and his money and his false London ways. 371 If she made a mistake she has paid for it, if ever a woman did. 372 What month did we meet him? 373 Well, I tell you it was just after we arrived. 374 We arrived in June, and it was July. 375 They were married in January of last year. 376 Yes, she is down in the morning-room again, and I have no doubt she will see you, but you must not ask too much of her, for she has gone through all that flesh and blood will stand.'
377 Lady Brackenstall was reclining on the same couch, but looked brighter than before. 378 The maid had entered with us, and began once more to foment the bruise upon her mistress's brow.
379 'I hope,' said the lady, 'that you have not come to cross-examine me again?'
380 'No,' Holmes answered, in his gentlest voice, 'I will not cause you any unnecessary trouble, Lady Brackenstall, and my whole desire is to make things easy for you, for I am convinced that you are a much-tried woman. 381 If you will treat me as a friend and trust me, you may find that I will justify your trust.'
382 'What do you want me to do?'
383 'To tell me the truth.'
384 'Mr Holmes!'
385 'No, no, Lady Brackenstall, it is no use. 386 You may have heard of any little reputation which I possess. 387 I will stake it all on the fact that your story is an absolute fabrication.'
388 Mistress and maid were both staring at Holmes with pale faces and frightened eyes.
389 'You are an impudent fellow!' cried Theresa. 390 'Do you mean to say that my mistress has told a lie?'
391 Holmes rose from his chair.
392 'Have you nothing to tell me?'
393 'I have told you everything.'
394 'Think once more, Lady Brackenstall. 395 Would it not be better to be frank?'
396 For an instant there was hesitation in her beautiful face. 397 Then some new strong thought caused it to set like a mask.
398 'I have told you all I know.'
399 Holmes took his hat and shrugged his shoulders. 400 'I am sorry,' he said, and without another word we left the room and the house. 401 There was a pond in the park, and to this my friend led the way. 402 It was frozen over, but a single hole was left for the convenience of a solitary swan. 403 Holmes gazed at it, and then passed on to the lodge gate. 404 There he scribbled a short note for Stanley Hopkins, and left it with the lodge-keeper.
405 'It may be a hit, or it may be a miss, but we are bound to do something for friend Hopkins, just to justify this second visit,' said he. 406 'I will not quite take him into my confidence yet. 407 I think our next scene of operations must be the shipping office of the Adelaide - Southampton line, which stands at the end of Pall Mall, if I remember right. 408 There is a second line of steamers which connect South Australia with England, but we will draw the larger cover first.'
409 Holmes's card sent in to the manager ensured instant attention, and he was not long in acquiring all the information which he needed. 410 In June of '95 only one of their line had reached a home port. 411 It was the Rock of Gibraltar, their largest and best boat. 412 A reference to the passenger list showed that Miss Fraser of Adelaide, with her maid, had made the voyage in her. 413 The boat was now on her way to Australia, somewhere to the south of the Suez Canal. 414 Her officers were the same as in '95, with one exception. 415 The first officer, Mr Jack Croker, had been made a captain, and was to take charge of their new ship, the Bass Rock, sailing in two days' time from Southampton. 416 He lived at Sydenham, but he was likely to be in that morning for instructions, if we cared to wait for him.
417 No; Mr Holmes had no desire to see him, but would be glad to know more about his record and character.
418 His record was magnificent. 419 There was not an officer in the fleet to touch him. 420 As to his character, he was reliable on duty, but a wild, desperate fellow off the deck of his ship, hot-headed, excitable, but loyal, honest, and kind-hearted. 421 That was the pith of the information with which Holmes left the office of the Adelaide - Southampton Company. 422 Thence he drove to Scotland Yard, but instead of entering he sat in his cab with his brows drawn down, lost in profound thought. 423 Finally he drove round to the Charing Cross telegraph office, sent off a message, and then, at last, we made for Baker Street once more.
424 'No, I couldn't do it, Watson,' said he, as we re-entered our room. 425 'Once that warrant was made out nothing on earth would save him. 426 Once or twice in my career I feel that I have done more real harm by my discovery of the criminal than ever he had done by his crime. 427 I have learned caution now, and I had rather play tricks with the law of England than with my own conscience. 428 Let us know a little more before we act.'
429 Before evening we had a visit from Inspector Stanley Hopkins. 430 Things were not going very well with him.
431 'I believe that you are a wizard, Mr Holmes. 432 I really do sometimes think that you have powers that are not human. 433 Now, how on earth could you know that the stolen silver was at the bottom of that pond?'
434 'I didn't know it.'
435 'But you told me to examine it.'
436 'You got it then?'
437 'Yes, I got it.'
438 'I am very glad if I have helped you.
439 'But you haven't helped me. 440 You have made the affair far more difficult. 441 What sort of burglars are they who steal silver and then throw it into the nearest pond?'
442 'It was certainly rather eccentric behaviour. 443 I was merely going on the idea that if the silver had been taken by persons who did not want it, who merely took it for a blind, as it were, then they would naturally be anxious to get rid of it.'
444 'But why should such an idea cross your mind?'
445 'Well, I thought it was possible. 446 When they came out through the French window there was the pond, with one tempting little hole in the ice right in front of their noses. 447 Could there be a better hiding-place?'
448 'Ah, a hiding-place - that is better!' cried Stanley Hopkins. 449 'Yes, yes, I see it all now! 450 It was early, there were folk upon the roads, they were afraid of being seen with the silver, so they sank it in the pond, intending to return for it when the coast was clear. 451 Excellent, Mr Holmes - that is better than your idea of a blind.'
452 'Quite so; you have got an admirable theory. 453 I have no doubt that my own ideas were quite wild, but you must admit that they have ended in discovering the silver.'
454 'Yes, sir; yes. 455 It was all your doing. 456 But I have had a bad set-back.'
457 'A set-back?'
458 'Yes, Mr Holmes. 459 The Randall gang were arrested in New York this morning.'
460 'Dear me, Hopkins. 461 That is certainly rather against your theory that they committed a murder in Kent last night.'
462 'It is fatal, Mr Holmes, absolutely fatal. 463 Still, there are other gangs of three besides the Randalls, or it may be some new gang of which the police have never heard.'
464 'Quite so; it is perfectly possible. 465 What, are you off?'
466 'Yes, Mr Holmes; there is no rest for me until I have got to the bottom of the business. 467 I suppose you have no hint to give me?'
468 'I have given you one.'
469 'Which?'
470 'Well, I suggested a blind.'
471 'But why, Mr Holmes, why?'
472 'Ah, that's the question, of course. 473 But I commend the idea to your mind. 474 You might possibly find that there was something in it. 475 You won't stop for dinner? 476 Well, good-bye, and let us know how you get on.'
477 Dinner was over and the table cleared before Holmes alluded to the matter again. 478 He had lit his pipe, and held his slippered feet to the cheerful blaze of the fire. 479 Suddenly he looked at his watch.
480 'I expect developments, Watson.'
481 'When?'
482 'Now - within a few minutes. 483 I dare say you thought I acted rather badly to Stanley Hopkins just now?'
484 'I trust your judgement.'
485 'A very sensible reply, Watson. 486 You must look at it this way; what I know is unofficial; what he knows is official. 487 I have the right to private judgment, but he has none. 488 He must disclose all, or he is a traitor to his service. 489 In a doubtful case I would not put him in so painful a position, and so I reserve my information until my own mind is clear upon the matter.'
490 'But when will that be?'
491 'The time has come. 492 You will now be present at the last scene of a remarkable little drama.'
493 There was a sound upon the stairs, and our door was opened to admit as fine a specimen of manhood as ever passed through it. 494 He was a very tall young man, golden- moustached, blue-eyed, with a skin which had been burned by tropical suns, and a springy step which showed that the huge frame was as active as it was strong. 495 He closed the door behind him, and then he stood with clenched hands and heaving breast, choking down some overmastering emotion.
496 'Sit down, Captain Croker. 497 You got my telegram?'
498 Our visitor sank into an arm-chair and looked from one to the other of us with questioning eyes.
499 'I got your telegram, and I came at the hour you said. 500 I heard that you had been down to the office. 501 There was no getting away from you. 502 Let's hear the worst. 503 What are you going to do with me? 504 Arrest me? 505 Speak out, man! 506 You can't sit there and play with me like a cat with a mouse.'
507 'Give him a cigar,' said Holmes. 508 'Bite on that, Captain Croker, and don't let your nerves run away with you. 509 I should not sit here smoking with you if I thought that you were a common criminal, you may be sure of that. 510 Be frank with me, and we may do some good. 511 Play tricks with me, and I'll crush you.'
512 'What do you wish me to do?'
513 'To give me a true account of all that happened at the Abbey Grange last night - a true account, mind you, with nothing added and nothing taken off. 514 I know so much already that if you go one inch off the straight I'll blow this police whistle from my window and the affair goes out of my hands for ever.'
515 The sailor thought for a little. 516 Then he struck his leg with his great sunburnt hand.
517 'I'll chance it,' he cried. 518 'I believe you are a man of your word, and a white man, and I'll tell you the whole story. 519 But one thing I will say first. 520 So far as I am concerned, I regret nothing and I fear nothing, and I would do it all again and be proud of the job. 521 Damn the beast - if he had as many lives as a cat he would owe them all to me! 522 But it's the lady, Mary - Mary Fraser - for never will I call her by that accursed name. 523 When I think of getting her into trouble, I who would give my life just to bring one smile to her dear face, it's that that turns my soul into water. 524 And yet - and yet - what less could I do? 525 I'll tell you my story, gentlemen, and then I'll ask you as man to man what less could I do.
526 'I must go back a bit. 527 You seem to know everything, so I expect that you know that I met her when she was a passenger and I was the first officer of the Rock of Gibraltar. 528 From the first day I met her she was the only woman to me. 529 Every day of that voyage I loved her more, and many a time since have I kneeled down in the darkness of the night watch and kissed the deck of that ship because I knew her dear feet had trod it. 530 She was never engaged to me. 531 She treated me as fairly as ever a woman treated a man. 532 I have no complaint to make. 533 It was all love on my side, and all good comradeship and friendship on hers. 534 When we parted she was a free woman, but I could never again be a free man.
535 'Next time I came back from sea I heard of her marriage. 536 Well, why shouldn't she marry whom she liked? 537 Title and money - who could carry them better than she? 538 She was born for all that is beautiful and dainty. 539 I didn't grieve over her marriage. 540 I was not such a selfish hound as that. 541 I just rejoiced that good luck had come her way, and that she had not thrown herself away on a penniless sailor. 542 That's how I loved Mary Fraser.
543 'Well, I never thought to see her again; but last voyage I was promoted, and the new boat was not yet launched, so I had to wait for a couple of months with my people at Sydenham. 544 One day out in a country lane I met Theresa Wright, her old maid. 545 She told me about her, about him, about everything. 546 I tell you, gentlemen, it nearly drove me mad. 547 This drunken hound, that he should dare to raise his hand to her whose boots he was not worthy to lick! 548 I met Theresa again. 549 Then I met Mary herself - and met her again. 550 Then she would meet me no more. 551 But the other day I had a notice that I was to start on my voyage within a week, and I determined that I would see her once before I left. 552 Theresa was always my friend, for she loved Mary and hated this villain almost as much as I did. 553 From her I learned the ways of the house. 554 Mary used to sit up reading in her own little room downstairs. 555 I crept round there last night and scratched at the window. 556 At first she would not open to me, but in her heart I know that now she loves me, and she could not leave me in the frosty night. 557 She whispered to me to come round to the big front window, and I found it open before me so as to let me into the dining-room. 558 Again I heard from her own lips things that made my blood boil, and again I cursed this brute who mishandled the woman that I loved. 559 Well, gentlemen, I was standing with her just inside the window, in all innocence, as God is my judge, when he rushed like a madman into the room, called her the vilest name that a man could use to a woman, and welted her across the face with the stick he had in his hand. 560 I had sprung for the poker, and it was a fair fight between us. 561 See here on my arm where his first blow fell. 562 Then it was my turn, and I went through him as if he had been a rotten pumpkin. 563 Do you think I was sorry? 564 Not I! 565 It was his life or mine; but far more than that - it was his life or hers, for how could I leave her in the power of this madman? 566 That was how I killed him. 567 Was I wrong? 568 Well, then, what would either of you gentlemen have done if you had been in my position?
569 'She had screamed when he struck her, and that brought old Theresa down from the room above. 570 There was a bottle of wine on the sideboard, and I opened it and poured a little between Mary's lips, for she was half dead with the shock. 571 Then I took a drop myself. 572 Theresa was as cool as ice, and it was her plot as much as mine. 573 We must make it appear that burglars had done the thing. 574 Theresa kept on repeating our story to her mistress, while I swarmed up and cut the rope of the bell. 575 Then I lashed her in her chair, and frayed out the end of the rope to make it look natural, else they would wonder how in the world a burglar could have got up there to cut it. 576 Then I gathered up a few plates and pots of silver, to carry out the idea of a robbery, and there I left them, with orders to give the alarm when I had a quarter of an hour's start. 577 I dropped the silver into the pond and made off for Sydenham, feeling that for once in my life I had done a real good night's work. 578 And that's the truth and the whole truth, Mr Holmes, if it costs me my neck.'
579 Holmes smoked for some time in silence. 580 Then he crossed the room and shook our visitor by the hand.
581 'That's what I think,' said he. 582 'I know that every word is true, for you have hardly said a word which I did not know. 583 No one but an acrobat or a sailor could have got up to the bell-rope from the bracket, and no one but a sailor could have made the knots with which the cord was fastened to the chair. 584 Only once had this lady been brought into contact with sailors, and that was on her voyage, and it was someone of her own class of life, since she was trying hard to shield him and so showing that she loved him. 585 You see how easy it was for me to lay my hands upon you when once I had started upon the right trail.'
586 'I thought the police never could have seen through our dodge.'
587 'And the police haven't; nor will they, to the best of my belief. 588 Now, look here, Captain Croker, this is a very serious matter, though I am willing to admit that you acted under the most extreme provocation to which any man could be subjected. 589 I am not sure that in defence of your own life your action will not be pronounced legitimate. 590 However, that is for a British jury to decide. 591 Meanwhile I have so much sympathy for you that if you choose to disappear in the next twenty-four hours I will promise you that no one will hinder you.'
592 'And then it will all come out?'
593 'Certainly it will come out.'
594 The sailor flushed with anger.
595 'What sort of proposal is that to make to a man? 596 I know enough of law to understand that Mary would be had as accomplice. 597 Do you think I would leave her alone to face the music while I slunk away? 598 No, sir; let them do their worst upon me, but for Heaven's sake, Mr Holmes, find some way of keeping my poor Mary out of the courts.'
599 Holmes for the second time held out his hand to the sailor.
600 'I was only testing you, and you ring true every time. 601 Well, it is a great responsibility that I take upon myself, but I have given Hopkins an excellent hint, and if he can't avail himself of it I can do no more. 602 See here, Captain Croker, we'll do this in due form of law. 603 You are the prisoner. 604 Watson, you are a British jury, and I never met a man who was more eminently fitted to represent one. 605 I am the judge. 606 Now, gentlemen of the jury, you have heard the evidence. 607 Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?'
608 'Not guilty, my lord,' said I.
609 'Vox populi, vox Dei. 610 You are acquitted, Captain Croker. 611 So long as the law does not find some other victim, you are safe from me. 612 Come back to this lady in a year, and may her future and yours justify us in the judgment which we have pronounced this night.'


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