kinderzimmer wandgestaltung grün rosa
the adventures of sherlock holmes bysir arthur conan doyle adventure xi.the adventure of the beryl coronet "holmes," said i as i stood one morning inour bow-window looking down the street, "here is a madman coming along.it seems rather sad that his relatives should allow him to come out alone." my friend rose lazily from his armchair andstood with his hands in the pockets of his dressing-gown, looking over my shoulder. it was a bright, crisp february morning,and the snow of the day before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightlyin the wintry sun.
down the centre of baker street it had beenploughed into a brown crumbly band by the traffic, but at either side and on theheaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it fell. the grey pavement had been cleaned andscraped, but was still dangerously slippery, so that there were fewerpassengers than usual. indeed, from the direction of themetropolitan station no one was coming save the single gentleman whose eccentricconduct had drawn my attention. he was a man of about fifty, tall, portly,and imposing, with a massive, strongly marked face and a commanding figure.
he was dressed in a sombre yet rich style,in black frock-coat, shining hat, neat brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-greytrousers. yet his actions were in absurd contrast tothe dignity of his dress and features, for he was running hard, with occasional littlesprings, such as a weary man gives who is little accustomed to set any tax upon hislegs. as he ran he jerked his hands up and down,waggled his head, and writhed his face into the most extraordinary contortions. "what on earth can be the matter with him?"i asked. "he is looking up at the numbers of thehouses."
"i believe that he is coming here," saidholmes, rubbing his hands. "here?""yes; i rather think he is coming to consult me professionally. i think that i recognise the symptoms.ha! did i not tell you?" as he spoke, the man, puffing and blowing,rushed at our door and pulled at our bell until the whole house resounded with theclanging. a few moments later he was in our room,still puffing, still gesticulating, but with so fixed a look of grief and despairin his eyes that our smiles were turned in an instant to horror and pity.
for a while he could not get his words out,but swayed his body and plucked at his hair like one who has been driven to the extremelimits of his reason. then, suddenly springing to his feet, hebeat his head against the wall with such force that we both rushed upon him and torehim away to the centre of the room. sherlock holmes pushed him down into theeasy-chair and, sitting beside him, patted his hand and chatted with him in the easy,soothing tones which he knew so well how to employ. "you have come to me to tell your story,have you not?" said he. "you are fatigued with your haste.
pray wait until you have recoveredyourself, and then i shall be most happy to look into any little problem which you maysubmit to me." the man sat for a minute or more with aheaving chest, fighting against his emotion. then he passed his handkerchief over hisbrow, set his lips tight, and turned his face towards us."no doubt you think me mad?" said he. "i see that you have had some greattrouble," responded holmes. "god knows i have!--a trouble which isenough to unseat my reason, so sudden and so terrible is it.
public disgrace i might have faced,although i am a man whose character has never yet borne a stain. private affliction also is the lot of everyman; but the two coming together, and in so frightful a form, have been enough to shakemy very soul. besides, it is not i alone. the very noblest in the land may sufferunless some way be found out of this horrible affair." "pray compose yourself, sir," said holmes,"and let me have a clear account of who you are and what it is that has befallen you.""my name," answered our visitor, "is
probably familiar to your ears. i am alexander holder, of the banking firmof holder & stevenson, of threadneedle street." the name was indeed well known to us asbelonging to the senior partner in the second largest private banking concern inthe city of london. what could have happened, then, to bringone of the foremost citizens of london to this most pitiable pass? we waited, all curiosity, until withanother effort he braced himself to tell his story.
"i feel that time is of value," said he;"that is why i hastened here when the police inspector suggested that i shouldsecure your co-operation. i came to baker street by the undergroundand hurried from there on foot, for the cabs go slowly through this snow.that is why i was so out of breath, for i am a man who takes very little exercise. i feel better now, and i will put the factsbefore you as shortly and yet as clearly as i can. "it is, of course, well known to you thatin a successful banking business as much depends upon our being able to findremunerative investments for our funds as
upon our increasing our connection and thenumber of our depositors. one of our most lucrative means of layingout money is in the shape of loans, where the security is unimpeachable. we have done a good deal in this directionduring the last few years, and there are many noble families to whom we haveadvanced large sums upon the security of their pictures, libraries, or plate. "yesterday morning i was seated in myoffice at the bank when a card was brought in to me by one of the clerks. i started when i saw the name, for it wasthat of none other than--well, perhaps even
to you i had better say no more than thatit was a name which is a household word all over the earth--one of the highest,noblest, most exalted names in england. i was overwhelmed by the honour andattempted, when he entered, to say so, but he plunged at once into business with theair of a man who wishes to hurry quickly through a disagreeable task. "'mr. holder,' said he, 'i have beeninformed that you are in the habit of advancing money.'"'the firm does so when the security is good.' i answered."'it is absolutely essential to me,' said
he, 'that i should have 50,000 pounds atonce. i could, of course, borrow so trifling asum ten times over from my friends, but i much prefer to make it a matter of businessand to carry out that business myself. in my position you can readily understandthat it is unwise to place one's self under obligations.'"'for how long, may i ask, do you want this sum?' i asked."'next monday i have a large sum due to me, and i shall then most certainly repay whatyou advance, with whatever interest you think it right to charge.
but it is very essential to me that themoney should be paid at once.' "'i should be happy to advance it withoutfurther parley from my own private purse,' said i, 'were it not that the strain wouldbe rather more than it could bear. if, on the other hand, i am to do it in thename of the firm, then in justice to my partner i must insist that, even in yourcase, every businesslike precaution should be taken.' "'i should much prefer to have it so,' saidhe, raising up a square, black morocco case which he had laid beside his chair.'you have doubtless heard of the beryl coronet?'
"'one of the most precious publicpossessions of the empire,' said i. "'precisely.' he opened the case, and there, imbedded insoft, flesh-coloured velvet, lay the magnificent piece of jewellery which he hadnamed. 'there are thirty-nine enormous beryls,'said he, 'and the price of the gold chasing is incalculable. the lowest estimate would put the worth ofthe coronet at double the sum which i have asked.i am prepared to leave it with you as my security.'
"i took the precious case into my hands andlooked in some perplexity from it to my illustrious client."'you doubt its value?' he asked. "'not at all. i only doubt--'"'the propriety of my leaving it. you may set your mind at rest about that. i should not dream of doing so were it notabsolutely certain that i should be able in four days to reclaim it.it is a pure matter of form. is the security sufficient?' "'ample.'"'you understand, mr. holder, that i am
giving you a strong proof of the confidencewhich i have in you, founded upon all that i have heard of you. i rely upon you not only to be discreet andto refrain from all gossip upon the matter but, above all, to preserve this coronetwith every possible precaution because i need not say that a great public scandal would be caused if any harm were to befallit. any injury to it would be almost as seriousas its complete loss, for there are no beryls in the world to match these, and itwould be impossible to replace them. i leave it with you, however, with everyconfidence, and i shall call for it in
person on monday morning.' "seeing that my client was anxious toleave, i said no more but, calling for my cashier, i ordered him to pay over fifty1000 pound notes. when i was alone once more, however, withthe precious case lying upon the table in front of me, i could not but think withsome misgivings of the immense responsibility which it entailed upon me. there could be no doubt that, as it was anational possession, a horrible scandal would ensue if any misfortune should occurto it. i already regretted having ever consentedto take charge of it.
however, it was too late to alter thematter now, so i locked it up in my private safe and turned once more to my work. "when evening came i felt that it would bean imprudence to leave so precious a thing in the office behind me.bankers' safes had been forced before now, and why should not mine be? if so, how terrible would be the positionin which i should find myself! i determined, therefore, that for the nextfew days i would always carry the case backward and forward with me, so that itmight never be really out of my reach. with this intention, i called a cab anddrove out to my house at streatham,
carrying the jewel with me. i did not breathe freely until i had takenit upstairs and locked it in the bureau of my dressing-room. "and now a word as to my household, mr.holmes, for i wish you to thoroughly understand the situation.my groom and my page sleep out of the house, and may be set aside altogether. i have three maid-servants who have beenwith me a number of years and whose absolute reliability is quite abovesuspicion. another, lucy parr, the second waiting-maid, has only been in my service a few
months. she came with an excellent character,however, and has always given me satisfaction. she is a very pretty girl and has attractedadmirers who have occasionally hung about the place. that is the only drawback which we havefound to her, but we believe her to be a thoroughly good girl in every way."so much for the servants. my family itself is so small that it willnot take me long to describe it. i am a widower and have an only son,arthur.
he has been a disappointment to me, mr.holmes--a grievous disappointment. i have no doubt that i am myself to blame.people tell me that i have spoiled him. very likely i have. when my dear wife died i felt that he wasall i had to love. i could not bear to see the smile fade evenfor a moment from his face. i have never denied him a wish. perhaps it would have been better for bothof us had i been sterner, but i meant it for the best. "it was naturally my intention that heshould succeed me in my business, but he
was not of a business turn. he was wild, wayward, and, to speak thetruth, i could not trust him in the handling of large sums of money. when he was young he became a member of anaristocratic club, and there, having charming manners, he was soon the intimateof a number of men with long purses and expensive habits. he learned to play heavily at cards and tosquander money on the turf, until he had again and again to come to me and imploreme to give him an advance upon his allowance, that he might settle his debtsof honour.
he tried more than once to break away fromthe dangerous company which he was keeping, but each time the influence of his friend,sir george burnwell, was enough to draw him back again. "and, indeed, i could not wonder that sucha man as sir george burnwell should gain an influence over him, for he has frequentlybrought him to my house, and i have found myself that i could hardly resist thefascination of his manner. he is older than arthur, a man of the worldto his finger-tips, one who had been everywhere, seen everything, a brillianttalker, and a man of great personal beauty. yet when i think of him in cold blood, faraway from the glamour of his presence, i am
convinced from his cynical speech and thelook which i have caught in his eyes that he is one who should be deeply distrusted. so i think, and so, too, thinks my littlemary, who has a woman's quick insight into character."and now there is only she to be described. she is my niece; but when my brother diedfive years ago and left her alone in the world i adopted her, and have looked uponher ever since as my daughter. she is a sunbeam in my house--sweet,loving, beautiful, a wonderful manager and housekeeper, yet as tender and quiet andgentle as a woman could be. she is my right hand.
i do not know what i could do without her.in only one matter has she ever gone against my wishes. twice my boy has asked her to marry him,for he loves her devotedly, but each time she has refused him. i think that if anyone could have drawn himinto the right path it would have been she, and that his marriage might have changedhis whole life; but now, alas! it is too late--forever too late! "now, mr. holmes, you know the people wholive under my roof, and i shall continue with my miserable story.
"when we were taking coffee in the drawing-room that night after dinner, i told arthur and mary my experience, and of the precioustreasure which we had under our roof, suppressing only the name of my client. lucy parr, who had brought in the coffee,had, i am sure, left the room; but i cannot swear that the door was closed. mary and arthur were much interested andwished to see the famous coronet, but i thought it better not to disturb it."'where have you put it?' asked arthur. "'in my own bureau.' "'well, i hope to goodness the house won'tbe burgled during the night.' said he.
"'it is locked up,' i answered."'oh, any old key will fit that bureau. when i was a youngster i have opened itmyself with the key of the box-room cupboard.'"he often had a wild way of talking, so that i thought little of what he said. he followed me to my room, however, thatnight with a very grave face. "'look here, dad,' said he with his eyescast down, 'can you let me have 200 pounds?' "'no, i cannot!'i answered sharply. 'i have been far too generous with you inmoney matters.'
"'you have been very kind,' said he, 'but imust have this money, or else i can never show my face inside the club again.'"'and a very good thing, too!' i cried. "'yes, but you would not have me leave it adishonoured man,' said he. 'i could not bear the disgrace. i must raise the money in some way, and ifyou will not let me have it, then i must try other means.'"i was very angry, for this was the third demand during the month. 'you shall not have a farthing from me,' icried, on which he bowed and left the room
without another word. "when he was gone i unlocked my bureau,made sure that my treasure was safe, and locked it again. then i started to go round the house to seethat all was secure--a duty which i usually leave to mary but which i thought it wellto perform myself that night. as i came down the stairs i saw maryherself at the side window of the hall, which she closed and fastened as iapproached. "'tell me, dad,' said she, looking, ithought, a little disturbed, 'did you give lucy, the maid, leave to go out to-night?'"'certainly not.'
"'she came in just now by the back door. i have no doubt that she has only been tothe side gate to see someone, but i think that it is hardly safe and should bestopped.' "'you must speak to her in the morning, ori will if you prefer it. are you sure that everything is fastened?'"'quite sure, dad.' "'then, good-night.' i kissed her and went up to my bedroomagain, where i was soon asleep. "i am endeavouring to tell you everything,mr. holmes, which may have any bearing upon the case, but i beg that you will questionme upon any point which i do not make
clear." "on the contrary, your statement issingularly lucid." "i come to a part of my story now in whichi should wish to be particularly so. i am not a very heavy sleeper, and theanxiety in my mind tended, no doubt, to make me even less so than usual.about two in the morning, then, i was awakened by some sound in the house. it had ceased ere i was wide awake, but ithad left an impression behind it as though a window had gently closed somewhere.i lay listening with all my ears. suddenly, to my horror, there was adistinct sound of footsteps moving softly
in the next room. i slipped out of bed, all palpitating withfear, and peeped round the corner of my dressing-room door."'arthur!' i screamed, 'you villain! you thief! how dare you touch that coronet?'"the gas was half up, as i had left it, and my unhappy boy, dressed only in his shirtand trousers, was standing beside the light, holding the coronet in his hands. he appeared to be wrenching at it, orbending it with all his strength. at my cry he dropped it from his grasp andturned as pale as death.
i snatched it up and examined it. one of the gold corners, with three of theberyls in it, was missing. "'you blackguard!'i shouted, beside myself with rage. 'you have destroyed it! you have dishonoured me forever!where are the jewels which you have stolen?'"'stolen!' he cried. "'yes, thief!' i roared, shaking him by the shoulder."'there are none missing. there cannot be any missing,' said he."'there are three missing.
and you know where they are. must i call you a liar as well as a thief?did i not see you trying to tear off another piece?'"'you have called me names enough,' said he, 'i will not stand it any longer. i shall not say another word about thisbusiness, since you have chosen to insult me.i will leave your house in the morning and make my own way in the world.' "'you shall leave it in the hands of thepolice!' i cried half-mad with grief and rage.'i shall have this matter probed to the
bottom.' "'you shall learn nothing from me,' said hewith a passion such as i should not have thought was in his nature.'if you choose to call the police, let the police find what they can.' "by this time the whole house was astir,for i had raised my voice in my anger. mary was the first to rush into my room,and, at the sight of the coronet and of arthur's face, she read the whole storyand, with a scream, fell down senseless on the ground. i sent the house-maid for the police andput the investigation into their hands at
once. when the inspector and a constable enteredthe house, arthur, who had stood sullenly with his arms folded, asked me whether itwas my intention to charge him with theft. i answered that it had ceased to be aprivate matter, but had become a public one, since the ruined coronet was nationalproperty. i was determined that the law should haveits way in everything. "'at least,' said he, 'you will not have mearrested at once. it would be to your advantage as well asmine if i might leave the house for five minutes.'
"'that you may get away, or perhaps thatyou may conceal what you have stolen,' said i. and then, realising the dreadful positionin which i was placed, i implored him to remember that not only my honour but thatof one who was far greater than i was at stake; and that he threatened to raise ascandal which would convulse the nation. he might avert it all if he would but tellme what he had done with the three missing stones. "'you may as well face the matter,' said i;'you have been caught in the act, and no confession could make your guilt moreheinous.
if you but make such reparation as is inyour power, by telling us where the beryls are, all shall be forgiven and forgotten.' "'keep your forgiveness for those who askfor it,' he answered, turning away from me with a sneer.i saw that he was too hardened for any words of mine to influence him. there was but one way for it.i called in the inspector and gave him into custody. a search was made at once not only of hisperson but of his room and of every portion of the house where he could possibly haveconcealed the gems; but no trace of them
could be found, nor would the wretched boy open his mouth for all our persuasions andour threats. this morning he was removed to a cell, andi, after going through all the police formalities, have hurried round to you toimplore you to use your skill in unravelling the matter. the police have openly confessed that theycan at present make nothing of it. you may go to any expense which you thinknecessary. i have already offered a reward of 1000pounds. my god, what shall i do!i have lost my honour, my gems, and my son
in one night. oh, what shall i do!"he put a hand on either side of his head and rocked himself to and fro, droning tohimself like a child whose grief has got beyond words. sherlock holmes sat silent for some fewminutes, with his brows knitted and his eyes fixed upon the fire."do you receive much company?" he asked. "none save my partner with his family andan occasional friend of arthur's. sir george burnwell has been several timeslately. no one else, i think."
"do you go out much in society?""arthur does. mary and i stay at home.we neither of us care for it." "that is unusual in a young girl." "she is of a quiet nature.besides, she is not so very young. she is four-and-twenty.""this matter, from what you say, seems to have been a shock to her also." "terrible!she is even more affected than i." "you have neither of you any doubt as toyour son's guilt?" "how can we have when i saw him with my owneyes with the coronet in his hands."
"i hardly consider that a conclusive proof.was the remainder of the coronet at all injured?" "yes, it was twisted.""do you not think, then, that he might have been trying to straighten it?""god bless you! you are doing what you can for him and forme. but it is too heavy a task.what was he doing there at all? if his purpose were innocent, why did henot say so?" "precisely.and if it were guilty, why did he not invent a lie?
his silence appears to me to cut both ways.there are several singular points about the case.what did the police think of the noise which awoke you from your sleep?" "they considered that it might be caused byarthur's closing his bedroom door." "a likely story!as if a man bent on felony would slam his door so as to wake a household. what did they say, then, of thedisappearance of these gems?" "they are still sounding the planking andprobing the furniture in the hope of finding them."
"have they thought of looking outside thehouse?" "yes, they have shown extraordinary energy.the whole garden has already been minutely examined." "now, my dear sir," said holmes, "is it notobvious to you now that this matter really strikes very much deeper than either you orthe police were at first inclined to think? it appeared to you to be a simple case; tome it seems exceedingly complex. consider what is involved by your theory. you suppose that your son came down fromhis bed, went, at great risk, to your dressing-room, opened your bureau, took outyour coronet, broke off by main force a
small portion of it, went off to some other place, concealed three gems out of thethirty-nine, with such skill that nobody can find them, and then returned with theother thirty-six into the room in which he exposed himself to the greatest danger ofbeing discovered. i ask you now, is such a theory tenable?""but what other is there?" cried the banker with a gesture of despair. "if his motives were innocent, why does henot explain them?" "it is our task to find that out," repliedholmes; "so now, if you please, mr. holder, we will set off for streatham together, anddevote an hour to glancing a little more
closely into details." my friend insisted upon my accompanyingthem in their expedition, which i was eager enough to do, for my curiosity and sympathywere deeply stirred by the story to which we had listened. i confess that the guilt of the banker'sson appeared to me to be as obvious as it did to his unhappy father, but still i hadsuch faith in holmes' judgment that i felt that there must be some grounds for hope as long as he was dissatisfied with theaccepted explanation. he hardly spoke a word the whole way out tothe southern suburb, but sat with his chin
upon his breast and his hat drawn over hiseyes, sunk in the deepest thought. our client appeared to have taken freshheart at the little glimpse of hope which had been presented to him, and he evenbroke into a desultory chat with me over his business affairs. a short railway journey and a shorter walkbrought us to fairbank, the modest residence of the great financier. fairbank was a good-sized square house ofwhite stone, standing back a little from the road. a double carriage-sweep, with a snow-cladlawn, stretched down in front to two large
iron gates which closed the entrance. on the right side was a small woodenthicket, which led into a narrow path between two neat hedges stretching from theroad to the kitchen door, and forming the tradesmen's entrance. on the left ran a lane which led to thestables, and was not itself within the grounds at all, being a public, thoughlittle used, thoroughfare. holmes left us standing at the door andwalked slowly all round the house, across the front, down the tradesmen's path, andso round by the garden behind into the stable lane.
so long was he that mr. holder and i wentinto the dining-room and waited by the fire until he should return.we were sitting there in silence when the door opened and a young lady came in. she was rather above the middle height,slim, with dark hair and eyes, which seemed the darker against the absolute pallor ofher skin. i do not think that i have ever seen suchdeadly paleness in a woman's face. her lips, too, were bloodless, but her eyeswere flushed with crying. as she swept silently into the room sheimpressed me with a greater sense of grief than the banker had done in the morning,and it was the more striking in her as she
was evidently a woman of strong character,with immense capacity for self-restraint. disregarding my presence, she went straightto her uncle and passed her hand over his head with a sweet womanly caress. "you have given orders that arthur shouldbe liberated, have you not, dad?" she asked."no, no, my girl, the matter must be probed to the bottom." "but i am so sure that he is innocent.you know what woman's instincts are. i know that he has done no harm and thatyou will be sorry for having acted so harshly."
"why is he silent, then, if he isinnocent?" "who knows?perhaps because he was so angry that you should suspect him." "how could i help suspecting him, when iactually saw him with the coronet in his hand?""oh, but he had only picked it up to look at it. oh, do, do take my word for it that he isinnocent. let the matter drop and say no more.it is so dreadful to think of our dear arthur in prison!"
"i shall never let it drop until the gemsare found--never, mary! your affection for arthur blinds you as tothe awful consequences to me. far from hushing the thing up, i havebrought a gentleman down from london to inquire more deeply into it.""this gentleman?" she asked, facing round to me. "no, his friend.he wished us to leave him alone. he is round in the stable lane now.""the stable lane?" she raised her dark eyebrows. "what can he hope to find there?ah! this, i suppose, is he.
i trust, sir, that you will succeed inproving, what i feel sure is the truth, that my cousin arthur is innocent of thiscrime." "i fully share your opinion, and i trust,with you, that we may prove it," returned holmes, going back to the mat to knock thesnow from his shoes. "i believe i have the honour of addressingmiss mary holder. might i ask you a question or two?""pray do, sir, if it may help to clear this horrible affair up." "you heard nothing yourself last night?""nothing, until my uncle here began to speak loudly.i heard that, and i came down."
"you shut up the windows and doors thenight before. did you fasten all the windows?""yes." "were they all fastened this morning?" "yes.""you have a maid who has a sweetheart? i think that you remarked to your unclelast night that she had been out to see him?" "yes, and she was the girl who waited inthe drawing-room, and who may have heard uncle's remarks about the coronet.""i see. you infer that she may have gone out totell her sweetheart, and that the two may
have planned the robbery." "but what is the good of all these vaguetheories," cried the banker impatiently, "when i have told you that i saw arthurwith the coronet in his hands?" "wait a little, mr. holder. we must come back to that.about this girl, miss holder. you saw her return by the kitchen door, ipresume?" "yes; when i went to see if the door wasfastened for the night i met her slipping in.i saw the man, too, in the gloom." "do you know him?"
"oh, yes! he is the green-grocer who bringsour vegetables round. his name is francis prosper." "he stood," said holmes, "to the left ofthe door--that is to say, farther up the path than is necessary to reach the door?""yes, he did." "and he is a man with a wooden leg?" something like fear sprang up in the younglady's expressive black eyes. "why, you are like a magician," said she."how do you know that?" she smiled, but there was no answeringsmile in holmes' thin, eager face. "i should be very glad now to go upstairs,"said he.
"i shall probably wish to go over theoutside of the house again. perhaps i had better take a look at thelower windows before i go up." he walked swiftly round from one to theother, pausing only at the large one which looked from the hall onto the stable lane. this he opened and made a very carefulexamination of the sill with his powerful magnifying lens."now we shall go upstairs," said he at last. the banker's dressing-room was a plainlyfurnished little chamber, with a grey carpet, a large bureau, and a long mirror.holmes went to the bureau first and looked
hard at the lock. "which key was used to open it?" he asked."that which my son himself indicated--that of the cupboard of the lumber-room.""have you it here?" "that is it on the dressing-table." sherlock holmes took it up and opened thebureau. "it is a noiseless lock," said he."it is no wonder that it did not wake you. this case, i presume, contains the coronet. we must have a look at it."he opened the case, and taking out the diadem he laid it upon the table.
it was a magnificent specimen of thejeweller's art, and the thirty-six stones were the finest that i have ever seen. at one side of the coronet was a crackededge, where a corner holding three gems had been torn away. "now, mr. holder," said holmes, "here isthe corner which corresponds to that which has been so unfortunately lost.might i beg that you will break it off." the banker recoiled in horror. "i should not dream of trying," said he."then i will." holmes suddenly bent his strength upon it,but without result.
"i feel it give a little," said he; "but,though i am exceptionally strong in the fingers, it would take me all my time tobreak it. an ordinary man could not do it. now, what do you think would happen if idid break it, mr. holder? there would be a noise like a pistol shot. do you tell me that all this happenedwithin a few yards of your bed and that you heard nothing of it?""i do not know what to think. it is all dark to me." "but perhaps it may grow lighter as we go.what do you think, miss holder?"
"i confess that i still share my uncle'sperplexity." "your son had no shoes or slippers on whenyou saw him?" "he had nothing on save only his trousersand shirt." "thank you. we have certainly been favoured withextraordinary luck during this inquiry, and it will be entirely our own fault if we donot succeed in clearing the matter up. with your permission, mr. holder, i shallnow continue my investigations outside." he went alone, at his own request, for heexplained that any unnecessary footmarks might make his task more difficult.
for an hour or more he was at work,returning at last with his feet heavy with snow and his features as inscrutable asever. "i think that i have seen now all thatthere is to see, mr. holder," said he; "i can serve you best by returning to myrooms." "but the gems, mr. holmes. where are they?""i cannot tell." the banker wrung his hands."i shall never see them again!" he cried. "and my son? you give me hopes?""my opinion is in no way altered."
"then, for god's sake, what was this darkbusiness which was acted in my house last night?" "if you can call upon me at my baker streetrooms to-morrow morning between nine and ten i shall be happy to do what i can tomake it clearer. i understand that you give me carte blancheto act for you, provided only that i get back the gems, and that you place no limiton the sum i may draw." "i would give my fortune to have themback." "very good.i shall look into the matter between this and then.
good-bye; it is just possible that i mayhave to come over here again before evening." it was obvious to me that my companion'smind was now made up about the case, although what his conclusions were was morethan i could even dimly imagine. several times during our homeward journey iendeavoured to sound him upon the point, but he always glided away to some othertopic, until at last i gave it over in despair. it was not yet three when we foundourselves in our rooms once more. he hurried to his chamber and was downagain in a few minutes dressed as a common
loafer. with his collar turned up, his shiny, seedycoat, his red cravat, and his worn boots, he was a perfect sample of the class. "i think that this should do," said he,glancing into the glass above the fireplace."i only wish that you could come with me, watson, but i fear that it won't do. i may be on the trail in this matter, or imay be following a will-o'-the-wisp, but i shall soon know which it is.i hope that i may be back in a few hours." he cut a slice of beef from the joint uponthe sideboard, sandwiched it between two
rounds of bread, and thrusting this rudemeal into his pocket he started off upon his expedition. i had just finished my tea when hereturned, evidently in excellent spirits, swinging an old elastic-sided boot in hishand. he chucked it down into a corner and helpedhimself to a cup of tea. "i only looked in as i passed," said he."i am going right on." "where to?" "oh, to the other side of the west end.it may be some time before i get back. don't wait up for me in case i should belate."
"how are you getting on?" "oh, so so.nothing to complain of. i have been out to streatham since i sawyou last, but i did not call at the house. it is a very sweet little problem, and iwould not have missed it for a good deal. however, i must not sit gossiping here, butmust get these disreputable clothes off and return to my highly respectable self." i could see by his manner that he hadstronger reasons for satisfaction than his words alone would imply.his eyes twinkled, and there was even a touch of colour upon his sallow cheeks.
he hastened upstairs, and a few minuteslater i heard the slam of the hall door, which told me that he was off once moreupon his congenial hunt. i waited until midnight, but there was nosign of his return, so i retired to my room. it was no uncommon thing for him to be awayfor days and nights on end when he was hot upon a scent, so that his lateness causedme no surprise. i do not know at what hour he came in, butwhen i came down to breakfast in the morning there he was with a cup of coffeein one hand and the paper in the other, as fresh and trim as possible.
"you will excuse my beginning without you,watson," said he, "but you remember that our client has rather an early appointmentthis morning." "why, it is after nine now," i answered. "i should not be surprised if that were he.i thought i heard a ring." it was, indeed, our friend the financier. i was shocked by the change which had comeover him, for his face which was naturally of a broad and massive mould, was nowpinched and fallen in, while his hair seemed to me at least a shade whiter. he entered with a weariness and lethargywhich was even more painful than his
violence of the morning before, and hedropped heavily into the armchair which i pushed forward for him. "i do not know what i have done to be soseverely tried," said he. "only two days ago i was a happy andprosperous man, without a care in the world. now i am left to a lonely and dishonouredage. one sorrow comes close upon the heels ofanother. my niece, mary, has deserted me." "deserted you?""yes. her bed this morning had not been
slept in, her room was empty, and a notefor me lay upon the hall table. i had said to her last night, in sorrow andnot in anger, that if she had married my boy all might have been well with him.perhaps it was thoughtless of me to say so. it is to that remark that she refers inthis note: "'my dearest uncle:--i feel that i havebrought trouble upon you, and that if i had acted differently this terrible misfortunemight never have occurred. i cannot, with this thought in my mind,ever again be happy under your roof, and i feel that i must leave you forever. do not worry about my future, for that isprovided for; and, above all, do not search
for me, for it will be fruitless labour andan ill-service to me. in life or in death, i am ever yourloving,--mary.' "what could she mean by that note, mr.holmes? do you think it points to suicide?" "no, no, nothing of the kind.it is perhaps the best possible solution. i trust, mr. holder, that you are nearingthe end of your troubles." "ha! you say so!you have heard something, mr. holmes; you have learned something!where are the gems?"
"you would not think 1000 pounds apiece anexcessive sum for them?" "i would pay ten.""that would be unnecessary. three thousand will cover the matter. and there is a little reward, i fancy.have you your check-book? here is a pen.better make it out for 4000 pounds." with a dazed face the banker made out therequired check. holmes walked over to his desk, took out alittle triangular piece of gold with three gems in it, and threw it down upon thetable. with a shriek of joy our client clutched itup.
"you have it!" he gasped."i am saved! i am saved!" the reaction of joy was as passionate ashis grief had been, and he hugged his recovered gems to his bosom. "there is one other thing you owe, mr.holder," said sherlock holmes rather sternly."owe!" he caught up a pen. "name the sum, and i will pay it.""no, the debt is not to me. you owe a very humble apology to that noblelad, your son, who has carried himself in
this matter as i should be proud to see myown son do, should i ever chance to have one." "then it was not arthur who took them?""i told you yesterday, and i repeat to-day, that it was not.""you are sure of it! then let us hurry to him at once to let himknow that the truth is known." "he knows it already. when i had cleared it all up i had aninterview with him, and finding that he would not tell me the story, i told it tohim, on which he had to confess that i was right and to add the very few details whichwere not yet quite clear to me.
your news of this morning, however, mayopen his lips." "for heaven's sake, tell me, then, what isthis extraordinary mystery!" "i will do so, and i will show you thesteps by which i reached it. and let me say to you, first, that which itis hardest for me to say and for you to hear: there has been an understandingbetween sir george burnwell and your niece mary. they have now fled together.""my mary? impossible!""it is unfortunately more than possible; it is certain.
neither you nor your son knew the truecharacter of this man when you admitted him into your family circle. he is one of the most dangerous men inengland--a ruined gambler, an absolutely desperate villain, a man without heart orconscience. your niece knew nothing of such men. when he breathed his vows to her, as he haddone to a hundred before her, she flattered herself that she alone had touched hisheart. the devil knows best what he said, but atleast she became his tool and was in the habit of seeing him nearly every evening.""i cannot, and i will not, believe it!"
cried the banker with an ashen face. "i will tell you, then, what occurred inyour house last night. your niece, when you had, as she thought,gone to your room, slipped down and talked to her lover through the window which leadsinto the stable lane. his footmarks had pressed right through thesnow, so long had he stood there. she told him of the coronet.his wicked lust for gold kindled at the news, and he bent her to his will. i have no doubt that she loved you, butthere are women in whom the love of a lover extinguishes all other loves, and i thinkthat she must have been one.
she had hardly listened to his instructionswhen she saw you coming downstairs, on which she closed the window rapidly andtold you about one of the servants' escapade with her wooden-legged lover,which was all perfectly true. "your boy, arthur, went to bed after hisinterview with you but he slept badly on account of his uneasiness about his clubdebts. in the middle of the night he heard a softtread pass his door, so he rose and, looking out, was surprised to see hiscousin walking very stealthily along the passage until she disappeared into yourdressing-room. petrified with astonishment, the ladslipped on some clothes and waited there in
the dark to see what would come of thisstrange affair. presently she emerged from the room again,and in the light of the passage-lamp your son saw that she carried the preciouscoronet in her hands. she passed down the stairs, and he,thrilling with horror, ran along and slipped behind the curtain near your door,whence he could see what passed in the hall beneath. he saw her stealthily open the window, handout the coronet to someone in the gloom, and then closing it once more hurry back toher room, passing quite close to where he stood hid behind the curtain.
"as long as she was on the scene he couldnot take any action without a horrible exposure of the woman whom he loved. but the instant that she was gone herealised how crushing a misfortune this would be for you, and how all-important itwas to set it right. he rushed down, just as he was, in his barefeet, opened the window, sprang out into the snow, and ran down the lane, where hecould see a dark figure in the moonlight. sir george burnwell tried to get away, butarthur caught him, and there was a struggle between them, your lad tugging at one sideof the coronet, and his opponent at the other.
in the scuffle, your son struck sir georgeand cut him over the eye. then something suddenly snapped, and yourson, finding that he had the coronet in his hands, rushed back, closed the window,ascended to your room, and had just observed that the coronet had been twisted in the struggle and was endeavouring tostraighten it when you appeared upon the scene.""is it possible?" gasped the banker. "you then roused his anger by calling himnames at a moment when he felt that he had deserved your warmest thanks. he could not explain the true state ofaffairs without betraying one who certainly
deserved little enough consideration at hishands. he took the more chivalrous view, however,and preserved her secret." "and that was why she shrieked and faintedwhen she saw the coronet," cried mr. holder. "oh, my god! what a blind fool i have been!and his asking to be allowed to go out for five minutes! the dear fellow wanted to see if themissing piece were at the scene of the struggle.how cruelly i have misjudged him!" "when i arrived at the house," continuedholmes, "i at once went very carefully
round it to observe if there were anytraces in the snow which might help me. i knew that none had fallen since theevening before, and also that there had been a strong frost to preserveimpressions. i passed along the tradesmen's path, butfound it all trampled down and indistinguishable. just beyond it, however, at the far side ofthe kitchen door, a woman had stood and talked with a man, whose round impressionson one side showed that he had a wooden leg. i could even tell that they had beendisturbed, for the woman had run back
swiftly to the door, as was shown by thedeep toe and light heel marks, while wooden-leg had waited a little, and thenhad gone away. i thought at the time that this might bethe maid and her sweetheart, of whom you had already spoken to me, and inquiryshowed it was so. i passed round the garden without seeinganything more than random tracks, which i took to be the police; but when i got intothe stable lane a very long and complex story was written in the snow in front ofme. "there was a double line of tracks of abooted man, and a second double line which i saw with delight belonged to a man withnaked feet.
i was at once convinced from what you hadtold me that the latter was your son. the first had walked both ways, but theother had run swiftly, and as his tread was marked in places over the depression of theboot, it was obvious that he had passed after the other. i followed them up and found they led tothe hall window, where boots had worn all the snow away while waiting.then i walked to the other end, which was a hundred yards or more down the lane. i saw where boots had faced round, wherethe snow was cut up as though there had been a struggle, and, finally, where a fewdrops of blood had fallen, to show me that
i was not mistaken. boots had then run down the lane, andanother little smudge of blood showed that it was he who had been hurt. when he came to the highroad at the otherend, i found that the pavement had been cleared, so there was an end to that clue. "on entering the house, however, iexamined, as you remember, the sill and framework of the hall window with my lens,and i could at once see that someone had passed out. i could distinguish the outline of aninstep where the wet foot had been placed
in coming in.i was then beginning to be able to form an opinion as to what had occurred. a man had waited outside the window;someone had brought the gems; the deed had been overseen by your son; he had pursuedthe thief; had struggled with him; they had each tugged at the coronet, their united strength causing injuries which neitheralone could have effected. he had returned with the prize, but hadleft a fragment in the grasp of his opponent. so far i was clear.the question now was, who was the man and
who was it brought him the coronet? "it is an old maxim of mine that when youhave excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be thetruth. now, i knew that it was not you who hadbrought it down, so there only remained your niece and the maids. but if it were the maids, why should yourson allow himself to be accused in their place?there could be no possible reason. as he loved his cousin, however, there wasan excellent explanation why he should retain her secret--the more so as thesecret was a disgraceful one.
when i remembered that you had seen her atthat window, and how she had fainted on seeing the coronet again, my conjecturebecame a certainty. "and who could it be who was herconfederate? a lover evidently, for who else couldoutweigh the love and gratitude which she must feel to you? i knew that you went out little, and thatyour circle of friends was a very limited one.but among them was sir george burnwell. i had heard of him before as being a man ofevil reputation among women. it must have been he who wore those bootsand retained the missing gems.
even though he knew that arthur haddiscovered him, he might still flatter himself that he was safe, for the lad couldnot say a word without compromising his own family. "well, your own good sense will suggestwhat measures i took next. i went in the shape of a loafer to sirgeorge's house, managed to pick up an acquaintance with his valet, learned thathis master had cut his head the night before, and, finally, at the expense of six shillings, made all sure by buying a pairof his cast-off shoes. with these i journeyed down to streathamand saw that they exactly fitted the
tracks." "i saw an ill-dressed vagabond in the laneyesterday evening," said mr. holder. "precisely.it was i. i found that i had my man, so i came homeand changed my clothes. it was a delicate part which i had to playthen, for i saw that a prosecution must be avoided to avert scandal, and i knew thatso astute a villain would see that our hands were tied in the matter. i went and saw him.at first, of course, he denied everything. but when i gave him every particular thathad occurred, he tried to bluster and took
down a life-preserver from the wall. i knew my man, however, and i clapped apistol to his head before he could strike. then he became a little more reasonable.i told him that we would give him a price for the stones he held--1000 pounds apiece. that brought out the first signs of griefthat he had shown. 'why, dash it all!' said he, 'i've let themgo at six hundred for the three!' i soon managed to get the address of thereceiver who had them, on promising him that there would be no prosecution.off i set to him, and after much chaffering i got our stones at 1000 pounds apiece.
then i looked in upon your son, told himthat all was right, and eventually got to my bed about two o'clock, after what i maycall a really hard day's work." "a day which has saved england from a greatpublic scandal," said the banker, rising. "sir, i cannot find words to thank you, butyou shall not find me ungrateful for what you have done. your skill has indeed exceeded all that ihave heard of it. and now i must fly to my dear boy toapologise to him for the wrong which i have done him. as to what you tell me of poor mary, itgoes to my very heart.
not even your skill can inform me where sheis now." "i think that we may safely say," returnedholmes, "that she is wherever sir george burnwell is. it is equally certain, too, that whateverher sins are, they will soon receive a more than sufficient punishment." > adventure xii.the adventure of the copper beeches "to the man who loves art for its ownsake," remarked sherlock holmes, tossing aside the advertisement sheet of the dailytelegraph, "it is frequently in its least
important and lowliest manifestations thatthe keenest pleasure is to be derived. it is pleasant to me to observe, watson,that you have so far grasped this truth that in these little records of our caseswhich you have been good enough to draw up, and, i am bound to say, occasionally to embellish, you have given prominence not somuch to the many causes cã©lã¨bres and sensational trials in which i have figuredbut rather to those incidents which may have been trivial in themselves, but which have given room for those faculties ofdeduction and of logical synthesis which i have made my special province."
"and yet," said i, smiling, "i cannot quitehold myself absolved from the charge of sensationalism which has been urged againstmy records." "you have erred, perhaps," he observed,taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-woodpipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood--"you have erred perhaps inattempting to put colour and life into each of your statements instead of confiningyourself to the task of placing upon record that severe reasoning from cause to effect which is really the only notable featureabout the thing."
"it seems to me that i have done you fulljustice in the matter," i remarked with some coldness, for i was repelled by theegotism which i had more than once observed to be a strong factor in my friend'ssingular character. "no, it is not selfishness or conceit,"said he, answering, as was his wont, my thoughts rather than my words. "if i claim full justice for my art, it isbecause it is an impersonal thing--a thing beyond myself.crime is common. logic is rare. therefore it is upon the logic rather thanupon the crime that you should dwell.
you have degraded what should have been acourse of lectures into a series of tales." it was a cold morning of the early spring,and we sat after breakfast on either side of a cheery fire in the old room at bakerstreet. a thick fog rolled down between the linesof dun-coloured houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark, shapeless blursthrough the heavy yellow wreaths. our gas was lit and shone on the whitecloth and glimmer of china and metal, for the table had not been cleared yet. sherlock holmes had been silent all themorning, dipping continuously into the advertisement columns of a succession ofpapers until at last, having apparently
given up his search, he had emerged in no very sweet temper to lecture me upon myliterary shortcomings. "at the same time," he remarked after apause, during which he had sat puffing at his long pipe and gazing down into thefire, "you can hardly be open to a charge of sensationalism, for out of these cases which you have been so kind as to interestyourself in, a fair proportion do not treat of crime, in its legal sense, at all. the small matter in which i endeavoured tohelp the king of bohemia, the singular experience of miss mary sutherland, theproblem connected with the man with the
twisted lip, and the incident of the noble bachelor, were all matters which areoutside the pale of the law. but in avoiding the sensational, i fearthat you may have bordered on the trivial." "the end may have been so," i answered,"but the methods i hold to have been novel and of interest." "pshaw, my dear fellow, what do the public,the great unobservant public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or acompositor by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of analysis and deduction! but, indeed, if you are trivial, i cannotblame you, for the days of the great cases
are past.man, or at least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. as to my own little practice, it seems tobe degenerating into an agency for recovering lost lead pencils and givingadvice to young ladies from boarding- schools. i think that i have touched bottom at last,however. this note i had this morning marks my zero-point, i fancy. read it!" he tossed a crumpled letter across to me.it was dated from montague place upon the
preceding evening, and ran thus: "dear mr. holmes:--i am very anxious toconsult you as to whether i should or should not accept a situation which hasbeen offered to me as governess. i shall call at half-past ten to-morrow ifi do not inconvenience you. yours faithfully, "violet hunter.""do you know the young lady?" i asked. "not i.""it is half-past ten now." "yes, and i have no doubt that is herring." "it may turn out to be of more interestthan you think.
you remember that the affair of the bluecarbuncle, which appeared to be a mere whim at first, developed into a seriousinvestigation. it may be so in this case, also." "well, let us hope so.but our doubts will very soon be solved, for here, unless i am much mistaken, is theperson in question." as he spoke the door opened and a younglady entered the room. she was plainly but neatly dressed, with abright, quick face, freckled like a plover's egg, and with the brisk manner ofa woman who has had her own way to make in the world.
"you will excuse my troubling you, i amsure," said she, as my companion rose to greet her, "but i have had a very strangeexperience, and as i have no parents or relations of any sort from whom i could ask advice, i thought that perhaps you would bekind enough to tell me what i should do." "pray take a seat, miss hunter.i shall be happy to do anything that i can to serve you." i could see that holmes was favourablyimpressed by the manner and speech of his new client. he looked her over in his searchingfashion, and then composed himself, with
his lids drooping and his finger-tipstogether, to listen to her story. "i have been a governess for five years,"said she, "in the family of colonel spence munro, but two months ago the colonelreceived an appointment at halifax, in nova scotia, and took his children over to america with him, so that i found myselfwithout a situation. i advertised, and i answeredadvertisements, but without success. at last the little money which i had savedbegan to run short, and i was at my wit's end as to what i should do. "there is a well-known agency forgovernesses in the west end called
westaway's, and there i used to call aboutonce a week in order to see whether anything had turned up which might suit me. westaway was the name of the founder of thebusiness, but it is really managed by miss stoper. she sits in her own little office, and theladies who are seeking employment wait in an anteroom, and are then shown in one byone, when she consults her ledgers and sees whether she has anything which would suitthem. "well, when i called last week i was showninto the little office as usual, but i found that miss stoper was not alone.
a prodigiously stout man with a verysmiling face and a great heavy chin which rolled down in fold upon fold over histhroat sat at her elbow with a pair of glasses on his nose, looking very earnestlyat the ladies who entered. as i came in he gave quite a jump in hischair and turned quickly to miss stoper. "'that will do,' said he; 'i could not askfor anything better. capital! capital!'he seemed quite enthusiastic and rubbed his hands together in the most genial fashion. he was such a comfortable-looking man thatit was quite a pleasure to look at him. "'you are looking for a situation, miss?'he asked.
"'yes, sir.' "'as governess?'"'yes, sir.' "'and what salary do you ask?'"'i had 4 pounds a month in my last place with colonel spence munro.' "'oh, tut, tut! sweating--rank sweating!'he cried, throwing his fat hands out into the air like a man who is in a boilingpassion. 'how could anyone offer so pitiful a sum toa lady with such attractions and accomplishments?'"'my accomplishments, sir, may be less than you imagine,' said i.
'a little french, a little german, music,and drawing--' "'tut, tut!' he cried.'this is all quite beside the question. the point is, have you or have you not thebearing and deportment of a lady? there it is in a nutshell. if you have not, you are not fitted for therearing of a child who may some day play a considerable part in the history of thecountry. but if you have why, then, how could anygentleman ask you to condescend to accept anything under the three figures?your salary with me, madam, would commence at 100 pounds a year.'
"you may imagine, mr. holmes, that to me,destitute as i was, such an offer seemed almost too good to be true. the gentleman, however, seeing perhaps thelook of incredulity upon my face, opened a pocket-book and took out a note. "'it is also my custom,' said he, smilingin the most pleasant fashion until his eyes were just two little shining slits amid thewhite creases of his face, 'to advance to my young ladies half their salary beforehand, so that they may meet anylittle expenses of their journey and their wardrobe.'"it seemed to me that i had never met so
fascinating and so thoughtful a man. as i was already in debt to my tradesmen,the advance was a great convenience, and yet there was something unnatural about thewhole transaction which made me wish to know a little more before i quite committedmyself. "'may i ask where you live, sir?' said i."'hampshire. charming rural place. the copper beeches, five miles on the farside of winchester. it is the most lovely country, my dearyoung lady, and the dearest old country- house.'
"'and my duties, sir?i should be glad to know what they would be.'"'one child--one dear little romper just six years old. oh, if you could see him killingcockroaches with a slipper! smack! smack! smack!three gone before you could wink!' he leaned back in his chair and laughed hiseyes into his head again. "i was a little startled at the nature ofthe child's amusement, but the father's laughter made me think that perhaps he wasjoking. "'my sole duties, then,' i asked, 'are totake charge of a single child?'
"'no, no, not the sole, not the sole, mydear young lady,' he cried. 'your duty would be, as i am sure your goodsense would suggest, to obey any little commands my wife might give, providedalways that they were such commands as a lady might with propriety obey. you see no difficulty, heh?'"'i should be happy to make myself useful.' "'quite so.in dress now, for example. we are faddy people, you know--faddy butkind-hearted. if you were asked to wear any dress whichwe might give you, you would not object to our little whim.
heh?'"'no,' said i, considerably astonished at his words."'or to sit here, or sit there, that would not be offensive to you?' "'oh, no.'"'or to cut your hair quite short before you come to us?'"i could hardly believe my ears. as you may observe, mr. holmes, my hair issomewhat luxuriant, and of a rather peculiar tint of chestnut.it has been considered artistic. i could not dream of sacrificing it in thisoffhand fashion. "'i am afraid that that is quiteimpossible,' said i.
he had been watching me eagerly out of hissmall eyes, and i could see a shadow pass over his face as i spoke."'i am afraid that it is quite essential,' said he. 'it is a little fancy of my wife's, andladies' fancies, you know, madam, ladies' fancies must be consulted.and so you won't cut your hair?' "'no, sir, i really could not,' i answeredfirmly. "'ah, very well; then that quite settlesthe matter. it is a pity, because in other respects youwould really have done very nicely. in that case, miss stoper, i had bestinspect a few more of your young ladies.'
"the manageress had sat all this while busywith her papers without a word to either of us, but she glanced at me now with so muchannoyance upon her face that i could not help suspecting that she had lost ahandsome commission through my refusal. "'do you desire your name to be kept uponthe books?' she asked. "'if you please, miss stoper.' "'well, really, it seems rather useless,since you refuse the most excellent offers in this fashion,' said she sharply. 'you can hardly expect us to exertourselves to find another such opening for you.good-day to you, miss hunter.'
she struck a gong upon the table, and i wasshown out by the page. "well, mr. holmes, when i got back to mylodgings and found little enough in the cupboard, and two or three bills upon thetable, i began to ask myself whether i had not done a very foolish thing. after all, if these people had strange fadsand expected obedience on the most extraordinary matters, they were at leastready to pay for their eccentricity. very few governesses in england are getting100 pounds a year. besides, what use was my hair to me? many people are improved by wearing itshort and perhaps i should be among the
number. next day i was inclined to think that i hadmade a mistake, and by the day after i was sure of it. i had almost overcome my pride so far as togo back to the agency and inquire whether the place was still open when i receivedthis letter from the gentleman himself. i have it here and i will read it to you: "'the copper beeches, near winchester."'dear miss hunter:--miss stoper has very kindly given me your address, and i writefrom here to ask you whether you have reconsidered your decision.
my wife is very anxious that you shouldcome, for she has been much attracted by my description of you. we are willing to give 30 pounds a quarter,or 120 pounds a year, so as to recompense you for any little inconvenience which ourfads may cause you. they are not very exacting, after all. my wife is fond of a particular shade ofelectric blue and would like you to wear such a dress indoors in the morning. you need not, however, go to the expense ofpurchasing one, as we have one belonging to my dear daughter alice (now inphiladelphia), which would, i should think,
fit you very well. then, as to sitting here or there, oramusing yourself in any manner indicated, that need cause you no inconvenience. as regards your hair, it is no doubt apity, especially as i could not help remarking its beauty during our shortinterview, but i am afraid that i must remain firm upon this point, and i only hope that the increased salary mayrecompense you for the loss. your duties, as far as the child isconcerned, are very light. now do try to come, and i shall meet youwith the dog-cart at winchester.
let me know your train.yours faithfully, jephro rucastle.' "that is the letter which i have justreceived, mr. holmes, and my mind is made up that i will accept it. i thought, however, that before taking thefinal step i should like to submit the whole matter to your consideration." "well, miss hunter, if your mind is madeup, that settles the question," said holmes, smiling."but you would not advise me to refuse?" "i confess that it is not the situationwhich i should like to see a sister of mine apply for.""what is the meaning of it all, mr.
holmes?" "ah, i have no data.i cannot tell. perhaps you have yourself formed someopinion?" "well, there seems to me to be only onepossible solution. mr. rucastle seemed to be a very kind,good-natured man. is it not possible that his wife is alunatic, that he desires to keep the matter quiet for fear she should be taken to anasylum, and that he humours her fancies in every way in order to prevent an outbreak?" "that is a possible solution--in fact, asmatters stand, it is the most probable one.
but in any case it does not seem to be anice household for a young lady." "but the money, mr. holmes, the money!" "well, yes, of course the pay is good--toogood. that is what makes me uneasy. why should they give you 120 pounds a year,when they could have their pick for 40 pounds?there must be some strong reason behind." "i thought that if i told you thecircumstances you would understand afterwards if i wanted your help.i should feel so much stronger if i felt that you were at the back of me."
"oh, you may carry that feeling away withyou. i assure you that your little problempromises to be the most interesting which has come my way for some months. there is something distinctly novel aboutsome of the features. if you should find yourself in doubt or indanger--" "danger! what danger do you foresee?"holmes shook his head gravely. "it would cease to be a danger if we coulddefine it," said he. "but at any time, day or night, a telegramwould bring me down to your help."
"that is enough."she rose briskly from her chair with the anxiety all swept from her face. "i shall go down to hampshire quite easy inmy mind now. i shall write to mr. rucastle at once,sacrifice my poor hair to-night, and start for winchester to-morrow." with a few grateful words to holmes shebade us both good-night and bustled off upon her way. "at least," said i as we heard her quick,firm steps descending the stairs, "she seems to be a young lady who is very wellable to take care of herself."
"and she would need to be," said holmesgravely. "i am much mistaken if we do not hear fromher before many days are past." it was not very long before my friend'sprediction was fulfilled. a fortnight went by, during which ifrequently found my thoughts turning in her direction and wondering what strange side-alley of human experience this lonely woman had strayed into. the unusual salary, the curious conditions,the light duties, all pointed to something abnormal, though whether a fad or a plot,or whether the man were a philanthropist or a villain, it was quite beyond my powers todetermine.
as to holmes, i observed that he satfrequently for half an hour on end, with knitted brows and an abstracted air, but heswept the matter away with a wave of his hand when i mentioned it. "data! data! data!" he cried impatiently."i can't make bricks without clay." and yet he would always wind up bymuttering that no sister of his should ever have accepted such a situation. the telegram which we eventually receivedcame late one night just as i was thinking of turning in and holmes was settling downto one of those all-night chemical researches which he frequently indulged in,
when i would leave him stooping over aretort and a test-tube at night and find him in the same position when i came downto breakfast in the morning. he opened the yellow envelope, and then,glancing at the message, threw it across to me. "just look up the trains in bradshaw," saidhe, and turned back to his chemical studies.the summons was a brief and urgent one. "please be at the black swan hotel atwinchester at midday to-morrow," it said. "do come!i am at my wit's end. hunter."
"will you come with me?" asked holmes,glancing up. "i should wish to.""just look it up, then." "there is a train at half-past nine," saidi, glancing over my bradshaw. "it is due at winchester at 11:30.""that will do very nicely. then perhaps i had better postpone myanalysis of the acetones, as we may need to be at our best in the morning."by eleven o'clock the next day we were well upon our way to the old english capital. holmes had been buried in the morningpapers all the way down, but after we had passed the hampshire border he threw themdown and began to admire the scenery.
it was an ideal spring day, a light bluesky, flecked with little fleecy white clouds drifting across from west to east. the sun was shining very brightly, and yetthere was an exhilarating nip in the air, which set an edge to a man's energy. all over the countryside, away to therolling hills around aldershot, the little red and grey roofs of the farm-steadingspeeped out from amid the light green of the new foliage. "are they not fresh and beautiful?"i cried with all the enthusiasm of a man fresh from the fogs of baker street.but holmes shook his head gravely.
"do you know, watson," said he, "that it isone of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine that i must look at everythingwith reference to my own special subject. you look at these scattered houses, and youare impressed by their beauty. i look at them, and the only thought whichcomes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may becommitted there." "good heavens!" i cried."who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?""they always fill me with a certain horror. it is my belief, watson, founded upon myexperience, that the lowest and vilest
alleys in london do not present a moredreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside." "you horrify me!""but the reason is very obvious. the pressure of public opinion can do inthe town what the law cannot accomplish. there is no lane so vile that the scream ofa tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard's blow, does not beget sympathyand indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can setit going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock.
but look at these lonely houses, each inits own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little ofthe law. think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, thehidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none thewiser. had this lady who appeals to us for helpgone to live in winchester, i should never have had a fear for her.it is the five miles of country which makes the danger. still, it is clear that she is notpersonally threatened." "no. if she can come to winchester to meetus she can get away."
"quite so. she has her freedom.""what can be the matter, then? can you suggest no explanation?" "i have devised seven separateexplanations, each of which would cover the facts as far as we know them. but which of these is correct can only bedetermined by the fresh information which we shall no doubt find waiting for us. well, there is the tower of the cathedral,and we shall soon learn all that miss hunter has to tell."
the black swan is an inn of repute in thehigh street, at no distance from the station, and there we found the young ladywaiting for us. she had engaged a sitting-room, and ourlunch awaited us upon the table. "i am so delighted that you have come," shesaid earnestly. "it is so very kind of you both; but indeedi do not know what i should do. your advice will be altogether invaluableto me." "pray tell us what has happened to you." "i will do so, and i must be quick, for ihave promised mr. rucastle to be back before three.
i got his leave to come into town thismorning, though he little knew for what purpose.""let us have everything in its due order." holmes thrust his long thin legs outtowards the fire and composed himself to listen. "in the first place, i may say that i havemet, on the whole, with no actual ill- treatment from mr. and mrs. rucastle.it is only fair to them to say that. but i cannot understand them, and i am noteasy in my mind about them." "what can you not understand?""their reasons for their conduct. but you shall have it all just as itoccurred.
when i came down, mr. rucastle met me hereand drove me in his dog-cart to the copper beeches. it is, as he said, beautifully situated,but it is not beautiful in itself, for it is a large square block of a house,whitewashed, but all stained and streaked with damp and bad weather. there are grounds round it, woods on threesides, and on the fourth a field which slopes down to the southampton highroad,which curves past about a hundred yards from the front door. this ground in front belongs to the house,but the woods all round are part of lord
southerton's preserves. a clump of copper beeches immediately infront of the hall door has given its name to the place. "i was driven over by my employer, who wasas amiable as ever, and was introduced by him that evening to his wife and the child. there was no truth, mr. holmes, in theconjecture which seemed to us to be probable in your rooms at baker street.mrs. rucastle is not mad. i found her to be a silent, pale-facedwoman, much younger than her husband, not more than thirty, i should think, while hecan hardly be less than forty-five.
from their conversation i have gatheredthat they have been married about seven years, that he was a widower, and that hisonly child by the first wife was the daughter who has gone to philadelphia. mr. rucastle told me in private that thereason why she had left them was that she had an unreasoning aversion to herstepmother. as the daughter could not have been lessthan twenty, i can quite imagine that her position must have been uncomfortable withher father's young wife. "mrs. rucastle seemed to me to becolourless in mind as well as in feature. she impressed me neither favourably nor thereverse.
she was a nonentity. it was easy to see that she waspassionately devoted both to her husband and to her little son. her light grey eyes wandered continuallyfrom one to the other, noting every little want and forestalling it if possible. he was kind to her also in his bluff,boisterous fashion, and on the whole they seemed to be a happy couple.and yet she had some secret sorrow, this woman. she would often be lost in deep thought,with the saddest look upon her face.
more than once i have surprised her intears. i have thought sometimes that it was thedisposition of her child which weighed upon her mind, for i have never met so utterlyspoiled and so ill-natured a little creature. he is small for his age, with a head whichis quite disproportionately large. his whole life appears to be spent in analternation between savage fits of passion and gloomy intervals of sulking. giving pain to any creature weaker thanhimself seems to be his one idea of amusement, and he shows quite remarkabletalent in planning the capture of mice,
little birds, and insects. but i would rather not talk about thecreature, mr. holmes, and, indeed, he has little to do with my story." "i am glad of all details," remarked myfriend, "whether they seem to you to be relevant or not.""i shall try not to miss anything of importance. the one unpleasant thing about the house,which struck me at once, was the appearance and conduct of the servants.there are only two, a man and his wife. toller, for that is his name, is a rough,uncouth man, with grizzled hair and
whiskers, and a perpetual smell of drink. twice since i have been with them he hasbeen quite drunk, and yet mr. rucastle seemed to take no notice of it. his wife is a very tall and strong womanwith a sour face, as silent as mrs. rucastle and much less amiable. they are a most unpleasant couple, butfortunately i spend most of my time in the nursery and my own room, which are next toeach other in one corner of the building. "for two days after my arrival at thecopper beeches my life was very quiet; on the third, mrs. rucastle came down justafter breakfast and whispered something to
her husband. "'oh, yes,' said he, turning to me, 'we arevery much obliged to you, miss hunter, for falling in with our whims so far as to cutyour hair. i assure you that it has not detracted inthe tiniest iota from your appearance. we shall now see how the electric-bluedress will become you. you will find it laid out upon the bed inyour room, and if you would be so good as to put it on we should both be extremelyobliged.' "the dress which i found waiting for me wasof a peculiar shade of blue. it was of excellent material, a sort ofbeige, but it bore unmistakable signs of
having been worn before. it could not have been a better fit if ihad been measured for it. both mr. and mrs. rucastle expressed adelight at the look of it, which seemed quite exaggerated in its vehemence. they were waiting for me in the drawing-room, which is a very large room, stretching along the entire front of thehouse, with three long windows reaching down to the floor. a chair had been placed close to thecentral window, with its back turned towards it.
in this i was asked to sit, and then mr.rucastle, walking up and down on the other side of the room, began to tell me a seriesof the funniest stories that i have ever listened to. you cannot imagine how comical he was, andi laughed until i was quite weary. mrs. rucastle, however, who has evidentlyno sense of humour, never so much as smiled, but sat with her hands in her lap,and a sad, anxious look upon her face. after an hour or so, mr. rucastle suddenlyremarked that it was time to commence the duties of the day, and that i might changemy dress and go to little edward in the nursery.
"two days later this same performance wasgone through under exactly similar circumstances. again i changed my dress, again i sat inthe window, and again i laughed very heartily at the funny stories of which myemployer had an immense rã©pertoire, and which he told inimitably. then he handed me a yellow-backed novel,and moving my chair a little sideways, that my own shadow might not fall upon the page,he begged me to read aloud to him. i read for about ten minutes, beginning inthe heart of a chapter, and then suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, he ordered meto cease and to change my dress.
"you can easily imagine, mr. holmes, howcurious i became as to what the meaning of this extraordinary performance couldpossibly be. they were always very careful, i observed,to turn my face away from the window, so that i became consumed with the desire tosee what was going on behind my back. at first it seemed to be impossible, but isoon devised a means. my hand-mirror had been broken, so a happythought seized me, and i concealed a piece of the glass in my handkerchief. on the next occasion, in the midst of mylaughter, i put my handkerchief up to my eyes, and was able with a little managementto see all that there was behind me.
i confess that i was disappointed. there was nothing.at least that was my first impression. at the second glance, however, i perceivedthat there was a man standing in the southampton road, a small bearded man in agrey suit, who seemed to be looking in my direction. the road is an important highway, and thereare usually people there. this man, however, was leaning against therailings which bordered our field and was looking earnestly up. i lowered my handkerchief and glanced atmrs. rucastle to find her eyes fixed upon
me with a most searching gaze. she said nothing, but i am convinced thatshe had divined that i had a mirror in my hand and had seen what was behind me.she rose at once. "'jephro,' said she, 'there is animpertinent fellow upon the road there who stares up at miss hunter.'"'no friend of yours, miss hunter?' he asked. "'no, i know no one in these parts.'"'dear me! how very impertinent!kindly turn round and motion to him to go away.'
"'surely it would be better to take nonotice.' "'no, no, we should have him loitering herealways. kindly turn round and wave him away likethat.' "i did as i was told, and at the sameinstant mrs. rucastle drew down the blind. that was a week ago, and from that time ihave not sat again in the window, nor have i worn the blue dress, nor seen the man inthe road." "pray continue," said holmes. "your narrative promises to be a mostinteresting one." "you will find it rather disconnected, ifear, and there may prove to be little
relation between the different incidents ofwhich i speak. on the very first day that i was at thecopper beeches, mr. rucastle took me to a small outhouse which stands near thekitchen door. as we approached it i heard the sharprattling of a chain, and the sound as of a large animal moving about."'look in here!' said mr. rucastle, showing me a slit between two planks. 'is he not a beauty?'"i looked through and was conscious of two glowing eyes, and of a vague figure huddledup in the darkness. "'don't be frightened,' said my employer,laughing at the start which i had given.
'it's only carlo, my mastiff. i call him mine, but really old toller, mygroom, is the only man who can do anything with him. we feed him once a day, and not too muchthen, so that he is always as keen as mustard. toller lets him loose every night, and godhelp the trespasser whom he lays his fangs upon. for goodness' sake don't you ever on anypretext set your foot over the threshold at night, for it's as much as your life isworth.'
"the warning was no idle one, for twonights later i happened to look out of my bedroom window about two o'clock in themorning. it was a beautiful moonlight night, and thelawn in front of the house was silvered over and almost as bright as day. i was standing, rapt in the peaceful beautyof the scene, when i was aware that something was moving under the shadow ofthe copper beeches. as it emerged into the moonshine i saw whatit was. it was a giant dog, as large as a calf,tawny tinted, with hanging jowl, black muzzle, and huge projecting bones.
it walked slowly across the lawn andvanished into the shadow upon the other side. that dreadful sentinel sent a chill to myheart which i do not think that any burglar could have done."and now i have a very strange experience to tell you. i had, as you know, cut off my hair inlondon, and i had placed it in a great coil at the bottom of my trunk. one evening, after the child was in bed, ibegan to amuse myself by examining the furniture of my room and by rearranging myown little things.
there was an old chest of drawers in theroom, the two upper ones empty and open, the lower one locked. i had filled the first two with my linen,and as i had still much to pack away i was naturally annoyed at not having the use ofthe third drawer. it struck me that it might have beenfastened by a mere oversight, so i took out my bunch of keys and tried to open it.the very first key fitted to perfection, and i drew the drawer open. there was only one thing in it, but i amsure that you would never guess what it was.it was my coil of hair.
"i took it up and examined it. it was of the same peculiar tint, and thesame thickness. but then the impossibility of the thingobtruded itself upon me. how could my hair have been locked in thedrawer? with trembling hands i undid my trunk,turned out the contents, and drew from the bottom my own hair. i laid the two tresses together, and iassure you that they were identical. was it not extraordinary?puzzle as i would, i could make nothing at all of what it meant.
i returned the strange hair to the drawer,and i said nothing of the matter to the rucastles as i felt that i had put myselfin the wrong by opening a drawer which they had locked. "i am naturally observant, as you may haveremarked, mr. holmes, and i soon had a pretty good plan of the whole house in myhead. there was one wing, however, which appearednot to be inhabited at all. a door which faced that which led into thequarters of the tollers opened into this suite, but it was invariably locked. one day, however, as i ascended the stair,i met mr. rucastle coming out through this
door, his keys in his hand, and a look onhis face which made him a very different person to the round, jovial man to whom iwas accustomed. his cheeks were red, his brow was allcrinkled with anger, and the veins stood out at his temples with passion. he locked the door and hurried past mewithout a word or a look. "this aroused my curiosity, so when i wentout for a walk in the grounds with my charge, i strolled round to the side fromwhich i could see the windows of this part of the house. there were four of them in a row, three ofwhich were simply dirty, while the fourth
was shuttered up.they were evidently all deserted. as i strolled up and down, glancing at themoccasionally, mr. rucastle came out to me, looking as merry and jovial as ever. "'ah!' said he, 'you must not think me rudeif i passed you without a word, my dear young lady.i was preoccupied with business matters.' "i assured him that i was not offended. 'by the way,' said i, 'you seem to havequite a suite of spare rooms up there, and one of them has the shutters up.'"he looked surprised and, as it seemed to me, a little startled at my remark.
"'photography is one of my hobbies,' saidhe. 'i have made my dark room up there.but, dear me! what an observant young lady we have come upon. who would have believed it?who would have ever believed it?' he spoke in a jesting tone, but there wasno jest in his eyes as he looked at me. i read suspicion there and annoyance, butno jest. "well, mr. holmes, from the moment that iunderstood that there was something about that suite of rooms which i was not toknow, i was all on fire to go over them. it was not mere curiosity, though i have myshare of that.
it was more a feeling of duty--a feelingthat some good might come from my penetrating to this place. they talk of woman's instinct; perhaps itwas woman's instinct which gave me that feeling. at any rate, it was there, and i was keenlyon the lookout for any chance to pass the forbidden door."it was only yesterday that the chance came. i may tell you that, besides mr. rucastle,both toller and his wife find something to do in these deserted rooms, and i once sawhim carrying a large black linen bag with
him through the door. recently he has been drinking hard, andyesterday evening he was very drunk; and when i came upstairs there was the key inthe door. i have no doubt at all that he had left itthere. mr. and mrs. rucastle were both downstairs,and the child was with them, so that i had an admirable opportunity. i turned the key gently in the lock, openedthe door, and slipped through. "there was a little passage in front of me,unpapered and uncarpeted, which turned at a right angle at the farther end.
round this corner were three doors in aline, the first and third of which were open. they each led into an empty room, dusty andcheerless, with two windows in the one and one in the other, so thick with dirt thatthe evening light glimmered dimly through them. the centre door was closed, and across theoutside of it had been fastened one of the broad bars of an iron bed, padlocked at oneend to a ring in the wall, and fastened at the other with stout cord. the door itself was locked as well, and thekey was not there.
this barricaded door corresponded clearlywith the shuttered window outside, and yet i could see by the glimmer from beneath itthat the room was not in darkness. evidently there was a skylight which let inlight from above. as i stood in the passage gazing at thesinister door and wondering what secret it might veil, i suddenly heard the sound ofsteps within the room and saw a shadow pass backward and forward against the little slit of dim light which shone out fromunder the door. a mad, unreasoning terror rose up in me atthe sight, mr. holmes. my overstrung nerves failed me suddenly,and i turned and ran--ran as though some
dreadful hand were behind me clutching atthe skirt of my dress. i rushed down the passage, through thedoor, and straight into the arms of mr. rucastle, who was waiting outside."'so,' said he, smiling, 'it was you, then. i thought that it must be when i saw thedoor open.' "'oh, i am so frightened!'i panted. "'my dear young lady! my dear young lady!'--you cannot think how caressing and soothing his manner was--'and what hasfrightened you, my dear young lady?' "but his voice was just a little toocoaxing. he overdid it.i was keenly on my guard against him.
"'i was foolish enough to go into the emptywing,' i answered. 'but it is so lonely and eerie in this dimlight that i was frightened and ran out again. oh, it is so dreadfully still in there!'"'only that?' said he, looking at me keenly."'why, what did you think?' "'why do you think that i lock this door?'"'i am sure that i do not know.' "'it is to keep people out who have nobusiness there. do you see?' he was still smiling in the most amiablemanner.
"'i am sure if i had known--'"'well, then, you know now. and if you ever put your foot over thatthreshold again'--here in an instant the smile hardened into a grin of rage, and heglared down at me with the face of a demon- -'i'll throw you to the mastiff.' "i was so terrified that i do not know whati did. i suppose that i must have rushed past himinto my room. i remember nothing until i found myselflying on my bed trembling all over. then i thought of you, mr. holmes.i could not live there longer without some advice.
i was frightened of the house, of the man,of the woman, of the servants, even of the child.they were all horrible to me. if i could only bring you down all would bewell. of course i might have fled from the house,but my curiosity was almost as strong as my fears. my mind was soon made up.i would send you a wire. i put on my hat and cloak, went down to theoffice, which is about half a mile from the house, and then returned, feeling very mucheasier. a horrible doubt came into my mind as iapproached the door lest the dog might be
loose, but i remembered that toller haddrunk himself into a state of insensibility that evening, and i knew that he was the only one in the household who had anyinfluence with the savage creature, or who would venture to set him free. i slipped in in safety and lay awake halfthe night in my joy at the thought of seeing you. i had no difficulty in getting leave tocome into winchester this morning, but i must be back before three o'clock, for mr.and mrs. rucastle are going on a visit, and will be away all the evening, so that imust look after the child.
now i have told you all my adventures, mr.holmes, and i should be very glad if you could tell me what it all means, and, aboveall, what i should do." holmes and i had listened spellbound tothis extraordinary story. my friend rose now and paced up and downthe room, his hands in his pockets, and an expression of the most profound gravityupon his face. "is toller still drunk?" he asked. "yes. i heard his wife tell mrs. rucastlethat she could do nothing with him." "that is well.and the rucastles go out to-night?" "yes."
"is there a cellar with a good stronglock?" "yes, the wine-cellar." "you seem to me to have acted all throughthis matter like a very brave and sensible girl, miss hunter.do you think that you could perform one more feat? i should not ask it of you if i did notthink you a quite exceptional woman." "i will try.what is it?" "we shall be at the copper beeches by seveno'clock, my friend and i. the rucastles will be gone by that time,and toller will, we hope, be incapable.
there only remains mrs. toller, who mightgive the alarm. if you could send her into the cellar onsome errand, and then turn the key upon her, you would facilitate mattersimmensely." "i will do it." "excellent!we shall then look thoroughly into the affair.of course there is only one feasible explanation. you have been brought there to personatesomeone, and the real person is imprisoned in this chamber.that is obvious.
as to who this prisoner is, i have no doubtthat it is the daughter, miss alice rucastle, if i remember right, who was saidto have gone to america. you were chosen, doubtless, as resemblingher in height, figure, and the colour of your hair. hers had been cut off, very possibly insome illness through which she has passed, and so, of course, yours had to besacrificed also. by a curious chance you came upon hertresses. the man in the road was undoubtedly somefriend of hers--possibly her fiancã©--and no doubt, as you wore the girl's dress andwere so like her, he was convinced from
your laughter, whenever he saw you, and afterwards from your gesture, that missrucastle was perfectly happy, and that she no longer desired his attentions. the dog is let loose at night to preventhim from endeavouring to communicate with her.so much is fairly clear. the most serious point in the case is thedisposition of the child." "what on earth has that to do with it?"i ejaculated. "my dear watson, you as a medical man arecontinually gaining light as to the tendencies of a child by the study of theparents.
don't you see that the converse is equallyvalid. i have frequently gained my first realinsight into the character of parents by studying their children. this child's disposition is abnormallycruel, merely for cruelty's sake, and whether he derives this from his smilingfather, as i should suspect, or from his mother, it bodes evil for the poor girl whois in their power." "i am sure that you are right, mr. holmes,"cried our client. "a thousand things come back to me whichmake me certain that you have hit it. oh, let us lose not an instant in bringinghelp to this poor creature."
"we must be circumspect, for we are dealingwith a very cunning man. we can do nothing until seven o'clock. at that hour we shall be with you, and itwill not be long before we solve the mystery." we were as good as our word, for it wasjust seven when we reached the copper beeches, having put up our trap at awayside public-house. the group of trees, with their dark leavesshining like burnished metal in the light of the setting sun, were sufficient to markthe house even had miss hunter not been standing smiling on the door-step.
"have you managed it?" asked holmes.a loud thudding noise came from somewhere downstairs."that is mrs. toller in the cellar," said she. "her husband lies snoring on the kitchenrug. here are his keys, which are the duplicatesof mr. rucastle's." "you have done well indeed!" cried holmeswith enthusiasm. "now lead the way, and we shall soon seethe end of this black business." we passed up the stair, unlocked the door,followed on down a passage, and found ourselves in front of the barricade whichmiss hunter had described.
holmes cut the cord and removed thetransverse bar. then he tried the various keys in the lock,but without success. no sound came from within, and at thesilence holmes' face clouded over. "i trust that we are not too late," saidhe. "i think, miss hunter, that we had bettergo in without you. now, watson, put your shoulder to it, andwe shall see whether we cannot make our way in." it was an old rickety door and gave at oncebefore our united strength. together we rushed into the room.it was empty.
there was no furniture save a little palletbed, a small table, and a basketful of linen.the skylight above was open, and the prisoner gone. "there has been some villainy here," saidholmes; "this beauty has guessed miss hunter's intentions and has carried hisvictim off." "but how?" "through the skylight.we shall soon see how he managed it." he swung himself up onto the roof."ah, yes," he cried, "here's the end of a long light ladder against the eaves.
that is how he did it.""but it is impossible," said miss hunter; "the ladder was not there when therucastles went away." "he has come back and done it. i tell you that he is a clever anddangerous man. i should not be very much surprised if thiswere he whose step i hear now upon the stair. i think, watson, that it would be as wellfor you to have your pistol ready." the words were hardly out of his mouthbefore a man appeared at the door of the room, a very fat and burly man, with aheavy stick in his hand.
miss hunter screamed and shrunk against thewall at the sight of him, but sherlock holmes sprang forward and confronted him."you villain!" said he, "where's your daughter?" the fat man cast his eyes round, and thenup at the open skylight. "it is for me to ask you that," heshrieked, "you thieves! spies and thieves! i have caught you, have i?you are in my power. i'll serve you!"he turned and clattered down the stairs as hard as he could go.
"he's gone for the dog!" cried miss hunter."i have my revolver," said i. "better close the front door," criedholmes, and we all rushed down the stairs together. we had hardly reached the hall when weheard the baying of a hound, and then a scream of agony, with a horrible worryingsound which it was dreadful to listen to. an elderly man with a red face and shakinglimbs came staggering out at a side door. "my god!" he cried."someone has loosed the dog. it's not been fed for two days. quick, quick, or it'll be too late!"holmes and i rushed out and round the angle
of the house, with toller hurrying behindus. there was the huge famished brute, itsblack muzzle buried in rucastle's throat, while he writhed and screamed upon theground. running up, i blew its brains out, and itfell over with its keen white teeth still meeting in the great creases of his neck. with much labour we separated them andcarried him, living but horribly mangled, into the house. we laid him upon the drawing-room sofa, andhaving dispatched the sobered toller to bear the news to his wife, i did what icould to relieve his pain.
we were all assembled round him when thedoor opened, and a tall, gaunt woman entered the room."mrs. toller!" cried miss hunter. "yes, miss. mr. rucastle let me out when he came backbefore he went up to you. ah, miss, it is a pity you didn't let meknow what you were planning, for i would have told you that your pains were wasted." "ha!" said holmes, looking keenly at her."it is clear that mrs. toller knows more about this matter than anyone else.""yes, sir, i do, and i am ready enough to tell what i know."
"then, pray, sit down, and let us hear itfor there are several points on which i must confess that i am still in the dark." "i will soon make it clear to you," saidshe; "and i'd have done so before now if i could ha' got out from the cellar. if there's police-court business over this,you'll remember that i was the one that stood your friend, and that i was missalice's friend too. "she was never happy at home, miss alicewasn't, from the time that her father married again. she was slighted like and had no say inanything, but it never really became bad
for her until after she met mr. fowler at afriend's house. as well as i could learn, miss alice hadrights of her own by will, but she was so quiet and patient, she was, that she neversaid a word about them but just left everything in mr. rucastle's hands. he knew he was safe with her; but whenthere was a chance of a husband coming forward, who would ask for all that the lawwould give him, then her father thought it time to put a stop on it. he wanted her to sign a paper, so thatwhether she married or not, he could use her money.
when she wouldn't do it, he kept onworrying her until she got brain-fever, and for six weeks was at death's door. then she got better at last, all worn to ashadow, and with her beautiful hair cut off; but that didn't make no change in heryoung man, and he stuck to her as true as man could be." "ah," said holmes, "i think that what youhave been good enough to tell us makes the matter fairly clear, and that i can deduceall that remains. mr. rucastle then, i presume, took to thissystem of imprisonment?" "yes, sir."
"and brought miss hunter down from londonin order to get rid of the disagreeable persistence of mr. fowler.""that was it, sir." "but mr. fowler being a persevering man, asa good seaman should be, blockaded the house, and having met you succeeded bycertain arguments, metallic or otherwise, in convincing you that your interests werethe same as his." "mr. fowler was a very kind-spoken, free-handed gentleman," said mrs. toller serenely. "and in this way he managed that your goodman should have no want of drink, and that a ladder should be ready at the moment whenyour master had gone out."
"you have it, sir, just as it happened." "i am sure we owe you an apology, mrs.toller," said holmes, "for you have certainly cleared up everything whichpuzzled us. and here comes the country surgeon and mrs.rucastle, so i think, watson, that we had best escort miss hunter back to winchester,as it seems to me that our locus standi now is rather a questionable one." and thus was solved the mystery of thesinister house with the copper beeches in front of the door. mr. rucastle survived, but was always abroken man, kept alive solely through the
care of his devoted wife. they still live with their old servants,who probably know so much of rucastle's past life that he finds it difficult topart from them. mr. fowler and miss rucastle were married,by special license, in southampton the day after their flight, and he is now theholder of a government appointment in the island of mauritius. as to miss violet hunter, my friend holmes,rather to my disappointment, manifested no further interest in her when once she hadceased to be the centre of one of his problems, and she is now the head of a
private school at walsall, where i believethat she has met with considerable success.