Part 1 out of 7
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Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"I am afraid, Watson, that I shall have to go," said
Holmes, as we sat down together to our breakfast one
"Go! Where to?"
"To Dartmoor; to King's Pyland."
I was not surprised. Indeed, my only wonder was that
he had not already been mixed upon this extraordinary
case, which was the one topic of conversation through
the length and breadth of England. For a whole day my
companion had rambled about the room with his chin
upon his chest and his brows knitted, charging and
recharging his pipe with the strongest black tobacco,
and absolutely deaf to any of my questions or remarks.
Fresh editions of every paper had been sent up by our
news agent, only to be glanced over and tossed down
into a corner. Yet, silent as he was, I knew
perfectly well what it was over which he was brooding.
There was but one problem before the public which
could challenge his powers of analysis, and that was
the singular disappearance of the favorite for the
Wessex Cup, and the tragic murder of its trainer.
When, therefore, he suddenly announced his intention
of setting out for the scene of the drama it was only
what I had both expected and hoped for.
"I should be most happy to go down with you if I
should not be in the way," said I.
"My dear Watson, you would confer a great favor upon
me by coming. And I think that your time will not be
misspent, for there are points about the case which
promise to make it an absolutely unique one. We have,
I think, just time to catch our train at Paddington,
and I will go further into the matter upon our
journey. You would oblige me by bringing with you
your very excellent field-glass."
And so it happened that an hour or so later I found
myself in the corner of a first-class carriage flying
along en route for Exeter, while Sherlock Holmes, with
his sharp, eager face framed in his ear-flapped
travelling-cap, dipped rapidly into the bundle of
fresh papers which he had procured at Paddington. We
had left Reading far behind us before he thrust the
last one of them under the seat, and offered me his
"We are going well," said he, looking out the window
and glancing at his watch. "Our rate at present is
fifty-three and a half miles an hour."
"I have not observed the quarter-mile posts," said I.
"Nor have I. But the telegraph posts upon this line
are sixty yards apart, and the calculation is a simple
one. I presume that you have looked into this matter
of the murder of John Straker and the disappearance of
"I have seen what the Telegraph and the Chronicle have
"It is one of those cases where the art of the
reasoner should be used rather for the sifting of
details than for the acquiring of fresh evidence. The
tragedy has been so uncommon, so complete and of such
personal importance to so many people, that we are
suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture, and
hypothesis. The difficulty is to detach the framework
of fact--of absolute undeniable fact--from the
embellishments of theorists and reporters. Then,
having established ourselves upon this sound basis, it
is our duty to see what inferences may be drawn and
what are the special points upon which the whole
mystery turns. On Tuesday evening I received
telegrams from both Colonel Ross, the owner of the
horse, and from Inspector Gregory, who is looking
after the case, inviting my cooperation.
"Tuesday evening!" I exclaimed. "And this is Thursday
morning. Why didn't you go down yesterday?"
"Because I made a blunder, my dear Watson--which is, I
am afraid, a more common occurrence than any one would
think who only knew me through your memoirs. The fact
is that I could not believe is possible that the most
remarkable horse in England could long remain
concealed, especially in so sparsely inhabited a place
as the north of Dartmoor. From hour to hour yesterday
I expected to hear that he had been found, and that
his abductor was the murderer of John Straker. When,
however, another morning had come, and I found that
beyond the arrest of young Fitzroy Simpson nothing had
been done, I felt that it was time for me to take
action. Yet in some ways I feel that yesterday has
not been wasted."
"You have formed a theory, then?"
"At least I have got a grip of the essential facts of
the case. I shall enumerate them to you, for nothing
clears up a case so much as stating it to another
person, and I can hardly expect your co-operation if I
do not show you the position from which we start."
I lay back against the cushions, puffing at my cigar,
while Holmes, leaning forward, with his long, thin
forefinger checking off the points upon the palm of
his left hand, gave me a sketch of the events which
had led to our journey.
"Silver Blaze," said he, "is from the Somomy stock,
and holds as brilliant a record as his famous
ancestor. He is now in his fifth year, and has
brought in turn each of the prizes of the turf to
Colonel Ross, his fortunate owner. Up to the time of
the catastrophe he was the first favorite for the
Wessex Cup, the betting being three to one on him. He
has always, however, been a prime favorite with the
racing public, and has never yet disappointed them, so
that even at those odds enormous sums of money have
been laid upon him. It is obvious, therefore, that
there were many people who had the strongest interest
in preventing Silver Blaze from being there at the
fall of the flag next Tuesday.
"The fact was, of course, appreciated at King's
Pyland, where the Colonel's training-stable is
situated. Every precaution was taken to guard the
favorite. The trainer, John Straker, is a retired
jockey who rode in Colonel Ross's colors before he
became too heavy for the weighing-chair. He has
served the Colonel for five years as jockey and for
seven as trainer, and has always shown himself to be a
zealous and honest servant. Under him were three
lads; for the establishment was a small one,
containing only four horses in all. One of these lads
sat up each night in the stable, while the others
slept in the loft. All three bore excellent
characters. John Straker, who is a married man, lived
in a small villa about two hundred yards from the
stables. He has no children, keeps one maid-servant,
and is comfortably off. The country round is very
lonely, but about half a mile to the north there is a
small cluster of villas which have been built by a
Tavistock contractor for the use of invalids and
others who may wish to enjoy the pure Dartmoor air.
Tavistock itself lies two miles to the west, while
across the moor, also about two miles distant, is the
larger training establishment of Mapleton, which
belongs to Lord Backwater, and is managed by Silas
Brown. In every other direction the moor is a
complete wilderness, inhabited only by a few roaming
gypsies. Such was the general situation last Monday
night when the catastrophe occurred.
"On that evening the horses had been exercised and
watered as usual, and the stables were locked up at
nine o'clock. Two of the lads walked up to the
trainer's house, where they had supper in the kitchen,
while the third, Ned Hunter, remained on guard. At a
few minutes after nine the maid, Edith Baxter, carried
down to the stables his supper, which consisted of a
dish of curried mutton. She took no liquid, as there
was a water-tap in the stables, and it was the rule
that the lad on duty should drink nothing else. The
maid carried a lantern with her, as it was very dark
and the path ran across the open moor.
"Edith Baxter was within thirty yards of the stables,
when a man appeared out of the darkness and called to
her to stop. As he stepped into the circle of yellow
light thrown by the lantern she saw that he was a
person of gentlemanly bearing, dressed in a gray suit
of tweeds, with a cloth cap. He wore gaiters, and
carried a heavy stick with a knob to it. She was most
impressed, however, by the extreme pallor of his face
and by the nervousness of his manner. His age, she
thought, would be rather over thirty than under it.
"'Can you tell me where I am?' he asked. 'I had almost
made up my mind to sleep on the moor, when I saw the
light of your lantern.'
"'You are close to the King's Pyland
training-stables,' said she.
"'Oh, indeed! What a stroke of luck!' he cried. 'I
understand that a stable-boy sleeps there alone every
night. Perhaps that is his supper which you are
carrying to him. Now I am sure that you would not be
too proud to earn the price of a new dress, would
you?' He took a piece of white paper folded up out of
his waistcoat pocket. 'See that the boy has this
to-night, and you shall have the prettiest frock that
money can buy.'
"She was frightened by the earnestness of his manner,
and ran past him to the window through which she was
accustomed to hand the meals. It was already opened,
and Hunter was seated at the small table inside. She
had begun to tell him of what had happened, when the
stranger came up again.
"'Good-evening,' said he, looking through the window.
'I wanted to have a word with you.' The girl has
sworn that as he spoke she noticed the corner of the
little paper packet protruding from his closed hand.
"'What business have you here?' asked the lad.
"'It's business that may put something into your
pocket,' said the other. 'You've two horses in for
the Wessex Cup--Silver Blaze and Bayard. Let me have
the straight tip and you won't be a loser. Is it a
fact that at the weights Bayard could give the other a
hundred yards in five furlongs, and that the stable
have put their money on him?'
"'So, you're one of those damned touts!' cried the
lad. 'I'll show you how we serve them in King's
Pyland.' He sprang up and rushed across the stable to
unloose the dog. The girl fled away to the house, but
as she ran she looked back and saw that the stranger
was leaning through the window. A minute later,
however, when Hunter rushed out with the hound he was
gone, and though he ran all round the buildings he
failed to find any trace of him."
"One moment," I asked. "Did the stable-boy, when he
ran out with the dog, leave the door unlocked behind
"Excellent, Watson, excellent!" murmured my companion.
"The importance of the point struck me so forcibly
that I sent a special wire to Dartmoor yesterday to
clear the matter up. The boy locked the door before
he left it. The window, I may add, was not large
enough for a man to get through.
"Hunter waited until his fellow-grooms had returned,
when he sent a message to the trainer and told him
what had occurred. Straker was excited at hearing the
account, although he does not seem to have quite
realized its true significance. It left him, however,
vaguely uneasy, and Mrs. Straker, waking at one in the
morning, found that he was dressing. In reply to her
inquiries, he said that he could not sleep on account
of his anxiety about the horses, and that he intended
to walk down to the stables to see that all was well.
She begged him to remain at home, as she could hear
the rain pattering against the window, but in spite of
her entreaties he pulled on his large mackintosh and
left the house.
"Mrs. Straker awoke at seven in the morning, to find
that her husband had not yet returned. She dressed
herself hastily, called the maid, and set off for the
stables. The door was open; inside, huddled together
upon a chair, Hunter was sunk in a state of absolute
stupor, the favorite's stall was empty, and there were
no signs of his trainer.
"The two lads who slept in the chaff-cutting loft
above the harness-room were quickly aroused. They had
heard nothing during the night, for they are both
sound sleepers. Hunter was obviously under the
influence of some powerful drug, and as no sense could
be got out of him, he was left to sleep it off while
the two lads and the two women ran out in search of
the absentees. They still had hopes that the trainer
had for some reason taken out the horse for early
exercise, but on ascending the knoll near the house,
from which all the neighboring moors were visible,
they not only could see no signs of the missing
favorite, but they perceived something which warned
them that they were in the presence of a tragedy.
"About a quarter of a mile from the stables John
Straker's overcoat was flapping from a furze-bush.
Immediately beyond there was a bowl-shaped depression
in the moor, and at the bottom of this was found the
dead body of the unfortunate trainer. His head had
been shattered by a savage blow from some heavy
weapon, and he was wounded on the thigh, where there
was a long, clean cut, inflicted evidently by some
very sharp instrument. It was clear, however, that
Straker had defended himself vigorously against his
assailants, for in his right hand he held a small
knife, which was clotted with blood up to the handle,
while in his left he clasped a red and black silk
cravat, which was recognized by the maid as having
been worn on the preceding evening by the stranger who
had visited the stables. Hunter, on recovering from
his stupor, was also quite positive as to the
ownership of the cravat. He was equally certain that
the same stranger had, while standing at the window,
drugged his curried mutton, and so deprived the
stables of their watchman. As to the missing horse,
there were abundant proofs in the mud which lay at the
bottom of the fatal hollow that he had been there at
the time of the struggle. But from that morning he
has disappeared, and although a large reward has been
offered, and all the gypsies of Dartmoor are on the
alert, no news has come of him. Finally, an analysis
has shown that the remains of his supper left by the
stable-lad contain an appreciable quantity of powdered
opium, while the people at the house partook of the
same dish on the same night without any ill effect.
"Those are the main facts of the case, stripped of all
surmise, and stated as baldly as possible. I shall
now recapitulate what the police have done in the
"Inspector Gregory, to whom the case has been
committed, is an extremely competent officer. Were he
but gifted with imagination he might rise to great
heights in his profession. On his arrival he promptly
found and arrested the man upon whom suspicion
naturally rested. There was little difficulty in
finding him, for he inhabited one of those villas
which I have mentioned. His name, it appears, was
Fitzroy Simpson. He was a man of excellent birth and
education, who had squandered a fortune upon the turf,
and who lived now by doing a little quiet and genteel
book-making in the sporting clubs of London. An
examination of his betting-book shows that bets to the
amount of five thousand pounds had been registered by
him against the favorite. On being arrested he
volunteered that statement that he had come down to
Dartmoor in the hope of getting some information about
the King's Pyland horses, and also about Desborough,
the second favorite, which was in charge of Silas
Brown at the Mapleton stables. He did not attempt to
deny that he had acted as described upon the evening
before, but declared that he had no sinister designs,
and had simply wished to obtain first-hand
information. When confronted with his cravat, he
turned very pale, and was utterly unable to account
for its presence in the hand of the murdered man. His
wet clothing showed that he had been out in the storm
of the night before, and his stick, which was a
Penang-lawyer weighted with lead, was just such a
weapon as might, by repeated blows, have inflicted the
terrible injuries to which the trainer had succumbed.
On the other hand, there was no wound upon his person,
while the state of Straker's knife would show that one
at least of his assailants must bear his mark upon
him. There you have it all in a nutshell, Watson, and
if you can give me any light I shall be infinitely
obliged to you."
I had listened with the greatest interest to the
statement which Holmes, with characteristic clearness,
had laid before me. Though most of the facts were
familiar to me, I had not sufficiently appreciated
their relative importance, nor their connection to
"Is in not possible," I suggested, "that the incised
would upon Straker may have been caused by his own
knife in the convulsive struggles which follow any
"It is more than possible; it is probable," said
Holmes. "In that case one of the main points in favor
of the accused disappears."
"And yet," said I, "even now I fail to understand what
the theory of the police can be."
"I am afraid that whatever theory we state has very
grave objections to it," returned my companion. "The
police imagine, I take it, that this Fitzroy Simpson,
having drugged the lad, and having in some way
obtained a duplicate key, opened the stable door and
took out the horse, with the intention, apparently, of
kidnapping him altogether. His bridle is missing, so
that Simpson must have put this on. Then, having left
the door open behind him, he was leading the horse
away over the moor, when he was either met or
overtaken by the trainer. A row naturally ensued.
Simpson beat out the trainer's brains with his heavy
stick without receiving any injury from the small
knife which Straker used in self-defence, and then the
thief either led the horse on to some secret
hiding-place, or else it may have bolted during the
struggle, and be now wandering out on the moors. That
is the case as it appears to the police, and
improbable as it is, all other explanations are more
improbable still. However, I shall very quickly test
the matter when I am once upon the spot, and until
then I cannot really see how we can get much further
than our present position."
It was evening before we reached the little town of
Tavistock, which lies, like the boss of a shield, in
the middle of the huge circle of Dartmoor. Two
gentlemen were awaiting us in the station--the one a
tall, fair man with lion-like hair and beard and
curiously penetrating light blue eyes; the other a
small, alert person, very neat and dapper, in a
frock-coat and gaiters, with trim little side-whiskers
and an eye-glass. The latter was Colonel Ross, the
well-known sportsman; the other, Inspector Gregory, a
man who was rapidly making his name in the English
"I am delighted that you have come down, Mr. Holmes,"
said the Colonel. "The Inspector here has done all
that could possibly be suggested, but I wish to leave
no stone unturned in trying to avenge poor Straker and
in recovering my horse."
"Have there been any fresh developments?" asked
"I am sorry to say that we have made very little
progress," said the Inspector. "We have an open
carriage outside, and as you would no doubt like to
see the place before the light fails, we might talk it
over as we drive."
A minute later we were all seated in a comfortable
landau, and were rattling through the quaint old
Devonshire city. Inspector Gregory was full of his
case, and poured out a stream of remarks, while Holmes
threw in an occasional question or interjection.
Colonel Ross leaned back with his arms folded and his
hat tilted over his eyes, while I listened with
interest to the dialogue of the two detectives.
Gregory was formulating his theory, which was almost
exactly what Holmes had foretold in the train.
"The net is drawn pretty close round Fitzroy Simpson,"
he remarked, "and I believe myself that he is our man.
At the same time I recognize that the evidence is
purely circumstantial, and that some new development
may upset it."
"How about Straker's knife?"
"We have quite come to the conclusion that he wounded
himself in his fall."
"My friend Dr. Watson made that suggestion to me as we
came down. If so, it would tell against this man
"Undoubtedly. He has neither a knife nor any sign of
a wound. The evidence against him is certainly very
strong. He had a great interest in the disappearance
of the favorite. He lies under suspicion of having
poisoned the stable-boy, he was undoubtedly out in the
storm, he was armed with a heavy stick, and his cravat
was found in the dead man's hand. I really think we
have enough to go before a jury."
Holmes shook his head. "A clever counsel would tear
it all to rags," said he. "Why should he take the
horse out of the stable? If he wished to injure it
why could he not do it there? Has a duplicate key
been found in his possession? What chemist sold him
the powdered opium? Above all, where could he, a
stranger to the district, hide a horse, and such a
horse as this? What is his own explanation as to the
paper which he wished the maid to give to the
"He says that it was a ten-pound note. One was found
in his purse. But your other difficulties are not so
formidable as they seem. He is not a stranger to the
district. He has twice lodged at Tavistock in the
summer. The opium was probably brought from London.
The key, having served its purpose, would be hurled
away. The horse may be at the bottom of one of the
pits or old mines upon the moor."
"What does he say about the cravat?"
"He acknowledges that it is his, and declares that he
had lost it. But a new element has been introduced
into the case which may account for his leading the
horse from the stable."
Holmes pricked up his ears.
"We have found traces which show that a party of
gypsies encamped on Monday night within a mile of the
spot where the murder took place. On Tuesday they
were gone. Now, presuming that there was some
understanding between Simpson and these gypsies, might
he not have been leading the horse to them when he was
overtaken, and may they not have him now?"
"It is certainly possible."
"The moor is being scoured for these gypsies. I have
also examined every stable and out-house in Tavistock,
and for a radius of ten miles."
"There is another training-stable quite close, I
"Yes, and that is a factor which we must certainly not
neglect. As Desborough, their horse, was second in
the betting, they had an interest in the disappearance
of the favorite. Silas Brown, the trainer, is known
to have had large bets upon the event, and he was no
friend to poor Straker. We have, however, examined
the stables, and there is nothing to connect him with
"And nothing to connect this man Simpson with the
interests of the Mapleton stables?"
"Nothing at all."
Holmes leaned back in the carriage, and the
conversation ceased. A few minutes later our driver
pulled up at a neat little red-brick villa with
overhanging eaves which stood by the road. Some
distance off, across a paddock, lay a long gray-tiled
out-building. In every other direction the low curves
of the moor, bronze-colored from the fading ferns,
stretched away to the sky-line, broken only by the
steeples of Tavistock, and by a cluster of houses away
to the westward which marked the Mapleton stables. We
all sprang out with the exception of Holmes, who
continued to lean back with his eyes fixed upon the
sky in front of him, entirely absorbed in his own
thoughts. It was only when I touched his arm that he
roused himself with a violent start and stepped out of
"Excuse me," said he, turning to Colonel Ross, who
had looked at him in some surprise. "I was
day-dreaming." There was a gleam in his eyes and a
suppressed excitement in his manner which convinced
me, used as I was to his ways, that his hand was upon
a clue, though I could not imagine where he had found
"Perhaps you would prefer at once to go on to the
scene of the crime, Mr. Holmes?" said Gregory.
"I think that I should prefer to stay here a little
and go into one or two questions of detail. Straker
was brought back here, I presume?"
"Yes; he lies upstairs. The inquest is to-morrow."
"He has been in your service some years, Colonel
"I have always found him an excellent servant."
"I presume that you made an inventory of what he had
in this pockets at the time of his death, Inspector?"
"I have the things themselves in the sitting-room, if
you would care to see them."
"I should be very glad." We all filed into the front
room and sat round the central table while the
Inspector unlocked a square tin box and laid a small
heap of things before us. There was a box of vestas,
two inches of tallow candle, an A D P brier-root pipe,
a pouch of seal-skin with half an ounce of long-cut
Cavendish, a silver watch with a gold chain, five
sovereigns in gold, an aluminum pencil-case, a few
papers, and an ivory-handled knife with a very
delicate, inflexible bade marked Weiss & Co., London.
"This is a very singular knife," said Holmes, lifting
it up and examining it minutely. "I presume, as I see
blood-stains upon it, that it is the one which was
found in the dead man's grasp. Watson, this knife is
surely in your line?"
"It is what we call a cataract knife," said I.
"I thought so. A very delicate blade devised for very
delicate work. A strange thing for a man to carry
with him upon a rough expedition, especially as it
would not shut in his pocket."
"The tip was guarded by a disk of cork which we found
beside his body," said the Inspector. "His wife tells
us that the knife had lain upon the dressing-table,
and that he had picked it up as he left the room. It
was a poor weapon, but perhaps the best that he could
lay his hands on at the moment."
"Very possible. How about these papers?"
"Three of them are receipted hay-dealers' accounts.
One of them is a letter of instructions from Colonel
Ross. This other is a milliner's account for
thirty-seven pounds fifteen made out by Madame
Lesurier, of Bond Street, to William Derbyshire. Mrs.
Straker tells us that Derbyshire was a friend of her
husband's and that occasionally his letters were
"Madam Derbyshire had somewhat expensive tastes,"
remarked Holmes, glancing down the account.
"Twenty-two guineas is rather heavy for a single
costume. However there appears to be nothing more to
learn, and we may now go down to the scene of the
As we emerged from the sitting-room a woman, who had
been waiting in the passage, took a step forward and
laid her hand upon the Inspector's sleeve. Her face
was haggard and thin and eager, stamped with the print
of a recent horror.
"Have you got them? Have you found them?" she panted.
"No, Mrs. Straker. But Mr. Holmes here has come from
London to help us, and we shall do all that is
"Surely I met you in Plymouth at a garden-party some
little time ago, Mrs. Straker?" said Holmes.
"No, sir; you are mistaken."
"Dear me! Why, I could have sworn to it. You wore a
costume of dove-colored silk with ostrich-feather
"I never had such a dress, sir," answered the lady.
"Ah, that quite settles it," said Holmes. And with an
apology he followed the Inspector outside. A short
walk across the moor took us to the hollow in which
the body had been found. At the brink of it was the
furze-bush upon which the coat had been hung.
"There was no wind that night, I understand," said
"None; but very heavy rain."
"In that case the overcoat was not blown against the
furze-bush, but placed there."
"Yes, it was laid across the bush."
"You fill me with interest, I perceive that the
ground has been trampled up a good deal. No doubt
many feet have been here since Monday night."
"A piece of matting has been laid here at the side,
and we have all stood upon that."
"In this bag I have one of the boots which Straker
wore, one of Fitzroy Simpson's shoes, and a cast
horseshoe of Silver Blaze."
"My dear Inspector, you surpass yourself!" Homes took
the bag, and, descending into the hollow, he pushed
the matting into a more central position. Then
stretching himself upon his face and leaning his chin
upon his hands, he made a careful study of the
trampled mud in front of him. "Hullo!" said he,
suddenly. "What's this?" It was a wax vesta half
burned, which was so coated with mud that it looked at
first like a little chip of wood.
"I cannot think how I came to overlook it," said the
Inspector, with an expression of annoyance.
"It was invisible, buried in the mud. I only saw it
because I was looking for it."
"What! You expected to find it?"
"I thought it not unlikely."
He took the boots from the bag, and compared the
impressions of each of them with marks upon the
ground. Then he clambered up to the rim of the
hollow, and crawled about among the ferns and bushes.
"I am afraid that there are no more tracks," said the
Inspector. "I have examined the ground very carefully
for a hundred yards in each direction."
"Indeed!" said Holmes, rising. "I should not have the
impertinence to do it again after what you say. But I
should like to take a little walk over the moor before
it grows dark, that I may know my ground to-morrow,
and I think that I shall put this horseshoe into my
pocket for luck."
Colonel Ross, who had shown some signs of impatience
at my companion's quiet and systematic method of work,
glanced at his watch. "I wish you would come back
with me, Inspector," said he. "There are several
points on which I should like your advice, and
especially as to whether we do not owe it to the
public to remove our horse's name from the entries for
"Certainly not," cried Holmes, with decision. "I
should let the name stand."
The Colonel bowed. "I am very glad to have had your
opinion, sir," said he. "You will find us at poor
Straker's house when you have finished your walk, and
we can drive together into Tavistock."
He turned back with the Inspector, while Holmes and I
walked slowly across the moor. The sun was beginning
to sink behind the stables of Mapleton, and the long,
sloping plain in front of us was tinged with gold,
deepening into rich, ruddy browns where the faded
ferns and brambles caught the evening light. But the
glories of the landscape were all wasted upon my
companion, who was sunk in the deepest thought.
"It's this way, Watson," said he at last. "We may
leave the question of who killed John Straker for the
instant, and confine ourselves to finding out what has
become of the horse. Now, supposing that he broke
away during or after the tragedy, where could he have
gone to? The horse is a very gregarious creature. If
left to himself his instincts would have been either
to return to King's Pyland or go over to Mapleton.
Why should he run wild upon the moor? He would surely
have been seen by now. And why should gypsies kidnap
him? These people always clear out when they hear of
trouble, for they do not wish to be pestered by the
police. They could not hope to sell such a horse.
They would run a great risk and gain nothing by taking
him. Surely that is clear."
"Where is he, then?"
"I have already said that he must have gone to King's
Pyland or to Mapleton. He is not at King's Pyland.
Therefore he is at Mapleton. Let us take that as a
working hypothesis and see what it leads us to. This
part of the moor, as the Inspector remarked, is very
hard and dry. But if falls away towards Mapleton, and
you can see from here that there is a long hollow over
yonder, which must have been very wet on Monday night.
If our supposition is correct, then the horse must
have crossed that, and there is the point where we
should look for his tracks."
We had been walking briskly during this conversation,
and a few more minutes brought us to the hollow in
question. At Holmes' request I walked down the bank
to the right, and he to the left, but I had not taken
fifty paces before I heard him give a shout, and saw
him waving his hand to me. The track of a horse was
plainly outlined in the soft earth in front of him,
and the shoe which he took from his pocket exactly
fitted the impression.
"See the value of imagination," said Holmes. "It is
the one quality which Gregory lacks. We imagined what
might have happened, acted upon the supposition, and
find ourselves justified. Let us proceed."
We crossed the marshy bottom and passed over a quarter
of a mile of dry, hard turf. Again the ground sloped,
and again we came on the tracks. Then we lost them
for half a mile, but only to pick them up once more
quite close to Mapleton. It was Holmes who saw them
first, and he stood pointing with a look of triumph
upon his face. A man's track was visible beside the
"The horse was alone before," I cried.
"Quite so. It was alone before. Hullo, what is
The double track turned sharp off and took the
direction of King's Pyland. Homes whistled, and we
both followed along after it. His eyes were on the
trail, but I happened to look a little to one side,
and saw to my surprise the same tracks coming back
again in the opposite direction.
"One for you, Watson," said Holmes, when I pointed it
out. "You have saved us a long walk, which would have
brought us back on our own traces. Let us follow the
We had not to go far. It ended at the paving of
asphalt which led up to the gates of the Mapleton
stables. As we approached, a groom ran out from them.
"We don't want any loiterers about here," said he.
"I only wished to ask a question," said Holmes, with
his finger and thumb in his waistcoat pocket. "Should
I be too early to see your master, Mr. Silas Brown, if
I were to call at five o'clock to-morrow morning?"
"Bless you, sir, if any one is about he will be, for
he is always the first stirring. But here he is, sir,
to answer your questions for himself. No, sir, no; it
is as much as my place is worth to let him see me
touch your money. Afterwards, if you like."
As Sherlock Holmes replaced the half-crown which he
had drawn from his pocket, a fierce-looking elderly
man strode out from the gate with a hunting-crop
swinging in his hand.
"What's this, Dawson!" he cried. "No gossiping! Go
about your business! And you, what the devil do you
"Ten minutes' talk with you, my good sir," said Holmes
in the sweetest of voices.
"I've no time to talk to every gadabout. We want no
stranger here. Be off, or you may find a dog at your
Holmes leaned forward and whispered something in the
trainer's ear. He started violently and flushed to
"It's a lie!" he shouted, "an infernal lie!"
"Very good. Shall we argue about it here in public or
talk it over in your parlor?"
"Oh, come in if you wish to."
Holmes smiled. "I shall not keep you more than a few
minutes, Watson," said he. "Now, Mr. Brown, I am
quite at your disposal."
It was twenty minutes, and the reds had all faded into
grays before Holmes and the trainer reappeared. Never
have I seen such a change as had been brought about in
Silas Brown in that short time. His face was ashy
pale, beads of perspiration shone upon his brow, and
his hands shook until the hunting-crop wagged like a
branch in the wind. His bullying, overbearing manner
was all gone too, and he cringed along at my
companion's side like a dog with its master.
"You instructions will be done. It shall all be
done," said he.
"There must be no mistake," said Holmes, looking round
at him. The other winced as he read the menace in his
"Oh no, there shall be no mistake. It shall be there.
Should I change it first or not?"
Holmes thought a little and then burst out laughing.
"No, don't," said he; "I shall write to you about it.
No tricks, now, or--"
"Oh, you can trust me, you can trust me!"
"Yes, I think I can. Well, you shall hear from me
to-morrow." He turned upon his heel, disregarding the
trembling hand which the other held out to him, and we
set off for King's Pyland.
"A more perfect compound of the bully, coward, and
sneak than Master Silas Brown I have seldom met with,"
remarked Holmes as we trudged along together.
"He has the horse, then?"
"He tried to bluster out of it, but I described to him
so exactly what his actions had been upon that morning
that he is convinced that I was watching him. Of
course you observed the peculiarly square toes in the
impressions, and that his own boots exactly
corresponded to them. Again, of course no subordinate
would have dared to do such a thing. I described to
him how, when according to his custom he was the first
down, he perceived a strange horse wandering over the
moor. How he went out to it, and his astonishment at
recognizing, from the white forehead which has given
the favorite its name, that chance had put in his
power the only horse which could beat the one upon
which he had put his money. Then I described how his
first impulse had been to lead him back to King's
Pyland, and how the devil had shown him how he could
hide the horse until the race was over, and how he had
led it back and concealed it at Mapleton. When I told
him every detail he gave it up and thought only of
saving his own skin."
"But his stables had been searched?"
"Oh, and old horse-fakir like him has many a dodge."
"But are you not afraid to leave the horse in his
power now, since he has every interest in injuring
"My dear fellow, he will guard it as the apple of his
eye. He knows that his only hope of mercy is to
produce it safe."
"Colonel Ross did not impress me as a man who would be
likely to show much mercy in any case."
"The matter does not rest with Colonel Ross. I follow
my own methods, and tell as much or as little as I
choose. That is the advantage of being unofficial. I
don't know whether you observed it, Watson, but the
Colonel's manner has been just a trifle cavalier to
me. I am inclined now to have a little amusement at
his expense. Say nothing to him about the horse."
"Certainly not without your permission."
"And of course this is all quite a minor point
compared to the question of who killed John Straker."
"And you will devote yourself to that?"
"On the contrary, we both go back to London by the
I was thunderstruck by my friend's words. We had only
been a few hours in Devonshire, and that he should
give up an investigation which he had begun so
brilliantly was quite incomprehensible to me. Not a
word more could I draw from him until we were back at
the trainer's house. The Colonel and the Inspector
were awaiting us in the parlor.
"My friend and I return to town by the night-express,"
said Holmes. "We have had a charming little breath of
your beautiful Dartmoor air."
The Inspector opened his eyes, and the Colonel's lip
curled in a sneer.
"So you despair of arresting the murderer of poor
Straker," said he.
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. "There are certainly
grave difficulties in the way," said he. "I have
every hope, however, that your horse will start upon
Tuesday, and I beg that you will have your jockey in
readiness. Might I ask for a photograph of Mr. John
The Inspector took one from an envelope and handed it
"My dear Gregory, you anticipate all my wants. If I
might ask you to wait here for an instant, I have a
question which I should like to put to the maid."
"I must say that I am rather disappointed in our
London consultant," said Colonel Ross, bluntly, as my
friend left the room. "I do not see that we are any
further than when he came."
"At least you have his assurance that your horse will
run," said I.
"Yes, I have his assurance," said the Colonel, with a
shrug of his shoulders. "I should prefer to have the
I was about to make some reply in defence of my friend
when he entered the room again.
"Now, gentlemen," said he, "I am quite ready for
As we stepped into the carriage one of the stable-lads
held the door open for us. A sudden idea seemed to
occur to Holmes, for he leaned forward and touched the
lad upon the sleeve.
"You have a few sheep in the paddock," he said. "Who
attends to them?"
"I do, sir."
"Have you noticed anything amiss with them of late?"
"Well, sir, not of much account; but three of them
have gone lame, sir."
I could see that Holmes was extremely pleased, for he
chuckled and rubbed his hands together.
"A long shot, Watson; a very long shot," said he,
pinching my arm. "Gregory, let me recommend to your
attention this singular epidemic among the sheep.
Drive on, coachman!"
Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the
poor opinion which he had formed of my companion's
ability, but I saw by the Inspector's face that his
attention had been keenly aroused.
"You consider that to be important?" he asked.
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my
"To the curious incident of the dog in the
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock
Four days later Holmes and I were again in the train,
bound for Winchester to see the race for the Wessex
Cup. Colonel Ross met us by appointment outside the
station, and we drove in his drag to the course beyond
the town. His face was grave, and his manner was cold
in the extreme.
"I have seen nothing of my horse," said he.
"I suppose that you would know him when you saw him?"
The Colonel was very angry. "I have been on the turf
for twenty years, and never was asked such a question
as that before," said he. "A child would know Silver
Blaze, with his white forehead and his mottled
"How is the betting?"
"Well, that is the curious part of it. You could have
got fifteen to one yesterday, but the price has become
shorter and shorter, until you can hardly get three to
"Hum!" said Holmes. "Somebody knows something, that
As the drag drew up in the enclosure near the grand
stand I glanced at the card to see the entries.
Wessex Plate [it ran] 50 sovs each h ft with 1000 sovs
added for four and five year olds. Second, L300.
Third, L200. New course (one mile and five furlongs).
Mr. Heath Newton's The Negro. Red cap. Cinnamon
Colonel Wardlaw's Pugilist. Pink cap. Blue and black
Lord Backwater's Desborough. Yellow cap and sleeves.
Colonel Ross's Silver Blaze. Black cap. Red jacket.
Duke of Balmoral's Iris. Yellow and black stripes.
Lord Singleford's Rasper. Purple cap. Black sleeves.
"We scratched our other one, and put all hopes on your
word," said the Colonel. "Why, what is that? Silver
"Five to four against Silver Blaze!" roared the ring.
"Five to four against Silver Blaze! Five to fifteen
against Desborough! Five to four on the field!"
"There are the numbers up," I cried. "They are all
"All six there? Then my horse is running," cried the
Colonel in great agitation. "But I don't see him. My
colors have not passed."
"Only five have passed. This must be he."
As I spoke a powerful bay horse swept out from the
weighting enclosure and cantered past us, bearing on
it back the well-known black and red of the Colonel.
"That's not my horse," cried the owner. "That beast
has not a white hair upon its body. What is this that
you have done, Mr. Holmes?"
"Well, well, let us see how he gets on," said my
friend, imperturbably. For a few minutes he gazed
through my field-glass. "Capital! An excellent
start!" he cried suddenly. "There they are, coming
round the curve!"
From our drag we had a superb view as they came up the
straight. The six horses were so close together that
a carpet could have covered them, but half way up the
yellow of the Mapleton stable showed to the front.
Before they reached us, however, Desborough's bolt was
shot, and the Colonel's horse, coming away with a
rush, passed the post a good six lengths before its
rival, the Duke of Balmoral's Iris making a bad third.
"It's my race, anyhow," gasped the Colonel, passing
his hand over his eyes. "I confess that I can make
neither head nor tail of it. Don't you think that you
have kept up your mystery long enough, Mr. Holmes?"
"Certainly, Colonel, you shall know everything. Let
us all go round and have a look at the horse together.
Here he is," he continued, as we made our way into the
weighing enclosure, where only owners and their
friends find admittance. "You have only to wash his
face and his leg in spirits of wine, and you will find
that he is the same old Silver Blaze as ever."
"You take my breath away!"
"I found him in the hands of a fakir, and took the
liberty of running him just as he was sent over."
"My dear sir, you have done wonders. The horse looks
very fit and well. It never went better in its life.
I owe you a thousand apologies for having doubted your
ability. You have done me a great service by
recovering my horse. You would do me a greater still
if you could lay your hands on the murderer of John
"I have done so," said Holmes quietly.
The Colonel and I stared at him in amazement. "You
have got him! Where is he, then?"
"He is here."
"In my company at the present moment."
The Colonel flushed angrily. "I quite recognize that
I am under obligations to you, Mr. Holmes," said he,
"but I must regard what you have just said as either a
very bad joke or an insult."
Sherlock Holmes laughed. "I assure you that I have
not associated you with the crime, Colonel," said he.
"The real murderer is standing immediately behind
you." He stepped past and laid his hand upon the
glossy neck of the thoroughbred.
"The horse!" cried both the Colonel and myself.
"Yes, the horse. And it may lessen his guilt if I say
that it was done in self-defence, and that John
Straker was a man who was entirely unworthy of your
confidence. But there goes the bell, and as I stand
to win a little on this next race, I shall defer a
lengthy explanation until a more fitting time."
We had the corner of a Pullman car to ourselves that
evening as we whirled back to London, and I fancy that
the journey was a short one to Colonel Ross as well as
to myself, as we listened to our companion's narrative
of the events which had occurred at the Dartmoor
training-stables upon the Monday night, and the means
by which he had unravelled them.
"I confess," said he, "that any theories which I had
formed from the newspaper reports were entirely
erroneous. And yet there were indications there, had
they not been overlaid by other details which
concealed their true import. I went to Devonshire
with the conviction that Fitzroy Simpson was the true
culprit, although, of course, I saw that the evidence
against him was by no means complete. It was while I
was in the carriage, just as we reached the trainer's
house, that the immense significance of the curried
mutton occurred to me. You may remember that I was
distrait, and remained sitting after you had all
alighted. I was marvelling in my own mind how I could
possibly have overlooked so obvious a clue."
"I confess," said the Colonel, "that even now I cannot
see how it helps us."
"It was the first link in my chain of reasoning.
Powdered opium is by no means tasteless. The flavor
is not disagreeable, but it is perceptible. Were it
mixed with any ordinary dish the eater would
undoubtedly detect it, and would probably eat no more.
A curry was exactly the medium which would disguise
this taste. By no possible supposition could this
stranger, Fitzroy Simpson, have caused curry to be
served in the trainer's family that night, and it is
surely too monstrous a coincidence to suppose that he
happened to come along with powdered opium upon the
very night when a dish happened to be served which
would disguise the flavor. That is unthinkable.
Therefore Simpson becomes eliminated from the case,
and our attention centers upon Straker and his wife,
the only two people who could have chosen curried
mutton for supper that night. The opium was added
after the dish was set aside for the stable-boy, for
the others had the same for supper with no ill
effects. Which of them, then, had access to that dish
without the maid seeing them?
"Before deciding that question I had grasped the
significance of the silence of the dog, for one true
inference invariably suggests others. The Simpson
incident had shown me that a dog was kept in the
stables, and yet, though some one had been in and had
fetched out a horse, he had not barked enough to
arouse the two lads in the loft. Obviously the
midnight visitor was some one whom the dog knew well.
"I was already convinced, or almost convinced, that
John Straker went down to the stables in the dead of
the night and took out Silver Blaze. For what
purpose? For a dishonest one, obviously, or why
should he drug his own stable-boy? And yet I was at a
loss to know why. There have been cases before now
where trainers have made sure of great sums of money
by laying against their own horses, through agents,
and then preventing them from winning by fraud.
Sometimes it is a pulling jockey. Sometimes it is
some surer and subtler means. What was it here? I
hoped that the contents of his pockets might help me
to form a conclusion.
"And they did so. You cannot have forgotten the
singular knife which was found in the dead man's hand,
a knife which certainly no sane man would choose for a
weapon. It was, as Dr. Watson told us, a form of
knife which is used for the most delicate operations
known in surgery. And it was to be used for a
delicate operation that night. You must know, with
your wide experience of turf matters, Colonel Ross,
that it is possible to make a slight nick upon the
tendons of a horse's ham, and to do it subcutaneously,
so as to leave absolutely no trace. A horse so
treated would develop a slight lameness, which would
be put down to a strain in exercise or a touch of
rheumatism, but never to foul play."
"Villain! Scoundrel!" cried the Colonel.
"We have here the explanation of why John Straker
wished to take the horse out on to the moor. So
spirited a creature would have certainly roused the
soundest of sleepers when it felt the prick of the
knife. It was absolutely necessary to do it in the
"I have been blind!" cried the Colonel. "Of course
that was why he needed the candle, and struck the
"Undoubtedly. But in examining his belongings I was
fortunate enough to discover not only the method of
the crime, but even its motives. As a man of the
world, Colonel, you know that men do not carry other
people's bills about in their pockets. We have most
of us quite enough to do to settle our own. I at once
concluded that Straker was leading a double life, and
keeping a second establishment. The nature of the
bill showed that there was a lady in the case, and one
who had expensive tastes. Liberal as you are with
your servants, one can hardly expect that they can buy
twenty-guinea walking dresses for their ladies. I
questioned Mrs. Straker as to the dress without her
knowing it, and having satisfied myself that it had
never reached her, I made a note of the milliner's
address, and felt that by calling there with Straker's
photograph I could easily dispose of the mythical
"From that time on all was plain. Straker had led out
the horse to a hollow where his light would be
invisible. Simpson in his flight had dropped his
cravat, and Straker had picked it up--with some idea,
perhaps, that he might use it in securing the horse's
leg. Once in the hollow, he had got behind the horse
and had struck a light; but the creature frightened at
the sudden glare, and with the strange instinct of
animals feeling that some mischief was intended, had
lashed out, and the steel shoe had struck Straker full
on the forehead. He had already, in spite of the
rain, taken off his overcoat in order to do his
delicate task, and so, as he fell, his knife gashed
his thigh. Do I make it clear?"
"Wonderful!" cried the Colonel. "Wonderful! You
might have been there!"
"My final shot was, I confess a very long one. It
struck me that so astute a man as Straker would not
undertake this delicate tendon-nicking without a
little practice. What could he practice on? My eyes
fell upon the sheep, and I asked a question which,
rather to my surprise, showed that my surmise was
"When I returned to London I called upon the milliner,
who had recognized Straker as an excellent customer of
the name of Derbyshire, who had a very dashing wife,
with a strong partiality for expensive dresses. I
have no doubt that this woman had plunged him over
head and ears in debt, and so led him into this
"You have explained all but one thing," cried the
Colonel. "Where was the horse?"
"Ah, it bolted, and was cared for by one of your
neighbors. We must have an amnesty in that direction,
I think. This is Clapham Junction, if I am not
mistaken, and we shall be in Victoria in less than ten
minutes. If you care to smoke a cigar in our rooms,
Colonel, I shall be happy to give you any other
details which might interest you."
The Yellow Face
[In publishing these short sketches based upon the
numerous cases in which my companion's singular gifts
have made us the listeners to, and eventually the
actors in, some strange drama, it is only natural that
I should dwell rather upon his successes than upon his
failures. And this not so much for the sake of his
reputations--for, indeed, it was when he was at his
wits' end that his energy and his versatility were
most admirable--but because where he failed it
happened too often that no one else succeeded, and
that the tale was left forever without a conclusion.
Now and again, however, it chanced that even when he
erred, the truth was still discovered. I have noted
of some half-dozen cases of the kind the Adventure of
the Musgrave Ritual and that which I am about to
recount are the two which present the strongest
features of interest.]
Sherlock Holmes was a man who seldom took exercise for
exercise's sake. Few men were capable of greater
muscular effort, and he was undoubtedly one of the
finest boxers of his weight that I have ever seen; but
he looked upon aimless bodily exertion as a waste of
energy, and he seldom bestirred himself save when
there was some professional object to be served. Then
he was absolutely untiring and indefatigable. That he
should have kept himself in training under such
circumstances is remarkable, but his diet was usually
of the sparest, and his habits were simple to the
verge of austerity. Save for the occasional use of
cocaine, he had no vices, and he only turned to the
drug as a protest against the monotony of existence
when cases were scanty and the papers uninteresting.
One day in early spring he had so far relaxed as to
go for a walk with me in the Park, where the first
faint shoots of green were breaking out upon the elms,
and the sticky spear-heads of the chestnuts were just
beginning to burst into their five-fold leaves. For
two hours we rambled about together, in silence for
the most part, as befits two men who know each other
intimately. It was nearly five before we were back in
Baker Street once more.
"Beg pardon, sir," said our page-boy, as he opened the
door. "There's been a gentleman here asking for you,
Holmes glanced reproachfully at me. "So much for
afternoon walks!" said he. "Has this gentleman gone,
"Didn't you ask him in?"
"Yes, sir; he came in."
"How long did he wait?"
"Half an hour, sir. He was a very restless gentleman,
sir, a-walkin' and a-stampin' all the time he was
here. I was waitin' outside the door, sir, and I
could hear him. At last he outs into the passage, and
he cries, 'Is that man never goin' to come?' Those
were his very words, sir. 'You'll only need to wait a
little longer,' says I. 'Then I'll wait in the open
air, for I feel half choked,' says he. 'I'll be back
before long.' And with that he ups and he outs, and
all I could say wouldn't hold him back."
"Well, well, you did you best," said Holmes, as we
walked into our room. "It's very annoying, though,
Watson. I was badly in need of a case, and this
looks, from the man's impatience, as if it were of
importance. Hullo! That's not your pipe on the table.
He must have left his behind him. A nice old brier
with a good long stem of what the tobacconists call
amber. I wonder how many real amber mouthpieces there
are in London? Some people think that a fly in it is
a sign. Well, he must have been disturbed in his mind
to leave a pipe behind him which he evidently values
"How do you know that he values it highly?" I asked.
"Well, I should put the original cost of the pipe at
seven and sixpence. Now it has, you see, been twice
mended, once in the wooden stem and once in the
amber. Each of these mends, done, as you observe,
with silver bands, must have cost more than the pipe
did originally. The man must value the pipe highly
when he prefers to patch it up rather than buy a new
one with the same money."
"Anything else?" I asked, for Holmes was turning the
pipe about in his hand, and staring at it in his
peculiar pensive way.
He held it up and tapped on it with his long, thin
fore-finger, as a professor might who was lecturing on
"Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest,"
said he. "Nothing has more individuality, save
perhaps watches and bootlaces. The indications here,
however, are neither very marked nor very important.
The owner is obviously a muscular man, left-handed,
with an excellent set of teeth, careless in his
habits, and with no need to practise economy."
My friend threw out the information in a very offhand
way, but I saw that he cocked his eye at me to see if
I had followed his reasoning.
"You think a man must be well-to-do if he smokes a
seven-shilling pipe," said I.
"This is Grosvenor mixture at eightpence an ounce,"
Holmes answered, knocking a little out on his palm.
"As he might get an excellent smoke for half the
price, he has no need to practise economy."
"And the other points?"
"He has been in the habit of lighting his pipe at
lamps and gas-jets. You can see that it is quite
charred all down one side. Of course a match could
not have done that. Why should a man hold a match to
the side of his pipe? But you cannot light it at a
lamp without getting the bowl charred. And it is all
on the right side of the pipe. From that I gather
that he is a left-handed man. You hold your own pipe
to the lamp, and see how naturally you, being
right-handed, hold the left side to the flame. You
might do it once the other way, but not as a
constancy. This has always been held so. Then he has
bitten through his amber. It takes a muscular,
energetic fellow, and one with a good set of teeth, to
do that. But if I am not mistaken I hear him upon the
stair, so we shall have something more interesting
than his pipe to study."
An instant later our door opened, and a tall young man
entered the room. He was well but quietly dressed in
a dark-gray suit, and carried a brown wide-awake in
his hand. I should have put him at about thirty,
though he was really some years older.
"I beg your pardon," said he, with some embarrassment;
"I suppose I should have knocked. Yes, of course I
should have knocked. The fact is that I am a little
upset, and you must put it all down to that." He
passed his hand over his forehead like a man who is
half dazed, and then fell rather than sat down upon a
"I can see that you have not slept for a night or
two," said Holmes, in his easy, genial way. "That
tries a man's nerves more than work, and more even
than pleasure. May I ask how I can help you?"
"I wanted your advice, sir. I don't know what to do
and my whole life seems to have gone to pieces."
"You wish to employ me as a consulting detective?"
"Not that only. I want your opinion as a judicious
man--as a man of the world. I want to know what I
ought to do next. I hope to God you'll be able to
He spoke in little, sharp, jerky outbursts, and it
seemed to me that to speak at all was very painful to
him, and that his will all through was overriding his
"It's a very delicate thing," said he. "One does not
like to speak of one's domestic affairs to strangers.
It seems dreadful to discuss the conduct of one's wife
with two men whom I have never seen before. It's
horrible to have to do it. But I've got to the end of
my tether, and I must have advice."
"My dear Mr. Grant Munro--" began Holmes.
Our visitor sprang from his char. "What!" he cried,
"you know my mane?"
"If you wish to preserve your incognito,' said Holmes,
smiling, "I would suggest that you cease to write your
name upon the lining of your hat, or else that you
turn the crown towards the person whom you are
addressing. I was about to say that my friend and I
have listened to a good many strange secrets in this
room, and that we have had the good fortune to bring
peace to many troubled souls. I trust that we may do
as much for you. Might I beg you, as time may prove
to be of importance, to furnish me with the facts of
your case without further delay?"
Our visitor again passed his hand over his forehead,
as if he found it bitterly hard. From every gesture
and expression I could see that he was a reserved,
self-contained man, with a dash of pride in his
nature, more likely to hide his wounds than to expose
them. Then suddenly, with a fierce gesture of his
closed hand, like one who throws reserve to the winds,
"The facts are these, Mr. Holmes," said he. "I am a
married man, and have been so for three years. During
that time my wife and I have loved each other as
fondly and lived as happily as any two that ever were
joined. We have not had a difference, not one, in
thought or word or deed. And now, since last Monday,
there has suddenly sprung up a barrier between us, and
I find that there is something in her life and in her
thought of which I know as little as if she were the
woman who brushes by me in the street. We are
estranged, and I want to know why.
"Now there is one thing that I want to impress upon
you before I go any further, Mr. Holmes. Effie loves
me. Don't let there be any mistake about that. She
loves me with her whole heart and soul, and never more
than now. I know it. I feel it. I don't want to
argue about that. A man can tell easily enough when a
woman loves him. But there's this secret between us,
and we can never be the same until it is cleared."
"Kindly let me have the facts, Mr. Munro," said
Holmes, with some impatience.
"I'll tell you what I know about Effie's history. She
was a widow when I met her first, though quite
young--only twenty-five. Her name then was Mrs.
Hebron. She went out to America when she was young,
and lived in the town of Atlanta, where she married
this Hebron, who was a lawyer with a good practice.
They had one child, but the yellow fever broke out
badly in the place, and both husband and child died of
it. I have seen his death certificate. This sickened
her of America, and she came back to live with a
maiden aunt at Pinner, in Middlesex. I may mention
that her husband had left her comfortably off, and
that she had a capital of about four thousand five
hundred pounds, which had been so well invested by him
that it returned an average of seven per cent. She
had only been six months at Pinner when I met her; we
fell in love with each other, and we married a few
"I am a hop merchant myself, and as I have an income
of seven or eight hundred, we found ourselves
comfortably off, and took a nice eighty-pound-a-year
villa at Norbury. Our little place was very
countrified, considering that it is so close to town.
We had an inn and two houses a little above us, and a
single cottage at the other side of the field which
faces us, and except those there were no houses until
you got half way to the station. My business took me
into town at certain seasons, but in summer I had less
to do, and then in our country home my wife and I were
just as happy as could be wished. I tell you that
there never was a shadow between us until this
accursed affair began.
"There's one thing I ought to tell you before I go
further. When we married, my wife made over all her
property to me--rather against my will, for I saw how
awkward it would be if my business affairs went wrong.
However, she would have it so, and it was done. Well,
about six weeks ago she came to me.
"'Jack,' said she, 'when you took my money you said
that if ever I wanted any I was to ask you for it.'
"'Certainly,' said I. 'It's all your own.'
"'Well,' said she, 'I want a hundred pounds.'
"I was a bit staggered at this, for I had imagined it
was simply a new dress or something of the kind that
she was after.
"'What on earth for?' I asked.
"'Oh,' said she, in her playful way, 'you said that
you were only my banker, and bankers never ask
questions, you know.'
"'If you really mean it, of course you shall have the
money,' said I.
"'Oh, yes, I really mean it.'
"'And you won't tell me what you want it for?'
"'Some day, perhaps, but not just at present, Jack.'
"So I had to be content with that, thought it was the
first time that there had ever been any secret between
us. I gave her a check, and I never thought any more
of the matter. It may have nothing to do with what
came afterwards, but I thought it only right to
"Well, I told you just now that there is a cottage not
far from our house. There is just a field between us,
but to reach it you have to go along the road and then
turn down a lane. Just beyond it is a nice little
grove of Scotch firs, and I used to be very fond of
strolling down there, for trees are always a
neighborly kind of things. The cottage had been
standing empty this eight months, and it was a pity,
for it was a pretty two storied place, with an
old-fashioned porch and honeysuckle about it. I have
stood many a time and thought what a neat little
homestead it would make.
"Well, last Monday evening I was taking a stroll down
that way, when I met an empty van coming up the lane,
and saw a pile of carpets and things lying about on
the grass-plot beside the porch. It was clear that
the cottage had at last been let. I walked past it,
and wondered what sort of folk they were who had come
to live so near us. And as I looked I suddenly became
aware that a face was watching me out of one of the
"I don't know what there was about that face, Mr.
Holmes, but it seemed to send a chill right down my
back. I was some little way off, so that I could not
make out the features, but there was something
unnatural and inhuman about the face. That was the
impression that I had, and I moved quickly forwards to
get a nearer view of the person who was watching me.
But as I did so the face suddenly disappeared, so
suddenly that it seemed to have been plucked away into
the darkness of the room. I stood for five minutes
thinking the business over, and trying to analyze my
impressions. I could not tell if the face were that
of a man or a woman. It had been too far from me for
that. But its color was what had impressed me most.
It was of a livid chalky white, and with something set
and rigid about it which was shockingly unnatural. So
disturbed was I that I determined to see a little more
of the new inmates of the cottage. I approached and
knocked at the door, which was instantly opened by a
tall, gaunt woman with a harsh, forbidding face.
"'What may you be wantin'?' she asked, in a Northern
"'I am your neighbor over yonder,' said I, nodding
towards my house. 'I see that you have only just
moved in, so I thought that if I could be of any help
to you in any--'
"'Ay, we'll just ask ye when we want ye,' said she,
and shut the door in my face. Annoyed at the churlish
rebuff, I turned my back and walked home. All
evening, though I tried to think of other things, my
mind would still turn to the apparition at the window
and the rudeness of the woman. I determined to say
nothing about the former to my wife, for she is a
nervous, highly strung woman, and I had no wish that
she would share the unpleasant impression which had
been produced upon myself. I remarked to her,
however, before I fell asleep, that the cottage was
now occupied, to which she returned no reply.
"I am usually an extremely sound sleeper. It has been
a standing jest in the family that nothing could ever
wake me during the night. And yet somehow on that
particular night, whether it may have been the slight
excitement produced by my little adventure or not I
know not, but I slept much more lightly than usual.
Half in my dreams I was dimly conscious that something
was going on in the room, and gradually became aware
that my wife had dressed herself and was slipping on
her mantle and her bonnet. My lips were parted to
murmur out some sleepy words of surprise or
remonstrance at this untimely preparation, when
suddenly my half-opened eyes fell upon her face,
illuminated by the candle-light, and astonishment held
me dumb. She wore an expression such as I had never
seen before--such as I should have thought her
incapable of assuming. She was deadly pale and
breathing fast, glancing furtively towards the bed as
she fastened her mantle, to see if she had disturbed
me. Then, thinking that I was still asleep, she
slipped noiselessly from the room, and an instant
later I heard a sharp creaking which could only come
from the hinges of the front door. I sat up in bed
and rapped my knuckles against the rail to make
certain that I was truly awake. Then I took my watch
from under the pillow. It was three in the morning.
What on this earth could my wife be doing out on the
country road at three in the morning?
"I had sat for about twenty minutes turning the thing
over in my mind and trying to find some possible
explanation. The more I thought, the more
extraordinary and inexplicable did it appear. I was
still puzzling over it when I heard the door gently
close again, and her footsteps coming up the stairs.
"'Where in the world have you been, Effie?' I asked as
"She gave a violent start and a kind of gasping cry
when I spoke, and that cry and start troubled me more
than all the rest, for there was something
indescribably guilty about them. My wife had always
been a woman of a frank, open nature, and it gave me a
chill to see her slinking into her own room, and
crying out and wincing when her own husband spoke to
"'You awake, Jack!' she cried, with a nervous laugh.
'Why, I thought that nothing could awake you.'
"'Where have you been?' I asked, more sternly.
"'I don't wonder that you are surprised,' said she,
and I could see that her fingers were trembling as she
undid the fastenings of her mantle. 'Why, I never
remember having done such a thing in my life before.
The fact is that I felt as though I were choking, and
had a perfect longing for a breath of fresh air. I
really think that I should have fainted if I had not
gone out. I stood at the door for a few minutes, and
now I am quite myself again.'
"All the time that she was telling me this story she
never once looked in my direction, and her voice was
quite unlike her usual tones. It was evident to me
that she was saying what was false. I said nothing in
reply, but turned my face to the wall, sick at heart,
with my mind filled with a thousand venomous doubts
and suspicions. What was it that my wife was
concealing from me? Where had she been during that
strange expedition? I felt that I should have no
peace until I knew, and yet I shrank from asking her
again after once she had told me what was false. All
the rest of the night I tossed and tumbled, framing
theory after theory, each more unlikely than the last.
"I should have gone to the City that day, but I was
too disturbed in my mind to be able to pay attention
to business matters. My wife seemed to be as upset as
myself, and I could see from the little questioning
glances which she kept shooting at me that she
understood that I disbelieved her statement, and that
she was at her wits' end what to do. We hardly
exchanged a word during breakfast, and immediately
afterwards I went out for a walk, that I might think
the matter out in the fresh morning air.
"I went as far as the Crystal Palace, spent an hour in
the grounds, and was back in Norbury by one o'clock.
It happened that my way took me past the cottage, and
I stopped for an instant to look at the windows, and
to see if I could catch a glimpse of the strange face
which had looked out at me on the day before. As I
stood there, imagine my surprise, Mr. Holmes, when the
door suddenly opened and my wife walked out.
"I was struck dumb with astonishment at the sight of
her; but my emotions were nothing to those which
showed themselves upon her face when our eyes met.
She seemed for an instant to wish to shrink back
inside the house again; and then, seeing how useless
all concealment must be, she came forward, with a very
white face and frightened eyes which belied the smile
upon her lips.
"'Ah, Jack,' she said, 'I have just been in to see if
I can be of any assistance to our new neighbors. Why
do you look at me like that, Jack? You are not angry
"'So,' said I, 'this is where you went during the
"'What do you mean?" she cried.
"'You came here. I am sure of it. Who are these
people, that you should visit them at such an hour?'
"'I have not been here before.'
"'How can you tell me what you know is false?' I
cried. 'Your very voice changes as you speak. When
have I ever had a secret from you? I shall enter that
cottage, and I shall probe the matter to the bottom.'
"'No, no, Jack, for God's sake!' she gasped, in
uncontrollable emotion. Then, as I approached the
door, she seized my sleeve and pulled me back with
"'I implore you not to do this, Jack,' she cried. 'I
swear that I will tell you everything some day, but
nothing but misery can come of it if you enter that
cottage.' Then, as I tried to shake her off, she
clung to me in a frenzy of entreaty.
"'Trust me, Jack!' she cried. 'Trust me only this
once. You will never have cause to regret it. You
know that I would not have a secret from you if it
were not for your own sake. Our whole lives are at
stake in this. If you come home with me, all will be
well. If you force your way into that cottage, all is
over between us.'
"There was such earnestness, such despair, in her
manner that her words arrested me, and I stood
irresolute before the door.
"'I will trust you on one condition, and on one
condition only,' said I at last. 'It is that this
mystery comes to an end from now. You are at liberty
to preserve your secret, but you must promise me that
there shall be no more nightly visits, no more doings
which are kept from my knowledge. I am willing to
forget those which are passed if you will promise that
there shall be no more in the future.'
"'I was sure that you would trust me,' she cried, with
a great sigh of relief. 'It shall be just as you
wish. Come away--oh, come away up to the house.'
"Still pulling at my sleeve, she led me away from the
cottage. As we went I glanced back, and there was
that yellow livid face watching us out of the upper
window. What link could there be between that
creature and my wife? Or how could the coarse, rough
woman whom I had seen the day before be connected with
her? It was a strange puzzle, and yet I knew that my
mind could never know ease again until I had solved
"For two days after this I stayed at home, and my wife
appeared to abide loyally by our engagement, for, as
far as I know, she never stirred out of the house. On
the third day, however, I had ample evidence that her
solemn promise was not enough to hold her back from
this secret influence which drew her away from her
husband and her duty.
"I had gone into town on that day, but I returned by
the 2.40 instead of the 3.36, which is my usual train.
As I entered the house the maid ran into the hall with
a startled face.
"'Where is your mistress?' I asked.
"'I think that she has gone out for a walk,' she
"My mind was instantly filled with suspicion. I
rushed upstairs to make sure that she was not in the
house. As I did so I happened to glance out of one of
the upper windows, and saw the maid with whom I had
just been speaking running across the field in the
direction of the cottage. Then of course I saw
exactly what it all meant. My wife had gone over
there, and had asked the servant to call her if I
should return. Tingling with anger, I rushed down and
hurried across, determined to end the matter once and
forever. I saw my wife and the maid hurrying back
along the lane, but I did not stop to speak with them.
In the cottage lay the secret which was casting a
shadow over my life. I vowed that, come what might,
it should be a secret no longer. I did not even knock
when I reached it, but turned the handle and rushed
into the passage.
"It was all still and quiet upon the ground floor. In
the kitchen a kettle was singing on the fire, and a
large black cat lay coiled up in the basket; but there
was no sign of the woman whom I had seen before. I
ran into the other room, but it was equally deserted.
Then I rushed up the stairs, only to find two other
rooms empty and deserted at the top. There was no one
at all in the whole house. The furniture and pictures
were of the most common and vulgar description, save
in the one chamber at the window of which I had seen
the strange face. That was comfortable and elegant,
and all my suspicions rose into a fierce bitter flame
when I saw that on the mantelpiece stood a copy of a
fell-length photograph of my wife, which had been
taken at my request only three months ago.
"I stayed long enough to make certain that the house
was absolutely empty. Then I left it, feeling a
weight at my heart such as I had never had before. My
wife came out into the hall as I entered my house; but
I was too hurt and angry to speak with her, and
pushing past her, I made my way into my study. She
followed me, however, before I could close the door.
"'I am sorry that I broke my promise, Jack,' said she;
'but if you knew all the circumstances I am sure that
you would forgive me.'
"'Tell me everything, then,' said I.
"'I cannot, Jack, I cannot,' she cried.
"'Until you tell me who it is that has been living in
that cottage, and who it is to whom you have given
that photograph, there can never be any confidence
between us,' said I, and breaking away from her, I
left the house. That was yesterday, Mr. Holmes, and I
have not seen her since, nor do I know anything more
about this strange business. It is the first shadow
that has come between us, and it has so shaken me that
I do not know what I should do for the best. Suddenly