Part 4 out of 7
heavily. He was a middle-sized man, coarsely clad as became his
calling, with a coloured shirt protruding through the rent in his
tattered coat. He was, as the inspector had said, extremely
dirty, but the grime which covered his face could not conceal its
repulsive ugliness. A broad wheal from an old scar ran right
across it from eye to chin, and by its contraction had turned up
one side of the upper lip, so that three teeth were exposed in a
perpetual snarl. A shock of very bright red hair grew low over
his eyes and forehead.
"He's a beauty, isn't he?" said the inspector.
"He certainly needs a wash," remarked Holmes. "I had an idea that
he might, and I took the liberty of bringing the tools with me."
He opened the Gladstone bag as he spoke, and took out, to my
astonishment, a very large bath-sponge.
"He! he! You are a funny one," chuckled the inspector.
"Now, if you will have the great goodness to open that door very
quietly, we will soon make him cut a much more respectable
"Well, I don't know why not," said the inspector. "He doesn't
look a credit to the Bow Street cells, does he?" He slipped his
key into the lock, and we all very quietly entered the cell. The
sleeper half turned, and then settled down once more into a deep
slumber. Holmes stooped to the water-jug, moistened his sponge,
and then rubbed it twice vigorously across and down the
"Let me introduce you," he shouted, "to Mr. Neville St. Clair, of
Lee, in the county of Kent."
Never in my life have I seen such a sight. The man's face peeled
off under the sponge like the bark from a tree. Gone was the
coarse brown tint! Gone, too, was the horrid scar which had
seamed it across, and the twisted lip which had given the
repulsive sneer to the face! A twitch brought away the tangled
red hair, and there, sitting up in his bed, was a pale,
sad-faced, refined-looking man, black-haired and smooth-skinned,
rubbing his eyes and staring about him with sleepy bewilderment.
Then suddenly realising the exposure, he broke into a scream and
threw himself down with his face to the pillow.
"Great heavens!" cried the inspector, "it is, indeed, the missing
man. I know him from the photograph."
The prisoner turned with the reckless air of a man who abandons
himself to his destiny. "Be it so," said he. "And pray what am I
"With making away with Mr. Neville St.-- Oh, come, you can't be
charged with that unless they make a case of attempted suicide of
it," said the inspector with a grin. "Well, I have been
twenty-seven years in the force, but this really takes the cake."
"If I am Mr. Neville St. Clair, then it is obvious that no crime
has been committed, and that, therefore, I am illegally
"No crime, but a very great error has been committed," said
Holmes. "You would have done better to have trusted you wife."
"It was not the wife; it was the children," groaned the prisoner.
"God help me, I would not have them ashamed of their father. My
God! What an exposure! What can I do?"
Sherlock Holmes sat down beside him on the couch and patted him
kindly on the shoulder.
"If you leave it to a court of law to clear the matter up," said
he, "of course you can hardly avoid publicity. On the other hand,
if you convince the police authorities that there is no possible
case against you, I do not know that there is any reason that the
details should find their way into the papers. Inspector
Bradstreet would, I am sure, make notes upon anything which you
might tell us and submit it to the proper authorities. The case
would then never go into court at all."
"God bless you!" cried the prisoner passionately. "I would have
endured imprisonment, ay, even execution, rather than have left
my miserable secret as a family blot to my children.
"You are the first who have ever heard my story. My father was a
schoolmaster in Chesterfield, where I received an excellent
education. I travelled in my youth, took to the stage, and
finally became a reporter on an evening paper in London. One day
my editor wished to have a series of articles upon begging in the
metropolis, and I volunteered to supply them. There was the point
from which all my adventures started. It was only by trying
begging as an amateur that I could get the facts upon which to
base my articles. When an actor I had, of course, learned all the
secrets of making up, and had been famous in the green-room for
my skill. I took advantage now of my attainments. I painted my
face, and to make myself as pitiable as possible I made a good
scar and fixed one side of my lip in a twist by the aid of a
small slip of flesh-coloured plaster. Then with a red head of
hair, and an appropriate dress, I took my station in the business
part of the city, ostensibly as a match-seller but really as a
beggar. For seven hours I plied my trade, and when I returned
home in the evening I found to my surprise that I had received no
less than 26s. 4d.
"I wrote my articles and thought little more of the matter until,
some time later, I backed a bill for a friend and had a writ
served upon me for 25 pounds. I was at my wit's end where to get
the money, but a sudden idea came to me. I begged a fortnight's
grace from the creditor, asked for a holiday from my employers,
and spent the time in begging in the City under my disguise. In
ten days I had the money and had paid the debt.
"Well, you can imagine how hard it was to settle down to arduous
work at 2 pounds a week when I knew that I could earn as much in
a day by smearing my face with a little paint, laying my cap on
the ground, and sitting still. It was a long fight between my
pride and the money, but the dollars won at last, and I threw up
reporting and sat day after day in the corner which I had first
chosen, inspiring pity by my ghastly face and filling my pockets
with coppers. Only one man knew my secret. He was the keeper of a
low den in which I used to lodge in Swandam Lane, where I could
every morning emerge as a squalid beggar and in the evenings
transform myself into a well-dressed man about town. This fellow,
a Lascar, was well paid by me for his rooms, so that I knew that
my secret was safe in his possession.
"Well, very soon I found that I was saving considerable sums of
money. I do not mean that any beggar in the streets of London
could earn 700 pounds a year--which is less than my average
takings--but I had exceptional advantages in my power of making
up, and also in a facility of repartee, which improved by
practice and made me quite a recognised character in the City.
All day a stream of pennies, varied by silver, poured in upon me,
and it was a very bad day in which I failed to take 2 pounds.
"As I grew richer I grew more ambitious, took a house in the
country, and eventually married, without anyone having a
suspicion as to my real occupation. My dear wife knew that I had
business in the City. She little knew what.
"Last Monday I had finished for the day and was dressing in my
room above the opium den when I looked out of my window and saw,
to my horror and astonishment, that my wife was standing in the
street, with her eyes fixed full upon me. I gave a cry of
surprise, threw up my arms to cover my face, and, rushing to my
confidant, the Lascar, entreated him to prevent anyone from
coming up to me. I heard her voice downstairs, but I knew that
she could not ascend. Swiftly I threw off my clothes, pulled on
those of a beggar, and put on my pigments and wig. Even a wife's
eyes could not pierce so complete a disguise. But then it
occurred to me that there might be a search in the room, and that
the clothes might betray me. I threw open the window, reopening
by my violence a small cut which I had inflicted upon myself in
the bedroom that morning. Then I seized my coat, which was
weighted by the coppers which I had just transferred to it from
the leather bag in which I carried my takings. I hurled it out of
the window, and it disappeared into the Thames. The other clothes
would have followed, but at that moment there was a rush of
constables up the stair, and a few minutes after I found, rather,
I confess, to my relief, that instead of being identified as Mr.
Neville St. Clair, I was arrested as his murderer.
"I do not know that there is anything else for me to explain. I
was determined to preserve my disguise as long as possible, and
hence my preference for a dirty face. Knowing that my wife would
be terribly anxious, I slipped off my ring and confided it to the
Lascar at a moment when no constable was watching me, together
with a hurried scrawl, telling her that she had no cause to
"That note only reached her yesterday," said Holmes.
"Good God! What a week she must have spent!"
"The police have watched this Lascar," said Inspector Bradstreet,
"and I can quite understand that he might find it difficult to
post a letter unobserved. Probably he handed it to some sailor
customer of his, who forgot all about it for some days."
"That was it," said Holmes, nodding approvingly; "I have no doubt
of it. But have you never been prosecuted for begging?"
"Many times; but what was a fine to me?"
"It must stop here, however," said Bradstreet. "If the police are
to hush this thing up, there must be no more of Hugh Boone."
"I have sworn it by the most solemn oaths which a man can take."
"In that case I think that it is probable that no further steps
may be taken. But if you are found again, then all must come out.
I am sure, Mr. Holmes, that we are very much indebted to you for
having cleared the matter up. I wish I knew how you reach your
"I reached this one," said my friend, "by sitting upon five
pillows and consuming an ounce of shag. I think, Watson, that if
we drive to Baker Street we shall just be in time for breakfast."
VII. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLUE CARBUNCLE
I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second
morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the
compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a
purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack within his reach upon the
right, and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly
studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a wooden chair, and
on the angle of the back hung a very seedy and disreputable
hard-felt hat, much the worse for wear, and cracked in several
places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair
suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner for the
purpose of examination.
"You are engaged," said I; "perhaps I interrupt you."
"Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss
my results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one"--he jerked his
thumb in the direction of the old hat--"but there are points in
connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest and
even of instruction."
I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his
crackling fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows
were thick with the ice crystals. "I suppose," I remarked, "that,
homely as it looks, this thing has some deadly story linked on to
it--that it is the clue which will guide you in the solution of
some mystery and the punishment of some crime."
"No, no. No crime," said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. "Only one of
those whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have
four million human beings all jostling each other within the
space of a few square miles. Amid the action and reaction of so
dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events
may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be
presented which may be striking and bizarre without being
criminal. We have already had experience of such."
"So much so," I remarked, "that of the last six cases which I
have added to my notes, three have been entirely free of any
"Precisely. You allude to my attempt to recover the Irene Adler
papers, to the singular case of Miss Mary Sutherland, and to the
adventure of the man with the twisted lip. Well, I have no doubt
that this small matter will fall into the same innocent category.
You know Peterson, the commissionaire?"
"It is to him that this trophy belongs."
"It is his hat."
"No, no, he found it. Its owner is unknown. I beg that you will
look upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual
problem. And, first, as to how it came here. It arrived upon
Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is, I
have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson's
fire. The facts are these: about four o'clock on Christmas
morning, Peterson, who, as you know, is a very honest fellow, was
returning from some small jollification and was making his way
homeward down Tottenham Court Road. In front of him he saw, in
the gaslight, a tallish man, walking with a slight stagger, and
carrying a white goose slung over his shoulder. As he reached the
corner of Goodge Street, a row broke out between this stranger
and a little knot of roughs. One of the latter knocked off the
man's hat, on which he raised his stick to defend himself and,
swinging it over his head, smashed the shop window behind him.
Peterson had rushed forward to protect the stranger from his
assailants; but the man, shocked at having broken the window, and
seeing an official-looking person in uniform rushing towards him,
dropped his goose, took to his heels, and vanished amid the
labyrinth of small streets which lie at the back of Tottenham
Court Road. The roughs had also fled at the appearance of
Peterson, so that he was left in possession of the field of
battle, and also of the spoils of victory in the shape of this
battered hat and a most unimpeachable Christmas goose."
"Which surely he restored to their owner?"
"My dear fellow, there lies the problem. It is true that 'For
Mrs. Henry Baker' was printed upon a small card which was tied to
the bird's left leg, and it is also true that the initials 'H.
B.' are legible upon the lining of this hat, but as there are
some thousands of Bakers, and some hundreds of Henry Bakers in
this city of ours, it is not easy to restore lost property to any
one of them."
"What, then, did Peterson do?"
"He brought round both hat and goose to me on Christmas morning,
knowing that even the smallest problems are of interest to me.
The goose we retained until this morning, when there were signs
that, in spite of the slight frost, it would be well that it
should be eaten without unnecessary delay. Its finder has carried
it off, therefore, to fulfil the ultimate destiny of a goose,
while I continue to retain the hat of the unknown gentleman who
lost his Christmas dinner."
"Did he not advertise?"
"Then, what clue could you have as to his identity?"
"Only as much as we can deduce."
"From his hat?"
"But you are joking. What can you gather from this old battered
"Here is my lens. You know my methods. What can you gather
yourself as to the individuality of the man who has worn this
I took the tattered object in my hands and turned it over rather
ruefully. It was a very ordinary black hat of the usual round
shape, hard and much the worse for wear. The lining had been of
red silk, but was a good deal discoloured. There was no maker's
name; but, as Holmes had remarked, the initials "H. B." were
scrawled upon one side. It was pierced in the brim for a
hat-securer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was
cracked, exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places,
although there seemed to have been some attempt to hide the
discoloured patches by smearing them with ink.
"I can see nothing," said I, handing it back to my friend.
"On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail,
however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in
drawing your inferences."
"Then, pray tell me what it is that you can infer from this hat?"
He picked it up and gazed at it in the peculiar introspective
fashion which was characteristic of him. "It is perhaps less
suggestive than it might have been," he remarked, "and yet there
are a few inferences which are very distinct, and a few others
which represent at least a strong balance of probability. That
the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the
face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the
last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He
had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a
moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his
fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink,
at work upon him. This may account also for the obvious fact that
his wife has ceased to love him."
"My dear Holmes!"
"He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect," he
continued, disregarding my remonstrance. "He is a man who leads a
sedentary life, goes out little, is out of training entirely, is
middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the
last few days, and which he anoints with lime-cream. These are
the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his hat. Also,
by the way, that it is extremely improbable that he has gas laid
on in his house."
"You are certainly joking, Holmes."
"Not in the least. Is it possible that even now, when I give you
these results, you are unable to see how they are attained?"
"I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I must confess that I
am unable to follow you. For example, how did you deduce that
this man was intellectual?"
For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his head. It came right
over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose. "It is
a question of cubic capacity," said he; "a man with so large a
brain must have something in it."
"The decline of his fortunes, then?"
"This hat is three years old. These flat brims curled at the edge
came in then. It is a hat of the very best quality. Look at the
band of ribbed silk and the excellent lining. If this man could
afford to buy so expensive a hat three years ago, and has had no
hat since, then he has assuredly gone down in the world."
"Well, that is clear enough, certainly. But how about the
foresight and the moral retrogression?"
Sherlock Holmes laughed. "Here is the foresight," said he putting
his finger upon the little disc and loop of the hat-securer.
"They are never sold upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a
sign of a certain amount of foresight, since he went out of his
way to take this precaution against the wind. But since we see
that he has broken the elastic and has not troubled to replace
it, it is obvious that he has less foresight now than formerly,
which is a distinct proof of a weakening nature. On the other
hand, he has endeavoured to conceal some of these stains upon the
felt by daubing them with ink, which is a sign that he has not
entirely lost his self-respect."
"Your reasoning is certainly plausible."
"The further points, that he is middle-aged, that his hair is
grizzled, that it has been recently cut, and that he uses
lime-cream, are all to be gathered from a close examination of the
lower part of the lining. The lens discloses a large number of
hair-ends, clean cut by the scissors of the barber. They all
appear to be adhesive, and there is a distinct odour of
lime-cream. This dust, you will observe, is not the gritty, grey
dust of the street but the fluffy brown dust of the house,
showing that it has been hung up indoors most of the time, while
the marks of moisture upon the inside are proof positive that the
wearer perspired very freely, and could therefore, hardly be in
the best of training."
"But his wife--you said that she had ceased to love him."
"This hat has not been brushed for weeks. When I see you, my dear
Watson, with a week's accumulation of dust upon your hat, and
when your wife allows you to go out in such a state, I shall fear
that you also have been unfortunate enough to lose your wife's
"But he might be a bachelor."
"Nay, he was bringing home the goose as a peace-offering to his
wife. Remember the card upon the bird's leg."
"You have an answer to everything. But how on earth do you deduce
that the gas is not laid on in his house?"
"One tallow stain, or even two, might come by chance; but when I
see no less than five, I think that there can be little doubt
that the individual must be brought into frequent contact with
burning tallow--walks upstairs at night probably with his hat in
one hand and a guttering candle in the other. Anyhow, he never
got tallow-stains from a gas-jet. Are you satisfied?"
"Well, it is very ingenious," said I, laughing; "but since, as
you said just now, there has been no crime committed, and no harm
done save the loss of a goose, all this seems to be rather a
waste of energy."
Sherlock Holmes had opened his mouth to reply, when the door flew
open, and Peterson, the commissionaire, rushed into the apartment
with flushed cheeks and the face of a man who is dazed with
"The goose, Mr. Holmes! The goose, sir!" he gasped.
"Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to life and flapped off
through the kitchen window?" Holmes twisted himself round upon
the sofa to get a fairer view of the man's excited face.
"See here, sir! See what my wife found in its crop!" He held out
his hand and displayed upon the centre of the palm a brilliantly
scintillating blue stone, rather smaller than a bean in size, but
of such purity and radiance that it twinkled like an electric
point in the dark hollow of his hand.
Sherlock Holmes sat up with a whistle. "By Jove, Peterson!" said
he, "this is treasure trove indeed. I suppose you know what you
"A diamond, sir? A precious stone. It cuts into glass as though
it were putty."
"It's more than a precious stone. It is the precious stone."
"Not the Countess of Morcar's blue carbuncle!" I ejaculated.
"Precisely so. I ought to know its size and shape, seeing that I
have read the advertisement about it in The Times every day
lately. It is absolutely unique, and its value can only be
conjectured, but the reward offered of 1000 pounds is certainly
not within a twentieth part of the market price."
"A thousand pounds! Great Lord of mercy!" The commissionaire
plumped down into a chair and stared from one to the other of us.
"That is the reward, and I have reason to know that there are
sentimental considerations in the background which would induce
the Countess to part with half her fortune if she could but
recover the gem."
"It was lost, if I remember aright, at the Hotel Cosmopolitan," I
"Precisely so, on December 22nd, just five days ago. John Horner,
a plumber, was accused of having abstracted it from the lady's
jewel-case. The evidence against him was so strong that the case
has been referred to the Assizes. I have some account of the
matter here, I believe." He rummaged amid his newspapers,
glancing over the dates, until at last he smoothed one out,
doubled it over, and read the following paragraph:
"Hotel Cosmopolitan Jewel Robbery. John Horner, 26, plumber, was
brought up upon the charge of having upon the 22nd inst.,
abstracted from the jewel-case of the Countess of Morcar the
valuable gem known as the blue carbuncle. James Ryder,
upper-attendant at the hotel, gave his evidence to the effect
that he had shown Horner up to the dressing-room of the Countess
of Morcar upon the day of the robbery in order that he might
solder the second bar of the grate, which was loose. He had
remained with Horner some little time, but had finally been
called away. On returning, he found that Horner had disappeared,
that the bureau had been forced open, and that the small morocco
casket in which, as it afterwards transpired, the Countess was
accustomed to keep her jewel, was lying empty upon the
dressing-table. Ryder instantly gave the alarm, and Horner was
arrested the same evening; but the stone could not be found
either upon his person or in his rooms. Catherine Cusack, maid to
the Countess, deposed to having heard Ryder's cry of dismay on
discovering the robbery, and to having rushed into the room,
where she found matters as described by the last witness.
Inspector Bradstreet, B division, gave evidence as to the arrest
of Horner, who struggled frantically, and protested his innocence
in the strongest terms. Evidence of a previous conviction for
robbery having been given against the prisoner, the magistrate
refused to deal summarily with the offence, but referred it to
the Assizes. Horner, who had shown signs of intense emotion
during the proceedings, fainted away at the conclusion and was
carried out of court."
"Hum! So much for the police-court," said Holmes thoughtfully,
tossing aside the paper. "The question for us now to solve is the
sequence of events leading from a rifled jewel-case at one end to
the crop of a goose in Tottenham Court Road at the other. You
see, Watson, our little deductions have suddenly assumed a much
more important and less innocent aspect. Here is the stone; the
stone came from the goose, and the goose came from Mr. Henry
Baker, the gentleman with the bad hat and all the other
characteristics with which I have bored you. So now we must set
ourselves very seriously to finding this gentleman and
ascertaining what part he has played in this little mystery. To
do this, we must try the simplest means first, and these lie
undoubtedly in an advertisement in all the evening papers. If
this fail, I shall have recourse to other methods."
"What will you say?"
"Give me a pencil and that slip of paper. Now, then: 'Found at
the corner of Goodge Street, a goose and a black felt hat. Mr.
Henry Baker can have the same by applying at 6:30 this evening at
221B, Baker Street.' That is clear and concise."
"Very. But will he see it?"
"Well, he is sure to keep an eye on the papers, since, to a poor
man, the loss was a heavy one. He was clearly so scared by his
mischance in breaking the window and by the approach of Peterson
that he thought of nothing but flight, but since then he must
have bitterly regretted the impulse which caused him to drop his
bird. Then, again, the introduction of his name will cause him to
see it, for everyone who knows him will direct his attention to
it. Here you are, Peterson, run down to the advertising agency
and have this put in the evening papers."
"In which, sir?"
"Oh, in the Globe, Star, Pall Mall, St. James's, Evening News,
Standard, Echo, and any others that occur to you."
"Very well, sir. And this stone?"
"Ah, yes, I shall keep the stone. Thank you. And, I say,
Peterson, just buy a goose on your way back and leave it here
with me, for we must have one to give to this gentleman in place
of the one which your family is now devouring."
When the commissionaire had gone, Holmes took up the stone and
held it against the light. "It's a bonny thing," said he. "Just
see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and
focus of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil's pet
baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a
bloody deed. This stone is not yet twenty years old. It was found
in the banks of the Amoy River in southern China and is remarkable
in having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save that it is
blue in shade instead of ruby red. In spite of its youth, it has
already a sinister history. There have been two murders, a
vitriol-throwing, a suicide, and several robberies brought about
for the sake of this forty-grain weight of crystallised charcoal.
Who would think that so pretty a toy would be a purveyor to the
gallows and the prison? I'll lock it up in my strong box now and
drop a line to the Countess to say that we have it."
"Do you think that this man Horner is innocent?"
"I cannot tell."
"Well, then, do you imagine that this other one, Henry Baker, had
anything to do with the matter?"
"It is, I think, much more likely that Henry Baker is an
absolutely innocent man, who had no idea that the bird which he
was carrying was of considerably more value than if it were made
of solid gold. That, however, I shall determine by a very simple
test if we have an answer to our advertisement."
"And you can do nothing until then?"
"In that case I shall continue my professional round. But I shall
come back in the evening at the hour you have mentioned, for I
should like to see the solution of so tangled a business."
"Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is a woodcock, I
believe. By the way, in view of recent occurrences, perhaps I
ought to ask Mrs. Hudson to examine its crop."
I had been delayed at a case, and it was a little after half-past
six when I found myself in Baker Street once more. As I
approached the house I saw a tall man in a Scotch bonnet with a
coat which was buttoned up to his chin waiting outside in the
bright semicircle which was thrown from the fanlight. Just as I
arrived the door was opened, and we were shown up together to
"Mr. Henry Baker, I believe," said he, rising from his armchair
and greeting his visitor with the easy air of geniality which he
could so readily assume. "Pray take this chair by the fire, Mr.
Baker. It is a cold night, and I observe that your circulation is
more adapted for summer than for winter. Ah, Watson, you have
just come at the right time. Is that your hat, Mr. Baker?"
"Yes, sir, that is undoubtedly my hat."
He was a large man with rounded shoulders, a massive head, and a
broad, intelligent face, sloping down to a pointed beard of
grizzled brown. A touch of red in nose and cheeks, with a slight
tremor of his extended hand, recalled Holmes' surmise as to his
habits. His rusty black frock-coat was buttoned right up in
front, with the collar turned up, and his lank wrists protruded
from his sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt. He spoke in a
slow staccato fashion, choosing his words with care, and gave the
impression generally of a man of learning and letters who had had
ill-usage at the hands of fortune.
"We have retained these things for some days," said Holmes,
"because we expected to see an advertisement from you giving your
address. I am at a loss to know now why you did not advertise."
Our visitor gave a rather shamefaced laugh. "Shillings have not
been so plentiful with me as they once were," he remarked. "I had
no doubt that the gang of roughs who assaulted me had carried off
both my hat and the bird. I did not care to spend more money in a
hopeless attempt at recovering them."
"Very naturally. By the way, about the bird, we were compelled to
"To eat it!" Our visitor half rose from his chair in his
"Yes, it would have been of no use to anyone had we not done so.
But I presume that this other goose upon the sideboard, which is
about the same weight and perfectly fresh, will answer your
purpose equally well?"
"Oh, certainly, certainly," answered Mr. Baker with a sigh of
"Of course, we still have the feathers, legs, crop, and so on of
your own bird, so if you wish--"
The man burst into a hearty laugh. "They might be useful to me as
relics of my adventure," said he, "but beyond that I can hardly
see what use the disjecta membra of my late acquaintance are
going to be to me. No, sir, I think that, with your permission, I
will confine my attentions to the excellent bird which I perceive
upon the sideboard."
Sherlock Holmes glanced sharply across at me with a slight shrug
of his shoulders.
"There is your hat, then, and there your bird," said he. "By the
way, would it bore you to tell me where you got the other one
from? I am somewhat of a fowl fancier, and I have seldom seen a
better grown goose."
"Certainly, sir," said Baker, who had risen and tucked his newly
gained property under his arm. "There are a few of us who
frequent the Alpha Inn, near the Museum--we are to be found in
the Museum itself during the day, you understand. This year our
good host, Windigate by name, instituted a goose club, by which,
on consideration of some few pence every week, we were each to
receive a bird at Christmas. My pence were duly paid, and the
rest is familiar to you. I am much indebted to you, sir, for a
Scotch bonnet is fitted neither to my years nor my gravity." With
a comical pomposity of manner he bowed solemnly to both of us and
strode off upon his way.
"So much for Mr. Henry Baker," said Holmes when he had closed the
door behind him. "It is quite certain that he knows nothing
whatever about the matter. Are you hungry, Watson?"
"Then I suggest that we turn our dinner into a supper and follow
up this clue while it is still hot."
"By all means."
It was a bitter night, so we drew on our ulsters and wrapped
cravats about our throats. Outside, the stars were shining coldly
in a cloudless sky, and the breath of the passers-by blew out
into smoke like so many pistol shots. Our footfalls rang out
crisply and loudly as we swung through the doctors' quarter,
Wimpole Street, Harley Street, and so through Wigmore Street into
Oxford Street. In a quarter of an hour we were in Bloomsbury at
the Alpha Inn, which is a small public-house at the corner of one
of the streets which runs down into Holborn. Holmes pushed open
the door of the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer from
the ruddy-faced, white-aproned landlord.
"Your beer should be excellent if it is as good as your geese,"
"My geese!" The man seemed surprised.
"Yes. I was speaking only half an hour ago to Mr. Henry Baker,
who was a member of your goose club."
"Ah! yes, I see. But you see, sir, them's not our geese."
"Indeed! Whose, then?"
"Well, I got the two dozen from a salesman in Covent Garden."
"Indeed? I know some of them. Which was it?"
"Breckinridge is his name."
"Ah! I don't know him. Well, here's your good health landlord,
and prosperity to your house. Good-night."
"Now for Mr. Breckinridge," he continued, buttoning up his coat
as we came out into the frosty air. "Remember, Watson that though
we have so homely a thing as a goose at one end of this chain, we
have at the other a man who will certainly get seven years' penal
servitude unless we can establish his innocence. It is possible
that our inquiry may but confirm his guilt; but, in any case, we
have a line of investigation which has been missed by the police,
and which a singular chance has placed in our hands. Let us
follow it out to the bitter end. Faces to the south, then, and
We passed across Holborn, down Endell Street, and so through a
zigzag of slums to Covent Garden Market. One of the largest
stalls bore the name of Breckinridge upon it, and the proprietor
a horsey-looking man, with a sharp face and trim side-whiskers was
helping a boy to put up the shutters.
"Good-evening. It's a cold night," said Holmes.
The salesman nodded and shot a questioning glance at my
"Sold out of geese, I see," continued Holmes, pointing at the
bare slabs of marble.
"Let you have five hundred to-morrow morning."
"That's no good."
"Well, there are some on the stall with the gas-flare."
"Ah, but I was recommended to you."
"The landlord of the Alpha."
"Oh, yes; I sent him a couple of dozen."
"Fine birds they were, too. Now where did you get them from?"
To my surprise the question provoked a burst of anger from the
"Now, then, mister," said he, with his head cocked and his arms
akimbo, "what are you driving at? Let's have it straight, now."
"It is straight enough. I should like to know who sold you the
geese which you supplied to the Alpha."
"Well then, I shan't tell you. So now!"
"Oh, it is a matter of no importance; but I don't know why you
should be so warm over such a trifle."
"Warm! You'd be as warm, maybe, if you were as pestered as I am.
When I pay good money for a good article there should be an end
of the business; but it's 'Where are the geese?' and 'Who did you
sell the geese to?' and 'What will you take for the geese?' One
would think they were the only geese in the world, to hear the
fuss that is made over them."
"Well, I have no connection with any other people who have been
making inquiries," said Holmes carelessly. "If you won't tell us
the bet is off, that is all. But I'm always ready to back my
opinion on a matter of fowls, and I have a fiver on it that the
bird I ate is country bred."
"Well, then, you've lost your fiver, for it's town bred," snapped
"It's nothing of the kind."
"I say it is."
"I don't believe it."
"D'you think you know more about fowls than I, who have handled
them ever since I was a nipper? I tell you, all those birds that
went to the Alpha were town bred."
"You'll never persuade me to believe that."
"Will you bet, then?"
"It's merely taking your money, for I know that I am right. But
I'll have a sovereign on with you, just to teach you not to be
The salesman chuckled grimly. "Bring me the books, Bill," said
The small boy brought round a small thin volume and a great
greasy-backed one, laying them out together beneath the hanging
"Now then, Mr. Cocksure," said the salesman, "I thought that I
was out of geese, but before I finish you'll find that there is
still one left in my shop. You see this little book?"
"That's the list of the folk from whom I buy. D'you see? Well,
then, here on this page are the country folk, and the numbers
after their names are where their accounts are in the big ledger.
Now, then! You see this other page in red ink? Well, that is a
list of my town suppliers. Now, look at that third name. Just
read it out to me."
"Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road--249," read Holmes.
"Quite so. Now turn that up in the ledger."
Holmes turned to the page indicated. "Here you are, 'Mrs.
Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road, egg and poultry supplier.'"
"Now, then, what's the last entry?"
"'December 22nd. Twenty-four geese at 7s. 6d.'"
"Quite so. There you are. And underneath?"
"'Sold to Mr. Windigate of the Alpha, at 12s.'"
"What have you to say now?"
Sherlock Holmes looked deeply chagrined. He drew a sovereign from
his pocket and threw it down upon the slab, turning away with the
air of a man whose disgust is too deep for words. A few yards off
he stopped under a lamp-post and laughed in the hearty, noiseless
fashion which was peculiar to him.
"When you see a man with whiskers of that cut and the 'Pink 'un'
protruding out of his pocket, you can always draw him by a bet,"
said he. "I daresay that if I had put 100 pounds down in front of
him, that man would not have given me such complete information
as was drawn from him by the idea that he was doing me on a
wager. Well, Watson, we are, I fancy, nearing the end of our
quest, and the only point which remains to be determined is
whether we should go on to this Mrs. Oakshott to-night, or
whether we should reserve it for to-morrow. It is clear from what
that surly fellow said that there are others besides ourselves
who are anxious about the matter, and I should--"
His remarks were suddenly cut short by a loud hubbub which broke
out from the stall which we had just left. Turning round we saw a
little rat-faced fellow standing in the centre of the circle of
yellow light which was thrown by the swinging lamp, while
Breckinridge, the salesman, framed in the door of his stall, was
shaking his fists fiercely at the cringing figure.
"I've had enough of you and your geese," he shouted. "I wish you
were all at the devil together. If you come pestering me any more
with your silly talk I'll set the dog at you. You bring Mrs.
Oakshott here and I'll answer her, but what have you to do with
it? Did I buy the geese off you?"
"No; but one of them was mine all the same," whined the little
"Well, then, ask Mrs. Oakshott for it."
"She told me to ask you."
"Well, you can ask the King of Proosia, for all I care. I've had
enough of it. Get out of this!" He rushed fiercely forward, and
the inquirer flitted away into the darkness.
"Ha! this may save us a visit to Brixton Road," whispered Holmes.
"Come with me, and we will see what is to be made of this
fellow." Striding through the scattered knots of people who
lounged round the flaring stalls, my companion speedily overtook
the little man and touched him upon the shoulder. He sprang
round, and I could see in the gas-light that every vestige of
colour had been driven from his face.
"Who are you, then? What do you want?" he asked in a quavering
"You will excuse me," said Holmes blandly, "but I could not help
overhearing the questions which you put to the salesman just now.
I think that I could be of assistance to you."
"You? Who are you? How could you know anything of the matter?"
"My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other
people don't know."
"But you can know nothing of this?"
"Excuse me, I know everything of it. You are endeavouring to
trace some geese which were sold by Mrs. Oakshott, of Brixton
Road, to a salesman named Breckinridge, by him in turn to Mr.
Windigate, of the Alpha, and by him to his club, of which Mr.
Henry Baker is a member."
"Oh, sir, you are the very man whom I have longed to meet," cried
the little fellow with outstretched hands and quivering fingers.
"I can hardly explain to you how interested I am in this matter."
Sherlock Holmes hailed a four-wheeler which was passing. "In that
case we had better discuss it in a cosy room rather than in this
wind-swept market-place," said he. "But pray tell me, before we
go farther, who it is that I have the pleasure of assisting."
The man hesitated for an instant. "My name is John Robinson," he
answered with a sidelong glance.
"No, no; the real name," said Holmes sweetly. "It is always
awkward doing business with an alias."
A flush sprang to the white cheeks of the stranger. "Well then,"
said he, "my real name is James Ryder."
"Precisely so. Head attendant at the Hotel Cosmopolitan. Pray
step into the cab, and I shall soon be able to tell you
everything which you would wish to know."
The little man stood glancing from one to the other of us with
half-frightened, half-hopeful eyes, as one who is not sure
whether he is on the verge of a windfall or of a catastrophe.
Then he stepped into the cab, and in half an hour we were back in
the sitting-room at Baker Street. Nothing had been said during
our drive, but the high, thin breathing of our new companion, and
the claspings and unclaspings of his hands, spoke of the nervous
tension within him.
"Here we are!" said Holmes cheerily as we filed into the room.
"The fire looks very seasonable in this weather. You look cold,
Mr. Ryder. Pray take the basket-chair. I will just put on my
slippers before we settle this little matter of yours. Now, then!
You want to know what became of those geese?"
"Or rather, I fancy, of that goose. It was one bird, I imagine in
which you were interested--white, with a black bar across the
Ryder quivered with emotion. "Oh, sir," he cried, "can you tell
me where it went to?"
"It came here."
"Yes, and a most remarkable bird it proved. I don't wonder that
you should take an interest in it. It laid an egg after it was
dead--the bonniest, brightest little blue egg that ever was seen.
I have it here in my museum."
Our visitor staggered to his feet and clutched the mantelpiece
with his right hand. Holmes unlocked his strong-box and held up
the blue carbuncle, which shone out like a star, with a cold,
brilliant, many-pointed radiance. Ryder stood glaring with a
drawn face, uncertain whether to claim or to disown it.
"The game's up, Ryder," said Holmes quietly. "Hold up, man, or
you'll be into the fire! Give him an arm back into his chair,
Watson. He's not got blood enough to go in for felony with
impunity. Give him a dash of brandy. So! Now he looks a little
more human. What a shrimp it is, to be sure!"
For a moment he had staggered and nearly fallen, but the brandy
brought a tinge of colour into his cheeks, and he sat staring
with frightened eyes at his accuser.
"I have almost every link in my hands, and all the proofs which I
could possibly need, so there is little which you need tell me.
Still, that little may as well be cleared up to make the case
complete. You had heard, Ryder, of this blue stone of the
Countess of Morcar's?"
"It was Catherine Cusack who told me of it," said he in a
"I see--her ladyship's waiting-maid. Well, the temptation of
sudden wealth so easily acquired was too much for you, as it has
been for better men before you; but you were not very scrupulous
in the means you used. It seems to me, Ryder, that there is the
making of a very pretty villain in you. You knew that this man
Horner, the plumber, had been concerned in some such matter
before, and that suspicion would rest the more readily upon him.
What did you do, then? You made some small job in my lady's
room--you and your confederate Cusack--and you managed that he
should be the man sent for. Then, when he had left, you rifled
the jewel-case, raised the alarm, and had this unfortunate man
arrested. You then--"
Ryder threw himself down suddenly upon the rug and clutched at my
companion's knees. "For God's sake, have mercy!" he shrieked.
"Think of my father! Of my mother! It would break their hearts. I
never went wrong before! I never will again. I swear it. I'll
swear it on a Bible. Oh, don't bring it into court! For Christ's
"Get back into your chair!" said Holmes sternly. "It is very well
to cringe and crawl now, but you thought little enough of this
poor Horner in the dock for a crime of which he knew nothing."
"I will fly, Mr. Holmes. I will leave the country, sir. Then the
charge against him will break down."
"Hum! We will talk about that. And now let us hear a true account
of the next act. How came the stone into the goose, and how came
the goose into the open market? Tell us the truth, for there lies
your only hope of safety."
Ryder passed his tongue over his parched lips. "I will tell you
it just as it happened, sir," said he. "When Horner had been
arrested, it seemed to me that it would be best for me to get
away with the stone at once, for I did not know at what moment
the police might not take it into their heads to search me and my
room. There was no place about the hotel where it would be safe.
I went out, as if on some commission, and I made for my sister's
house. She had married a man named Oakshott, and lived in Brixton
Road, where she fattened fowls for the market. All the way there
every man I met seemed to me to be a policeman or a detective;
and, for all that it was a cold night, the sweat was pouring down
my face before I came to the Brixton Road. My sister asked me
what was the matter, and why I was so pale; but I told her that I
had been upset by the jewel robbery at the hotel. Then I went
into the back yard and smoked a pipe and wondered what it would
be best to do.
"I had a friend once called Maudsley, who went to the bad, and
has just been serving his time in Pentonville. One day he had met
me, and fell into talk about the ways of thieves, and how they
could get rid of what they stole. I knew that he would be true to
me, for I knew one or two things about him; so I made up my mind
to go right on to Kilburn, where he lived, and take him into my
confidence. He would show me how to turn the stone into money.
But how to get to him in safety? I thought of the agonies I had
gone through in coming from the hotel. I might at any moment be
seized and searched, and there would be the stone in my waistcoat
pocket. I was leaning against the wall at the time and looking at
the geese which were waddling about round my feet, and suddenly
an idea came into my head which showed me how I could beat the
best detective that ever lived.
"My sister had told me some weeks before that I might have the
pick of her geese for a Christmas present, and I knew that she
was always as good as her word. I would take my goose now, and in
it I would carry my stone to Kilburn. There was a little shed in
the yard, and behind this I drove one of the birds--a fine big
one, white, with a barred tail. I caught it, and prying its bill
open, I thrust the stone down its throat as far as my finger
could reach. The bird gave a gulp, and I felt the stone pass
along its gullet and down into its crop. But the creature flapped
and struggled, and out came my sister to know what was the
matter. As I turned to speak to her the brute broke loose and
fluttered off among the others.
"'Whatever were you doing with that bird, Jem?' says she.
"'Well,' said I, 'you said you'd give me one for Christmas, and I
was feeling which was the fattest.'
"'Oh,' says she, 'we've set yours aside for you--Jem's bird, we
call it. It's the big white one over yonder. There's twenty-six
of them, which makes one for you, and one for us, and two dozen
for the market.'
"'Thank you, Maggie,' says I; 'but if it is all the same to you,
I'd rather have that one I was handling just now.'
"'The other is a good three pound heavier,' said she, 'and we
fattened it expressly for you.'
"'Never mind. I'll have the other, and I'll take it now,' said I.
"'Oh, just as you like,' said she, a little huffed. 'Which is it
you want, then?'
"'That white one with the barred tail, right in the middle of the
"'Oh, very well. Kill it and take it with you.'
"Well, I did what she said, Mr. Holmes, and I carried the bird
all the way to Kilburn. I told my pal what I had done, for he was
a man that it was easy to tell a thing like that to. He laughed
until he choked, and we got a knife and opened the goose. My
heart turned to water, for there was no sign of the stone, and I
knew that some terrible mistake had occurred. I left the bird,
rushed back to my sister's, and hurried into the back yard. There
was not a bird to be seen there.
"'Where are they all, Maggie?' I cried.
"'Gone to the dealer's, Jem.'
"'Breckinridge, of Covent Garden.'
"'But was there another with a barred tail?' I asked, 'the same
as the one I chose?'
"'Yes, Jem; there were two barred-tailed ones, and I could never
tell them apart.'
"Well, then, of course I saw it all, and I ran off as hard as my
feet would carry me to this man Breckinridge; but he had sold the
lot at once, and not one word would he tell me as to where they
had gone. You heard him yourselves to-night. Well, he has always
answered me like that. My sister thinks that I am going mad.
Sometimes I think that I am myself. And now--and now I am myself
a branded thief, without ever having touched the wealth for which
I sold my character. God help me! God help me!" He burst into
convulsive sobbing, with his face buried in his hands.
There was a long silence, broken only by his heavy breathing and
by the measured tapping of Sherlock Holmes' finger-tips upon the
edge of the table. Then my friend rose and threw open the door.
"Get out!" said he.
"What, sir! Oh, Heaven bless you!"
"No more words. Get out!"
And no more words were needed. There was a rush, a clatter upon
the stairs, the bang of a door, and the crisp rattle of running
footfalls from the street.
"After all, Watson," said Holmes, reaching up his hand for his
clay pipe, "I am not retained by the police to supply their
deficiencies. If Horner were in danger it would be another thing;
but this fellow will not appear against him, and the case must
collapse. I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just
possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong
again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to gaol now, and
you make him a gaol-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of
forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and
whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward. If you
will have the goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin
another investigation, in which, also a bird will be the chief
VIII. THE ADVENTURE OF THE SPECKLED BAND
On glancing over my notes of the seventy odd cases in which I
have during the last eight years studied the methods of my friend
Sherlock Holmes, I find many tragic, some comic, a large number
merely strange, but none commonplace; for, working as he did
rather for the love of his art than for the acquirement of
wealth, he refused to associate himself with any investigation
which did not tend towards the unusual, and even the fantastic.
Of all these varied cases, however, I cannot recall any which
presented more singular features than that which was associated
with the well-known Surrey family of the Roylotts of Stoke Moran.
The events in question occurred in the early days of my
association with Holmes, when we were sharing rooms as bachelors
in Baker Street. It is possible that I might have placed them
upon record before, but a promise of secrecy was made at the
time, from which I have only been freed during the last month by
the untimely death of the lady to whom the pledge was given. It
is perhaps as well that the facts should now come to light, for I
have reasons to know that there are widespread rumours as to the
death of Dr. Grimesby Roylott which tend to make the matter even
more terrible than the truth.
It was early in April in the year '83 that I woke one morning to
find Sherlock Holmes standing, fully dressed, by the side of my
bed. He was a late riser, as a rule, and as the clock on the
mantelpiece showed me that it was only a quarter-past seven, I
blinked up at him in some surprise, and perhaps just a little
resentment, for I was myself regular in my habits.
"Very sorry to knock you up, Watson," said he, "but it's the
common lot this morning. Mrs. Hudson has been knocked up, she
retorted upon me, and I on you."
"What is it, then--a fire?"
"No; a client. It seems that a young lady has arrived in a
considerable state of excitement, who insists upon seeing me. She
is waiting now in the sitting-room. Now, when young ladies wander
about the metropolis at this hour of the morning, and knock
sleepy people up out of their beds, I presume that it is
something very pressing which they have to communicate. Should it
prove to be an interesting case, you would, I am sure, wish to
follow it from the outset. I thought, at any rate, that I should
call you and give you the chance."
"My dear fellow, I would not miss it for anything."
I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his
professional investigations, and in admiring the rapid
deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a
logical basis with which he unravelled the problems which were
submitted to him. I rapidly threw on my clothes and was ready in
a few minutes to accompany my friend down to the sitting-room. A
lady dressed in black and heavily veiled, who had been sitting in
the window, rose as we entered.
"Good-morning, madam," said Holmes cheerily. "My name is Sherlock
Holmes. This is my intimate friend and associate, Dr. Watson,
before whom you can speak as freely as before myself. Ha! I am
glad to see that Mrs. Hudson has had the good sense to light the
fire. Pray draw up to it, and I shall order you a cup of hot
coffee, for I observe that you are shivering."
"It is not cold which makes me shiver," said the woman in a low
voice, changing her seat as requested.
"It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror." She raised her veil as
she spoke, and we could see that she was indeed in a pitiable
state of agitation, her face all drawn and grey, with restless
frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal. Her features
and figure were those of a woman of thirty, but her hair was shot
with premature grey, and her expression was weary and haggard.
Sherlock Holmes ran her over with one of his quick,
"You must not fear," said he soothingly, bending forward and
patting her forearm. "We shall soon set matters right, I have no
doubt. You have come in by train this morning, I see."
"You know me, then?"
"No, but I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm
of your left glove. You must have started early, and yet you had
a good drive in a dog-cart, along heavy roads, before you reached
The lady gave a violent start and stared in bewilderment at my
"There is no mystery, my dear madam," said he, smiling. "The left
arm of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven
places. The marks are perfectly fresh. There is no vehicle save a
dog-cart which throws up mud in that way, and then only when you
sit on the left-hand side of the driver."
"Whatever your reasons may be, you are perfectly correct," said
she. "I started from home before six, reached Leatherhead at
twenty past, and came in by the first train to Waterloo. Sir, I
can stand this strain no longer; I shall go mad if it continues.
I have no one to turn to--none, save only one, who cares for me,
and he, poor fellow, can be of little aid. I have heard of you,
Mr. Holmes; I have heard of you from Mrs. Farintosh, whom you
helped in the hour of her sore need. It was from her that I had
your address. Oh, sir, do you not think that you could help me,
too, and at least throw a little light through the dense darkness
which surrounds me? At present it is out of my power to reward
you for your services, but in a month or six weeks I shall be
married, with the control of my own income, and then at least you
shall not find me ungrateful."
Holmes turned to his desk and, unlocking it, drew out a small
case-book, which he consulted.
"Farintosh," said he. "Ah yes, I recall the case; it was
concerned with an opal tiara. I think it was before your time,
Watson. I can only say, madam, that I shall be happy to devote
the same care to your case as I did to that of your friend. As to
reward, my profession is its own reward; but you are at liberty
to defray whatever expenses I may be put to, at the time which
suits you best. And now I beg that you will lay before us
everything that may help us in forming an opinion upon the
"Alas!" replied our visitor, "the very horror of my situation
lies in the fact that my fears are so vague, and my suspicions
depend so entirely upon small points, which might seem trivial to
another, that even he to whom of all others I have a right to
look for help and advice looks upon all that I tell him about it
as the fancies of a nervous woman. He does not say so, but I can
read it from his soothing answers and averted eyes. But I have
heard, Mr. Holmes, that you can see deeply into the manifold
wickedness of the human heart. You may advise me how to walk amid
the dangers which encompass me."
"I am all attention, madam."
"My name is Helen Stoner, and I am living with my stepfather, who
is the last survivor of one of the oldest Saxon families in
England, the Roylotts of Stoke Moran, on the western border of
Holmes nodded his head. "The name is familiar to me," said he.
"The family was at one time among the richest in England, and the
estates extended over the borders into Berkshire in the north,
and Hampshire in the west. In the last century, however, four
successive heirs were of a dissolute and wasteful disposition,
and the family ruin was eventually completed by a gambler in the
days of the Regency. Nothing was left save a few acres of ground,
and the two-hundred-year-old house, which is itself crushed under
a heavy mortgage. The last squire dragged out his existence
there, living the horrible life of an aristocratic pauper; but
his only son, my stepfather, seeing that he must adapt himself to
the new conditions, obtained an advance from a relative, which
enabled him to take a medical degree and went out to Calcutta,
where, by his professional skill and his force of character, he
established a large practice. In a fit of anger, however, caused
by some robberies which had been perpetrated in the house, he
beat his native butler to death and narrowly escaped a capital
sentence. As it was, he suffered a long term of imprisonment and
afterwards returned to England a morose and disappointed man.
"When Dr. Roylott was in India he married my mother, Mrs. Stoner,
the young widow of Major-General Stoner, of the Bengal Artillery.
My sister Julia and I were twins, and we were only two years old
at the time of my mother's re-marriage. She had a considerable
sum of money--not less than 1000 pounds a year--and this she
bequeathed to Dr. Roylott entirely while we resided with him,
with a provision that a certain annual sum should be allowed to
each of us in the event of our marriage. Shortly after our return
to England my mother died--she was killed eight years ago in a
railway accident near Crewe. Dr. Roylott then abandoned his
attempts to establish himself in practice in London and took us
to live with him in the old ancestral house at Stoke Moran. The
money which my mother had left was enough for all our wants, and
there seemed to be no obstacle to our happiness.
"But a terrible change came over our stepfather about this time.
Instead of making friends and exchanging visits with our
neighbours, who had at first been overjoyed to see a Roylott of
Stoke Moran back in the old family seat, he shut himself up in
his house and seldom came out save to indulge in ferocious
quarrels with whoever might cross his path. Violence of temper
approaching to mania has been hereditary in the men of the
family, and in my stepfather's case it had, I believe, been
intensified by his long residence in the tropics. A series of
disgraceful brawls took place, two of which ended in the
police-court, until at last he became the terror of the village,
and the folks would fly at his approach, for he is a man of
immense strength, and absolutely uncontrollable in his anger.
"Last week he hurled the local blacksmith over a parapet into a
stream, and it was only by paying over all the money which I
could gather together that I was able to avert another public
exposure. He had no friends at all save the wandering gipsies,
and he would give these vagabonds leave to encamp upon the few
acres of bramble-covered land which represent the family estate,
and would accept in return the hospitality of their tents,
wandering away with them sometimes for weeks on end. He has a
passion also for Indian animals, which are sent over to him by a
correspondent, and he has at this moment a cheetah and a baboon,
which wander freely over his grounds and are feared by the
villagers almost as much as their master.
"You can imagine from what I say that my poor sister Julia and I
had no great pleasure in our lives. No servant would stay with
us, and for a long time we did all the work of the house. She was
but thirty at the time of her death, and yet her hair had already
begun to whiten, even as mine has."
"Your sister is dead, then?"
"She died just two years ago, and it is of her death that I wish
to speak to you. You can understand that, living the life which I
have described, we were little likely to see anyone of our own
age and position. We had, however, an aunt, my mother's maiden
sister, Miss Honoria Westphail, who lives near Harrow, and we
were occasionally allowed to pay short visits at this lady's
house. Julia went there at Christmas two years ago, and met there
a half-pay major of marines, to whom she became engaged. My
stepfather learned of the engagement when my sister returned and
offered no objection to the marriage; but within a fortnight of
the day which had been fixed for the wedding, the terrible event
occurred which has deprived me of my only companion."
Sherlock Holmes had been leaning back in his chair with his eyes
closed and his head sunk in a cushion, but he half opened his
lids now and glanced across at his visitor.
"Pray be precise as to details," said he.
"It is easy for me to be so, for every event of that dreadful
time is seared into my memory. The manor-house is, as I have
already said, very old, and only one wing is now inhabited. The
bedrooms in this wing are on the ground floor, the sitting-rooms
being in the central block of the buildings. Of these bedrooms
the first is Dr. Roylott's, the second my sister's, and the third
my own. There is no communication between them, but they all open
out into the same corridor. Do I make myself plain?"
"The windows of the three rooms open out upon the lawn. That
fatal night Dr. Roylott had gone to his room early, though we
knew that he had not retired to rest, for my sister was troubled
by the smell of the strong Indian cigars which it was his custom
to smoke. She left her room, therefore, and came into mine, where
she sat for some time, chatting about her approaching wedding. At
eleven o'clock she rose to leave me, but she paused at the door
and looked back.
"'Tell me, Helen,' said she, 'have you ever heard anyone whistle
in the dead of the night?'
"'Never,' said I.
"'I suppose that you could not possibly whistle, yourself, in
"'Certainly not. But why?'
"'Because during the last few nights I have always, about three
in the morning, heard a low, clear whistle. I am a light sleeper,
and it has awakened me. I cannot tell where it came from--perhaps
from the next room, perhaps from the lawn. I thought that I would
just ask you whether you had heard it.'
"'No, I have not. It must be those wretched gipsies in the
"'Very likely. And yet if it were on the lawn, I wonder that you
did not hear it also.'
"'Ah, but I sleep more heavily than you.'
"'Well, it is of no great consequence, at any rate.' She smiled
back at me, closed my door, and a few moments later I heard her
key turn in the lock."
"Indeed," said Holmes. "Was it your custom always to lock
yourselves in at night?"
"I think that I mentioned to you that the doctor kept a cheetah
and a baboon. We had no feeling of security unless our doors were
"Quite so. Pray proceed with your statement."
"I could not sleep that night. A vague feeling of impending
misfortune impressed me. My sister and I, you will recollect,
were twins, and you know how subtle are the links which bind two
souls which are so closely allied. It was a wild night. The wind
was howling outside, and the rain was beating and splashing
against the windows. Suddenly, amid all the hubbub of the gale,
there burst forth the wild scream of a terrified woman. I knew
that it was my sister's voice. I sprang from my bed, wrapped a
shawl round me, and rushed into the corridor. As I opened my door
I seemed to hear a low whistle, such as my sister described, and
a few moments later a clanging sound, as if a mass of metal had
fallen. As I ran down the passage, my sister's door was unlocked,
and revolved slowly upon its hinges. I stared at it
horror-stricken, not knowing what was about to issue from it. By
the light of the corridor-lamp I saw my sister appear at the
opening, her face blanched with terror, her hands groping for
help, her whole figure swaying to and fro like that of a
drunkard. I ran to her and threw my arms round her, but at that
moment her knees seemed to give way and she fell to the ground.
She writhed as one who is in terrible pain, and her limbs were
dreadfully convulsed. At first I thought that she had not
recognised me, but as I bent over her she suddenly shrieked out
in a voice which I shall never forget, 'Oh, my God! Helen! It was
the band! The speckled band!' There was something else which she
would fain have said, and she stabbed with her finger into the
air in the direction of the doctor's room, but a fresh convulsion
seized her and choked her words. I rushed out, calling loudly for
my stepfather, and I met him hastening from his room in his
dressing-gown. When he reached my sister's side she was
unconscious, and though he poured brandy down her throat and sent
for medical aid from the village, all efforts were in vain, for
she slowly sank and died without having recovered her
consciousness. Such was the dreadful end of my beloved sister."
"One moment," said Holmes, "are you sure about this whistle and
metallic sound? Could you swear to it?"
"That was what the county coroner asked me at the inquiry. It is
my strong impression that I heard it, and yet, among the crash of
the gale and the creaking of an old house, I may possibly have
"Was your sister dressed?"
"No, she was in her night-dress. In her right hand was found the
charred stump of a match, and in her left a match-box."
"Showing that she had struck a light and looked about her when
the alarm took place. That is important. And what conclusions did
the coroner come to?"
"He investigated the case with great care, for Dr. Roylott's
conduct had long been notorious in the county, but he was unable
to find any satisfactory cause of death. My evidence showed that
the door had been fastened upon the inner side, and the windows
were blocked by old-fashioned shutters with broad iron bars,
which were secured every night. The walls were carefully sounded,
and were shown to be quite solid all round, and the flooring was
also thoroughly examined, with the same result. The chimney is
wide, but is barred up by four large staples. It is certain,
therefore, that my sister was quite alone when she met her end.
Besides, there were no marks of any violence upon her."
"How about poison?"
"The doctors examined her for it, but without success."
"What do you think that this unfortunate lady died of, then?"
"It is my belief that she died of pure fear and nervous shock,
though what it was that frightened her I cannot imagine."
"Were there gipsies in the plantation at the time?"
"Yes, there are nearly always some there."
"Ah, and what did you gather from this allusion to a band--a
"Sometimes I have thought that it was merely the wild talk of
delirium, sometimes that it may have referred to some band of
people, perhaps to these very gipsies in the plantation. I do not
know whether the spotted handkerchiefs which so many of them wear
over their heads might have suggested the strange adjective which
Holmes shook his head like a man who is far from being satisfied.
"These are very deep waters," said he; "pray go on with your
"Two years have passed since then, and my life has been until
lately lonelier than ever. A month ago, however, a dear friend,
whom I have known for many years, has done me the honour to ask
my hand in marriage. His name is Armitage--Percy Armitage--the
second son of Mr. Armitage, of Crane Water, near Reading. My
stepfather has offered no opposition to the match, and we are to
be married in the course of the spring. Two days ago some repairs
were started in the west wing of the building, and my bedroom
wall has been pierced, so that I have had to move into the
chamber in which my sister died, and to sleep in the very bed in
which she slept. Imagine, then, my thrill of terror when last
night, as I lay awake, thinking over her terrible fate, I
suddenly heard in the silence of the night the low whistle which
had been the herald of her own death. I sprang up and lit the
lamp, but nothing was to be seen in the room. I was too shaken to
go to bed again, however, so I dressed, and as soon as it was
daylight I slipped down, got a dog-cart at the Crown Inn, which
is opposite, and drove to Leatherhead, from whence I have come on
this morning with the one object of seeing you and asking your
"You have done wisely," said my friend. "But have you told me
"Miss Roylott, you have not. You are screening your stepfather."
"Why, what do you mean?"
For answer Holmes pushed back the frill of black lace which
fringed the hand that lay upon our visitor's knee. Five little
livid spots, the marks of four fingers and a thumb, were printed
upon the white wrist.
"You have been cruelly used," said Holmes.
The lady coloured deeply and covered over her injured wrist. "He
is a hard man," she said, "and perhaps he hardly knows his own
There was a long silence, during which Holmes leaned his chin
upon his hands and stared into the crackling fire.
"This is a very deep business," he said at last. "There are a
thousand details which I should desire to know before I decide
upon our course of action. Yet we have not a moment to lose. If
we were to come to Stoke Moran to-day, would it be possible for
us to see over these rooms without the knowledge of your
"As it happens, he spoke of coming into town to-day upon some
most important business. It is probable that he will be away all
day, and that there would be nothing to disturb you. We have a
housekeeper now, but she is old and foolish, and I could easily
get her out of the way."
"Excellent. You are not averse to this trip, Watson?"
"By no means."
"Then we shall both come. What are you going to do yourself?"
"I have one or two things which I would wish to do now that I am
in town. But I shall return by the twelve o'clock train, so as to
be there in time for your coming."
"And you may expect us early in the afternoon. I have myself some
small business matters to attend to. Will you not wait and
"No, I must go. My heart is lightened already since I have
confided my trouble to you. I shall look forward to seeing you
again this afternoon." She dropped her thick black veil over her
face and glided from the room.
"And what do you think of it all, Watson?" asked Sherlock Holmes,
leaning back in his chair.
"It seems to me to be a most dark and sinister business."
"Dark enough and sinister enough."
"Yet if the lady is correct in saying that the flooring and walls
are sound, and that the door, window, and chimney are impassable,
then her sister must have been undoubtedly alone when she met her
"What becomes, then, of these nocturnal whistles, and what of the
very peculiar words of the dying woman?"
"I cannot think."
"When you combine the ideas of whistles at night, the presence of
a band of gipsies who are on intimate terms with this old doctor,
the fact that we have every reason to believe that the doctor has
an interest in preventing his stepdaughter's marriage, the dying
allusion to a band, and, finally, the fact that Miss Helen Stoner
heard a metallic clang, which might have been caused by one of
those metal bars that secured the shutters falling back into its
place, I think that there is good ground to think that the
mystery may be cleared along those lines."
"But what, then, did the gipsies do?"
"I cannot imagine."
"I see many objections to any such theory."
"And so do I. It is precisely for that reason that we are going
to Stoke Moran this day. I want to see whether the objections are
fatal, or if they may be explained away. But what in the name of
The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the fact that
our door had been suddenly dashed open, and that a huge man had
framed himself in the aperture. His costume was a peculiar
mixture of the professional and of the agricultural, having a
black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters,
with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand. So tall was he that his
hat actually brushed the cross bar of the doorway, and his
breadth seemed to span it across from side to side. A large face,
seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and
marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other
of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and his high, thin,
fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old
bird of prey.
"Which of you is Holmes?" asked this apparition.
"My name, sir; but you have the advantage of me," said my
"I am Dr. Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran."
"Indeed, Doctor," said Holmes blandly. "Pray take a seat."
"I will do nothing of the kind. My stepdaughter has been here. I
have traced her. What has she been saying to you?"
"It is a little cold for the time of the year," said Holmes.
"What has she been saying to you?" screamed the old man
"But I have heard that the crocuses promise well," continued my
"Ha! You put me off, do you?" said our new visitor, taking a step
forward and shaking his hunting-crop. "I know you, you scoundrel!
I have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the meddler."
My friend smiled.
"Holmes, the busybody!"
His smile broadened.
"Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!"
Holmes chuckled heartily. "Your conversation is most
entertaining," said he. "When you go out close the door, for
there is a decided draught."
"I will go when I have said my say. Don't you dare to meddle with
my affairs. I know that Miss Stoner has been here. I traced her!
I am a dangerous man to fall foul of! See here." He stepped
swiftly forward, seized the poker, and bent it into a curve with
his huge brown hands.
"See that you keep yourself out of my grip," he snarled, and
hurling the twisted poker into the fireplace he strode out of the
"He seems a very amiable person," said Holmes, laughing. "I am
not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him
that my grip was not much more feeble than his own." As he spoke
he picked up the steel poker and, with a sudden effort,
straightened it out again.
"Fancy his having the insolence to confound me with the official
detective force! This incident gives zest to our investigation,
however, and I only trust that our little friend will not suffer
from her imprudence in allowing this brute to trace her. And now,
Watson, we shall order breakfast, and afterwards I shall walk
down to Doctors' Commons, where I hope to get some data which may
help us in this matter."
It was nearly one o'clock when Sherlock Holmes returned from his
excursion. He held in his hand a sheet of blue paper, scrawled
over with notes and figures.
"I have seen the will of the deceased wife," said he. "To
determine its exact meaning I have been obliged to work out the
present prices of the investments with which it is concerned. The
total income, which at the time of the wife's death was little
short of 1100 pounds, is now, through the fall in agricultural
prices, not more than 750 pounds. Each daughter can claim an
income of 250 pounds, in case of marriage. It is evident,
therefore, that if both girls had married, this beauty would have
had a mere pittance, while even one of them would cripple him to
a very serious extent. My morning's work has not been wasted,
since it has proved that he has the very strongest motives for
standing in the way of anything of the sort. And now, Watson,
this is too serious for dawdling, especially as the old man is
aware that we are interesting ourselves in his affairs; so if you
are ready, we shall call a cab and drive to Waterloo. I should be
very much obliged if you would slip your revolver into your
pocket. An Eley's No. 2 is an excellent argument with gentlemen
who can twist steel pokers into knots. That and a tooth-brush
are, I think, all that we need."
At Waterloo we were fortunate in catching a train for
Leatherhead, where we hired a trap at the station inn and drove
for four or five miles through the lovely Surrey lanes. It was a
perfect day, with a bright sun and a few fleecy clouds in the
heavens. The trees and wayside hedges were just throwing out
their first green shoots, and the air was full of the pleasant
smell of the moist earth. To me at least there was a strange
contrast between the sweet promise of the spring and this
sinister quest upon which we were engaged. My companion sat in
the front of the trap, his arms folded, his hat pulled down over
his eyes, and his chin sunk upon his breast, buried in the
deepest thought. Suddenly, however, he started, tapped me on the
shoulder, and pointed over the meadows.
"Look there!" said he.
A heavily timbered park stretched up in a gentle slope,
thickening into a grove at the highest point. From amid the
branches there jutted out the grey gables and high roof-tree of a
very old mansion.
"Stoke Moran?" said he.
"Yes, sir, that be the house of Dr. Grimesby Roylott," remarked
"There is some building going on there," said Holmes; "that is
where we are going."
"There's the village," said the driver, pointing to a cluster of
roofs some distance to the left; "but if you want to get to the
house, you'll find it shorter to get over this stile, and so by
the foot-path over the fields. There it is, where the lady is
"And the lady, I fancy, is Miss Stoner," observed Holmes, shading
his eyes. "Yes, I think we had better do as you suggest."
We got off, paid our fare, and the trap rattled back on its way
"I thought it as well," said Holmes as we climbed the stile,
"that this fellow should think we had come here as architects, or
on some definite business. It may stop his gossip.
Good-afternoon, Miss Stoner. You see that we have been as good as
Our client of the morning had hurried forward to meet us with a
face which spoke her joy. "I have been waiting so eagerly for
you," she cried, shaking hands with us warmly. "All has turned
out splendidly. Dr. Roylott has gone to town, and it is unlikely
that he will be back before evening."
"We have had the pleasure of making the doctor's acquaintance,"
said Holmes, and in a few words he sketched out what had
occurred. Miss Stoner turned white to the lips as she listened.
"Good heavens!" she cried, "he has followed me, then."
"So it appears."
"He is so cunning that I never know when I am safe from him. What
will he say when he returns?"
"He must guard himself, for he may find that there is someone
more cunning than himself upon his track. You must lock yourself
up from him to-night. If he is violent, we shall take you away to
your aunt's at Harrow. Now, we must make the best use of our
time, so kindly take us at once to the rooms which we are to
The building was of grey, lichen-blotched stone, with a high
central portion and two curving wings, like the claws of a crab,
thrown out on each side. In one of these wings the windows were
broken and blocked with wooden boards, while the roof was partly
caved in, a picture of ruin. The central portion was in little
better repair, but the right-hand block was comparatively modern,
and the blinds in the windows, with the blue smoke curling up
from the chimneys, showed that this was where the family resided.
Some scaffolding had been erected against the end wall, and the
stone-work had been broken into, but there were no signs of any
workmen at the moment of our visit. Holmes walked slowly up and
down the ill-trimmed lawn and examined with deep attention the
outsides of the windows.
"This, I take it, belongs to the room in which you used to sleep,
the centre one to your sister's, and the one next to the main
building to Dr. Roylott's chamber?"
"Exactly so. But I am now sleeping in the middle one."
"Pending the alterations, as I understand. By the way, there does
not seem to be any very pressing need for repairs at that end
"There were none. I believe that it was an excuse to move me from
"Ah! that is suggestive. Now, on the other side of this narrow
wing runs the corridor from which these three rooms open. There
are windows in it, of course?"
"Yes, but very small ones. Too narrow for anyone to pass
"As you both locked your doors at night, your rooms were
unapproachable from that side. Now, would you have the kindness
to go into your room and bar your shutters?"
Miss Stoner did so, and Holmes, after a careful examination
through the open window, endeavoured in every way to force the
shutter open, but without success. There was no slit through
which a knife could be passed to raise the bar. Then with his
lens he tested the hinges, but they were of solid iron, built
firmly into the massive masonry. "Hum!" said he, scratching his
chin in some perplexity, "my theory certainly presents some
difficulties. No one could pass these shutters if they were
bolted. Well, we shall see if the inside throws any light upon
A small side door led into the whitewashed corridor from which
the three bedrooms opened. Holmes refused to examine the third
chamber, so we passed at once to the second, that in which Miss
Stoner was now sleeping, and in which her sister had met with her
fate. It was a homely little room, with a low ceiling and a
gaping fireplace, after the fashion of old country-houses. A
brown chest of drawers stood in one corner, a narrow
white-counterpaned bed in another, and a dressing-table on the
left-hand side of the window. These articles, with two small
wicker-work chairs, made up all the furniture in the room save
for a square of Wilton carpet in the centre. The boards round and
the panelling of the walls were of brown, worm-eaten oak, so old
and discoloured that it may have dated from the original building
of the house. Holmes drew one of the chairs into a corner and sat
silent, while his eyes travelled round and round and up and down,
taking in every detail of the apartment.
"Where does that bell communicate with?" he asked at last
pointing to a thick bell-rope which hung down beside the bed, the
tassel actually lying upon the pillow.
"It goes to the housekeeper's room."
"It looks newer than the other things?"
"Yes, it was only put there a couple of years ago."
"Your sister asked for it, I suppose?"
"No, I never heard of her using it. We used always to get what we
wanted for ourselves."
"Indeed, it seemed unnecessary to put so nice a bell-pull there.
You will excuse me for a few minutes while I satisfy myself as to
this floor." He threw himself down upon his face with his lens in
his hand and crawled swiftly backward and forward, examining
minutely the cracks between the boards. Then he did the same with
the wood-work with which the chamber was panelled. Finally he
walked over to the bed and spent some time in staring at it and
in running his eye up and down the wall. Finally he took the
bell-rope in his hand and gave it a brisk tug.
"Why, it's a dummy," said he.
"Won't it ring?"
"No, it is not even attached to a wire. This is very interesting.
You can see now that it is fastened to a hook just above where
the little opening for the ventilator is."
"How very absurd! I never noticed that before."
"Very strange!" muttered Holmes, pulling at the rope. "There are
one or two very singular points about this room. For example,
what a fool a builder must be to open a ventilator into another
room, when, with the same trouble, he might have communicated
with the outside air!"
"That is also quite modern," said the lady.
"Done about the same time as the bell-rope?" remarked Holmes.
"Yes, there were several little changes carried out about that
"They seem to have been of a most interesting character--dummy
bell-ropes, and ventilators which do not ventilate. With your
permission, Miss Stoner, we shall now carry our researches into
the inner apartment."
Dr. Grimesby Roylott's chamber was larger than that of his
step-daughter, but was as plainly furnished. A camp-bed, a small
wooden shelf full of books, mostly of a technical character, an
armchair beside the bed, a plain wooden chair against the wall, a
round table, and a large iron safe were the principal things
which met the eye. Holmes walked slowly round and examined each
and all of them with the keenest interest.
"What's in here?" he asked, tapping the safe.
"My stepfather's business papers."
"Oh! you have seen inside, then?"
"Only once, some years ago. I remember that it was full of
"There isn't a cat in it, for example?"
"No. What a strange idea!"
"Well, look at this!" He took up a small saucer of milk which
stood on the top of it.
"No; we don't keep a cat. But there is a cheetah and a baboon."
"Ah, yes, of course! Well, a cheetah is just a big cat, and yet a
saucer of milk does not go very far in satisfying its wants, I
daresay. There is one point which I should wish to determine." He
squatted down in front of the wooden chair and examined the seat
of it with the greatest attention.