Part 6 out of 7
that if the clothes were there the body would not be far off."
"By the same brilliant reasoning, every man's body is to be found
in the neighbourhood of his wardrobe. And pray what did you hope
to arrive at through this?"
"At some evidence implicating Flora Millar in the disappearance."
"I am afraid that you will find it difficult."
"Are you, indeed, now?" cried Lestrade with some bitterness. "I
am afraid, Holmes, that you are not very practical with your
deductions and your inferences. You have made two blunders in as
many minutes. This dress does implicate Miss Flora Millar."
"In the dress is a pocket. In the pocket is a card-case. In the
card-case is a note. And here is the very note." He slapped it
down upon the table in front of him. "Listen to this: 'You will
see me when all is ready. Come at once. F.H.M.' Now my theory all
along has been that Lady St. Simon was decoyed away by Flora
Millar, and that she, with confederates, no doubt, was
responsible for her disappearance. Here, signed with her
initials, is the very note which was no doubt quietly slipped
into her hand at the door and which lured her within their
"Very good, Lestrade," said Holmes, laughing. "You really are
very fine indeed. Let me see it." He took up the paper in a
listless way, but his attention instantly became riveted, and he
gave a little cry of satisfaction. "This is indeed important,"
"Ha! you find it so?"
"Extremely so. I congratulate you warmly."
Lestrade rose in his triumph and bent his head to look. "Why," he
shrieked, "you're looking at the wrong side!"
"On the contrary, this is the right side."
"The right side? You're mad! Here is the note written in pencil
"And over here is what appears to be the fragment of a hotel
bill, which interests me deeply."
"There's nothing in it. I looked at it before," said Lestrade.
"'Oct. 4th, rooms 8s., breakfast 2s. 6d., cocktail 1s., lunch 2s.
6d., glass sherry, 8d.' I see nothing in that."
"Very likely not. It is most important, all the same. As to the
note, it is important also, or at least the initials are, so I
congratulate you again."
"I've wasted time enough," said Lestrade, rising. "I believe in
hard work and not in sitting by the fire spinning fine theories.
Good-day, Mr. Holmes, and we shall see which gets to the bottom
of the matter first." He gathered up the garments, thrust them
into the bag, and made for the door.
"Just one hint to you, Lestrade," drawled Holmes before his rival
vanished; "I will tell you the true solution of the matter. Lady
St. Simon is a myth. There is not, and there never has been, any
Lestrade looked sadly at my companion. Then he turned to me,
tapped his forehead three times, shook his head solemnly, and
He had hardly shut the door behind him when Holmes rose to put on
his overcoat. "There is something in what the fellow says about
outdoor work," he remarked, "so I think, Watson, that I must
leave you to your papers for a little."
It was after five o'clock when Sherlock Holmes left me, but I had
no time to be lonely, for within an hour there arrived a
confectioner's man with a very large flat box. This he unpacked
with the help of a youth whom he had brought with him, and
presently, to my very great astonishment, a quite epicurean
little cold supper began to be laid out upon our humble
lodging-house mahogany. There were a couple of brace of cold
woodcock, a pheasant, a pâté de foie gras pie with a group of
ancient and cobwebby bottles. Having laid out all these luxuries,
my two visitors vanished away, like the genii of the Arabian
Nights, with no explanation save that the things had been paid
for and were ordered to this address.
Just before nine o'clock Sherlock Holmes stepped briskly into the
room. His features were gravely set, but there was a light in his
eye which made me think that he had not been disappointed in his
"They have laid the supper, then," he said, rubbing his hands.
"You seem to expect company. They have laid for five."
"Yes, I fancy we may have some company dropping in," said he. "I
am surprised that Lord St. Simon has not already arrived. Ha! I
fancy that I hear his step now upon the stairs."
It was indeed our visitor of the afternoon who came bustling in,
dangling his glasses more vigorously than ever, and with a very
perturbed expression upon his aristocratic features.
"My messenger reached you, then?" asked Holmes.
"Yes, and I confess that the contents startled me beyond measure.
Have you good authority for what you say?"
"The best possible."
Lord St. Simon sank into a chair and passed his hand over his
"What will the Duke say," he murmured, "when he hears that one of
the family has been subjected to such humiliation?"
"It is the purest accident. I cannot allow that there is any
"Ah, you look on these things from another standpoint."
"I fail to see that anyone is to blame. I can hardly see how the
lady could have acted otherwise, though her abrupt method of
doing it was undoubtedly to be regretted. Having no mother, she
had no one to advise her at such a crisis."
"It was a slight, sir, a public slight," said Lord St. Simon,
tapping his fingers upon the table.
"You must make allowance for this poor girl, placed in so
unprecedented a position."
"I will make no allowance. I am very angry indeed, and I have
been shamefully used."
"I think that I heard a ring," said Holmes. "Yes, there are steps
on the landing. If I cannot persuade you to take a lenient view
of the matter, Lord St. Simon, I have brought an advocate here
who may be more successful." He opened the door and ushered in a
lady and gentleman. "Lord St. Simon," said he "allow me to
introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Francis Hay Moulton. The lady, I
think, you have already met."
At the sight of these newcomers our client had sprung from his
seat and stood very erect, with his eyes cast down and his hand
thrust into the breast of his frock-coat, a picture of offended
dignity. The lady had taken a quick step forward and had held out
her hand to him, but he still refused to raise his eyes. It was
as well for his resolution, perhaps, for her pleading face was
one which it was hard to resist.
"You're angry, Robert," said she. "Well, I guess you have every
cause to be."
"Pray make no apology to me," said Lord St. Simon bitterly.
"Oh, yes, I know that I have treated you real bad and that I
should have spoken to you before I went; but I was kind of
rattled, and from the time when I saw Frank here again I just
didn't know what I was doing or saying. I only wonder I didn't
fall down and do a faint right there before the altar."
"Perhaps, Mrs. Moulton, you would like my friend and me to leave
the room while you explain this matter?"
"If I may give an opinion," remarked the strange gentleman,
"we've had just a little too much secrecy over this business
already. For my part, I should like all Europe and America to
hear the rights of it." He was a small, wiry, sunburnt man,
clean-shaven, with a sharp face and alert manner.
"Then I'll tell our story right away," said the lady. "Frank here
and I met in '84, in McQuire's camp, near the Rockies, where pa
was working a claim. We were engaged to each other, Frank and I;
but then one day father struck a rich pocket and made a pile,
while poor Frank here had a claim that petered out and came to
nothing. The richer pa grew the poorer was Frank; so at last pa
wouldn't hear of our engagement lasting any longer, and he took
me away to 'Frisco. Frank wouldn't throw up his hand, though; so
he followed me there, and he saw me without pa knowing anything
about it. It would only have made him mad to know, so we just
fixed it all up for ourselves. Frank said that he would go and
make his pile, too, and never come back to claim me until he had
as much as pa. So then I promised to wait for him to the end of
time and pledged myself not to marry anyone else while he lived.
'Why shouldn't we be married right away, then,' said he, 'and
then I will feel sure of you; and I won't claim to be your
husband until I come back?' Well, we talked it over, and he had
fixed it all up so nicely, with a clergyman all ready in waiting,
that we just did it right there; and then Frank went off to seek
his fortune, and I went back to pa.
"The next I heard of Frank was that he was in Montana, and then
he went prospecting in Arizona, and then I heard of him from New
Mexico. After that came a long newspaper story about how a
miners' camp had been attacked by Apache Indians, and there was
my Frank's name among the killed. I fainted dead away, and I was
very sick for months after. Pa thought I had a decline and took
me to half the doctors in 'Frisco. Not a word of news came for a
year and more, so that I never doubted that Frank was really
dead. Then Lord St. Simon came to 'Frisco, and we came to London,
and a marriage was arranged, and pa was very pleased, but I felt
all the time that no man on this earth would ever take the place
in my heart that had been given to my poor Frank.
"Still, if I had married Lord St. Simon, of course I'd have done
my duty by him. We can't command our love, but we can our
actions. I went to the altar with him with the intention to make
him just as good a wife as it was in me to be. But you may
imagine what I felt when, just as I came to the altar rails, I
glanced back and saw Frank standing and looking at me out of the
first pew. I thought it was his ghost at first; but when I looked
again there he was still, with a kind of question in his eyes, as
if to ask me whether I were glad or sorry to see him. I wonder I
didn't drop. I know that everything was turning round, and the
words of the clergyman were just like the buzz of a bee in my
ear. I didn't know what to do. Should I stop the service and make
a scene in the church? I glanced at him again, and he seemed to
know what I was thinking, for he raised his finger to his lips to
tell me to be still. Then I saw him scribble on a piece of paper,
and I knew that he was writing me a note. As I passed his pew on
the way out I dropped my bouquet over to him, and he slipped the
note into my hand when he returned me the flowers. It was only a
line asking me to join him when he made the sign to me to do so.
Of course I never doubted for a moment that my first duty was now
to him, and I determined to do just whatever he might direct.
"When I got back I told my maid, who had known him in California,
and had always been his friend. I ordered her to say nothing, but
to get a few things packed and my ulster ready. I know I ought to
have spoken to Lord St. Simon, but it was dreadful hard before
his mother and all those great people. I just made up my mind to
run away and explain afterwards. I hadn't been at the table ten
minutes before I saw Frank out of the window at the other side of
the road. He beckoned to me and then began walking into the Park.
I slipped out, put on my things, and followed him. Some woman
came talking something or other about Lord St. Simon to
me--seemed to me from the little I heard as if he had a little
secret of his own before marriage also--but I managed to get away
from her and soon overtook Frank. We got into a cab together, and
away we drove to some lodgings he had taken in Gordon Square, and
that was my true wedding after all those years of waiting. Frank
had been a prisoner among the Apaches, had escaped, came on to
'Frisco, found that I had given him up for dead and had gone to
England, followed me there, and had come upon me at last on the
very morning of my second wedding."
"I saw it in a paper," explained the American. "It gave the name
and the church but not where the lady lived."
"Then we had a talk as to what we should do, and Frank was all
for openness, but I was so ashamed of it all that I felt as if I
should like to vanish away and never see any of them again--just
sending a line to pa, perhaps, to show him that I was alive. It
was awful to me to think of all those lords and ladies sitting
round that breakfast-table and waiting for me to come back. So
Frank took my wedding-clothes and things and made a bundle of
them, so that I should not be traced, and dropped them away
somewhere where no one could find them. It is likely that we
should have gone on to Paris to-morrow, only that this good
gentleman, Mr. Holmes, came round to us this evening, though how
he found us is more than I can think, and he showed us very
clearly and kindly that I was wrong and that Frank was right, and
that we should be putting ourselves in the wrong if we were so
secret. Then he offered to give us a chance of talking to Lord
St. Simon alone, and so we came right away round to his rooms at
once. Now, Robert, you have heard it all, and I am very sorry if
I have given you pain, and I hope that you do not think very
meanly of me."
Lord St. Simon had by no means relaxed his rigid attitude, but
had listened with a frowning brow and a compressed lip to this
"Excuse me," he said, "but it is not my custom to discuss my most
intimate personal affairs in this public manner."
"Then you won't forgive me? You won't shake hands before I go?"
"Oh, certainly, if it would give you any pleasure." He put out
his hand and coldly grasped that which she extended to him.
"I had hoped," suggested Holmes, "that you would have joined us
in a friendly supper."
"I think that there you ask a little too much," responded his
Lordship. "I may be forced to acquiesce in these recent
developments, but I can hardly be expected to make merry over
them. I think that with your permission I will now wish you all a
very good-night." He included us all in a sweeping bow and
stalked out of the room.
"Then I trust that you at least will honour me with your
company," said Sherlock Holmes. "It is always a joy to meet an
American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believe that the
folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone
years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens
of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a
quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."
"The case has been an interesting one," remarked Holmes when our
visitors had left us, "because it serves to show very clearly how
simple the explanation may be of an affair which at first sight
seems to be almost inexplicable. Nothing could be more natural
than the sequence of events as narrated by this lady, and nothing
stranger than the result when viewed, for instance, by Mr.
Lestrade of Scotland Yard."
"You were not yourself at fault at all, then?"
"From the first, two facts were very obvious to me, the one that
the lady had been quite willing to undergo the wedding ceremony,
the other that she had repented of it within a few minutes of
returning home. Obviously something had occurred during the
morning, then, to cause her to change her mind. What could that
something be? She could not have spoken to anyone when she was
out, for she had been in the company of the bridegroom. Had she
seen someone, then? If she had, it must be someone from America
because she had spent so short a time in this country that she
could hardly have allowed anyone to acquire so deep an influence
over her that the mere sight of him would induce her to change
her plans so completely. You see we have already arrived, by a
process of exclusion, at the idea that she might have seen an
American. Then who could this American be, and why should he
possess so much influence over her? It might be a lover; it might
be a husband. Her young womanhood had, I knew, been spent in
rough scenes and under strange conditions. So far I had got
before I ever heard Lord St. Simon's narrative. When he told us
of a man in a pew, of the change in the bride's manner, of so
transparent a device for obtaining a note as the dropping of a
bouquet, of her resort to her confidential maid, and of her very
significant allusion to claim-jumping--which in miners' parlance
means taking possession of that which another person has a prior
claim to--the whole situation became absolutely clear. She had
gone off with a man, and the man was either a lover or was a
previous husband--the chances being in favour of the latter."
"And how in the world did you find them?"
"It might have been difficult, but friend Lestrade held
information in his hands the value of which he did not himself
know. The initials were, of course, of the highest importance,
but more valuable still was it to know that within a week he had
settled his bill at one of the most select London hotels."
"How did you deduce the select?"
"By the select prices. Eight shillings for a bed and eightpence
for a glass of sherry pointed to one of the most expensive
hotels. There are not many in London which charge at that rate.
In the second one which I visited in Northumberland Avenue, I
learned by an inspection of the book that Francis H. Moulton, an
American gentleman, had left only the day before, and on looking
over the entries against him, I came upon the very items which I
had seen in the duplicate bill. His letters were to be forwarded
to 226 Gordon Square; so thither I travelled, and being fortunate
enough to find the loving couple at home, I ventured to give them
some paternal advice and to point out to them that it would be
better in every way that they should make their position a little
clearer both to the general public and to Lord St. Simon in
particular. I invited them to meet him here, and, as you see, I
made him keep the appointment."
"But with no very good result," I remarked. "His conduct was
certainly not very gracious."
"Ah, Watson," said Holmes, smiling, "perhaps you would not be
very gracious either, if, after all the trouble of wooing and
wedding, you found yourself deprived in an instant of wife and of
fortune. I think that we may judge Lord St. Simon very mercifully
and thank our stars that we are never likely to find ourselves in
the same position. Draw your chair up and hand me my violin, for
the only problem we have still to solve is how to while away
these bleak autumnal evenings."
XI. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BERYL CORONET
"Holmes," said I as I stood one morning in our bow-window looking
down the street, "here is a madman coming along. It seems rather
sad that his relatives should allow him to come out alone."
My friend rose lazily from his armchair and stood with his hands
in the pockets of his dressing-gown, looking over my shoulder. It
was a bright, crisp February morning, and the snow of the day
before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the
wintry sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed
into a brown crumbly band by the traffic, but at either side and
on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as
when it fell. The grey pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but
was still dangerously slippery, so that there were fewer
passengers than usual. Indeed, from the direction of the
Metropolitan Station no one was coming save the single gentleman
whose eccentric conduct had drawn my attention.
He was a man of about fifty, tall, portly, and imposing, with a
massive, strongly marked face and a commanding figure. He was
dressed in a sombre yet rich style, in black frock-coat, shining
hat, neat brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-grey trousers. Yet
his actions were in absurd contrast to the dignity of his dress
and features, for he was running hard, with occasional little
springs, such as a weary man gives who is little accustomed to
set any tax upon his legs. As he ran he jerked his hands up and
down, waggled his head, and writhed his face into the most
"What on earth can be the matter with him?" I asked. "He is
looking up at the numbers of the houses."
"I believe that he is coming here," said Holmes, rubbing his
"Yes; I rather think he is coming to consult me professionally. I
think that I recognise the symptoms. Ha! did I not tell you?" As
he spoke, the man, puffing and blowing, rushed at our door and
pulled at our bell until the whole house resounded with the
A few moments later he was in our room, still puffing, still
gesticulating, but with so fixed a look of grief and despair in
his eyes that our smiles were turned in an instant to horror and
pity. For a while he could not get his words out, but swayed his
body and plucked at his hair like one who has been driven to the
extreme limits of his reason. Then, suddenly springing to his
feet, he beat his head against the wall with such force that we
both rushed upon him and tore him away to the centre of the room.
Sherlock Holmes pushed him down into the easy-chair and, sitting
beside him, patted his hand and chatted with him in the easy,
soothing tones which he knew so well how to employ.
"You have come to me to tell your story, have you not?" said he.
"You are fatigued with your haste. Pray wait until you have
recovered yourself, and then I shall be most happy to look into
any little problem which you may submit to me."
The man sat for a minute or more with a heaving chest, fighting
against his emotion. Then he passed his handkerchief over his
brow, set his lips tight, and turned his face towards us.
"No doubt you think me mad?" said he.
"I see that you have had some great trouble," responded Holmes.
"God knows I have!--a trouble which is enough to unseat my
reason, so sudden and so terrible is it. Public disgrace I might
have faced, although I am a man whose character has never yet
borne a stain. Private affliction also is the lot of every man;
but the two coming together, and in so frightful a form, have
been enough to shake my very soul. Besides, it is not I alone.
The very noblest in the land may suffer unless some way be found
out of this horrible affair."
"Pray compose yourself, sir," said Holmes, "and let me have a
clear account of who you are and what it is that has befallen
"My name," answered our visitor, "is probably familiar to your
ears. I am Alexander Holder, of the banking firm of Holder &
Stevenson, of Threadneedle Street."
The name was indeed well known to us as belonging to the senior
partner in the second largest private banking concern in the City
of London. What could have happened, then, to bring one of the
foremost citizens of London to this most pitiable pass? We
waited, all curiosity, until with another effort he braced
himself to tell his story.
"I feel that time is of value," said he; "that is why I hastened
here when the police inspector suggested that I should secure
your co-operation. I came to Baker Street by the Underground and
hurried from there on foot, for the cabs go slowly through this
snow. That is why I was so out of breath, for I am a man who
takes very little exercise. I feel better now, and I will put the
facts before you as shortly and yet as clearly as I can.
"It is, of course, well known to you that in a successful banking
business as much depends upon our being able to find remunerative
investments for our funds as upon our increasing our connection
and the number of our depositors. One of our most lucrative means
of laying out money is in the shape of loans, where the security
is unimpeachable. We have done a good deal in this direction
during the last few years, and there are many noble families to
whom we have advanced large sums upon the security of their
pictures, libraries, or plate.
"Yesterday morning I was seated in my office at the bank when a
card was brought in to me by one of the clerks. I started when I
saw the name, for it was that of none other than--well, perhaps
even to you I had better say no more than that it was a name
which is a household word all over the earth--one of the highest,
noblest, most exalted names in England. I was overwhelmed by the
honour and attempted, when he entered, to say so, but he plunged
at once into business with the air of a man who wishes to hurry
quickly through a disagreeable task.
"'Mr. Holder,' said he, 'I have been informed that you are in the
habit of advancing money.'
"'The firm does so when the security is good.' I answered.
"'It is absolutely essential to me,' said he, 'that I should have
50,000 pounds at once. I could, of course, borrow so trifling a
sum ten times over from my friends, but I much prefer to make it
a matter of business and to carry out that business myself. In my
position you can readily understand that it is unwise to place
one's self under obligations.'
"'For how long, may I ask, do you want this sum?' I asked.
"'Next Monday I have a large sum due to me, and I shall then most
certainly repay what you advance, with whatever interest you
think it right to charge. But it is very essential to me that the
money should be paid at once.'
"'I should be happy to advance it without further parley from my
own private purse,' said I, 'were it not that the strain would be
rather more than it could bear. If, on the other hand, I am to do
it in the name of the firm, then in justice to my partner I must
insist that, even in your case, every businesslike precaution
should be taken.'
"'I should much prefer to have it so,' said he, raising up a
square, black morocco case which he had laid beside his chair.
'You have doubtless heard of the Beryl Coronet?'
"'One of the most precious public possessions of the empire,'
"'Precisely.' He opened the case, and there, imbedded in soft,
flesh-coloured velvet, lay the magnificent piece of jewellery
which he had named. 'There are thirty-nine enormous beryls,' said
he, 'and the price of the gold chasing is incalculable. The
lowest estimate would put the worth of the coronet at double the
sum which I have asked. I am prepared to leave it with you as my
"I took the precious case into my hands and looked in some
perplexity from it to my illustrious client.
"'You doubt its value?' he asked.
"'Not at all. I only doubt--'
"'The propriety of my leaving it. You may set your mind at rest
about that. I should not dream of doing so were it not absolutely
certain that I should be able in four days to reclaim it. It is a
pure matter of form. Is the security sufficient?'
"'You understand, Mr. Holder, that I am giving you a strong proof
of the confidence which I have in you, founded upon all that I
have heard of you. I rely upon you not only to be discreet and to
refrain from all gossip upon the matter but, above all, to
preserve this coronet with every possible precaution because I
need not say that a great public scandal would be caused if any
harm were to befall it. Any injury to it would be almost as
serious as its complete loss, for there are no beryls in the
world to match these, and it would be impossible to replace them.
I leave it with you, however, with every confidence, and I shall
call for it in person on Monday morning.'
"Seeing that my client was anxious to leave, I said no more but,
calling for my cashier, I ordered him to pay over fifty 1000
pound notes. When I was alone once more, however, with the
precious case lying upon the table in front of me, I could not
but think with some misgivings of the immense responsibility
which it entailed upon me. There could be no doubt that, as it
was a national possession, a horrible scandal would ensue if any
misfortune should occur to it. I already regretted having ever
consented to take charge of it. However, it was too late to alter
the matter now, so I locked it up in my private safe and turned
once more to my work.
"When evening came I felt that it would be an imprudence to leave
so precious a thing in the office behind me. Bankers' safes had
been forced before now, and why should not mine be? If so, how
terrible would be the position in which I should find myself! I
determined, therefore, that for the next few days I would always
carry the case backward and forward with me, so that it might
never be really out of my reach. With this intention, I called a
cab and drove out to my house at Streatham, carrying the jewel
with me. I did not breathe freely until I had taken it upstairs
and locked it in the bureau of my dressing-room.
"And now a word as to my household, Mr. Holmes, for I wish you to
thoroughly understand the situation. My groom and my page sleep
out of the house, and may be set aside altogether. I have three
maid-servants who have been with me a number of years and whose
absolute reliability is quite above suspicion. Another, Lucy
Parr, the second waiting-maid, has only been in my service a few
months. She came with an excellent character, however, and has
always given me satisfaction. She is a very pretty girl and has
attracted admirers who have occasionally hung about the place.
That is the only drawback which we have found to her, but we
believe her to be a thoroughly good girl in every way.
"So much for the servants. My family itself is so small that it
will not take me long to describe it. I am a widower and have an
only son, Arthur. He has been a disappointment to me, Mr.
Holmes--a grievous disappointment. I have no doubt that I am
myself to blame. People tell me that I have spoiled him. Very
likely I have. When my dear wife died I felt that he was all I
had to love. I could not bear to see the smile fade even for a
moment from his face. I have never denied him a wish. Perhaps it
would have been better for both of us had I been sterner, but I
meant it for the best.
"It was naturally my intention that he should succeed me in my
business, but he was not of a business turn. He was wild,
wayward, and, to speak the truth, I could not trust him in the
handling of large sums of money. When he was young he became a
member of an aristocratic club, and there, having charming
manners, he was soon the intimate of a number of men with long
purses and expensive habits. He learned to play heavily at cards
and to squander money on the turf, until he had again and again
to come to me and implore me to give him an advance upon his
allowance, that he might settle his debts of honour. He tried
more than once to break away from the dangerous company which he
was keeping, but each time the influence of his friend, Sir
George Burnwell, was enough to draw him back again.
"And, indeed, I could not wonder that such a man as Sir George
Burnwell should gain an influence over him, for he has frequently
brought him to my house, and I have found myself that I could
hardly resist the fascination of his manner. He is older than
Arthur, a man of the world to his finger-tips, one who had been
everywhere, seen everything, a brilliant talker, and a man of
great personal beauty. Yet when I think of him in cold blood, far
away from the glamour of his presence, I am convinced from his
cynical speech and the look which I have caught in his eyes that
he is one who should be deeply distrusted. So I think, and so,
too, thinks my little Mary, who has a woman's quick insight into
"And now there is only she to be described. She is my niece; but
when my brother died five years ago and left her alone in the
world I adopted her, and have looked upon her ever since as my
daughter. She is a sunbeam in my house--sweet, loving, beautiful,
a wonderful manager and housekeeper, yet as tender and quiet and
gentle as a woman could be. She is my right hand. I do not know
what I could do without her. In only one matter has she ever gone
against my wishes. Twice my boy has asked her to marry him, for
he loves her devotedly, but each time she has refused him. I
think that if anyone could have drawn him into the right path it
would have been she, and that his marriage might have changed his
whole life; but now, alas! it is too late--forever too late!
"Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who live under my roof, and
I shall continue with my miserable story.
"When we were taking coffee in the drawing-room that night after
dinner, I told Arthur and Mary my experience, and of the precious
treasure which we had under our roof, suppressing only the name
of my client. Lucy Parr, who had brought in the coffee, had, I am
sure, left the room; but I cannot swear that the door was closed.
Mary and Arthur were much interested and wished to see the famous
coronet, but I thought it better not to disturb it.
"'Where have you put it?' asked Arthur.
"'In my own bureau.'
"'Well, I hope to goodness the house won't be burgled during the
night.' said he.
"'It is locked up,' I answered.
"'Oh, any old key will fit that bureau. When I was a youngster I
have opened it myself with the key of the box-room cupboard.'
"He often had a wild way of talking, so that I thought little of
what he said. He followed me to my room, however, that night with
a very grave face.
"'Look here, dad,' said he with his eyes cast down, 'can you let
me have 200 pounds?'
"'No, I cannot!' I answered sharply. 'I have been far too
generous with you in money matters.'
"'You have been very kind,' said he, 'but I must have this money,
or else I can never show my face inside the club again.'
"'And a very good thing, too!' I cried.
"'Yes, but you would not have me leave it a dishonoured man,'
said he. 'I could not bear the disgrace. I must raise the money
in some way, and if you will not let me have it, then I must try
"I was very angry, for this was the third demand during the
month. 'You shall not have a farthing from me,' I cried, on which
he bowed and left the room without another word.
"When he was gone I unlocked my bureau, made sure that my
treasure was safe, and locked it again. Then I started to go
round the house to see that all was secure--a duty which I
usually leave to Mary but which I thought it well to perform
myself that night. As I came down the stairs I saw Mary herself
at the side window of the hall, which she closed and fastened as
"'Tell me, dad,' said she, looking, I thought, a little
disturbed, 'did you give Lucy, the maid, leave to go out
"'She came in just now by the back door. I have no doubt that she
has only been to the side gate to see someone, but I think that
it is hardly safe and should be stopped.'
"'You must speak to her in the morning, or I will if you prefer
it. Are you sure that everything is fastened?'
"'Quite sure, dad.'
"'Then, good-night.' I kissed her and went up to my bedroom
again, where I was soon asleep.
"I am endeavouring to tell you everything, Mr. Holmes, which may
have any bearing upon the case, but I beg that you will question
me upon any point which I do not make clear."
"On the contrary, your statement is singularly lucid."
"I come to a part of my story now in which I should wish to be
particularly so. I am not a very heavy sleeper, and the anxiety
in my mind tended, no doubt, to make me even less so than usual.
About two in the morning, then, I was awakened by some sound in
the house. It had ceased ere I was wide awake, but it had left an
impression behind it as though a window had gently closed
somewhere. I lay listening with all my ears. Suddenly, to my
horror, there was a distinct sound of footsteps moving softly in
the next room. I slipped out of bed, all palpitating with fear,
and peeped round the corner of my dressing-room door.
"'Arthur!' I screamed, 'you villain! you thief! How dare you
touch that coronet?'
"The gas was half up, as I had left it, and my unhappy boy,
dressed only in his shirt and trousers, was standing beside the
light, holding the coronet in his hands. He appeared to be
wrenching at it, or bending it with all his strength. At my cry
he dropped it from his grasp and turned as pale as death. I
snatched it up and examined it. One of the gold corners, with
three of the beryls in it, was missing.
"'You blackguard!' I shouted, beside myself with rage. 'You have
destroyed it! You have dishonoured me forever! Where are the
jewels which you have stolen?'
"'Stolen!' he cried.
"'Yes, thief!' I roared, shaking him by the shoulder.
"'There are none missing. There cannot be any missing,' said he.
"'There are three missing. And you know where they are. Must I
call you a liar as well as a thief? Did I not see you trying to
tear off another piece?'
"'You have called me names enough,' said he, 'I will not stand it
any longer. I shall not say another word about this business,
since you have chosen to insult me. I will leave your house in
the morning and make my own way in the world.'
"'You shall leave it in the hands of the police!' I cried
half-mad with grief and rage. 'I shall have this matter probed to
"'You shall learn nothing from me,' said he with a passion such
as I should not have thought was in his nature. 'If you choose to
call the police, let the police find what they can.'
"By this time the whole house was astir, for I had raised my
voice in my anger. Mary was the first to rush into my room, and,
at the sight of the coronet and of Arthur's face, she read the
whole story and, with a scream, fell down senseless on the
ground. I sent the house-maid for the police and put the
investigation into their hands at once. When the inspector and a
constable entered the house, Arthur, who had stood sullenly with
his arms folded, asked me whether it was my intention to charge
him with theft. I answered that it had ceased to be a private
matter, but had become a public one, since the ruined coronet was
national property. I was determined that the law should have its
way in everything.
"'At least,' said he, 'you will not have me arrested at once. It
would be to your advantage as well as mine if I might leave the
house for five minutes.'
"'That you may get away, or perhaps that you may conceal what you
have stolen,' said I. And then, realising the dreadful position
in which I was placed, I implored him to remember that not only
my honour but that of one who was far greater than I was at
stake; and that he threatened to raise a scandal which would
convulse the nation. He might avert it all if he would but tell
me what he had done with the three missing stones.
"'You may as well face the matter,' said I; 'you have been caught
in the act, and no confession could make your guilt more heinous.
If you but make such reparation as is in your power, by telling
us where the beryls are, all shall be forgiven and forgotten.'
"'Keep your forgiveness for those who ask for it,' he answered,
turning away from me with a sneer. I saw that he was too hardened
for any words of mine to influence him. There was but one way for
it. I called in the inspector and gave him into custody. A search
was made at once not only of his person but of his room and of
every portion of the house where he could possibly have concealed
the gems; but no trace of them could be found, nor would the
wretched boy open his mouth for all our persuasions and our
threats. This morning he was removed to a cell, and I, after
going through all the police formalities, have hurried round to
you to implore you to use your skill in unravelling the matter.
The police have openly confessed that they can at present make
nothing of it. You may go to any expense which you think
necessary. I have already offered a reward of 1000 pounds. My
God, what shall I do! I have lost my honour, my gems, and my son
in one night. Oh, what shall I do!"
He put a hand on either side of his head and rocked himself to
and fro, droning to himself like a child whose grief has got
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for some few minutes, with his brows
knitted and his eyes fixed upon the fire.
"Do you receive much company?" he asked.
"None save my partner with his family and an occasional friend of
Arthur's. Sir George Burnwell has been several times lately. No
one else, I think."
"Do you go out much in society?"
"Arthur does. Mary and I stay at home. We neither of us care for
"That is unusual in a young girl."
"She is of a quiet nature. Besides, she is not so very young. She
"This matter, from what you say, seems to have been a shock to
"Terrible! She is even more affected than I."
"You have neither of you any doubt as to your son's guilt?"
"How can we have when I saw him with my own eyes with the coronet
in his hands."
"I hardly consider that a conclusive proof. Was the remainder of
the coronet at all injured?"
"Yes, it was twisted."
"Do you not think, then, that he might have been trying to
"God bless you! You are doing what you can for him and for me.
But it is too heavy a task. What was he doing there at all? If
his purpose were innocent, why did he not say so?"
"Precisely. And if it were guilty, why did he not invent a lie?
His silence appears to me to cut both ways. There are several
singular points about the case. What did the police think of the
noise which awoke you from your sleep?"
"They considered that it might be caused by Arthur's closing his
"A likely story! As if a man bent on felony would slam his door
so as to wake a household. What did they say, then, of the
disappearance of these gems?"
"They are still sounding the planking and probing the furniture
in the hope of finding them."
"Have they thought of looking outside the house?"
"Yes, they have shown extraordinary energy. The whole garden has
already been minutely examined."
"Now, my dear sir," said Holmes. "is it not obvious to you now
that this matter really strikes very much deeper than either you
or the police were at first inclined to think? It appeared to you
to be a simple case; to me it seems exceedingly complex. Consider
what is involved by your theory. You suppose that your son came
down from his bed, went, at great risk, to your dressing-room,
opened your bureau, took out your coronet, broke off by main
force a small portion of it, went off to some other place,
concealed three gems out of the thirty-nine, with such skill that
nobody can find them, and then returned with the other thirty-six
into the room in which he exposed himself to the greatest danger
of being discovered. I ask you now, is such a theory tenable?"
"But what other is there?" cried the banker with a gesture of
despair. "If his motives were innocent, why does he not explain
"It is our task to find that out," replied Holmes; "so now, if
you please, Mr. Holder, we will set off for Streatham together,
and devote an hour to glancing a little more closely into
My friend insisted upon my accompanying them in their expedition,
which I was eager enough to do, for my curiosity and sympathy
were deeply stirred by the story to which we had listened. I
confess that the guilt of the banker's son appeared to me to be
as obvious as it did to his unhappy father, but still I had such
faith in Holmes' judgment that I felt that there must be some
grounds for hope as long as he was dissatisfied with the accepted
explanation. He hardly spoke a word the whole way out to the
southern suburb, but sat with his chin upon his breast and his
hat drawn over his eyes, sunk in the deepest thought. Our client
appeared to have taken fresh heart at the little glimpse of hope
which had been presented to him, and he even broke into a
desultory chat with me over his business affairs. A short railway
journey and a shorter walk brought us to Fairbank, the modest
residence of the great financier.
Fairbank was a good-sized square house of white stone, standing
back a little from the road. A double carriage-sweep, with a
snow-clad lawn, stretched down in front to two large iron gates
which closed the entrance. On the right side was a small wooden
thicket, which led into a narrow path between two neat hedges
stretching from the road to the kitchen door, and forming the
tradesmen's entrance. On the left ran a lane which led to the
stables, and was not itself within the grounds at all, being a
public, though little used, thoroughfare. Holmes left us standing
at the door and walked slowly all round the house, across the
front, down the tradesmen's path, and so round by the garden
behind into the stable lane. So long was he that Mr. Holder and I
went into the dining-room and waited by the fire until he should
return. We were sitting there in silence when the door opened and
a young lady came in. She was rather above the middle height,
slim, with dark hair and eyes, which seemed the darker against
the absolute pallor of her skin. I do not think that I have ever
seen such deadly paleness in a woman's face. Her lips, too, were
bloodless, but her eyes were flushed with crying. As she swept
silently into the room she impressed me with a greater sense of
grief than the banker had done in the morning, and it was the
more striking in her as she was evidently a woman of strong
character, with immense capacity for self-restraint. Disregarding
my presence, she went straight to her uncle and passed her hand
over his head with a sweet womanly caress.
"You have given orders that Arthur should be liberated, have you
not, dad?" she asked.
"No, no, my girl, the matter must be probed to the bottom."
"But I am so sure that he is innocent. You know what woman's
instincts are. I know that he has done no harm and that you will
be sorry for having acted so harshly."
"Why is he silent, then, if he is innocent?"
"Who knows? Perhaps because he was so angry that you should
"How could I help suspecting him, when I actually saw him with
the coronet in his hand?"
"Oh, but he had only picked it up to look at it. Oh, do, do take
my word for it that he is innocent. Let the matter drop and say
no more. It is so dreadful to think of our dear Arthur in
"I shall never let it drop until the gems are found--never, Mary!
Your affection for Arthur blinds you as to the awful consequences
to me. Far from hushing the thing up, I have brought a gentleman
down from London to inquire more deeply into it."
"This gentleman?" she asked, facing round to me.
"No, his friend. He wished us to leave him alone. He is round in
the stable lane now."
"The stable lane?" She raised her dark eyebrows. "What can he
hope to find there? Ah! this, I suppose, is he. I trust, sir,
that you will succeed in proving, what I feel sure is the truth,
that my cousin Arthur is innocent of this crime."
"I fully share your opinion, and I trust, with you, that we may
prove it," returned Holmes, going back to the mat to knock the
snow from his shoes. "I believe I have the honour of addressing
Miss Mary Holder. Might I ask you a question or two?"
"Pray do, sir, if it may help to clear this horrible affair up."
"You heard nothing yourself last night?"
"Nothing, until my uncle here began to speak loudly. I heard
that, and I came down."
"You shut up the windows and doors the night before. Did you
fasten all the windows?"
"Were they all fastened this morning?"
"You have a maid who has a sweetheart? I think that you remarked
to your uncle last night that she had been out to see him?"
"Yes, and she was the girl who waited in the drawing-room, and
who may have heard uncle's remarks about the coronet."
"I see. You infer that she may have gone out to tell her
sweetheart, and that the two may have planned the robbery."
"But what is the good of all these vague theories," cried the
banker impatiently, "when I have told you that I saw Arthur with
the coronet in his hands?"
"Wait a little, Mr. Holder. We must come back to that. About this
girl, Miss Holder. You saw her return by the kitchen door, I
"Yes; when I went to see if the door was fastened for the night I
met her slipping in. I saw the man, too, in the gloom."
"Do you know him?"
"Oh, yes! he is the green-grocer who brings our vegetables round.
His name is Francis Prosper."
"He stood," said Holmes, "to the left of the door--that is to
say, farther up the path than is necessary to reach the door?"
"Yes, he did."
"And he is a man with a wooden leg?"
Something like fear sprang up in the young lady's expressive
black eyes. "Why, you are like a magician," said she. "How do you
know that?" She smiled, but there was no answering smile in
Holmes' thin, eager face.
"I should be very glad now to go upstairs," said he. "I shall
probably wish to go over the outside of the house again. Perhaps
I had better take a look at the lower windows before I go up."
He walked swiftly round from one to the other, pausing only at
the large one which looked from the hall onto the stable lane.
This he opened and made a very careful examination of the sill
with his powerful magnifying lens. "Now we shall go upstairs,"
said he at last.
The banker's dressing-room was a plainly furnished little
chamber, with a grey carpet, a large bureau, and a long mirror.
Holmes went to the bureau first and looked hard at the lock.
"Which key was used to open it?" he asked.
"That which my son himself indicated--that of the cupboard of the
"Have you it here?"
"That is it on the dressing-table."
Sherlock Holmes took it up and opened the bureau.
"It is a noiseless lock," said he. "It is no wonder that it did
not wake you. This case, I presume, contains the coronet. We must
have a look at it." He opened the case, and taking out the diadem
he laid it upon the table. It was a magnificent specimen of the
jeweller's art, and the thirty-six stones were the finest that I
have ever seen. At one side of the coronet was a cracked edge,
where a corner holding three gems had been torn away.
"Now, Mr. Holder," said Holmes, "here is the corner which
corresponds to that which has been so unfortunately lost. Might I
beg that you will break it off."
The banker recoiled in horror. "I should not dream of trying,"
"Then I will." Holmes suddenly bent his strength upon it, but
without result. "I feel it give a little," said he; "but, though
I am exceptionally strong in the fingers, it would take me all my
time to break it. An ordinary man could not do it. Now, what do
you think would happen if I did break it, Mr. Holder? There would
be a noise like a pistol shot. Do you tell me that all this
happened within a few yards of your bed and that you heard
nothing of it?"
"I do not know what to think. It is all dark to me."
"But perhaps it may grow lighter as we go. What do you think,
"I confess that I still share my uncle's perplexity."
"Your son had no shoes or slippers on when you saw him?"
"He had nothing on save only his trousers and shirt."
"Thank you. We have certainly been favoured with extraordinary
luck during this inquiry, and it will be entirely our own fault
if we do not succeed in clearing the matter up. With your
permission, Mr. Holder, I shall now continue my investigations
He went alone, at his own request, for he explained that any
unnecessary footmarks might make his task more difficult. For an
hour or more he was at work, returning at last with his feet
heavy with snow and his features as inscrutable as ever.
"I think that I have seen now all that there is to see, Mr.
Holder," said he; "I can serve you best by returning to my
"But the gems, Mr. Holmes. Where are they?"
"I cannot tell."
The banker wrung his hands. "I shall never see them again!" he
cried. "And my son? You give me hopes?"
"My opinion is in no way altered."
"Then, for God's sake, what was this dark business which was
acted in my house last night?"
"If you can call upon me at my Baker Street rooms to-morrow
morning between nine and ten I shall be happy to do what I can to
make it clearer. I understand that you give me carte blanche to
act for you, provided only that I get back the gems, and that you
place no limit on the sum I may draw."
"I would give my fortune to have them back."
"Very good. I shall look into the matter between this and then.
Good-bye; it is just possible that I may have to come over here
again before evening."
It was obvious to me that my companion's mind was now made up
about the case, although what his conclusions were was more than
I could even dimly imagine. Several times during our homeward
journey I endeavoured to sound him upon the point, but he always
glided away to some other topic, until at last I gave it over in
despair. It was not yet three when we found ourselves in our
rooms once more. He hurried to his chamber and was down again in
a few minutes dressed as a common loafer. With his collar turned
up, his shiny, seedy coat, his red cravat, and his worn boots, he
was a perfect sample of the class.
"I think that this should do," said he, glancing into the glass
above the fireplace. "I only wish that you could come with me,
Watson, but I fear that it won't do. I may be on the trail in
this matter, or I may be following a will-o'-the-wisp, but I
shall soon know which it is. I hope that I may be back in a few
hours." He cut a slice of beef from the joint upon the sideboard,
sandwiched it between two rounds of bread, and thrusting this
rude meal into his pocket he started off upon his expedition.
I had just finished my tea when he returned, evidently in
excellent spirits, swinging an old elastic-sided boot in his
hand. He chucked it down into a corner and helped himself to a
cup of tea.
"I only looked in as I passed," said he. "I am going right on."
"Oh, to the other side of the West End. It may be some time
before I get back. Don't wait up for me in case I should be
"How are you getting on?"
"Oh, so so. Nothing to complain of. I have been out to Streatham
since I saw you last, but I did not call at the house. It is a
very sweet little problem, and I would not have missed it for a
good deal. However, I must not sit gossiping here, but must get
these disreputable clothes off and return to my highly
I could see by his manner that he had stronger reasons for
satisfaction than his words alone would imply. His eyes twinkled,
and there was even a touch of colour upon his sallow cheeks. He
hastened upstairs, and a few minutes later I heard the slam of
the hall door, which told me that he was off once more upon his
I waited until midnight, but there was no sign of his return, so
I retired to my room. It was no uncommon thing for him to be away
for days and nights on end when he was hot upon a scent, so that
his lateness caused me no surprise. I do not know at what hour he
came in, but when I came down to breakfast in the morning there
he was with a cup of coffee in one hand and the paper in the
other, as fresh and trim as possible.
"You will excuse my beginning without you, Watson," said he, "but
you remember that our client has rather an early appointment this
"Why, it is after nine now," I answered. "I should not be
surprised if that were he. I thought I heard a ring."
It was, indeed, our friend the financier. I was shocked by the
change which had come over him, for his face which was naturally
of a broad and massive mould, was now pinched and fallen in,
while his hair seemed to me at least a shade whiter. He entered
with a weariness and lethargy which was even more painful than
his violence of the morning before, and he dropped heavily into
the armchair which I pushed forward for him.
"I do not know what I have done to be so severely tried," said
he. "Only two days ago I was a happy and prosperous man, without
a care in the world. Now I am left to a lonely and dishonoured
age. One sorrow comes close upon the heels of another. My niece,
Mary, has deserted me."
"Yes. Her bed this morning had not been slept in, her room was
empty, and a note for me lay upon the hall table. I had said to
her last night, in sorrow and not in anger, that if she had
married my boy all might have been well with him. Perhaps it was
thoughtless of me to say so. It is to that remark that she refers
in this note:
"'MY DEAREST UNCLE:--I feel that I have brought trouble upon you,
and that if I had acted differently this terrible misfortune
might never have occurred. I cannot, with this thought in my
mind, ever again be happy under your roof, and I feel that I must
leave you forever. Do not worry about my future, for that is
provided for; and, above all, do not search for me, for it will
be fruitless labour and an ill-service to me. In life or in
death, I am ever your loving,--MARY.'
"What could she mean by that note, Mr. Holmes? Do you think it
points to suicide?"
"No, no, nothing of the kind. It is perhaps the best possible
solution. I trust, Mr. Holder, that you are nearing the end of
"Ha! You say so! You have heard something, Mr. Holmes; you have
learned something! Where are the gems?"
"You would not think 1000 pounds apiece an excessive sum for
"I would pay ten."
"That would be unnecessary. Three thousand will cover the matter.
And there is a little reward, I fancy. Have you your check-book?
Here is a pen. Better make it out for 4000 pounds."
With a dazed face the banker made out the required check. Holmes
walked over to his desk, took out a little triangular piece of
gold with three gems in it, and threw it down upon the table.
With a shriek of joy our client clutched it up.
"You have it!" he gasped. "I am saved! I am saved!"
The reaction of joy was as passionate as his grief had been, and
he hugged his recovered gems to his bosom.
"There is one other thing you owe, Mr. Holder," said Sherlock
Holmes rather sternly.
"Owe!" He caught up a pen. "Name the sum, and I will pay it."
"No, the debt is not to me. You owe a very humble apology to that
noble lad, your son, who has carried himself in this matter as I
should be proud to see my own son do, should I ever chance to
"Then it was not Arthur who took them?"
"I told you yesterday, and I repeat to-day, that it was not."
"You are sure of it! Then let us hurry to him at once to let him
know that the truth is known."
"He knows it already. When I had cleared it all up I had an
interview with him, and finding that he would not tell me the
story, I told it to him, on which he had to confess that I was
right and to add the very few details which were not yet quite
clear to me. Your news of this morning, however, may open his
"For heaven's sake, tell me, then, what is this extraordinary
"I will do so, and I will show you the steps by which I reached
it. And let me say to you, first, that which it is hardest for me
to say and for you to hear: there has been an understanding
between Sir George Burnwell and your niece Mary. They have now
"My Mary? Impossible!"
"It is unfortunately more than possible; it is certain. Neither
you nor your son knew the true character of this man when you
admitted him into your family circle. He is one of the most
dangerous men in England--a ruined gambler, an absolutely
desperate villain, a man without heart or conscience. Your niece
knew nothing of such men. When he breathed his vows to her, as he
had done to a hundred before her, she flattered herself that she
alone had touched his heart. The devil knows best what he said,
but at least she became his tool and was in the habit of seeing
him nearly every evening."
"I cannot, and I will not, believe it!" cried the banker with an
"I will tell you, then, what occurred in your house last night.
Your niece, when you had, as she thought, gone to your room,
slipped down and talked to her lover through the window which
leads into the stable lane. His footmarks had pressed right
through the snow, so long had he stood there. She told him of the
coronet. His wicked lust for gold kindled at the news, and he
bent her to his will. I have no doubt that she loved you, but
there are women in whom the love of a lover extinguishes all
other loves, and I think that she must have been one. She had
hardly listened to his instructions when she saw you coming
downstairs, on which she closed the window rapidly and told you
about one of the servants' escapade with her wooden-legged lover,
which was all perfectly true.
"Your boy, Arthur, went to bed after his interview with you but
he slept badly on account of his uneasiness about his club debts.
In the middle of the night he heard a soft tread pass his door,
so he rose and, looking out, was surprised to see his cousin
walking very stealthily along the passage until she disappeared
into your dressing-room. Petrified with astonishment, the lad
slipped on some clothes and waited there in the dark to see what
would come of this strange affair. Presently she emerged from the
room again, and in the light of the passage-lamp your son saw
that she carried the precious coronet in her hands. She passed
down the stairs, and he, thrilling with horror, ran along and
slipped behind the curtain near your door, whence he could see
what passed in the hall beneath. He saw her stealthily open the
window, hand out the coronet to someone in the gloom, and then
closing it once more hurry back to her room, passing quite close
to where he stood hid behind the curtain.
"As long as she was on the scene he could not take any action
without a horrible exposure of the woman whom he loved. But the
instant that she was gone he realised how crushing a misfortune
this would be for you, and how all-important it was to set it
right. He rushed down, just as he was, in his bare feet, opened
the window, sprang out into the snow, and ran down the lane,
where he could see a dark figure in the moonlight. Sir George
Burnwell tried to get away, but Arthur caught him, and there was
a struggle between them, your lad tugging at one side of the
coronet, and his opponent at the other. In the scuffle, your son
struck Sir George and cut him over the eye. Then something
suddenly snapped, and your son, finding that he had the coronet
in his hands, rushed back, closed the window, ascended to your
room, and had just observed that the coronet had been twisted in
the struggle and was endeavouring to straighten it when you
appeared upon the scene."
"Is it possible?" gasped the banker.
"You then roused his anger by calling him names at a moment when
he felt that he had deserved your warmest thanks. He could not
explain the true state of affairs without betraying one who
certainly deserved little enough consideration at his hands. He
took the more chivalrous view, however, and preserved her
"And that was why she shrieked and fainted when she saw the
coronet," cried Mr. Holder. "Oh, my God! what a blind fool I have
been! And his asking to be allowed to go out for five minutes!
The dear fellow wanted to see if the missing piece were at the
scene of the struggle. How cruelly I have misjudged him!"
"When I arrived at the house," continued Holmes, "I at once went
very carefully round it to observe if there were any traces in
the snow which might help me. I knew that none had fallen since
the evening before, and also that there had been a strong frost
to preserve impressions. I passed along the tradesmen's path, but
found it all trampled down and indistinguishable. Just beyond it,
however, at the far side of the kitchen door, a woman had stood
and talked with a man, whose round impressions on one side showed
that he had a wooden leg. I could even tell that they had been
disturbed, for the woman had run back swiftly to the door, as was
shown by the deep toe and light heel marks, while Wooden-leg had
waited a little, and then had gone away. I thought at the time
that this might be the maid and her sweetheart, of whom you had
already spoken to me, and inquiry showed it was so. I passed
round the garden without seeing anything more than random tracks,
which I took to be the police; but when I got into the stable
lane a very long and complex story was written in the snow in
front of me.
"There was a double line of tracks of a booted man, and a second
double line which I saw with delight belonged to a man with naked
feet. I was at once convinced from what you had told me that the
latter was your son. The first had walked both ways, but the
other had run swiftly, and as his tread was marked in places over
the depression of the boot, it was obvious that he had passed
after the other. I followed them up and found they led to the
hall window, where Boots had worn all the snow away while
waiting. Then I walked to the other end, which was a hundred
yards or more down the lane. I saw where Boots had faced round,
where the snow was cut up as though there had been a struggle,
and, finally, where a few drops of blood had fallen, to show me
that I was not mistaken. Boots had then run down the lane, and
another little smudge of blood showed that it was he who had been
hurt. When he came to the highroad at the other end, I found that
the pavement had been cleared, so there was an end to that clue.
"On entering the house, however, I examined, as you remember, the
sill and framework of the hall window with my lens, and I could
at once see that someone had passed out. I could distinguish the
outline of an instep where the wet foot had been placed in coming
in. I was then beginning to be able to form an opinion as to what
had occurred. A man had waited outside the window; someone had
brought the gems; the deed had been overseen by your son; he had
pursued the thief; had struggled with him; they had each tugged
at the coronet, their united strength causing injuries which
neither alone could have effected. He had returned with the
prize, but had left a fragment in the grasp of his opponent. So
far I was clear. The question now was, who was the man and who
was it brought him the coronet?
"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the
truth. Now, I knew that it was not you who had brought it down,
so there only remained your niece and the maids. But if it were
the maids, why should your son allow himself to be accused in
their place? There could be no possible reason. As he loved his
cousin, however, there was an excellent explanation why he should
retain her secret--the more so as the secret was a disgraceful
one. When I remembered that you had seen her at that window, and
how she had fainted on seeing the coronet again, my conjecture
became a certainty.
"And who could it be who was her confederate? A lover evidently,
for who else could outweigh the love and gratitude which she must
feel to you? I knew that you went out little, and that your
circle of friends was a very limited one. But among them was Sir
George Burnwell. I had heard of him before as being a man of evil
reputation among women. It must have been he who wore those boots
and retained the missing gems. Even though he knew that Arthur
had discovered him, he might still flatter himself that he was
safe, for the lad could not say a word without compromising his
"Well, your own good sense will suggest what measures I took
next. I went in the shape of a loafer to Sir George's house,
managed to pick up an acquaintance with his valet, learned that
his master had cut his head the night before, and, finally, at
the expense of six shillings, made all sure by buying a pair of
his cast-off shoes. With these I journeyed down to Streatham and
saw that they exactly fitted the tracks."
"I saw an ill-dressed vagabond in the lane yesterday evening,"
said Mr. Holder.
"Precisely. It was I. I found that I had my man, so I came home
and changed my clothes. It was a delicate part which I had to
play then, for I saw that a prosecution must be avoided to avert
scandal, and I knew that so astute a villain would see that our
hands were tied in the matter. I went and saw him. At first, of
course, he denied everything. But when I gave him every
particular that had occurred, he tried to bluster and took down a
life-preserver from the wall. I knew my man, however, and I
clapped a pistol to his head before he could strike. Then he
became a little more reasonable. I told him that we would give
him a price for the stones he held--1000 pounds apiece. That
brought out the first signs of grief that he had shown. 'Why,
dash it all!' said he, 'I've let them go at six hundred for the
three!' I soon managed to get the address of the receiver who had
them, on promising him that there would be no prosecution. Off I
set to him, and after much chaffering I got our stones at 1000
pounds apiece. Then I looked in upon your son, told him that all
was right, and eventually got to my bed about two o'clock, after
what I may call a really hard day's work."
"A day which has saved England from a great public scandal," said
the banker, rising. "Sir, I cannot find words to thank you, but
you shall not find me ungrateful for what you have done. Your
skill has indeed exceeded all that I have heard of it. And now I
must fly to my dear boy to apologise to him for the wrong which I
have done him. As to what you tell me of poor Mary, it goes to my
very heart. Not even your skill can inform me where she is now."
"I think that we may safely say," returned Holmes, "that she is
wherever Sir George Burnwell is. It is equally certain, too, that
whatever her sins are, they will soon receive a more than
XII. THE ADVENTURE OF THE COPPER BEECHES
"To the man who loves art for its own sake," remarked Sherlock
Holmes, tossing aside the advertisement sheet of the Daily
Telegraph, "it is frequently in its least important and lowliest
manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived. It is
pleasant to me to observe, Watson, that you have so far grasped
this truth that in these little records of our cases which you
have been good enough to draw up, and, I am bound to say,
occasionally to embellish, you have given prominence not so much
to the many causes célèbres and sensational trials in which I
have figured but rather to those incidents which may have been
trivial in themselves, but which have given room for those
faculties of deduction and of logical synthesis which I have made
my special province."
"And yet," said I, smiling, "I cannot quite hold myself absolved
from the charge of sensationalism which has been urged against my
"You have erred, perhaps," he observed, taking up a glowing
cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood
pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a
disputatious rather than a meditative mood--"you have erred
perhaps in attempting to put colour and life into each of your
statements instead of confining yourself to the task of placing
upon record that severe reasoning from cause to effect which is
really the only notable feature about the thing."
"It seems to me that I have done you full justice in the matter,"
I remarked with some coldness, for I was repelled by the egotism
which I had more than once observed to be a strong factor in my
friend's singular character.
"No, it is not selfishness or conceit," said he, answering, as
was his wont, my thoughts rather than my words. "If I claim full
justice for my art, it is because it is an impersonal thing--a
thing beyond myself. Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it
is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should
dwell. You have degraded what should have been a course of
lectures into a series of tales."
It was a cold morning of the early spring, and we sat after
breakfast on either side of a cheery fire in the old room at
Baker Street. A thick fog rolled down between the lines of
dun-coloured houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark,
shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow wreaths. Our gas was lit
and shone on the white cloth and glimmer of china and metal, for
the table had not been cleared yet. Sherlock Holmes had been
silent all the morning, dipping continuously into the
advertisement columns of a succession of papers until at last,
having apparently given up his search, he had emerged in no very
sweet temper to lecture me upon my literary shortcomings.
"At the same time," he remarked after a pause, during which he
had sat puffing at his long pipe and gazing down into the fire,
"you can hardly be open to a charge of sensationalism, for out of
these cases which you have been so kind as to interest yourself
in, a fair proportion do not treat of crime, in its legal sense,
at all. The small matter in which I endeavoured to help the King
of Bohemia, the singular experience of Miss Mary Sutherland, the
problem connected with the man with the twisted lip, and the
incident of the noble bachelor, were all matters which are
outside the pale of the law. But in avoiding the sensational, I
fear that you may have bordered on the trivial."
"The end may have been so," I answered, "but the methods I hold
to have been novel and of interest."
"Pshaw, my dear fellow, what do the public, the great unobservant
public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a
compositor by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of
analysis and deduction! But, indeed, if you are trivial. I cannot
blame you, for the days of the great cases are past. Man, or at
least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. As
to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an
agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to
young ladies from boarding-schools. I think that I have touched
bottom at last, however. This note I had this morning marks my
zero-point, I fancy. Read it!" He tossed a crumpled letter across
It was dated from Montague Place upon the preceding evening, and
"DEAR MR. HOLMES:--I am very anxious to consult you as to whether
I should or should not accept a situation which has been offered
to me as governess. I shall call at half-past ten to-morrow if I
do not inconvenience you. Yours faithfully,
"Do you know the young lady?" I asked.
"It is half-past ten now."
"Yes, and I have no doubt that is her ring."
"It may turn out to be of more interest than you think. You
remember that the affair of the blue carbuncle, which appeared to
be a mere whim at first, developed into a serious investigation.
It may be so in this case, also."
"Well, let us hope so. But our doubts will very soon be solved,
for here, unless I am much mistaken, is the person in question."
As he spoke the door opened and a young lady entered the room.
She was plainly but neatly dressed, with a bright, quick face,
freckled like a plover's egg, and with the brisk manner of a
woman who has had her own way to make in the world.
"You will excuse my troubling you, I am sure," said she, as my
companion rose to greet her, "but I have had a very strange
experience, and as I have no parents or relations of any sort
from whom I could ask advice, I thought that perhaps you would be
kind enough to tell me what I should do."
"Pray take a seat, Miss Hunter. I shall be happy to do anything
that I can to serve you."
I could see that Holmes was favourably impressed by the manner
and speech of his new client. He looked her over in his searching
fashion, and then composed himself, with his lids drooping and
his finger-tips together, to listen to her story.
"I have been a governess for five years," said she, "in the
family of Colonel Spence Munro, but two months ago the colonel
received an appointment at Halifax, in Nova Scotia, and took his
children over to America with him, so that I found myself without
a situation. I advertised, and I answered advertisements, but
without success. At last the little money which I had saved began
to run short, and I was at my wit's end as to what I should do.
"There is a well-known agency for governesses in the West End
called Westaway's, and there I used to call about once a week in
order to see whether anything had turned up which might suit me.
Westaway was the name of the founder of the business, but it is
really managed by Miss Stoper. She sits in her own little office,
and the ladies who are seeking employment wait in an anteroom,
and are then shown in one by one, when she consults her ledgers
and sees whether she has anything which would suit them.
"Well, when I called last week I was shown into the little office
as usual, but I found that Miss Stoper was not alone. A
prodigiously stout man with a very smiling face and a great heavy
chin which rolled down in fold upon fold over his throat sat at
her elbow with a pair of glasses on his nose, looking very
earnestly at the ladies who entered. As I came in he gave quite a
jump in his chair and turned quickly to Miss Stoper.
"'That will do,' said he; 'I could not ask for anything better.
Capital! capital!' He seemed quite enthusiastic and rubbed his
hands together in the most genial fashion. He was such a
comfortable-looking man that it was quite a pleasure to look at
"'You are looking for a situation, miss?' he asked.
"'And what salary do you ask?'
"'I had 4 pounds a month in my last place with Colonel Spence
"'Oh, tut, tut! sweating--rank sweating!' he cried, throwing his
fat hands out into the air like a man who is in a boiling
passion. 'How could anyone offer so pitiful a sum to a lady with
such attractions and accomplishments?'
"'My accomplishments, sir, may be less than you imagine,' said I.
'A little French, a little German, music, and drawing--'
"'Tut, tut!' he cried. 'This is all quite beside the question.
The point is, have you or have you not the bearing and deportment
of a lady? There it is in a nutshell. If you have not, you are
not fitted for the rearing of a child who may some day play a
considerable part in the history of the country. But if you have
why, then, how could any gentleman ask you to condescend to
accept anything under the three figures? Your salary with me,
madam, would commence at 100 pounds a year.'
"You may imagine, Mr. Holmes, that to me, destitute as I was,
such an offer seemed almost too good to be true. The gentleman,
however, seeing perhaps the look of incredulity upon my face,
opened a pocket-book and took out a note.
"'It is also my custom,' said he, smiling in the most pleasant
fashion until his eyes were just two little shining slits amid
the white creases of his face, 'to advance to my young ladies
half their salary beforehand, so that they may meet any little
expenses of their journey and their wardrobe.'
"It seemed to me that I had never met so fascinating and so
thoughtful a man. As I was already in debt to my tradesmen, the
advance was a great convenience, and yet there was something
unnatural about the whole transaction which made me wish to know
a little more before I quite committed myself.
"'May I ask where you live, sir?' said I.
"'Hampshire. Charming rural place. The Copper Beeches, five miles
on the far side of Winchester. It is the most lovely country, my
dear young lady, and the dearest old country-house.'
"'And my duties, sir? I should be glad to know what they would
"'One child--one dear little romper just six years old. Oh, if
you could see him killing cockroaches with a slipper! Smack!
smack! smack! Three gone before you could wink!' He leaned back
in his chair and laughed his eyes into his head again.
"I was a little startled at the nature of the child's amusement,
but the father's laughter made me think that perhaps he was
"'My sole duties, then,' I asked, 'are to take charge of a single
"'No, no, not the sole, not the sole, my dear young lady,' he
cried. 'Your duty would be, as I am sure your good sense would
suggest, to obey any little commands my wife might give, provided
always that they were such commands as a lady might with
propriety obey. You see no difficulty, heh?'
"'I should be happy to make myself useful.'
"'Quite so. In dress now, for example. We are faddy people, you
know--faddy but kind-hearted. If you were asked to wear any dress
which we might give you, you would not object to our little whim.
"'No,' said I, considerably astonished at his words.
"'Or to sit here, or sit there, that would not be offensive to
"'Or to cut your hair quite short before you come to us?'
"I could hardly believe my ears. As you may observe, Mr. Holmes,
my hair is somewhat luxuriant, and of a rather peculiar tint of
chestnut. It has been considered artistic. I could not dream of
sacrificing it in this offhand fashion.
"'I am afraid that that is quite impossible,' said I. He had been
watching me eagerly out of his small eyes, and I could see a
shadow pass over his face as I spoke.
"'I am afraid that it is quite essential,' said he. 'It is a
little fancy of my wife's, and ladies' fancies, you know, madam,
ladies' fancies must be consulted. And so you won't cut your
"'No, sir, I really could not,' I answered firmly.
"'Ah, very well; then that quite settles the matter. It is a
pity, because in other respects you would really have done very
nicely. In that case, Miss Stoper, I had best inspect a few more
of your young ladies.'
"The manageress had sat all this while busy with her papers
without a word to either of us, but she glanced at me now with so
much annoyance upon her face that I could not help suspecting
that she had lost a handsome commission through my refusal.
"'Do you desire your name to be kept upon the books?' she asked.
"'If you please, Miss Stoper.'
"'Well, really, it seems rather useless, since you refuse the
most excellent offers in this fashion,' said she sharply. 'You
can hardly expect us to exert ourselves to find another such
opening for you. Good-day to you, Miss Hunter.' She struck a gong
upon the table, and I was shown out by the page.
"Well, Mr. Holmes, when I got back to my lodgings and found
little enough in the cupboard, and two or three bills upon the
table. I began to ask myself whether I had not done a very
foolish thing. After all, if these people had strange fads and
expected obedience on the most extraordinary matters, they were
at least ready to pay for their eccentricity. Very few
governesses in England are getting 100 pounds a year. Besides,
what use was my hair to me? Many people are improved by wearing
it short and perhaps I should be among the number. Next day I was
inclined to think that I had made a mistake, and by the day after
I was sure of it. I had almost overcome my pride so far as to go
back to the agency and inquire whether the place was still open
when I received this letter from the gentleman himself. I have it
here and I will read it to you:
"'The Copper Beeches, near Winchester.
"'DEAR MISS HUNTER:--Miss Stoper has very kindly given me your
address, and I write from here to ask you whether you have
reconsidered your decision. My wife is very anxious that you
should come, for she has been much attracted by my description of
you. We are willing to give 30 pounds a quarter, or 120 pounds a
year, so as to recompense you for any little inconvenience which
our fads may cause you. They are not very exacting, after all. My
wife is fond of a particular shade of electric blue and would
like you to wear such a dress indoors in the morning. You need
not, however, go to the expense of purchasing one, as we have one
belonging to my dear daughter Alice (now in Philadelphia), which
would, I should think, fit you very well. Then, as to sitting
here or there, or amusing yourself in any manner indicated, that
need cause you no inconvenience. As regards your hair, it is no
doubt a pity, especially as I could not help remarking its beauty
during our short interview, but I am afraid that I must remain
firm upon this point, and I only hope that the increased salary
may recompense you for the loss. Your duties, as far as the child
is concerned, are very light. Now do try to come, and I shall
meet you with the dog-cart at Winchester. Let me know your train.
Yours faithfully, JEPHRO RUCASTLE.'
"That is the letter which I have just received, Mr. Holmes, and
my mind is made up that I will accept it. I thought, however,
that before taking the final step I should like to submit the
whole matter to your consideration."
"Well, Miss Hunter, if your mind is made up, that settles the
question," said Holmes, smiling.
"But you would not advise me to refuse?"
"I confess that it is not the situation which I should like to
see a sister of mine apply for."
"What is the meaning of it all, Mr. Holmes?"
"Ah, I have no data. I cannot tell. Perhaps you have yourself
formed some opinion?"
"Well, there seems to me to be only one possible solution. Mr.
Rucastle seemed to be a very kind, good-natured man. Is it not
possible that his wife is a lunatic, that he desires to keep the
matter quiet for fear she should be taken to an asylum, and that
he humours her fancies in every way in order to prevent an
"That is a possible solution--in fact, as matters stand, it is
the most probable one. But in any case it does not seem to be a
nice household for a young lady."
"But the money, Mr. Holmes, the money!"
"Well, yes, of course the pay is good--too good. That is what
makes me uneasy. Why should they give you 120 pounds a year, when
they could have their pick for 40 pounds? There must be some
strong reason behind."
"I thought that if I told you the circumstances you would
understand afterwards if I wanted your help. I should feel so
much stronger if I felt that you were at the back of me."
"Oh, you may carry that feeling away with you. I assure you that
your little problem promises to be the most interesting which has
come my way for some months. There is something distinctly novel
about some of the features. If you should find yourself in doubt
or in danger--"
"Danger! What danger do you foresee?"
Holmes shook his head gravely. "It would cease to be a danger if
we could define it," said he. "But at any time, day or night, a
telegram would bring me down to your help."
"That is enough." She rose briskly from her chair with the
anxiety all swept from her face. "I shall go down to Hampshire
quite easy in my mind now. I shall write to Mr. Rucastle at once,
sacrifice my poor hair to-night, and start for Winchester
to-morrow." With a few grateful words to Holmes she bade us both
good-night and bustled off upon her way.
"At least," said I as we heard her quick, firm steps descending
the stairs, "she seems to be a young lady who is very well able
to take care of herself."
"And she would need to be," said Holmes gravely. "I am much
mistaken if we do not hear from her before many days are past."
It was not very long before my friend's prediction was fulfilled.
A fortnight went by, during which I frequently found my thoughts
turning in her direction and wondering what strange side-alley of
human experience this lonely woman had strayed into. The unusual
salary, the curious conditions, the light duties, all pointed to
something abnormal, though whether a fad or a plot, or whether
the man were a philanthropist or a villain, it was quite beyond
my powers to determine. As to Holmes, I observed that he sat
frequently for half an hour on end, with knitted brows and an
abstracted air, but he swept the matter away with a wave of his
hand when I mentioned it. "Data! data! data!" he cried
impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay." And yet he would
always wind up by muttering that no sister of his should ever
have accepted such a situation.
The telegram which we eventually received came late one night
just as I was thinking of turning in and Holmes was settling down
to one of those all-night chemical researches which he frequently
indulged in, when I would leave him stooping over a retort and a
test-tube at night and find him in the same position when I came
down to breakfast in the morning. He opened the yellow envelope,
and then, glancing at the message, threw it across to me.
"Just look up the trains in Bradshaw," said he, and turned back
to his chemical studies.
The summons was a brief and urgent one.
"Please be at the Black Swan Hotel at Winchester at midday
to-morrow," it said. "Do come! I am at my wit's end. HUNTER."
"Will you come with me?" asked Holmes, glancing up.
"I should wish to."
"Just look it up, then."
"There is a train at half-past nine," said I, glancing over my
Bradshaw. "It is due at Winchester at 11:30."
"That will do very nicely. Then perhaps I had better postpone my
analysis of the acetones, as we may need to be at our best in the
By eleven o'clock the next day we were well upon our way to the
old English capital. Holmes had been buried in the morning papers
all the way down, but after we had passed the Hampshire border he
threw them down and began to admire the scenery. It was an ideal
spring day, a light blue sky, flecked with little fleecy white
clouds drifting across from west to east. The sun was shining
very brightly, and yet there was an exhilarating nip in the air,
which set an edge to a man's energy. All over the countryside,
away to the rolling hills around Aldershot, the little red and
grey roofs of the farm-steadings peeped out from amid the light
green of the new foliage.
"Are they not fresh and beautiful?" I cried with all the
enthusiasm of a man fresh from the fogs of Baker Street.
But Holmes shook his head gravely.
"Do you know, Watson," said he, "that it is one of the curses of
a mind with a turn like mine that I must look at everything with
reference to my own special subject. You look at these scattered
houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them,
and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their
isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed
"Good heavens!" I cried. "Who would associate crime with these
dear old homesteads?"
"They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief,
Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest
alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin
than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."
"You horrify me!"
"But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion
can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no
lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of
a drunkard's blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among
the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever
so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is
but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these
lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part
with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the
deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on,
year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser. Had this
lady who appeals to us for help gone to live in Winchester, I
should never have had a fear for her. It is the five miles of
country which makes the danger. Still, it is clear that she is
not personally threatened."
"No. If she can come to Winchester to meet us she can get away."
"Quite so. She has her freedom."
"What CAN be the matter, then? Can you suggest no explanation?"
"I have devised seven separate explanations, each of which would
cover the facts as far as we know them. But which of these is