Part 1 out of 5
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THE MYSTERY OF 31 NEW INN
BY R. AUSTIN FREEMAN
Author of "The Red Thumb Mark,"
"The Eye of Osiris," etc.
TO MY FRIEND
BERNARD E. BISHOP
Commenting upon one of my earlier novels, in respect of which I had
claimed to have been careful to adhere to common probabilities and to
have made use only of really practicable methods of investigation, a
critic remarked that this was of no consequence whatever, so long as the
story was amusing.
Few people, I imagine, will agree with him. To most readers, and
certainly to the kind of reader for whom an author is willing to take
trouble, complete realism in respect of incidents and methods is an
essential factor in maintaining the interest of a detective story. Hence
it may be worth while to mention that Thorndyke's method of producing
the track chart, described in Chapters II and III, has been actually
used in practice. It is a modification of one devised by me many years
ago when I was crossing Ashanti to the city of Bontuku, the whereabouts
of which in the far interior was then only vaguely known. My
instructions were to fix the positions of all towns, villages, rivers
and mountains as accurately as possible; but finding ordinary methods of
surveying impracticable in the dense forest which covers the whole
region, I adopted this simple and apparently rude method, checking the
distances whenever possible by astronomical observation.
The resulting route-map was surprisingly accurate, as shown by the
agreement of the outward and homeward tracks, It was published by the
Royal Geographical Society, and incorporated in the map of this region
compiled by the Intelligence Branch of the War Office, and it formed the
basis of the map which accompanied my volume of Travels in Ashanti and
Jaman. So that Thorndyke's plan must be taken as quite a practicable
New Inn, the background of this story, and one of the last surviving
inns of Chancery, has recently passed away after upwards of four
centuries of newness. Even now, however, a few of the old, dismantled
houses (including perhaps, the mysterious 31) may be seen from the
Strand peeping over the iron roof of the skating rink which has
displaced the picturesque hall, the pension-room and the garden. The
postern gate, too, in Houghton Street still remains, though the arch is
bricked up inside. Passing it lately, I made the rough sketch which
appears on next page, and which shows all that is left of this pleasant
old London backwater.
R. A. F.
[Illustration: New Inn]
I THE MYSTERIOUS PATIENT
II THORNDYKE DEVISES A SCHEME
III "A CHIEL'S AMANG YE TAKIN' NOTES"
IV THE OFFICIAL VIEW
V JEFFREY BLACKMORE'S WILL
VI JEFFREY BLACKMORE, DECEASED
VII THE CUNEIFORM INSCRIPTION
VIII THE TRACK CHART
IX THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY
X THE HUNTER HUNTED
XI THE BLACKMORE CASE REVIEWED
XII THE PORTRAIT
XIII THE STATEMENT OF SAMUEL WILKINS
XIV THORNDYKE LAYS THE MINE
XV THORNDYKE EXPLODES THE MINE
XVI AN EXPOSITION AND A TRAGEDY
The Mysterious Patient
As I look back through the years of my association with John Thorndyke,
I am able to recall a wealth of adventures and strange experiences such
as falls to the lot of very few men who pass their lives within hearing
of Big Ben. Many of these experiences I have already placed on record;
but it now occurs to me that I have hitherto left unrecorded one that
is, perhaps, the most astonishing and incredible of the whole series; an
adventure, too, that has for me the added interest that it inaugurated
my permanent association with my learned and talented friend, and marked
the close of a rather unhappy and unprosperous period of my life.
Memory, retracing the journey through the passing years to the
starting-point of those strange events, lands me in a shabby little
ground-floor room in a house near the Walworth end of Lower Kennington
Lane. A couple of framed diplomas on the wall, a card of Snellen's
test-types and a stethoscope lying on the writing-table, proclaim it a
doctor's consulting-room; and my own position in the round-backed chair
at the said table, proclaims me the practitioner in charge.
It was nearly nine o'clock. The noisy little clock on the mantelpiece
announced the fact, and, by its frantic ticking, seemed as anxious as I
to get the consultation hours over. I glanced wistfully at my
mud-splashed boots and wondered if I might yet venture to assume the
slippers that peeped coyly from under the shabby sofa. I even allowed my
thoughts to wander to the pipe that reposed in my coat pocket. Another
minute and I could turn down the surgery gas and shut the outer door.
The fussy little clock gave a sort of preliminary cough or hiccup, as if
it should say: "Ahem! ladies and gentlemen, I am about to strike." And
at that moment, the bottle-boy opened the door and, thrusting in his
head, uttered the one word: "Gentleman."
Extreme economy of words is apt to result in ambiguity. But I
understood. In Kennington Lane, the race of mere men and women appeared
to be extinct. They were all gentlemen--unless they were ladies or
children--even as the Liberian army was said to consist entirely of
generals. Sweeps, labourers, milkmen, costermongers--all were
impartially invested by the democratic bottle-boy with the rank and
title of armigeri. The present nobleman appeared to favour the
aristocratic recreation of driving a cab or job-master's carriage, and,
as he entered the room, he touched his hat, closed the door somewhat
carefully, and then, without remark, handed me a note which bore the
superscription "Dr. Stillbury."
"You understand," I said, as I prepared to open the envelope, "that I
am not Dr. Stillbury. He is away at present and I am looking after his
"It doesn't signify," the man replied. "You'll do as well."
On this, I opened the envelope and read the note, which was quite brief,
and, at first sight, in no way remarkable.
"DEAR SIR," it ran, "Would you kindly come and see a friend of mine who
is staying with me? The bearer of this will give you further particulars
and convey you to the house. Yours truly, H. WEISS."
There was no address on the paper and no date, and the writer was
unknown to me.
"This note," I said, "refers to some further particulars. What are
The messenger passed his hand over his hair with a gesture of
embarrassment. "It's a ridicklus affair," he said, with a contemptuous
laugh. "If I had been Mr. Weiss, I wouldn't have had nothing to do with
it. The sick gentleman, Mr. Graves, is one of them people what can't
abear doctors. He's been ailing now for a week or two, but nothing would
induce him to see a doctor. Mr. Weiss did everything he could to
persuade him, but it was no go. He wouldn't. However, it seems Mr. Weiss
threatened to send for a medical man on his own account, because, you
see, he was getting a bit nervous; and then Mr. Graves gave way. But
only on one condition. He said the doctor was to come from a distance
and was not to be told who he was or where he lived or anything about
him; and he made Mr. Weiss promise to keep to that condition before he'd
let him send. So Mr. Weiss promised, and, of course, he's got to keep
"But," I said, with a smile, "you've just told me his name--if his name
really is Graves."
"You can form your own opinion on that," said the coachman.
"And," I added, "as to not being told where he lives, I can see that for
myself. I'm not blind, you know."
"We'll take the risk of what you see," the man replied. "The question
is, will you take the job on?"
Yes; that was the question, and I considered it for some time before
replying. We medical men are pretty familiar with the kind of person who
"can't abear doctors," and we like to have as little to do with him as
possible. He is a thankless and unsatisfactory patient. Intercourse with
him is unpleasant, he gives a great deal of trouble and responds badly
to treatment. If this had been my own practice, I should have declined
the case off-hand. But it was not my practice. I was only a deputy. I
could not lightly refuse work which would yield a profit to my
principal, unpleasant though it might be.
As I turned the matter over in my mind, I half unconsciously scrutinized
my visitor--somewhat to his embarrassment--and I liked his appearance
as little as I liked his mission. He kept his station near the door,
where the light was dim--for the illumination was concentrated on the
table and the patient's chair--but I could see that he had a somewhat
sly, unprepossessing face and a greasy, red moustache that seemed out of
character with his rather perfunctory livery; though this was mere
prejudice. He wore a wig, too--not that there was anything discreditable
in that--and the thumb-nail of the hand that held his hat bore
disfiguring traces of some injury--which, again, though unsightly, in no
wise reflected on his moral character. Lastly, he watched me keenly with
a mixture of anxiety and sly complacency that I found distinctly
unpleasant. In a general way, he impressed me disagreeably. I did not
like the look of him at all; but nevertheless I decided to undertake the
"I suppose," I answered, at length, "it is no affair of mine who the
patient is or where he lives. But how do you propose to manage the
business? Am I to be led to the house blindfolded, like the visitor to
the bandit's cave?"
The man grinned slightly and looked very decidedly relieved.
"No, sir," he answered; "we ain't going to blindfold you. I've got a
carriage outside. I don't think you'll see much out of that."
"Very well," I rejoined, opening the door to let him out, "I'll be with
you in a minute. I suppose you can't give me any idea as to what is the
matter with the patient?"
"No, sir, I can't," he replied; and he went out to see to the carriage.
I slipped into a bag an assortment of emergency drugs and a few
diagnostic instruments, turned down the gas and passed out through the
surgery. The carriage was standing at the kerb, guarded by the coachman
and watched with deep interest by the bottle-boy. I viewed it with
mingled curiosity and disfavour. It was a kind of large brougham, such
as is used by some commercial travellers, the usual glass windows being
replaced by wooden shutters intended to conceal the piles of
sample-boxes, and the doors capable of being locked from outside with a
As I emerged from the house, the coachman unlocked the door and held it
"How long will the journey take?" I asked, pausing with my foot on the
The coachman considered a moment or two and replied:
"It took me, I should say, nigh upon half an hour to get here."
This was pleasant hearing. A half an hour each way and a half an hour at
the patient's house. At that rate it would be half-past ten before I was
home again, and then it was quite probable that I should find some other
untimely messenger waiting on the doorstep. With a muttered anathema on
the unknown Mr. Graves and the unrestful life of a locum tenens, I
stepped into the uninviting vehicle. Instantly the coachman slammed the
door and turned the key, leaving me in total darkness.
One comfort was left to me; my pipe was in my pocket. I made shift to
load it in the dark, and, having lit it with a wax match, took the
opportunity to inspect the interior of my prison. It was a shabby
affair. The moth-eaten state of the blue cloth cushions seemed to
suggest that it had been long out of regular use; the oil-cloth
floor-covering was worn into holes; ordinary internal fittings there
were none. But the appearances suggested that the crazy vehicle had been
prepared with considerable forethought for its present use. The inside
handles of the doors had apparently been removed; the wooden shutters
were permanently fixed in their places; and a paper label, stuck on the
transom below each window, had a suspicious appearance of having been
put there to cover the painted name and address of the job-master or
livery-stable keeper who had originally owned the carriage.
These observations gave me abundant food for reflection. This Mr. Weiss
must be an excessively conscientious man if he had considered that his
promise to Mr. Graves committed him to such extraordinary precautions.
Evidently no mere following of the letter of the law was enough to
satisfy his sensitive conscience. Unless he had reasons for sharing Mr.
Graves's unreasonable desire for secrecy--for one could not suppose that
these measures of concealment had been taken by the patient himself.
The further suggestions that evolved themselves from this consideration
were a little disquieting. Whither was I being carried and for what
purpose? The idea that I was bound for some den of thieves where I
might be robbed and possibly murdered, I dismissed with a smile. Thieves
do not make elaborately concerted plans to rob poor devils like me.
Poverty has its compensations in that respect. But there were other
possibilities. Imagination backed by experience had no difficulty in
conjuring up a number of situations in which a medical man might be
called upon, with or without coercion, either to witness or actively to
participate in the commission of some unlawful act.
Reflections of this kind occupied me pretty actively if not very
agreeably during this strange journey. And the monotony was relieved,
too, by other distractions. I was, for example, greatly interested to
notice how, when one sense is in abeyance, the other senses rouse into a
compensating intensity of perception. I sat smoking my pipe in darkness
which was absolute save for the dim glow from the smouldering tobacco in
the bowl, and seemed to be cut off from all knowledge of the world
without. But yet I was not. The vibrations of the carriage, with its
hard springs and iron-tired wheels, registered accurately and plainly
the character of the roadway. The harsh rattle of granite setts, the
soft bumpiness of macadam, the smooth rumble of wood-pavement, the
jarring and swerving of crossed tram-lines; all were easily recognizable
and together sketched the general features of the neighbourhood through
which I was passing. And the sense of hearing filled in the details. Now
the hoot of a tug's whistle told of proximity to the river. A sudden
and brief hollow reverberation announced the passage under a railway
arch (which, by the way, happened several times during the journey);
and, when I heard the familiar whistle of a railway-guard followed by
the quick snorts of a skidding locomotive, I had as clear a picture of a
heavy passenger-train moving out of a station as if I had seen it in
I had just finished my pipe and knocked out the ashes on the heel of my
boot, when the carriage slowed down and entered a covered way--as I
could tell by the hollow echoes. Then I distinguished the clang of heavy
wooden gates closed behind me, and a moment or two later the carriage
door was unlocked and opened. I stepped out blinking into a covered
passage paved with cobbles and apparently leading down to a mews; but it
was all in darkness, and I had no time to make any detailed
observations, as the carriage had drawn up opposite a side door which
was open and in which stood a woman holding a lighted candle.
"Is that the doctor?" she asked, speaking with a rather pronounced
German accent and shading the candle with her hand as she peered at me.
I answered in the affirmative, and she then exclaimed:
"I am glad you have come. Mr. Weiss will be so relieved. Come in,
I followed her across a dark passage into a dark room, where she set the
candle down on a chest of drawers and turned to depart. At the door,
however, she paused and looked back.
"It is not a very nice room to ask you into," she said. "We are very
untidy just now, but you must excuse us. We have had so much anxiety
about poor Mr. Graves."
"He has been ill some time, then?"
"Yes. Some little time. At intervals, you know. Sometimes better,
sometimes not so well."
As she spoke, she gradually backed out into the passage but did not go
away at once. I accordingly pursued my inquiries.
"He has not been seen by any doctor, has he?"
"No," she answered, "he has always refused to see a doctor. That has
been a great trouble to us. Mr. Weiss has been very anxious about him.
He will be so glad to hear that you have come. I had better go and tell
him. Perhaps you will kindly sit down until he is able to come to you,"
and with this she departed on her mission.
It struck me as a little odd that, considering his anxiety and the
apparent urgency of the case, Mr. Weiss should not have been waiting to
receive me. And when several minutes elapsed without his appearing, the
oddness of the circumstance impressed me still more. Having no desire,
after the journey in the carriage, to sit down, I whiled away the time
by an inspection of the room. And a very curious room it was; bare,
dirty, neglected and, apparently, unused. A faded carpet had been flung
untidily on the floor. A small, shabby table stood in the middle of the
room; and beyond this, three horsehair-covered chairs and a chest of
drawers formed the entire set of furniture. No pictures hung on the
mouldy walls, no curtains covered the shuttered windows, and the dark
drapery of cobwebs that hung from the ceiling to commemorate a long and
illustrious dynasty of spiders hinted at months of neglect and disuse.
The chest of drawers--an incongruous article of furniture for what
seemed to be a dining-room--as being the nearest and best lighted object
received most of my attention. It was a fine old chest of nearly black
mahogany, very battered and in the last stage of decay, but originally a
piece of some pretensions. Regretful of its fallen estate, I looked it
over with some interest and had just observed on its lower corner a
little label bearing the printed inscription "Lot 201" when I heard
footsteps descending the stairs. A moment later the door opened and a
shadowy figure appeared standing close by the threshold.
"Good evening, doctor," said the stranger, in a deep, quiet voice and
with a distinct, though not strong, German accent. "I must apologize for
keeping you waiting."
I acknowledged the apology somewhat stiffly and asked: "You are Mr.
Weiss, I presume?"
"Yes, I am Mr. Weiss. It is very good of you to come so far and so late
at night and to make no objection to the absurd conditions that my poor
friend has imposed."
"Not at all," I replied. "It is my business to go when and where I am
wanted, and it is not my business to inquire into the private affairs of
"That is very true, sir," he agreed cordially, "and I am much obliged
to you for taking that very proper view of the case. I pointed that out
to my friend, but he is not a very reasonable man. He is very secretive
and rather suspicious by nature."
"So I inferred. And as to his condition; is he seriously ill?"
"Ah," said Mr. Weiss, "that is what I want you to tell me. I am very
much puzzled about him."
"But what is the nature of his illness? What does he complain of?"
"He makes very few complaints of any kind although he is obviously ill.
But the fact is that he is hardly ever more than half awake. He lies in
a kind of dreamy stupor from morning to night."
This struck me as excessively strange and by no means in agreement with
the patient's energetic refusal to see a doctor.
"But," I asked, "does he never rouse completely?"
"Oh, yes," Mr. Weiss answered quickly; "he rouses from time to time and
is then quite rational, and, as you may have gathered, rather obstinate.
That is the peculiar and puzzling feature in the case; this alternation
between a state of stupor and an almost normal and healthy condition.
But perhaps you had better see him and judge for yourself. He had a
rather severe attack just now. Follow me, please. The stairs are rather
The stairs were very dark, and I noticed that they were without any
covering of carpet, or even oil-cloth, so that our footsteps resounded
dismally as if we were in an empty house. I stumbled up after my guide,
feeling my way by the hand-rail, and on the first floor followed him
into a room similar in size to the one below and very barely furnished,
though less squalid than the other. A single candle at the farther end
threw its feeble light on a figure in the bed, leaving the rest of the
room in a dim twilight.
As Mr. Weiss tiptoed into the chamber, a woman--the one who had spoken
to me below--rose from a chair by the bedside and quietly left the room
by a second door. My conductor halted, and looking fixedly at the figure
in the bed, called out:
"Philip! Philip! Here is the doctor come to see you."
He paused for a moment or two, and, receiving no answer, said: "He seems
to be dozing as usual. Will you go and see what you can make of him?"
I stepped forward to the bedside, leaving Mr. Weiss at the end of the
room near the door by which we had entered, where he remained, slowly
and noiselessly pacing backwards and forwards in the semi-obscurity. By
the light of the candle I saw an elderly man with good features and a
refined, intelligent and even attractive face, but dreadfully emaciated,
bloodless and sallow. He lay quite motionless except for the scarcely
perceptible rise and fall of his chest; his eyes were nearly closed, his
features relaxed, and, though he was not actually asleep, he seemed to
be in a dreamy, somnolent, lethargic state, as if under the influence of
I watched him for a minute or so, timing his slow breathing by my
watch, and then suddenly and sharply addressed him by name; but the only
response was a slight lifting of the eyelids, which, after a brief,
drowsy glance at me, slowly subsided to their former position.
I now proceeded to make a physical examination. First, I felt his pulse,
grasping his wrist with intentional brusqueness in the hope of rousing
him from his stupor. The beats were slow, feeble and slightly irregular,
giving clear evidence, if any were needed, of his generally lowered
vitality. I listened carefully to his heart, the sounds of which were
very distinct through the thin walls of his emaciated chest, but found
nothing abnormal beyond the feebleness and uncertainty of its action.
Then I turned my attention to his eyes, which I examined closely with
the aid of the candle and my ophthalmoscope lens, raising the lids
somewhat roughly so as to expose the whole of the irides. He submitted
without resistance to my rather ungentle handling of these sensitive
structures, and showed no signs of discomfort even when I brought the
candle-flame to within a couple of inches of his eyes.
But this extraordinary tolerance of light was easily explained by closer
examination; for the pupils were contracted to such an extreme degree
that only the very minutest point of black was visible at the centre of
the grey iris. Nor was this the only abnormal peculiarity of the sick
man's eyes. As he lay on his back, the right iris sagged down slightly
towards its centre, showing a distinctly concave surface; and, when I
contrived to produce a slight but quick movement of the eyeball, a
perceptible undulatory movement could be detected. The patient had, in
fact, what is known as a tremulous iris, a condition that is seen in
cases where the crystalline lens has been extracted for the cure of
cataract, or where it has become accidentally displaced, leaving the
iris unsupported. In the present case, the complete condition of the
iris made it clear that the ordinary extraction operation had not been
performed, nor was I able, on the closest inspection with the aid of my
lens, to find any trace of the less common "needle operation." The
inference was that the patient had suffered from the accident known as
"dislocation of the lens"; and this led to the further inference that he
was almost or completely blind in the right eye.
This conclusion was, indeed, to some extent negatived by a deep
indentation on the bridge of the nose, evidently produced by spectacles,
and by marks which I looked for and found behind the ears, corresponding
to the hooks or "curl sides" of the glasses. For those spectacles which
are fitted with curl sides to hook over the ears are usually intended to
be worn habitually, and this agreed with the indentation on the nose;
which was deeper than would have been accounted for by the merely
occasional use of spectacles for reading. But if only one eye was
useful, a single eye-glass would have answered the purpose; not that
there was any weight in this objection, for a single eye-glass worn
constantly would be much less convenient than a pair of hook-sided
As to the nature of the patient's illness, only one opinion seemed
possible. It was a clear and typical case of opium or morphine
poisoning. To this conclusion all his symptoms seemed to point with
absolute certainty. The coated tongue, which he protruded slowly and
tremulously in response to a command bawled in his ear; his yellow skin
and ghastly expression; his contracted pupils and the stupor from which
he could hardly be roused by the roughest handling and which yet did not
amount to actual insensibility; all these formed a distinct and coherent
group of symptoms, not only pointing plainly to the nature of the drug,
but also suggesting a very formidable dose.
But this conclusion in its turn raised a very awkward and difficult
question. If a large--a poisonous--dose of the drug had been taken, how,
and by whom had that dose been administered? The closest scrutiny of
the patient's arms and legs failed to reveal a single mark such as would
be made by a hypodermic needle. This man was clearly no common
morphinomaniac; and in the absence of the usual sprinkling of
needlemarks, there was nothing to show or suggest whether the drug had
been taken voluntarily by the patient himself or administered by someone
And then there remained the possibility that I might, after all, be
mistaken in my diagnosis. I felt pretty confident. But the wise man
always holds a doubt in reserve. And, in the present case, having regard
to the obviously serious condition of the patient, such a doubt was
eminently disturbing. Indeed, as I pocketed my stethoscope and took a
last look at the motionless, silent figure, I realized that my position
was one of extraordinary difficulty and perplexity. On the one hand my
suspicions--aroused, naturally enough, by the very unusual circumstances
that surrounded my visit--inclined me to extreme reticence; while, on
the other, it was evidently my duty to give any information that might
prove serviceable to the patient.
As I turned away from the bed Mr. Weiss stopped his slow pacing to and
fro and faced me. The feeble light of the candle now fell on him, and I
saw him distinctly for the first time. He did not impress me favourably.
He was a thick-set, round-shouldered man, a typical fair German with
tow-coloured hair, greased and brushed down smoothly, a large, ragged,
sandy beard and coarse, sketchy features. His nose was large and thick
with a bulbous end, and inclined to a reddish purple, a tint which
extended to the adjacent parts of his face as if the colour had run. His
eyebrows were large and beetling, overhanging deep-set eyes, and he wore
a pair of spectacles which gave him a somewhat owlish expression. His
exterior was unprepossessing, and I was in a state of mind that rendered
me easily receptive of an unfavourable impression.
"Well," he said, "what do you make of him?" I hesitated, still perplexed
by the conflicting necessities of caution and frankness, but at length
"I think rather badly of him, Mr. Weiss. He is in a very low state."
"Yes, I can see that. But have you come to any decision as to the nature
of his illness?"
There was a tone of anxiety and suppressed eagerness in the question
which, while it was natural enough in the circumstances, by no means
allayed my suspicions, but rather influenced me on the side of caution.
"I cannot give a very definite opinion at present," I replied guardedly.
"The symptoms are rather obscure and might very well indicate several
different conditions. They might be due to congestion of the brain, and,
if no other explanation were possible, I should incline to that view.
The alternative is some narcotic poison, such as opium or morphia."
"But that is quite impossible. There is no such drug in the house, and
as he never leaves his room now, he could not get any from outside."
"What about the servants?" I asked.
"There are no servants excepting my housekeeper, and she is absolutely
"He might have some store of the drug that you are not aware of. Is he
left alone much?"
"Very seldom indeed. I spend as much time with him as I can, and when I
am not able to be in the room, Mrs Schallibaum, my housekeeper, sits
"Is he often as drowsy as he is now?"
"Oh, very often; in fact, I should say that is his usual condition. He
rouses up now and again, and then he is quite lucid and natural for,
perhaps, an hour or so; but presently he becomes drowsy again and doses
off, and remains asleep, or half asleep, for hours on end. Do you know
of any disease that takes people in that way?"
"No," I answered. "The symptoms are not exactly like those of any
disease that is known to me. But they are much very like those of opium
"But, my dear sir," Mr. Weiss retorted impatiently, "since it is clearly
impossible that it can be opium poisoning, it must be something else.
Now, what else can it be? You were speaking of congestion of the brain."
"Yes. But the objection to that is the very complete recovery that seems
to take place in the intervals."
"I would not say very complete," said Mr. Weiss. "The recovery is rather
comparative. He is lucid and fairly natural in his manner, but he is
still dull and lethargic. He does not, for instance, show any desire to
go out, or even to leave his room."
I pondered uncomfortably on these rather contradictory statements.
Clearly Mr. Weiss did not mean to entertain the theory of opium
poisoning; which was natural enough if he had no knowledge of the drug
having been used. But still--
"I suppose," said Mr. Weiss, "you have experience of sleeping sickness?"
The suggestion startled me. I had not. Very few people had. At that time
practically nothing was known about the disease. It was a mere
pathological curiosity, almost unheard of excepting by a few
practitioners in remote parts of Africa, and hardly referred to in the
text-books. Its connection with the trypanosome-bearing insects was as
yet unsuspected, and, to me, its symptoms were absolutely unknown.
"No, I have not," I replied. "The disease is nothing more than a name to
me. But why do you ask? Has Mr. Graves been abroad?"
"Yes. He has been travelling for the last three or four years, and I
know that he spent some time recently in West Africa, where this disease
occurs. In fact, it was from him that I first heard about it."
This was a new fact. It shook my confidence in my diagnosis very
considerably, and inclined me to reconsider my suspicions. If Mr. Weiss
was lying to me, he now had me at a decided disadvantage.
"What do you think?" he asked. "Is it possible that this can be sleeping
"I should not like to say that it is impossible," I replied. "The
disease is practically unknown to me. I have never practised out of
England and have had no occasion to study it. Until I have looked the
subject up, I should not be in a position to give an opinion. Of course,
if I could see Mr. Graves in one of what we may call his 'lucid
intervals' I should be able to form a better idea. Do you think that
could be managed?"
"It might. I see the importance of it and will certainly do my best; but
he is a difficult man; a very difficult man. I sincerely hope it is not
"Because--as I understood from him--that disease is invariably fatal,
sooner or later. There seem to be no cure. Do you think you will be able
to decide when you see him again?"
"I hope so," I replied. "I shall look up the authorities and see exactly
what the symptoms are--that is, so far as they are known; but my
impression is that there is very little information available."
"And in the meantime?"
"We will give him some medicine and attend to his general condition, and
you had better let me see him again as soon as possible." I was about to
say that the effect of the medicine itself might throw some light on the
patient's condition, but, as I proposed to treat him for morphine
poisoning, I thought it wiser to keep this item of information to
myself. Accordingly, I confined myself to a few general directions as to
the care of the patient, to which Mr. Weiss listened attentively. "And,"
I concluded, "we must not lose sight of the opium question. You had
better search the room carefully and keep a close watch on the patient,
especially during his intervals of wakefulness."
"Very well, doctor," Mr. Weiss replied, "I will do all that you tell me
and I will send for you again as soon as possible, if you do not object
to poor Graves's ridiculous conditions. And now, if you will allow me to
pay your fee, I will go and order the carriage while you are writing the
"There is no need for a prescription," I said. "I will make up some
medicine and give it to the coachman."
Mr. Weiss seemed inclined to demur to this arrangement, but I had my own
reasons for insisting on it. Modern prescriptions are not difficult to
read, and I did not wish Mr. Weiss to know what treatment the patient
As soon as I was left alone, I returned to the bedside and once more
looked down at the impassive figure. And as I looked, my suspicions
revived. It was very like morphine poisoning; and, if it was morphine,
it was no common, medicinal dose that had been given. I opened my bag
and took out my hypodermic case from which I extracted a little tube of
atropine tabloids. Shaking out into my hand a couple of the tiny discs,
I drew down the patient's under-lip and slipped the little tablets under
his tongue. Then I quickly replaced the tube and dropped the case into
my bag; and I had hardly done so when the door opened softly and the
housekeeper entered the room.
"How do you find Mr. Graves?" she asked in what I thought a very
unnecessarily low tone, considering the patient's lethargic state.
"He seems to be very ill," I answered.
"So!" she rejoined, and added: "I am sorry to hear that. We have been
anxious about him."
She seated herself on the chair by the bedside, and, shading the candle
from the patient's face--and her own, too--produced from a bag that hung
from her waist a half-finished stocking and began to knit silently and
with the skill characteristic of the German housewife. I looked at her
attentively (though she was so much in the shadow that I could see her
but indistinctly) and somehow her appearance prepossessed me as little
as did that of the other members of the household. Yet she was not an
ill-looking woman. She had an excellent figure, and the air of a person
of good social position; her features were good enough and her
colouring, although a little unusual, was not unpleasant. Like Mr.
Weiss, she had very fair hair, greased, parted in the middle and brushed
down as smoothly as the painted hair of a Dutch doll. She appeared to
have no eyebrows at all--owing, no doubt, to the light colour of the
hair--and the doll-like character was emphasized by her eyes, which were
either brown or dark grey, I could not see which. A further peculiarity
consisted in a "habit spasm," such as one often sees in nervous
children; a periodical quick jerk of the head, as if a cap-string or
dangling lock were being shaken off the cheek. Her age I judged to be
The carriage, which one might have expected to be waiting, seemed to
take some time in getting ready. I sat, with growing impatience,
listening to the sick man's soft breathing and the click of the
housekeeper's knitting-needles. I wanted to get home, not only for my
own sake; the patient's condition made it highly desirable that the
remedies should be given as quickly as possible. But the minutes dragged
on, and I was on the point of expostulating when a bell rang on the
"The carriage is ready," said Mrs. Schallibaum. "Let me light you down
She rose, and, taking the candle, preceded me to the head of the stairs,
where she stood holding the light over the baluster-rail as I descended
and crossed the passage to the open side door. The carriage was drawn up
in the covered way as I could see by the faint glimmer of the distant
candle; which also enabled me dimly to discern the coachman standing
close by in the shadow. I looked round, rather expecting to see Mr.
Weiss, but, as he made no appearance, I entered the carriage. The door
was immediately banged to and locked, and I then heard the heavy bolts
of the gates withdrawn and the loud creaking of hinges. The carriage
moved out slowly and stopped; the gates slammed to behind me; I felt the
lurch as the coachman climbed to his seat and we started forward.
My reflections during the return journey were the reverse of agreeable.
I could not rid myself of the conviction that I was being involved in
some very suspicious proceedings. It was possible, of course, that this
feeling was due to the strange secrecy that surrounded my connection
with this case; that, had I made my visit under ordinary conditions, I
might have found in the patient's symptoms nothing to excite suspicion
or alarm. It might be so, but that consideration did not comfort me.
Then, my diagnosis might be wrong. It might be that this was, in
reality, a case of some brain affection accompanied by compression, such
as slow haemorrhage, abscess, tumour or simple congestion. These cases
were very difficult at times. But the appearances in this one did not
consistently agree with the symptoms accompanying any of these
conditions. As to sleeping sickness, it was, perhaps a more hopeful
suggestion, but I could not decide for or against it until I had more
knowledge; and against this view was the weighty fact that the symptoms
did exactly agree with the theory of morphine poisoning.
But even so, there was no conclusive evidence of any criminal act. The
patient might be a confirmed opium-eater, and the symptoms heightened by
deliberate deception. The cunning of these unfortunates is proverbial
and is only equalled by their secretiveness and mendacity. It would be
quite possible for this man to feign profound stupor so long as he was
watched, and then, when left alone for a few minutes, to nip out of bed
and help himself from some secret store of the drug. This would be quite
in character with his objection to seeing a doctor and his desire for
secrecy. But still, I did not believe it to be the true explanation. In
spite of all the various alternative possibilities, my suspicions came
back to Mr. Weiss and the strange, taciturn woman, and refused to budge.
For all the circumstances of the case were suspicious. The elaborate
preparations implied by the state of the carriage in which I was
travelling; the make-shift appearance of the house; the absence of
ordinary domestic servants, although a coachman was kept; the evident
desire of Mr. Weiss and the woman to avoid thorough inspection of their
persons; and, above all, the fact that the former had told me a
deliberate lie. For he had lied, beyond all doubt. His statement as to
the almost continuous stupor was absolutely irreconcilable with his
other statement as to the patient's wilfulness and obstinacy and even
more irreconcilable with the deep and comparatively fresh marks of the
spectacles on the patient's nose. That man had certainly worn spectacles
within twenty-four hours, which he would hardly have done if he had been
in a state bordering on coma.
My reflections were interrupted by the stopping of the carriage. The
door was unlocked and thrown open, and I emerged from my dark and stuffy
prison opposite my own house.
"I will let you have the medicine in a minute or two," I said to the
coachman; and, as I let myself in with my latch-key, my mind came back
swiftly from the general circumstances of the case to the very critical
condition of the patient. Already I was regretting that I had not taken
more energetic measures to rouse him and restore his flagging vitality;
for it would be a terrible thing if he should take a turn for the worse
and die before the coachman returned with the remedies. Spurred on by
this alarming thought, I made up the medicines quickly and carried the
hastily wrapped bottles out to the man, whom I found standing by the
"Get back as quickly as you can," I said, "and tell Mr. Weiss to lose no
time in giving the patient the draught in the small bottle. The
directions are on the labels."
The coachman took the packages from me without reply, climbed to his
seat, touched the horse with his whip and drove off at a rapid pace
towards Newington Butts.
The little clock in the consulting-room showed that it was close on
eleven; time for a tired G.P. to be thinking of bed. But I was not
sleepy. Over my frugal supper I found myself taking up anew the thread
of my meditations, and afterwards, as I smoked my last pipe by the
expiring surgery fire, the strange and sinister features of the case
continued to obtrude themselves on my notice. I looked up Stillbury's
little reference library for information on the subject of sleeping
sickness, but learned no more than that it was "a rare and obscure
disease of which very little was known at present." I read up morphine
poisoning and was only further confirmed in the belief that my diagnosis
was correct; which would have been more satisfactory if the
circumstances had been different.
For the interest of the case was not merely academic. I was in a
position of great difficulty and responsibility and had to decide on a
course of action. What ought I to do? Should I maintain the professional
secrecy to which I was tacitly committed, or ought I to convey a hint to
Suddenly, and with a singular feeling of relief, I bethought myself of
my old friend and fellow-student, John Thorndyke, now an eminent
authority on Medical Jurisprudence. I had been associated with him
temporarily in one case as his assistant, and had then been deeply
impressed by his versatile learning, his acuteness and his marvellous
resourcefulness. Thorndyke was a barrister in extensive practice, and so
would be able to tell me at once what was my duty from a legal point of
view; and, as he was also a doctor of medicine, he would understand the
exigencies of medical practice. If I could find time to call at the
Temple and lay the case before him, all my doubts and difficulties would
Anxiously, I opened my visiting-list to see what kind of day's work was
in store for me on the morrow. It was not a heavy day, even allowing for
one or two extra calls in the morning, but yet I was doubtful whether it
would allow of my going so far from my district, until my eye caught,
near the foot of the page, the name of Burton. Now Mr. Burton lived in
one of the old houses on the east side of Bouverie Street, less than
five minutes' walk from Thorndyke's chambers in King's Bench Walk; and
he was, moreover, a "chronic" who could safely be left for the last.
When I had done with Mr. Burton I could look in on my friend with a very
good chance of catching him on his return from the hospital. I could
allow myself time for quite a long chat with him, and, by taking a
hansom, still get back in good time for the evening's work.
This was a great comfort. At the prospect of sharing my responsibilities
with a friend on whose judgment I could so entirely rely, my
embarrassments seemed to drop from me in a moment. Having entered the
engagement in my visiting-list, I rose, in greatly improved spirits, and
knocked out my pipe just as the little clock banged out impatiently the
hour of midnight.
Thorndyke Devises a Scheme
As I entered the Temple by the Tudor Street gate the aspect of the place
smote my senses with an air of agreeable familiarity. Here had I spent
many a delightful hour when working with Thorndyke at the remarkable
Hornby case, which the newspapers had called "The Case of the Red Thumb
Mark"; and here had I met the romance of my life, the story whereof is
told elsewhere. The place was thus endeared to me by pleasant
recollections of a happy past, and its associations suggested hopes of
happiness yet to come and in the not too far distant future.
My brisk tattoo on the little brass knocker brought to the door no less
a person than Thorndyke himself; and the warmth of his greeting made me
at once proud and ashamed. For I had not only been an absentee; I had
been a very poor correspondent.
"The prodigal has returned, Polton," he exclaimed, looking into the
room. "Here is Dr. Jervis."
I followed him into the room and found Polton--his confidential servant,
laboratory assistant, artificer and general "familiar"--setting out the
tea-tray on a small table. The little man shook hands cordially with me,
and his face crinkled up into the sort of smile that one might expect to
see on a benevolent walnut.
"We've often talked about you, sir," said he. "The doctor was wondering
only yesterday when you were coming back to us."
As I was not "coming back to them" quite in the sense intended I felt a
little guilty, but reserved my confidences for Thorndyke's ear and
replied in polite generalities. Then Polton fetched the tea-pot from the
laboratory, made up the fire and departed, and Thorndyke and I subsided,
as of old, into our respective arm-chairs.
"And whence do you spring from in this unexpected fashion?" my colleague
asked. "You look as if you had been making professional visits."
"I have. The base of operations is in Lower Kennington Lane."
"Ah! Then you are 'back once more on the old trail'?"
"Yes," I answered, with a laugh, "'the old trail, the long trail, the
trail that is always new.'"
"And leads nowhere," Thorndyke added grimly.
I laughed again; not very heartily, for there was an uncomfortable
element of truth in my friend's remark, to which my own experience bore
only too complete testimony. The medical practitioner whose lack of
means forces him to subsist by taking temporary charge of other men's
practices is apt to find that the passing years bring him little but
grey hairs and a wealth of disagreeable experience.
"You will have to drop it, Jervis; you will, indeed," Thorndyke resumed
after a pause. "This casual employment is preposterous for a man of your
class and professional attainments. Besides, are you not engaged to be
married and to a most charming girl?"
"Yes, I know. I have been a fool. But I will really amend my ways. If
necessary, I will pocket my pride and let Juliet advance the money to
buy a practice."
"That," said Thorndyke, "is a very proper resolution. Pride and reserve
between people who are going to be husband and wife, is an absurdity.
But why buy a practice? Have you forgotten my proposal?"
"I should be an ungrateful brute if I had."
"Very well. I repeat it now. Come to me as my junior, read for the Bar
and work with me, and, with your abilities, you will have a chance of
something like a career. I want you, Jervis," he added, earnestly. "I
must have a junior, with my increasing practice, and you are the junior
I want. We are old and tried friends; we have worked together; we like
and trust one another, and you are the best man for the job that I know.
Come; I am not going to take a refusal. This is an ultimatum."
"And what is the alternative?" I asked with a smile at his eagerness.
"There isn't any. You are going to say yes."
"I believe I am," I answered, not without emotion; "and I am more
rejoiced at your offer and more grateful than I can tell you. But we
must leave the final arrangements for our next meeting--in a week or so,
I hope--for I have to be back in an hour, and I want to consult you on
a matter of some importance."
"Very well," said Thorndyke; "we will leave the formal agreement for
consideration at our next meeting. What is it that you want my opinion
"The fact is," I said, "I am in a rather awkward dilemma, and I want you
to tell me what you think I ought to do."
Thorndyke paused in the act of refilling my cup and glanced at me with
"Nothing of an unpleasant nature, I hope," said he.
"No, no; nothing of that kind," I answered with a smile as I interpreted
the euphemism; for "something unpleasant," in the case of a young and
reasonably presentable medical man is ordinarily the equivalent of
trouble with the female of his species. "It is nothing that concerns me
personally at all," I continued; "it is a question of professional
responsibility. But I had better give you an account of the affair in a
complete narrative, as I know that you like to have your data in a
regular and consecutive order."
Thereupon I proceeded to relate the history of my visit to the
mysterious Mr. Graves, not omitting any single circumstance or detail
that I could recollect.
Thorndyke listened from the very beginning of my story with the closest
attention. His face was the most impassive that I have ever seen;
ordinarily as inscrutable as a bronze mask; but to me, who knew him
intimately, there was a certain something--a change of colour, perhaps,
or an additional sparkle of the eye--that told me when his curious
passion for investigation was fully aroused. And now, as I told him of
that weird journey and the strange, secret house to which it had brought
me, I could see that it offered a problem after his very heart. During
the whole of my narration he sat as motionless as a statue, evidently
committing the whole story to memory, detail by detail; and even when I
had finished he remained for an appreciable time without moving or
At length he looked up at me. "This is a very extraordinary affair,
Jervis," he said.
"Very," I agreed; "and the question that is agitating me is, what is to
"Yes," he said, meditatively, "that is the question; and an uncommonly
difficult question it is. It really involves the settlement of the
antecedent question: What is it that is happening at that house?"
"What do you think is happening at that house?" I asked.
"We must go slow, Jervis," he replied. "We must carefully separate the
legal tissues from the medical, and avoid confusing what we know with
what we suspect. Now, with reference to the medical aspects of the case.
The first question that confronts us is that of sleeping sickness, or
negro-lethargy as it is sometimes called; and here we are in a
difficulty. We have not enough knowledge. Neither of us, I take it, has
ever seen a case, and the extant descriptions are inadequate. From what
I know of the disease, its symptoms agree with those in your case in
respect of the alleged moroseness and in the gradually increasing
periods of lethargy alternating with periods of apparent recovery. On
the other hand, the disease is said to be confined to negroes; but that
probably means only that negroes alone have hitherto been exposed to the
conditions that produce it. A more important fact is that, as far as I
know, extreme contraction of the pupils is not a symptom of sleeping
sickness. To sum up, the probabilities are against sleeping sickness,
but with our insufficient knowledge, we cannot definitely exclude it."
"You think that it may really be sleeping sickness?"
"No; personally I do not entertain that theory for a moment. But I am
considering the evidence apart from our opinions on the subject. We have
to accept it as a conceivable hypothesis that it may be sleeping
sickness because we cannot positively prove that it is not. That is all.
But when we come to the hypothesis of morphine poisoning, the case is
different. The symptoms agree with those of morphine poisoning in every
respect. There is no exception or disagreement whatever. The common
sense of the matter is therefore that we adopt morphine poisoning as our
working diagnosis; which is what you seem to have done."
"Yes. For purposes of treatment."
"Exactly. For medical purposes you adopted the more probable view and
dismissed the less probable. That was the reasonable thing to do. But
for legal purposes you must entertain both possibilities; for the
hypothesis of poisoning involves serious legal issues, whereas the
hypothesis of disease involves no legal issues at all."
"That doesn't sound very helpful," I remarked.
"It indicates the necessity for caution," he retorted.
"Yes, I see that. But what is your own opinion of the case?"
"Well," he said, "let us consider the facts in order. Here is a man who,
we assume, is under the influence of a poisonous dose of morphine. The
question is, did he take that dose himself or was it administered to him
by some other person? If he took it himself, with what object did he
take it? The history that was given to you seems completely to exclude
the idea of suicide. But the patient's condition seems equally to
exclude the idea of morphinomania. Your opium-eater does not reduce
himself to a state of coma. He usually keeps well within the limits of
the tolerance that has been established. The conclusion that emerges is,
I think, that the drug was administered by some other person; and the
most likely person seems to be Mr. Weiss."
"Isn't morphine a very unusual poison?"
"Very; and most inconvenient except in a single, fatal dose, by reason
of the rapidity with which tolerance of the drug is established. But we
must not forget that slow morphine poisoning might be eminently
suitable in certain cases. The manner in which it enfeebles the will,
confuses the judgment and debilitates the body might make it very useful
to a poisoner whose aim was to get some instrument or document executed,
such as a will, deed or assignment. And death could be produced
afterwards by other means. You see the important bearing of this?"
"You mean in respect of a death certificate?"
"Yes. Suppose Mr. Weiss to have given a large dose of morphine. He then
sends for you and throws out a suggestion of sleeping sickness. If you
accept the suggestion he is pretty safe. He can repeat the process until
he kills his victim and then get a certificate from you which will cover
the murder. It was quite an ingenious scheme--which, by the way, is
characteristic of intricate crimes; your subtle criminal often plans his
crime like a genius, but he generally executes it like a fool--as this
man seems to have done, if we are not doing him an injustice."
"How has he acted like a fool?"
"In several respects. In the first place, he should have chosen his
doctor. A good, brisk, confident man who 'knows his own mind' is the
sort of person who would have suited him; a man who would have jumped at
a diagnosis and stuck to it; or else an ignorant weakling of alcoholic
tendencies. It was shockingly bad luck to run against a cautious
scientific practitioner like my learned friend. Then, of course, all
this secrecy was sheer tomfoolery, exactly calculated to put a careful
man on his guard; as it has actually done. If Mr. Weiss is really a
criminal, he has mismanaged his affairs badly."
"And you apparently think that he is a criminal?"
"I suspect him deeply. But I should like to ask you one or two questions
about him. You say he spoke with a German accent. What command of
English had he? Was his vocabulary good? Did he use any German idioms?"
"No. I should say that his English was perfect, and I noticed that his
phrases were quite well chosen even for an Englishman."
"Did he seem to you 'made up' in any way; disguised, I mean?"
"I couldn't say. The light was so very feeble."
"You couldn't see the colour of his eyes, for instance?"
"No. I think they were grey, but I couldn't be sure."
"And as to the coachman. He wore a wig, you said. Could you see the
colour of his eyes? Or any peculiarity by which you could recognize
"He had a malformed thumb-nail on his right hand. That is all I can say
"He didn't strike you as resembling Weiss in any way; in voice or
"Not at all; and he spoke, as I told you, with a distinct Scotch
"The reason I ask is that if Weiss is attempting to poison this man, the
coachman is almost certain to be a confederate and might be a relative.
You had better examine him closely if you get another chance."
"I will. And that brings me back to the question, What am I to do? Ought
I to report the case to the police?"
"I am inclined to think not. You have hardly enough facts. Of course, if
Mr. Weiss has administered poison 'unlawfully and maliciously' he has
committed a felony, and is liable under the Consolidation Acts of 1861
to ten years' penal servitude. But I do not see how you could swear an
information. You don't know that he administered the poison--if poison
has really been administered--and you cannot give any reliable name or
any address whatever. Then there is the question of sleeping sickness.
You reject it for medical purposes, but you could not swear, in a court
of law, that this is not a case of sleeping sickness."
"No," I admitted, "I could not."
"Then I think the police would decline to move in the matter, and you
might find that you had raised a scandal in Dr. Stillbury's practice to
"So you think I had better do nothing in the matter?"
"For the present. It is, of course, a medical man's duty to assist
justice in any way that is possible. But a doctor is not a detective; he
should not go out of his way to assume police functions. He should keep
his eyes and ears open, and, though, in general, he should keep his own
counsel, it is his duty to note very carefully anything that seems to
him likely to bear on any important legal issues. It is not his
business officiously to initiate criminal inquiries, but it is
emphatically his business to be ready, if called upon, to assist justice
with information that his special knowledge and opportunities have
rendered accessible to him. You see the bearing of this?"
"You mean that I should note down what I have seen and heard and say
nothing about it until I am asked."
"Yes; if nothing further happens. But if you should be sent for again, I
think it is your duty to make further observations with a view, if
necessary, to informing the police. It may be, for instance, of vital
importance to identify the house, and it is your duty to secure the
means of doing so."
"But, my dear Thorndyke," I expostulated, "I have told you how I was
conveyed to the house. Now, will you kindly explain to me how a man,
boxed up in a pitch-dark carriage, is going to identify any place to
which he may be carried?"
"The problem doesn't appear to me to present any serious difficulties,"
"Doesn't it?" said I. "To me it looks like a pretty solid impossibility.
But what do you suggest? Should I break out of the house and run away up
the street? Or should I bore a hole through the shutter of the carriage
and peep out?"
Thorndyke smiled indulgently. "The methods proposed by my learned friend
display a certain crudity inappropriate to the character of a man of
science; to say nothing of the disadvantage of letting the enemy into
our counsels. No, no, Jervis; we can do something better than that.
Just excuse me for a minute while I run up to the laboratory."
He hurried away to Polton's sanctum on the upper floor, leaving me to
speculate on the method by which he proposed that a man should be
enabled, as Sam Weller would express it, "to see through a flight of
stairs and a deal door"; or, what was equally opaque, the wooden
shutters of a closed carriage.
"Now," he said, when he returned a couple of minutes later with a small,
paper-covered notebook in his hand, "I have set Polton to work on a
little appliance that will, I think, solve our difficulty, and I will
show you how I propose that you should make your observations. First of
all, we have to rule the pages of this book into columns."
He sat down at the table and began methodically to rule the pages each
into three columns, two quite narrow and one broad. The process occupied
some time, during which I sat and watched with impatient curiosity the
unhurried, precise movements of Thorndyke's pencil, all agog to hear the
promised explanation. He was just finishing the last page when there
came a gentle tap at the door, and Polton entered with a satisfied smile
on his dry, shrewd-looking face and a small board in his hand.
"Will this do, sir?" he asked.
As he spoke he handed the little board to Thorndyke, who looked at it
and passed it to me.
"The very thing, Polton," my friend replied. "Where did you find it?
It's of no use for you to pretend that you've made it in about two
minutes and a half."
Polton smiled one of his queer crinkly smiles, and remarking that "it
didn't take much making," departed much gratified by the compliment.
"What a wonderful old fellow that is, Jervis," Thorndyke observed as his
factotum retired. "He took in the idea instantly and seems to have
produced the finished article by magic, as the conjurers bring forth
rabbits and bowls of goldfish at a moment's notice. I suppose you see
what your modus operandi is to be?"
I had gathered a clue from the little appliance--a plate of white
fret-wood about seven inches by five, to one corner of which a
pocket-compass had been fixed with shellac--but was not quite clear as
to the details of the method.
"You can read a compass pretty quickly, I think?" Thorndyke said.
"Of course I can. Used we not to sail a yacht together when we were
"To be sure we did; and we will again before we die. And now as to your
method of locating this house. Here is a pocket reading-lamp which you
can hook on the carriage lining. This notebook can be fixed to the board
with an india-rubber band--thus. You observe that the thoughtful Polton
has stuck a piece of thread on the glass of the compass to serve as a
lubber's line. This is how you will proceed. As soon as you are locked
in the carriage, light your lamp--better have a book with you in case
the light is noticed--take out your watch and put the board on your
knee, keeping its long side exactly in a line with the axis of the
carriage. Then enter in one narrow column of your notebook the time, in
the other the direction shown by the compass, and in the broad column
any particulars, including the number of steps the horse makes in a
minute. Like this."
He took a loose sheet of paper and made one or two sample entries on it
in pencil, thus--
"9.40. S.E. Start from home.
9.41 S.W. Granite setts.
9.43. S.W. Wood pavement. Hoofs 104.
9.47. W. by S Granite crossing. Macadam--
and so on. Note every change of direction, with the time; and whenever
you hear or feel anything from outside, note it, with the time and
direction; and don't forget to note any variations in the horse's pace.
You follow the process?"
"Perfectly. But do you think the method is accurate enough to fix the
position of a house? Remember, this is only a pocket-compass with no
dial, and it will jump frightfully. And the mode of estimating distance
is very rough."
"That is all perfectly true," Thorndyke answered. "But you are
overlooking certain important facts The track-chart that you will
produce can be checked by other data. The house, for instance, has a
covered way by which you could identify it if you knew approximately
where to look for it. Then you must remember that your carriage is not
travelling over a featureless plain. It is passing through streets which
have a determined position and direction and which are accurately
represented on the ordnance map. I think, Jervis, that, in spite of the
apparent roughness of the method, if you make your observations
carefully, we shall have no trouble in narrowing down the inquiry to a
quite small area. If we get the chance, that is to say."
"Yes, if we do. I am doubtful whether Mr. Weiss will require my services
again, but I sincerely hope he will. It would be rare sport to locate
his secret burrow, all unsuspected. But now I must really be off."
"Good-bye, then," said Thorndyke, slipping a well-sharpened pencil
through the rubber band that fixed the notebook to the board. "Let me
know how the adventure progresses--if it progresses at all--and
remember, I hold your promise to come and see me again quite soon in any
He handed me the board and the lamp, and, when I had slipped them into
my pocket, we shook hands and I hurried away, a little uneasy at having
left my charge so long.
"A Chiel's Amang Ye Takin' Notes"
The attitude of the suspicious man tends to generate in others the kind
of conduct that seems to justify his suspicions. In most of us there
lurks a certain strain of mischief which trustfulness disarms but
distrust encourages. The inexperienced kitten which approaches us
confidingly with arched back and upright tail, soliciting caresses,
generally receives the gentle treatment that it expects; whereas the
worldly-wise tom-cat, who, in response to friendly advances, scampers
away and grins at us suspiciously from the fancied security of an
adjacent wall, impels us to accelerate his retreat with a well-directed
Now the proceedings of Mr. H. Weiss resembled those of the tom-cat
aforesaid and invited an analogous reply. To a responsible professional
man his extraordinary precautions were at once an affront and a
challenge. Apart from graver considerations, I found myself dwelling
with unholy pleasure on the prospect of locating the secret hiding-place
from which he seemed to grin at me with such complacent defiance; and I
lost no time and spared no trouble in preparing myself for the
adventure. The very hansom which bore me from the Temple to Kennington
Lane was utilized for a preliminary test of Thorndyke's little
apparatus. During the whole of that brief journey I watched the compass
closely, noted the feel and sound of the road-material and timed the
trotting of the horse. And the result was quite encouraging. It is true
that the compass-needle oscillated wildly to the vibration of the cab,
but still its oscillations took place around a definite point which was
the average direction, and it was evident to me that the data it
furnished were very fairly reliable. I felt very little doubt, after the
preliminary trial, as to my being able to produce a moderately
intelligible track-chart if only I should get an opportunity to exercise
But it looked as if I should not. Mr. Weiss's promise to send for me
again soon was not fulfilled. Three days passed and still he made no
sign. I began to fear that I had been too outspoken; that the shuttered
carriage had gone forth to seek some more confiding and easy-going
practitioner, and that our elaborate preparations had been made in vain.
When the fourth day drew towards a close and still no summons had come,
I was disposed reluctantly to write the case off as a lost opportunity.
And at that moment, in the midst of my regrets, the bottle-boy thrust an
uncomely head in at the door. His voice was coarse, his accent was
hideous, and his grammatical construction beneath contempt; but I
forgave him all when I gathered the import of his message.
"Mr. Weiss's carriage is waiting, and he says will you come as quickly
as you can because he's took very bad to-night."
I sprang from my chair and hastily collected the necessaries for the
journey. The little board and the lamp I put in my overcoat pocket; I
overhauled the emergency bag and added to its usual contents a bottle of
permanganate of potassium which I thought I might require. Then I tucked
the evening paper under my arm and went out.
The coachman, who was standing at the horse's head as I emerged, touched
his hat and came forward to open the door.
"I have fortified myself for the long drive, you see," I remarked,
exhibiting the newspaper as I stepped into the carriage.
"But you can't read in the dark," said he.
"No, but I have provided myself with a lamp," I replied, producing it
and striking a match.
He watched me as I lit the lamp and hooked it on the back cushion, and
"I suppose you found it rather a dull ride last time. It's a longish
way. They might have fitted the carriage with an inside lamp. But we
shall have to make it a quicker passage to-night. Governor says Mr.
Graves is uncommon bad."
With this he slammed the door and locked it. I drew the board from my
pocket, laid it on my knee, glanced at my watch, and, as the coachman
climbed to his seat, I made the first entry in the little book.
"8.58. W. by S. Start from home. Horse 13 hands."
The first move of the carriage on starting was to turn round as if
heading for Newington Butts, and the second entry accordingly read:
"8.58.30. E. by N."
But this direction was not maintained long. Very soon we turned south
and then west and then south again. I sat with my eyes riveted on the
compass, following with some difficulty its rapid changes. The needle
swung to and fro incessantly but always within a definite arc, the
centre of which was the true direction. But this direction varied from
minute to minute in the most astonishing manner. West, south, east,
north, the carriage turned, "boxing" the compass until I lost all count
of direction. It was an amazing performance. Considering that the man
was driving against time on a mission of life and death urgency, his
carelessness as to direction was astounding. The tortuousness of the
route must have made the journey twice as long as it need have been
with a little more careful selection. At least so it appeared to me,
though, naturally, I was not in a position to offer an authoritative
As far as I could judge, we followed the same route as before. Once I
heard a tug's whistle and knew that we were near the river, and we
passed the railway station, apparently at the same time as on the
previous occasion, for I heard a passenger train start and assumed that
it was the same train. We crossed quite a number of thoroughfares with
tram-lines--I had no idea there were so many--and it was a revelation to
me to find how numerous the railway arches were in this part of London
and how continually the nature of the road-metal varied.
It was by no means a dull journey this time. The incessant changes of
direction and variations in the character of the road kept me most
uncommonly busy; for I had hardly time to scribble down one entry before
the compass-needle would swing round sharply, showing that we had once
more turned a corner; and I was quite taken by surprise when the
carriage slowed down and turned into the covered way. Very hastily I
scribbled down the final entry ("9.24. S.E. In covered way"), and having
closed the book and slipped it and the board into my pocket, had just
opened out the newspaper when the carriage door was unlocked and opened,
whereupon I unhooked and blew out the lamp and pocketed that too,
reflecting that it might be useful later.
As on the last occasion, Mrs. Schallibaum stood in the open doorway with
a lighted candle. But she was a good deal less self-possessed this time.
In fact she looked rather wild and terrified. Even by the candle-light
I could see that she was very pale and she seemed unable to keep still.
As she gave me the few necessary words of explanation, she fidgeted
incessantly and her hands and feet were in constant movement.
"You had better come up with me at once," she said. "Mr. Graves is much
worse to-night. We will wait not for Mr. Weiss."
Without waiting for a reply she quickly ascended the stairs and I
followed. The room was in much the same condition as before. But the
patient was not. As soon as I entered the room, a soft, rhythmical
gurgle from the bed gave me a very clear warning of danger. I stepped
forward quickly and looked down at the prostrate figure, and the warning
gathered emphasis. The sick man's ghastly face was yet more ghastly; his
eyes were more sunken, his skin more livid; "his nose was as sharp as a
pen," and if he did not "babble of green fields" it was because he
seemed to be beyond even that. If it had been a case of disease, I
should have said at once that he was dying. He had all the appearance of
a man in articulo mortis. Even as it was, feeling convinced that the
case was one of morphine poisoning, I was far from confident that I
should be able to draw him back from the extreme edge of vitality on
which he trembled so insecurely.
"He is very ill? He is dying?"
It was Mrs. Schallibaum's voice; very low, but eager and intense. I
turned, with my finger on the patient's wrist, and looked into the face
of the most thoroughly scared woman I have ever seen. She made no
attempt now to avoid the light, but looked me squarely in the face, and
I noticed, half-unconsciously, that her eyes were brown and had a
curious strained expression.
"Yes," I answered, "he is very ill. He is in great danger."
She still stared at me fixedly for some seconds. And then a very odd
thing occurred. Suddenly she squinted--squinted horribly; not with the
familiar convergent squint which burlesque artists imitate, but with
external or divergent squint of extreme near sight or unequal vision.
The effect was quite startling. One moment both her eyes were looking
straight into mine; the next, one of them rolled round until it looked
out of the uttermost corner, leaving the other gazing steadily forward.
She was evidently conscious of the change, for she turned her head away
quickly and reddened somewhat. But it was no time for thoughts of
"You can save him, doctor! You will not let him die! He must not be
allowed to die!"
She spoke with as much passion as if he had been the dearest friend that
she had in the world, which I suspected was far from being the case. But
her manifest terror had its uses.
"If anything is to be done to save him," I said, "it must be done
quickly. I will give him some medicine at once, and meanwhile you must
make some strong coffee."
"Coffee!" she exclaimed. "But we have none in the house. Will not tea
do, if I make it very strong?"
"No, it will not. I must have coffee; and I must have it quickly."
"Then I suppose I must go and get some. But it is late. The shops will
be shut. And I don't like leaving Mr. Graves."
"Can't you send the coachman?" I asked.
She shook her head impatiently. "No, that is no use. I must wait until
Mr. Weiss comes."
"That won't do," I said, sharply. "He will slip through our fingers
while you are waiting. You must go and get that coffee at once and bring
it to me as soon as it is ready. And I want a tumbler and some water."
She brought me a water-bottle and glass from the wash-stand and then,
with a groan of despair, hurried from the room.
I lost no time in applying the remedies that I had to hand. Shaking out
into the tumbler a few crystals of potassium permanganate, I filled it
up with water and approached the patient. His stupor was profound. I
shook him as roughly as was safe in his depressed condition, but
elicited no resistance or responsive movement. As it seemed very
doubtful whether he was capable of swallowing, I dared not take the risk
of pouring the liquid into his mouth for fear of suffocating him. A
stomach-tube would have solved the difficulty, but, of course, I had not
one with me. I had, however, a mouth-speculum which also acted as a gag,
and, having propped the patient's mouth open with this, I hastily
slipped off one of the rubber tubes from my stethoscope and inserted
into one end of it a vulcanite ear-speculum to serve as a funnel. Then,
introducing the other end of the tube into the gullet as far as its
length would permit, I cautiously poured a small quantity of the
permanganate solution into the extemporized funnel. To my great relief a
movement of the throat showed that the swallowing reflex still existed,
and, thus encouraged, I poured down the tube as much of the fluid as I
thought it wise to administer at one time.
The dose of permanganate that I had given was enough to neutralize any
reasonable quantity of the poison that might yet remain in the stomach.
I had next to deal with that portion of the drug which had already been
absorbed and was exercising its poisonous effects. Taking my hypodermic
case from my bag, I prepared in the syringe a full dose of atropine
sulphate, which I injected forthwith into the unconscious man's arm. And
that was all that I could do, so far as remedies were concerned, until
the coffee arrived.
I cleaned and put away the syringe, washed the tube, and then, returning
to the bedside, endeavoured to rouse the patient from his profound
lethargy. But great care was necessary. A little injudicious roughness
of handling, and that thready, flickering pulse might stop for ever; and
yet it was almost certain that if he were not speedily aroused, his
stupor would gradually deepen until it shaded off imperceptibly into
death. I went to work very cautiously, moving his limbs about, flicking
his face and chest with the corner of a wet towel, tickling the soles
of his feet, and otherwise applying stimuli that were strong without
So occupied was I with my efforts to resuscitate my mysterious patient
that I did not notice the opening of the door, and it was with something
of a start that, happening to glance round, I perceived at the farther
end of the room the shadowy figure of a man relieved by two spots of
light reflected from his spectacles. How long he had been watching me I
cannot say, but, when he saw that I had observed him, he came
forward--though not very far--and I saw that he was Mr. Weiss.
"I am afraid," he said, "that you do not find my friend so well
"So well!" I exclaimed. "I don't find him well at all. I am exceedingly
anxious about him."
"You don't--er--anticipate anything of a--er--anything serious, I hope?"
"There is no need to anticipate," said I. "It is already about as
serious as it can be. I think he might die at any moment."
"Good God!" he gasped. "You horrify me!"
He was not exaggerating. In his agitation, he stepped forward into the
lighter part of the room, and I could see that his face was pale to
ghastliness--except his nose and the adjacent red patches on his cheeks,
which stood out in grotesquely hideous contrast. Presently, however, he
recovered a little and said:
"I really think--at least I hope--that you take an unnecessarily serious
view of his condition. He has been like this before, you know."
I felt pretty certain that he had not, but there was no use in
discussing the question. I therefore replied, as I continued my efforts
to rouse the patient:
"That may or may not be. But in any case there comes a last time; and it
may have come now."
"I hope not," he said; "although I understand that these cases always
end fatally sooner or later."
"What cases?" I asked.
"I was referring to sleeping sickness; but perhaps you have formed some
other opinion as to the nature of this dreadful complaint."
I hesitated for a moment, and he continued: "As to your suggestion that
his symptoms might be due to drugs, I think we may consider that as
disposed of. He has been watched, practically without cessation since
you came last, and, moreover, I have myself turned out the room and
examined the bed and have not found a trace of any drug. Have you gone
into the question of sleeping sickness?"
I looked at the man narrowly before answering, and distrusted him more
than ever. But this was no time for reticence. My concern was with the
patient and his present needs. After all, I was, as Thorndyke had said,
a doctor, not a detective, and the circumstances called for
straightforward speech and action on my part.
"I have considered that question," I said, "and have come to a perfectly
definite conclusion. His symptoms are not those of sleeping sickness.
They are in my opinion undoubtedly due to morphine poisoning."
"But my dear sir!" he exclaimed, "the thing is impossible! Haven't I
just told you that he has been watched continuously?"
"I can only judge by the appearances that I find," I answered; and,
seeing that he was about to offer fresh objections, I continued: "Don't
let us waste precious time in discussion, or Mr. Graves may be dead
before we have reached a conclusion. If you will hurry them up about the
coffee that I asked for some time ago, I will take the other necessary
measures, and perhaps we may manage to pull him round."
The rather brutal decision of my manner evidently daunted him. It must
have been plain to him that I was not prepared to accept any explanation
of the unconscious man's condition other than that of morphine
poisoning; whence the inference was pretty plain that the alternatives
were recovery or an inquest. Replying stiffly that I "must do as I
thought best," he hurried from the room, leaving me to continue my
efforts without further interruption.
For some time these efforts seemed to make no impression. The man lay as
still and impassive as a corpse excepting for the slow, shallow and
rather irregular breathing with its ominous accompanying rattle. But
presently, by imperceptible degrees, signs of returning life began to
make their appearance. A sharp slap on the cheek with the wet towel
produced a sensible flicker of the eyelids; a similar slap on the chest
was followed by a slight gasp. A pencil, drawn over the sole of the
foot, occasioned a visible shrinking movement, and, on looking once
more at the eyes, I detected a slight change that told me that the
atropine was beginning to take effect.
This was very encouraging, and, so far, quite satisfactory, though it
would have been premature to rejoice. I kept the patient carefully
covered and maintained the process of gentle irritation, moving his
limbs and shoulders, brushing his hair and generally bombarding his
deadened senses with small but repeated stimuli. And under this
treatment, the improvement continued so far that on my bawling a
question into his ear he actually opened his eyes for an instant, though
in another moment, the lids had sunk back into their former position.
Soon after this, Mr. Weiss re-entered the room, followed by Mrs.
Schallibaum, who carried a small tray, on which were a jug of coffee, a
jug of milk, a cup and saucer and a sugar basin.
"How do you find him now?" Mr. Weiss asked anxiously.
"I am glad to say that there is a distinct improvement," I replied. "But
we must persevere. He is by no means out of the wood yet."
I examined the coffee, which looked black and strong and had a very
reassuring smell, and, pouring out half a cupful, approached the bed.
"Now, Mr. Graves," I shouted, "we want you to drink some of this."
The flaccid eyelids lifted for an instant but there was no other
response. I gently opened the unresisting mouth and ladled in a couple
of spoonfuls of coffee, which were immediately swallowed; whereupon I
repeated the proceeding and continued at short intervals until the cup
was empty. The effect of the new remedy soon became apparent. He began
to mumble and mutter obscurely in response to the questions that I
bellowed at him, and once or twice he opened his eyes and looked
dreamily into my face. Then I sat him up and made him drink some coffee
from the cup, and, all the time, kept up a running fire of questions,
which made up in volume of sound for what they lacked of relevancy.
Of these proceedings Mr. Weiss and his housekeeper were highly
interested spectators, and the former, contrary to his usual practice,
came quite close up to the bed, to get a better view.
"It is really a most remarkable thing," he said, "but it almost looks as
if you were right, after all. He is certainly much better. But tell me,
would this treatment produce a similar improvement if the symptoms were
due to disease?"
"No," I answered, "it certainly would not."
"Then that seems to settle it. But it is a most mysterious affair. Can
you suggest any way in which he can have concealed a store of the drug?"
I stood up and looked him straight in the face; it was the first chance
I had had of inspecting him by any but the feeblest light, and I looked
at him very attentively. Now, it is a curious fact--though one that most
persons must have observed--that there sometimes occurs a considerable
interval between the reception of a visual impression and its complete
transfer to the consciousness. A thing may be seen, as it were,
unconsciously, and the impression consigned, apparently, to instant
oblivion; and yet the picture may be subsequently revived by memory with
such completeness that its details can be studied as though the object
were still actually visible.
Something of this kind must have happened to me now. Preoccupied as I
was, by the condition of the patient, the professional habit of rapid
and close observation caused me to direct a searching glance at the man
before me. It was only a brief glance--for Mr. Weiss, perhaps
embarrassed by my keen regard of him, almost immediately withdrew into
the shadow--and my attention seemed principally to be occupied by the
odd contrast between the pallor of his face and the redness of his nose
and by the peculiar stiff, bristly character of his eyebrows. But there
was another fact, and a very curious one, that was observed by me
subconsciously and instantly forgotten, to be revived later when I
reflected on the events of the night. It was this:
As Mr. Weiss stood, with his head slightly turned, I was able to look
through one glass of his spectacles at the wall beyond. On the wall was
a framed print; and the edge of the frame, seen through the
spectacle-glass, appeared quite unaltered and free from distortion,
magnification or reduction, as if seen through plain window-glass; and
yet the reflections of the candle-flame in the spectacles showed the
flame upside down, proving conclusively that the glasses were concave on
one surface at least. The strange phenomenon was visible only for a
moment or two, and as it passed out of my sight it passed also out of my
"No," I said, replying to the last question; "I can think of no way in
which he could have effectually hidden a store of morphine. Judging by
the symptoms, he has taken a large dose, and, if he has been in the
habit of consuming large quantities, his stock would be pretty bulky. I
can offer no suggestion whatever."
"I suppose you consider him quite out of danger now?"
"Oh, not at all. I think we can pull him round if we persevere, but he
must not be allowed to sink back into a state of coma. We must keep him
on the move until the effects of the drug have really passed off. If you
will put him into his dressing-gown we will walk him up and down the
room for a while."
"But is that safe?" Mr. Weiss asked anxiously.
"Quite safe," I answered. "I will watch his pulse carefully. The danger
is in the possibility, or rather certainty, of a relapse if he is not
With obvious unwillingness and disapproval, Mr. Weiss produced a
dressing-gown and together we invested the patient in it. Then we
dragged him, very limp, but not entirely unresisting, out of bed and
stood him on his feet. He opened his eyes and blinked owlishly first at
one and then at the other of us, and mumbled a few unintelligible words
of protest; regardless of which, we thrust his feet into slippers and
endeavoured to make him walk. At first he seemed unable to stand, and we
had to support him by his arms as we urged him forward; but presently
his trailing legs began to make definite walking movements, and, after
one or two turns up and down the room, he was not only able partly to
support his weight, but showed evidence of reviving consciousness in
more energetic protests.
At this point Mr. Weiss astonished me by transferring the arm that he
held to the housekeeper.
"If you will excuse me, doctor," said he, "I will go now and attend to
some rather important business that I have had to leave unfinished. Mrs.
Schallibaum will be able to give you all the assistance that you
require, and will order the carriage when you think it safe to leave the
patient. In case I should not see you again I will say 'good night.' I
hope you won't think me very unceremonious."
He shook hands with me and went out of the room, leaving me, as I have
said, profoundly astonished that he should consider any business of more
moment than the condition of his friend, whose life, even now, was but
hanging by a thread. However, it was really no concern of mine. I could
do without him, and the resuscitation of this unfortunate half-dead man
gave me occupation enough to engross my whole attention.
The melancholy progress up and down the room re-commenced, and with it
the mumbled protests from the patient. As we walked, and especially as
we turned, I caught frequent glimpses of the housekeeper's face. But it
was nearly always in profile. She appeared to avoid looking me in the
face, though she did so once or twice; and on each of these occasions
her eyes were directed at me in a normal manner without any sign of a
squint. Nevertheless, I had the impression that when her face was turned
away from me she squinted. The "swivel eye"--the left--was towards me as
she held the patient's right arm, and it was almost continuously turned
in my direction, whereas I felt convinced that she was really looking
straight before her, though, of course, her right eye was invisible to
me. It struck me, even at the time, as an odd affair, but I was too much
concerned about my charge to give it much consideration.
Meanwhile the patient continued to revive apace. And the more he
revived, the more energetically did he protest against this wearisome
perambulation. But he was evidently a polite gentleman, for, muddled as
his faculties were, he managed to clothe his objections in courteous and
even gracious forms of speech singularly out of agreement with the
character that Mr. Weiss had given him.
"I thangyou," he mumbled thickly. "Ver' good take s'much trouble. Think
I will lie down now." He looked wistfully at the bed, but I wheeled him
about and marched him once more down the room. He submitted
unresistingly, but as we again approached the bed he reopened the
"S'quite s'fficient, thang you. Gebback to bed now. Much 'bliged frall
your kindness"--here I turned him round--"no, really; m'feeling rather
tired. Sh'like to lie down now, f'you'd be s'good."
"You must walk about a little longer, Mr. Graves," I said. "It would be
very bad for you to go to sleep again."
He looked at me with a curious, dull surprise, and reflected awhile as
if in some perplexity. Then he looked at me again and said:
"Thing, sir, you are mistake--mistaken me--mist--"
Here Mrs. Schallibaum interrupted sharply:
"The doctor thinks it's good for you to walk about. You've been sleeping
too much. He doesn't want you to sleep any more just now."
"Don't wanter sleep; wanter lie down," said the patient.
"But you mustn't lie down for a little while. You must walk about for a
few minutes more. And you'd better not talk. Just walk up and down."
"There's no harm in his talking," said I; "in fact it's good for him. It
will help to keep him awake."
"I should think it would tire him," said Mrs. Schallibaum; "and it
worries me to hear him asking to lie down when we can't let him."
She spoke sharply and in an unnecessarily high tone so that the patient
could not fail to hear. Apparently he took in the very broad hint
contained in the concluding sentence, for he trudged wearily and
unsteadily up and down the room for some time without speaking, though
he continued to look at me from time to time as if something in my
appearance puzzled him exceedingly. At length his intolerable longing
for repose overcame his politeness and he returned to the attack.
"Surely v' walked enough now. Feeling very tired. Am really. Would you
be s'kind 's t'let me lie down few minutes?"
"Don't you think he might lie down for a little while?" Mrs. Schallibaum
I felt his pulse, and decided that he was really becoming fatigued, and
that it would be wiser not to overdo the exercise while he was so weak.
Accordingly, I consented to his returning to bed, and turned him round
in that direction; whereupon he tottered gleefully towards his
resting-place like a tired horse heading for its stable.
As soon as he was tucked in, I gave him a full cup of coffee, which he
drank with some avidity as if thirsty. Then I sat down by the bedside,
and, with a view to keeping him awake, began once more to ply him with
"Does your head ache, Mr. Graves?" I asked.
"The doctor says 'does your head ache?'" Mrs. Schallibaum squalled, so
loudly that the patient started perceptibly.
"I heard him, m'dear girl," he answered with a faint smile. "Not deaf
you know. Yes. Head aches a good deal. But I thing this gennleman
"He says you are to keep awake. You mustn't go to sleep again, and you
are not to close your eyes."
"All ri' Pol'n. Keep'm open," and he proceeded forthwith to shut them
with an air of infinite peacefulness. I grasped his hand and shook it
gently, on which he opened his eyes and looked at me sleepily. The
housekeeper stroked his head, keeping her face half-turned from me--as
she had done almost constantly, to conceal the squinting eye, as I
"Need we keep you any longer, doctor? It is getting very late and you
have a long way to go."
I looked doubtfully at the patient. I was loath to leave him,
distrusting these people as I did. But I had my work to do on the
morrow, with, perhaps, a night call or two in the interval, and the
endurance even of a general practitioner has its linits.
"I think I heard the carriage some time ago," Mrs. Schallibaum added.
I rose hesitatingly and looked at my watch. It had turned half-past
"You understand," I said in a low voice, "that the danger is not over?
If he is left now he will fall asleep, and in all human probability will
never wake. You clearly understand that?"
"Yes, quite clearly. I promise you he shall not be allowed to fall
As she spoke, she looked me full in the face for a few moments, and I
noted that her eyes had a perfectly normal appearance, without any trace
whatever of a squint.
"Very well," I said. "On that understanding I will go now; and I shall
hope to find our friend quite recovered at my next visit."
I turned to the patient, who was already dozing, and shook his hand
"Good-bye, Mr. Graves!" I said. "I am sorry to have to disturb your
repose so much; but you must keep awake, you know. Won't do to go to
"Ver' well," he replied drowsily. "Sorry t' give you all this trouble.
L' keep awake. But I think you're mistak'n--"
"He says it's very important that you shouldn't go to sleep, and that I
am to see that you don't. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I un'stan'. But why does this gennlem'n--?"
"Now it's of no use for you to ask a lot of questions," Mrs. Schallibaum
said playfully; "we'll talk to you to-morrow. Good night, doctor. I'll
light you down the stairs, but I won't come down with you, or the
patient will be falling asleep again."
Taking this definite dismissal, I retired, followed by a dreamily
surprised glance from the sick man. The housekeeper held the candle over
the balusters until I reached the bottom of the stairs, when I perceived
through the open door along the passage a glimmer of light from the
carriage lamps. The coachman was standing just outside, faintly
illuminated by the very dim lamplight, and as I stepped into the
carriage he remarked in his Scotch dialect that I "seemed to have been
makin' a nicht of it." He did not wait for any reply--none being in fact
needed--but shut the door and locked it.
I lit my little pocket-lamp and hung it on the back cushion. I even drew
the board and notebook from my pocket. But it seemed rather unnecessary
to take a fresh set of notes, and, to tell the truth, I rather shirked
the labour, tired as I was after my late exertions; besides, I wanted
to think over the events of the evening, while they were fresh in my
memory. Accordingly I put away the notebook, filled and lighted my pipe,
and settled myself to review the incidents attending my second visit to
this rather uncanny house.
Considered in leisurely retrospect, that visit offered quite a number of
problems that called for elucidation. There was the patient's condition,
for instance. Any doubt as to the cause of his symptoms was set at rest
by the effect of the antidotes. Mr. Graves was certainly under the
influence of morphine, and the only doubtful question was how he had
become so. That he had taken the poison himself was incredible. No
morphinomaniac would take such a knock-down dose. It was practically
certain that the poison had been administered by someone else, and, on
Mr. Weiss's own showing, there was no one but himself and the
housekeeper who could have administered it. And to this conclusion all
the other very queer circumstances pointed.
What were these circumstances? They were, as I have said, numerous,
though many of them seemed trivial. To begin with, Mr. Weiss's habit of
appearing some time after my arrival and disappearing some time before
my departure was decidedly odd. But still more odd was his sudden
departure this evening on what looked like a mere pretext. That
departure coincided in time with the sick man's recovery of the power of
speech. Could it be that Mr. Weiss was afraid that the half-conscious
man might say something compromising to him in my presence? It looked
rather like it. And yet he had gone away and left me with the patient
and the housekeeper.
But when I came to think about it I remembered that Mrs. Schallibaum had
shown some anxiety to prevent the patient from talking. She had
interrupted him more than once, and had on two occasions broken in when
he seemed to be about to ask me some question. I was "mistaken" about
something. What was that something that he wanted to tell me?
It had struck me as singular that there should be no coffee in the
house, but a sufficiency of tea. Germans are not usually tea-drinkers
and they do take coffee. But perhaps there was nothing in this. Rather
more remarkable was the invisibility of the coachman. Why could he not
be sent to fetch the coffee, and why did not he, rather than the
housekeeper, come to take the place of Mr. Weiss when the latter had to
There were other points, too. I recalled the word that sounded like
"Pol'n," which Mr. Graves had used in speaking to the housekeeper.
Apparently it was a Christian name of some kind; but why did Mr. Graves
call the woman by her Christian name when Mr. Weiss addressed her
formally as Mrs. Schallibaum? And, as to the woman herself: what was the
meaning of that curious disappearing squint? Physically it presented no
mystery. The woman had an ordinary divergent squint, and, like many
people, who suffer from this displacement, could, by a strong muscular
effort, bring the eyes temporarily into their normal parallel position.
I had detected the displacement when she had tried to maintain the
effort too long, and the muscular control had given way. But why had she
done it? Was it only feminine vanity--mere sensitiveness respecting a
slight personal disfigurement? It might be so; or there might be some
further motive. It was impossible to say.
Turning this question over, I suddenly remembered the peculiarity of Mr.
Weiss's spectacles. And here I met with a real poser. I had certainly
seen through those spectacles as clearly as if they had been plain
window-glass; and they had certainly given an inverted reflection of the
candle-flame like that thrown from the surface of a concave lens. Now
they obviously could not be both flat and concave; but yet they had the
properties peculiar to both flatness and concavity. And there was a