Part 5 out of 5
"This struck me as a very suggestive fact.
"Then there is the extraordinarily opportune date of Mr. Jeffrey's
death. Mrs. Wilson died on the twelfth of March. Mr. Jeffrey was found
dead on the fifteenth of March, having apparently died on the
fourteenth, on which day he was seen alive. If he had died only three
days sooner, he would have predeceased Mrs. Wilson, and her property
would never have devolved on him at all; while, if he had lived only a
day or two longer, he would have learned of her death and would
certainly have made a new will or codicil in his nephew's favour.
"Circumstances, therefore, conspired in the most singular manner in
favour of John Blackmore.
"But there is yet another coincidence. Jeffrey's body was found, by the
merest chance, the day after his death. But it might have remained
undiscovered for weeks, or even months; and if it had, it would have
been impossible to fix the date of his death. Then Mrs. Wilson's next
of kin would certainly have contested John Blackmore's claim--and
probably with success--on the ground that Jeffrey died before Mrs.
Wilson. But all this uncertainty is provided for by the circumstance
that Mr. Jeffrey paid his rent personally--and prematurely--to the
porter on the fourteenth of March, thus establishing beyond question the
fact that he was alive on that date; and yet further, in case the
porter's memory should be untrustworthy or his statement doubted,
Jeffrey furnished a signed and dated document--the cheque--which could
be produced in a court to furnish incontestable proof of survival.
"To sum up this part of the evidence. Here was a will which enabled John
Blackmore to inherit the fortune of a man who, almost certainly, had no
intention of bequeathing it to him. The wording of that will seemed to
be adjusted to the peculiarities of Mrs. Wilson's disease; and the death
of the testator occurred under a peculiar set of circumstances which
seemed to be exactly adjusted to the wording of the will. Or, to put it
in another way: the wording of the will and the time, the manner and the
circumstances of the testator's death, all seemed to be precisely
adjusted to the fact that the approximate date of Mrs. Wilson's death
was known some months before it occurred.
"Now you must admit that this compound group of coincidences, all
conspiring to a single end--the enrichment of John Blackmore--has a very
singular appearance. Coincidences are common enough in real life; but
we cannot accept too many at a time. My feeling was that there were too
many in this case and that I could not accept them without searching
Thorndyke paused, and Mr. Marchmont, who had listened with close
attention, nodded, as he glanced at his silent partner.
"You have stated the case with remarkable clearness," he said; "and I am
free to confess that some of the points that you have raised had escaped
"My first idea," Thorndyke resumed, "was that John Blackmore, taking
advantage of the mental enfeeblement produced by the opium habit, had
dictated this will to Jeffrey, It was then that I sought permission to
inspect Jeffrey's chambers; to learn what I could about him and to see
for myself whether they presented the dirty and disorderly appearance
characteristic of the regular opium-smoker's den. But when, during a
walk into the City, I thought over the case, it seemed to me that this
explanation hardly met the facts. Then I endeavoured to think of some
other explanation; and looking over my notes I observed two points that
seemed worth considering. One was that neither of the witnesses to the
will was really acquainted with Jeffrey Blackmore; both being strangers
who had accepted his identity on his own statement. The other was that
no one who had previously known him, with the single exception of his
brother John, had ever seen Jeffrey at the inn.
"What was the import of these two facts? Probably they had none. But
still they suggested the desirability of considering the question: Was
the person who signed the will really Jeffrey Blackmore? The contrary
supposition--that some one had personated Jeffrey and forged his
signature to a false will--seemed wildly improbable, especially in view
of the identification of the body; but it involved no actual
impossibility; and it offered a complete explanation of the, otherwise
inexplicable, coincidences that I have mentioned.
"I did not, however, for a moment, think that this was the true
explanation, but I resolved to bear it in mind, to test it when the
opportunity arose, and consider it by the light of any fresh facts that
I might acquire.
"The new facts came sooner than I had expected. That same evening I went
with Dr. Jervis to New Inn and found Mr. Stephen in the chambers. By him
I was informed that Jeffrey was a learned Orientalist, with a quite
expert knowledge of the cuneiform writing; and even as he was telling me
this, I looked over his shoulder and saw a cuneiform inscription hanging
on the wall upside down.
"Now, of this there could be only one reasonable explanation.
Disregarding the fact that no one would screw the suspension plates on a
frame without ascertaining which was the right way up, and assuming it
to be hung up inverted, it was impossible that the misplacement could
have been overlooked by Jeffrey. He was not blind, though his sight was
defective. The frame was thirty inches long and the individual
characters nearly an inch in length--about the size of the D 18 letters
of Snellen's test-types, which can be read by a person of ordinary sight
at a distance of fifty-five feet. There was, I repeat, only one
reasonable explanation; which was that the person who had inhabited
those chambers was not Jeffrey Blackmore.
"This conclusion received considerable support from a fact which I
observed later, but mention in this place. On examining the soles of the
shoes taken from the dead man's feet, I found only the ordinary mud of
the streets. There was no trace of the peculiar gravelly mud that
adhered to my own boots and Jervis's, and which came from the square of
the inn. Yet the porter distinctly stated that the deceased, after
paying the rent, walked back towards his chambers across the square; the
mud of which should, therefore, have been conspicuous on his shoes.
"Thus, in a moment, a wildly speculative hypothesis had assumed a high
degree of probability.
"When Mr. Stephen was gone, Jervis and I looked over the chambers
thoroughly; and then another curious fact came to light. On the wall
were a number of fine Japanese colour-prints, all of which showed recent
damp-spots. Now, apart from the consideration that Jeffrey, who had been
at the trouble and expense of collecting these valuable prints, would
hardly have allowed them to rot on his walls, there arose the question:
How came they to be damp? There was a gas stove in the room, and a gas
stove has at least the virtue of preserving a dry atmosphere. It was
winter weather, when the stove would naturally be pretty constantly
alight. How came the walls to be so damp? The answer seemed to be that
the stove had not been constantly alight, but had been lighted only
occasionally. This suggestion was borne out by a further examination of
the rooms. In the kitchen there were practically no stores and hardly
any arrangements even for simple bachelor cooking; the bedroom offered
the same suggestion; the soap in the wash-stand was shrivelled and
cracked; there was no cast-off linen, and the shirts in the drawers,
though clean, had the peculiar yellowish, faded appearance that linen
acquires when long out of use. In short, the rooms had the appearance of
not having been lived in at all, but only visited at intervals.
"Against this view, however, was the statement of the night porter that
he had often seen a light in Jeffrey's sitting-room at one o'clock in
the morning, with the apparent implication that it was then turned out.
Now a light may be left in an empty room, but its extinction implies the
presence of some person to extinguish it; unless some automatic device
be adopted for putting it out at a given time. Such a device--the alarm
movement of a clock, for instance, with a suitable attachment--is a
simple enough matter, but my search of the rooms failed to discover
anything of the kind. However, when looking over the drawers in the
bedroom, I came upon a large box that had held a considerable quantity
of hard stearine candles. There were only a few left, but a flat
candlestick with numerous wick-ends in its socket accounted for the
"These candles seemed to dispose of the difficulty. They were not
necessary for ordinary lighting, since gas was laid on in all three
rooms. For what purpose, then, were they used, and in such considerable
quantities? I subsequently obtained some of the same brand--Price's
stearine candles, six to the pound--and experimented with them. Each
candle was seven and a quarter inches in length, not counting the cone
at the top, and I found that they burned in still air at the rate of a
fraction over one inch in an hour. We may say that one of these candles
would burn in still air a little over six hours. It would thus be
possible for the person who inhabited these rooms to go away at seven
o'clock in the evening and leave a light which would burn until past one
in the morning and then extinguish itself. This, of course, was only
surmise, but it destroyed the significance of the night porter's
"But, if the person who inhabited these chambers was not Jeffrey, who
"The answer to that question seemed plain enough. There was only one
person who had a strong motive for perpetrating a fraud of this kind,
and there was only one person to whom it was possible. If this person
was not Jeffrey, he must have been very like Jeffrey; sufficiently like
for the body of the one to be mistaken for the body of the other. For
the production of Jeffrey's body was an essential part of the plan and
must have been contemplated from the first. But the only person who
fulfills the conditions is John Blackmore.
"We have learned from Mr. Stephen that John and Jeffrey, though very
different in appearance in later years, were much alike as young men.
But when two brothers who are much alike as young men, become unlike in
later life, we shall find that the unlikeness is produced by superficial
differences and that the essential likeness remains. Thus, in the
present case, Jeffrey was clean shaved, had bad eyesight, wore
spectacles and stooped as he walked; John wore a beard and moustache,
had good eyesight, did not wear spectacles and had a brisk gait and
upright carriage. But supposing John to shave off his beard and
moustache, to put on spectacles and to stoop in his walk, these
conspicuous but superficial differences would vanish and the original
"There is another consideration. John had been an actor and was an actor
of some experience. Now, any person can, with some care and practice,
make up a disguise; the great difficulty is to support that disguise by
a suitable manner and voice. But to an experienced actor this difficulty
does not exist. To him, personation is easy; and, moreover, an actor is
precisely the person to whom the idea of disguise and impersonation
"There is a small item bearing on this point, so small as to be hardly
worth calling evidence, but just worth noting. In the pocket of the
waistcoat taken from the body of Jeffrey I found the stump of a
'Contango' pencil; a pencil that is sold for the use of stock dealers
and brokers. Now John was an outside broker and might very probably have
used such a pencil, whereas Jeffrey had no connection with the stock
markets and there is no reason why he should have possessed a pencil of
this kind. But the fact is merely suggestive; it has no evidential
"A more important inference is to be drawn from the collected
signatures. I have remarked that the change in the signature occurred
abruptly, with one or two alterations of manner, last September, and
that there are two distinct forms with no intermediate varieties. This
is, in itself, remarkable and suspicious. But a remark made by Mr.
Britton furnishes a really valuable piece of evidence on the point we
are now considering. He admitted that the character of the signature had
undergone a change, but observed that the change did not affect the
individual or personal character of the writing. This is very important;
for handwriting is, as it were, an extension of the personality of the
writer. And just as a man to some extent snares his personality with his
near blood-relations in the form of family resemblances, so his
handwriting often shows a subtle likeness to that of his near relatives.
You must have noticed, as I have, how commonly the handwriting of one
brother resembles that of another, and in just this peculiar and subtle
way. The inference, then, from Mr. Britton's statement is, that if the
signature of the will was forged, it was probably forged by a relative
of the deceased. But the only relative in question is his brother John.
"All the facts, therefore, pointed to John Blackmore as the person who
occupied these chambers, and I accordingly adopted that view as a
"But this was all pure speculation," objected Mr. Winwood.
"Not speculation," said Thorndyke. "Hypothesis. It was ordinary
inductive reasoning such as we employ in scientific research. I started
with the purely tentative hypothesis that the person who signed the will
was not Jeffrey Blackmore. I assumed this; and I may say that I did not
believe it at the time, but merely adopted it as a proposition that was
worth testing. I accordingly tested it, 'Yes?' or 'No?' with each new
fact; but as each new fact said 'Yes,' and no fact said definitely 'No,'
its probability increased rapidly by a sort of geometrical progression.
The probabilities multiplied into one another. It is a perfectly sound
method, for one knows that if a hypothesis be true, it will lead one,
sooner or later, to a crucial fact by which its truth can be
"To resume our argument. We have now set up the proposition that John
Blackmore was the tenant of New Inn and that he was personating Jeffrey.
Let us reason from this and see what it leads to.
"If the tenant of New Inn was John, then Jeffrey must be elsewhere,
since his concealment at the inn was clearly impossible. But he could
not have been far away, for he had to be producible at short notice
whenever the death of Mrs. Wilson should make the production of his
body necessary. But if he was producible, his person must have been in
the possession or control of John. He could not have been at large, for
that would have involved the danger of his being seen and recognized. He
could not have been in any institution or place where he would be in
contact with strangers. Then he must be in some sort of confinement. But
it is difficult to keep an adult in confinement in an ordinary house.
Such a proceeding would involve great risk of discovery and the use of
violence which would leave traces on the body, to be observed and
commented on at the inquest. What alternative method could be suggested?
"The most obvious method is that of keeping the prisoner in such a state
of debility as would confine him to his bed. But such debility could be
produced by only starvation, unsuitable food, or chronic poisoning. Of
these alternatives, poisoning is much more exact, more calculable in its
effect and more under control. The probabilities, then, were in favour
of chronic poisoning.
"Having reached this stage, I recalled a singular case which Jervis had
mentioned to me and which seemed to illustrate this method. On our
return home I asked him for further particulars, and he then gave me a
very detailed description of the patient and the circumstances. The
upshot was rather startling. I had looked on his case as merely
illustrative, and wished to study it for the sake of the suggestions
that it might offer. But when I had heard his account, I began to
suspect that there was something more than mere parallelism of method.
It began to look as if his patient, Mr. Graves, might actually be
"The coincidences were remarkable. The general appearance of the patient
tallied completely with Mr. Stephen's description of his uncle Jeffrey.
The patient had a tremulous iris in his right eye and had clearly
suffered from dislocation of the crystalline lens. But from Mr.
Stephen's account of his uncle's sudden loss of sight in the right eye
after a fall, I judged that Jeffrey had also suffered from dislocation
of the lens and therefore had a tremulous iris in the right eye. The
patient, Graves, evidently had defective vision in his left eye, as
proved by the marks made behind his ears by the hooked side-bars of his
spectacles; for it is only on spectacles that are intended for constant
use that we find hooked side-bars. But Jeffrey had defective vision in
his left eye and wore spectacles constantly. Lastly, the patient Graves
was suffering from chronic morphine poisoning, and morphine was found in
the body of Jeffrey.
"Once more, it appeared to me that there were too many coincidences.
"The question as to whether Graves and Jeffrey were identical admitted
of fairly easy disproof; for if Graves was still alive, he could not be
Jeffrey. It was an important question and I resolved to test it without
delay. That night, Jervis and I plotted out the chart, and on the
following morning we located the house. But it was empty and to let.
The birds had flown, and we failed to discover whither they had gone.
"However, we entered the house and explored. I have told you about the
massive bolts and fastenings that we found on the bedroom doors and
window, showing that the room had been used as a prison. I have told you
of the objects that we picked out of the dust-heap under the grate. Of
the obvious suggestion offered by the Japanese brush and the bottle of
'spirit gum' or cement, I need not speak now; but I must trouble you
with some details concerning the broken spectacles. For here we had come
upon the crucial fact to which, as I have said, all sound inductive
reasoning brings one sooner or later.
"The spectacles were of a rather peculiar pattern. The frames were of
the type invented by Mr. Stopford of Moorfields and known by his name.
The right eye-piece was fitted with plain glass, as is usual in the case
of a blind, or useless, eye. It was very much shattered, but its
character was obvious. The glass of the left eye was much thicker and
fortunately less damaged, so that I was able accurately to test its
"When I reached home, I laid the pieces of the spectacles together,
measured the frames very carefully, tested the left eye-glass, and wrote
down a full description such as would have been given by the surgeon to
the spectacle-maker. Here it is, and I will ask you to note it
"'Spectacles for constant use. Steel frame, Stopford's pattern, curl
sides, broad bridge with gold lining. Distance between centres, 6.2
centimetres; extreme length of side-bars, 13.3 centimetres.
"'Right eye plain glass.
"'Left eye -5.75 D. spherical
-3.25 D. cylindrical axis 35 deg..'
"The spectacles, you see, were of a very distinctive character and
seemed to offer a good chance of identification. Stopford's frames are,
I believe, made by only one firm of opticians in London, Parry & Cuxton
of Regent Street. I therefore wrote to Mr. Cuxton, who knows me, asking
him if he had supplied spectacles to the late Jeffrey Blackmore,
Esq.--here is a copy of my letter--and if so, whether he would mind
letting me have a full description of them, together with the name of
the oculist who prescribed them.
"He replied in this letter, which is pinned to the copy of mine, that,
about four years ago, he supplied a pair of glasses to Mr. Jeffrey
Blackmore, and described them thus: 'The spectacles were for constant
use and had steel frames of Stopford's pattern with curl sides, the
length of the side-bars including the curled ends being 13.3 cm. The
bridge was broad with a gold lining-plate, shaped as shown by the
enclosed tracing from the diagram on the prescription. Distance between
centres 6.2 cm.
"'Right eye plain glass.
"'Left eye -5.75 D. spherical
-3.25 D. cylindrical, axis 35 deg..'
"'The spectacles were prescribed by Mr. Hindley of Wimpole Street.'
"You see that Mr. Cuxton's description is identical with mine. However,
for further confirmation, I wrote to Mr. Hindley, asking certain
questions, to which he replied thus:
"'You are quite right. Mr. Jeffrey Blackmore had a tremulous iris in his
right eye (which was practically blind), due to dislocation of the lens.
The pupils were rather large; certainly not contracted.'
"Here, then, we have three important facts. One is that the spectacles
found by us at Kennington Lane were undoubtedly Jeffrey's; for it is as
unlikely that there exists another pair of spectacles exactly identical
with those as that there exists another face exactly like Jeffrey's
face. The second fact is that the description of Jeffrey tallies
completely with that of the sick man, Graves, as given by Dr. Jervis;
and the third is that when Jeffrey was seen by Mr. Hindley, there was no
sign of his being addicted to the taking of morphine. The first and
second facts, you will agree, constitute complete identification."
"Yes," said Marchmont; "I think we must admit the identification as
being quite conclusive, though the evidence is of a kind that is more
striking to the medical than to the legal mind."
"You will not have that complaint to make against the next item of
evidence," said Thorndyke. "It is after the lawyer's own heart, as you
shall hear. A few days ago I wrote to Mr. Stephen asking him if he
possessed a recent photograph of his uncle Jeffrey. He had one, and he
sent it to me by return. This portrait I showed to Dr. Jervis and asked
him if he had ever seen the person it represented. After examining it
attentively, without any hint whatever from me, he identified it as the
portrait of the sick man, Graves."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Marchmont. "This is most important. Are you prepared
to swear to the identity, Dr. Jervis?"
"I have not the slightest doubt," I replied, "that the portrait is that
of Mr. Graves."
"Excellent!" said Marchmont, rubbing his hands gleefully; "this will be
much more convincing to a jury. Pray go on, Dr. Thorndyke."
"That," said Thorndyke, "completes the first part of my investigation.
We had now reached a definite, demonstrable fact; and that fact, as you
see, disposed at once of the main question--the genuineness of the will.
For if the man at Kennington Lane was Jeffrey Blackmore, then the man at
New Inn was not. But it was the latter who had signed the will.
Therefore the will was not signed by Jeffrey Blackmore; that is to say,
it was a forgery. The case was complete for the purposes of the civil
proceedings; the rest of my investigations had reference to the criminal
prosecution that was inevitable. Shall I proceed, or is your interest
confined to the will?"
"Hang the will!" exclaimed Stephen. "I want to hear how you propose to
lay hands on the villain who murdered poor old uncle Jeffrey--for I
suppose he did murder him?"
"I think there is no doubt of it," replied Thorndyke.
"Then," said Marchmont, "we will hear the rest of the argument, if you
"Very well," said Thorndyke. "As the evidence stands, we have proved
that Jeffrey Blackmore was a prisoner in the house in Kennington Lane
and that some one was personating him at New Inn. That some one, we have
seen, was, in all probability, John Blackmore. We now have to consider
the man Weiss. Who was he? and can we connect him in any way with New
"We may note in passing that Weiss and the coachman were apparently one
and the same person. They were never seen together. When Weiss was
present, the coachman was not available even for so urgent a service as
the obtaining of an antidote to the poison. Weiss always appeared some
time after Jervis's arrival and disappeared some time before his
departure, in each case sufficiently long to allow of a change of
disguise. But we need not labour the point, as it is not of primary
"To return to Weiss. He was clearly heavily disguised, as we see by his
unwillingness to show himself even by the light of a candle. But there
is an item of positive evidence on this point which is important from
having other bearings. It is furnished by the spectacles worn by Weiss,
of which you have heard Jervis's description. These spectacles had very
peculiar optical properties. When you looked through them they had the
properties of plain glass; when you looked at them they had the
appearance of lenses. But only one kind of glass possesses these
properties; namely, that which, like an ordinary watch-glass, has
curved, parallel surfaces. But for what purpose could a person wear
'watch-glass' spectacles? Clearly, not to assist his vision. The only
alternative is disguise.
"The properties of these spectacles introduce a very curious and
interesting feature into the case. To the majority of persons, the
wearing of spectacles for the purpose of disguise or personation, seems
a perfectly simple and easy proceeding. But, to a person of normal
eyesight, it is nothing of the kind. For, if he wears spectacles suited
for long sight he cannot see distinctly through them at all; while, if
he wears concave, or near sight, glasses, the effort to see through them
produces such strain and fatigue that his eyes become disabled
altogether. On the stage the difficulty is met by using spectacles of
plain window-glass, but in real life this would hardly do; the
'property' spectacles would be detected at once and give rise to
"The personator is therefore in this dilemma: if he wears actual
spectacles, he cannot see through them; if he wears sham spectacles of
plain glass, his disguise will probably be detected. There is only one
way out of the difficulty, and that not a very satisfactory one; but Mr.
Weiss seems to have adopted it in lieu of a better. It is that of using
watch-glass spectacles such as I have described.
"Now, what do we learn from these very peculiar glasses? In the first
place they confirm our opinion that Weiss was wearing a disguise. But,
for use in a room so very dimly lighted, the ordinary stage spectacles
would have answered quite well. The second inference is, then, that
these spectacles were prepared to be worn under more trying conditions
of light--out of doors, for instance. The third inference is that Weiss
was a man with normal eyesight; for otherwise he could have worn real
spectacles suited to the state of his vision.
"These are inferences by the way, to which we may return. But these
glasses furnish a much more important suggestion. On the floor of the
bedroom at New Inn I found some fragments of glass which had been
trodden on. By joining one or two of them together, we have been able to
make out the general character of the object of which they formed parts.
My assistant--who was formerly a watch-maker--judged that object to be
the thin crystal glass of a lady's watch, and this, I think, was
Jervis's opinion. But the small part which remains of the original edge
furnishes proof in two respects that this was not a watch-glass. In the
first place, on taking a careful tracing of this piece of the edge, I
found that its curve was part of an ellipse; but watch-glasses,
nowadays, are invariably circular. In the second place, watch-glasses
are ground on the edge to a single bevel to snap into the bezel or
frame; but the edge of this object was ground to a double bevel, like
the edge of a spectacle-glass, which fits into a groove in the frame and
is held by the side-bar screw. The inevitable inference was that this
was a spectacle-glass. But, if so, it was part of a pair of spectacles
identical in properties with those worn by Mr. Weiss.
"The importance of this conclusion emerges when we consider the
exceptional character of Mr. Weiss's spectacles. They were not merely
peculiar or remarkable; they were probably unique. It is exceedingly
likely that there is not in the entire world another similar pair of
spectacles. Whence the finding of these fragments of glass in the
bedroom establishes a considerable probability that Mr. Weiss was, at
some time, in the chambers at New Inn.
"And now let us gather up the threads of this part of the argument. We
are inquiring into the identity of the man Weiss. Who was he?
"In the first place, we find him committing a secret crime from which
John Blackmore alone will benefit. This suggests the prima-facie
probability that he was John Blackmore.
"Then we find that he was a man of normal eyesight who was wearing
spectacles for the purpose of disguise. But the tenant of New Inn, whom
we have seen to be, almost certainly, John Blackmore--and whom we will,
for the present, assume to have been John Blackmore--was a man with
normal eyesight who wore spectacles for disguise.
"John Blackmore did not reside at New Inn, but at some place within
easy reach of it. But Weiss resided at a place within easy reach of New
"John Blackmore must have had possession and control of the person of
Jeffrey. But Weiss had possession and control of the person of Jeffrey.
"Weiss wore spectacles of a certain peculiar and probably unique
character. But portions of such spectacles were found in the chambers at
"The overwhelming probability, therefore, is that Weiss and the tenant
of New Inn were one and the same person; and that that person was John
"That," said Mr. Winwood, "is a very plausible argument. But, you
observe, sir, that it contains an undistributed middle term."
Thorndyke smiled genially. I think he forgave Winwood everything for
"You are quite right, sir," he said. "It does. And, for that reason, the
demonstration is not absolute. But we must not forget, what logicians
seem occasionally to overlook: that the 'undistributed middle,' while it
interferes with absolute proof, may be quite consistent with a degree of
probability that approaches very near to certainty. Both the Bertillon
system and the English fingerprint system involve a process of reasoning
in which the middle term is undistributed. But the great probabilities
are accepted in practice as equivalent to certainties."
Mr. Winwood grunted a grudging assent, and Thorndyke resumed:
"We have now furnished fairly conclusive evidence on three heads: we
have proved that the sick man, Graves, was Jeffrey Blackmore; that the
tenant of New Inn was John Blackmore; and that the man Weiss was also
John Blackmore. We now have to prove that John and Jeffrey were together
in the chambers at New Inn on the night of Jeffrey's death.
"We know that two persons, and two persons only, came from Kennington
Lane to New Inn. But one of those persons was the tenant of New
Inn--that is, John Blackmore. Who was the other? Jeffrey is known by us
to have been at Kennington Lane. His body was found on the following
morning in the room at New Inn. No third person is known to have come
from Kennington Lane; no third person is known to have arrived at New
Inn. The inference, by exclusion, is that the second person--the
"Again; Jeffrey had to be brought from Kennington to the inn by John.
But John was personating Jeffrey and was made up to resemble him very
closely. If Jeffrey were undisguised the two men would be almost exactly
alike; which would be very noticeable in any case and suspicious after
the death of one of them. Therefore Jeffrey would have to be disguised
in some way; and what disguise could be simpler and more effective than
the one that I suggest was used?
"Again; it was unavoidable that some one--the cabman--should know that
Jeffrey was not alone when he came to the inn that night. If the fact
had leaked out and it had become known that a man had accompanied him to
his chambers, some suspicion might have arisen, and that suspicion would
have pointed to John, who was directly interested in his brother's
death. But if it had transpired that Jeffrey was accompanied by a woman,
there would have been less suspicion, and that suspicion would not have
pointed to John Blackmore.
"Thus all the general probabilities are in favour of the hypothesis that
this woman was Jeffrey Blackmore. There is, however, an item of positive
evidence that strongly supports this view. When I examined the clothing
of the deceased, I found on the trousers a horizontal crease on each leg
as if the trousers had been turned up half-way to the knees. This
appearance is quite understandable if we suppose that the trousers were
worn under a skirt and were turned up so that they should not be
accidentally seen. Otherwise it is quite incomprehensible."
"Is it not rather strange," said Marchmont, "that Jeffrey should have
allowed himself to be dressed up in this remarkable manner?"
"I think not," replied Thorndyke. "There is no reason to suppose that he
knew how he was dressed. You have heard Jervis's description of his
condition; that of a mere automaton. You know that without his
spectacles he was practically blind, and that he could not have worn
them since we found them at the house in Kennington Lane. Probably his
head was wrapped up in the veil, and the skirt and mantle put on
afterwards; but, in any case, his condition rendered him practically
devoid of will power. That is all the evidence I have to prove that the
unknown woman was Jeffrey. It is not conclusive but it is convincing
enough for our purpose, seeing that the case against John Blackmore does
not depend upon it."
"Your case against him is on the charge of murder, I presume?" said
"Undoubtedly. And you will notice that the statements made by the
supposed Jeffrey to the porter, hinting at suicide, are now important
evidence. By the light of what we know, the announcement of intended
suicide becomes the announcement of intended murder. It conclusively
disproves what it was intended to prove; that Jeffrey died by his own
"Yes, I see that," said Stephen, and then after a pause he asked: "Did
you identify Mrs. Schallibaum? You have told us nothing about her."
"I have considered her as being outside the case as far as I am
concerned," replied Thorndyke. "She was an accessory; my business was
with the principal. But, of course, she will be swept up in the net. The
evidence that convicts John Blackmore will convict her. I have not
troubled about her identity. If John Blackmore is married, she is
probably his wife. Do you happen to know if he is married?"
"Yes; but Mrs. John Blackmore is not much like Mrs. Schallibaum,
excepting that she has a cast in the left eye. She is a dark woman with
very heavy eyebrows."
"That is to say that she differs from Mrs. Schallibaum in those
peculiarities that can be artificially changed and resembles her in the
one feature that is unchangeable. Do you know if her Christian name
happens to be Pauline?"
"Yes, it is. She was a Miss Pauline Hagenbeck, a member of an American
theatrical company. What made you ask?"
"The name which Jervis heard poor Jeffrey struggling to pronounce seemed
to me to resemble Pauline more than any other name."
"There is one little point that strikes me," said Marchmont. "Is it not
rather remarkable that the porter should have noticed no difference
between the body of Jeffrey and the living man whom he knew by sight,
and who must, after all, have been distinctly different in appearance?"
"I am glad you raised that question," Thorndyke replied, "for that very
difficulty presented itself to me at the beginning of the case. But on
thinking it over, I decided that it was an imaginary difficulty,
assuming, as we do, that there was a good deal of resemblance between
the two men. Put yourself in the porter's place and follow his mental
processes. He is informed that a dead man is lying on the bed in Mr.
Blackmore's rooms. Naturally, he assumes that the dead man is Mr.
Blackmore--who, by the way, had hinted at suicide only the night before.
With this idea he enters the chambers and sees a man a good deal like
Mr. Blackmore and wearing Mr. Blackmore's clothes, lying on Mr.
Blackmore's bed. The idea that the body could be that of some other
person has never entered his mind. If he notes any difference of
appearance he will put that down to the effects of death; for every one
knows that a man dead looks somewhat different from the same man alive.
I take it as evidence of great acuteness on the part of John Blackmore
that he should have calculated so cleverly, not only the mental process
of the porter, but the erroneous reasoning which every one would base on
the porter's conclusions. For, since the body was actually Jeffrey's,
and was identified by the porter as that of his tenant, it has been
assumed by every one that no question was possible as to the identity of
Jeffrey Blackmore and the tenant of New Inn."
There was a brief silence, and then Marchmont asked:
"May we take it that we have now heard all the evidence?"
"Yes," replied Thorndyke. "That is my case."
"Have you given information to the police?" Stephen asked eagerly.
"Yes. As soon as I had obtained the statement of the cabman, Ridley, and
felt that I had enough evidence to secure a conviction, I called at
Scotland Yard and had an interview with the Assistant Commissioner. The
case is in the hands of Superintendent Miller of the Criminal
Investigation Department, a most acute and energetic officer. I have
been expecting to hear that the warrant has been executed, for Mr.
Miller is usually very punctilious in keeping me informed of the
progress of the cases to which I introduce him. We shall hear to-morrow,
"And, for the present," said Marchmont, "the case seems to have passed
out of our hands."
"I shall enter a caveat, all the same," said Mr. Winwood.
"That doesn't seem very necessary," Marchmont objected. "The evidence
that we have heard is amply sufficient to ensure a conviction and there
will be plenty more when the police go into the case. And a conviction
on the charges of forgery and murder would, of course, invalidate the
"I shall enter a caveat, all the same," repeated Mr. Winwood.
As the two partners showed a disposition to become heated over this
question, Thorndyke suggested that they might discuss it at leisure by
the light of subsequent events. Acting on this hint--for it was now
close upon midnight--our visitors prepared to depart; and were, in fact,
just making their way towards the door when the bell rang. Thorndyke
flung open the door, and, as he recognized his visitor, greeted him with
"Ha! Mr. Miller; we were just speaking of you. These gentlemen are Mr.
Stephen Blackmore and his solicitors, Mr. Marchmont and Mr. Winwood. You
know Dr. Jervis, I think."
The officer bowed to our friends and remarked:
"I am just in time, it seems. A few minutes more and I should have
missed these gentlemen. I don't know what you'll think of my news."
"You haven't let that villain escape, I hope," Stephen exclaimed.
"Well," said the Superintendent, "he is out of my hands and yours too;
and so is the woman. Perhaps I had better tell you what has happened."
"If you would be so kind," said Thorndyke, motioning the officer to a
The superintendent seated himself with the manner of a man who has had a
long and strenuous day, and forthwith began his story.
"As soon as we had your information, we procured a warrant for the
arrest of both parties, and then I went straight to their flat with
Inspector Badger and a sergeant. There we learned from the attendant
that they were away from home and were not expected back until to-day
about noon. We kept a watch on the premises, and this morning, about the
time appointed, a man and a woman, answering to the description, arrived
at the flat. We followed them in and saw them enter the lift, and we
were going to get into the lift too, when the man pulled the rope, and
away they went. There was nothing for us to do but run up the stairs,
which we did as fast as we could race; but they got to their landing
first, and we were only just in time to see them nip in and shut the
door. However, it seemed that we had them safe enough, for there was no
dropping out of the windows at that height; so we sent the sergeant to
get a locksmith to pick the lock or force the door, while we kept on
ringing the bell.
"About three minutes after the sergeant left, I happened to look out of
the landing window and saw a hansom pull up opposite the flats. I put my
head out of the window, and, hang me if I didn't see our two friends
getting into the cab. It seems that there was a small lift inside the
flat communicating with the kitchen, and they had slipped down it one at
"Well, of course, we raced down the stairs like acrobats, but by the
time we got to the bottom the cab was off with a fine start. We ran out
into Victoria Street, and there we could see it half-way down the street
and going like a chariot race. We managed to pick up another hansom and
told the cabby to keep the other one in sight, and away we went like the
very deuce; along Victoria Street and Broad Sanctuary, across Parliament
Square, over Westminster Bridge and along York Road; we kept the other
beggar in sight, but we couldn't gain an inch on him. Then we turned
into Waterloo Station, and, as we were driving up the slope we met
another hansom coming down; and when the cabby kissed his hand and
smiled at us, we guessed that he was the sportsman we had been
"But there was no time to ask questions. It is an awkward station with a
lot of different exits, and it looked a good deal as if our quarry had
got away. However, I took a chance. I remembered that the Southampton
express was due to start about this time, and I took a short cut across
the lines and made for the platform that it starts from. Just as Badger
and I got to the end, about thirty yards from the rear of the train, we
saw a man and a woman running in front of us. Then the guard blew his
whistle and the train began to move. The man and the woman managed to
scramble into one of the rear compartments and Badger and I raced up the
platform like mad. A porter tried to head us off, but Badger capsized
him and we both sprinted harder than ever, and just hopped on the
foot-board of the guard's van as the train began to get up speed. The
guard couldn't risk putting us off, so he had to let us into his van,
which suited us exactly, as we could watch the train on both sides from
the look-out. And we did watch, I can tell you; for our friend in front
had seen us. His head was out of the window as we climbed on to the
"However, nothing happened until we stopped at Southampton West. There,
I need not say, we lost no time in hopping out, for we naturally
expected our friends to make a rush for the exit. But they didn't.
Badger watched the platform, and I kept a look-out to see that they
didn't slip away across the line from the off-side. But still there was
no sign of them. Then I walked up the train to the compartment which I
had seen them enter. And there they were, apparently fast asleep in the
corner by the off-side window, the man leaning back with his mouth open
and the woman resting against him with her head on his shoulder. She
gave me quite a turn when I went in to look at them, for she had her
eyes half-closed and seemed to be looking round at me with a most
horrible expression; but I found afterwards that the peculiar appearance
of looking round was due to the cast in her eye."
"They were dead, I suppose?" said Thorndyke.
"Yes, sir. Stone dead; and I found these on the floor of the carriage."
He held up two tiny yellow glass tubes, each labelled "Hypodermic
tabloids. Aconitine Nitrate gr. 1/640."
"Ha!" exclaimed Thorndyke, "this fellow was well up in alkaloidal
poisons, it seems; and they appear to have gone about prepared for
emergencies. These tubes each contained twenty tabloids, a thirty-second
of a grain altogether, so we may assume that about twelve times the
medicinal dose was swallowed. Death must have occurred in a few minutes,
and a merciful death too."
"A more merciful death than they deserved," exclaimed Stephen, "when one
thinks of the misery and suffering that they inflicted on poor old uncle
Jeffrey. I would sooner have had them hanged."
"It's better as it is, sir," said Miller. "There is no need, now, to
raise any questions in detail at the inquest. The publicity of a trial
for murder would have been very unpleasant for you. I wish Dr. Jervis
had given the tip to me instead of to that confounded,
over-cautious--but there, I mustn't run down my brother officers: and
it's easy to be wise after the event.
"Good night, gentlemen. I suppose this accident disposes of your
business as far as the will is concerned?"
"I suppose it does," agreed Mr. Winwood. "But I shall enter a caveat,
all the same."