Part 3 out of 7
a share of the plunder. For some reason Woodley was chosen as
the husband. Why was that?"
"We played cards for her on the voyage. He won."
"I see. You got the young lady into your service, and there
Woodley was to do the courting. She recognised the drunken
brute that he was, and would have nothing to do with him.
Meanwhile, your arrangement was rather upset by the fact that
you had yourself fallen in love with the lady. You could no
longer bear the idea of this ruffian owning her."
"No, by George, I couldn't!"
"There was a quarrel between you. He left you in a rage,
and began to make his own plans independently of you."
"It strikes me, Williamson, there isn't very much that we can
tell this gentleman," cried Carruthers, with a bitter laugh.
"Yes, we quarreled, and he knocked me down. I am level with him
on that, anyhow. Then I lost sight of him. That was when he
picked up with this cast padre here. I found that they had set
up house-keeping together at this place on the line that she
had to pass for the station. I kept my eye on her after that,
for I knew there was some devilry in the wind. I saw them from
time to time, for I was anxious to know what they were after.
Two days ago Woodley came up to my house with this cable, which
showed that Ralph Smith was dead. He asked me if I would stand
by the bargain. I said I would not. He asked me if I would
marry the girl myself and give him a share. I said I would
willingly do so, but that she would not have me. He said,
`Let us get her married first, and after a week or two she may
see things a bit different.' I said I would have nothing to do
with violence. So he went off cursing, like the foul-mouthed
blackguard that he was, and swearing that he would have her yet.
She was leaving me this week-end, and I had got a trap to take
her to the station, but I was so uneasy in my mind that I
followed her on my bicycle. She had got a start, however,
and before I could catch her the mischief was done. The first
thing I knew about it was when I saw you two gentlemen driving
back in her dog-cart."
Holmes rose and tossed the end of his cigarette into the grate.
"I have been very obtuse, Watson," said he. "When in your
report you said that you had seen the cyclist as you thought
arrange his necktie in the shrubbery, that alone should have
told me all. However, we may congratulate ourselves upon a
curious and in some respects a unique case. I perceive three
of the county constabulary in the drive, and I am glad to see
that the little ostler is able to keep pace with them; so it is
likely that neither he nor the interesting bridegroom will be
permanently damaged by their morning's adventures. I think,
Watson, that in your medical capacity you might wait upon Miss
Smith and tell her that if she is sufficiently recovered we
shall be happy to escort her to her mother's home. If she is
not quite convalescent you will find that a hint that we were
about to telegraph to a young electrician in the Midlands would
probably complete the cure. As to you, Mr. Carruthers, I think
that you have done what you could to make amends for your share
in an evil plot. There is my card, sir, and if my evidence can
be of help to you in your trial it shall be at your disposal."
In the whirl of our incessant activity it has often been
difficult for me, as the reader has probably observed, to round
off my narratives, and to give those final details which the
curious might expect. Each case has been the prelude to
another, and the crisis once over the actors have passed for
ever out of our busy lives. I find, however, a short note at
the end of my manuscripts dealing with this case, in which
I have put it upon record that Miss Violet Smith did indeed
inherit a large fortune, and that she is now the wife of Cyril
Morton, the senior partner of Morton & Kennedy, the famous
Westminster electricians. Williamson and Woodley were both
tried for abduction and assault, the former getting seven years
and the latter ten. Of the fate of Carruthers I have no record,
but I am sure that his assault was not viewed very gravely by
the Court, since Woodley had the reputation of being a most
dangerous ruffian, and I think that a few months were sufficient
to satisfy the demands of justice.
THE STRAND MAGAZINE
Vol. 27 FEBRUARY, 1904
THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
By ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
V. --- The Adventure of the Priory School.
WE have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our small
stage at Baker Street, but I cannot recollect anything more
sudden and startling than the first appearance of Thorneycroft
Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. His card, which seemed too small to
carry the weight of his academic distinctions, preceded him by a
few seconds, and then he entered himself -- so large, so pompous,
and so dignified that he was the very embodiment of self-possession
and solidity. And yet his first action when the door had closed
behind him was to stagger against the table, whence he slipped
down upon the floor, and there was that majestic figure prostrate
and insensible upon our bearskin hearthrug.
We had sprung to our feet, and for a few moments we stared in
silent amazement at this ponderous piece of wreckage, which told
of some sudden and fatal storm far out on the ocean of life.
Then Holmes hurried with a cushion for his head and I with
brandy for his lips. The heavy white face was seamed with lines
of trouble, the hanging pouches under the closed eyes were
leaden in colour, the loose mouth drooped dolorously at the corners,
the rolling chins were unshaven. Collar and shirt bore the grime
of a long journey, and the hair bristled unkempt from the
well-shaped head. It was a sorely-stricken man who lay before us.
"What is it, Watson?" asked Holmes.
"Absolute exhaustion -- possibly mere hunger and fatigue," said I,
with my finger on the thready pulse, where the stream of life
trickled thin and small.
"Return ticket from Mackleton, in the North of England," said Holmes,
drawing it from the watch-pocket. "It is not twelve o'clock yet.
He has certainly been an early starter."
The puckered eyelids had begun to quiver, and now a pair of
vacant, grey eyes looked up at us. An instant later the man
had scrambled on to his feet, his face crimson with shame.
"Forgive this weakness, Mr. Holmes; I have been a little
overwrought. Thank you, if I might have a glass of milk and
a biscuit I have no doubt that I should be better. I came
personally, Mr. Holmes, in order to ensure that you would return
with me. I feared that no telegram would convince you of the
absolute urgency of the case."
"When you are quite restored ----"
"I am quite well again. I cannot imagine how I came to be so weak.
I wish you, Mr. Holmes, to come to Mackleton with me by the next train."
My friend shook his head.
"My colleague, Dr. Watson, could tell you that we are very busy
at present. I am retained in this case of the Ferrers Documents,
and the Abergavenny murder is coming up for trial. Only a very
important issue could call me from London at present."
"Important!" Our visitor threw up his hands. "Have you heard
nothing of the abduction of the only son of the Duke of Holdernesse?"
"What! the late Cabinet Minister?"
"Exactly. We had tried to keep it out of the papers, but there
was some rumour in the GLOBE last night. I thought it might
have reached your ears."
Holmes shot out his long, thin arm and picked out Volume "H"
in his encyclopaedia of reference.
"`Holdernesse, 6th Duke, K.G., P.C.' -- half the alphabet!
`Baron Beverley, Earl of Carston' -- dear me, what a list!
`Lord Lieutenant of Hallamshire since 1900. Married Edith,
daughter of Sir Charles Appledore, 1888. Heir and only child,
Lord Saltire. Owns about two hundred and fifty thousand acres.
Minerals in Lancashire and Wales. Address: Carlton House
Terrace; Holdernesse Hall, Hallamshire; Carston Castle, Bangor,
Wales. Lord of the Admiralty, 1872; Chief Secretary of State
for --' Well, well, this man is certainly one of the greatest
subjects of the Crown!"
"The greatest and perhaps the wealthiest. I am aware, Mr. Holmes,
that you take a very high line in professional matters, and that
you are prepared to work for the work's sake. I may tell you,
however, that his Grace has already intimated that a cheque for five
thousand pounds will be handed over to the person who can tell him
where his son is, and another thousand to him who can name the man,
or men, who have taken him."
"It is a princely offer," said Holmes. "Watson, I think that
we shall accompany Dr. Huxtable back to the North of England.
And now, Dr. Huxtable, when you have consumed that milk you
will kindly tell me what has happened, when it happened,
how it happened, and, finally, what Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable,
of the Priory School, near Mackleton, has to do with the matter,
and why he comes three days after an event -- the state of your
chin gives the date -- to ask for my humble services."
Our visitor had consumed his milk and biscuits. The light had
come back to his eyes and the colour to his cheeks as he set
himself with great vigour and lucidity to explain the situation.
"I must inform you, gentlemen, that the Priory is a preparatory
school, of which I am the founder and principal. `Huxtable's
Sidelights on Horace' may possibly recall my name to your
memories. The Priory is, without exception, the best and most
select preparatory school in England. Lord Leverstoke, the Earl
of Blackwater, Sir Cathcart Soames -- they all have entrusted
their sons to me. But I felt that my school had reached its
zenith when, three weeks ago, the Duke of Holdernesse sent
Mr. James Wilder, his secretary, with the intimation that young
Lord Saltire, ten years old, his only son and heir, was about
to be committed to my charge. Little did I think that this
would be the prelude to the most crushing misfortune of my life.
"On May 1st the boy arrived, that being the beginning of the
summer term. He was a charming youth, and he soon fell into
our ways. I may tell you -- I trust that I am not indiscreet,
but half-confidences are absurd in such a case -- that he was
not entirely happy at home. It is an open secret that the Duke's
married life had not been a peaceful one, and the matter had
ended in a separation by mutual consent, the Duchess taking up
her residence in the South of France. This had occurred very
shortly before, and the boy's sympathies are known to have been
strongly with his mother. He moped after her departure from
Holdernesse Hall, and it was for this reason that the Duke
desired to send him to my establishment. In a fortnight the boy
was quite at home with us, and was apparently absolutely happy.
"He was last seen on the night of May 13th -- that is,
the night of last Monday. His room was on the second floor,
and was approached through another larger room in which two
boys were sleeping. These boys saw and heard nothing, so that
it is certain that young Saltire did not pass out that way.
His window was open, and there is a stout ivy plant leading to
the ground. We could trace no footmarks below, but it is sure
that this is the only possible exit.
"His absence was discovered at seven o'clock on Tuesday morning.
His bed had been slept in. He had dressed himself fully before
going off in his usual school suit of black Eton jacket and dark
grey trousers. There were no signs that anyone had entered the
room, and it is quite certain that anything in the nature of cries,
or a struggle, would have been heard, since Caunter, the elder boy
in the inner room, is a very light sleeper.
"When Lord Saltire's disappearance was discovered I at once
called a roll of the whole establishment, boys, masters,
and servants. It was then that we ascertained that Lord Saltire
had not been alone in his flight. Heidegger, the German master,
was missing. His room was on the second floor, at the farther
end of the building, facing the same way as Lord Saltire's.
His bed had also been slept in; but he had apparently gone away
partly dressed, since his shirt and socks were lying on the floor.
He had undoubtedly let himself down by the ivy, for we could see
the marks of his feet where he had landed on the lawn.
His bicycle was kept in a small shed beside this lawn,
and it also was gone.
"He had been with me for two years, and came with the best
references; but he was a silent, morose man, not very popular
either with masters or boys. No trace could be found of the
fugitives, and now on Thursday morning we are as ignorant as
we were on Tuesday. Inquiry was, of course, made at once at
Holdernesse Hall. It is only a few miles away, and we imagined
that in some sudden attack of home-sickness he had gone back
to his father; but nothing had been heard of him. The Duke is
greatly agitated -- and as to me, you have seen yourselves the
state of nervous prostration to which the suspense and the
responsibility have reduced me. Mr. Holmes, if ever you put
forward your full powers, I implore you to do so now, for never
in your life could you have a case which is more worthy of them."
Sherlock Holmes had listened with the utmost intentness to the
statement of the unhappy schoolmaster. His drawn brows and the
deep furrow between them showed that he needed no exhortation to
concentrate all his attention upon a problem which, apart from
the tremendous interests involved, must appeal so directly to
his love of the complex and the unusual. He now drew out his
note-book and jotted down one or two memoranda.
"You have been very remiss in not coming to me sooner," said he,
severely. "You start me on my investigation with a very serious
handicap. It is inconceivable, for example, that this ivy and
this lawn would have yielded nothing to an expert observer."
"I am not to blame, Mr. Holmes. His Grace was extremely
desirous to avoid all public scandal. He was afraid of
his family unhappiness being dragged before the world.
He has a deep horror of anything of the kind."
"But there has been some official investigation?"
"Yes, sir, and it has proved most disappointing. An apparent
clue was at once obtained, since a boy and a young man were
reported to have been seen leaving a neighbouring station by
an early train. Only last night we had news that the couple
had been hunted down in Liverpool, and they prove to have no
connection whatever with the matter in hand. Then it was that
in my despair and disappointment, after a sleepless night,
I came straight to you by the early train."
"I suppose the local investigation was relaxed while this false
clue was being followed up?"
"It was entirely dropped."
"So that three days have been wasted. The affair has been most
"I feel it, and admit it."
"And yet the problem should be capable of ultimate solution.
I shall be very happy to look into it. Have you been able to trace
any connection between the missing boy and this German master?"
"None at all."
"Was he in the master's class?"
"No; he never exchanged a word with him so far as I know."
"That is certainly very singular. Had the boy a bicycle?"
"Was any other bicycle missing?"
"Is that certain?"
"Well, now, you do not mean to seriously suggest that this
German rode off upon a bicycle in the dead of the night bearing
the boy in his arms?"
"Then what is the theory in your mind?"
"The bicycle may have been a blind. It may have been hidden
somewhere and the pair gone off on foot."
"Quite so; but it seems rather an absurd blind, does it not?
Were there other bicycles in this shed?"
"Would he not have hidden A COUPLE had he desired to give the
idea that they had gone off upon them?"
"I suppose he would."
"Of course he would. The blind theory won't do. But the
incident is an admirable starting-point for an investigation.
After all, a bicycle is not an easy thing to conceal or to destroy.
One other question. Did anyone call to see the boy on the day
before he disappeared?"
"Did he get any letters?"
"Yes; one letter."
"From his father."
"Do you open the boys' letters?"
"How do you know it was from the father?"
"The coat of arms was on the envelope, and it was addressed
in the Duke's peculiar stiff hand. Besides, the Duke remembers
"When had he a letter before that?"
"Not for several days."
"Had he ever one from France?"
"You see the point of my questions, of course. Either the
boy was carried off by force or he went of his own free will.
In the latter case you would expect that some prompting from
outside would be needed to make so young a lad do such a thing.
If he has had no visitors, that prompting must have come in
letters. Hence I try to find out who were his correspondents."
"I fear I cannot help you much. His only correspondent,
so far as I know, was his own father."
"Who wrote to him on the very day of his disappearance.
Were the relations between father and son very friendly?"
"His Grace is never very friendly with anyone. He is completely
immersed in large public questions, and is rather inaccessible
to all ordinary emotions. But he was always kind to the boy in
his own way."
"But the sympathies of the latter were with the mother?"
"Did he say so?"
"The Duke, then?"
"Good heavens, no!"
"Then how could you know?"
"I have had some confidential talks with Mr. James Wilder,
his Grace's secretary. It was he who gave me the information
about Lord Saltire's feelings."
"I see. By the way, that last letter of the Duke's -- was it
found in the boy's room after he was gone?"
"No; he had taken it with him. I think, Mr. Holmes, it is time
that we were leaving for Euston."
"I will order a four-wheeler. In a quarter of an hour we shall
be at your service. If you are telegraphing home, Mr. Huxtable,
it would be well to allow the people in your neighbourhood to
imagine that the inquiry is still going on in Liverpool, or
wherever else that red herring led your pack. In the meantime
I will do a little quiet work at your own doors, and perhaps
the scent is not so cold but that two old hounds like Watson
and myself may get a sniff of it."
That evening found us in the cold, bracing atmosphere of the
Peak country, in which Dr. Huxtable's famous school is situated.
It was already dark when we reached it. A card was lying on the
hall table, and the butler whispered something to his master,
who turned to us with agitation in every heavy feature.
"The Duke is here," said he. "The Duke and Mr. Wilder are
in the study. Come, gentlemen, and I will introduce you."
I was, of course, familiar with the pictures of the famous
statesman, but the man himself was very different from his
representation. He was a tall and stately person, scrupulously
dressed, with a drawn, thin face, and a nose which was
grotesquely curved and long. His complexion was of a dead
pallor, which was more startling by contrast with a long,
dwindling beard of vivid red, which flowed down over his white
waistcoat, with his watch-chain gleaming through its fringe.
Such was the stately presence who looked stonily at us from the
centre of Dr. Huxtable's hearthrug. Beside him stood a very
young man, whom I understood to be Wilder, the private
secretary. He was small, nervous, alert, with intelligent,
light-blue eyes and mobile features. It was he who at once,
in an incisive and positive tone, opened the conversation.
"I called this morning, Dr. Huxtable, too late to prevent you
from starting for London. I learned that your object was to
invite Mr. Sherlock Holmes to undertake the conduct of this
case. His Grace is surprised, Dr. Huxtable, that you should
have taken such a step without consulting him."
"When I learned that the police had failed ----"
"His Grace is by no means convinced that the police have failed."
"But surely, Mr. Wilder ----"
"You are well aware, Dr. Huxtable, that his Grace is particularly
anxious to avoid all public scandal. He prefers to take as few
people as possible into his confidence."
"The matter can be easily remedied," said the brow-beaten doctor;
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes can return to London by the morning train."
"Hardly that, Doctor, hardly that," said Holmes, in his
blandest voice. "This northern air is invigorating and pleasant,
so I propose to spend a few days upon your moors, and to occupy
my mind as best I may. Whether I have the shelter of your roof
or of the village inn is, of course, for you to decide."
I could see that the unfortunate doctor was in the last stage
of indecision, from which he was rescued by the deep, sonorous
voice of the red-bearded Duke, which boomed out like a dinner-gong.
"I agree with Mr. Wilder, Dr. Huxtable, that you would have done
wisely to consult me. But since Mr. Holmes has already been
taken into your confidence, it would indeed be absurd that we
should not avail ourselves of his services. Far from going to
the inn, Mr. Holmes, I should be pleased if you would come and
stay with me at Holdernesse Hall."
"I thank your Grace. For the purposes of my investigation
I think that it would be wiser for me to remain at the scene
of the mystery."
"Just as you like, Mr. Holmes. Any information which Mr. Wilder
or I can give you is, of course, at your disposal."
"It will probably be necessary for me to see you at the Hall,"
said Holmes. "I would only ask you now, sir, whether you have
formed any explanation in your own mind as to the mysterious
disappearance of your son?"
"No, sir, I have not."
"Excuse me if I allude to that which is painful to you,
but I have no alternative. Do you think that the Duchess
had anything to do with the matter?"
The great Minister showed perceptible hesitation.
"I do not think so," he said, at last.
"The other most obvious explanation is that the child
has been kidnapped for the purpose of levying ransom.
You have not had any demand of the sort?"
"One more question, your Grace. I understand that you wrote
to your son upon the day when this incident occurred."
"No; I wrote upon the day before."
"Exactly. But he received it on that day?"
"Was there anything in your letter which might have unbalanced
him or induced him to take such a step?"
"No, sir, certainly not."
"Did you post that letter yourself?"
The nobleman's reply was interrupted by his secretary,
who broke in with some heat.
"His Grace is not in the habit of posting letters himself,"
said he. "This letter was laid with others upon the study table,
and I myself put them in the post-bag."
"You are sure this one was among them?"
"Yes; I observed it."
"How many letters did your Grace write that day?"
"Twenty or thirty. I have a large correspondence.
But surely this is somewhat irrelevant?"
"Not entirely," said Holmes.
"For my own part," the Duke continued, "I have advised the
police to turn their attention to the South of France.
I have already said that I do not believe that the Duchess would
encourage so monstrous an action, but the lad had the most
wrong-headed opinions, and it is possible that he may have fled
to her, aided and abetted by this German. I think, Dr. Huxtable,
that we will now return to the Hall."
I could see that there were other questions which Holmes would
have wished to put; but the nobleman's abrupt manner showed that
the interview was at an end. It was evident that to his
intensely aristocratic nature this discussion of his intimate
family affairs with a stranger was most abhorrent, and that he
feared lest every fresh question would throw a fiercer light
into the discreetly shadowed corners of his ducal history.
When the nobleman and his secretary had left, my friend flung
himself at once with characteristic eagerness into the
The boy's chamber was carefully examined, and yielded nothing
save the absolute conviction that it was only through the window
that he could have escaped. The German master's room and
effects gave no further clue. In his case a trailer of ivy had
given way under his weight, and we saw by the light of a lantern
the mark on the lawn where his heels had come down. That one
dint in the short green grass was the only material witness left
of this inexplicable nocturnal flight.
Sherlock Holmes left the house alone, and only returned after
eleven. He had obtained a large ordnance map of the
neighbourhood, and this he brought into my room, where he laid
it out on the bed, and, having balanced the lamp in the middle
of it, he began to smoke over it, and occasionally to point out
objects of interest with the reeking amber of his pipe.
"This case grows upon me, Watson," said he. "There are decidedly
some points of interest in connection with it. In this early
stage I want you to realize those geographical features which may
have a good deal to do with our investigation.
"Look at this map. This dark square is the Priory School.
I'll put a pin in it. Now, this line is the main road.
You see that it runs east and west past the school, and you
see also that there is no side road for a mile either way.
If these two folk passed away by road it was THIS road."
"By a singular and happy chance we are able to some extent to
check what passed along this road during the night in question.
At this point, where my pipe is now resting, a country constable
was on duty from twelve to six. It is, as you perceive, the
first cross road on the east side. This man declares that he
was not absent from his post for an instant, and he is positive
that neither boy nor man could have gone that way unseen.
I have spoken with this policeman to-night, and he appears to
me to be a perfectly reliable person. That blocks this end.
We have now to deal with the other. There is an inn here,
the Red Bull, the landlady of which was ill. She had sent
to Mackleton for a doctor, but he did not arrive until morning,
being absent at another case. The people at the inn were alert
all night, awaiting his coming, and one or other of them seems
to have continually had an eye upon the road. They declare that
no one passed. If their evidence is good, then we are fortunate
enough to be able to block the west, and also to be able to say
that the fugitives did NOT use the road at all."
"But the bicycle?" I objected.
"Quite so. We will come to the bicycle presently. To continue
our reasoning: if these people did not go by the road, they
must have traversed the country to the north of the house or
to the south of the house. That is certain. Let us weigh the
one against the other. On the south of the house is, as you
perceive, a large district of arable land, cut up into small
fields, with stone walls between them. There, I admit that a
bicycle is impossible. We can dismiss the idea. We turn to the
country on the north. Here there lies a grove of trees, marked
as the `Ragged Shaw,' and on the farther side stretches a great
rolling moor, Lower Gill Moor, extending for ten miles and
sloping gradually upwards. Here, at one side of this
wilderness, is Holdernesse Hall, ten miles by road, but only six
across the moor. It is a peculiarly desolate plain. A few moor
farmers have small holdings, where they rear sheep and cattle.
Except these, the plover and the curlew are the only inhabitants
until you come to the Chesterfield high road. There is a church
there, you see, a few cottages, and an inn. Beyond that the
hills become precipitous. Surely it is here to the north that
our quest must lie."
"But the bicycle?" I persisted.
"Well, well!" said Holmes, impatiently. "A good cyclist does
not need a high road. The moor is intersected with paths and
the moon was at the full. Halloa! what is this?"
There was an agitated knock at the door, and an instant
afterwards Dr. Huxtable was in the room. In his hand he held
a blue cricket-cap, with a white chevron on the peak.
"At last we have a clue!" he cried. "Thank Heaven! at last
we are on the dear boy's track! It is his cap."
"Where was it found?"
"In the van of the gipsies who camped on the moor.
They left on Tuesday. To-day the police traced them
down and examined their caravan. This was found."
"How do they account for it?"
"They shuffled and lied -- said that they found it on the
moor on Tuesday morning. They know where he is, the rascals!
Thank goodness, they are all safe under lock and key. Either
the fear of the law or the Duke's purse will certainly get out
of them all that they know."
"So far, so good," said Holmes, when the doctor had at last
left the room. "It at least bears out the theory that it is
on the side of the Lower Gill Moor that we must hope for results.
The police have really done nothing locally, save the arrest
of these gipsies. Look here, Watson! There is a watercourse
across the moor. You see it marked here in the map. In some
parts it widens into a morass. This is particularly so in the
region between Holdernesse Hall and the school. It is vain to
look elsewhere for tracks in this dry weather; but at THAT point
there is certainly a chance of some record being left. I will
call you early to-morrow morning, and you and I will try if we
can throw some little light upon the mystery."
The day was just breaking when I woke to find the long, thin form
of Holmes by my bedside. He was fully dressed, and had apparently
already been out.
"I have done the lawn and the bicycle shed," said he.
"I have also had a ramble through the Ragged Shaw. Now, Watson,
there is cocoa ready in the next room. I must beg you to hurry,
for we have a great day before us."
His eyes shone, and his cheek was flushed with the exhilaration
of the master workman who sees his work lie ready before him.
A very different Holmes, this active, alert man, from the
introspective and pallid dreamer of Baker Street. I felt,
as I looked upon that supple figure, alive with nervous energy,
that it was indeed a strenuous day that awaited us.
And yet it opened in the blackest disappointment. With high
hopes we struck across the peaty, russet moor, intersected with
a thousand sheep paths, until we came to the broad, light-green
belt which marked the morass between us and Holdernesse.
Certainly, if the lad had gone homewards, he must have passed
this, and he could not pass it without leaving his traces.
But no sign of him or the German could be seen. With a darkening
face my friend strode along the margin, eagerly observant of
every muddy stain upon the mossy surface. Sheep-marks there
were in profusion, and at one place, some miles down, cows had
left their tracks. Nothing more.
"Check number one," said Holmes, looking gloomily over the
rolling expanse of the moor. "There is another morass down
yonder and a narrow neck between. Halloa! halloa! halloa!
what have we here?"
We had come on a small black ribbon of pathway. In the middle of it,
clearly marked on the sodden soil, was the track of a bicycle.
"Hurrah!" I cried. "We have it."
But Holmes was shaking his head, and his face was puzzled and
expectant rather than joyous.
"A bicycle, certainly, but not THE bicycle," said he.
"I am familiar with forty-two different impressions left by tyres.
This, as you perceive, is a Dunlop, with a patch upon the outer cover.
Heidegger's tyres were Palmer's, leaving longitudinal stripes.
Aveling, the mathematical master, was sure upon the point.
Therefore, it is not Heidegger's track."
"The boy's, then?"
"Possibly, if we could prove a bicycle to have been in his
possession. But this we have utterly failed to do. This track,
as you perceive, was made by a rider who was going from the
direction of the school."
"Or towards it?"
"No, no, my dear Watson. The more deeply sunk impression is,
of course, the hind wheel, upon which the weight rests.
You perceive several places where it has passed across and
obliterated the more shallow mark of the front one. It was
undoubtedly heading away from the school. It may or may not
be connected with our inquiry, but we will follow it backwards
before we go any farther."
We did so, and at the end of a few hundred yards lost the tracks
as we emerged from the boggy portion of the moor. Following the
path backwards, we picked out another spot, where a spring
trickled across it. Here, once again, was the mark of the
bicycle, though nearly obliterated by the hoofs of cows. After
that there was no sign, but the path ran right on into Ragged
Shaw, the wood which backed on to the school. From this wood
the cycle must have emerged. Holmes sat down on a boulder and
rested his chin in his hands. I had smoked two cigarettes
before he moved.
"Well, well," said he, at last. "It is, of course, possible
that a cunning man might change the tyre of his bicycle in order
to leave unfamiliar tracks. A criminal who was capable of such
a thought is a man whom I should be proud to do business with.
We will leave this question undecided and hark back to our
morass again, for we have left a good deal unexplored."
We continued our systematic survey of the edge of the sodden
portion of the moor, and soon our perseverance was gloriously
rewarded. Right across the lower part of the bog lay a miry
path. Holmes gave a cry of delight as he approached it.
An impression like a fine bundle of telegraph wires ran down
the centre of it. It was the Palmer tyre.
"Here is Herr Heidegger, sure enough!" cried Holmes, exultantly.
"My reasoning seems to have been pretty sound, Watson."
"I congratulate you."
"But we have a long way still to go. Kindly walk clear
of the path. Now let us follow the trail. I fear that
it will not lead very far."
We found, however, as we advanced that this portion of the moor
is intersected with soft patches, and, though we frequently lost
sight of the track, we always succeeded in picking it up once more.
"Do you observe," said Holmes, "that the rider is now
undoubtedly forcing the pace? There can be no doubt of it.
Look at this impression, where you get both tyres clear.
The one is as deep as the other. That can only mean that
the rider is throwing his weight on to the handle-bar,
as a man does when he is sprinting. By Jove! he has had a fall."
There was a broad, irregular smudge covering some yards of the
track. Then there were a few footmarks, and the tyre reappeared
"A side-slip," I suggested.
Holmes held up a crumpled branch of flowering gorse. To my
horror I perceived that the yellow blossoms were all dabbled
with crimson. On the path, too, and among the heather were dark
stains of clotted blood.
"Bad!" said Holmes. "Bad! Stand clear, Watson! Not an
unnecessary footstep! What do I read here? He fell wounded,
he stood up, he remounted, he proceeded. But there is no other
track. Cattle on this side path. He was surely not gored by a
bull? Impossible! But I see no traces of anyone else. We must
push on, Watson. Surely with stains as well as the track to
guide us he cannot escape us now."
Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tyre
began to curve fantastically upon the wet and shining path.
Suddenly, as I looked ahead, the gleam of metal caught my eye
from amid the thick gorse bushes. Out of them we dragged a
bicycle, Palmer-tyred, one pedal bent, and the whole front of it
horribly smeared and slobbered with blood. On the other side of
the bushes a shoe was projecting. We ran round, and there lay
the unfortunate rider. He was a tall man, full bearded, with
spectacles, one glass of which had been knocked out. The cause
of his death was a frightful blow upon the head, which had
crushed in part of his skull. That he could have gone on after
receiving such an injury said much for the vitality and courage
of the man. He wore shoes, but no socks, and his open coat
disclosed a night-shirt beneath it. It was undoubtedly the
Holmes turned the body over reverently, and examined it with
great attention. He then sat in deep thought for a time, and I
could see by his ruffled brow that this grim discovery had not,
in his opinion, advanced us much in our inquiry.
"It is a little difficult to know what to do, Watson," said he,
at last. "My own inclinations are to push this inquiry on,
for we have already lost so much time that we cannot afford to
waste another hour. On the other hand, we are bound to inform
the police of the discovery, and to see that this poor fellow's
body is looked after."
"I could take a note back."
"But I need your company and assistance. Wait a bit!
There is a fellow cutting peat up yonder. Bring him over here,
and he will guide the police."
I brought the peasant across, and Holmes dispatched the
frightened man with a note to Dr. Huxtable.
"Now, Watson," said he, "we have picked up two clues this morning.
One is the bicycle with the Palmer tyre, and we see what that
has led to. The other is the bicycle with the patched Dunlop.
Before we start to investigate that, let us try to realize what
we DO know so as to make the most of it, and to separate the
essential from the accidental."
"First of all I wish to impress upon you that the boy certainly
left of his own free will. He got down from his window and he
went off, either alone or with someone. That is sure."
"Well, now, let us turn to this unfortunate German master.
The boy was fully dressed when he fled. Therefore, he foresaw
what he would do. But the German went without his socks.
He certainly acted on very short notice."
"Why did he go? Because, from his bedroom window, he saw the
flight of the boy. Because he wished to overtake him and bring
him back. He seized his bicycle, pursued the lad, and in
pursuing him met his death."
"So it would seem."
"Now I come to the critical part of my argument. The natural
action of a man in pursuing a little boy would be to run after him.
He would know that he could overtake him. But the German does not
do so. He turns to his bicycle. I am told that he was an
excellent cyclist. He would not do this if he did not see that
the boy had some swift means of escape."
"The other bicycle."
"Let us continue our reconstruction. He meets his death five
miles from the school -- not by a bullet, mark you, which even
a lad might conceivably discharge, but by a savage blow dealt
by a vigorous arm. The lad, then, HAD a companion in his flight.
And the flight was a swift one, since it took five miles before
an expert cyclist could overtake them. Yet we survey the ground
round the scene of the tragedy. What do we find? A few cattle
tracks, nothing more. I took a wide sweep round, and there is no
path within fifty yards. Another cyclist could have had nothing
to do with the actual murder. Nor were there any human footmarks."
"Holmes," I cried, "this is impossible."
"Admirable!" he said. "A most illuminating remark.
It IS impossible as I state it, and therefore I must in some
respect have stated it wrong. Yet you saw for yourself.
Can you suggest any fallacy?"
"He could not have fractured his skull in a fall?"
"In a morass, Watson?"
"I am at my wit's end."
"Tut, tut; we have solved some worse problems. At least we have
plenty of material, if we can only use it. Come, then, and,
having exhausted the Palmer, let us see what the Dunlop with the
patched cover has to offer us."
We picked up the track and followed it onwards for some distance;
but soon the moor rose into a long, heather-tufted curve, and we
left the watercourse behind us. No further help from tracks could
be hoped for. At the spot where we saw the last of the Dunlop tyre
it might equally have led to Holdernesse Hall, the stately towers
of which rose some miles to our left, or to a low, grey village
which lay in front of us, and marked the position of the
Chesterfield high road.
As we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the
sign of a game-cock above the door, Holmes gave a sudden groan
and clutched me by the shoulder to save himself from falling.
He had had one of those violent strains of the ankle which leave
a man helpless. With difficulty he limped up to the door, where
a squat, dark, elderly man was smoking a black clay pipe.
"How are you, Mr. Reuben Hayes?" said Holmes.
"Who are you, and how do you get my name so pat?" the countryman
answered, with a suspicious flash of a pair of cunning eyes.
"Well, it's printed on the board above your head. It's easy to
see a man who is master of his own house. I suppose you haven't
such a thing as a carriage in your stables?"
"No; I have not."
"I can hardly put my foot to the ground."
"Don't put it to the ground."
"But I can't walk."
"Well, then, hop."
Mr. Reuben Hayes's manner was far from gracious, but Holmes took
it with admirable good-humour.
"Look here, my man," said he. "This is really rather an awkward
fix for me. I don't mind how I get on."
"Neither do I," said the morose landlord.
"The matter is very important. I would offer you a sovereign
for the use of a bicycle."
The landlord pricked up his ears.
"Where do you want to go?"
"To Holdernesse Hall."
"Pals of the Dook, I suppose?" said the landlord, surveying our
mud-stained garments with ironical eyes.
Holmes laughed good-naturedly.
"He'll be glad to see us, anyhow."
"Because we bring him news of his lost son."
The landlord gave a very visible start.
"What, you're on his track?"
"He has been heard of in Liverpool. They expect to get him
Again a swift change passed over the heavy, unshaven face.
His manner was suddenly genial.
"I've less reason to wish the Dook well than most men," said he,
"for I was his head coachman once, and cruel bad he treated me.
It was him that sacked me without a character on the word of a
lying corn-chandler. But I'm glad to hear that the young lord
was heard of in Liverpool, and I'll help you to take the news
to the Hall."
"Thank you," said Holmes. "We'll have some food first.
Then you can bring round the bicycle."
"I haven't got a bicycle."
Holmes held up a sovereign.
"I tell you, man, that I haven't got one. I'll let you have two
horses as far as the Hall."
"Well, well," said Holmes, "we'll talk about it when we've had
something to eat."
When we were left alone in the stone-flagged kitchen it was
astonishing how rapidly that sprained ankle recovered. It was
nearly nightfall, and we had eaten nothing since early morning,
so that we spent some time over our meal. Holmes was lost in
thought, and once or twice he walked over to the window and
stared earnestly out. It opened on to a squalid courtyard.
In the far corner was a smithy, where a grimy lad was at work.
On the other side were the stables. Holmes had sat down again
after one of these excursions, when he suddenly sprang out of
his chair with a loud exclamation.
"By Heaven, Watson, I believe that I've got it!" he cried.
"Yes, yes, it must be so. Watson, do you remember seeing any
"Well, everywhere. They were at the morass, and again
on the path, and again near where poor Heidegger met his death."
"Exactly. Well, now, Watson, how many cows did you see on the moor?"
"I don't remember seeing any."
"Strange, Watson, that we should see tracks all along our line,
but never a cow on the whole moor; very strange, Watson, eh?"
"Yes, it is strange."
"Now, Watson, make an effort; throw your mind back!
Can you see those tracks upon the path?"
"Yes, I can."
"Can you recall that the tracks were sometimes like that,
Watson" -- he arranged a number of bread-crumbs in this fashion
-- : : : : : -- "and sometimes like this" -- : . : . : . : . --
"and occasionally like this" -- . ` . ` . ` . "Can you remember that?"
"No, I cannot."
"But I can. I could swear to it. However, we will go back at
our leisure and verify it. What a blind beetle I have been not
to draw my conclusion!"
"And what is your conclusion?"
"Only that it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters, and gallops.
By George, Watson, it was no brain of a country publican that
thought out such a blind as that! The coast seems to be clear,
save for that lad in the smithy. Let us slip out and see what
we can see."
There were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble-down
stable. Holmes raised the hind leg of one of them and laughed aloud.
"Old shoes, but newly shod -- old shoes, but new nails. This
case deserves to be a classic. Let us go across to the smithy."
The lad continued his work without regarding us. I saw Holmes's
eye darting to right and left among the litter of iron and wood
which was scattered about the floor. Suddenly, however, we
heard a step behind us, and there was the landlord, his heavy
eyebrows drawn over his savage eyes, his swarthy features
convulsed with passion. He held a short, metal-headed stick
in his hand, and he advanced in so menacing a fashion that I was
right glad to feel the revolver in my pocket.
"You infernal spies!" the man cried. "What are you doing there?"
"Why, Mr. Reuben Hayes," said Holmes, coolly, "one might think
that you were afraid of our finding something out."
The man mastered himself with a violent effort, and his grim mouth
loosened into a false laugh, which was more menacing than his frown.
"You're welcome to all you can find out in my smithy," said he.
"But look here, mister, I don't care for folk poking about my
place without my leave, so the sooner you pay your score and get
out of this the better I shall be pleased."
"All right, Mr. Hayes -- no harm meant," said Holmes.
"We have been having a look at your horses, but I think I'll
walk after all. It's not far, I believe."
"Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. That's the road
to the left." He watched us with sullen eyes until we had
left his premises.
We did not go very far along the road, for Holmes stopped
the instant that the curve hid us from the landlord's view.
"We were warm, as the children say, at that inn," said he.
"I seem to grow colder every step that I take away from it.
No, no; I can't possibly leave it."
"I am convinced," said I, "that this Reuben Hayes knows
all about it. A more self-evident villain I never saw."
"Oh! he impressed you in that way, did he? There are the horses,
there is the smithy. Yes, it is an interesting place,
this Fighting Cock. I think we shall have another look at it
in an unobtrusive way."
A long, sloping hillside, dotted with grey limestone boulders,
stretched behind us. We had turned off the road, and were
making our way up the hill, when, looking in the direction
of Holdernesse Hall, I saw a cyclist coming swiftly along.
"Get down, Watson!" cried Holmes, with a heavy hand upon my
shoulder. We had hardly sunk from view when the man flew past
us on the road. Amid a rolling cloud of dust I caught a glimpse
of a pale, agitated face -- a face with horror in every
lineament, the mouth open, the eyes staring wildly in front.
It was like some strange caricature of the dapper James Wilder
whom we had seen the night before.
"The Duke's secretary!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, let us see
what he does."
We scrambled from rock to rock until in a few moments we had
made our way to a point from which we could see the front door
of the inn. Wilder's bicycle was leaning against the wall
beside it. No one was moving about the house, nor could we
catch a glimpse of any faces at the windows. Slowly the
twilight crept down as the sun sank behind the high towers of
Holdernesse Hall. Then in the gloom we saw the two side-lamps
of a trap light up in the stable yard of the inn, and shortly
afterwards heard the rattle of hoofs, as it wheeled out into the
road and tore off at a furious pace in the direction of Chesterfield.
"What do you make of that, Watson?" Holmes whispered.
"It looks like a flight."
"A single man in a dog-cart, so far as I could see. Well, it
certainly was not Mr. James Wilder, for there he is at the door."
A red square of light had sprung out of the darkness. In the
middle of it was the black figure of the secretary, his head
advanced, peering out into the night. It was evident that he
was expecting someone. Then at last there were steps in the
road, a second figure was visible for an instant against the
light, the door shut, and all was black once more. Five minutes
later a lamp was lit in a room upon the first floor.
"It seems to be a curious class of custom that is done by the
Fighting Cock," said Holmes.
"The bar is on the other side."
"Quite so. These are what one may call the private guests.
Now, what in the world is Mr. James Wilder doing in that den at
this hour of night, and who is the companion who comes to meet
him there? Come, Watson, we must really take a risk and try to
investigate this a little more closely."
Together we stole down to the road and crept across to the
door of the inn. The bicycle still leaned against the wall.
Holmes struck a match and held it to the back wheel, and I
heard him chuckle as the light fell upon a patched Dunlop tyre.
Up above us was the lighted window.
"I must have a peep through that, Watson. If you bend your back
and support yourself upon the wall, I think that I can manage."
An instant later his feet were on my shoulders.
But he was hardly up before he was down again.
"Come, my friend," said he, "our day's work has been quite long
enough. I think that we have gathered all that we can. It's a
long walk to the school, and the sooner we get started the better."
He hardly opened his lips during that weary trudge across the moor,
nor would he enter the school when he reached it, but went on to
Mackleton Station, whence he could send some telegrams.
Late at night I heard him consoling Dr. Huxtable, prostrated by the
tragedy of his master's death, and later still he entered my room
as alert and vigorous as he had been when he started in the morning.
"All goes well, my friend," said he. "I promise that before
to-morrow evening we shall have reached the solution of the mystery."
At eleven o'clock next morning my friend and I were walking
up the famous yew avenue of Holdernesse Hall. We were ushered
through the magnificent Elizabethan doorway and into his Grace's
study. There we found Mr. James Wilder, demure and courtly, but
with some trace of that wild terror of the night before still
lurking in his furtive eyes and in his twitching features.
"You have come to see his Grace? I am sorry; but the fact is
that the Duke is far from well. He has been very much upset
by the tragic news. We received a telegram from Dr. Huxtable
yesterday afternoon, which told us of your discovery."
"I must see the Duke, Mr. Wilder."
"But he is in his room."
"Then I must go to his room."
"I believe he is in his bed."
"I will see him there."
Holmes's cold and inexorable manner showed the secretary that
it was useless to argue with him.
"Very good, Mr. Holmes; I will tell him that you are here."
After half an hour's delay the great nobleman appeared.
His face was more cadaverous than ever, his shoulders had rounded,
and he seemed to me to be an altogether older man than he had been
the morning before. He greeted us with a stately courtesy and seated
himself at his desk, his red beard streaming down on to the table.
"Well, Mr. Holmes?" said he.
But my friend's eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who stood by
his master's chair.
"I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in
Mr. Wilder's absence."
The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance at Holmes.
"If your Grace wishes ----"
"Yes, yes; you had better go. Now, Mr. Holmes, what have you to say?"
My friend waited until the door had closed behind the
"The fact is, your Grace," said he, "that my colleague,
Dr. Watson, and myself had an assurance from Dr. Huxtable
that a reward had been offered in this case. I should like
to have this confirmed from your own lips."
"Certainly, Mr. Holmes."
"It amounted, if I am correctly informed, to five thousand pounds
to anyone who will tell you where your son is?"
"And another thousand to the man who will name the person
or persons who keep him in custody?"
"Under the latter heading is included, no doubt, not only those
who may have taken him away, but also those who conspire to keep
him in his present position?"
"Yes, yes," cried the Duke, impatiently. "If you do your work
well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you will have no reason to complain
of niggardly treatment."
My friend rubbed his thin hands together with an appearance of
avidity which was a surprise to me, who knew his frugal tastes.
"I fancy that I see your Grace's cheque-book upon the table,"
said he. "I should be glad if you would make me out a cheque
for six thousand pounds. It would be as well, perhaps, for you
to cross it. The Capital and Counties Bank, Oxford Street branch,
are my agents."
His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair, and looked
stonily at my friend.
"Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for pleasantry."
"Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my life."
"What do you mean, then?"
"I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your son is,
and I know some, at least, of those who are holding him."
The Duke's beard had turned more aggressively red than ever
against his ghastly white face.
"Where is he?" he gasped.
"He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn, about two
miles from your park gate."
The Duke fell back in his chair.
"And whom do you accuse?"
Sherlock Holmes's answer was an astounding one. He stepped
swiftly forward and touched the Duke upon the shoulder.
"I accuse YOU," said he. "And now, your Grace, I'll trouble you
for that cheque."
Never shall I forget the Duke's appearance as he sprang up and
clawed with his hands like one who is sinking into an abyss.
Then, with an extraordinary effort of aristocratic self-command,
he sat down and sank his face in his hands. It was some minutes
before he spoke.
"How much do you know?" he asked at last, without raising his head.
"I saw you together last night."
"Does anyone else besides your friend know?"
"I have spoken to no one."
The Duke took a pen in his quivering fingers and opened
"I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about to write
your cheque, however unwelcome the information which you have
gained may be to me. When the offer was first made I little
thought the turn which events might take. But you and your
friend are men of discretion, Mr. Holmes?"
"I hardly understand your Grace."
"I must put it plainly, Mr. Holmes. If only you two know of
this incident, there is no reason why it should go any farther.
I think twelve thousand pounds is the sum that I owe you, is it not?"
But Holmes smiled and shook his head.
"I fear, your Grace, that matters can hardly be arranged so easily.
There is the death of this schoolmaster to be accounted for."
"But James knew nothing of that. You cannot hold him
responsible for that. It was the work of this brutal ruffian
whom he had the misfortune to employ."
"I must take the view, your Grace, that when a man embarks
upon a crime he is morally guilty of any other crime which
may spring from it."
"Morally, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right. But surely not
in the eyes of the law. A man cannot be condemned for a murder
at which he was not present, and which he loathes and abhors
as much as you do. The instant that he heard of it he made
a complete confession to me, so filled was he with horror and
remorse. He lost not an hour in breaking entirely with the
murderer. Oh, Mr. Holmes, you must save him -- you must save
him! I tell you that you must save him!" The Duke had dropped
the last attempt at self-command, and was pacing the room with
a convulsed face and with his clenched hands raving in the air.
At last he mastered himself and sat down once more at his desk.
"I appreciate your conduct in coming here before you spoke to
anyone else," said he. "At least, we may take counsel how far
we can minimize this hideous scandal."
"Exactly," said Holmes. "I think, your Grace, that this can
only be done by absolute and complete frankness between us.
I am disposed to help your Grace to the best of my ability; but
in order to do so I must understand to the last detail how the
matter stands. I realize that your words applied to Mr. James
Wilder, and that he is not the murderer."
"No; the murderer has escaped."
Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely.
"Your Grace can hardly have heard of any small reputation which
I possess, or you would not imagine that it is so easy to escape me.
Mr. Reuben Hayes was arrested at Chesterfield on my information
at eleven o'clock last night. I had a telegram from the head
of the local police before I left the school this morning."
The Duke leaned back in his chair and stared with amazement
at my friend.
"You seem to have powers that are hardly human," said he.
"So Reuben Hayes is taken? I am right glad to hear it,
if it will not react upon the fate of James."
"No, sir; my son."
It was Holmes's turn to look astonished.
"I confess that this is entirely new to me, your Grace.
I must beg you to be more explicit."
"I will conceal nothing from you. I agree with you that
complete frankness, however painful it may be to me, is the
best policy in this desperate situation to which James's folly
and jealousy have reduced us. When I was a very young man,
Mr. Holmes, I loved with such a love as comes only once in
a lifetime. I offered the lady marriage, but she refused
it on the grounds that such a match might mar my career.
Had she lived I would certainly never have married anyone else.
She died, and left this one child, whom for her sake I have
cherished and cared for. I could not acknowledge the paternity
to the world; but I gave him the best of educations, and since
he came to manhood I have kept him near my person. He surprised
my secret, and has presumed ever since upon the claim which he
has upon me and upon his power of provoking a scandal, which
would be abhorrent to me. His presence had something to do with
the unhappy issue of my marriage. Above all, he hated my young
legitimate heir from the first with a persistent hatred.
You may well ask me why, under these circumstances, I still kept
James under my roof. I answer that it was because I could see
his mother's face in his, and that for her dear sake there was
no end to my long-suffering. All her pretty ways, too -- there
was not one of them which he could not suggest and bring back
to my memory. I COULD not send him away. But I feared so much
lest he should do Arthur -- that is, Lord Saltire -- a mischief
that I dispatched him for safety to Dr. Huxtable's school.
"James came into contact with this fellow Hayes because the man
was a tenant of mine, and James acted as agent. The fellow was
a rascal from the beginning; but in some extraordinary way
James became intimate with him. He had always a taste for low
company. When James determined to kidnap Lord Saltire it was
of this man's service that he availed himself. You remember
that I wrote to Arthur upon that last day. Well, James opened
the letter and inserted a note asking Arthur to meet him in a
little wood called the Ragged Shaw, which is near to the school.
He used the Duchess's name, and in that way got the boy to come.
That evening James bicycled over -- I am telling you what he has
himself confessed to me -- and he told Arthur, whom he met in
the wood, that his mother longed to see him, that she was
awaiting him on the moor, and that if he would come back into
the wood at midnight he would find a man with a horse, who would
take him to her. Poor Arthur fell into the trap. He came to
the appointment and found this fellow Hayes with a led pony.
Arthur mounted, and they set off together. It appears -- though
this James only heard yesterday -- that they were pursued,
that Hayes struck the pursuer with his stick, and that the man
died of his injuries. Hayes brought Arthur to his public-house,
the Fighting Cock, where he was confined in an upper room,
under the care of Mrs. Hayes, who is a kindly woman,
but entirely under the control of her brutal husband.
"Well, Mr. Holmes, that was the state of affairs when I first
saw you two days ago. I had no more idea of the truth than you.
You will ask me what was James's motive in doing such a deed.
I answer that there was a great deal which was unreasoning and
fanatical in the hatred which he bore my heir. In his view he
should himself have been heir of all my estates, and he deeply
resented those social laws which made it impossible. At the
same time he had a definite motive also. He was eager that
I should break the entail, and he was of opinion that it lay
in my power to do so. He intended to make a bargain with me --
to restore Arthur if I would break the entail, and so make it
possible for the estate to be left to him by will. He knew well
that I should never willingly invoke the aid of the police
against him. I say that he would have proposed such a bargain
to me, but he did not actually do so, for events moved too quickly
for him, and he had not time to put his plans into practice.
"What brought all his wicked scheme to wreck was your discovery
of this man Heidegger's dead body. James was seized with horror
at the news. It came to us yesterday as we sat together in
this study. Dr. Huxtable had sent a telegram. James was so
overwhelmed with grief and agitation that my suspicions, which
had never been entirely absent, rose instantly to a certainty,
and I taxed him with the deed. He made a complete voluntary
confession. Then he implored me to keep his secret for three
days longer, so as to give his wretched accomplice a chance of
saving his guilty life. I yielded -- as I have always yielded
-- to his prayers, and instantly James hurried off to the
Fighting Cock to warn Hayes and give him the means of flight.
I could not go there by daylight without provoking comment,
but as soon as night fell I hurried off to see my dear Arthur.
I found him safe and well, but horrified beyond expression by the
dreadful deed he had witnessed. In deference to my promise, and
much against my will, I consented to leave him there for three
days under the charge of Mrs. Hayes, since it was evident that
it was impossible to inform the police where he was without
telling them also who was the murderer, and I could not see how
that murderer could be punished without ruin to my unfortunate
James. You asked for frankness, Mr. Holmes, and I have taken
you at your word, for I have now told you everything without
an attempt at circumlocution or concealment. Do you in turn
be as frank with me."
"I will," said Holmes. "In the first place, your Grace,
I am bound to tell you that you have placed yourself in a most
serious position in the eyes of the law. You have condoned a
felony and you have aided the escape of a murderer; for I cannot
doubt that any money which was taken by James Wilder to aid his
accomplice in his flight came from your Grace's purse."
The Duke bowed his assent.
"This is indeed a most serious matter. Even more culpable in my
opinion, your Grace, is your attitude towards your younger son.
You leave him in this den for three days."
"Under solemn promises ----"
"What are promises to such people as these? You have no guarantee
that he will not be spirited away again. To humour your guilty
elder son you have exposed your innocent younger son to imminent
and unnecessary danger. It was a most unjustifiable action."
The proud lord of Holdernesse was not accustomed to be so rated
in his own ducal hall. The blood flushed into his high forehead,
but his conscience held him dumb.
"I will help you, but on one condition only. It is that you
ring for the footman and let me give such orders as I like."
Without a word the Duke pressed the electric bell.
A servant entered.
"You will be glad to hear," said Holmes, "that your young master
is found. It is the Duke's desire that the carriage shall go at
once to the Fighting Cock Inn to bring Lord Saltire home.
"Now," said Holmes, when the rejoicing lackey had disappeared,
"having secured the future, we can afford to be more lenient
with the past. I am not in an official position, and there
is no reason, so long as the ends of justice are served, why I
should disclose all that I know. As to Hayes I say nothing.
The gallows awaits him, and I would do nothing to save him from
it. What he will divulge I cannot tell, but I have no doubt
that your Grace could make him understand that it is to his
interest to be silent. From the police point of view he will
have kidnapped the boy for the purpose of ransom. If they do
not themselves find it out I see no reason why I should prompt
them to take a broader point of view. I would warn your Grace,
however, that the continued presence of Mr. James Wilder in
your household can only lead to misfortune."
"I understand that, Mr. Holmes, and it is already settled that
he shall leave me for ever and go to seek his fortune in Australia."
"In that case, your Grace, since you have yourself stated that
any unhappiness in your married life was caused by his presence,
I would suggest that you make such amends as you can to the
Duchess, and that you try to resume those relations which have
been so unhappily interrupted."
"That also I have arranged, Mr. Holmes. I wrote to the Duchess
"In that case," said Holmes, rising, "I think that my friend and
I can congratulate ourselves upon several most happy results
from our little visit to the North. There is one other small
point upon which I desire some light. This fellow Hayes had
shod his horses with shoes which counterfeited the tracks of cows.
Was it from Mr. Wilder that he learned so extraordinary a device?"
The Duke stood in thought for a moment, with a look of intense
surprise on his face. Then he opened a door and showed us into
a large room furnished as a museum. He led the way to a glass
case in a corner, and pointed to the inscription.
"These shoes," it ran, "were dug up in the moat of Holdernesse
Hall. They are for the use of horses; but they are shaped below
with a cloven foot of iron, so as to throw pursuers off the
track. They are supposed to have belonged to some of the
marauding Barons of Holdernesse in the Middle Ages."
Holmes opened the case, and moistening his finger he passed it
along the shoe. A thin film of recent mud was left upon his skin.
"Thank you," said he, as he replaced the glass. "It is the
second most interesting object that I have seen in the North."
"And the first?"
Holmes folded up his cheque and placed it carefully in his
note-book. "I am a poor man," said he, as he patted it
affectionately and thrust it into the depths of his inner pocket.
THE STRAND MAGAZINE
Vol. 27 MARCH, 1904
THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
By ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
VI. --- The Adventure of Black Peter.
I HAVE never known my friend to be in better form, both mental
and physical, than in the year '95. His increasing fame had
brought with it an immense practice, and I should be guilty of
an indiscretion if I were even to hint at the identity of some
of the illustrious clients who crossed our humble threshold in
Baker Street. Holmes, however, like all great artists, lived
for his art's sake, and, save in the case of the Duke of
Holdernesse, I have seldom known him claim any large reward
for his inestimable services. So unworldly was he -- or so
capricious -- that he frequently refused his help to the
powerful and wealthy where the problem made no appeal to his
sympathies, while he would devote weeks of most intense
application to the affairs of some humble client whose case
presented those strange and dramatic qualities which appealed
to his imagination and challenged his ingenuity.
In this memorable year '95 a curious and incongruous succession
of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous
investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca -- an
inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of
His Holiness the Pope -- down to his arrest of Wilson, the
notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the
East-End of London. Close on the heels of these two famous
cases came the tragedy of Woodman's Lee, and the very obscure
circumstances which surrounded the death of Captain Peter Carey.
No record of the doings of Mr. Sherlock Holmes would be complete
which did not include some account of this very unusual affair.
During the first week of July my friend had been absent so often
and so long from our lodgings that I knew he had something on
hand. The fact that several rough-looking men called during
that time and inquired for Captain Basil made me understand that
Holmes was working somewhere under one of the numerous disguises
and names with which he concealed his own formidable identity.
He had at least five small refuges in different parts of London in
which he was able to change his personality. He said nothing of
his business to me, and it was not my habit to force a confidence.
The first positive sign which he gave me of the direction
which his investigation was taking was an extraordinary one.
He had gone out before breakfast, and I had sat down to mine,
when he strode into the room, his hat upon his head and a huge
barbed-headed spear tucked like an umbrella under his arm.
"Good gracious, Holmes!" I cried. "You don't mean to say
that you have been walking about London with that thing?"
"I drove to the butcher's and back."
"And I return with an excellent appetite. There can be no
question, my dear Watson, of the value of exercise before
breakfast. But I am prepared to bet that you will not guess
the form that my exercise has taken."
"I will not attempt it."
He chuckled as he poured out the coffee.
"If you could have looked into Allardyce's back shop you would
have seen a dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a
gentleman in his shirt-sleeves furiously stabbing at it with
this weapon. I was that energetic person, and I have satisfied
myself that by no exertion of my strength can I transfix the pig
with a single blow. Perhaps you would care to try?"
"Not for worlds. But why were you doing this?"
"Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon the
mystery of Woodman's Lee. Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire last
night, and I have been expecting you. Come and join us."
Our visitor was an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age,
dressed in a quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing
of one who was accustomed to official uniform. I recognised him
at once as Stanley Hopkins, a young police inspector for whose
future Holmes had high hopes, while he in turn professed the
admiration and respect of a pupil for the scientific methods of
the famous amateur. Hopkins's brow was clouded, and he sat down
with an air of deep dejection.
"No, thank you, sir. I breakfasted before I came round.
I spent the night in town, for I came up yesterday to report."
"And what had you to report?"
"Failure, sir; absolute failure."
"You have made no progress?"
"Dear me! I must have a look at the matter."
"I wish to heavens that you would, Mr. Holmes. It's my first
big chance, and I am at my wit's end. For goodness' sake come
down and lend me a hand."
"Well, well, it just happens that I have already read all the
available evidence, including the report of the inquest, with
some care. By the way, what do you make of that tobacco-pouch
found on the scene of the crime? Is there no clue there?"
Hopkins looked surprised.
"It was the man's own pouch, sir. His initials were inside it.
And it was of seal-skin -- and he an old sealer."
"But he had no pipe."
"No, sir, we could find no pipe; indeed, he smoked very little.
And yet he might have kept some tobacco for his friends."
"No doubt. I only mention it because if I had been handling the
case I should have been inclined to make that the starting-point
of my investigation. However, my friend Dr. Watson knows
nothing of this matter, and I should be none the worse for
hearing the sequence of events once more. Just give us some
short sketch of the essentials."
Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket.
"I have a few dates here which will give you the career of the
dead man, Captain Peter Carey. He was born in '45 -- fifty
years of age. He was a most daring and successful seal and
whale fisher. In 1883 he commanded the steam sealer SEA UNICORN,
of Dundee. He had then had several successful voyages
in succession, and in the following year, 1884, he retired.
After that he travelled for some years, and finally he bought
a small place called Woodman's Lee, near Forest Row, in Sussex.
There he has lived for six years, and there he died just a week
"There were some most singular points about the man.
In ordinary life he was a strict Puritan -- a silent, gloomy
fellow. His household consisted of his wife, his daughter,
aged twenty, and two female servants. These last were continually
changing, for it was never a very cheery situation, and sometimes
it became past all bearing. The man was an intermittent drunkard,
and when he had the fit on him he was a perfect fiend.
He has been known to drive his wife and his daughter out of doors
in the middle of the night, and flog them through the park until
the whole village outside the gates was aroused by their screams.
"He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the old vicar,
who had called upon him to remonstrate with him upon his
conduct. In short, Mr. Holmes, you would go far before you
found a more dangerous man than Peter Carey, and I have heard
that he bore the same character when he commanded his ship.
He was known in the trade as Black Peter, and the name was given
him, not only on account of his swarthy features and the colour
of his huge beard, but for the humours which were the terror of
all around him. I need not say that he was loathed and avoided
by every one of his neighbours, and that I have not heard one
single word of sorrow about his terrible end.
"You must have read in the account of the inquest about the
man's cabin, Mr. Holmes; but perhaps your friend here has not
heard of it. He had built himself a wooden outhouse -- he
always called it `the cabin' -- a few hundred yards from his
house, and it was here that he slept every night. It was a
little, single-roomed hut, sixteen feet by ten. He kept the key
in his pocket, made his own bed, cleaned it himself, and allowed
no other foot to cross the threshold. There are small windows
on each side, which were covered by curtains and never opened.
One of these windows was turned towards the high road, and when
the light burned in it at night the folk used to point it out
to each other and wonder what Black Peter was doing in there.
That's the window, Mr. Holmes, which gave us one of the few bits
of positive evidence that came out at the inquest.
"You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking from
Forest Row about one o'clock in the morning -- two days before
the murder -- stopped as he passed the grounds and looked at the
square of light still shining among the trees. He swears that
the shadow of a man's head turned sideways was clearly visible
on the blind, and that this shadow was certainly not that of
Peter Carey, whom he knew well. It was that of a bearded man,
but the beard was short and bristled forwards in a way very
different from that of the captain. So he says, but he had
been two hours in the public-house, and it is some distance from
the road to the window. Besides, this refers to the Monday,
and the crime was done upon the Wednesday.
"On the Tuesday Peter Carey was in one of his blackest moods,
flushed with drink and as savage as a dangerous wild beast.
He roamed about the house, and the women ran for it when they
heard him coming. Late in the evening he went down to his own hut.
About two o'clock the following morning his daughter, who slept
with her window open, heard a most fearful yell from that
direction, but it was no unusual thing for him to bawl and shout
when he was in drink, so no notice was taken. On rising at
seven one of the maids noticed that the door of the hut was open,
but so great was the terror which the man caused that it
was midday before anyone would venture down to see what had
become of him. Peeping into the open door they saw a sight
which sent them flying with white faces into the village.
Within an hour I was on the spot and had taken over the case.
"Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr. Holmes,
but I give you my word that I got a shake when I put my head into
that little house. It was droning like a harmonium with the
flies and bluebottles, and the floor and walls were like a
slaughter-house. He had called it a cabin, and a cabin it was
sure enough, for you would have thought that you were in a ship.
There was a bunk at one end, a sea-chest, maps and charts,
a picture of the SEA UNICORN, a line of log-books on a shelf,
all exactly as one would expect to find it in a captain's room.
And there in the middle of it was the man himself, his face twisted
like a lost soul in torment, and his great brindled beard stuck
upwards in his agony. Right through his broad breast a steel
harpoon had been driven, and it had sunk deep into the wood of
the wall behind him. He was pinned like a beetle on a card.
Of course, he was quite dead, and had been so from the instant
that he had uttered that last yell of agony.
"I know your methods, sir, and I applied them.
Before I permitted anything to be moved I examined most
carefully the ground outside, and also the floor of the room.
There were no footmarks."
"Meaning that you saw none?"
"I assure you, sir, that there were none."
"My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I have
never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature.
As long as the criminal remains upon two legs so long must there
be some indentation, some abrasion, some trifling displacement
which can be detected by the scientific searcher. It is
incredible that this blood-bespattered room contained no trace
which could have aided us. I understand, however, from the
inquest that there were some objects which you failed to overlook?"
The young inspector winced at my companion's ironical comments.
"I was a fool not to call you in at the time, Mr. Holmes.
However, that's past praying for now. Yes, there were several
objects in the room which called for special attention.
One was the harpoon with which the deed was committed.
It had been snatched down from a rack on the wall.
Two others remained there, and there was a vacant place for
the third. On the stock was engraved `Ss. SEA UNICORN, Dundee.'
This seemed to establish that the crime had been done in a moment
of fury, and that the murderer had seized the first weapon which
came in his way. The fact that the crime was committed at two
in the morning, and yet Peter Carey was fully dressed, suggested
that he had an appointment with the murderer, which is borne out
by the fact that a bottle of rum and two dirty glasses stood upon
"Yes," said Holmes; "I think that both inferences are permissible.
Was there any other spirit but rum in the room?"
"Yes; there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky on the
sea-chest. It is of no importance to us, however, since the
decanters were full, and it had therefore not been used."
"For all that its presence has some significance," said Holmes.
"However, let us hear some more about the objects which do seem
to you to bear upon the case."
"There was this tobacco-pouch upon the table."
"What part of the table?"
"It lay in the middle. It was of coarse seal-skin --
the straight-haired skin, with a leather thong to bind it.
Inside was `P.C.' on the flap. There was half an ounce of
strong ship's tobacco in it."
"Excellent! What more?"
Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket a drab-covered note-book.
The outside was rough and worn, the leaves discoloured.
On the first page were written the initials "J.H.N." and the
date "1883." Holmes laid it on the table and examined it in
his minute way, while Hopkins and I gazed over each shoulder.
On the second page were the printed letters "C.P.R.," and then
came several sheets of numbers. Another heading was Argentine,
another Costa Rica, and another San Paulo, each with pages of
signs and figures after it.
"What do you make of these?" asked Holmes.
"They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities.
I thought that `J.H.N.' were the initials of a broker,
and that `C.P.R.' may have been his client."
"Try Canadian Pacific Railway," said Holmes.
Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth and struck his thigh
with his clenched hand.
"What a fool I have been!" he cried. "Of course, it is as
you say. Then `J.H.N.' are the only initials we have to solve.
I have already examined the old Stock Exchange lists, and I can
find no one in 1883 either in the House or among the outside
brokers whose initials correspond with these. Yet I feel that
the clue is the most important one that I hold. You will admit,
Mr. Holmes, that there is a possibility that these initials are
those of the second person who was present -- in other words,
of the murderer. I would also urge that the introduction into
the case of a document relating to large masses of valuable
securities gives us for the first time some indication of a
motive for the crime."
Sherlock Holmes's face showed that he was thoroughly taken aback
by this new development.
"I must admit both your points," said he. "I confess that this
note-book, which did not appear at the inquest, modifies any
views which I may have formed. I had come to a theory of the
crime in which I can find no place for this. Have you
endeavoured to trace any of the securities here mentioned?"
"Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but I fear that
the complete register of the stockholders of these South
American concerns is in South America, and that some weeks must
elapse before we can trace the shares."
Holmes had been examining the cover of the note-book with his
"Surely there is some discolouration here," said he.
"Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. I told you that I picked
the book off the floor."
"Was the blood-stain above or below?"
"On the side next the boards."
"Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after
the crime was committed."
"Exactly, Mr. Holmes. I appreciated that point,
and I conjectured that it was dropped by the murderer
in his hurried flight. It lay near the door."
"I suppose that none of these securities have been found among
the property of the dead man?"
"Have you any reason to suspect robbery?"
"No, sir. Nothing seemed to have been touched."
"Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case.
Then there was a knife, was there not?"
"A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. It lay at the feet
of the dead man. Mrs. Carey has identified it as being her
Holmes was lost in thought for some time.
"Well," said he, at last, "I suppose I shall have to come out
and have a look at it."
Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy.
"Thank you, sir. That will indeed be a weight off my mind."
Holmes shook his finger at the inspector.
"It would have been an easier task a week ago," said he.
"But even now my visit may not be entirely fruitless. Watson,
if you can spare the time I should be very glad of your company.
If you will call a four-wheeler, Hopkins, we shall be ready to
start for Forest Row in a quarter of an hour."
Alighting at the small wayside station, we drove for some miles
through the remains of widespread woods, which were once part of
that great forest which for so long held the Saxon invaders at
bay -- the impenetrable "weald," for sixty years the bulwark of
Britain. Vast sections of it have been cleared, for this is the
seat of the first iron-works of the country, and the trees have
been felled to smelt the ore. Now the richer fields of the
North have absorbed the trade, and nothing save these ravaged
groves and great scars in the earth show the work of the past.
Here in a clearing upon the green slope of a hill stood a long,
low stone house, approached by a curving drive running through
the fields. Nearer the road, and surrounded on three sides
by bushes, was a small outhouse, one window and the door facing
in our direction. It was the scene of the murder!
Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced
us to a haggard, grey-haired woman, the widow of the murdered
man, whose gaunt and deep-lined face, with the furtive look of
terror in the depths of her red-rimmed eyes, told of the years
of hardship and ill-usage which she had endured. With her was
her daughter, a pale, fair-haired girl, whose eyes blazed
defiantly at us as she told us that she was glad that her father
was dead, and that she blessed the hand which had struck him
down. It was a terrible household that Black Peter Carey had
made for himself, and it was with a sense of relief that we
found ourselves in the sunlight again and making our way along
a path which had been worn across the fields by the feet of
the dead man.
The outhouse was the simplest of dwellings, wooden-walled,
shingle-roofed, one window beside the door and one on the