Part 1 out of 8
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THE LOCK AND KEY LIBRARY
CLASSIC MYSTERY AND DETECTIVE STORIES
EDITED BY JULIAN HAWTHORNE
Table of Contents
RUDYARD KIPLING (1865-)
My Own True Ghost Story
The Sending of Dana Da
In the House of Suddhoo
His Wedded Wife
A. CONAN DOYLE (1859-)
A Case of Identity
A Scandal in Bohemia
The Red-Headed League
EGERTON CASTLE (1858-)
The Baron's Quarry
STANLEY J. WEYMAN (1855-)
The Fowl in the Pot
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON (1850-94)
The Pavilion on the Links
WILKIE COLLINS (1824-89)
The Dream Woman
The Lost Duchess
The Minor Canon
The Great Valdez Sapphire
Modern English Mystery Stories
My Own True Ghost Story
As I came through the Desert thus it was--
As I came through the Desert.
The City of Dreadful Night.
Somewhere in the Other World, where there are books and pictures
and plays and shop windows to look at, and thousands of men who
spend their lives in building up all four, lives a gentleman who
writes real stories about the real insides of people; and his name
is Mr. Walter Besant. But he will insist upon treating his ghosts--
he has published half a workshopful of them--with levity. He
makes his ghost-seers talk familiarly, and, in some cases, flirt
outrageously, with the phantoms. You may treat anything, from a
Viceroy to a Vernacular Paper, with levity; but you must behave
reverently toward a ghost, and particularly an Indian one.
There are, in this land, ghosts who take the form of fat, cold,
pobby corpses, and hide in trees near the roadside till a traveler
passes. Then they drop upon his neck and remain. There are also
terrible ghosts of women who have died in child-bed. These wander
along the pathways at dusk, or hide in the crops near a village,
and call seductively. But to answer their call is death in this
world and the next. Their feet are turned backward that all sober
men may recognize them. There are ghosts of little children who
have been thrown into wells. These haunt well curbs and the
fringes of jungles, and wail under the stars, or catch women by the
wrist and beg to be taken up and carried. These and the corpse
ghosts, however, are only vernacular articles and do not attack
Sahibs. No native ghost has yet been authentically reported to
have frightened an Englishman; but many English ghosts have scared
the life out of both white and black.
Nearly every other Station owns a ghost. There are said to be two
at Simla, not counting the woman who blows the bellows at Syree
dak-bungalow on the Old Road; Mussoorie has a house haunted of a
very lively Thing; a White Lady is supposed to do night-watchman
round a house in Lahore; Dalhousie says that one of her houses
"repeats" on autumn evenings all the incidents of a horrible horse-
and-precipice accident; Murree has a merry ghost, and, now that she
has been swept by cholera, will have room for a sorrowful one;
there are Officers' Quarters in Mian Mir whose doors open without
reason, and whose furniture is guaranteed to creak, not with the
heat of June but with the weight of Invisibles who come to lounge
in the chairs; Peshawur possesses houses that none will willingly
rent; and there is something--not fever--wrong with a big bungalow
in Allahabad. The older Provinces simply bristle with haunted
houses, and march phantom armies along their main thoroughfares.
Some of the dak-bungalows on the Grand Trunk Road have handy little
cemeteries in their compound--witnesses to the "changes and chances
of this mortal life" in the days when men drove from Calcutta to
the Northwest. These bungalows are objectionable places to put up
in. They are generally very old, always dirty, while the khansamah
is as ancient as the bungalow. He either chatters senilely, or
falls into the long trances of age. In both moods he is useless.
If you get angry with him, he refers to some Sahib dead and buried
these thirty years, and says that when he was in that Sahib's
service not a khansamah in the Province could touch him. Then he
jabbers and mows and trembles and fidgets among the dishes, and you
repent of your irritation.
In these dak-bungalows, ghosts are most likely to be found, and
when found, they should be made a note of. Not long ago it was my
business to live in dak-bungalows. I never inhabited the same
house for three nights running, and grew to be learned in the
breed. I lived in Government-built ones with red brick walls and
rail ceilings, an inventory of the furniture posted in every room,
and an excited snake at the threshold to give welcome. I lived in
"converted" ones--old houses officiating as dak-bungalows--where
nothing was in its proper place and there wasn't even a fowl for
dinner. I lived in second-hand palaces where the wind blew through
open-work marble tracery just as uncomfortably as through a broken
pane. I lived in dak-bungalows where the last entry in the
visitors' book was fifteen months old, and where they slashed off
the curry-kid's head with a sword. It was my good luck to meet all
sorts of men, from sober traveling missionaries and deserters
flying from British Regiments, to drunken loafers who threw whisky
bottles at all who passed; and my still greater good fortune just
to escape a maternity case. Seeing that a fair proportion of the
tragedy of our lives out here acted itself in dak-bungalows, I
wondered that I had met no ghosts. A ghost that would voluntarily
hang about a dak-bungalow would be mad of course; but so many men
have died mad in dak-bungalows that there must be a fair percentage
of lunatic ghosts.
In due time I found my ghost, or ghosts rather, for there were two
of them. Up till that hour I had sympathized with Mr. Besant's
method of handling them, as shown in "The Strange Case of Mr.
Lucraft and Other Stories." I am now in the Opposition.
We will call the bungalow Katmal dak-bungalow. But THAT was the
smallest part of the horror. A man with a sensitive hide has no
right to sleep in dak-bungalows. He should marry. Katmal dak-
bungalow was old and rotten and unrepaired. The floor was of worn
brick, the walls were filthy, and the windows were nearly black
with grime. It stood on a bypath largely used by native Sub-Deputy
Assistants of all kinds, from Finance to Forests; but real Sahibs
were rare. The khansamah, who was nearly bent double with old age,
When I arrived, there was a fitful, undecided rain on the face of
the land, accompanied by a restless wind, and every gust made a
noise like the rattling of dry bones in the stiff toddy palms
outside. The khansamah completely lost his head on my arrival. He
had served a Sahib once. Did I know that Sahib? He gave me the
name of a well-known man who has been buried for more than a
quarter of a century, and showed me an ancient daguerreotype of
that man in his prehistoric youth. I had seen a steel engraving of
him at the head of a double volume of Memoirs a month before, and I
felt ancient beyond telling.
The day shut in and the khansamah went to get me food. He did not
go through the pretense of calling it "khana"--man's victuals. He
said "ratub," and that means, among other things, "grub"--dog's
rations. There was no insult in his choice of the term. He had
forgotten the other word, I suppose.
While he was cutting up the dead bodies of animals, I settled
myself down, after exploring the dak-bungalow. There were three
rooms, beside my own, which was a corner kennel, each giving into
the other through dingy white doors fastened with long iron bars.
The bungalow was a very solid one, but the partition walls of the
rooms were almost jerry-built in their flimsiness. Every step or
bang of a trunk echoed from my room down the other three, and every
footfall came back tremulously from the far walls. For this reason
I shut the door. There were no lamps--only candles in long glass
shades. An oil wick was set in the bathroom.
For bleak, unadulterated misery that dak-bungalow was the worst of
the many that I had ever set foot in. There was no fireplace, and
the windows would not open; so a brazier of charcoal would have
been useless. The rain and the wind splashed and gurgled and
moaned round the house, and the toddy palms rattled and roared.
Half a dozen jackals went through the compound singing, and a hyena
stood afar off and mocked them. A hyena would convince a Sadducee
of the Resurrection of the Dead--the worst sort of Dead. Then came
the ratub--a curious meal, half native and half English in
composition--with the old khansamah babbling behind my chair about
dead and gone English people, and the wind-blown candles playing
shadow-bo-peep with the bed and the mosquito-curtains. It was just
the sort of dinner and evening to make a man think of every single
one of his past sins, and of all the others that he intended to
commit if he lived.
Sleep, for several hundred reasons, was not easy. The lamp in the
bath-room threw the most absurd shadows into the room, and the wind
was beginning to talk nonsense.
Just when the reasons were drowsy with blood-sucking I heard the
regular--"Let--us--take--and--heave--him--over" grunt of doolie-
bearers in the compound. First one doolie came in, then a second,
and then a third. I heard the doolies dumped on the ground, and
the shutter in front of my door shook. "That's some one trying to
come in," I said. But no one spoke, and I persuaded myself that it
was the gusty wind. The shutter of the room next to mine was
attacked, flung back, and the inner door opened. "That's some Sub-
Deputy Assistant," I said, "and he has brought his friends with
him. Now they'll talk and spit and smoke for an hour."
But there were no voices and no footsteps. No one was putting his
luggage into the next room. The door shut, and I thanked
Providence that I was to be left in peace. But I was curious to
know where the doolies had gone. I got out of bed and looked into
the darkness. There was never a sign of a doolie. Just as I was
getting into bed again, I heard, in the next room, the sound that
no man in his senses can possibly mistake--the whir of a billiard
ball down the length of the slates when the striker is stringing
for break. No other sound is like it. A minute afterwards there
was another whir, and I got into bed. I was not frightened--indeed
I was not. I was very curious to know what had become of the
doolies. I jumped into bed for that reason.
Next minute I heard the double click of a cannon and my hair sat
up. It is a mistake to say that hair stands up. The skin of the
head tightens and you can feel a faint, prickly, bristling all over
the scalp. That is the hair sitting up.
There was a whir and a click, and both sounds could only have been
made by one thing--a billiard ball. I argued the matter out at
great length with myself; and the more I argued the less probable
it seemed that one bed, one table, and two chairs--all the
furniture of the room next to mine--could so exactly duplicate the
sounds of a game of billiards. After another cannon, a three-
cushion one to judge by the whir, I argued no more. I had found my
ghost and would have given worlds to have escaped from that dak-
bungalow. I listened, and with each listen the game grew clearer.
There was whir on whir and click on click. Sometimes there was a
double click and a whir and another click. Beyond any sort of
doubt, people were playing billiards in the next room. And the
next room was not big enough to hold a billiard table!
Between the pauses of the wind I heard the game go forward--stroke
after stroke. I tried to believe that I could not hear voices; but
that attempt was a failure.
Do you know what fear is? Not ordinary fear of insult, injury or
death, but abject, quivering dread of something that you cannot
see--fear that dries the inside of the mouth and half of the
throat--fear that makes you sweat on the palms of the hands, and
gulp in order to keep the uvula at work? This is a fine Fear--a
great cowardice, and must be felt to be appreciated. The very
improbability of billiards in a dak-bungalow proved the reality of
the thing. No man--drunk or sober--could imagine a game at
billiards, or invent the spitting crack of a "screw-cannon."
A severe course of dak-bungalows has this disadvantage--it breeds
infinite credulity. If a man said to a confirmed dak-bungalow-
haunter:--"There is a corpse in the next room, and there's a mad
girl in the next but one, and the woman and man on that camel have
just eloped from a place sixty miles away," the hearer would not
disbelieve because he would know that nothing is too wild,
grotesque, or horrible to happen in a dak-bungalow.
This credulity, unfortunately, extends to ghosts. A rational
person fresh from his own house would have turned on his side and
slept. I did not. So surely as I was given up as a bad carcass by
the scores of things in the bed because the bulk of my blood was in
my heart, so surely did I hear every stroke of a long game at
billiards played in the echoing room behind the iron-barred door.
My dominant fear was that the players might want a marker. It was
an absurd fear; because creatures who could play in the dark would
be above such superfluities. I only know that that was my terror;
and it was real.
After a long, long while the game stopped, and the door banged. I
slept because I was dead tired. Otherwise I should have preferred
to have kept awake. Not for everything in Asia would I have
dropped the door-bar and peered into the dark of the next room.
When the morning came, I considered that I had done well and
wisely, and inquired for the means of departure.
"By the way, khansamah," I said, "what were those three doolies
doing in my compound in the night?"
"There were no doolies," said the khansamah.
I went into the next room and the daylight streamed through the
open door. I was immensely brave. I would, at that hour, have
played Black Pool with the owner of the big Black Pool down below.
"Has this place always been a dak-bungalow?" I asked.
"No," said the khansamah. "Ten or twenty years ago, I have
forgotten how long, it was a billiard room."
"A how much?"
"A billiard room for the Sahibs who built the Railway. I was
khansamah then in the big house where all the Railway-Sahibs lived,
and I used to come across with brandy-shrab. These three rooms
were all one, and they held a big table on which the Sahibs played
every evening. But the Sahibs are all dead now, and the Railway
runs, you say, nearly to Kabul."
"Do you remember anything about the Sahibs?"
"It is long ago, but I remember that one Sahib, a fat man and
always angry, was playing here one night, and he said to me:--
'Mangal Khan, brandy-pani do,' and I filled the glass, and he bent
over the table to strike, and his head fell lower and lower till it
hit the table, and his spectacles came off, and when we--the Sahibs
and I myself--ran to lift him he was dead. I helped to carry him
out. Aha, he was a strong Sahib! But he is dead and I, old Mangal
Khan, am still living, by your favor."
That was more than enough! I had my ghost--a firsthand,
authenticated article. I would write to the Society for Psychical
Research--I would paralyze the Empire with the news! But I would,
first of all, put eighty miles of assessed crop land between myself
and that dak-bungalow before nightfall. The Society might send
their regular agent to investigate later on.
I went into my own room and prepared to pack after noting down the
facts of the case. As I smoked I heard the game begin again,--with
a miss in balk this time, for the whir was a short one.
The door was open and I could see into the room. Click--c1ick!
That was a cannon. I entered the room without fear, for there was
sunlight within and a fresh breeze without. The unseen game was
going on at a tremendous rate. And well it might, when a restless
little rat was running to and fro inside the dingy ceiling-cloth,
and a piece of loose window-sash was making fifty breaks off the
window-bolt as it shook in the breeze!
Impossible to mistake the sound of billiard balls! Impossible to
mistake the whir of a ball over the slate! But I was to be
excused. Even when I shut my enlightened eyes the sound was
marvelously like that of a fast game.
Entered angrily the faithful partner of my sorrows, Kadir Baksh.
"This bungalow is very bad and low-caste! No wonder the Presence
was disturbed and is speckled. Three sets of doolie-bearers came
to the bungalow late last night when I was sleeping outside, and
said that it was their custom to rest in the rooms set apart for
the English people! What honor has the khansamah? They tried to
enter, but I told them to go. No wonder, if these Oorias have been
here, that the Presence is sorely spotted. It is shame, and the
work of a dirty man!"
Kadir Baksh did not say that he had taken from each gang two annas
for rent in advance, and then, beyond my earshot, had beaten them
with the big green umbrella whose use I could never before divine.
But Kadir Baksh has no notions of morality.
There was an interview with the khansamah, but as he promptly lost
his head, wrath gave place to pity, and pity led to a long
conversation, in the course of which he put the fat Engineer-
Sahib's tragic death in three separate stations--two of them fifty
miles away. The third shift was to Calcutta, and there the Sahib
died while driving a dogcart.
If I had encouraged him the khansamah would have wandered all
through Bengal with his corpse.
I did not go away as soon as I intended. I stayed for the night,
while the wind and the rat and the sash and the window-bolt played
a ding-dong "hundred and fifty up." Then the wind ran out and the
billiards stopped, and I felt that I had ruined my one genuine,
hall-marked ghost story.
Had I only stopped at the proper time, I could have made ANYTHING
out of it.
That was the bitterest thought of all!
The Sending of Dana Da
When the Devil rides on your chest, remember the chamar.
Once upon a time some people in India made a new heaven and a new
earth out of broken teacups, a missing brooch or two, and a hair
brush. These were hidden under bushes, or stuffed into holes in
the hillside, and an entire civil service of subordinate gods used
to find or mend them again; and everyone said: "There are more
things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy."
Several other things happened also, but the religion never seemed
to get much beyond its first manifestations; though it added an
air-line postal dak, and orchestral effects in order to keep
abreast of the times, and stall off competition.
This religion was too elastic for ordinary use. It stretched
itself and embraced pieces of everything that medicine men of all
ages have manufactured. It approved and stole from Freemasonry;
looted the Latter-day Rosicrucians of half their pet words; took
any fragments of Egyptian philosophy that it found in the
Encyclopaedia Britannica; annexed as many of the Vedas as had been
translated into French or English, and talked of all the rest;
built in the German versions of what is left of the Zend Avesta;
encouraged white, gray, and black magic, including Spiritualism,
palmistry, fortune-telling by cards, hot chestnuts, double-kerneled
nuts and tallow droppings; would have adopted Voodoo and Oboe had
it known anything about them, and showed itself, in every way, one
of the most accommodating arrangements that had ever been invented
since the birth of the sea.
When it was in thorough working order, with all the machinery down
to the subscriptions complete, Dana Da came from nowhere, with
nothing in his hands, and wrote a chapter in its history which has
hitherto been unpublished. He said that his first name was Dana,
and his second was Da. Now, setting aside Dana of the New York
Sun, Dana is a Bhil name, and Da fits no native of India unless you
accept the Bengali De as the original spelling. Da is Lap or
Finnish; and Dana Da was neither Finn, Chin, Bhil, Bengali, Lap,
Nair, Gond, Romaney, Magh, Bokhariot, Kurd, Armenian, Levantine,
Jew, Persian, Punjabi, Madrasi, Parsee, nor anything else known to
ethnologists. He was simply Dana Da, and declined to give further
information. For the sake of brevity, and as roughly indicating
his origin, he was called "The Native." He might have been the
original Old Man of the Mountains, who is said to be the only
authorized head of the Teacup Creed. Some, people said that he
was; but Dana Da used to smile and deny any connection with the
cult; explaining that he was an "independent experimenter."
As I have said, he came from nowhere, with his hands behind his
back, and studied the creed for three weeks; sitting at the feet of
those best competent to explain its mysteries. Then he laughed
aloud and went away, but the laugh might have been either of
devotion or derision.
When he returned he was without money, but his pride was unabated.
He declared that he knew more about the things in heaven and earth
than those who taught him, and for this contumacy was abandoned
His next appearance in public life was at a big cantonment in Upper
India, and he was then telling fortunes with the help of three
leaden dice, a very dirty old cloth, and a little tin box of opium
pills. He told better fortunes when he was allowed half a bottle
of whisky; but the things which he invented on the opium were quite
worth the money. He was in reduced circumstances. Among other
people's he told the fortune of an Englishman who had once been
interested in the Simla creed, but who, later on, had married and
forgotten all his old knowledge in the study of babies and
Exchange. The Englishman allowed Dana Da to tell a fortune for
charity's sake, and gave him five rupees, a dinner, and some old
clothes. When he had eaten, Dana Da professed gratitude, and asked
if there were anything he could do for his host--in the esoteric
"Is there anyone that you love?" said Dana Da. The Englishman
loved his wife, but had no desire to drag her name into the
conversation. He therefore shook his head.
"Is there anyone that you hate?" said Dana Da. The Englishman said
that there were several men whom he hated deeply.
"Very good," said Dana Da, upon whom the whisky and the opium were
beginning to tell. "Only give me their names, and I will dispatch
a Sending to them and kill them."
Now a Sending is a horrible arrangement, first invented, they say,
in Iceland. It is a thing sent by a wizard, and may take any form,
but most generally wanders about the land in the shape of a little
purple cloud till it finds the sendee, and him it kills by changing
into the form of a horse, or a cat, or a man without a face. It is
not strictly a native patent, though chamars can, if irritated,
dispatch a Sending which sits on the breast of their enemy by night
and nearly kills him. Very few natives care to irritate chamars
for this reason.
"Let me dispatch a Sending," said Dana Da; "I am nearly dead now
with want, and drink, and opium; but I should like to kill a man
before I die. I can send a Sending anywhere you choose, and in any
form except in the shape of a man."
The Englishman had no friends that he wished to kill, but partly to
soothe Dana Da, whose eyes were rolling, and partly to see what
would be done, he asked whether a modified Sending could not be
arranged for--such a Sending as should make a man's life a burden
to him, and yet do him no harm. If this were possible, he notified
his willingness to give Dana Da ten rupees for the job.
"I am not what I was once," said Dana Da, "and I must take the
money because I am poor. To what Englishman shall I send it?"
"Send a Sending to Lone Sahib," said the Englishman, naming a man
who had been most bitter in rebuking him for his apostasy from the
Teacup Creed. Dana Da laughed and nodded.
"I could have chosen no better man myself," said he. "I will see
that he finds the Sending about his path and about his bed."
He lay down on the hearthrug, turned up the whites of his eyes,
shivered all over, and began to snort. This was magic, or opium,
or the Sending, or all three. When he opened his eyes he vowed
that the Sending had started upon the warpath, and was at that
moment flying up to the town where Lone Sahib lives.
"Give me my ten rupees," said Dana Da, wearily, "and write a letter
to Lone Sahib, telling him, and all who believe with him, that you
and a friend are using a power greater than theirs. They will see
that you are speaking the truth."
He departed unsteadily, with the promise of some more rupees if
anything came of the Sending.
The Englishman sent a letter to Lone Sahib, couched in what he
remembered of the terminology of the creed. He wrote: "I also, in
the days of what you held to be my backsliding, have obtained
enlightenment, and with enlightenment has come power." Then he
grew so deeply mysterious that the recipient of the letter could
make neither head nor tail of it, and was proportionately
impressed; for he fancied that his friend had become a "fifth
rounder." When a man is a "fifth rounder" he can do more than
Slade and Houdin combined.
Lone Sahib read the letter in five different fashions, and was
beginning a sixth interpretation, when his bearer dashed in with
the news that there was a cat on the bed. Now, if there was one
thing that Lone Sahib hated more than another it was a cat. He
rated the bearer for not turning it out of the house. The bearer
said that he was afraid. All the doors of the bedroom had been
shut throughout the morning, and no real cat could possibly have
entered the room. He would prefer not to meddle with the creature.
Lone Sahib entered the room gingerly, and there, on the pillow of
his bed, sprawled and whimpered a wee white kitten, not a jumpsome,
frisky little beast, but a sluglike crawler with its eyes barely
opened and its paws lacking strength or direction--a kitten that
ought to have been in a basket with its mamma. Lone Sahib caught
it by the scruff of its neck, handed it over to the sweeper to be
drowned, and fined the bearer four annas.
That evening, as he was reading in his room, he fancied that he saw
something moving about on the hearthrug, outside the circle of
light from his reading lamp. When the thing began to myowl, he
realized that it was a kitten--a wee white kitten, nearly blind and
very miserable. He was seriously angry, and spoke bitterly to his
bearer, who said that there was no kitten in the room when he
brought in the lamp, and real kittens of tender age generally had
mother cats in attendance.
"If the Presence will go out into the veranda and listen," said the
bearer, "he will hear no cats. How, therefore, can the kitten on
the bed and the kitten on the hearthrug be real kittens?"
Lone Sahib went out to listen, and the bearer followed him, but
there was no sound of Rachel mewing for her children. He returned
to his room, having hurled the kitten down the hillside, and wrote
out the incidents of the day for the benefit of his coreligionists.
Those people were so absolutely free from superstition that they
ascribed anything a little out of the common to agencies. As it
was their business to know all about the agencies, they were on
terms of almost indecent familiarity with manifestations of every
kind. Their letters dropped from the ceiling--un-stamped--and
spirits used to squatter up and down their staircases all night.
But they had never come into contact with kittens. Lone Sahib
wrote out the facts, noting the hour and the minute, as every
psychical observer is bound to do, and appending the Englishman's
letter because it was the most mysterious document and might have
had a bearing upon anything in this world or the next. An outsider
would have translated all the tangle thus: "Look out! You laughed
at me once, and now I am going to make you sit up."
Lone Sahib's coreligionists found that meaning in it; but their
translation was refined and full of four-syllable words. They held
a sederunt, and were filled with tremulous joy, for, in spite of
their familiarity with all the other worlds and cycles, they had a
very human awe of things sent from ghostland. They met in Lone
Sahib's room in shrouded and sepulchral gloom, and their conclave
was broken up by a clinking among the photo frames on the
mantelpiece. A wee white kitten, nearly blind, was looping and
writhing itself between the clock and the candlesticks. That
stopped all investigations or doubtings. Here was the
manifestation in the flesh. It was, so far as could be seen,
devoid of purpose, but it was a manifestation of undoubted
They drafted a round robin to the Englishman, the backslider of old
days, adjuring him in the interests of the creed to explain whether
there was any connection between the embodiment of some Egyptian
god or other (I have forgotten the name) and his communication.
They called the kitten Ra, or Toth, or Shem, or Noah, or something;
and when Lone Sahib confessed that the first one had, at his most
misguided instance, been drowned by the sweeper, they said
consolingly that in his next life he would be a "bounder," and not
even a "rounder" of the lowest grade. These words may not be quite
correct, but they express the sense of the house accurately.
When the Englishman received the round robin--it came by post--he
was startled and bewildered. He sent into the bazaar for Dana Da,
who read the letter and laughed. "That is my Sending," said he.
"I told you I would work well. Now give me another ten rupees."
"But what in the world is this gibberish about Egyptian gods?"
asked the Englishman.
"Cats," said Dana Da, with a hiccough, for he had discovered the
Englishman's whisky bottle. "Cats and cats and cats! Never was
such a Sending. A hundred of cats. Now give me ten more rupees
and write as I dictate."
Dana Da's letter was a curiosity. It bore the Englishman's
signature, and hinted at cats--at a Sending of cats. The mere
words on paper were creepy and uncanny to behold.
"What have you done, though?" said the Englishman; "I am as much in
the dark as ever. Do you mean to say that you can actually send
this absurd Sending you talk about?"
"Judge for yourself," said Dana Da. "What does that letter mean?
In a little time they will all be at my feet and yours, and I, oh,
glory! will be drugged or drunk all day long."
Dana Da knew his people.
When a man who hates cats wakes up in the morning and finds a
little squirming kitten on his breast, or puts his hand into his
ulster pocket and finds a little half-dead kitten where his gloves
should be, or opens his trunk and finds a vile kitten among his
dress shirts, or goes for a long ride with his mackintosh strapped
on his saddle-bow and shakes a little sprawling kitten from its
folds when he opens it, or goes out to dinner and finds a little
blind kitten under his chair, or stays at home and finds a writhing
kitten under the quilt, or wriggling among his boots, or hanging,
head downward, in his tobacco jar, or being mangled by his terrier
in the veranda--when such a man finds one kitten, neither more nor
less, once a day in a place where no kitten rightly could or should
be, he is naturally upset. When he dare not murder his daily trove
because he believes it to be a manifestation, an emissary, an
embodiment, and half a dozen other things all out of the regular
course of nature, he is more than upset. He is actually
distressed. Some of Lone Sahib's coreligionists thought that he
was a highly favored individual; but many said that if he had
treated the first kitten with proper respect--as suited a Toth-Ra
Tum-Sennacherib Embodiment--all his trouble would have been
averted. They compared him to the Ancient Mariner, but none the
less they were proud of him and proud of the Englishman who had
sent the manifestation. They did not call it a Sending because
Icelandic magic was not in their programme.
After sixteen kittens--that is to say, after one fortnight, for
there were three kittens on the first day to impress the fact of
the Sending, the whole camp was uplifted by a letter--it came
flying through a window--from the Old Man of the Mountains--the
head of all the creed--explaining the manifestation in the most
beautiful language and soaking up all the credit of it for himself.
The Englishman, said the letter, was not there at all. He was a
backslider without power or asceticism, who couldn't even raise a
table by force of volition, much less project an army of kittens
through space. The entire arrangement, said the letter, was
strictly orthodox, worked and sanctioned by the highest authorities
within the pale of the creed. There was great joy at this, for
some of the weaker brethren seeing that an outsider who had been
working on independent lines could create kittens, whereas their
own rulers had never gone beyond crockery--and broken at that--were
showing a desire to break line on their own trail. In fact, there
was the promise of a schism. A second round robin was drafted to
the Englishman, beginning: "Oh, Scoffer," and ending with a
selection of curses from the rites of Mizraim and Memphis and the
Commination of Jugana; who was a "fifth rounder," upon whose name
an upstart "third rounder" once traded. A papal excommunication is
a billet-doux compared to the Commination of Jugana. The
Englishman had been proved under the hand and seal of the Old Man
of the Mountains to have appropriated virtue and pretended to have
power which, in reality, belonged only to the supreme head.
Naturally the round robin did not spare him.
He handed the letter to Dana Da to translate into decent English.
The effect on Dana Da was curious. At first he was furiously
angry, and then he laughed for five minutes.
"I had thought," he said, "that they would have come to me. In
another week I would have shown that I sent the Sending, and they
would have discrowned the Old Man of the Mountains who has sent
this Sending of mine. Do you do nothing. The time has come for me
to act. Write as I dictate, and I will put them to shame. But
give me ten more rupees."
At Dana Da's dictation the Englishman wrote nothing less than a
formal challenge to the Old Man of the Mountains. It wound up:
"And if this manifestation be from your hand, then let it go
forward; but if it be from my hand, I will that the Sending shall
cease in two days' time. On that day there shall be twelve kittens
and thenceforward none at all. The people shall judge between us."
This was signed by Dana Da, who added pentacles and pentagrams, and
a crux ansata, and half a dozen swastikas, and a Triple Tau to his
name, just to show that he was all he laid claim to be.
The challenge was read out to the gentlemen and ladies, and they
remembered then that Dana Da had laughed at them some years ago.
It was officially announced that the Old Man of the Mountains would
treat the matter with contempt; Dana Da being an independent
investigator without a single "round" at the back of him. But this
did not soothe his people. They wanted to see a fight. They were
very human for all their spirituality. Lone Sahib, who was really
being worn out with kittens, submitted meekly to his fate. He felt
that he was being "kittened to prove the power of Dana Da," as the
When the stated day dawned, the shower of kittens began. Some were
white and some were tabby, and all were about the same loathsome
age. Three were on his hearth-rug, three in his bathroom, and the
other six turned up at intervals among the visitors who came to see
the prophecy break down. Never was a more satisfactory Sending.
On the next day there were no kittens, and the next day and all the
other days were kittenless and quiet. The people murmured and
looked to the Old Man of the Mountains for an explanation. A
letter, written on a palm leaf, dropped from the ceiling, but
everyone except Lone Sahib felt that letters were not what the
occasion demanded. There should have been cats, there should have
been cats--full-grown ones. The letter proved conclusively that
there had been a hitch in the psychic current which, colliding with
a dual identity, had interfered with the percipient activity all
along the main line. The kittens were still going on, but owing to
some failure in the developing fluid, they were not materialized.
The air was thick with letters for a few days afterwards. Unseen
hands played Gluck and Beethoven on finger-bowls and clock shades;
but all men felt that psychic life was a mockery without
materialized kittens. Even Lone Sahib shouted with the majority on
this head. Dana Da's letters were very insulting, and if he had
then offered to lead a new departure, there is no knowing what
might not have happened.
But Dana Da was dying of whisky and opium in the Englishman's go-
down, and had small heart for new creeds.
"They have been put to shame," said he. "Never was such a Sending.
It has killed me."
"Nonsense," said the Englishman, "you are going to die, Dana Da,
and that sort of stuff must be left behind. I'll admit that you
have made some queer things come about. Tell me honestly, now, how
was it done?"
"Give me ten more rupees," said Dana Da, faintly, "and if I die
before I spend them, bury them with me." The silver was counted
out while Dana Da was fighting with death. His hand closed upon
the money and he smiled a grim smile.
"Bend low," he whispered. The Englishman bent.
"Bunnia--mission school--expelled--box-wallah (peddler)--Ceylon
pearl merchant--all mine English education--outcasted, and made up
name Dana Da--England with American thought-reading man and--and--
you gave me ten rupees several times--I gave the Sahib's bearer
two-eight a month for cats--little, little cats. I wrote, and he
put them about--very clever man. Very few kittens now in the
bazaar. Ask Lone Sahib's sweeper's wife."
So saying, Dana Da gasped and passed away into a land where, if all
be true, there are no materializations and the making of new creeds
But consider the gorgeous simplicity of it all!
IN THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO
A stone's throw out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread,
And all the world is wild and strange;
Churel and ghoul and Djinn and sprite
Shall bear us company to-night,
For we have reached the Oldest Land
Wherein the Powers of Darkness range.
From the Dusk to the Dawn.
The house of Suddhoo, near the Taksali Gate, is two-storied, with
four carved windows of old brown wood, and a flat roof. You may
recognize it by five red hand-prints arranged like the Five of
Diamonds on the whitewash between the upper windows. Bhagwan Dass,
the bunnia, and a man who says he gets his living by seal-cutting,
live in the lower story with a troop of wives, servants, friends,
and retainers. The two upper rooms used to be occupied by Janoo
and Azizun and a little black-and-tan terrier that was stolen from
an Englishman's house and given to Janoo by a soldier. To-day,
only Janoo lives in the upper rooms. Suddhoo sleeps on the roof
generally, except when he sleeps in the street. He used to go to
Peshawar in the cold weather to visit his son, who sells
curiosities near the Edwardes' Gate, and then he slept under a real
mud roof. Suddhoo is a great friend of mine, because his cousin had
a son who secured, thanks to my recommendation, the post of head-
messenger to a big firm in the Station. Suddhoo says that God will
make me a Lieutenant-Governor one of these days. I daresay his
prophecy will come true. He is very, very old, with white hair and
no teeth worth showing, and he has outlived his wits--outlived
nearly everything except his fondness for his son at Peshawar.
Janoo and Azizun are Kashmiris, Ladies of the City, and theirs was
an ancient and more or less honorable profession; but Azizun has
since married a medical student from the North-West and has settled
down to a most respectable life somewhere near Bareilly. Bhagwan
Dass is an extortionate and an adulterator. He is very rich. The
man who is supposed to get his living by seal-cutting pretends to
be very poor. This lets you know as much as is necessary of the
four principal tenants in the house of Suddhoo. Then there is Me,
of course; but I am only the chorus that comes in at the end to
explain things. So I do not count.
Suddhoo was not clever. The man who pretended to cut seals was the
cleverest of them all--Bhagwan Dass only knew how to lie--except
Janoo. She was also beautiful, but that was her own affair.
Suddhoo's son at Peshawar was attacked by pleurisy, and old Suddhoo
was troubled. The seal-cutter man heard of Suddhoo's anxiety and
made capital out of it. He was abreast of the times. He got a
friend in Peshawar to telegraph daily accounts of the son's health.
And here the story begins.
Suddhoo's cousin's son told me, one evening, that Suddhoo wanted to
see me; that he was too old and feeble to come personally, and that
I should be conferring an everlasting honor on the House of Suddhoo
if I went to him. I went; but I think, seeing how well-off Suddhoo
was then, that he might have sent something better than an ekka,
which jolted fearfully, to haul out a future Lieutenant-Governor to
the City on a muggy April evening. The ekka did not run quickly.
It was full dark when we pulled up opposite the door of Ranjit
Singh's Tomb near the main gate of the Fort. Here was Suddhoo and
he said that, by reason of my condescension, it was absolutely
certain that I should become a Lieutenant-Governor while my hair
was yet black. Then we talked about the weather and the state of
my health, and the wheat crops, for fifteen minutes, in the Huzuri
Bagh, under the stars.
Suddhoo came to the point at last. He said that Janoo had told him
that there was an order of the Sirkar against magic, because it was
feared that magic might one day kill the Empress of India. I
didn't know anything about the state of the law; but I fancied that
something interesting was going to happen. I said that so far from
magic being discouraged by the Government it was highly commended.
The greatest officials of the State practiced it themselves. (If
the Financial Statement isn't magic, I don't know what is.) Then,
to encourage him further, I said that, if there was any jadoo
afoot, I had not the least objection to giving it my countenance
and sanction, and to seeing that it was clean jadoo--white magic,
as distinguished from the unclean jadoo which kills folk. It took
a long time before Suddhoo admitted that this was just what he had
asked me to come for. Then he told me, in jerks and quavers, that
the man who said he cut seals was a sorcerer of the cleanest kind;
that every day he gave Suddhoo news of the sick son in Peshawar
more quickly than the lightning could fly, and that this news was
always corroborated by the letters. Further, that he had told
Suddhoo how a great danger was threatening his son, which could be
removed by clean jadoo; and, of course, heavy payment. I began to
see how the land lay, and told Suddhoo that I also understood a
little jadoo in the Western line, and would go to his house to see
that everything was done decently and in order. We set off
together; and on the way Suddhoo told me he had paid the seal-
cutter between one hundred and two hundred rupees already; and the
jadoo of that night would cost two hundred more. Which was cheap,
he said, considering the greatness of his son's danger; but I do
not think he meant it.
The lights were all cloaked in the front of the house when we
arrived. I could hear awful noises from behind the seal-cutter's
shop-front, as if some one were groaning his soul out. Suddhoo
shook all over, and while we groped our way upstairs told me that
the jadoo had begun. Janoo and Azizun met us at the stair-head,
and told us that the jadoo-work was coming off in their rooms,
because there was more space there. Janoo is a lady of a
freethinking turn of mind. She whispered that the jadoo was an
invention to get money out of Suddhoo, and that the seal-cutter
would go to a hot place when he died. Suddhoo was nearly crying
with fear and old age. He kept walking up and down the room in the
half light, repeating his son's name over and over again, and
asking Azizun if the seal-cutter ought not to make a reduction in
the case of his own landlord. Janoo pulled me over to the shadow in
the recess of the carved bow- windows. The boards were up, and the
rooms were only lit by one tiny lamp. There was no chance of my
being seen if I stayed still.
Presently, the groans below ceased, and we heard steps on the
staircase. That was the seal-cutter. He stopped outside the door
as the terrier barked and Azizun fumbled at the chain, and he told
Suddhoo to blow out the lamp. This left the place in jet darkness,
except for the red glow from the two huqas that belonged to Janoo
and Azizun. The seal-cutter came in, and I heard Suddhoo throw
himself down on the floor and groan. Azizun caught her breath, and
Janoo backed to one of the beds with a shudder. There was a clink
of something metallic, and then shot up a pale blue-green flame
near the ground. The light was just enough to show Azizun, pressed
against one corner of the room with the terrier between her knees;
Janoo, with her hands clasped, leaning forward as she sat on the
bed; Suddhoo, face down, quivering, and the seal-cutter.
I hope I may never see another man like that seal-cutter. He was
stripped to the waist, with a wreath of white jasmine as thick as
my wrist round his forehead, a salmon-colored loin-cloth round his
middle, and a steel bangle on each ankle. This was not awe-
inspiring. It was the face of the man that turned me cold. It was
blue-gray in the first place. In the second, the eyes were rolled
back till you could only see the whites of them; and, in the third,
the face was the face of a demon--a ghoul--anything you please
except of the sleek, oily old ruffian who sat in the day-time over
his turning-lathe downstairs. He was lying on his stomach, with
his arms turned and crossed behind him, as if he had been thrown
down pinioned. His head and neck were the only parts of him off
the floor. They were nearly at right angles to the body, like the
head of a cobra at spring. It was ghastly. In the centre of the
room, on the bare earth floor, stood a big, deep, brass basin, with
a pale blue-green light floating in the centre like a night-light.
Round that basin the man on the floor wriggled himself three times.
How he did it I do not know. I could see the muscles ripple along
his spine and fall smooth again; but I could not see any other
motion. The head seemed the only thing alive about him, except that
slow curl and uncurl of the laboring back-muscles. Janoo from the
bed was breathing seventy to the minute; Azizun held her hands
before her eyes; and old Suddhoo, fingering at the dirt that had
got into his white beard, was crying to himself. The horror of it
was that the creeping, crawly thing made no sound--only crawled!
And, remember, this lasted for ten minutes, while the terrier
whined, and Azizun shuddered, and Janoo gasped, and Suddhoo cried.
I felt the hair lift at the back of my head, and my heart thump
like a thermantidote paddle. Luckily, the seal-cutter betrayed
himself by his most impressive trick and made me calm again. After
he had finished that unspeakable triple crawl, he stretched his
head away from the floor as high as he could, and sent out a jet of
fire from his nostrils. Now, I knew how fire-spouting is done--I
can do it myself--so I felt at ease. The business was a fraud. If
he had only kept to that crawl without trying to raise the effect,
goodness knows what I might not have thought. Both the girls
shrieked at the jet of fire and the head dropped, chin down, on the
floor with a thud; the whole body lying then like a corpse with its
arms trussed. There was a pause of five full minutes after this,
and the blue- green flame died down. Janoo stooped to settle one
of her anklets, while Azizun turned her face to the wall and took
the terrier in her arms. Suddhoo put out an arm mechanically to
Janoo's huqa, and she slid it across the floor with her foot.
Directly above the body and on the wall, were a couple of flaming
portraits, in stamped paper frames, of the Queen and the Prince of
Wales. They looked down on the performance, and, to my thinking,
seemed to heighten the grotesqueness of it all.
Just when the silence was getting unendurable, the body turned over
and rolled away from the basin to the side of the room, where it
lay stomach up. There was a faint "plop" from the basin--exactly
like the noise a fish makes when it takes a fly--and the green
light in the centre revived.
I looked at the basin, and saw, bobbing in the water, the dried,
shrivelled, black head of a native baby--open eyes, open mouth and
shaved scalp. It was worse, being so very sudden, than the
crawling exhibition. We had no time to say anything before it
began to speak.
Read Poe's account of the voice that came from the mesmerized dying
man, and you will realize less than one-half of the horror of that
There was an interval of a second or two between each word, and a
sort of "ring, ring, ring," in the note of the voice, like the
timbre of a bell. It pealed slowly, as if talking to itself, for
several minutes before I got rid of my cold sweat. Then the
blessed solution struck me. I looked at the body lying near the
doorway, and saw, just where the hollow of the throat joins on the
shoulders, a muscle that had nothing to do with any man's regular
breathing, twitching away steadily. The whole thing was a careful
reproduction of the Egyptian teraphin that one read about sometimes
and the voice was as clever and as appalling a piece of
ventriloquism as one could wish to hear. All this time the head
was "lip-lip-lapping" against the side of the basin, and speaking.
It told Suddhoo, on his face again whining, of his son's illness
and of the state of the illness up to the evening of that very
night. I always shall respect the seal-cutter for keeping so
faithfully to the time of the Peshawar telegrams. It went on to
say that skilled doctors were night and day watching over the man's
life; and that he would eventually recover if the fee to the potent
sorcerer, whose servant was the head in the basin, were doubled.
Here the mistake from the artistic point of view came in. To ask
for twice your stipulated fee in a voice that Lazarus might have
used when he rose from the dead, is absurd. Janoo, who is really a
woman of masculine intellect, saw this as quickly as I did. I
heard her say "Asli nahin! Fareib!" scornfully under her breath;
and just as she said so, the light in the basin died out, the head
stopped talking, and we heard the room door creak on its hinges.
Then Janoo struck a match, lit the lamp, and we saw that head,
basin, and seal- cutter were gone. Suddhoo was wringing his hands
and explaining to any one who cared to listen, that, if his chances
of eternal salvation depended on it, he could not raise another two
hundred rupees. Azizun was nearly in hysterics in the corner;
while Janoo sat down composedly on one of the beds to discuss the
probabilities of the whole thing being a bunao, or "make-up."
I explained as much as I knew of the seal-cutter's way of jadoo;
but her argument was much more simple:--"The magic that is always
demanding gifts is no true magic," said she. "My mother told me
that the only potent love-spells are those which are told you for
love. This seal-cutter man is a liar and a devil. I dare not
tell, do anything, or get anything done, because I am in debt to
Bhagwan Dass the bunnia for two gold rings and a heavy anklet. I
must get my food from his shop. The seal-cutter is the friend of
Bhagwan Dass, and he would poison my food. A fool's jadoo has been
going on for ten days, and has cost Suddhoo many rupees each night.
The seal-cutter used black hens and lemons and mantras before. He
never showed us anything like this till to-night. Azizun is a
fool, and will be a pur dahnashin soon. Suddhoo has lost his
strength and his wits. See now! I had hoped to get from Suddhoo
many rupees while he lived, and many more after his death; and
behold, he is spending everything on that offspring of a devil and
a she-ass, the seal- cutter!"
Here I said:--"But what induced Suddhoo to drag me into the
business? Of course I can speak to the seal-cutter, and he shall
refund. The whole thing is child's talk--shame--and senseless."
"Suddhoo IS an old child," said Janoo. "He has lived on the roofs
these seventy years and is as senseless as a milch-goat. He
brought you here to assure himself that he was not breaking any law
of the Sirkar, whose salt he ate many years ago. He worships the
dust off the feet of the seal-cutter, and that cow-devourer has
forbidden him to go and see his son. What does Suddhoo know of
your laws or the lightning-post? I have to watch his money going
day by day to that lying beast below."
Janoo stamped her foot on the floor and nearly cried with vexation;
while Suddhoo was whimpering under a blanket in the corner, and
Azizun was trying to guide the pipe-stem to his foolish old mouth.
. . . . . . . . .
Now the case stands thus. Unthinkingly, I have laid myself open to
the charge of aiding and abetting the seal-cutter in obtaining
money under false pretences, which is forbidden by Section 420 of
the Indian Penal Code. I am helpless in the matter for these
reasons, I cannot inform the Police. What witnesses would support
my statements? Janoo refuses flatly, Azizun is a veiled woman
somewhere near Bareilly--lost in this big India of ours. I cannot
again take the law into my own hands, and speak to the seal-cutter;
for certain am I that, not only would Suddhoo disbelieve me, but
this step would end in the poisoning of Janoo, who is bound hand
and foot by her debt to the bunnia. Suddhoo is an old dotard; and
whenever we meet mumbles my idiotic joke that the Sirkar rather
patronizes the Black Art than otherwise. His son is well now; but
Suddhoo is completely under the influence of the seal-cutter, by
whose advice he regulates the affairs of his life. Janoo watches
daily the money that she hoped to wheedle out of Suddhoo taken by
the seal-cutter, and becomes daily more furious and sullen.
She will never tell, because she dare not; but, unless something
happens to prevent her, I am afraid that the seal-cutter will die
of cholera--the white arsenic kind--about the middle of May. And
thus I shall have to be privy to a murder in the House of Suddhoo.
HIS WEDDED WIFE.
Cry "Murder!" in the market-place, and each
Will turn upon his neighbor anxious eyes
That ask:--"Art thou the man?" We hunted Cain,
Some centuries ago, across the world,
That bred the fear our own misdeeds maintain
Shakespeare says something about worms, or it may be giants or
beetles, turning if you tread on them too severely. The safest
plan is never to tread on a worm--not even on the last new
subaltern from Home, with his buttons hardly out of their tissue
paper, and the red of sappy English beef in his cheeks. This is
the story of the worm that turned. For the sake of brevity, we
will call Henry Augustus Ramsay Faizanne, "The Worm," although he
really was an exceedingly pretty boy, without a hair on his face,
and with a waist like a girl's when he came out to the Second
"Shikarris" and was made unhappy in several ways. The "Shikarris"
are a high-caste regiment, and you must be able to do things well--
play a banjo or ride more than a little, or sing, or act--to get on
The Worm did nothing except fall off his pony, and knock chips out
of gate-posts with his trap. Even that became monotonous after a
time. He objected to whist, cut the cloth at billiards, sang out
of tune, kept very much to himself, and wrote to his Mamma and
sisters at Home. Four of these five things were vices which the
"Shikarris" objected to and set themselves to eradicate. Every one
knows how subalterns are, by brother subalterns, softened and not
permitted to be ferocious. It is good and wholesome, and does no
one any harm, unless tempers are lost; and then there is trouble.
There was a man once--but that is another story.
The "Shikarris" shikarred The Worm very much, and he bore
everything without winking. He was so good and so anxious to
learn, and flushed so pink, that his education was cut short, and
he was left to his own devices by every one except the Senior
Subaltern, who continued to make life a burden to The Worm. The
Senior Subaltern meant no harm; but his chaff was coarse, and he
didn't quite understand where to stop. He had been waiting too
long for his company; and that always sours a man. Also he was in
love, which made him worse.
One day, after he had borrowed The Worm's trap for a lady who never
existed, had used it himself all the afternoon, had sent a note to
The Worm purporting to come from the lady, and was telling the Mess
all about it, The Worm rose in his place and said, in his quiet,
ladylike voice: "That was a very pretty sell; but I'll lay you a
month's pay to a month's pay when you get your step, that I work a
sell on you that you'll remember for the rest of your days, and the
Regiment after you when you're dead or broke." The Worm wasn't
angry in the least, and the rest of the Mess shouted. Then the
Senior Subaltern looked at The Worm from the boots upwards, and
down again, and said, "Done, Baby." The Worm took the rest of the
Mess to witness that the bet had been taken, and retired into a
book with a sweet smile.
Two months passed, and the Senior Subaltern still educated The
Worm, who began to move about a little more as the hot weather came
on. I have said that the Senior Subaltern was in love. The
curious thing is that a girl was in love with the Senior Subaltern.
Though the Colonel said awful things, and the Majors snorted, and
married Captains looked unutterable wisdom, and the juniors
scoffed, those two were engaged.
The Senior Subaltern was so pleased with getting his Company and
his acceptance at the same time that he forgot to bother The Worm.
The girl was a pretty girl, and had money of her own. She does not
come into this story at all.
One night, at the beginning of the hot weather, all the Mess,
except The Worm, who had gone to his own room to write Home
letters, were sitting on the platform outside the Mess House. The
Band had finished playing, but no one wanted to go in. And the
Captains' wives were there also. The folly of a man in love is
unlimited. The Senior Subaltern had been holding forth on the
merits of the girl he was engaged to, and the ladies were purring
approval, while the men yawned, when there was a rustle of skirts
in the dark, and a tired, faint voice lifted itself:
"Where's my husband?"
I do not wish in the least to reflect on the morality of the
"Shikarris;" but it is on record that four men jumped up as if they
had been shot. Three of them were married men. Perhaps they were
afraid that their wives had come from Home unbeknownst. The fourth
said that he had acted on the impulse of the moment. He explained
Then the voice cried:--"Oh, Lionel!" Lionel was the Senior
Subaltern's name. A woman came into the little circle of light by
the candles on the peg-tables, stretching out her hands to the dark
where the Senior Subaltern was, and sobbing. We rose to our feet,
feeling that things were going to happen and ready to believe the
worst. In this bad, small world of ours, one knows so little of
the life of the next man--which, after all, is entirely his own
concern-- that one is not surprised when a crash comes. Anything
might turn up any day for any one. Perhaps the Senior Subaltern
had been trapped in his youth. Men are crippled that way
occasionally. We didn't know; we wanted to hear; and the Captains'
wives were as anxious as we. If he HAD been trapped, he was to be
excused; for the woman from nowhere, in the dusty shoes, and gray
travelling dress, was very lovely, with black hair and great eyes
full of tears. She was tall, with a fine figure, and her voice had
a running sob in it pitiful to hear. As soon as the Senior
Subaltern stood up, she threw her arms round his neck, and called
him "my darling," and said she could not bear waiting alone in
England, and his letters were so short and cold, and she was his to
the end of the world, and would he forgive her. This did not sound
quite like a lady's way of speaking. It was too demonstrative.
Things seemed black indeed, and the Captains' wives peered under
their eyebrows at the Senior Subaltern, and the Colonel's face set
like the Day of Judgment framed in gray bristles, and no one spoke
for a while.
Next the Colonel said, very shortly:--"Well, Sir?" and the woman
sobbed afresh. The Senior Subaltern was half choked with the arms
round his neck, but he gasped out:--"It's a d----d lie! I never
had a wife in my life!" "Don't swear," said the Colonel. "Come
into the Mess. We must sift this clear somehow," and he sighed to
himself, for he believed in his "Shikarris," did the Colonel.
We trooped into the ante-room, under the full lights, and there we
saw how beautiful the woman was. She stood up in the middle of us
all, sometimes choking with crying, then hard and proud, and then
holding out her arms to the Senior Subaltern. It was like the
fourth act of a tragedy. She told us how the Senior Subaltern had
married her when he was Home on leave eighteen months before; and
she seemed to know all that we knew, and more too, of his people
and his past life. He was white and ashy gray, trying now and
again to break into the torrent of her words; and we, noting how
lovely she was and what a criminal he looked, esteemed him a beast
of the worst kind. We felt sorry for him, though.
I shall never forget the indictment of the Senior Subaltern by his
wife. Nor will he. It was so sudden, rushing out of the dark,
unannounced, into our dull lives. The Captains' wives stood back;
but their eyes were alight, and you could see that they had already
convicted and sentenced the Senior Subaltern. The Colonel seemed
five years older. One Major was shading his eyes with his hand and
watching the woman from underneath it. Another was chewing his
moustache and smiling quietly as if he were witnessing a play.
Full in the open space in the centre, by the whist-tables, the
Senior Subaltern's terrier was hunting for fleas. I remember all
this as clearly as though a photograph were in my hand. I remember
the look of horror on the Senior Subaltern's face. It was rather
like seeing a man hanged; but much more interesting. Finally, the
woman wound up by saying that the Senior Subaltern carried a double
F. M. in tattoo on his left shoulder. We all knew that, and to our
innocent minds it seemed to clinch the matter. But one of the
Bachelor Majors said very politely:--"I presume that your marriage
certificate would be more to the purpose?"
That roused the woman. She stood up and sneered at the Senior
Subaltern for a cur, and abused the Major and the Colonel and all
the rest. Then she wept, and then she pulled a paper from her
breast, saying imperially:--"Take that! And let my husband--my
lawfully wedded husband--read it aloud--if he dare!"
There was a hush, and the men looked into each other's eyes as the
Senior Subaltern came forward in a dazed and dizzy way, and took
the paper. We were wondering as we stared, whether there was
anything against any one of us that might turn up later on. The
Senior Subaltern's throat was dry; but, as he ran his eye over the
paper, he broke out into a hoarse cackle of relief, and said to the
woman:--"You young blackguard!"
But the woman had fled through a door, and on the paper was
written:--"This is to certify that I, The Worm, have paid in full
my debts to the Senior Subaltern, and, further, that the Senior
Subaltern is my debtor, by agreement on the 23d of February, as by
the Mess attested, to the extent of one month's Captain's pay, in
the lawful currency of the India Empire."
Then a deputation set off for The Worm's quarters and found him,
betwixt and between, unlacing his stays, with the hat, wig, serge
dress, etc., on the bed. He came over as he was, and the
"Shikarris" shouted till the Gunners' Mess sent over to know if
they might have a share of the fun. I think we were all, except
the Colonel and the Senior Subaltern, a little disappointed that
the scandal had come to nothing. But that is human nature. There
could be no two words about The Worm's acting. It leaned as near
to a nasty tragedy as anything this side of a joke can. When most
of the Subalterns sat upon him with sofa-cushions to find out why
he had not said that acting was his strong point, he answered very
quietly:--"I don't think you ever asked me. I used to act at Home
with my sisters." But no acting with girls could account for The
Worm's display that night. Personally, I think it was in bad
taste. Besides being dangerous. There is no sort of use in playing
with fire, even for fun.
The "Shikarris" made him President of the Regimental Dramatic Club;
and, when the Senior Subaltern paid up his debt, which he did at
once, The Worm sank the money in scenery and dresses. He was a
good Worm; and the "Shikarris" are proud of him. The only drawback
is that he has been christened "Mrs. Senior Subaltern;" and as
there are now two Mrs. Senior Subalterns in the Station, this is
sometimes confusing to strangers.
Later on, I will tell you of a case something like, this, but with
all the jest left out and nothing in it but real trouble.
A. Conan Doyle
A Case of Identity
"My dear fellow," said Sherlock Holmes, as we sat on either side of
the fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, "life is infinitely
stranger than anything which the mind of man can invent. We would
not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces
of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand,
hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at
the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the
plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events,
working through generations, and leading to the most outre results,
it would make all fiction, with its conventionalities and foreseen
conclusions, most stale and unprofitable."
"And yet I am not convinced of it," I answered. "The cases which
come to light in the papers are, as a rule, bald enough, and vulgar
enough. We have in our police reports realism pushed to its
extreme limits, and yet the result is, it must be confessed,
neither fascinating nor artistic."
"A certain selection and discretion must be used in producing a
realistic effect," remarked Holmes. "This is wanting in the police
report, where more stress is laid perhaps upon the platitudes of
the magistrate than upon the details, which to an observer contain
the vital essence of the whole matter. Depend upon it, there is
nothing so unnatural as the commonplace."
I smiled and shook my head. "I can quite understand your thinking
so," I said. "Of course, in your position of unofficial adviser
and helper to everybody who is absolutely puzzled, throughout three
continents, you are brought in contact with all that is strange and
bizarre. But here,"--I picked up the morning paper from the
ground--"let us put it to a practical test. Here is the first
heading upon which I come. 'A husband's cruelty to his wife.'
There is half a column of print, but I know without reading it that
it is all perfectly familiar to me. There is, of course, the other
woman, the drink, the push, the blow, the bruise, the unsympathetic
sister or landlady. The crudest of writers could invent nothing
"Indeed your example is an unfortunate one for your argument," said
Holmes, taking the paper, and glancing his eye down it. "This is
the Dundas separation case, and, as it happens, I was engaged in
clearing up some small points in connection with it. The husband
was a teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the conduct
complained of was that he had drifted into the habit of winding up
every meal by taking out his false teeth and hurling them at his
wife, which you will allow is not an action likely to occur to the
imagination of the average story teller. Take a pinch of snuff,
doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over you in your
He held out his snuffbox of old gold, with a great amethyst in the
center of the lid. Its splendor was in such contrast to his homely
ways and simple life that I could not help commenting upon it.
"Ah!" said he, "I forgot that I had not seen you for some weeks.
It is a little souvenir from the King of Bohemia, in return for my
assistance in the case of the Irene Adler papers."
"And the ring?" I asked, glancing at a remarkable brilliant which
sparkled upon his finger.
"It was from the reigning family of Holland, though the matter in
which I served them was of such delicacy that I cannot confide it
even to you, who have been good enough to chronicle one or two of
my little problems."
"And have you any on hand just now?" I asked with interest.
"Some ten or twelve, but none which present any features of
interest. They are important, you understand, without being
interesting. Indeed I have found that it is usually in unimportant
matters that there is a field for the observation, and for the
quick analysis of cause and effect which gives the charm to an
investigation. The larger crimes are apt to be the simpler, for
the bigger the crime, the more obvious, as a rule, is the motive.
In these cases, save for one rather intricate matter which has been
referred to me from Marseilles, there is nothing which presents any
features of interest. It is possible, however, that I may have
something better before very many minutes are over, for this is one
of my clients, or I am much mistaken."
He had risen from his chair, and was standing between the parted
blinds, gazing down into the dull, neutral-tinted London street.
Looking over his shoulder, I saw that on the pavement opposite
there stood a large woman with a heavy fur boa round her neck, and
a large curling red feather in a broad-brimmed hat which was tilted
in a coquettish Duchess-of-Devonshire fashion over her ear.
From under this great panoply she peeped up in a nervous,
hesitating fashion at our windows, while her body oscillated
backward and forward, and her fingers fidgeted with her glove
buttons. Suddenly, with a plunge, as of the swimmer who leaves the
bank, she hurried across the road, and we heard the sharp clang of
"I have seen those symptoms before," said Holmes, throwing his
cigarette into the fire. "Oscillation upon the pavement always
means an affaire de coeur. She would like advice, but is not sure
that the matter is not too delicate for communication. And yet
even here we may discriminate. When a woman has been seriously
wronged by a man, she no longer oscillates, and the usual symptom
is a broken bell wire. Here we may take it that there is a love
matter, but that the maiden is not so much angry as perplexed or
grieved. But here she comes in person to resolve our doubts."
As he spoke, there was a tap at the door, and the boy in buttons
entered to announce Miss Mary Sutherland, while the lady herself
loomed behind his small black figure like a full-sailed merchantman
behind a tiny pilot boat. Sherlock Holmes welcomed her with the
easy courtesy for which he was remarkable, and having closed the
door, and bowed her into an armchair, he looked her over in the
minute and yet abstracted fashion which was peculiar to him.
"Do you not find," he said, "that with your short sight it is a
little trying to do so much typewriting?"
"I did at first," she answered, "but now I know where the letters
are without looking." Then, suddenly realizing the full purport of
his words, she gave a violent start, and looked up with fear and
astonishment upon her broad, good-humored face. "You've heard
about me, Mr. Holmes," she cried, "else how could you know all
"Never mind," said Holmes, laughing, "it is my business to know
things. Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook.
If not, why should you come to consult me?"
"I came to you, sir, because I heard of you from Mrs. Etherege,
whose husband you found so easily when the police and everyone had
given him up for dead. Oh, Mr. Holmes, I wish you would do as much
for me. I'm not rich, but still I have a hundred a year in my own
right, besides the little that I make by the machine, and I would
give it all to know what has become of Mr. Hosmer Angel."
"Why did you come away to consult me in such a hurry?" asked
Sherlock Holmes, with his finger tips together, and his eyes to the
Again a startled look came over the somewhat vacuous face of Miss
Mary Sutherland. "Yes, I did bang out of the house," she said,
"for it made me angry to see the easy way in which Mr. Windibank--
that is, my father--took it all. He would not go to the police,
and he would not go to you, and so at last, as he would do nothing,
and kept on saying that there was no harm done, it made me mad, and
I just on with my things and came right away to you."
"Your father?" said Holmes. "Your stepfather, surely, since the
name is different."
"Yes, my stepfather. I call him father, though it sounds funny,
too, for he is only five years and two months older than myself."
"And your mother is alive?"
"Oh, yes; mother is alive and well. I wasn't best pleased, Mr.
Holmes, when she married again so soon after father's death, and a
man who was nearly fifteen years younger than herself. Father was
a plumber in the Tottenham Court Road, and he left a tidy business
behind him, which mother carried on with Mr. Hardy, the foreman;
but when Mr. Windibank came he made her sell the business, for he
was very superior, being a traveler in wines. They got four
thousand seven hundred for the good-will and interest, which wasn't
near as much as father could have got if he had been alive."
I had expected to see Sherlock Holmes impatient under this rambling
and inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary, he had
listened with the greatest concentration of attention.
"Your own little income," he asked, "does it come out of the
"Oh, no, sir. It is quite separate, and was left me by my Uncle
Ned in Auckland. It is in New Zealand stock, paying four and half
per cent. Two thousand five hundred pounds was the amount, but I
can only touch the interest."
"You interest me extremely," said Holmes. "And since you draw so
large a sum as a hundred a year, with what you earn into the
bargain, you no doubt travel a little, and indulge yourself in
every way. I believe that a single lady can get on very nicely
upon an income of about sixty pounds."
"I could do with much less than that, Mr. Holmes, but you
understand that as long as I live at home I don't wish to be a
burden to them, and so they have the use of the money just while I
am staying with them. Of course that is only just for the time.
Mr. Windibank draws my interest every quarter, and pays it over to
mother, and I find that I can do pretty well with what I earn at
typewriting. It brings me twopence a sheet, and I can often do
from fifteen to twenty sheets in a day."
"You have made your position very clear to me," said Holmes. "This
is my friend, Doctor Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as
before myself. Kindly tell us now all about your connection with
Mr. Hosmer Angel."
A flush stole over Miss Sutherland's face, and she picked nervously
at the fringe of her jacket. "I met him first at the gasfitters'
ball," she said. "They used to send father tickets when he was
alive, and then afterwards they remembered us, and sent them to
mother. Mr. Windibank did not wish us to go. He never did wish us
to go anywhere. He would get quite mad if I wanted so much as to
join a Sunday School treat. But this time I was set on going, and
I would go, for what right had he to prevent? He said the folk
were not fit for us to know, when all father's friends were to be
there. And he said that I had nothing fit to wear, when I had my
purple plush that I had never so much as taken out of the drawer.
At last, when nothing else would do, he went off to France upon the
business of the firm; but we went, mother and I, with Mr. Hardy,
who used to be our foreman, and it was there I met Mr. Hosmer
"I suppose," said Holmes, "that when Mr. Windibank came back from
France, he was very annoyed at your having gone to the ball?"
"Oh, well, he was very good about it. He laughed, I remember, and
shrugged his shoulders, and said there was no use denying anything
to a woman, for she would have her way."
"I see. Then at the gasfitters' ball you met, as I understand, a
gentleman called Mr. Hosmer Angel?"
"Yes, sir. I met him that night, and he called next day to ask if
we had got home all safe, and after that we met him--that is to
say, Mr. Holmes, I met him twice for walks, but after that father
came back again, and Mr. Hosmer Angel could not come to the house
"Well, you know, father didn't like anything of the sort. He
wouldn't have any visitors if he could help it, and he used to say
that a woman should be happy in her own family circle. But then,
as I used to say to mother, a woman wants her own circle to begin
with, and I had not got mine yet."
"But how about Mr. Hosmer Angel? Did he make no attempt to see
"Well, father was going off to France again in a week, and Hosmer
wrote and said that it would be safer and better not to see each
other until he had gone. We could write in the meantime, and he
used to write every day. I took the letters in the morning, so
there was no need for father to know."
"Were you engaged to the gentleman at this time?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Holmes. We were engaged after the first walk that we
took. Hosmer--Mr. Angel--was a cashier in an office in Leadenhall
"That's the worst of it, Mr. Holmes; I don't know."
"Where did he live, then?"
"He slept on the premises."
"And you don't know his address?"
"No--except that it was Leadenhall Street."
"Where did you address your letters, then?"
"To the Leadenhall Street Post Office, to be left till called for.
He said that if they were sent to the office he would be chaffed by
all the other clerks about having letters from a lady, so I offered
to typewrite them, like he did his, but he wouldn't have that, for
he said that when I wrote them they seemed to come from me, but
when they were typewritten he always felt that the machine had come
between us. That will just show you how fond he was of me, Mr.
Holmes, and the little things that he would think of."
"It was most suggestive," said Holmes. "It has long been an axiom
of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.
Can you remember any other little things about Mr. Hosmer Angel?"
"He was a very shy man, Mr. Holmes. He would rather walk with me
in the evening than in the daylight, for he said that he hated to
be conspicuous. Very retiring and gentlemanly he was. Even his
voice was gentle. He'd had the quinsy and swollen glands when he
was young, he told me, and it had left him with a weak throat and a
hesitating, whispering fashion of speech. He was always well
dressed, very neat and plain, but his eyes were weak, just as mine
are, and he wore tinted glasses against the glare."
"Well, and what happened when Mr. Windibank, your stepfather,
returned to France?"
"Mr. Hosmer Angel came to the house again, and proposed that we
should marry before father came back. He was in dreadful earnest,
and made me swear, with my hands on the Testament, that whatever
happened I would always be true to him. Mother said he was quite
right to make me swear, and that it was a sign of his passion.
Mother was all in his favor from the first, and was even fonder of
him than I was. Then, when they talked of marrying within the
week, I began to ask about father; but they both said never to mind
about father, but just to tell him afterwards and mother said she
would make it all right with him. I didn't quite like that, Mr.
Holmes. It seemed funny that I should ask his leave, as he was
only a few years older than me; but I didn't want to do anything on
the sly, so I wrote to father at Bordeaux, where the company has
its French offices, but the letter came back to me on the very
morning of the wedding."
"It missed him, then?"
"Yes, sir, for he had started to England just before it arrived."
"Ha! that was unfortunate. Your wedding was arranged, then, for
the Friday. Was it to be in church?"
"Yes, sir, but very quietly. It was to be at St. Saviour's, near
King's Cross, and we were to have breakfast afterwards at the St.
Pancras Hotel. Hosmer came for us in a hansom, but as there were
two of us, he put us both into it, and stepped himself into a four-
wheeler, which happened to be the only other cab in the street. We
got to the church first, and when the four-wheeler drove up we
waited for him to step out, but he never did, and when the cabman
got down from the box and looked, there was no one there! The
cabman said that he could not imagine what had become of him, for
he had seen him get in with his own eyes. That was last Friday,
Mr. Holmes, and I have never seen or heard anything since then to
throw any light upon what became of him."
"It seems to me that you have been very shamefully treated," said
"Oh, no, sir! He was too good and kind to leave me so. Why, all
the morning he was saying to me that, whatever happened, I was to
be true; and that even if something quite unforeseen occurred to
separate us, I was always to remember that I was pledged to him,
and that he would claim his pledge sooner or later. It seemed
strange talk for a wedding morning, but what has happened since
gives a meaning to it."
"Most certainly it does. Your own opinion is, then, that some
unforeseen catastrophe has occurred to him?"
"Yes, sir. I believe that he foresaw some danger, or else he would
not have talked so. And then I think that what he foresaw
"But you have no notion as to what it could have been?"
"One more question. How did your mother take the matter?"
"She was angry, and said that I was never to speak of the matter
"And your father? Did you tell him?"
"Yes, and he seemed to think, with me, that something had happened,
and that I should hear of Hosmer again. As he said, what interest
could anyone have in bringing me to the door of the church, and
then leaving me? Now, if he had borrowed my money, or if he had
married me and got my money settled on him, there might be some
reason; but Hosmer was very independent about money, and never
would look at a shilling of mine. And yet what could have
happened? And why could he not write? Oh! it drives me half mad
to think of, and I can't sleep a wink at night." She pulled a
little handkerchief out of her muff, and began to sob heavily into
"I shall glance into the case for you," said Holmes, rising, "and I
have no doubt that we shall reach some definite result. Let the
weight of the matter rest upon me now, and do not let your mind
dwell upon it further. Above all, try to let Mr. Hosmer Angel
vanish from your memory, as he has done from your life."
"Then you don't think I'll see him again?"
"I fear not."
"Then what has happened to him?"
"You will leave that question in my hands. I should like an
accurate description of him, and any letters of his which you can
"I advertised for him in last Saturday's Chronicle," said she.
"Here is the slip, and here are four letters from him."
"Thank you. And your address?"
"No. 31 Lyon Place, Camberwell."
"Mr. Angel's address you never had, I understand. Where is your
father's place of business?"
"He travels for Westhouse & Marbank, the great claret importers of
"Thank you. You have made your statement very clearly. You will
leave the papers here, and remember the advice which I have given
you. Let the whole incident be a sealed book, and do not allow it
to affect your life."
"You are very kind, Mr. Holmes, but I cannot do that. I shall be
true to Hosmer. He shall find me ready when he comes back."
For all the preposterous hat and the vacuous face, there was
something noble in the simple faith of our visitor which compelled
our respect. She laid her little bundle of papers upon the table,
and went her way, with a promise to come again whenever she might
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for a few minutes with his finger tips
still pressed together, his legs stretched out in front of him, and
his gaze directed upward to the ceiling. Then he took down from
the rack the old and oily clay pipe, which was to him as a
counselor, and, having lighted it, he leaned back in his chair,
with thick blue cloud wreaths spinning up from him, and a look of
infinite languor in his face.
"Quite an interesting study, that maiden," he observed. "I found
her more interesting than her little problem, which, by the way, is
rather a trite one. You will find parallel cases, if you consult
my index, in Andover in '77, and there was something of the sort at
The Hague last year. Old as is the idea, however, there were one
or two details which were new to me. But the maiden herself was
"You appeared to read a good deal upon her which was quite
invisible to me," I remarked.
"Not invisible, but unnoticed, Watson. You did not know where to
look, and so you missed all that was important. I can never bring
you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of
thumb nails, or the great issues that may hang from a boot lace.
Now, what did you gather from that woman's appearance? Describe
"Well, she had a slate-colored, broad-brimmed straw hat, with a
feather of a brickish red. Her jacket was black, with black beads
sewed upon it and a fringe of little black jet ornaments. Her
dress was brown, rather darker than coffee color, with a little
purple plush at the neck and sleeves. Her gloves were grayish, and
were worn through at the right forefinger. Her boots I didn't
observe. She had small round, hanging gold earrings, and a general
air of being fairly well-to-do, in a vulgar, comfortable, easygoing
Sherlock Holmes clapped his hands softly together and chuckled.
"'Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along wonderfully. You have
really done very well indeed. It is true that you have missed
everything of importance, but you have hit upon the method, and you
have a quick eye for color. Never trust to general impressions, my
boy, but concentrate yourself upon details. My first glance is
always at a woman's sleeve. In a man it is perhaps better first to
take the knee of the trouser. As you observe, this woman had plush
upon her sleeve, which is a most useful material for showing
traces. The double line a little above the wrist, where the
typewritist presses against the table, was beautifully defined.
The sewing machine, of the hand type, leaves a similar mark, but
only on the left arm, and on the side of it farthest from the
thumb, instead of being right across the broadest part, as this
was. I then glanced at her face, and observing the dint of a
pince-nez at either side of her nose, I ventured a remark upon
short sight and typewriting, which seemed to surprise her."
"It surprised me."
"But, surely, it was very obvious. I was then much surprised and
interested on glancing down to observe that, though the boots which
she was wearing were not unlike each other, they were really odd
ones, the one having a slightly decorated toe cap and the other a
plain one. One was buttoned only in the two lower buttons out of
five, and the other at the first, third, and fifth. Now, when you
see that a young lady, otherwise neatly dressed, has come away from
home with odd boots, half-buttoned, it is no great deduction to say
that she came away in a hurry."
"And what else?" I asked, keenly interested, as I always was, by my
friend's incisive reasoning.
"I noted, in passing, that she had written a note before leaving
home, but after being fully dressed. You observed that her right
glove was torn at the forefinger, but you did not, apparently, see
that both glove and finger were stained with violet ink. She had
written in a hurry, and dipped her pen too deep. It must have been
this morning, or the mark would not remain clear upon the finger.
All this is amusing, though rather elementary, but I must go back
to business, Watson. Would you mind reading me the advertised
description of Mr. Hosmer Angel?"
I held the little printed slip to the light. "Missing," it said,
"on the morning of the fourteenth, a gentleman named Hosmer Angel.
About five feet seven inches in height; strongly built, sallow
complexion, black hair, a little bald in the center, bushy black
side-whiskers and mustache; tinted glasses; slight infirmity of
speech. Was dressed, when last seen, in black frock-coat faced
with silk, black waistcoat, gold Albert chain, and gray Harris
tweed trousers, with brown gaiters over elastic-sided boots. Known
to have been employed in an office in Leadenhall Street. Anybody
bringing," etc., etc.
"That will do," said Holmes. "As to the letters," he continued,
glancing over them, "they are very commonplace. Absolutely no clew
in them to Mr. Angel, save that he quotes Balzac once. There is
one remarkable point, however, which will no doubt strike you."
"They are typewritten," I remarked.
"Not only that, but the signature is typewritten. Look at the neat
little 'Hosmer Angel' at the bottom. There is a date, you see, but
no superscription except Leadenhall Street, which is rather vague.
The point about the signature is very suggestive--in fact, we may
call it conclusive."
"My dear fellow, is it possible you do not see how strongly it
bears upon the case?"
"I cannot say that I do, unless it were that he wished to be able
to deny his signature if an action for breach of promise were
"No, that was not the point. However, I shall write two letters
which should settle the matter. One is to a firm in the City, the
other is to the young lady's stepfather, Mr. Windibank, asking him
whether he could meet us here at six o'clock to-morrow evening. It
is just as well that we should do business with the male relatives.
And now, doctor, we can do nothing until the answers to those
letters come, so we may put our little problem upon the shelf for
I had had so many reasons to believe in my friend's subtle powers
of reasoning, and extraordinary energy in action, that I felt that
he must have some solid grounds for the assured and easy demeanor
with which he treated the singular mystery which he had been called
upon to fathom. Once only had I known him to fail, in the case of
the King of Bohemia and the Irene Adler photograph, but when I
looked back to the weird business of the "Sign of the Four," and
the extraordinary circumstances connected with the "Study in
Scarlet," I felt that it would be a strange tangle indeed which he
could not unravel.
I left him then, still puffing at his black clay pipe, with the
conviction that when I came again on the next evening I would find
that he held in his hands all the clews which would lead up to the
identity of the disappearing bridegroom of Miss Mary Sutherland.
A professional case of great gravity was engaging my own attention
at the time, and the whole of next day I was busy at the bedside of
the sufferer. It was not until close upon six o'clock that I found
myself free, and was able to spring into a hansom and drive to
Baker Street, half afraid that I might be too late to assist at the
denouement of the little mystery. I found Sherlock Holmes alone,
however, half asleep, with his long, thin form curled up in the
recesses of his armchair. A formidable array of bottles and test-
tubes, with the pungent, cleanly smell of hydrochloric acid, told
me that he had spent his day in the chemical work which was so dear
"Well, have you solved it?" I asked as I entered.
"Yes. It was the bisulphate of baryta."
"No, no; the mystery!" I cried.
"Oh, that! I thought of the salt that I have been working upon.
There was never any mystery in the matter, though, as I said
yesterday, some of the details are of interest. The only drawback
is that there is no law, I fear, that can touch the scoundrel."
"Who was he, then, and what was his object in deserting Miss
The question was hardly out of my mouth, and Holmes had not yet
opened his lips to reply, when we heard a heavy footfall in the
passage, and a tap at the door.
"This is the girl's stepfather, Mr. James Windibank," said Holmes.
"He has written to me to say that he would be here at six. Come
The man who entered was a sturdy, middle-sized fellow, some thirty
years of age, clean shaven, and sallow-skinned, with a bland,
insinuating manner, and a pair of wonderfully sharp and penetrating
gray eyes. He shot a questioning glance at each of us, placed his
shiny top hat upon the sideboard, and, with a slight bow, sidled
down into the nearest chair.
"Good evening, Mr. James Windibank," said Holmes. "I think this
typewritten letter is from you, in which you made an appointment
with me for six o'clock?"
"Yes, sir. I am afraid that I am a little late, but I am not quite
my own master, you know. I am sorry that Miss Sutherland has
troubled you about this little matter, for I think it is far better
not to wash linen of the sort in public. It was quite against my
wishes that she came, but she is a very excitable, impulsive girl,
as you may have noticed, and she is not easily controlled when she
has made up her mind on a point. Of course, I did not mind you so
much, as you are not connected with the official police, but it is
not pleasant to have a family misfortune like this noised abroad.
Besides, it is a useless expense, for how could you possibly find
this Hosmer Angel?"
"On the contrary," said Holmes, quietly, "I have every reason to
believe that I will succeed in discovering Mr. Hosmer Angel."
Mr. Windibank gave a violent start, and dropped his gloves. "I am
delighted to hear it," he said.
"It is a curious thing," remarked Holmes, "that a typewriter has
really quite as much individuality as a man's handwriting. Unless
they are quite new no two of them write exactly alike. Some
letters get more worn than others, and some wear only on one side.
Now, you remark in this note of yours, Mr. Windibank, that in every
case there is some little slurring over the e, and a slight defect
in the tail of the r. There are fourteen other characteristics,
but those are the more obvious."
"We do all our correspondence with this machine at the office, and
no doubt it is a little worn," our visitor answered, glancing
keenly at Holmes with his bright little eyes.
"And now I will show you what is really a very interesting study,
Mr. Windibank," Holmes continued. "I think of writing another
little monograph some of these days on the typewriter and its
relation to crime. It is a subject to which I have devoted some
little attention. I have here four letters which purport to come
from the missing man. They are all typewritten. In each case, not
only are the e's slurred and the r's tailless, but you will
observe, if you care to use my magnifying lens, that the fourteen
other characteristics to which I have alluded are there as well."
Mr. Windibank sprung out of his chair, and picked up his hat. "I
cannot waste time over this sort of fantastic talk, Mr. Holmes," he
said. "If you can catch the man, catch him, and let me know when
you have done it."
"Certainly," said Holmes, stepping over and turning the key in the
door. "I let you know, then, that I have caught him!"
"What! where?" shouted Mr. Windibank, turning white to his lips,
and glancing about him like a rat in a trap.
"Oh, it won't do--really it won't," said Holmes, suavely. "There
is no possible getting out of it, Mr. Windibank. It is quite too
transparent, and it was a very bad compliment when you said that it
was impossible for me to solve so simple a question. That's right!
Sit down, and let us talk it over."
Our visitor collapsed into a chair, with a ghastly face, and a
glitter of moisture on his brow. "It--it's not actionable," he
"I am very much afraid that it is not; but between ourselves,
Windibank, it was as cruel, and selfish, and heartless a trick in a
petty way as ever came before me. Now, let me just run over the
course of events, and you will contradict me if I go wrong."
The man sat huddled up in his chair, with his head sunk upon his
breast, like one who is utterly crushed. Holmes stuck his feet up
on the corner of the mantelpiece, and, leaning back with his hands
in his pockets, began talking, rather to himself, as it seemed,
than to us.
"The man married a woman very much older than himself for her
money," said he, "and he enjoyed the use of the money of the
daughter as long as she lived with them. It was a considerable
sum, for people in their position, and the loss of it would have
made a serious difference. It was worth an effort to preserve it.
The daughter was of a good, amiable disposition, but affectionate
and warmhearted in her ways, so that it was evident that with her
fair personal advantages, and her little income, she would not be
allowed to remain single long. Now her marriage would mean, of
course, the loss of a hundred a year, so what does her stepfather
do to prevent it? He takes the obvious course of keeping her at
home, and forbidding her to seek the company of people of her own
age. But soon he found that that would not answer forever. She
became restive, insisted upon her rights, and finally announced her
positive intention of going to a certain ball. What does her
clever stepfather do then? He conceives an idea more creditable to
his head than to his heart. With the connivance and assistance of
his wife, he disguised himself, covered those keen eyes with tinted
glasses, masked the face with a mustache and a pair of bushy
whiskers, sunk that clear voice into an insinuating whisper, and
doubly secure on account of the girl's short sight, he appears as
Mr. Hosmer Angel, and keeps off other lovers by making love
"It was only a joke at first," groaned our visitor. "We never