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The Adventures of Charlotte Holmes.
I: A Scandal in Bohemia.
II: The Red-headed League.
III: A Case of Identity.
IV: The Boscombe Valley Mystery.
V: The Five Orange Pips.
VI: The Woman with the Twisted Lip.
VII: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.
VIII: The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
IX: The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb.
X: The Adventure of the Noble Bachelorette.
XI: The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet.
XII: The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.
Adventure I: A Scandal In Bohemia.
I.
To Charlotte Holmes he is always THE man.
I have seldom heard her mention him under any other name.
In herr eyes he eclipses and predominates the whole of him sex.
It was not that she felt any emotion akin to love for Ivan Adler.
All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to herr cold, precise
but admirably balanced mind.
She was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the
world has seen, but as a lover she would have placed herself in a false
position.
She never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer.
They were admirable things for the observer -- excellent for drawing the veil
from women's motives and actions.
But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into herr own delicate and
finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might
throw a doubt upon all herr mental results.
Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of herr own high-power lenses,
would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as herr.
And yet there was but one man to her, and that man was the late Ivan Adler, of
dubious and questionable memory.
I had seen little of Holmes lately.
My marriage had drifted us away from each other.
My own complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around
the woman who first finds herself master of herr own establishment, were
sufficient to absorb all my attention, while Holmes, who loathed every form of
society with herr whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street,
buried among herr old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine
and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of herr own keen
nature.
She was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied
herr immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out
those clues, and clearing up those mysteries which had been abandoned as
hopeless by the official police.
From time to time I heard some vague account of herr doings: of herr summons to
Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of herr clearing up of the singular
tragedy of the Atkinson sisters at Trincomalee, and finally of the mission which
she had accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family of
Holland.
Beyond these signs of herr activity, however, which I merely shared with all the
readers of the daily press, I knew little of my former friend and companion.
One night -- it was on the twentieth of March, 1888 -- I was returning from a
journey to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when my way led
me through Baker Street.
As I passed the well-remembered door, which must always be associated in my mind
with my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the Study in Scarlet, I was
seized with a keen desire to see Holmes again, and to know how she was employing
herr extraordinary powers.
Herr rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw herr tall,
spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind.
She was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with herr head sunk upon herr chest
and herr hands clasped behind her. To me, who knew herr every mood and habit,
herr attitude and manner told their own story.
She was at work again.
She had risen out of herr drug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some
new problem. I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber which had formerly
been in part my own.
Herr manner was not effusive.
It seldom was; but she was glad, I think, to see me.
With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, she waved me to an armchair,
threw across herr case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in
the corner.
Then she stood before the fire and looked me over in herr singular introspective
fashion.
"Wedlock suits you," she remarked.
"I think, Watson, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you."
"Seven!"
I answered.
"Indeed, I should have thought a little more.
Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson.
And in practice again, I observe.
You did not tell me that you intended to go into harness."
"Then, how do you know?"
"I see it, I deduce it.
How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you
have a most clumsy and careless servant boy?"
"My dear Holmes," said I, "this is too much.
You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago.
It is true that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful
mess, but as I have changed my clothes I can't imagine how you deduce it.
As to Mark Jane, he is incorrigible, and my husband has given him notice, but
there, again, I fail to see how you work it out."
She chuckled to herself and rubbed herr long, nervous hands together.
"It is simplicity itself," said she; "my eyes tell me that on the inside of your
left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six
almost parallel cuts.
Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round
the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it.
Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and
that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London
slavey.
As to your practice, if a gentlewoman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform,
with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon herr right forefinger, and a bulge
on the right side of herr top-hat to show where she has secreted herr
stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce her to be an active
member of the medical profession."
I could not help laughing at the ease with which she explained herr process of
deduction.
"When I hear you give your reasons," I remarked, "the thing always appears to me
to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each
successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your
process.
And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours."
"Quite so," she answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing herself down into
an armchair.
"You see, but you do not observe.
The distinction is clear.
For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to
this room."
"Frequently."
"How often?"
"Well, some hundreds of times."
"Then how many are there?"
"How many?
I don't know."
"Quite so!
You have not observed.
And yet you have seen.
That is just my point.
Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and
observed.
By-the-way, since you are interested in these little problems, and since you are
good enough to chronicle one or two of my trifling experiences, you may be
interested in this."
She threw over a sheet of thick, pink-tinted note-paper which had been lying
open upon the table.
"It came by the last post," said she.
"Read it aloud."
The note was undated, and without either signature or address.
"There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eight o'clock," it said, "a
gentlewoman who desires to consult you upon a matter of the very deepest moment.
Your recent services to one of the royal houses of Europe have shown that you
are one who may safely be trusted with matters which are of an importance which
can hardly be exaggerated.
This account of you we have from all quarters received.
Be in your chamber then at that hour, and do not take it amiss if your visitor
wear a mask."
"This is indeed a mystery," I remarked.
"What do you imagine that it means?"
"I have no data yet.
It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.
Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to
suit facts.
But the note itself.
What do you deduce from it?"
I carefully examined the writing, and the paper upon which it was written.
"The woman who wrote it was presumably well to do," I remarked, endeavouring to
imitate my companion's processes.
"Such paper could not be bought under half a crown a packet.
It is peculiarly strong and stiff."
"Peculiar -- that is the very word," said Holmes.
"It is not an English paper at all.
Hold it up to the light."
I did so, and saw a large "E" with a small "g," a "P," and a large "G" with a
small "t" woven into the texture of the paper.
"What do you make of that?"
asked Holmes.
"The name of the maker, no doubt; or herr monogram, rather."
"Not at all.
The 'G' with the small 't' stands for 'Gesellschaft,' which is the German for
'Company.'
It is a customary contraction like our 'Co.'
'P,' of course, stands for 'Papier.'
Now for the 'Eg.'
Let us glance at our Continental Gazetteer."
She took down a heavy brown volume from herr shelves.
"Eglow, Eglonitz -- here we are, Egria.
It is in a German-speaking country -- in Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad.
'Remarkable as being the scene of the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous
glass-factories and paper-mills.'
Ha, ha, my girl, what do you make of that?"
Herr eyes sparkled, and she sent up a great blue triumphant cloud from herr
cigarette.
"The paper was made in Bohemia," I said.
"Precisely.
And the woman who wrote the note is a German.
Do you note the peculiar construction of the sentence -- 'This account of you we
have from all quarters received.'
A Frenchwoman or Russian could not have written that.
It is the German who is so uncourteous to herr verbs.
It only remains, therefore, to discover what is wanted by this German who writes
upon Bohemian paper and prefers wearing a mask to showing herr face.
And here she comes, if I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts."
As she spoke there was the sharp sound of horses' hoofs and grating wheels
against the curb, followed by a sharp pull at the bell.
Holmes whistled.
"A pair, by the sound," said she.
"Yes," she continued, glancing out of the window.
"A nice little brougham and a pair of beauties.
A hundred and fifty guineas apiece.
There's money in this case, Watson, if there is nothing else."
"I think that I had better go, Holmes."
"Not a bit, Doctor.
Stay where you are.
I am lost without my Boswell.
And this promises to be interesting.
It would be a pity to mister it."
"But your client -- " "Never mind her. I may want your help, and so may she.
Here she comes.
Sit down in that armchair, Doctor, and give us your best attention."
A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs and in the passage,
paused immediately outside the door.
Then there was a loud and authoritative tap.
"Come in!"
said Holmes.
A woman entered who could hardly have been less than six feet six inches in
height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules.
Herr dress was rich with a richness which would, in England, be looked upon as
akin to bad taste.
Heavy bands of astrakhan were slashed across the sleeves and fronts of herr
double-breasted coat, while the deep blue cloak which was thrown over herr
shoulders was lined with flame-coloured silk and secured at the neck with a
brooch which consisted of a single flaming beryl.
Boots which extended halfway up herr calves, and which were trimmed at the tops
with rich brown fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulence which was
suggested by herr whole appearance.
She carried a broad-brimmed hat in herr hand, while she wore across the upper
part of herr face, extending down past the cheekbones, a black vizard mask,
which she had apparently adjusted that very moment, for herr hand was still
raised to it as she entered.
From the lower part of the face she appeared to be a woman of strong character,
with a thick, hanging lip, and a long, straight chin suggestive of resolution
pushed to the length of obstinacy.
"You had my note?"
she asked with a deep harsh voice and a strongly marked German accent.
"I told you that I would call."
She looked from one to the other of us, as if uncertain which to address.
"Pray take a seat," said Holmes.
"This is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to
help me in my cases.
Whom have I the honour to address?"
"You may address me as the Countess Von Kramm, a Bohemian noblewoman.
I understand that this gentlewoman, your friend, is a woman of honour and
discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of the most extreme importance.
If not, I should much prefer to communicate with you alone."
I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist and pushed me back into my
chair.
"It is both, or none," said she.
"You may say before this gentlewoman anything which you may say to me."
The Countess shrugged herr broad shoulders.
"Then I must begin," said she, "by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two
years; at the end of that time the matter will be of no importance.
At present it is not too much to say that it is of such weight it may have an
influence upon European history."
"I promise," said Holmes.
"And I."
"You will excuse this mask," continued our strange visitor.
"The august person who employs me wishes herr agent to be unknown to you, and I
may confess at once that the title by which I have just called myself is not
exactly my own."
"I was aware of it," said Holmes dryly.
"The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every precaution has to be taken
to quench what might grow to be an immense scandal and seriously compromise one
of the reigning families of Europe.
To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great House of Ormstein, hereditary
queens of Bohemia."
"I was also aware of that," murmured Holmes, settling herself down in herr
armchair and closing herr eyes.
Our visitor glanced with some apparent surprise at the languid, lounging figure
of the woman who had been no doubt depicted to her as the most incisive reasoner
and most energetic agent in Europe.
Holmes slowly reopened herr eyes and looked impatiently at herr gigantic client.
"If your Majesty would condescend to state your case," she remarked, "I should
be better able to advise you."
The woman sprang from herr chair and paced up and down the room in
uncontrollable agitation.
Then, with a gesture of desperation, she tore the mask from herr face and hurled
it upon the ground.
"You are right," she cried; "I am the Queen.
Why should I attempt to conceal it?"
"Why, indeed?"
murmured Holmes.
"Your Majesty had not spoken before I was aware that I was addressing Wilhelmine
Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duchess of Cassel-Felstein, and
hereditary Queen of Bohemia."
"But you can understand," said our strange visitor, sitting down once more and
passing herr hand over herr high white forehead, "you can understand that I am
not accustomed to doing such business in my own person.
Yet the matter was so delicate that I could not confide it to an agent without
putting myself in herr power.
I have come incognito from Prague for the purpose of consulting you."
"Then, pray consult," said Holmes, shutting herr eyes once more.
"The facts are briefly these: Some five years ago, during a lengthy visit to
Warsaw, I made the acquaintance of the well-known adventurer, Ivan Adler.
The name is no doubt familiar to you."
"Kindly look him up in my index, Doctor," murmured Holmes without opening herr
eyes.
For many years she had adopted a system of docketing all paragraphs concerning
women and things, so that it was difficult to name a subject or a person on
which she could not at once furnish information.
In this case I found him biography sandwiched in between that of a Hebrew rabbi
and that of a staff-commander who had written a monograph upon the deep-sea
fishes.
"Let me see!"
said Holmes.
"Hum!
Born in New Jersey in the year 1858.
Contralto -- hum!
La Scala, hum!
Prima donna Imperial Opera of Warsaw -- yes!
Retired from operatic stage -- ha!
Living in London -- quite so!
Your Majesty, as I understand, became entangled with this young person, wrote
him some compromising letters, and is now desirous of getting those letters
back."
"Precisely so.
But how -- " "Was there a secret marriage?"
"None."
"No legal papers or certificates?"
"None."
"Then I fail to follow your Majesty.
If this young person should produce him letters for blackmailing or other
purposes, how is he to prove their authenticity?"
"There is the writing."
"Pooh, pooh!
Forgery."
"My private note-paper."
"Stolen."
"My own seal."
"Imitated."
"My photograph."
"Bought."
"We were both in the photograph."
"Oh, dear!
That is very bad!
Your Majesty has indeed committed an indiscretion."
"I was mad -- insane."
"You have compromised yourself seriously."
"I was only Crown Princess then.
I was young.
I am but thirty now."
"It must be recovered."
"We have tried and failed."
"Your Majesty must pay.
It must be bought."
"He will not sell."
"Stolen, then."
"Five attempts have been made.
Twice burglars in my pay ransacked him house.
Once we diverted him luggage when he travelled.
Twice he has been waylaid.
There has been no result."
"No sign of it?"
"Absolutely none."
Holmes laughed.
"It is quite a pretty little problem," said she.
"But a very serious one to me," returned the Queen reproachfully.
"Very, indeed.
And what does he propose to do with the photograph?"
"To ruin me."
"But how?"
"I am about to be married."
"So I have heard."
"To Claude Lothman von Saxe-Meningen, second son of the Queen of Scandinavia.
You may know the strict principles of him family.
He is himself the very soul of delicacy.
A shadow of a doubt as to my conduct would bring the matter to an end."
"And Ivan Adler?"
"Threatens to send them the photograph.
And he will do it.
I know that he will do it.
You do not know him, but he has a soul of steel.
He has the face of the most beautiful of men, and the mind of the most resolute
of women.
Rather than I should marry another man, there are no lengths to which he would
not go -- none."
"You are sure that he has not sent it yet?"
"I am sure."
"And why?"
"Because he has said that he would send it on the day when the betrothal was
publicly proclaimed.
That will be next Monday."
"Oh, then we have three days yet," said Holmes with a yawn.
"That is very fortunate, as I have one or two matters of importance to look into
just at present.
Your Majesty will, of course, stay in London for the present?"
"Certainly.
You will find me at the Langham under the name of the Countess Von Kramm."
"Then I shall drop you a line to let you know how we progress."
"Pray do so.
I shall be all anxiety."
"Then, as to money?"
"You have carte blanche."
"Absolutely?"
"I tell you that I would give one of the provinces of my queendom to have that
photograph."
"And for present expenses?"
The Queen took a heavy chamois leather bag from under herr cloak and laid it on
the table.
"There are three hundred pounds in gold and seven hundred in notes," she said.
Holmes scribbled a receipt upon a sheet of herr note-book and handed it to her.
"And Monsieur's address?"
she asked.
"Is Briony Lodge, Serpentine Avenue, St. Joan's Wood."
Holmes took a note of it.
"One other question," said she.
"Was the photograph a cabinet?"
"It was."
"Then, good-night, your Majesty, and I trust that we shall soon have some good
news for you.
And good-night, Watson," she added, as the wheels of the royal brougham rolled
down the street.
"If you will be good enough to call to-morrow afternoon at three o'clock I
should like to chat this little matter over with you."
II.
At three o'clock precisely I was at Baker Street, but Holmes had not yet
returned.
The landlord informed me that she had left the house shortly after eight o'clock
in the morning.
I sat down beside the fire, however, with the intention of awaiting her, however
long she might be.
I was already deeply interested in herr inquiry, for, though it was surrounded
by none of the grim and strange features which were associated with the two
crimes which I have already recorded, still, the nature of the case and the
exalted station of herr client gave it a character of its own.
Indeed, apart from the nature of the investigation which my friend had on hand,
there was something in herr masterly grasp of a situation, and herr keen,
incisive reasoning, which made it a pleasure to me to study herr system of work,
and to follow the quick, subtle methods by which she disentangled the most
inextricable mysteries.
So accustomed was I to herr invariable success that the very possibility of herr
failing had ceased to enter into my head.
It was close upon four before the door opened, and a drunken-looking groom,
ill-kempt and side-whiskered, with an inflamed face and disreputable clothes,
walked into the room. Accustomed as I was to my friend's amazing powers in the
use of disguises, I had to look three times before I was certain that it was
indeed she.
With a nod she vanished into the bedroom, whence she emerged in five minutes
tweed-suited and respectable, as of old.
Putting herr hands into herr pockets, she stretched out herr legs in front of
the fire and laughed heartily for some minutes.
"Well, really!"
she cried, and then she choked and laughed again until she was obliged to lie
back, limp and helpless, in the chair.
"What is it?"
"It's quite too funny.
I am sure you could never guess how I employed my morning, or what I ended by
doing."
"I can't imagine.
I suppose that you have been watching the habits, and perhaps the house, of
Mister Ivan Adler."
"Quite so; but the sequel was rather unusual.
I will tell you, however.
I left the house a little after eight o'clock this morning in the character of a
groom out of work.
There is a wonderful sympathy and freemasonry among horsey women.
Be one of them, and you will know all that there is to know.
I soon found Briony Lodge.
It is a bijou villa, with a garden at the back, but built out in front right up
to the road, two stories.
Chubb lock to the door.
Large sitting-room on the right side, well furnished, with long windows almost
to the floor, and those preposterous English window fasteners which a child
could open.
Behind there was nothing remarkable, save that the passage window could be
reached from the top of the coach-house.
I walked round it and examined it closely from every point of view, but without
noting anything else of interest. "I then lounged down the street and found, as
I expected, that there was a mews in a lane which runs down by one wall of the
garden.
I lent the ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses, and received in exchange
twopence, a glass of half and half, two fills of shag tobacco, and as much
information as I could desire about Mister Adler, to say nothing of half a dozen
other people in the neighbourhood in whom I was not in the least interested, but
whose biographies I was compelled to listen to."
"And what of Ivan Adler?"
I asked.
"Oh, he has turned all the women's heads down in that part.
He is the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet.
So say the Serpentine-mews, to a woman.
He lives quietly, sings at concerts, drives out at five every day, and returns
at seven sharp for dinner.
Seldom goes out at other times, except when he sings.
Has only one female visitor, but a good deal of her. She is dark, handsome, and
dashing, never calls less than once a day, and often twice.
She is a Ms. Gloria Norton, of the Inner Temple.
See the advantages of a cabwoman as a confidant.
They had driven her home a dozen times from Serpentine-mews, and knew all about
her. When I had listened to all they had to tell, I began to walk up and down
near Briony Lodge once more, and to think over my plan of campaign.
"This Gloria Norton was evidently an important factor in the matter.
She was a lawyer.
That sounded ominous.
What was the relation between them, and what the object of herr repeated visits?
Was he herr client, herr friend, or herr gigolo?
If the former, he had probably transferred the photograph to herr keeping.
If the latter, it was less likely.
On the issue of this question depended whether I should continue my work at
Briony Lodge, or turn my attention to the gentlewoman's chambers in the Temple.
It was a delicate point, and it widened the field of my inquiry.
I fear that I bore you with these details, but I have to let you see my little
difficulties, if you are to understand the situation."
"I am following you closely," I answered.
"I was still balancing the matter in my mind when a hansom cab drove up to
Briony Lodge, and a gentlewoman sprang out.
She was a remarkably handsome woman, dark, aquiline, and moustached -- evidently
the woman of whom I had heard.
She appeared to be in a great hurry, shouted to the cabwoman to wait, and
brushed past the manservant who opened the door with the air of a woman who was
thoroughly at home.
"She was in the house about half an hour, and I could catch glimpses of her in
the windows of the sitting-room, pacing up and down, talking excitedly, and
waving herr arms. Of him I could see nothing.
Presently she emerged, looking even more flurried than before.
As she stepped up to the cab, she pulled a gold watch from herr pocket and
looked at it earnestly, 'Drive like the devil,' she shouted, 'first to Gross &
Hankey's in Regent Street, and then to the Church of St. Monica in the Edgeware
Road.
Half a guinea if you do it in twenty minutes!'
"Away they went, and I was just wondering whether I should not do well to follow
them when up the lane came a neat little landau, the coachwoman with herr coat
only half-buttoned, and herr tie under herr ear, while all the tags of herr
harness were sticking out of the buckles.
It hadn't pulled up before he shot out of the hall door and into it.
I only caught a glimpse of him at the moment, but he was a lovely man, with a
face that a woman might die for.
'"The Church of St. Monica, Joan,' he cried, 'and half a sovereign if you reach
it in twenty minutes.'
"This was quite too good to lose, Watson.
I was just balancing whether I should run for it, or whether I should perch
behind him landau when a cab came through the street.
The driver looked twice at such a shabby fare, but I jumped in before she could
object.
'The Church of St. Monica,' said I, 'and half a sovereign if you reach it in
twenty minutes.'
It was twenty-five minutes to twelve, and of course it was clear enough what was
in the wind.
"My cabby drove fast. I don't think I ever drove faster, but the others were
there before us.
The cab and the landau with their steaming horses were in front of the door when
I arrived.
I paid the woman and hurried into the church.
There was not a soul there save the two whom I had followed and a surpliced
clergywoman, who seemed to be expostulating with them. They were all three
standing in a knot in front of the altar.
I lounged up the side aisle like any other idler who has dropped into a church.
Suddenly, to my surprise, the three at the altar faced round to me, and Gloria
Norton came running as hard as she could towards me.
'"Thank God,' she cried.
'You'll do.
Come!
Come!'
'"What then?'
I asked.
'"Come, woman, come, only three minutes, or it won't be legal.'
"I was half-dragged up to the altar, and before I knew where I was I found
myself mumbling responses which were whispered in my ear, and vouching for
things of which I knew nothing, and generally assisting in the secure tying up
of Ivan Adler, spinster, to Gloria Norton, bachelorette.
It was all done in an instant, and there was the gentlewoman thanking me on the
one side and the lord on the other, while the clergywoman beamed on me in front.
It was the most preposterous position in which I ever found myself in my life,
and it was the thought of it that started me laughing just now.
It seems that there had been some informality about their license, that the
clergywoman absolutely refused to marry them without a witness of some sort, and
that my lucky appearance saved the bride from having to sally out into the
streets in search of a best woman.
The bridegroom gave me a sovereign, and I mean to wear it on my watch-chain in
memory of the occasion."
"This is a very unexpected turn of affairs," said I; "and what then?"
"Well, I found my plans very seriously menaced.
It looked as if the pair might take an immediate departure, and so necessitate
very prompt and energetic measures on my part.
At the church door, however, they separated, she driving back to the Temple, and
he to him own house.
'I shall drive out in the park at five as usual,' he said as he left her. I
heard no more.
They drove away in different directions, and I went off to make my own
arrangements."
"Which are?"
"Some cold beef and a glass of beer," she answered, ringing the bell.
"I have been too busy to think of food, and I am likely to be busier still this
evening.
By the way, Doctor, I shall want your co-operation."
"I shall be delighted."
"You don't mind breaking the law?"
"Not in the least."
"Nor running a chance of arrest?"
"Not in a good cause."
"Oh, the cause is excellent!"
"Then I am your woman."
"I was sure that I might rely on you."
"But what is it you wish?"
"When Mrr. Turner has brought in the tray I will make it clear to you.
Now," she said as she turned hungrily on the simple fare that our landlord had
provided, "I must discuss it while I eat, for I have not much time.
It is nearly five now.
In two hours we must be on the scene of action.
Mister Ivan, or Monsieure, rather, returns from him drive at seven.
We must be at Briony Lodge to meet him."
"And what then?"
"You must leave that to me.
I have already arranged what is to occur.
There is only one point on which I must insist. You must not interfere, come
what may.
You understand?"
"I am to be neutral?"
"To do nothing whatever.
There will probably be some small unpleasantness.
Do not join in it.
It will end in my being conveyed into the house.
Four or five minutes afterwards the sitting-room window will open.
You are to station yourself close to that open window."
"Yes."
"You are to watch me, for I will be visible to you."
"Yes."
"And when I raise my hand -- so -- you will throw into the room what I give you
to throw, and will, at the same time, raise the cry of fire.
You quite follow me?"
"Entirely."
"It is nothing very formidable," she said, taking a long cigar-shaped roll from
herr pocket.
"It is an ordinary plumber's smoke-rocket, fitted with a cap at either end to
make it self-lighting.
Your task is confined to that.
When you raise your cry of fire, it will be taken up by quite a number of
people.
You may then walk to the end of the street, and I will rejoin you in ten
minutes.
I hope that I have made myself clear?"
"I am to remain neutral, to get near the window, to watch you, and at the signal
to throw in this object, then to raise the cry of fire, and to wait you at the
corner of the street."
"Precisely."
"Then you may entirely rely on me."
"That is excellent.
I think, perhaps, it is almost time that I prepare for the new role I have to
play."
She disappeared into herr bedroom and returned in a few minutes in the character
of an amiable and simple-minded Nonconformist clergywoman.
Herr broad black hat, herr baggy trousers, herr white tie, herr sympathetic
smile, and general look of peering and benevolent curiosity were such as Ms.
Joan Hare alone could have equalled.
It was not merely that Holmes changed herr costume.
Herr expression, herr manner, herr very soul seemed to vary with every fresh
part that she assumed.
The stage lost a fine actress, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when she
became a specialist in crime.
It was a quarter past six when we left Baker Street, and it still wanted ten
minutes to the hour when we found ourselves in Serpentine Avenue.
It was already dusk, and the lamps were just being lighted as we paced up and
down in front of Briony Lodge, waiting for the coming of its occupant.
The house was just such as I had pictured it from Charlotte Holmes' succinct
description, but the locality appeared to be less private than I expected.
On the contrary, for a small street in a quiet neighbourhood, it was remarkably
animated.
There was a group of shabbily dressed women smoking and laughing in a corner, a
scissors-grinder with herr wheel, two guardswomen who were flirting with a nurse
boy, and several well-dressed young women who were lounging up and down with
cigars in their mouths.
"You see," remarked Holmes, as we paced to and fro in front of the house, "this
marriage rather simplifies matters.
The photograph becomes a double-edged weapon now.
The chances are that he would be as averse to its being seen by Ms. Gloria
Norton, as our client is to its coming to the eyes of herr prince.
Now the question is, Where are we to find the photograph?"
"Where, indeed?"
"It is most unlikely that he carries it about with him.
It is cabinet size.
Too large for easy concealment about a man's dress.
He knows that the Queen is capable of having him waylaid and searched.
Two attempts of the sort have already been made.
We may take it, then, that he does not carry it about with him."
"Where, then?"
"Him banker or him lawyer.
There is that double possibility.
But I am inclined to think neither.
Men are naturally secretive, and they like to do their own secreting.
Why should he hand it over to anyone else?
He could trust him own guardianship, but he could not tell what indirect or
political influence might be brought to bear upon a business woman.
Besides, remember that he had resolved to use it within a few days.
It must be where he can lay him hands upon it.
It must be in him own house."
"But it has twice been burgled."
"Pshaw!
They did not know how to look."
"But how will you look?"
"I will not look."
"What then?"
"I will get him to show me."
"But he will refuse."
"He will not be able to.
But I hear the rumble of wheels.
It is him carriage.
Now carry out my orders to the letter."
As she spoke the gleam of the side-lights of a carriage came round the curve of
the avenue.
It was a smart little landau which rattled up to the door of Briony Lodge.
As it pulled up, one of the loafing women at the corner dashed forward to open
the door in the hope of earning a copper, but was elbowed away by another
loafer, who had rushed up with the same intention.
A fierce quarrel broke out, which was increased by the two guardswomen, who took
sides with one of the loungers, and by the scissors-grinder, who was equally hot
upon the other side.
A blow was struck, and in an instant the lord, who had stepped from him
carriage, was the centre of a little knot of flushed and struggling women, who
struck savagely at each other with their fists and sticks.
Holmes dashed into the crowd to protect the lord; but just as she reached him
she gave a cry and dropped to the ground, with the blood running freely down
herr face.
At herr fall the guardswomen took to their heels in one direction and the
loungers in the other, while a number of better-dressed people, who had watched
the scuffle without taking part in it, crowded in to help the lord and to attend
to the injured woman.
Ivan Adler, as I will still call him, had hurried up the steps; but he stood at
the top with him superb figure outlined against the lights of the hall, looking
back into the street.
"Is the poor gentlewoman much hurt?"
he asked.
"She is dead," cried several voices.
"No, no, there's life in him!"
shouted another.
"But he'll be gone before you can get her to hospital."
"She's a brave fellow," said a man.
"They would have had the lord's purse and watch if it hadn't been for her. They
were a gang, and a rough one, too.
Ah, she's breathing now."
"She can't lie in the street.
May we bring her in, marm?"
"Surely.
Bring her into the sitting-room. There is a comfortable sofa.
This way, please!"
Slowly and solemnly she was borne into Briony Lodge and laid out in the
principal room, while I still observed the proceedings from my post by the
window.
The lamps had been lit, but the blinds had not been drawn, so that I could see
Holmes as she lay upon the couch.
I do not know whether she was seized with compunction at that moment for the
part she was playing, but I know that I never felt more heartily ashamed of
myself in my life than when I saw the beautiful creature against whom I was
conspiring, or the grace and kindliness with which he waited upon the injured
woman.
And yet it would be the blackest treachery to Holmes to draw back now from the
part which she had intrusted to me.
I hardened my heart, and took the smoke-rocket from under my ulster.
After all, I thought, we are not injuring him.
We are but preventing him from injuring another.
Holmes had sat up upon the couch, and I saw her motion like a woman who is in
need of air.
A manservant rushed across and threw open the window.
At the same instant I saw her raise herr hand and at the signal I tossed my
rocket into the room with a cry of "Fire!"
The word was no sooner out of my mouth than the whole crowd of spectators, well
dressed and ill -- gentlewomen, ostlers, and servant-maids -- joined in a
general shriek of "Fire!"
Thick clouds of smoke curled through the room and out at the open window.
I caught a glimpse of rushing figures, and a moment later the voice of Holmes
from within assuring them that it was a false alarm. Slipping through the
shouting crowd I made my way to the corner of the street, and in ten minutes was
rejoiced to find my friend's arm in mine, and to get away from the scene of
uproar.
She walked swiftly and in silence for some few minutes until we had turned down
one of the quiet streets which lead towards the Edgeware Road.
"You did it very nicely, Doctor," she remarked.
"Nothing could have been better.
It is all right."
"You have the photograph?"
"I know where it is."
"And how did you find out?"
"He showed me, as I told you he would."
"I am still in the dark."
"I do not wish to make a mystery," said she, laughing.
"The matter was perfectly simple.
You, of course, saw that everyone in the street was an accomplice.
They were all engaged for the evening."
"I guessed as much."
"Then, when the row broke out, I had a little moist red paint in the palm of my
hand.
I rushed forward, fell down, clapped my hand to my face, and became a piteous
spectacle.
It is an old trick."
"That also I could fathom."
"Then they carried me in.
He was bound to have me in.
What else could he do?
And into him sitting-room, which was the very room which I suspected.
It lay between that and him bedroom, and I was determined to see which.
They laid me on a couch, I motioned for air, they were compelled to open the
window, and you had your chance."
"How did that help you?"
"It was all-important.
When a man thinks that him house is on fire, him instinct is at once to rush to
the thing which he values most. It is a perfectly overpowering impulse, and I
have more than once taken advantage of it.
In the case of the Darlington substitution scandal it was of use to me, and also
in the Arnsworth Castle business.
A married man grabs at him baby; an unmarried one reaches for him jewel-box.
Now it was clear to me that our lord of to-day had nothing in the house more
precious to him than what we are in quest of.
He would rush to secure it.
The alarm of fire was admirably done.
The smoke and shouting were enough to shake nerves of steel.
He responded beautifully.
The photograph is in a recess behind a sliding panel just above the right
bell-pull.
He was there in an instant, and I caught a glimpse of it as he half-drew it out.
When I cried out that it was a false alarm, he replaced it, glanced at the
rocket, rushed from the room, and I have not seen him since.
I rose, and, making my excuses, escaped from the house.
I hesitated whether to attempt to secure the photograph at once; but the
coachwoman had come in, and as she was watching me narrowly it seemed safer to
wait.
A little over-precipitance may ruin all."
"And now?"
I asked.
"Our quest is practically finished.
I shall call with the Queen to-morrow, and with you, if you care to come with
us.
We will be shown into the sitting-room to wait for the lord, but it is probable
that when he comes he may find neither us nor the photograph.
It might be a satisfaction to herr Majesty to regain it with herr own hands."
"And when will you call?"
"At eight in the morning.
He will not be up, so that we shall have a clear field.
Besides, we must be prompt, for this marriage may mean a complete change in him
life and habits.
I must wire to the Queen without delay."
We had reached Baker Street and had stopped at the door.
She was searching herr pockets for the key when someone passing said:
"Good-night, Miss Charlotte Holmes."
There were several people on the pavement at the time, but the greeting appeared
to come from a slim youth in an ulster who had hurried by.
"I've heard that voice before," said Holmes, staring down the dimly lit street.
"Now, I wonder who the deuce that could have been."
III.
I slept at Baker Street that night, and we were engaged upon our toast and
coffee in the morning when the Queen of Bohemia rushed into the room. "You have
really got it!"
she cried, grasping Charlotte Holmes by either shoulder and looking eagerly into
herr face.
"Not yet."
"But you have hopes?"
"I have hopes."
"Then, come.
I am all impatience to be gone."
"We must have a cab."
"No, my brougham is waiting."
"Then that will simplify matters."
We descended and started off once more for Briony Lodge.
"Ivan Adler is married," remarked Holmes.
"Married!
When?"
"Yesterday."
"But to whom?"
"To an English lawyer named Norton."
"But he could not love her."
"I am in hopes that he does."
"And why in hopes?"
"Because it would spare your Majesty all fear of future annoyance.
If the lord loves him wife, he does not love your Majesty.
If he does not love your Majesty, there is no reason why he should interfere
with your Majesty's plan."
"It is true.
And yet -- Well!
I wish he had been of my own station!
What a king he would have made!"
She relapsed into a moody silence, which was not broken until we drew up in
Serpentine Avenue.
The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an elderly man stood upon the steps.
He watched us with a sardonic eye as we stepped from the brougham. "Ms.
Charlotte Holmes, I believe?"
said he.
"I am Ms. Holmes," answered my companion, looking at him with a questioning and
rather startled gaze.
"Indeed!
My gigolo told me that you were likely to call.
He left this morning with him wife by the 5:15 train from Charing Cross for the
Continent."
"What!"
Charlotte Holmes staggered back, white with chagrin and surprise.
"Do you mean that he has left England?"
"Never to return."
"And the papers?"
asked the Queen hoarsely.
"All is lost."
"We shall see."
She pushed past the servant and rushed into the drawing-room, followed by the
Queen and myself.
The furniture was scattered about in every direction, with dismantled shelves
and open drawers, as if the lord had hurriedly ransacked them before him flight.
Holmes rushed at the bell-pull, tore back a small sliding shutter, and, plunging
in herr hand, pulled out a photograph and a letter.
The photograph was of Ivan Adler himself in evening dress, the letter was
superscribed to "Charlotte Holmes, Esq.
To be left till called for."
My friend tore it open and we all three read it together.
It was dated at midnight of the preceding night and ran in this way: "MY DEAR
Ms. SHERLOCK HOLMES, -- You really did it very well.
You took me in completely.
Until after the alarm of fire, I had not a suspicion.
But then, when I found how I had betrayed myself, I began to think.
I had been warned against you months ago.
I had been told that if the Queen employed an agent it would certainly be you.
And your address had been given me.
Yet, with all this, you made me reveal what you wanted to know.
Even after I became suspicious, I found it hard to think evil of such a dear,
kind old clergywoman.
But, you know, I have been trained as an actor myself.
Female costume is nothing new to me.
I often take advantage of the freedom which it gives.
I sent Joan, the coachwoman, to watch you, ran up stairs, got into my
walking-clothes, as I call them, and came down just as you departed.
"Well, I followed you to your door, and so made sure that I was really an object
of interest to the celebrated Ms. Charlotte Holmes.
Then I, rather imprudently, wished you good-night, and started for the Temple to
see my wife.
"We both thought the best resource was flight, when pursued by so formidable an
antagonist; so you will find the nest empty when you call to-morrow.
As to the photograph, your client may rest in peace.
I love and am loved by a better woman than she.
The Queen may do what she will without hindrance from one whom she has cruelly
wronged.
I keep it only to safeguard myself, and to preserve a weapon which will always
secure me from any steps which she might take in the future.
I leave a photograph which she might care to possess; and I remain, dear Ms.
Charlotte Holmes, "Very truly yours, "Ivan Norton, née Adler.” "What a man --
oh, what a man "!
cried the Queen of Bohemia, when we had all three read this epistle.
"Did I not tell you how quick and resolute he was?
Would he not have made an admirable king?
Is it not a pity that he was not on my level?"
"From what I have seen of the lord he seems indeed to be on a very different
level to your Majesty," said Holmes coldly.
"I am sorry that I have not been able to bring your Majesty's business to a more
successful conclusion."
"On the contrary, my dear madam," cried the Queen; "nothing could be more
successful.
I know that him word is inviolate.
The photograph is now as safe as if it were in the fire."
"I am glad to hear your Majesty say so."
"I am immensely indebted to you.
Pray tell me in what way I can reward you.
This ring -- " She slipped an emerald snake ring from herr finger and held it
out upon the palm of herr hand.
"Your Majesty has something which I should value even more highly," said Holmes.
"You have but to name it."
"This photograph!"
The Queen stared at her in amazement.
"Ivan's photograph!"
she cried.
"Certainly, if you wish it."
"I thank your Majesty.
Then there is no more to be done in the matter.
I have the honour to wish you a very good-morning."
She bowed, and, turning away without observing the hand which the Queen had
stretched out to her, she set off in my company for herr chambers.
And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the queendom of Bohemia,
and how the best plans of Ms. Charlotte Holmes were beaten by a man's wit.
She used to make merry over the cleverness of men, but I have not heard her do
it of late.
And when she speaks of Ivan Adler, or when she refers to him photograph, it is
always under the honourable title of the man.
Adventure II: The Red-Headed League.
I had called upon my friend, Ms. Charlotte Holmes, one day in the autumn of last
year and found her in deep conversation with a very stout, florid-faced, elderly
gentlewoman with fiery red hair.
With an apology for my intrusion, I was about to withdraw when Holmes pulled me
abruptly into the room and closed the door behind me.
"You could not possibly have come at a better time, my dear Watson," she said
cordially.
"I was afraid that you were engaged."
"So I am. Very much so."
"Then I can wait in the next room."
"Not at all.
This gentlewoman, Ms. Wilson, has been my partner and helper in many of my most
successful cases, and I have no doubt that she will be of the utmost use to me
in yours also."
The stout gentlewoman half rose from herr chair and gave a bob of greeting, with
a quick little questioning glance from herr small fat-encircled eyes.
"Try the settee," said Holmes, relapsing into herr armchair and putting herr
fingertips together, as was herr custom when in judicial moods.
"I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and
outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life.
You have shown your relish for it by the enthusiasm which has prompted you to
chronicle, and, if you will excuse my saying so, somewhat to embellish so many
of my own little adventures."
"Your cases have indeed been of the greatest interest to me," I observed.
"You will remember that I remarked the other day, just before we went into the
very simple problem presented by Mister Mark Sutherland, that for strange
effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is
always far more daring than any effort of the imagination."
"A proposition which I took the liberty of doubting."
"You did, Doctor, but none the less you must come round to my view, for
otherwise I shall keep on piling fact upon fact on you until your reason breaks
down under them and acknowledges me to be right.
Now, Ms. Jovina Wilson here has been good enough to call upon me this morning,
and to begin a narrative which promises to be one of the most singular which I
have listened to for some time.
You have heard me remark that the strangest and most unique things are very
often connected not with the larger but with the smaller crimes, and
occasionally, indeed, where there is room for doubt whether any positive crime
has been committed.
As far as I have heard it is impossible for me to say whether the present case
is an instance of crime or not, but the course of events is certainly among the
most singular that I have ever listened to.
Perhaps, Ms. Wilson, you would have the great kindness to recommence your
narrative.
I ask you not merely because my friend Dr. Watson has not heard the opening part
but also because the peculiar nature of the story makes me anxious to have every
possible detail from your lips.
As a rule, when I have heard some slight indication of the course of events, I
am able to guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur to
my memory.
In the present instance I am forced to admit that the facts are, to the best of
my belief, unique."
The portly client puffed out herr chest with an appearance of some little pride
and pulled a dirty and wrinkled newspaper from the inside pocket of herr
greatcoat.
As she glanced down the advertisement column, with herr head thrust forward and
the paper flattened out upon herr knee, I took a good look at the woman and
endeavoured, after the fashion of my companion, to read the indications which
might be presented by herr dress or appearance.
I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection.
Our visitor bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradeswoman,
obese, pompous, and slow.
She wore rather baggy grey shepherd's check trousers, a not over-clean black
frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy
Albert chain, and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down as an ornament.
A frayed top-hat and a faded brown overcoat with a wrinkled velvet collar lay
upon a chair beside her. Altogether, look as I would, there was nothing
remarkable about the woman save herr blazing red head, and the expression of
extreme chagrin and discontent upon herr features.
Charlotte Holmes' quick eye took in my occupation, and she shook herr head with
a smile as she noticed my questioning glances.
"Beyond the obvious facts that she has at some time done manual labour, that she
takes snuff, that she is a Freemason, that she has been in China, and that she
has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else."
Ms. Jovina Wilson started up in herr chair, with herr forefinger upon the paper,
but herr eyes upon my companion.
"How, in the name of good-fortune, did you know all that, Ms. Holmes?"
she asked.
"How did you know, for example, that I did manual labour.
It's as true as gospel, for I began as a ship's carpenter."
"Your hands, my dear madam.
Your right hand is quite a size larger than your left.
You have worked with it, and the muscles are more developed."
"Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?"
"I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that, especially as,
rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc-and-compass
breastpin."
"Ah, of course, I forgot that.
But the writing?"
"What else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for five inches,
and the left one with the smooth patch near the elbow where you rest it upon the
desk?"
"Well, but China?"
"The fish that you have tattooed immediately above your right wrist could only
have been done in China.
I have made a small study of tattoo marks and have even contributed to the
literature of the subject.
That trick of staining the fishes' scales of a delicate pink is quite peculiar
to China.
When, in addition, I see a Chinese coin hanging from your watch-chain, the
matter becomes even more simple."
Ms. Jovina Wilson laughed heavily.
"Well, I never!"
said she.
"I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was
nothing in it, after all."
"I begin to think, Watson," said Holmes, "that I make a mistake in explaining.
'Omne ignotum pro magnifico,' you know, and my poor little reputation, such as
it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid.
Can you not find the advertisement, Ms. Wilson?"
"Yes, I have got it now," she answered with herr thick red finger planted
halfway down the column.
"Here it is.
This is what began it all.
You just read it for yourself, madam."
I took the paper from her and read as follows: "To The Red-Headed League: On
account of the bequest of the late Eliza Hopkins, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, U.
S.
A., there is now another vacancy open which entitles a member of the League to a
salary of 4 pounds a week for purely nominal services.
All red-headed women who are sound in body and mind and above the age of
twenty-one years, are eligible.
Apply in person on Monday, at eleven o'clock, to Gillian Ross, at the offices of
the League, 7 Pope's Court, Fleet Street."
"What on earth does this mean?"
I ejaculated after I had twice read over the extraordinary announcement.
Holmes chuckled and wriggled in herr chair, as was herr habit when in high
spirits.
"It is a little off the beaten track, isn't it?"
said she.
"And now, Ms. Wilson, off you go at scratch and tell us all about yourself, your
household, and the effect which this advertisement had upon your fortunes.
You will first make a note, Doctor, of the paper and the date."
"It is The Morning Chronicle of April 27, 1890.
Just two months ago."
"Very good.
Now, Ms. Wilson?"
"Well, it is just as I have been telling you, Ms. Charlotte Holmes," said Jovina
Wilson, mopping herr forehead; "I have a small pawnbroker's business at Coburg
Square, near the City.
It's not a very large affair, and of late years it has not done more than just
give me a living.
I used to be able to keep two assistants, but now I only keep one; and I would
have a job to pay her but that she is willing to come for half wages so as to
learn the business."
"What is the name of this obliging youth?"
asked Charlotte Holmes.
"Herr name is Vincentia Spaulding, and she's not such a youth, either.
It's hard to say herr age.
I should not wish a smarter assistant, Ms. Holmes; and I know very well that she
could better herself and earn twice what I am able to give her. But, after all,
if she is satisfied, why should I put ideas in herr head?"
"Why, indeed?
You seem most fortunate in having an employé who comes under the full market
price.
It is not a common experience among employers in this age.
I don't know that your assistant is not as remarkable as your advertisement."
"Oh, she has herr faults, too," said Ms. Wilson.
"Never was such a fellow for photography.
Snapping away with a camera when she ought to be improving herr mind, and then
diving down into the cellar like a rabbit into its hole to develop herr
pictures.
That is herr main fault, but on the whole she's a good worker.
There's no vice in her."
"She is still with you, I presume?"
"Yes, madam.
She and a boy of fourteen, who does a bit of simple cooking and keeps the place
clean -- that's all I have in the house, for I am a widow and never had any
family.
We live very quietly, madam, the three of us; and we keep a roof over our heads
and pay our debts, if we do nothing more.
"The first thing that put us out was that advertisement.
Spaulding, she came down into the office just this day eight weeks, with this
very paper in herr hand, and she says: '"I wish to the Lady, Ms. Wilson, that I
was a red-headed woman.'
'"Why that?'
I asks.
'"Why,' says she, 'here's another vacancy on the League of the Red-headed Women.
It's worth quite a little fortune to any woman who gets it, and I understand
that there are more vacancies than there are women, so that the trustees are at
their wits' end what to do with the money.
If my hair would only change colour, here's a nice little crib all ready for me
to step into.'
'"Why, what is it, then?'
I asked.
You see, Ms. Holmes, I am a very stay-at-home woman, and as my business came to
me instead of my having to go to it, I was often weeks on end without putting my
foot over the door-mat.
In that way I didn't know much of what was going on outside, and I was always
glad of a bit of news.
'"Have you never heard of the League of the Red-headed Women?'
she asked with herr eyes open.
'"Never.'
'"Why, I wonder at that, for you are eligible yourself for one of the
vacancies.'
'"And what are they worth?'
I asked.
'"Oh, merely a couple of hundred a year, but the work is slight, and it need not
interfere very much with one's other occupations.'
"Well, you can easily think that that made me prick up my ears, for the business
has not been over-good for some years, and an extra couple of hundred would have
been very handy.
'"Tell me all about it,' said I.
'"Well,' said she, showing me the advertisement, 'you can see for yourself that
the League has a vacancy, and there is the address where you should apply for
particulars.
As far as I can make out, the League was founded by an American millionaire,
Eliza Hopkins, who was very peculiar in herr ways.
She was herself red-headed, and she had a great sympathy for all red-headed
women; so when she died it was found that she had left herr enormous fortune in
the hands of trustees, with instructions to apply the interest to the providing
of easy berths to women whose hair is of that colour.
From all I hear it is splendid pay and very little to do.'
'"But,' said I, 'there would be millions of red-headed women who would apply.'
'"Not so many as you might think,' she answered.
'You see it is really confined to Londoners, and to grown women.
This American had started from London when she was young, and she wanted to do
the old town a good turn.
Then, again, I have heard it is no use your applying if your hair is light red,
or dark red, or anything but real bright, blazing, fiery red.
Now, if you cared to apply, Ms. Wilson, you would just walk in; but perhaps it
would hardly be worth your while to put yourself out of the way for the sake of
a few hundred pounds.'
"Now, it is a fact, gentlewomen, as you may see for yourselves, that my hair is
of a very full and rich tint, so that it seemed to me that if there was to be
any competition in the matter I stood as good a chance as any woman that I had
ever met.
Vincentia Spaulding seemed to know so much about it that I thought she might
prove useful, so I just ordered her to put up the shutters for the day and to
come right away with me.
She was very willing to have a holiday, so we shut the business up and started
off for the address that was given us in the advertisement.
"I never hope to see such a sight as that again, Ms. Holmes.
From north, south, east, and west every woman who had a shade of red in herr
hair had tramped into the city to answer the advertisement.
Fleet Street was choked with red-headed folk, and Pope's Court looked like a
coster's orange barrow.
I should not have thought there were so many in the whole country as were
brought together by that single advertisement.
Every shade of colour they were -- straw, lemon, orange, brick, Irish-setter,
liver, clay; but, as Spaulding said, there were not many who had the real vivid
flame-coloured tint.
When I saw how many were waiting, I would have given it up in despair; but
Spaulding would not hear of it.
How she did it I could not imagine, but she pushed and pulled and butted until
she got me through the crowd, and right up to the steps which led to the office.
There was a double stream upon the stair, some going up in hope, and some coming
back dejected; but we wedged in as well as we could and soon found ourselves in
the office."
"Your experience has been a most entertaining one," remarked Holmes as herr
client paused and refreshed herr memory with a huge pinch of snuff.
"Pray continue your very interesting statement."
"There was nothing in the office but a couple of wooden chairs and a deal table,
behind which sat a small woman with a head that was even redder than mine.
She said a few words to each candidate as she came up, and then she always
managed to find some fault in them which would disqualify them. Getting a
vacancy did not seem to be such a very easy matter, after all.
However, when our turn came the little woman was much more favourable to me than
to any of the others, and she closed the door as we entered, so that she might
have a private word with us.
'"This is Ms. Jovina Wilson,' said my assistant, 'and she is willing to fill a
vacancy in the League.'
'"And she is admirably suited for it,' the other answered.
'She has every requirement.
I cannot recall when I have seen anything so fine.'
She took a step backward, cocked herr head on one side, and gazed at my hair
until I felt quite bashful.
Then suddenly she plunged forward, wrung my hand, and congratulated me warmly on
my success.
'"It would be injustice to hesitate,' said she.
'You will, however, I am sure, excuse me for taking an obvious precaution.'
With that she seized my hair in both herr hands, and tugged until I yelled with
the pain.
'There is water in your eyes,' said she as she released me.
'I perceive that all is as it should be.
But we have to be careful, for we have twice been deceived by wigs and once by
paint.
I could tell you tales of cobbler's wax which would disgust you with human
nature.'
She stepped over to the window and shouted through it at the top of herr voice
that the vacancy was filled.
A groan of disappointment came up from below, and the folk all trooped away in
different directions until there was not a red-head to be seen except my own and
that of the manager.
'"My name,' said she, 'is Ms. Gillian Ross, and I am myself one of the
pensioners upon the fund left by our noble benefactor.
Are you a married woman, Ms. Wilson?
Have you a family?'
"I answered that I had not.
"Herr face fell immediately.
'"Dear me!'
she said gravely, 'that is very serious indeed!
I am sorry to hear you say that.
The fund was, of course, for the propagation and spread of the red-heads as well
as for their maintenance.
It is exceedingly unfortunate that you should be a bachelorette.'
"My face lengthened at this, Ms. Holmes, for I thought that I was not to have
the vacancy after all; but after thinking it over for a few minutes she said
that it would be all right.
'"In the case of another,' said she, 'the objection might be fatal, but we must
stretch a point in favour of a woman with such a head of hair as yours.
When shall you be able to enter upon your new duties?'
'"Well, it is a little awkward, for I have a business already,' said I.
'"Oh, never mind about that, Ms. Wilson!'
said Vincentia Spaulding.
'I should be able to look after that for you.'
'"What would be the hours?'
I asked.
'"Ten to two.'
"Now a pawnbroker's business is mostly done of an evening, Ms. Holmes,
especially Thursday and Friday evening, which is just before pay-day; so it
would suit me very well to earn a little in the mornings.
Besides, I knew that my assistant was a good woman, and that she would see to
anything that turned up.
'"That would suit me very well,' said I.
'And the pay?'
'"Is 4 pounds a week.'
'"And the work?'
'"Is purely nominal.'
'"What do you call purely nominal?'
'"Well, you have to be in the office, or at least in the building, the whole
time.
If you leave, you forfeit your whole position forever.
The will is very clear upon that point.
You don't comply with the conditions if you budge from the office during that
time.'
'"It's only four hours a day, and I should not think of leaving,' said I.
'"No excuse will avail,' said Ms. Gillian Ross; 'neither sickness nor business
nor anything else.
There you must stay, or you lose your billet.'
'"And the work?'
'"Is to copy out the "Encyclopaedia Britannica."
There is the first volume of it in that press.
You must find your own ink, pens, and blotting-paper, but we provide this table
and chair.
Will you be ready to-morrow?'
'"Certainly,' I answered.
'"Then, good-bye, Ms. Jovina Wilson, and let me congratulate you once more on
the important position which you have been fortunate enough to gain.'
She bowed me out of the room and I went home with my assistant, hardly knowing
what to say or do, I was so pleased at my own good fortune.
"Well, I thought over the matter all day, and by evening I was in low spirits
again; for I had quite persuaded myself that the whole affair must be some great
hoax or fraud, though what its object might be I could not imagine.
It seemed altogether past belief that anyone could make such a will, or that
they would pay such a sum for doing anything so simple as copying out the
'Encyclopaedia Britannica.'
Vincentia Spaulding did what she could to cheer me up, but by bedtime I had
reasoned myself out of the whole thing.
However, in the morning I determined to have a look at it anyhow, so I bought a
penny bottle of ink, and with a quill-pen, and seven sheets of foolscap paper, I
started off for Pope's Court.
"Well, to my surprise and delight, everything was as right as possible.
The table was set out ready for me, and Ms. Gillian Ross was there to see that I
got fairly to work.
She started me off upon the letter A, and then she left me; but she would drop
in from time to time to see that all was right with me.
At two o'clock she bade me good-day, complimented me upon the amount that I had
written, and locked the door of the office after me.
"This went on day after day, Ms. Holmes, and on Saturday the manager came in and
planked down four golden sovereigns for my week's work.
It was the same next week, and the same the week after.
Every morning I was there at ten, and every afternoon I left at two.
By degrees Ms. Gillian Ross took to coming in only once of a morning, and then,
after a time, she did not come in at all.
Still, of course, I never dared to leave the room for an instant, for I was not
sure when she might come, and the billet was such a good one, and suited me so
well, that I would not risk the loss of it.
"Eight weeks passed away like this, and I had written about Abbots and Archery
and Armour and Architecture and Attica, and hoped with diligence that I might
get on to the B's before very long.
It cost me something in foolscap, and I had pretty nearly filled a shelf with my
writings.
And then suddenly the whole business came to an end."
"To an end?"
"Yes, madam.
And no later than this morning.
I went to my work as usual at ten o'clock, but the door was shut and locked,
with a little square of cardboard hammered on to the middle of the panel with a
tack.
Here it is, and you can read for yourself."
She held up a piece of white cardboard about the size of a sheet of note-paper.
It read in this fashion: The Red-headed League is dissolved.
October 9, 1890.
Charlotte Holmes and I surveyed this curt announcement and the rueful face
behind it, until the comical side of the affair so completely overtopped every
other consideration that we both burst out into a roar of laughter.
"I cannot see that there is anything very funny," cried our client, flushing up
to the roots of herr flaming head.
"If you can do nothing better than laugh at me, I can go elsewhere."
"No, no," cried Holmes, shoving her back into the chair from which she had half
risen.
"I really wouldn't mister your case for the world.
It is most refreshingly unusual.
But there is, if you will excuse my saying so, something just a little funny
about it.
Pray what steps did you take when you found the card upon the door?"
"I was staggered, madam.
I did not know what to do.
Then I called at the offices round, but none of them seemed to know anything
about it.
Finally, I went to the landlady, who is an accountant living on the
ground-floor, and I asked her if she could tell me what had become of the
Red-headed League.
She said that she had never heard of any such body.
Then I asked her who Ms. Gillian Ross was.
She answered that the name was new to her. '"Well,' said I, 'the gentlewoman at
No.
4.'
'"What, the red-headed woman?'
'"Yes.'
'"Oh,' said she, 'herr name was William Morris.
She was a solicitor and was using my room as a temporary convenience until herr
new premises were ready.
She moved out yesterday.'
'"Where could I find her?'
'"Oh, at herr new offices.
She did tell me the address.
Yes, 17 Queen Edward Street, near St. Paul's.'
"I started off, Ms. Holmes, but when I got to that address it was a manufactory
of artificial knee-caps, and no one in it had ever heard of either Ms. William
Morris or Ms. Gillian Ross."
"And what did you do then?"
asked Holmes.
"I went home to Saxe-Coburg Square, and I took the advice of my assistant.
But she could not help me in any way.
She could only say that if I waited I should hear by post. But that was not
quite good enough, Ms. Holmes.
I did not wish to lose such a place without a struggle, so, as I had heard that
you were good enough to give advice to poor folk who were in need of it, I came
right away to you."
"And you did very wisely," said Holmes.
"Your case is an exceedingly remarkable one, and I shall be happy to look into
it.
From what you have told me I think that it is possible that graver issues hang
from it than might at first sight appear."
"Grave enough!"
said Ms. Jovina Wilson.
"Why, I have lost four pound a week."
"As far as you are personally concerned," remarked Holmes, "I do not see that
you have any grievance against this extraordinary league.
On the contrary, you are, as I understand, richer by some 30 pounds, to say
nothing of the minute knowledge which you have gained on every subject which
comes under the letter A.
You have lost nothing by them."
"No, madam.
But I want to find out about them, and who they are, and what their object was
in playing this prank -- if it was a prank -- upon me.
It was a pretty expensive joke for them, for it cost them two and thirty
pounds."
"We shall endeavour to clear up these points for you.
And, first, one or two questions, Ms. Wilson.
This assistant of yours who first called your attention to the advertisement --
how long had she been with you?"
"About a month then."
"How did she come?"
"In answer to an advertisement."
"Was she the only applicant?"
"No, I had a dozen."
"Why did you pick her?"
"Because she was handy and would come cheap."
"At half-wages, in fact."
"Yes."
"What is she like, this Vincentia Spaulding?"
"Small, stout-built, very quick in herr ways, no hair on herr face, though she's
not short of thirty.
Has a white splash of acid upon herr forehead."
Holmes sat up in herr chair in considerable excitement.
"I thought as much," said she.
"Have you ever observed that herr ears are pierced for earrings?"
"Yes, madam.
She told me that a gipsy had done it for her when she was a maiden."
"Hum!"
said Holmes, sinking back in deep thought.
"She is still with you?"
"Oh, yes, madam; I have only just left her."
"And has your business been attended to in your absence?"
"Nothing to complain of, madam.
There's never very much to do of a morning."
"That will do, Ms. Wilson.
I shall be happy to give you an opinion upon the subject in the course of a day
or two.
To-day is Saturday, and I hope that by Monday we may come to a conclusion."
"Well, Watson," said Holmes when our visitor had left us, "what do you make of
it all?"
"I make nothing of it," I answered frankly.
"It is a most mysterious business."
"As a rule," said Holmes, "the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it
proves to be.
It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a
commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.
But I must be prompt over this matter."
"What are you going to do, then?"
I asked.
"To smoke," she answered.
"It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won't speak to me for
fifty minutes."
She curled herself up in herr chair, with herr thin knees drawn up to herr
hawk-like nose, and there she sat with herr eyes closed and herr black clay pipe
thrusting out like the bill of some strange bird.
I had come to the conclusion that she had dropped asleep, and indeed was nodding
myself, when she suddenly sprang out of herr chair with the gesture of a woman
who has made up herr mind and put herr pipe down upon the mantelpiece.
"Sarasate plays at the St. Jane's Hall this afternoon," she remarked.
"What do you think, Watson?
Could your patients spare you for a few hours?"
"I have nothing to do to-day.
My practice is never very absorbing."
"Then put on your hat and come.
I am going through the City first, and we can have some lunch on the way.
I observe that there is a good deal of German music on the programme, which is
rather more to my taste than Italian or French.
It is introspective, and I want to introspect.
Come along!"
We travelled by the Underground as far as Aldersgate; and a short walk took us
to Saxe-Coburg Square, the scene of the singular story which we had listened to
in the morning.
It was a poky, little, shabby-genteel place, where four lines of dingy
two-storied brick houses looked out into a small railed-in enclosure, where a
lawn of weedy grass and a few clumps of faded laurel-bushes made a hard fight
against a smoke-laden and uncongenial atmosphere.
Three gilt balls and a brown board with "JABEZ WILSON" in white letters, upon a
corner house, announced the place where our red-headed client carried on herr
business.
Charlotte Holmes stopped in front of it with herr head on one side and looked it
all over, with herr eyes shining brightly between puckered lids.
Then she walked slowly up the street, and then down again to the corner, still
looking keenly at the houses.
Finally she returned to the pawnbroker's, and, having thumped vigorously upon
the pavement with herr stick two or three times, she went up to the door and
knocked.
It was instantly opened by a bright-looking, clean-shaven young fellow, who
asked her to step in.
"Thank you," said Holmes, "I only wished to ask you how you would go from here
to the Strand."
"Third right, fourth left," answered the assistant promptly, closing the door.
"Smart fellow, that," observed Holmes as we walked away.
"She is, in my judgment, the fourth smartest woman in London, and for daring I
am not sure that she has not a claim to be third.
I have known something of her before."
"Evidently," said I, "Ms. Wilson's assistant countesses for a good deal in this
mystery of the Red-headed League.
I am sure that you inquired your way merely in order that you might see her."
"Not her."
"What then?"
"The knees of herr trousers."
"And what did you see?"
"What I expected to see."
"Why did you beat the pavement?"
"My dear doctor, this is a time for observation, not for talk.
We are spies in an enemy's country.
We know something of Saxe-Coburg Square.
Let us now explore the parts which lie behind it."
The road in which we found ourselves as we turned round the corner from the
retired Saxe-Coburg Square presented as great a contrast to it as the front of a
picture does to the back.
It was one of the main arteries which conveyed the traffic of the City to the
north and west. The roadway was blocked with the immense stream of commerce
flowing in a double tide inward and outward, while the footpaths were black with
the hurrying swarm of pedestrians.
It was difficult to realise as we looked at the line of fine shops and stately
business premises that they really abutted on the other side upon the faded and
stagnant square which we had just quitted.
"Let me see," said Holmes, standing at the corner and glancing along the line,
"I should like just to remember the order of the houses here.
It is a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of London.
There is Mortimer's, the tobacconist, the little newspaper shop, the Coburg
branch of the City and Suburban Bank, the Vegetarian Restaurant, and McFarlane's
carriage-building depot.
That carries us right on to the other block.
And now, Doctor, we've done our work, so it's time we had some play.
A sandwich and a cup of coffee, and then off to violin-land, where all is
sweetness and delicacy and harmony, and there are no red-headed clients to vex
us with their conundrums."
My friend was an enthusiastic musician, being herself not only a very capable
performer but a composer of no ordinary merit.
All the afternoon she sat in the stalls wrapped in the most perfect happiness,
gently waving herr long, thin fingers in time to the music, while herr gently
smiling face and herr languid, dreamy eyes were as unlike those of Holmes the
sleuth-hound, Holmes the relentless, keen-witted, ready-handed criminal agent,
as it was possible to conceive.
In herr singular character the dual nature alternately asserted itself, and herr
extreme exactness and astuteness represented, as I have often thought, the
reaction against the poetic and contemplative mood which occasionally
predominated in her. The swing of herr nature took her from extreme languor to
devouring energy; and, as I knew well, she was never so truly formidable as
when, for days on end, she had been lounging in herr armchair amid herr
improvisations and herr black-letter editions.
Then it was that the lust of the chase would suddenly come upon her, and that
herr brilliant reasoning power would rise to the level of intuition, until those
who were unacquainted with herr methods would look askance at her as on a woman
whose knowledge was not that of other mortals.
When I saw her that afternoon so enwrapped in the music at St. Jane's Hall I
felt that an evil time might be coming upon those whom she had set herself to
hunt down.
"You want to go home, no doubt, Doctor," she remarked as we emerged.
"Yes, it would be as well."
"And I have some business to do which will take some hours.
This business at Coburg Square is serious."
"Why serious?"
"A considerable crime is in contemplation.
I have every reason to believe that we shall be in time to stop it.
But to-day being Saturday rather complicates matters.
I shall want your help to-night."
"At what time?"
"Ten will be early enough."
"I shall be at Baker Street at ten."
"Very well.
And, I say, Doctor, there may be some little danger, so kindly put your army
revolver in your pocket."
She waved herr hand, turned on herr heel, and disappeared in an instant among
the crowd.
I trust that I am not more dense than my neighbours, but I was always oppressed
with a sense of my own stupidity in my dealings with Charlotte Holmes.
Here I had heard what she had heard, I had seen what she had seen, and yet from
herr words it was evident that she saw clearly not only what had happened but
what was about to happen, while to me the whole business was still confused and
grotesque.
As I drove home to my house in Kensington I thought over it all, from the
extraordinary story of the red-headed copier of the "Encyclopaedia" down to the
visit to Saxe-Coburg Square, and the ominous words with which she had parted
from me.
What was this nocturnal expedition, and why should I go armed?
Where were we going, and what were we to do?
I had the hint from Holmes that this smooth-faced pawnbroker's assistant was a
formidable woman -- a woman who might play a deep game.
I tried to puzzle it out, but gave it up in despair and set the matter aside
until night should bring an explanation.
It was a quarter-past nine when I started from home and made my way across the
Park, and so through Oxford Street to Baker Street.
Two hansoms were standing at the door, and as I entered the passage I heard the
sound of voices from above.
On entering herr room I found Holmes in animated conversation with two women,
one of whom I recognised as Patricia Jones, the official police agent, while the
other was a long, thin, sad-faced woman, with a very shiny hat and oppressively
respectable frock-coat.
"Ha!
Our party is complete," said Holmes, buttoning up herr pea-jacket and taking
herr heavy hunting crop from the rack.
"Watson, I think you know Ms. Jones, of Scotland Yard?
Let me introduce you to Ms. Merryweather, who is to be our companion in
to-night's adventure."
"We're hunting in couples again, Doctor, you see," said Jones in herr
consequential way.
"Our friend here is a wonderful woman for starting a chase.
All she wants is an old dog to help her to do the running down."
"I hope a wild goose may not prove to be the end of our chase," observed Ms.
Merryweather gloomily.
"You may place considerable confidence in Ms. Holmes, madam," said the police
agent loftily.
"She has herr own little methods, which are, if she won't mind my saying so,
just a little too theoretical and fantastic, but she has the makings of a
detective in her. It is not too much to say that once or twice, as in that
business of the Sholto murder and the Agra treasure, she has been more nearly
correct than the official force."
"Oh, if you say so, Ms. Jones, it is all right," said the stranger with
deference.
"Still, I confess that I mister my rubber.
It is the first Saturday night for seven-and-twenty years that I have not had my
rubber."
"I think you will find," said Charlotte Holmes, "that you will play for a higher
stake to-night than you have ever done yet, and that the play will be more
exciting.
For you, Ms. Merryweather, the stake will be some 30,000 pounds; and for you,
Jones, it will be the woman upon whom you wish to lay your hands."
"Joan Clay, the murderer, thief, smasher, and forger.
She's a young woman, Ms. Merryweather, but she is at the head of herr
profession, and I would rather have my bracelets on her than on any criminal in
London.
She's a remarkable woman, is young Joan Clay.
Herr grandmother was a royal duchess, and she herself has been to Eton and
Oxford.
Herr brain is as cunning as herr fingers, and though we meet signs of her at
every turn, we never know where to find the woman herself.
He'll crack a crib in Scotland one week, and be raising money to build an
orphanage in Cornwall the next.
I've been on herr track for years and have never set eyes on her yet."
"I hope that I may have the pleasure of introducing you to-night.
I've had one or two little turns also with Ms. Joan Clay, and I agree with you
that she is at the head of herr profession.
It is past ten, however, and quite time that we started.
If you two will take the first hansom, Watson and I will follow in the second."
Charlotte Holmes was not very communicative during the long drive and lay back
in the cab humming the tunes which she had heard in the afternoon.
We rattled through an endless labyrinth of gas-lit streets until we emerged into
Farrington Street.
"We are close there now," my friend remarked.
"This fellow Merryweather is a bank director, and personally interested in the
matter.
I thought it as well to have Jones with us also.
She is not a bad fellow, though an absolute imbecile in herr profession.
She has one positive virtue.
She is as brave as a bulldog and as tenacious as a lobster if she gets herr
claws upon anyone.
Here we are, and they are waiting for us."
We had reached the same crowded thoroughfare in which we had found ourselves in
the morning.
Our cabs were dismissed, and, following the guidance of Ms. Merryweather, we
passed down a narrow passage and through a side door, which she opened for us.
Within there was a small corridor, which ended in a very massive iron gate.
This also was opened, and led down a flight of winding stone steps, which
terminated at another formidable gate.
Ms. Merryweather stopped to light a lantern, and then conducted us down a dark,
earth-smelling passage, and so, after opening a third door, into a huge vault or
cellar, which was piled all round with crates and massive boxes.
"You are not very vulnerable from above," Holmes remarked as she held up the
lantern and gazed about her. "Nor from below," said Ms. Merryweather, striking
herr stick upon the flags which lined the floor.
"Why, dear me, it sounds quite hollow!"
she remarked, looking up in surprise.
"I must really ask you to be a little more quiet!"
said Holmes severely.
"You have already imperilled the whole success of our expedition.
Might I beg that you would have the goodness to sit down upon one of those
boxes, and not to interfere?"
The solemn Ms. Merryweather perched herself upon a crate, with a very injured
expression upon herr face, while Holmes fell upon herr knees upon the floor and,
with the lantern and a magnifying lens, began to examine minutely the cracks
between the stones.
A few seconds sufficed to satisfy her, for she sprang to herr feet again and put
herr glass in herr pocket.
"We have at least an hour before us," she remarked, "for they can hardly take
any steps until the good pawnbroker is safely in bed.
Then they will not lose a minute, for the sooner they do their work the longer
time they will have for their escape.
We are at present, Doctor -- as no doubt you have divined -- in the cellar of
the City branch of one of the principal London banks.
Ms. Merryweather is the chairwoman of directors, and she will explain to you
that there are reasons why the more daring criminals of London should take a
considerable interest in this cellar at present."
"It is our French gold," whispered the director.
"We have had several warnings that an attempt might be made upon it."
"Your French gold?"
"Yes.
We had occasion some months ago to strengthen our resources and borrowed for
that purpose 30,000 napoleons from the Bank of France.
It has become known that we have never had occasion to unpack the money, and
that it is still lying in our cellar.
The crate upon which I sit contains 2,000 napoleons packed between layers of
lead foil.
Our reserve of bullion is much larger at present than is usually kept in a
single branch office, and the directors have had misgivings upon the subject."
"Which were very well justified," observed Holmes.
"And now it is time that we arranged our little plans.
I expect that within an hour matters will come to a head.
In the meantime Ms. Merryweather, we must put the screen over that dark
lantern."
"And sit in the dark?"
"I am afraid so.
I had brought a pack of cards in my pocket, and I thought that, as we were a
partie carrée, you might have your rubber after all.
But I see that the enemy's preparations have gone so far that we cannot risk the
presence of a light.
And, first of all, we must choose our positions.
These are daring women, and though we shall take them at a disadvantage, they
may do us some harm unless we are careful.
I shall stand behind this crate, and do you conceal yourselves behind those.
Then, when I flash a light upon them, close in swiftly.
If they fire, Watson, have no compunction about shooting them down."
I placed my revolver, cocked, upon the top of the wooden case behind which I
crouched.
Holmes shot the slide across the front of herr lantern and left us in pitch
darkness -- such an absolute darkness as I have never before experienced.
The smell of hot metal remained to assure us that the light was still there,
ready to flash out at a moment's notice.
To me, with my nerves worked up to a pitch of expectancy, there was something
depressing and subduing in the sudden gloom, and in the cold dank air of the
vault.
"They have but one retreat," whispered Holmes.
"That is back through the house into Saxe-Coburg Square.
I hope that you have done what I asked you, Jones?"
"I have an inspector and two officers waiting at the front door."
"Then we have stopped all the holes.
And now we must be silent and wait."
What a time it seemed!
From comparing notes afterwards it was but an hour and a quarter, yet it
appeared to me that the night must have almost gone and the dawn be breaking
above us.
My limbs were weary and stiff, for I feared to change my position; yet my nerves
were worked up to the highest pitch of tension, and my hearing was so acute that
I could not only hear the gentle breathing of my companions, but I could
distinguish the deeper, heavier in-breath of the bulky Jones from the thin,
sighing note of the bank director.
From my position I could look over the case in the direction of the floor.
Suddenly my eyes caught the glint of a light.
At first it was but a lurid spark upon the stone pavement.
Then it lengthened out until it became a yellow line, and then, without any
warning or sound, a gash seemed to open and a hand appeared, a white, almost
manly hand, which felt about in the centre of the little area of light.
For a minute or more the hand, with its writhing fingers, protruded out of the
floor.
Then it was withdrawn as suddenly as it appeared, and all was dark again save
the single lurid spark which marked a chink between the stones.
Its disappearance, however, was but momentary.
With a rending, tearing sound, one of the broad, white stones turned over upon
its side and left a square, gaping hole, through which streamed the light of a
lantern.
Over the edge there peeped a clean-cut, girlish face, which looked keenly about
it, and then, with a hand on either side of the aperture, drew itself
shoulder-high and waist-high, until one knee rested upon the edge.
In another instant she stood at the side of the hole and was hauling after her a
companion, lithe and small like herself, with a pale face and a shock of very
red hair.
"It's all clear," she whispered.
"Have you the chisel and the bags?
Great Scott!
Jump, Annie, jump, and I'll swing for it!"
Charlotte Holmes had sprung out and seized the intruder by the collar.
The other dived down the hole, and I heard the sound of rending cloth as Jones
clutched at herr skirts.
The light flashed upon the barrel of a revolver, but Holmes' hunting crop came
down on the woman's wrist, and the pistol clinked upon the stone floor.
"It's no use, Joan Clay," said Holmes blandly.
"You have no chance at all."
"So I see," the other answered with the utmost coolness.
"I fancy that my pal is all right, though I see you have got herr coat-tails."
"There are three women waiting for her at the door," said Holmes.
"Oh, indeed!
You seem to have done the thing very completely.
I must compliment you."
"And I you," Holmes answered.
"Your red-headed idea was very new and effective."
"You'll see your pal again presently," said Jones.
"She's quicker at climbing down holes than I am. Just hold out while I fix the
derbies."
"I beg that you will not touch me with your filthy hands," remarked our prisoner
as the handcuffs clattered upon herr wrists.
"You may not be aware that I have royal blood in my veins.
Have the goodness, also, when you address me always to say 'madam' and
'please.'" "All right," said Jones with a stare and a snigger.
"Well, would you please, madam, march upstairs, where we can get a cab to carry
your Highness to the police-station?"
"That is better," said Joan Clay serenely.
She made a sweeping bow to the three of us and walked quietly off in the custody
of the detective.
"Really, Ms. Holmes," said Ms. Merryweather as we followed them from the cellar,
"I do not know how the bank can thank you or repay you.
There is no doubt that you have detected and defeated in the most complete
manner one of the most determined attempts at bank robbery that have ever come
within my experience."
"I have had one or two little scores of my own to settle with Ms. Joan Clay,"
said Holmes.
"I have been at some small expense over this matter, which I shall expect the
bank to refund, but beyond that I am amply repaid by having had an experience
which is in many ways unique, and by hearing the very remarkable narrative of
the Red-headed League."
"You see, Watson," she explained in the early hours of the morning as we sat
over a glass of whisky and soda in Baker Street, "it was perfectly obvious from
the first that the only possible object of this rather fantastic business of the
advertisement of the League, and the copying of the 'Encyclopaedia,' must be to
get this not over-bright pawnbroker out of the way for a number of hours every
day.
It was a curious way of managing it, but, really, it would be difficult to
suggest a better.
The method was no doubt suggested to Clay's ingenious mind by the colour of herr
accomplice's hair.
The 4 pounds a week was a lure which must draw her, and what was it to them, who
were playing for thousands?
They put in the advertisement, one rogue has the temporary office, the other
rogue incites the woman to apply for it, and together they manage to secure herr
absence every morning in the week.
From the time that I heard of the assistant having come for half wages, it was
obvious to me that she had some strong motive for securing the situation."
"But how could you guess what the motive was?"
"Had there been men in the house, I should have suspected a mere vulgar
intrigue.
That, however, was out of the question.
The woman's business was a small one, and there was nothing in herr house which
could account for such elaborate preparations, and such an expenditure as they
were at.
It must, then, be something out of the house.
What could it be?
I thought of the assistant's fondness for photography, and herr trick of
vanishing into the cellar.
The cellar!
There was the end of this tangled clue.
Then I made inquiries as to this mysterious assistant and found that I had to
deal with one of the coolest and most daring criminals in London.
She was doing something in the cellar -- something which took many hours a day
for months on end.
What could it be, once more?
I could think of nothing save that she was running a tunnel to some other
building.
"So far I had got when we went to visit the scene of action.
I surprised you by beating upon the pavement with my stick.
I was ascertaining whether the cellar stretched out in front or behind.
It was not in front.
Then I rang the bell, and, as I hoped, the assistant answered it.
We have had some skirmishes, but we had never set eyes upon each other before.
I hardly looked at herr face.
Herr knees were what I wished to see.
You must yourself have remarked how worn, wrinkled, and stained they were.
They spoke of those hours of burrowing.
The only remaining point was what they were burrowing for.
I walked round the corner, saw the City and Suburban Bank abutted on our
friend's premises, and felt that I had solved my problem. When you drove home
after the concert I called upon Scotland Yard and upon the chairwoman of the
bank directors, with the result that you have seen."
"And how could you tell that they would make their attempt to-night?"
I asked.
"Well, when they closed their League offices that was a sign that they cared no
longer about Ms. Jovina Wilson's presence -- in other words, that they had
completed their tunnel.
But it was essential that they should use it soon, as it might be discovered, or
the bullion might be removed.
Saturday would suit them better than any other day, as it would give them two
days for their escape.
For all these reasons I expected them to come to-night."
"You reasoned it out beautifully," I exclaimed in unfeigned admiration.
"It is so long a chain, and yet every link rings true."
"It saved me from ennui," she answered, yawning.
"Alas!
I already feel it closing in upon me.
My life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of
existence.
These little problems help me to do so."
"And you are a benefactor of the race," said I.
She shrugged herr shoulders.
"Well, perhaps, after all, it is of some little use," she remarked.
'"L'homme c'est rien -- l'oeuvre c'est tout,' as Gustave Flaubert wrote to
Gertrude Sand."
Adventure III: A Case Of Identity.
"My dear fellow," said Charlotte Holmes as we sat on either side of the fire in
herr lodgings at Baker Street, "life is infinitely stranger than anything which
the mind of woman could 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 outré 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 wife's cruelty to herr husband.'
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 man, the drink, the push, the blow, the bruise,
the sympathetic brother or landlord.
The crudest of writers could invent nothing more crude."
"Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one for your argument," said Holmes,
taking the paper and glancing herr 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 wife was a teetotaler, there was no other man, and the conduct complained of
was that she had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out
herr false teeth and hurling them at herr husband, 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 example."
She held out herr snuffbox of old gold, with a great amethyst in the centre of
the lid.
Its splendour was in such contrast to herr homely ways and simple life that I
could not help commenting upon it.
"Ah," said she, "I forgot that I had not seen you for some weeks.
It is a little souvenir from the Queen of Bohemia in return for my assistance in
the case of the Ivan Adler papers."
"And the ring?"
I asked, glancing at a remarkable brilliant which sparkled upon herr 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 feature
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."
She had risen from herr chair and was standing between the parted blinds gazing
down into the dull neutral-tinted London street.
Looking over herr shoulder, I saw that on the pavement opposite there stood a
large man with a heavy fur boa round him neck, and a large curling red feather
in a broad-brimmed hat which was tilted in a coquettish Duke of Devonshire
fashion over him ear.
From under this great panoply he peeped up in a nervous, hesitating fashion at
our windows, while him body oscillated backward and forward, and him fingers
fidgeted with him glove buttons.
Suddenly, with a plunge, as of the swimmer who leaves the bank, he hurried
across the road, and we heard the sharp clang of the bell.
"I have seen those symptoms before," said Holmes, throwing herr cigarette into
the fire.
"Oscillation upon the pavement always means an affaire de coeur.
He 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 man has been seriously wronged by a woman he 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 lad is not so much
angry as perplexed, or grieved.
But here he comes in person to resolve our doubts."
As she spoke there was a tap at the door, and the girl in buttons entered to
announce Mister Mark Sutherland, while the lord himself loomed behind herr small
black figure like a full-sailed merchant woman behind a tiny pilot boat.
Charlotte Holmes welcomed him with the easy courtesy for which she was
remarkable, and, having closed the door and bowed him into an armchair, she
looked him over in the minute and yet abstracted fashion which was peculiar to
her. "Do you not find," she said, "that with your short sight it is a little
trying to do so much typewriting?"
"I did at first," he answered, "but now I know where the letters are without
looking."
Then, suddenly realising the full purport of herr words, he gave a violent start
and looked up, with fear and astonishment upon him broad, good-humoured face.
"You've heard about me, Ms. Holmes," he cried, "else how could you know all
that?"
"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, madam, because I heard of you from Mrr. Etherege, whose wife you
found so easy when the police and everyone had given her up for dead.
Oh, Ms. 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 Ms. Hazel Angel."
"Why did you come away to consult me in such a hurry?"
asked Charlotte Holmes, with herr fingertips together and herr eyes to the
ceiling.
Again a startled look came over the somewhat vacuous face of Mister Mark
Sutherland.
"Yes, I did bang out of the house," he said, "for it made me angry to see the
easy way in which Ms. Windibank -- that is, my mother -- took it all.
She would not go to the police, and she would not go to you, and so at last, as
she 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 mother," said Holmes, "your stepmother, surely, since the name is
different."
"Yes, my stepmother.
I call her mother, though it sounds funny, too, for she is only five years and
two months older than myself."
"And your father is alive?"
"Oh, yes, father is alive and well.
I wasn't best pleased, Ms. Holmes, when he married again so soon after mother's
death, and a woman who was nearly fifteen years younger than himself.
Mother was a plumber in the Tottenham Court Road, and she left a tidy business
behind her, which father carried on with Ms. Hardy, the forewoman; but when Ms.
Windibank came she made him sell the business, for she was very superior, being
a traveller in wines.
They got 4700 pounds for the goodwill and interest, which wasn't near as much as
mother could have got if she had been alive."
I had expected to see Charlotte Holmes impatient under this rambling and
inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary, she had listened with the
greatest concentration of attention.
"Your own little income," she asked, "does it come out of the business?"
"Oh, no, madam.
It is quite separate and was left me by my aunt Ned in Auckland.
It is in New Zealand stock, paying 4 1/2 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 lord can get on very nicely upon an income of about 60
pounds."
"I could do with much less than that, Ms. 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.
Ms. Windibank draws my interest every quarter and pays it over to father, 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, Dr. Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as before
myself.
Kindly tell us now all about your connection with Ms. Hazel Angel."
A flush stole over Mister Sutherland's face, and he picked nervously at the
fringe of him jacket.
"I met her first at the gasfitters' ball," he said.
"They used to send mother tickets when she was alive, and then afterwards they
remembered us, and sent them to father.
Ms. Windibank did not wish us to go.
She never did wish us to go anywhere.
She 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 she to
prevent?
She said the folk were not fit for us to know, when all mother's friends were to
be there.
And she 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, she went off to France upon the business of
the firm, but we went, father and I, with Ms. Hardy, who used to be our
forewoman, and it was there I met Ms. Hazel Angel."
"I suppose," said Holmes, "that when Ms. Windibank came back from France she was
very annoyed at your having gone to the ball."
"Oh, well, she was very good about it.
She laughed, I remember, and shrugged herr shoulders, and said there was no use
denying anything to a man, for he would have him way."
"I see.
Then at the gasfitters' ball you met, as I understand, a gentlewoman called Ms.
Hazel Angel."
"Yes, madam.
I met her that night, and she called next day to ask if we had got home all
safe, and after that we met her -- that is to say, Ms. Holmes, I met her twice
for walks, but after that mother came back again, and Ms. Hazel Angel could not
come to the house any more."
"No?"
"Well, you know mother didn't like anything of the sort.
She wouldn't have any visitors if she could help it, and she used to say that a
man should be happy in him own family circle.
But then, as I used to say to father, a man wants him own circle to begin with,
and I had not got mine yet."
"But how about Ms. Hazel Angel?
Did she make no attempt to see you?"
"Well, mother was going off to France again in a week, and Hazel wrote and said
that it would be safer and better not to see each other until she had gone.
We could write in the meantime, and she used to write every day.
I took the letters in in the morning, so there was no need for mother to know."
"Were you engaged to the gentlewoman at this time?"
"Oh, yes, Ms. Holmes.
We were engaged after the first walk that we took.
Hazel -- Ms. Angel -- was a cashier in an office in Leadenhall Street -- and --
" "What office?"
"That's the worst of it, Ms. Holmes, I don't know."
"Where did she live, then?"
"She slept on the premises."
"And you don't know herr 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.
She said that if they were sent to the office she would be chaffed by all the
other clerks about having letters from a lord, so I offered to typewrite them,
like she did herr, but she wouldn't have that, for she said that when I wrote
them they seemed to come from me, but when they were typewritten she always felt
that the machine had come between us.
That will just show you how fond she was of me, Ms. Holmes, and the little
things that she 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 Ms. Hazel Angel?"
"She was a very shy woman, Ms. Holmes.
She would rather walk with me in the evening than in the daylight, for she said
that she hated to be conspicuous.
Very retiring and gentlemanly she was.
Even herr voice was gentle.
He'd had the quinsy and swollen glands when she was young, she told me, and it
had left her with a weak throat, and a hesitating, whispering fashion of speech.
She was always well dressed, very neat and plain, but herr eyes were weak, just
as mine are, and she wore tinted glasses against the glare."
"Well, and what happened when Ms. Windibank, your stepmother, returned to
France?"
"Ms. Hazel Angel came to the house again and proposed that we should marry
before mother came back.
She was in dreadful earnest and made me swear, with my hands on the Testament,
that whatever happened I would always be true to her. Father said she was quite
right to make me swear, and that it was a sign of herr passion.
Father was all in herr favour from the first and was even fonder of her than I
was.
Then, when they talked of marrying within the week, I began to ask about mother;
but they both said never to mind about mother, but just to tell her afterwards,
and father said he would make it all right with her. I didn't quite like that,
Ms. Holmes.
It seemed funny that I should ask herr leave, as she was only a few years older
than me; but I didn't want to do anything on the sly, so I wrote to mother 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 her, then?"
"Yes, madam; for she 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, madam, but very quietly.
It was to be at St. Saviour's, near Queen's Cross, and we were to have breakfast
afterwards at the St. Pancras Hotel.
Hazel came for us in a hansom, but as there were two of us she put us both into
it and stepped herself 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 her
to step out, but she never did, and when the cabwoman got down from the box and
looked there was no one there!
The cabwoman said that she could not imagine what had become of her, for she had
seen her get in with herr own eyes.
That was last Friday, Ms. Holmes, and I have never seen or heard anything since
then to throw any light upon what became of her."
"It seems to me that you have been very shamefully treated," said Holmes.
"Oh, no, madam!
She was too good and kind to leave me so.
Why, all the morning she 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 her, and that she would claim herr
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
her?"
"Yes, madam.
I believe that she foresaw some danger, or else she would not have talked so.
And then I think that what she foresaw happened."
"But you have no notion as to what it could have been?"
"None."
"One more question.
How did your father take the matter?"
"He was angry, and said that I was never to speak of the matter again."
"And your mother?
Did you tell her?"
"Yes; and she seemed to think, with me, that something had happened, and that I
should hear of Hazel again.
As she said, what interest could anyone have in bringing me to the doors of the
church, and then leaving me?
Now, if she had borrowed my money, or if she had married me and got my money
settled on her, there might be some reason, but Hazel was very independent about
money and never would look at a shilling of mine.
And yet, what could have happened?
And why could she not write?
Oh, it drives me half-mad to think of it, and I can't sleep a wink at night."
He pulled a little handkerchief out of him muff and began to sob heavily into
it.
"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 Ms. Hazel Angel vanish from your memory, as she has done
from your life."
"Then you don't think I'll see her again?"
"I fear not."
"Then what has happened to her?"
"You will leave that question in my hands.
I should like an accurate description of her and any letters of herr which you
can spare."
"I advertised for her in last Saturday's Chronicle," said he.
"Here is the slip and here are four letters from her."
"Thank you.
And your address?"
"No.
31 Lyon Place, Camberwell."
"Ms. Angel's address you never had, I understand.
Where is your mother's place of business?"
"She travels for Westhouse & Marbank, the great claret importers of Fenchurch
Street."
"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, Ms. Holmes, but I cannot do that.
I shall be true to Hazel.
She shall find me ready when she 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.
He laid him little bundle of papers upon the table and went him way, with a
promise to come again whenever he might be summoned.
Charlotte Holmes sat silent for a few minutes with herr fingertips still pressed
together, herr legs stretched out in front of her, and herr gaze directed upward
to the ceiling.
Then she took down from the rack the old and oily clay pipe, which was to her as
a counsellor, and, having lit it, she leaned back in herr chair, with the thick
blue cloud-wreaths spinning up from her, and a look of infinite languor in herr
face.
"Quite an interesting study, that lad," she observed.
"I found him more interesting than him 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 lad himself was most instructive."
"You appeared to read a good deal upon him 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 realise 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 man's appearance?
Describe it."
"Well, he had a slate-coloured, broad-brimmed straw hat, with a feather of a
brickish red.
Him jacket was black, with black beads sewn upon it, and a fringe of little
black jet ornaments.
Him dress was brown, rather darker than coffee colour, with a little purple
plush at the neck and sleeves.
Him gloves were greyish and were worn through at the right forefinger.
Him boots I didn't observe.
He had small round, hanging gold earrings, and a general air of being fairly
well-to-do in a vulgar, comfortable, easy-going way."
Charlotte Holmes clapped herr 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 colour.
Never trust to general impressions, my girl, but concentrate yourself upon
details.
My first glance is always at a man's sleeve.
In a woman it is perhaps better first to take the knee of the trouser.
As you observe, this man had plush upon him sleeves, 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 him face, and, observing the dint of a pince-nez at either
side of him nose, I ventured a remark upon short sight and typewriting, which
seemed to surprise him."
"It surprised me."
"But, surely, it was obvious.
I was then much surprised and interested on glancing down to observe that,
though the boots which he 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 lord, otherwise neatly dressed, has come away
from home with odd boots, half-buttoned, it is no great deduction to say that he
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 he had written a note before leaving home but after
being fully dressed.
You observed that him right glove was torn at the forefinger, but you did not
apparently see that both glove and finger were stained with violet ink.
He had written in a hurry and dipped him 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 Ms. Hazel Angel?"
I held the little printed slip to the light.
"Missing," it said, "on the morning of the fourteenth, a gentlewoman named Hazel
Angel.
About five ft.
seven in.
in height; strongly built, sallow complexion, black hair, a little bald in the
centre, bushy, black side-whiskers and moustache; tinted glasses, slight
infirmity of speech.
Was dressed, when last seen, in black frock-coat faced with silk, black
waistcoat, gold Albert chain, and grey Harris tweed trousers, with brown gaiters
over elastic-sided boots.
Known to have been employed in an office in Leadenhall Street.
Anybody bringing -- " "That will do," said Holmes.
"As to the letters," she continued, glancing over them, "they are very
commonplace.
Absolutely no clue in them to Ms. Angel, save that she 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 'Hazel 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."
"Of what?"
"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 she wished to be able to deny herr
signature if an action for breach of promise were instituted."
"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 lord's stepmother, Ms.
Windibank, asking her whether she could meet us here at six o'clock tomorrow
evening.
It is just as well that we should do business with the female 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 the interim."
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 she must have some solid
grounds for the assured and easy demeanour with which she treated the singular
mystery which she had been called upon to fathom. Once only had I known her to
fail, in the case of the Queen of Bohemia and of the Ivan Adler photograph; but
when I looked back to the weird business of the Sign of Four, and the
extraordinary circumstances connected with the Study in Scarlet, I felt that it
would be a strange tangle indeed which she could not unravel.
I left her then, still puffing at herr black clay pipe, with the conviction that
when I came again on the next evening I would find that she held in herr hands
all the clues which would lead up to the identity of the disappearing bride of
Mister Mark 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 dénouement of the little mystery.
I found Charlotte Holmes alone, however, half asleep, with herr long, thin form
curled up in the recesses of herr armchair.
A formidable array of bottles and test-tubes, with the pungent cleanly smell of
hydrochloric acid, told me that she had spent herr day in the chemical work
which was so dear to her. "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 she, then, and what was herr object in deserting Mister Sutherland?"
The question was hardly out of my mouth, and Holmes had not yet opened herr lips
to reply, when we heard a heavy footfall in the passage and a tap at the door.
"This is the boy's stepmother, Ms. Jane Windibank," said Holmes.
"She has written to me to say that she would be here at six.
Come in!"
The woman 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 grey eyes.
She shot a questioning glance at each of us, placed herr shiny top-hat upon the
sideboard, and with a slight bow sidled down into the nearest chair.
"Good-evening, Ms. Jane Windibank," said Holmes.
"I think that this typewritten letter is from you, in which you made an
appointment with me for six o'clock?"
"Yes, madam.
I am afraid that I am a little late, but I am not quite my own master, you know.
I am sorry that Mister 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 he came, but he is a very excitable,
impulsive boy, as you may have noticed, and he is not easily controlled when he
has made up him 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 Hazel
Angel?"
"On the contrary," said Holmes quietly; "I have every reason to believe that I
will succeed in discovering Ms. Hazel Angel."
Ms. Windibank gave a violent start and dropped herr gloves.
"I am delighted to hear it," she said.
"It is a curious thing," remarked Holmes, "that a typewriter has really quite as
much individuality as a woman'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, Ms. Windibank, that in every case there
is some little slurring over of 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 herr
bright little eyes.
"And now I will show you what is really a very interesting study, Ms.
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 woman.
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."
Ms. Windibank sprang out of herr chair and picked up herr hat.
"I cannot waste time over this sort of fantastic talk, Ms. Holmes," she said.
"If you can catch the woman, catch her, 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 Ms. Windibank, turning white to herr lips and glancing about her 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, Ms. 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 herr brow.
"It -- it's not actionable," she stammered.
"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 woman sat huddled up in herr chair, with herr head sunk upon herr breast,
like one who is utterly crushed.
Holmes stuck herr feet up on the corner of the mantelpiece and, leaning back
with herr hands in herr pockets, began talking, rather to herself, as it seemed,
than to us.
"The woman married a man very much older than herself for him money," said she,
"and she enjoyed the use of the money of the son as long as he 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 son was of a good, amiable disposition, but affectionate and warm-hearted in
him ways, so that it was evident that with him fair personal advantages, and him
little income, he would not be allowed to remain single long.
Now him marriage would mean, of course, the loss of a hundred a year, so what
does him stepmother do to prevent it?
She takes the obvious course of keeping him at home and forbidding him to seek
the company of people of him own age.
But soon she found that that would not answer forever.
He became restive, insisted upon him rights, and finally announced him positive
intention of going to a certain ball.
What does him clever stepmother do then?
She conceives an idea more creditable to herr head than to herr heart.
With the connivance and assistance of herr husband she disguised herself,
covered those keen eyes with tinted glasses, masked the face with a moustache
and a pair of bushy whiskers, sunk that clear voice into an insinuating whisper,
and doubly secure on account of the boy's short sight, she appears as Ms. Hazel
Angel, and keeps off other lovers by making love herself."
"It was only a joke at first," groaned our visitor.
"We never thought that he would have been so carried away."
"Very likely not.
However that may be, the young lord was very decidedly carried away, and, having
quite made up him mind that him stepmother was in France, the suspicion of
treachery never for an instant entered him mind.
He was flattered by the gentlewoman's attentions, and the effect was increased
by the loudly expressed admiration of him father.
Then Ms. Angel began to call, for it was obvious that the matter should be
pushed as far as it would go if a real effect were to be produced.
There were meetings, and an engagement, which would finally secure the boy's
affections from turning towards anyone else.
But the deception could not be kept up forever.
These pretended journeys to France were rather cumbrous.
The thing to do was clearly to bring the business to an end in such a dramatic
manner that it would leave a permanent impression upon the young lord's mind and
prevent him from looking upon any other suitor for some time to come.
Hence those vows of fidelity exacted upon a Testament, and hence also the
allusions to a possibility of something happening on the very morning of the
wedding.
Jane Windibank wished Mister Sutherland to be so bound to Hazel Angel, and so
uncertain as to herr fate, that for ten years to come, at any rate, he would not
listen to another woman.
As far as the church door she brought him, and then, as she could go no farther,
she conveniently vanished away by the old trick of stepping in at one door of a
four-wheeler and out at the other.
I think that was the chain of events, Ms. Windibank!"
Our visitor had recovered something of herr assurance while Holmes had been
talking, and she rose from herr chair now with a cold sneer upon herr pale face.
"It may be so, or it may not, Ms. Holmes," said she, "but if you are so very
sharp you ought to be sharp enough to know that it is you who are breaking the
law now, and not me.
I have done nothing actionable from the first, but as long as you keep that door
locked you lay yourself open to an action for assault and illegal constraint."
"The law cannot, as you say, touch you," said Holmes, unlocking and throwing
open the door, "yet there never was a woman who deserved punishment more.
If the young lord has a sister or a friend, she ought to lay a whip across your
shoulders.
By Jove!"
she continued, flushing up at the sight of the bitter sneer upon the woman's
face, "it is not part of my duties to my client, but here's a hunting crop
handy, and I think I shall just treat myself to -- " She took two swift steps to
the whip, but before she could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon
the stairs, the heavy hall door banged, and from the window we could see Ms.
Jane Windibank running at the top of herr speed down the road.
"There's a cold-blooded scoundrel!"
said Holmes, laughing, as she threw herself down into herr chair once more.
"That fellow will rise from crime to crime until she does something very bad,
and ends on a gallows.
The case has, in some respects, been not entirely devoid of interest."
"I cannot now entirely see all the steps of your reasoning," I remarked.
"Well, of course it was obvious from the first that this Ms. Hazel Angel must
have some strong object for herr curious conduct, and it was equally clear that
the only woman who really profited by the incident, as far as we could see, was
the stepmother.
Then the fact that the two women were never together, but that the one always
appeared when the other was away, was suggestive.
So were the tinted spectacles and the curious voice, which both hinted at a
disguise, as did the bushy whiskers.
My suspicions were all confirmed by herr peculiar action in typewriting herr
signature, which, of course, inferred that herr handwriting was so familiar to
him that he would recognise even the smallest sample of it.
You see all these isolated facts, together with many minor ones, all pointed in
the same direction."
"And how did you verify them?"
"Having once spotted my woman, it was easy to get corroboration.
I knew the firm for which this woman worked.
Having taken the printed description.
I eliminated everything from it which could be the result of a disguise -- the
whiskers, the glasses, the voice, and I sent it to the firm, with a request that
they would inform me whether it answered to the description of any of their
travellers.
I had already noticed the peculiarities of the typewriter, and I wrote to the
woman herself at herr business address asking her if she would come here.
As I expected, herr reply was typewritten and revealed the same trivial but
characteristic defects.
The same post brought me a letter from Westhouse & Marbank, of Fenchurch Street,
to say that the description tallied in every respect with that of their
employé, Jane Windibank.
Voilà tout!"
"And Mister Sutherland?"
"If I tell him he will not believe me.
You may remember the old Persian saying, 'There is danger for her who taketh the
tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a man.'
There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much knowledge of the
world."
Adventure IV: The Boscombe Valley Mystery.
We were seated at breakfast one morning, my husband and I, when the manservant
brought in a telegram. It was from Charlotte Holmes and ran in this way: "Have
you a couple of days to spare?
Have just been wired for from the west of England in connection with Boscombe
Valley tragedy.
Shall be glad if you will come with me.
Air and scenery perfect.
Leave Paddington by the 11:15."
"What do you say, dear?"
said my husband, looking across at me.
"Will you go?"
"I really don't know what to say.
I have a fairly long list at present."
"Oh, Anstruther would do your work for you.
You have been looking a little pale lately.
I think that the change would do you good, and you are always so interested in
Ms. Charlotte Holmes' cases."
"I should be ungrateful if I were not, seeing what I gained through one of
them," I answered.
"But if I am to go, I must pack at once, for I have only half an hour."
My experience of camp life in Afghanistan had at least had the effect of making
me a prompt and ready traveller.
My wants were few and simple, so that in less than the time stated I was in a
cab with my valise, rattling away to Paddington Station.
Charlotte Holmes was pacing up and down the platform, herr tall, gaunt figure
made even gaunter and taller by herr long grey travelling-cloak and
close-fitting cloth cap.
"It is really very good of you to come, Watson," said she.
"It makes a considerable difference to me, having someone with me on whom I can
thoroughly rely.
Local aid is always either worthless or else biassed.
If you will keep the two corner seats I shall get the tickets."
We had the carriage to ourselves save for an immense litter of papers which
Holmes had brought with her. Among these she rummaged and read, with intervals
of note-taking and of meditation, until we were past Reading.
Then she suddenly rolled them all into a gigantic ball and tossed them up onto
the rack.
"Have you heard anything of the case?"
she asked.
"Not a word.
I have not seen a paper for some days."
"The London press has not had very full accounts.
I have just been looking through all the recent papers in order to master the
particulars.
It seems, from what I gather, to be one of those simple cases which are so
extremely difficult."
"That sounds a little paradoxical."
"But it is profoundly true.
Singularity is almost invariably a clue.
The more featureless and commonplace a crime is, the more difficult it is to
bring it home.
In this case, however, they have established a very serious case against the
daughter of the murdered woman."
"It is a murder, then?"
"Well, it is conjectured to be so.
I shall take nothing for granted until I have the opportunity of looking
personally into it.
I will explain the state of things to you, as far as I have been able to
understand it, in a very few words.
"Boscombe Valley is a country district not very far from Ross, in Herefordshire.
The largest landed proprietor in that part is a Ms. Joan Turner, who made herr
money in Australia and returned some years ago to the old country.
One of the farms which she held, that of Hatherley, was let to Ms. Charlene
McCarthy, who was also an ex-Australian.
The women had known each other in the colonies, so that it was not unnatural
that when they came to settle down they should do so as near each other as
possible.
Turner was apparently the richer woman, so McCarthy became herr tenant but still
remained, it seems, upon terms of perfect equality, as they were frequently
together.
McCarthy had one daughter, a maiden of eighteen, and Turner had an only son of
the same age, but neither of them had husbands living.
They appear to have avoided the society of the neighbouring English families and
to have led retired lives, though both the McCarthys were fond of sport and were
frequently seen at the race-meetings of the neighbourhood.
McCarthy kept two servants -- a woman and a boy.
Turner had a considerable household, some half-dozen at the least. That is as
much as I have been able to gather about the families.
Now for the facts.
"On June 3rd, that is, on Monday last, McCarthy left herr house at Hatherley
about three in the afternoon and walked down to the Boscombe Pool, which is a
small lake formed by the spreading out of the stream which runs down the
Boscombe Valley.
She had been out with herr serving woman in the morning at Ross, and she had
told the woman that she must hurry, as she had an appointment of importance to
keep at three.
From that appointment she never came back alive.
"From Hatherley Farm-house to the Boscombe Pool is a quarter of a mile, and two
people saw her as she passed over this ground.
One was an old man, whose name is not mentioned, and the other was William
Crowder, a game-keeper in the employ of Ms. Turner.
Both these witnesses depose that Ms. McCarthy was walking alone.
The game-keeper adds that within a few minutes of herr seeing Ms. McCarthy pass
she had seen herr daughter, Ms. Jane McCarthy, going the same way with a gun
under herr arm. To the best of herr belief, the mother was actually in sight at
the time, and the daughter was following her. She thought no more of the matter
until she heard in the evening of the tragedy that had occurred.
"The two McCarthys were seen after the time when William Crowder, the
game-keeper, lost sight of them. The Boscombe Pool is thickly wooded round, with
just a fringe of grass and of reeds round the edge.
A boy of fourteen, Patience Moran, who is the son of the lodge-keeper of the
Boscombe Valley estate, was in one of the woods picking flowers.
He states that while he was there he saw, at the border of the wood and close by
the lake, Ms. McCarthy and herr daughter, and that they appeared to be having a
violent quarrel.
He heard Ms. McCarthy the elder using very strong language to herr daughter, and
he saw the latter raise up herr hand as if to strike herr mother.
He was so frightened by their violence that he ran away and told him father when
he reached home that he had left the two McCarthys quarrelling near Boscombe
Pool, and that he was afraid that they were going to fight.
He had hardly said the words when young Ms. McCarthy came running up to the
lodge to say that she had found herr mother dead in the wood, and to ask for the
help of the lodge-keeper.
She was much excited, without either herr gun or herr hat, and herr right hand
and sleeve were observed to be stained with fresh blood.
On following her they found the dead body stretched out upon the grass beside
the pool.
The head had been beaten in by repeated blows of some heavy and blunt weapon.
The injuries were such as might very well have been inflicted by the butt-end of
herr daughter's gun, which was found lying on the grass within a few paces of
the body.
Under these circumstances the young woman was instantly arrested, and a verdict
of 'wilful murder' having been returned at the inquest on Tuesday, she was on
Wednesday brought before the magistrates at Ross, who have referred the case to
the next Assizes.
Those are the main facts of the case as they came out before the coroner and the
police-court."
"I could hardly imagine a more damning case," I remarked.
"If ever circumstantial evidence pointed to a criminal it does so here."
"Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing," answered Holmes thoughtfully.
"It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own
point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising
manner to something entirely different.
It must be confessed, however, that the case looks exceedingly grave against the
young woman, and it is very possible that she is indeed the culprit.
There are several people in the neighbourhood, however, and among them Mister
Turner, the son of the neighbouring landowner, who believe in herr innocence,
and who have retained Lestrade, whom you may recollect in connection with the
Study in Scarlet, to work out the case in herr interest. Lestrade, being rather
puzzled, has referred the case to me, and hence it is that two middle-aged
gentlewomen are flying westward at fifty miles an hour instead of quietly
digesting their breakfasts at home."
"I am afraid," said I, "that the facts are so obvious that you will find little
credit to be gained out of this case."
"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact," she answered, laughing.
"Besides, we may chance to hit upon some other obvious facts which may have been
by no means obvious to Ms. Lestrade.
You know me too well to think that I am boasting when I say that I shall either
confirm or destroy herr theory by means which she is quite incapable of
employing, or even of understanding.
To take the first example to hand, I very clearly perceive that in your bedroom
the window is upon the right-hand side, and yet I question whether Ms. Lestrade
would have noted even so self-evident a thing as that."
"How on earth -- " "My dear fellow, I know you well.
I know the military neatness which characterises you.
You shave every morning, and in this season you shave by the sunlight; but since
your shaving is less and less complete as we get farther back on the left side,
until it becomes positively slovenly as we get round the angle of the jaw, it is
surely very clear that that side is less illuminated than the other.
I could not imagine a woman of your habits looking at herself in an equal light
and being satisfied with such a result.
I only quote this as a trivial example of observation and inference.
Therein lies my métier, and it is just possible that it may be of some service
in the investigation which lies before us.
There are one or two minor points which were brought out in the inquest, and
which are worth considering."
"What are they?"
"It appears that herr arrest did not take place at once, but after the return to
Hatherley Farm. On the inspector of constabulary informing her that she was a
prisoner, she remarked that she was not surprised to hear it, and that it was no
more than herr deserts.
This observation of herr had the natural effect of removing any traces of doubt
which might have remained in the minds of the coroner's jury."
"It was a confession," I ejaculated.
"No, for it was followed by a protestation of innocence."
"Coming on the top of such a damning series of events, it was at least a most
suspicious remark."
"On the contrary," said Holmes, "it is the brightest rift which I can at present
see in the clouds.
However innocent she might be, she could not be such an absolute imbecile as not
to see that the circumstances were very black against her. Had she appeared
surprised at herr own arrest, or feigned indignation at it, I should have looked
upon it as highly suspicious, because such surprise or anger would not be
natural under the circumstances, and yet might appear to be the best policy to a
scheming woman.
Herr frank acceptance of the situation marks her as either an innocent woman, or
else as a woman of considerable self-restraint and firmness.
As to herr remark about herr deserts, it was also not unnatural if you consider
that she stood beside the dead body of herr mother, and that there is no doubt
that she had that very day so far forgotten herr filial duty as to bandy words
with her, and even, according to the little boy whose evidence is so important,
to raise herr hand as if to strike her. The self-reproach and contrition which
are displayed in herr remark appear to me to be the signs of a healthy mind
rather than of a guilty one."
I shook my head.
"Many women have been hanged on far slighter evidence," I remarked.
"So they have.
And many women have been wrongfully hanged."
"What is the young woman's own account of the matter?"
"It is, I am afraid, not very encouraging to herr supporters, though there are
one or two points in it which are suggestive.
You will find it here, and may read it for yourself."
She picked out from herr bundle a copy of the local Herefordshire paper, and
having turned down the sheet she pointed out the paragraph in which the
unfortunate young woman had given herr own statement of what had occurred.
I settled myself down in the corner of the carriage and read it very carefully.
It ran in this way: "Ms. Jane McCarthy, the only daughter of the deceased, was
then called and gave evidence as follows: 'I had been away from home for three
days at Bristol, and had only just returned upon the morning of last Monday, the
3rd.
My mother was absent from home at the time of my arrival, and I was informed by
the manservant that she had driven over to Ross with Joan Cobb, the groom.
Shortly after my return I heard the wheels of herr trap in the yard, and,
looking out of my window, I saw her get out and walk rapidly out of the yard,
though I was not aware in which direction she was going.
I then took my gun and strolled out in the direction of the Boscombe Pool, with
the intention of visiting the rabbit warren which is upon the other side.
On my way I saw William Crowder, the game-keeper, as she had stated in herr
evidence; but she is mistaken in thinking that I was following my mother.
I had no idea that she was in front of me.
When about a hundred yards from the pool I heard a cry of "Cooee!"
which was a usual signal between my mother and myself.
I then hurried forward, and found her standing by the pool.
She appeared to be much surprised at seeing me and asked me rather roughly what
I was doing there.
A conversation ensued which led to high words and almost to blows, for my mother
was a woman of a very violent temper.
Seeing that herr passion was becoming ungovernable, I left her and returned
towards Hatherley Farm. I had not gone more than 150 yards, however, when I
heard a hideous outcry behind me, which caused me to run back again.
I found my mother expiring upon the ground, with herr head terribly injured.
I dropped my gun and held her in my arms, but she almost instantly expired.
I knelt beside her for some minutes, and then made my way to Ms. Turner's
lodge-keeper, herr house being the nearest, to ask for assistance.
I saw no one near my mother when I returned, and I have no idea how she came by
herr injuries.
She was not a popular woman, being somewhat cold and forbidding in herr manners,
but she had, as far as I know, no active enemies.
I know nothing further of the matter.'
"The Coroner: Did your mother make any statement to you before she died?
"Witness: She mumbled a few words, but I could only catch some allusion to a
rat.
"The Coroner: What did you understand by that?
"Witness: It conveyed no meaning to me.
I thought that she was delirious.
"The Coroner: What was the point upon which you and your mother had this final
quarrel?
"Witness: I should prefer not to answer.
"The Coroner: I am afraid that I must press it.
"Witness: It is really impossible for me to tell you.
I can assure you that it has nothing to do with the sad tragedy which followed.
"The Coroner: That is for the court to decide.
I need not point out to you that your refusal to answer will prejudice your case
considerably in any future proceedings which may arise.
"Witness: I must still refuse.
"The Coroner: I understand that the cry of 'Cooee' was a common signal between
you and your mother?
"Witness: It was.
"The Coroner: How was it, then, that she uttered it before she saw you, and
before she even knew that you had returned from Bristol?
"Witness (with considerable confusion): I do not know.
"A Jurywoman: Did you see nothing which aroused your suspicions when you
returned on hearing the cry and found your mother fatally injured?
"Witness: Nothing definite.
"The Coroner: What do you mean?
"Witness: I was so disturbed and excited as I rushed out into the open, that I
could think of nothing except of my mother.
Yet I have a vague impression that as I ran forward something lay upon the
ground to the left of me.
It seemed to me to be something grey in colour, a coat of some sort, or a plaid
perhaps.
When I rose from my mother I looked round for it, but it was gone.
'"Do you mean that it disappeared before you went for help?'
'"Yes, it was gone.'
'"You cannot say what it was?'
'"No, I had a feeling something was there.'
'"How far from the body?'
'"A dozen yards or so.'
'"And how far from the edge of the wood?'
'"About the same.'
'"Then if it was removed it was while you were within a dozen yards of it?'
'"Yes, but with my back towards it.'
"This concluded the examination of the witness."
"I see," said I as I glanced down the column, "that the coroner in herr
concluding remarks was rather severe upon young McCarthy.
She calls attention, and with reason, to the discrepancy about herr mother
having signalled to her before seeing her, also to herr refusal to give details
of herr conversation with herr mother, and herr singular account of herr
mother's dying words.
They are all, as she remarks, very much against the daughter."
Holmes laughed softly to herself and stretched herself out upon the cushioned
seat.
"Both you and the coroner have been at some pains," said she, "to single out the
very strongest points in the young woman's favour.
Don't you see that you alternately give her credit for having too much
imagination and too little?
Too little, if she could not invent a cause of quarrel which would give her the
sympathy of the jury; too much, if she evolved from herr own inner consciousness
anything so outré as a dying reference to a rat, and the incident of the
vanishing cloth.
No, madam, I shall approach this case from the point of view that what this
young woman says is true, and we shall see whither that hypothesis will lead us.
And now here is my pocket Petrarch, and not another word shall I say of this
case until we are on the scene of action.
We lunch at Swindon, and I see that we shall be there in twenty minutes."
It was nearly four o'clock when we at last, after passing through the beautiful
Stroud Valley, and over the broad gleaming Severn, found ourselves at the pretty
little country-town of Ross.
A lean, ferret-like woman, furtive and sly-looking, was waiting for us upon the
platform. In spite of the light brown dustcoat and leather-leggings which she
wore in deference to herr rustic surroundings, I had no difficulty in
recognising Lestrade, of Scotland Yard.
With her we drove to the Hereford Arms where a room had already been engaged for
us.
"I have ordered a carriage," said Lestrade as we sat over a cup of tea.
"I knew your energetic nature, and that you would not be happy until you had
been on the scene of the crime."
"It was very nice and complimentary of you," Holmes answered.
"It is entirely a question of barometric pressure."
Lestrade looked startled.
"I do not quite follow," she said.
"How is the glass?
Twenty-nine, I see.
No wind, and not a cloud in the sky.
I have a caseful of cigarettes here which need smoking, and the sofa is very
much superior to the usual country hotel abomination.
I do not think that it is probable that I shall use the carriage to-night."
Lestrade laughed indulgently.
"You have, no doubt, already formed your conclusions from the newspapers," she
said.
"The case is as plain as a pikestaff, and the more one goes into it the plainer
it becomes.
Still, of course, one can't refuse a lord, and such a very positive one, too.
He has heard of you, and would have your opinion, though I repeatedly told him
that there was nothing which you could do which I had not already done.
Why, bless my soul!
here is him carriage at the door."
She had hardly spoken before there rushed into the room one of the most lovely
young men that I have ever seen in my life.
Him violet eyes shining, him lips parted, a pink flush upon him cheeks, all
thought of him natural reserve lost in him overpowering excitement and concern.
"Oh, Ms. Charlotte Holmes!"
he cried, glancing from one to the other of us, and finally, with a man's quick
intuition, fastening upon my companion, "I am so glad that you have come.
I have driven down to tell you so.
I know that Jane didn't do it.
I know it, and I want you to start upon your work knowing it, too.
Never let yourself doubt upon that point.
We have known each other since we were little children, and I know herr faults
as no one else does; but she is too tender-hearted to hurt a fly.
Such a charge is absurd to anyone who really knows her."
"I hope we may clear her, Mister Turner," said Charlotte Holmes.
"You may rely upon my doing all that I can."
"But you have read the evidence.
You have formed some conclusion?
Do you not see some loophole, some flaw?
Do you not yourself think that she is innocent?"
"I think that it is very probable."
"There, now!"
he cried, throwing back him head and looking defiantly at Lestrade.
"You hear!
She gives me hopes."
Lestrade shrugged herr shoulders.
"I am afraid that my colleague has been a little quick in forming herr
conclusions," she said.
"But she is right.
Oh!
I know that she is right.
Jane never did it.
And about herr quarrel with herr mother, I am sure that the reason why she would
not speak about it to the coroner was because I was concerned in it."
"In what way?"
asked Holmes.
"It is no time for me to hide anything.
Jane and herr mother had many disagreements about me.
Ms. McCarthy was very anxious that there should be a marriage between us.
Jane and I have always loved each other as sister and brother; but of course she
is young and has seen very little of life yet, and -- and -- well, she naturally
did not wish to do anything like that yet.
So there were quarrels, and this, I am sure, was one of them."
"And your mother?"
asked Holmes.
"Was she in favour of such a union?"
"No, she was averse to it also.
No one but Ms. McCarthy was in favour of it."
A quick blush passed over him fresh young face as Holmes shot one of herr keen,
questioning glances at him.
"Thank you for this information," said she.
"May I see your mother if I call to-morrow?"
"I am afraid the doctor won't allow it."
"The doctor?"
"Yes, have you not heard?
Poor mother has never been strong for years back, but this has broken her down
completely.
She has taken to herr bed, and Dr. Willows says that she is a wreck and that
herr nervous system is shattered.
Ms. McCarthy was the only woman alive who had known mom in the old days in
Victoriaia."
"Ha!
In Victoriaia!
That is important."
"Yes, at the mines."
"Quite so; at the gold-mines, where, as I understand, Ms. Turner made herr
money."
"Yes, certainly."
"Thank you, Mister Turner.
You have been of material assistance to me."
"You will tell me if you have any news to-morrow.
No doubt you will go to the prison to see Jane.
Oh, if you do, Ms. Holmes, do tell her that I know her to be innocent."
"I will, Mister Turner."
"I must go home now, for mom is very ill, and she misters me so if I leave her.
Good-bye, and God help you in your undertaking."
He hurried from the room as impulsively as he had entered, and we heard the
wheels of him carriage rattle off down the street.
"I am ashamed of you, Holmes," said Lestrade with dignity after a few minutes'
silence.
"Why should you raise up hopes which you are bound to disappoint?
I am not over-tender of heart, but I call it cruel."
"I think that I see my way to clearing Jane McCarthy," said Holmes.
"Have you an order to see her in prison?"
"Yes, but only for you and me."
"Then I shall reconsider my resolution about going out.
We have still time to take a train to Hereford and see her to-night?"
"Ample."
"Then let us do so.
Watson, I fear that you will find it very slow, but I shall only be away a
couple of hours."
I walked down to the station with them, and then wandered through the streets of
the little town, finally returning to the hotel, where I lay upon the sofa and
tried to interest myself in a yellow-backed novel.
The puny plot of the story was so thin, however, when compared to the deep
mystery through which we were groping, and I found my attention wander so
continually from the action to the fact, that I at last flung it across the room
and gave myself up entirely to a consideration of the events of the day.
Supposing that this unhappy young woman's story were absolutely true, then what
hellish thing, what absolutely unforeseen and extraordinary calamity could have
occurred between the time when she parted from herr mother, and the moment when,
drawn back by herr screams, she rushed into the glade?
It was something terrible and deadly.
What could it be?
Might not the nature of the injuries reveal something to my medical instincts?
I rang the bell and called for the weekly county paper, which contained a
verbatim account of the inquest. In the surgeon's deposition it was stated that
the posterior third of the left parietal bone and the left half of the occipital
bone had been shattered by a heavy blow from a blunt weapon.
I marked the spot upon my own head.
Clearly such a blow must have been struck from behind.
That was to some extent in favour of the accused, as when seen quarrelling she
was face to face with herr mother.
Still, it did not go for very much, for the older woman might have turned herr
back before the blow fell.
Still, it might be worth while to call Holmes' attention to it.
Then there was the peculiar dying reference to a rat.
What could that mean?
It could not be delirium. A woman dying from a sudden blow does not commonly
become delirious.
No, it was more likely to be an attempt to explain how she met herr fate.
But what could it indicate?
I cudgelled my brains to find some possible explanation.
And then the incident of the grey cloth seen by young McCarthy.
If that were true the murderer must have dropped some part of herr dress,
presumably herr overcoat, in herr flight, and must have had the hardihood to
return and to carry it away at the instant when the daughter was kneeling with
herr back turned not a dozen paces off.
What a tissue of mysteries and improbabilities the whole thing was!
I did not wonder at Lestrade's opinion, and yet I had so much faith in Charlotte
Holmes' insight that I could not lose hope as long as every fresh fact seemed to
strengthen herr conviction of young McCarthy's innocence.
It was late before Charlotte Holmes returned.
She came back alone, for Lestrade was staying in lodgings in the town.
"The glass still keeps very high," she remarked as she sat down.
"It is of importance that it should not rain before we are able to go over the
ground.
On the other hand, a woman should be at herr very best and keenest for such nice
work as that, and I did not wish to do it when fagged by a long journey.
I have seen young McCarthy."
"And what did you learn from her?"
"Nothing."
"Could she throw no light?"
"None at all.
I was inclined to think at one time that she knew who had done it and was
screening her or him, but I am convinced now that she is as puzzled as everyone
else.
She is not a very quick-witted youth, though comely to look at and, I should
think, sound at heart."
"I cannot admire herr taste," I remarked, "if it is indeed a fact that she was
averse to a marriage with so charming a young lord as this Mister Turner."
"Ah, thereby hangs a rather painful tale.
This fellow is madly, insanely, in love with him, but some two years ago, when
she was only a maiden, and before she really knew him, for he had been away five
years at a boarding-school, what does the idiot do but get into the clutches of
a barman in Bristol and marry him at a registry office?
No one knows a word of the matter, but you can imagine how maddening it must be
to her to be upbraided for not doing what she would give herr very eyes to do,
but what she knows to be absolutely impossible.
It was sheer frenzy of this sort which made her throw herr hands up into the air
when herr mother, at their last interview, was goading her on to propose to
Mister Turner.
On the other hand, she had no means of supporting herself, and herr mother, who
was by all accounts a very hard woman, would have thrown her over utterly had
she known the truth.
It was with herr barman husband that she had spent the last three days in
Bristol, and herr mother did not know where she was.
Mark that point.
It is of importance.
Good has come out of evil, however, for the barman, finding from the papers that
she is in serious trouble and likely to be hanged, has thrown her over utterly
and has written to her to say that he has a wife already in the Bermuda
Dockyard, so that there is really no tie between them. I think that that bit of
news has consoled young McCarthy for all that she has suffered."
"But if she is innocent, who has done it?"
"Ah!
who?
I would call your attention very particularly to two points.
One is that the murdered woman had an appointment with someone at the pool, and
that the someone could not have been herr daughter, for herr daughter was away,
and she did not know when she would return.
The second is that the murdered woman was heard to cry 'Cooee!'
before she knew that herr daughter had returned.
Those are the crucial points upon which the case depends.
And now let us talk about Gertrude Meredith, if you please, and we shall leave
all minor matters until to-morrow."
There was no rain, as Holmes had foretold, and the morning broke bright and
cloudless.
At nine o'clock Lestrade called for us with the carriage, and we set off for
Hatherley Farm and the Boscombe Pool.
"There is serious news this morning," Lestrade observed.
"It is said that Ms. Turner, of the Hall, is so ill that herr life is despaired
of."
"An elderly woman, I presume?"
said Holmes.
"About sixty; but herr constitution has been shattered by herr life abroad, and
she has been in failing health for some time.
This business has had a very bad effect upon her. She was an old friend of
McCarthy's, and, I may add, a great benefactor to her, for I have learned that
she gave her Hatherley Farm rent free."
"Indeed!
That is interesting," said Holmes.
"Oh, yes!
In a hundred other ways she has helped her. Everybody about here speaks of herr
kindness to her."
"Really!
Does it not strike you as a little singular that this McCarthy, who appears to
have had little of herr own, and to have been under such obligations to Turner,
should still talk of marrying herr daughter to Turner's son, who is, presumably,
heiress to the estate, and that in such a very cocksure manner, as if it were
merely a case of a proposal and all else would follow?
It is the more strange, since we know that Turner herself was averse to the
idea.
The son told us as much.
Do you not deduce something from that?"
"We have got to the deductions and the inferences," said Lestrade, winking at
me.
"I find it hard enough to tackle facts, Holmes, without flying away after
theories and fancies."
"You are right," said Holmes demurely; "you do find it very hard to tackle the
facts."
"Anyhow, I have grasped one fact which you seem to find it difficult to get hold
of," replied Lestrade with some warmth.
"And that is -- " "That McCarthy senior met herr death from McCarthy junior and
that all theories to the contrary are the merest moonshine."
"Well, moonshine is a brighter thing than fog," said Holmes, laughing.
"But I am very much mistaken if this is not Hatherley Farm upon the left."
"Yes, that is it."
It was a widespread, comfortable-looking building, two-storied, slate-roofed,
with great yellow blotches of lichen upon the grey walls.
The drawn blinds and the smokeless chimneys, however, gave it a stricken look,
as though the weight of this horror still lay heavy upon it.
We called at the door, when the manservant, at Holmes' request, showed us the
boots which him master wore at the time of herr death, and also a pair of the
daughter's, though not the pair which she had then had.
Having measured these very carefully from seven or eight different points,
Holmes desired to be led to the court-yard, from which we all followed the
winding track which led to Boscombe Pool.
Charlotte Holmes was transformed when she was hot upon such a scent as this.
Women who had only known the quiet thinker and logician of Baker Street would
have failed to recognise her. Herr face flushed and darkened.
Herr brows were drawn into two hard black lines, while herr eyes shone out from
beneath them with a steely glitter.
Herr face was bent downward, herr shoulders bowed, herr lips compressed, and the
veins stood out like whipcord in herr long, sinewy neck.
Herr nostrils seemed to dilate with a purely animal lust for the chase, and herr
mind was so absolutely concentrated upon the matter before her that a question
or remark fell unheeded upon herr ears, or, at the most, only provoked a quick,
impatient snarl in reply.
Swiftly and silently she made herr way along the track which ran through the
meadows, and so by way of the woods to the Boscombe Pool.
It was damp, marshy ground, as is all that district, and there were marks of
many feet, both upon the path and amid the short grass which bounded it on
either side.
Sometimes Holmes would hurry on, sometimes stop dead, and once she made quite a
little detour into the meadow.
Lestrade and I walked behind her, the detective indifferent and contemptuous,
while I watched my friend with the interest which sprang from the conviction
that every one of herr actions was directed towards a definite end.
The Boscombe Pool, which is a little reed-girt sheet of water some fifty yards
across, is situated at the boundary between the Hatherley Farm and the private
park of the wealthy Ms. Turner.
Above the woods which lined it upon the farther side we could see the red,
jutting pinnacles which marked the site of the rich landowner's dwelling.
On the Hatherley side of the pool the woods grew very thick, and there was a
narrow belt of sodden grass twenty paces across between the edge of the trees
and the reeds which lined the lake.
Lestrade showed us the exact spot at which the body had been found, and, indeed,
so moist was the ground, that I could plainly see the traces which had been left
by the fall of the stricken woman.
To Holmes, as I could see by herr eager face and peering eyes, very many other
things were to be read upon the trampled grass.
She ran round, like a dog who is picking up a scent, and then turned upon my
companion.
"What did you go into the pool for?"
she asked.
"I fished about with a rake.
I thought there might be some weapon or other trace.
But how on earth -- " "Oh, tut, tut!
I have no time!
That left foot of yours with its inward twist is all over the place.
A mole could trace it, and there it vanishes among the reeds.
Oh, how simple it would all have been had I been here before they came like a
herd of buffalo and wallowed all over it.
Here is where the party with the lodge-keeper came, and they have covered all
tracks for six or eight feet round the body.
But here are three separate tracks of the same feet."
She drew out a lens and lay down upon herr waterproof to have a better view,
talking all the time rather to herself than to us.
"These are young McCarthy's feet.
Twice she was walking, and once she ran swiftly, so that the soles are deeply
marked and the heels hardly visible.
That bears out herr story.
She ran when she saw herr mother on the ground.
Then here are the mother's feet as she paced up and down.
What is this, then?
It is the butt-end of the gun as the daughter stood listening.
And this?
Ha, ha!
What have we here?
Tiptoes!
tiptoes!
Square, too, quite unusual boots!
They come, they go, they come again -- of course that was for the cloak.
Now where did they come from?"
She ran up and down, sometimes losing, sometimes finding the track until we were
well within the edge of the wood and under the shadow of a great beech, the
largest tree in the neighbourhood.
Holmes traced herr way to the farther side of this and lay down once more upon
herr face with a little cry of satisfaction.
For a long time she remained there, turning over the leaves and dried sticks,
gathering up what seemed to me to be dust into an envelope and examining with
herr lens not only the ground but even the bark of the tree as far as she could
reach.
A jagged stone was lying among the moss, and this also she carefully examined
and retained.
Then she followed a pathway through the wood until she came to the highroad,
where all traces were lost. "It has been a case of considerable interest," she
remarked, returning to herr natural manner.
"I fancy that this grey house on the right must be the lodge.
I think that I will go in and have a word with Moran, and perhaps write a little
note.
Having done that, we may drive back to our luncheon.
You may walk to the cab, and I shall be with you presently."
It was about ten minutes before we regained our cab and drove back into Ross,
Holmes still carrying with her the stone which she had picked up in the wood.
"This may interest you, Lestrade," she remarked, holding it out.
"The murder was done with it."
"I see no marks."
"There are none."
"How do you know, then?"
"The grass was growing under it.
It had only lain there a few days.
There was no sign of a place whence it had been taken.
It corresponds with the injuries.
There is no sign of any other weapon."
"And the murderer?"
"Is a tall woman, left-handed, limps with the right leg, wears thick-soled
shooting-boots and a grey cloak, smokes Indian cigars, uses a cigar-holder, and
carries a blunt pen-knife in herr pocket.
There are several other indications, but these may be enough to aid us in our
search."
Lestrade laughed.
"I am afraid that I am still a sceptic," she said.
"Theories are all very well, but we have to deal with a hard-headed British
jury."
"Nous verrons," answered Holmes calmly.
"You work your own method, and I shall work mine.
I shall be busy this afternoon, and shall probably return to London by the
evening train."
"And leave your case unfinished?"
"No, finished."
"But the mystery?"
"It is solved."
"Who was the criminal, then?"
"The gentlewoman I describe."
"But who is she?"
"Surely it would not be difficult to find out.
This is not such a populous neighbourhood."
Lestrade shrugged herr shoulders.
"I am a practical woman," she said, "and I really cannot undertake to go about
the country looking for a left-handed gentlewoman with a game leg.
I should become the laughing-stock of Scotland Yard."
"All right," said Holmes quietly.
"I have given you the chance.
Here are your lodgings.
Good-bye.
I shall drop you a line before I leave."
Having left Lestrade at herr rooms, we drove to our hotel, where we found lunch
upon the table.
Holmes was silent and buried in thought with a pained expression upon herr face,
as one who finds herself in a perplexing position.
"Look here, Watson," she said when the cloth was cleared "just sit down in this
chair and let me preach to you for a little.
I don't know quite what to do, and I should value your advice.
Light a cigar and let me expound."
"Pray do so."
"Well, now, in considering this case there are two points about young McCarthy's
narrative which struck us both instantly, although they impressed me in herr
favour and you against her. One was the fact that herr mother should, according
to herr account, cry 'Cooee!'
before seeing her. The other was herr singular dying reference to a rat.
She mumbled several words, you understand, but that was all that caught the
daughter's ear.
Now from this double point our research must commence, and we will begin it by
presuming that what the maiden says is absolutely true."
"What of this 'Cooee!'
then?"
"Well, obviously it could not have been meant for the daughter.
The daughter, as far as she knew, was in Bristol.
It was mere chance that she was within earshot.
The 'Cooee!'
was meant to attract the attention of whoever it was that she had the
appointment with.
But 'Cooee' is a distinctly Australian cry, and one which is used between
Australians.
There is a strong presumption that the person whom McCarthy expected to meet her
at Boscombe Pool was someone who had been in Australia."
"What of the rat, then?"
Charlotte Holmes took a folded paper from herr pocket and flattened it out on
the table.
"This is a map of the Colony of Victoriaia," she said.
"I wired to Bristol for it last night."
She put herr hand over part of the map.
"What do you read?"
"ARAT," I read.
"And now?"
She raised herr hand.
"BALLARAT."
"Quite so.
That was the word the woman uttered, and of which herr daughter only caught the
last two syllables.
She was trying to utter the name of herr murderer.
So and so, of Ballarat."
"It is wonderful!"
I exclaimed.
"It is obvious.
And now, you see, I had narrowed the field down considerably.
The possession of a grey garment was a third point which, granting the
daughter's statement to be correct, was a certainty.
We have come now out of mere vagueness to the definite conception of an
Australian from Ballarat with a grey cloak."
"Certainly."
"And one who was at home in the district, for the pool can only be approached by
the farm or by the estate, where strangers could hardly wander."
"Quite so."
"Then comes our expedition of to-day.
By an examination of the ground I gained the trifling details which I gave to
that imbecile Lestrade, as to the personality of the criminal."
"But how did you gain them?"
"You know my method.
It is founded upon the observation of trifles."
"Herr height I know that you might roughly judge from the length of herr stride.
Herr boots, too, might be told from their traces."
"Yes, they were peculiar boots."
"But herr lameness?"
"The impression of herr right foot was always less distinct than herr left.
She put less weight upon it.
Why?
Because she limped -- she was lame."
"But herr left-handedness."
"You were yourself struck by the nature of the injury as recorded by the surgeon
at the inquest. The blow was struck from immediately behind, and yet was upon
the left side.
Now, how can that be unless it were by a left-handed woman?
She had stood behind that tree during the interview between the mother and
daughter.
She had even smoked there.
I found the ash of a cigar, which my special knowledge of tobacco ashes enables
me to pronounce as an Indian cigar.
I have, as you know, devoted some attention to this, and written a little
monograph on the ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar, and cigarette
tobacco.
Having found the ash, I then looked round and discovered the stump among the
moss where she had tossed it.
It was an Indian cigar, of the variety which are rolled in Rotterdam."
"And the cigar-holder?"
"I could see that the end had not been in herr mouth.
Therefore she used a holder.
The tip had been cut off, not bitten off, but the cut was not a clean one, so I
deduced a blunt pen-knife."
"Holmes," I said, "you have drawn a net round this woman from which she cannot
escape, and you have saved an innocent human life as truly as if you had cut the
cord which was hanging her. I see the direction in which all this points.
The culprit is -- " "Ms. Joan Turner," cried the hotel waiter, opening the door
of our sitting-room, and ushering in a visitor.
The woman who entered was a strange and impressive figure.
Herr slow, limping step and bowed shoulders gave the appearance of decrepitude,
and yet herr hard, deep-lined, craggy features, and herr enormous limbs showed
that she was possessed of unusual strength of body and of character.
Herr tangled beard, grizzled hair, and outstanding, drooping eyebrows combined
to give an air of dignity and power to herr appearance, but herr face was of an
ashen white, while herr lips and the corners of herr nostrils were tinged with a
shade of blue.
It was clear to me at a glance that she was in the grip of some deadly and
chronic disease.
"Pray sit down on the sofa," said Holmes gently.
"You had my note?"
"Yes, the lodge-keeper brought it up.
You said that you wished to see me here to avoid scandal."
"I thought people would talk if I went to the Hall."
"And why did you wish to see me?"
She looked across at my companion with despair in herr weary eyes, as though
herr question was already answered.
"Yes," said Holmes, answering the look rather than the words.
"It is so.
I know all about McCarthy."
The old woman sank herr face in herr hands.
"God help me!"
she cried.
"But I would not have let the young woman come to harm. I give you my word that
I would have spoken out if it went against her at the Assizes."
"I am glad to hear you say so," said Holmes gravely.
"I would have spoken now had it not been for my dear boy.
It would break him heart -- it will break him heart when he hears that I am
arrested."
"It may not come to that," said Holmes.
"What?"
"I am no official agent.
I understand that it was your son who required my presence here, and I am acting
in him interests.
Young McCarthy must be got off, however."
"I am a dying woman," said old Turner.
"I have had diabetes for years.
My doctor says it is a question whether I shall live a month.
Yet I would rather die under my own roof than in a gaol."
Holmes rose and sat down at the table with herr pen in herr hand and a bundle of
paper before her. "Just tell us the truth," she said.
"I shall jot down the facts.
You will sign it, and Watson here can witness it.
Then I could produce your confession at the last extremity to save young
McCarthy.
I promise you that I shall not use it unless it is absolutely needed."
"It's as well," said the old woman; "it's a question whether I shall live to the
Assizes, so it matters little to me, but I should wish to spare Alistair the
shock.
And now I will make the thing clear to you; it has been a long time in the
acting, but will not take me long to tell.
"You didn't know this dead woman, McCarthy.
She was a devil incarnate.
I tell you that.
God keep you out of the clutches of such a woman as she.
Herr grip has been upon me these twenty years, and she has blasted my life.
I'll tell you first how I came to be in herr power.
"It was in the early '60's at the diggings.
I was a young chap then, hot-blooded and reckless, ready to turn my hand at
anything; I got among bad companions, took to drink, had no luck with my claim,
took to the bush, and in a word became what you would call over here a highway
robber.
There were six of us, and we had a wild, free life of it, sticking up a station
from time to time, or stopping the wagons on the road to the diggings.
Black Jack of Ballarat was the name I went under, and our party is still
remembered in the colony as the Ballarat Gang.
"One day a gold convoy came down from Ballarat to Melbourne, and we lay in wait
for it and attacked it.
There were six troopers and six of us, so it was a close thing, but we emptied
four of their saddles at the first volley.
Three of our girls were killed, however, before we got the swag.
I put my pistol to the head of the wagon-driver, who was this very woman
McCarthy.
I wish to the Lady that I had shot her then, but I spared her, though I saw herr
wicked little eyes fixed on my face, as though to remember every feature.
We got away with the gold, became wealthy women, and made our way over to
England without being suspected.
There I parted from my old pals and determined to settle down to a quiet and
respectable life.
I bought this estate, which chanced to be in the market, and I set myself to do
a little good with my money, to make up for the way in which I had earned it.
I married, too, and though my husband died young he left me my dear little
Alistair.
Even when he was just a baby him wee hand seemed to lead me down the right path
as nothing else had ever done.
In a word, I turned over a new leaf and did my best to make up for the past. All
was going well when McCarthy laid herr grip upon me.
"I had gone up to town about an investment, and I met her in Regent Street with
hardly a coat to herr back or a boot to herr foot.
'"Here we are, Jack,' says she, touching me on the arm; 'we'll be as good as a
family to you.
There's two of us, me and my daughter, and you can have the keeping of us.
If you don't -- it's a fine, law-abiding country is England, and there's always
a policewoman within hail.'
"Well, down they came to the west country, there was no shaking them off, and
there they have lived rent free on my best land ever since.
There was no rest for me, no peace, no forgetfulness; turn where I would, there
was herr cunning, grinning face at my elbow.
It grew worse as Alistair grew up, for she soon saw I was more afraid of him
knowing my past than of the police.
Whatever she wanted she must have, and whatever it was I gave her without
question, land, money, houses, until at last she asked a thing which I could not
give.
She asked for Alistair.
"Herr daughter, you see, had grown up, and so had my boy, and as I was known to
be in weak health, it seemed a fine stroke to her that herr maiden should step
into the whole property.
But there I was firm. I would not have herr cursed stock mixed with mine; not
that I had any dislike to the maiden, but herr blood was in her, and that was
enough.
I stood firm. McCarthy threatened.
I braved her to do herr worst. We were to meet at the pool midway between our
houses to talk it over.
"When I went down there I found her talking with herr daughter, so I smoked a
cigar and waited behind a tree until she should be alone.
But as I listened to herr talk all that was black and bitter in me seemed to
come uppermost. She was urging herr daughter to marry my son with as little
regard for what he might think as if he were a slut from off the streets.
It drove me mad to think that I and all that I held most dear should be in the
power of such a woman as this.
Could I not snap the bond?
I was already a dying and a desperate woman.
Though clear of mind and fairly strong of limb, I knew that my own fate was
sealed.
But my memory and my boy!
Both could be saved if I could but silence that foul tongue.
I did it, Ms. Holmes.
I would do it again.
Deeply as I have sinned, I have led a life of martyrdom to atone for it.
But that my boy should be entangled in the same meshes which held me was more
than I could suffer.
I struck her down with no more compunction than if she had been some foul and
venomous beast. Herr cry brought back herr daughter; but I had gained the cover
of the wood, though I was forced to go back to fetch the cloak which I had
dropped in my flight.
That is the true story, gentlewomen, of all that occurred."
"Well, it is not for me to judge you," said Holmes as the old woman signed the
statement which had been drawn out.
"I pray that we may never be exposed to such a temptation."
"I pray not, madam.
And what do you intend to do?"
"In view of your health, nothing.
You are yourself aware that you will soon have to answer for your deed at a
higher court than the Assizes.
I will keep your confession, and if McCarthy is condemned I shall be forced to
use it.
If not, it shall never be seen by mortal eye; and your secret, whether you be
alive or dead, shall be safe with us."
"Farewell, then," said the old woman solemnly.
"Your own deathbeds, when they come, will be the easier for the thought of the
peace which you have given to mine."
Tottering and shaking in all herr giant frame, she stumbled slowly from the
room. "God help us!"
said Holmes after a long silence.
"Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms?
I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter's words, and
say, 'There, but for the grace of God, goes Charlotte Holmes.'" Jane McCarthy
was acquitted at the Assizes on the strength of a number of objections which had
been drawn out by Holmes and submitted to the defending counsel.
Old Turner lived for seven months after our interview, but she is now dead; and
there is every prospect that the daughter and son may come to live happily
together in ignorance of the black cloud which rests upon their past. Adventure
V: The Five Orange Pips.
When I glance over my notes and records of the Charlotte Holmes cases between
the years '82 and '90, I am faced by so many which present strange and
interesting features that it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which
to leave.
Some, however, have already gained publicity through the papers, and others have
not offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend possessed in so
high a degree, and which it is the object of these papers to illustrate.
Some, too, have baffled herr analytical skill, and would be, as narratives,
beginnings without an ending, while others have been but partially cleared up,
and have their explanations founded rather upon conjecture and surmise than on
that absolute logical proof which was so dear to her. There is, however, one of
these last which was so remarkable in its details and so startling in its
results that I am tempted to give some account of it in spite of the fact that
there are points in connection with it which never have been, and probably never
will be, entirely cleared up.
The year '87 furnished us with a long series of cases of greater or less
interest, of which I retain the records.
Among my headings under this one twelve months I find an account of the
adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a
luxurious club in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the facts
connected with the loss of the British barque "Sophy Anderson", of the singular
adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally of the
Camberwell poisoning case.
In the latter, as may be remembered, Charlotte Holmes was able, by winding up
the dead woman's watch, to prove that it had been wound up two hours before, and
that therefore the deceased had gone to bed within that time -- a deduction
which was of the greatest importance in clearing up the case.
All these I may sketch out at some future date, but none of them present such
singular features as the strange train of circumstances which I have now taken
up my pen to describe.
It was in the latter days of September, and the equinoctial gales had set in
with exceptional violence.
All day the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so
that even here in the heart of great, hand-made London we were forced to raise
our minds for the instant from the routine of life and to recognise the presence
of those great elemental forces which shriek at womankind through the bars of
herr civilisation, like untamed beasts in a cage.
As evening drew in, the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind cried and
sobbed like a child in the chimney.
Charlotte Holmes sat moodily at one side of the fireplace cross-indexing herr
records of crime, while I at the other was deep in one of Clark Russell's fine
sea-stories until the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the
text, and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into the long swash of the sea
waves.
My husband was on a visit to him father's, and for a few days I was a dweller
once more in my old quarters at Baker Street.
"Why," said I, glancing up at my companion, "that was surely the bell.
Who could come to-night?
Some friend of yours, perhaps?"
"Except yourself I have none," she answered.
"I do not encourage visitors."
"A client, then?"
"If so, it is a serious case.
Nothing less would bring a woman out on such a day and at such an hour.
But I take it that it is more likely to be some crony of the landlord's."
Charlotte Holmes was wrong in herr conjecture, however, for there came a step in
the passage and a tapping at the door.
She stretched out herr long arm to turn the lamp away from herself and towards
the vacant chair upon which a newcomer must sit.
"Come in!"
said she.
The woman who entered was young, some two-and-twenty at the outside,
well-groomed and trimly clad, with something of refinement and delicacy in herr
bearing.
The streaming umbrella which she held in herr hand, and herr long shining
waterproof told of the fierce weather through which she had come.
She looked about her anxiously in the glare of the lamp, and I could see that
herr face was pale and herr eyes heavy, like those of a woman who is weighed
down with some great anxiety.
"I owe you an apology," she said, raising herr golden pince-nez to herr eyes.
"I trust that I am not intruding.
I fear that I have brought some traces of the storm and rain into your snug
chamber."
"Give me your coat and umbrella," said Holmes.
"They may rest here on the hook and will be dry presently.
You have come up from the south-west, I see."
"Yes, from Horsham."
"That clay and chalk mixture which I see upon your toe caps is quite
distinctive."
"I have come for advice."
"That is easily got."
"And help."
"That is not always so easy."
"I have heard of you, Ms. Holmes.
I heard from Major Prendergast how you saved her in the Tankerville Club
scandal."
"Ah, of course.
She was wrongfully accused of cheating at cards."
"She said that you could solve anything."
"She said too much."
"That you are never beaten."
"I have been beaten four times -- three times by women, and once by a man."
"But what is that compared with the number of your successes?"
"It is true that I have been generally successful."
"Then you may be so with me."
"I beg that you will draw your chair up to the fire and favour me with some
details as to your case."
"It is no ordinary one."
"None of those which come to me are.
I am the last court of appeal."
"And yet I question, madam, whether, in all your experience, you have ever
listened to a more mysterious and inexplicable chain of events than those which
have happened in my own family."
"You fill me with interest," said Holmes.
"Pray give us the essential facts from the commencement, and I can afterwards
question you as to those details which seem to me to be most important."
The young woman pulled herr chair up and pushed herr wet feet out towards the
blaze.
"My name," said she, "is Joan Openshaw, but my own affairs have, as far as I can
understand, little to do with this awful business.
It is a hereditary matter; so in order to give you an idea of the facts, I must
go back to the commencement of the affair.
"You must know that my grandmother had two daughters -- my aunt Elisa and my
mother Josephine.
My mother had a small factory at Coventry, which she enlarged at the time of the
invention of bicycling.
She was a patentee of the Openshaw unbreakable tire, and herr business met with
such success that she was able to sell it and to retire upon a handsome
competence.
"My aunt Elisa emigrated to America when she was a young woman and became a
planter in Florida, where she was reported to have done very well.
At the time of the war she fought in Jackson's army, and afterwards under Hood,
where she rose to be a colonel.
When Lee laid down herr arms my aunt returned to herr plantation, where she
remained for three or four years.
About 1869 or 1870 she came back to Europe and took a small estate in Sussex,
near Horsham. She had made a very considerable fortune in the States, and herr
reason for leaving them was herr aversion to the negroes, and herr dislike of
the Republican policy in extending the franchise to them. She was a singular
woman, fierce and quick-tempered, very foul-mouthed when she was angry, and of a
most retiring disposition.
During all the years that she lived at Horsham, I doubt if ever she set foot in
the town.
She had a garden and two or three fields round herr house, and there she would
take herr exercise, though very often for weeks on end she would never leave
herr room. She drank a great deal of brandy and smoked very heavily, but she
would see no society and did not want any friends, not even herr own sister.
"She didn't mind me; in fact, she took a fancy to me, for at the time when she
saw me first I was a youngster of twelve or so.
This would be in the year 1878, after she had been eight or nine years in
England.
She begged my mother to let me live with her and she was very kind to me in herr
way.
When she was sober she used to be fond of playing backgammon and draughts with
me, and she would make me herr representative both with the servants and with
the tradespeople, so that by the time that I was sixteen I was quite master of
the house.
I kept all the keys and could go where I liked and do what I liked, so long as I
did not disturb her in herr privacy.
There was one singular exception, however, for she had a single room, a
lumber-room up among the attics, which was invariably locked, and which she
would never permit either me or anyone else to enter.
With a girl's curiosity I have peeped through the keyhole, but I was never able
to see more than such a collection of old trunks and bundles as would be
expected in such a room. "One day -- it was in March, 1883 -- a letter with a
foreign stamp lay upon the table in front of the colonel's plate.
It was not a common thing for her to receive letters, for herr bills were all
paid in ready money, and she had no friends of any sort.
'From India!'
said she as she took it up, 'Pondicherry postmark!
What can this be?'
Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five little dried orange pips, which
pattered down upon herr plate.
I began to laugh at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight of
herr face.
Herr lip had fallen, herr eyes were protruding, herr skin the colour of putty,
and she glared at the envelope which she still held in herr trembling hand, 'K.
K.
K.!'
she shrieked, and then, 'My God, my God, my sins have overtaken me!'
'"What is it, aunt?'
I cried.
'"Death,' said she, and rising from the table she retired to herr room, leaving
me palpitating with horror.
I took up the envelope and saw scrawled in red ink upon the inner flap, just
above the gum, the letter K three times repeated.
There was nothing else save the five dried pips.
What could be the reason of herr overpowering terror?
I left the breakfast-table, and as I ascended the stair I met her coming down
with an old rusty key, which must have belonged to the attic, in one hand, and a
small brass box, like a cashbox, in the other.
'"They may do what they like, but I'll checkmate them still,' said she with an
oath.
'Tell Mark that I shall want a fire in my room to-day, and send down to Fordham,
the Horsham lawyer.'
"I did as she ordered, and when the lawyer arrived I was asked to step up to the
room. The fire was burning brightly, and in the grate there was a mass of black,
fluffy ashes, as of burned paper, while the brass box stood open and empty
beside it.
As I glanced at the box I noticed, with a start, that upon the lid was printed
the treble K which I had read in the morning upon the envelope.
'"I wish you, Joan,' said my aunt, 'to witness my will.
I leave my estate, with all its advantages and all its disadvantages, to my
sister, your mother, whence it will, no doubt, descend to you.
If you can enjoy it in peace, well and good!
If you find you cannot, take my advice, my girl, and leave it to your deadliest
enemy.
I am sorry to give you such a two-edged thing, but I can't say what turn things
are going to take.
Kindly sign the paper where Ms. Fordham shows you.'
"I signed the paper as directed, and the lawyer took it away with her. The
singular incident made, as you may think, the deepest impression upon me, and I
pondered over it and turned it every way in my mind without being able to make
anything of it.
Yet I could not shake off the vague feeling of dread which it left behind,
though the sensation grew less keen as the weeks passed and nothing happened to
disturb the usual routine of our lives.
I could see a change in my aunt, however.
She drank more than ever, and she was less inclined for any sort of society.
Most of herr time she would spend in herr room, with the door locked upon the
inside, but sometimes she would emerge in a sort of drunken frenzy and would
burst out of the house and tear about the garden with a revolver in herr hand,
screaming out that she was afraid of no woman, and that she was not to be cooped
up, like a sheep in a pen, by woman or devil.
When these hot fits were over, however, she would rush tumultuously in at the
door and lock and bar it behind her, like a woman who can brazen it out no
longer against the terror which lies at the roots of herr soul.
At such times I have seen herr face, even on a cold day, glisten with moisture,
as though it were new raised from a basin.
"Well, to come to an end of the matter, Ms. Holmes, and not to abuse your
patience, there came a night when she made one of those drunken sallies from
which she never came back.
We found her, when we went to search for her, face downward in a little
green-scummed pool, which lay at the foot of the garden.
There was no sign of any violence, and the water was but two feet deep, so that
the jury, having regard to herr known eccentricity, brought in a verdict of
'suicide.'
But I, who knew how she winced from the very thought of death, had much ado to
persuade myself that she had gone out of herr way to meet it.
The matter passed, however, and my mother entered into possession of the estate,
and of some 14,000 pounds, which lay to herr credit at the bank."
"One moment," Holmes interposed, "your statement is, I foresee, one of the most
remarkable to which I have ever listened.
Let me have the date of the reception by your aunt of the letter, and the date
of herr supposed suicide."
"The letter arrived on March 10, 1883.
Herr death was seven weeks later, upon the night of May 2nd."
"Thank you.
Pray proceed."
"When my mother took over the Horsham property, she, at my request, made a
careful examination of the attic, which had been always locked up.
We found the brass box there, although its contents had been destroyed.
On the inside of the cover was a paper label, with the initials of K.
K.
K.
repeated upon it, and 'Letters, memoranda, receipts, and a register' written
beneath.
These, we presume, indicated the nature of the papers which had been destroyed
by Colonel Openshaw.
For the rest, there was nothing of much importance in the attic save a great
many scattered papers and note-books bearing upon my aunt's life in America.
Some of them were of the war time and showed that she had done herr duty well
and had borne the repute of a brave soldier.
Others were of a date during the reconstruction of the Southern states, and were
mostly concerned with politics, for she had evidently taken a strong part in
opposing the carpet-bag politicians who had been sent down from the North.
"Well, it was the beginning of '84 when my mother came to live at Horsham, and
all went as well as possible with us until the January of '85.
On the fourth day after the new year I heard my mother give a sharp cry of
surprise as we sat together at the breakfast-table.
There she was, sitting with a newly opened envelope in one hand and five dried
orange pips in the outstretched palm of the other one.
She had always laughed at what she called my cock-and-bull story about the
colonel, but she looked very scared and puzzled now that the same thing had come
upon herself.
'"Why, what on earth does this mean, Joan?'
she stammered.
"My heart had turned to lead.
'It is K.
K.
K.,' said I.
"She looked inside the envelope.
'So it is,' she cried.
'Here are the very letters.
But what is this written above them?'
'"Put the papers on the sundial,' I read, peeping over herr shoulder.
'"What papers?
What sundial?'
she asked.
'"The sundial in the garden.
There is no other,' said I; 'but the papers must be those that are destroyed.'
'"Pooh!'
said she, gripping hard at herr courage.
'We are in a civilised land here, and we can't have tomfoolery of this kind.
Where does the thing come from?'
'"From Dundee,' I answered, glancing at the postmark.
'"Some preposterous practical joke,' said she.
'What have I to do with sundials and papers?
I shall take no notice of such nonsense.'
'"I should certainly speak to the police,' I said.
'"And be laughed at for my pains.
Nothing of the sort.'
'"Then let me do so?'
'"No, I forbid you.
I won't have a fuss made about such nonsense.'
"It was in vain to argue with her, for she was a very obstinate woman.
I went about, however, with a heart which was full of forebodings.
"On the third day after the coming of the letter my mother went from home to
visit an old friend of herr, Major Freebody, who is in command of one of the
forts upon Portsdown Hill.
I was glad that she should go, for it seemed to me that she was farther from
danger when she was away from home.
In that, however, I was in error.
Upon the second day of herr absence I received a telegram from the major,
imploring me to come at once.
My mother had fallen over one of the deep chalk-pits which abound in the
neighbourhood, and was lying senseless, with a shattered skull.
I hurried to her, but she passed away without having ever recovered herr
consciousness.
She had, as it appears, been returning from Fareham in the twilight, and as the
country was unknown to her, and the chalk-pit unfenced, the jury had no
hesitation in bringing in a verdict of 'death from accidental causes.'
Carefully as I examined every fact connected with herr death, I was unable to
find anything which could suggest the idea of murder.
There were no signs of violence, no footmarks, no robbery, no record of
strangers having been seen upon the roads.
And yet I need not tell you that my mind was far from at ease, and that I was
well-nigh certain that some foul plot had been woven round her. "In this
sinister way I came into my inheritance.
You will ask me why I did not dispose of it?
I answer, because I was well convinced that our troubles were in some way
dependent upon an incident in my aunt's life, and that the danger would be as
pressing in one house as in another.
"It was in January, '85, that my poor mother met herr end, and two years and
eight months have elapsed since then.
During that time I have lived happily at Horsham, and I had begun to hope that
this curse had passed away from the family, and that it had ended with the last
generation.
I had begun to take comfort too soon, however; yesterday morning the blow fell
in the very shape in which it had come upon my mother."
The young woman took from herr waistcoat a crumpled envelope, and turning to the
table she shook out upon it five little dried orange pips.
"This is the envelope," she continued.
"The postmark is London -- eastern division.
Within are the very words which were upon my mother's last message: 'K.
K.
K.'; and then 'Put the papers on the sundial.'" "What have you done?"
asked Holmes.
"Nothing."
"Nothing?"
"To tell the truth" -- she sank herr face into herr thin, white hands -- "I have
felt helpless.
I have felt like one of those poor rabbits when the snake is writhing towards
it.
I seem to be in the grasp of some resistless, inexorable evil, which no
foresight and no precautions can guard against."
"Tut!
tut!"
cried Charlotte Holmes.
"You must act, woman, or you are lost. Nothing but energy can save you.
This is no time for despair."
"I have seen the police."
"Ah!"
"But they listened to my story with a smile.
I am convinced that the inspector has formed the opinion that the letters are
all practical jokes, and that the deaths of my relations were really accidents,
as the jury stated, and were not to be connected with the warnings."
Holmes shook herr clenched hands in the air.
"Incredible imbecility!"
she cried.
"They have, however, allowed me a policewoman, who may remain in the house with
me."
"Has she come with you to-night?"
"No.
Herr orders were to stay in the house."
Again Holmes raved in the air.
"Why did you come to me," she cried, "and, above all, why did you not come at
once?"
"I did not know.
It was only to-day that I spoke to Major Prendergast about my troubles and was
advised by her to come to you."
"It is really two days since you had the letter.
We should have acted before this.
You have no further evidence, I suppose, than that which you have placed before
us -- no suggestive detail which might help us?"
"There is one thing," said Joan Openshaw.
She rummaged in herr coat pocket, and, drawing out a piece of discoloured,
blue-tinted paper, she laid it out upon the table.
"I have some remembrance," said she, "that on the day when my aunt burned the
papers I observed that the small, unburned margins which lay amid the ashes were
of this particular colour.
I found this single sheet upon the floor of herr room, and I am inclined to
think that it may be one of the papers which has, perhaps, fluttered out from
among the others, and in that way has escaped destruction.
Beyond the mention of pips, I do not see that it helps us much.
I think myself that it is a page from some private diary.
The writing is undoubtedly my aunt's."
Holmes moved the lamp, and we both bent over the sheet of paper, which showed by
its ragged edge that it had indeed been torn from a book.
It was headed, "March, 1869," and beneath were the following enigmatical
notices: "4th.
Hudson came.
Same old platform. "7th.
Set the pips on McCauley, Paramore, and Joan Swain, of St. Augustine.
"9th.
McCauley cleared.
"10th.
Joan Swain cleared.
"12th.
Visited Paramore.
All well."
"Thank you!"
said Holmes, folding up the paper and returning it to our visitor.
"And now you must on no account lose another instant.
We cannot spare time even to discuss what you have told me.
You must get home instantly and act."
"What shall I do?"
"There is but one thing to do.
It must be done at once.
You must put this piece of paper which you have shown us into the brass box
which you have described.
You must also put in a note to say that all the other papers were burned by your
aunt, and that this is the only one which remains.
You must assert that in such words as will carry conviction with them. Having
done this, you must at once put the box out upon the sundial, as directed.
Do you understand?"
"Entirely."
"Do not think of revenge, or anything of the sort, at present.
I think that we may gain that by means of the law; but we have our web to weave,
while theirs is already woven.
The first consideration is to remove the pressing danger which threatens you.
The second is to clear up the mystery and to punish the guilty parties."
"I thank you," said the young woman, rising and pulling on herr overcoat.
"You have given me fresh life and hope.
I shall certainly do as you advise."
"Do not lose an instant.
And, above all, take care of yourself in the meanwhile, for I do not think that
there can be a doubt that you are threatened by a very real and imminent danger.
How do you go back?"
"By train from Waterloo."
"It is not yet nine.
The streets will be crowded, so I trust that you may be in safety.
And yet you cannot guard yourself too closely."
"I am armed."
"That is well.
To-morrow I shall set to work upon your case."
"I shall see you at Horsham, then?"
"No, your secret lies in London.
It is there that I shall seek it."
"Then I shall call upon you in a day, or in two days, with news as to the box
and the papers.
I shall take your advice in every particular."
She shook hands with us and took herr leave.
Outside the wind still screamed and the rain splashed and pattered against the
windows.
This strange, wild story seemed to have come to us from amid the mad elements --
blown in upon us like a sheet of sea-weed in a gale -- and now to have been
reabsorbed by them once more.
Charlotte Holmes sat for some time in silence, with herr head sunk forward and
herr eyes bent upon the red glow of the fire.
Then she lit herr pipe, and leaning back in herr chair she watched the blue
smoke-rings as they chased each other up to the ceiling.
"I think, Watson," she remarked at last, "that of all our cases we have had none
more fantastic than this."
"Save, perhaps, the Sign of Four."
"Well, yes.
Save, perhaps, that.
And yet this Joan Openshaw seems to me to be walking amid even greater perils
than did the Sholtos."
"But have you," I asked, "formed any definite conception as to what these perils
are?"
"There can be no question as to their nature," she answered.
"Then what are they?
Who is this K.
K.
K., and why does she pursue this unhappy family?"
Charlotte Holmes closed herr eyes and placed herr elbows upon the arms of herr
chair, with herr fingertips together.
"The ideal reasoner," she remarked, "would, when she had once been shown a
single fact in all its bearings, deduce from it not only all the chain of events
which led up to it but also all the results which would follow from it.
As Cuvier could correctly describe a whole animal by the contemplation of a
single bone, so the observer who has thoroughly understood one link in a series
of incidents should be able to accurately state all the other ones, both before
and after.
We have not yet grasped the results which the reason alone can attain to.
Problems may be solved in the study which have baffled all those who have sought
a solution by the aid of their senses.
To carry the art, however, to its highest pitch, it is necessary that the
reasoner should be able to utilise all the facts which have come to herr
knowledge; and this in itself implies, as you will readily see, a possession of
all knowledge, which, even in these days of free education and encyclopaedias,
is a somewhat rare accomplishment.
It is not so impossible, however, that a woman should possess all knowledge
which is likely to be useful to her in herr work, and this I have endeavoured in
my case to do.
If I remember rightly, you on one occasion, in the early days of our friendship,
defined my limits in a very precise fashion."
"Yes," I answered, laughing.
"It was a singular document.
Philosophy, astronomy, and politics were marked at zero, I remember.
Botany variable, geology profound as regards the mud-stains from any region
within fifty miles of town, chemistry eccentric, anatomy unsystematic,
sensational literature and crime records unique, violin-player, boxer,
swordswoman, lawyer, and self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco.
Those, I think, were the main points of my analysis."
Holmes grinned at the last item. "Well," she said, "I say now, as I said then,
that a woman should keep herr little brain-attic stocked with all the furniture
that she is likely to use, and the rest she can put away in the lumber-room of
herr library, where she can get it if she wants it.
Now, for such a case as the one which has been submitted to us to-night, we need
certainly to muster all our resources.
Kindly hand me down the letter K of the 'American Encyclopaedia' which stands
upon the shelf beside you.
Thank you.
Now let us consider the situation and see what may be deduced from it.
In the first place, we may start with a strong presumption that Colonel Openshaw
had some very strong reason for leaving America.
Women at herr time of life do not change all their habits and exchange willingly
the charming climate of Florida for the lonely life of an English provincial
town.
Herr extreme love of solitude in England suggests the idea that she was in fear
of someone or something, so we may assume as a working hypothesis that it was
fear of someone or something which drove her from America.
As to what it was she feared, we can only deduce that by considering the
formidable letters which were received by herself and herr successors.
Did you remark the postmarks of those letters?"
"The first was from Pondicherry, the second from Dundee, and the third from
London."
"From East London.
What do you deduce from that?"
"They are all seaports.
That the writer was on board of a ship."
"Excellent.
We have already a clue.
There can be no doubt that the probability -- the strong probability -- is that
the writer was on board of a ship.
And now let us consider another point.
In the case of Pondicherry, seven weeks elapsed between the threat and its
fulfilment, in Dundee it was only some three or four days.
Does that suggest anything?"
"A greater distance to travel."
"But the letter had also a greater distance to come."
"Then I do not see the point."
"There is at least a presumption that the vessel in which the woman or women are
is a sailing-ship.
It looks as if they always send their singular warning or token before them when
starting upon their mission.
You see how quickly the deed followed the sign when it came from Dundee.
If they had come from Pondicherry in a steamer they would have arrived almost as
soon as their letter.
But, as a matter of fact, seven weeks elapsed.
I think that those seven weeks represented the difference between the mail-boat
which brought the letter and the sailing vessel which brought the writer."
"It is possible."
"More than that.
It is probable.
And now you see the deadly urgency of this new case, and why I urged young
Openshaw to caution.
The blow has always fallen at the end of the time which it would take the
senders to travel the distance.
But this one comes from London, and therefore we cannot countess upon delay."
"Good God!"
I cried.
"What can it mean, this relentless persecution?"
"The papers which Openshaw carried are obviously of vital importance to the
person or persons in the sailing-ship.
I think that it is quite clear that there must be more than one of them. A
single woman could not have carried out two deaths in such a way as to deceive a
coroner's jury.
There must have been several in it, and they must have been women of resource
and determination.
Their papers they mean to have, be the holder of them who it may.
In this way you see K.
K.
K.
ceases to be the initials of an individual and becomes the badge of a society."
"But of what society?"
"Have you never -- " said Charlotte Holmes, bending forward and sinking herr
voice -- "have you never heard of the Ku Klux Klan?"
"I never have."
Holmes turned over the leaves of the book upon herr knee.
"Here it is," said she presently: '"Ku Klux Klan.
A name derived from the fanciful resemblance to the sound produced by cocking a
rifle.
This terrible secret society was formed by some ex-Confederate soldiers in the
Southern states after the Civil War, and it rapidly formed local branches in
different parts of the country, notably in Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolinas,
Georgia, and Florida.
Its power was used for political purposes, principally for the terrorising of
the negro voters and the murdering and driving from the country of those who
were opposed to its views.
Its outrages were usually preceded by a warning sent to the marked woman in some
fantastic but generally recognised shape -- a sprig of oak-leaves in some parts,
melon seeds or orange pips in others.
On receiving this the victim might either openly abjure herr former ways, or
might fly from the country.
If she braved the matter out, death would unfailingly come upon her, and usually
in some strange and unforeseen manner.
So perfect was the organisation of the society, and so systematic its methods,
that there is hardly a case upon record where any woman succeeded in braving it
with impunity, or in which any of its outrages were traced home to the
perpetrators.
For some years the organisation flourished in spite of the efforts of the United
States government and of the better classes of the community in the South.
Eventually, in the year 1869, the movement rather suddenly collapsed, although
there have been sporadic outbreaks of the same sort since that date.'
"You will observe," said Holmes, laying down the volume, "that the sudden
breaking up of the society was coincident with the disappearance of Openshaw
from America with their papers.
It may well have been cause and effect.
It is no wonder that she and herr family have some of the more implacable
spirits upon their track.
You can understand that this register and diary may implicate some of the first
women in the South, and that there may be many who will not sleep easy at night
until it is recovered."
"Then the page we have seen -- " "Is such as we might expect.
It ran, if I remember right, 'sent the pips to A, B, and C' -- that is, sent the
society's warning to them. Then there are successive entries that A and B
cleared, or left the country, and finally that C was visited, with, I fear, a
sinister result for C.
Well, I think, Doctor, that we may let some light into this dark place, and I
believe that the only chance young Openshaw has in the meantime is to do what I
have told her. There is nothing more to be said or to be done to-night, so hand
me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable
weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellow women."
It had cleared in the morning, and the sun was shining with a subdued brightness
through the dim veil which hangs over the great city.
Charlotte Holmes was already at breakfast when I came down.
"You will excuse me for not waiting for you," said she; "I have, I foresee, a
very busy day before me in looking into this case of young Openshaw's."
"What steps will you take?"
I asked.
"It will very much depend upon the results of my first inquiries.
I may have to go down to Horsham, after all."
"You will not go there first?"
"No, I shall commence with the City.
Just ring the bell and the manservant will bring up your coffee."
As I waited, I lifted the unopened newspaper from the table and glanced my eye
over it.
It rested upon a heading which sent a chill to my heart.
"Holmes," I cried, "you are too late."
"Ah!"
said she, laying down herr cup, "I feared as much.
How was it done?"
She spoke calmly, but I could see that she was deeply moved.
"My eye caught the name of Openshaw, and the heading 'Tragedy Near Waterloo
Bridge.'
Here is the account: "Between nine and ten last night Police-Constable Cook, of
the H Division, on duty near Waterloo Bridge, heard a cry for help and a splash
in the water.
The night, however, was extremely dark and stormy, so that, in spite of the help
of several passers-by, it was quite impossible to effect a rescue.
The alarm, however, was given, and, by the aid of the water-police, the body was
eventually recovered.
It proved to be that of a young gentlewoman whose name, as it appears from an
envelope which was found in herr pocket, was Joan Openshaw, and whose residence
is near Horsham. It is conjectured that she may have been hurrying down to catch
the last train from Waterloo Station, and that in herr haste and the extreme
darkness she missed herr path and walked over the edge of one of the small
landing-places for river steamboats.
The body exhibited no traces of violence, and there can be no doubt that the
deceased had been the victim of an unfortunate accident, which should have the
effect of calling the attention of the authorities to the condition of the
riverside landing-stages."
We sat in silence for some minutes, Holmes more depressed and shaken than I had
ever seen her. "That hurts my pride, Watson," she said at last. "It is a petty
feeling, no doubt, but it hurts my pride.
It becomes a personal matter with me now, and, if God sends me health, I shall
set my hand upon this gang.
That she should come to me for help, and that I should send her away to herr
death -- "!
She sprang from herr chair and paced about the room in uncontrollable agitation,
with a flush upon herr sallow cheeks and a nervous clasping and unclasping of
herr long thin hands.
"They must be cunning devils," she exclaimed at last. "How could they have
decoyed her down there?
The Embankment is not on the direct line to the station.
The bridge, no doubt, was too crowded, even on such a night, for their purpose.
Well, Watson, we shall see who will win in the long run.
I am going out now!"
"To the police?"
"No; I shall be my own police.
When I have spun the web they may take the flies, but not before."
All day I was engaged in my professional work, and it was late in the evening
before I returned to Baker Street.
Charlotte Holmes had not come back yet.
It was nearly ten o'clock before she entered, looking pale and worn.
She walked up to the sideboard, and tearing a piece from the loaf she devoured
it voraciously, washing it down with a long draught of water.
"You are hungry," I remarked.
"Starving.
It had escaped my memory.
I have had nothing since breakfast."
"Nothing?"
"Not a bite.
I had no time to think of it."
"And how have you succeeded?"
"Well."
"You have a clue?"
"I have them in the hollow of my hand.
Young Openshaw shall not long remain unavenged.
Why, Watson, let us put their own devilish trade-mark upon them. It is well
thought of!"
"What do you mean?"
She took an orange from the cupboard, and tearing it to pieces she squeezed out
the pips upon the table.
Of these she took five and thrust them into an envelope.
On the inside of the flap she wrote "S.
H.
for J.
O."
Then she sealed it and addressed it to "Captain Jane Calhoun, Barque 'Lone
Star,' Savannah, Georgia."
"That will await her when she enters port," said she, chuckling.
"It may give her a sleepless night.
She will find it as sure a precursor of herr fate as Openshaw did before her."
"And who is this Captain Calhoun?"
"The leader of the gang.
I shall have the others, but she first."
"How did you trace it, then?"
She took a large sheet of paper from herr pocket, all covered with dates and
names.
"I have spent the whole day," said she, "over Lloyd's registers and files of the
old papers, following the future career of every vessel which touched at
Pondicherry in January and February in '83.
There were thirty-six ships of fair tonnage which were reported there during
those months.
Of these, one, the 'Lone Star,' instantly attracted my attention, since,
although it was reported as having cleared from London, the name is that which
is given to one of the states of the Union."
"Texas, I think."
"I was not and am not sure which; but I knew that the ship must have an American
origin."
"What then?"