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Pride And Prejudice

Chapter 1
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a
good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first
entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the
surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or
other of their daughters.
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that
Netherfield Park is let at last?”
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me
all about it.”
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
“Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.
“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”
This was invitation enough.
“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a
young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on
Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it,
that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before
Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next
week.”
“What is his name?”
“Bingley.”
“Is he married or single?”
“Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five
thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”
“How so? How can it affect them?”
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You
must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”
“Is that his design in settling here?”
“Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall
in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”
“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them
by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as
any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party.”
“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not
pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown-up
daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”
“In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”
“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into
the neighbourhood.”
“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”
“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be
for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on
that account, for in general, you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you
must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him if you do not.”
“You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to
see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to
his marrying whichever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good
word for my little Lizzy.”
“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others;
and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as
Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.”
“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all
silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness
than her sisters.”
“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take
delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.”
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my
old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty
years at least.”
“Ah, you do not know what I suffer.”
“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four
thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.”
“It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come, since you will not visit
them.”
“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them all.”
Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve,
and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient
to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to
develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and
uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The
business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and
news.

Chapter 2
Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley. He
had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that
he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid she had no
knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner. Observing his
second daughter employed in trimming a hat, he suddenly addressed her with:
“I hope Mr. Bingley will like it, Lizzy.”
“We are not in a way to know what Mr. Bingley likes,” said her mother
resentfully, “since we are not to visit.”
“But you forget, mamma,” said Elizabeth, “that we shall meet him at the
assemblies, and that Mrs. Long promised to introduce him.”
“I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. She has two nieces of her
own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I have no opinion of her.”
“No more have I,” said Mr. Bennet; “and I am glad to find that you do not
depend on her serving you.”
Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to contain herself,
began scolding one of her daughters.
“Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for Heaven’s sake! Have a little compassion
on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.”
“Kitty has no discretion in her coughs,” said her father; “she times them ill.”
“I do not cough for my own amusement,” replied Kitty fretfully. “When is
your next ball to be, Lizzy?”
“To-morrow fortnight.”
“Aye, so it is,” cried her mother, “and Mrs. Long does not come back till the
day before; so it will be impossible for her to introduce him, for she will not
know him herself.”
“Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce
Mr. Bingley to her.”
“Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with him
myself; how can you be so teasing?”
“I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very
little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight. But if we
do not venture somebody else will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her nieces must
stand their chance; and, therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if you
decline the office, I will take it on myself.”
The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, “Nonsense, nonsense!”
“What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?” cried he. “Do you
consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as
nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you there. What say you, Mary? For you are
a young lady of deep reflection, I know, and read great books and make
extracts.”
Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how.
“While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he continued, “let us return to Mr.
Bingley.”
“I am sick of Mr. Bingley,” cried his wife.
“I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me that before? If I had
known as much this morning I certainly would not have called on him. It is very
unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance
now.”
The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet
perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the first tumult of joy was over, she
began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.
“How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I should persuade
you at last. I was sure you loved your girls too well to neglect such an
acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is such a good joke, too, that you
should have gone this morning and never said a word about it till now.”
“Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose,” said Mr. Bennet; and, as
he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife.
“What an excellent father you have, girls!” said she, when the door was shut.
“I do not know how you will ever make him amends for his kindness; or me,
either, for that matter. At our time of life it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be
making new acquaintances every day; but for your sakes, we would do anything.
Lydia, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Mr. Bingley will dance
with you at the next ball.”
“Oh!” said Lydia stoutly, “I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I’m
the tallest.”
The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he would return
Mr. Bennet’s visit, and determining when they should ask him to dinner.

Chapter 3
Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five daughters,
could ask on the subject, was sufficient to draw from her husband any
satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him in various ways—
with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but he
eluded the skill of them all, and they were at last obliged to accept the secondhand intelligence of their neighbour, Lady Lucas. Her report was highly
favourable. Sir William had been delighted with him. He was quite young,
wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant
to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful!
To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively
hopes of Mr. Bingley’s heart were entertained.
“If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,” said Mrs.
Bennet to her husband, “and all the others equally well married, I shall have
nothing to wish for.”
In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet’s visit, and sat about ten
minutes with him in his library. He had entertained hopes of being admitted to a
sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only
the father. The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage
of ascertaining from an upper window that he wore a blue coat, and rode a black
horse.
An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; and already had Mrs.
Bennet planned the courses that were to do credit to her housekeeping, when an
answer arrived which deferred it all. Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the
following day, and, consequently, unable to accept the honour of their invitation,
etc. Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he
could have in town so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to
fear that he might be always flying about from one place to another, and never
settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by
starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large party for the
ball; and a report soon followed that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and
seven gentlemen with him to the assembly. The girls grieved over such a number
of ladies, but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing, that instead of
twelve he brought only six with him from London—his five sisters and a cousin.
And when the party entered the assembly room it consisted of only five
altogether—Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another
young man.
Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant
countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with
an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the
gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his
fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in
general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten
thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the
ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at
with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust
which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud; to be
above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in
Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable
countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in
the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the
ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such
amiable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between him and
his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss
Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the
evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own
party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in
the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst
the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general
behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of
her daughters.
Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down
for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near
enough for her to hear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came
from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it.
“Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing
about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly
acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be
insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the
room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”
“I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Mr. Bingley, “for a kingdom!
Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have
this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.”
“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy,
looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.
“Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her
sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very
agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”
“Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at
Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is
tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to
give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better
return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with
me.”
Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth
remained with no very cordial feelings toward him. She told the story, however,
with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition,
which delighted in anything ridiculous.
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet
had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley
had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane
was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in a quieter way.
Elizabeth felt Jane’s pleasure. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss
Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and
Lydia had been fortunate enough never to be without partners, which was all that
they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned, therefore, in good spirits
to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they were the principal
inhabitants. They found Mr. Bennet still up. With a book he was regardless of
time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event
of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations. He had rather hoped
that his wife’s views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found
out that he had a different story to hear.
“Oh, my dear Mr. Bennet,” as she entered the room, “we have had a most
delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so
admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well she looked; and Mr.
Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice! Only think of
that, my dear; he actually danced with her twice! and she was the only creature
in the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was
so vexed to see him stand up with her! But, however, he did not admire her at
all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she
was going down the dance. So he inquired who she was, and got introduced, and
asked her for the two next. Then the two third he danced with Miss King, and the
two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth
with Lizzy, and the Boulanger—”
“If he had had any compassion for me,” cried her husband impatiently, “he
would not have danced half so much! For God’s sake, say no more of his
partners. Oh that he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!”
“Oh! my dear, I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome!
And his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw anything more
elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown—”
Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against any description
of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and
related, with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking
rudeness of Mr. Darcy.
“But I can assure you,” she added, “that Lizzy does not lose much by not
suiting his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth
pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked
here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough
to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of
your set-downs. I quite detest the man.”

Chapter 4
When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in
her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister just how very much she
admired him.
“He is just what a young man ought to be,” said she, “sensible, goodhumoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners!—so much ease, with
such perfect good breeding!”
“He is also handsome,” replied Elizabeth, “which a young man ought likewise
to be, if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete.”
“I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not
expect such a compliment.”
“Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us.
Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more
natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about
five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry
for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him.
You have liked many a stupider person.”
“Dear Lizzy!”
“Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You
never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I
never heard you speak ill of a human being in your life.”
“I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but I always speak what I
think.”
“I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sense,
to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! Affectation of
candour is common enough—one meets with it everywhere. But to be candid
without ostentation or design—to take the good of everybody’s character and
make it still better, and say nothing of the bad—belongs to you alone. And so
you like this man’s sisters, too, do you? Their manners are not equal to his.”
“Certainly not—at first. But they are very pleasing women when you converse
with them. Miss Bingley is to live with her brother, and keep his house; and I am
much mistaken if we shall not find a very charming neighbour in her.”
Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced; their behaviour at the
assembly had not been calculated to please in general; and with more quickness
of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgement
too unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve
them. They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humour when
they were pleased, nor in the power of making themselves agreeable when they
chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been
educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty
thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of
associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to
think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable
family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their
memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by
trade.
Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly a hundred thousand
pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live
to do it. Mr. Bingley intended it likewise, and sometimes made choice of his
county; but as he was now provided with a good house and the liberty of a
manor, it was doubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of his
temper, whether he might not spend the remainder of his days at Netherfield, and
leave the next generation to purchase.
His sisters were anxious for his having an estate of his own; but, though he
was now only established as a tenant, Miss Bingley was by no means unwilling
to preside at his table—nor was Mrs. Hurst, who had married a man of more
fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider his house as her home when it
suited her. Mr. Bingley had not been of age two years, when he was tempted by
an accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield House. He did look at it,
and into it for half-an-hour—was pleased with the situation and the principal
rooms, satisfied with what the owner said in its praise, and took it immediately.
Between him and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in spite of great
opposition of character. Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness,
openness, and ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater
contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. On
the strength of Darcy’s regard, Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of his
judgement the highest opinion. In understanding, Darcy was the superior.
Bingley was by no means deficient, but Darcy was clever. He was at the same
time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well-bred, were
not inviting. In that respect his friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was
sure of being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offense.
The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently
characteristic. Bingley had never met with more pleasant people or prettier girls
in his life; everybody had been most kind and attentive to him; there had been no
formality, no stiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and, as to
Miss Bennet, he could not conceive an angel more beautiful. Darcy, on the
contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no
fashion, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none
received either attention or pleasure. Miss Bennet he acknowledged to be pretty,
but she smiled too much.
Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so—but still they admired her and
liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweet girl, and one whom they would not
object to know more of. Miss Bennet was therefore established as a sweet girl,
and their brother felt authorized by such commendation to think of her as he
chose.

Chapter 5
Within a short walk of Longbourn lived a family with whom the Bennets were
particularly intimate. Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton,
where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by
an address to the king during his mayoralty. The distinction had perhaps been
felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business, and to his residence
in a small market town; and, in quitting them both, he had removed with his
family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period
Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and,
unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world.
For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the
contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and
obliging, his presentation at St. James’s had made him courteous.
Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable
neighbour to Mrs. Bennet. They had several children. The eldest of them, a
sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven, was Elizabeth’s intimate
friend.
That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball
was absolutely necessary; and the morning after the assembly brought the former
to Longbourn to hear and to communicate.
“You began the evening well, Charlotte,” said Mrs. Bennet with civil selfcommand to Miss Lucas. “You were Mr. Bingley’s first choice.”
“Yes; but he seemed to like his second better.”
“Oh! you mean Jane, I suppose, because he danced with her twice. To be sure
that did seem as if he admired her—indeed I rather believe he did—I heard
something about it—but I hardly know what—something about Mr. Robinson.”
“Perhaps you mean what I overheard between him and Mr. Robinson; did not
I mention it to you? Mr. Robinson’s asking him how he liked our Meryton
assemblies, and whether he did not think there were a great many pretty women
in the room, and which he thought the prettiest? and his answering immediately
to the last question: ‘Oh! the eldest Miss Bennet, beyond a doubt; there cannot
be two opinions on that point.’”
“Upon my word! Well, that is very decided indeed—that does seem as if—
but, however, it may all come to nothing, you know.”
“My overhearings were more to the purpose than yours, Eliza,” said Charlotte.
“Mr. Darcy is not so well worth listening to as his friend, is he?—poor Eliza!—
to be only just tolerable.”
“I beg you would not put it into Lizzy’s head to be vexed by his ill-treatment,
for he is such a disagreeable man, that it would be quite a misfortune to be liked
by him. Mrs. Long told me last night that he sat close to her for half-an-hour
without once opening his lips.”
“Are you quite sure, ma’am?—is not there a little mistake?” said Jane. “I
certainly saw Mr. Darcy speaking to her.”
“Aye—because she asked him at last how he liked Netherfield, and he could
not help answering her; but she said he seemed quite angry at being spoke to.”
“Miss Bingley told me,” said Jane, “that he never speaks much, unless among
his intimate acquaintances. With them he is remarkably agreeable.”
“I do not believe a word of it, my dear. If he had been so very agreeable, he
would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guess how it was; everybody says
that he is eat up with pride, and I dare say he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long
does not keep a carriage, and had come to the ball in a hack chaise.”
“I do not mind his not talking to Mrs. Long,” said Miss Lucas, “but I wish he
had danced with Eliza.”
“Another time, Lizzy,” said her mother, “I would not dance with him, if I were
you.”
“I believe, ma’am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him.”
“His pride,” said Miss Lucas, “does not offend me so much as pride often
does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a
young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of
himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.”
“That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and I could easily forgive his pride, if
he had not mortified mine.”
“Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her
reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I
am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly
prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of selfcomplacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and
pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A
person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of
ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
“If I were as rich as Mr. Darcy,” cried a young Lucas, who came with his
sisters, “I should not care how proud I was. I would keep a pack of foxhounds,
and drink a bottle of wine a day.”
“Then you would drink a great deal more than you ought,” said Mrs. Bennet;
“and if I were to see you at it, I should take away your bottle directly.”
The boy protested that she should not; she continued to declare that she
would, and the argument ended only with the visit.

Chapter 6
The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield. The visit was
soon returned in due form. Miss Bennet’s pleasing manners grew on the
goodwill of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and though the mother was found to
be intolerable, and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being
better acquainted with them was expressed towards the two eldest. By Jane, this
attention was received with the greatest pleasure, but Elizabeth still saw
superciliousness in their treatment of everybody, hardly excepting even her
sister, and could not like them; though their kindness to Jane, such as it was, had
a value as arising in all probability from the influence of their brother’s
admiration. It was generally evident whenever they met, that he did admire her
and to her it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which
she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very
much in love; but she considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be
discovered by the world in general, since Jane united, with great strength of
feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner which
would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent. She mentioned this to
her friend Miss Lucas.
“It may perhaps be pleasant,” replied Charlotte, “to be able to impose on the
public in such a case; but it is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded.
If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she
may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation
to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of gratitude or vanity
in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all
begin freely—a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us
who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases
out of ten a woman had better show more affection than she feels. Bingley likes
your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not
help him on.”
“But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. If I can perceive
her regard for him, he must be a simpleton, indeed, not to discover it too.”
“Remember, Eliza, that he does not know Jane’s disposition as you do.”
“But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavour to conceal it, he
must find it out.”
“Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But, though Bingley and Jane
meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together; and, as they always see
each other in large mixed parties, it is impossible that every moment should be
employed in conversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of every
half-hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him,
there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.”
“Your plan is a good one,” replied Elizabeth, “where nothing is in question but
the desire of being well married, and if I were determined to get a rich husband,
or any husband, I dare say I should adopt it. But these are not Jane’s feelings; she
is not acting by design. As yet, she cannot even be certain of the degree of her
own regard nor of its reasonableness. She has known him only a fortnight. She
danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own
house, and has since dined with him in company four times. This is not quite
enough to make her understand his character.”
“Not as you represent it. Had she merely dined with him, she might only have
discovered whether he had a good appetite; but you must remember that four
evenings have also been spent together—and four evenings may do a great
deal.”
“Yes; these four evenings have enabled them to ascertain that they both like
Vingt-un better than Commerce; but with respect to any other leading
characteristic, I do not imagine that much has been unfolded.”
“Well,” said Charlotte, “I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were
married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness
as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in
marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever
so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance
their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike
afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as
possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”
“You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it is not sound,
and that you would never act in this way yourself.”
Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley’s attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far
from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the
eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had
looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked
at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his
friends that she hardly had a good feature in her face, than he began to find it
was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark
eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he
had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her
form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in
spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world,
he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware; to
her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not
thought her handsome enough to dance with.
He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with
her himself, attended to her conversation with others. His doing so drew her
notice. It was at Sir William Lucas’s, where a large party were assembled.
“What does Mr. Darcy mean,” said she to Charlotte, “by listening to my
conversation with Colonel Forster?”
“That is a question which Mr. Darcy only can answer.”
“But if he does it any more I shall certainly let him know that I see what he is
about. He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not begin by being impertinent
myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him.”
On his approaching them soon afterwards, though without seeming to have
any intention of speaking, Miss Lucas defied her friend to mention such a
subject to him; which immediately provoking Elizabeth to do it, she turned to
him and said:
“Did you not think, Mr. Darcy, that I expressed myself uncommonly well just
now, when I was teasing Colonel Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?”
“With great energy; but it is always a subject which makes a lady energetic.”
“You are severe on us.”
“It will be her turn soon to be teased,” said Miss Lucas. “I am going to open
the instrument, Eliza, and you know what follows.”
“You are a very strange creature by way of a friend!—always wanting me to
play and sing before anybody and everybody! If my vanity had taken a musical
turn, you would have been invaluable; but as it is, I would really rather not sit
down before those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best
performers.” On Miss Lucas’s persevering, however, she added, “Very well, if it
must be so, it must.” And gravely glancing at Mr. Darcy, “There is a fine old
saying, which everybody here is of course familiar with: ‘Keep your breath to
cool your porridge’; and I shall keep mine to swell my song.”
Her performance was pleasing, though by no means capital. After a song or
two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of several that she would sing
again, she was eagerly succeeded at the instrument by her sister Mary, who
having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked hard
for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.
Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her
application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which
would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached.
Elizabeth, easy and unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure,
though not playing half so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was
glad to purchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the request of
her younger sisters, who, with some of the Lucases, and two or three officers,
joined eagerly in dancing at one end of the room.
Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode of passing the
evening, to the exclusion of all conversation, and was too much engrossed by his
thoughts to perceive that Sir William Lucas was his neighbour, till Sir William
thus began:
“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is
nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of
polished society.”
“Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the
less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.”
Sir William only smiled. “Your friend performs delightfully,” he continued
after a pause, on seeing Bingley join the group; “and I doubt not that you are an
adept in the science yourself, Mr. Darcy.”
“You saw me dance at Meryton, I believe, sir.”
“Yes, indeed, and received no inconsiderable pleasure from the sight. Do you
often dance at St. James’s?”
“Never, sir.”
“Do you not think it would be a proper compliment to the place?”
“It is a compliment which I never pay to any place if I can avoid it.”
“You have a house in town, I conclude?”
Mr. Darcy bowed.
“I had once had some thought of fixing in town myself—for I am fond of
superior society; but I did not feel quite certain that the air of London would
agree with Lady Lucas.”
He paused in hopes of an answer; but his companion was not disposed to
make any; and Elizabeth at that instant moving towards them, he was struck with
the action of doing a very gallant thing, and called out to her:
“My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy, you must allow
me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot
refuse to dance, I am sure when so much beauty is before you.” And, taking her
hand, he would have given it to Mr. Darcy who, though extremely surprised, was
not unwilling to receive it, when she instantly drew back, and said with some
discomposure to Sir William:
“Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to
suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner.”
Mr. Darcy, with grave propriety, requested to be allowed the honour of her
hand, but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor did Sir William at all shake her
purpose by his attempt at persuasion.
“You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to deny me the
happiness of seeing you; and though this gentleman dislikes the amusement in
general, he can have no objection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half-hour.”
“Mr. Darcy is all politeness,” said Elizabeth, smiling.
“He is, indeed; but, considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we
cannot wonder at his complaisance—for who would object to such a partner?”
Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had not injured her
with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her with some complacency, when
thus accosted by Miss Bingley:
“I can guess the subject of your reverie.”
“I should imagine not.”
“You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in
this manner—in such society; and indeed I am quite of your opinion. I was never
more annoyed! The insipidity, and yet the noise—the nothingness, and yet the
self-importance of all those people! What would I give to hear your strictures on
them!”
“Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably
engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine
eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”
Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, and desired he would
tell her what lady had the credit of inspiring such reflections. Mr. Darcy replied
with great intrepidity:
“Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
“Miss Elizabeth Bennet!” repeated Miss Bingley. “I am all astonishment. How
long has she been such a favourite?—and pray, when am I to wish you joy?”
“That is exactly the question which I expected you to ask. A lady’s
imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to
matrimony, in a moment. I knew you would be wishing me joy.”
“Nay, if you are serious about it, I shall consider the matter is absolutely
settled. You will be having a charming mother-in-law, indeed; and, of course, she
will always be at Pemberley with you.”
He listened to her with perfect indifference while she chose to entertain
herself in this manner; and as his composure convinced her that all was safe, her
wit flowed long.

Chapter 7
Mr. Bennet’s property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand a
year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default of heirs
male, on a distant relation; and their mother’s fortune, though ample for her
situation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his. Her father had been an
attorney in Meryton, and had left her four thousand pounds.
She had a sister married to a Mr. Phillips, who had been a clerk to their father
and succeeded him in the business, and a brother settled in London in a
respectable line of trade.
The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most
convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three
or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt and to a milliner’s shop just
over the way. The two youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, were
particularly frequent in these attentions; their minds were more vacant than their
sisters’, and when nothing better offered, a walk to Meryton was necessary to
amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for the evening; and
however bare of news the country in general might be, they always contrived to
learn some from their aunt. At present, indeed, they were well supplied both with
news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment in the
neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton was the
headquarters.
Their visits to Mrs. Phillips were now productive of the most interesting
intelligence. Every day added something to their knowledge of the officers’
names and connections. Their lodgings were not long a secret, and at length they
began to know the officers themselves. Mr. Phillips visited them all, and this
opened to his nieces a store of felicity unknown before. They could talk of
nothing but officers; and Mr. Bingley’s large fortune, the mention of which gave
animation to their mother, was worthless in their eyes when opposed to the
regimentals of an ensign.
After listening one morning to their effusions on this subject, Mr. Bennet
coolly observed:
“From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two of the
silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now
convinced.”
Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia, with perfect
indifference, continued to express her admiration of Captain Carter, and her hope
of seeing him in the course of the day, as he was going the next morning to
London.
“I am astonished, my dear,” said Mrs. Bennet, “that you should be so ready to
think your own children silly. If I wished to think slightingly of anybody’s
children, it should not be of my own, however.”
“If my children are silly, I must hope to be always sensible of it.”
“Yes—but as it happens, they are all of them very clever.”
“This is the only point, I flatter myself, on which we do not agree. I had hoped
that our sentiments coincided in every particular, but I must so far differ from
you as to think our two youngest daughters uncommonly foolish.”
“My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their
father and mother. When they get to our age, I dare say they will not think about
officers any more than we do. I remember the time when I liked a red coat
myself very well—and, indeed, so I do still at my heart; and if a smart young
colonel, with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls I shall not
say nay to him; and I thought Colonel Forster looked very becoming the other
night at Sir William’s in his regimentals.”
“Mamma,” cried Lydia, “my aunt says that Colonel Forster and Captain Carter
do not go so often to Miss Watson’s as they did when they first came; she sees
them now very often standing in Clarke’s library.”
Mrs. Bennet was prevented replying by the entrance of the footman with a
note for Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and the servant waited for an
answer. Mrs. Bennet’s eyes sparkled with pleasure, and she was eagerly calling
out, while her daughter read,
“Well, Jane, who is it from? What is it about? What does he say? Well, Jane,
make haste and tell us; make haste, my love.”
“It is from Miss Bingley,” said Jane, and then read it aloud.
“MY DEAR FRIEND,—
“If you are not so compassionate as to dine to-day with Louisa and me,
we shall be in danger of hating each other for the rest of our lives, for a
whole day’s tête-à-tête between two women can never end without a
quarrel. Come as soon as you can on receipt of this. My brother and the
gentlemen are to dine with the officers.—Yours ever,
“CAROLINE BINGLEY”
“With the officers!” cried Lydia. “I wonder my aunt did not tell us of that.”
“Dining out,” said Mrs. Bennet, “that is very unlucky.”
“Can I have the carriage?” said Jane.
“No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain;
and then you must stay all night.”
“That would be a good scheme,” said Elizabeth, “if you were sure that they
would not offer to send her home.”
“Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley’s chaise to go to Meryton, and
the Hursts have no horses to theirs.”
“I had much rather go in the coach.”
“But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure. They are wanted
in the farm, Mr. Bennet, are they not?”
“They are wanted in the farm much oftener than I can get them.”
“But if you have got them to-day,” said Elizabeth, “my mother’s purpose will
be answered.”
She did at last extort from her father an acknowledgment that the horses were
engaged. Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mother
attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. Her hopes
were answered; Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard. Her sisters
were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted. The rain continued the whole
evening without intermission; Jane certainly could not come back.
“This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!” said Mrs. Bennet more than once, as
if the credit of making it rain were all her own. Till the next morning, however,
she was not aware of all the felicity of her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely
over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth:
“MY DEAREST LIZZY,—
“I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be
imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not
hear of my returning till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr.
Jones—therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having
been to me—and, excepting a sore throat and headache, there is not
much the matter with me.—Yours, etc.”
“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if
your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness—if she should die, it would
be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your
orders.”
“Oh! I am not afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She
will be taken good care of. As long as she stays there, it is all very well. I would
go and see her if I could have the carriage.”
Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her, though the
carriage was not to be had; and as she was no horsewoman, walking was her
only alternative. She declared her resolution.
“How can you be so silly,” cried her mother, “as to think of such a thing, in all
this dirt! You will not be fit to be seen when you get there.”
“I shall be very fit to see Jane—which is all I want.”
“Is this a hint to me, Lizzy,” said her father, “to send for the horses?”
“No, indeed, I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing when
one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner.”
“I admire the activity of your benevolence,” observed Mary, “but every
impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion
should always be in proportion to what is required.”
“We will go as far as Meryton with you,” said Catherine and Lydia. Elizabeth
accepted their company, and the three young ladies set off together.
“If we make haste,” said Lydia, as they walked along, “perhaps we may see
something of Captain Carter before he goes.”
In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to the lodgings of one of
the officers’ wives, and Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after
field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with
impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with
weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.
She was shown into the breakfast-parlour, where all but Jane were assembled,
and where her appearance created a great deal of surprise. That she should have
walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and by herself, was
almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced
that they held her in contempt for it. She was received, however, very politely by
them; and in their brother’s manners there was something better than politeness;
there was good humour and kindness. Mr. Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst
nothing at all. The former was divided between admiration of the brilliancy
which exercise had given to her complexion, and doubt as to the occasion’s
justifying her coming so far alone. The latter was thinking only of his breakfast.
Her inquiries after her sister were not very favourably answered. Miss Bennet
had slept ill, and though up, was very feverish, and not well enough to leave her
room. Elizabeth was glad to be taken to her immediately; and Jane, who had
only been withheld by the fear of giving alarm or inconvenience from expressing
in her note how much she longed for such a visit, was delighted at her entrance.
She was not equal, however, to much conversation, and when Miss Bingley left
them together, could attempt little besides expressions of gratitude for the
extraordinary kindness she was treated with. Elizabeth silently attended her.
When breakfast was over they were joined by the sisters; and Elizabeth began
to like them herself, when she saw how much affection and solicitude they
showed for Jane. The apothecary came, and having examined his patient, said, as
might be supposed, that she had caught a violent cold, and that they must
endeavour to get the better of it; advised her to return to bed, and promised her
some draughts. The advice was followed readily, for the feverish symptoms
increased, and her head ached acutely. Elizabeth did not quit her room for a
moment; nor were the other ladies often absent; the gentlemen being out, they
had, in fact, nothing to do elsewhere.
When the clock struck three, Elizabeth felt that she must go, and very
unwillingly said so. Miss Bingley offered her the carriage, and she only wanted a
little pressing to accept it, when Jane testified such concern in parting with her,
that Miss Bingley was obliged to convert the offer of the chaise to an invitation
to remain at Netherfield for the present. Elizabeth most thankfully consented,
and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaint the family with her stay
and bring back a supply of clothes.

Chapter 8
At five o’clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half-past six Elizabeth
was summoned to dinner. To the civil inquiries which then poured in, and
amongst which she had the pleasure of distinguishing the much superior
solicitude of Mr. Bingley’s, she could not make a very favourable answer. Jane
was by no means better. The sisters, on hearing this, repeated three or four times
how much they were grieved, how shocking it was to have a bad cold, and how
excessively they disliked being ill themselves; and then thought no more of the
matter: and their indifference towards Jane when not immediately before them
restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her former dislike.
Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she could regard
with any complacency. His anxiety for Jane was evident, and his attentions to
herself most pleasing, and they prevented her feeling herself so much an intruder
as she believed she was considered by the others. She had very little notice from
any but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sister scarcely less
so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who
lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards; who, when he found her to prefer a
plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her.
When dinner was over, she returned directly to Jane, and Miss Bingley began
abusing her as soon as she was out of the room. Her manners were pronounced
to be very bad indeed, a mixture of pride and impertinence; she had no
conversation, no style, no beauty. Mrs. Hurst thought the same, and added:
“She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I
shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild.”
“She did, indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very
nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country,
because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!”
“Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I
am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it not
doing its office.”
“Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,” said Bingley; “but this was all lost
upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she
came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice.”
“You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley; “and I am inclined
to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition.”
“Certainly not.”
“To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her
ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! What could she mean by it? It seems to me
to show an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town
indifference to decorum.”
“It shows an affection for her sister that is very pleasing,” said Bingley.
“I am afraid, Mr. Darcy,” observed Miss Bingley in a half whisper, “that this
adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes.”
“Not at all,” he replied; “they were brightened by the exercise.” A short pause
followed this speech, and Mrs. Hurst began again:
“I have an excessive regard for Miss Jane Bennet, she is really a very sweet
girl, and I wish with all my heart she were well settled. But with such a father
and mother, and such low connections, I am afraid there is no chance of it.”
“I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney in Meryton.”
“Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside.”
“That is capital,” added her sister, and they both laughed heartily.
“If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside,” cried Bingley, “it would not
make them one jot less agreeable.”
“But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any
consideration in the world,” replied Darcy.
To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it their hearty
assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the expense of their dear
friend’s vulgar relations.
With a renewal of tenderness, however, they returned to her room on leaving
the dining-parlour, and sat with her till summoned to coffee. She was still very
poorly, and Elizabeth would not quit her at all, till late in the evening, when she
had the comfort of seeing her sleep, and when it seemed to her rather right than
pleasant that she should go downstairs herself. On entering the drawing-room
she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but
suspecting them to be playing high she declined it, and making her sister the
excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below,
with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.
“Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he; “that is rather singular.”
“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader,
and has no pleasure in anything else.”
“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a
great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”
“In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure,” said Bingley; “and I
hope it will be soon increased by seeing her quite well.”
Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards the table
where a few books were lying. He immediately offered to fetch her others—all
that his library afforded.
“And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; but
I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I have more than I ever looked
into.”
Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the
room.
“I am astonished,” said Miss Bingley, “that my father should have left so
small a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr.
Darcy!”
“It ought to be good,” he replied, “it has been the work of many generations.”
“And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always buying
books.”
“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.”
“Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the beauties of that
noble place. Charles, when you build your house, I wish it may be half as
delightful as Pemberley.”
“I wish it may.”
“But I would really advise you to make your purchase in that neighbourhood,
and take Pemberley for a kind of model. There is not a finer county in England
than Derbyshire.”
“With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley itself if Darcy will sell it.”
“I am talking of possibilities, Charles.”
“Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possible to get Pemberley by
purchase than by imitation.”
Elizabeth was so much caught with what passed, as to leave her very little
attention for her book; and soon laying it wholly aside, she drew near the card-
table, and stationed herself between Mr. Bingley and his eldest sister, to observe
the game.
“Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?” said Miss Bingley; “will she
be as tall as I am?”
“I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s height, or rather
taller.”
“How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who delighted me so
much. Such a countenance, such manners! And so extremely accomplished for
her age! Her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite.”
“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to
be so very accomplished as they all are.”
“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”
“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I
scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a
young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was
very accomplished.”
“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too
much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise
than by netting a purse or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing
with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more
than half-a-dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really
accomplished.”
“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.
“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea
of an accomplished woman.”
“Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it.”
“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed
accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman
must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the
modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a
certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her
address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.”
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add
something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive
reading.”
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I
rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
“Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?”
“I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and
application, and elegance, as you describe united.”
Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice of her
implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew many women who
answered this description, when Mr. Hurst called them to order, with bitter
complaints of their inattention to what was going forward. As all conversation
was thereby at an end, Elizabeth soon afterwards left the room.
“Elizabeth Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, “is
one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex
by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in
my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.”
“Undoubtedly,” replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly addressed,
“there is a meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to
employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.”
Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied with this reply as to continue the
subject.
Elizabeth joined them again only to say that her sister was worse, and that she
could not leave her. Bingley urged Mr. Jones being sent for immediately; while
his sisters, convinced that no country advice could be of any service,
recommended an express to town for one of the most eminent physicians. This
she would not hear of; but she was not so unwilling to comply with their
brother’s proposal; and it was settled that Mr. Jones should be sent for early in
the morning, if Miss Bennet were not decidedly better. Bingley was quite
uncomfortable; his sisters declared that they were miserable. They solaced their
wretchedness, however, by duets after supper, while he could find no better relief
to his feelings than by giving his housekeeper directions that every attention
might be paid to the sick lady and her sister.

Chapter 9
Elizabeth passed the chief of the night in her sister’s room, and in the morning
had the pleasure of being able to send a tolerable answer to the inquiries which
she very early received from Mr. Bingley by a housemaid, and some time
afterwards from the two elegant ladies who waited on his sisters. In spite of this
amendment, however, she requested to have a note sent to Longbourn, desiring
her mother to visit Jane, and form her own judgement of her situation. The note
was immediately dispatched, and its contents as quickly complied with. Mrs.
Bennet, accompanied by her two youngest girls, reached Netherfield soon after
the family breakfast.
Had she found Jane in any apparent danger, Mrs. Bennet would have been
very miserable; but being satisfied on seeing her that her illness was not
alarming, she had no wish of her recovering immediately, as her restoration to
health would probably remove her from Netherfield. She would not listen,
therefore, to her daughter’s proposal of being carried home; neither did the
apothecary, who arrived about the same time, think it at all advisable. After
sitting a little while with Jane, on Miss Bingley’s appearance and invitation, the
mother and three daughters all attended her into the breakfast parlour. Bingley
met them with hopes that Mrs. Bennet had not found Miss Bennet worse than
she expected.
“Indeed I have, sir,” was her answer. “She is a great deal too ill to be moved.
Mr. Jones says we must not think of moving her. We must trespass a little longer
on your kindness.”
“Removed!” cried Bingley. “It must not be thought of. My sister, I am sure,
will not hear of her removal.”
“You may depend upon it, Madam,” said Miss Bingley, with cold civility,
“that Miss Bennet will receive every possible attention while she remains with
us.”
Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgments.
“I am sure,” she added, “if it was not for such good friends I do not know
what would become of her, for she is very ill indeed, and suffers a vast deal,
though with the greatest patience in the world, which is always the way with her,
for she has, without exception, the sweetest temper I have ever met with. I often
tell my other girls they are nothing to her. You have a sweet room here, Mr.
Bingley, and a charming prospect over the gravel walk. I do not know a place in
the country that is equal to Netherfield. You will not think of quitting it in a
hurry, I hope, though you have but a short lease.”
“Whatever I do is done in a hurry,” replied he; “and therefore if I should
resolve to quit Netherfield, I should probably be off in five minutes. At present,
however, I consider myself as quite fixed here.”
“That is exactly what I should have supposed of you,” said Elizabeth.
“You begin to comprehend me, do you?” cried he, turning towards her.
“Oh! yes—I understand you perfectly.”
“I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily seen through I
am afraid is pitiful.”
“That is as it happens. It does not follow that a deep, intricate character is
more or less estimable than such a one as yours.”
“Lizzy,” cried her mother, “remember where you are, and do not run on in the
wild manner that you are suffered to do at home.”
“I did not know before,” continued Bingley immediately, “that you were a
studier of character. It must be an amusing study.”
“Yes, but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that
advantage.”
“The country,” said Darcy, “can in general supply but a few subjects for such
a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying
society.”
“But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be
observed in them for ever.”
“Yes, indeed,” cried Mrs. Bennet, offended by his manner of mentioning a
country neighbourhood. “I assure you there is quite as much of that going on in
the country as in town.”
Everybody was surprised, and Darcy, after looking at her for a moment, turned
silently away. Mrs. Bennet, who fancied she had gained a complete victory over
him, continued her triumph.
“I cannot see that London has any great advantage over the country, for my
part, except the shops and public places. The country is a vast deal pleasanter, is
it not, Mr. Bingley?”
“When I am in the country,” he replied, “I never wish to leave it; and when I
am in town it is pretty much the same. They have each their advantages, and I
can be equally happy in either.”
“Aye—that is because you have the right disposition. But that gentleman,”
looking at Darcy, “seemed to think the country was nothing at all.”
“Indeed, Mamma, you are mistaken,” said Elizabeth, blushing for her mother.
“You quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that there was not such a variety
of people to be met with in the country as in the town, which you must
acknowledge to be true.”
“Certainly, my dear, nobody said there were; but as to not meeting with many
people in this neighbourhood, I believe there are few neighbourhoods larger. I
know we dine with four-and-twenty families.”
Nothing but concern for Elizabeth could enable Bingley to keep his
countenance. His sister was less delicate, and directed her eyes towards Mr.
Darcy with a very expressive smile. Elizabeth, for the sake of saying something
that might turn her mother’s thoughts, now asked her if Charlotte Lucas had
been at Longbourn since her coming away.
“Yes, she called yesterday with her father. What an agreeable man Sir William
is, Mr. Bingley, is not he? So much the man of fashion! So genteel and easy! He
has always something to say to everybody. That is my idea of good breeding;
and those persons who fancy themselves very important, and never open their
mouths, quite mistake the matter.”
“Did Charlotte dine with you?”
“No, she would go home. I fancy she was wanted about the mince-pies. For
my part, Mr. Bingley, I always keep servants that can do their own work; my
daughters are brought up very differently. But everybody is to judge for
themselves, and the Lucases are a very good sort of girls, I assure you. It is a pity
they are not handsome! Not that I think Charlotte so very plain—but then she is
our particular friend.”
“She seems a very pleasant young woman.”
“Oh! dear, yes; but you must own she is very plain. Lady Lucas herself has
often said so, and envied me Jane’s beauty. I do not like to boast of my own
child, but to be sure, Jane—one does not often see anybody better looking. It is
what everybody says. I do not trust my own partiality. When she was only
fifteen, there was a man at my brother Gardiner’s in town so much in love with
her that my sister-in-law was sure he would make her an offer before we came
away. But, however, he did not. Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he
wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were.”
“And so ended his affection,” said Elizabeth impatiently. “There has been
many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered
the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!”
“I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,” said Darcy.
“Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is strong
already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one
good sonnet will starve it entirely away.”
Darcy only smiled; and the general pause which ensued made Elizabeth
tremble lest her mother should be exposing herself again. She longed to speak,
but could think of nothing to say; and after a short silence Mrs. Bennet began
repeating her thanks to Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane, with an apology for
troubling him also with Lizzy. Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly civil in his answer,
and forced his younger sister to be civil also, and say what the occasion required.
She performed her part indeed without much graciousness, but Mrs. Bennet was
satisfied, and soon afterwards ordered her carriage. Upon this signal, the
youngest of her daughters put herself forward. The two girls had been
whispering to each other during the whole visit, and the result of it was, that the
youngest should tax Mr. Bingley with having promised on his first coming into
the country to give a ball at Netherfield.
Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine complexion and
good-humoured countenance; a favourite with her mother, whose affection had
brought her into public at an early age. She had high animal spirits, and a sort of
natural self-consequence, which the attention of the officers, to whom her
uncle’s good dinners, and her own easy manners recommended her, had
increased into assurance. She was very equal, therefore, to address Mr. Bingley
on the subject of the ball, and abruptly reminded him of his promise; adding, that
it would be the most shameful thing in the world if he did not keep it. His answer
to this sudden attack was delightful to their mother’s ear:
“I am perfectly ready, I assure you, to keep my engagement; and when your
sister is recovered, you shall, if you please, name the very day of the ball. But
you would not wish to be dancing when she is ill.”
Lydia declared herself satisfied. “Oh! yes—it would be much better to wait till
Jane was well, and by that time most likely Captain Carter would be at Meryton
again. And when you have given your ball,” she added, “I shall insist on their
giving one also. I shall tell Colonel Forster it will be quite a shame if he does
not.”
Mrs. Bennet and her daughters then departed, and Elizabeth returned instantly
to Jane, leaving her own and her relations’ behaviour to the remarks of the two
ladies and Mr. Darcy; the latter of whom, however, could not be prevailed on to
join in their censure of her, in spite of all Miss Bingley’s witticisms on fine eyes.

Chapter 10
The day passed much as the day before had done. Mrs. Hurst and Miss
Bingley had spent some hours of the morning with the invalid, who continued,
though slowly, to mend; and in the evening Elizabeth joined their party in the
drawing-room. The loo-table, however, did not appear. Mr. Darcy was writing,
and Miss Bingley, seated near him, was watching the progress of his letter and
repeatedly calling off his attention by messages to his sister. Mr. Hurst and Mr.
Bingley were at piquet, and Mrs. Hurst was observing their game.
Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending
to what passed between Darcy and his companion. The perpetual
commendations of the lady, either on his handwriting, or on the evenness of his
lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her
praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in union with
her opinion of each.
“How delighted Miss Darcy will be to receive such a letter!”
He made no answer.
“You write uncommonly fast.”
“You are mistaken. I write rather slowly.”
“How many letters you must have occasion to write in the course of a year!
Letters of business, too! How odious I should think them!”
“It is fortunate, then, that they fall to my lot instead of yours.”
“Pray tell your sister that I long to see her.”
“I have already told her so once, by your desire.”
“I am afraid you do not like your pen. Let me mend it for you. I mend pens
remarkably well.”
“Thank you—but I always mend my own.”
“How can you contrive to write so even?”
He was silent.
“Tell your sister I am delighted to hear of her improvement on the harp; and
pray let her know that I am quite in raptures with her beautiful little design for a
table, and I think it infinitely superior to Miss Grantley’s.”
“Will you give me leave to defer your raptures till I write again? At present I
have not room to do them justice.”
“Oh! it is of no consequence. I shall see her in January. But do you always
write such charming long letters to her, Mr. Darcy?”
“They are generally long; but whether always charming it is not for me to
determine.”
“It is a rule with me, that a person who can write a long letter with ease,
cannot write ill.”
“That will not do for a compliment to Darcy, Caroline,” cried her brother,
“because he does not write with ease. He studies too much for words of four
syllables. Do not you, Darcy?”
“My style of writing is very different from yours.”
“Oh!” cried Miss Bingley, “Charles writes in the most careless way
imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest.”
“My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them—by which
means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents.”
“Your humility, Mr. Bingley,” said Elizabeth, “must disarm reproof.”
“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is
often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”
“And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?”
“The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing,
because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and
carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly
interesting. The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much
by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the
performance. When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved
upon quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be
a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself—and yet what is there so very
laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and
can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”
“Nay,” cried Bingley, “this is too much, to remember at night all the foolish
things that were said in the morning. And yet, upon my honour, I believe what I
said of myself to be true, and I believe it at this moment. At least, therefore, I did
not assume the character of needless precipitance merely to show off before the
ladies.”
“I dare say you believed it; but I am by no means convinced that you would be
gone with such celerity. Your conduct would be quite as dependent on chance as
that of any man I know; and if, as you were mounting your horse, a friend were
to say, ‘Bingley, you had better stay till next week,’ you would probably do it,
you would probably not go—and at another word, might stay a month.”
“You have only proved by this,” cried Elizabeth, “that Mr. Bingley did not do
justice to his own disposition. You have shown him off now much more than he
did himself.”
“I am exceedingly gratified,” said Bingley, “by your converting what my
friend says into a compliment on the sweetness of my temper. But I am afraid
you are giving it a turn which that gentleman did by no means intend; for he
would certainly think better of me, if under such a circumstance I were to give a
flat denial, and ride off as fast as I could.”
“Would Mr. Darcy then consider the rashness of your original intentions as
atoned for by your obstinacy in adhering to it?”
“Upon my word, I cannot exactly explain the matter; Darcy must speak for
himself.”
“You expect me to account for opinions which you choose to call mine, but
which I have never acknowledged. Allowing the case, however, to stand
according to your representation, you must remember, Miss Bennet, that the
friend who is supposed to desire his return to the house, and the delay of his
plan, has merely desired it, asked it without offering one argument in favour of
its propriety.”
“To yield readily—easily—to the persuasion of a friend is no merit with you.”
“To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either.”
“You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of friendship
and affection. A regard for the requester would often make one readily yield to a
request, without waiting for arguments to reason one into it. I am not particularly
speaking of such a case as you have supposed about Mr. Bingley. We may as
well wait, perhaps, till the circumstance occurs before we discuss the discretion
of his behaviour thereupon. But in general and ordinary cases between friend
and friend, where one of them is desired by the other to change a resolution of
no very great moment, should you think ill of that person for complying with the
desire, without waiting to be argued into it?”
“Will it not be advisable, before we proceed on this subject, to arrange with
rather more precision the degree of importance which is to appertain to this
request, as well as the degree of intimacy subsisting between the parties?”
“By all means,” cried Bingley; “let us hear all the particulars, not forgetting
their comparative height and size; for that will have more weight in the
argument, Miss Bennet, than you may be aware of. I assure you, that if Darcy
were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself, I should not pay
him half so much deference. I declare I do not know a more awful object than
Darcy, on particular occasions, and in particular places; at his own house
especially, and of a Sunday evening, when he has nothing to do.”
Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that he was rather
offended, and therefore checked her laugh. Miss Bingley warmly resented the
indignity he had received, in an expostulation with her brother for talking such
nonsense.
“I see your design, Bingley,” said his friend. “You dislike an argument, and
want to silence this.”
“Perhaps I do. Arguments are too much like disputes. If you and Miss Bennet
will defer yours till I am out of the room, I shall be very thankful; and then you
may say whatever you like of me.”
“What you ask,” said Elizabeth, “is no sacrifice on my side; and Mr. Darcy
had much better finish his letter.”
Mr. Darcy took her advice, and did finish his letter.
When that business was over, he applied to Miss Bingley and Elizabeth for an
indulgence of some music. Miss Bingley moved with some alacrity to the
pianoforte; and, after a polite request that Elizabeth would lead the way which
the other as politely and more earnestly negatived, she seated herself.
Mrs. Hurst sang with her sister, and while they were thus employed, Elizabeth
could not help observing, as she turned over some music-books that lay on the
instrument, how frequently Mr. Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew
how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man; and
yet that he should look at her because he disliked her, was still more strange. She
could only imagine, however, at last that she drew his notice because there was
something more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in
any other person present. The supposition did not pain her. She liked him too
little to care for his approbation.
After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively
Scotch air; and soon afterwards Mr. Darcy, drawing near Elizabeth, said to her:
“Do not you feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity
of dancing a reel?”
She smiled, but made no answer. He repeated the question, with some surprise
at her silence.
“Oh!” said she, “I heard you before, but I could not immediately determine
what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say ‘Yes,’ that you might have
the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those
kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have,
therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all—
and now despise me if you dare.”
“Indeed I do not dare.”
Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry;
but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it
difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by
any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the
inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.
Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and her great anxiety for
the recovery of her dear friend Jane received some assistance from her desire of
getting rid of Elizabeth.
She often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest, by talking of their
supposed marriage, and planning his happiness in such an alliance.
“I hope,” said she, as they were walking together in the shrubbery the next
day, “you will give your mother-in-law a few hints, when this desirable event
takes place, as to the advantage of holding her tongue; and if you can compass it,
do cure the younger girls of running after officers. And, if I may mention so
delicate a subject, endeavour to check that little something, bordering on conceit
and impertinence, which your lady possesses.”
“Have you anything else to propose for my domestic felicity?”
“Oh! yes. Do let the portraits of your uncle and aunt Phillips be placed in the
gallery at Pemberley. Put them next to your great-uncle the judge. They are in
the same profession, you know, only in different lines. As for your Elizabeth’s
picture, you must not have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those
beautiful eyes?”
“It would not be easy, indeed, to catch their expression, but their colour and
shape, and the eyelashes, so remarkably fine, might be copied.”
At that moment they were met from another walk by Mrs. Hurst and Elizabeth
herself.
“I did not know that you intended to walk,” said Miss Bingley, in some
confusion, lest they had been overheard.
“You used us abominably ill,” answered Mrs. Hurst, “running away without
telling us that you were coming out.”
Then taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth to walk by
herself. The path just admitted three. Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness, and
immediately said:
“This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go into the
avenue.”
But Elizabeth, who had not the least inclination to remain with them,
laughingly answered:
“No, no; stay where you are. You are charmingly grouped, and appear to
uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth.
Good-bye.”
She then ran gaily off, rejoicing as she rambled about, in the hope of being at
home again in a day or two. Jane was already so much recovered as to intend
leaving her room for a couple of hours that evening.

Chapter 11
When the ladies removed after dinner, Elizabeth ran up to her sister, and
seeing her well guarded from cold, attended her into the drawing-room, where
she was welcomed by her two friends with many professions of pleasure; and
Elizabeth had never seen them so agreeable as they were during the hour which
passed before the gentlemen appeared. Their powers of conversation were
considerable. They could describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an
anecdote with humour, and laugh at their acquaintance with spirit.
But when the gentlemen entered, Jane was no longer the first object; Miss
Bingley’s eyes were instantly turned toward Darcy, and she had something to say
to him before he had advanced many steps. He addressed himself to Miss
Bennet, with a polite congratulation; Mr. Hurst also made her a slight bow, and
said he was “very glad;” but diffuseness and warmth remained for Bingley’s
salutation. He was full of joy and attention. The first half-hour was spent in
piling up the fire, lest she should suffer from the change of room; and she
removed at his desire to the other side of the fireplace, that she might be further
from the door. He then sat down by her, and talked scarcely to anyone else.
Elizabeth, at work in the opposite corner, saw it all with great delight.
When tea was over, Mr. Hurst reminded his sister-in-law of the card-table—
but in vain. She had obtained private intelligence that Mr. Darcy did not wish for
cards; and Mr. Hurst soon found even his open petition rejected. She assured him
that no one intended to play, and the silence of the whole party on the subject
seemed to justify her. Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing to do, but to stretch
himself on one of the sofas and go to sleep. Darcy took up a book; Miss Bingley
did the same; and Mrs. Hurst, principally occupied in playing with her bracelets
and rings, joined now and then in her brother’s conversation with Miss Bennet.
Miss Bingley’s attention was quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy’s
progress through his book, as in reading her own; and she was perpetually either
making some inquiry, or looking at his page. She could not win him, however, to
any conversation; he merely answered her question, and read on. At length, quite
exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which she had only
chosen because it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said,
“How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no
enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book!
When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent
library.”
No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and
cast her eyes round the room in quest for some amusement; when hearing her
brother mentioning a ball to Miss Bennet, she turned suddenly towards him and
said:
“By the bye, Charles, are you really serious in meditating a dance at
Netherfield? I would advise you, before you determine on it, to consult the
wishes of the present party; I am much mistaken if there are not some among us
to whom a ball would be rather a punishment than a pleasure.”
“If you mean Darcy,” cried her brother, “he may go to bed, if he chooses,
before it begins—but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as
Nicholls has made white soup enough, I shall send round my cards.”
“I should like balls infinitely better,” she replied, “if they were carried on in a
different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process
of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead
of dancing were made the order of the day.”
“Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so
much like a ball.”
Miss Bingley made no answer, and soon afterwards she got up and walked
about the room. Her figure was elegant, and she walked well; but Darcy, at
whom it was all aimed, was still inflexibly studious. In the desperation of her
feelings, she resolved on one effort more, and, turning to Elizabeth, said:
“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a
turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one
attitude.”
Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss Bingley succeeded
no less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much
awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be,
and unconsciously closed his book. He was directly invited to join their party,
but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their
choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives
his joining them would interfere. “What could he mean? She was dying to know
what could be his meaning?”—and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all
understand him?
“Not at all,” was her answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe on
us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it.”
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything,
and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives.
“I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,” said he, as soon as she
allowed him to speak. “You either choose this method of passing the evening
because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or
because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in
walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can
admire you much better as I sit by the fire.”
“Oh! shocking!” cried Miss Bingley. “I never heard anything so abominable.
How shall we punish him for such a speech?”
“Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination,” said Elizabeth. “We can all
plague and punish one another. Tease him—laugh at him. Intimate as you are,
you must know how it is to be done.”
“But upon my honour, I do not. I do assure you that my intimacy has not yet
taught me that. Tease calmness of manner and presence of mind! No, no; I feel
he may defy us there. And as to laughter, we will not expose ourselves, if you
please, by attempting to laugh without a subject. Mr. Darcy may hug himself.”
“Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!” cried Elizabeth. “That is an uncommon
advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to
me to have many such acquaintances. I dearly love a laugh.”
“Miss Bingley,” said he, “has given me more credit than can be. The wisest
and the best of men—nay, the wisest and best of their actions—may be rendered
ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.”
“Certainly,” replied Elizabeth—“there are such people, but I hope I am not
one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. Follies and nonsense,
whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I
can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without.”
“Perhaps that is not possible for anyone. But it has been the study of my life to
avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule.”
“Such as vanity and pride.”
“Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride—where there is a real superiority
of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.”
Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.
“Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume,” said Miss Bingley; “and
pray what is the result?”
“I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it
himself without disguise.”
“No,” said Darcy, “I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but
they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I
believe, too little yielding—certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I
cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offenses
against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move
them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost,
is lost forever.”
“That is a failing indeed!” cried Elizabeth. “Implacable resentment is a shade
in a character. But you have chosen your fault well. I really cannot laugh at it.
You are safe from me.”
“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil—a
natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”
“And your defect is to hate everybody.”
“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.”
“Do let us have a little music,” cried Miss Bingley, tired of a conversation in
which she had no share. “Louisa, you will not mind my waking Mr. Hurst?”
Her sister had not the smallest objection, and the pianoforte was opened; and
Darcy, after a few moments’ recollection, was not sorry for it. He began to feel
the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention

Chapter 12
In consequence of an agreement between the sisters, Elizabeth wrote the next
morning to their mother, to beg that the carriage might be sent for them in the
course of the day. But Mrs. Bennet, who had calculated on her daughters
remaining at Netherfield till the following Tuesday, which would exactly finish
Jane’s week, could not bring herself to receive them with pleasure before. Her
answer, therefore, was not propitious, at least not to Elizabeth’s wishes, for she
was impatient to get home. Mrs. Bennet sent them word that they could not
possibly have the carriage before Tuesday; and in her postscript it was added,
that if Mr. Bingley and his sister pressed them to stay longer, she could spare
them very well. Against staying longer, however, Elizabeth was positively
resolved—nor did she much expect it would be asked; and fearful, on the
contrary, as being considered as intruding themselves needlessly long, she urged
Jane to borrow Mr. Bingley’s carriage immediately, and at length it was settled
that their original design of leaving Netherfield that morning should be
mentioned, and the request made.
The communication excited many professions of concern; and enough was
said of wishing them to stay at least till the following day to work on Jane; and
till the morrow their going was deferred. Miss Bingley was then sorry that she
had proposed the delay, for her jealousy and dislike of one sister much exceeded
her affection for the other.
The master of the house heard with real sorrow that they were to go so soon,
and repeatedly tried to persuade Miss Bennet that it would not be safe for her—
that she was not enough recovered; but Jane was firm where she felt herself to be
right.
To Mr. Darcy it was welcome intelligence—Elizabeth had been at Netherfield
long enough. She attracted him more than he liked—and Miss Bingley was
uncivil to her, and more teasing than usual to himself. He wisely resolved to be
particularly careful that no sign of admiration should now escape him, nothing
that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity; sensible that if
such an idea had been suggested, his behaviour during the last day must have
material weight in confirming or crushing it. Steady to his purpose, he scarcely
spoke ten words to her through the whole of Saturday, and though they were at
one time left by themselves for half-an-hour, he adhered most conscientiously to
his book, and would not even look at her.
On Sunday, after morning service, the separation, so agreeable to almost all,
took place. Miss Bingley’s civility to Elizabeth increased at last very rapidly, as
well as her affection for Jane; and when they parted, after assuring the latter of
the pleasure it would always give her to see her either at Longbourn or
Netherfield, and embracing her most tenderly, she even shook hands with the
former. Elizabeth took leave of the whole party in the liveliest of spirits.
They were not welcomed home very cordially by their mother. Mrs. Bennet
wondered at their coming, and thought them very wrong to give so much
trouble, and was sure Jane would have caught cold again. But their father,
though very laconic in his expressions of pleasure, was really glad to see them;
he had felt their importance in the family circle. The evening conversation, when
they were all assembled, had lost much of its animation, and almost all its sense
by the absence of Jane and Elizabeth.
They found Mary, as usual, deep in the study of thorough-bass and human
nature; and had some extracts to admire, and some new observations of
threadbare morality to listen to. Catherine and Lydia had information for them of
a different sort. Much had been done and much had been said in the regiment
since the preceding Wednesday; several of the officers had dined lately with their
uncle, a private had been flogged, and it had actually been hinted that Colonel
Forster was going to be married.

Chapter 13
“I hope, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet to his wife, as they were at breakfast the
next morning, “that you have ordered a good dinner to-day, because I have
reason to expect an addition to our family party.”
“Who do you mean, my dear? I know of nobody that is coming, I am sure,
unless Charlotte Lucas should happen to call in—and I hope my dinners are good
enough for her. I do not believe she often sees such at home.”
“The person of whom I speak is a gentleman, and a stranger.”
Mrs. Bennet’s eyes sparkled. “A gentleman and a stranger! It is Mr. Bingley, I
am sure! Well, I am sure I shall be extremely glad to see Mr. Bingley. But—good
Lord! how unlucky! There is not a bit of fish to be got to-day. Lydia, my love,
ring the bell—I must speak to Hill this moment.”
“It is not Mr. Bingley,” said her husband; “it is a person whom I never saw in
the whole course of my life.”
This roused a general astonishment; and he had the pleasure of being eagerly
questioned by his wife and his five daughters at once.
After amusing himself some time with their curiosity, he thus explained:
“About a month ago I received this letter; and about a fortnight ago I
answered it, for I thought it a case of some delicacy, and requiring early
attention. It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who, when I am dead, may turn you
all out of this house as soon as he pleases.”
“Oh! my dear,” cried his wife, “I cannot bear to hear that mentioned. Pray do
not talk of that odious man. I do think it is the hardest thing in the world, that
your estate should be entailed away from your own children; and I am sure, if I
had been you, I should have tried long ago to do something or other about it.”
Jane and Elizabeth tried to explain to her the nature of an entail. They had
often attempted to do it before, but it was a subject on which Mrs. Bennet was
beyond the reach of reason, and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty
of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man
whom nobody cared anything about.
“It certainly is a most iniquitous affair,” said Mr. Bennet, “and nothing can
clear Mr. Collins from the guilt of inheriting Longbourn. But if you will listen to
his letter, you may perhaps be a little softened by his manner of expressing
himself.”
“No, that I am sure I shall not; and I think it is very impertinent of him to
write to you at all, and very hypocritical. I hate such false friends. Why could he
not keep on quarreling with you, as his father did before him?”
“Why, indeed; he does seem to have had some filial scruples on that head, as
you will hear.”
“Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent, 15th October.
“Dear Sir,—
“The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late honoured
father always gave me much uneasiness, and since I have had the
misfortune to lose him, I have frequently wished to heal the breach; but
for some time I was kept back by my own doubts, fearing lest it might
seem disrespectful to his memory for me to be on good terms with
anyone with whom it had always pleased him to be at variance.—‘There,
Mrs. Bennet.’—My mind, however, is now made up on the subject, for
having received ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be
distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine
de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose bounty and
beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of this parish,
where it shall be my earnest endeavour to demean myself with grateful
respect towards her ladyship, and be ever ready to perform those rites
and ceremonies which are instituted by the Church of England. As a
clergyman, moreover, I feel it my duty to promote and establish the
blessing of peace in all families within the reach of my influence; and on
these grounds I flatter myself that my present overtures are highly
commendable, and that the circumstance of my being next in the entail
of Longbourn estate will be kindly overlooked on your side, and not lead
you to reject the offered olive-branch. I cannot be otherwise than
concerned at being the means of injuring your amiable daughters, and
beg leave to apologise for it, as well as to assure you of my readiness to
make them every possible amends—but of this hereafter. If you should
have no objection to receive me into your house, I propose myself the
satisfaction of waiting on you and your family, Monday, November 18th,
by four o’clock, and shall probably trespass on your hospitality till the
Saturday se’ennight following, which I can do without any
inconvenience, as Lady Catherine is far from objecting to my occasional
absence on a Sunday, provided that some other clergyman is engaged to
do the duty of the day.—I remain, dear sir, with respectful compliments
to your lady and daughters, your well-wisher and friend,
“WILLIAM COLLINS”
“At four o’clock, therefore, we may expect this peace-making gentleman,”
said Mr. Bennet, as he folded up the letter. “He seems to be a most conscientious
and polite young man, upon my word, and I doubt not will prove a valuable
acquaintance, especially if Lady Catherine should be so indulgent as to let him
come to us again.”
“There is some sense in what he says about the girls, however, and if he is
disposed to make them any amends, I shall not be the person to discourage him.”
“Though it is difficult,” said Jane, “to guess in what way he can mean to make
us the atonement he thinks our due, the wish is certainly to his credit.”
Elizabeth was chiefly struck by his extraordinary deference for Lady
Catherine, and his kind intention of christening, marrying, and burying his
parishioners whenever it were required.
“He must be an oddity, I think,” said she. “I cannot make him out.—There is
something very pompous in his style.—And what can he mean by apologising
for being next in the entail?—We cannot suppose he would help it if he could.—
Could he be a sensible man, sir?”
“No, my dear, I think not. I have great hopes of finding him quite the reverse.
There is a mixture of servility and self-importance in his letter, which promises
well. I am impatient to see him.”
“In point of composition,” said Mary, “the letter does not seem defective. The
idea of the olive-branch perhaps is not wholly new, yet I think it is well
expressed.”
To Catherine and Lydia, neither the letter nor its writer were in any degree
interesting. It was next to impossible that their cousin should come in a scarlet
coat, and it was now some weeks since they had received pleasure from the
society of a man in any other colour. As for their mother, Mr. Collins’s letter had
done away much of her ill-will, and she was preparing to see him with a degree
of composure which astonished her husband and daughters.
Mr. Collins was punctual to his time, and was received with great politeness
by the whole family. Mr. Bennet indeed said little; but the ladies were ready
enough to talk, and Mr. Collins seemed neither in need of encouragement, nor
inclined to be silent himself. He was a tall, heavy-looking young man of fiveand-twenty. His air was grave and stately, and his manners were very formal. He
had not been long seated before he complimented Mrs. Bennet on having so fine
a family of daughters; said he had heard much of their beauty, but that in this
instance fame had fallen short of the truth; and added, that he did not doubt her
seeing them all in due time disposed of in marriage. This gallantry was not much
to the taste of some of his hearers; but Mrs. Bennet, who quarreled with no
compliments, answered most readily.
“You are very kind, I am sure; and I wish with all my heart it may prove so,
for else they will be destitute enough. Things are settled so oddly.”
“You allude, perhaps, to the entail of this estate.”
“Ah! sir, I do indeed. It is a grievous affair to my poor girls, you must confess.
Not that I mean to find fault with you, for such things I know are all chance in
this world. There is no knowing how estates will go when once they come to be
entailed.”
“I am very sensible, madam, of the hardship to my fair cousins, and could say
much on the subject, but that I am cautious of appearing forward and precipitate.
But I can assure the young ladies that I come prepared to admire them. At
present I will not say more; but, perhaps, when we are better acquainted—”
He was interrupted by a summons to dinner; and the girls smiled on each
other. They were not the only objects of Mr. Collins’s admiration. The hall, the
dining-room, and all its furniture, were examined and praised; and his
commendation of everything would have touched Mrs. Bennet’s heart, but for
the mortifying supposition of his viewing it all as his own future property. The
dinner too in its turn was highly admired; and he begged to know to which of his
fair cousins the excellency of its cooking was owing. But he was set right there
by Mrs. Bennet, who assured him with some asperity that they were very well
able to keep a good cook, and that her daughters had nothing to do in the
kitchen. He begged pardon for having displeased her. In a softened tone she
declared herself not at all offended; but he continued to apologise for about a
quarter of an hour.

Chapter 14
During dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servants were
withdrawn, he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and
therefore started a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that
he seemed very fortunate in his patroness. Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s attention
to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort, appeared very remarkable. Mr.
Bennet could not have chosen better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The
subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most
important aspect he protested that “he had never in his life witnessed such
behaviour in a person of rank—such affability and condescension, as he had
himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to
approve of both of the discourses which he had already had the honour of
preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had
sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the
evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he
had never seen anything but affability in her. She had always spoken to him as
she would to any other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his
joining in the society of the neighbourhood nor to his leaving the parish
occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations. She had even condescended
to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion;
and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage, where she had perfectly
approved all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to
suggest some herself—some shelves in the closet up stairs.”
“That is all very proper and civil, I am sure,” said Mrs. Bennet, “and I dare
say she is a very agreeable woman. It is a pity that great ladies in general are not
more like her. Does she live near you, sir?”
“The garden in which stands my humble abode is separated only by a lane
from Rosings Park, her ladyship’s residence.”
“I think you said she was a widow, sir? Has she any family?”
“She has only one daughter, the heiress of Rosings, and of very extensive
property.”
“Ah!” said Mrs. Bennet, shaking her head, “then she is better off than many
girls. And what sort of young lady is she? Is she handsome?”
“She is a most charming young lady indeed. Lady Catherine herself says that,
in point of true beauty, Miss de Bourgh is far superior to the handsomest of her
sex, because there is that in her features which marks the young lady of
distinguished birth. She is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has
prevented her from making that progress in many accomplishments which she
could not have otherwise failed of, as I am informed by the lady who
superintended her education, and who still resides with them. But she is perfectly
amiable, and often condescends to drive by my humble abode in her little
phaeton and ponies.”
“Has she been presented? I do not remember her name among the ladies at
court.”
“Her indifferent state of health unhappily prevents her being in town; and by
that means, as I told Lady Catherine one day, has deprived the British court of its
brightest ornament. Her ladyship seemed pleased with the idea; and you may
imagine that I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate
compliments which are always acceptable to ladies. I have more than once
observed to Lady Catherine, that her charming daughter seemed born to be a
duchess, and that the most elevated rank, instead of giving her consequence,
would be adorned by her. These are the kind of little things which please her
ladyship, and it is a sort of attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to
pay.”
“You judge very properly,” said Mr. Bennet, “and it is happy for you that you
possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing
attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous
study?”
“They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes
amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as
may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied
an air as possible.”
Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as
he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at
the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an
occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.
By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to
take his guest into the drawing-room again, and, when tea was over, glad to
invite him to read aloud to the ladies. Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book
was produced; but, on beholding it (for everything announced it to be from a
circulating library), he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never
read novels. Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. Other books were
produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons. Lydia gaped
as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity,
read three pages, she interrupted him with:
“Do you know, mamma, that my uncle Phillips talks of turning away Richard;
and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My aunt told me so herself on
Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask
when Mr. Denny comes back from town.”
Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but Mr. Collins,
much offended, laid aside his book, and said:
“I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a
serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. It amazes me, I confess;
for, certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to them as instruction. But I
will no longer importune my young cousin.”
Then turning to Mr. Bennet, he offered himself as his antagonist at
backgammon. Mr. Bennet accepted the challenge, observing that he acted very
wisely in leaving the girls to their own trifling amusements. Mrs. Bennet and her
daughters apologised most civilly for Lydia’s interruption, and promised that it
should not occur again, if he would resume his book; but Mr. Collins, after
assuring them that he bore his young cousin no ill-will, and should never resent
her behaviour as any affront, seated himself at another table with Mr. Bennet,
and prepared for backgammon.

Chapter 15
Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but
little assisted by education or society; the greatest part of his life having been
spent under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father; and though he
belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms,
without forming at it any useful acquaintance. The subjection in which his father
had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner; but it
was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head, living in
retirement, and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity. A
fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the
living of Hunsford was vacant; and the respect which he felt for her high rank,
and his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of
himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his right as a rector, made him
altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility.
Having now a good house and a very sufficient income, he intended to marry;
and in seeking a reconciliation with the Longbourn family he had a wife in view,
as he meant to choose one of the daughters, if he found them as handsome and
amiable as they were represented by common report. This was his plan of
amends—of atonement—for inheriting their father’s estate; and he thought it an
excellent one, full of eligibility and suitableness, and excessively generous and
disinterested on his own part.
His plan did not vary on seeing them. Miss Bennet’s lovely face confirmed his
views, and established all his strictest notions of what was due to seniority; and
for the first evening she was his settled choice. The next morning, however,
made an alteration; for in a quarter of an hour’s tête-à-tête with Mrs. Bennet
before breakfast, a conversation beginning with his parsonage-house, and
leading naturally to the avowal of his hopes, that a mistress might be found for it
at Longbourn, produced from her, amid very complaisant smiles and general
encouragement, a caution against the very Jane he had fixed on. “As to her
younger daughters, she could not take upon her to say—she could not positively
answer—but she did not know of any prepossession; her eldest daughter, she
must just mention—she felt it incumbent on her to hint, was likely to be very
soon engaged.”
Mr. Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth—and it was soon done
—done while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire. Elizabeth, equally next to Jane in
birth and beauty, succeeded her of course.
Mrs. Bennet treasured up the hint, and trusted that she might soon have two
daughters married; and the man whom she could not bear to speak of the day
before was now high in her good graces.
Lydia’s intention of walking to Meryton was not forgotten; every sister except
Mary agreed to go with her; and Mr. Collins was to attend them, at the request of
Mr. Bennet, who was most anxious to get rid of him, and have his library to
himself; for thither Mr. Collins had followed him after breakfast; and there he
would continue, nominally engaged with one of the largest folios in the
collection, but really talking to Mr. Bennet, with little cessation, of his house and
garden at Hunsford. Such doings discomposed Mr. Bennet exceedingly. In his
library he had been always sure of leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared,
as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room of the
house, he was used to be free from them there; his civility, therefore, was most
prompt in inviting Mr. Collins to join his daughters in their walk; and Mr.
Collins, being in fact much better fitted for a walker than a reader, was extremely
pleased to close his large book, and go.
In pompous nothings on his side, and civil assents on that of his cousins, their
time passed till they entered Meryton. The attention of the younger ones was
then no longer to be gained by him. Their eyes were immediately wandering up
in the street in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet
indeed, or a really new muslin in a shop window, could recall them.
But the attention of every lady was soon caught by a young man, whom they
had never seen before, of most gentlemanlike appearance, walking with another
officer on the other side of the way. The officer was the very Mr. Denny
concerning whose return from London Lydia came to inquire, and he bowed as
they passed. All were struck with the stranger’s air, all wondered who he could
be; and Kitty and Lydia, determined if possible to find out, led the way across
the street, under pretense of wanting something in an opposite shop, and
fortunately had just gained the pavement when the two gentlemen, turning back,
had reached the same spot. Mr. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated
permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the
day before from town, and he was happy to say had accepted a commission in
their corps. This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only
regimentals to make him completely charming. His appearance was greatly in
his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure,
and very pleasing address. The introduction was followed up on his side by a
happy readiness of conversation—a readiness at the same time perfectly correct
and unassuming; and the whole party were still standing and talking together
very agreeably, when the sound of horses drew their notice, and Darcy and
Bingley were seen riding down the street. On distinguishing the ladies of the
group, the two gentlemen came directly towards them, and began the usual
civilities. Bingley was the principal spokesman, and Miss Bennet the principal
object. He was then, he said, on his way to Longbourn on purpose to inquire
after her. Mr. Darcy corroborated it with a bow, and was beginning to determine
not to fix his eyes on Elizabeth, when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of
the stranger, and Elizabeth happening to see the countenance of both as they
looked at each other, was all astonishment at the effect of the meeting. Both
changed colour, one looked white, the other red. Mr. Wickham, after a few
moments, touched his hat—a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return.
What could be the meaning of it? It was impossible to imagine; it was
impossible not to long to know.
In another minute, Mr. Bingley, but without seeming to have noticed what
passed, took leave and rode on with his friend.
Mr. Denny and Mr. Wickham walked with the young ladies to the door of Mr.
Phillip’s house, and then made their bows, in spite of Miss Lydia’s pressing
entreaties that they should come in, and even in spite of Mrs. Phillips’s throwing
up the parlour window and loudly seconding the invitation.
Mrs. Phillips was always glad to see her nieces; and the two eldest, from their
recent absence, were particularly welcome, and she was eagerly expressing her
surprise at their sudden return home, which, as their own carriage had not
fetched them, she should have known nothing about, if she had not happened to
see Mr. Jones’s shop-boy in the street, who had told her that they were not to
send any more draughts to Netherfield because the Miss Bennets were come
away, when her civility was claimed towards Mr. Collins by Jane’s introduction
of him. She received him with her very best politeness, which he returned with
as much more, apologising for his intrusion, without any previous acquaintance
with her, which he could not help flattering himself, however, might be justified
by his relationship to the young ladies who introduced him to her notice. Mrs.
Phillips was quite awed by such an excess of good breeding; but her
contemplation of one stranger was soon put to an end by exclamations and
inquiries about the other; of whom, however, she could only tell her nieces what
they already knew, that Mr. Denny had brought him from London, and that he
was to have a lieutenant’s commission in the ——shire. She had been watching
him the last hour, she said, as he walked up and down the street, and had Mr.
Wickham appeared, Kitty and Lydia would certainly have continued the
occupation, but unluckily no one passed windows now except a few of the
officers, who, in comparison with the stranger, were become “stupid,
disagreeable fellows.” Some of them were to dine with the Phillipses the next
day, and their aunt promised to make her husband call on Mr. Wickham, and
give him an invitation also, if the family from Longbourn would come in the
evening. This was agreed to, and Mrs. Phillips protested that they would have a
nice comfortable noisy game of lottery tickets, and a little bit of hot supper
afterwards. The prospect of such delights was very cheering, and they parted in
mutual good spirits. Mr. Collins repeated his apologies in quitting the room, and
was assured with unwearying civility that they were perfectly needless.
As they walked home, Elizabeth related to Jane what she had seen pass
between the two gentlemen; but though Jane would have defended either or
both, had they appeared to be in the wrong, she could no more explain such
behaviour than her sister.
Mr. Collins on his return highly gratified Mrs. Bennet by admiring Mrs.
Phillips’s manners and politeness. He protested that, except Lady Catherine and
her daughter, he had never seen a more elegant woman; for she had not only
received him with the utmost civility, but even pointedly included him in her
invitation for the next evening, although utterly unknown to her before.
Something, he supposed, might be attributed to his connection with them, but yet
he had never met with so much attention in the whole course of his life.

Chapter 16
As no objection was made to the young people’s engagement with their aunt,
and all Mr. Collins’s scruples of leaving Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for a single
evening during his visit were most steadily resisted, the coach conveyed him and
his five cousins at a suitable hour to Meryton; and the girls had the pleasure of
hearing, as they entered the drawing-room, that Mr. Wickham had accepted their
uncle’s invitation, and was then in the house.
When this information was given, and they had all taken their seats, Mr.
Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire, and he was so much struck
with the size and furniture of the apartment, that he declared he might almost
have supposed himself in the small summer breakfast parlour at Rosings; a
comparison that did not at first convey much gratification; but when Mrs.
Phillips understood from him what Rosings was, and who was its proprietor—
when she had listened to the description of only one of Lady Catherine’s
drawing-rooms, and found that the chimney-piece alone had cost eight hundred
pounds, she felt all the force of the compliment, and would hardly have resented
a comparison with the housekeeper’s room.
In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her mansion, with
occasional digressions in praise of his own humble abode, and the improvements
it was receiving, he was happily employed until the gentlemen joined them; and
he found in Mrs. Phillips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of his
consequence increased with what she heard, and who was resolving to retail it all
among her neighbours as soon as she could. To the girls, who could not listen to
their cousin, and who had nothing to do but to wish for an instrument, and
examine their own indifferent imitations of china on the mantelpiece, the interval
of waiting appeared very long. It was over at last, however. The gentlemen did
approach, and when Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth felt that she
had neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with the smallest
degree of unreasonable admiration. The officers of the ——shire were in general
a very creditable, gentlemanlike set, and the best of them were of the present
party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person, countenance, air,
and walk, as they were superior to the broad-faced, stuffy uncle Phillips,
breathing port wine, who followed them into the room.
Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was
turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated himself;
and the agreeable manner in which he immediately fell into conversation, though
it was only on its being a wet night, made her feel that the commonest, dullest,
most threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker.
With such rivals for the notice of the fair as Mr. Wickham and the officers, Mr.
Collins seemed to sink into insignificance; to the young ladies he certainly was
nothing; but he had still at intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Phillips, and was by
her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin. When the
card-tables were placed, he had the opportunity of obliging her in turn, by sitting
down to whist.
“I know little of the game at present,” said he, “but I shall be glad to improve
myself, for in my situation in life—” Mrs. Phillips was very glad for his
compliance, but could not wait for his reason.
Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received at
the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first there seemed danger of
Lydia’s engrossing him entirely, for she was a most determined talker; but being
likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in
the game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming after prizes to have attention
for anyone in particular. Allowing for the common demands of the game, Mr.
Wickham was therefore at leisure to talk to Elizabeth, and she was very willing
to hear him, though what she chiefly wished to hear she could not hope to be
told—the history of his acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. She dared not even
mention that gentleman. Her curiosity, however, was unexpectedly relieved. Mr.
Wickham began the subject himself. He inquired how far Netherfield was from
Meryton; and, after receiving her answer, asked in a hesitating manner how long
Mr. Darcy had been staying there.
“About a month,” said Elizabeth; and then, unwilling to let the subject drop,
added, “He is a man of very large property in Derbyshire, I understand.”
“Yes,” replied Mr. Wickham; “his estate there is a noble one. A clear ten
thousand per annum. You could not have met with a person more capable of
giving you certain information on that head than myself, for I have been
connected with his family in a particular manner from my infancy.”
Elizabeth could not but look surprised.
“You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion, after seeing, as
you probably might, the very cold manner of our meeting yesterday. Are you
much acquainted with Mr. Darcy?”
“As much as I ever wish to be,” cried Elizabeth very warmly. “I have spent
four days in the same house with him, and I think him very disagreeable.”
“I have no right to give my opinion,” said Wickham, “as to his being agreeable
or otherwise. I am not qualified to form one. I have known him too long and too
well to be a fair judge. It is impossible for me to be impartial. But I believe your
opinion of him would in general astonish—and perhaps you would not express it
quite so strongly anywhere else. Here you are in your own family.”
“Upon my word, I say no more here than I might say in any house in the
neighbourhood, except Netherfield. He is not at all liked in Hertfordshire.
Everybody is disgusted with his pride. You will not find him more favourably
spoken of by anyone.”
“I cannot pretend to be sorry,” said Wickham, after a short interruption, “that
he or that any man should not be estimated beyond their deserts; but with him I
believe it does not often happen. The world is blinded by his fortune and
consequence, or frightened by his high and imposing manners, and sees him only
as he chooses to be seen.”
“I should take him, even on my slight acquaintance, to be an ill-tempered
man.” Wickham only shook his head.
“I wonder,” said he, at the next opportunity of speaking, “whether he is likely
to be in this country much longer.”
“I do not at all know; but I heard nothing of his going away when I was at
Netherfield. I hope your plans in favour of the ——shire will not be affected by
his being in the neighbourhood.”
“Oh! no—it is not for me to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If he wishes to
avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not on friendly terms, and it always gives
me pain to meet him, but I have no reason for avoiding him but what I might
proclaim before all the world, a sense of very great ill-usage, and most painful
regrets at his being what he is. His father, Miss Bennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was
one of the best men that ever breathed, and the truest friend I ever had; and I can
never be in company with this Mr. Darcy without being grieved to the soul by a
thousand tender recollections. His behaviour to myself has been scandalous; but
I verily believe I could forgive him anything and everything, rather than his
disappointing the hopes and disgracing the memory of his father.”
Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase, and listened with all her
heart; but the delicacy of it prevented further inquiry.
Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton, the
neighbourhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all that he had yet
seen, and speaking of the latter with gentle but very intelligible gallantry.
“It was the prospect of constant society, and good society,” he added, “which
was my chief inducement to enter the ——shire. I knew it to be a most
respectable, agreeable corps, and my friend Denny tempted me further by his
account of their present quarters, and the very great attentions and excellent
acquaintances Meryton had procured them. Society, I own, is necessary to me. I
have been a disappointed man, and my spirits will not bear solitude. I must have
employment and society. A military life is not what I was intended for, but
circumstances have now made it eligible. The church ought to have been my
profession—I was brought up for the church, and I should at this time have been
in possession of a most valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were
speaking of just now.”
“Indeed!”
“Yes—the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation of the best
living in his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively attached to me. I cannot
do justice to his kindness. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had
done it; but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere.”
“Good heavens!” cried Elizabeth; “but how could that be? How could his will
be disregarded? Why did you not seek legal redress?”
“There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest as to give me
no hope from law. A man of honour could not have doubted the intention, but
Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it—or to treat it as a merely conditional
recommendation, and to assert that I had forfeited all claim to it by
extravagance, imprudence—in short anything or nothing. Certain it is, that the
living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and
that it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that I cannot accuse
myself of having really done anything to deserve to lose it. I have a warm,
unguarded temper, and I may have spoken my opinion of him, and to him, too
freely. I can recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort
of men, and that he hates me.”
“This is quite shocking! He deserves to be publicly disgraced.”
“Some time or other he will be—but it shall not be by me. Till I can forget his
father, I can never defy or expose him.”
Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than
ever as he expressed them.
“But what,” said she, after a pause, “can have been his motive? What can have
induced him to behave so cruelly?”
“A thorough, determined dislike of me—a dislike which I cannot but attribute
in some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr. Darcy liked me less, his son might
have borne with me better; but his father’s uncommon attachment to me irritated
him, I believe, very early in life. He had not a temper to bear the sort of
competition in which we stood—the sort of preference which was often given
me.”
“I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this—though I have never liked him. I
had not thought so very ill of him. I had supposed him to be despising his
fellow-creatures in general, but did not suspect him of descending to such
malicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity as this.”
After a few minutes’ reflection, however, she continued, “I do remember his
boasting one day, at Netherfield, of the implacability of his resentments, of his
having an unforgiving temper. His disposition must be dreadful.”
“I will not trust myself on the subject,” replied Wickham; “I can hardly be just
to him.”
Elizabeth was again deep in thought, and after a time exclaimed, “To treat in
such a manner the godson, the friend, the favourite of his father!” She could
have added, “A young man, too, like you, whose very countenance may vouch
for your being amiable”—but she contented herself with, “and one, too, who had
probably been his companion from childhood, connected together, as I think you
said, in the closest manner!”
“We were born in the same parish, within the same park; the greatest part of
our youth was passed together; inmates of the same house, sharing the same
amusements, objects of the same parental care. My father began life in the
profession which your uncle, Mr. Phillips, appears to do so much credit to—but
he gave up everything to be of use to the late Mr. Darcy and devoted all his time
to the care of the Pemberley property. He was most highly esteemed by Mr.
Darcy, a most intimate, confidential friend. Mr. Darcy often acknowledged
himself to be under the greatest obligations to my father’s active
superintendence, and when, immediately before my father’s death, Mr. Darcy
gave him a voluntary promise of providing for me, I am convinced that he felt it
to be as much a debt of gratitude to him, as of his affection to myself.”
“How strange!” cried Elizabeth. “How abominable! I wonder that the very
pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to you! If from no better motive,
that he should not have been too proud to be dishonest—for dishonesty I must
call it.”
“It is wonderful,” replied Wickham, “for almost all his actions may be traced
to pride; and pride had often been his best friend. It has connected him nearer
with virtue than with any other feeling. But we are none of us consistent, and in
his behaviour to me there were stronger impulses even than pride.”
“Can such abominable pride as his have ever done him good?”
“Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his money freely,
to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor. Family pride, and
filial pride—for he is very proud of what his father was—have done this. Not to
appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose
the influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive. He has also
brotherly pride, which, with some brotherly affection, makes him a very kind
and careful guardian of his sister, and you will hear him generally cried up as the
most attentive and best of brothers.”
“What sort of girl is Miss Darcy?”
He shook his head. “I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to speak
ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother—very, very proud. As a child,
she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted
hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She is a
handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and, I understand, highly accomplished.
Since her father’s death, her home has been London, where a lady lives with her,
and superintends her education.”
After many pauses and many trials of other subjects, Elizabeth could not help
reverting once more to the first, and saying:
“I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can Mr. Bingley, who
seems good humour itself, and is, I really believe, truly amiable, be in friendship
with such a man? How can they suit each other? Do you know Mr. Bingley?”
“Not at all.”
“He is a sweet-tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot know what Mr.
Darcy is.”
“Probably not; but Mr. Darcy can please where he chooses. He does not want
abilities. He can be a conversible companion if he thinks it worth his while.
Among those who are at all his equals in consequence, he is a very different man
from what he is to the less prosperous. His pride never deserts him; but with the
rich he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honourable, and perhaps
agreeable—allowing something for fortune and figure.”
The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players gathered round the
other table and Mr. Collins took his station between his cousin Elizabeth and
Mrs. Phillips. The usual inquiries as to his success were made by the latter. It had
not been very great; he had lost every point; but when Mrs. Phillips began to
express her concern thereupon, he assured her with much earnest gravity that it
was not of the least importance, that he considered the money as a mere trifle,
and begged that she would not make herself uneasy.
“I know very well, madam,” said he, “that when persons sit down to a cardtable, they must take their chances of these things, and happily I am not in such
circumstances as to make five shillings any object. There are undoubtedly many
who could not say the same, but thanks to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, I am
removed far beyond the necessity of regarding little matters.”
Mr. Wickham’s attention was caught; and after observing Mr. Collins for a
few moments, he asked Elizabeth in a low voice whether her relation was very
intimately acquainted with the family of de Bourgh.
“Lady Catherine de Bourgh,” she replied, “has very lately given him a living.
I hardly know how Mr. Collins was first introduced to her notice, but he
certainly has not known her long.”
“You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy
were sisters; consequently that she is aunt to the present Mr. Darcy.”
“No, indeed, I did not. I knew nothing at all of Lady Catherine’s connections.
I never heard of her existence till the day before yesterday.”
“Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune, and it is
believed that she and her cousin will unite the two estates.”
This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor Miss Bingley.
Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and useless her affection for his
sister and her praise of himself, if he were already self-destined for another.
“Mr. Collins,” said she, “speaks highly both of Lady Catherine and her
daughter; but from some particulars that he has related of her ladyship, I suspect
his gratitude misleads him, and that in spite of her being his patroness, she is an
arrogant, conceited woman.”
“I believe her to be both in a great degree,” replied Wickham; “I have not seen
her for many years, but I very well remember that I never liked her, and that her
manners were dictatorial and insolent. She has the reputation of being
remarkably sensible and clever; but I rather believe she derives part of her
abilities from her rank and fortune, part from her authoritative manner, and the
rest from the pride for her nephew, who chooses that everyone connected with
him should have an understanding of the first class.”
Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of it, and they
continued talking together, with mutual satisfaction till supper put an end to
cards, and gave the rest of the ladies their share of Mr. Wickham’s attentions.
There could be no conversation in the noise of Mrs. Phillips’s supper party, but
his manners recommended him to everybody. Whatever he said, was said well;
and whatever he did, done gracefully. Elizabeth went away with her head full of
him. She could think of nothing but of Mr. Wickham, and of what he had told
her, all the way home; but there was not time for her even to mention his name
as they went, for neither Lydia nor Mr. Collins were once silent. Lydia talked
incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won;
and Mr. Collins in describing the civility of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, protesting that
he did not in the least regard his losses at whist, enumerating all the dishes at
supper, and repeatedly fearing that he crowded his cousins, had more to say than
he could well manage before the carriage stopped at Longbourn House.

Chapter 17
Elizabeth related to Jane the next day what had passed between Mr. Wickham
and herself. Jane listened with astonishment and concern; she knew not how to
believe that Mr. Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr. Bingley’s regard; and yet, it
was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable
appearance as Wickham. The possibility of his having endured such unkindness,
was enough to interest all her tender feelings; and nothing remained therefore to
be done, but to think well of them both, to defend the conduct of each, and throw
into the account of accident or mistake whatever could not be otherwise
explained.
“They have both,” said she, “been deceived, I dare say, in some way or other,
of which we can form no idea. Interested people have perhaps misrepresented
each to the other. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or
circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either
side.”
“Very true, indeed; and now, my dear Jane, what have you got to say on behalf
of the interested people who have probably been concerned in the business? Do
clear them too, or we shall be obliged to think ill of somebody.”
“Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion.
My dearest Lizzy, do but consider in what a disgraceful light it places Mr. Darcy,
to be treating his father’s favourite in such a manner, one whom his father had
promised to provide for. It is impossible. No man of common humanity, no man
who had any value for his character, could be capable of it. Can his most
intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him? Oh! no.”
“I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley’s being imposed on, than that
Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave me last night;
names, facts, everything mentioned without ceremony. If it be not so, let Mr.
Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in his looks.”
“It is difficult indeed—it is distressing. One does not know what to think.”
“I beg your pardon; one knows exactly what to think.”
But Jane could think with certainty on only one point—that Mr. Bingley, if he
had been imposed on, would have much to suffer when the affair became public.
The two young ladies were summoned from the shrubbery, where this
conversation passed, by the arrival of the very persons of whom they had been
speaking; Mr. Bingley and his sisters came to give their personal invitation for
the long-expected ball at Netherfield, which was fixed for the following
Tuesday. The two ladies were delighted to see their dear friend again, called it an
age since they had met, and repeatedly asked what she had been doing with
herself since their separation. To the rest of the family they paid little attention;
avoiding Mrs. Bennet as much as possible, saying not much to Elizabeth, and
nothing at all to the others. They were soon gone again, rising from their seats
with an activity which took their brother by surprise, and hurrying off as if eager
to escape from Mrs. Bennet’s civilities.
The prospect of the Netherfield ball was extremely agreeable to every female
of the family. Mrs. Bennet chose to consider it as given in compliment to her
eldest daughter, and was particularly flattered by receiving the invitation from
Mr. Bingley himself, instead of a ceremonious card. Jane pictured to herself a
happy evening in the society of her two friends, and the attentions of their
brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a great deal with Mr.
Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of everything in Mr. Darcy’s look and
behaviour. The happiness anticipated by Catherine and Lydia depended less on
any single event, or any particular person, for though they each, like Elizabeth,
meant to dance half the evening with Mr. Wickham, he was by no means the
only partner who could satisfy them, and a ball was, at any rate, a ball. And even
Mary could assure her family that she had no disinclination for it.
“While I can have my mornings to myself,” said she, “it is enough—I think it
is no sacrifice to join occasionally in evening engagements. Society has claims
on us all; and I profess myself one of those who consider intervals of recreation
and amusement as desirable for everybody.”
Elizabeth’s spirits were so high on this occasion, that though she did not often
speak unnecessarily to Mr. Collins, she could not help asking him whether he
intended to accept Mr. Bingley’s invitation, and if he did, whether he would
think it proper to join in the evening’s amusement; and she was rather surprised
to find that he entertained no scruple whatever on that head, and was very far
from dreading a rebuke either from the Archbishop, or Lady Catherine de
Bourgh, by venturing to dance.
“I am by no means of the opinion, I assure you,” said he, “that a ball of this
kind, given by a young man of character, to respectable people, can have any
evil tendency; and I am so far from objecting to dancing myself, that I shall hope
to be honoured with the hands of all my fair cousins in the course of the evening;
and I take this opportunity of soliciting yours, Miss Elizabeth, for the two first
dances especially, a preference which I trust my cousin Jane will attribute to the
right cause, and not to any disrespect for her.”
Elizabeth felt herself completely taken in. She had fully proposed being
engaged by Mr. Wickham for those very dances; and to have Mr. Collins instead!
her liveliness had never been worse timed. There was no help for it, however.
Mr. Wickham’s happiness and her own were perforce delayed a little longer, and
Mr. Collins’s proposal accepted with as good a grace as she could. She was not
the better pleased with his gallantry from the idea it suggested of something
more. It now first struck her, that she was selected from among her sisters as
worthy of being mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting to form a
quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible visitors. The idea soon
reached to conviction, as she observed his increasing civilities toward herself,
and heard his frequent attempt at a compliment on her wit and vivacity; and
though more astonished than gratified herself by this effect of her charms, it was
not long before her mother gave her to understand that the probability of their
marriage was extremely agreeable to her. Elizabeth, however, did not choose to
take the hint, being well aware that a serious dispute must be the consequence of
any reply. Mr. Collins might never make the offer, and till he did, it was useless
to quarrel about him.
If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk of, the younger
Miss Bennets would have been in a very pitiable state at this time, for from the
day of the invitation, to the day of the ball, there was such a succession of rain as
prevented their walking to Meryton once. No aunt, no officers, no news could be
sought after—the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy. Even
Elizabeth might have found some trial of her patience in weather which totally
suspended the improvement of her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham; and nothing
less than a dance on Tuesday, could have made such a Friday, Saturday, Sunday,
and Monday endurable to Kitty and Lydia.

Chapter 18
Till Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield, and looked in vain for
Mr. Wickham among the cluster of red coats there assembled, a doubt of his
being present had never occurred to her. The certainty of meeting him had not
been checked by any of those recollections that might not unreasonably have
alarmed her. She had dressed with more than usual care, and prepared in the
highest spirits for the conquest of all that remained unsubdued of his heart,
trusting that it was not more than might be won in the course of the evening. But
in an instant arose the dreadful suspicion of his being purposely omitted for Mr.
Darcy’s pleasure in the Bingleys’ invitation to the officers; and though this was
not exactly the case, the absolute fact of his absence was pronounced by his
friend Denny, to whom Lydia eagerly applied, and who told them that Wickham
had been obliged to go to town on business the day before, and was not yet
returned; adding, with a significant smile, “I do not imagine his business would
have called him away just now, if he had not wanted to avoid a certain
gentleman here.”
This part of his intelligence, though unheard by Lydia, was caught by
Elizabeth, and, as it assured her that Darcy was not less answerable for
Wickham’s absence than if her first surmise had been just, every feeling of
displeasure against the former was so sharpened by immediate disappointment,
that she could hardly reply with tolerable civility to the polite inquiries which he
directly afterwards approached to make. Attendance, forbearance, patience with
Darcy, was injury to Wickham. She was resolved against any sort of
conversation with him, and turned away with a degree of ill-humour which she
could not wholly surmount even in speaking to Mr. Bingley, whose blind
partiality provoked her.
But Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour; and though every prospect of
her own was destroyed for the evening, it could not dwell long on her spirits; and
having told all her griefs to Charlotte Lucas, whom she had not seen for a week,
she was soon able to make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her cousin,
and to point him out to her particular notice. The first two dances, however,
brought a return of distress; they were dances of mortification. Mr. Collins,
awkward and solemn, apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong
without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a
disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release
from him was ecstasy.
She danced next with an officer, and had the refreshment of talking of
Wickham, and of hearing that he was universally liked. When those dances were
over, she returned to Charlotte Lucas, and was in conversation with her, when
she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy who took her so much by
surprise in his application for her hand, that, without knowing what she did, she
accepted him. He walked away again immediately, and she was left to fret over
her own want of presence of mind; Charlotte tried to console her:
“I dare say you will find him very agreeable.”
“Heaven forbid! That would be the greatest misfortune of all! To find a man
agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.”
When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim
her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her in a whisper, not to be a
simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in
the eyes of a man ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and
took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being
allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks,
their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without
speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through
the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying
that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she
made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent.
After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:—“It is
your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the dance, and you
ought to make some sort of remark on the size of the room, or the number of
couples.”
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be
said.
“Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps by and by I may
observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. But now we may
be silent.”
“Do you talk by rule, then, while you are dancing?”
“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be
entirely silent for half an hour together; and yet for the advantage of some,
conversation ought to be so arranged, as that they may have the trouble of saying
as little as possible.”
“Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine
that you are gratifying mine?”
“Both,” replied Elizabeth archly; “for I have always seen a great similarity in
the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling
to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and
be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.”
“This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure,” said
he. “How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You think it a faithful
portrait undoubtedly.”
“I must not decide on my own performance.”
He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had gone down the
dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters did not very often walk to
Meryton. She answered in the affirmative, and, unable to resist the temptation,
added, “When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new
acquaintance.”
The effect was immediate. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his features,
but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though blaming herself for her own
weakness, could not go on. At length Darcy spoke, and in a constrained manner
said, “Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his
making friends—whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less
certain.”
“He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship,” replied Elizabeth with
emphasis, “and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life.”
Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the subject. At that
moment, Sir William Lucas appeared close to them, meaning to pass through the
set to the other side of the room; but on perceiving Mr. Darcy, he stopped with a
bow of superior courtesy to compliment him on his dancing and his partner.
“I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear sir. Such very superior
dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you belong to the first circles. Allow
me to say, however, that your fair partner does not disgrace you, and that I must
hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable
event, my dear Eliza (glancing at her sister and Bingley) shall take place. What
congratulations will then flow in! I appeal to Mr. Darcy:—but let me not
interrupt you, sir. You will not thank me for detaining you from the bewitching
converse of that young lady, whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me.”
The latter part of this address was scarcely heard by Darcy; but Sir William’s
allusion to his friend seemed to strike him forcibly, and his eyes were directed
with a very serious expression towards Bingley and Jane, who were dancing
together. Recovering himself, however, shortly, he turned to his partner, and said,
“Sir William’s interruption has made me forget what we were talking of.”
“I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not have interrupted
two people in the room who had less to say for themselves. We have tried two or
three subjects already without success, and what we are to talk of next I cannot
imagine.”
“What think you of books?” said he, smiling.
“Books—oh! no. I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same
feelings.”
“I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at least be no want
of subject. We may compare our different opinions.”
“No—I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is always full of
something else.”
“The present always occupies you in such scenes—does it?” said he, with a
look of doubt.
“Yes, always,” she replied, without knowing what she said, for her thoughts
had wandered far from the subject, as soon afterwards appeared by her suddenly
exclaiming, “I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever
forgave, that your resentment once created was unappeasable. You are very
cautious, I suppose, as to its being created?”
“I am,” said he, with a firm voice.
“And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?”
“I hope not.”
“It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be
secure of judging properly at first.”
“May I ask to what these questions tend?”
“Merely to the illustration of your character,” said she, endeavouring to shake
off her gravity. “I am trying to make it out.”
“And what is your success?”
She shook her head. “I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of
you as puzzle me exceedingly.”
“I can readily believe,” answered he gravely, “that reports may vary greatly
with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch
my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the
performance would reflect no credit on either.”
“But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another
opportunity.”
“I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” he coldly replied. She
said no more, and they went down the other dance and parted in silence; and on
each side dissatisfied, though not to an equal degree, for in Darcy’s breast there
was a tolerably powerful feeling towards her, which soon procured her pardon,
and directed all his anger against another.
They had not long separated, when Miss Bingley came towards her, and with
an expression of civil disdain accosted her:
“So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George Wickham! Your
sister has been talking to me about him, and asking me a thousand questions; and
I find that the young man quite forgot to tell you, among his other
communication, that he was the son of old Wickham, the late Mr. Darcy’s
steward. Let me recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit
confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy’s using him ill, it is perfectly
false; for, on the contrary, he has always been remarkably kind to him, though
George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy in a most infamous manner. I do not
know the particulars, but I know very well that Mr. Darcy is not in the least to
blame, that he cannot bear to hear George Wickham mentioned, and that though
my brother thought that he could not well avoid including him in his invitation to
the officers, he was excessively glad to find that he had taken himself out of the
way. His coming into the country at all is a most insolent thing, indeed, and I
wonder how he could presume to do it. I pity you, Miss Eliza, for this discovery
of your favourite’s guilt; but really, considering his descent, one could not expect
much better.”
“His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the same,” said
Elizabeth angrily; “for I have heard you accuse him of nothing worse than of
being the son of Mr. Darcy’s steward, and of that, I can assure you, he informed
me himself.”
“I beg your pardon,” replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a sneer. “Excuse
my interference—it was kindly meant.”
“Insolent girl!” said Elizabeth to herself. “You are much mistaken if you
expect to influence me by such a paltry attack as this. I see nothing in it but your
own wilful ignorance and the malice of Mr. Darcy.” She then sought her eldest
sister, who had undertaken to make inquiries on the same subject of Bingley.
Jane met her with a smile of such sweet complacency, a glow of such happy
expression, as sufficiently marked how well she was satisfied with the
occurrences of the evening. Elizabeth instantly read her feelings, and at that
moment solicitude for Wickham, resentment against his enemies, and everything
else, gave way before the hope of Jane’s being in the fairest way for happiness.
“I want to know,” said she, with a countenance no less smiling than her
sister’s, “what you have learnt about Mr. Wickham. But perhaps you have been
too pleasantly engaged to think of any third person; in which case you may be
sure of my pardon.”
“No,” replied Jane, “I have not forgotten him; but I have nothing satisfactory
to tell you. Mr. Bingley does not know the whole of his history, and is quite
ignorant of the circumstances which have principally offended Mr. Darcy; but he
will vouch for the good conduct, the probity, and honour of his friend, and is
perfectly convinced that Mr. Wickham has deserved much less attention from
Mr. Darcy than he has received; and I am sorry to say by his account as well as
his sister’s, Mr. Wickham is by no means a respectable young man. I am afraid
he has been very imprudent, and has deserved to lose Mr. Darcy’s regard.”
“Mr. Bingley does not know Mr. Wickham himself?”
“No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton.”
“This account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy. I am satisfied. But
what does he say of the living?”
“He does not exactly recollect the circumstances, though he has heard them
from Mr. Darcy more than once, but he believes that it was left to him
conditionally only.”
“I have not a doubt of Mr. Bingley’s sincerity,” said Elizabeth warmly; “but
you must excuse my not being convinced by assurances only. Mr. Bingley’s
defense of his friend was a very able one, I dare say; but since he is
unacquainted with several parts of the story, and has learnt the rest from that
friend himself, I shall venture to still think of both gentlemen as I did before.”
She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to each, and on which
there could be no difference of sentiment. Elizabeth listened with delight to the
happy, though modest hopes which Jane entertained of Mr. Bingley’s regard, and
said all in her power to heighten her confidence in it. On their being joined by
Mr. Bingley himself, Elizabeth withdrew to Miss Lucas; to whose inquiry after
the pleasantness of her last partner she had scarcely replied, before Mr. Collins
came up to them, and told her with great exultation that he had just been so
fortunate as to make a most important discovery.
“I have found out,” said he, “by a singular accident, that there is now in the
room a near relation of my patroness. I happened to overhear the gentleman
himself mentioning to the young lady who does the honours of the house the
names of his cousin Miss de Bourgh, and of her mother Lady Catherine. How
wonderfully these sort of things occur! Who would have thought of my meeting
with, perhaps, a nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in this assembly! I am
most thankful that the discovery is made in time for me to pay my respects to
him, which I am now going to do, and trust he will excuse my not having done it
before. My total ignorance of the connection must plead my apology.”
“You are not going to introduce yourself to Mr. Darcy!”
“Indeed I am. I shall entreat his pardon for not having done it earlier. I believe
him to be Lady Catherine’s nephew. It will be in my power to assure him that her
ladyship was quite well yesterday se’nnight.”
Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme, assuring him that
Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him without introduction as an
impertinent freedom, rather than a compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the
least necessary there should be any notice on either side; and that if it were, it
must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the
acquaintance. Mr. Collins listened to her with the determined air of following his
own inclination, and, when she ceased speaking, replied thus:
“My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world in your
excellent judgement in all matters within the scope of your understanding; but
permit me to say, that there must be a wide difference between the established
forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for,
give me leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of
dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom—provided that a proper humility of
behaviour is at the same time maintained. You must therefore allow me to follow
the dictates of my conscience on this occasion, which leads me to perform what I
look on as a point of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to profit by your advice,
which on every other subject shall be my constant guide, though in the case
before us I consider myself more fitted by education and habitual study to decide
on what is right than a young lady like yourself.” And with a low bow he left her
to attack Mr. Darcy, whose reception of his advances she eagerly watched, and
whose astonishment at being so addressed was very evident. Her cousin prefaced
his speech with a solemn bow and though she could not hear a word of it, she
felt as if hearing it all, and saw in the motion of his lips the words “apology,”
“Hunsford,” and “Lady Catherine de Bourgh.” It vexed her to see him expose
himself to such a man. Mr. Darcy was eyeing him with unrestrained wonder, and
when at last Mr. Collins allowed him time to speak, replied with an air of distant
civility. Mr. Collins, however, was not discouraged from speaking again, and Mr.
Darcy’s contempt seemed abundantly increasing with the length of his second
speech, and at the end of it he only made him a slight bow, and moved another
way. Mr. Collins then returned to Elizabeth.
“I have no reason, I assure you,” said he, “to be dissatisfied with my
reception. Mr. Darcy seemed much pleased with the attention. He answered me
with the utmost civility, and even paid me the compliment of saying that he was
so well convinced of Lady Catherine’s discernment as to be certain she could
never bestow a favour unworthily. It was really a very handsome thought. Upon
the whole, I am much pleased with him.”
As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue, she turned her
attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr. Bingley; and the train of agreeable
reflections which her observations gave birth to, made her perhaps almost as
happy as Jane. She saw her in idea settled in that very house, in all the felicity
which a marriage of true affection could bestow; and she felt capable, under such
circumstances, of endeavouring even to like Bingley’s two sisters. Her mother’s
thoughts she plainly saw were bent the same way, and she determined not to
venture near her, lest she might hear too much. When they sat down to supper,
therefore, she considered it a most unlucky perverseness which placed them
within one of each other; and deeply was she vexed to find that her mother was
talking to that one person (Lady Lucas) freely, openly, and of nothing else but
her expectation that Jane would soon be married to Mr. Bingley. It was an
animating subject, and Mrs. Bennet seemed incapable of fatigue while
enumerating the advantages of the match. His being such a charming young
man, and so rich, and living but three miles from them, were the first points of
self-gratulation; and then it was such a comfort to think how fond the two sisters
were of Jane, and to be certain that they must desire the connection as much as
she could do. It was, moreover, such a promising thing for her younger
daughters, as Jane’s marrying so greatly must throw them in the way of other
rich men; and lastly, it was so pleasant at her time of life to be able to consign
her single daughters to the care of their sister, that she might not be obliged to go
into company more than she liked. It was necessary to make this circumstance a
matter of pleasure, because on such occasions it is the etiquette; but no one was
less likely than Mrs. Bennet to find comfort in staying home at any period of her
life. She concluded with many good wishes that Lady Lucas might soon be
equally fortunate, though evidently and triumphantly believing there was no
chance of it.
In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her mother’s words,
or persuade her to describe her felicity in a less audible whisper; for, to her
inexpressible vexation, she could perceive that the chief of it was overheard by
Mr. Darcy, who sat opposite to them. Her mother only scolded her for being
nonsensical.
“What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of him? I am sure we
owe him no such particular civility as to be obliged to say nothing he may not
like to hear.”
“For heaven’s sake, madam, speak lower. What advantage can it be for you to
offend Mr. Darcy? You will never recommend yourself to his friend by so
doing!”
Nothing that she could say, however, had any influence. Her mother would
talk of her views in the same intelligible tone. Elizabeth blushed and blushed
again with shame and vexation. She could not help frequently glancing her eye
at Mr. Darcy, though every glance convinced her of what she dreaded; for though
he was not always looking at her mother, she was convinced that his attention
was invariably fixed by her. The expression of his face changed gradually from
indignant contempt to a composed and steady gravity.
At length, however, Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady Lucas, who
had been long yawning at the repetition of delights which she saw no likelihood
of sharing, was left to the comforts of cold ham and chicken. Elizabeth now
began to revive. But not long was the interval of tranquillity; for, when supper
was over, singing was talked of, and she had the mortification of seeing Mary,
after very little entreaty, preparing to oblige the company. By many significant
looks and silent entreaties, did she endeavour to prevent such a proof of
complaisance, but in vain; Mary would not understand them; such an
opportunity of exhibiting was delightful to her, and she began her song.
Elizabeth’s eyes were fixed on her with most painful sensations, and she
watched her progress through the several stanzas with an impatience which was
very ill rewarded at their close; for Mary, on receiving, amongst the thanks of the
table, the hint of a hope that she might be prevailed on to favour them again,
after the pause of half a minute began another. Mary’s powers were by no means
fitted for such a display; her voice was weak, and her manner affected. Elizabeth
was in agonies. She looked at Jane, to see how she bore it; but Jane was very
composedly talking to Bingley. She looked at his two sisters, and saw them
making signs of derision at each other, and at Darcy, who continued, however,
imperturbably grave. She looked at her father to entreat his interference, lest
Mary should be singing all night. He took the hint, and when Mary had finished
her second song, said aloud, “That will do extremely well, child. You have
delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit.”
Mary, though pretending not to hear, was somewhat disconcerted; and
Elizabeth, sorry for her, and sorry for her father’s speech, was afraid her anxiety
had done no good. Others of the party were now applied to.
“If I,” said Mr. Collins, “were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I should have
great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company with an air; for I consider
music as a very innocent diversion, and perfectly compatible with the profession
of a clergyman. I do not mean, however, to assert that we can be justified in
devoting too much of our time to music, for there are certainly other things to be
attended to. The rector of a parish has much to do. In the first place, he must
make such an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not
offensive to his patron. He must write his own sermons; and the time that
remains will not be too much for his parish duties, and the care and improvement
of his dwelling, which he cannot be excused from making as comfortable as
possible. And I do not think it of light importance that he should have attentive
and conciliatory manners towards everybody, especially towards those to whom
he owes his preferment. I cannot acquit him of that duty; nor could I think well
of the man who should omit an occasion of testifying his respect towards
anybody connected with the family.” And with a bow to Mr. Darcy, he
concluded his speech, which had been spoken so loud as to be heard by half the
room. Many stared—many smiled; but no one looked more amused than Mr.
Bennet himself, while his wife seriously commended Mr. Collins for having
spoken so sensibly, and observed in a half-whisper to Lady Lucas, that he was a
remarkably clever, good kind of young man.
To Elizabeth it appeared that, had her family made an agreement to expose
themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been
impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit or finer success; and
happy did she think it for Bingley and her sister that some of the exhibition had
escaped his notice, and that his feelings were not of a sort to be much distressed
by the folly which he must have witnessed. That his two sisters and Mr. Darcy,
however, should have such an opportunity of ridiculing her relations, was bad
enough, and she could not determine whether the silent contempt of the
gentleman, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, were more intolerable.
The rest of the evening brought her little amusement. She was teased by Mr.
Collins, who continued most perseveringly by her side, and though he could not
prevail on her to dance with him again, put it out of her power to dance with
others. In vain did she entreat him to stand up with somebody else, and offer to
introduce him to any young lady in the room. He assured her, that as to dancing,
he was perfectly indifferent to it; that his chief object was by delicate attentions
to recommend himself to her and that he should therefore make a point of
remaining close to her the whole evening. There was no arguing upon such a
project. She owed her greatest relief to her friend Miss Lucas, who often joined
them, and good-naturedly engaged Mr. Collins’s conversation to herself.
She was at least free from the offense of Mr. Darcy’s further notice; though
often standing within a very short distance of her, quite disengaged, he never
came near enough to speak. She felt it to be the probable consequence of her
allusions to Mr. Wickham, and rejoiced in it.
The Longbourn party were the last of all the company to depart, and, by a
manoeuvre of Mrs. Bennet, had to wait for their carriage a quarter of an hour
after everybody else was gone, which gave them time to see how heartily they
were wished away by some of the family. Mrs. Hurst and her sister scarcely
opened their mouths, except to complain of fatigue, and were evidently
impatient to have the house to themselves. They repulsed every attempt of Mrs.
Bennet at conversation, and by so doing threw a languor over the whole party,
which was very little relieved by the long speeches of Mr. Collins, who was
complimenting Mr. Bingley and his sisters on the elegance of their
entertainment, and the hospitality and politeness which had marked their
behaviour to their guests. Darcy said nothing at all. Mr. Bennet, in equal silence,
was enjoying the scene. Mr. Bingley and Jane were standing together, a little
detached from the rest, and talked only to each other. Elizabeth preserved as
steady a silence as either Mrs. Hurst or Miss Bingley; and even Lydia was too
much fatigued to utter more than the occasional exclamation of “Lord, how tired
I am!” accompanied by a violent yawn.
When at length they arose to take leave, Mrs. Bennet was most pressingly
civil in her hope of seeing the whole family soon at Longbourn, and addressed
herself especially to Mr. Bingley, to assure him how happy he would make them
by eating a family dinner with them at any time, without the ceremony of a
formal invitation. Bingley was all grateful pleasure, and he readily engaged for
taking the earliest opportunity of waiting on her, after his return from London,
whither he was obliged to go the next day for a short time.
Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied, and quitted the house under the delightful
persuasion that, allowing for the necessary preparations of settlements, new
carriages, and wedding clothes, she should undoubtedly see her daughter settled
at Netherfield in the course of three or four months. Of having another daughter
married to Mr. Collins, she thought with equal certainty, and with considerable,
though not equal, pleasure. Elizabeth was the least dear to her of all her children;
and though the man and the match were quite good enough for her, the worth of
each was eclipsed by Mr. Bingley and Netherfield.

Chapter 19
The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. Mr. Collins made his
declaration in form. Having resolved to do it without loss of time, as his leave of
absence extended only to the following Saturday, and having no feelings of
diffidence to make it distressing to himself even at the moment, he set about it in
a very orderly manner, with all the observances, which he supposed a regular
part of the business. On finding Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth, and one of the younger
girls together, soon after breakfast, he addressed the mother in these words:
“May I hope, madam, for your interest with your fair daughter Elizabeth,
when I solicit for the honour of a private audience with her in the course of this
morning?”
Before Elizabeth had time for anything but a blush of surprise, Mrs. Bennet
answered instantly, “Oh dear!—yes—certainly. I am sure Lizzy will be very
happy—I am sure she can have no objection. Come, Kitty, I want you up stairs.”
And, gathering her work together, she was hastening away, when Elizabeth
called out:
“Dear madam, do not go. I beg you will not go. Mr. Collins must excuse me.
He can have nothing to say to me that anybody need not hear. I am going away
myself.”
“No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. I desire you to stay where you are.” And upon
Elizabeth’s seeming really, with vexed and embarrassed looks, about to escape,
she added: “Lizzy, I insist upon your staying and hearing Mr. Collins.”
Elizabeth would not oppose such an injunction—and a moment’s
consideration making her also sensible that it would be wisest to get it over as
soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down again and tried to conceal, by
incessant employment the feelings which were divided between distress and
diversion. Mrs. Bennet and Kitty walked off, and as soon as they were gone, Mr.
Collins began.
“Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far from doing
you any disservice, rather adds to your other perfections. You would have been
less amiable in my eyes had there not been this little unwillingness; but allow me
to assure you, that I have your respected mother’s permission for this address.
You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse, however your natural
delicacy may lead you to dissemble; my attentions have been too marked to be
mistaken. Almost as soon as I entered the house, I singled you out as the
companion of my future life. But before I am run away with by my feelings on
this subject, perhaps it would be advisable for me to state my reasons for
marrying—and, moreover, for coming into Hertfordshire with the design of
selecting a wife, as I certainly did.”
The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away with
by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing, that she could not use the short
pause he allowed in any attempt to stop him further, and he continued:
“My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every
clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony
in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced that it will add very greatly to my
happiness; and thirdly—which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it
is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have
the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her
opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night
before I left Hunsford—between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson
was arranging Miss de Bourgh’s footstool, that she said, ‘Mr. Collins, you must
marry. A clergyman like you must marry. Choose properly, choose a
gentlewoman for my sake; and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of
person, not brought up high, but able to make a small income go a good way.
This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to
Hunsford, and I will visit her.’ Allow me, by the way, to observe, my fair cousin,
that I do not reckon the notice and kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as
among the least of the advantages in my power to offer. You will find her
manners beyond anything I can describe; and your wit and vivacity, I think, must
be acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence and respect
which her rank will inevitably excite. Thus much for my general intention in
favour of matrimony; it remains to be told why my views were directed towards
Longbourn instead of my own neighbourhood, where I can assure you there are
many amiable young women. But the fact is, that being, as I am, to inherit this
estate after the death of your honoured father (who, however, may live many
years longer), I could not satisfy myself without resolving to choose a wife from
among his daughters, that the loss to them might be as little as possible, when
the melancholy event takes place—which, however, as I have already said, may
not be for several years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter
myself it will not sink me in your esteem. And now nothing remains for me but
to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection. To
fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make no demand of that nature on
your father, since I am well aware that it could not be complied with; and that
one thousand pounds in the four per cents, which will not be yours till after your
mother’s decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to. On that head, therefore,
I shall be uniformly silent; and you may assure yourself that no ungenerous
reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married.”
It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him now.
“You are too hasty, sir,” she cried. “You forget that I have made no answer.
Let me do it without further loss of time. Accept my thanks for the compliment
you are paying me. I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is
impossible for me to do otherwise than to decline them.”
“I am not now to learn,” replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave of the hand,
“that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they
secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that
sometimes the refusal is repeated a second, or even a third time. I am therefore
by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you
to the altar ere long.”
“Upon my word, sir,” cried Elizabeth, “your hope is a rather extraordinary one
after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if
such young ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the
chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You
could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the
world who could make you so. Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know
me, I am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill qualified for the
situation.”
“Were it certain that Lady Catherine would think so,” said Mr. Collins very
gravely—“but I cannot imagine that her ladyship would at all disapprove of you.
And you may be certain when I have the honour of seeing her again, I shall
speak in the very highest terms of your modesty, economy, and other amiable
qualification.”
“Indeed, Mr. Collins, all praise of me will be unnecessary. You must give me
leave to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment of believing what I say. I
wish you very happy and very rich, and by refusing your hand, do all in my
power to prevent your being otherwise. In making me the offer, you must have
satisfied the delicacy of your feelings with regard to my family, and may take
possession of Longbourn estate whenever it falls, without any self-reproach.
This matter may be considered, therefore, as finally settled.” And rising as she
thus spoke, she would have quitted the room, had Mr. Collins not thus addressed
her:
“When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on the subject, I shall
hope to receive a more favourable answer than you have now given me; though I
am far from accusing you of cruelty at present, because I know it to be the
established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and
perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage my suit as would be
consistent with the true delicacy of the female character.”
“Really, Mr. Collins,” cried Elizabeth with some warmth, “you puzzle me
exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of
encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as to
convince you of its being one.”
“You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of
my addresses is merely words of course. My reasons for believing it are briefly
these: It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy of your acceptance, or
that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My
situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bourgh, and my
relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should
take it into further consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is
by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your
portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your
loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are
not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of
increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant
females.”
“I do assure you, sir, that I have no pretensions whatever to that kind of
elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would rather be paid
the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you again and again for the
honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely
impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not
consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational
creature, speaking the truth from her heart.”
“You are uniformly charming!” cried he, with an air of awkward gallantry;
“and I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the express authority of both your
excellent parents, my proposals will not fail of being acceptable.”
To such perseverance in wilful self-deception Elizabeth would make no reply,
and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, if he persisted in
considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her
father, whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as to be decisive, and
whose behaviour at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry
of an elegant female.

Chapter 20
Mr. Collins was not left long to the silent contemplation of his successful love;
for Mrs. Bennet, having dawdled about in the vestibule to watch for the end of
the conference, no sooner saw Elizabeth open the door and with quick step pass
her towards the staircase, than she entered the breakfast-room, and congratulated
both him and herself in warm terms on the happy prospect of their nearer
connection. Mr. Collins received and returned these felicitations with equal
pleasure, and then proceeded to relate the particulars of their interview, with the
result of which he trusted he had every reason to be satisfied, since the refusal
which his cousin had steadfastly given him would naturally flow from her
bashful modesty and the genuine delicacy of her character.
This information, however, startled Mrs. Bennet; she would have been glad to
be equally satisfied that her daughter had meant to encourage him by protesting
against his proposals, but she dared not believe it, and could not help saying so.
“But, depend upon it, Mr. Collins,” she added, “that Lizzy shall be brought to
reason. I will speak to her about it directly. She is a very headstrong, foolish girl,
and does not know her own interest but I will make her know it.”
“Pardon me for interrupting you, madam,” cried Mr. Collins; “but if she is
really headstrong and foolish, I know not whether she would altogether be a very
desirable wife to a man in my situation, who naturally looks for happiness in the
marriage state. If therefore she actually persists in rejecting my suit, perhaps it
were better not to force her into accepting me, because if liable to such defects of
temper, she could not contribute much to my felicity.”
“Sir, you quite misunderstand me,” said Mrs. Bennet, alarmed. “Lizzy is only
headstrong in such matters as these. In everything else she is as good-natured a
girl as ever lived. I will go directly to Mr. Bennet, and we shall very soon settle it
with her, I am sure.”
She would not give him time to reply, but hurrying instantly to her husband,
called out as she entered the library, “Oh! Mr. Bennet, you are wanted
immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr.
Collins, for she vows she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will
change his mind and not have her.”
Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed them on
her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her
communication.
“I have not the pleasure of understanding you,” said he, when she had finished
her speech. “Of what are you talking?”
“Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and
Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy.”
“And what am I to do on the occasion? It seems an hopeless business.”
“Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. Tell her that you insist upon her marrying
him.”
“Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion.”
Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the library.
“Come here, child,” cried her father as she appeared. “I have sent for you on
an affair of importance. I understand that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of
marriage. Is it true?” Elizabeth replied that it was. “Very well—and this offer of
marriage you have refused?”
“I have, sir.”
“Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your
accepting it. Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?”
“Yes, or I will never see her again.”
“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a
stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do
not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”
Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning, but
Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded the affair as
she wished, was excessively disappointed.
“What do you mean, Mr. Bennet, in talking this way? You promised me to
insist upon her marrying him.”
“My dear,” replied her husband, “I have two small favours to request. First,
that you will allow me the free use of my understanding on the present occasion;
and secondly, of my room. I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as
may be.”
Not yet, however, in spite of her disappointment in her husband, did Mrs.
Bennet give up the point. She talked to Elizabeth again and again; coaxed and
threatened her by turns. She endeavoured to secure Jane in her interest; but Jane,
with all possible mildness, declined interfering; and Elizabeth, sometimes with
real earnestness, and sometimes with playful gaiety, replied to her attacks.
Though her manner varied, however, her determination never did.
Mr. Collins, meanwhile, was meditating in solitude on what had passed. He
thought too well of himself to comprehend on what motives his cousin could
refuse him; and though his pride was hurt, he suffered in no other way. His
regard for her was quite imaginary; and the possibility of her deserving her
mother’s reproach prevented his feeling any regret.
While the family were in this confusion, Charlotte Lucas came to spend the
day with them. She was met in the vestibule by Lydia, who, flying to her, cried
in a half whisper, “I am glad you are come, for there is such fun here! What do
you think has happened this morning? Mr. Collins has made an offer to Lizzy,
and she will not have him.”
Charlotte hardly had time to answer, before they were joined by Kitty, who
came to tell the same news; and no sooner had they entered the breakfast-room,
where Mrs. Bennet was alone, than she likewise began on the subject, calling on
Miss Lucas for her compassion, and entreating her to persuade her friend Lizzy
to comply with the wishes of all her family. “Pray do, my dear Miss Lucas,” she
added in a melancholy tone, “for nobody is on my side, nobody takes part with
me. I am cruelly used, nobody feels for my poor nerves.”
Charlotte’s reply was spared by the entrance of Jane and Elizabeth.
“Aye, there she comes,” continued Mrs. Bennet, “looking as unconcerned as
may be, and caring no more for us than if we were at York, provided she can
have her own way. But I tell you, Miss Lizzy—if you take it into your head to go
on refusing every offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband at
all—and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your father is
dead. I shall not be able to keep you—and so I warn you. I have done with you
from this very day. I told you in the library, you know, that I should never speak
to you again, and you will find me as good as my word. I have no pleasure in
talking to undutiful children. Not that I have much pleasure, indeed, in talking to
anybody. People who suffer as I do from nervous complaints can have no great
inclination for talking. Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those
who do not complain are never pitied.”
Her daughters listened in silence to this effusion, sensible that any attempt to
reason with her or soothe her would only increase the irritation. She talked on,
therefore, without interruption from any of them, till they were joined by Mr.
Collins, who entered the room with an air more stately than usual, and on
perceiving whom, she said to the girls, “Now, I do insist upon it, that you, all of
you, hold your tongues, and let me and Mr. Collins have a little conversation
together.”
Elizabeth passed quietly out of the room, Jane and Kitty followed, but Lydia
stood her ground, determined to hear all she could; and Charlotte, detained first
by the civility of Mr. Collins, whose inquiries after herself and all her family
were very minute, and then by a little curiosity, satisfied herself with walking to
the window and pretending not to hear. In a doleful voice Mrs. Bennet began the
projected conversation: “Oh! Mr. Collins!”
“My dear madam,” replied he, “let us be for ever silent on this point. Far be it
from me,” he presently continued, in a voice that marked his displeasure, “to
resent the behaviour of your daughter. Resignation to inevitable evils is the duty
of us all; the peculiar duty of a young man who has been so fortunate as I have
been in early preferment; and I trust I am resigned. Perhaps not the less so from
feeling a doubt of my positive happiness had my fair cousin honoured me with
her hand; for I have often observed that resignation is never so perfect as when
the blessing denied begins to lose somewhat of its value in our estimation. You
will not, I hope, consider me as showing any disrespect to your family, my dear
madam, by thus withdrawing my pretensions to your daughter’s favour, without
having paid yourself and Mr. Bennet the compliment of requesting you to
interpose your authority in my behalf. My conduct may, I fear, be objectionable
in having accepted my dismission from your daughter’s lips instead of your own.
But we are all liable to error. I have certainly meant well through the whole
affair. My object has been to secure an amiable companion for myself, with due
consideration for the advantage of all your family, and if my manner has been at
all reprehensible, I here beg leave to apologise.”

Chapter 21
The discussion of Mr. Collins’s offer was now nearly at an end, and Elizabeth
had only to suffer from the uncomfortable feelings necessarily attending it, and
occasionally from some peevish allusions of her mother. As for the gentleman
himself, his feelings were chiefly expressed, not by embarrassment or dejection,
or by trying to avoid her, but by stiffness of manner and resentful silence. He
scarcely ever spoke to her, and the assiduous attentions which he had been so
sensible of himself were transferred for the rest of the day to Miss Lucas, whose
civility in listening to him was a seasonable relief to them all, and especially to
her friend.
The morrow produced no abatement of Mrs. Bennet’s ill-humour or ill health.
Mr. Collins was also in the same state of angry pride. Elizabeth had hoped that
his resentment might shorten his visit, but his plan did not appear in the least
affected by it. He was always to have gone on Saturday, and to Saturday he
meant to stay.
After breakfast, the girls walked to Meryton to inquire if Mr. Wickham were
returned, and to lament over his absence from the Netherfield ball. He joined
them on their entering the town, and attended them to their aunt’s where his
regret and vexation, and the concern of everybody, was well talked over. To
Elizabeth, however, he voluntarily acknowledged that the necessity of his
absence had been self-imposed.
“I found,” said he, “as the time drew near that I had better not meet Mr.
Darcy; that to be in the same room, the same party with him for so many hours
together, might be more than I could bear, and that scenes might arise unpleasant
to more than myself.”
She highly approved his forbearance, and they had leisure for a full discussion
of it, and for all the commendation which they civilly bestowed on each other, as
Wickham and another officer walked back with them to Longbourn, and during
the walk he particularly attended to her. His accompanying them was a double
advantage; she felt all the compliment it offered to herself, and it was most
acceptable as an occasion of introducing him to her father and mother.
Soon after their return, a letter was delivered to Miss Bennet; it came from
Netherfield. The envelope contained a sheet of elegant, little, hot-pressed paper,
well covered with a lady’s fair, flowing hand; and Elizabeth saw her sister’s
countenance change as she read it, and saw her dwelling intently on some
particular passages. Jane recollected herself soon, and putting the letter away,
tried to join with her usual cheerfulness in the general conversation; but
Elizabeth felt an anxiety on the subject which drew off her attention even from
Wickham; and no sooner had he and his companion taken leave, than a glance
from Jane invited her to follow her up stairs. When they had gained their own
room, Jane, taking out the letter, said:
“This is from Caroline Bingley; what it contains has surprised me a good deal.
The whole party have left Netherfield by this time, and are on their way to town
—and without any intention of coming back again. You shall hear what she
says.”
She then read the first sentence aloud, which comprised the information of
their having just resolved to follow their brother to town directly, and of their
meaning to dine in Grosvenor Street, where Mr. Hurst had a house. The next was
in these words: “I do not pretend to regret anything I shall leave in Hertfordshire,
except your society, my dearest friend; but we will hope, at some future period,
to enjoy many returns of that delightful intercourse we have known, and in the
meanwhile may lessen the pain of separation by a very frequent and most
unreserved correspondence. I depend on you for that.” To these highflown
expressions Elizabeth listened with all the insensibility of distrust; and though
the suddenness of their removal surprised her, she saw nothing in it really to
lament; it was not to be supposed that their absence from Netherfield would
prevent Mr. Bingley’s being there; and as to the loss of their society, she was
persuaded that Jane must cease to regard it, in the enjoyment of his.
“It is unlucky,” said she, after a short pause, “that you should not be able to
see your friends before they leave the country. But may we not hope that the
period of future happiness to which Miss Bingley looks forward may arrive
earlier than she is aware, and that the delightful intercourse you have known as
friends will be renewed with yet greater satisfaction as sisters? Mr. Bingley will
not be detained in London by them.”
“Caroline decidedly says that none of the party will return into Hertfordshire
this winter. I will read it to you:”
“When my brother left us yesterday, he imagined that the business which took
him to London might be concluded in three or four days; but as we are certain it
cannot be so, and at the same time convinced that when Charles gets to town he
will be in no hurry to leave it again, we have determined on following him
thither, that he may not be obliged to spend his vacant hours in a comfortless
hotel. Many of my acquaintances are already there for the winter; I wish that I
could hear that you, my dearest friend, had any intention of making one of the
crowd—but of that I despair. I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire
may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings, and that your
beaux will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of
whom we shall deprive you.”
“It is evident by this,” added Jane, “that he comes back no more this winter.”
“It is only evident that Miss Bingley does not mean that he should.”
“Why will you think so? It must be his own doing. He is his own master. But
you do not know all. I will read you the passage which particularly hurts me. I
will have no reserves from you.”
“Mr. Darcy is impatient to see his sister; and, to confess the truth, we are
scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do not think Georgiana Darcy has
her equal for beauty, elegance, and accomplishments; and the affection she
inspires in Louisa and myself is heightened into something still more interesting,
from the hope we dare entertain of her being hereafter our sister. I do not know
whether I ever before mentioned to you my feelings on this subject; but I will
not leave the country without confiding them, and I trust you will not esteem
them unreasonable. My brother admires her greatly already; he will have
frequent opportunity now of seeing her on the most intimate footing; her
relations all wish the connection as much as his own; and a sister’s partiality is
not misleading me, I think, when I call Charles most capable of engaging any
woman’s heart. With all these circumstances to favour an attachment, and
nothing to prevent it, am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging the hope of an
event which will secure the happiness of so many?”
“What do you think of this sentence, my dear Lizzy?” said Jane as she
finished it. “Is it not clear enough? Does it not expressly declare that Caroline
neither expects nor wishes me to be her sister; that she is perfectly convinced of
her brother’s indifference; and that if she suspects the nature of my feelings for
him, she means (most kindly!) to put me on my guard? Can there be any other
opinion on the subject?”
“Yes, there can; for mine is totally different. Will you hear it?”
“Most willingly.”
“You shall have it in a few words. Miss Bingley sees that her brother is in love
with you, and wants him to marry Miss Darcy. She follows him to town in hope
of keeping him there, and tries to persuade you that he does not care about you.”
Jane shook her head.
“Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me. No one who has ever seen you
together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot. She is not such
a simpleton. Could she have seen half as much love in Mr. Darcy for herself, she
would have ordered her wedding clothes. But the case is this: We are not rich
enough or grand enough for them; and she is the more anxious to get Miss Darcy
for her brother, from the notion that when there has been one intermarriage, she
may have less trouble in achieving a second; in which there is certainly some
ingenuity, and I dare say it would succeed, if Miss de Bourgh were out of the
way. But, my dearest Jane, you cannot seriously imagine that because Miss
Bingley tells you her brother greatly admires Miss Darcy, he is in the smallest
degree less sensible of your merit than when he took leave of you on Tuesday, or
that it will be in her power to persuade him that, instead of being in love with
you, he is very much in love with her friend.”
“If we thought alike of Miss Bingley,” replied Jane, “your representation of all
this might make me quite easy. But I know the foundation is unjust. Caroline is
incapable of wilfully deceiving anyone; and all that I can hope in this case is that
she is deceiving herself.”
“That is right. You could not have started a more happy idea, since you will
not take comfort in mine. Believe her to be deceived, by all means. You have
now done your duty by her, and must fret no longer.”
“But, my dear sister, can I be happy, even supposing the best, in accepting a
man whose sisters and friends are all wishing him to marry elsewhere?”
“You must decide for yourself,” said Elizabeth; “and if, upon mature
deliberation, you find that the misery of disobliging his two sisters is more than
equivalent to the happiness of being his wife, I advise you by all means to refuse
him.”
“How can you talk so?” said Jane, faintly smiling. “You must know that
though I should be exceedingly grieved at their disapprobation, I could not
hesitate.”
“I did not think you would; and that being the case, I cannot consider your
situation with much compassion.”
“But if he returns no more this winter, my choice will never be required. A
thousand things may arise in six months!”
The idea of his returning no more Elizabeth treated with the utmost contempt.
It appeared to her merely the suggestion of Caroline’s interested wishes, and she
could not for a moment suppose that those wishes, however openly or artfully
spoken, could influence a young man so totally independent of everyone.
She represented to her sister as forcibly as possible what she felt on the
subject, and had soon the pleasure of seeing its happy effect. Jane’s temper was
not desponding, and she was gradually led to hope, though the diffidence of
affection sometimes overcame the hope, that Bingley would return to Netherfield
and answer every wish of her heart.
They agreed that Mrs. Bennet should only hear of the departure of the family,
without being alarmed on the score of the gentleman’s conduct; but even this
partial communication gave her a great deal of concern, and she bewailed it as
exceedingly unlucky that the ladies should happen to go away just as they were
all getting so intimate together. After lamenting it, however, at some length, she
had the consolation that Mr. Bingley would be soon down again and soon dining
at Longbourn, and the conclusion of all was the comfortable declaration, that
though he had been invited only to a family dinner, she would take care to have
two full courses.

Chapter 22
The Bennets were engaged to dine with the Lucases and again during the chief
of the day was Miss Lucas so kind as to listen to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth took an
opportunity of thanking her. “It keeps him in good humour,” said she, “and I am
more obliged to you than I can express.” Charlotte assured her friend of her
satisfaction in being useful, and that it amply repaid her for the little sacrifice of
her time. This was very amiable, but Charlotte’s kindness extended farther than
Elizabeth had any conception of; its object was nothing else than to secure her
from any return of Mr. Collins’s addresses, by engaging them towards herself.
Such was Miss Lucas’s scheme; and appearances were so favourable, that when
they parted at night, she would have felt almost secure of success if he had not
been to leave Hertfordshire so very soon. But here she did injustice to the fire
and independence of his character, for it led him to escape out of Longbourn
House the next morning with admirable slyness, and hasten to Lucas Lodge to
throw himself at her feet. He was anxious to avoid the notice of his cousins,
from a conviction that if they saw him depart, they could not fail to conjecture
his design, and he was not willing to have the attempt known till its success
might be known likewise; for though feeling almost secure, and with reason, for
Charlotte had been tolerably encouraging, he was comparatively diffident since
the adventure of Wednesday. His reception, however, was of the most flattering
kind. Miss Lucas perceived him from an upper window as he walked towards the
house, and instantly set out to meet him accidentally in the lane. But little had
she dared to hope that so much love and eloquence awaited her there.
In as short a time as Mr. Collins’s long speeches would allow, everything was
settled between them to the satisfaction of both; and as they entered the house he
earnestly entreated her to name the day that was to make him the happiest of
men; and though such a solicitation must be waived for the present, the lady felt
no inclination to trifle with his happiness. The stupidity with which he was
favoured by nature must guard his courtship from any charm that could make a
woman wish for its continuance; and Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from
the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that
establishment were gained.
Sir William and Lady Lucas were speedily applied to for their consent; and it
was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity. Mr. Collins’s present circumstances
made it a most eligible match for their daughter, to whom they could give little
fortune; and his prospects of future wealth were exceedingly fair. Lady Lucas
began directly to calculate, with more interest than the matter had ever excited
before, how many years longer Mr. Bennet was likely to live; and Sir William
gave it as his decided opinion, that whenever Mr. Collins should be in possession
of the Longbourn estate, it would be highly expedient that both he and his wife
should make their appearance at St. James’s. The whole family, in short, were
properly overjoyed on the occasion. The younger girls formed hopes of coming
out a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the boys were
relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid. Charlotte
herself was tolerably composed. She had gained her point, and had time to
consider of it. Her reflections were in general satisfactory. Mr. Collins, to be
sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his
attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. Without
thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her
object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small
fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest
preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age
of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck
of it. The least agreeable circumstance in the business was the surprise it must
occasion to Elizabeth Bennet, whose friendship she valued beyond that of any
other person. Elizabeth would wonder, and probably would blame her; and
though her resolution was not to be shaken, her feelings must be hurt by such a
disapprobation. She resolved to give her the information herself, and therefore
charged Mr. Collins, when he returned to Longbourn to dinner, to drop no hint of
what had passed before any of the family. A promise of secrecy was of course
very dutifully given, but it could not be kept without difficulty; for the curiosity
excited by his long absence burst forth in such very direct questions on his return
as required some ingenuity to evade, and he was at the same time exercising
great self-denial, for he was longing to publish his prosperous love.
As he was to begin his journey too early on the morrow to see any of the
family, the ceremony of leave-taking was performed when the ladies moved for
the night; and Mrs. Bennet, with great politeness and cordiality, said how happy
they should be to see him at Longbourn again, whenever his engagements might
allow him to visit them.
“My dear madam,” he replied, “this invitation is particularly gratifying,
because it is what I have been hoping to receive; and you may be very certain
that I shall avail myself of it as soon as possible.”
They were all astonished; and Mr. Bennet, who could by no means wish for so
speedy a return, immediately said:
“But is there not danger of Lady Catherine’s disapprobation here, my good
sir? You had better neglect your relations than run the risk of offending your
patroness.”
“My dear sir,” replied Mr. Collins, “I am particularly obliged to you for this
friendly caution, and you may depend upon my not taking so material a step
without her ladyship’s concurrence.”
“You cannot be too much upon your guard. Risk anything rather than her
displeasure; and if you find it likely to be raised by your coming to us again,
which I should think exceedingly probable, stay quietly at home, and be satisfied
that we shall take no offence.”
“Believe me, my dear sir, my gratitude is warmly excited by such affectionate
attention; and depend upon it, you will speedily receive from me a letter of
thanks for this, and for every other mark of your regard during my stay in
Hertfordshire. As for my fair cousins, though my absence may not be long
enough to render it necessary, I shall now take the liberty of wishing them health
and happiness, not excepting my cousin Elizabeth.”
With proper civilities the ladies then withdrew; all of them equally surprised
that he meditated a quick return. Mrs. Bennet wished to understand by it that he
thought of paying his addresses to one of her younger girls, and Mary might
have been prevailed on to accept him. She rated his abilities much higher than
any of the others; there was a solidity in his reflections which often struck her,
and though by no means so clever as herself, she thought that if encouraged to
read and improve himself by such an example as hers, he might become a very
agreeable companion. But on the following morning, every hope of this kind was
done away. Miss Lucas called soon after breakfast, and in a private conference
with Elizabeth related the event of the day before.
The possibility of Mr. Collins’s fancying himself in love with her friend had
once occurred to Elizabeth within the last day or two; but that Charlotte could
encourage him seemed almost as far from possibility as she could encourage him
herself, and her astonishment was consequently so great as to overcome at first
the bounds of decorum, and she could not help crying out:
“Engaged to Mr. Collins! My dear Charlotte—impossible!”
The steady countenance which Miss Lucas had commanded in telling her
story, gave way to a momentary confusion here on receiving so direct a
reproach; though, as it was no more than she expected, she soon regained her
composure, and calmly replied:
“Why should you be surprised, my dear Eliza? Do you think it incredible that
Mr. Collins should be able to procure any woman’s good opinion, because he
was not so happy as to succeed with you?”
But Elizabeth had now recollected herself, and making a strong effort for it,
was able to assure with tolerable firmness that the prospect of their relationship
was highly grateful to her, and that she wished her all imaginable happiness.
“I see what you are feeling,” replied Charlotte. “You must be surprised, very
much surprised—so lately as Mr. Collins was wishing to marry you. But when
you have had time to think it over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have
done. I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home;
and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connection, and situation in life, I am
convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can
boast on entering the marriage state.”
Elizabeth quietly answered “Undoubtedly;” and after an awkward pause, they
returned to the rest of the family. Charlotte did not stay much longer, and
Elizabeth was then left to reflect on what she had heard. It was a long time
before she became at all reconciled to the idea of so unsuitable a match. The
strangeness of Mr. Collins’s making two offers of marriage within three days
was nothing in comparison of his being now accepted. She had always felt that
Charlotte’s opinion of matrimony was not exactly like her own, but she had not
supposed it to be possible that, when called into action, she would have
sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage. Charlotte the wife of Mr.
Collins was a most humiliating picture! And to the pang of a friend disgracing
herself and sunk in her esteem, was added the distressing conviction that it was
impossible for that friend to be tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen.

Chapter 23
Elizabeth was sitting with her mother and sisters, reflecting on what she had
heard, and doubting whether she was authorised to mention it, when Sir William
Lucas himself appeared, sent by his daughter, to announce her engagement to the
family. With many compliments to them, and much self-gratulation on the
prospect of a connection between the houses, he unfolded the matter—to an
audience not merely wondering, but incredulous; for Mrs. Bennet, with more
perseverance than politeness, protested he must be entirely mistaken; and Lydia,
always unguarded and often uncivil, boisterously exclaimed:
“Good Lord! Sir William, how can you tell such a story? Do not you know
that Mr. Collins wants to marry Lizzy?”
Nothing less than the complaisance of a courtier could have borne without
anger such treatment; but Sir William’s good breeding carried him through it all;
and though he begged leave to be positive as to the truth of his information, he
listened to all their impertinence with the most forbearing courtesy.
Elizabeth, feeling it incumbent on her to relieve him from so unpleasant a
situation, now put herself forward to confirm his account, by mentioning her
prior knowledge of it from Charlotte herself; and endeavoured to put a stop to
the exclamations of her mother and sisters by the earnestness of her
congratulations to Sir William, in which she was readily joined by Jane, and by
making a variety of remarks on the happiness that might be expected from the
match, the excellent character of Mr. Collins, and the convenient distance of
Hunsford from London.
Mrs. Bennet was in fact too much overpowered to say a great deal while Sir
William remained; but no sooner had he left them than her feelings found a rapid
vent. In the first place, she persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter;
secondly, she was very sure that Mr. Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she
trusted that they would never be happy together; and fourthly, that the match
might be broken off. Two inferences, however, were plainly deduced from the
whole: one, that Elizabeth was the real cause of the mischief; and the other that
she herself had been barbarously misused by them all; and on these two points
she principally dwelt during the rest of the day. Nothing could console and
nothing could appease her. Nor did that day wear out her resentment. A week
elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her, a month passed
away before she could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude,
and many months were gone before she could at all forgive their daughter.
Mr. Bennet’s emotions were much more tranquil on the occasion, and such as
he did experience he pronounced to be of a most agreeable sort; for it gratified
him, he said, to discover that Charlotte Lucas, whom he had been used to think
tolerably sensible, was as foolish as his wife, and more foolish than his daughter!
Jane confessed herself a little surprised at the match; but she said less of her
astonishment than of her earnest desire for their happiness; nor could Elizabeth
persuade her to consider it as improbable. Kitty and Lydia were far from envying
Miss Lucas, for Mr. Collins was only a clergyman; and it affected them in no
other way than as a piece of news to spread at Meryton.
Lady Lucas could not be insensible of triumph on being able to retort on Mrs.
Bennet the comfort of having a daughter well married; and she called at
Longbourn rather oftener than usual to say how happy she was, though Mrs.
Bennet’s sour looks and ill-natured remarks might have been enough to drive
happiness away.
Between Elizabeth and Charlotte there was a restraint which kept them
mutually silent on the subject; and Elizabeth felt persuaded that no real
confidence could ever subsist between them again. Her disappointment in
Charlotte made her turn with fonder regard to her sister, of whose rectitude and
delicacy she was sure her opinion could never be shaken, and for whose
happiness she grew daily more anxious, as Bingley had now been gone a week
and nothing more was heard of his return.
Jane had sent Caroline an early answer to her letter, and was counting the days
till she might reasonably hope to hear again. The promised letter of thanks from
Mr. Collins arrived on Tuesday, addressed to their father, and written with all the
solemnity of gratitude which a twelvemonth’s abode in the family might have
prompted. After discharging his conscience on that head, he proceeded to inform
them, with many rapturous expressions, of his happiness in having obtained the
affection of their amiable neighbour, Miss Lucas, and then explained that it was
merely with the view of enjoying her society that he had been so ready to close
with their kind wish of seeing him again at Longbourn, whither he hoped to be
able to return on Monday fortnight; for Lady Catherine, he added, so heartily
approved his marriage, that she wished it to take place as soon as possible, which
he trusted would be an unanswerable argument with his amiable Charlotte to
name an early day for making him the happiest of men.
Mr. Collins’s return into Hertfordshire was no longer a matter of pleasure to
Mrs. Bennet. On the contrary, she was as much disposed to complain of it as her
husband. It was very strange that he should come to Longbourn instead of to
Lucas Lodge; it was also very inconvenient and exceedingly troublesome. She
hated having visitors in the house while her health was so indifferent, and lovers
were of all people the most disagreeable. Such were the gentle murmurs of Mrs.
Bennet, and they gave way only to the greater distress of Mr. Bingley’s
continued absence.
Neither Jane nor Elizabeth were comfortable on this subject. Day after day
passed away without bringing any other tidings of him than the report which
shortly prevailed in Meryton of his coming no more to Netherfield the whole
winter; a report which highly incensed Mrs. Bennet, and which she never failed
to contradict as a most scandalous falsehood.
Even Elizabeth began to fear—not that Bingley was indifferent—but that his
sisters would be successful in keeping him away. Unwilling as she was to admit
an idea so destructive of Jane’s happiness, and so dishonorable to the stability of
her lover, she could not prevent its frequently occurring. The united efforts of his
two unfeeling sisters and of his overpowering friend, assisted by the attractions
of Miss Darcy and the amusements of London might be too much, she feared,
for the strength of his attachment.
As for Jane, her anxiety under this suspense was, of course, more painful than
Elizabeth’s, but whatever she felt she was desirous of concealing, and between
herself and Elizabeth, therefore, the subject was never alluded to. But as no such
delicacy restrained her mother, an hour seldom passed in which she did not talk
of Bingley, express her impatience for his arrival, or even require Jane to confess
that if he did not come back she would think herself very ill used. It needed all
Jane’s steady mildness to bear these attacks with tolerable tranquillity.
Mr. Collins returned most punctually on Monday fortnight, but his reception
at Longbourn was not quite so gracious as it had been on his first introduction.
He was too happy, however, to need much attention; and luckily for the others,
the business of love-making relieved them from a great deal of his company. The
chief of every day was spent by him at Lucas Lodge, and he sometimes returned
to Longbourn only in time to make an apology for his absence before the family
went to bed.
Mrs. Bennet was really in a most pitiable state. The very mention of anything
concerning the match threw her into an agony of ill-humour, and wherever she
went she was sure of hearing it talked of. The sight of Miss Lucas was odious to
her. As her successor in that house, she regarded her with jealous abhorrence.
Whenever Charlotte came to see them, she concluded her to be anticipating the
hour of possession; and whenever she spoke in a low voice to Mr. Collins, was
convinced that they were talking of the Longbourn estate, and resolving to turn
herself and her daughters out of the house, as soon as Mr. Bennet were dead. She
complained bitterly of all this to her husband.
“Indeed, Mr. Bennet,” said she, “it is very hard to think that Charlotte Lucas
should ever be mistress of this house, that I should be forced to make way for
her, and live to see her take her place in it!”
“My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for better
things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the survivor.”
This was not very consoling to Mrs. Bennet, and therefore, instead of making
any answer, she went on as before.
“I cannot bear to think that they should have all this estate. If it was not for the
entail, I should not mind it.”
“What should not you mind?”
“I should not mind anything at all.”
“Let us be thankful that you are preserved from a state of such insensibility.”
“I never can be thankful, Mr. Bennet, for anything about the entail. How
anyone could have the conscience to entail away an estate from one’s own
daughters, I cannot understand; and all for the sake of Mr. Collins too! Why
should he have it more than anybody else?”
“I leave it to yourself to determine,” said Mr. Bennet

Chapter 24
Miss Bingley’s letter arrived, and put an end to doubt. The very first sentence
conveyed the assurance of their being all settled in London for the winter, and
concluded with her brother’s regret at not having had time to pay his respects to
his friends in Hertfordshire before he left the country.
Hope was over, entirely over; and when Jane could attend to the rest of the
letter, she found little, except the professed affection of the writer, that could
give her any comfort. Miss Darcy’s praise occupied the chief of it. Her many
attractions were again dwelt on, and Caroline boasted joyfully of their increasing
intimacy, and ventured to predict the accomplishment of the wishes which had
been unfolded in her former letter. She wrote also with great pleasure of her
brother’s being an inmate of Mr. Darcy’s house, and mentioned with raptures
some plans of the latter with regard to new furniture.
Elizabeth, to whom Jane very soon communicated the chief of all this, heard it
in silent indignation. Her heart was divided between concern for her sister, and
resentment against all others. To Caroline’s assertion of her brother’s being
partial to Miss Darcy she paid no credit. That he was really fond of Jane, she
doubted no more than she had ever done; and much as she had always been
disposed to like him, she could not think without anger, hardly without
contempt, on that easiness of temper, that want of proper resolution, which now
made him the slave of his designing friends, and led him to sacrifice of his own
happiness to the caprice of their inclination. Had his own happiness, however,
been the only sacrifice, he might have been allowed to sport with it in whatever
manner he thought best, but her sister’s was involved in it, as she thought he
must be sensible himself. It was a subject, in short, on which reflection would be
long indulged, and must be unavailing. She could think of nothing else; and yet
whether Bingley’s regard had really died away, or were suppressed by his
friends’ interference; whether he had been aware of Jane’s attachment, or
whether it had escaped his observation; whatever were the case, though her
opinion of him must be materially affected by the difference, her sister’s
situation remained the same, her peace equally wounded.
A day or two passed before Jane had courage to speak of her feelings to
Elizabeth; but at last, on Mrs. Bennet’s leaving them together, after a longer
irritation than usual about Netherfield and its master, she could not help saying:
“Oh, that my dear mother had more command over herself! She can have no
idea of the pain she gives me by her continual reflections on him. But I will not
repine. It cannot last long. He will be forgot, and we shall all be as we were
before.”
Elizabeth looked at her sister with incredulous solicitude, but said nothing.
“You doubt me,” cried Jane, slightly colouring; “indeed, you have no reason.
He may live in my memory as the most amiable man of my acquaintance, but
that is all. I have nothing either to hope or fear, and nothing to reproach him
with. Thank God! I have not that pain. A little time, therefore—I shall certainly
try to get the better.”
With a stronger voice she soon added, “I have this comfort immediately, that it
has not been more than an error of fancy on my side, and that it has done no
harm to anyone but myself.”
“My dear Jane!” exclaimed Elizabeth, “you are too good. Your sweetness and
disinterestedness are really angelic; I do not know what to say to you. I feel as if
I had never done you justice, or loved you as you deserve.”
Miss Bennet eagerly disclaimed all extraordinary merit, and threw back the
praise on her sister’s warm affection.
“Nay,” said Elizabeth, “this is not fair. You wish to think all the world
respectable, and are hurt if I speak ill of anybody. I only want to think you
perfect, and you set yourself against it. Do not be afraid of my running into any
excess, of my encroaching on your privilege of universal good-will. You need
not. There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think
well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every
day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the
little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense. I have
met with two instances lately, one I will not mention; the other is Charlotte’s
marriage. It is unaccountable! In every view it is unaccountable!”
“My dear Lizzy, do not give way to such feelings as these. They will ruin your
happiness. You do not make allowance enough for difference of situation and
temper. Consider Mr. Collins’s respectability, and Charlotte’s steady, prudent
character. Remember that she is one of a large family; that as to fortune, it is a
most eligible match; and be ready to believe, for everybody’s sake, that she may
feel something like regard and esteem for our cousin.”
“To oblige you, I would try to believe almost anything, but no one else could
be benefited by such a belief as this; for were I persuaded that Charlotte had any
regard for him, I should only think worse of her understanding than I now do of
her heart. My dear Jane, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded,
silly man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as well as I do, that
the woman who married him cannot have a proper way of thinking. You shall
not defend her, though it is Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one
individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to
persuade yourself or me, that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger
security for happiness.”
“I must think your language too strong in speaking of both,” replied Jane;
“and I hope you will be convinced of it by seeing them happy together. But
enough of this. You alluded to something else. You mentioned two instances. I
cannot misunderstand you, but I entreat you, dear Lizzy, not to pain me by
thinking that person to blame, and saying your opinion of him is sunk. We must
not be so ready to fancy ourselves intentionally injured. We must not expect a
lively young man to be always so guarded and circumspect. It is very often
nothing but our own vanity that deceives us. Women fancy admiration means
more than it does.”
“And men take care that they should.”
“If it is designedly done, they cannot be justified; but I have no idea of there
being so much design in the world as some persons imagine.”
“I am far from attributing any part of Mr. Bingley’s conduct to design,” said
Elizabeth; “but without scheming to do wrong, or to make others unhappy, there
may be error, and there may be misery. Thoughtlessness, want of attention to
other people’s feelings, and want of resolution, will do the business.”
“And do you impute it to either of those?”
“Yes; to the last. But if I go on, I shall displease you by saying what I think of
persons you esteem. Stop me whilst you can.”
“You persist, then, in supposing his sisters influence him?”
“Yes, in conjunction with his friend.”
“I cannot believe it. Why should they try to influence him? They can only
wish his happiness; and if he is attached to me, no other woman can secure it.”
“Your first position is false. They may wish many things besides his
happiness; they may wish his increase of wealth and consequence; they may
wish him to marry a girl who has all the importance of money, great connections,
and pride.”
“Beyond a doubt, they do wish him to choose Miss Darcy,” replied Jane; “but
this may be from better feelings than you are supposing. They have known her
much longer than they have known me; no wonder if they love her better. But,
whatever may be their own wishes, it is very unlikely they should have opposed
their brother’s. What sister would think herself at liberty to do it, unless there
were something very objectionable? If they believed him attached to me, they
would not try to part us; if he were so, they could not succeed. By supposing
such an affection, you make everybody acting unnaturally and wrong, and me
most unhappy. Do not distress me by the idea. I am not ashamed of having been
mistaken—or, at least, it is light, it is nothing in comparison of what I should feel
in thinking ill of him or his sisters. Let me take it in the best light, in the light in
which it may be understood.”
Elizabeth could not oppose such a wish; and from this time Mr. Bingley’s
name was scarcely ever mentioned between them.
Mrs. Bennet still continued to wonder and repine at his returning no more, and
though a day seldom passed in which Elizabeth did not account for it clearly,
there was little chance of her ever considering it with less perplexity. Her
daughter endeavoured to convince her of what she did not believe herself, that
his attentions to Jane had been merely the effect of a common and transient
liking, which ceased when he saw her no more; but though the probability of the
statement was admitted at the time, she had the same story to repeat every day.
Mrs. Bennet’s best comfort was that Mr. Bingley must be down again in the
summer.
Mr. Bennet treated the matter differently. “So, Lizzy,” said he one day, “your
sister is crossed in love, I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl
likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of, and it
gives her a sort of distinction among her companions. When is your turn to
come? You will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Now is your time. Here
are officers enough in Meryton to disappoint all the young ladies in the country.
Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you
creditably.”
“Thank you, sir, but a less agreeable man would satisfy me. We must not all
expect Jane’s good fortune.”
“True,” said Mr. Bennet, “but it is a comfort to think that whatever of that kind
may befall you, you have an affectionate mother who will make the most of it.”
Mr. Wickham’s society was of material service in dispelling the gloom which
the late perverse occurrences had thrown on many of the Longbourn family.
They saw him often, and to his other recommendations was now added that of
general unreserve. The whole of what Elizabeth had already heard, his claims on
Mr. Darcy, and all that he had suffered from him, was now openly acknowledged
and publicly canvassed; and everybody was pleased to know how much they had
always disliked Mr. Darcy before they had known anything of the matter.
Miss Bennet was the only creature who could suppose there might be any
extenuating circumstances in the case, unknown to the society of Hertfordshire;
her mild and steady candour always pleaded for allowances, and urged the
possibility of mistakes—but by everybody else Mr. Darcy was condemned as the
worst of men.

Chapter 25
After a week spent in professions of love and schemes of felicity, Mr. Collins
was called from his amiable Charlotte by the arrival of Saturday. The pain of
separation, however, might be alleviated on his side, by preparations for the
reception of his bride; as he had reason to hope, that shortly after his return into
Hertfordshire, the day would be fixed that was to make him the happiest of men.
He took leave of his relations at Longbourn with as much solemnity as before;
wished his fair cousins health and happiness again, and promised their father
another letter of thanks.
On the following Monday, Mrs. Bennet had the pleasure of receiving her
brother and his wife, who came as usual to spend the Christmas at Longbourn.
Mr. Gardiner was a sensible, gentlemanlike man, greatly superior to his sister, as
well by nature as education. The Netherfield ladies would have had difficulty in
believing that a man who lived by trade, and within view of his own warehouses,
could have been so well-bred and agreeable. Mrs. Gardiner, who was several
years younger than Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Phillips, was an amiable, intelligent,
elegant woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn nieces. Between
the two eldest and herself especially, there subsisted a particular regard. They
had frequently been staying with her in town.
The first part of Mrs. Gardiner’s business on her arrival was to distribute her
presents and describe the newest fashions. When this was done she had a less
active part to play. It became her turn to listen. Mrs. Bennet had many grievances
to relate, and much to complain of. They had all been very ill-used since she last
saw her sister. Two of her girls had been upon the point of marriage, and after all
there was nothing in it.
“I do not blame Jane,” she continued, “for Jane would have got Mr. Bingley if
she could. But Lizzy! Oh, sister! It is very hard to think that she might have been
Mr. Collins’s wife by this time, had it not been for her own perverseness. He
made her an offer in this very room, and she refused him. The consequence of it
is, that Lady Lucas will have a daughter married before I have, and that the
Longbourn estate is just as much entailed as ever. The Lucases are very artful
people indeed, sister. They are all for what they can get. I am sorry to say it of
them, but so it is. It makes me very nervous and poorly, to be thwarted so in my
own family, and to have neighbours who think of themselves before anybody
else. However, your coming just at this time is the greatest of comforts, and I am
very glad to hear what you tell us, of long sleeves.”
Mrs. Gardiner, to whom the chief of this news had been given before, in the
course of Jane and Elizabeth’s correspondence with her, made her sister a slight
answer, and, in compassion to her nieces, turned the conversation.
When alone with Elizabeth afterwards, she spoke more on the subject. “It
seems likely to have been a desirable match for Jane,” said she. “I am sorry it
went off. But these things happen so often! A young man, such as you describe
Mr. Bingley, so easily falls in love with a pretty girl for a few weeks, and when
accident separates them, so easily forgets her, that these sort of inconsistencies
are very frequent.”
“An excellent consolation in its way,” said Elizabeth, “but it will not do for us.
We do not suffer by accident. It does not often happen that the interference of
friends will persuade a young man of independent fortune to think no more of a
girl whom he was violently in love with only a few days before.”
“But that expression of ‘violently in love’ is so hackneyed, so doubtful, so
indefinite, that it gives me very little idea. It is as often applied to feelings which
arise from a half-hour’s acquaintance, as to a real, strong attachment. Pray, how
violent was Mr. Bingley’s love?”
“I never saw a more promising inclination; he was growing quite inattentive to
other people, and wholly engrossed by her. Every time they met, it was more
decided and remarkable. At his own ball he offended two or three young ladies,
by not asking them to dance; and I spoke to him twice myself, without receiving
an answer. Could there be finer symptoms? Is not general incivility the very
essence of love?”
“Oh, yes!—of that kind of love which I suppose him to have felt. Poor Jane! I
am sorry for her, because, with her disposition, she may not get over it
immediately. It had better have happened to you, Lizzy; you would have laughed
yourself out of it sooner. But do you think she would be prevailed upon to go
back with us? Change of scene might be of service—and perhaps a little relief
from home may be as useful as anything.”
Elizabeth was exceedingly pleased with this proposal, and felt persuaded of
her sister’s ready acquiescence.
“I hope,” added Mrs. Gardiner, “that no consideration with regard to this
young man will influence her. We live in so different a part of town, all our
connections are so different, and, as you well know, we go out so little, that it is
very improbable that they should meet at all, unless he really comes to see her.”
“And that is quite impossible; for he is now in the custody of his friend, and
Mr. Darcy would no more suffer him to call on Jane in such a part of London!
My dear aunt, how could you think of it? Mr. Darcy may perhaps have heard of
such a place as Gracechurch Street, but he would hardly think a month’s ablution
enough to cleanse him from its impurities, were he once to enter it; and depend
upon it, Mr. Bingley never stirs without him.”
“So much the better. I hope they will not meet at all. But does not Jane
correspond with his sister? She will not be able to help calling.”
“She will drop the acquaintance entirely.”
But in spite of the certainty in which Elizabeth affected to place this point, as
well as the still more interesting one of Bingley’s being withheld from seeing
Jane, she felt a solicitude on the subject which convinced her, on examination,
that she did not consider it entirely hopeless. It was possible, and sometimes she
thought it probable, that his affection might be reanimated, and the influence of
his friends successfully combated by the more natural influence of Jane’s
attractions.
Miss Bennet accepted her aunt’s invitation with pleasure; and the Bingleys
were no otherwise in her thoughts at the same time, than as she hoped by
Caroline’s not living in the same house with her brother, she might occasionally
spend a morning with her, without any danger of seeing him.
The Gardiners stayed a week at Longbourn; and what with the Phillipses, the
Lucases, and the officers, there was not a day without its engagement. Mrs.
Bennet had so carefully provided for the entertainment of her brother and sister,
that they did not once sit down to a family dinner. When the engagement was for
home, some of the officers always made part of it—of which officers Mr.
Wickham was sure to be one; and on these occasions, Mrs. Gardiner, rendered
suspicious by Elizabeth’s warm commendation, narrowly observed them both.
Without supposing them, from what she saw, to be very seriously in love, their
preference of each other was plain enough to make her a little uneasy; and she
resolved to speak to Elizabeth on the subject before she left Hertfordshire, and
represent to her the imprudence of encouraging such an attachment.
To Mrs. Gardiner, Wickham had one means of affording pleasure,
unconnected with his general powers. About ten or a dozen years ago, before her
marriage, she had spent a considerable time in that very part of Derbyshire to
which he belonged. They had, therefore, many acquaintances in common; and
though Wickham had been little there since the death of Darcy’s father, it was
yet in his power to give her fresher intelligence of her former friends than she
had been in the way of procuring.
Mrs. Gardiner had seen Pemberley, and known the late Mr. Darcy by character
perfectly well. Here consequently was an inexhaustible subject of discourse. In
comparing her recollection of Pemberley with the minute description which
Wickham could give, and in bestowing her tribute of praise on the character of
its late possessor, she was delighting both him and herself. On being made
acquainted with the present Mr. Darcy’s treatment of him, she tried to remember
some of that gentleman’s reputed disposition when quite a lad which might agree
with it, and was confident at last that she recollected having heard Mr.
Fitzwilliam Darcy formerly spoken of as a very proud, ill-natured boy.

Chapter 26
Mrs. Gardiner’s caution to Elizabeth was punctually and kindly given on the
first favourable opportunity of speaking to her alone; after honestly telling her
what she thought, she thus went on:
“You are too sensible a girl, Lizzy, to fall in love merely because you are
warned against it; and, therefore, I am not afraid of speaking openly. Seriously, I
would have you be on your guard. Do not involve yourself or endeavour to
involve him in an affection which the want of fortune would make so very
imprudent. I have nothing to say against him; he is a most interesting young
man; and if he had the fortune he ought to have, I should think you could not do
better. But as it is, you must not let your fancy run away with you. You have
sense, and we all expect you to use it. Your father would depend on your
resolution and good conduct, I am sure. You must not disappoint your father.”
“My dear aunt, this is being serious indeed.”
“Yes, and I hope to engage you to be serious likewise.”
“Well, then, you need not be under any alarm. I will take care of myself, and
of Mr. Wickham too. He shall not be in love with me, if I can prevent it.”
“Elizabeth, you are not serious now.”
“I beg your pardon, I will try again. At present I am not in love with Mr.
Wickham; no, I certainly am not. But he is, beyond all comparison, the most
agreeable man I ever saw—and if he becomes really attached to me—I believe it
will be better that he should not. I see the imprudence of it. Oh! that abominable
Mr. Darcy! My father’s opinion of me does me the greatest honour, and I should
be miserable to forfeit it. My father, however, is partial to Mr. Wickham. In
short, my dear aunt, I should be very sorry to be the means of making any of you
unhappy; but since we see every day that where there is affection, young people
are seldom withheld by immediate want of fortune from entering into
engagements with each other, how can I promise to be wiser than so many of my
fellow-creatures if I am tempted, or how am I even to know that it would be
wisdom to resist? All that I can promise you, therefore, is not to be in a hurry. I
will not be in a hurry to believe myself his first object. When I am in company
with him, I will not be wishing. In short, I will do my best.”
“Perhaps it will be as well if you discourage his coming here so very often. At
least, you should not remind your mother of inviting him.”
“As I did the other day,” said Elizabeth with a conscious smile: “very true, it
will be wise in me to refrain from that. But do not imagine that he is always here
so often. It is on your account that he has been so frequently invited this week.
You know my mother’s ideas as to the necessity of constant company for her
friends. But really, and upon my honour, I will try to do what I think to be the
wisest; and now I hope you are satisfied.”
Her aunt assured her that she was, and Elizabeth having thanked her for the
kindness of her hints, they parted; a wonderful instance of advice being given on
such a point, without being resented.
Mr. Collins returned into Hertfordshire soon after it had been quitted by the
Gardiners and Jane; but as he took up his abode with the Lucases, his arrival was
no great inconvenience to Mrs. Bennet. His marriage was now fast approaching,
and she was at length so far resigned as to think it inevitable, and even
repeatedly to say, in an ill-natured tone, that she “wished they might be happy.”
Thursday was to be the wedding day, and on Wednesday Miss Lucas paid her
farewell visit; and when she rose to take leave, Elizabeth, ashamed of her
mother’s ungracious and reluctant good wishes, and sincerely affected herself,
accompanied her out of the room. As they went downstairs together, Charlotte
said:
“I shall depend on hearing from you very often, Eliza.”
“That you certainly shall.”
“And I have another favour to ask you. Will you come and see me?”
“We shall often meet, I hope, in Hertfordshire.”
“I am not likely to leave Kent for some time. Promise me, therefore, to come
to Hunsford.”
Elizabeth could not refuse, though she foresaw little pleasure in the visit.
“My father and Maria are coming to me in March,” added Charlotte, “and I
hope you will consent to be of the party. Indeed, Eliza, you will be as welcome
as either of them.”
The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the
church door, and everybody had as much to say, or to hear, on the subject as
usual. Elizabeth soon heard from her friend; and their correspondence was as
regular and frequent as it had ever been; that it should be equally unreserved was
impossible. Elizabeth could never address her without feeling that all the
comfort of intimacy was over, and though determined not to slacken as a
correspondent, it was for the sake of what had been, rather than what was.
Charlotte’s first letters were received with a good deal of eagerness; there could
not but be curiosity to know how she would speak of her new home, how she
would like Lady Catherine, and how happy she would dare pronounce herself to
be; though, when the letters were read, Elizabeth felt that Charlotte expressed
herself on every point exactly as she might have foreseen. She wrote cheerfully,
seemed surrounded with comforts, and mentioned nothing which she could not
praise. The house, furniture, neighbourhood, and roads, were all to her taste, and
Lady Catherine’s behaviour was most friendly and obliging. It was Mr. Collins’s
picture of Hunsford and Rosings rationally softened; and Elizabeth perceived
that she must wait for her own visit there to know the rest.
Jane had already written a few lines to her sister to announce their safe arrival
in London; and when she wrote again, Elizabeth hoped it would be in her power
to say something of the Bingleys.
Her impatience for this second letter was as well rewarded as impatience
generally is. Jane had been a week in town without either seeing or hearing from
Caroline. She accounted for it, however, by supposing that her last letter to her
friend from Longbourn had by some accident been lost.
“My aunt,” she continued, “is going to-morrow into that part of the town, and
I shall take the opportunity of calling in Grosvenor Street.”
She wrote again when the visit was paid, and she had seen Miss Bingley. “I
did not think Caroline in spirits,” were her words, “but she was very glad to see
me, and reproached me for giving her no notice of my coming to London. I was
right, therefore, my last letter had never reached her. I inquired after their
brother, of course. He was well, but so much engaged with Mr. Darcy that they
scarcely ever saw him. I found that Miss Darcy was expected to dinner. I wish I
could see her. My visit was not long, as Caroline and Mrs. Hurst were going out.
I dare say I shall see them soon here.”
Elizabeth shook her head over this letter. It convinced her that accident only
could discover to Mr. Bingley her sister’s being in town.
Four weeks passed away, and Jane saw nothing of him. She endeavoured to
persuade herself that she did not regret it; but she could no longer be blind to
Miss Bingley’s inattention. After waiting at home every morning for a fortnight,
and inventing every evening a fresh excuse for her, the visitor did at last appear;
but the shortness of her stay, and yet more, the alteration of her manner would
allow Jane to deceive herself no longer. The letter which she wrote on this
occasion to her sister will prove what she felt.
“My dearest Lizzy will, I am sure, be incapable of triumphing in her
better judgement, at my expense, when I confess myself to have been
entirely deceived in Miss Bingley’s regard for me. But, my dear sister,
though the event has proved you right, do not think me obstinate if I still
assert that, considering what her behaviour was, my confidence was as
natural as your suspicion. I do not at all comprehend her reason for
wishing to be intimate with me; but if the same circumstances were to
happen again, I am sure I should be deceived again. Caroline did not
return my visit till yesterday; and not a note, not a line, did I receive in
the meantime. When she did come, it was very evident that she had no
pleasure in it; she made a slight, formal apology, for not calling before,
said not a word of wishing to see me again, and was in every respect so
altered a creature, that when she went away I was perfectly resolved to
continue the acquaintance no longer. I pity, though I cannot help blaming
her. She was very wrong in singling me out as she did; I can safely say
that every advance to intimacy began on her side. But I pity her, because
she must feel that she has been acting wrong, and because I am very sure
that anxiety for her brother is the cause of it. I need not explain myself
farther; and though we know this anxiety to be quite needless, yet if she
feels it, it will easily account for her behaviour to me; and so deservedly
dear as he is to his sister, whatever anxiety she must feel on his behalf is
natural and amiable. I cannot but wonder, however, at her having any
such fears now, because, if he had at all cared about me, we must have
met, long ago. He knows of my being in town, I am certain, from
something she said herself; and yet it would seem, by her manner of
talking, as if she wanted to persuade herself that he is really partial to
Miss Darcy. I cannot understand it. If I were not afraid of judging
harshly, I should be almost tempted to say that there is a strong
appearance of duplicity in all this. But I will endeavour to banish every
painful thought, and think only of what will make me happy—your
affection, and the invariable kindness of my dear uncle and aunt. Let me
hear from you very soon. Miss Bingley said something of his never
returning to Netherfield again, of giving up the house, but not with any
certainty. We had better not mention it. I am extremely glad that you
have such pleasant accounts from our friends at Hunsford. Pray go to see
them, with Sir William and Maria. I am sure you will be very
comfortable there.—Yours, etc.”
This letter gave Elizabeth some pain; but her spirits returned as she considered
that Jane would no longer be duped, by the sister at least. All expectation from
the brother was now absolutely over. She would not even wish for a renewal of
his attentions. His character sunk on every review of it; and as a punishment for
him, as well as a possible advantage to Jane, she seriously hoped he might really
soon marry Mr. Darcy’s sister, as by Wickham’s account, she would make him
abundantly regret what he had thrown away.
Mrs. Gardiner about this time reminded Elizabeth of her promise concerning
that gentleman, and required information; and Elizabeth had such to send as
might rather give contentment to her aunt than to herself. His apparent partiality
had subsided, his attentions were over, he was the admirer of some one else.
Elizabeth was watchful enough to see it all, but she could see it and write of it
without material pain. Her heart had been but slightly touched, and her vanity
was satisfied with believing that she would have been his only choice, had
fortune permitted it. The sudden acquisition of ten thousand pounds was the
most remarkable charm of the young lady to whom he was now rendering
himself agreeable; but Elizabeth, less clear-sighted perhaps in this case than in
Charlotte’s, did not quarrel with him for his wish of independence. Nothing, on
the contrary, could be more natural; and while able to suppose that it cost him a
few struggles to relinquish her, she was ready to allow it a wise and desirable
measure for both, and could very sincerely wish him happy.
All this was acknowledged to Mrs. Gardiner; and after relating the
circumstances, she thus went on: “I am now convinced, my dear aunt, that I have
never been much in love; for had I really experienced that pure and elevating
passion, I should at present detest his very name, and wish him all manner of
evil. But my feelings are not only cordial towards him; they are even impartial
towards Miss King. I cannot find out that I hate her at all, or that I am in the least
unwilling to think her a very good sort of girl. There can be no love in all this.
My watchfulness has been effectual; and though I certainly should be a more
interesting object to all my acquaintances were I distractedly in love with him, I
cannot say that I regret my comparative insignificance. Importance may
sometimes be purchased too dearly. Kitty and Lydia take his defection much
more to heart than I do. They are young in the ways of the world, and not yet
open to the mortifying conviction that handsome young men must have
something to live on as well as the plain.”

Chapter 27
With no greater events than these in the Longbourn family, and otherwise
diversified by little beyond the walks to Meryton, sometimes dirty and
sometimes cold, did January and February pass away. March was to take
Elizabeth to Hunsford. She had not at first thought very seriously of going
thither; but Charlotte, she soon found, was depending on the plan and she
gradually learned to consider it herself with greater pleasure as well as greater
certainty. Absence had increased her desire of seeing Charlotte again, and
weakened her disgust of Mr. Collins. There was novelty in the scheme, and as,
with such a mother and such uncompanionable sisters, home could not be
faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own sake. The journey would
moreover give her a peep at Jane; and, in short, as the time drew near, she would
have been very sorry for any delay. Everything, however, went on smoothly, and
was finally settled according to Charlotte’s first sketch. She was to accompany
Sir William and his second daughter. The improvement of spending a night in
London was added in time, and the plan became perfect as plan could be.
The only pain was in leaving her father, who would certainly miss her, and
who, when it came to the point, so little liked her going, that he told her to write
to him, and almost promised to answer her letter.
The farewell between herself and Mr. Wickham was perfectly friendly; on his
side even more. His present pursuit could not make him forget that Elizabeth had
been the first to excite and to deserve his attention, the first to listen and to pity,
the first to be admired; and in his manner of bidding her adieu, wishing her every
enjoyment, reminding her of what she was to expect in Lady Catherine de
Bourgh, and trusting their opinion of her—their opinion of everybody—would
always coincide, there was a solicitude, an interest which she felt must ever
attach her to him with a most sincere regard; and she parted from him convinced
that, whether married or single, he must always be her model of the amiable and
pleasing.
Her fellow-travellers the next day were not of a kind to make her think him
less agreeable. Sir William Lucas, and his daughter Maria, a good-humoured
girl, but as empty-headed as himself, had nothing to say that could be worth
hearing, and were listened to with about as much delight as the rattle of the
chaise. Elizabeth loved absurdities, but she had known Sir William’s too long.
He could tell her nothing new of the wonders of his presentation and
knighthood; and his civilities were worn out, like his information.
It was a journey of only twenty-four miles, and they began it so early as to be
in Gracechurch Street by noon. As they drove to Mr. Gardiner’s door, Jane was
at a drawing-room window watching their arrival; when they entered the passage
she was there to welcome them, and Elizabeth, looking earnestly in her face, was
pleased to see it healthful and lovely as ever. On the stairs were a troop of little
boys and girls, whose eagerness for their cousin’s appearance would not allow
them to wait in the drawing-room, and whose shyness, as they had not seen her
for a twelvemonth, prevented their coming lower. All was joy and kindness. The
day passed most pleasantly away; the morning in bustle and shopping, and the
evening at one of the theatres.
Elizabeth then contrived to sit by her aunt. Their first object was her sister;
and she was more grieved than astonished to hear, in reply to her minute
inquiries, that though Jane always struggled to support her spirits, there were
periods of dejection. It was reasonable, however, to hope that they would not
continue long. Mrs. Gardiner gave her the particulars also of Miss Bingley’s visit
in Gracechurch Street, and repeated conversations occurring at different times
between Jane and herself, which proved that the former had, from her heart,
given up the acquaintance.
Mrs. Gardiner then rallied her niece on Wickham’s desertion, and
complimented her on bearing it so well.
“But my dear Elizabeth,” she added, “what sort of girl is Miss King? I should
be sorry to think our friend mercenary.”
“Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the
mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice
begin? Last Christmas you were afraid of his marrying me, because it would be
imprudent; and now, because he is trying to get a girl with only ten thousand
pounds, you want to find out that he is mercenary.”
“If you will only tell me what sort of girl Miss King is, I shall know what to
think.”
“She is a very good kind of girl, I believe. I know no harm of her.”
“But he paid her not the smallest attention till her grandfather’s death made
her mistress of this fortune.”
“No—why should he? If it were not allowable for him to gain my affections
because I had no money, what occasion could there be for making love to a girl
whom he did not care about, and who was equally poor?”
“But there seems an indelicacy in directing his attentions towards her so soon
after this event.”
“A man in distressed circumstances has not time for all those elegant
decorums which other people may observe. If she does not object to it, why
should we?”
“Her not objecting does not justify him. It only shows her being deficient in
something herself—sense or feeling.”
“Well,” cried Elizabeth, “have it as you choose. He shall be mercenary, and
she shall be foolish.”
“No, Lizzy, that is what I do not choose. I should be sorry, you know, to think
ill of a young man who has lived so long in Derbyshire.”
“Oh! if that is all, I have a very poor opinion of young men who live in
Derbyshire; and their intimate friends who live in Hertfordshire are not much
better. I am sick of them all. Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall
find a man who has not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense
to recommend him. Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all.”
“Take care, Lizzy; that speech savours strongly of disappointment.”
Before they were separated by the conclusion of the play, she had the
unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany her uncle and aunt in a tour
of pleasure which they proposed taking in the summer.
“We have not determined how far it shall carry us,” said Mrs. Gardiner, “but,
perhaps, to the Lakes.”
No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance
of the invitation was most ready and grateful. “Oh, my dear, dear aunt,” she
rapturously cried, “what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and
vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and
mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return,
it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea
of anything. We will know where we have gone—we will recollect what we have
seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our
imaginations; nor when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we
begin quarreling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less
insupportable than those of the generality of travellers.”

Chapter 28
Every object in the next day’s journey was new and interesting to Elizabeth;
and her spirits were in a state of enjoyment; for she had seen her sister looking
so well as to banish all fear for her health, and the prospect of her northern tour
was a constant source of delight.
When they left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye was in search
of the Parsonage, and every turning expected to bring it in view. The palings of
Rosings Park was their boundary on one side. Elizabeth smiled at the
recollection of all that she had heard of its inhabitants.
At length the Parsonage was discernible. The garden sloping to the road, the
house standing in it, the green pales, and the laurel hedge, everything declared
they were arriving. Mr. Collins and Charlotte appeared at the door, and the
carriage stopped at the small gate which led by a short gravel walk to the house,
amidst the nods and smiles of the whole party. In a moment they were all out of
the chaise, rejoicing at the sight of each other. Mrs. Collins welcomed her friend
with the liveliest pleasure, and Elizabeth was more and more satisfied with
coming when she found herself so affectionately received. She saw instantly that
her cousin’s manners were not altered by his marriage; his formal civility was
just what it had been, and he detained her some minutes at the gate to hear and
satisfy his inquiries after all her family. They were then, with no other delay than
his pointing out the neatness of the entrance, taken into the house; and as soon as
they were in the parlour, he welcomed them a second time, with ostentatious
formality to his humble abode, and punctually repeated all his wife’s offers of
refreshment.
Elizabeth was prepared to see him in his glory; and she could not help in
fancying that in displaying the good proportion of the room, its aspect and its
furniture, he addressed himself particularly to her, as if wishing to make her feel
what she had lost in refusing him. But though everything seemed neat and
comfortable, she was not able to gratify him by any sigh of repentance, and
rather looked with wonder at her friend that she could have so cheerful an air
with such a companion. When Mr. Collins said anything of which his wife might
reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, she involuntarily
turned her eye on Charlotte. Once or twice she could discern a faint blush; but in
general Charlotte wisely did not hear. After sitting long enough to admire every
article of furniture in the room, from the sideboard to the fender, to give an
account of their journey, and of all that had happened in London, Mr. Collins
invited them to take a stroll in the garden, which was large and well laid out, and
to the cultivation of which he attended himself. To work in this garden was one
of his most respectable pleasures; and Elizabeth admired the command of
countenance with which Charlotte talked of the healthfulness of the exercise, and
owned she encouraged it as much as possible. Here, leading the way through
every walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them an interval to utter the
praises he asked for, every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left
beauty entirely behind. He could number the fields in every direction, and could
tell how many trees there were in the most distant clump. But of all the views
which his garden, or which the country or kingdom could boast, none were to be
compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that
bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his house. It was a handsome
modern building, well situated on rising ground.
From his garden, Mr. Collins would have led them round his two meadows;
but the ladies, not having shoes to encounter the remains of a white frost, turned
back; and while Sir William accompanied him, Charlotte took her sister and
friend over the house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have the opportunity
of showing it without her husband’s help. It was rather small, but well built and
convenient; and everything was fitted up and arranged with a neatness and
consistency of which Elizabeth gave Charlotte all the credit. When Mr. Collins
could be forgotten, there was really an air of great comfort throughout, and by
Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must be often
forgotten.
She had already learnt that Lady Catherine was still in the country. It was
spoken of again while they were at dinner, when Mr. Collins joining in,
observed:
“Yes, Miss Elizabeth, you will have the honour of seeing Lady Catherine de
Bourgh on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I need not say you will be
delighted with her. She is all affability and condescension, and I doubt not but
you will be honoured with some portion of her notice when service is over. I
have scarcely any hesitation in saying she will include you and my sister Maria
in every invitation with which she honours us during your stay here. Her
behaviour to my dear Charlotte is charming. We dine at Rosings twice every
week, and are never allowed to walk home. Her ladyship’s carriage is regularly
ordered for us. I should say, one of her ladyship’s carriages, for she has several.”
“Lady Catherine is a very respectable, sensible woman indeed,” added
Charlotte, “and a most attentive neighbour.”
“Very true, my dear, that is exactly what I say. She is the sort of woman whom
one cannot regard with too much deference.”
The evening was spent chiefly in talking over Hertfordshire news, and telling
again what had already been written; and when it closed, Elizabeth, in the
solitude of her chamber, had to meditate upon Charlotte’s degree of contentment,
to understand her address in guiding, and composure in bearing with, her
husband, and to acknowledge that it was all done very well. She had also to
anticipate how her visit would pass, the quiet tenor of their usual employments,
the vexatious interruptions of Mr. Collins, and the gaieties of their intercourse
with Rosings. A lively imagination soon settled it all.
About the middle of the next day, as she was in her room getting ready for a
walk, a sudden noise below seemed to speak the whole house in confusion; and,
after listening a moment, she heard somebody running up stairs in a violent
hurry, and calling loudly after her. She opened the door and met Maria in the
landing place, who, breathless with agitation, cried out—
“Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make haste and come into the dining-room, for there
is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it is. Make haste, and come
down this moment.”
Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing more, and
down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this
wonder; It was two ladies stopping in a low phaeton at the garden gate.
“And is this all?” cried Elizabeth. “I expected at least that the pigs were got
into the garden, and here is nothing but Lady Catherine and her daughter.”
“La! my dear,” said Maria, quite shocked at the mistake, “it is not Lady
Catherine. The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with them; the other is
Miss de Bourgh. Only look at her. She is quite a little creature. Who would have
thought that she could be so thin and small?”
“She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all this wind. Why
does she not come in?”
“Oh, Charlotte says she hardly ever does. It is the greatest of favours when
Miss de Bourgh comes in.”
“I like her appearance,” said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas. “She looks
sickly and cross. Yes, she will do for him very well. She will make him a very
proper wife.”
Mr. Collins and Charlotte were both standing at the gate in conversation with
the ladies; and Sir William, to Elizabeth’s high diversion, was stationed in the
doorway, in earnest contemplation of the greatness before him, and constantly
bowing whenever Miss de Bourgh looked that way.
At length there was nothing more to be said; the ladies drove on, and the
others returned into the house. Mr. Collins no sooner saw the two girls than he
began to congratulate them on their good fortune, which Charlotte explained by
letting them know that the whole party was asked to dine at Rosings the next
day.

Chapter 29
Mr. Collins’s triumph, in consequence of this invitation, was complete. The
power of displaying the grandeur of his patroness to his wondering visitors, and
of letting them see her civility towards himself and his wife, was exactly what he
had wished for; and that an opportunity of doing it should be given so soon, was
such an instance of Lady Catherine’s condescension, as he knew not how to
admire enough.
“I confess,” said he, “that I should not have been at all surprised by her
ladyship’s asking us on Sunday to drink tea and spend the evening at Rosings. I
rather expected, from my knowledge of her affability, that it would happen. But
who could have foreseen such an attention as this? Who could have imagined
that we should receive an invitation to dine there (an invitation, moreover,
including the whole party) so immediately after your arrival!”
“I am the less surprised at what has happened,” replied Sir William, “from that
knowledge of what the manners of the great really are, which my situation in life
has allowed me to acquire. About the court, such instances of elegant breeding
are not uncommon.”
Scarcely anything was talked of the whole day or next morning but their visit
to Rosings. Mr. Collins was carefully instructing them in what they were to
expect, that the sight of such rooms, so many servants, and so splendid a dinner,
might not wholly overpower them.
When the ladies were separating for the toilette, he said to Elizabeth—
“Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Lady
Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes
herself and her daughter. I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your
clothes is superior to the rest—there is no occasion for anything more. Lady
Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to
have the distinction of rank preserved.”
While they were dressing, he came two or three times to their different doors,
to recommend their being quick, as Lady Catherine very much objected to be
kept waiting for her dinner. Such formidable accounts of her ladyship, and her
manner of living, quite frightened Maria Lucas who had been little used to
company, and she looked forward to her introduction at Rosings with as much
apprehension as her father had done to his presentation at St. James’s.
As the weather was fine, they had a pleasant walk of about half a mile across
the park. Every park has its beauty and its prospects; and Elizabeth saw much to
be pleased with, though she could not be in such raptures as Mr. Collins
expected the scene to inspire, and was but slightly affected by his enumeration of
the windows in front of the house, and his relation of what the glazing altogether
had originally cost Sir Lewis de Bourgh.
When they ascended the steps to the hall, Maria’s alarm was every moment
increasing, and even Sir William did not look perfectly calm. Elizabeth’s
courage did not fail her. She had heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her
awful from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere
stateliness of money or rank she thought she could witness without trepidation.
From the entrance-hall, of which Mr. Collins pointed out, with a rapturous air,
the fine proportion and the finished ornaments, they followed the servants
through an ante-chamber, to the room where Lady Catherine, her daughter, and
Mrs. Jenkinson were sitting. Her ladyship, with great condescension, arose to
receive them; and as Mrs. Collins had settled it with her husband that the office
of introduction should be hers, it was performed in a proper manner, without any
of those apologies and thanks which he would have thought necessary.
In spite of having been at St. James’s, Sir William was so completely awed by
the grandeur surrounding him, that he had but just courage enough to make a
very low bow, and take his seat without saying a word; and his daughter,
frightened almost out of her senses, sat on the edge of her chair, not knowing
which way to look. Elizabeth found herself quite equal to the scene, and could
observe the three ladies before her composedly. Lady Catherine was a tall, large
woman, with strongly-marked features, which might once have been handsome.
Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them such as to
make her visitors forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by
silence; but whatever she said was spoken in so authoritative a tone, as marked
her self-importance, and brought Mr. Wickham immediately to Elizabeth’s mind;
and from the observation of the day altogether, she believed Lady Catherine to
be exactly what he represented.
When, after examining the mother, in whose countenance and deportment she
soon found some resemblance of Mr. Darcy, she turned her eyes on the daughter,
she could almost have joined in Maria’s astonishment at her being so thin and so
small. There was neither in figure nor face any likeness between the ladies. Miss
de Bourgh was pale and sickly; her features, though not plain, were insignificant;
and she spoke very little, except in a low voice, to Mrs. Jenkinson, in whose
appearance there was nothing remarkable, and who was entirely engaged in
listening to what she said, and placing a screen in the proper direction before her
eyes.
After sitting a few minutes, they were all sent to one of the windows to admire
the view, Mr. Collins attending them to point out its beauties, and Lady
Catherine kindly informing them that it was much better worth looking at in the
summer.
The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants and all
the articles of plate which Mr. Collins had promised; and, as he had likewise
foretold, he took his seat at the bottom of the table, by her ladyship’s desire, and
looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater. He carved, and ate, and
praised with delighted alacrity; and every dish was commended, first by him and
then by Sir William, who was now enough recovered to echo whatever his sonin-law said, in a manner which Elizabeth wondered Lady Catherine could bear.
But Lady Catherine seemed gratified by their excessive admiration, and gave
most gracious smiles, especially when any dish on the table proved a novelty to
them. The party did not supply much conversation. Elizabeth was ready to speak
whenever there was an opening, but she was seated between Charlotte and Miss
de Bourgh—the former of whom was engaged in listening to Lady Catherine,
and the latter said not a word to her all dinner-time. Mrs. Jenkinson was chiefly
employed in watching how little Miss de Bourgh ate, pressing her to try some
other dish, and fearing she was indisposed. Maria thought speaking out of the
question, and the gentlemen did nothing but eat and admire.
When the ladies returned to the drawing-room, there was little to be done but
to hear Lady Catherine talk, which she did without any intermission till coffee
came in, delivering her opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner, as
proved that she was not used to have her judgement controverted. She inquired
into Charlotte’s domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, gave her a great deal
of advice as to the management of them all; told her how everything ought to be
regulated in so small a family as hers, and instructed her as to the care of her
cows and her poultry. Elizabeth found that nothing was beneath this great lady’s
attention, which could furnish her with an occasion of dictating to others. In the
intervals of her discourse with Mrs. Collins, she addressed a variety of questions
to Maria and Elizabeth, but especially to the latter, of whose connections she
knew the least, and who she observed to Mrs. Collins was a very genteel, pretty
kind of girl. She asked her, at different times, how many sisters she had, whether
they were older or younger than herself, whether any of them were likely to be
married, whether they were handsome, where they had been educated, what
carriage her father kept, and what had been her mother’s maiden name?
Elizabeth felt all the impertinence of her questions but answered them very
composedly. Lady Catherine then observed,
“Your father’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think. For your sake,”
turning to Charlotte, “I am glad of it; but otherwise I see no occasion for
entailing estates from the female line. It was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis
de Bourgh’s family. Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?”
“A little.”
“Oh! then—some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument
is a capital one, probably superior to——You shall try it some day. Do your
sisters play and sing?”
“One of them does.”
“Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The Miss Webbs
all play, and their father has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?”
“No, not at all.”
“What, none of you?”
“Not one.”
“That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity. Your mother
should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters.”
“My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London.”
“Has your governess left you?”
“We never had any governess.”
“No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home
without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been
quite a slave to your education.”
Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had not been the
case.
“Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess, you must
have been neglected.”
“Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to
learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all
the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”
“Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and if I had known
your mother, I should have advised her most strenuously to engage one. I always
say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular
instruction, and nobody but a governess can give it. It is wonderful how many
families I have been the means of supplying in that way. I am always glad to get
a young person well placed out. Four nieces of Mrs. Jenkinson are most
delightfully situated through my means; and it was but the other day that I
recommended another young person, who was merely accidentally mentioned to
me, and the family are quite delighted with her. Mrs. Collins, did I tell you of
Lady Metcalf’s calling yesterday to thank me? She finds Miss Pope a treasure.
‘Lady Catherine,’ said she, ‘you have given me a treasure.’ Are any of your
younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?”
“Yes, ma’am, all.”
“All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only the second. The
younger ones out before the elder ones are married! Your younger sisters must
be very young?”
“Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in
company. But really, ma’am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters,
that they should not have their share of society and amusement, because the
elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last-born has as
good a right to the pleasures of youth as the first. And to be kept back on such a
motive! I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or
delicacy of mind.”
“Upon my word,” said her ladyship, “you give your opinion very decidedly
for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?”
“With three younger sisters grown up,” replied Elizabeth, smiling, “your
ladyship can hardly expect me to own it.”
Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and
Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle
with so much dignified impertinence.
“You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, therefore you need not conceal
your age.”
“I am not one-and-twenty.”
When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the card-tables were
placed. Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to
quadrille; and as Miss de Bourgh chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the
honour of assisting Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party. Their table was
superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the
game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss de Bourgh’s
being too hot or too cold, or having too much or too little light. A great deal
more passed at the other table. Lady Catherine was generally speaking—stating
the mistakes of the three others, or relating some anecdote of herself. Mr. Collins
was employed in agreeing to everything her ladyship said, thanking her for every
fish he won, and apologising if he thought he won too many. Sir William did not
say much. He was storing his memory with anecdotes and noble names.
When Lady Catherine and her daughter had played as long as they chose, the
tables were broken up, the carriage was offered to Mrs. Collins, gratefully
accepted and immediately ordered. The party then gathered round the fire to hear
Lady Catherine determine what weather they were to have on the morrow. From
these instructions they were summoned by the arrival of the coach; and with
many speeches of thankfulness on Mr. Collins’s side and as many bows on Sir
William’s they departed. As soon as they had driven from the door, Elizabeth
was called on by her cousin to give her opinion of all that she had seen at
Rosings, which, for Charlotte’s sake, she made more favourable than it really
was. But her commendation, though costing her some trouble, could by no
means satisfy Mr. Collins, and he was very soon obliged to take her ladyship’s
praise into his own hands.

Chapter 30
Sir William stayed only a week at Hunsford, but his visit was long enough to
convince him of his daughter’s being most comfortably settled, and of her
possessing such a husband and such a neighbour as were not often met with.
While Sir William was with them, Mr. Collins devoted his morning to driving
him out in his gig, and showing him the country; but when he went away, the
whole family returned to their usual employments, and Elizabeth was thankful to
find that they did not see more of her cousin by the alteration, for the chief of the
time between breakfast and dinner was now passed by him either at work in the
garden or in reading and writing, and looking out of the window in his own
book-room, which fronted the road. The room in which the ladies sat was
backwards. Elizabeth had at first rather wondered that Charlotte should not
prefer the dining-parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and had a
more pleasant aspect; but she soon saw that her friend had an excellent reason
for what she did, for Mr. Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in his
own apartment, had they sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte credit
for the arrangement.
From the drawing-room they could distinguish nothing in the lane, and were
indebted to Mr. Collins for the knowledge of what carriages went along, and
how often especially Miss de Bourgh drove by in her phaeton, which he never
failed coming to inform them of, though it happened almost every day. She not
unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage, and had a few minutes’ conversation with
Charlotte, but was scarcely ever prevailed upon to get out.
Very few days passed in which Mr. Collins did not walk to Rosings, and not
many in which his wife did not think it necessary to go likewise; and till
Elizabeth recollected that there might be other family livings to be disposed of,
she could not understand the sacrifice of so many hours. Now and then they
were honoured with a call from her ladyship, and nothing escaped her
observation that was passing in the room during these visits. She examined into
their employments, looked at their work, and advised them to do it differently;
found fault with the arrangement of the furniture; or detected the housemaid in
negligence; and if she accepted any refreshment, seemed to do it only for the
sake of finding out that Mrs. Collins’s joints of meat were too large for her
family.
Elizabeth soon perceived, that though this great lady was not in commission
of the peace of the county, she was a most active magistrate in her own parish,
the minutest concerns of which were carried to her by Mr. Collins; and whenever
any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented, or too poor,
she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their
complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.
The entertainment of dining at Rosings was repeated about twice a week; and,
allowing for the loss of Sir William, and there being only one card-table in the
evening, every such entertainment was the counterpart of the first. Their other
engagements were few, as the style of living in the neighbourhood in general
was beyond Mr. Collins’s reach. This, however, was no evil to Elizabeth, and
upon the whole she spent her time comfortably enough; there were half-hours of
pleasant conversation with Charlotte, and the weather was so fine for the time of
year that she had often great enjoyment out of doors. Her favourite walk, and
where she frequently went while the others were calling on Lady Catherine, was
along the open grove which edged that side of the park, where there was a nice
sheltered path, which no one seemed to value but herself, and where she felt
beyond the reach of Lady Catherine’s curiosity.
In this quiet way, the first fortnight of her visit soon passed away. Easter was
approaching, and the week preceding it was to bring an addition to the family at
Rosings, which in so small a circle must be important. Elizabeth had heard soon
after her arrival that Mr. Darcy was expected there in the course of a few weeks,
and though there were not many of her acquaintances whom she did not prefer,
his coming would furnish one comparatively new to look at in their Rosings
parties, and she might be amused in seeing how hopeless Miss Bingley’s designs
on him were, by his behaviour to his cousin, for whom he was evidently destined
by Lady Catherine, who talked of his coming with the greatest satisfaction,
spoke of him in terms of the highest admiration, and seemed almost angry to
find that he had already been frequently seen by Miss Lucas and herself.
His arrival was soon known at the Parsonage; for Mr. Collins was walking the
whole morning within view of the lodges opening into Hunsford Lane, in order
to have the earliest assurance of it, and after making his bow as the carriage
turned into the Park, hurried home with the great intelligence. On the following
morning he hastened to Rosings to pay his respects. There were two nephews of
Lady Catherine to require them, for Mr. Darcy had brought with him a Colonel
Fitzwilliam, the younger son of his uncle Lord ——, and, to the great surprise of
all the party, when Mr. Collins returned, the gentlemen accompanied him.
Charlotte had seen them from her husband’s room, crossing the road, and
immediately running into the other, told the girls what an honour they might
expect, adding:
“I may thank you, Eliza, for this piece of civility. Mr. Darcy would never have
come so soon to wait upon me.”
Elizabeth had scarcely time to disclaim all right to the compliment, before
their approach was announced by the door-bell, and shortly afterwards the three
gentlemen entered the room. Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about
thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman. Mr.
Darcy looked just as he had been used to look in Hertfordshire—paid his
compliments, with his usual reserve, to Mrs. Collins, and whatever might be his
feelings toward her friend, met her with every appearance of composure.
Elizabeth merely curtseyed to him without saying a word.
Colonel Fitzwilliam entered into conversation directly with the readiness and
ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly; but his cousin, after having
addressed a slight observation on the house and garden to Mrs. Collins, sat for
some time without speaking to anybody. At length, however, his civility was so
far awakened as to inquire of Elizabeth after the health of her family. She
answered him in the usual way, and after a moment’s pause, added:
“My eldest sister has been in town these three months. Have you never
happened to see her there?”
She was perfectly sensible that he never had; but she wished to see whether he
would betray any consciousness of what had passed between the Bingleys and
Jane, and she thought he looked a little confused as he answered that he had
never been so fortunate as to meet Miss Bennet. The subject was pursued no
farther, and the gentlemen soon afterwards went away.

Chapter 31
Colonel Fitzwilliam’s manners were very much admired at the Parsonage, and
the ladies all felt that he must add considerably to the pleasures of their
engagements at Rosings. It was some days, however, before they received any
invitation thither—for while there were visitors in the house, they could not be
necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a week after the gentlemen’s
arrival, that they were honoured by such an attention, and then they were merely
asked on leaving church to come there in the evening. For the last week they had
seen very little of Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam had
called at the Parsonage more than once during the time, but Mr. Darcy they had
seen only at church.
The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour they joined the
party in Lady Catherine’s drawing-room. Her ladyship received them civilly, but
it was plain that their company was by no means so acceptable as when she
could get nobody else; and she was, in fact, almost engrossed by her nephews,
speaking to them, especially to Darcy, much more than to any other person in the
room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; anything was a welcome
relief to him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins’s pretty friend had moreover caught
his fancy very much. He now seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably of
Kent and Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying at home, of new books and
music, that Elizabeth had never been half so well entertained in that room
before; and they conversed with so much spirit and flow, as to draw the attention
of Lady Catherine herself, as well as of Mr. Darcy. His eyes had been soon and
repeatedly turned towards them with a look of curiosity; and that her ladyship,
after a while, shared the feeling, was more openly acknowledged, for she did not
scruple to call out:
“What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are talking of? What
are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is.”
“We are speaking of music, madam,” said he, when no longer able to avoid a
reply.
“Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have
my share in the conversation if you are speaking of music. There are few people
in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a
better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.
And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that
she would have performed delightfully. How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?”
Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister’s proficiency.
“I am very glad to hear such a good account of her,” said Lady Catherine;
“and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect to excel if she does not
practice a good deal.”
“I assure you, madam,” he replied, “that she does not need such advice. She
practises very constantly.”
“So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I next write to her,
I shall charge her not to neglect it on any account. I often tell young ladies that
no excellence in music is to be acquired without constant practice. I have told
Miss Bennet several times, that she will never play really well unless she
practises more; and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she is very welcome,
as I have often told her, to come to Rosings every day, and play on the pianoforte
in Mrs. Jenkinson’s room. She would be in nobody’s way, you know, in that part
of the house.”
Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt’s ill-breeding, and made no
answer.
When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of having
promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to the instrument. He drew a
chair near her. Lady Catherine listened to half a song, and then talked, as before,
to her other nephew; till the latter walked away from her, and making with his
usual deliberation towards the pianoforte stationed himself so as to command a
full view of the fair performer’s countenance. Elizabeth saw what he was doing,
and at the first convenient pause, turned to him with an arch smile, and said:
“You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? I
will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness
about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage
always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
“I shall not say you are mistaken,” he replied, “because you could not really
believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure
of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in
occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own.”
Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to Colonel
Fitzwilliam, “Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me, and teach
you not to believe a word I say. I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a
person so able to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had
hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very
ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in
Hertfordshire—and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too—for it is provoking
me to retaliate, and such things may come out as will shock your relations to
hear.”
“I am not afraid of you,” said he, smilingly.
“Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of,” cried Colonel Fitzwilliam.
“I should like to know how he behaves among strangers.”
“You shall hear then—but prepare yourself for something very dreadful. The
first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball
—and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances, though
gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady
was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact.”
“I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond
my own party.”
“True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball-room. Well, Colonel
Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders.”
“Perhaps,” said Darcy, “I should have judged better, had I sought an
introduction; but I am ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers.”
“Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?” said Elizabeth, still addressing
Colonel Fitzwilliam. “Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and
who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?”
“I can answer your question,” said Fitzwilliam, “without applying to him. It is
because he will not give himself the trouble.”
“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of
conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone
of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”
“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the
masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same
force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have
always supposed it to be my own fault—because I will not take the trouble of
practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other
woman’s of superior execution.”
Darcy smiled and said, “You are perfectly right. You have employed your time
much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything
wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers.”
Here they were interrupted by Lady Catherine, who called out to know what
they were talking of. Elizabeth immediately began playing again. Lady
Catherine approached, and, after listening for a few minutes, said to Darcy:
“Miss Bennet would not play at all amiss if she practised more, and could
have the advantage of a London master. She has a very good notion of fingering,
though her taste is not equal to Anne’s. Anne would have been a delightful
performer, had her health allowed her to learn.”
Elizabeth looked at Darcy to see how cordially he assented to his cousin’s
praise; but neither at that moment nor at any other could she discern any
symptom of love; and from the whole of his behaviour to Miss de Bourgh she
derived this comfort for Miss Bingley, that he might have been just as likely to
marry her, had she been his relation.
Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth’s performance, mixing
with them many instructions on execution and taste. Elizabeth received them
with all the forbearance of civility, and, at the request of the gentlemen,
remained at the instrument till her ladyship’s carriage was ready to take them all
home.

Chapter 32
Elizabeth was sitting by herself the next morning, and writing to Jane while
Mrs. Collins and Maria were gone on business into the village, when she was
startled by a ring at the door, the certain signal of a visitor. As she had heard no
carriage, she thought it not unlikely to be Lady Catherine, and under that
apprehension was putting away her half-finished letter that she might escape all
impertinent questions, when the door opened, and, to her very great surprise, Mr.
Darcy, and Mr. Darcy only, entered the room.
He seemed astonished too on finding her alone, and apologised for his
intrusion by letting her know that he had understood all the ladies were to be
within.
They then sat down, and when her inquiries after Rosings were made, seemed
in danger of sinking into total silence. It was absolutely necessary, therefore, to
think of something, and in this emergence recollecting when she had seen him
last in Hertfordshire, and feeling curious to know what he would say on the
subject of their hasty departure, she observed:
“How very suddenly you all quitted Netherfield last November, Mr. Darcy! It
must have been a most agreeable surprise to Mr. Bingley to see you all after him
so soon; for, if I recollect right, he went but the day before. He and his sisters
were well, I hope, when you left London?”
“Perfectly so, I thank you.”
She found that she was to receive no other answer, and, after a short pause
added:
“I think I have understood that Mr. Bingley has not much idea of ever
returning to Netherfield again?”
“I have never heard him say so; but it is probable that he may spend very little
of his time there in the future. He has many friends, and is at a time of life when
friends and engagements are continually increasing.”
“If he means to be but little at Netherfield, it would be better for the
neighbourhood that he should give up the place entirely, for then we might
possibly get a settled family there. But, perhaps, Mr. Bingley did not take the
house so much for the convenience of the neighbourhood as for his own, and we
must expect him to keep it or quit it on the same principle.”
“I should not be surprised,” said Darcy, “if he were to give it up as soon as
any eligible purchase offers.”
Elizabeth made no answer. She was afraid of talking longer of his friend; and,
having nothing else to say, was now determined to leave the trouble of finding a
subject to him.
He took the hint, and soon began with, “This seems a very comfortable house.
Lady Catherine, I believe, did a great deal to it when Mr. Collins first came to
Hunsford.”
“I believe she did—and I am sure she could not have bestowed her kindness
on a more grateful object.”
“Mr. Collins appears to be very fortunate in his choice of a wife.”
“Yes, indeed, his friends may well rejoice in his having met with one of the
very few sensible women who would have accepted him, or have made him
happy if they had. My friend has an excellent understanding—though I am not
certain that I consider her marrying Mr. Collins as the wisest thing she ever did.
She seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light it is certainly a
very good match for her.”
“It must be very agreeable for her to be settled within so easy a distance of her
own family and friends.”
“An easy distance, do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles.”
“And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day’s journey.
Yes, I call it a very easy distance.”
“I should never have considered the distance as one of the advantages of the
match,” cried Elizabeth. “I should never have said Mrs. Collins was settled near
her family.”
“It is a proof of your own attachment to Hertfordshire. Anything beyond the
very neighbourhood of Longbourn, I suppose, would appear far.”
As he spoke there was a sort of smile which Elizabeth fancied she understood;
he must be supposing her to be thinking of Jane and Netherfield, and she blushed
as she answered:
“I do not mean to say that a woman may not be settled too near her family.
The far and the near must be relative, and depend on many varying
circumstances. Where there is fortune to make the expenses of travelling
unimportant, distance becomes no evil. But that is not the case here. Mr. and
Mrs. Collins have a comfortable income, but not such a one as will allow of
frequent journeys—and I am persuaded my friend would not call herself near
her family under less than half the present distance.”
Mr. Darcy drew his chair a little towards her, and said, “You cannot have a
right to such very strong local attachment. You cannot have been always at
Longbourn.”
Elizabeth looked surprised. The gentleman experienced some change of
feeling; he drew back his chair, took a newspaper from the table, and glancing
over it, said, in a colder voice:
“Are you pleased with Kent?”
A short dialogue on the subject of the country ensued, on either side calm and
concise—and soon put an end to by the entrance of Charlotte and her sister, just
returned from her walk. The tête-à-tête surprised them. Mr. Darcy related the
mistake which had occasioned his intruding on Miss Bennet, and after sitting a
few minutes longer without saying much to anybody, went away.
“What can be the meaning of this?” said Charlotte, as soon as he was gone.
“My dear, Eliza, he must be in love with you, or he would never have called us
in this familiar way.”
But when Elizabeth told of his silence, it did not seem very likely, even to
Charlotte’s wishes, to be the case; and after various conjectures, they could at
last only suppose his visit to proceed from the difficulty of finding anything to
do, which was the more probable from the time of year. All field sports were
over. Within doors there was Lady Catherine, books, and a billiard-table, but
gentlemen cannot always be within doors; and in the nearness of the Parsonage,
or the pleasantness of the walk to it, or of the people who lived in it, the two
cousins found a temptation from this period of walking thither almost every day.
They called at various times of the morning, sometimes separately, sometimes
together, and now and then accompanied by their aunt. It was plain to them all
that Colonel Fitzwilliam came because he had pleasure in their society, a
persuasion which of course recommended him still more; and Elizabeth was
reminded by her own satisfaction in being with him, as well as by his evident
admiration of her, of her former favourite George Wickham; and though, in
comparing them, she saw there was less captivating softness in Colonel
Fitzwilliam’s manners, she believed he might have the best informed mind.
But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage, it was more difficult to
understand. It could not be for society, as he frequently sat there ten minutes
together without opening his lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of
necessity rather than of choice—a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure to
himself. He seldom appeared really animated. Mrs. Collins knew not what to
make of him. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s occasionally laughing at his stupidity,
proved that he was generally different, which her own knowledge of him could
not have told her; and as she would liked to have believed this change the effect
of love, and the object of that love her friend Eliza, she set herself seriously to
work to find it out. She watched him whenever they were at Rosings, and
whenever he came to Hunsford; but without much success. He certainly looked
at her friend a great deal, but the expression of that look was disputable. It was
an earnest, steadfast gaze, but she often doubted whether there were much
admiration in it, and sometimes it seemed nothing but absence of mind.
She had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of his being
partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea; and Mrs. Collins did not
think it right to press the subject, from the danger of raising expectations which
might only end in disappointment; for in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt,
that all her friend’s dislike would vanish, if she could suppose him to be in her
power.
In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she sometimes planned her marrying
Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was beyond comparison the most pleasant man; he
certainly admired her, and his situation in life was most eligible; but, to
counterbalance these advantages, Mr. Darcy had considerable patronage in the
church, and his cousin could have none at all.

Chapter 33
More than once did Elizabeth, in her ramble within the park, unexpectedly
meet Mr. Darcy. She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring
him where no one else was brought, and, to prevent its ever happening again,
took care to inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. How it could
occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did, and even a third. It
seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions it
was not merely a few formal inquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but
he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her. He never said a
great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking or of listening much;
but it struck her in the course of their third rencontre that he was asking some
odd unconnected questions—about her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of
solitary walks, and her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins’s happiness; and that in
speaking of Rosings and her not perfectly understanding the house, he seemed to
expect that whenever she came into Kent again she would be staying there too.
His words seemed to imply it. Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his
thoughts? She supposed, if he meant anything, he must mean an allusion to what
might arise in that quarter. It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad to find
herself at the gate in the pales opposite the Parsonage.
She was engaged one day as she walked, in perusing Jane’s last letter, and
dwelling on some passages which proved that Jane had not written in spirits,
when, instead of being again surprised by Mr. Darcy, she saw on looking up that
Colonel Fitzwilliam was meeting her. Putting away the letter immediately and
forcing a smile, she said:
“I did not know before that you ever walked this way.”
“I have been making the tour of the park,” he replied, “as I generally do every
year, and intend to close it with a call at the Parsonage. Are you going much
farther?”
“No, I should have turned in a moment.”
And accordingly she did turn, and they walked towards the Parsonage
together.
“Do you certainly leave Kent on Saturday?” said she.
“Yes—if Darcy does not put it off again. But I am at his disposal. He arranges
the business just as he pleases.”
“And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has at least pleasure
in the great power of choice. I do not know anybody who seems more to enjoy
the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy.”
“He likes to have his own way very well,” replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. “But
so we all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others,
because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son,
you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence.”
“In my opinion, the younger son of an earl can know very little of either. Now
seriously, what have you ever known of self-denial and dependence? When have
you been prevented by want of money from going wherever you chose, or
procuring anything you had a fancy for?”
“These are home questions—and perhaps I cannot say that I have experienced
many hardships of that nature. But in matters of greater weight, I may suffer
from want of money. Younger sons cannot marry where they like.”
“Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they very often do.”
“Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my
rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money.”
“Is this,” thought Elizabeth, “meant for me?” and she coloured at the idea; but,
recovering herself, said in a lively tone, “And pray, what is the usual price of an
earl’s younger son? Unless the elder brother is very sickly, I suppose you would
not ask above fifty thousand pounds.”
He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped. To interrupt a
silence which might make him fancy her affected with what had passed, she
soon afterwards said:
“I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for the sake of
having someone at his disposal. I wonder he does not marry, to secure a lasting
convenience of that kind. But, perhaps, his sister does as well for the present,
and, as she is under his sole care, he may do what he likes with her.”
“No,” said Colonel Fitzwilliam, “that is an advantage which he must divide
with me. I am joined with him in the guardianship of Miss Darcy.”
“Are you indeed? And pray what sort of guardians do you make? Does your
charge give you much trouble? Young ladies of her age are sometimes a little
difficult to manage, and if she has the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have her
own way.”
As she spoke she observed him looking at her earnestly; and the manner in
which he immediately asked her why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give
them any uneasiness, convinced her that she had somehow or other got pretty
near the truth. She directly replied:
“You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her; and I dare say she
is one of the most tractable creatures in the world. She is a very great favourite
with some ladies of my acquaintance, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. I think I
have heard you say that you know them.”
“I know them a little. Their brother is a pleasant gentlemanlike man—he is a
great friend of Darcy’s.”
“Oh! yes,” said Elizabeth drily; “Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind to Mr.
Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him.”
“Care of him! Yes, I really believe Darcy does take care of him in those points
where he most wants care. From something that he told me in our journey hither,
I have reason to think Bingley very much indebted to him. But I ought to beg his
pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the person meant. It was
all conjecture.”
“What is it you mean?”
“It is a circumstance which Darcy could not wish to be generally known,
because if it were to get round to the lady’s family, it would be an unpleasant
thing.”
“You may depend upon my not mentioning it.”
“And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to be Bingley.
What he told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having lately
saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but
without mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it to be
Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into a scrape of that
sort, and from knowing them to have been together the whole of last summer.”
“Did Mr. Darcy give you reasons for this interference?”
“I understood that there were some very strong objections against the lady.”
“And what arts did he use to separate them?”
“He did not talk to me of his own arts,” said Fitzwilliam, smiling. “He only
told me what I have now told you.”
Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling with
indignation. After watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked her why she was so
thoughtful.
“I am thinking of what you have been telling me,” said she. “Your cousin’s
conduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he to be the judge?”
“You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?”
“I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his
friend’s inclination, or why, upon his own judgement alone, he was to determine
and direct in what manner his friend was to be happy. But,” she continued,
recollecting herself, “as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to
condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much affection in the case.”
“That is not an unnatural surmise,” said Fitzwilliam, “but it is a lessening of
the honour of my cousin’s triumph very sadly.”
This was spoken jestingly; but it appeared to her so just a picture of Mr.
Darcy, that she would not trust herself with an answer, and therefore, abruptly
changing the conversation talked on indifferent matters until they reached the
Parsonage. There, shut into her own room, as soon as their visitor left them, she
could think without interruption of all that she had heard. It was not to be
supposed that any other people could be meant than those with whom she was
connected. There could not exist in the world two men over whom Mr. Darcy
could have such boundless influence. That he had been concerned in the
measures taken to separate Bingley and Jane she had never doubted; but she had
always attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and arrangement of them.
If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and
caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer.
He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate,
generous heart in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might
have inflicted.
“There were some very strong objections against the lady,” were Colonel
Fitzwilliam’s words; and those strong objections probably were, her having one
uncle who was a country attorney, and another who was in business in London.
“To Jane herself,” she exclaimed, “there could be no possibility of objection;
all loveliness and goodness as she is!—her understanding excellent, her mind
improved, and her manners captivating. Neither could anything be urged against
my father, who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities Mr. Darcy himself
need not disdain, and respectability which he will probably never reach.” When
she thought of her mother, her confidence gave way a little; but she would not
allow that any objections there had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose pride,
she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from the want of importance
in his friend’s connections, than from their want of sense; and she was quite
decided, at last, that he had been partly governed by this worst kind of pride, and
partly by the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister.
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned, brought on a headache;
and it grew so much worse towards the evening, that, added to her unwillingness
to see Mr. Darcy, it determined her not to attend her cousins to Rosings, where
they were engaged to drink tea. Mrs. Collins, seeing that she was really unwell,
did not press her to go and as much as possible prevented her husband from
pressing her; but Mr. Collins could not conceal his apprehension of Lady
Catherine’s being rather displeased by her staying at home.

Chapter 34
When they were gone, Elizabeth, as if intending to exasperate herself as much
as possible against Mr. Darcy, chose for her employment the examination of all
the letters which Jane had written to her since her being in Kent. They contained
no actual complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or any
communication of present suffering. But in all, and in almost every line of each,
there was a want of that cheerfulness which had been used to characterise her
style, and which, proceeding from the serenity of a mind at ease with itself and
kindly disposed towards everyone, had been scarcely ever clouded. Elizabeth
noticed every sentence conveying the idea of uneasiness, with an attention which
it had hardly received on the first perusal. Mr. Darcy’s shameful boast of what
misery he had been able to inflict, gave her a keener sense of her sister’s
sufferings. It was some consolation to think that his visit to Rosings was to end
on the day after the next—and, a still greater, that in less than a fortnight she
should herself be with Jane again, and enabled to contribute to the recovery of
her spirits, by all that affection could do.
She could not think of Darcy’s leaving Kent without remembering that his
cousin was to go with him; but Colonel Fitzwilliam had made it clear that he had
no intentions at all, and agreeable as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy
about him.
While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound of the doorbell, and her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of its being Colonel
Fitzwilliam himself, who had once before called late in the evening, and might
now come to inquire particularly after her. But this idea was soon banished, and
her spirits were very differently affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw
Mr. Darcy walk into the room. In an hurried manner he immediately began an
inquiry after her health, imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were
better. She answered him with cold civility. He sat down for a few moments, and
then getting up, walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a
word. After a silence of several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated
manner, and thus began:
“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed.
You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured,
doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement; and the
avowal of all that he felt, and had long felt for her, immediately followed. He
spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed; and
he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of
her inferiority—of its being a degradation—of the family obstacles which had
always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due
to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his
suit.
In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the
compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her intentions did not vary for
an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to
resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She
tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should
have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment
which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and
with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his
hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable
answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed
real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and, when he
ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said:
“In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense
of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be
returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I
would now thank you. But I cannot—I have never desired your good opinion,
and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have
occasioned pain to anyone. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I
hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long
prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in
overcoming it after this explanation.”
Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantelpiece with his eyes fixed on her
face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His
complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible
in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would
not open his lips till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to
Elizabeth’s feelings dreadful. At length, with a voice of forced calmness, he said:
“And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I might,
perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavour at civility, I am thus
rejected. But it is of small importance.”
“I might as well inquire,” replied she, “why with so evident a desire of
offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your
will, against your reason, and even against your character? Was not this some
excuse for incivility, if I was uncivil? But I have other provocations. You know I
have. Had not my feelings decided against you—had they been indifferent, or
had they even been favourable, do you think that any consideration would tempt
me to accept the man who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the
happiness of a most beloved sister?”
As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but the emotion
was short, and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she
continued:
“I have every reason in the world to think ill of you. No motive can excuse the
unjust and ungenerous part you acted there. You dare not, you cannot deny, that
you have been the principal, if not the only means of dividing them from each
other—of exposing one to the censure of the world for caprice and instability,
and the other to its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in
misery of the acutest kind.”
She paused, and saw with no slight indignation that he was listening with an
air which proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse. He even
looked at her with a smile of affected incredulity.
“Can you deny that you have done it?” she repeated.
With assumed tranquillity he then replied: “I have no wish of denying that I
did everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I
rejoice in my success. Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself.”
Elizabeth disdained the appearance of noticing this civil reflection, but its
meaning did not escape, nor was it likely to conciliate her.
“But it is not merely this affair,” she continued, “on which my dislike is
founded. Long before it had taken place my opinion of you was decided. Your
character was unfolded in the recital which I received many months ago from
Mr. Wickham. On this subject, what can you have to say? In what imaginary act
of friendship can you here defend yourself? or under what misrepresentation can
you here impose upon others?”
“You take an eager interest in that gentleman’s concerns,” said Darcy, in a less
tranquil tone, and with a heightened colour.
“Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help feeling an interest
in him?”
“His misfortunes!” repeated Darcy contemptuously; “yes, his misfortunes
have been great indeed.”
“And of your infliction,” cried Elizabeth with energy. “You have reduced him
to his present state of poverty—comparative poverty. You have withheld the
advantages which you must know to have been designed for him. You have
deprived the best years of his life of that independence which was no less his due
than his desert. You have done all this! and yet you can treat the mention of his
misfortune with contempt and ridicule.”
“And this,” cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room, “is
your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for
explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed!
But perhaps,” added he, stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, “these
offenses might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest
confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious
design. These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I, with greater
policy, concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being
impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by reason, by reflection, by
everything. But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of
the feelings I related. They were natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice
in the inferiority of your connections?—to congratulate myself on the hope of
relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”
Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment; yet she tried to the
utmost to speak with composure when she said:
“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your
declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which
I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike
manner.”
She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued:
“You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible way that
would have tempted me to accept it.”
Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with an expression
of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went on:
“From the very beginning—from the first moment, I may almost say—of my
acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of
your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others,
were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding
events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month
before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be
prevailed on to marry.”
“You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings,
and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for
having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health
and happiness.”
And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth heard him the
next moment open the front door and quit the house.
The tumult of her mind, was now painfully great. She knew not how to
support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half-an-hour.
Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every
review of it. That she should receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy! That
he should have been in love with her for so many months! So much in love as to
wish to marry her in spite of all the objections which had made him prevent his
friend’s marrying her sister, and which must appear at least with equal force in
his own case—was almost incredible! It was gratifying to have inspired
unconsciously so strong an affection. But his pride, his abominable pride—his
shameless avowal of what he had done with respect to Jane—his unpardonable
assurance in acknowledging, though he could not justify it, and the unfeeling
manner in which he had mentioned Mr. Wickham, his cruelty towards whom he
had not attempted to deny, soon overcame the pity which the consideration of his
attachment had for a moment excited. She continued in very agitated reflections
till the sound of Lady Catherine’s carriage made her feel how unequal she was to
encounter Charlotte’s observation, and hurried her away to her room.

Return of Sherlock Holmes

THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE
It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was interested, and the
fashionable world dismayed, by the murder of the Honourable Ronald Adair
under most unusual and inexplicable circumstances. The public has already
learned those particulars of the crime which came out in the police investigation,
but a good deal was suppressed upon that occasion, since the case for the
prosecution was so overwhelmingly strong that it was not necessary to bring
forward all the facts. Only now, at the end of nearly ten years, am I allowed to
supply those missing links which make up the whole of that remarkable chain.
The crime was of interest in itself, but that interest was as nothing to me
compared to the inconceivable sequel, which afforded me the greatest shock and
surprise of any event in my adventurous life. Even now, after this long interval, I
find myself thrilling as I think of it, and feeling once more that sudden flood of
joy, amazement, and incredulity which utterly submerged my mind. Let me say
to that public, which has shown some interest in those glimpses which I have
occasionally given them of the thoughts and actions of a very remarkable man,
that they are not to blame me if I have not shared my knowledge with them, for I
should have considered it my first duty to do so, had I not been barred by a
positive prohibition from his own lips, which was only withdrawn upon the third
of last month.
It can be imagined that my close intimacy with Sherlock Holmes had
interested me deeply in crime, and that after his disappearance I never failed to
read with care the various problems which came before the public. And I even
attempted, more than once, for my own private satisfaction, to employ his
methods in their solution, though with indifferent success. There was none,
however, which appealed to me like this tragedy of Ronald Adair. As I read the
evidence at the inquest, which led up to a verdict of willful murder against some
person or persons unknown, I realized more clearly than I had ever done the loss
which the community had sustained by the death of Sherlock Holmes. There
were points about this strange business which would, I was sure, have specially
appealed to him, and the efforts of the police would have been supplemented, or
more probably anticipated, by the trained observation and the alert mind of the
first criminal agent in Europe. All day, as I drove upon my round, I turned over
the case in my mind and found no explanation which appeared to me to be
adequate. At the risk of telling a twice-told tale, I will recapitulate the facts as
they were known to the public at the conclusion of the inquest.
The Honourable Ronald Adair was the second son of the Earl of Maynooth, at
that time governor of one of the Australian colonies. Adair’s mother had
returned from Australia to undergo the operation for cataract, and she, her son
Ronald, and her daughter Hilda were living together at 427, Park Lane. The
youth moved in the best society—had, so far as was known, no enemies and no
particular vices. He had been engaged to Miss Edith Woodley, of Carstairs, but
the engagement had been broken off by mutual consent some months before, and
there was no sign that it had left any very profound feeling behind it. For the
rest, the man’s life moved in a narrow and conventional circle, for his habits
were quiet and his nature unemotional. Yet it was upon this easy-going young
aristocrat that death came, in most strange and unexpected form, between the
hours of ten and eleven-twenty on the night of March 30, 1894.
Ronald Adair was fond of cards—playing continually, but never for such
stakes as would hurt him. He was a member of the Baldwin, the Cavendish, and
the Bagatelle card clubs. It was shown that, after dinner on the day of his death,
he had played a rubber of whist at the latter club. He had also played there in the
afternoon. The evidence of those who had played with him—Mr. Murray, Sir
John Hardy, and Colonel Moran—showed that the game was whist, and that
there was a fairly equal fall of the cards. Adair might have lost five pounds, but
not more. His fortune was a considerable one, and such a loss could not in any
way affect him. He had played nearly every day at one club or other, but he was
a cautious player, and usually rose a winner. It came out in evidence that, in
partnership with Colonel Moran, he had actually won as much as four hundred
and twenty pounds in a sitting, some weeks before, from Godfrey Milner and
Lord Balmoral. So much for his recent history as it came out at the inquest.
On the evening of the crime, he returned from the club exactly at ten. His
mother and sister were out spending the evening with a relation. The servant
deposed that she heard him enter the front room on the second floor, generally
used as his sitting-room. She had lit a fire there, and as it smoked she had opened
the window. No sound was heard from the room until eleven-twenty, the hour of
the return of Lady Maynooth and her daughter. Desiring to say good-night, she
attempted to enter her son’s room. The door was locked on the inside, and no
answer could be got to their cries and knocking. Help was obtained, and the door
forced. The unfortunate young man was found lying near the table. His head had
been horribly mutilated by an expanding revolver bullet, but no weapon of any
sort was to be found in the room. On the table lay two banknotes for ten pounds
each and seventeen pounds ten in silver and gold, the money arranged in little
piles of varying amount. There were some figures also upon a sheet of paper,
with the names of some club friends opposite to them, from which it was
conjectured that before his death he was endeavouring to make out his losses or
winnings at cards.
A minute examination of the circumstances served only to make the case more
complex. In the first place, no reason could be given why the young man should
have fastened the door upon the inside. There was the possibility that the
murderer had done this, and had afterwards escaped by the window. The drop
was at least twenty feet, however, and a bed of crocuses in full bloom lay
beneath. Neither the flowers nor the earth showed any sign of having been
disturbed, nor were there any marks upon the narrow strip of grass which
separated the house from the road. Apparently, therefore, it was the young man
himself who had fastened the door. But how did he come by his death? No one
could have climbed up to the window without leaving traces. Suppose a man had
fired through the window, he would indeed be a remarkable shot who could with
a revolver inflict so deadly a wound. Again, Park Lane is a frequented
thoroughfare; there is a cab stand within a hundred yards of the house. No one
had heard a shot. And yet there was the dead man and there the revolver bullet,
which had mushroomed out, as soft-nosed bullets will, and so inflicted a wound
which must have caused instantaneous death. Such were the circumstances of the
Park Lane Mystery, which were further complicated by entire absence of motive,
since, as I have said, young Adair was not known to have any enemy, and no
attempt had been made to remove the money or valuables in the room.
All day I turned these facts over in my mind, endeavouring to hit upon some
theory which could reconcile them all, and to find that line of least resistance
which my poor friend had declared to be the starting-point of every
investigation. I confess that I made little progress. In the evening I strolled
across the Park, and found myself about six o’clock at the Oxford Street end of
Park Lane. A group of loafers upon the pavements, all staring up at a particular
window, directed me to the house which I had come to see. A tall, thin man with
coloured glasses, whom I strongly suspected of being a plain-clothes detective,
was pointing out some theory of his own, while the others crowded round to
listen to what he said. I got as near him as I could, but his observations seemed
to me to be absurd, so I withdrew again in some disgust. As I did so I struck
against an elderly, deformed man, who had been behind me, and I knocked down
several books which he was carrying. I remember that as I picked them up, I
observed the title of one of them, The Origin of Tree Worship, and it struck me
that the fellow must be some poor bibliophile, who, either as a trade or as a
hobby, was a collector of obscure volumes. I endeavoured to apologize for the
accident, but it was evident that these books which I had so unfortunately
maltreated were very precious objects in the eyes of their owner. With a snarl of
contempt he turned upon his heel, and I saw his curved back and white sidewhiskers disappear among the throng.
My observations of No. 427, Park Lane did little to clear up the problem in
which I was interested. The house was separated from the street by a low wall
and railing, the whole not more than five feet high. It was perfectly easy,
therefore, for anyone to get into the garden, but the window was entirely
inaccessible, since there was no waterpipe or anything which could help the
most active man to climb it. More puzzled than ever, I retraced my steps to
Kensington. I had not been in my study five minutes when the maid entered to
say that a person desired to see me. To my astonishment it was none other than
my strange old book collector, his sharp, wizened face peering out from a frame
of white hair, and his precious volumes, a dozen of them at least, wedged under
his right arm.
“You’re surprised to see me, sir,” said he, in a strange, croaking voice.
I acknowledged that I was.
“Well, I’ve a conscience, sir, and when I chanced to see you go into this
house, as I came hobbling after you, I thought to myself, I’ll just step in and see
that kind gentleman, and tell him that if I was a bit gruff in my manner there was
not any harm meant, and that I am much obliged to him for picking up my
books.”
“You make too much of a trifle,” said I. “May I ask how you knew who I
was?”
“Well, sir, if it isn’t too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of yours, for you’ll
find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street, and very happy to see
you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir. Here’s British Birds, and
Catullus, and The Holy War—a bargain, every one of them. With five volumes
you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?”
I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again,
Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my
feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that
I must have fainted for the first and the last time in my life. Certainly a grey mist
swirled before my eyes, and when it cleared I found my collar-ends undone and
the tingling after-taste of brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending over my
chair, his flask in his hand.
“My dear Watson,” said the well-remembered voice, “I owe you a thousand
apologies. I had no idea that you would be so affected.”
I gripped him by the arms.
“Holmes!” I cried. “Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive? Is it
possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that awful abyss?”
“Wait a moment,” said he. “Are you sure that you are really fit to discuss
things? I have given you a serious shock by my unnecessarily dramatic
reappearance.”
“I am all right, but indeed, Holmes, I can hardly believe my eyes. Good
heavens! to think that you—you of all men—should be standing in my study.”
Again I gripped him by the sleeve, and felt the thin, sinewy arm beneath it.
“Well, you’re not a spirit anyhow,” said I. “My dear chap, I’m overjoyed to see
you. Sit down, and tell me how you came alive out of that dreadful chasm.”
He sat opposite to me, and lit a cigarette in his old, nonchalant manner. He
was dressed in the seedy frockcoat of the book merchant, but the rest of that
individual lay in a pile of white hair and old books upon the table. Holmes
looked even thinner and keener than of old, but there was a dead-white tinge in
his aquiline face which told me that his life recently had not been a healthy one.
“I am glad to stretch myself, Watson,” said he. “It is no joke when a tall man
has to take a foot off his stature for several hours on end. Now, my dear fellow,
in the matter of these explanations, we have, if I may ask for your cooperation, a
hard and dangerous night’s work in front of us. Perhaps it would be better if I
gave you an account of the whole situation when that work is finished.”
“I am full of curiosity. I should much prefer to hear now.”
“You’ll come with me to-night?”
“When you like and where you like.”
“This is, indeed, like the old days. We shall have time for a mouthful of dinner
before we need go. Well, then, about that chasm. I had no serious difficulty in
getting out of it, for the very simple reason that I never was in it.”
“You never were in it?”
“No, Watson, I never was in it. My note to you was absolutely genuine. I had
little doubt that I had come to the end of my career when I perceived the
somewhat sinister figure of the late Professor Moriarty standing upon the narrow
pathway which led to safety. I read an inexorable purpose in his grey eyes. I
exchanged some remarks with him, therefore, and obtained his courteous
permission to write the short note which you afterwards received. I left it with
my cigarette-box and my stick, and I walked along the pathway, Moriarty still at
my heels. When I reached the end I stood at bay. He drew no weapon, but he
rushed at me and threw his long arms around me. He knew that his own game
was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together
upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the
Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me.
I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few
seconds, and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could
not get his balance, and over he went. With my face over the brink, I saw him
fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounded off, and splashed into the
water.”
I listened with amazement to this explanation, which Holmes delivered
between the puffs of his cigarette.
“But the tracks!” I cried. “I saw, with my own eyes, that two went down the
path and none returned.”
“It came about in this way. The instant that the Professor had disappeared, it
struck me what a really extraordinarily lucky chance Fate had placed in my way.
I knew that Moriarty was not the only man who had sworn my death. There were
at least three others whose desire for vengeance upon me would only be
increased by the death of their leader. They were all most dangerous men. One or
other would certainly get me. On the other hand, if all the world was convinced
that I was dead they would take liberties, these men, they would soon lay
themselves open, and sooner or later I could destroy them. Then it would be time
for me to announce that I was still in the land of the living. So rapidly does the
brain act that I believe I had thought this all out before Professor Moriarty had
reached the bottom of the Reichenbach Fall.
“I stood up and examined the rocky wall behind me. In your picturesque
account of the matter, which I read with great interest some months later, you
assert that the wall was sheer. That was not literally true. A few small footholds
presented themselves, and there was some indication of a ledge. The cliff is so
high that to climb it all was an obvious impossibility, and it was equally
impossible to make my way along the wet path without leaving some tracks. I
might, it is true, have reversed my boots, as I have done on similar occasions,
but the sight of three sets of tracks in one direction would certainly have
suggested a deception. On the whole, then, it was best that I should risk the
climb. It was not a pleasant business, Watson. The fall roared beneath me. I am
not a fanciful person, but I give you my word that I seemed to hear Moriarty’s
voice screaming at me out of the abyss. A mistake would have been fatal. More
than once, as tufts of grass came out in my hand or my foot slipped in the wet
notches of the rock, I thought that I was gone. But I struggled upward, and at last
I reached a ledge several feet deep and covered with soft green moss, where I
could lie unseen, in the most perfect comfort. There I was stretched, when you,
my dear Watson, and all your following were investigating in the most
sympathetic and inefficient manner the circumstances of my death.
“At last, when you had all formed your inevitable and totally erroneous
conclusions, you departed for the hotel, and I was left alone. I had imagined that
I had reached the end of my adventures, but a very unexpected occurrence
showed me that there were surprises still in store for me. A huge rock, falling
from above, boomed past me, struck the path, and bounded over into the chasm.
For an instant I thought that it was an accident, but a moment later, looking up, I
saw a man’s head against the darkening sky, and another stone struck the very
ledge upon which I was stretched, within a foot of my head. Of course, the
meaning of this was obvious. Moriarty had not been alone. A confederate—and
even that one glance had told me how dangerous a man that confederate was—
had kept guard while the Professor had attacked me. From a distance, unseen by
me, he had been a witness of his friend’s death and of my escape. He had waited,
and then making his way round to the top of the cliff, he had endeavoured to
succeed where his comrade had failed.
“I did not take long to think about it, Watson. Again I saw that grim face look
over the cliff, and I knew that it was the precursor of another stone. I scrambled
down on to the path. I don’t think I could have done it in cold blood. It was a
hundred times more difficult than getting up. But I had no time to think of the
danger, for another stone sang past me as I hung by my hands from the edge of
the ledge. Halfway down I slipped, but, by the blessing of God, I landed, torn
and bleeding, upon the path. I took to my heels, did ten miles over the mountains
in the darkness, and a week later I found myself in Florence, with the certainty
that no one in the world knew what had become of me.
“I had only one confidant—my brother Mycroft. I owe you many apologies,
my dear Watson, but it was all-important that it should be thought I was dead,
and it is quite certain that you would not have written so convincing an account
of my unhappy end had you not yourself thought that it was true. Several times
during the last three years I have taken up my pen to write to you, but always I
feared lest your affectionate regard for me should tempt you to some indiscretion
which would betray my secret. For that reason I turned away from you this
evening when you upset my books, for I was in danger at the time, and any show
of surprise and emotion upon your part might have drawn attention to my
identity and led to the most deplorable and irreparable results. As to Mycroft, I
had to confide in him in order to obtain the money which I needed. The course
of events in London did not run so well as I had hoped, for the trial of the
Moriarty gang left two of its most dangerous members, my own most vindictive
enemies, at liberty. I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused
myself by visiting Lhassa, and spending some days with the head lama. You may
have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I
am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your
friend. I then passed through Persia, looked in at Mecca, and paid a short but
interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum the results of which I have
communicated to the Foreign Office. Returning to France, I spent some months
in a research into the coal-tar derivatives, which I conducted in a laboratory at
Montpellier, in the south of France. Having concluded this to my satisfaction and
learning that only one of my enemies was now left in London, I was about to
return when my movements were hastened by the news of this very remarkable
Park Lane Mystery, which not only appealed to me by its own merits, but which
seemed to offer some most peculiar personal opportunities. I came over at once
to London, called in my own person at Baker Street, threw Mrs. Hudson into
violent hysterics, and found that Mycroft had preserved my rooms and my
papers exactly as they had always been. So it was, my dear Watson, that at two
o’clock to-day I found myself in my old armchair in my own old room, and only
wishing that I could have seen my old friend Watson in the other chair which he
has so often adorned.”
Such was the remarkable narrative to which I listened on that April evening—
a narrative which would have been utterly incredible to me had it not been
confirmed by the actual sight of the tall, spare figure and the keen, eager face,
which I had never thought to see again. In some manner he had learned of my
own sad bereavement, and his sympathy was shown in his manner rather than in
his words. “Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson,” said he; “and I
have a piece of work for us both to-night which, if we can bring it to a successful
conclusion, will in itself justify a man’s life on this planet.” In vain I begged him
to tell me more. “You will hear and see enough before morning,” he answered.
“We have three years of the past to discuss. Let that suffice until half-past nine,
when we start upon the notable adventure of the empty house.”
It was indeed like old times when, at that hour, I found myself seated beside
him in a hansom, my revolver in my pocket, and the thrill of adventure in my
heart. Holmes was cold and stern and silent. As the gleam of the street-lamps
flashed upon his austere features, I saw that his brows were drawn down in
thought and his thin lips compressed. I knew not what wild beast we were about
to hunt down in the dark jungle of criminal London, but I was well assured, from
the bearing of this master huntsman, that the adventure was a most grave one—
while the sardonic smile which occasionally broke through his ascetic gloom
boded little good for the object of our quest.
I had imagined that we were bound for Baker Street, but Holmes stopped the
cab at the corner of Cavendish Square. I observed that as he stepped out he gave
a most searching glance to right and left, and at every subsequent street corner
he took the utmost pains to assure that he was not followed. Our route was
certainly a singular one. Holmes’s knowledge of the byways of London was
extraordinary, and on this occasion he passed rapidly and with an assured step
through a network of mews and stables, the very existence of which I had never
known. We emerged at last into a small road, lined with old, gloomy houses,
which led us into Manchester Street, and so to Blandford Street. Here he turned
swiftly down a narrow passage, passed through a wooden gate into a deserted
yard, and then opened with a key the back door of a house. We entered together,
and he closed it behind us.
The place was pitch dark, but it was evident to me that it was an empty house.
Our feet creaked and crackled over the bare planking, and my outstretched hand
touched a wall from which the paper was hanging in ribbons. Holmes’s cold,
thin fingers closed round my wrist and led me forward down a long hall, until I
dimly saw the murky fanlight over the door. Here Holmes turned suddenly to the
right and we found ourselves in a large, square, empty room, heavily shadowed
in the corners, but faintly lit in the centre from the lights of the street beyond.
There was no lamp near, and the window was thick with dust, so that we could
only just discern each other’s figures within. My companion put his hand upon
my shoulder and his lips close to my ear.
“Do you know where we are?” he whispered.
“Surely that is Baker Street,” I answered, staring through the dim window.
“Exactly. We are in Camden House, which stands opposite to our own old
quarters.”
“But why are we here?”
“Because it commands so excellent a view of that picturesque pile. Might I
trouble you, my dear Watson, to draw a little nearer to the window, taking every
precaution not to show yourself, and then to look up at our old rooms—the
starting-point of so many of your little fairy-tales? We will see if my three years
of absence have entirely taken away my power to surprise you.”
I crept forward and looked across at the familiar window. As my eyes fell
upon it, I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. The blind was down, and a strong
light was burning in the room. The shadow of a man who was seated in a chair
within was thrown in hard, black outline upon the luminous screen of the
window. There was no mistaking the poise of the head, the squareness of the
shoulders, the sharpness of the features. The face was turned half-round, and the
effect was that of one of those black silhouettes which our grandparents loved to
frame. It was a perfect reproduction of Holmes. So amazed was I that I threw out
my hand to make sure that the man himself was standing beside me. He was
quivering with silent laughter.
“Well?” said he.
“Good heavens!” I cried. “It is marvellous.”
“I trust that age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite variety,” said he,
and I recognized in his voice the joy and pride which the artist takes in his own
creation. “It really is rather like me, is it not?”
“I should be prepared to swear that it was you.”
“The credit of the execution is due to Monsieur Oscar Meunier, of Grenoble,
who spent some days in doing the moulding. It is a bust in wax. The rest I
arranged myself during my visit to Baker Street this afternoon.”
“But why?”
“Because, my dear Watson, I had the strongest possible reason for wishing
certain people to think that I was there when I was really elsewhere.”
“And you thought the rooms were watched?”
“I knew that they were watched.”
“By whom?”
“By my old enemies, Watson. By the charming society whose leader lies in
the Reichenbach Fall. You must remember that they knew, and only they knew,
that I was still alive. Sooner or later they believed that I should come back to my
rooms. They watched them continuously, and this morning they saw me arrive.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I recognized their sentinel when I glanced out of my window. He is
a harmless enough fellow, Parker by name, a garroter by trade, and a remarkable
performer upon the jew’s-harp. I cared nothing for him. But I cared a great deal
for the much more formidable person who was behind him, the bosom friend of
Moriarty, the man who dropped the rocks over the cliff, the most cunning and
dangerous criminal in London. That is the man who is after me to-night Watson,
and that is the man who is quite unaware that we are after him.”
My friend’s plans were gradually revealing themselves. From this convenient
retreat, the watchers were being watched and the trackers tracked. That angular
shadow up yonder was the bait, and we were the hunters. In silence we stood
together in the darkness and watched the hurrying figures who passed and
repassed in front of us. Holmes was silent and motionless; but I could tell that he
was keenly alert, and that his eyes were fixed intently upon the stream of
passers-by. It was a bleak and boisterous night and the wind whistled shrilly
down the long street. Many people were moving to and fro, most of them
muffled in their coats and cravats. Once or twice it seemed to me that I had seen
the same figure before, and I especially noticed two men who appeared to be
sheltering themselves from the wind in the doorway of a house some distance up
the street. I tried to draw my companion’s attention to them; but he gave a little
ejaculation of impatience, and continued to stare into the street. More than once
he fidgeted with his feet and tapped rapidly with his fingers upon the wall. It was
evident to me that he was becoming uneasy, and that his plans were not working
out altogether as he had hoped. At last, as midnight approached and the street
gradually cleared, he paced up and down the room in uncontrollable agitation. I
was about to make some remark to him, when I raised my eyes to the lighted
window, and again experienced almost as great a surprise as before. I clutched
Holmes’s arm, and pointed upward.
“The shadow has moved!” I cried.
It was indeed no longer the profile, but the back, which was turned towards
us.
Three years had certainly not smoothed the asperities of his temper or his
impatience with a less active intelligence than his own.
“Of course it has moved,” said he. “Am I such a farcical bungler, Watson, that
I should erect an obvious dummy, and expect that some of the sharpest men in
Europe would be deceived by it? We have been in this room two hours, and Mrs.
Hudson has made some change in that figure eight times, or once in every
quarter of an hour. She works it from the front, so that her shadow may never be
seen. Ah!” He drew in his breath with a shrill, excited intake. In the dim light I
saw his head thrown forward, his whole attitude rigid with attention. Outside the
street was absolutely deserted. Those two men might still be crouching in the
doorway, but I could no longer see them. All was still and dark, save only that
brilliant yellow screen in front of us with the black figure outlined upon its
centre. Again in the utter silence I heard that thin, sibilant note which spoke of
intense suppressed excitement. An instant later he pulled me back into the
blackest corner of the room, and I felt his warning hand upon my lips. The
fingers which clutched me were quivering. Never had I known my friend more
moved, and yet the dark street still stretched lonely and motionless before us.
But suddenly I was aware of that which his keener senses had already
distinguished. A low, stealthy sound came to my ears, not from the direction of
Baker Street, but from the back of the very house in which we lay concealed. A
door opened and shut. An instant later steps crept down the passage—steps
which were meant to be silent, but which reverberated harshly through the empty
house. Holmes crouched back against the wall, and I did the same, my hand
closing upon the handle of my revolver. Peering through the gloom, I saw the
vague outline of a man, a shade blacker than the blackness of the open door. He
stood for an instant, and then he crept forward, crouching, menacing, into the
room. He was within three yards of us, this sinister figure, and I had braced
myself to meet his spring, before I realized that he had no idea of our presence.
He passed close beside us, stole over to the window, and very softly and
noiselessly raised it for half a foot. As he sank to the level of this opening, the
light of the street, no longer dimmed by the dusty glass, fell full upon his face.
The man seemed to be beside himself with excitement. His two eyes shone like
stars, and his features were working convulsively. He was an elderly man, with a
thin, projecting nose, a high, bald forehead, and a huge grizzled moustache. An
opera hat was pushed to the back of his head, and an evening dress shirt-front
gleamed out through his open overcoat. His face was gaunt and swarthy, scored
with deep, savage lines. In his hand he carried what appeared to be a stick, but as
he laid it down upon the floor it gave a metallic clang. Then from the pocket of
his overcoat he drew a bulky object, and he busied himself in some task which
ended with a loud, sharp click, as if a spring or bolt had fallen into its place. Still
kneeling upon the floor he bent forward and threw all his weight and strength
upon some lever, with the result that there came a long, whirling, grinding noise,
ending once more in a powerful click. He straightened himself then, and I saw
that what he held in his hand was a sort of gun, with a curiously misshapen butt.
He opened it at the breech, put something in, and snapped the breech-lock. Then,
crouching down, he rested the end of the barrel upon the ledge of the open
window, and I saw his long moustache droop over the stock and his eye gleam as
it peered along the sights. I heard a little sigh of satisfaction as he cuddled the
butt into his shoulder; and saw that amazing target, the black man on the yellow
ground, standing clear at the end of his foresight. For an instant he was rigid and
motionless. Then his finger tightened on the trigger. There was a strange, loud
whiz and a long, silvery tinkle of broken glass. At that instant Holmes sprang
like a tiger on to the marksman’s back, and hurled him flat upon his face. He was
up again in a moment, and with convulsive strength he seized Holmes by the
throat, but I struck him on the head with the butt of my revolver, and he dropped
again upon the floor. I fell upon him, and as I held him my comrade blew a shrill
call upon a whistle. There was the clatter of running feet upon the pavement, and
two policemen in uniform, with one plain-clothes detective, rushed through the
front entrance and into the room.
“That you, Lestrade?” said Holmes.
“Yes, Mr. Holmes. I took the job myself. It’s good to see you back in London,
sir.”
“I think you want a little unofficial help. Three undetected murders in one
year won’t do, Lestrade. But you handled the Molesey Mystery with less than
your usual—that’s to say, you handled it fairly well.”
We had all risen to our feet, our prisoner breathing hard, with a stalwart
constable on each side of him. Already a few loiterers had begun to collect in the
street. Holmes stepped up to the window, closed it, and dropped the blinds.
Lestrade had produced two candles, and the policemen had uncovered their
lanterns. I was able at last to have a good look at our prisoner.
It was a tremendously virile and yet sinister face which was turned towards us.
With the brow of a philosopher above and the jaw of a sensualist below, the man
must have started with great capacities for good or for evil. But one could not
look upon his cruel blue eyes, with their drooping, cynical lids, or upon the
fierce, aggressive nose and the threatening, deep-lined brow, without reading
Nature’s plainest danger-signals. He took no heed of any of us, but his eyes were
fixed upon Holmes’s face with an expression in which hatred and amazement
were equally blended. “You fiend!” he kept on muttering. “You clever, clever
fiend!”
“Ah, Colonel!” said Holmes, arranging his rumpled collar. “‘Journeys end in
lovers’ meetings,’ as the old play says. I don’t think I have had the pleasure of
seeing you since you favoured me with those attentions as I lay on the ledge
above the Reichenbach Fall.”
The colonel still stared at my friend like a man in a trance. “You cunning,
cunning fiend!” was all that he could say.
“I have not introduced you yet,” said Holmes. “This, gentlemen, is Colonel
Sebastian Moran, once of Her Majesty’s Indian Army, and the best heavy-game
shot that our Eastern Empire has ever produced. I believe I am correct Colonel,
in saying that your bag of tigers still remains unrivalled?”
The fierce old man said nothing, but still glared at my companion. With his
savage eyes and bristling moustache he was wonderfully like a tiger himself.
“I wonder that my very simple stratagem could deceive so old a shikari,” said
Holmes. “It must be very familiar to you. Have you not tethered a young kid
under a tree, lain above it with your rifle, and waited for the bait to bring up your
tiger? This empty house is my tree, and you are my tiger. You have possibly had
other guns in reserve in case there should be several tigers, or in the unlikely
supposition of your own aim failing you. These,” he pointed around, “are my
other guns. The parallel is exact.”
Colonel Moran sprang forward with a snarl of rage, but the constables
dragged him back. The fury upon his face was terrible to look at.
“I confess that you had one small surprise for me,” said Holmes. “I did not
anticipate that you would yourself make use of this empty house and this
convenient front window. I had imagined you as operating from the street, where
my friend, Lestrade and his merry men were awaiting you. With that exception,
all has gone as I expected.”
Colonel Moran turned to the official detective.
“You may or may not have just cause for arresting me,” said he, “but at least
there can be no reason why I should submit to the gibes of this person. If I am in
the hands of the law, let things be done in a legal way.”
“Well, that’s reasonable enough,” said Lestrade. “Nothing further you have to
say, Mr. Holmes, before we go?”
Holmes had picked up the powerful air-gun from the floor, and was examining
its mechanism.
“An admirable and unique weapon,” said he, “noiseless and of tremendous
power: I knew Von Herder, the blind German mechanic, who constructed it to
the order of the late Professor Moriarty. For years I have been aware of its
existence though I have never before had the opportunity of handling it. I
commend it very specially to your attention, Lestrade and also the bullets which
fit it.”
“You can trust us to look after that, Mr. Holmes,” said Lestrade, as the whole
party moved towards the door. “Anything further to say?”
“Only to ask what charge you intend to prefer?”
“What charge, sir? Why, of course, the attempted murder of Mr. Sherlock
Holmes.”
“Not so, Lestrade. I do not propose to appear in the matter at all. To you, and
to you only, belongs the credit of the remarkable arrest which you have effected.
Yes, Lestrade, I congratulate you! With your usual happy mixture of cunning and
audacity, you have got him.”
“Got him! Got whom, Mr. Holmes?”
“The man that the whole force has been seeking in vain—Colonel Sebastian
Moran, who shot the Honourable Ronald Adair with an expanding bullet from an
air-gun through the open window of the second-floor front of No. 427, Park
Lane, upon the thirtieth of last month. That’s the charge, Lestrade. And now,
Watson, if you can endure the draught from a broken window, I think that half an
hour in my study over a cigar may afford you some profitable amusement.”
Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the supervision of Mycroft
Holmes and the immediate care of Mrs. Hudson. As I entered I saw, it is true, an
unwonted tidiness, but the old landmarks were all in their place. There were the
chemical corner and the acid-stained, deal-topped table. There upon a shelf was
the row of formidable scrap-books and books of reference which many of our
fellow-citizens would have been so glad to burn. The diagrams, the violin-case,
and the pipe-rack—even the Persian slipper which contained the tobacco—all
met my eyes as I glanced round me. There were two occupants of the room—
one, Mrs. Hudson, who beamed upon us both as we entered—the other, the
strange dummy which had played so important a part in the evening’s
adventures. It was a wax-coloured model of my friend, so admirably done that it
was a perfect facsimile. It stood on a small pedestal table with an old dressinggown of Holmes’s so draped round it that the illusion from the street was
absolutely perfect.
“I hope you observed all precautions, Mrs. Hudson?” said Holmes.
“I went to it on my knees, sir, just as you told me.”
“Excellent. You carried the thing out very well. Did you observe where the
bullet went?”
“Yes, sir. I’m afraid it has spoilt your beautiful bust, for it passed right through
the head and flattened itself on the wall. I picked it up from the carpet. Here it
is!”
Holmes held it out to me. “A soft revolver bullet, as you perceive, Watson.
There’s genius in that, for who would expect to find such a thing fired from an
airgun? All right, Mrs. Hudson. I am much obliged for your assistance. And
now, Watson, let me see you in your old seat once more, for there are several
points which I should like to discuss with you.”
He had thrown off the seedy frockcoat, and now he was the Holmes of old in
the mouse-coloured dressing-gown which he took from his effigy.
“The old shikari’s nerves have not lost their steadiness, nor his eyes their
keenness,” said he, with a laugh, as he inspected the shattered forehead of his
bust.
“Plumb in the middle of the back of the head and smack through the brain. He
was the best shot in India, and I expect that there are few better in London. Have
you heard the name?”
“No, I have not.”
“Well, well, such is fame! But, then, if I remember right, you had not heard
the name of Professor James Moriarty, who had one of the great brains of the
century. Just give me down my index of biographies from the shelf.”
He turned over the pages lazily, leaning back in his chair and blowing great
clouds from his cigar.
“My collection of M’s is a fine one,” said he. “Moriarty himself is enough to
make any letter illustrious, and here is Morgan the poisoner, and Merridew of
abominable memory, and Mathews, who knocked out my left canine in the
waiting-room at Charing Cross, and, finally, here is our friend of to-night.”
He handed over the book, and I read:
Moran, Sebastian, Colonel. Unemployed. Formerly 1st Bangalore Pioneers.
Born London, 1840. Son of Sir Augustus Moran, C.B., once British Minister to
Persia. Educated Eton and Oxford. Served in Jowaki Campaign, Afghan
Campaign, Charasiab (despatches), Sherpur, and Cabul. Author of Heavy Game
of the Western Himalayas (1881); Three Months in the Jungle (1884). Address:
Conduit Street. Clubs: The Anglo-Indian, the Tankerville, the Bagatelle Card
Club.
On the margin was written, in Holmes’s precise hand:
The second most dangerous man in London.
“This is astonishing,” said I, as I handed back the volume. “The man’s career
is that of an honourable soldier.”
“It is true,” Holmes answered. “Up to a certain point he did well. He was
always a man of iron nerve, and the story is still told in India how he crawled
down a drain after a wounded man-eating tiger. There are some trees, Watson,
which grow to a certain height, and then suddenly develop some unsightly
eccentricity. You will see it often in humans. I have a theory that the individual
represents in his development the whole procession of his ancestors, and that
such a sudden turn to good or evil stands for some strong influence which came
into the line of his pedigree. The person becomes, as it were, the epitome of the
history of his own family.”
“It is surely rather fanciful.”
“Well, I don’t insist upon it. Whatever the cause, Colonel Moran began to go
wrong. Without any open scandal, he still made India too hot to hold him. He
retired, came to London, and again acquired an evil name. It was at this time that
he was sought out by Professor Moriarty, to whom for a time he was chief of the
staff. Moriarty supplied him liberally with money, and used him only in one or
two very high-class jobs, which no ordinary criminal could have undertaken.
You may have some recollection of the death of Mrs. Stewart, of Lauder, in

  1. Not? Well, I am sure Moran was at the bottom of it, but nothing could be
    proved. So cleverly was the colonel concealed that, even when the Moriarty
    gang was broken up, we could not incriminate him. You remember at that date,
    when I called upon you in your rooms, how I put up the shutters for fear of airguns? No doubt you thought me fanciful. I knew exactly what I was doing, for I
    knew of the existence of this remarkable gun, and I knew also that one of the
    best shots in the world would be behind it. When we were in Switzerland he
    followed us with Moriarty, and it was undoubtedly he who gave me that evil five
    minutes on the Reichenbach ledge.
    “You may think that I read the papers with some attention during my sojourn
    in France, on the look-out for any chance of laying him by the heels. So long as
    he was free in London, my life would really not have been worth living. Night
    and day the shadow would have been over me, and sooner or later his chance
    must have come. What could I do? I could not shoot him at sight, or I should
    myself be in the dock. There was no use appealing to a magistrate. They cannot
    interfere on the strength of what would appear to them to be a wild suspicion. So
    I could do nothing. But I watched the criminal news, knowing that sooner or
    later I should get him. Then came the death of this Ronald Adair. My chance had
    come at last. Knowing what I did, was it not certain that Colonel Moran had
    done it? He had played cards with the lad, he had followed him home from the
    club, he had shot him through the open window. There was not a doubt of it. The
    bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose. I came over at once. I was
    seen by the sentinel, who would, I knew, direct the colonel’s attention to my
    presence. He could not fail to connect my sudden return with his crime, and to
    be terribly alarmed. I was sure that he would make an attempt to get me out of
    the way at once, and would bring round his murderous weapon for that purpose.
    I left him an excellent mark in the window, and, having warned the police that
    they might be needed—by the way, Watson, you spotted their presence in that
    doorway with unerring accuracy—I took up what seemed to me to be a judicious
    post for observation, never dreaming that he would choose the same spot for his
    attack. Now, my dear Watson, does anything remain for me to explain?”
    “Yes,” said I. “You have not made it clear what was Colonel Moran’s motive
    in murdering the Honourable Ronald Adair?”
    “Ah! my dear Watson, there we come into those realms of conjecture, where
    the most logical mind may be at fault. Each may form his own hypothesis upon
    the present evidence, and yours is as likely to be correct as mine.”
    “You have formed one, then?”
    “I think that it is not difficult to explain the facts. It came out in evidence that
    Colonel Moran and young Adair had, between them, won a considerable amount
    of money. Now, Moran undoubtedly played foul—of that I have long been
    aware. I believe that on the day of the murder Adair had discovered that Moran
    was cheating. Very likely he had spoken to him privately, and had threatened to
    expose him unless he voluntarily resigned his membership of the club, and
    promised not to play cards again. It is unlikely that a youngster like Adair would
    at once make a hideous scandal by exposing a well-known man so much older
    than himself. Probably he acted as I suggest. The exclusion from his clubs would
    mean ruin to Moran, who lived by his ill-gotten card-gains. He therefore
    murdered Adair, who at the time was endeavouring to work out how much
    money he should himself return, since he could not profit by his partner’s foul
    play. He locked the door lest the ladies should surprise him and insist upon
    knowing what he was doing with these names and coins. Will it pass?”
    “I have no doubt that you have hit upon the truth.”
    “It will be verified or disproved at the trial. Meanwhile, come what may,
    Colonel Moran will trouble us no more. The famous air-gun of Von Herder will
    embellish the Scotland Yard Museum, and once again Mr. Sherlock Holmes is
    free to devote his life to examining those interesting little problems which the
    complex life of London so plentifully presents.”

THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER
“From the point of view of the criminal expert,” said Mr. Sherlock Holmes,
“London has become a singularly uninteresting city since the death of the late
lamented Professor Moriarty.”
“I can hardly think that you would find many decent citizens to agree with
you,” I answered.
“Well, well, I must not be selfish,” said he, with a smile, as he pushed back his
chair from the breakfast-table. “The community is certainly the gainer, and no
one the loser, save the poor out-of-work specialist, whose occupation has gone.
With that man in the field, one’s morning paper presented infinite possibilities.
Often it was only the smallest trace, Watson, the faintest indication, and yet it
was enough to tell me that the great malignant brain was there, as the gentlest
tremors of the edges of the web remind one of the foul spider which lurks in the
centre. Petty thefts, wanton assaults, purposeless outrage—to the man who held
the clue all could be worked into one connected whole. To the scientific student
of the higher criminal world, no capital in Europe offered the advantages which
London then possessed. But now——” He shrugged his shoulders in humorous
deprecation of the state of things which he had himself done so much to produce.
At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for some months, and I at
his request had sold my practice and returned to share the old quarters in Baker
Street. A young doctor, named Verner, had purchased my small Kensington
practice, and given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that I
ventured to ask—an incident which only explained itself some years later, when
I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes, and that it was my friend
who had really found the money.
Our months of partnership had not been so uneventful as he had stated, for I
find, on looking over my notes, that this period includes the case of the papers of
ex-President Murillo, and also the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship
Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives. His cold and proud nature was
always averse, however, from anything in the shape of public applause, and he
bound me in the most stringent terms to say no further word of himself, his
methods, or his successes—a prohibition which, as I have explained, has only
now been removed.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes was leaning back in his chair after his whimsical protest,
and was unfolding his morning paper in a leisurely fashion, when our attention
was arrested by a tremendous ring at the bell, followed immediately by a hollow
drumming sound, as if someone were beating on the outer door with his fist. As
it opened there came a tumultuous rush into the hall, rapid feet clattered up the
stair, and an instant later a wild-eyed and frantic young man, pale, disheveled,
and palpitating, burst into the room. He looked from one to the other of us, and
under our gaze of inquiry he became conscious that some apology was needed
for this unceremonious entry.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Holmes,” he cried. “You mustn’t blame me. I am nearly mad.
Mr. Holmes, I am the unhappy John Hector McFarlane.”
He made the announcement as if the name alone would explain both his visit
and its manner, but I could see, by my companion’s unresponsive face, that it
meant no more to him than to me.
“Have a cigarette, Mr. McFarlane,” said he, pushing his case across. “I am
sure that, with your symptoms, my friend Dr. Watson here would prescribe a
sedative. The weather has been so very warm these last few days. Now, if you
feel a little more composed, I should be glad if you would sit down in that chair,
and tell us very slowly and quietly who you are, and what it is that you want.
You mentioned your name, as if I should recognize it, but I assure you that,
beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an
asthmatic, I know nothing whatever about you.”
Familiar as I was with my friend’s methods, it was not difficult for me to
follow his deductions, and to observe the untidiness of attire, the sheaf of legal
papers, the watch-charm, and the breathing which had prompted them. Our
client, however, stared in amazement.
“Yes, I am all that, Mr. Holmes; and, in addition, I am the most unfortunate
man at this moment in London. For heaven’s sake, don’t abandon me, Mr.
Holmes! If they come to arrest me before I have finished my story, make them
give me time, so that I may tell you the whole truth. I could go to jail happy if I
knew that you were working for me outside.”
“Arrest you!” said Holmes. “This is really most grati—most interesting. On
what charge do you expect to be arrested?”
“Upon the charge of murdering Mr. Jonas Oldacre, of Lower Norwood.”
My companion’s expressive face showed a sympathy which was not, I am
afraid, entirely unmixed with satisfaction.
“Dear me,” said he, “it was only this moment at breakfast that I was saying to
my friend, Dr. Watson, that sensational cases had disappeared out of our papers.”
Our visitor stretched forward a quivering hand and picked up the Daily
Telegraph, which still lay upon Holmes’s knee.
“If you had looked at it, sir, you would have seen at a glance what the errand
is on which I have come to you this morning. I feel as if my name and my
misfortune must be in every man’s mouth.” He turned it over to expose the
central page. “Here it is, and with your permission I will read it to you. Listen to
this, Mr. Holmes. The headlines are: ‘Mysterious Affair at Lower Norwood.
Disappearance of a Well-known Builder. Suspicion of Murder and Arson. A Clue
to the Criminal.’ That is the clue which they are already following, Mr. Holmes,
and I know that it leads infallibly to me. I have been followed from London
Bridge Station, and I am sure that they are only waiting for the warrant to arrest
me. It will break my mother’s heart—it will break her heart!” He wrung his
hands in an agony of apprehension, and swayed backward and forward in his
chair.
I looked with interest upon this man, who was accused of being the
perpetrator of a crime of violence. He was flaxen-haired and handsome, in a
washed-out negative fashion, with frightened blue eyes, and a clean-shaven face,
with a weak, sensitive mouth. His age may have been about twenty-seven, his
dress and bearing that of a gentleman. From the pocket of his light summer
overcoat protruded the bundle of indorsed papers which proclaimed his
profession.
“We must use what time we have,” said Holmes. “Watson, would you have the
kindness to take the paper and to read the paragraph in question?”
Underneath the vigorous headlines which our client had quoted, I read the
following suggestive narrative:
“Late last night, or early this morning, an incident occurred at
Lower Norwood which points, it is feared, to a serious crime.
Mr. Jonas Oldacre is a well-known resident of that suburb,
where he has carried on his business as a builder for many years.
Mr. Oldacre is a bachelor, fifty-two years of age, and lives in
Deep Dene House, at the Sydenham end of the road of that
name. He has had the reputation of being a man of eccentric
habits, secretive and retiring. For some years he has practically
withdrawn from the business, in which he is said to have massed
considerable wealth. A small timber-yard still exists, however, at
the back of the house, and last night, about twelve o’clock, an
alarm was given that one of the stacks was on fire. The engines
were soon upon the spot, but the dry wood burned with great
fury, and it was impossible to arrest the conflagration until the
stack had been entirely consumed. Up to this point the incident
bore the appearance of an ordinary accident, but fresh
indications seem to point to serious crime. Surprise was
expressed at the absence of the master of the establishment from
the scene of the fire, and an inquiry followed, which showed that
he had disappeared from the house. An examination of his room
revealed that the bed had not been slept in, that a safe which
stood in it was open, that a number of important papers were
scattered about the room, and finally, that there were signs of a
murderous struggle, slight traces of blood being found within the
room, and an oaken walking-stick, which also showed stains of
blood upon the handle. It is known that Mr. Jonas Oldacre had
received a late visitor in his bedroom upon that night, and the
stick found has been identified as the property of this person,
who is a young London solicitor named John Hector McFarlane,
junior partner of Graham and McFarlane, of 426, Gresham
Buildings, E.C. The police believe that they have evidence in
their possession which supplies a very convincing motive for the
crime, and altogether it cannot be doubted that sensational
developments will follow.
“LATER.—It is rumoured as we go to press that Mr. John
Hector McFarlane has actually been arrested on the charge of
the murder of Mr. Jonas Oldacre. It is at least certain that a
warrant has been issued. There have been further and sinister
developments in the investigation at Norwood. Besides the signs
of a struggle in the room of the unfortunate builder it is now
known that the French windows of his bedroom (which is on the
ground floor) were found to be open, that there were marks as if
some bulky object had been dragged across to the wood-pile,
and, finally, it is asserted that charred remains have been found
among the charcoal ashes of the fire. The police theory is that a
most sensational crime has been committed, that the victim was
clubbed to death in his own bedroom, his papers rifled, and his
dead body dragged across to the wood-stack, which was then
ignited so as to hide all traces of the crime. The conduct of the
criminal investigation has been left in the experienced hands of
Inspector Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, who is following up the
clues with his accustomed energy and sagacity.”
Sherlock Holmes listened with closed eyes and fingertips together to this
remarkable account.
“The case has certainly some points of interest,” said he, in his languid
fashion. “May I ask, in the first place, Mr. McFarlane, how it is that you are still
at liberty, since there appears to be enough evidence to justify your arrest?”
“I live at Torrington Lodge, Blackheath, with my parents, Mr. Holmes, but last
night, having to do business very late with Mr. Jonas Oldacre, I stayed at an
hotel in Norwood, and came to my business from there. I knew nothing of this
affair until I was in the train, when I read what you have just heard. I at once saw
the horrible danger of my position, and I hurried to put the case into your hands.
I have no doubt that I should have been arrested either at my city office or at my
home. A man followed me from London Bridge Station, and I have no doubt—
Great heaven! what is that?”
It was a clang of the bell, followed instantly by heavy steps upon the stair. A
moment later, our old friend Lestrade appeared in the doorway. Over his
shoulder I caught a glimpse of one or two uniformed policemen outside.
“Mr. John Hector McFarlane?” said Lestrade.
Our unfortunate client rose with a ghastly face.
“I arrest you for the wilful murder of Mr. Jonas Oldacre, of Lower Norwood.”
McFarlane turned to us with a gesture of despair, and sank into his chair once
more like one who is crushed.
“One moment, Lestrade,” said Holmes. “Half an hour more or less can make
no difference to you, and the gentleman was about to give us an account of this
very interesting affair, which might aid us in clearing it up.”
“I think there will be no difficulty in clearing it up,” said Lestrade, grimly.
“None the less, with your permission, I should be much interested to hear his
account.”
“Well, Mr. Holmes, it is difficult for me to refuse you anything, for you have
been of use to the force once or twice in the past, and we owe you a good turn at
Scotland Yard,” said Lestrade. “At the same time I must remain with my
prisoner, and I am bound to warn him that anything he may say will appear in
evidence against him.”
“I wish nothing better,” said our client. “All I ask is that you should hear and
recognize the absolute truth.”
Lestrade looked at his watch. “I’ll give you half an hour,” said he.
“I must explain first,” said McFarlane, “that I knew nothing of Mr. Jonas
Oldacre. His name was familiar to me, for many years ago my parents were
acquainted with him, but they drifted apart. I was very much surprised therefore,
when yesterday, about three o’clock in the afternoon, he walked into my office in
the city. But I was still more astonished when he told me the object of his visit.
He had in his hand several sheets of a notebook, covered with scribbled writing
—here they are—and he laid them on my table.
“‘Here is my will,’ said he. ‘I want you, Mr. McFarlane, to cast it into proper
legal shape. I will sit here while you do so.’
“I set myself to copy it, and you can imagine my astonishment when I found
that, with some reservations, he had left all his property to me. He was a strange
little ferret-like man, with white eyelashes, and when I looked up at him I found
his keen grey eyes fixed upon me with an amused expression. I could hardly
believe my own as I read the terms of the will; but he explained that he was a
bachelor with hardly any living relation, that he had known my parents in his
youth, and that he had always heard of me as a very deserving young man, and
was assured that his money would be in worthy hands. Of course, I could only
stammer out my thanks. The will was duly finished, signed, and witnessed by
my clerk. This is it on the blue paper, and these slips, as I have explained, are the
rough draft. Mr. Jonas Oldacre then informed me that there were a number of
documents—building leases, title-deeds, mortgages, scrip, and so forth—which
it was necessary that I should see and understand. He said that his mind would
not be easy until the whole thing was settled, and he begged me to come out to
his house at Norwood that night, bringing the will with me, and to arrange
matters. ‘Remember, my boy, not one word to your parents about the affair until
everything is settled. We will keep it as a little surprise for them.’ He was very
insistent upon this point, and made me promise it faithfully.
“You can imagine, Mr. Holmes, that I was not in a humour to refuse him
anything that he might ask. He was my benefactor, and all my desire was to
carry out his wishes in every particular. I sent a telegram home, therefore, to say
that I had important business on hand, and that it was impossible for me to say
how late I might be. Mr. Oldacre had told me that he would like me to have
supper with him at nine, as he might not be home before that hour. I had some
difficulty in finding his house, however, and it was nearly half-past before I
reached it. I found him——”
“One moment!” said Holmes. “Who opened the door?”
“A middle-aged woman, who was, I suppose, his housekeeper.”
“And it was she, I presume, who mentioned your name?”
“Exactly,” said McFarlane.
“Pray proceed.”
McFarlane wiped his damp brow, and then continued his narrative:
“I was shown by this woman into a sitting-room, where a frugal supper was
laid out. Afterwards, Mr. Jonas Oldacre led me into his bedroom, in which there
stood a heavy safe. This he opened and took out a mass of documents, which we
went over together. It was between eleven and twelve when we finished. He
remarked that we must not disturb the housekeeper. He showed me out through
his own French window, which had been open all this time.”
“Was the blind down?” asked Holmes.
“I will not be sure, but I believe that it was only half down. Yes, I remember
how he pulled it up in order to swing open the window. I could not find my stick,
and he said, ‘Never mind, my boy, I shall see a good deal of you now, I hope,
and I will keep your stick until you come back to claim it.’ I left him there, the
safe open, and the papers made up in packets upon the table. It was so late that I
could not get back to Blackheath, so I spent the night at the Anerley Arms, and I
knew nothing more until I read of this horrible affair in the morning.”
“Anything more that you would like to ask, Mr. Holmes?” said Lestrade,
whose eyebrows had gone up once or twice during this remarkable explanation.
“Not until I have been to Blackheath.”
“You mean to Norwood,” said Lestrade.
“Oh, yes, no doubt that is what I must have meant,” said Holmes, with his
enigmatical smile. Lestrade had learned by more experiences than he would care
to acknowledge that that brain could cut through that which was impenetrable to
him. I saw him look curiously at my companion.
“I think I should like to have a word with you presently, Mr. Sherlock
Holmes,” said he. “Now, Mr. McFarlane, two of my constables are at the door,
and there is a four-wheeler waiting.” The wretched young man arose, and with a
last beseeching glance at us walked from the room. The officers conducted him
to the cab, but Lestrade remained.
Holmes had picked up the pages which formed the rough draft of the will, and
was looking at them with the keenest interest upon his face.
“There are some points about that document, Lestrade, are there not?” said he,
pushing them over.
The official looked at them with a puzzled expression.
“I can read the first few lines and these in the middle of the second page, and
one or two at the end. Those are as clear as print,” said he, “but the writing in
between is very bad, and there are three places where I cannot read it at all.”
“What do you make of that?” said Holmes.
“Well, what do you make of it?”
“That it was written in a train. The good writing represents stations, the bad
writing movement, and the very bad writing passing over points. A scientific
expert would pronounce at once that this was drawn up on a suburban line, since
nowhere save in the immediate vicinity of a great city could there be so quick a
succession of points. Granting that his whole journey was occupied in drawing
up the will, then the train was an express, only stopping once between Norwood
and London Bridge.”
Lestrade began to laugh.
“You are too many for me when you begin to get on your theories, Mr.
Holmes,” said he. “How does this bear on the case?”
“Well, it corroborates the young man’s story to the extent that the will was
drawn up by Jonas Oldacre in his journey yesterday. It is curious—is it not?—
that a man should draw up so important a document in so haphazard a fashion. It
suggests that he did not think it was going to be of much practical importance. If
a man drew up a will which he did not intend ever to be effective, he might do it
so.”
“Well, he drew up his own death warrant at the same time,” said Lestrade.
“Oh, you think so?”
“Don’t you?”
“Well, it is quite possible, but the case is not clear to me yet.”
“Not clear? Well, if that isn’t clear, what could be clearer? Here is a young
man who learns suddenly that, if a certain older man dies, he will succeed to a
fortune. What does he do? He says nothing to anyone, but he arranges that he
shall go out on some pretext to see his client that night. He waits until the only
other person in the house is in bed, and then in the solitude of a man’s room he
murders him, burns his body in the wood-pile, and departs to a neighbouring
hotel. The blood-stains in the room and also on the stick are very slight. It is
probable that he imagined his crime to be a bloodless one, and hoped that if the
body were consumed it would hide all traces of the method of his death—traces
which, for some reason, must have pointed to him. Is not all this obvious?”
“It strikes me, my good Lestrade, as being just a trifle too obvious,” said
Holmes. “You do not add imagination to your other great qualities, but if you
could for one moment put yourself in the place of this young man, would you
choose the very night after the will had been made to commit your crime? Would
it not seem dangerous to you to make so very close a relation between the two
incidents? Again, would you choose an occasion when you are known to be in
the house, when a servant has let you in? And, finally, would you take the great
pains to conceal the body, and yet leave your own stick as a sign that you were
the criminal? Confess, Lestrade, that all this is very unlikely.”
“As to the stick, Mr. Holmes, you know as well as I do that a criminal is often
flurried, and does such things, which a cool man would avoid. He was very
likely afraid to go back to the room. Give me another theory that would fit the
facts.”
“I could very easily give you half a dozen,” said Holmes. “Here for example,
is a very possible and even probable one. I make you a free present of it. The
older man is showing documents which are of evident value. A passing tramp
sees them through the window, the blind of which is only half down. Exit the
solicitor. Enter the tramp! He seizes a stick, which he observes there, kills
Oldacre, and departs after burning the body.”
“Why should the tramp burn the body?”
“For the matter of that, why should McFarlane?”
“To hide some evidence.”
“Possibly the tramp wanted to hide that any murder at all had been
committed.”
“And why did the tramp take nothing?”
“Because they were papers that he could not negotiate.”
Lestrade shook his head, though it seemed to me that his manner was less
absolutely assured than before.
“Well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you may look for your tramp, and while you are
finding him we will hold on to our man. The future will show which is right. Just
notice this point, Mr. Holmes: that so far as we know, none of the papers were
removed, and that the prisoner is the one man in the world who had no reason
for removing them, since he was heir-at-law, and would come into them in any
case.”
My friend seemed struck by this remark.
“I don’t mean to deny that the evidence is in some ways very strongly in
favour of your theory,” said he. “I only wish to point out that there are other
theories possible. As you say, the future will decide. Good-morning! I dare say
that in the course of the day I shall drop in at Norwood and see how you are
getting on.”
When the detective departed, my friend rose and made his preparations for the
day’s work with the alert air of a man who has a congenial task before him.
“My first movement Watson,” said he, as he bustled into his frockcoat, “must,
as I said, be in the direction of Blackheath.”
“And why not Norwood?”
“Because we have in this case one singular incident coming close to the heels
of another singular incident. The police are making the mistake of concentrating
their attention upon the second, because it happens to be the one which is
actually criminal. But it is evident to me that the logical way to approach the
case is to begin by trying to throw some light upon the first incident—the
curious will, so suddenly made, and to so unexpected an heir. It may do
something to simplify what followed. No, my dear fellow, I don’t think you can
help me. There is no prospect of danger, or I should not dream of stirring out
without you. I trust that when I see you in the evening, I will be able to report
that I have been able to do something for this unfortunate youngster, who has
thrown himself upon my protection.”
It was late when my friend returned, and I could see, by a glance at his
haggard and anxious face, that the high hopes with which he had started had not
been fulfilled. For an hour he droned away upon his violin, endeavouring to
soothe his own ruffled spirits. At last he flung down the instrument, and plunged
into a detailed account of his misadventures.
“It’s all going wrong, Watson—all as wrong as it can go. I kept a bold face
before Lestrade, but, upon my soul, I believe that for once the fellow is on the
right track and we are on the wrong. All my instincts are one way, and all the
facts are the other, and I much fear that British juries have not yet attained that
pitch of intelligence when they will give the preference to my theories over
Lestrade’s facts.”
“Did you go to Blackheath?”
“Yes, Watson, I went there, and I found very quickly that the late lamented
Oldacre was a pretty considerable blackguard. The father was away in search of
his son. The mother was at home—a little, fluffy, blue-eyed person, in a tremor
of fear and indignation. Of course, she would not admit even the possibility of
his guilt. But she would not express either surprise or regret over the fate of
Oldacre. On the contrary, she spoke of him with such bitterness that she was
unconsciously considerably strengthening the case of the police for, of course, if
her son had heard her speak of the man in this fashion, it would predispose him
towards hatred and violence. ‘He was more like a malignant and cunning ape
than a human being,’ said she, ‘and he always was, ever since he was a young
man.’
“‘You knew him at that time?’said I.
“‘Yes, I knew him well, in fact, he was an old suitor of mine. Thank heaven
that I had the sense to turn away from him and to marry a better, if poorer, man. I
was engaged to him, Mr. Holmes, when I heard a shocking story of how he had
turned a cat loose in an aviary, and I was so horrified at his brutal cruelty that I
would have nothing more to do with him.’ She rummaged in a bureau, and
presently she produced a photograph of a woman, shamefully defaced and
mutilated with a knife. ‘That is my own photograph,’ she said. ‘He sent it to me
in that state, with his curse, upon my wedding morning.’
“‘Well,’ said I, ‘at least he has forgiven you now, since he has left all his
property to your son.’
“‘Neither my son nor I want anything from Jonas Oldacre, dead or alive!’ she
cried, with a proper spirit. ‘There is a God in heaven, Mr. Holmes, and that same
God who has punished that wicked man will show, in His own good time, that
my son’s hands are guiltless of his blood.’
“Well, I tried one or two leads, but could get at nothing which would help our
hypothesis, and several points which would make against it. I gave it up at last
and off I went to Norwood.
“This place, Deep Dene House, is a big modern villa of staring brick, standing
back in its own grounds, with a laurel-clumped lawn in front of it. To the right
and some distance back from the road was the timber-yard which had been the
scene of the fire. Here’s a rough plan on a leaf of my notebook. This window on
the left is the one which opens into Oldacre’s room. You can look into it from the
road, you see. That is about the only bit of consolation I have had to-day.
Lestrade was not there, but his head constable did the honours. They had just
found a great treasure-trove. They had spent the morning raking among the ashes
of the burned wood-pile, and besides the charred organic remains they had
secured several discoloured metal discs. I examined them with care, and there
was no doubt that they were trouser buttons. I even distinguished that one of
them was marked with the name of ‘Hyams,’ who was Oldacres tailor. I then
worked the lawn very carefully for signs and traces, but this drought has made
everything as hard as iron. Nothing was to be seen save that some body or
bundle had been dragged through a low privet hedge which is in a line with the
wood-pile. All that, of course, fits in with the official theory. I crawled about the
lawn with an August sun on my back, but I got up at the end of an hour no wiser
than before.
“Well, after this fiasco I went into the bedroom and examined that also. The
blood-stains were very slight, mere smears and discolourations, but undoubtedly
fresh. The stick had been removed, but there also the marks were slight. There is
no doubt about the stick belonging to our client. He admits it. Footmarks of both
men could be made out on the carpet, but none of any third person, which again
is a trick for the other side. They were piling up their score all the time and we
were at a standstill.
“Only one little gleam of hope did I get—and yet it amounted to nothing. I
examined the contents of the safe, most of which had been taken out and left on
the table. The papers had been made up into sealed envelopes, one or two of
which had been opened by the police. They were not, so far as I could judge, of
any great value, nor did the bank-book show that Mr. Oldacre was in such very
affluent circumstances. But it seemed to me that all the papers were not there.
There were allusions to some deeds—possibly the more valuable—which I could
not find. This, of course, if we could definitely prove it, would turn Lestrade’s
argument against himself, for who would steal a thing if he knew that he would
shortly inherit it?
“Finally, having drawn every other cover and picked up no scent, I tried my
luck with the housekeeper. Mrs. Lexington is her name—a little, dark, silent
person, with suspicious and sidelong eyes. She could tell us something if she
would—I am convinced of it. But she was as close as wax. Yes, she had let Mr.
McFarlane in at half-past nine. She wished her hand had withered before she had
done so. She had gone to bed at half-past ten. Her room was at the other end of
the house, and she could hear nothing of what had passed. Mr. McFarlane had
left his hat, and to the best of her belief his stick, in the hall. She had been
awakened by the alarm of fire. Her poor, dear master had certainly been
murdered. Had he any enemies? Well, every man had enemies, but Mr. Oldacre
kept himself very much to himself, and only met people in the way of business.
She had seen the buttons, and was sure that they belonged to the clothes which
he had worn last night. The wood-pile was very dry, for it had not rained for a
month. It burned like tinder, and by the time she reached the spot, nothing could
be seen but flames. She and all the firemen smelled the burned flesh from inside
it. She knew nothing of the papers, nor of Mr. Oldacre’s private affairs.
“So, my dear Watson, there’s my report of a failure. And yet—and yet—” he
clenched his thin hands in a paroxysm of conviction—“I know it’s all wrong. I
feel it in my bones. There is something that has not come out, and that
housekeeper knows it. There was a sort of sulky defiance in her eyes, which only
goes with guilty knowledge. However, there’s no good talking any more about it,
Watson; but unless some lucky chance comes our way I fear that the Norwood
Disappearance Case will not figure in that chronicle of our successes which I
foresee that a patient public will sooner or later have to endure.”
“Surely,” said I, “the man’s appearance would go far with any jury?”
“That is a dangerous argument my dear Watson. You remember that terrible
murderer, Bert Stevens, who wanted us to get him off in ’87? Was there ever a
more mild-mannered, Sunday-school young man?”
“It is true.”
“Unless we succeed in establishing an alternative theory, this man is lost. You
can hardly find a flaw in the case which can now be presented against him, and
all further investigation has served to strengthen it. By the way, there is one
curious little point about those papers which may serve us as the starting-point
for an inquiry. On looking over the bank-book I found that the low state of the
balance was principally due to large checks which have been made out during
the last year to Mr. Cornelius. I confess that I should be interested to know who
this Mr. Cornelius may be with whom a retired builder has such very large
transactions. Is it possible that he has had a hand in the affair? Cornelius might
be a broker, but we have found no scrip to correspond with these large payments.
Failing any other indication, my researches must now take the direction of an
inquiry at the bank for the gentleman who has cashed these checks. But I fear,
my dear fellow, that our case will end ingloriously by Lestrade hanging our
client, which will certainly be a triumph for Scotland Yard.”
I do not know how far Sherlock Holmes took any sleep that night, but when I
came down to breakfast I found him pale and harassed, his bright eyes the
brighter for the dark shadows round them. The carpet round his chair was littered
with cigarette-ends and with the early editions of the morning papers. An open
telegram lay upon the table.
“What do you think of this, Watson?” he asked, tossing it across.
It was from Norwood, and ran as follows:
Important fresh evidence to hand. McFarlane’s guilt definitely
established. Advise you to abandon case.—LESTRADE.
“This sounds serious,” said I.
“It is Lestrade’s little cock-a-doodle of victory,” Holmes answered, with a
bitter smile. “And yet it may be premature to abandon the case. After all,
important fresh evidence is a two-edged thing, and may possibly cut in a very
different direction to that which Lestrade imagines. Take your breakfast, Watson,
and we will go out together and see what we can do. I feel as if I shall need your
company and your moral support today.”
My friend had no breakfast himself, for it was one of his peculiarities that in
his more intense moments he would permit himself no food, and I have known
him presume upon his iron strength until he has fainted from pure inanition. “At
present I cannot spare energy and nerve force for digestion,” he would say in
answer to my medical remonstrances. I was not surprised, therefore, when this
morning he left his untouched meal behind him, and started with me for
Norwood. A crowd of morbid sightseers were still gathered round Deep Dene
House, which was just such a suburban villa as I had pictured. Within the gates
Lestrade met us, his face flushed with victory, his manner grossly triumphant.
“Well, Mr. Holmes, have you proved us to be wrong yet? Have you found
your tramp?” he cried.
“I have formed no conclusion whatever,” my companion answered.
“But we formed ours yesterday, and now it proves to be correct, so you must
acknowledge that we have been a little in front of you this time, Mr. Holmes.”
“You certainly have the air of something unusual having occurred,” said
Holmes.
Lestrade laughed loudly.
“You don’t like being beaten any more than the rest of us do,” said he. “A man
can’t expect always to have it his own way, can he, Dr. Watson? Step this way, if
you please, gentlemen, and I think I can convince you once for all that it was
John McFarlane who did this crime.”
He led us through the passage and out into a dark hall beyond.
“This is where young McFarlane must have come out to get his hat after the
crime was done,” said he. “Now look at this.” With dramatic suddenness he
struck a match, and by its light exposed a stain of blood upon the whitewashed
wall. As he held the match nearer, I saw that it was more than a stain. It was the
well-marked print of a thumb.
“Look at that with your magnifying glass, Mr. Holmes.”
“Yes, I am doing so.”
“You are aware that no two thumb-marks are alike?”
“I have heard something of the kind.”
“Well, then, will you please compare that print with this wax impression of
young McFarlane’s right thumb, taken by my orders this morning?”
As he held the waxen print close to the blood-stain, it did not take a
magnifying glass to see that the two were undoubtedly from the same thumb. It
was evident to me that our unfortunate client was lost.
“That is final,” said Lestrade.
“Yes, that is final,” I involuntarily echoed.
“It is final,” said Holmes.
Something in his tone caught my ear, and I turned to look at him. An
extraordinary change had come over his face. It was writhing with inward
merriment. His two eyes were shining like stars. It seemed to me that he was
making desperate efforts to restrain a convulsive attack of laughter.
“Dear me! Dear me!” he said at last. “Well, now, who would have thought it?
And how deceptive appearances may be, to be sure! Such a nice young man to
look at! It is a lesson to us not to trust our own judgment, is it not, Lestrade?”
“Yes, some of us are a little too much inclined to be cock-sure, Mr. Holmes,”
said Lestrade. The man’s insolence was maddening, but we could not resent it.
“What a providential thing that this young man should press his right thumb
against the wall in taking his hat from the peg! Such a very natural action, too, if
you come to think of it.” Holmes was outwardly calm, but his whole body gave a
wriggle of suppressed excitement as he spoke.
“By the way, Lestrade, who made this remarkable discovery?”
“It was the housekeeper, Mrs. Lexington, who drew the night constable’s
attention to it.”
“Where was the night constable?”
“He remained on guard in the bedroom where the crime was committed, so as
to see that nothing was touched.”
“But why didn’t the police see this mark yesterday?”
“Well, we had no particular reason to make a careful examination of the hall.
Besides, it’s not in a very prominent place, as you see.”
“No, no—of course not. I suppose there is no doubt that the mark was there
yesterday?”
Lestrade looked at Holmes as if he thought he was going out of his mind. I
confess that I was myself surprised both at his hilarious manner and at his rather
wild observation.
“I don’t know whether you think that McFarlane came out of jail in the dead
of the night in order to strengthen the evidence against himself,” said Lestrade.
“I leave it to any expert in the world whether that is not the mark of his thumb.”
“It is unquestionably the mark of his thumb.”
“There, that’s enough,” said Lestrade. “I am a practical man, Mr. Holmes, and
when I have got my evidence I come to my conclusions. If you have anything to
say, you will find me writing my report in the sitting-room.”
Holmes had recovered his equanimity, though I still seemed to detect gleams
of amusement in his expression.
“Dear me, this is a very sad development, Watson, is it not?” said he. “And yet
there are singular points about it which hold out some hopes for our client.”
“I am delighted to hear it,” said I, heartily. “I was afraid it was all up with
him.”
“I would hardly go so far as to say that, my dear Watson. The fact is that there
is one really serious flaw in this evidence to which our friend attaches so much
importance.”
“Indeed, Holmes! What is it?”
“Only this: that I know that that mark was not there when I examined the hall
yesterday. And now, Watson, let us have a little stroll round in the sunshine.”
With a confused brain, but with a heart into which some warmth of hope was
returning, I accompanied my friend in a walk round the garden. Holmes took
each face of the house in turn, and examined it with great interest. He then led
the way inside, and went over the whole building from basement to attic. Most
of the rooms were unfurnished, but none the less Holmes inspected them all
minutely. Finally, on the top corridor, which ran outside three untenanted
bedrooms, he again was seized with a spasm of merriment.
“There are really some very unique features about this case, Watson,” said he.
“I think it is time now that we took our friend Lestrade into our confidence. He
has had his little smile at our expense, and perhaps we may do as much by him,
if my reading of this problem proves to be correct. Yes, yes, I think I see how we
should approach it.”
The Scotland Yard inspector was still writing in the parlour when Holmes
interrupted him.
“I understood that you were writing a report of this case,” said he.
“So I am.”
“Don’t you think it may be a little premature? I can’t help thinking that your
evidence is not complete.”
Lestrade knew my friend too well to disregard his words. He laid down his
pen and looked curiously at him.
“What do you mean, Mr. Holmes?”
“Only that there is an important witness whom you have not seen.”
“Can you produce him?”
“I think I can.”
“Then do so.”
“I will do my best. How many constables have you?”
“There are three within call.”
“Excellent!” said Holmes. “May I ask if they are all large, able-bodied men
with powerful voices?”
“I have no doubt they are, though I fail to see what their voices have to do
with it.”
“Perhaps I can help you to see that and one or two other things as well,” said
Holmes. “Kindly summon your men, and I will try.”
Five minutes later, three policemen had assembled in the hall.
“In the outhouse you will find a considerable quantity of straw,” said Holmes.
“I will ask you to carry in two bundles of it. I think it will be of the greatest
assistance in producing the witness whom I require. Thank you very much. I
believe you have some matches in your pocket Watson. Now, Mr. Lestrade, I
will ask you all to accompany me to the top landing.”
As I have said, there was a broad corridor there, which ran outside three
empty bedrooms. At one end of the corridor we were all marshalled by Sherlock
Holmes, the constables grinning and Lestrade staring at my friend with
amazement, expectation, and derision chasing each other across his features.
Holmes stood before us with the air of a conjurer who is performing a trick.
“Would you kindly send one of your constables for two buckets of water? Put
the straw on the floor here, free from the wall on either side. Now I think that we
are all ready.”
Lestrade’s face had begun to grow red and angry. “I don’t know whether you
are playing a game with us, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said he. “If you know
anything, you can surely say it without all this tomfoolery.”
“I assure you, my good Lestrade, that I have an excellent reason for
everything that I do. You may possibly remember that you chaffed me a little,
some hours ago, when the sun seemed on your side of the hedge, so you must
not grudge me a little pomp and ceremony now. Might I ask you, Watson, to
open that window, and then to put a match to the edge of the straw?”
I did so, and driven by the draught a coil of grey smoke swirled down the
corridor, while the dry straw crackled and flamed.
“Now we must see if we can find this witness for you, Lestrade. Might I ask
you all to join in the cry of ‘Fire!’? Now then; one, two, three——”
“Fire!” we all yelled.
“Thank you. I will trouble you once again.”
“Fire!”
“Just once more, gentlemen, and all together.”
“Fire!” The shout must have rung over Norwood.
It had hardly died away when an amazing thing happened. A door suddenly
flew open out of what appeared to be solid wall at the end of the corridor, and a
little, wizened man darted out of it, like a rabbit out of its burrow.
“Capital!” said Holmes, calmly. “Watson, a bucket of water over the straw.
That will do! Lestrade, allow me to present you with your principal missing
witness, Mr. Jonas Oldacre.”
The detective stared at the newcomer with blank amazement. The latter was
blinking in the bright light of the corridor, and peering at us and at the
smouldering fire. It was an odious face—crafty, vicious, malignant, with shifty,
light-grey eyes and white lashes.
“What’s this, then?” said Lestrade, at last. “What have you been doing all this
time, eh?”
Oldacre gave an uneasy laugh, shrinking back from the furious red face of the
angry detective.
“I have done no harm.”
“No harm? You have done your best to get an innocent man hanged. If it
wasn’t for this gentleman here, I am not sure that you would not have
succeeded.”
The wretched creature began to whimper.
“I am sure, sir, it was only my practical joke.”
“Oh! a joke, was it? You won’t find the laugh on your side, I promise you.
Take him down, and keep him in the sitting-room until I come. Mr. Holmes,” he
continued, when they had gone, “I could not speak before the constables, but I
don’t mind saying, in the presence of Dr. Watson, that this is the brightest thing
that you have done yet, though it is a mystery to me how you did it. You have
saved an innocent man’s life, and you have prevented a very grave scandal,
which would have ruined my reputation in the Force.”
Holmes smiled, and clapped Lestrade upon the shoulder.
“Instead of being ruined, my good sir, you will find that your reputation has
been enormously enhanced. Just make a few alterations in that report which you
were writing, and they will understand how hard it is to throw dust in the eyes of
Inspector Lestrade.”
“And you don’t want your name to appear?”
“Not at all. The work is its own reward. Perhaps I shall get the credit also at
some distant day, when I permit my zealous historian to lay out his foolscap once
more—eh, Watson? Well, now, let us see where this rat has been lurking.”
A lath-and-plaster partition had been run across the passage six feet from the
end, with a door cunningly concealed in it. It was lit within by slits under the
eaves. A few articles of furniture and a supply of food and water were within,
together with a number of books and papers.
“There’s the advantage of being a builder,” said Holmes, as we came out. “He
was able to fix up his own little hiding-place without any confederate—save, of
course, that precious housekeeper of his, whom I should lose no time in adding
to your bag, Lestrade.”
“I’ll take your advice. But how did you know of this place, Mr. Holmes?”
“I made up my mind that the fellow was in hiding in the house. When I paced
one corridor and found it six feet shorter than the corresponding one below, it
was pretty clear where he was. I thought he had not the nerve to lie quiet before
an alarm of fire. We could, of course, have gone in and taken him, but it amused
me to make him reveal himself. Besides, I owed you a little mystification,
Lestrade, for your chaff in the morning.”
“Well, sir, you certainly got equal with me on that. But how in the world did
you know that he was in the house at all?”
“The thumb-mark, Lestrade. You said it was final; and so it was, in a very
different sense. I knew it had not been there the day before. I pay a good deal of
attention to matters of detail, as you may have observed, and I had examined the
hall, and was sure that the wall was clear. Therefore, it had been put on during
the night.”
“But how?”
“Very simply. When those packets were sealed up, Jonas Oldacre got
McFarlane to secure one of the seals by putting his thumb upon the soft wax. It
would be done so quickly and so naturally, that I daresay the young man himself
has no recollection of it. Very likely it just so happened, and Oldacre had himself
no notion of the use he would put it to. Brooding over the case in that den of his,
it suddenly struck him what absolutely damning evidence he could make against
McFarlane by using that thumb-mark. It was the simplest thing in the world for
him to take a wax impression from the seal, to moisten it in as much blood as he
could get from a pin-prick, and to put the mark upon the wall during the night,
either with his own hand or with that of his housekeeper. If you examine among
those documents which he took with him into his retreat, I will lay you a wager
that you find the seal with the thumb-mark upon it.”
“Wonderful!” said Lestrade. “Wonderful! It’s all as clear as crystal, as you put
it. But what is the object of this deep deception, Mr. Holmes?”
It was amusing to me to see how the detective’s overbearing manner had
changed suddenly to that of a child asking questions of its teacher.
“Well, I don’t think that is very hard to explain. A very deep, malicious,
vindictive person is the gentleman who is now waiting us downstairs. You know
that he was once refused by McFarlane’s mother? You don’t! I told you that you
should go to Blackheath first and Norwood afterwards. Well, this injury, as he
would consider it, has rankled in his wicked, scheming brain, and all his life he
has longed for vengeance, but never seen his chance. During the last year or two,
things have gone against him—secret speculation, I think—and he finds himself
in a bad way. He determines to swindle his creditors, and for this purpose he
pays large checks to a certain Mr. Cornelius, who is, I imagine, himself under
another name. I have not traced these checks yet, but I have no doubt that they
were banked under that name at some provincial town where Oldacre from time
to time led a double existence. He intended to change his name altogether, draw
this money, and vanish, starting life again elsewhere.”
“Well, that’s likely enough.”
“It would strike him that in disappearing he might throw all pursuit off his
track, and at the same time have an ample and crushing revenge upon his old
sweetheart, if he could give the impression that he had been murdered by her
only child. It was a masterpiece of villainy, and he carried it out like a master.
The idea of the will, which would give an obvious motive for the crime, the
secret visit unknown to his own parents, the retention of the stick, the blood, and
the animal remains and buttons in the wood-pile, all were admirable. It was a net
from which it seemed to me, a few hours ago, that there was no possible escape.
But he had not that supreme gift of the artist, the knowledge of when to stop. He
wished to improve that which was already perfect—to draw the rope tighter yet
round the neck of his unfortunate victim—and so he ruined all. Let us descend,
Lestrade. There are just one or two questions that I would ask him.”
The malignant creature was seated in his own parlour, with a policeman upon
each side of him.
“It was a joke, my good sir—a practical joke, nothing more,” he whined
incessantly. “I assure you, sir, that I simply concealed myself in order to see the
effect of my disappearance, and I am sure that you would not be so unjust as to
imagine that I would have allowed any harm to befall poor young Mr.
McFarlane.”
“That’s for a jury to decide,” said Lestrade. “Anyhow, we shall have you on a
charge of conspiracy, if not for attempted murder.”
“And you’ll probably find that your creditors will impound the banking
account of Mr. Cornelius,” said Holmes.
The little man started, and turned his malignant eyes upon my friend.
“I have to thank you for a good deal,” said he. “Perhaps I’ll pay my debt some
day.”
Holmes smiled indulgently.
“I fancy that, for some few years, you will find your time very fully
occupied,” said he. “By the way, what was it you put into the wood-pile besides
your old trousers? A dead dog, or rabbits, or what? You won’t tell? Dear me,
how very unkind of you! Well, well, I daresay that a couple of rabbits would
account both for the blood and for the charred ashes. If ever you write an
account, Watson, you can make rabbits serve your turn.”

THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN
Holmes had been seated for some hours in silence with his long, thin back
curved over a chemical vessel in which he was brewing a particularly
malodorous product. His head was sunk upon his breast, and he looked from my
point of view like a strange, lank bird, with dull grey plumage and a black topknot.
“So, Watson,” said he, suddenly, “you do not propose to invest in South
African securities?”
I gave a start of astonishment. Accustomed as I was to Holmes’s curious
faculties, this sudden intrusion into my most intimate thoughts was utterly
inexplicable.
“How on earth do you know that?” I asked.
He wheeled round upon his stool, with a steaming test-tube in his hand, and a
gleam of amusement in his deep-set eyes.
“Now, Watson, confess yourself utterly taken aback,” said he.
“I am.”
“I ought to make you sign a paper to that effect.”
“Why?”
“Because in five minutes you will say that it is all so absurdly simple.”
“I am sure that I shall say nothing of the kind.”
“You see, my dear Watson,”—he propped his test-tube in the rack, and began
to lecture with the air of a professor addressing his class—“it is not really
difficult to construct a series of inferences, each dependent upon its predecessor
and each simple in itself. If, after doing so, one simply knocks out all the central
inferences and presents one’s audience with the starting-point and the
conclusion, one may produce a startling, though possibly a meretricious, effect.
Now, it was not really difficult, by an inspection of the groove between your left
forefinger and thumb, to feel sure that you did not propose to invest your small
capital in the gold fields.”
“I see no connection.”
“Very likely not; but I can quickly show you a close connection. Here are the
missing links of the very simple chain: 1. You had chalk between your left finger
and thumb when you returned from the club last night. 2. You put chalk there
when you play billiards, to steady the cue. 3. You never play billiards except
with Thurston. 4. You told me, four weeks ago, that Thurston had an option on
some South African property which would expire in a month, and which he
desired you to share with him. 5. Your check book is locked in my drawer, and
you have not asked for the key. 6. You do not propose to invest your money in
this manner.”
“How absurdly simple!” I cried.
“Quite so!” said he, a little nettled. “Every problem becomes very childish
when once it is explained to you. Here is an unexplained one. See what you can
make of that, friend Watson.” He tossed a sheet of paper upon the table, and
turned once more to his chemical analysis.
I looked with amazement at the absurd hieroglyphics upon the paper.
“Why, Holmes, it is a child’s drawing,” I cried.
“Oh, that’s your idea!”
“What else should it be?”
“That is what Mr. Hilton Cubitt, of Riding Thorpe Manor, Norfolk, is very
anxious to know. This little conundrum came by the first post, and he was to
follow by the next train. There’s a ring at the bell, Watson. I should not be very
much surprised if this were he.”
A heavy step was heard upon the stairs, and an instant later there entered a
tall, ruddy, clean-shaven gentleman, whose clear eyes and florid cheeks told of a
life led far from the fogs of Baker Street. He seemed to bring a whiff of his
strong, fresh, bracing, east-coast air with him as he entered. Having shaken
hands with each of us, he was about to sit down, when his eye rested upon the
paper with the curious markings, which I had just examined and left upon the
table.
“Well, Mr. Holmes, what do you make of these?” he cried. “They told me that
you were fond of queer mysteries, and I don’t think you can find a queerer one
than that. I sent the paper on ahead, so that you might have time to study it
before I came.”
“It is certainly rather a curious production,” said Holmes. “At first sight it
would appear to be some childish prank. It consists of a number of absurd little
figures dancing across the paper upon which they are drawn. Why should you
attribute any importance to so grotesque an object?”
“I never should, Mr. Holmes. But my wife does. It is frightening her to death.
She says nothing, but I can see terror in her eyes. That’s why I want to sift the
matter to the bottom.”
Holmes held up the paper so that the sunlight shone full upon it. It was a page
torn from a notebook. The markings were done in pencil, and ran in this way:
AM-HERE-ABE-SLANEY
Holmes examined it for some time, and then, folding it carefully up, he placed
it in his pocketbook.
“This promises to be a most interesting and unusual case,” said he. “You gave
me a few particulars in your letter, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, but I should be very much
obliged if you would kindly go over it all again for the benefit of my friend, Dr.
Watson.”
“I’m not much of a story-teller,” said our visitor, nervously clasping and
unclasping his great, strong hands. “You’ll just ask me anything that I don’t
make clear. I’ll begin at the time of my marriage last year, but I want to say first
of all that, though I’m not a rich man, my people have been at Riding Thorpe for
a matter of five centuries, and there is no better known family in the County of
Norfolk. Last year I came up to London for the Jubilee, and I stopped at a
boarding-house in Russell Square, because Parker, the vicar of our parish, was
staying in it. There was an American young lady there—Patrick was the name—
Elsie Patrick. In some way we became friends, until before my month was up I
was as much in love as a man could be. We were quietly married at a registry
office, and we returned to Norfolk a wedded couple. You’ll think it very mad,
Mr. Holmes, that a man of a good old family should marry a wife in this fashion,
knowing nothing of her past or of her people, but if you saw her and knew her, it
would help you to understand.
“She was very straight about it, was Elsie. I can’t say that she did not give me
every chance of getting out of it if I wished to do so. ‘I have had some very
disagreeable associations in my life,’ said she, ‘I wish to forget all about them. I
would rather never allude to the past, for it is very painful to me. If you take me,
Hilton, you will take a woman who has nothing that she need be personally
ashamed of, but you will have to be content with my word for it, and to allow me
to be silent as to all that passed up to the time when I became yours. If these
conditions are too hard, then go back to Norfolk, and leave me to the lonely life
in which you found me.’ It was only the day before our wedding that she said
those very words to me. I told her that I was content to take her on her own
terms, and I have been as good as my word.
“Well we have been married now for a year, and very happy we have been.
But about a month ago, at the end of June, I saw for the first time signs of
trouble. One day my wife received a letter from America. I saw the American
stamp. She turned deadly white, read the letter, and threw it into the fire. She
made no allusion to it afterwards, and I made none, for a promise is a promise,
but she has never known an easy hour from that moment. There is always a look
of fear upon her face—a look as if she were waiting and expecting. She would
do better to trust me. She would find that I was her best friend. But until she
speaks, I can say nothing. Mind you, she is a truthful woman, Mr. Holmes, and
whatever trouble there may have been in her past life it has been no fault of hers.
I am only a simple Norfolk squire, but there is not a man in England who ranks
his family honour more highly than I do. She knows it well, and she knew it well
before she married me. She would never bring any stain upon it—of that I am
sure.
“Well, now I come to the queer part of my story. About a week ago—it was
the Tuesday of last week—I found on one of the window-sills a number of
absurd little dancing figures like these upon the paper. They were scrawled with
chalk. I thought that it was the stable-boy who had drawn them, but the lad
swore he knew nothing about it. Anyhow, they had come there during the night.
I had them washed out, and I only mentioned the matter to my wife afterwards.
To my surprise, she took it very seriously, and begged me if any more came to
let her see them. None did come for a week, and then yesterday morning I found
this paper lying on the sundial in the garden. I showed it to Elsie, and down she
dropped in a dead faint. Since then she has looked like a woman in a dream, half
dazed, and with terror always lurking in her eyes. It was then that I wrote and
sent the paper to you, Mr. Holmes. It was not a thing that I could take to the
police, for they would have laughed at me, but you will tell me what to do. I am
not a rich man, but if there is any danger threatening my little woman, I would
spend my last copper to shield her.”
He was a fine creature, this man of the old English soil—simple, straight, and
gentle, with his great, earnest blue eyes and broad, comely face. His love for his
wife and his trust in her shone in his features. Holmes had listened to his story
with the utmost attention, and now he sat for some time in silent thought.
“Don’t you think, Mr. Cubitt,” said he, at last, “that your best plan would be to
make a direct appeal to your wife, and to ask her to share her secret with you?”
Hilton Cubitt shook his massive head.
“A promise is a promise, Mr. Holmes. If Elsie wished to tell me she would. If
not, it is not for me to force her confidence. But I am justified in taking my own
line—and I will.”
“Then I will help you with all my heart. In the first place, have you heard of
any strangers being seen in your neighbourhood?”
“No.”
“I presume that it is a very quiet place. Any fresh face would cause
comment?”
“In the immediate neighbourhood, yes. But we have several small wateringplaces not very far away. And the farmers take in lodgers.”
“These hieroglyphics have evidently a meaning. If it is a purely arbitrary one,
it may be impossible for us to solve it. If, on the other hand, it is systematic, I
have no doubt that we shall get to the bottom of it. But this particular sample is
so short that I can do nothing, and the facts which you have brought me are so
indefinite that we have no basis for an investigation. I would suggest that you
return to Norfolk, that you keep a keen lookout, and that you take an exact copy
of any fresh dancing men which may appear. It is a thousand pities that we have
not a reproduction of those which were done in chalk upon the window-sill.
Make a discreet inquiry also as to any strangers in the neighbourhood. When you
have collected some fresh evidence, come to me again. That is the best advice
which I can give you, Mr. Hilton Cubitt. If there are any pressing fresh
developments, I shall be always ready to run down and see you in your Norfolk
home.”
The interview left Sherlock Holmes very thoughtful, and several times in the
next few days I saw him take his slip of paper from his notebook and look long
and earnestly at the curious figures inscribed upon it. He made no allusion to the
affair, however, until one afternoon a fortnight or so later. I was going out when
he called me back.
“You had better stay here, Watson.”
“Why?”
“Because I had a wire from Hilton Cubitt this morning. You remember Hilton
Cubitt, of the dancing men? He was to reach Liverpool Street at one-twenty. He
may be here at any moment. I gather from his wire that there have been some
new incidents of importance.”
We had not long to wait, for our Norfolk squire came straight from the station
as fast as a hansom could bring him. He was looking worried and depressed,
with tired eyes and a lined forehead.
“It’s getting on my nerves, this business, Mr. Holmes,” said he, as he sank,
like a wearied man, into an armchair. “It’s bad enough to feel that you are
surrounded by unseen, unknown folk, who have some kind of design upon you,
but when, in addition to that, you know that it is just killing your wife by inches,
then it becomes as much as flesh and blood can endure. She’s wearing away
under it—just wearing away before my eyes.”
“Has she said anything yet?”
“No, Mr. Holmes, she has not. And yet there have been times when the poor
girl has wanted to speak, and yet could not quite bring herself to take the plunge.
I have tried to help her, but I daresay I did it clumsily, and scared her from it.
She has spoken about my old family, and our reputation in the county, and our
pride in our unsullied honour, and I always felt it was leading to the point, but
somehow it turned off before we got there.”
“But you have found out something for yourself?”
“A good deal, Mr. Holmes. I have several fresh dancing-men pictures for you
to examine, and, what is more important, I have seen the fellow.”
“What, the man who draws them?”
“Yes, I saw him at his work. But I will tell you everything in order. When I got
back after my visit to you, the very first thing I saw next morning was a fresh
crop of dancing men. They had been drawn in chalk upon the black wooden door
of the tool-house, which stands beside the lawn in full view of the front
windows. I took an exact copy, and here it is.” He unfolded a paper and laid it
upon the table. Here is a copy of the hieroglyphics:
AT-ELRIGES
“Excellent!” said Holmes. “Excellent! Pray continue.”
“When I had taken the copy, I rubbed out the marks, but, two mornings later, a
fresh inscription had appeared. I have a copy of it here:”
COME-ELSIE
Holmes rubbed his hands and chuckled with delight.
“Our material is rapidly accumulating,” said he.
“Three days later a message was left scrawled upon paper, and placed under a
pebble upon the sundial. Here it is. The characters are, as you see, exactly the
same as the last one. After that I determined to lie in wait, so I got out my
revolver and I sat up in my study, which overlooks the lawn and garden. About
two in the morning I was seated by the window, all being dark save for the
moonlight outside, when I heard steps behind me, and there was my wife in her
dressing-gown. She implored me to come to bed. I told her frankly that I wished
to see who it was who played such absurd tricks upon us. She answered that it
was some senseless practical joke, and that I should not take any notice of it.
“‘If it really annoys you, Hilton, we might go and travel, you and I, and so
avoid this nuisance.’
“‘What, be driven out of our own house by a practical joker?’said I. ‘Why, we
should have the whole county laughing at us.’
“‘Well, come to bed,’said she, ‘and we can discuss it in the morning.’
“Suddenly, as she spoke, I saw her white face grow whiter yet in the
moonlight, and her hand tightened upon my shoulder. Something was moving in
the shadow of the tool-house. I saw a dark, creeping figure which crawled round
the corner and squatted in front of the door. Seizing my pistol, I was rushing out,
when my wife threw her arms round me and held me with convulsive strength. I
tried to throw her off, but she clung to me most desperately. At last I got clear,
but by the time I had opened the door and reached the house the creature was
gone. He had left a trace of his presence, however, for there on the door was the
very same arrangement of dancing men which had already twice appeared, and
which I have copied on that paper. There was no other sign of the fellow
anywhere, though I ran all over the grounds. And yet the amazing thing is that he
must have been there all the time, for when I examined the door again in the
morning, he had scrawled some more of his pictures under the line which I had
already seen.”
“Have you that fresh drawing?”
“Yes, it is very short, but I made a copy of it, and here it is.”
Again he produced a paper. The new dance was in this form:
NEVER
“Tell me,” said Holmes—and I could see by his eyes that he was much excited
—“was this a mere addition to the first or did it appear to be entirely separate?”
“It was on a different panel of the door.”
“Excellent! This is far the most important of all for our purpose. It fills me
with hopes. Now, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, please continue your most interesting
statement.”
“I have nothing more to say, Mr. Holmes, except that I was angry with my
wife that night for having held me back when I might have caught the skulking
rascal. She said that she feared that I might come to harm. For an instant it had
crossed my mind that perhaps what she really feared was that he might come to
harm, for I could not doubt that she knew who this man was, and what he meant
by these strange signals. But there is a tone in my wife’s voice, Mr. Holmes, and
a look in her eyes which forbid doubt, and I am sure that it was indeed my own
safety that was in her mind. There’s the whole case, and now I want your advice
as to what I ought to do. My own inclination is to put half a dozen of my farm
lads in the shrubbery, and when this fellow comes again to give him such a
hiding that he will leave us in peace for the future.”
“I fear it is too deep a case for such simple remedies,” said Holmes. “How
long can you stay in London?”
“I must go back to-day. I would not leave my wife alone all night for anything.
She is very nervous, and begged me to come back.”
“I daresay you are right. But if you could have stopped, I might possibly have
been able to return with you in a day or two. Meanwhile you will leave me these
papers, and I think that it is very likely that I shall be able to pay you a visit
shortly and to throw some light upon your case.”
Sherlock Holmes preserved his calm professional manner until our visitor had
left us, although it was easy for me, who knew him so well, to see that he was
profoundly excited. The moment that Hilton Cubitt’s broad back had
disappeared through the door my comrade rushed to the table, laid out all the
slips of paper containing dancing men in front of him, and threw himself into an
intricate and elaborate calculation. For two hours I watched him as he covered
sheet after sheet of paper with figures and letters, so completely absorbed in his
task that he had evidently forgotten my presence. Sometimes he was making
progress and whistled and sang at his work; sometimes he was puzzled, and
would sit for long spells with a furrowed brow and a vacant eye. Finally he
sprang from his chair with a cry of satisfaction, and walked up and down the
room rubbing his hands together. Then he wrote a long telegram upon a cable
form. “If my answer to this is as I hope, you will have a very pretty case to add
to your collection, Watson,” said he. “I expect that we shall be able to go down
to Norfolk tomorrow, and to take our friend some very definite news as to the
secret of his annoyance.”
I confess that I was filled with curiosity, but I was aware that Holmes liked to
make his disclosures at his own time and in his own way, so I waited until it
should suit him to take me into his confidence.
But there was a delay in that answering telegram, and two days of impatience
followed, during which Holmes pricked up his ears at every ring of the bell. On
the evening of the second there came a letter from Hilton Cubitt. All was quiet
with him, save that a long inscription had appeared that morning upon the
pedestal of the sundial. He inclosed a copy of it, which is here reproduced:
ELSIE-PREPARE-TO-MEET-THY-GOD
Holmes bent over this grotesque frieze for some minutes, and then suddenly
sprang to his feet with an exclamation of surprise and dismay. His face was
haggard with anxiety.
“We have let this affair go far enough,” said he. “Is there a train to North
Walsham to-night?”
I turned up the time-table. The last had just gone.
“Then we shall breakfast early and take the very first in the morning,” said
Holmes. “Our presence is most urgently needed. Ah! here is our expected
cablegram. One moment, Mrs. Hudson, there may be an answer. No, that is quite
as I expected. This message makes it even more essential that we should not lose
an hour in letting Hilton Cubitt know how matters stand, for it is a singular and a
dangerous web in which our simple Norfolk squire is entangled.”
So, indeed, it proved, and as I come to the dark conclusion of a story which
had seemed to me to be only childish and bizarre, I experience once again the
dismay and horror with which I was filled. Would that I had some brighter
ending to communicate to my readers, but these are the chronicles of fact, and I
must follow to their dark crisis the strange chain of events which for some days
made Riding Thorpe Manor a household word through the length and breadth of
England.
We had hardly alighted at North Walsham, and mentioned the name of our
destination, when the station-master hurried towards us. “I suppose that you are
the detectives from London?” said he.
A look of annoyance passed over Holmes’s face.
“What makes you think such a thing?”
“Because Inspector Martin from Norwich has just passed through. But maybe
you are the surgeons. She’s not dead—or wasn’t by last accounts. You may be in
time to save her yet—though it be for the gallows.”
Holmes’s brow was dark with anxiety.
“We are going to Riding Thorpe Manor,” said he, “but we have heard nothing
of what has passed there.”
“It’s a terrible business,” said the stationmaster. “They are shot, both Mr.
Hilton Cubitt and his wife. She shot him and then herself—so the servants say.
He’s dead and her life is despaired of. Dear, dear, one of the oldest families in
the county of Norfolk, and one of the most honoured.”
Without a word Holmes hurried to a carriage, and during the long seven miles’
drive he never opened his mouth. Seldom have I seen him so utterly despondent.
He had been uneasy during all our journey from town, and I had observed that he
had turned over the morning papers with anxious attention, but now this sudden
realization of his worst fears left him in a blank melancholy. He leaned back in
his seat, lost in gloomy speculation. Yet there was much around to interest us, for
we were passing through as singular a countryside as any in England, where a
few scattered cottages represented the population of to-day, while on every hand
enormous square-towered churches bristled up from the flat green landscape and
told of the glory and prosperity of old East Anglia. At last the violet rim of the
German Ocean appeared over the green edge of the Norfolk coast, and the driver
pointed with his whip to two old brick and timber gables which projected from a
grove of trees. “That’s Riding Thorpe Manor,” said he.
As we drove up to the porticoed front door, I observed in front of it, beside the
tennis lawn, the black tool-house and the pedestalled sundial with which we had
such strange associations. A dapper little man, with a quick, alert manner and a
waxed moustache, had just descended from a high dog-cart. He introduced
himself as Inspector Martin, of the Norfolk Constabulary, and he was
considerably astonished when he heard the name of my companion.
“Why, Mr. Holmes, the crime was only committed at three this morning. How
could you hear of it in London and get to the spot as soon as I?”
“I anticipated it. I came in the hope of preventing it.”
“Then you must have important evidence, of which we are ignorant, for they
were said to be a most united couple.”
“I have only the evidence of the dancing men,” said Holmes. “I will explain
the matter to you later. Meanwhile, since it is too late to prevent this tragedy, I
am very anxious that I should use the knowledge which I possess in order to
insure that justice be done. Will you associate me in your investigation, or will
you prefer that I should act independently?”
“I should be proud to feel that we were acting together, Mr. Holmes,” said the
inspector, earnestly.
“In that case I should be glad to hear the evidence and to examine the
premises without an instant of unnecessary delay.”
Inspector Martin had the good sense to allow my friend to do things in his
own fashion, and contented himself with carefully noting the results. The local
surgeon, an old, white-haired man, had just come down from Mrs. Hilton
Cubitt’s room, and he reported that her injuries were serious, but not necessarily
fatal. The bullet had passed through the front of her brain, and it would probably
be some time before she could regain consciousness. On the question of whether
she had been shot or had shot herself, he would not venture to express any
decided opinion. Certainly the bullet had been discharged at very close quarters.
There was only the one pistol found in the room, two barrels of which had been
emptied. Mr. Hilton Cubitt had been shot through the heart. It was equally
conceivable that he had shot her and then himself, or that she had been the
criminal, for the revolver lay upon the floor midway between them.
“Has he been moved?” asked Holmes.
“We have moved nothing except the lady. We could not leave her lying
wounded upon the floor.”
“How long have you been here, Doctor?”
“Since four o’clock.”
“Anyone else?”
“Yes, the constable here.”
“And you have touched nothing?”
“Nothing.”
“You have acted with great discretion. Who sent for you?”
“The housemaid, Saunders.”
“Was it she who gave the alarm?”
“She and Mrs. King, the cook.”
“Where are they now?”
“In the kitchen, I believe.”
“Then I think we had better hear their story at once.”
The old hall, oak-panelled and high-windowed, had been turned into a court of
investigation. Holmes sat in a great, old-fashioned chair, his inexorable eyes
gleaming out of his haggard face. I could read in them a set purpose to devote
his life to this quest until the client whom he had failed to save should at last be
avenged. The trim Inspector Martin, the old, grey-headed country doctor, myself,
and a stolid village policeman made up the rest of that strange company.
The two women told their story clearly enough. They had been aroused from
their sleep by the sound of an explosion, which had been followed a minute later
by a second one. They slept in adjoining rooms, and Mrs. King had rushed in to
Saunders. Together they had descended the stairs. The door of the study was
open, and a candle was burning upon the table. Their master lay upon his face in
the centre of the room. He was quite dead. Near the window his wife was
crouching, her head leaning against the wall. She was horribly wounded, and the
side of her face was red with blood. She breathed heavily, but was incapable of
saying anything. The passage, as well as the room, was full of smoke and the
smell of powder. The window was certainly shut and fastened upon the inside.
Both women were positive upon the point. They had at once sent for the doctor
and for the constable. Then, with the aid of the groom and the stable-boy, they
had conveyed their injured mistress to her room. Both she and her husband had
occupied the bed. She was clad in her dress—he in his dressing-gown, over his
night-clothes. Nothing had been moved in the study. So far as they knew, there
had never been any quarrel between husband and wife. They had always looked
upon them as a very united couple.
These were the main points of the servants’ evidence. In answer to Inspector
Martin, they were clear that every door was fastened upon the inside, and that no
one could have escaped from the house. In answer to Holmes, they both
remembered that they were conscious of the smell of powder from the moment
that they ran out of their rooms upon the top floor. “I commend that fact very
carefully to your attention,” said Holmes to his professional colleague. “And
now I think that we are in a position to undertake a thorough examination of the
room.”
The study proved to be a small chamber, lined on three sides with books, and
with a writing-table facing an ordinary window, which looked out upon the
garden. Our first attention was given to the body of the unfortunate squire,
whose huge frame lay stretched across the room. His disordered dress showed
that he had been hastily aroused from sleep. The bullet had been fired at him
from the front, and had remained in his body, after penetrating the heart. His
death had certainly been instantaneous and painless. There was no powdermarking either upon his dressing-gown or on his hands. According to the
country surgeon, the lady had stains upon her face, but none upon her hand.
“The absence of the latter means nothing, though its presence may mean
everything,” said Holmes. “Unless the powder from a badly fitting cartridge
happens to spurt backward, one may fire many shots without leaving a sign. I
would suggest that Mr. Cubitt’s body may now be removed. I suppose, Doctor,
you have not recovered the bullet which wounded the lady?”
“A serious operation will be necessary before that can be done. But there are
still four cartridges in the revolver. Two have been fired and two wounds
inflicted, so that each bullet can be accounted for.”
“So it would seem,” said Holmes. “Perhaps you can account also for the bullet
which has so obviously struck the edge of the window?”
He had turned suddenly, and his long, thin finger was pointing to a hole which
had been drilled right through the lower window-sash, about an inch above the
bottom.
“By George!” cried the inspector. “How ever did you see that?”
“Because I looked for it.”
“Wonderful!” said the country doctor. “You are certainly right, sir. Then a
third shot has been fired, and therefore a third person must have been present.
But who could that have been, and how could he have got away?”
“That is the problem which we are now about to solve,” said Sherlock
Holmes. “You remember, Inspector Martin, when the servants said that on
leaving their room they were at once conscious of a smell of powder, I remarked
that the point was an extremely important one?”
“Yes, sir; but I confess I did not quite follow you.”
“It suggested that at the time of the firing, the window as well as the door of
the room had been open. Otherwise the fumes of powder could not have been
blown so rapidly through the house. A draught in the room was necessary for
that. Both door and window were only open for a very short time, however.”
“How do you prove that?”
“Because the candle was not guttered.”
“Capital!” cried the inspector. “Capital!
“Feeling sure that the window had been open at the time of the tragedy, I
conceived that there might have been a third person in the affair, who stood
outside this opening and fired through it. Any shot directed at this person might
hit the sash. I looked, and there, sure enough, was the bullet mark!”
“But how came the window to be shut and fastened?”
“The woman’s first instinct would be to shut and fasten the window. But,
halloa! What is this?”
It was a lady’s hand-bag which stood upon the study table—a trim little
handbag of crocodile-skin and silver. Holmes opened it and turned the contents
out. There were twenty fifty-pound notes of the Bank of England, held together
by an india-rubber band—nothing else.
“This must be preserved, for it will figure in the trial,” said Holmes, as he
handed the bag with its contents to the inspector. “It is now necessary that we
should try to throw some light upon this third bullet, which has clearly, from the
splintering of the wood, been fired from inside the room. I should like to see
Mrs. King, the cook, again. You said, Mrs. King, that you were awakened by a
loud explosion. When you said that, did you mean that it seemed to you to be
louder than the second one?”
“Well, sir, it wakened me from my sleep, so it is hard to judge. But it did seem
very loud.”
“You don’t think that it might have been two shots fired almost at the same
instant?”
“I am sure I couldn’t say, sir.”
“I believe that it was undoubtedly so. I rather think, Inspector Martin, that we
have now exhausted all that this room can teach us. If you will kindly step round
with me, we shall see what fresh evidence the garden has to offer.”
A flower-bed extended up to the study window, and we all broke into an
exclamation as we approached it. The flowers were trampled down, and the soft
soil was imprinted all over with footmarks. Large, masculine feet they were,
with peculiarly long, sharp toes. Holmes hunted about among the grass and
leaves like a retriever after a wounded bird. Then, with a cry of satisfaction, he
bent forward and picked up a little brazen cylinder.
“I thought so,” said he, “the revolver had an ejector, and here is the third
cartridge. I really think, Inspector Martin, that our case is almost complete.”
The country inspector’s face had shown his intense amazement at the rapid
and masterful progress of Holmes’s investigation. At first he had shown some
disposition to assert his own position, but now he was overcome with
admiration, and ready to follow without question wherever Holmes led.
“Whom do you suspect?” he asked.
“I’ll go into that later. There are several points in this problem which I have
not been able to explain to you yet. Now that I have got so far, I had best proceed
on my own lines, and then clear the whole matter up once and for all.”
“Just as you wish, Mr. Holmes, so long as we get our man.”
“I have no desire to make mysteries, but it is impossible at the moment of
action to enter into long and complex explanations. I have the threads of this
affair all in my hand. Even if this lady should never recover consciousness, we
can still reconstruct the events of last night and insure that justice be done. First
of all, I wish to know whether there is any inn in this neighbourhood known as
‘Elrige’s’?”
The servants were cross-questioned, but none of them had heard of such a
place. The stable-boy threw a light upon the matter by remembering that a
farmer of that name lived some miles off, in the direction of East Ruston.
“Is it a lonely farm?”
“Very lonely, sir.”
“Perhaps they have not heard yet of all that happened here during the night?”
“Maybe not, sir.”
Holmes thought for a little, and then a curious smile played over his face.
“Saddle a horse, my lad,” said he. “I shall wish you to take a note to Elrige’s
Farm.”
He took from his pocket the various slips of the dancing men. With these in
front of him, he worked for some time at the study-table. Finally he handed a
note to the boy, with directions to put it into the hands of the person to whom it
was addressed, and especially to answer no questions of any sort which might be
put to him. I saw the outside of the note, addressed in straggling, irregular
characters, very unlike Holmes’s usual precise hand. It was consigned to Mr.
Abe Slaney, Elriges Farm, East Ruston, Norfolk.
“I think, Inspector,” Holmes remarked, “that you would do well to telegraph
for an escort, as, if my calculations prove to be correct, you may have a
particularly dangerous prisoner to convey to the county jail. The boy who takes
this note could no doubt forward your telegram. If there is an afternoon train to
town, Watson, I think we should do well to take it, as I have a chemical analysis
of some interest to finish, and this investigation draws rapidly to a close.”
When the youth had been dispatched with the note, Sherlock Holmes gave his
instructions to the servants. If any visitor were to call asking for Mrs. Hilton
Cubitt, no information should be given as to her condition, but he was to be
shown at once into the drawing-room. He impressed these points upon them with
the utmost earnestness. Finally he led the way into the drawing-room, with the
remark that the business was now out of our hands, and that we must while away
the time as best we might until we could see what was in store for us. The doctor
had departed to his patients, and only the inspector and myself remained.
“I think that I can help you to pass an hour in an interesting and profitable
manner,” said Holmes, drawing his chair up to the table, and spreading out in
front of him the various papers upon which were recorded the antics of the
dancing men. “As to you, friend Watson, I owe you every atonement for having
allowed your natural curiosity to remain so long unsatisfied. To you, Inspector,
the whole incident may appeal as a remarkable professional study. I must tell
you, first of all, the interesting circumstances connected with the previous
consultations which Mr. Hilton Cubitt has had with me in Baker Street.” He then
shortly recapitulated the facts which have already been recorded. “I have here in
front of me these singular productions, at which one might smile, had they not
proved themselves to be the forerunners of so terrible a tragedy. I am fairly
familiar with all forms of secret writings, and am myself the author of a trifling
monograph upon the subject, in which I analyze one hundred and sixty separate
ciphers, but I confess that this is entirely new to me. The object of those who
invented the system has apparently been to conceal that these characters convey
a message, and to give the idea that they are the mere random sketches of
children.
“Having once recognized, however, that the symbols stood for letters, and
having applied the rules which guide us in all forms of secret writings, the
solution was easy enough. The first message submitted to me was so short that it
was impossible for me to do more than to say, with some confidence, that the
symbol XXX stood for E. As you are aware, E is the most common letter in the
English alphabet, and it predominates to so marked an extent that even in a short
sentence one would expect to find it most often. Out of fifteen symbols in the
first message, four were the same, so it was reasonable to set this down as E. It is
true that in some cases the figure was bearing a flag, and in some cases not, but
it was probable, from the way in which the flags were distributed, that they were
used to break the sentence up into words. I accepted this as a hypothesis, and
noted that E was represented by
E
“But now came the real difficulty of the inquiry. The order of the English
letters after E is by no means well marked, and any preponderance which may be
shown in an average of a printed sheet may be reversed in a single short
sentence. Speaking roughly, T, A, O, I, N, S, H, R, D, and L are the numerical
order in which letters occur, but T, A, O, and I are very nearly abreast of each
other, and it would be an endless task to try each combination until a meaning
was arrived at. I therefore waited for fresh material. In my second interview with
Mr. Hilton Cubitt he was able to give me two other short sentences and one
message, which appeared—since there was no flag—to be a single word. Here
are the symbols. Now, in the single word I have already got the two E’s coming
second and fourth in a word of five letters. It might be ‘sever,’ or ‘lever,’ or
‘never.’ There can be no question that the latter as a reply to an appeal is far the
most probable, and the circumstances pointed to its being a reply written by the
lady. Accepting it as correct, we are now able to say that the symbols stand
respectively for N, V, and R.
N-V-R
“Even now I was in considerable difficulty, but a happy thought put me in
possession of several other letters. It occurred to me that if these appeals came,
as I expected, from someone who had been intimate with the lady in her early
life, a combination which contained two E’s with three letters between might
very well stand for the name ‘ELSIE.’ On examination I found that such a
combination formed the termination of the message which was three times
repeated. It was certainly some appeal to ‘Elsie.’ In this way I had got my L, S,
and I. But what appeal could it be? There were only four letters in the word
which preceded ‘Elsie,’ and it ended in E. Surely the word must be ‘COME.’ I
tried all other four letters ending in E, but could find none to fit the case. So now
I was in possession of C, O, and M, and I was in a position to attack the first
message once more, dividing it into words and putting dots for each symbol
which was still unknown. So treated, it worked out in this fashion:
.M .ERE ..E SL.NE.
“Now the first letter can only be A, which is a most useful discovery, since it
occurs no fewer than three times in this short sentence, and the H is also
apparent in the second word. Now it becomes:
AM HERE A.E SLANE.
Or, filling in the obvious vacancies in the name:
AM HERE ABE SLANEY.
I had so many letters now that I could proceed with considerable confidence to
the second message, which worked out in this fashion:
A. ELRI. ES.
Here I could only make sense by putting T and G for the missing letters, and
supposing that the name was that of some house or inn at which the writer was
staying.”
Inspector Martin and I had listened with the utmost interest to the full and
clear account of how my friend had produced results which had led to so
complete a command over our difficulties.
“What did you do then, sir?” asked the inspector.
“I had every reason to suppose that this Abe Slaney was an American, since
Abe is an American contraction, and since a letter from America had been the
starting-point of all the trouble. I had also every cause to think that there was
some criminal secret in the matter. The lady’s allusions to her past, and her
refusal to take her husband into her confidence, both pointed in that direction. I
therefore cabled to my friend, Wilson Hargreave, of the New York Police
Bureau, who has more than once made use of my knowledge of London crime. I
asked him whether the name of Abe Slaney was known to him. Here is his reply:
‘The most dangerous crook in Chicago.’ On the very evening upon which I had
his answer, Hilton Cubitt sent me the last message from Slaney. Working with
known letters, it took this form:
ELSIE .RE.ARE TO MEET THY GO.
The addition of a P and a D completed a message which showed me that the
rascal was proceeding from persuasion to threats, and my knowledge of the
crooks of Chicago prepared me to find that he might very rapidly put his words
into action. I at once came to Norfolk with my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson,
but, unhappily, only in time to find that the worst had already occurred.”
“It is a privilege to be associated with you in the handling of a case,” said the
inspector, warmly. “You will excuse me, however, if I speak frankly to you. You
are only answerable to yourself, but I have to answer to my superiors. If this Abe
Slaney, living at Elrige’s, is indeed the murderer, and if he has made his escape
while I am seated here, I should certainly get into serious trouble.”
“You need not be uneasy. He will not try to escape.”
“How do you know?”
“To fly would be a confession of guilt.”
“Then let us go arrest him.”
“I expect him here every instant.”
“But why should he come.”
“Because I have written and asked him.”
“But this is incredible, Mr. Holmes! Why should he come because you have
asked him? Would not such a request rather rouse his suspicions and cause him
to fly?”
“I think I have known how to frame the letter,” said Sherlock Holmes. “In
fact, if I am not very much mistaken, here is the gentleman himself coming up
the drive.”
A man was striding up the path which led to the door. He was a tall,
handsome, swarthy fellow, clad in a suit of grey flannel, with a Panama hat, a
bristling black beard, and a great, aggressive hooked nose, and flourishing a cane
as he walked. He swaggered up a path as if the place belonged to him, and we
heard his loud, confident peal at the bell.
“I think, gentlemen,” said Holmes, quietly, “that we had best take up our
position behind the door. Every precaution is necessary when dealing with such
a fellow. You will need your handcuffs, Inspector. You can leave the talking to
me.”
We waited in silence for a minute—one of those minutes which one can never
forget. Then the door opened and the man stepped in. In an instant Holmes
clapped a pistol to his head, and Martin slipped the handcuffs over his wrists. It
was all done so swiftly and deftly that the fellow was helpless before he knew
that he was attacked. He glared from one to the other of us with a pair of blazing
black eyes. Then he burst into a bitter laugh.
“Well, gentlemen, you have the drop on me this time. I seem to have knocked
up against something hard. But I came here in answer to a letter from Mrs.
Hilton Cubitt. Don’t tell me that she is in this? Don’t tell me that she helped to
set a trap for me?”
“Mrs. Hilton Cubitt was seriously injured, and is at death’s door.”
The man gave a hoarse cry of grief, which rang through the house.
“You’re crazy!” he cried, fiercely. “It was he that was hurt, not she. Who
would have hurt little Elsie? I may have threatened her—God forgive me!—but I
would not have touched a hair of her pretty head. Take it back—you! Say that
she is not hurt!”
“She was found badly wounded, by the side of her dead husband.”
He sank with a deep groan on the settee and buried his face in his manacled
hands. For five minutes he was silent. Then he raised his face once more, and
spoke with the cold composure of despair.
“I have nothing to hide from you, gentlemen,” said he. “If I shot the man he
had his shot at me, and there’s no murder in that. But if you think I could have
hurt that woman, then you don’t know either me or her. I tell you, there was
never a man in this world loved a woman more than I loved her. I had a right to
her. She was pledged to me years ago. Who was this Englishman that he should
come between us? I tell you that I had the first right to her, and that I was only
claiming my own.
“She broke away from your influence when she found the man that you are,”
said Holmes, sternly. “She fled from America to avoid you, and she married an
honourable gentleman in England. You dogged her and followed her and made
her life a misery to her, in order to induce her to abandon the husband whom she
loved and respected in order to fly with you, whom she feared and hated. You
have ended by bringing about the death of a noble man and driving his wife to
suicide. That is your record in this business, Mr. Abe Slaney, and you will
answer for it to the law.”
“If Elsie dies, I care nothing what becomes of me,” said the American. He
opened one of his hands, and looked at a note crumpled up in his palm. “See
here, mister! he cried, with a gleam of suspicion in his eyes, “you’re not trying to
scare me over this, are you? If the lady is hurt as bad as you say, who was it that
wrote this note?” He tossed it forward on to the table.
“I wrote it, to bring you here.”
“You wrote it? There was no one on earth outside the Joint who knew the
secret of the dancing men. How came you to write it?”
“What one man can invent another can discover,” said Holmes. There is a cab
coming to convey you to Norwich, Mr. Slaney. But meanwhile, you have time to
make some small reparation for the injury you have wrought. Are you aware that
Mrs. Hilton Cubitt has herself lain under grave suspicion of the murder of her
husband, and that it was only my presence here, and the knowledge which I
happened to possess, which has saved her from the accusation? The least that
you owe her is to make it clear to the whole world that she was in no way,
directly or indirectly, responsible for his tragic end.”
“I ask nothing better,” said the American. “I guess the very best case I can
make for myself is the absolute naked truth.”
“It is my duty to warn you that it will be used against you,” cried the
inspector, with the magnificent fair play of the British criminal law.
Slaney shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ll chance that,” said he. “First of all, I want you gentlemen to understand
that I have known this lady since she was a child. There were seven of us in a
gang in Chicago, and Elsie’s father was the boss of the Joint. He was a clever
man, was old Patrick. It was he who invented that writing, which would pass as a
child’s scrawl unless you just happened to have the key to it. Well, Elsie learned
some of our ways, but she couldn’t stand the business, and she had a bit of
honest money of her own, so she gave us all the slip and got away to London.
She had been engaged to me, and she would have married me, I believe, if I had
taken over another profession, but she would have nothing to do with anything
on the cross. It was only after her marriage to this Englishman that I was able to
find out where she was. I wrote to her, but got no answer. After that I came over,
and, as letters were no use, I put my messages where she could read them.
“Well, I have been here a month now. I lived in that farm, where I had a room
down below, and could get in and out every night, and no one the wiser. I tried
all I could to coax Elsie away. I knew that she read the messages, for once she
wrote an answer under one of them. Then my temper got the better of me, and I
began to threaten her. She sent me a letter then, imploring me to go away, and
saying that it would break her heart if any scandal should come upon her
husband. She said that she would come down when her husband was asleep at
three in the morning, and speak with me through the end window, if I would go
away afterwards and leave her in peace. She came down and brought money
with her, trying to bribe me to go. This made me mad, and I caught her arm and
tried to pull her through the window. At that moment in rushed the husband with
his revolver in his hand. Elsie had sunk down upon the floor, and we were face
to face. I was heeled also, and I held up my gun to scare him off and let me get
away. He fired and missed me. I pulled off almost at the same instant, and down
he dropped. I made away across the garden, and as I went I heard the window
shut behind me. That’s God’s truth, gentlemen, every word of it, and I heard no
more about it until that lad came riding up with a note which made me walk in
here, like a jay, and give myself into your hands.”
A cab had driven up whilst the American had been talking. Two uniformed
policemen sat inside. Inspector Martin rose and touched his prisoner on the
shoulder.
“It is time for us to go.”
“Can I see her first?”
“No, she is not conscious. Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I only hope that if ever again
I have an important case, I shall have the good fortune to have you by my side.”
We stood at the window and watched the cab drive away. As I turned back,
my eye caught the pellet of paper which the prisoner had tossed upon the table. It
was the note with which Holmes had decoyed him.
“See if you can read it, Watson,” said he, with a smile.
It contained no word, but this little line of dancing men:
COME-HERE-AT-ONCE
“If you use the code which I have explained,” said Holmes, “you will find that
it simply means ‘Come here at once.’ I was convinced that it was an invitation
which he would not refuse, since he could never imagine that it could come from
anyone but the lady. And so, my dear Watson, we have ended by turning the
dancing men to good when they have so often been the agents of evil, and I think
that I have fulfilled my promise of giving you something unusual for your
notebook. Three-forty is our train, and I fancy we should be back in Baker Street
for dinner.”
Only one word of epilogue. The American, Abe Slaney, was condemned to
death at the winter assizes at Norwich, but his penalty was changed to penal
servitude in consideration of mitigating circumstances, and the certainty that
Hilton Cubitt had fired the first shot. Of Mrs. Hilton Cubitt I only know that I
have heard she recovered entirely, and that she still remains a widow, devoting
her whole life to the care of the poor and to the administration of her husband’s
estate.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST
From the years 1894 to 1901 inclusive, Mr. Sherlock Holmes was a very busy
man. It is safe to say that there was no public case of any difficulty in which he
was not consulted during those eight years, and there were hundreds of private
cases, some of them of the most intricate and extraordinary character, in which
he played a prominent part. Many startling successes and a few unavoidable
failures were the outcome of this long period of continuous work. As I have
preserved very full notes of all these cases, and was myself personally engaged
in many of them, it may be imagined that it is no easy task to know which I
should select to lay before the public. I shall, however, preserve my former rule,
and give the preference to those cases which derive their interest not so much
from the brutality of the crime as from the ingenuity and dramatic quality of the
solution. For this reason I will now lay before the reader the facts connected with
Miss Violet Smith, the solitary cyclist of Charlington, and the curious sequel of
our investigation, which culminated in unexpected tragedy. It is true that the
circumstance did not admit of any striking illustration of those powers for which
my friend was famous, but there were some points about the case which made it
stand out in those long records of crime from which I gather the material for
these little narratives.
On referring to my notebook for the year 1895, I find that it was upon
Saturday, the 23rd of April, that we first heard of Miss Violet Smith. Her visit
was, I remember, extremely unwelcome to Holmes, for he was immersed at the
moment in a very abstruse and complicated problem concerning the peculiar
persecution to which John Vincent Harden, the well-known tobacco millionaire,
had been subjected. My friend, who loved above all things precision and
concentration of thought, resented anything which distracted his attention from
the matter in hand. And yet, without a harshness which was foreign to his nature,
it was impossible to refuse to listen to the story of the young and beautiful
woman, tall, graceful, and queenly, who presented herself at Baker Street late in
the evening, and implored his assistance and advice. It was vain to urge that his
time was already fully occupied, for the young lady had come with the
determination to tell her story, and it was evident that nothing short of force
could get her out of the room until she had done so. With a resigned air and a
somewhat weary smile, Holmes begged the beautiful intruder to take a seat, and
to inform us what it was that was troubling her.
“At least it cannot be your health,” said he, as his keen eyes darted over her,
“so ardent a bicyclist must be full of energy.”
She glanced down in surprise at her own feet, and I observed the slight
roughening of the side of the sole caused by the friction of the edge of the pedal.
“Yes, I bicycle a good deal, Mr. Holmes, and that has something to do with
my visit to you to-day.”
My friend took the lady’s ungloved hand, and examined it with as close an
attention and as little sentiment as a scientist would show to a specimen.
“You will excuse me, I am sure. It is my business,” said he, as he dropped it.
“I nearly fell into the error of supposing that you were typewriting. Of course, it
is obvious that it is music. You observe the spatulate finger-ends, Watson, which
is common to both professions? There is a spirituality about the face,
however”—she gently turned it towards the light—“which the typewriter does
not generate. This lady is a musician.”
“Yes, Mr. Holmes, I teach music.”
“In the country, I presume, from your complexion.”
“Yes, sir, near Farnham, on the borders of Surrey.”
“A beautiful neighbourhood, and full of the most interesting associations. You
remember, Watson, that it was near there that we took Archie Stamford, the
forger. Now, Miss Violet, what has happened to you, near Farnham, on the
borders of Surrey?”
The young lady, with great clearness and composure, made the following
curious statement:
“My father is dead, Mr. Holmes. He was James Smith, who conducted the
orchestra at the old Imperial Theatre. My mother and I were left without a
relation in the world except one uncle, Ralph Smith, who went to Africa twentyfive years ago, and we have never had a word from him since. When father died,
we were left very poor, but one day we were told that there was an advertisement
in The Times, inquiring for our whereabouts. You can imagine how excited we
were, for we thought that someone had left us a fortune. We went at once to the
lawyer whose name was given in the paper. There we met two gentlemen, Mr.
Carruthers and Mr. Woodley, who were home on a visit from South Africa. They
said that my uncle was a friend of theirs, that he had died some months before in
great poverty in Johannesburg, and that he had asked them with his last breath to
hunt up his relations, and see that they were in no want. It seemed strange to us
that Uncle Ralph, who took no notice of us when he was alive, should be so
careful to look after us when he was dead, but Mr. Carruthers explained that the
reason was that my uncle had just heard of the death of his brother, and so felt
responsible for our fate.”
“Excuse me,” said Holmes. “When was this interview?”
“Last December—four months ago.”
“Pray proceed.”
“Mr. Woodley seemed to me to be a most odious person. He was for ever
making eyes at me—a coarse, puffy-faced, red-moustached young man, with his
hair plastered down on each side of his forehead. I thought that he was perfectly
hateful—and I was sure that Cyril would not wish me to know such a person.”
“Oh, Cyril is his name!” said Holmes, smiling.
The young lady blushed and laughed.
“Yes, Mr. Holmes, Cyril Morton, an electrical engineer, and we hope to be
married at the end of the summer. Dear me, how did I get talking about him?
What I wished to say was that Mr. Woodley was perfectly odious, but that Mr.
Carruthers, who was a much older man, was more agreeable. He was a dark,
sallow, clean-shaven, silent person, but he had polite manners and a pleasant
smile. He inquired how we were left, and on finding that we were very poor, he
suggested that I should come and teach music to his only daughter, aged ten. I
said that I did not like to leave my mother, on which he suggested that I should
go home to her every week-end, and he offered me a hundred a year, which was
certainly splendid pay. So it ended by my accepting, and I went down to Chiltern
Grange, about six miles from Farnham. Mr. Carruthers was a widower, but he
had engaged a lady housekeeper, a very respectable, elderly person, called Mrs.
Dixon, to look after his establishment. The child was a dear, and everything
promised well. Mr. Carruthers was very kind and very musical, and we had most
pleasant evenings together. Every week-end I went home to my mother in town.
“The first flaw in my happiness was the arrival of the red-moustached Mr.
Woodley. He came for a visit of a week, and oh! it seemed three months to me.
He was a dreadful person—a bully to everyone else, but to me something
infinitely worse. He made odious love to me, boasted of his wealth, said that if I
married him I could have the finest diamonds in London, and finally, when I
would have nothing to do with him, he seized me in his arms one day after
dinner—he was hideously strong—and swore that he would not let me go until I
had kissed him. Mr. Carruthers came in and tore him from me, on which he
turned upon his own host, knocking him down and cutting his face open. That
was the end of his visit, as you can imagine. Mr. Carruthers apologized to me
next day, and assured me that I should never be exposed to such an insult again. I
have not seen Mr. Woodley since.
“And now, Mr. Holmes, I come at last to the special thing which has caused
me to ask your advice to-day. You must know that every Saturday forenoon I
ride on my bicycle to Farnham Station, in order to get the 12:22 to town. The
road from Chiltern Grange is a lonely one, and at one spot it is particularly so,
for it lies for over a mile between Charlington Heath upon one side and the
woods which lie round Charlington Hall upon the other. You could not find a
more lonely tract of road anywhere, and it is quite rare to meet so much as a cart,
or a peasant, until you reach the high road near Crooksbury Hill. Two weeks ago
I was passing this place, when I chanced to look back over my shoulder, and
about two hundred yards behind me I saw a man, also on a bicycle. He seemed
to be a middle-aged man, with a short, dark beard. I looked back before I
reached Farnham, but the man was gone, so I thought no more about it. But you
can imagine how surprised I was, Mr. Holmes, when, on my return on the
Monday, I saw the same man on the same stretch of road. My astonishment was
increased when the incident occurred again, exactly as before, on the following
Saturday and Monday. He always kept his distance and did not molest me in any
way, but still it certainly was very odd. I mentioned it to Mr. Carruthers, who
seemed interested in what I said, and told me that he had ordered a horse and
trap, so that in future I should not pass over these lonely roads without some
companion.
“The horse and trap were to have come this week, but for some reason they
were not delivered, and again I had to cycle to the station. That was this
morning. You can think that I looked out when I came to Charlington Heath, and
there, sure enough, was the man, exactly as he had been the two weeks before.
He always kept so far from me that I could not clearly see his face, but it was
certainly someone whom I did not know. He was dressed in a dark suit with a
cloth cap. The only thing about his face that I could clearly see was his dark
beard. To-day I was not alarmed, but I was filled with curiosity, and I determined
to find out who he was and what he wanted. I slowed down my machine, but he
slowed down his. Then I stopped altogether, but he stopped also. Then I laid a
trap for him. There is a sharp turning of the road, and I pedalled very quickly
round this, and then I stopped and waited. I expected him to shoot round and
pass me before he could stop. But he never appeared. Then I went back and
looked round the corner. I could see a mile of road, but he was not on it. To make
it the more extraordinary, there was no side road at this point down which he
could have gone.”
Holmes chuckled and rubbed his hands. “This case certainly presents some
features of its own,” said he. “How much time elapsed between your turning the
corner and your discovery that the road was clear?”
“Two or three minutes.”
“Then he could not have retreated down the road, and you say that there are
no side roads?”
“None.”
“Then he certainly took a footpath on one side or the other.”
“It could not have been on the side of the heath, or I should have seen him.”
“So, by the process of exclusion, we arrive at the fact that he made his way
toward Charlington Hall, which, as I understand, is situated in its own grounds
on one side of the road. Anything else?”
“Nothing, Mr. Holmes, save that I was so perplexed that I felt I should not be
happy until I had seen you and had your advice.”
Holmes sat in silence for some little time.
“Where is the gentleman to whom you are engaged?” he asked at last.
“He is in the Midland Electrical Company, at Coventry.”
“He would not pay you a surprise visit?”
“Oh, Mr. Holmes! As if I should not know him!”
“Have you had any other admirers?”
“Several before I knew Cyril.”
“And since?”
“There was this dreadful man, Woodley, if you can call him an admirer.”
“No one else?”
Our fair client seemed a little confused.
“Who was he?” asked Holmes.
“Oh, it may be a mere fancy of mine; but it had seemed to me sometimes that
my employer, Mr. Carruthers, takes a great deal of interest in me. We are thrown
rather together. I play his accompaniments in the evening. He has never said
anything. He is a perfect gentleman. But a girl always knows.”
“Ha!” Holmes looked grave. “What does he do for a living?”
“He is a rich man.”
“No carriages or horses?”
“Well, at least he is fairly well-to-do. But he goes into the city two or three
times a week. He is deeply interested in South African gold shares.”
“You will let me know any fresh development, Miss Smith. I am very busy
just now, but I will find time to make some inquiries into your case. In the
meantime, take no step without letting me know. Good-bye, and I trust that we
shall have nothing but good news from you.”
“It is part of the settled order of Nature that such a girl should have
followers,” said Holmes, he pulled at his meditative pipe, “but for choice not on
bicycles in lonely country roads. Some secretive lover, beyond all doubt. But
there are curious and suggestive details about the case, Watson.”
“That he should appear only at that point?”
“Exactly. Our first effort must be to find who are the tenants of Charlington
Hall. Then, again, how about the connection between Carruthers and Woodley,
since they appear to be men of such a different type? How came they both to be
so keen upon looking up Ralph Smith’s relations? One more point. What sort of
a ménage is it which pays double the market price for a governess but does not
keep a horse, although six miles from the station? Odd, Watson—very odd!”
“You will go down?”
“No, my dear fellow, you will go down. This may be some trifling intrigue,
and I cannot break my other important research for the sake of it. On Monday
you will arrive early at Farnham; you will conceal yourself near Charlington
Heath; you will observe these facts for yourself, and act as your own judgment
advises. Then, having inquired as to the occupants of the Hall, you will come
back to me and report. And now, Watson, not another word of the matter until
we have a few solid stepping-stones on which we may hope to get across to our
solution.”
We had ascertained from the lady that she went down upon the Monday by the
train which leaves Waterloo at 9:50, so I started early and caught the 9:13. At
Farnham Station I had no difficulty in being directed to Charlington Heath. It
was impossible to mistake the scene of the young lady’s adventure, for the road
runs between the open heath on one side and an old yew hedge upon the other,
surrounding a park which is studded with magnificent trees. There was a main
gateway of lichen-studded stone, each side pillar surmounted by mouldering
heraldic emblems, but besides this central carriage drive I observed several
points where there were gaps in the hedge and paths leading through them. The
house was invisible from the road, but the surroundings all spoke of gloom and
decay.
The heath was covered with golden patches of flowering gorse, gleaming
magnificently in the light of the bright spring sunshine. Behind one of these
clumps I took up my position, so as to command both the gateway of the Hall
and a long stretch of the road upon either side. It had been deserted when I left it,
but now I saw a cyclist riding down it from the opposite direction to that in
which I had come. He was clad in a dark suit, and I saw that he had a black
beard. On reaching the end of the Charlington grounds, he sprang from his
machine and led it through a gap in the hedge, disappearing from my view.
A quarter of an hour passed, and then a second cyclist appeared. This time it
was the young lady coming from the station. I saw her look about her as she
came to the Charlington hedge. An instant later the man emerged from his
hiding-place, sprang upon his cycle, and followed her. In all the broad landscape
those were the only moving figures, the graceful girl sitting very straight upon
her machine, and the man behind her bending low over his handle-bar with a
curiously furtive suggestion in every movement. She looked back at him and
slowed her pace. He slowed also. She stopped. He at once stopped, too, keeping
two hundred yards behind her. Her next movement was as unexpected as it was
spirited. She suddenly whisked her wheels round and dashed straight at him. He
was as quick as she, however, and darted off in desperate flight. Presently she
came back up the road again, her head haughtily in the air, not deigning to take
any further notice of her silent attendant. He had turned also, and still kept his
distance until the curve of the road hid them from my sight.
I remained in my hiding-place, and it was well that I did so, for presently the
man reappeared, cycling slowly back. He turned in at the Hall gates, and
dismounted from his machine. For some minutes I could see him standing
among the trees. His hands were raised, and he seemed to be settling his necktie.
Then he mounted his cycle, and rode away from me down the drive towards the
Hall. I ran across the heath and peered through the trees. Far away I could catch
glimpses of the old grey building with its bristling Tudor chimneys, but the drive
ran through a dense shrubbery, and I saw no more of my man.
However, it seemed to me that I had done a fairly good morning’s work, and I
walked back in high spirits to Farnham. The local house agent could tell me
nothing about Charlington Hall, and referred me to a well-known firm in Pall
Mall. There I halted on my way home, and met with courtesy from the
representative. No, I could not have Charlington Hall for the summer. I was just
too late. It had been let about a month ago. Mr. Williamson was the name of the
tenant. He was a respectable, elderly gentleman. The polite agent was afraid he
could say no more, as the affairs of his clients were not matters which he could
discuss.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes listened with attention to the long report which I was
able to present to him that evening, but it did not elicit that word of curt praise
which I had hoped for and should have valued. On the contrary, his austere face
was even more severe than usual as he commented upon the things that I had
done and the things that I had not.
“Your hiding-place, my dear Watson, was very faulty. You should have been
behind the hedge, then you would have had a close view of this interesting
person. As it is, you were some hundreds of yards away and can tell me even
less than Miss Smith. She thinks she does not know the man; I am convinced she
does. Why, otherwise, should he be so desperately anxious that she should not
get so near him as to see his features? You describe him as bending over the
handle-bar. Concealment again, you see. You really have done remarkably badly.
He returns to the house, and you want to find out who he is. You come to a
London house agent!”
“What should I have done?” I cried, with some heat.
“Gone to the nearest public-house. That is the centre of country gossip. They
would have told you every name, from the master to the scullery-maid.
Williamson? It conveys nothing to my mind. If he is an elderly man he is not this
active cyclist who sprints away from that young lady’s athletic pursuit. What
have we gained by your expedition? The knowledge that the girl’s story is true. I
never doubted it. That there is a connection between the cyclist and the Hall. I
never doubted that either. That the Hall is tenanted by Williamson. Who’s the
better for that? Well, well, my dear sir, don’t look so depressed. We can do little
more until next Saturday, and in the meantime I may make one or two inquiries
myself.”
Next morning, we had a note from Miss Smith, recounting shortly and
accurately the very incidents which I had seen, but the pith of the letter lay in the
postscript:
“I am sure that you will respect my confidence, Mr. Holmes,
when I tell you that my place here has become difficult, owing
to the fact that my employer has proposed marriage to me. I am
convinced that his feelings are most deep and most honourable.
At the same time, my promise is of course given. He took my
refusal very seriously, but also very gently. You can understand,
however, that the situation is a little strained.”
“Our young friend seems to be getting into deep waters,” said Holmes,
thoughtfully, as he finished the letter. “The case certainly presents more features
of interest and more possibility of development than I had originally thought. I
should be none the worse for a quiet, peaceful day in the country, and I am
inclined to run down this afternoon and test one or two theories which I have
formed.”
Holmes’s quiet day in the country had a singular termination, for he arrived at
Baker Street late in the evening, with a cut lip and a discoloured lump upon his
forehead, besides a general air of dissipation which would have made his own
person the fitting object of a Scotland Yard investigation. He was immensely
tickled by his own adventures and laughed heartily as he recounted them.
“I get so little active exercise that it is always a treat,” said he. “You are aware
that I have some proficiency in the good old British sport of boxing.
Occasionally, it is of service, to-day, for example, I should have come to very
ignominious grief without it.”
I begged him to tell me what had occurred.
“I found that country pub which I had already recommended to your notice,
and there I made my discreet inquiries. I was in the bar, and a garrulous landlord
was giving me all that I wanted. Williamson is a white-bearded man, and he lives
alone with a small staff of servants at the Hall. There is some rumour that he is
or has been a clergyman, but one or two incidents of his short residence at the
Hall struck me as peculiarly unecclesiastical. I have already made some inquiries
at a clerical agency, and they tell me that there was a man of that name in orders,
whose career has been a singularly dark one. The landlord further informed me
that there are usually week-end visitors—‘a warm lot, sir’—at the Hall, and
especially one gentleman with a red moustache, Mr. Woodley by name, who was
always there. We had got as far as this, when who should walk in but the
gentleman himself, who had been drinking his beer in the tap-room and had
heard the whole conversation. Who was I? What did I want? What did I mean by
asking questions? He had a fine flow of language, and his adjectives were very
vigorous. He ended a string of abuse by a vicious backhander, which I failed to
entirely avoid. The next few minutes were delicious. It was a straight left against
a slogging ruffian. I emerged as you see me. Mr. Woodley went home in a cart.
So ended my country trip, and it must be confessed that, however enjoyable, my
day on the Surrey border has not been much more profitable than your own.”
The Thursday brought us another letter from our client.
You will not be surprised, Mr. Holmes (said she), to hear that
I am leaving Mr. Carruthers’s employment. Even the high pay
cannot reconcile me to the discomforts of my situation. On
Saturday I come up to town, and I do not intend to return. Mr.
Carruthers has got a trap, and so the dangers of the lonely road,
if there ever were any dangers, are now over.
As to the special cause of my leaving, it is not merely the
strained situation with Mr. Carruthers, but it is the reappearance
of that odious man, Mr. Woodley. He was always hideous, but he
looks more awful than ever now, for he appears to have had an
accident and he is much disfigured. I saw him out of the
window, but I am glad to say I did not meet him. He had a long
talk with Mr. Carruthers, who seemed much excited afterwards.
Woodley must be staying in the neighbourhood, for he did not
sleep here, and yet I caught a glimpse of him again this morning,
slinking about in the shrubbery. I would sooner have a savage
wild animal loose about the place. I loathe and fear him more
than I can say. How can Mr. Carruthers endure such a creature
for a moment? However, all my troubles will be over on
Saturday.
“So I trust, Watson, so I trust,” said Holmes, gravely. “There is some deep
intrigue going on round that little woman, and it is our duty to see that no one
molests her upon that last journey. I think, Watson, that we must spare time to
run down together on Saturday morning and make sure that this curious and
inclusive investigation has no untoward ending.”
I confess that I had not up to now taken a very serious view of the case, which
had seemed to me rather grotesque and bizarre than dangerous. That a man
should lie in wait for and follow a very handsome woman is no unheard-of thing,
and if he has so little audacity that he not only dared not address her, but even
fled from her approach, he was not a very formidable assailant. The ruffian
Woodley was a very different person, but, except on one occasion, he had not
molested our client, and now he visited the house of Carruthers without
intruding upon her presence. The man on the bicycle was doubtless a member of
those week-end parties at the Hall of which the publican had spoken, but who he
was, or what he wanted, was as obscure as ever. It was the severity of Holmes’s
manner and the fact that he slipped a revolver into his pocket before leaving our
rooms which impressed me with the feeling that tragedy might prove to lurk
behind this curious train of events.
A rainy night had been followed by a glorious morning, and the heath-covered
countryside, with the glowing clumps of flowering gorse, seemed all the more
beautiful to eyes which were weary of the duns and drabs and slate greys of
London. Holmes and I walked along the broad, sandy road inhaling the fresh
morning air and rejoicing in the music of the birds and the fresh breath of the
spring. From a rise of the road on the shoulder of Crooksbury Hill, we could see
the grim Hall bristling out from amidst the ancient oaks, which, old as they were,
were still younger than the building which they surrounded. Holmes pointed
down the long tract of road which wound, a reddish yellow band, between the
brown of the heath and the budding green of the woods. Far away, a black dot,
we could see a vehicle moving in our direction. Holmes gave an exclamation of
impatience.
“I have given a margin of half an hour,” said he. “If that is her trap, she must
be making for the earlier train. I fear, Watson, that she will be past Charlington
before we can possibly meet her.”
From the instant that we passed the rise, we could no longer see the vehicle,
but we hastened onward at such a pace that my sedentary life began to tell upon
me, and I was compelled to fall behind. Holmes, however, was always in
training, for he had inexhaustible stores of nervous energy upon which to draw.
His springy step never slowed until suddenly, when he was a hundred yards in
front of me, he halted, and I saw him throw up his hand with a gesture of grief
and despair. At the same instant an empty dog-cart, the horse cantering, the reins
trailing, appeared round the curve of the road and rattled swiftly towards us.
“Too late, Watson, too late!” cried Holmes, as I ran panting to his side. “Fool
that I was not to allow for that earlier train! It’s abduction, Watson—abduction!
Murder! Heaven knows what! Block the road! Stop the horse! That’s right. Now,
jump in, and let us see if I can repair the consequences of my own blunder.”
We had sprung into the dog-cart, and Holmes, after turning the horse, gave it a
sharp cut with the whip, and we flew back along the road. As we turned the
curve, the whole stretch of road between the Hall and the heath was opened up. I
grasped Holmes’s arm.
“That’s the man!” I gasped.
A solitary cyclist was coming towards us. His head was down and his
shoulders rounded, as he put every ounce of energy that he possessed on to the
pedals. He was flying like a racer. Suddenly he raised his bearded face, saw us
close to him, and pulled up, springing from his machine. That coal-black beard
was in singular contrast to the pallor of his face, and his eyes were as bright as if
he had a fever. He stared at us and at the dog-cart. Then a look of amazement
came over his face.
“Halloa! Stop there!” he shouted, holding his bicycle to block our road.
“Where did you get that dog-cart? Pull up, man!” he yelled, drawing a pistol
from his side pocket. “Pull up, I say, or, by George, I’ll put a bullet into your
horse.”
Holmes threw the reins into my lap and sprang down from the cart.
“You’re the man we want to see. Where is Miss Violet Smith?” he said, in his
quick, clear way.
“That’s what I’m asking you. You’re in her dog-cart. You ought to know
where she is.”
“We met the dog-cart on the road. There was no one in it. We drove back to
help the young lady.”
“Good Lord! Good Lord! What shall I do?” cried the stranger, in an ecstasy of
despair. “They’ve got her, that hell-hound Woodley and the blackguard parson.
Come, man, come, if you really are her friend. Stand by me and we’ll save her, if
I have to leave my carcass in Charlington Wood.”
He ran distractedly, his pistol in his hand, towards a gap in the hedge. Holmes
followed him, and I, leaving the horse grazing beside the road, followed Holmes.
“This is where they came through,” said he, pointing to the marks of several
feet upon the muddy path. “Halloa! Stop a minute! Who’s this in the bush?”
It was a young fellow about seventeen, dressed like an ostler, with leather
cords and gaiters. He lay upon his back, his knees drawn up, a terrible cut upon
his head. He was insensible, but alive. A glance at his wound told me that it had
not penetrated the bone.
“That’s Peter, the groom,” cried the stranger. “He drove her. The beasts have
pulled him off and clubbed him. Let him lie; we can’t do him any good, but we
may save her from the worst fate that can befall a woman.”
We ran frantically down the path, which wound among the trees. We had
reached the shrubbery which surrounded the house when Holmes pulled up.
“They didn’t go to the house. Here are their marks on the left—here, beside
the laurel bushes. Ah! I said so.”
As he spoke, a woman’s shrill scream—a scream which vibrated with a frenzy
of horror—burst from the thick, green clump of bushes in front of us. It ended
suddenly on its highest note with a choke and a gurgle.
“This way! This way! They are in the bowling-alley,” cried the stranger,
darting through the bushes. “Ah, the cowardly dogs! Follow me, gentlemen! Too
late! too late! by the living Jingo!”
We had broken suddenly into a lovely glade of greensward surrounded by
ancient trees. On the farther side of it, under the shadow of a mighty oak, there
stood a singular group of three people. One was a woman, our client, drooping
and faint, a handkerchief round her mouth. Opposite her stood a brutal, heavyfaced, red-moustached young man, his gaitered legs parted wide, one arm
akimbo, the other waving a riding crop, his whole attitude suggestive of
triumphant bravado. Between them an elderly, grey-bearded man, wearing a
short surplice over a light tweed suit, had evidently just completed the wedding
service, for he pocketed his prayer-book as we appeared, and slapped the sinister
bridegroom upon the back in jovial congratulation.
“They’re married!” I gasped.
“Come on!” cried our guide, “come on!” He rushed across the glade, Holmes
and I at his heels. As we approached, the lady staggered against the trunk of the
tree for support. Williamson, the ex-clergyman, bowed to us with mock
politeness, and the bully, Woodley, advanced with a shout of brutal and exultant
laughter.
“You can take your beard off, Bob,” said he. “I know you, right enough. Well,
you and your pals have just come in time for me to be able to introduce you to
Mrs. Woodley.”
Our guide’s answer was a singular one. He snatched off the dark beard which
had disguised him and threw it on the ground, disclosing a long, sallow, cleanshaven face below it. Then he raised his revolver and covered the young ruffian,
who was advancing upon him with his dangerous riding-crop swinging in his
hand.
“Yes,” said our ally, “I am Bob Carruthers, and I’ll see this woman righted, if I
have to swing for it. I told you what I’d do if you molested her, and, by the Lord!
I’ll be as good as my word.”
“You’re too late. She’s my wife.”
“No, she’s your widow.”
His revolver cracked, and I saw the blood spurt from the front of Woodley’s
waistcoat. He spun round with a scream and fell upon his back, his hideous red
face turning suddenly to a dreadful mottled pallor. The old man, still clad in his
surplice, burst into such a string of foul oaths as I have never heard, and pulled
out a revolver of his own, but, before he could raise it, he was looking down the
barrel of Holmes’s weapon.
“Enough of this,” said my friend, coldly. “Drop that pistol! Watson, pick it up!
Hold it to his head. Thank you. You, Carruthers, give me that revolver. We’ll
have no more violence. Come, hand it over!”
“Who are you, then?”
“My name is Sherlock Holmes.”
“Good Lord!”
“You have heard of me, I see. I will represent the official police until their
arrival. Here, you!” he shouted to a frightened groom, who had appeared at the
edge of the glade. “Come here. Take this note as hard as you can ride to
Farnham.” He scribbled a few words upon a leaf from his notebook. “Give it to
the superintendent at the police-station. Until he comes, I must detain you all
under my personal custody.”
The strong, masterful personality of Holmes dominated the tragic scene, and
all were equally puppets in his hands. Williamson and Carruthers found
themselves carrying the wounded Woodley into the house, and I gave my arm to
the frightened girl. The injured man was laid on his bed, and at Holmes’s request
I examined him. I carried my report to where he sat in the old tapestry-hung
dining-room with his two prisoners before him.
“He will live,” said I.
“What!” cried Carruthers, springing out of his chair. “I’ll go upstairs and
finish him first. Do you tell me that that angel, is to be tied to Roaring Jack
Woodley for life?”
“You need not concern yourself about that,” said Holmes. “There are two very
good reasons why she should, under no circumstances, be his wife. In the first
place, we are very safe in questioning Mr. Williamson’s right to solemnize a
marriage.”
“I have been ordained,” cried the old rascal.
“And also unfrocked.”
“Once a clergyman, always a clergyman.”
“I think not. How about the license?”
“We had a license for the marriage. I have it here in my pocket.”
“Then you got it by trick. But, in any case a forced marriage is no marriage,
but it is a very serious felony, as you will discover before you have finished.
You’ll have time to think the point out during the next ten years or so, unless I
am mistaken. As to you, Carruthers, you would have done better to keep your
pistol in your pocket.”
“I begin to think so, Mr. Holmes, but when I thought of all the precaution I
had taken to shield this girl—for I loved her, Mr. Holmes, and it is the only time
that ever I knew what love was—it fairly drove me mad to think that she was in
the power of the greatest brute and bully in South Africa—a man whose name is
a holy terror from Kimberley to Johannesburg. Why, Mr. Holmes, you’ll hardly
believe it, but ever since that girl has been in my employment I never once let
her go past this house, where I knew the rascals were lurking, without following
her on my bicycle, just to see that she came to no harm. I kept my distance from
her, and I wore a beard, so that she should not recognize me, for she is a good
and high-spirited girl, and she wouldn’t have stayed in my employment long if
she had thought that I was following her about the country roads.”
“Why didn’t you tell her of her danger?”
“Because then, again, she would have left me, and I couldn’t bear to face that.
Even if she couldn’t love me, it was a great deal to me just to see her dainty form
about the house, and to hear the sound of her voice.”
“Well,” said I, “you call that love, Mr. Carruthers, but I should call it
selfishness.”
“Maybe the two things go together. Anyhow, I couldn’t let her go. Besides,
with this crowd about, it was well that she should have someone near to look
after her. Then, when the cable came, I knew they were bound to make a move.”
“What cable?”
Carruthers took a telegram from his pocket.
“That’s it,” said he.
It was short and concise:
The old man is dead.
“Hum!” said Holmes. “I think I see how things worked, and I can understand
how this message would, as you say, bring them to a head. But while you wait,
you might tell me what you can.”
The old reprobate with the surplice burst into a volley of bad language.
“By heaven!” said he, “if you squeal on us, Bob Carruthers, I’ll serve you as
you served Jack Woodley. You can bleat about the girl to your heart’s content,
for that’s your own affair, but if you round on your pals to this plain-clothes
copper, it will be the worst day’s work that ever you did.”
“Your reverence need not be excited,” said Holmes, lighting a cigarette. “The
case is clear enough against you, and all I ask is a few details for my private
curiosity. However, if there’s any difficulty in your telling me, I’ll do the talking,
and then you will see how far you have a chance of holding back your secrets. In
the first place, three of you came from South Africa on this game—you
Williamson, you Carruthers, and Woodley.”
“Lie number one,” said the old man; “I never saw either of them until two
months ago, and I have never been in Africa in my life, so you can put that in
your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Busybody Holmes!”
“What he says is true,” said Carruthers.
“Well, well, two of you came over. His reverence is our own homemade
article. You had known Ralph Smith in South Africa. You had reason to believe
he would not live long. You found out that his niece would inherit his fortune.
How’s that—eh?”
Carruthers nodded and Williamson swore.
“She was next of kin, no doubt, and you were aware that the old fellow would
make no will.”
“Couldn’t read or write,” said Carruthers.
“So you came over, the two of you, and hunted up the girl. The idea was that
one of you was to marry her, and the other have a share of the plunder. For some
reason, Woodley was chosen as the husband. Why was that?”
“We played cards for her on the voyage. He won.”
“I see. You got the young lady into your service, and there Woodley was to do
the courting. She recognized the drunken brute that he was, and would have
nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, your arrangement was rather upset by the
fact that you had yourself fallen in love with the lady. You could no longer bear
the idea of this ruffian owning her?”
“No, by George, I couldn’t!”
“There was a quarrel between you. He left you in a rage, and began to make
his own plans independently of you.”
“It strikes me, Williamson, there isn’t very much that we can tell this
gentleman,” cried Carruthers, with a bitter laugh. “Yes, we quarreled, and he
knocked me down. I am level with him on that, anyhow. Then I lost sight of him.
That was when he picked up with this outcast padre here. I found that they had
set up housekeeping together at this place on the line that she had to pass for the
station. I kept my eye on her after that, for I knew there was some devilry in the
wind. I saw them from time to time, for I was anxious to know what they were
after. Two days ago Woodley came up to my house with this cable, which
showed that Ralph Smith was dead. He asked me if I would stand by the bargain.
I said I would not. He asked me if I would marry the girl myself and give him a
share. I said I would willingly do so, but that she would not have me. He said,
‘Let us get her married first and after a week or two she may see things a bit
different.’ I said I would have nothing to do with violence. So he went off
cursing, like the foul-mouthed blackguard that he was, and swearing that he
would have her yet. She was leaving me this week-end, and I had got a trap to
take her to the station, but I was so uneasy in my mind that I followed her on my
bicycle. She had got a start, however, and before I could catch her, the mischief
was done. The first thing I knew about it was when I saw you two gentlemen
driving back in her dog-cart.”
Holmes rose and tossed the end of his cigarette into the grate. “I have been
very obtuse, Watson,” said he. “When in your report you said that you had seen
the cyclist as you thought arrange his necktie in the shrubbery, that alone should
have told me all. However, we may congratulate ourselves upon a curious and, in
some respects, a unique case. I perceive three of the county constabulary in the
drive, and I am glad to see that the little ostler is able to keep pace with them, so
it is likely that neither he nor the interesting bridegroom will be permanently
damaged by their morning’s adventures. I think, Watson, that in your medical
capacity, you might wait upon Miss Smith and tell her that if she is sufficiently
recovered, we shall be happy to escort her to her mother’s home. If she is not
quite convalescent you will find that a hint that we were about to telegraph to a
young electrician in the Midlands would probably complete the cure. As to you,
Mr. Carruthers, I think that you have done what you could to make amends for
your share in an evil plot. There is my card, sir, and if my evidence can be of
help in your trial, it shall be at your disposal.”
In the whirl of our incessant activity, it has often been difficult for me, as the
reader has probably observed, to round off my narratives, and to give those final
details which the curious might expect. Each case has been the prelude to
another, and the crisis once over, the actors have passed for ever out of our busy
lives. I find, however, a short note at the end of my manuscript dealing with this
case, in which I have put it upon record that Miss Violet Smith did indeed inherit
a large fortune, and that she is now the wife of Cyril Morton, the senior partner
of Morton & Kennedy, the famous Westminster electricians. Williamson and
Woodley were both tried for abduction and assault, the former getting seven
years the latter ten. Of the fate of Carruthers, I have no record, but I am sure that
his assault was not viewed very gravely by the court, since Woodley had the
reputation of being a most dangerous ruffian, and I think that a few months were
sufficient to satisfy the demands of justice.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL
We have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our small stage at Baker
Street, but I cannot recollect anything more sudden and startling than the first
appearance of Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. His card, which seemed
too small to carry the weight of his academic distinctions, preceded him by a few
seconds, and then he entered himself—so large, so pompous, and so dignified
that he was the very embodiment of self-possession and solidity. And yet his first
action, when the door had closed behind him, was to stagger against the table,
whence he slipped down upon the floor, and there was that majestic figure
prostrate and insensible upon our bearskin hearth-rug.
We had sprung to our feet, and for a few moments we stared in silent
amazement at this ponderous piece of wreckage, which told of some sudden and
fatal storm far out on the ocean of life. Then Holmes hurried with a cushion for
his head, and I with brandy for his lips. The heavy, white face was seamed with
lines of trouble, the hanging pouches under the closed eyes were leaden in
colour, the loose mouth drooped dolorously at the corners, the rolling chins were
unshaven. Collar and shirt bore the grime of a long journey, and the hair bristled
unkempt from the well-shaped head. It was a sorely stricken man who lay before
us.
“What is it, Watson?” asked Holmes.
“Absolute exhaustion—possibly mere hunger and fatigue,” said I, with my
finger on the thready pulse, where the stream of life trickled thin and small.
“Return ticket from Mackleton, in the north of England,” said Holmes,
drawing it from the watch-pocket. “It is not twelve o’clock yet. He has certainly
been an early starter.”
The puckered eyelids had begun to quiver, and now a pair of vacant grey eyes
looked up at us. An instant later the man had scrambled on to his feet, his face
crimson with shame.
“Forgive this weakness, Mr. Holmes, I have been a little overwrought. Thank
you, if I might have a glass of milk and a biscuit, I have no doubt that I should
be better. I came personally, Mr. Holmes, in order to insure that you would return
with me. I feared that no telegram would convince you of the absolute urgency
of the case.”
“When you are quite restored——”
“I am quite well again. I cannot imagine how I came to be so weak. I wish
you, Mr. Holmes, to come to Mackleton with me by the next train.”
My friend shook his head.
“My colleague, Dr. Watson, could tell you that we are very busy at present. I
am retained in this case of the Ferrers Documents, and the Abergavenny murder
is coming up for trial. Only a very important issue could call me from London at
present.”
“Important!” Our visitor threw up his hands. “Have you heard nothing of the
abduction of the only son of the Duke of Holdernesse?”
“What! the late Cabinet Minister?”
“Exactly. We had tried to keep it out of the papers, but there was some rumour
in the Globe last night. I thought it might have reached your ears.”
Holmes shot out his long, thin arm and picked out Volume “H” in his
encyclopædia of reference.
“‘Holdernesse, 6th Duke, K.G., P.C.’—half the alphabet! ‘Baron Beverley,
Earl of Carston’—dear me, what a list! ‘Lord Lieutenant of Hallamshire since

  1. Married Edith, daughter of Sir Charles Appledore, 1888. Heir and only
    child, Lord Saltire. Owns about two hundred and fifty thousand acres. Minerals
    in Lancashire and Wales. Address: Carlton House Terrace; Holdernesse Hall,
    Hallamshire; Carston Castle, Bangor, Wales. Lord of the Admiralty, 1872; Chief
    Secretary of State for——’ Well, well, this man is certainly one of the greatest
    subjects of the Crown!”
    “The greatest and perhaps the wealthiest. I am aware, Mr. Holmes, that you
    take a very high line in professional matters, and that you are prepared to work
    for the work’s sake. I may tell you, however, that his Grace has already intimated
    that a check for five thousand pounds will be handed over to the person who can
    tell him where his son is, and another thousand to him who can name the man or
    men who have taken him.”
    “It is a princely offer,” said Holmes. “Watson, I think that we shall accompany
    Dr. Huxtable back to the north of England. And now, Dr. Huxtable, when you
    have consumed that milk, you will kindly tell me what has happened, when it
    happened, how it happened, and, finally, what Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable, of the
    Priory School, near Mackleton, has to do with the matter, and why he comes
    three days after an event—the state of your chin gives the date—to ask for my
    humble services.”
    Our visitor had consumed his milk and biscuits. The light had come back to
    his eyes and the colour to his cheeks, as he set himself with great vigour and
    lucidity to explain the situation.
    “I must inform you, gentlemen, that the Priory is a preparatory school, of
    which I am the founder and principal. Huxtable’s Sidelights on Horace may
    possibly recall my name to your memories. The Priory is, without exception, the
    best and most select preparatory school in England. Lord Leverstoke, the Earl of
    Blackwater, Sir Cathcart Soames—they all have intrusted their sons to me. But I
    felt that my school had reached its zenith when, weeks ago, the Duke of
    Holdernesse sent Mr. James Wilder, his secretary, with intimation that young
    Lord Saltire, ten years old, his only son and heir, was about to be committed to
    my charge. Little did I think that this would be the prelude to the most crushing
    misfortune of my life.
    “On May 1st the boy arrived, that being the beginning of the summer term. He
    was a charming youth, and he soon fell into our ways. I may tell you—I trust
    that I am not indiscreet, but half-confidences are absurd in such a case—that he
    was not entirely happy at home. It is an open secret that the Duke’s married life
    had not been a peaceful one, and the matter had ended in a separation by mutual
    consent, the Duchess taking up her residence in the south of France. This had
    occurred very shortly before, and the boy’s sympathies are known to have been
    strongly with his mother. He moped after her departure from Holdernesse Hall,
    and it was for this reason that the Duke desired to send him to my establishment.
    In a fortnight the boy was quite at home with us and was apparently absolutely
    happy.
    “He was last seen on the night of May 13th—that is, the night of last Monday.
    His room was on the second floor and was approached through another larger
    room, in which two boys were sleeping. These boys saw and heard nothing, so
    that it is certain that young Saltire did not pass out that way. His window was
    open, and there is a stout ivy plant leading to the ground. We could trace no
    footmarks below, but it is sure that this is the only possible exit.
    “His absence was discovered at seven o’clock on Tuesday morning. His bed
    had been slept in. He had dressed himself fully, before going off, in his usual
    school suit of black Eton jacket and dark grey trousers. There were no signs that
    anyone had entered the room, and it is quite certain that anything in the nature of
    cries or a struggle would have been heard, since Caunter, the elder boy in the
    inner room, is a very light sleeper.
    “When Lord Saltire’s disappearance was discovered, I at once called a roll of
    the whole establishment—boys, masters, and servants. It was then that we
    ascertained that Lord Saltire had not been alone in his flight. Heidegger, the
    German master, was missing. His room was on the second floor, at the farther
    end of the building, facing the same way as Lord Saltire’s. His bed had also been
    slept in, but he had apparently gone away partly dressed, since his shirt and
    socks were lying on the floor. He had undoubtedly let himself down by the ivy,
    for we could see the marks of his feet where he had landed on the lawn. His
    bicycle was kept in a small shed beside this lawn, and it also was gone.
    “He had been with me for two years, and came with the best references, but he
    was a silent, morose man, not very popular either with masters or boys. No trace
    could be found of the fugitives, and now, on Thursday morning, we are as
    ignorant as we were on Tuesday. Inquiry was, of course, made at once at
    Holdernesse Hall. It is only a few miles away, and we imagined that, in some
    sudden attack of homesickness, he had gone back to his father, but nothing had
    been heard of him. The Duke is greatly agitated, and, as to me, you have seen
    yourselves the state of nervous prostration to which the suspense and the
    responsibility have reduced me. Mr. Holmes, if ever you put forward your full
    powers, I implore you to do so now, for never in your life could you have a case
    which is more worthy of them.”
    Sherlock Holmes had listened with the utmost intentness to the statement of
    the unhappy schoolmaster. His drawn brows and the deep furrow between them
    showed that he needed no exhortation to concentrate all his attention upon a
    problem which, apart from the tremendous interests involved must appeal so
    directly to his love of the complex and the unusual. He now drew out his
    notebook and jotted down one or two memoranda.
    “You have been very remiss in not coming to me sooner,” said he, severely.
    “You start me on my investigation with a very serious handicap. It is
    inconceivable, for example, that this ivy and this lawn would have yielded
    nothing to an expert observer.”
    “I am not to blame, Mr. Holmes. His Grace was extremely desirous to avoid
    all public scandal. He was afraid of his family unhappiness being dragged before
    the world. He has a deep horror of anything of the kind.”
    “But there has been some official investigation?”
    “Yes, sir, and it has proved most disappointing. An apparent clue was at once
    obtained, since a boy and a young man were reported to have been seen leaving
    a neighbouring station by an early train. Only last night we had news that the
    couple had been hunted down in Liverpool, and they prove to have no
    connection whatever with the matter in hand. Then it was that in my despair and
    disappointment, after a sleepless night, I came straight to you by the early train.”
    “I suppose the local investigation was relaxed while this false clue was being
    followed up?”
    “It was entirely dropped.”
    “So that three days have been wasted. The affair has been most deplorably
    handled.”
    “I feel it and admit it.”
    “And yet the problem should be capable of ultimate solution. I shall be very
    happy to look into it. Have you been able to trace any connection between the
    missing boy and this German master?”
    “None at all.”
    “Was he in the master’s class?”
    “No, he never exchanged a word with him, so far as I know.”
    “That is certainly very singular. Had the boy a bicycle?”
    “No.”
    “Was any other bicycle missing?”
    “No.”
    “Is that certain?”
    “Quite.”
    “Well, now, you do not mean to seriously suggest that this German rode off
    upon a bicycle in the dead of the night, bearing the boy in his arms?”
    “Certainly not.”
    “Then what is the theory in your mind?”
    “The bicycle may have been a blind. It may have been hidden somewhere, and
    the pair gone off on foot.”
    “Quite so, but it seems rather an absurd blind, does it not? Were there other
    bicycles in this shed?”
    “Several.”
    “Would he not have hidden a couple, had he desired to give the idea that they
    had gone off upon them?”
    “I suppose he would.”
    “Of course he would. The blind theory won’t do. But the incident is an
    admirable starting-point for an investigation. After all, a bicycle is not an easy
    thing to conceal or to destroy. One other question. Did anyone call to see the boy
    on the day before he disappeared?”
    “No.”
    “Did he get any letters?”
    “Yes, one letter.”
    “From whom?”
    “From his father.”
    “Do you open the boys’ letters?”
    “No.”
    “How do you know it was from the father?”
    “The coat of arms was on the envelope, and it was addressed in the Duke’s
    peculiar stiff hand. Besides, the Duke remembers having written.”
    “When had he a letter before that?”
    “Not for several days.”
    “Had he ever one from France?”
    “No, never.
    “You see the point of my questions, of course. Either the boy was carried off
    by force or he went of his own free will. In the latter case, you would expect that
    some prompting from outside would be needed to make so young a lad do such a
    thing. If he has had no visitors, that prompting must have come in letters; hence I
    try to find out who were his correspondents.”
    “I fear I cannot help you much. His only correspondent, so far as I know, was
    his own father.”
    “Who wrote to him on the very day of his disappearance. Were the relations
    between father and son very friendly?”
    “His Grace is never very friendly with anyone. He is completely immersed in
    large public questions, and is rather inaccessible to all ordinary emotions. But he
    was always kind to the boy in his own way.”
    “But the sympathies of the latter were with the mother?”
    “Yes.”
    “Did he say so?”
    “No.”
    “The Duke, then?”
    “Good Heavens, no!”
    “Then how could you know?”
    “I have had some confidential talks with Mr. James Wilder, his Grace’s
    secretary. It was he who gave me the information about Lord Saltire’s feelings.”
    “I see. By the way, that last letter of the Duke’s—was it found in the boy’s
    room after he was gone?”
    “No, he had taken it with him. I think, Mr. Holmes, it is time that we were
    leaving for Euston.”
    “I will order a four-wheeler. In a quarter of an hour, we shall be at your
    service. If you are telegraphing home, Mr. Huxtable, it would be well to allow
    the people in your neighbourhood to imagine that the inquiry is still going on in
    Liverpool, or wherever else that red herring led your pack. In the meantime I
    will do a little quiet work at your own doors, and perhaps the scent is not so cold
    but that two old hounds like Watson and myself may get a sniff of it.”
    That evening found us in the cold, bracing atmosphere of the Peak country, in
    which Dr. Huxtable’s famous school is situated. It was already dark when we
    reached it. A card was lying on the hall table, and the butler whispered
    something to his master, who turned to us with agitation in every heavy feature.
    “The Duke is here,” said he. “The Duke and Mr. Wilder are in the study.
    Come, gentlemen, and I will introduce you.”
    I was, of course, familiar with the pictures of the famous statesman, but the
    man himself was very different from his representation. He was a tall and stately
    person, scrupulously dressed, with a drawn, thin face, and a nose which was
    grotesquely curved and long. His complexion was of a dead pallor, which was
    more startling by contrast with a long, dwindling beard of vivid red, which
    flowed down over his white waistcoat with his watch-chain gleaming through its
    fringe. Such was the stately presence who looked stonily at us from the centre of
    Dr. Huxtable’s hearthrug. Beside him stood a very young man, whom I
    understood to be Wilder, the private secretary. He was small, nervous, alert with
    intelligent light-blue eyes and mobile features. It was he who at once, in an
    incisive and positive tone, opened the conversation.
    “I called this morning, Dr. Huxtable, too late to prevent you from starting for
    London. I learned that your object was to invite Mr. Sherlock Holmes to
    undertake the conduct of this case. His Grace is surprised, Dr. Huxtable, that you
    should have taken such a step without consulting him.”
    “When I learned that the police had failed——”
    “His Grace is by no means convinced that the police have failed.”
    “But surely, Mr. Wilder——”
    “You are well aware, Dr. Huxtable, that his Grace is particularly anxious to
    avoid all public scandal. He prefers to take as few people as possible into his
    confidence.”
    “The matter can be easily remedied,” said the brow-beaten doctor; “Mr.
    Sherlock Holmes can return to London by the morning train.”
    “Hardly that, Doctor, hardly that,” said Holmes, in his blandest voice. “This
    northern air is invigorating and pleasant, so I propose to spend a few days upon
    your moors, and to occupy my mind as best I may. Whether I have the shelter of
    your roof or of the village inn is, of course, for you to decide.”
    I could see that the unfortunate doctor was in the last stage of indecision, from
    which he was rescued by the deep, sonorous voice of the red-bearded Duke,
    which boomed out like a dinner-gong.
    “I agree with Mr. Wilder, Dr. Huxtable, that you would have done wisely to
    consult me. But since Mr. Holmes has already been taken into your confidence,
    it would indeed be absurd that we should not avail ourselves of his services. Far
    from going to the inn, Mr. Holmes, I should be pleased if you would come and
    stay with me at Holdernesse Hall.”
    “I thank your Grace. For the purposes of my investigation, I think that it
    would be wiser for me to remain at the scene of the mystery.”
    “Just as you like, Mr. Holmes. Any information which Mr. Wilder or I can
    give you is, of course, at your disposal.”
    “It will probably be necessary for me to see you at the Hall,” said Holmes. “I
    would only ask you now, sir, whether you have formed any explanation in your
    own mind as to the mysterious disappearance of your son?”
    “No, sir, I have not.”
    “Excuse me if I allude to that which is painful to you, but I have no
    alternative. Do you think that the Duchess had anything to do with the matter?”
    The great minister showed perceptible hesitation.
    “I do not think so,” he said, at last.
    “The other most obvious explanation is that the child has been kidnapped for
    the purpose of levying ransom. You have not had any demand of the sort?”
    “No, sir.”
    “One more question, your Grace. I understand that you wrote to your son
    upon the day when this incident occurred.”
    “No, I wrote upon the day before.”
    “Exactly. But he received it on that day?”
    “Yes.”
    “Was there anything in your letter which might have unbalanced him or
    induced him to take such a step?”
    “No, sir, certainly not.”
    “Did you post that letter yourself?”
    The nobleman’s reply was interrupted by his secretary, who broke in with
    some heat.
    “His Grace is not in the habit of posting letters himself,” said he. “This letter
    was laid with others upon the study table, and I myself put them in the postbag.”
    “You are sure this one was among them?”
    “Yes, I observed it.”
    “How many letters did your Grace write that day?”
    “Twenty or thirty. I have a large correspondence. But surely this is somewhat
    irrelevant?”
    “Not entirely,” said Holmes.
    “For my own part,” the Duke continued, “I have advised the police to turn
    their attention to the south of France. I have already said that I do not believe
    that the Duchess would encourage so monstrous an action, but the lad had the
    most wrong-headed opinions, and it is possible that he may have fled to her,
    aided and abetted by this German. I think, Dr. Huxtable, that we will now return
    to the Hall.”
    I could see that there were other questions which Holmes would have wished
    to put, but the nobleman’s abrupt manner showed that the interview was at an
    end. It was evident that to his intensely aristocratic nature this discussion of his
    intimate family affairs with a stranger was most abhorrent, and that he feared lest
    every fresh question would throw a fiercer light into the discreetly shadowed
    corners of his ducal history.
    When the nobleman and his secretary had left, my friend flung himself at once
    with characteristic eagerness into the investigation.
    The boy’s chamber was carefully examined, and yielded nothing save the
    absolute conviction that it was only through the window that he could have
    escaped. The German master’s room and effects gave no further clue. In his case
    a trailer of ivy had given way under his weight, and we saw by the light of a
    lantern the mark on the lawn where his heels had come down. That one dint in
    the short, green grass was the only material witness left of this inexplicable
    nocturnal flight.
    Sherlock Holmes left the house alone, and only returned after eleven. He had
    obtained a large ordnance map of the neighbourhood, and this he brought into
    my room, where he laid it out on the bed, and, having balanced the lamp in the
    middle of it, he began to smoke over it, and occasionally to point out objects of
    interest with the reeking amber of his pipe.
    “This case grows upon me, Watson,” said he. “There are decidedly some
    points of interest in connection with it. In this early stage, I want you to realize
    those geographical features which may have a good deal to do with our
    investigation.
    Holmes’-map
    HOLMES’ MAP OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE SCHOOL.
    “Look at this map. This dark square is the Priory School. I’ll put a pin in it.
    Now, this line is the main road. You see that it runs east and west past the school,
    and you see also that there is no side road for a mile either way. If these two folk
    passed away by road, it was this road.”
    “Exactly.”
    “By a singular and happy chance, we are able to some extent to check what
    passed along this road during the night in question. At this point, where my pipe
    is now resting, a county constable was on duty from twelve to six. It is, as you
    perceive, the first cross-road on the east side. This man declares that he was not
    absent from his post for an instant, and he is positive that neither boy nor man
    could have gone that way unseen. I have spoken with this policeman to-night
    and he appears to me to be a perfectly reliable person. That blocks this end. We
    have now to deal with the other. There is an inn here, the Red Bull, the landlady
    of which was ill. She had sent to Mackleton for a doctor, but he did not arrive
    until morning, being absent at another case. The people at the inn were alert all
    night, awaiting his coming, and one or other of them seems to have continually
    had an eye upon the road. They declare that no one passed. If their evidence is
    good, then we are fortunate enough to be able to block the west, and also to be
    able to say that the fugitives did not use the road at all.”
    “But the bicycle?” I objected.
    “Quite so. We will come to the bicycle presently. To continue our reasoning: if
    these people did not go by the road, they must have traversed the country to the
    north of the house or to the south of the house. That is certain. Let us weigh the
    one against the other. On the south of the house is, as you perceive, a large
    district of arable land, cut up into small fields, with stone walls between them.
    There, I admit that a bicycle is impossible. We can dismiss the idea. We turn to
    the country on the north. Here there lies a grove of trees, marked as the ‘Ragged
    Shaw,’ and on the farther side stretches a great rolling moor, Lower Gill Moor,
    extending for ten miles and sloping gradually upward. Here, at one side of this
    wilderness, is Holdernesse Hall, ten miles by road, but only six across the moor.
    It is a peculiarly desolate plain. A few moor farmers have small holdings, where
    they rear sheep and cattle. Except these, the plover and the curlew are the only
    inhabitants until you come to the Chesterfield high road. There is a church there,
    you see, a few cottages, and an inn. Beyond that the hills become precipitous.
    Surely it is here to the north that our quest must lie.”
    “But the bicycle?” I persisted.
    “Well, well!” said Holmes, impatiently. “A good cyclist does not need a high
    road. The moor is intersected with paths, and the moon was at the full. Halloa!
    what is this?”
    There was an agitated knock at the door, and an instant afterwards Dr.
    Huxtable was in the room. In his hand he held a blue cricket-cap with a white
    chevron on the peak.
    “At last we have a clue!” he cried. “Thank heaven! at last we are on the dear
    boy’s track! It is his cap.”
    “Where was it found?”
    “In the van of the gipsies who camped on the moor. They left on Tuesday. Today the police traced them down and examined their caravan. This was found.”
    “How do they account for it?”
    “They shuffled and lied—said that they found it on the moor on Tuesday
    morning. They know where he is, the rascals! Thank goodness, they are all safe
    under lock and key. Either the fear of the law or the Duke’s purse will certainly
    get out of them all that they know.”
    “So far, so good,” said Holmes, when the doctor had at last left the room. “It
    at least bears out the theory that it is on the side of the Lower Gill Moor that we
    must hope for results. The police have really done nothing locally, save the arrest
    of these gipsies. Look here, Watson! There is a watercourse across the moor. You
    see it marked here in the map. In some parts it widens into a morass. This is
    particularly so in the region between Holdernesse Hall and the school. It is vain
    to look elsewhere for tracks in this dry weather, but at that point there is
    certainly a chance of some record being left. I will call you early to-morrow
    morning, and you and I will try if we can throw some little light upon the
    mystery.”
    The day was just breaking when I woke to find the long, thin form of Holmes
    by my bedside. He was fully dressed, and had apparently already been out.
    “I have done the lawn and the bicycle shed,” said he. “I have also had a
    rumble through the Ragged Shaw. Now, Watson, there is cocoa ready in the next
    room. I must beg you to hurry, for we have a great day before us.”
    His eyes shone, and his cheek was flushed with the exhilaration of the master
    workman who sees his work lie ready before him. A very different Holmes, this
    active, alert man, from the introspective and pallid dreamer of Baker Street. I
    felt, as I looked upon that supple figure, alive with nervous energy, that it was
    indeed a strenuous day that awaited us.
    And yet it opened in the blackest disappointment. With high hopes we struck
    across the peaty, russet moor, intersected with a thousand sheep paths, until we
    came to the broad, light-green belt which marked the morass between us and
    Holdernesse. Certainly, if the lad had gone homeward, he must have passed this,
    and he could not pass it without leaving his traces. But no sign of him or the
    German could be seen. With a darkening face my friend strode along the margin,
    eagerly observant of every muddy stain upon the mossy surface. Sheep-marks
    there were in profusion, and at one place, some miles down, cows had left their
    tracks. Nothing more.
    “Check number one,” said Holmes, looking gloomily over the rolling expanse
    of the moor. “There is another morass down yonder, and a narrow neck between.
    Halloa! halloa! halloa! what have we here?”
    We had come on a small black ribbon of pathway. In the middle of it, clearly
    marked on the sodden soil, was the track of a bicycle.
    “Hurrah!” I cried. “We have it.”
    But Holmes was shaking his head, and his face was puzzled and expectant
    rather than joyous.
    “A bicycle, certainly, but not the bicycle,” said he. “I am familiar with fortytwo different impressions left by tires. This, as you perceive, is a Dunlop, with a
    patch upon the outer cover. Heidegger’s tires were Palmer’s, leaving longitudinal
    stripes. Aveling, the mathematical master, was sure upon the point. Therefore, it
    is not Heidegger’s track.”
    “The boy’s, then?”
    “Possibly, if we could prove a bicycle to have been in his possession. But this
    we have utterly failed to do. This track, as you perceive, was made by a rider
    who was going from the direction of the school.”
    “Or towards it?”
    “No, no, my dear Watson. The more deeply sunk impression is, of course, the
    hind wheel, upon which the weight rests. You perceive several places where it
    has passed across and obliterated the more shallow mark of the front one. It was
    undoubtedly heading away from the school. It may or may not be connected with
    our inquiry, but we will follow it backwards before we go any farther.”
    We did so, and at the end of a few hundred yards lost the tracks as we emerged
    from the boggy portion of the moor. Following the path backwards, we picked
    out another spot, where a spring trickled across it. Here, once again, was the
    mark of the bicycle, though nearly obliterated by the hoofs of cows. After that
    there was no sign, but the path ran right on into Ragged Shaw, the wood which
    backed on to the school. From this wood the cycle must have emerged. Holmes
    sat down on a boulder and rested his chin in his hands. I had smoked two
    cigarettes before he moved.
    “Well, well,” said he, at last. “It is, of course, possible that a cunning man
    might change the tires of his bicycle in order to leave unfamiliar tracks. A
    criminal who was capable of such a thought is a man whom I should be proud to
    do business with. We will leave this question undecided and hark back to our
    morass again, for we have left a good deal unexplored.”
    We continued our systematic survey of the edge of the sodden portion of the
    moor, and soon our perseverance was gloriously rewarded. Right across the
    lower part of the bog lay a miry path. Holmes gave a cry of delight as he
    approached it. An impression like a fine bundle of telegraph wires ran down the
    centre of it. It was the Palmer tires.
    “Here is Herr Heidegger, sure enough!” cried Holmes, exultantly. “My
    reasoning seems to have been pretty sound, Watson.”
    “I congratulate you.”
    “But we have a long way still to go. Kindly walk clear of the path. Now let us
    follow the trail. I fear that it will not lead very far.”
    We found, however, as we advanced that this portion of the moor is
    intersected with soft patches, and, though we frequently lost sight of the track,
    we always succeeded in picking it up once more.
    “Do you observe,” said Holmes, “that the rider is now undoubtedly forcing the
    pace? There can be no doubt of it. Look at this impression, where you get both
    tires clear. The one is as deep as the other. That can only mean that the rider is
    throwing his weight on to the handle-bar, as a man does when he is sprinting. By
    Jove! he has had a fall.”
    There was a broad, irregular smudge covering some yards of the track. Then
    there were a few footmarks, and the tire reappeared once more.
    “A side-slip,” I suggested.
    Holmes held up a crumpled branch of flowering gorse. To my horror I
    perceived that the yellow blossoms were all dabbled with crimson. On the path,
    too, and among the heather were dark stains of clotted blood.
    “Bad!” said Holmes. “Bad! Stand clear, Watson! Not an unnecessary footstep!
    What do I read here? He fell wounded—he stood up—he remounted—he
    proceeded. But there is no other track. Cattle on this side path. He was surely not
    gored by a bull? Impossible! But I see no traces of anyone else. We must push
    on, Watson. Surely, with stains as well as the track to guide us, he cannot escape
    us now.”
    Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tire began to curve
    fantastically upon the wet and shining path. Suddenly, as I looked ahead, the
    gleam of metal caught my eye from amid the thick gorse-bushes. Out of them we
    dragged a bicycle, Palmer-tired, one pedal bent, and the whole front of it
    horribly smeared and slobbered with blood. On the other side of the bushes a
    shoe was projecting. We ran round, and there lay the unfortunate rider. He was a
    tall man, full-bearded, with spectacles, one glass of which had been knocked out.
    The cause of his death was a frightful blow upon the head, which had crushed in
    part of his skull. That he could have gone on after receiving such an injury said
    much for the vitality and courage of the man. He wore shoes, but no socks, and
    his open coat disclosed a nightshirt beneath it. It was undoubtedly the German
    master.
    Holmes turned the body over reverently, and examined it with great attention.
    He then sat in deep thought for a time, and I could see by his ruffled brow that
    this grim discovery had not, in his opinion, advanced us much in our inquiry.
    “It is a little difficult to know what to do, Watson,” said he, at last. “My own
    inclinations are to push this inquiry on, for we have already lost so much time
    that we cannot afford to waste another hour. On the other hand, we are bound to
    inform the police of the discovery, and to see that this poor fellow’s body is
    looked after.”
    “I could take a note back.”
    “But I need your company and assistance. Wait a bit! There is a fellow cutting
    peat up yonder. Bring him over here, and he will guide the police.”
    I brought the peasant across, and Holmes dispatched the frightened man with
    a note to Dr. Huxtable.
    “Now, Watson,” said he, “we have picked up two clues this morning. One is
    the bicycle with the Palmer tire, and we see what that has led to. The other is the
    bicycle with the patched Dunlop. Before we start to investigate that, let us try to
    realize what we do know, so as to make the most of it, and to separate the
    essential from the accidental.”
    “First of all, I wish to impress upon you that the boy certainly left of his own
    free-will. He got down from his window and he went off, either alone or with
    someone. That is sure.”
    I assented.
    “Well, now, let us turn to this unfortunate German master. The boy was fully
    dressed when he fled. Therefore, he foresaw what he would do. But the German
    went without his socks. He certainly acted on very short notice.”
    “Undoubtedly.”
    “Why did he go? Because, from his bedroom window, he saw the flight of the
    boy, because he wished to overtake him and bring him back. He seized his
    bicycle, pursued the lad, and in pursuing him met his death.”
    “So it would seem.”
    “Now I come to the critical part of my argument. The natural action of a man
    in pursuing a little boy would be to run after him. He would know that he could
    overtake him. But the German does not do so. He turns to his bicycle. I am told
    that he was an excellent cyclist. He would not do this, if he did not see that the
    boy had some swift means of escape.”
    “The other bicycle.”
    “Let us continue our reconstruction. He meets his death five miles from the
    school—not by a bullet, mark you, which even a lad might conceivably
    discharge, but by a savage blow dealt by a vigorous arm. The lad, then, had a
    companion in his flight. And the flight was a swift one, since it took five miles
    before an expert cyclist could overtake them. Yet we survey the ground round
    the scene of the tragedy. What do we find? A few cattle-tracks, nothing more. I
    took a wide sweep round, and there is no path within fifty yards. Another cyclist
    could have had nothing to do with the actual murder, nor were there any human
    foot-marks.”
    “Holmes,” I cried, “this is impossible.”
    “Admirable!” he said. “A most illuminating remark. It is impossible as I state
    it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong. Yet you saw for
    yourself. Can you suggest any fallacy?”
    “He could not have fractured his skull in a fall?”
    “In a morass, Watson?”
    “I am at my wits’ end.”
    “Tut, tut, we have solved some worse problems. At least we have plenty of
    material, if we can only use it. Come, then, and, having exhausted the Palmer, let
    us see what the Dunlop with the patched cover has to offer us.”
    We picked up the track and followed it onward for some distance, but soon the
    moor rose into a long, heather-tufted curve, and we left the watercourse behind
    us. No further help from tracks could be hoped for. At the spot where we saw the
    last of the Dunlop tire it might equally have led to Holdernesse Hall, the stately
    towers of which rose some miles to our left, or to a low, grey village which lay in
    front of us and marked the position of the Chesterfield high road.
    As we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the sign of a gamecock above the door, Holmes gave a sudden groan, and clutched me by the
    shoulder to save himself from falling. He had had one of those violent strains of
    the ankle which leave a man helpless. With difficulty he limped up to the door,
    where a squat, dark, elderly man was smoking a black clay pipe.
    “How are you, Mr. Reuben Hayes?” said Holmes.
    “Who are you, and how do you get my name so pat?” the countryman
    answered, with a suspicious flash of a pair of cunning eyes.
    “Well, it’s printed on the board above your head. It’s easy to see a man who is
    master of his own house. I suppose you haven’t such a thing as a carriage in your
    stables?”
    “No, I have not.”
    “I can hardly put my foot to the ground.”
    “Don’t put it to the ground.”
    “But I can’t walk.”
    “Well, then hop.”
    Mr. Reuben Hayes’s manner was far from gracious, but Holmes took it with
    admirable good-humour.
    “Look here, my man,” said he. “This is really rather an awkward fix for me. I
    don’t mind how I get on.”
    “Neither do I,” said the morose landlord.
    “The matter is very important. I would offer you a sovereign for the use of a
    bicycle.”
    The landlord pricked up his ears.
    “Where do you want to go?”
    “To Holdernesse Hall.”
    “Pals of the Dook, I suppose?” said the landlord, surveying our mud-stained
    garments with ironical eyes.
    Holmes laughed good-naturedly.
    “He’ll be glad to see us, anyhow.”
    “Why?”
    “Because we bring him news of his lost son.”
    The landlord gave a very visible start.
    “What, you’re on his track?”
    “He has been heard of in Liverpool. They expect to get him every hour.”
    Again a swift change passed over the heavy, unshaven face. His manner was
    suddenly genial.
    “I’ve less reason to wish the Dook well than most men,” said he, “for I was
    head coachman once, and cruel bad he treated me. It was him that sacked me
    without a character on the word of a lying corn-chandler. But I’m glad to hear
    that the young lord was heard of in Liverpool, and I’ll help you to take the news
    to the Hall.”
    “Thank you,” said Holmes. “We’ll have some food first. Then you can bring
    round the bicycle.”
    “I haven’t got a bicycle.”
    Holmes held up a sovereign.
    “I tell you, man, that I haven’t got one. I’ll let you have two horses as far as
    the Hall.”
    “Well, well,” said Holmes, “we’ll talk about it when we’ve had something to
    eat.”
    When we were left alone in the stone-flagged kitchen, it was astonishing how
    rapidly that sprained ankle recovered. It was nearly nightfall, and we had eaten
    nothing since early morning, so that we spent some time over our meal. Holmes
    was lost in thought, and once or twice he walked over to the window and stared
    earnestly out. It opened on to a squalid courtyard. In the far corner was a smithy,
    where a grimy lad was at work. On the other side were the stables. Holmes had
    sat down again after one of these excursions, when he suddenly sprang out of his
    chair with a loud exclamation.
    “By heaven, Watson, I believe that I’ve got it!” he cried. “Yes, yes, it must be
    so. Watson, do you remember seeing any cow-tracks to-day?”
    “Yes, several.”
    “Where?”
    “Well, everywhere. They were at the morass, and again on the path, and again
    near where poor Heidegger met his death.”
    “Exactly. Well, now, Watson, how many cows did you see on the moor?”
    “I don’t remember seeing any.”
    “Strange, Watson, that we should see tracks all along our line, but never a cow
    on the whole moor. Very strange, Watson, eh?”
    “Yes, it is strange.”
    “Now, Watson, make an effort, throw your mind back. Can you see those
    tracks upon the path?”
    “Yes, I can.”
    “Can you recall that the tracks were sometimes like that, Watson,”—he
    arranged a number of breadcrumbs in this fashion—: : : : :—“and sometimes like
    this”—: . : . : . : .—“and occasionally like this”—…. “Can you remember
    that?”
    “No, I cannot.”
    “But I can. I could swear to it. However, we will go back at our leisure and
    verify it. What a blind beetle I have been, not to draw my conclusion.”
    “And what is your conclusion?”
    “Only that it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters, and gallops. By
    George! Watson, it was no brain of a country publican that thought out such a
    blind as that. The coast seems to be clear, save for that lad in the smithy. Let us
    slip out and see what we can see.”
    There were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble-down stable.
    Holmes raised the hind leg of one of them and laughed aloud.
    “Old shoes, but newly shod—old shoes, but new nails. This case deserves to
    be a classic. Let us go across to the smithy.”
    The lad continued his work without regarding us. I saw Holmes’s eye darting
    to right and left among the litter of iron and wood which was scattered about the
    floor. Suddenly, however, we heard a step behind us, and there was the landlord,
    his heavy eyebrows drawn over his savage eyes, his swarthy features convulsed
    with passion. He held a short, metal-headed stick in his hand, and he advanced in
    so menacing a fashion that I was right glad to feel the revolver in my pocket.
    “You infernal spies!” the man cried. “What are you doing there?”
    “Why, Mr. Reuben Hayes,” said Holmes, coolly, “one might think that you
    were afraid of our finding something out.”
    The man mastered himself with a violent effort, and his grim mouth loosened
    into a false laugh, which was more menacing than his frown.
    “You’re welcome to all you can find out in my smithy,” said he. “But look
    here, mister, I don’t care for folk poking about my place without my leave, so the
    sooner you pay your score and get out of this the better I shall be pleased.”
    “All right, Mr. Hayes, no harm meant,” said Holmes. “We have been having a
    look at your horses, but I think I’ll walk, after all. It’s not far, I believe.”
    “Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. That’s the road to the left.” He
    watched us with sullen eyes until we had left his premises.
    We did not go very far along the road, for Holmes stopped the instant that the
    curve hid us from the landlord’s view.
    “We were warm, as the children say, at that inn,” said he. “I seem to grow
    colder every step that I take away from it. No, no, I can’t possibly leave it.”
    “I am convinced,” said I, “that this Reuben Hayes knows all about it. A more
    self-evident villain I never saw.”
    “Oh! he impressed you in that way, did he? There are the horses, there is the
    smithy. Yes, it is an interesting place, this Fighting Cock. I think we shall have
    another look at it in an unobtrusive way.”
    A long, sloping hillside, dotted with grey limestone boulders, stretched behind
    us. We had turned off the road, and were making our way up the hill, when,
    looking in the direction of Holdernesse Hall, I saw a cyclist coming swiftly
    along.
    “Get down, Watson!” cried Holmes, with a heavy hand upon my shoulder. We
    had hardly sunk from view when the man flew past us on the road. Amid a
    rolling cloud of dust, I caught a glimpse of a pale, agitated face—a face with
    horror in every lineament, the mouth open, the eyes staring wildly in front. It
    was like some strange caricature of the dapper James Wilder whom we had seen
    the night before.
    “The Duke’s secretary!” cried Holmes. “Come, Watson, let us see what he
    does.”
    We scrambled from rock to rock, until in a few moments we had made our
    way to a point from which we could see the front door of the inn. Wilder’s
    bicycle was leaning against the wall beside it. No one was moving about the
    house, nor could we catch a glimpse of any faces at the windows. Slowly the
    twilight crept down as the sun sank behind the high towers of Holdernesse Hall.
    Then, in the gloom, we saw the two side-lamps of a trap light up in the stableyard of the inn, and shortly afterwards heard the rattle of hoofs, as it wheeled out
    into the road and tore off at a furious pace in the direction of Chesterfield.
    “What do you make of that, Watson?” Holmes whispered.
    “It looks like a flight.”
    “A single man in a dog-cart, so far as I could see. Well, it certainly was not
    Mr. James Wilder, for there he is at the door.”
    A red square of light had sprung out of the darkness. In the middle of it was
    the black figure of the secretary, his head advanced, peering out into the night. It
    was evident that he was expecting someone. Then at last there were steps in the
    road, a second figure was visible for an instant against the light, the door shut,
    and all was black once more. Five minutes later a lamp was lit in a room upon
    the first floor.
    “It seems to be a curious class of custom that is done by the Fighting Cock,”
    said Holmes.
    “The bar is on the other side.”
    “Quite so. These are what one may call the private guests. Now, what in the
    world is Mr. James Wilder doing in that den at this hour of night, and who is the
    companion who comes to meet him there? Come, Watson, we must really take a
    risk and try to investigate this a little more closely.”
    Together we stole down to the road and crept across to the door of the inn. The
    bicycle still leaned against the wall. Holmes struck a match and held it to the
    back wheel, and I heard him chuckle as the light fell upon a patched Dunlop tire.
    Up above us was the lighted window.
    “I must have a peep through that, Watson. If you bend your back and support
    yourself upon the wall, I think that I can manage.”
    An instant later, his feet were on my shoulders, but he was hardly up before he
    was down again.
    “Come, my friend,” said he, “our day’s work has been quite long enough. I
    think that we have gathered all that we can. It’s a long walk to the school, and
    the sooner we get started the better.”
    He hardly opened his lips during that weary trudge across the moor, nor would
    he enter the school when he reached it, but went on to Mackleton Station,
    whence he could send some telegrams. Late at night I heard him consoling Dr.
    Huxtable, prostrated by the tragedy of his master’s death, and later still he
    entered my room as alert and vigorous as he had been when he started in the
    morning. “All goes well, my friend,” said he. “I promise that before to-morrow
    evening we shall have reached the solution of the mystery.”
    At eleven o’clock next morning my friend and I were walking up the famous
    yew avenue of Holdernesse Hall. We were ushered through the magnificent
    Elizabethan doorway and into his Grace’s study. There we found Mr. James
    Wilder, demure and courtly, but with some trace of that wild terror of the night
    before still lurking in his furtive eyes and in his twitching features.
    “You have come to see his Grace? I am sorry, but the fact is that the Duke is
    far from well. He has been very much upset by the tragic news. We received a
    telegram from Dr. Huxtable yesterday afternoon, which told us of your
    discovery.”
    “I must see the Duke, Mr. Wilder.”
    “But he is in his room.”
    “Then I must go to his room.”
    “I believe he is in his bed.”
    “I will see him there.”
    Holmes’s cold and inexorable manner showed the secretary that it was useless
    to argue with him.
    “Very good, Mr. Holmes, I will tell him that you are here.”
    After an hour’s delay, the great nobleman appeared. His face was more
    cadaverous than ever, his shoulders had rounded, and he seemed to me to be an
    altogether older man than he had been the morning before. He greeted us with a
    stately courtesy and seated himself at his desk, his red beard streaming down on
    the table.
    “Well, Mr. Holmes?” said he.
    But my friend’s eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who stood by his master’s
    chair.
    “I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in Mr. Wilder’s absence.”
    The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance at Holmes.
    “If your Grace wishes——”
    “Yes, yes, you had better go. Now, Mr. Holmes, what have you to say?”
    My friend waited until the door had closed behind the retreating secretary.
    “The fact is, your Grace,” said he, “that my colleague, Dr. Watson, and myself
    had an assurance from Dr. Huxtable that a reward had been offered in this case. I
    should like to have this confirmed from your own lips.”
    “Certainly, Mr. Holmes.”
    “It amounted, if I am correctly informed, to five thousand pounds to anyone
    who will tell you where your son is?”
    “Exactly.”
    “And another thousand to the man who will name the person or persons who
    keep him in custody?”
    “Exactly.”
    “Under the latter heading is included, no doubt, not only those who may have
    taken him away, but also those who conspire to keep him in his present
    position?”
    “Yes, yes,” cried the Duke, impatiently. “If you do your work well, Mr.
    Sherlock Holmes, you will have no reason to complain of niggardly treatment.”
    My friend rubbed his thin hands together with an appearance of avidity which
    was a surprise to me, who knew his frugal tastes.
    “I fancy that I see your Grace’s check-book upon the table,” said he. “I should
    be glad if you would make me out a check for six thousand pounds. It would be
    as well, perhaps, for you to cross it. The Capital and Counties Bank, Oxford
    Street branch are my agents.”
    His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair and looked stonily at my
    friend.
    “Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for pleasantry.”
    “Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my life.”
    “What do you mean, then?”
    “I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your son is, and I know
    some, at least, of those who are holding him.”
    The Duke’s beard had turned more aggressively red than ever against his
    ghastly white face.
    “Where is he?” he gasped.
    “He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn, about two miles from your
    park gate.”
    The Duke fell back in his chair.
    “And whom do you accuse?”
    Sherlock Holmes’s answer was an astounding one. He stepped swiftly forward
    and touched the Duke upon the shoulder.
    “I accuse you,” said he. “And now, your Grace, I’ll trouble you for that
    check.”
    Never shall I forget the Duke’s appearance as he sprang up and clawed with
    his hands, like one who is sinking into an abyss. Then, with an extraordinary
    effort of aristocratic self-command, he sat down and sank his face in his hands. It
    was some minutes before he spoke.
    “How much do you know?” he asked at last, without raising his head.
    “I saw you together last night.”
    “Does anyone else beside your friend know?”
    “I have spoken to no one.”
    The Duke took a pen in his quivering fingers and opened his check-book.
    “I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about to write your check,
    however unwelcome the information which you have gained may be to me.
    When the offer was first made, I little thought the turn which events might take.
    But you and your friend are men of discretion, Mr. Holmes?”
    “I hardly understand your Grace.”
    “I must put it plainly, Mr. Holmes. If only you two know of this incident, there
    is no reason why it should go any farther. I think twelve thousand pounds is the
    sum that I owe you, is it not?”
    But Holmes smiled and shook his head.
    “I fear, your Grace, that matters can hardly be arranged so easily. There is the
    death of this schoolmaster to be accounted for.”
    “But James knew nothing of that. You cannot hold him responsible for that. It
    was the work of this brutal ruffian whom he had the misfortune to employ.”
    “I must take the view, your Grace, that when a man embarks upon a crime, he
    is morally guilty of any other crime which may spring from it.”
    “Morally, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right. But surely not in the eyes of
    the law. A man cannot be condemned for a murder at which he was not present,
    and which he loathes and abhors as much as you do. The instant that he heard of
    it he made a complete confession to me, so filled was he with horror and
    remorse. He lost not an hour in breaking entirely with the murderer. Oh, Mr.
    Holmes, you must save him—you must save him! I tell you that you must save
    him!” The Duke had dropped the last attempt at self-command, and was pacing
    the room with a convulsed face and with his clenched hands raving in the air. At
    last he mastered himself and sat down once more at his desk. “I appreciate your
    conduct in coming here before you spoke to anyone else,” said he. “At least, we
    may take counsel how far we can minimize this hideous scandal.”
    “Exactly,” said Holmes. “I think, your Grace, that this can only be done by
    absolute frankness between us. I am disposed to help your Grace to the best of
    my ability, but, in order to do so, I must understand to the last detail how the
    matter stands. I realize that your words applied to Mr. James Wilder, and that he
    is not the murderer.”
    “No, the murderer has escaped.”
    Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely.
    “Your Grace can hardly have heard of any small reputation which I possess, or
    you would not imagine that it is so easy to escape me. Mr. Reuben Hayes was
    arrested at Chesterfield, on my information, at eleven o’clock last night. I had a
    telegram from the head of the local police before I left the school this morning.”
    The Duke leaned back in his chair and stared with amazement at my friend.
    “You seem to have powers that are hardly human,” said he. “So Reuben Hayes
    is taken? I am right glad to hear it, if it will not react upon the fate of James.”
    “Your secretary?”
    “No, sir, my son.”
    It was Holmes’s turn to look astonished.
    “I confess that this is entirely new to me, your Grace. I must beg you to be
    more explicit.”
    “I will conceal nothing from you. I agree with you that complete frankness,
    however painful it may be to me, is the best policy in this desperate situation to
    which James’s folly and jealousy have reduced us. When I was a very young
    man, Mr. Holmes, I loved with such a love as comes only once in a lifetime. I
    offered the lady marriage, but she refused it on the grounds that such a match
    might mar my career. Had she lived, I would certainly never have married
    anyone else. She died, and left this one child, whom for her sake I have
    cherished and cared for. I could not acknowledge the paternity to the world, but I
    gave him the best of educations, and since he came to manhood I have kept him
    near my person. He surmised my secret, and has presumed ever since upon the
    claim which he has upon me, and upon his power of provoking a scandal which
    would be abhorrent to me. His presence had something to do with the unhappy
    issue of my marriage. Above all, he hated my young legitimate heir from the
    first with a persistent hatred. You may well ask me why, under these
    circumstances, I still kept James under my roof. I answer that it was because I
    could see his mother’s face in his, and that for her dear sake there was no end to
    my long-suffering. All her pretty ways too—there was not one of them which he
    could not suggest and bring back to my memory. I could not send him away. But
    I feared so much lest he should do Arthur—that is, Lord Saltire—a mischief, that
    I dispatched him for safety to Dr. Huxtable’s school.
    “James came into contact with this fellow Hayes, because the man was a
    tenant of mine, and James acted as agent. The fellow was a rascal from the
    beginning, but, in some extraordinary way, James became intimate with him. He
    had always a taste for low company. When James determined to kidnap Lord
    Saltire, it was of this man’s service that he availed himself. You remember that I
    wrote to Arthur upon that last day. Well, James opened the letter and inserted a
    note asking Arthur to meet him in a little wood called the Ragged Shaw, which is
    near to the school. He used the Duchess’s name, and in that way got the boy to
    come. That evening James bicycled over—I am telling you what he has himself
    confessed to me—and he told Arthur, whom he met in the wood, that his mother
    longed to see him, that she was awaiting him on the moor, and that if he would
    come back into the wood at midnight he would find a man with a horse, who
    would take him to her. Poor Arthur fell into the trap. He came to the
    appointment, and found this fellow Hayes with a led pony. Arthur mounted, and
    they set off together. It appears—though this James only heard yesterday—that
    they were pursued, that Hayes struck the pursuer with his stick, and that the man
    died of his injuries. Hayes brought Arthur to his public-house, the Fighting
    Cock, where he was confined in an upper room, under the care of Mrs. Hayes,
    who is a kindly woman, but entirely under the control of her brutal husband.
    “Well, Mr. Holmes, that was the state of affairs when I first saw you two days
    ago. I had no more idea of the truth than you. You will ask me what was James’s
    motive in doing such a deed. I answer that there was a great deal which was
    unreasoning and fanatical in the hatred which he bore my heir. In his view he
    should himself have been heir of all my estates, and he deeply resented those
    social laws which made it impossible. At the same time, he had a definite motive
    also. He was eager that I should break the entail, and he was of opinion that it
    lay in my power to do so. He intended to make a bargain with me—to restore
    Arthur if I would break the entail, and so make it possible for the estate to be left
    to him by will. He knew well that I should never willingly invoke the aid of the
    police against him. I say that he would have proposed such a bargain to me, but
    he did not actually do so, for events moved too quickly for him, and he had not
    time to put his plans into practice.
    “What brought all his wicked scheme to wreck was your discovery of this
    man Heidegger’s dead body. James was seized with horror at the news. It came
    to us yesterday, as we sat together in this study. Dr. Huxtable had sent a
    telegram. James was so overwhelmed with grief and agitation that my
    suspicions, which had never been entirely absent, rose instantly to a certainty,
    and I taxed him with the deed. He made a complete voluntary confession. Then
    he implored me to keep his secret for three days longer, so as to give his
    wretched accomplice a chance of saving his guilty life. I yielded—as I have
    always yielded—to his prayers, and instantly James hurried off to the Fighting
    Cock to warn Hayes and give him the means of flight. I could not go there by
    daylight without provoking comment, but as soon as night fell I hurried off to
    see my dear Arthur. I found him safe and well, but horrified beyond expression
    by the dreadful deed he had witnessed. In deference to my promise, and much
    against my will, I consented to leave him there for three days, under the charge
    of Mrs. Hayes, since it was evident that it was impossible to inform the police
    where he was without telling them also who was the murderer, and I could not
    see how that murderer could be punished without ruin to my unfortunate James.
    You asked for frankness, Mr. Holmes, and I have taken you at your word, for I
    have now told you everything without an attempt at circumlocution or
    concealment. Do you in turn be as frank with me.”
    “I will,” said Holmes. “In the first place, your Grace, I am bound to tell you
    that you have placed yourself in a most serious position in the eyes of the law.
    You have condoned a felony, and you have aided the escape of a murderer, for I
    cannot doubt that any money which was taken by James Wilder to aid his
    accomplice in his flight came from your Grace’s purse.”
    The Duke bowed his assent.
    “This is, indeed, a most serious matter. Even more culpable in my opinion,
    your Grace, is your attitude towards your younger son. You leave him in this den
    for three days.”
    “Under solemn promises——”
    “What are promises to such people as these? You have no guarantee that he
    will not be spirited away again. To humour your guilty elder son, you have
    exposed your innocent younger son to imminent and unnecessary danger. It was
    a most unjustifiable action.”
    The proud lord of Holdernesse was not accustomed to be so rated in his own
    ducal hall. The blood flushed into his high forehead, but his conscience held him
    dumb.
    “I will help you, but on one condition only. It is that you ring for the footman
    and let me give such orders as I like.”
    Without a word, the Duke pressed the electric bell. A servant entered.
    “You will be glad to hear,” said Holmes, “that your young master is found. It
    is the Duke’s desire that the carriage shall go at once to the Fighting Cock Inn to
    bring Lord Saltire home.
    “Now,” said Holmes, when the rejoicing lackey had disappeared, “having
    secured the future, we can afford to be more lenient with the past. I am not in an
    official position, and there is no reason, so long as the ends of justice are served,
    why I should disclose all that I know. As to Hayes, I say nothing. The gallows
    awaits him, and I would do nothing to save him from it. What he will divulge I
    cannot tell, but I have no doubt that your Grace could make him understand that
    it is to his interest to be silent. From the police point of view he will have
    kidnapped the boy for the purpose of ransom. If they do not themselves find it
    out, I see no reason why I should prompt them to take a broader point of view. I
    would warn your Grace, however, that the continued presence of Mr. James
    Wilder in your household can only lead to misfortune.”
    “I understand that, Mr. Holmes, and it is already settled that he shall leave me
    forever, and go to seek his fortune in Australia.”
    “In that case, your Grace, since you have yourself stated that any unhappiness
    in your married life was caused by his presence I would suggest that you make
    such amends as you can to the Duchess, and that you try to resume those
    relations which have been so unhappily interrupted.”
    “That also I have arranged, Mr. Holmes. I wrote to the Duchess this morning.”
    “In that case,” said Holmes, rising, “I think that my friend and I can
    congratulate ourselves upon several most happy results from our little visit to the
    North. There is one other small point upon which I desire some light. This fellow
    Hayes had shod his horses with shoes which counterfeited the tracks of cows.
    Was it from Mr. Wilder that he learned so extraordinary a device?”
    The Duke stood in thought for a moment, with a look of intense surprise on
    his face. Then he opened a door and showed us into a large room furnished as a
    museum. He led the way to a glass case in a corner, and pointed to the
    inscription.
    “These shoes,” it ran, “were dug up in the moat of Holdernesse Hall. They are
    for the use of horses, but they are shaped below with a cloven foot of iron, so as
    to throw pursuers off the track. They are supposed to have belonged to some of
    the marauding Barons of Holdernesse in the Middle Ages.”
    Holmes opened the case, and moistening his finger he passed it along the
    shoe. A thin film of recent mud was left upon his skin.
    “Thank you,” said he, as he replaced the glass. “It is the second most
    interesting object that I have seen in the North.”
    “And the first?”
    Holmes folded up his check and placed it carefully in his notebook. “I am a
    poor man,” said he, as he patted it affectionately, and thrust it into the depths of
    his inner pocket.

THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER
I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical,
than in the year ’95. His increasing fame had brought with it an immense
practice, and I should be guilty of an indiscretion if I were even to hint at the
identity of some of the illustrious clients who crossed our humble threshold in
Baker Street. Holmes, however, like all great artists, lived for his art’s sake, and,
save in the case of the Duke of Holdernesse, I have seldom known him claim
any large reward for his inestimable services. So unworldly was he—or so
capricious—that he frequently refused his help to the powerful and wealthy
where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while he would devote
weeks of most intense application to the affairs of some humble client whose
case presented those strange and dramatic qualities which appealed to his
imagination and challenged his ingenuity.
In this memorable year ’95, a curious and incongruous succession of cases
had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudden
death of Cardinal Tosca—an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express
desire of His Holiness the Pope—down to his arrest of Wilson, the notorious
canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East End of London.
Close on the heels of these two famous cases came the tragedy of Woodman’s
Lee, and the very obscure circumstances which surrounded the death of Captain
Peter Carey. No record of the doings of Mr. Sherlock Holmes would be complete
which did not include some account of this very unusual affair.
During the first week of July, my friend had been absent so often and so long
from our lodgings that I knew he had something on hand. The fact that several
rough-looking men called during that time and inquired for Captain Basil made
me understand that Holmes was working somewhere under one of the numerous
disguises and names with which he concealed his own formidable identity. He
had at least five small refuges in different parts of London, in which he was able
to change his personality. He said nothing of his business to me, and it was not
my habit to force a confidence. The first positive sign which he gave me of the
direction which his investigation was taking was an extraordinary one. He had
gone out before breakfast, and I had sat down to mine when he strode into the
room, his hat upon his head and a huge barbed-headed spear tucked like an
umbrella under his arm.
“Good gracious, Holmes!” I cried. “You don’t mean to say that you have been
walking about London with that thing?”
“I drove to the butcher’s and back.”
“The butcher’s?”
“And I return with an excellent appetite. There can be no question, my dear
Watson, of the value of exercise before breakfast. But I am prepared to bet that
you will not guess the form that my exercise has taken.”
“I will not attempt it.”
He chuckled as he poured out the coffee.
“If you could have looked into Allardyce’s back shop, you would have seen a
dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a gentleman in his shirt sleeves
furiously stabbing at it with this weapon. I was that energetic person, and I have
satisfied myself that by no exertion of my strength can I transfix the pig with a
single blow. Perhaps you would care to try?”
“Not for worlds. But why were you doing this?”
“Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon the mystery of
Woodman’s Lee. Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire last night, and I have been
expecting you. Come and join us.”
Our visitor was an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age, dressed in a
quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of one who was accustomed to
official uniform. I recognized him at once as Stanley Hopkins, a young police
inspector, for whose future Holmes had high hopes, while he in turn professed
the admiration and respect of a pupil for the scientific methods of the famous
amateur. Hopkins’s brow was clouded, and he sat down with an air of deep
dejection.
“No, thank you, sir. I breakfasted before I came round. I spent the night in
town, for I came up yesterday to report.”
“And what had you to report?”
“Failure, sir, absolute failure.”
“You have made no progress?”
“None.”
“Dear me! I must have a look at the matter.”
“I wish to heavens that you would, Mr. Holmes. It’s my first big chance, and I
am at my wits’ end. For goodness’sake, come down and lend me a hand.”
“Well, well, it just happens that I have already read all the available evidence,
including the report of the inquest, with some care. By the way, what do you
make of that tobacco pouch, found on the scene of the crime? Is there no clue
there?”
Hopkins looked surprised.
“It was the man’s own pouch, sir. His initials were inside it. And it was of
sealskin,—and he was an old sealer.”
“But he had no pipe.”
“No, sir, we could find no pipe. Indeed, he smoked very little, and yet he
might have kept some tobacco for his friends.”
“No doubt. I only mention it because, if I had been handling the case, I should
have been inclined to make that the starting-point of my investigation. However,
my friend, Dr. Watson, knows nothing of this matter, and I should be none the
worse for hearing the sequence of events once more. Just give us some short
sketches of the essentials.”
Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket.
“I have a few dates here which will give you the career of the dead man,
Captain Peter Carey. He was born in ’45—fifty years of age. He was a most
daring and successful seal and whale fisher. In 1883 he commanded the steam
sealer Sea Unicorn, of Dundee. He had then had several successful voyages in
succession, and in the following year, 1884, he retired. After that he travelled for
some years, and finally he bought a small place called Woodman’s Lee, near
Forest Row, in Sussex. There he has lived for six years, and there he died just a
week ago to-day.
“There were some most singular points about the man. In ordinary life, he was
a strict Puritan—a silent, gloomy fellow. His household consisted of his wife, his
daughter, aged twenty, and two female servants. These last were continually
changing, for it was never a very cheery situation, and sometimes it became past
all bearing. The man was an intermittent drunkard, and when he had the fit on
him he was a perfect fiend. He has been known to drive his wife and daughter
out of doors in the middle of the night and flog them through the park until the
whole village outside the gates was aroused by their screams.
“He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the old vicar, who had
called upon him to remonstrate with him upon his conduct. In short, Mr. Holmes,
you would go far before you found a more dangerous man than Peter Carey, and
I have heard that he bore the same character when he commanded his ship. He
was known in the trade as Black Peter, and the name was given him, not only on
account of his swarthy features and the colour of his huge beard, but for the
humours which were the terror of all around him. I need not say that he was
loathed and avoided by every one of his neighbours, and that I have not heard
one single word of sorrow about his terrible end.
“You must have read in the account of the inquest about the man’s cabin, Mr.
Holmes, but perhaps your friend here has not heard of it. He had built himself a
wooden outhouse—he always called it the ‘cabin’—a few hundred yards from
his house, and it was here that he slept every night. It was a little, single-roomed
hut, sixteen feet by ten. He kept the key in his pocket, made his own bed,
cleaned it himself, and allowed no other foot to cross the threshold. There are
small windows on each side, which were covered by curtains and never opened.
One of these windows was turned towards the high road, and when the light
burned in it at night the folk used to point it out to each other and wonder what
Black Peter was doing in there. That’s the window, Mr. Holmes, which gave us
one of the few bits of positive evidence that came out at the inquest.
“You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking from Forest Row
about one o’clock in the morning—two days before the murder—stopped as he
passed the grounds and looked at the square of light still shining among the
trees. He swears that the shadow of a man’s head turned sideways was clearly
visible on the blind, and that this shadow was certainly not that of Peter Carey,
whom he knew well. It was that of a bearded man, but the beard was short and
bristled forward in a way very different from that of the captain. So he says, but
he had been two hours in the public-house, and it is some distance from the road
to the window. Besides, this refers to the Monday, and the crime was done upon
the Wednesday.
“On the Tuesday, Peter Carey was in one of his blackest moods, flushed with
drink and as savage as a dangerous wild beast. He roamed about the house, and
the women ran for it when they heard him coming. Late in the evening, he went
down to his own hut. About two o’clock the following morning, his daughter,
who slept with her window open, heard a most fearful yell from that direction,
but it was no unusual thing for him to bawl and shout when he was in drink, so
no notice was taken. On rising at seven, one of the maids noticed that the door of
the hut was open, but so great was the terror which the man caused that it was
midday before anyone would venture down to see what had become of him.
Peeping into the open door, they saw a sight which sent them flying, with white
faces, into the village. Within an hour, I was on the spot and had taken over the
case.
“Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr. Holmes, but I give you
my word, that I got a shake when I put my head into that little house. It was
droning like a harmonium with the flies and bluebottles, and the floor and walls
were like a slaughter-house. He had called it a cabin, and a cabin it was, sure
enough, for you would have thought that you were in a ship. There was a bunk at
one end, a sea-chest, maps and charts, a picture of the Sea Unicorn, a line of
logbooks on a shelf, all exactly as one would expect to find it in a captain’s
room. And there, in the middle of it, was the man himself—his face twisted like
a lost soul in torment, and his great brindled beard stuck upward in his agony.
Right through his broad breast a steel harpoon had been driven, and it had sunk
deep into the wood of the wall behind him. He was pinned like a beetle on a
card. Of course, he was quite dead, and had been so from the instant that he had
uttered that last yell of agony.
“I know your methods, sir, and I applied them. Before I permitted anything to
be moved, I examined most carefully the ground outside, and also the floor of
the room. There were no footmarks.”
“Meaning that you saw none?”
“I assure you, sir, that there were none.”
“My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I have never yet
seen one which was committed by a flying creature. As long as the criminal
remains upon two legs so long must there be some indentation, some abrasion,
some trifling displacement which can be detected by the scientific searcher. It is
incredible that this blood-bespattered room contained no trace which could have
aided us. I understand, however, from the inquest that there were some objects
which you failed to overlook?”
The young inspector winced at my companion’s ironical comments.
“I was a fool not to call you in at the time Mr. Holmes. However, that’s past
praying for now. Yes, there were several objects in the room which called for
special attention. One was the harpoon with which the deed was committed. It
had been snatched down from a rack on the wall. Two others remained there, and
there was a vacant place for the third. On the stock was engraved ‘SS. Sea
Unicorn, Dundee.’ This seemed to establish that the crime had been done in a
moment of fury, and that the murderer had seized the first weapon which came in
his way. The fact that the crime was committed at two in the morning, and yet
Peter Carey was fully dressed, suggested that he had an appointment with the
murderer, which is borne out by the fact that a bottle of rum and two dirty
glasses stood upon the table.”
“Yes,” said Holmes; “I think that both inferences are permissible. Was there
any other spirit but rum in the room?”
“Yes, there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky on the sea-chest. It is
of no importance to us, however, since the decanters were full, and it had
therefore not been used.”
“For all that, its presence has some significance,” said Holmes. “However, let
us hear some more about the objects which do seem to you to bear upon the
case.”
“There was this tobacco-pouch upon the table.”
“What part of the table?”
“It lay in the middle. It was of coarse sealskin—the straight-haired skin, with
a leather thong to bind it. Inside was ‘P.C.’ on the flap. There was half an ounce
of strong ship’s tobacco in it.”
“Excellent! What more?”
Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket a drab-covered notebook. The outside
was rough and worn, the leaves discoloured. On the first page were written the
initials “J.H.N.” and the date “1883.” Holmes laid it on the table and examined it
in his minute way, while Hopkins and I gazed over each shoulder. On the second
page were the printed letters “C.P.R.,” and then came several sheets of numbers.
Another heading was “Argentine,” another “Costa Rica,” and another “San
Paulo,” each with pages of signs and figures after it.
“What do you make of these?” asked Holmes.
“They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities. I thought that ‘J.H.N.’
were the initials of a broker, and that ‘C.P.R.’ may have been his client.”
“Try Canadian Pacific Railway,” said Holmes.
Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth, and struck his thigh with his
clenched hand.
“What a fool I have been!” he cried. “Of course, it is as you say. Then ‘J.H.N.’
are the only initials we have to solve. I have already examined the old Stock
Exchange lists, and I can find no one in 1883, either in the house or among the
outside brokers, whose initials correspond with these. Yet I feel that the clue is
the most important one that I hold. You will admit, Mr. Holmes, that there is a
possibility that these initials are those of the second person who was present—in
other words, of the murderer. I would also urge that the introduction into the case
of a document relating to large masses of valuable securities gives us for the first
time some indication of a motive for the crime.”
Sherlock Holmes’s face showed that he was thoroughly taken aback by this
new development.
“I must admit both your points,” said he. “I confess that this notebook, which
did not appear at the inquest, modifies any views which I may have formed. I
had come to a theory of the crime in which I can find no place for this. Have you
endeavoured to trace any of the securities here mentioned?”
“Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but I fear that the complete
register of the stockholders of these South American concerns is in South
America, and that some weeks must elapse before we can trace the shares.”
Holmes had been examining the cover of the notebook with his magnifying
lens.
“Surely there is some discolouration here,” said he.
“Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. I told you that I picked the book off the floor.”
“Was the blood-stain above or below?”
“On the side next the boards.”
“Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after the crime was
committed.”
“Exactly, Mr. Holmes. I appreciated that point, and I conjectured that it was
dropped by the murderer in his hurried flight. It lay near the door.”
“I suppose that none of these securities have been found among the property
of the dead man?”
“No, sir.”
“Have you any reason to suspect robbery?”
“No, sir. Nothing seemed to have been touched.”
“Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case. Then there was a knife, was
there not?”
“A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. It lay at the feet of the dead man. Mrs.
Carey has identified it as being her husband’s property.”
Holmes was lost in thought for some time.
“Well,” said he, at last, “I suppose I shall have to come out and have a look at
it.”
Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy.
“Thank you, sir. That will, indeed, be a weight off my mind.”
Holmes shook his finger at the inspector.
“It would have been an easier task a week ago,” said he. “But even now my
visit may not be entirely fruitless. Watson, if you can spare the time, I should be
very glad of your company. If you will call a four-wheeler, Hopkins, we shall be
ready to start for Forest Row in a quarter of an hour.”
Alighting at the small wayside station, we drove for some miles through the
remains of widespread woods, which were once part of that great forest which
for so long held the Saxon invaders at bay—the impenetrable “weald,” for sixty
years the bulwark of Britain. Vast sections of it have been cleared, for this is the
seat of the first iron-works of the country, and the trees have been felled to smelt
the ore. Now the richer fields of the North have absorbed the trade, and nothing
save these ravaged groves and great scars in the earth show the work of the past.
Here, in a clearing upon the green slope of a hill, stood a long, low, stone house,
approached by a curving drive running through the fields. Nearer the road, and
surrounded on three sides by bushes, was a small outhouse, one window and the
door facing in our direction. It was the scene of the murder.
Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced us to a haggard,
grey-haired woman, the widow of the murdered man, whose gaunt and deeplined face, with the furtive look of terror in the depths of her red-rimmed eyes,
told of the years of hardship and ill-usage which she had endured. With her was
her daughter, a pale, fair-haired girl, whose eyes blazed defiantly at us as she told
us that she was glad that her father was dead, and that she blessed the hand
which had struck him down. It was a terrible household that Black Peter Carey
had made for himself, and it was with a sense of relief that we found ourselves in
the sunlight again and making our way along a path which had been worn across
the fields by the feet of the dead man.
The outhouse was the simplest of dwellings, wooden-walled, shingle-roofed,
one window beside the door and one on the farther side. Stanley Hopkins drew
the key from his pocket and had stooped to the lock, when he paused with a look
of attention and surprise upon his face.
“Someone has been tampering with it,” he said.
There could be no doubt of the fact. The woodwork was cut, and the scratches
showed white through the paint, as if they had been that instant done. Holmes
had been examining the window.
“Someone has tried to force this also. Whoever it was has failed to make his
way in. He must have been a very poor burglar.”
“This is a most extraordinary thing,” said the inspector, “I could swear that
these marks were not here yesterday evening.”
“Some curious person from the village, perhaps,” I suggested.
“Very unlikely. Few of them would dare to set foot in the grounds, far less try
to force their way into the cabin. What do you think of it, Mr. Holmes?”
“I think that fortune is very kind to us.”
“You mean that the person will come again?”
“It is very probable. He came expecting to find the door open. He tried to get
in with the blade of a very small penknife. He could not manage it. What would
he do?”
“Come again next night with a more useful tool.”
“So I should say. It will be our fault if we are not there to receive him.
Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin.”
The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture within the little
room still stood as it had been on the night of the crime. For two hours, with
most intense concentration, Holmes examined every object in turn, but his face
showed that his quest was not a successful one. Once only he paused in his
patient investigation.
“Have you taken anything off this shelf, Hopkins?”
“No, I have moved nothing.”
“Something has been taken. There is less dust in this corner of the shelf than
elsewhere. It may have been a book lying on its side. It may have been a box.
Well, well, I can do nothing more. Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson,
and give a few hours to the birds and the flowers. We shall meet you here later,
Hopkins, and see if we can come to closer quarters with the gentleman who has
paid this visit in the night.”
It was past eleven o’clock when we formed our little ambuscade. Hopkins was
for leaving the door of the hut open, but Holmes was of the opinion that this
would rouse the suspicions of the stranger. The lock was a perfectly simple one,
and only a strong blade was needed to push it back. Holmes also suggested that
we should wait, not inside the hut, but outside it, among the bushes which grew
round the farther window. In this way we should be able to watch our man if he
struck a light, and see what his object was in this stealthy nocturnal visit.
It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it something of the
thrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside the water-pool, and waits for the
coming of the thirsty beast of prey. What savage creature was it which might
steal upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which could
only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be
some skulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded?
In absolute silence we crouched amongst the bushes, waiting for whatever
might come. At first the steps of a few belated villagers, or the sound of voices
from the village, lightened our vigil, but one by one these interruptions died
away, and an absolute stillness fell upon us, save for the chimes of the distant
church, which told us of the progress of the night, and for the rustle and whisper
of a fine rain falling amid the foliage which roofed us in.
Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which precedes the
dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click came from the direction of the
gate. Someone had entered the drive. Again there was a long silence, and I had
begun to fear that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon the
other side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic scraping and clinking. The
man was trying to force the lock. This time his skill was greater or his tool was
better, for there was a sudden snap and the creak of the hinges. Then a match
was struck, and next instant the steady light from a candle filled the interior of
the hut. Through the gauze curtain our eyes were all riveted upon the scene
within.
The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with a black moustache,
which intensified the deadly pallor of his face. He could not have been much
above twenty years of age. I have never seen any human being who appeared to
be in such a pitiable fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering, and he was
shaking in every limb. He was dressed like a gentleman, in Norfolk jacket and
knickerbockers, with a cloth cap upon his head. We watched him staring round
with frightened eyes. Then he laid the candle-end upon the table and disappeared
from our view into one of the corners. He returned with a large book, one of the
logbooks which formed a line upon the shelves. Leaning on the table, he rapidly
turned over the leaves of this volume until he came to the entry which he sought.
Then, with an angry gesture of his clenched hand, he closed the book, replaced it
in the corner, and put out the light. He had hardly turned to leave the hut when
Hopkin’s hand was on the fellow’s collar, and I heard his loud gasp of terror as
he understood that he was taken. The candle was relit, and there was our
wretched captive, shivering and cowering in the grasp of the detective. He sank
down upon the sea-chest, and looked helplessly from one of us to the other.
“Now, my fine fellow,” said Stanley Hopkins, “who are you, and what do you
want here?”
The man pulled himself together, and faced us with an effort at selfcomposure.
“You are detectives, I suppose?” said he. “You imagine I am connected with
the death of Captain Peter Carey. I assure you that I am innocent.”
“We’ll see about that,” said Hopkins. “First of all, what is your name?”
“It is John Hopley Neligan.”
I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance.
“What are you doing here?”
“Can I speak confidentially?”
“No, certainly not.”
“Why should I tell you?”
“If you have no answer, it may go badly with you at the trial.”
The young man winced.
“Well, I will tell you,” he said. “Why should I not? And yet I hate to think of
this old scandal gaining a new lease of life. Did you ever hear of Dawson and
Neligan?”
I could see, from Hopkins’s face, that he never had, but Holmes was keenly
interested.
“You mean the West Country bankers,” said he. “They failed for a million,
ruined half the county families of Cornwall, and Neligan disappeared.”
“Exactly. Neligan was my father.”
At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed a long gap
between an absconding banker and Captain Peter Carey pinned against the wall
with one of his own harpoons. We all listened intently to the young man’s words.
“It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had retired. I was only
ten years of age at the time, but I was old enough to feel the shame and horror of
it all. It has always been said that my father stole all the securities and fled. It is
not true. It was his belief that if he were given time in which to realize them, all
would be well and every creditor paid in full. He started in his little yacht for
Norway just before the warrant was issued for his arrest. I can remember that
last night when he bade farewell to my mother. He left us a list of the securities
he was taking, and he swore that he would come back with his honour cleared,
and that none who had trusted him would suffer. Well, no word was ever heard
from him again. Both the yacht and he vanished utterly. We believed, my mother
and I, that he and it, with the securities that he had taken with him, were at the
bottom of the sea. We had a faithful friend, however, who is a business man, and
it was he who discovered some time ago that some of the securities which my
father had with him had reappeared on the London market. You can imagine our
amazement. I spent months in trying to trace them, and at last, after many
doubtings and difficulties, I discovered that the original seller had been Captain
Peter Carey, the owner of this hut.
“Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found that he had been in
command of a whaler which was due to return from the Arctic seas at the very
time when my father was crossing to Norway. The autumn of that year was a
stormy one, and there was a long succession of southerly gales. My father’s
yacht may well have been blown to the north, and there met by Captain Peter
Carey’s ship. If that were so, what had become of my father? In any case, if I
could prove from Peter Carey’s evidence how these securities came on the
market it would be a proof that my father had not sold them, and that he had no
view to personal profit when he took them.
“I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the captain, but it was at
this moment that his terrible death occurred. I read at the inquest a description of
his cabin, in which it stated that the old logbooks of his vessel were preserved in
it. It struck me that if I could see what occurred in the month of August, 1883, on
board the Sea Unicorn, I might settle the mystery of my father’s fate. I tried last
night to get at these logbooks, but was unable to open the door. To-night I tried
again and succeeded, but I find that the pages which deal with that month have
been torn from the book. It was at that moment I found myself a prisoner in your
hands.”
“Is that all?” asked Hopkins.
“Yes, that is all.” His eyes shifted as he said it.
“You have nothing else to tell us?”
He hesitated.
“No, there is nothing.”
“You have not been here before last night?”
“No.
“Then how do you account for that?” cried Hopkins, as he held up the
damning notebook, with the initials of our prisoner on the first leaf and the
blood-stain on the cover.
The wretched man collapsed. He sank his face in his hands, and trembled all
over.
“Where did you get it?” he groaned. “I did not know. I thought I had lost it at
the hotel.”
“That is enough,” said Hopkins, sternly. “Whatever else you have to say, you
must say in court. You will walk down with me now to the police-station. Well,
Mr. Holmes, I am very much obliged to you and to your friend for coming down
to help me. As it turns out your presence was unnecessary, and I would have
brought the case to this successful issue without you, but, none the less, I am
grateful. Rooms have been reserved for you at the Brambletye Hotel, so we can
all walk down to the village together.”
“Well, Watson, what do you think of it?” asked Holmes, as we travelled back
next morning.
“I can see that you are not satisfied.”
“Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At the same time, Stanley
Hopkins’s methods do not commend themselves to me. I am disappointed in
Stanley Hopkins. I had hoped for better things from him. One should always
look for a possible alternative, and provide against it. It is the first rule of
criminal investigation.”
“What, then, is the alternative?”
“The line of investigation which I have myself been pursuing. It may give us
nothing. I cannot tell. But at least I shall follow it to the end.”
Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He snatched one of
them up, opened it, and burst out into a triumphant chuckle of laughter.
“Excellent, Watson! The alternative develops. Have you telegraph forms? Just
write a couple of messages for me: ‘Sumner, Shipping Agent, Ratcliff Highway.
Send three men on, to arrive ten to-morrow morning.—Basil.’ That’s my name in
those parts. The other is: ‘Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 46 Lord Street, Brixton.
Come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty. Important. Wire if unable to come.—
Sherlock Holmes.’ There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me for ten days.
I hereby banish it completely from my presence. To-morrow, I trust that we shall
hear the last of it forever.”
Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins appeared, and we sat
down together to the excellent breakfast which Mrs. Hudson had prepared. The
young detective was in high spirits at his success.
“You really think that your solution must be correct?” asked Holmes.
“I could not imagine a more complete case.”
“It did not seem to me conclusive.”
“You astonish me, Mr. Holmes. What more could one ask for?”
“Does your explanation cover every point?”
“Undoubtedly. I find that young Neligan arrived at the Brambletye Hotel on
the very day of the crime. He came on the pretence of playing golf. His room
was on the ground-floor, and he could get out when he liked. That very night he
went down to Woodman’s Lee, saw Peter Carey at the hut, quarrelled with him,
and killed him with the harpoon. Then, horrified by what he had done, he fled
out of the hut, dropping the notebook which he had brought with him in order to
question Peter Carey about these different securities. You may have observed
that some of them were marked with ticks, and the others—the great majority—
were not. Those which are ticked have been traced on the London market, but
the others, presumably, were still in the possession of Carey, and young Neligan,
according to his own account, was anxious to recover them in order to do the
right thing by his father’s creditors. After his flight he did not dare to approach
the hut again for some time, but at last he forced himself to do so in order to
obtain the information which he needed. Surely that is all simple and obvious?”
Holmes smiled and shook his head.
“It seems to me to have only one drawback, Hopkins, and that is that it is
intrinsically impossible. Have you tried to drive a harpoon through a body? No?
Tut, tut my dear sir, you must really pay attention to these details. My friend
Watson could tell you that I spent a whole morning in that exercise. It is no easy
matter, and requires a strong and practised arm. But this blow was delivered with
such violence that the head of the weapon sank deep into the wall. Do you
imagine that this anæmic youth was capable of so frightful an assault? Is he the
man who hobnobbed in rum and water with Black Peter in the dead of the night?
Was it his profile that was seen on the blind two nights before? No, no, Hopkins,
it is another and more formidable person for whom we must seek.”
The detective’s face had grown longer and longer during Holmes’s speech.
His hopes and his ambitions were all crumbling about him. But he would not
abandon his position without a struggle.
“You can’t deny that Neligan was present that night, Mr. Holmes. The book
will prove that. I fancy that I have evidence enough to satisfy a jury, even if you
are able to pick a hole in it. Besides, Mr. Holmes, I have laid my hand upon my
man. As to this terrible person of yours, where is he?”
“I rather fancy that he is on the stair,” said Holmes, serenely. “I think, Watson,
that you would do well to put that revolver where you can reach it.” He rose and
laid a written paper upon a side-table. “Now we are ready,” said he.
There had been some talking in gruff voices outside, and now Mrs. Hudson
opened the door to say that there were three men inquiring for Captain Basil.
“Show them in one by one,” said Holmes.
“The first who entered was a little Ribston pippin of a man, with ruddy cheeks
and fluffy white side-whiskers. Holmes had drawn a letter from his pocket.
“What name?” he asked.
“James Lancaster.”
“I am sorry, Lancaster, but the berth is full. Here is half a sovereign for your
trouble. Just step into this room and wait there for a few minutes.”
The second man was a long, dried-up creature, with lank hair and sallow
cheeks. His name was Hugh Pattins. He also received his dismissal, his halfsovereign, and the order to wait.
The third applicant was a man of remarkable appearance. A fierce bull-dog
face was framed in a tangle of hair and beard, and two bold, dark eyes gleamed
behind the cover of thick, tufted, overhung eyebrows. He saluted and stood
sailor-fashion, turning his cap round in his hands.
“Your name?” asked Holmes.
“Patrick Cairns.”
“Harpooner?”
“Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages.”
“Dundee, I suppose?”
“Yes, sir.”
“And ready to start with an exploring ship?”
“Yes, sir.”
“What wages?”
“Eight pounds a month.”
“Could you start at once?”
“As soon as I get my kit.”
“Have you your papers?”
“Yes, sir.” He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms from his pocket. Holmes
glanced over them and returned them.
“You are just the man I want,” said he. “Here’s the agreement on the sidetable. If you sign it the whole matter will be settled.”
The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen.
“Shall I sign here?” he asked, stooping over the table.
Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over his neck.
“This will do,” said he.
I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull. The next instant
Holmes and the seaman were rolling on the ground together. He was a man of
such gigantic strength that, even with the handcuffs which Holmes had so deftly
fastened upon his wrists, he would have very quickly overpowered my friend
had Hopkins and I not rushed to his rescue. Only when I pressed the cold muzzle
of the revolver to his temple did he at last understand that resistance was vain.
We lashed his ankles with cord, and rose breathless from the struggle.
“I must really apologize, Hopkins,” said Sherlock Holmes. “I fear that the
scrambled eggs are cold. However, you will enjoy the rest of your breakfast all
the better, will you not, for the thought that you have brought your case to a
triumphant conclusion.”
Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement.
“I don’t know what to say, Mr. Holmes,” he blurted out at last, with a very red
face. “It seems to me that I have been making a fool of myself from the
beginning. I understand now, what I should never have forgotten, that I am the
pupil and you are the master. Even now I see what you have done, but I don’t
know how you did it or what it signifies.”
“Well, well,” said Holmes, good-humouredly. “We all learn by experience,
and your lesson this time is that you should never lose sight of the alternative.
You were so absorbed in young Neligan that you could not spare a thought to
Patrick Cairns, the true murderer of Peter Carey.”
The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation.
“See here, mister,” said he, “I make no complaint of being man-handled in this
fashion, but I would have you call things by their right names. You say I
murdered Peter Carey, I say I killed Peter Carey, and there’s all the difference.
Maybe you don’t believe what I say. Maybe you think I am just slinging you a
yarn.”
“Not at all,” said Holmes. “Let us hear what you have to say.”
“It’s soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it is truth. I knew Black Peter,
and when he pulled out his knife I whipped a harpoon through him sharp, for I
knew that it was him or me. That’s how he died. You can call it murder. Anyhow,
I’d as soon die with a rope round my neck as with Black Peter’s knife in my
heart.”
“How came you there?” asked Holmes.
“I’ll tell it you from the beginning. Just sit me up a little, so as I can speak
easy. It was in ’83 that it happened—August of that year. Peter Carey was master
of the Sea Unicorn, and I was spare harpooner. We were coming out of the icepack on our way home, with head winds and a week’s southerly gale, when we
picked up a little craft that had been blown north. There was one man on her—a
landsman. The crew had thought she would founder and had made for the
Norwegian coast in the dinghy. I guess they were all drowned. Well, we took
him on board, this man, and he and the skipper had some long talks in the cabin.
All the baggage we took off with him was one tin box. So far as I know, the
man’s name was never mentioned, and on the second night he disappeared as if
he had never been. It was given out that he had either thrown himself overboard
or fallen overboard in the heavy weather that we were having. Only one man
knew what had happened to him, and that was me, for, with my own eyes, I saw
the skipper tip up his heels and put him over the rail in the middle watch of a
dark night, two days before we sighted the Shetland Lights. Well, I kept my
knowledge to myself, and waited to see what would come of it. When we got
back to Scotland it was easily hushed up, and nobody asked any questions. A
stranger died by accident and it was nobody’s business to inquire. Shortly after
Peter Carey gave up the sea, and it was long years before I could find where he
was. I guessed that he had done the deed for the sake of what was in that tin box,
and that he could afford now to pay me well for keeping my mouth shut. I found
out where he was through a sailor man that had met him in London, and down I
went to squeeze him. The first night he was reasonable enough, and was ready to
give me what would make me free of the sea for life. We were to fix it all two
nights later. When I came, I found him three parts drunk and in a vile temper. We
sat down and we drank and we yarned about old times, but the more he drank the
less I liked the look on his face. I spotted that harpoon upon the wall, and I
thought I might need it before I was through. Then at last he broke out at me,
spitting and cursing, with murder in his eyes and a great clasp-knife in his hand.
He had not time to get it from the sheath before I had the harpoon through him.
Heavens! what a yell he gave! and his face gets between me and my sleep. I
stood there, with his blood splashing round me, and I waited for a bit, but all was
quiet, so I took heart once more. I looked round, and there was the tin box on the
shelf. I had as much right to it as Peter Carey, anyhow, so I took it with me and
left the hut. Like a fool I left my baccy-pouch upon the table.
“Now I’ll tell you the queerest part of the whole story. I had hardly got outside
the hut when I heard someone coming, and I hid among the bushes. A man came
slinking along, went into the hut, gave a cry as if he had seen a ghost, and legged
it as hard as he could run until he was out of sight. Who he was or what he
wanted is more than I can tell. For my part I walked ten miles, got a train at
Tunbridge Wells, and so reached London, and no one the wiser.
“Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was no money in it, and
nothing but papers that I would not dare to sell. I had lost my hold on Black
Peter and was stranded in London without a shilling. There was only my trade
left. I saw these advertisements about harpooners, and high wages, so I went to
the shipping agents, and they sent me here. That’s all I know, and I say again that
if I killed Black Peter, the law should give me thanks, for I saved them the price
of a hempen rope.”
“A very clear statement said Holmes,” rising and lighting his pipe. “I think,
Hopkins, that you should lose no time in conveying your prisoner to a place of
safety. This room is not well adapted for a cell, and Mr. Patrick Cairns occupies
too large a proportion of our carpet.”
“Mr. Holmes,” said Hopkins, “I do not know how to express my gratitude.
Even now I do not understand how you attained this result.”
“Simply by having the good fortune to get the right clue from the beginning. It
is very possible if I had known about this notebook it might have led away my
thoughts, as it did yours. But all I heard pointed in the one direction. The
amazing strength, the skill in the use of the harpoon, the rum and water, the
sealskin tobacco-pouch with the coarse tobacco—all these pointed to a seaman,
and one who had been a whaler. I was convinced that the initials ‘P.C.’ upon the
pouch were a coincidence, and not those of Peter Carey, since he seldom
smoked, and no pipe was found in his cabin. You remember that I asked whether
whisky and brandy were in the cabin. You said they were. How many landsmen
are there who would drink rum when they could get these other spirits? Yes, I
was certain it was a seaman.”
“And how did you find him?”
“My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one. If it were a seaman,
it could only be a seaman who had been with him on the Sea Unicorn. So far as I
could learn he had sailed in no other ship. I spent three days in wiring to Dundee,
and at the end of that time I had ascertained the names of the crew of the Sea
Unicorn in 1883. When I found Patrick Cairns among the harpooners, my
research was nearing its end. I argued that the man was probably in London, and
that he would desire to leave the country for a time. I therefore spent some days
in the East End, devised an Arctic expedition, put forth tempting terms for
harpooners who would serve under Captain Basil—and behold the result!”
“Wonderful!” cried Hopkins. “Wonderful!”
“You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon as possible,” said
Holmes. “I confess that I think you owe him some apology. The tin box must be
returned to him, but, of course, the securities which Peter Carey has sold are lost
forever. There’s the cab, Hopkins, and you can remove your man. If you want
me for the trial, my address and that of Watson will be somewhere in Norway—
I’ll send particulars later.”

THE ADVENTURE OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS
MILVERTON
It is years since the incidents of which I speak took place, and yet it is with
diffidence that I allude to them. For a long time, even with the utmost discretion
and reticence, it would have been impossible to make the facts public, but now
the principal person concerned is beyond the reach of human law, and with due
suppression the story may be told in such fashion as to injure no one. It records
an absolutely unique experience in the career both of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and
of myself. The reader will excuse me if I conceal the date or any other fact by
which he might trace the actual occurrence.
We had been out for one of our evening rambles, Holmes and I, and had
returned about six o’clock on a cold, frosty winter’s evening. As Holmes turned
up the lamp the light fell upon a card on the table. He glanced at it, and then,
with an ejaculation of disgust, threw it on the floor. I picked it up and read:
CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON,
Appledore Towers,
Hampstead.
Agent.
“Who is he?” I asked.
“The worst man in London,” Holmes answered, as he sat down and stretched
his legs before the fire. “Is anything on the back of the card?”
I turned it over.
“Will call at 6:30—C.A.M.,” I read.
“Hum! He’s about due. Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson,
when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo, and see the slithery, gliding,
venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well,
that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my
career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this
fellow. And yet I can’t get out of doing business with him—indeed, he is here at
my invitation.”
“But who is he?”
“I’ll tell you, Watson. He is the king of all the blackmailers. Heaven help the
man, and still more the woman, whose secret and reputation come into the power
of Milverton! With a smiling face and a heart of marble, he will squeeze and
squeeze until he has drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his way, and
would have made his mark in some more savoury trade. His method is as
follows: He allows it to be known that he is prepared to pay very high sums for
letters which compromise people of wealth and position. He receives these wares
not only from treacherous valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians,
who have gained the confidence and affection of trusting women. He deals with
no niggard hand. I happen to know that he paid seven hundred pounds to a
footman for a note two lines in length, and that the ruin of a noble family was the
result. Everything which is in the market goes to Milverton, and there are
hundreds in this great city who turn white at his name. No one knows where his
grip may fall, for he is far too rich and far too cunning to work from hand to
mouth. He will hold a card back for years in order to play it at the moment when
the stake is best worth winning. I have said that he is the worst man in London,
and I would ask you how could one compare the ruffian, who in hot blood
bludgeons his mate, with this man, who methodically and at his leisure tortures
the soul and wrings the nerves in order to add to his already swollen moneybags?”
I had seldom heard my friend speak with such intensity of feeling.
“But surely,” said I, “the fellow must be within the grasp of the law?”
“Technically, no doubt, but practically not. What would it profit a woman, for
example, to get him a few months’ imprisonment if her own ruin must
immediately follow? His victims dare not hit back. If ever he blackmailed an
innocent person, then indeed we should have him, but he is as cunning as the
Evil One. No, no, we must find other ways to fight him.”
“And why is he here?”
“Because an illustrious client has placed her piteous case in my hands. It is the
Lady Eva Blackwell, the most beautiful débutante of last season. She is to be
married in a fortnight to the Earl of Dovercourt. This fiend has several imprudent
letters—imprudent, Watson, nothing worse—which were written to an
impecunious young squire in the country. They would suffice to break off the
match. Milverton will send the letters to the Earl unless a large sum of money is
paid him. I have been commissioned to meet him, and—to make the best terms I
can.”
At that instant there was a clatter and a rattle in the street below. Looking
down I saw a stately carriage and pair, the brilliant lamps gleaming on the glossy
haunches of the noble chestnuts. A footman opened the door, and a small, stout
man in a shaggy astrakhan overcoat descended. A minute later he was in the
room.
Charles Augustus Milverton was a man of fifty, with a large, intellectual head,
a round, plump, hairless face, a perpetual frozen smile, and two keen grey eyes,
which gleamed brightly from behind broad, gold-rimmed glasses. There was
something of Mr. Pickwick’s benevolence in his appearance, marred only by the
insincerity of the fixed smile and by the hard glitter of those restless and
penetrating eyes. His voice was as smooth and suave as his countenance, as he
advanced with a plump little hand extended, murmuring his regret for having
missed us at his first visit. Holmes disregarded the outstretched hand and looked
at him with a face of granite. Milverton’s smile broadened, he shrugged his
shoulders removed his overcoat, folded it with great deliberation over the back
of a chair, and then took a seat.
“This gentleman?” said he, with a wave in my direction. “Is it discreet? Is it
right?”
“Dr. Watson is my friend and partner.”
“Very good, Mr. Holmes. It is only in your client’s interests that I protested.
The matter is so very delicate——”
“Dr. Watson has already heard of it.”
“Then we can proceed to business. You say that you are acting for Lady Eva.
Has she empowered you to accept my terms?”
“What are your terms?”
“Seven thousand pounds.”
“And the alternative?”
“My dear sir, it is painful for me to discuss it, but if the money is not paid on
the 14th, there certainly will be no marriage on the 18th.” His insufferable smile
was more complacent than ever.
Holmes thought for a little.
“You appear to me,” he said, at last, “to be taking matters too much for
granted. I am, of course, familiar with the contents of these letters. My client will
certainly do what I may advise. I shall counsel her to tell her future husband the
whole story and to trust to his generosity.”
Milverton chuckled.
“You evidently do not know the Earl,” said he.
From the baffled look upon Holmes’s face, I could see clearly that he did.
“What harm is there in the letters?” he asked.
“They are sprightly—very sprightly,” Milverton answered. “The lady was a
charming correspondent. But I can assure you that the Earl of Dovercourt would
fail to appreciate them. However, since you think otherwise, we will let it rest at
that. It is purely a matter of business. If you think that it is in the best interests of
your client that these letters should be placed in the hands of the Earl, then you
would indeed be foolish to pay so large a sum of money to regain them.” He rose
and seized his astrakhan coat.
Holmes was grey with anger and mortification.
“Wait a little,” he said. “You go too fast. We should certainly make every
effort to avoid scandal in so delicate a matter.”
Milverton relapsed into his chair.
“I was sure that you would see it in that light,” he purred.
“At the same time,” Holmes continued, “Lady Eva is not a wealthy woman. I
assure you that two thousand pounds would be a drain upon her resources, and
that the sum you name is utterly beyond her power. I beg, therefore, that you will
moderate your demands, and that you will return the letters at the price I
indicate, which is, I assure you, the highest that you can get.”
Milverton’s smile broadened and his eyes twinkled humorously.
“I am aware that what you say is true about the lady’s resources,” said he. “At
the same time you must admit that the occasion of a lady’s marriage is a very
suitable time for her friends and relatives to make some little effort upon her
behalf. They may hesitate as to an acceptable wedding present. Let me assure
them that this little bundle of letters would give more joy than all the candelabra
and butter-dishes in London.”
“It is impossible,” said Holmes.
“Dear me, dear me, how unfortunate!” cried Milverton, taking out a bulky
pocketbook. “I cannot help thinking that ladies are ill-advised in not making an
effort. Look at this!” He held up a little note with a coat-of-arms upon the
envelope. “That belongs to—well, perhaps it is hardly fair to tell the name until
to-morrow morning. But at that time it will be in the hands of the lady’s
husband. And all because she will not find a beggarly sum which she could get
by turning her diamonds into paste. It is such a pity! Now, you remember the
sudden end of the engagement between the Honourable Miss Miles and Colonel
Dorking? Only two days before the wedding, there was a paragraph in the
Morning Post to say that it was all off. And why? It is almost incredible, but the
absurd sum of twelve hundred pounds would have settled the whole question. Is
it not pitiful? And here I find you, a man of sense, boggling about terms, when
your client’s future and honour are at stake. You surprise me, Mr. Holmes.”
“What I say is true,” Holmes answered. “The money cannot be found. Surely
it is better for you to take the substantial sum which I offer than to ruin this
woman’s career, which can profit you in no way?”
“There you make a mistake, Mr. Holmes. An exposure would profit me
indirectly to a considerable extent. I have eight or ten similar cases maturing. If
it was circulated among them that I had made a severe example of the Lady Eva,
I should find all of them much more open to reason. You see my point?”
Holmes sprang from his chair.
“Get behind him, Watson! Don’t let him out! Now, sir, let us see the contents
of that notebook.”
Milverton had glided as quick as a rat to the side of the room and stood with
his back against the wall.
“Mr. Holmes, Mr. Holmes,” he said, turning the front of his coat and
exhibiting the butt of a large revolver, which projected from the inside pocket. “I
have been expecting you to do something original. This has been done so often,
and what good has ever come from it? I assure you that I am armed to the teeth,
and I am perfectly prepared to use my weapons, knowing that the law will
support me. Besides, your supposition that I would bring the letters here in a
notebook is entirely mistaken. I would do nothing so foolish. And now,
gentlemen, I have one or two little interviews this evening, and it is a long drive
to Hampstead.” He stepped forward, took up his coat, laid his hand on his
revolver, and turned to the door. I picked up a chair, but Holmes shook his head,
and I laid it down again. With bow, a smile, and a twinkle, Milverton was out of
the room, and a few moments after we heard the slam of the carriage door and
the rattle of the wheels as he drove away.
Holmes sat motionless by the fire, his hands buried deep in his trouser
pockets, his chin sunk upon his breast, his eyes fixed upon the glowing embers.
For half an hour he was silent and still. Then, with the gesture of a man who has
taken his decision, he sprang to his feet and passed into his bedroom. A little
later a rakish young workman, with a goatee beard and a swagger, lit his clay
pipe at the lamp before descending into the street. “I’ll be back some time,
Watson,” said he, and vanished into the night. I understood that he had opened
his campaign against Charles Augustus Milverton, but I little dreamed the
strange shape which that campaign was destined to take.
For some days Holmes came and went at all hours in this attire, but beyond a
remark that his time was spent at Hampstead, and that it was not wasted, I knew
nothing of what he was doing. At last, however, on a wild, tempestuous evening,
when the wind screamed and rattled against the windows, he returned from his
last expedition, and having removed his disguise he sat before the fire and
laughed heartily in his silent inward fashion.
“You would not call me a marrying man, Watson?”
“No, indeed!”
“You’ll be interested to hear that I’m engaged.”
“My dear fellow! I congrat——”
“To Milverton’s housemaid.”
“Good heavens, Holmes!”
“I wanted information, Watson.”
“Surely you have gone too far?”
“It was a most necessary step. I am a plumber with a rising business, Escott,
by name. I have walked out with her each evening, and I have talked with her.
Good heavens, those talks! However, I have got all I wanted. I know Milverton’s
house as I know the palm of my hand.”
“But the girl, Holmes?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“You can’t help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards as best you can
when such a stake is on the table. However, I rejoice to say that I have a hated
rival, who will certainly cut me out the instant that my back is turned. What a
splendid night it is!”
“You like this weather?”
“It suits my purpose. Watson, I mean to burgle Milverton’s house to-night.”
I had a catching of the breath, and my skin went cold at the words, which were
slowly uttered in a tone of concentrated resolution. As a flash of lightning in the
night shows up in an instant every detail of a wild landscape, so at one glance I
seemed to see every possible result of such an action—the detection, the capture,
the honoured career ending in irreparable failure and disgrace, my friend himself
lying at the mercy of the odious Milverton.
“For heaven’s sake, Holmes, think what you are doing,” I cried.
“My dear fellow, I have given it every consideration. I am never precipitate in
my actions, nor would I adopt so energetic and, indeed, so dangerous a course, if
any other were possible. Let us look at the matter clearly and fairly. I suppose
that you will admit that the action is morally justifiable, though technically
criminal. To burgle his house is no more than to forcibly take his pocketbook—
an action in which you were prepared to aid me.”
I turned it over in my mind.
“Yes,” I said, “it is morally justifiable so long as our object is to take no
articles save those which are used for an illegal purpose.”
“Exactly. Since it is morally justifiable, I have only to consider the question of
personal risk. Surely a gentleman should not lay much stress upon this, when a
lady is in most desperate need of his help?”
“You will be in such a false position.”
“Well, that is part of the risk. There is no other possible way of regaining these
letters. The unfortunate lady has not the money, and there are none of her people
in whom she could confide. To-morrow is the last day of grace, and unless we
can get the letters to-night, this villain will be as good as his word and will bring
about her ruin. I must, therefore, abandon my client to her fate or I must play this
last card. Between ourselves, Watson, it’s a sporting duel between this fellow
Milverton and me. He had, as you saw, the best of the first exchanges, but my
self-respect and my reputation are concerned to fight it to a finish.”
“Well, I don’t like it, but I suppose it must be,” said I. “When do we start?”
“You are not coming.”
“Then you are not going,” said I. “I give you my word of honour—and I never
broke it in my life—that I will take a cab straight to the police-station and give
you away, unless you let me share this adventure with you.”
“You can’t help me.”
“How do you know that? You can’t tell what may happen. Anyway, my
resolution is taken. Other people besides you have self-respect, and even
reputations.”
Holmes had looked annoyed, but his brow cleared, and he clapped me on the
shoulder.
“Well, well, my dear fellow, be it so. We have shared this same room for some
years, and it would be amusing if we ended by sharing the same cell. You know,
Watson, I don’t mind confessing to you that I have always had an idea that I
would have made a highly efficient criminal. This is the chance of my lifetime in
that direction. See here!” He took a neat little leather case out of a drawer, and
opening it he exhibited a number of shining instruments. “This is a first-class,
up-to-date burgling kit, with nickel-plated jemmy, diamond-tipped glass-cutter,
adaptable keys, and every modern improvement which the march of civilization
demands. Here, too, is my dark lantern. Everything is in order. Have you a pair
of silent shoes?”
“I have rubber-soled tennis shoes.”
“Excellent! And a mask?”
“I can make a couple out of black silk.”
“I can see that you have a strong, natural turn for this sort of thing. Very good,
do you make the masks. We shall have some cold supper before we start. It is
now nine-thirty. At eleven we shall drive as far as Church Row. It is a quarter of
an hour’s walk from there to Appledore Towers. We shall be at work before
midnight. Milverton is a heavy sleeper, and retires punctually at ten-thirty. With
any luck we should be back here by two, with the Lady Eva’s letters in my
pocket.”
Holmes and I put on our dress-clothes, so that we might appear to be two
theatre-goers homeward bound. In Oxford Street we picked up a hansom and
drove to an address in Hampstead. Here we paid off our cab, and with our great
coats buttoned up, for it was bitterly cold, and the wind seemed to blow through
us, we walked along the edge of the heath.
“It’s a business that needs delicate treatment,” said Holmes. “These
documents are contained in a safe in the fellow’s study, and the study is the anteroom of his bed-chamber. On the other hand, like all these stout, little men who
do themselves well, he is a plethoric sleeper. Agatha—that’s my fiancée—says it
is a joke in the servants’ hall that it’s impossible to wake the master. He has a
secretary who is devoted to his interests, and never budges from the study all
day. That’s why we are going at night. Then he has a beast of a dog which roams
the garden. I met Agatha late the last two evenings, and she locks the brute up so
as to give me a clear run. This is the house, this big one in its own grounds.
Through the gate—now to the right among the laurels. We might put on our
masks here, I think. You see, there is not a glimmer of light in any of the
windows, and everything is working splendidly.”
With our black silk face-coverings, which turned us into two of the most
truculent figures in London, we stole up to the silent, gloomy house. A sort of
tiled veranda extended along one side of it, lined by several windows and two
doors.
“That’s his bedroom,” Holmes whispered. “This door opens straight into the
study. It would suit us best, but it is bolted as well as locked, and we should
make too much noise getting in. Come round here. There’s a greenhouse which
opens into the drawing-room.”
The place was locked, but Holmes removed a circle of glass and turned the
key from the inside. An instant afterwards he had closed the door behind us, and
we had become felons in the eyes of the law. The thick, warm air of the
conservatory and the rich, choking fragrance of exotic plants took us by the
throat. He seized my hand in the darkness and led me swiftly past banks of
shrubs which brushed against our faces. Holmes had remarkable powers,
carefully cultivated, of seeing in the dark. Still holding my hand in one of his, he
opened a door, and I was vaguely conscious that we had entered a large room in
which a cigar had been smoked not long before. He felt his way among the
furniture, opened another door, and closed it behind us. Putting out my hand I
felt several coats hanging from the wall, and I understood that I was in a
passage. We passed along it and Holmes very gently opened a door upon the
right-hand side. Something rushed out at us and my heart sprang into my mouth,
but I could have laughed when I realized that it was the cat. A fire was burning
in this new room, and again the air was heavy with tobacco smoke. Holmes
entered on tiptoe, waited for me to follow, and then very gently closed the door.
We were in Milverton’s study, and a portière at the farther side showed the
entrance to his bedroom.
It was a good fire, and the room was illuminated by it. Near the door I saw the
gleam of an electric switch, but it was unnecessary, even if it had been safe, to
turn it on. At one side of the fireplace was a heavy curtain which covered the bay
window we had seen from outside. On the other side was the door which
communicated with the veranda. A desk stood in the centre, with a turning-chair
of shining red leather. Opposite was a large bookcase, with a marble bust of
Athene on the top. In the corner, between the bookcase and the wall, there stood
a tall, green safe, the firelight flashing back from the polished brass knobs upon
its face. Holmes stole across and looked at it. Then he crept to the door of the
bedroom, and stood with slanting head listening intently. No sound came from
within. Meanwhile it had struck me that it would be wise to secure our retreat
through the outer door, so I examined it. To my amazement, it was neither
locked nor bolted. I touched Holmes on the arm, and he turned his masked face
in that direction. I saw him start, and he was evidently as surprised as I.
“I don’t like it,” he whispered, putting his lips to my very ear. “I can’t quite
make it out. Anyhow, we have no time to lose.”
“Can I do anything?”
“Yes, stand by the door. If you hear anyone come, bolt it on the inside, and we
can get away as we came. If they come the other way, we can get through the
door if our job is done, or hide behind these window curtains if it is not. Do you
understand?”
I nodded, and stood by the door. My first feeling of fear had passed away, and
I thrilled now with a keener zest than I had ever enjoyed when we were the
defenders of the law instead of its defiers. The high object of our mission, the
consciousness that it was unselfish and chivalrous, the villainous character of our
opponent, all added to the sporting interest of the adventure. Far from feeling
guilty, I rejoiced and exulted in our dangers. With a glow of admiration I
watched Holmes unrolling his case of instruments and choosing his tool with the
calm, scientific accuracy of a surgeon who performs a delicate operation. I knew
that the opening of safes was a particular hobby with him, and I understood the
joy which it gave him to be confronted with this green and gold monster, the
dragon which held in its maw the reputations of many fair ladies. Turning up the
cuffs of his dress-coat—he had placed his overcoat on a chair—Holmes laid out
two drills, a jemmy, and several skeleton keys. I stood at the centre door with my
eyes glancing at each of the others, ready for any emergency, though, indeed, my
plans were somewhat vague as to what I should do if we were interrupted. For
half an hour, Holmes worked with concentrated energy, laying down one tool,
picking up another, handling each with the strength and delicacy of the trained
mechanic. Finally I heard a click, the broad green door swung open, and inside I
had a glimpse of a number of paper packets, each tied, sealed, and inscribed.
Holmes picked one out, but it was as hard to read by the flickering fire, and he
drew out his little dark lantern, for it was too dangerous, with Milverton in the
next room, to switch on the electric light. Suddenly I saw him halt, listen
intently, and then in an instant he had swung the door of the safe to, picked up
his coat, stuffed his tools into the pockets, and darted behind the window curtain,
motioning me to do the same.
It was only when I had joined him there that I heard what had alarmed his
quicker senses. There was a noise somewhere within the house. A door slammed
in the distance. Then a confused, dull murmur broke itself into the measured
thud of heavy footsteps rapidly approaching. They were in the passage outside
the room. They paused at the door. The door opened. There was a sharp snick as
the electric light was turned on. The door closed once more, and the pungent
reek of a strong cigar was borne to our nostrils. Then the footsteps continued
backward and forward, backward and forward, within a few yards of us. Finally
there was a creak from a chair, and the footsteps ceased. Then a key clicked in a
lock, and I heard the rustle of papers.
So far I had not dared to look out, but now I gently parted the division of the
curtains in front of me and peeped through. From the pressure of Holmes’s
shoulder against mine, I knew that he was sharing my observations. Right in
front of us, and almost within our reach, was the broad, rounded back of
Milverton. It was evident that we had entirely miscalculated his movements, that
he had never been to his bedroom, but that he had been sitting up in some
smoking or billiard room in the farther wing of the house, the windows of which
we had not seen. His broad, grizzled head, with its shining patch of baldness,
was in the immediate foreground of our vision. He was leaning far back in the
red leather chair, his legs outstretched, a long, black cigar projecting at an angle
from his mouth. He wore a semi-military smoking jacket, claret-coloured, with a
black velvet collar. In his hand he held a long, legal document which he was
reading in an indolent fashion, blowing rings of tobacco smoke from his lips as
he did so. There was no promise of a speedy departure in his composed bearing
and his comfortable attitude.
I felt Holmes’s hand steal into mine and give me a reassuring shake, as if to
say that the situation was within his powers, and that he was easy in his mind. I
was not sure whether he had seen what was only too obvious from my position,
that the door of the safe was imperfectly closed, and that Milverton might at any
moment observe it. In my own mind I had determined that if I were sure, from
the rigidity of his gaze, that it had caught his eye, I would at once spring out,
throw my great coat over his head, pinion him, and leave the rest to Holmes. But
Milverton never looked up. He was languidly interested by the papers in his
hand, and page after page was turned as he followed the argument of the lawyer.
At least, I thought, when he has finished the document and the cigar he will go to
his room, but before he had reached the end of either, there came a remarkable
development, which turned our thoughts into quite another channel.
Several times I had observed that Milverton looked at his watch, and once he
had risen and sat down again, with a gesture of impatience. The idea, however,
that he might have an appointment at so strange an hour never occurred to me
until a faint sound reached my ears from the veranda outside. Milverton dropped
his papers and sat rigid in his chair. The sound was repeated, and then there
came a gentle tap at the door. Milverton rose and opened it.
“Well,” said he, curtly, “you are nearly half an hour late.”
So this was the explanation of the unlocked door and of the nocturnal vigil of
Milverton. There was the gentle rustle of a woman’s dress. I had closed the slit
between the curtains as Milverton’s face had turned in our direction, but now I
ventured very carefully to open it once more. He had resumed his seat, the cigar
still projecting at an insolent angle from the corner of his mouth. In front of him,
in the full glare of the electric light, there stood a tall, slim, dark woman, a veil
over her face, a mantle drawn round her chin. Her breath came quick and fast,
and every inch of the lithe figure was quivering with strong emotion.
“Well,” said Milverton, “you made me lose a good night’s rest, my dear. I
hope you’ll prove worth it. You couldn’t come any other time—eh?”
The woman shook her head.
“Well, if you couldn’t you couldn’t. If the Countess is a hard mistress, you
have your chance to get level with her now. Bless the girl, what are you
shivering about? That’s right. Pull yourself together. Now, let us get down to
business.” He took a notebook from the drawer of his desk. “You say that you
have five letters which compromise the Countess d’Albert. You want to sell
them. I want to buy them. So far so good. It only remains to fix a price. I should
want to inspect the letters, of course. If they are really good specimens—Great
heavens, is it you?”
The woman, without a word, had raised her veil and dropped the mantle from
her chin. It was a dark, handsome, clear-cut face which confronted Milverton—a
face with a curved nose, strong, dark eyebrows shading hard, glittering eyes, and
a straight, thin-lipped mouth set in a dangerous smile.
“It is I,” she said, “the woman whose life you have ruined.”
Milverton laughed, but fear vibrated in his voice. “You were so very
obstinate,” said he. “Why did you drive me to such extremities? I assure you I
wouldn’t hurt a fly of my own accord, but every man has his business, and what
was I to do? I put the price well within your means. You would not pay.”
“So you sent the letters to my husband, and he—the noblest gentleman that
ever lived, a man whose boots I was never worthy to lace—he broke his gallant
heart and died. You remember that last night, when I came through that door, I
begged and prayed you for mercy, and you laughed in my face as you are trying
to laugh now, only your coward heart cannot keep your lips from twitching. Yes,
you never thought to see me here again, but it was that night which taught me
how I could meet you face to face, and alone. Well, Charles Milverton, what
have you to say?”
“Don’t imagine that you can bully me,” said he, rising to his feet. “I have only
to raise my voice and I could call my servants and have you arrested. But I will
make allowance for your natural anger. Leave the room at once as you came, and
I will say no more.”
The woman stood with her hand buried in her bosom, and the same deadly
smile on her thin lips.
“You will ruin no more lives as you have ruined mine. You will wring no
more hearts as you wrung mine. I will free the world of a poisonous thing. Take
that, you hound—and that!—and that!—and that!”
She had drawn a little gleaming revolver, and emptied barrel after barrel into
Milverton’s body, the muzzle within two feet of his shirt front. He shrank away
and then fell forward upon the table, coughing furiously and clawing among the
papers. Then he staggered to his feet, received another shot, and rolled upon the
floor. “You’ve done me,” he cried, and lay still. The woman looked at him
intently, and ground her heel into his upturned face. She looked again, but there
was no sound or movement. I heard a sharp rustle, the night air blew into the
heated room, and the avenger was gone.
No interference upon our part could have saved the man from his fate, but, as
the woman poured bullet after bullet into Milverton’s shrinking body I was about
to spring out, when I felt Holmes’s cold, strong grasp upon my wrist. I
understood the whole argument of that firm, restraining grip—that it was no
affair of ours, that justice had overtaken a villain, that we had our own duties and
our own objects, which were not to be lost sight of. But hardly had the woman
rushed from the room when Holmes, with swift, silent steps, was over at the
other door. He turned the key in the lock. At the same instant we heard voices in
the house and the sound of hurrying feet. The revolver shots had roused the
household. With perfect coolness Holmes slipped across to the safe, filled his
two arms with bundles of letters, and poured them all into the fire. Again and
again he did it, until the safe was empty. Someone turned the handle and beat
upon the outside of the door. Holmes looked swiftly round. The letter which had
been the messenger of death for Milverton lay, all mottled with his blood, upon
the table. Holmes tossed it in among the blazing papers. Then he drew the key
from the outer door, passed through after me, and locked it on the outside. “This
way, Watson,” said he, “we can scale the garden wall in this direction.”
I could not have believed that an alarm could have spread so swiftly. Looking
back, the huge house was one blaze of light. The front door was open, and
figures were rushing down the drive. The whole garden was alive with people,
and one fellow raised a view-halloa as we emerged from the veranda and
followed hard at our heels. Holmes seemed to know the grounds perfectly, and
he threaded his way swiftly among a plantation of small trees, I close at his
heels, and our foremost pursuer panting behind us. It was a six-foot wall which
barred our path, but he sprang to the top and over. As I did the same I felt the
hand of the man behind me grab at my ankle, but I kicked myself free and
scrambled over a grass-strewn coping. I fell upon my face among some bushes,
but Holmes had me on my feet in an instant, and together we dashed away across
the huge expanse of Hampstead Heath. We had run two miles, I suppose, before
Holmes at last halted and listened intently. All was absolute silence behind us.
We had shaken off our pursuers and were safe.
We had breakfasted and were smoking our morning pipe on the day after the
remarkable experience which I have recorded, when Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland
Yard, very solemn and impressive, was ushered into our modest sitting-room.
“Good-morning, Mr. Holmes,” said he; “good-morning. May I ask if you are
very busy just now?”
“Not too busy to listen to you.”
“I thought that, perhaps, if you had nothing particular on hand, you might care
to assist us in a most remarkable case, which occurred only last night at
Hampstead.”
“Dear me!” said Holmes. “What was that?”
“A murder—a most dramatic and remarkable murder. I know how keen you
are upon these things, and I would take it as a great favour if you would step
down to Appledore Towers, and give us the benefit of your advice. It is no
ordinary crime. We have had our eyes upon this Mr. Milverton for some time,
and, between ourselves, he was a bit of a villain. He is known to have held
papers which he used for blackmailing purposes. These papers have all been
burned by the murderers. No article of value was taken, as it is probable that the
criminals were men of good position, whose sole object was to prevent social
exposure.”
“Criminals?” said Holmes. “Plural?”
“Yes, there were two of them. They were as nearly as possible captured redhanded. We have their footmarks, we have their description, it’s ten to one that
we trace them. The first fellow was a bit too active, but the second was caught
by the under-gardener, and only got away after a struggle. He was a middlesized, strongly built man—square jaw, thick neck, moustache, a mask over his
eyes.”
“That’s rather vague,” said Sherlock Holmes. “My, it might be a description of
Watson!”
“It’s true,” said the inspector, with amusement. “It might be a description of
Watson.”
“Well, I’m afraid I can’t help you, Lestrade,” said Holmes. “The fact is that I
knew this fellow Milverton, that I considered him one of the most dangerous
men in London, and that I think there are certain crimes which the law cannot
touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge. No, it’s no
use arguing. I have made up my mind. My sympathies are with the criminals
rather than with the victim, and I will not handle this case.”
Holmes had not said one word to me about the tragedy which we had
witnessed, but I observed all the morning that he was in his most thoughtful
mood, and he gave me the impression, from his vacant eyes and his abstracted
manner, of a man who is striving to recall something to his memory. We were in
the middle of our lunch, when he suddenly sprang to his feet. “By Jove, Watson,
I’ve got it!” he cried. “Take your hat! Come with me!” He hurried at his top
speed down Baker Street and along Oxford Street, until we had almost reached
Regent Circus. Here, on the left hand, there stands a shop window filled with
photographs of the celebrities and beauties of the day. Holmes’s eyes fixed
themselves upon one of them, and following his gaze I saw the picture of a regal
and stately lady in Court dress, with a high diamond tiara upon her noble head. I
looked at that delicately curved nose, at the marked eyebrows, at the straight
mouth, and the strong little chin beneath it. Then I caught my breath as I read the
time-honoured title of the great nobleman and statesman whose wife she had
been. My eyes met those of Holmes, and he put his finger to his lips as we
turned away from the window.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS
It was no very unusual thing for Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, to look in
upon us of an evening, and his visits were welcome to Sherlock Holmes, for they
enabled him to keep in touch with all that was going on at the police
headquarters. In return for the news which Lestrade would bring, Holmes was
always ready to listen with attention to the details of any case upon which the
detective was engaged, and was able occasionally, without any active
interference, to give some hint or suggestion drawn from his own vast
knowledge and experience.
On this particular evening, Lestrade had spoken of the weather and the
newspapers. Then he had fallen silent, puffing thoughtfully at his cigar. Holmes
looked keenly at him.
“Anything remarkable on hand?” he asked.
“Oh, no, Mr. Holmes—nothing very particular.”
“Then tell me about it.”
Lestrade laughed.
“Well, Mr. Holmes, there is no use denying that there is something on my
mind. And yet it is such an absurd business, that I hesitated to bother you about
it. On the other hand, although it is trivial, it is undoubtedly queer, and I know
that you have a taste for all that is out of the common. But, in my opinion, it
comes more in Dr. Watson’s line than ours.”
“Disease?” said I.
“Madness, anyhow. And a queer madness, too. You wouldn’t think there was
anyone living at this time of day who had such a hatred of Napoleon the First
that he would break any image of him that he could see.”
Holmes sank back in his chair.
“That’s no business of mine,” said he.
“Exactly. That’s what I said. But then, when the man commits burglary in
order to break images which are not his own, that brings it away from the doctor
and on to the policeman.”
Holmes sat up again.
“Burglary! This is more interesting. Let me hear the details.”
Lestrade took out his official notebook and refreshed his memory from its
pages.
“The first case reported was four days ago,” said he. “It was at the shop of
Morse Hudson, who has a place for the sale of pictures and statues in the
Kennington Road. The assistant had left the front shop for an instant, when he
heard a crash, and hurrying in he found a plaster bust of Napoleon, which stood
with several other works of art upon the counter, lying shivered into fragments.
He rushed out into the road, but, although several passers-by declared that they
had noticed a man run out of the shop, he could neither see anyone nor could he
find any means of identifying the rascal. It seemed to be one of those senseless
acts of hooliganism which occur from time to time, and it was reported to the
constable on the beat as such. The plaster cast was not worth more than a few
shillings, and the whole affair appeared to be too childish for any particular
investigation.
“The second case, however, was more serious, and also more singular. It
occurred only last night.
“In Kennington Road, and within a few hundred yards of Morse Hudson’s
shop, there lives a well-known medical practitioner, named Dr. Barnicot, who
has one of the largest practices upon the south side of the Thames. His residence
and principal consulting-room is at Kennington Road, but he has a branch
surgery and dispensary at Lower Brixton Road, two miles away. This Dr.
Barnicot is an enthusiastic admirer of Napoleon, and his house is full of books,
pictures, and relics of the French Emperor. Some little time ago he purchased
from Morse Hudson two duplicate plaster casts of the famous head of Napoleon
by the French sculptor, Devine. One of these he placed in his hall in the house at
Kennington Road, and the other on the mantelpiece of the surgery at Lower
Brixton. Well, when Dr. Barnicot came down this morning he was astonished to
find that his house had been burgled during the night, but that nothing had been
taken save the plaster head from the hall. It had been carried out and had been
dashed savagely against the garden wall, under which its splintered fragments
were discovered.”
Holmes rubbed his hands.
“This is certainly very novel,” said he.
“I thought it would please you. But I have not got to the end yet. Dr. Barnicot
was due at his surgery at twelve o’clock, and you can imagine his amazement
when, on arriving there, he found that the window had been opened in the night
and that the broken pieces of his second bust were strewn all over the room. It
had been smashed to atoms where it stood. In neither case were there any signs
which could give us a clue as to the criminal or lunatic who had done the
mischief. Now, Mr. Holmes, you have got the facts.”
“They are singular, not to say grotesque,” said Holmes. “May I ask whether
the two busts smashed in Dr. Barnicot’s rooms were the exact duplicates of the
one which was destroyed in Morse Hudson’s shop?”
“They were taken from the same mould.”
“Such a fact must tell against the theory that the man who breaks them is
influenced by any general hatred of Napoleon. Considering how many hundreds
of statues of the great Emperor must exist in London, it is too much to suppose
such a coincidence as that a promiscuous iconoclast should chance to begin upon
three specimens of the same bust.”
“Well, I thought as you do,” said Lestrade. “On the other hand, this Morse
Hudson is the purveyor of busts in that part of London, and these three were the
only ones which had been in his shop for years. So, although, as you say, there
are many hundreds of statues in London, it is very probable that these three were
the only ones in that district. Therefore, a local fanatic would begin with them.
What do you think, Dr. Watson?”
“There are no limits to the possibilities of monomania,” I answered. “There is
the condition which the modern French psychologists have called the idée fixe,
which may be trifling in character, and accompanied by complete sanity in every
other way. A man who had read deeply about Napoleon, or who had possibly
received some hereditary family injury through the great war, might conceivably
form such an idée fixe and under its influence be capable of any fantastic
outrage.”
“That won’t do, my dear Watson,” said Holmes, shaking his head, “for no
amount of idée fixe would enable your interesting monomaniac to find out where
these busts were situated.”
“Well, how do you explain it?”
“I don’t attempt to do so. I would only observe that there is a certain method
in the gentleman’s eccentric proceedings. For example, in Dr. Barnicot’s hall,
where a sound might arouse the family, the bust was taken outside before being
broken, whereas in the surgery, where there was less danger of an alarm, it was
smashed where it stood. The affair seems absurdly trifling, and yet I dare call
nothing trivial when I reflect that some of my most classic cases have had the
least promising commencement. You will remember, Watson, how the dreadful
business of the Abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth
which the parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day. I can’t afford,
therefore, to smile at your three broken busts, Lestrade, and I shall be very much
obliged to you if you will let me hear of any fresh development of so singular a
chain of events.”
The development for which my friend had asked came in a quicker and an
infinitely more tragic form than he could have imagined. I was still dressing in
my bedroom next morning, when there was a tap at the door and Holmes
entered, a telegram in his hand. He read it aloud:
“Come instantly, 131, Pitt Street, Kensington.—LESTRADE.”
“What is it, then?” I asked.
“Don’t know—may be anything. But I suspect it is the sequel of the story of
the statues. In that case our friend the image-breaker has begun operations in
another quarter of London. There’s coffee on the table, Watson, and I have a cab
at the door.”
In half an hour we had reached Pitt Street, a quiet little backwater just beside
one of the briskest currents of London life. No. 131 was one of a row, all flatchested, respectable, and most unromantic dwellings. As we drove up, we found
the railings in front of the house lined by a curious crowd. Holmes whistled.
“By George! It’s attempted murder at the least. Nothing less will hold the
London message-boy. There’s a deed of violence indicated in that fellow’s round
shoulders and outstretched neck. What’s this, Watson? The top steps swilled
down and the other ones dry. Footsteps enough, anyhow! Well, well, there’s
Lestrade at the front window, and we shall soon know all about it.”
The official received us with a very grave face and showed us into a sittingroom, where an exceedingly unkempt and agitated elderly man, clad in a flannel
dressing-gown, was pacing up and down. He was introduced to us as the owner
of the house—Mr. Horace Harker, of the Central Press Syndicate.
“It’s the Napoleon bust business again,” said Lestrade. “You seemed interested
last night, Mr. Holmes, so I thought perhaps you would be glad to be present
now that the affair has taken a very much graver turn.”
“What has it turned to, then?”
“To murder. Mr. Harker, will you tell these gentlemen exactly what has
occurred?”
The man in the dressing-gown turned upon us with a most melancholy face.
“It’s an extraordinary thing,” said he, “that all my life I have been collecting
other people’s news, and now that a real piece of news has come my own way I
am so confused and bothered that I can’t put two words together. If I had come
in here as a journalist, I should have interviewed myself and had two columns in
every evening paper. As it is, I am giving away valuable copy by telling my
story over and over to a string of different people, and I can make no use of it
myself. However, I’ve heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and if you’ll only
explain this queer business, I shall be paid for my trouble in telling you the
story.”
Holmes sat down and listened.
“It all seems to centre round that bust of Napoleon which I bought for this
very room about four months ago. I picked it up cheap from Harding Brothers,
two doors from the High Street Station. A great deal of my journalistic work is
done at night, and I often write until the early morning. So it was to-day. I was
sitting in my den, which is at the back of the top of the house, about three
o’clock, when I was convinced that I heard some sounds downstairs. I listened,
but they were not repeated, and I concluded that they came from outside. Then
suddenly, about five minutes later, there came a most horrible yell—the most
dreadful sound, Mr. Holmes, that ever I heard. It will ring in my ears as long as I
live. I sat frozen with horror for a minute or two. Then I seized the poker and
went downstairs. When I entered this room I found the window wide open, and I
at once observed that the bust was gone from the mantelpiece. Why any burglar
should take such a thing passes my understanding, for it was only a plaster cast
and of no real value whatever.
“You can see for yourself that anyone going out through that open window
could reach the front doorstep by taking a long stride. This was clearly what the
burglar had done, so I went round and opened the door. Stepping out into the
dark, I nearly fell over a dead man, who was lying there. I ran back for a light
and there was the poor fellow, a great gash in his throat and the whole place
swimming in blood. He lay on his back, his knees drawn up, and his mouth
horribly open. I shall see him in my dreams. I had just time to blow on my
police-whistle, and then I must have fainted, for I knew nothing more until I
found the policeman standing over me in the hall.”
“Well, who was the murdered man?” asked Holmes.
“There’s nothing to show who he was,” said Lestrade. “You shall see the body
at the mortuary, but we have made nothing of it up to now. He is a tall man,
sunburned, very powerful, not more than thirty. He is poorly dressed, and yet
does not appear to be a labourer. A horn-handled clasp knife was lying in a pool
of blood beside him. Whether it was the weapon which did the deed, or whether
it belonged to the dead man, I do not know. There was no name on his clothing,
and nothing in his pockets save an apple, some string, a shilling map of London,
and a photograph. Here it is.”
It was evidently taken by a snapshot from a small camera. It represented an
alert, sharp-featured simian man, with thick eyebrows and a very peculiar
projection of the lower part of the face, like the muzzle of a baboon.
“And what became of the bust?” asked Holmes, after a careful study of this
picture.
“We had news of it just before you came. It has been found in the front garden
of an empty house in Campden House Road. It was broken into fragments. I am
going round now to see it. Will you come?”
“Certainly. I must just take one look round.” He examined the carpet and the
window. “The fellow had either very long legs or was a most active man,” said
he. “With an area beneath, it was no mean feat to reach that window ledge and
open that window. Getting back was comparatively simple. Are you coming with
us to see the remains of your bust, Mr. Harker?”
The disconsolate journalist had seated himself at a writing-table.
“I must try and make something of it,” said he, “though I have no doubt that
the first editions of the evening papers are out already with full details. It’s like
my luck! You remember when the stand fell at Doncaster? Well, I was the only
journalist in the stand, and my journal the only one that had no account of it, for
I was too shaken to write it. And now I’ll be too late with a murder done on my
own doorstep.”
As we left the room, we heard his pen travelling shrilly over the foolscap.
The spot where the fragments of the bust had been found was only a few
hundred yards away. For the first time our eyes rested upon this presentment of
the great emperor, which seemed to raise such frantic and destructive hatred in
the mind of the unknown. It lay scattered, in splintered shards, upon the grass.
Holmes picked up several of them and examined them carefully. I was
convinced, from his intent face and his purposeful manner, that at last he was
upon a clue.
“Well?” asked Lestrade.
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
“We have a long way to go yet,” said he. “And yet—and yet—well, we have
some suggestive facts to act upon. The possession of this trifling bust was worth
more, in the eyes of this strange criminal, than a human life. That is one point.
Then there is the singular fact that he did not break it in the house, or
immediately outside the house, if to break it was his sole object.”
“He was rattled and bustled by meeting this other fellow. He hardly knew
what he was doing.”
“Well, that’s likely enough. But I wish to call your attention very particularly
to the position of this house, in the garden of which the bust was destroyed.”
Lestrade looked about him.
“It was an empty house, and so he knew that he would not be disturbed in the
garden.”
“Yes, but there is another empty house farther up the street which he must
have passed before he came to this one. Why did he not break it there, since it is
evident that every yard that he carried it increased the risk of someone meeting
him?”
“I give it up,” said Lestrade.
Holmes pointed to the street lamp above our heads.
“He could see what he was doing here, and he could not there. That was his
reason.”
“By Jove! that’s true,” said the detective. “Now that I come to think of it, Dr.
Barnicot’s bust was broken not far from his red lamp. Well, Mr. Holmes, what
are we to do with that fact?”
“To remember it—to docket it. We may come on something later which will
bear upon it. What steps do you propose to take now, Lestrade?”
“The most practical way of getting at it, in my opinion, is to identify the dead
man. There should be no difficulty about that. When we have found who he is
and who his associates are, we should have a good start in learning what he was
doing in Pitt Street last night, and who it was who met him and killed him on the
doorstep of Mr. Horace Harker. Don’t you think so?”
“No doubt; and yet it is not quite the way in which I should approach the
case.”
“What would you do then?”
“Oh, you must not let me influence you in any way. I suggest that you go on
your line and I on mine. We can compare notes afterwards, and each will
supplement the other.”
“Very good,” said Lestrade.
“If you are going back to Pitt Street, you might see Mr. Horace Harker. Tell
him for me that I have quite made up my mind, and that it is certain that a
dangerous homicidal lunatic, with Napoleonic delusions, was in his house last
night. It will be useful for his article.”
Lestrade stared.
“You don’t seriously believe that?”
Holmes smiled.
“Don’t I? Well, perhaps I don’t. But I am sure that it will interest Mr. Horace
Harker and the subscribers of the Central Press Syndicate. Now, Watson, I think
that we shall find that we have a long and rather complex day’s work before us. I
should be glad, Lestrade, if you could make it convenient to meet us at Baker
Street at six o’clock this evening. Until then I should like to keep this
photograph, found in the dead man’s pocket. It is possible that I may have to ask
your company and assistance upon a small expedition which will have be
undertaken to-night, if my chain of reasoning should prove to be correct. Until
then good-bye and good luck!”
Sherlock Holmes and I walked together to the High Street, where we stopped
at the shop of Harding Brothers, whence the bust had been purchased. A young
assistant informed us that Mr. Harding would be absent until afternoon, and that
he was himself a newcomer, who could give us no information. Holmes’s face
showed his disappointment and annoyance.
“Well, well, we can’t expect to have it all our own way, Watson,” he said, at
last. “We must come back in the afternoon, if Mr. Harding will not be here until
then. I am, as you have no doubt surmised, endeavouring to trace these busts to
their source, in order to find if there is not something peculiar which may
account for their remarkable fate. Let us make for Mr. Morse Hudson, of the
Kennington Road, and see if he can throw any light upon the problem.”
A drive of an hour brought us to the picture-dealer’s establishment. He was a
small, stout man with a red face and a peppery manner.
“Yes, sir. On my very counter, sir,” said he. “What we pay rates and taxes for I
don’t know, when any ruffian can come in and break one’s goods. Yes, sir, it was
I who sold Dr. Barnicot his two statues. Disgraceful, sir! A Nihilist plot—that’s
what I make it. No one but an anarchist would go about breaking statues. Red
republicans—that’s what I call ’em. Who did I get the statues from? I don’t see
what that has to do with it. Well, if you really want to know, I got them from
Gelder & Co., in Church Street, Stepney. They are a well-known house in the
trade, and have been this twenty years. How many had I? Three—two and one
are three—two of Dr. Barnicot’s, and one smashed in broad daylight on my own
counter. Do I know that photograph? No, I don’t. Yes, I do, though. Why, it’s
Beppo. He was a kind of Italian piece-work man, who made himself useful in the
shop. He could carve a bit, and gild and frame, and do odd jobs. The fellow left
me last week, and I’ve heard nothing of him since. No, I don’t know where he
came from nor where he went to. I had nothing against him while he was here.
He was gone two days before the bust was smashed.”
“Well, that’s all we could reasonably expect from Morse Hudson,” said
Holmes, as we emerged from the shop. “We have this Beppo as a common
factor, both in Kennington and in Kensington, so that is worth a ten-mile drive.
Now, Watson, let us make for Gelder & Co., of Stepney, the source and origin of
the busts. I shall be surprised if we don’t get some help down there.”
In rapid succession we passed through the fringe of fashionable London, hotel
London, theatrical London, literary London, commercial London, and, finally,
maritime London, till we came to a riverside city of a hundred thousand souls,
where the tenement houses swelter and reek with the outcasts of Europe. Here,
in a broad thoroughfare, once the abode of wealthy City merchants, we found the
sculpture works for which we searched. Outside was a considerable yard full of
monumental masonry. Inside was a large room in which fifty workers were
carving or moulding. The manager, a big blond German, received us civilly and
gave a clear answer to all Holmes’s questions. A reference to his books showed
that hundreds of casts had been taken from a marble copy of Devine’s head of
Napoleon, but that the three which had been sent to Morse Hudson a year or so
before had been half of a batch of six, the other three being sent to Harding
Brothers, of Kensington. There was no reason why those six should be different
from any of the other casts. He could suggest no possible cause why anyone
should wish to destroy them—in fact, he laughed at the idea. Their wholesale
price was six shillings, but the retailer would get twelve or more. The cast was
taken in two moulds from each side of the face, and then these two profiles of
plaster of Paris were joined together to make the complete bust. The work was
usually done by Italians, in the room we were in. When finished, the busts were
put on a table in the passage to dry, and afterwards stored. That was all he could
tell us.
But the production of the photograph had a remarkable effect upon the
manager. His face flushed with anger, and his brows knotted over his blue
Teutonic eyes.
“Ah, the rascal!” he cried. “Yes, indeed, I know him very well. This has
always been a respectable establishment, and the only time that we have ever
had the police in it was over this very fellow. It was more than a year ago now.
He knifed another Italian in the street, and then he came to the works with the
police on his heels, and he was taken here. Beppo was his name—his second
name I never knew. Serve me right for engaging a man with such a face. But he
was a good workman—one of the best.”
“What did he get?”
“The man lived and he got off with a year. I have no doubt he is out now, but
he has not dared to show his nose here. We have a cousin of his here, and I
daresay he could tell you where he is.”
“No, no,” cried Holmes, “not a word to the cousin—not a word, I beg of you.
The matter is very important, and the farther I go with it, the more important it
seems to grow. When you referred in your ledger to the sale of those casts I
observed that the date was June 3rd of last year. Could you give me the date
when Beppo was arrested?”
“I could tell you roughly by the pay-list,” the manager answered. “Yes,” he
continued, after some turning over of pages, “he was paid last on May 20th.”
“Thank you,” said Holmes. “I don’t think that I need intrude upon your time
and patience any more.” With a last word of caution that he should say nothing
as to our researches, we turned our faces westward once more.
The afternoon was far advanced before we were able to snatch a hasty
luncheon at a restaurant. A news-bill at the entrance announced “Kensington
Outrage. Murder by a Madman,” and the contents of the paper showed that Mr.
Horace Harker had got his account into print after all. Two columns were
occupied with a highly sensational and flowery rendering of the whole incident.
Holmes propped it against the cruet-stand and read it while he ate. Once or twice
he chuckled.
“This is all right, Watson,” said he. “Listen to this:
“It is satisfactory to know that there can be no difference of opinion upon this
case, since Mr. Lestrade, one of the most experienced members of the official
force, and Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the well-known consulting expert, have each
come to the conclusion that the grotesque series of incidents, which have ended
in so tragic a fashion, arise from lunacy rather than from deliberate crime. No
explanation save mental aberration can cover the facts.
“The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution, if you only know how to
use it. And now, if you have quite finished, we will hark back to Kensington and
see what the manager of Harding Brothers has to say on the matter.”
The founder of that great emporium proved to be a brisk, crisp little person,
very dapper and quick, with a clear head and a ready tongue.
“Yes, sir, I have already read the account in the evening papers. Mr. Horace
Harker is a customer of ours. We supplied him with the bust some months ago.
We ordered three busts of that sort from Gelder & Co., of Stepney. They are all
sold now. To whom? Oh, I daresay by consulting our sales book we could very
easily tell you. Yes, we have the entries here. One to Mr. Harker you see, and
one to Mr. Josiah Brown, of Laburnum Lodge, Laburnum Vale, Chiswick, and
one to Mr. Sandeford, of Lower Grove Road, Reading. No, I have never seen
this face which you show me in the photograph. You would hardly forget it,
would you, sir, for I’ve seldom seen an uglier. Have we any Italians on the staff?
Yes, sir, we have several among our workpeople and cleaners. I daresay they
might get a peep at that sales book if they wanted to. There is no particular
reason for keeping a watch upon that book. Well, well, it’s a very strange
business, and I hope that you will let me know if anything comes of your
inquiries.”
Holmes had taken several notes during Mr. Harding’s evidence, and I could
see that he was thoroughly satisfied by the turn which affairs were taking. He
made no remark, however, save that, unless we hurried, we should be late for our
appointment with Lestrade. Sure enough, when we reached Baker Street the
detective was already there, and we found him pacing up and down in a fever of
impatience. His look of importance showed that his day’s work had not been in
vain.
“Well?” he asked. “What luck, Mr. Holmes?”
“We have had a very busy day, and not entirely a wasted one,” my friend
explained. “We have seen both the retailers and also the wholesale
manufacturers. I can trace each of the busts now from the beginning.”
“The busts,” cried Lestrade. “Well, well, you have your own methods, Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, and it is not for me to say a word against them, but I think I
have done a better day’s work than you. I have identified the dead man.”
“You don’t say so?”
“And found a cause for the crime.”
“Splendid!”
“We have an inspector who makes a specialty of Saffron Hill and the Italian
Quarter. Well, this dead man had some Catholic emblem round his neck, and
that, along with his colour, made me think he was from the South. Inspector Hill
knew him the moment he caught sight of him. His name is Pietro Venucci, from
Naples, and he is one of the greatest cut-throats in London. He is connected with
the Mafia, which, as you know, is a secret political society, enforcing its decrees
by murder. Now, you see how the affair begins to clear up. The other fellow is
probably an Italian also, and a member of the Mafia. He has broken the rules in
some fashion. Pietro is set upon his track. Probably the photograph we found in
his pocket is the man himself, so that he may not knife the wrong person. He
dogs the fellow, he sees him enter a house, he waits outside for him, and in the
scuffle he receives his own death-wound. How is that, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?”
Holmes clapped his hands approvingly.
“Excellent, Lestrade, excellent!” he cried. “But I didn’t quite follow your
explanation of the destruction of the busts.”
“The busts! You never can get those busts out of your head. After all, that is
nothing; petty larceny, six months at the most. It is the murder that we are really
investigating, and I tell you that I am gathering all the threads into my hands.”
“And the next stage?”
“Is a very simple one. I shall go down with Hill to the Italian Quarter, find the
man whose photograph we have got, and arrest him on the charge of murder.
Will you come with us?”
“I think not. I fancy we can attain our end in a simpler way. I can’t say for
certain, because it all depends—well, it all depends upon a factor which is
completely outside our control. But I have great hopes—in fact, the betting is
exactly two to one—that if you will come with us to-night I shall be able to help
you to lay him by the heels.”
“In the Italian Quarter?”
“No, I fancy Chiswick is an address which is more likely to find him. If you
will come with me to Chiswick to-night, Lestrade, I’ll promise to go to the
Italian Quarter with you to-morrow, and no harm will be done by the delay. And
now I think that a few hours’ sleep would do us all good, for I do not propose to
leave before eleven o’clock, and it is unlikely that we shall be back before
morning. You’ll dine with us, Lestrade, and then you are welcome to the sofa
until it is time for us to start. In the meantime, Watson, I should be glad if you
would ring for an express messenger, for I have a letter to send and it is
important that it should go at once.”
Holmes spent the evening in rummaging among the files of the old daily
papers with which one of our lumber-rooms was packed. When at last he
descended, it was with triumph in his eyes, but he said nothing to either of us as
to the result of his researches. For my own part, I had followed step by step the
methods by which he had traced the various windings of this complex case, and,
though I could not yet perceive the goal which we would reach, I understood
clearly that Holmes expected this grotesque criminal to make an attempt upon
the two remaining busts, one of which, I remembered, was at Chiswick. No
doubt the object of our journey was to catch him in the very act, and I could not
but admire the cunning with which my friend had inserted a wrong clue in the
evening paper, so as to give the fellow the idea that he could continue his scheme
with impunity. I was not surprised when Holmes suggested that I should take my
revolver with me. He had himself picked up the loaded hunting-crop, which was
his favourite weapon.
A four-wheeler was at the door at eleven, and in it we drove to a spot at the
other side of Hammersmith Bridge. Here the cabman was directed to wait. A
short walk brought us to a secluded road fringed with pleasant houses, each
standing in its own grounds. In the light of a street lamp we read “Laburnum
Villa” upon the gate-post of one of them. The occupants had evidently retired to
rest, for all was dark save for a fanlight over the hall door, which shed a single
blurred circle on to the garden path. The wooden fence which separated the
grounds from the road threw a dense black shadow upon the inner side, and here
it was that we crouched.
“I fear that you’ll have a long wait,” Holmes whispered. “We may thank our
stars that it is not raining. I don’t think we can even venture to smoke to pass the
time. However, it’s a two to one chance that we get something to pay us for our
trouble.”
It proved, however, that our vigil was not to be so long as Holmes had led us
to fear, and it ended in a very sudden and singular fashion. In an instant, without
the least sound to warn us of his coming, the garden gate swung open, and a
lithe, dark figure, as swift and active as an ape, rushed up the garden path. We
saw it whisk past the light thrown from over the door and disappear against the
black shadow of the house. There was a long pause, during which we held our
breath, and then a very gentle creaking sound came to our ears. The window was
being opened. The noise ceased, and again there was a long silence. The fellow
was making his way into the house. We saw the sudden flash of a dark lantern
inside the room. What he sought was evidently not there, for again we saw the
flash through another blind, and then through another.
“Let us get to the open window. We will nab him as he climbs out,” Lestrade
whispered.
But before we could move, the man had emerged again. As he came out into
the glimmering patch of light, we saw that he carried something white under his
arm. He looked stealthily all round him. The silence of the deserted street
reassured him. Turning his back upon us he laid down his burden, and the next
instant there was the sound of a sharp tap, followed by a clatter and rattle. The
man was so intent upon what he was doing that he never heard our steps as we
stole across the grass plot. With the bound of a tiger Holmes was on his back,
and an instant later Lestrade and I had him by either wrist, and the handcuffs had
been fastened. As we turned him over I saw a hideous, sallow face, with
writhing, furious features, glaring up at us, and I knew that it was indeed the man
of the photograph whom we had secured.
But it was not our prisoner to whom Holmes was giving his attention.
Squatted on the doorstep, he was engaged in most carefully examining that
which the man had brought from the house. It was a bust of Napoleon, like the
one which we had seen that morning, and it had been broken into similar
fragments. Carefully Holmes held each separate shard to the light, but in no way
did it differ from any other shattered piece of plaster. He had just completed his
examination when the hall lights flew up, the door opened, and the owner of the
house, a jovial, rotund figure in shirt and trousers, presented himself.
“Mr. Josiah Brown, I suppose?” said Holmes.
“Yes, sir; and you, no doubt, are Mr. Sherlock Holmes? I had the note which
you sent by the express messenger, and I did exactly what you told me. We
locked every door on the inside and awaited developments. Well, I’m very glad
to see that you have got the rascal. I hope, gentlemen, that you will come in and
have some refreshment.”
However, Lestrade was anxious to get his man into safe quarters, so within a
few minutes our cab had been summoned and we were all four upon our way to
London. Not a word would our captive say, but he glared at us from the shadow
of his matted hair, and once, when my hand seemed within his reach, he snapped
at it like a hungry wolf. We stayed long enough at the police-station to learn that
a search of his clothing revealed nothing save a few shillings and a long sheath
knife, the handle of which bore copious traces of recent blood.
“That’s all right,” said Lestrade, as we parted. “Hill knows all these gentry,
and he will give a name to him. You’ll find that my theory of the Mafia will
work out all right. But I’m sure I am exceedingly obliged to you, Mr. Holmes,
for the workmanlike way in which you laid hands upon him. I don’t quite
understand it all yet.”
“I fear it is rather too late an hour for explanations,” said Holmes. “Besides,
there are one or two details which are not finished off, and it is one of those
cases which are worth working out to the very end. If you will come round once
more to my rooms at six o’clock to-morrow, I think I shall be able to show you
that even now you have not grasped the entire meaning of this business, which
presents some features which make it absolutely original in the history of crime.
If ever I permit you to chronicle any more of my little problems, Watson, I
foresee that you will enliven your pages by an account of the singular adventure
of the Napoleonic busts.”
When we met again next evening, Lestrade was furnished with much
information concerning our prisoner. His name, it appeared, was Beppo, second
name unknown. He was a well-known ne’er-do-well among the Italian colony.
He had once been a skilful sculptor and had earned an honest living, but he had
taken to evil courses and had twice already been in jail—once for a petty theft,
and once, as we had already heard, for stabbing a fellow-countryman. He could
talk English perfectly well. His reasons for destroying the busts were still
unknown, and he refused to answer any questions upon the subject, but the
police had discovered that these same busts might very well have been made by
his own hands, since he was engaged in this class of work at the establishment of
Gelder & Co. To all this information, much of which we already knew, Holmes
listened with polite attention, but I, who knew him so well, could clearly see that
his thoughts were elsewhere, and I detected a mixture of mingled uneasiness and
expectation beneath that mask which he was wont to assume. At last he started
in his chair, and his eyes brightened. There had been a ring at the bell. A minute
later we heard steps upon the stairs, and an elderly red-faced man with grizzled
side-whiskers was ushered in. In his right hand he carried an old-fashioned
carpet-bag, which he placed upon the table.
“Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?”
My friend bowed and smiled. “Mr. Sandeford, of Reading, I suppose?” said
he.
“Yes, sir, I fear that I am a little late, but the trains were awkward. You wrote
to me about a bust that is in my possession.”
“Exactly.”
“I have your letter here. You said, ‘I desire to possess a copy of Devine’s
Napoleon, and am prepared to pay you ten pounds for the one which is in your
possession.’ Is that right?”
“Certainly.”
“I was very much surprised at your letter, for I could not imagine how you
knew that I owned such a thing.”
“Of course you must have been surprised, but the explanation is very simple.
Mr. Harding, of Harding Brothers, said that they had sold you their last copy, and
he gave me your address.”
“Oh, that was it, was it? Did he tell you what I paid for it?”
“No, he did not.”
“Well, I am an honest man, though not a very rich one. I only gave fifteen
shillings for the bust, and I think you ought to know that before I take ten pounds
from you.
“I am sure the scruple does you honour, Mr. Sandeford. But I have named that
price, so I intend to stick to it.”
“Well, it is very handsome of you, Mr. Holmes. I brought the bust up with me,
as you asked me to do. Here it is!” He opened his bag, and at last we saw placed
upon our table a complete specimen of that bust which we had already seen more
than once in fragments.
Holmes took a paper from his pocket and laid a ten-pound note upon the table.
“You will kindly sign that paper, Mr. Sandeford, in the presence of these
witnesses. It is simply to say that you transfer every possible right that you ever
had in the bust to me. I am a methodical man, you see, and you never know what
turn events might take afterwards. Thank you, Mr. Sandeford; here is your
money, and I wish you a very good evening.”
When our visitor had disappeared, Sherlock Holmes’s movements were such
as to rivet our attention. He began by taking a clean white cloth from a drawer
and laying it over the table. Then he placed his newly acquired bust in the centre
of the cloth. Finally, he picked up his hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a sharp
blow on the top of the head. The figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent
eagerly over the shattered remains. Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph he
held up one splinter, in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in a
pudding.
“Gentlemen,” he cried, “let me introduce you to the famous black pearl of the
Borgias.”
Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a spontaneous impulse,
we both broke at clapping, as at the well-wrought crisis of a play. A flush of
colour sprang to Holmes’s pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master
dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It was at such moments that
for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love
for admiration and applause. The same singularly proud and reserved nature
which turned away with disdain from popular notoriety was capable of being
moved to its depths by spontaneous wonder and praise from a friend.
“Yes, gentlemen,” said he, “it is the most famous pearl now existing in the
world, and it has been my good fortune, by a connected chain of inductive
reasoning, to trace it from the Prince of Colonna’s bedroom at the Dacre Hotel,
where it was lost, to the interior of this, the last of the six busts of Napoleon
which were manufactured by Gelder & Co., of Stepney. You will remember,
Lestrade, the sensation caused by the disappearance of this valuable jewel and
the vain efforts of the London police to recover it. I was myself consulted upon
the case, but I was unable to throw any light upon it. Suspicion fell upon the
maid of the Princess, who was an Italian, and it was proved that she had a
brother in London, but we failed to trace any connection between them. The
maid’s name was Lucretia Venucci, and there is no doubt in my mind that this
Pietro who was murdered two nights ago was the brother. I have been looking up
the dates in the old files of the paper, and I find that the disappearance of the
pearl was exactly two days before the arrest of Beppo, for some crime of
violence—an event which took place in the factory of Gelder & Co., at the very
moment when these busts were being made. Now you clearly see the sequence
of events, though you see them, of course, in the inverse order to the way in
which they presented themselves to me. Beppo had the pearl in his possession.
He may have stolen it from Pietro, he may have been Pietro’s confederate, he
may have been the go-between of Pietro and his sister. It is of no consequence to
us which is the correct solution.
“The main fact is that he had the pearl, and at that moment, when it was on his
person, he was pursued by the police. He made for the factory in which he
worked, and he knew that he had only a few minutes in which to conceal this
enormously valuable prize, which would otherwise be found on him when he
was searched. Six plaster casts of Napoleon were drying in the passage. One of
them was still soft. In an instant Beppo, a skilful workman, made a small hole in
the wet plaster, dropped in the pearl, and with a few touches covered over the
aperture once more. It was an admirable hiding-place. No one could possibly
find it. But Beppo was condemned to a year’s imprisonment, and in the
meanwhile his six busts were scattered over London. He could not tell which
contained his treasure. Only by breaking them could he see. Even shaking would
tell him nothing, for as the plaster was wet it was probable that the pearl would
adhere to it—as, in fact, it has done. Beppo did not despair, and he conducted his
search with considerable ingenuity and perseverance. Through a cousin who
works with Gelder, he found out the retail firms who had bought the busts. He
managed to find employment with Morse Hudson, and in that way tracked down
three of them. The pearl was not there. Then, with the help of some Italian
employee, he succeeded in finding out where the other three busts had gone. The
first was at Harker’s. There he was dogged by his confederate, who held Beppo
responsible for the loss of the pearl, and he stabbed him in the scuffle which
followed.”
“If he was his confederate, why should he carry his photograph?” I asked.
“As a means of tracing him, if he wished to inquire about him from any third
person. That was the obvious reason. Well, after the murder I calculated that
Beppo would probably hurry rather than delay his movements. He would fear
that the police would read his secret, and so he hastened on before they should
get ahead of him. Of course, I could not say that he had not found the pearl in
Harker’s bust. I had not even concluded for certain that it was the pearl, but it
was evident to me that he was looking for something, since he carried the bust
past the other houses in order to break it in the garden which had a lamp
overlooking it. Since Harker’s bust was one in three, the chances were exactly as
I told you—two to one against the pearl being inside it. There remained two
busts, and it was obvious that he would go for the London one first. I warned the
inmates of the house, so as to avoid a second tragedy, and we went down, with
the happiest results. By that time, of course, I knew for certain that it was the
Borgia pearl that we were after. The name of the murdered man linked the one
event with the other. There only remained a single bust—the Reading one—and
the pearl must be there. I bought it in your presence from the owner—and there
it lies.”
We sat in silence for a moment.
“Well,” said Lestrade, “I’ve seen you handle a good many cases, Mr. Holmes,
but I don’t know that I ever knew a more workmanlike one than that. We’re not
jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No, sir, we are very proud of you, and if you
come down to-morrow, there’s not a man, from the oldest inspector to the
youngest constable, who wouldn’t be glad to shake you by the hand.”
“Thank you!” said Holmes. “Thank you!” and as he turned away, it seemed to
me that he was more nearly moved by the softer human emotions than I had ever
seen him. A moment later he was the cold and practical thinker once more. “Put
the pearl in the safe, Watson,” said he, “and get out the papers of the ConkSingleton forgery case. Good-bye, Lestrade. If any little problem comes your
way, I shall be happy, if I can, to give you a hint or two as to its solution.”
THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS
It was in the year ’95 that a combination of events, into which I need not enter,
caused Mr. Sherlock Holmes and myself to spend some weeks in one of our
great university towns, and it was during this time that the small but instructive
adventure which I am about to relate befell us. It will be obvious that any details
which would help the reader exactly to identify the college or the criminal would
be injudicious and offensive. So painful a scandal may well be allowed to die
out. With due discretion the incident itself may, however, be described, since it
serves to illustrate some of those qualities for which my friend was remarkable. I
will endeavour, in my statement, to avoid such terms as would serve to limit the
events to any particular place, or give a clue as to the people concerned.
We were residing at the time in furnished lodgings close to a library where
Sherlock Holmes was pursuing some laborious researches in early English
charters—researches which led to results so striking that they may be the subject
of one of my future narratives. Here it was that one evening we received a visit
from an acquaintance, Mr. Hilton Soames, tutor and lecturer at the College of St.
Luke’s. Mr. Soames was a tall, spare man, of a nervous and excitable
temperament. I had always known him to be restless in his manner, but on this
particular occasion he was in such a state of uncontrollable agitation that it was
clear something very unusual had occurred.
“I trust, Mr. Holmes, that you can spare me a few hours of your valuable time.
We have had a very painful incident at St. Luke’s, and really, but for the happy
chance of your being in town, I should have been at a loss what to do.”
“I am very busy just now, and I desire no distractions,” my friend answered. “I
should much prefer that you called in the aid of the police.”
“No, no, my dear sir; such a course is utterly impossible. When once the law
is evoked it cannot be stayed again, and this is just one of those cases where, for
the credit of the college, it is most essential to avoid scandal. Your discretion is
as well-known as your powers, and you are the one man in the world who can
help me. I beg you, Mr. Holmes, to do what you can.”
My friend’s temper had not improved since he had been deprived of the
congenial surroundings of Baker Street. Without his scrapbooks, his chemicals,
and his homely untidiness, he was an uncomfortable man. He shrugged his
shoulders in ungracious acquiescence, while our visitor in hurried words and
with much excitable gesticulation poured forth his story.
“I must explain to you, Mr. Holmes, that to-morrow is the first day of the
examination for the Fortescue Scholarship. I am one of the examiners. My
subject is Greek, and the first of the papers consists of a large passage of Greek
translation which the candidate has not seen. This passage is printed on the
examination paper, and it would naturally be an immense advantage if the
candidate could prepare it in advance. For this reason, great care is taken to keep
the paper secret.
“To-day, about three o’clock, the proofs of this paper arrived from the printers.
The exercise consists of half a chapter of Thucydides. I had to read it over
carefully, as the text must be absolutely correct. At four-thirty my task was not
yet completed. I had, however, promised to take tea in a friend’s rooms, so I left
the proof upon my desk. I was absent rather more than an hour.
“You are aware, Mr. Holmes, that our college doors are double—a green baize
one within and a heavy oak one without. As I approached my outer door, I was
amazed to see a key in it. For an instant I imagined that I had left my own there,
but on feeling in my pocket I found that it was all right. The only duplicate
which existed, so far as I knew, was that which belonged to my servant,
Bannister—a man who has looked after my room for ten years, and whose
honesty is absolutely above suspicion. I found that the key was indeed his, that
he had entered my room to know if I wanted tea, and that he had very carelessly
left the key in the door when he came out. His visit to my room must have been
within a very few minutes of my leaving it. His forgetfulness about the key
would have mattered little upon any other occasion, but on this one day it has
produced the most deplorable consequences.
“The moment I looked at my table, I was aware that someone had rummaged
among my papers. The proof was in three long slips. I had left them all together.
Now, I found that one of them was lying on the floor, one was on the side table
near the window, and the third was where I had left it.”
Holmes stirred for the first time.
“The first page on the floor, the second in the window, the third where you left
it,” said he.
“Exactly, Mr. Holmes. You amaze me. How could you possibly know that?”
“Pray continue your very interesting statement.”
“For an instant I imagined that Bannister had taken the unpardonable liberty
of examining my papers. He denied it, however, with the utmost earnestness, and
I am convinced that he was speaking the truth. The alternative was that someone
passing had observed the key in the door, had known that I was out, and had
entered to look at the papers. A large sum of money is at stake, for the
scholarship is a very valuable one, and an unscrupulous man might very well run
a risk in order to gain an advantage over his fellows.
“Bannister was very much upset by the incident. He had nearly fainted when
we found that the papers had undoubtedly been tampered with. I gave him a little
brandy and left him collapsed in a chair, while I made a most careful
examination of the room. I soon saw that the intruder had left other traces of his
presence besides the rumpled papers. On the table in the window were several
shreds from a pencil which had been sharpened. A broken tip of lead was lying
there also. Evidently the rascal had copied the paper in a great hurry, had broken
his pencil, and had been compelled to put a fresh point to it.”
“Excellent!” said Holmes, who was recovering his good-humour as his
attention became more engrossed by the case. “Fortune has been your friend.”
“This was not all. I have a new writing-table with a fine surface of red leather.
I am prepared to swear, and so is Bannister, that it was smooth and unstained.
Now I found a clean cut in it about three inches long—not a mere scratch, but a
positive cut. Not only this, but on the table I found a small ball of black dough or
clay, with specks of something which looks like sawdust in it. I am convinced
that these marks were left by the man who rifled the papers. There were no
footmarks and no other evidence as to his identity. I was at my wits’ end, when
suddenly the happy thought occurred to me that you were in the town, and I
came straight round to put the matter into your hands. Do help me, Mr. Holmes.
You see my dilemma. Either I must find the man or else the examination must be
postponed until fresh papers are prepared, and since this cannot be done without
explanation, there will ensue a hideous scandal, which will throw a cloud not
only on the college, but on the university. Above all things, I desire to settle the
matter quietly and discreetly.”
“I shall be happy to look into it and to give you such advice as I can,” said
Holmes, rising and putting on his overcoat. “The case is not entirely devoid of
interest. Had anyone visited you in your room after the papers came to you?”
“Yes, young Daulat Ras, an Indian student, who lives on the same stair, came
in to ask me some particulars about the examination.”
“For which he was entered?”
“Yes.”
“And the papers were on your table?”
“To the best of my belief, they were rolled up.”
“But might be recognized as proofs?”
“Possibly.”
“No one else in your room?”
“No.”
“Did anyone know that these proofs would be there?”
“No one save the printer.”
“Did this man Bannister know?”
“No, certainly not. No one knew.”
“Where is Bannister now?”
“He was very ill, poor fellow. I left him collapsed in the chair. I was in such a
hurry to come to you.”
“You left your door open?”
“I locked up the papers first.”
“Then it amounts to this, Mr. Soames: that, unless the Indian student
recognized the roll as being proofs, the man who tampered with them came upon
them accidentally without knowing that they were there.”
“So it seems to me.”
Holmes gave an enigmatic smile.
“Well,” said he, “let us go round. Not one of your cases, Watson—mental, not
physical. All right; come if you want to. Now, Mr. Soames—at your disposal!”
The sitting-room of our client opened by a long, low, latticed window on to
the ancient lichen-tinted court of the old college. A Gothic arched door led to a
worn stone staircase. On the ground floor was the tutor’s room. Above were
three students, one on each story. It was already twilight when we reached the
scene of our problem. Holmes halted and looked earnestly at the window. Then
he approached it, and, standing on tiptoe with his neck craned, he looked into the
room.
“He must have entered through the door. There is no opening except the one
pane,” said our learned guide.
“Dear me!” said Holmes, and he smiled in a singular way as he glanced at our
companion. “Well, if there is nothing to be learned here, we had best go inside.”
The lecturer unlocked the outer door and ushered us into his room. We stood
at the entrance while Holmes made an examination of the carpet.
“I am afraid there are no signs here,” said he. “One could hardly hope for any
upon so dry a day. Your servant seems to have quite recovered. You left him in a
chair, you say. Which chair?”
“By the window there.”
“I see. Near this little table. You can come in now. I have finished with the
carpet. Let us take the little table first. Of course, what has happened is very
clear. The man entered and took the papers, sheet by sheet, from the central
table. He carried them over to the window table, because from there he could see
if you came across the courtyard, and so could effect an escape.”
“As a matter of fact, he could not,” said Soames, “for I entered by the side
door.”
“Ah, that’s good! Well, anyhow, that was in his mind. Let me see the three
strips. No finger impressions—no! Well, he carried over this one first, and he
copied it. How long would it take him to do that, using every possible
contraction? A quarter of an hour, not less. Then he tossed it down and seized the
next. He was in the midst of that when your return caused him to make a very
hurried retreat—very hurried, since he had not time to replace the papers which
would tell you that he had been there. You were not aware of any hurrying feet
on the stair as you entered the outer door?”
“No, I can’t say I was.”
“Well, he wrote so furiously that he broke his pencil, and had, as you observe,
to sharpen it again. This is of interest, Watson. The pencil was not an ordinary
one. It was above the usual size, with a soft lead, the outer colour was dark blue,
the maker’s name was printed in silver lettering, and the piece remaining is only
about an inch and a half long. Look for such a pencil, Mr. Soames, and you have
got your man. When I add that he possesses a large and very blunt knife, you
have an additional aid.”
Mr. Soames was somewhat overwhelmed by this flood of information. “I can
follow the other points,” said he, “but really, in this matter of the length——”
Holmes held out a small chip with the letters NN and a space of clear wood
after them.
“You see?”
“No, I fear that even now——”
“Watson, I have always done you an injustice. There are others. What could
this NN be? It is at the end of a word. You are aware that Johann Faber is the
most common maker’s name. Is it not clear that there is just as much of the
pencil left as usually follows the Johann?” He held the small table sideways to
the electric light. “I was hoping that if the paper on which he wrote was thin,
some trace of it might come through upon this polished surface. No, I see
nothing. I don’t think there is anything more to be learned here. Now for the
central table. This small pellet is, I presume, the black, doughy mass you spoke
of. Roughly pyramidal in shape and hollowed out, I perceive. As you say, there
appear to be grains of sawdust in it. Dear me, this is very interesting. And the cut
—a positive tear, I see. It began with a thin scratch and ended in a jagged hole. I
am much indebted to you for directing my attention to this case, Mr. Soames.
Where does that door lead to?”
“To my bedroom.”
“Have you been in it since your adventure?”
“No, I came straight away for you.”
“I should like to have a glance round. What a charming, old-fashioned room!
Perhaps you will kindly wait a minute, until I have examined the floor. No, I see
nothing. What about this curtain? You hang your clothes behind it. If anyone
were forced to conceal himself in this room he must do it there, since the bed is
too low and the wardrobe too shallow. No one there, I suppose?”
As Holmes drew the curtain I was aware, from some little rigidity and
alertness of his attitude, that he was prepared for an emergency. As a matter of
fact, the drawn curtain disclosed nothing but three or four suits of clothes
hanging from a line of pegs. Holmes turned away, and stooped suddenly to the
floor.
“Halloa! What’s this?” said he.
It was a small pyramid of black, putty-like stuff, exactly like the one upon the
table of the study. Holmes held it out on his open palm in the glare of the electric
light.
“Your visitor seems to have left traces in your bedroom as well as in your
sitting-room, Mr. Soames.”
“What could he have wanted there?”
“I think it is clear enough. You came back by an unexpected way, and so he
had no warning until you were at the very door. What could he do? He caught up
everything which would betray him, and he rushed into your bedroom to conceal
himself.”
“Good gracious, Mr. Holmes, do you mean to tell me that, all the time I was
talking to Bannister in this room, we had the man prisoner if we had only known
it?”
“So I read it.”
“Surely there is another alternative, Mr. Holmes. I don’t know whether you
observed my bedroom window?”
“Lattice-paned, lead framework, three separate windows, one swinging on
hinge, and large enough to admit a man.”
“Exactly. And it looks out on an angle of the courtyard so as to be partly
invisible. The man might have effected his entrance there, left traces as he
passed through the bedroom, and finally, finding the door open, have escaped
that way.”
Holmes shook his head impatiently.
“Let us be practical,” said he. “I understand you to say that there are three
students who use this stair, and are in the habit of passing your door?”
“Yes, there are.”
“And they are all in for this examination?”
“Yes.”
“Have you any reason to suspect any one of them more than the others?”
Soames hesitated.
“It is a very delicate question,” said he. “One hardly likes to throw suspicion
where there are no proofs.”
“Let us hear the suspicions. I will look after the proofs.”
“I will tell you, then, in a few words the character of the three men who
inhabit these rooms. The lower of the three is Gilchrist, a fine scholar and
athlete, plays in the Rugby team and the cricket team for the college, and got his
Blue for the hurdles and the long jump. He is a fine, manly fellow. His father
was the notorious Sir Jabez Gilchrist, who ruined himself on the turf. My scholar
has been left very poor, but he is hard-working and industrious. He will do well.
“The second floor is inhabited by Daulat Ras, the Indian. He is a quiet,
inscrutable fellow; as most of those Indians are. He is well up in his work,
though his Greek is his weak subject. He is steady and methodical.
“The top floor belongs to Miles McLaren. He is a brilliant fellow when he
chooses to work—one of the brightest intellects of the university; but he is
wayward, dissipated, and unprincipled. He was nearly expelled over a card
scandal in his first year. He has been idling all this term, and he must look
forward with dread to the examination.”
“Then it is he whom you suspect?”
“I dare not go so far as that. But, of the three, he is perhaps the least unlikely.”
“Exactly. Now, Mr. Soames, let us have a look at your servant, Bannister.”
He was a little, white-faced, clean-shaven, grizzly-haired fellow of fifty. He
was still suffering from this sudden disturbance of the quiet routine of his life.
His plump face was twitching with his nervousness, and his fingers could not
keep still.
“We are investigating this unhappy business, Bannister,” said his master.
“Yes, sir.”
“I understand,” said Holmes, “that you left your key in the door?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Was it not very extraordinary that you should do this on the very day when
there were these papers inside?”
“It was most unfortunate, sir. But I have occasionally done the same thing at
other times.”
“When did you enter the room?”
“It was about half-past four. That is Mr. Soames’ tea time.”
“How long did you stay?”
“When I saw that he was absent, I withdrew at once.”
“Did you look at these papers on the table?”
“No, sir—certainly not.”
“How came you to leave the key in the door?”
“I had the tea-tray in my hand. I thought I would come back for the key. Then
I forgot.”
“Has the outer door a spring lock?”
“No, sir.”
“Then it was open all the time?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Anyone in the room could get out?”
“Yes, sir.”
“When Mr. Soames returned and called for you, you were very much
disturbed?”
“Yes, sir. Such a thing has never happened during the many years that I have
been here. I nearly fainted, sir.”
“So I understand. Where were you when you began to feel bad?”
“Where was I, sir? Why, here, near the door.”
“That is singular, because you sat down in that chair over yonder near the
corner. Why did you pass these other chairs?”
“I don’t know, sir, it didn’t matter to me where I sat.”
“I really don’t think he knew much about it, Mr. Holmes. He was looking very
bad—quite ghastly.”
“You stayed here when your master left?”
“Only for a minute or so. Then I locked the door and went to my room.”
“Whom do you suspect?”
“Oh, I would not venture to say, sir. I don’t believe there is any gentleman in
this university who is capable of profiting by such an action. No, sir, I’ll not
believe it.”
“Thank you, that will do,” said Holmes. “Oh, one more word. You have not
mentioned to any of the three gentlemen whom you attend that anything is
amiss?”
“No, sir—not a word.”
“You haven’t seen any of them?”
“No, sir.”
“Very good. Now, Mr. Soames, we will take a walk in the quadrangle, if you
please.”
Three yellow squares of light shone above us in the gathering gloom.
“Your three birds are all in their nests,” said Holmes, looking up. “Halloa!
What’s that? One of them seems restless enough.”
It was the Indian, whose dark silhouette appeared suddenly upon his blind. He
was pacing swiftly up and down his room.
“I should like to have a peep at each of them,” said Holmes. “Is it possible?”
“No difficulty in the world,” Soames answered. “This set of rooms is quite the
oldest in the college, and it is not unusual for visitors to go over them. Come
along, and I will personally conduct you.”
“No names, please!” said Holmes, as we knocked at Gilchrist’s door. A tall,
flaxen-haired, slim young fellow opened it, and made us welcome when he
understood our errand. There were some really curious pieces of mediæval
domestic architecture within. Holmes was so charmed with one of them that he
insisted on drawing it in his notebook, broke his pencil, had to borrow one from
our host and finally borrowed a knife to sharpen his own. The same curious
accident happened to him in the rooms of the Indian—a silent, little, hook-nosed
fellow, who eyed us askance, and was obviously glad when Holmes’s
architectural studies had come to an end. I could not see that in either case
Holmes had come upon the clue for which he was searching. Only at the third
did our visit prove abortive. The outer door would not open to our knock, and
nothing more substantial than a torrent of bad language came from behind it. “I
don’t care who you are. You can go to blazes!” roared the angry voice.
“Tomorrow’s the exam, and I won’t be drawn by anyone.”
“A rude fellow,” said our guide, flushing with anger as we withdrew down the
stair. “Of course, he did not realize that it was I who was knocking, but none the
less his conduct was very uncourteous, and, indeed, under the circumstances
rather suspicious.”
Holmes’s response was a curious one.
“Can you tell me his exact height?” he asked.
“Really, Mr. Holmes, I cannot undertake to say. He is taller than the Indian,
not so tall as Gilchrist. I suppose five foot six would be about it.”
“That is very important,” said Holmes. “And now, Mr. Soames, I wish you
good-night.”
Our guide cried aloud in his astonishment and dismay. “Good gracious, Mr.
Holmes, you are surely not going to leave me in this abrupt fashion! You don’t
seem to realize the position. To-morrow is the examination. I must take some
definite action to-night. I cannot allow the examination to be held if one of the
papers has been tampered with. The situation must be faced.”
“You must leave it as it is. I shall drop round early to-morrow morning and
chat the matter over. It is possible that I may be in a position then to indicate
some course of action. Meanwhile, you change nothing—nothing at all.”
“Very good, Mr. Holmes.”
“You can be perfectly easy in your mind. We shall certainly find some way out
of your difficulties. I will take the black clay with me, also the pencil cuttings.
Good-bye.”
When we were out in the darkness of the quadrangle, we again looked up at
the windows. The Indian still paced his room. The others were invisible.
“Well, Watson, what do you think of it?” Holmes asked, as we came out into
the main street. “Quite a little parlour game—sort of three-card trick, is it not?
There are your three men. It must be one of them. You take your choice. Which
is yours?”
“The foul-mouthed fellow at the top. He is the one with the worst record. And
yet that Indian was a sly fellow also. Why should he be pacing his room all the
time?”
“There is nothing in that. Many men do it when they are trying to learn
anything by heart.”
“He looked at us in a queer way.”
“So would you, if a flock of strangers came in on you when you were
preparing for an examination next day, and every moment was of value. No, I
see nothing in that. Pencils, too, and knives—all was satisfactory. But that fellow
does puzzle me.”
“Who?”
“Why, Bannister, the servant. What’s his game in the matter?”
“He impressed me as being a perfectly honest man.”
“So he did me. That’s the puzzling part. Why should a perfectly honest man—
well, well, here’s a large stationer’s. We shall begin our researches here.”
There were only four stationers of any consequences in the town, and at each
Holmes produced his pencil chips, and bid high for a duplicate. All were agreed
that one could be ordered, but that it was not a usual size of pencil and that it
was seldom kept in stock. My friend did not appear to be depressed by his
failure, but shrugged his shoulders in half-humorous resignation.
“No good, my dear Watson. This, the best and only final clue, has run to
nothing. But, indeed, I have little doubt that we can build up a sufficient case
without it. By Jove! my dear fellow, it is nearly nine, and the landlady babbled of
green peas at seven-thirty. What with your eternal tobacco, Watson, and your
irregularity at meals, I expect that you will get notice to quit, and that I shall
share your downfall—not, however, before we have solved the problem of the
nervous tutor, the careless servant, and the three enterprising students.”
Holmes made no further allusion to the matter that day, though he sat lost in
thought for a long time after our belated dinner. At eight in the morning, he came
into my room just as I finished my toilet.
“Well, Watson,” said he, “it is time we went down to St. Luke’s. Can you do
without breakfast?”
“Certainly.”
“Soames will be in a dreadful fidget until we are able to tell him something
positive.”
“Have you anything positive to tell him?”
“I think so.”
“You have formed a conclusion?”
“Yes, my dear Watson, I have solved the mystery.”
“But what fresh evidence could you have got?”
“Aha! It is not for nothing that I have turned myself out of bed at the untimely
hour of six. I have put in two hours’ hard work and covered at least five miles,
with something to show for it. Look at that!”
He held out his hand. On the palm were three little pyramids of black, doughy
clay.
“Why, Holmes, you had only two yesterday.”
“And one more this morning. It is a fair argument that wherever No. 3 came
from is also the source of Nos. 1 and 2. Eh, Watson? Well, come along and put
friend Soames out of his pain.”
The unfortunate tutor was certainly in a state of pitiable agitation when we
found him in his chambers. In a few hours the examination would commence,
and he was still in the dilemma between making the facts public and allowing
the culprit to compete for the valuable scholarship. He could hardly stand still so
great was his mental agitation, and he ran towards Holmes with two eager hands
outstretched.
“Thank heaven that you have come! I feared that you had given it up in
despair. What am I to do? Shall the examination proceed?”
“Yes, let it proceed, by all means.”
“But this rascal?”
“He shall not compete.”
“You know him?”
“I think so. If this matter is not to become public, we must give ourselves
certain powers and resolve ourselves into a small private court-martial. You
there, if you please, Soames! Watson you here! I’ll take the armchair in the
middle. I think that we are now sufficiently imposing to strike terror into a guilty
breast. Kindly ring the bell!”
Bannister entered, and shrank back in evident surprise and fear at our judicial
appearance.
“You will kindly close the door,” said Holmes. “Now, Bannister, will you
please tell us the truth about yesterday’s incident?”
The man turned white to the roots of his hair.
“I have told you everything, sir.”
“Nothing to add?”
“Nothing at all, sir.”
“Well, then, I must make some suggestions to you. When you sat down on that
chair yesterday, did you do so in order to conceal some object which would have
shown who had been in the room?”
Bannister’s face was ghastly.
“No, sir, certainly not.”
“It is only a suggestion,” said Holmes, suavely. “I frankly admit that I am
unable to prove it. But it seems probable enough, since the moment that Mr.
Soames’s back was turned, you released the man who was hiding in that
bedroom.”
Bannister licked his dry lips.
“There was no man, sir.”
“Ah, that’s a pity, Bannister. Up to now you may have spoken the truth, but
now I know that you have lied.”
The man’s face set in sullen defiance.
“There was no man, sir.”
“Come, come, Bannister!”
“No, sir, there was no one.”
“In that case, you can give us no further information. Would you please
remain in the room? Stand over there near the bedroom door. Now, Soames, I am
going to ask you to have the great kindness to go up to the room of young
Gilchrist, and to ask him to step down into yours.”
An instant later the tutor returned, bringing with him the student. He was a
fine figure of a man, tall, lithe, and agile, with a springy step and a pleasant,
open face. His troubled blue eyes glanced at each of us, and finally rested with
an expression of blank dismay upon Bannister in the farther corner.
“Just close the door,” said Holmes. “Now, Mr. Gilchrist, we are all quite alone
here, and no one need ever know one word of what passes between us. We can
be perfectly frank with each other. We want to know, Mr. Gilchrist, how you, an
honourable man, ever came to commit such an action as that of yesterday?”
The unfortunate young man staggered back, and cast a look full of horror and
reproach at Bannister.
“No, no, Mr. Gilchrist, sir, I never said a word—never one word!” cried the
servant.
“No, but you have now,” said Holmes. “Now, sir, you must see that after
Bannister’s words your position is hopeless, and that your only chance lies in a
frank confession.”
For a moment Gilchrist, with upraised hand, tried to control his writhing
features. The next he had thrown himself on his knees beside the table, and
burying his face in his hands, he had burst into a storm of passionate sobbing.
“Come, come,” said Holmes, kindly, “it is human to err, and at least no one
can accuse you of being a callous criminal. Perhaps it would be easier for you if
I were to tell Mr. Soames what occurred, and you can check me where I am
wrong. Shall I do so? Well, well, don’t trouble to answer. Listen, and see that I
do you no injustice.
“From the moment, Mr. Soames, that you said to me that no one, not even
Bannister, could have told that the papers were in your room, the case began to
take a definite shape in my mind. The printer one could, of course, dismiss. He
could examine the papers in his own office. The Indian I also thought nothing of.
If the proofs were in a roll, he could not possibly know what they were. On the
other hand, it seemed an unthinkable coincidence that a man should dare to enter
the room, and that by chance on that very day the papers were on the table. I
dismissed that. The man who entered knew that the papers were there. How did
he know?
“When I approached your room, I examined the window. You amused me by
supposing that I was contemplating the possibility of someone having in broad
daylight, under the eyes of all these opposite rooms, forced himself through it.
Such an idea was absurd. I was measuring how tall a man would need to be in
order to see, as he passed, what papers were on the central table. I am six feet
high, and I could do it with an effort. No one less than that would have a chance.
Already you see I had reason to think that, if one of your three students was a
man of unusual height, he was the most worth watching of the three.
“I entered, and I took you into my confidence as to the suggestions of the side
table. Of the centre table I could make nothing, until in your description of
Gilchrist you mentioned that he was a long-distance jumper. Then the whole
thing came to me in an instant, and I only needed certain corroborative proofs,
which I speedily obtained.
“What happened was this. This young fellow had employed his afternoon at
the athletic grounds, where he had been practising the jump. He returned
carrying his jumping-shoes, which are provided, as you are aware, with several
sharp spikes. As he passed your window he saw, by means of his great height,
these proofs upon your table, and conjectured what they were. No harm would
have been done had it not been that, as he passed your door, he perceived the key
which had been left by the carelessness of your servant. A sudden impulse came
over him to enter, and see if they were indeed the proofs. It was not a dangerous
exploit for he could always pretend that he had simply looked in to ask a
question.
“Well, when he saw that they were indeed the proofs, it was then that he
yielded to temptation. He put his shoes on the table. What was it you put on that
chair near the window?”
“Gloves,” said the young man.
Holmes looked triumphantly at Bannister. “He put his gloves on the chair, and
he took the proofs, sheet by sheet, to copy them. He thought the tutor must return
by the main gate and that he would see him. As we know, he came back by the
side gate. Suddenly he heard him at the very door. There was no possible escape.
He forgot his gloves but he caught up his shoes and darted into the bedroom.
You observe that the scratch on that table is slight at one side, but deepens in the
direction of the bedroom door. That in itself is enough to show us that the shoe
had been drawn in that direction, and that the culprit had taken refuge there. The
earth round the spike had been left on the table, and a second sample was
loosened and fell in the bedroom. I may add that I walked out to the athletic
grounds this morning, saw that tenacious black clay is used in the jumping-pit
and carried away a specimen of it, together with some of the fine tan or sawdust
which is strewn over it to prevent the athlete from slipping. Have I told the truth,
Mr. Gilchrist?”
The student had drawn himself erect.
“Yes, sir, it is true,” said he.
“Good heavens! have you nothing to add?” cried Soames.
“Yes, sir, I have, but the shock of this disgraceful exposure has bewildered me.
I have a letter here, Mr. Soames, which I wrote to you early this morning in the
middle of a restless night. It was before I knew that my sin had found me out.
Here it is, sir. You will see that I have said, ‘I have determined not to go in for
the examination. I have been offered a commission in the Rhodesian Police, and
I am going out to South Africa at once.’”
“I am indeed pleased to hear that you did not intend to profit by your unfair
advantage,” said Soames. “But why did you change your purpose?”
Gilchrist pointed to Bannister.
“There is the man who set me in the right path,” said he.
“Come now, Bannister,” said Holmes. “It will be clear to you, from what I
have said, that only you could have let this young man out, since you were left in
the room, and must have locked the door when you went out. As to his escaping
by that window, it was incredible. Can you not clear up the last point in this
mystery, and tell us the reasons for your action?”
“It was simple enough, sir, if you only had known, but, with all your
cleverness, it was impossible that you could know. Time was, sir, when I was
butler to old Sir Jabez Gilchrist, this young gentleman’s father. When he was
ruined I came to the college as servant, but I never forgot my old employer
because he was down in the world. I watched his son all I could for the sake of
the old days. Well, sir, when I came into this room yesterday, when the alarm
was given, the very first thing I saw was Mr. Gilchrist’s tan gloves a-lying in that
chair. I knew those gloves well, and I understood their message. If Mr. Soames
saw them, the game was up. I flopped down into that chair, and nothing would
budge me until Mr. Soames he went for you. Then out came my poor young
master, whom I had dandled on my knee, and confessed it all to me. Wasn’t it
natural, sir, that I should save him, and wasn’t it natural also that I should try to
speak to him as his dead father would have done, and make him understand that
he could not profit by such a deed? Could you blame me, sir?”
“No, indeed,” said Holmes, heartily, springing to his feet. “Well, Soames, I
think we have cleared your little problem up, and our breakfast awaits us at
home. Come, Watson! As to you, sir, I trust that a bright future awaits you in
Rhodesia. For once you have fallen low. Let us see, in the future, how high you
can rise.”

THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ
When I look at the three massive manuscript volumes which contain our work
for the year 1894, I confess that it is very difficult for me, out of such a wealth of
material, to select the cases which are most interesting in themselves, and at the
same time most conducive to a display of those peculiar powers for which my
friend was famous. As I turn over the pages, I see my notes upon the repulsive
story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby, the banker. Here also I
find an account of the Addleton tragedy, and the singular contents of the ancient
British barrow. The famous Smith-Mortimer succession case comes also within
this period, and so does the tracking and arrest of Huret, the Boulevard assassin
—an exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the
French President and the Order of the Legion of Honour. Each of these would
furnish a narrative, but on the whole I am of opinion that none of them unites so
many singular points of interest as the episode of Yoxley Old Place, which
includes not only the lamentable death of young Willoughby Smith, but also
those subsequent developments which threw so curious a light upon the causes
of the crime.
It was a wild, tempestuous night, towards the close of November. Holmes and
I sat together in silence all the evening, he engaged with a powerful lens
deciphering the remains of the original inscription upon a palimpsest, I deep in a
recent treatise upon surgery. Outside the wind howled down Baker Street, while
the rain beat fiercely against the windows. It was strange there, in the very
depths of the town, with ten miles of man’s handiwork on every side of us, to
feel the iron grip of Nature, and to be conscious that to the huge elemental forces
all London was no more than the molehills that dot the fields. I walked to the
window, and looked out on the deserted street. The occasional lamps gleamed on
the expanse of muddy road and shining pavement. A single cab was splashing its
way from the Oxford Street end.
“Well, Watson, it’s as well we have not to turn out to-night,” said Holmes,
laying aside his lens and rolling up the palimpsest. “I’ve done enough for one
sitting. It is trying work for the eyes. So far as I can make out, it is nothing more
exciting than an Abbey’s accounts dating from the second half of the fifteenth
century. Halloa! halloa! halloa! What’s this?”
Amid the droning of the wind there had come the stamping of a horse’s hoofs,
and the long grind of a wheel as it rasped against the curb. The cab which I had
seen had pulled up at our door.
“What can he want?” I ejaculated, as a man stepped out of it.
“Want? He wants us. And we, my poor Watson, want overcoats and cravats
and goloshes, and every aid that man ever invented to fight the weather. Wait a
bit, though! There’s the cab off again! There’s hope yet. He’d have kept it if he
had wanted us to come. Run down, my dear fellow, and open the door, for all
virtuous folk have been long in bed.”
When the light of the hall lamp fell upon our midnight visitor, I had no
difficulty in recognizing him. It was young Stanley Hopkins, a promising
detective, in whose career Holmes had several times shown a very practical
interest.
“Is he in?” he asked, eagerly.
“Come up, my dear sir,” said Holmes’s voice from above. “I hope you have no
designs upon us such a night as this.”
The detective mounted the stairs, and our lamp gleamed upon his shining
waterproof. I helped him out of it, while Holmes knocked a blaze out of the logs
in the grate.
“Now, my dear Hopkins, draw up and warm your toes,” said he. “Here’s a
cigar, and the doctor has a prescription containing hot water and a lemon, which
is good medicine on a night like this. It must be something important which has
brought you out in such a gale.”
“It is indeed, Mr. Holmes. I’ve had a bustling afternoon, I promise you. Did
you see anything of the Yoxley case in the latest editions?”
“I’ve seen nothing later than the fifteenth century to-day.”
“Well, it was only a paragraph, and all wrong at that, so you have not missed
anything. I haven’t let the grass grow under my feet. It’s down in Kent, seven
miles from Chatham and three from the railway line. I was wired for at 3:15,
reached Yoxley Old Place at 5, conducted my investigation, was back at Charing
Cross by the last train, and straight to you by cab.”
“Which means, I suppose, that you are not quite clear about your case?”
“It means that I can make neither head nor tail of it. So far as I can see, it is
just as tangled a business as ever I handled, and yet at first it seemed so simple
that one couldn’t go wrong. There’s no motive, Mr. Holmes. That’s what bothers
me—I can’t put my hand on a motive. Here’s a man dead—there’s no denying
that—but, so far as I can see, no reason on earth why anyone should wish him
harm.”
Holmes lit his cigar and leaned back in his chair.
“Let us hear about it,” said he.
“I’ve got my facts pretty clear,” said Stanley Hopkins. “All I want now is to
know what they all mean. The story, so far as I can make it out, is like this. Some
years ago this country house, Yoxley Old Place, was taken by an elderly man,
who gave the name of Professor Coram. He was an invalid, keeping his bed half
the time, and the other half hobbling round the house with a stick or being
pushed about the grounds by the gardener in a Bath chair. He was well liked by
the few neighbours who called upon him, and he has the reputation down there
of being a very learned man. His household used to consist of an elderly
housekeeper, Mrs. Marker, and of a maid, Susan Tarlton. These have both been
with him since his arrival, and they seem to be women of excellent character.
The professor is writing a learned book, and he found it necessary, about a year
ago, to engage a secretary. The first two that he tried were not successes, but the
third, Mr. Willoughby Smith, a very young man straight from the university,
seems to have been just what his employer wanted. His work consisted in
writing all the morning to the professor’s dictation, and he usually spent the
evening in hunting up references and passages which bore upon the next day’s
work. This Willoughby Smith has nothing against him, either as a boy at
Uppingham or as a young man at Cambridge. I have seen his testimonials, and
from the first he was a decent, quiet, hard-working fellow, with no weak spot in
him at all. And yet this is the lad who has met his death this morning in the
professor’s study under circumstances which can point only to murder.”
The wind howled and screamed at the windows. Holmes and I drew closer to
the fire, while the young inspector slowly and point by point developed his
singular narrative.
“If you were to search all England,” said he, “I don’t suppose you could find a
household more self-contained or freer from outside influences. Whole weeks
would pass, and not one of them go past the garden gate. The professor was
buried in his work and existed for nothing else. Young Smith knew nobody in
the neighbourhood, and lived very much as his employer did. The two women
had nothing to take them from the house. Mortimer, the gardener, who wheels
the Bath chair, is an army pensioner—an old Crimean man of excellent
character. He does not live in the house, but in a three-roomed cottage at the
other end of the garden. Those are the only people that you would find within the
grounds of Yoxley Old Place. At the same time, the gate of the garden is a
hundred yards from the main London to Chatham road. It opens with a latch, and
there is nothing to prevent anyone from walking in.
“Now I will give you the evidence of Susan Tarlton, who is the only person
who can say anything positive about the matter. It was in the forenoon, between
eleven and twelve. She was engaged at the moment in hanging some curtains in
the upstairs front bedroom. Professor Coram was still in bed, for when the
weather is bad he seldom rises before midday. The housekeeper was busied with
some work in the back of the house. Willoughby Smith had been in his bedroom,
which he uses as a sitting-room, but the maid heard him at that moment pass
along the passage and descend to the study immediately below her. She did not
see him, but she says that she could not be mistaken in his quick, firm tread. She
did not hear the study door close, but a minute or so later there was a dreadful
cry in the room below. It was a wild, hoarse scream, so strange and unnatural
that it might have come either from a man or a woman. At the same instant there
was a heavy thud, which shook the old house, and then all was silence. The maid
stood petrified for a moment, and then, recovering her courage, she ran
downstairs. The study door was shut and she opened it. Inside, young Mr.
Willoughby Smith was stretched upon the floor. At first she could see no injury,
but as she tried to raise him she saw that blood was pouring from the underside
of his neck. It was pierced by a very small but very deep wound, which had
divided the carotid artery. The instrument with which the injury had been
inflicted lay upon the carpet beside him. It was one of those small sealing-wax
knives to be found on old-fashioned writing-tables, with an ivory handle and a
stiff blade. It was part of the fittings of the professor’s own desk.
“At first the maid thought that young Smith was already dead, but on pouring
some water from the carafe over his forehead he opened his eyes for an instant.
‘The professor,’ he murmured—‘it was she.’ The maid is prepared to swear that
those were the exact words. He tried desperately to say something else, and he
held his right hand up in the air. Then he fell back dead.
“In the meantime the housekeeper had also arrived upon the scene, but she
was just too late to catch the young man’s dying words. Leaving Susan with the
body, she hurried to the professor’s room. He was sitting up in bed, horribly
agitated, for he had heard enough to convince him that something terrible had
occurred. Mrs. Marker is prepared to swear that the professor was still in his
night-clothes, and indeed it was impossible for him to dress without the help of
Mortimer, whose orders were to come at twelve o’clock. The professor declares
that he heard the distant cry, but that he knows nothing more. He can give no
explanation of the young man’s last words, ‘The professor—it was she,’ but
imagines that they were the outcome of delirium. He believes that Willoughby
Smith had not an enemy in the world, and can give no reason for the crime. His
first action was to send Mortimer, the gardener, for the local police. A little later
the chief constable sent for me. Nothing was moved before I got there, and strict
orders were given that no one should walk upon the paths leading to the house. It
was a splendid chance of putting your theories into practice, Mr. Sherlock
Holmes. There was really nothing wanting.”
“Except Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said my companion, with a somewhat bitter
smile. “Well, let us hear about it. What sort of a job did you make of it?”
“I must ask you first, Mr. Holmes, to glance at this rough plan, which will
give you a general idea of the position of the professor’s study and the various
points of the case. It will help you in following my investigation.”
He unfolded the rough chart, which I here reproduce, and he laid it across
Holmes’s knee. I rose and, standing behind Holmes, studied it over his shoulder.
Professor’s-Study
“It is very rough, of course, and it only deals with the points which seem to
me to be essential. All the rest you will see later for yourself. Now, first of all,
presuming that the assassin entered the house, how did he or she come in?
Undoubtedly by the garden path and the back door, from which there is direct
access to the study. Any other way would have been exceedingly complicated.
The escape must have also been made along that line, for of the two other exits
from the room one was blocked by Susan as she ran downstairs and the other
leads straight to the professor’s bedroom. I therefore directed my attention at
once to the garden path, which was saturated with recent rain, and would
certainly show any footmarks.
“My examination showed me that I was dealing with a cautious and expert
criminal. No footmarks were to be found on the path. There could be no
question, however, that someone had passed along the grass border which lines
the path, and that he had done so in order to avoid leaving a track. I could not
find anything in the nature of a distinct impression, but the grass was trodden
down, and someone had undoubtedly passed. It could only have been the
murderer, since neither the gardener nor anyone else had been there that
morning, and the rain had only begun during the night.”
“One moment,” said Holmes. “Where does this path lead to?”
“To the road.”
“How long is it?”
“A hundred yards or so.”
“At the point where the path passes through the gate, you could surely pick up
the tracks?”
“Unfortunately, the path was tiled at that point.”
“Well, on the road itself?”
“No, it was all trodden into mire.”
“Tut-tut! Well, then, these tracks upon the grass, were they coming or going?”
“It was impossible to say. There was never any outline.”
“A large foot or a small?”
“You could not distinguish.”
Holmes gave an ejaculation of impatience.
“It has been pouring rain and blowing a hurricane ever since,” said he. “It will
be harder to read now than that palimpsest. Well, well, it can’t be helped. What
did you do, Hopkins, after you had made certain that you had made certain of
nothing?”
“I think I made certain of a good deal, Mr. Holmes. I knew that someone had
entered the house cautiously from without. I next examined the corridor. It is
lined with cocoanut matting and had taken no impression of any kind. This
brought me into the study itself. It is a scantily furnished room. The main article
is a large writing-table with a fixed bureau. This bureau consists of a double
column of drawers, with a central small cupboard between them. The drawers
were open, the cupboard locked. The drawers, it seems, were always open, and
nothing of value was kept in them. There were some papers of importance in the
cupboard, but there were no signs that this had been tampered with, and the
professor assures me that nothing was missing. It is certain that no robbery has
been committed.
“I come now to the body of the young man. It was found near the bureau, and
just to the left of it, as marked upon that chart. The stab was on the right side of
the neck and from behind forward, so that it is almost impossible that it could
have been self-inflicted.”
“Unless he fell upon the knife,” said Holmes.
“Exactly. The idea crossed my mind. But we found the knife some feet away
from the body, so that seems impossible. Then, of course, there are the man’s
own dying words. And, finally, there was this very important piece of evidence
which was found clasped in the dead man’s right hand.”
From his pocket Stanley Hopkins drew a small paper packet. He unfolded it
and disclosed a golden pince-nez, with two broken ends of black silk cord
dangling from the end of it. “Willoughby Smith had excellent sight,” he added.
“There can be no question that this was snatched from the face or the person of
the assassin.”
Sherlock Holmes took the glasses into his hand, and examined them with the
utmost attention and interest. He held them on his nose, endeavoured to read
through them, went to the window and stared up the street with them, looked at
them most minutely in the full light of the lamp, and finally, with a chuckle,
seated himself at the table and wrote a few lines upon a sheet of paper, which he
tossed across to Stanley Hopkins.
“That’s the best I can do for you,” said he. “It may prove to be of some use.”
The astonished detective read the note aloud. It ran as follows:
“Wanted, a woman of good address, attired like a lady. She has a
remarkably thick nose, with eyes which are set close upon either
side of it. She has a puckered forehead, a peering expression,
and probably rounded shoulders. There are indications that she
has had recourse to an optician at least twice during the last few
months. As her glasses are of remarkable strength, and as
opticians are not very numerous, there should be no difficulty in
tracing her.”
Holmes smiled at the astonishment of Hopkins, which must have been
reflected upon my features. “Surely my deductions are simplicity itself,” said he.
“It would be difficult to name any articles which afford a finer field for inference
than a pair of glasses, especially so remarkable a pair as these. That they belong
to a woman I infer from their delicacy, and also, of course, from the last words of
the dying man. As to her being a person of refinement and well dressed, they are,
as you perceive, handsomely mounted in solid gold, and it is inconceivable that
anyone who wore such glasses could be slatternly in other respects. You will find
that the clips are too wide for your nose, showing that the lady’s nose was very
broad at the base. This sort of nose is usually a short and coarse one, but there is
a sufficient number of exceptions to prevent me from being dogmatic or from
insisting upon this point in my description. My own face is a narrow one, and yet
I find that I cannot get my eyes into the centre, nor near the centre, of these
glasses. Therefore, the lady’s eyes are set very near to the sides of the nose. You
will perceive, Watson, that the glasses are concave and of unusual strength. A
lady whose vision has been so extremely contracted all her life is sure to have
the physical characteristics of such vision, which are seen in the forehead, the
eyelids, and the shoulders.”
“Yes,” I said, “I can follow each of your arguments. I confess, however, that I
am unable to understand how you arrive at the double visit to the optician.”
Holmes took the glasses in his hand.
“You will perceive,” he said, “that the clips are lined with tiny bands of cork
to soften the pressure upon the nose. One of these is discoloured and worn to
some slight extent, but the other is new. Evidently one has fallen off and been
replaced. I should judge that the older of them has not been there more than a
few months. They exactly correspond, so I gather that the lady went back to the
same establishment for the second.”
“By George, it’s marvellous!” cried Hopkins, in an ecstasy of admiration. “To
think that I had all that evidence in my hand and never knew it! I had intended,
however, to go the round of the London opticians.”
“Of course you would. Meanwhile, have you anything more to tell us about
the case?”
“Nothing, Mr. Holmes. I think that you know as much as I do now—probably
more. We have had inquiries made as to any stranger seen on the country roads
or at the railway station. We have heard of none. What beats me is the utter want
of all object in the crime. Not a ghost of a motive can anyone suggest.”
“Ah! there I am not in a position to help you. But I suppose you want us to
come out to-morrow?”
“If it is not asking too much, Mr. Holmes. There’s a train from Charing Cross
to Chatham at six in the morning, and we should be at Yoxley Old Place between
eight and nine.”
“Then we shall take it. Your case has certainly some features of great interest,
and I shall be delighted to look into it. Well, it’s nearly one, and we had best get
a few hours’ sleep. I daresay you can manage all right on the sofa in front of the
fire. I’ll light my spirit lamp, and give you a cup of coffee before we start.”
The gale had blown itself out next day, but it was a bitter morning when we
started upon our journey. We saw the cold winter sun rise over the dreary
marshes of the Thames and the long, sullen reaches of the river, which I shall
ever associate with our pursuit of the Andaman Islander in the earlier days of our
career. After a long and weary journey, we alighted at a small station some miles
from Chatham. While a horse was being put into a trap at the local inn, we
snatched a hurried breakfast, and so we were all ready for business when we at
last arrived at Yoxley Old Place. A constable met us at the garden gate.
“Well, Wilson, any news?”
“No, sir—nothing.”
“No reports of any stranger seen?”
“No, sir. Down at the station they are certain that no stranger either came or
went yesterday.”
“Have you had inquiries made at inns and lodgings?”
“Yes, sir: there is no one that we cannot account for.”
“Well, it’s only a reasonable walk to Chatham. Anyone might stay there or
take a train without being observed. This is the garden path of which I spoke,
Mr. Holmes. I’ll pledge my word there was no mark on it yesterday.”
“On which side were the marks on the grass?”
“This side, sir. This narrow margin of grass between the path and the flowerbed. I can’t see the traces now, but they were clear to me then.”
“Yes, yes: someone has passed along,” said Holmes, stooping over the grass
border. “Our lady must have picked her steps carefully, must she not, since on
the one side she would leave a track on the path, and on the other an even clearer
one on the soft bed?”
“Yes, sir, she must have been a cool hand.”
I saw an intent look pass over Holmes’s face.
“You say that she must have come back this way?”
“Yes, sir, there is no other.”
“On this strip of grass?”
“Certainly, Mr. Holmes.”
“Hum! It was a very remarkable performance—very remarkable. Well, I think
we have exhausted the path. Let us go farther. This garden door is usually kept
open, I suppose? Then this visitor had nothing to do but to walk in. The idea of
murder was not in her mind, or she would have provided herself with some sort
of weapon, instead of having to pick this knife off the writing-table. She
advanced along this corridor, leaving no traces upon the cocoanut matting. Then
she found herself in this study. How long was she there? We have no means of
judging.”
“Not more than a few minutes, sir. I forgot to tell you that Mrs. Marker, the
housekeeper, had been in there tidying not very long before—about a quarter of
an hour, she says.”
“Well, that gives us a limit. Our lady enters this room, and what does she do?
She goes over to the writing-table. What for? Not for anything in the drawers. If
there had been anything worth her taking, it would surely have been locked up.
No, it was for something in that wooden bureau. Halloa! what is that scratch
upon the face of it? Just hold a match, Watson. Why did you not tell me of this,
Hopkins?”
The mark which he was examining began upon the brass-work on the righthand side of the keyhole, and extended for about four inches, where it had
scratched the varnish from the surface.
“I noticed it, Mr. Holmes, but you’ll always find scratches round a keyhole.”
“This is recent, quite recent. See how the brass shines where it is cut. An old
scratch would be the same colour as the surface. Look at it through my lens.
There’s the varnish, too, like earth on each side of a furrow. Is Mrs. Marker
there?”
A sad-faced, elderly woman came into the room.
“Did you dust this bureau yesterday morning?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Did you notice this scratch?”
“No, sir, I did not.”
“I am sure you did not, for a duster would have swept away these shreds of
varnish. Who has the key of this bureau?”
“The Professor keeps it on his watch-chain.”
“Is it a simple key?”
“No, sir, it is a Chubb’s key.”
“Very good. Mrs. Marker, you can go. Now we are making a little progress.
Our lady enters the room, advances to the bureau, and either opens it or tries to
do so. While she is thus engaged, young Willoughby Smith enters the room. In
her hurry to withdraw the key, she makes this scratch upon the door. He seizes
her, and she, snatching up the nearest object, which happens to be this knife,
strikes at him in order to make him let go his hold. The blow is a fatal one. He
falls and she escapes, either with or without the object for which she has come.
Is Susan, the maid, there? Could anyone have got away through that door after
the time that you heard the cry, Susan?”
“No, sir, it is impossible. Before I got down the stair, I’d have seen anyone in
the passage. Besides, the door never opened, or I would have heard it.”
“That settles this exit. Then no doubt the lady went out the way she came. I
understand that this other passage leads only to the professor’s room. There is no
exit that way?”
“No, sir.”
“We shall go down it and make the acquaintance of the professor. Halloa,
Hopkins! this is very important, very important indeed. The professor’s corridor
is also lined with cocoanut matting.”
“Well, sir, what of that?”
“Don’t you see any bearing upon the case? Well, well. I don’t insist upon it.
No doubt I am wrong. And yet it seems to me to be suggestive. Come with me
and introduce me.”
We passed down the passage, which was of the same length as that which led
to the garden. At the end was a short flight of steps ending in a door. Our guide
knocked, and then ushered us into the professor’s bedroom.
It was a very large chamber, lined with innumerable volumes, which had
overflowed from the shelves and lay in piles in the corners, or were stacked all
round at the base of the cases. The bed was in the centre of the room, and in it,
propped up with pillows, was the owner of the house. I have seldom seen a more
remarkable-looking person. It was a gaunt, aquiline face which was turned
towards us, with piercing dark eyes, which lurked in deep hollows under
overhung and tufted brows. His hair and beard were white, save that the latter
was curiously stained with yellow around his mouth. A cigarette glowed amid
the tangle of white hair, and the air of the room was fetid with stale tobacco
smoke. As he held out his hand to Holmes, I perceived that it was also stained
with yellow nicotine.
“A smoker, Mr. Holmes?” said he, speaking in well-chosen English, with a
curious little mincing accent. “Pray take a cigarette. And you, sir? I can
recommend them, for I have them especially prepared by Ionides, of Alexandria.
He sends me a thousand at a time, and I grieve to say that I have to arrange for a
fresh supply every fortnight. Bad, sir, very bad, but an old man has few
pleasures. Tobacco and my work—that is all that is left to me.”
Holmes had lit a cigarette and was shooting little darting glances all over the
room.
“Tobacco and my work, but now only tobacco,” the old man exclaimed.
“Alas! what a fatal interruption! Who could have foreseen such a terrible
catastrophe? So estimable a young man! I assure you that, after a few months’
training, he was an admirable assistant. What do you think of the matter, Mr.
Holmes?”
“I have not yet made up my mind.”
“I shall indeed be indebted to you if you can throw a light where all is so dark
to us. To a poor bookworm and invalid like myself such a blow is paralysing. I
seem to have lost the faculty of thought. But you are a man of action—you are a
man of affairs. It is part of the everyday routine of your life. You can preserve
your balance in every emergency. We are fortunate, indeed, in having you at our
side.”
Holmes was pacing up and down one side of the room whilst the old professor
was talking. I observed that he was smoking with extraordinary rapidity. It was
evident that he shared our host’s liking for the fresh Alexandrian cigarettes.
“Yes, sir, it is a crushing blow,” said the old man. “That is my magnum opus—
the pile of papers on the side table yonder. It is my analysis of the documents
found in the Coptic monasteries of Syria and Egypt, a work which will cut deep
at the very foundation of revealed religion. With my enfeebled health I do not
know whether I shall ever be able to complete it, now that my assistant has been
taken from me. Dear me! Mr. Holmes, why, you are even a quicker smoker than
I am myself.”
Holmes smiled.
“I am a connoisseur,” said he, taking another cigarette from the box—his
fourth—and lighting it from the stub of that which he had finished. “I will not
trouble you with any lengthy cross-examination, Professor Coram, since I gather
that you were in bed at the time of the crime, and could know nothing about it. I
would only ask this: What do you imagine that this poor fellow meant by his last
words: ‘The professor—it was she’?”
The professor shook his head.
“Susan is a country girl,” said he, “and you know the incredible stupidity of
that class. I fancy that the poor fellow murmured some incoherent delirious
words, and that she twisted them into this meaningless message.”
“I see. You have no explanation yourself of the tragedy?”
“Possibly an accident, possibly—I only breathe it among ourselves—a
suicide. Young men have their hidden troubles—some affair of the heart,
perhaps, which we have never known. It is a more probable supposition than
murder.”
“But the eyeglasses?”
“Ah! I am only a student—a man of dreams. I cannot explain the practical
things of life. But still, we are aware, my friend, that love-gages may take
strange shapes. By all means take another cigarette. It is a pleasure to see anyone
appreciate them so. A fan, a glove, glasses—who knows what article may be
carried as a token or treasured when a man puts an end to his life? This
gentleman speaks of footsteps in the grass, but, after all, it is easy to be mistaken
on such a point. As to the knife, it might well be thrown far from the unfortunate
man as he fell. It is possible that I speak as a child, but to me it seems that
Willoughby Smith has met his fate by his own hand.”
Holmes seemed struck by the theory thus put forward, and he continued to
walk up and down for some time, lost in thought and consuming cigarette after
cigarette.
“Tell me, Professor Coram,” he said, at last, “what is in that cupboard in the
bureau?”
“Nothing that would help a thief. Family papers, letters from my poor wife,
diplomas of universities which have done me honour. Here is the key. You can
look for yourself.”
Holmes picked up the key, and looked at it for an instant, then he handed it
back.
“No, I hardly think that it would help me,” said he. “I should prefer to go
quietly down to your garden, and turn the whole matter over in my head. There
is something to be said for the theory of suicide which you have put forward. We
must apologize for having intruded upon you, Professor Coram, and I promise
that we won’t disturb you until after lunch. At two o’clock we will come again,
and report to you anything which may have happened in the interval.”
Holmes was curiously distrait, and we walked up and down the garden path
for some time in silence.
“Have you a clue?” I asked, at last.
“It depends upon those cigarettes that I smoked,” said he. “It is possible that I
am utterly mistaken. The cigarettes will show me.”
“My dear Holmes,” I exclaimed, “how on earth——”
“Well, well, you may see for yourself. If not, there’s no harm done. Of course,
we always have the optician clue to fall back upon, but I take a short cut when I
can get it. Ah, here is the good Mrs. Marker! Let us enjoy five minutes of
instructive conversation with her.”
I may have remarked before that Holmes had, when he liked, a peculiarly
ingratiating way with women, and that he very readily established terms of
confidence with them. In half the time which he had named, he had captured the
housekeeper’s goodwill and was chatting with her as if he had known her for
years.
“Yes, Mr. Holmes, it is as you say, sir. He does smoke something terrible. All
day and sometimes all night, sir. I’ve seen that room of a morning—well, sir,
you’d have thought it was a London fog. Poor young Mr. Smith, he was a
smoker also, but not as bad as the professor. His health—well, I don’t know that
it’s better nor worse for the smoking.”
“Ah!” said Holmes, “but it kills the appetite.”
“Well, I don’t know about that, sir.”
“I suppose the professor eats hardly anything?”
“Well, he is variable. I’ll say that for him.”
“I’ll wager he took no breakfast this morning, and won’t face his lunch after
all the cigarettes I saw him consume.”
“Well, you’re out there, sir, as it happens, for he ate a remarkable big breakfast
this morning. I don’t know when I’ve known him make a better one, and he’s
ordered a good dish of cutlets for his lunch. I’m surprised myself, for since I
came into that room yesterday and saw young Mr. Smith lying there on the floor,
I couldn’t bear to look at food. Well, it takes all sorts to make a world, and the
professor hasn’t let it take his appetite away.”
We loitered the morning away in the garden. Stanley Hopkins had gone down
to the village to look into some rumours of a strange woman who had been seen
by some children on the Chatham Road the previous morning. As to my friend,
all his usual energy seemed to have deserted him. I had never known him handle
a case in such a half-hearted fashion. Even the news brought back by Hopkins
that he had found the children, and that they had undoubtedly seen a woman
exactly corresponding with Holmes’s description, and wearing either spectacles
or eyeglasses, failed to rouse any sign of keen interest. He was more attentive
when Susan, who waited upon us at lunch, volunteered the information that she
believed Mr. Smith had been out for a walk yesterday morning, and that he had
only returned half an hour before the tragedy occurred. I could not myself see
the bearing of this incident, but I clearly perceived that Holmes was weaving it
into the general scheme which he had formed in his brain. Suddenly he sprang
from his chair and glanced at his watch. “Two o’clock, gentlemen,” said he. “We
must go up and have it out with our friend, the professor.”
The old man had just finished his lunch, and certainly his empty dish bore
evidence to the good appetite with which his housekeeper had credited him. He
was, indeed, a weird figure as he turned his white mane and his glowing eyes
towards us. The eternal cigarette smouldered in his mouth. He had been dressed
and was seated in an armchair by the fire.
“Well, Mr. Holmes, have you solved this mystery yet?” He shoved the large
tin of cigarettes which stood on a table beside him towards my companion.
Holmes stretched out his hand at the same moment, and between them they
tipped the box over the edge. For a minute or two we were all on our knees
retrieving stray cigarettes from impossible places. When we rose again, I
observed Holmes’s eyes were shining and his cheeks tinged with colour. Only at
a crisis have I seen those battle-signals flying.
“Yes,” said he, “I have solved it.”
Stanley Hopkins and I stared in amazement. Something like a sneer quivered
over the gaunt features of the old professor.
“Indeed! In the garden?”
“No, here.”
“Here! When?”
“This instant.”
“You are surely joking, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You compel me to tell you that
this is too serious a matter to be treated in such a fashion.”
“I have forged and tested every link of my chain, Professor Coram, and I am
sure that it is sound. What your motives are, or what exact part you play in this
strange business, I am not yet able to say. In a few minutes I shall probably hear
it from your own lips. Meanwhile I will reconstruct what is past for your benefit,
so that you may know the information which I still require.
“A lady yesterday entered your study. She came with the intention of
possessing herself of certain documents which were in your bureau. She had a
key of her own. I have had an opportunity of examining yours, and I do not find
that slight discolouration which the scratch made upon the varnish would have
produced. You were not an accessory, therefore, and she came, so far as I can
read the evidence, without your knowledge to rob you.”
The professor blew a cloud from his lips. “This is most interesting and
instructive,” said he. “Have you no more to add? Surely, having traced this lady
so far, you can also say what has become of her.”
“I will endeavour to do so. In the first place she was seized by your secretary,
and stabbed him in order to escape. This catastrophe I am inclined to regard as
an unhappy accident, for I am convinced that the lady had no intention of
inflicting so grievous an injury. An assassin does not come unarmed. Horrified
by what she had done, she rushed wildly away from the scene of the tragedy.
Unfortunately for her, she had lost her glasses in the scuffle, and as she was
extremely short-sighted she was really helpless without them. She ran down a
corridor, which she imagined to be that by which she had come—both were lined
with cocoanut matting—and it was only when it was too late that she understood
that she had taken the wrong passage, and that her retreat was cut off behind her.
What was she to do? She could not go back. She could not remain where she
was. She must go on. She went on. She mounted a stair, pushed open a door, and
found herself in your room.”
The old man sat with his mouth open, staring wildly at Holmes. Amazement
and fear were stamped upon his expressive features. Now, with an effort, he
shrugged his shoulders and burst into insincere laughter.
“All very fine, Mr. Holmes,” said he. “But there is one little flaw in your
splendid theory. I was myself in my room, and I never left it during the day.”
“I am aware of that, Professor Coram.”
“And you mean to say that I could lie upon that bed and not be aware that a
woman had entered my room?”
“I never said so. You were aware of it. You spoke with her. You recognized
her. You aided her to escape.”
Again the professor burst into high-keyed laughter. He had risen to his feet,
and his eyes glowed like embers.
“You are mad!” he cried. “You are talking insanely. I helped her to escape?
Where is she now?”
“She is there,” said Holmes, and he pointed to a high bookcase in the corner
of the room.
I saw the old man throw up his arms, a terrible convulsion passed over his
grim face, and he fell back in his chair. At the same instant the bookcase at
which Holmes pointed swung round upon a hinge, and a woman rushed out into
the room. “You are right!” she cried, in a strange foreign voice. “You are right! I
am here.”
She was brown with the dust and draped with the cobwebs which had come
from the walls of her hiding-place. Her face, too, was streaked with grime, and at
the best she could never have been handsome, for she had the exact physical
characteristics which Holmes had divined, with, in addition, a long and obstinate
chin. What with her natural blindness, and what with the change from dark to
light, she stood as one dazed, blinking about her to see where and who we were.
And yet, in spite of all these disadvantages, there was a certain nobility in the
woman’s bearing—a gallantry in the defiant chin and in the upraised head,
which compelled something of respect and admiration.
Stanley Hopkins had laid his hand upon her arm and claimed her as his
prisoner, but she waved him aside gently, and yet with an over-mastering dignity
which compelled obedience. The old man lay back in his chair with a twitching
face, and stared at her with brooding eyes.
“Yes, sir, I am your prisoner,” she said. “From where I stood I could hear
everything, and I know that you have learned the truth. I confess it all. It was I
who killed the young man. But you are right—you who say it was an accident. I
did not even know that it was a knife which I held in my hand, for in my despair
I snatched anything from the table and struck at him to make him let me go. It is
the truth that I tell.”
“Madam,” said Holmes, “I am sure that it is the truth. I fear that you are far
from well.”
She had turned a dreadful colour, the more ghastly under the dark dust-streaks
upon her face. She seated herself on the side of the bed; then she resumed.
“I have only a little time here,” she said, “but I would have you to know the
whole truth. I am this man’s wife. He is not an Englishman. He is a Russian. His
name I will not tell.”
For the first time the old man stirred. “God bless you, Anna!” he cried. “God
bless you!”
She cast a look of the deepest disdain in his direction. “Why should you cling
so hard to that wretched life of yours, Sergius?” said she. “It has done harm to
many and good to none—not even to yourself. However, it is not for me to cause
the frail thread to be snapped before God’s time. I have enough already upon my
soul since I crossed the threshold of this cursed house. But I must speak or I
shall be too late.
“I have said, gentlemen, that I am this man’s wife. He was fifty and I a foolish
girl of twenty when we married. It was in a city of Russia, a university—I will
not name the place.”
“God bless you, Anna!” murmured the old man again.
“We were reformers—revolutionists—Nihilists, you understand. He and I and
many more. Then there came a time of trouble, a police officer was killed, many
were arrested, evidence was wanted, and in order to save his own life and to earn
a great reward, my husband betrayed his own wife and his companions. Yes, we
were all arrested upon his confession. Some of us found our way to the gallows,
and some to Siberia. I was among these last, but my term was not for life. My
husband came to England with his ill-gotten gains and has lived in quiet ever
since, knowing well that if the Brotherhood knew where he was not a week
would pass before justice would be done.”
The old man reached out a trembling hand and helped himself to a cigarette.
“I am in your hands, Anna,” said he. “You were always good to me.”
“I have not yet told you the height of his villainy,” said she. “Among our
comrades of the Order, there was one who was the friend of my heart. He was
noble, unselfish, loving—all that my husband was not. He hated violence. We
were all guilty—if that is guilt—but he was not. He wrote forever dissuading us
from such a course. These letters would have saved him. So would my diary, in
which, from day to day, I had entered both my feelings towards him and the view
which each of us had taken. My husband found and kept both diary and letters.
He hid them, and he tried hard to swear away the young man’s life. In this he
failed, but Alexis was sent a convict to Siberia, where now, at this moment, he
works in a salt mine. Think of that, you villain, you villain!—now, now, at this
very moment, Alexis, a man whose name you are not worthy to speak, works
and lives like a slave, and yet I have your life in my hands, and I let you go.”
“You were always a noble woman, Anna,” said the old man, puffing at his
cigarette.
She had risen, but she fell back again with a little cry of pain.
“I must finish,” she said. “When my term was over I set myself to get the
diary and letters which, if sent to the Russian government, would procure my
friend’s release. I knew that my husband had come to England. After months of
searching I discovered where he was. I knew that he still had the diary, for when
I was in Siberia I had a letter from him once, reproaching me and quoting some
passages from its pages. Yet I was sure that, with his revengeful nature, he would
never give it to me of his own free-will. I must get it for myself. With this object
I engaged an agent from a private detective firm, who entered my husband’s
house as a secretary—it was your second secretary, Sergius, the one who left you
so hurriedly. He found that papers were kept in the cupboard, and he got an
impression of the key. He would not go farther. He furnished me with a plan of
the house, and he told me that in the forenoon the study was always empty, as
the secretary was employed up here. So at last I took my courage in both hands,
and I came down to get the papers for myself. I succeeded; but at what a cost!
“I had just taken the paper; and was locking the cupboard, when the young
man seized me. I had seen him already that morning. He had met me on the road,
and I had asked him to tell me where Professor Coram lived, not knowing that he
was in his employ.”
“Exactly! Exactly!” said Holmes. “The secretary came back, and told his
employer of the woman he had met. Then, in his last breath, he tried to send a
message that it was she—the she whom he had just discussed with him.”
“You must let me speak,” said the woman, in an imperative voice, and her
face contracted as if in pain. “When he had fallen I rushed from the room, chose
the wrong door, and found myself in my husband’s room. He spoke of giving me
up. I showed him that if he did so, his life was in my hands. If he gave me to the
law, I could give him to the Brotherhood. It was not that I wished to live for my
own sake, but it was that I desired to accomplish my purpose. He knew that I
would do what I said—that his own fate was involved in mine. For that reason,
and for no other, he shielded me. He thrust me into that dark hiding-place—a
relic of old days, known only to himself. He took his meals in his own room, and
so was able to give me part of his food. It was agreed that when the police left
the house I should slip away by night and come back no more. But in some way
you have read our plans.” She tore from the bosom of her dress a small packet.
“These are my last words,” said she; “here is the packet which will save Alexis. I
confide it to your honour and to your love of justice. Take it! You will deliver it
at the Russian Embassy. Now, I have done my duty, and——”
“Stop her!” cried Holmes. He had bounded across the room and had wrenched
a small phial from her hand.
“Too late!” she said, sinking back on the bed. “Too late! I took the poison
before I left my hiding-place. My head swims! I am going! I charge you, sir, to
remember the packet.”
“A simple case, and yet, in some ways, an instructive one,” Holmes remarked,
as we travelled back to town. “It hinged from the outset upon the pince-nez. But
for the fortunate chance of the dying man having seized these, I am not sure that
we could ever have reached our solution. It was clear to me, from the strength of
the glasses, that the wearer must have been very blind and helpless when
deprived of them. When you asked me to believe that she walked along a narrow
strip of grass without once making a false step, I remarked, as you may
remember, that it was a noteworthy performance. In my mind I set it down as an
impossible performance, save in the unlikely case that she had a second pair of
glasses. I was forced, therefore, to consider seriously the hypothesis that she had
remained within the house. On perceiving the similarity of the two corridors, it
became clear that she might very easily have made such a mistake, and, in that
case, it was evident that she must have entered the professor’s room. I was
keenly on the alert, therefore, for whatever would bear out this supposition, and I
examined the room narrowly for anything in the shape of a hiding-place. The
carpet seemed continuous and firmly nailed, so I dismissed the idea of a trapdoor. There might well be a recess behind the books. As you are aware, such
devices are common in old libraries. I observed that books were piled on the
floor at all other points, but that one bookcase was left clear. This, then, might be
the door. I could see no marks to guide me, but the carpet was of a dun colour,
which lends itself very well to examination. I therefore smoked a great number
of those excellent cigarettes, and I dropped the ash all over the space in front of
the suspected bookcase. It was a simple trick, but exceedingly effective. I then
went downstairs, and I ascertained, in your presence, Watson, without your
perceiving the drift of my remarks, that Professor Coram’s consumption of food
had increased—as one would expect when he is supplying a second person. We
then ascended to the room again, when, by upsetting the cigarette-box, I
obtained a very excellent view of the floor, and was able to see quite clearly,
from the traces upon the cigarette ash, that the prisoner had in our absence come
out from her retreat. Well, Hopkins, here we are at Charing Cross, and I
congratulate you on having brought your case to a successful conclusion. You
are going to headquarters, no doubt. I think, Watson, you and I will drive
together to the Russian Embassy.”

THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING THREEQUARTER
We were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at Baker Street, but I
have a particular recollection of one which reached us on a gloomy February
morning, some seven or eight years ago, and gave Mr. Sherlock Holmes a
puzzled quarter of an hour. It was addressed to him, and ran thus:
Please await me. Terrible misfortune. Right wing three-quarter missing,
indispensable to-morrow. OVERTON.
“Strand postmark, and dispatched ten thirty-six,” said Holmes, reading it over
and over. “Mr. Overton was evidently considerably excited when he sent it, and
somewhat incoherent in consequence. Well, well, he will be here, I daresay, by
the time I have looked through The Times, and then we shall know all about it.
Even the most insignificant problem would be welcome in these stagnant days.”
Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned to dread such
periods of inaction, for I knew by experience that my companion’s brain was so
abnormally active that it was dangerous to leave it without material upon which
to work. For years I had gradually weaned him from that drug mania which had
threatened once to check his remarkable career. Now I knew that under ordinary
conditions he no longer craved for this artificial stimulus, but I was well aware
that the fiend was not dead but sleeping, and I have known that the sleep was a
light one and the waking near when in periods of idleness I have seen the drawn
look upon Holmes’s ascetic face, and the brooding of his deep-set and
inscrutable eyes. Therefore I blessed this Mr. Overton whoever he might be,
since he had come with his enigmatic message to break that dangerous calm
which brought more peril to my friend than all the storms of his tempestuous
life.
As we had expected, the telegram was soon followed by its sender, and the
card of Mr. Cyril Overton, Trinity College, Cambridge, announced the arrival of
an enormous young man, sixteen stone of solid bone and muscle, who spanned
the doorway with his broad shoulders, and looked from one of us to the other
with a comely face which was haggard with anxiety.
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes?”
My companion bowed.
“I’ve been down to Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes. I saw Inspector Stanley
Hopkins. He advised me to come to you. He said the case, so far as he could see,
was more in your line than in that of the regular police.”
“Pray sit down and tell me what is the matter.”
“It’s awful, Mr. Holmes—simply awful I wonder my hair isn’t grey. Godfrey
Staunton—you’ve heard of him, of course? He’s simply the hinge that the whole
team turns on. I’d rather spare two from the pack, and have Godfrey for my
three-quarter line. Whether it’s passing, or tackling, or dribbling, there’s no one
to touch him, and then, he’s got the head, and can hold us all together. What am I
to do? That’s what I ask you, Mr. Holmes. There’s Moorhouse, first reserve, but
he is trained as a half, and he always edges right in on to the scrum instead of
keeping out on the touchline. He’s a fine place-kick, it’s true, but then he has no
judgment, and he can’t sprint for nuts. Why, Morton or Johnson, the Oxford
fliers, could romp round him. Stevenson is fast enough, but he couldn’t drop
from the twenty-five line, and a three-quarter who can’t either punt or drop isn’t
worth a place for pace alone. No, Mr. Holmes, we are done unless you can help
me to find Godfrey Staunton.”
My friend had listened with amused surprise to this long speech, which was
poured forth with extraordinary vigour and earnestness, every point being driven
home by the slapping of a brawny hand upon the speaker’s knee. When our
visitor was silent Holmes stretched out his hand and took down letter “S” of his
commonplace book. For once he dug in vain into that mine of varied
information.
“There is Arthur H. Staunton, the rising young forger,” said he, “and there was
Henry Staunton, whom I helped to hang, but Godfrey Staunton is a new name to
me.”
It was our visitor’s turn to look surprised.
“Why, Mr. Holmes, I thought you knew things,” said he. “I suppose, then, if
you have never heard of Godfrey Staunton, you don’t know Cyril Overton
either?”
Holmes shook his head good humouredly.
“Great Scott!” cried the athlete. “Why, I was first reserve for England against
Wales, and I’ve skippered the ’Varsity all this year. But that’s nothing! I didn’t
think there was a soul in England who didn’t know Godfrey Staunton, the crack
three-quarter, Cambridge, Blackheath, and five Internationals. Good Lord! Mr.
Holmes, where have you lived?”
Holmes laughed at the young giant’s naïve astonishment.
“You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overton—a sweeter and healthier
one. My ramifications stretch out into many sections of society, but never, I am
happy to say, into amateur sport, which is the best and soundest thing in
England. However, your unexpected visit this morning shows me that even in
that world of fresh air and fair play, there may be work for me to do. So now, my
good sir, I beg you to sit down and to tell me, slowly and quietly, exactly what it
is that has occurred, and how you desire that I should help you.”
Young Overton’s face assumed the bothered look of the man who is more
accustomed to using his muscles than his wits, but by degrees, with many
repetitions and obscurities which I may omit from his narrative, he laid his
strange story before us.
“It’s this way, Mr. Holmes. As I have said, I am the skipper of the Rugger
team of Cambridge ’Varsity, and Godfrey Staunton is my best man. To-morrow
we play Oxford. Yesterday we all came up, and we settled at Bentley’s private
hotel. At ten o’clock I went round and saw that all the fellows had gone to roost,
for I believe in strict training and plenty of sleep to keep a team fit. I had a word
or two with Godfrey before he turned in. He seemed to me to be pale and
bothered. I asked him what was the matter. He said he was all right—just a touch
of headache. I bade him good-night and left him. Half an hour later, the porter
tells me that a rough-looking man with a beard called with a note for Godfrey.
He had not gone to bed, and the note was taken to his room. Godfrey read it, and
fell back in a chair as if he had been pole-axed. The porter was so scared that he
was going to fetch me, but Godfrey stopped him, had a drink of water, and
pulled himself together. Then he went downstairs, said a few words to the man
who was waiting in the hall, and the two of them went off together. The last that
the porter saw of them, they were almost running down the street in the direction
of the Strand. This morning Godfrey’s room was empty, his bed had never been
slept in, and his things were all just as I had seen them the night before. He had
gone off at a moment’s notice with this stranger, and no word has come from
him since. I don’t believe he will ever come back. He was a sportsman, was
Godfrey, down to his marrow, and he wouldn’t have stopped his training and let
in his skipper if it were not for some cause that was too strong for him. No: I feel
as if he were gone for good, and we should never see him again.”
Sherlock Holmes listened with the deepest attention to this singular narrative.
“What did you do?” he asked.
“I wired to Cambridge to learn if anything had been heard of him there. I have
had an answer. No one has seen him.”
“Could he have got back to Cambridge?”
“Yes, there is a late train—quarter-past eleven.”
“But, so far as you can ascertain, he did not take it?”
“No, he has not been seen.”
“What did you do next?”
“I wired to Lord Mount-James.”
“Why to Lord Mount-James?”
“Godfrey is an orphan, and Lord Mount-James is his nearest relative—his
uncle, I believe.”
“Indeed. This throws new light upon the matter. Lord Mount-James is one of
the richest men in England.”
“So I’ve heard Godfrey say.”
“And your friend was closely related?”
“Yes, he was his heir, and the old boy is nearly eighty—cram full of gout, too.
They say he could chalk his billiard-cue with his knuckles. He never allowed
Godfrey a shilling in his life, for he is an absolute miser, but it will all come to
him right enough.”
“Have you heard from Lord Mount-James?”
“No.”
“What motive could your friend have in going to Lord Mount-James?”
“Well, something was worrying him the night before, and if it was to do with
money it is possible that he would make for his nearest relative, who had so
much of it, though from all I have heard he would not have much chance of
getting it. Godfrey was not fond of the old man. He would not go if he could
help it.”
“Well, we can soon determine that. If your friend was going to his relative,
Lord Mount-James, you have then to explain the visit of this rough-looking
fellow at so late an hour, and the agitation that was caused by his coming.”
Cyril Overton pressed his hands to his head. “I can make nothing of it,” said
he.
“Well, well, I have a clear day, and I shall be happy to look into the matter,”
said Holmes. “I should strongly recommend you to make your preparations for
your match without reference to this young gentleman. It must, as you say, have
been an overpowering necessity which tore him away in such a fashion, and the
same necessity is likely to hold him away. Let us step round together to the hotel,
and see if the porter can throw any fresh light upon the matter.”
Sherlock Holmes was a past-master in the art of putting a humble witness at
his ease, and very soon, in the privacy of Godfrey Staunton’s abandoned room,
he had extracted all that the porter had to tell. The visitor of the night before was
not a gentleman, neither was he a workingman. He was simply what the porter
described as a “medium-looking chap,” a man of fifty, beard grizzled, pale face,
quietly dressed. He seemed himself to be agitated. The porter had observed his
hand trembling when he had held out the note. Godfrey Staunton had crammed
the note into his pocket. Staunton had not shaken hands with the man in the hall.
They had exchanged a few sentences, of which the porter had only distinguished
the one word “time.” Then they had hurried off in the manner described. It was
just half-past ten by the hall clock.
“Let me see,” said Holmes, seating himself on Staunton’s bed. “You are the
day porter, are you not?”
“Yes, sir, I go off duty at eleven.”
“The night porter saw nothing, I suppose?”
“No, sir, one theatre party came in late. No one else.”
“Were you on duty all day yesterday?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Did you take any messages to Mr. Staunton?”
“Yes, sir, one telegram.”
“Ah! that’s interesting. What o’clock was this?”
“About six.”
“Where was Mr. Staunton when he received it?”
“Here in his room.”
“Were you present when he opened it?”
“Yes, sir, I waited to see if there was an answer.”
“Well, was there?”
“Yes, sir, he wrote an answer.”
“Did you take it?”
“No, he took it himself.”
“But he wrote it in your presence.”
“Yes, sir. I was standing by the door, and he with his back turned at that table.
When he had written it, he said: ‘All right, porter, I will take this myself.’”
“What did he write it with?”
“A pen, sir.”
“Was the telegraphic form one of these on the table?”
“Yes, sir, it was the top one.”
Holmes rose. Taking the forms, he carried them over to the window and
carefully examined that which was uppermost.
“It is a pity he did not write in pencil,” said he, throwing them down again
with a shrug of disappointment. “As you have no doubt frequently observed,
Watson, the impression usually goes through—a fact which has dissolved many
a happy marriage. However, I can find no trace here. I rejoice, however, to
perceive that he wrote with a broad-pointed quill pen, and I can hardly doubt that
we will find some impression upon this blotting-pad. Ah, yes, surely this is the
very thing!”
He tore off a strip of the blotting-paper and turned towards us the following
hieroglyphic:
hieroglyphic
Cyril Overton was much excited. “Hold it to the glass!” he cried.
“That is unnecessary,” said Holmes. “The paper is thin, and the reverse will
give the message. Here it is.” He turned it over, and we read:
the reverse
“So that is the tail end of the telegram which Godfrey Staunton dispatched
within a few hours of his disappearance. There are at least six words of the
message which have escaped us; but what remains—‘Stand by us for God’s
sake!’—proves that this young man saw a formidable danger which approached
him, and from which someone else could protect him. ‘Us,’ mark you! Another
person was involved. Who should it be but the pale-faced, bearded man, who
seemed himself in so nervous a state? What, then, is the connection between
Godfrey Staunton and the bearded man? And what is the third source from
which each of them sought for help against pressing danger? Our inquiry has
already narrowed down to that.”
“We have only to find to whom that telegram is addressed,” I suggested.
“Exactly, my dear Watson. Your reflection, though profound, had already
crossed my mind. But I daresay it may have come to your notice that, counterfoil
of another man’s message, there may be some disinclination on the part of the
officials to oblige you. There is so much red tape in these matters. However, I
have no doubt that with a little delicacy and finesse the end may be attained.
Meanwhile, I should like in your presence, Mr. Overton, to go through these
papers which have been left upon the table.”
There were a number of letters, bills, and notebooks, which Holmes turned
over and examined with quick, nervous fingers and darting, penetrating eyes.
“Nothing here,” he said, at last. “By the way, I suppose your friend was a healthy
young fellow—nothing amiss with him?”
“Sound as a bell.”
“Have you ever known him ill?”
“Not a day. He has been laid up with a hack, and once he slipped his knee-cap,
but that was nothing.”
“Perhaps he was not so strong as you suppose. I should think he may have had
some secret trouble. With your assent, I will put one or two of these papers in my
pocket, in case they should bear upon our future inquiry.”
“One moment—one moment!” cried a querulous voice, and we looked up to
find a queer little old man, jerking and twitching in the doorway. He was dressed
in rusty black, with a very broad-brimmed top-hat and a loose white necktie—
the whole effect being that of a very rustic parson or of an undertaker’s mute.
Yet, in spite of his shabby and even absurd appearance, his voice had a sharp
crackle, and his manner a quick intensity which commanded attention.
“Who are you, sir, and by what right do you touch this gentleman’s papers?”
he asked.
“I am a private detective, and I am endeavouring to explain his
disappearance.”
“Oh, you are, are you? And who instructed you, eh?”
“This gentleman, Mr. Staunton’s friend, was referred to me by Scotland Yard.”
“Who are you, sir?”
“I am Cyril Overton.”
“Then it is you who sent me a telegram. My name is Lord Mount-James. I
came round as quickly as the Bayswater bus would bring me. So you have
instructed a detective?”
“Yes, sir.”
“And are you prepared to meet the cost?”
“I have no doubt, sir, that my friend Godfrey, when we find him, will be
prepared to do that.”
“But if he is never found, eh? Answer me that!”
“In that case, no doubt his family——”
“Nothing of the sort, sir!” screamed the little man. “Don’t look to me for a
penny—not a penny! You understand that, Mr. Detective! I am all the family that
this young man has got, and I tell you that I am not responsible. If he has any
expectations it is due to the fact that I have never wasted money, and I do not
propose to begin to do so now. As to those papers with which you are making so
free, I may tell you that in case there should be anything of any value among
them, you will be held strictly to account for what you do with them.”
“Very good, sir,” said Sherlock Holmes. “May I ask, in the meanwhile,
whether you have yourself any theory to account for this young man’s
disappearance?”
“No, sir, I have not. He is big enough and old enough to look after himself,
and if he is so foolish as to lose himself, I entirely refuse to accept the
responsibility of hunting for him.”
“I quite understand your position,” said Holmes, with a mischievous twinkle
in his eyes. “Perhaps you don’t quite understand mine. Godfrey Staunton appears
to have been a poor man. If he has been kidnapped, it could not have been for
anything which he himself possesses. The fame of your wealth has gone abroad,
Lord Mount-James, and it is entirely possible that a gang of thieves have secured
your nephew in order to gain from him some information as to your house, your
habits, and your treasure.”
The face of our unpleasant little visitor turned as white as his neckcloth.
“Heavens, sir, what an idea! I never thought of such villainy! What inhuman
rogues there are in the world! But Godfrey is a fine lad—a staunch lad. Nothing
would induce him to give his old uncle away. I’ll have the plate moved over to
the bank this evening. In the meantime spare no pains, Mr. Detective! I beg you
to leave no stone unturned to bring him safely back. As to money, well, so far as
a fiver or even a tenner goes you can always look to me.”
Even in his chastened frame of mind, the noble miser could give us no
information which could help us, for he knew little of the private life of his
nephew. Our only clue lay in the truncated telegram, and with a copy of this in
his hand Holmes set forth to find a second link for his chain. We had shaken off
Lord Mount-James, and Overton had gone to consult with the other members of
his team over the misfortune which had befallen them.
There was a telegraph-office at a short distance from the hotel. We halted
outside it.
“It’s worth trying, Watson,” said Holmes. “Of course, with a warrant we could
demand to see the counterfoils, but we have not reached that stage yet. I don’t
suppose they remember faces in so busy a place. Let us venture it.”
“I am sorry to trouble you,” said he, in his blandest manner, to the young
woman behind the grating; “there is some small mistake about a telegram I sent
yesterday. I have had no answer, and I very much fear that I must have omitted
to put my name at the end. Could you tell me if this was so?”
The young woman turned over a sheaf of counterfoils.
“What o’clock was it?” she asked.
“A little after six.”
“Whom was it to?”
Holmes put his finger to his lips and glanced at me. “The last words in it were
‘For God’s sake,’” he whispered, confidentially; “I am very anxious at getting no
answer.”
The young woman separated one of the forms.
“This is it. There is no name,” said she, smoothing it out upon the counter.
“Then that, of course, accounts for my getting no answer,” said Holmes. “Dear
me, how very stupid of me, to be sure! Good-morning, miss, and many thanks
for having relieved my mind.” He chuckled and rubbed his hands when we
found ourselves in the street once more.
“Well?” I asked.
“We progress, my dear Watson, we progress. I had seven different schemes for
getting a glimpse of that telegram, but I could hardly hope to succeed the very
first time.”
“And what have you gained?”
“A starting-point for our investigation.” He hailed a cab. “King’s Cross
Station,” said he.
“We have a journey, then?”
“Yes, I think we must run down to Cambridge together. All the indications
seem to me to point in that direction.”
“Tell me,” I asked, as we rattled up Gray’s Inn Road, “have you any suspicion
yet as to the cause of the disappearance? I don’t think that among all our cases I
have known one where the motives are more obscure. Surely you don’t really
imagine that he may be kidnapped in order to give information against his
wealthy uncle?”
“I confess, my dear Watson, that that does not appeal to me as a very probable
explanation. It struck me, however, as being the one which was most likely to
interest that exceedingly unpleasant old person.”
“It certainly did that; but what are your alternatives?”
“I could mention several. You must admit that it is curious and suggestive that
this incident should occur on the eve of this important match, and should involve
the only man whose presence seems essential to the success of the side. It may,
of course, be a coincidence, but it is interesting. Amateur sport is free from
betting, but a good deal of outside betting goes on among the public, and it is
possible that it might be worth someone’s while to get at a player as the ruffians
of the turf get at a race-horse. There is one explanation. A second very obvious
one is that this young man really is the heir of a great property, however modest
his means may at present be, and it is not impossible that a plot to hold him for
ransom might be concocted.”
“These theories take no account of the telegram.”
“Quite true, Watson. The telegram still remains the only solid thing with
which we have to deal, and we must not permit our attention to wander away
from it. It is to gain light upon the purpose of this telegram that we are now upon
our way to Cambridge. The path of our investigation is at present obscure, but I
shall be very much surprised if before evening we have not cleared it up, or
made a considerable advance along it.”
It was already dark when we reached the old university city. Holmes took a
cab at the station and ordered the man to drive to the house of Dr. Leslie
Armstrong. A few minutes later, we had stopped at a large mansion in the busiest
thoroughfare. We were shown in, and after a long wait were at last admitted into
the consulting-room, where we found the doctor seated behind his table.
It argues the degree in which I had lost touch with my profession that the
name of Leslie Armstrong was unknown to me. Now I am aware that he is not
only one of the heads of the medical school of the university, but a thinker of
European reputation in more than one branch of science. Yet even without
knowing his brilliant record one could not fail to be impressed by a mere glance
at the man, the square, massive face, the brooding eyes under the thatched
brows, and the granite moulding of the inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a
man with an alert mind, grim, ascetic, self-contained, formidable—so I read Dr.
Leslie Armstrong. He held my friend’s card in his hand, and he looked up with
no very pleased expression upon his dour features.
“I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I am aware of your
profession—one of which I by no means approve.”
“In that, Doctor, you will find yourself in agreement with every criminal in the
country,” said my friend, quietly.
“So far as your efforts are directed towards the suppression of crime, sir, they
must have the support of every reasonable member of the community, though I
cannot doubt that the official machinery is amply sufficient for the purpose.
Where your calling is more open to criticism is when you pry into the secrets of
private individuals, when you rake up family matters which are better hidden,
and when you incidentally waste the time of men who are more busy than
yourself. At the present moment, for example, I should be writing a treatise
instead of conversing with you.”
“No doubt, Doctor; and yet the conversation may prove more important than
the treatise. Incidentally, I may tell you that we are doing the reverse of what you
very justly blame, and that we are endeavouring to prevent anything like public
exposure of private matters which must necessarily follow when once the case is
fairly in the hands of the official police. You may look upon me simply as an
irregular pioneer, who goes in front of the regular forces of the country. I have
come to ask you about Mr. Godfrey Staunton.”
“What about him?”
“You know him, do you not?”
“He is an intimate friend of mine.”
“You are aware that he has disappeared?”
“Ah, indeed!” There was no change of expression in the rugged features of the
doctor.
“He left his hotel last night—he has not been heard of.”
“No doubt he will return.”
“To-morrow is the ’Varsity football match.”
“I have no sympathy with these childish games. The young man’s fate
interests me deeply, since I know him and like him. The football match does not
come within my horizon at all.”
“I claim your sympathy, then, in my investigation of Mr. Staunton’s fate. Do
you know where he is?”
“Certainly not.”
“You have not seen him since yesterday?”
“No, I have not.”
“Was Mr. Staunton a healthy man?”
“Absolutely.”
“Did you ever know him ill?”
“Never.”
Holmes popped a sheet of paper before the doctor’s eyes. “Then perhaps you
will explain this receipted bill for thirteen guineas, paid by Mr. Godfrey Staunton
last month to Dr. Leslie Armstrong, of Cambridge. I picked it out from among
the papers upon his desk.”
The doctor flushed with anger.
“I do not feel that there is any reason why I should render an explanation to
you, Mr. Holmes.”
Holmes replaced the bill in his notebook. “If you prefer a public explanation,
it must come sooner or later,” said he. “I have already told you that I can hush up
that which others will be bound to publish, and you would really be wiser to take
me into your complete confidence.”
“I know nothing about it.”
“Did you hear from Mr. Staunton in London?”
“Certainly not.”
“Dear me, dear me—the postoffice again!” Holmes sighed, wearily. “A most
urgent telegram was dispatched to you from London by Godfrey Staunton at sixfifteen yesterday evening—a telegram which is undoubtedly associated with his
disappearance—and yet you have not had it. It is most culpable. I shall certainly
go down to the office here and register a complaint.”
Dr. Leslie Armstrong sprang up from behind his desk, and his dark face was
crimson with fury.
“I’ll trouble you to walk out of my house, sir,” said he. “You can tell your
employer, Lord Mount-James, that I do not wish to have anything to do either
with him or with his agents. No, sir—not another word!” He rang the bell
furiously. “John, show these gentlemen out!” A pompous butler ushered us
severely to the door, and we found ourselves in the street. Holmes burst out
laughing.
“Dr. Leslie Armstrong is certainly a man of energy and character,” said he. “I
have not seen a man who, if he turns his talents that way, was more calculated to
fill the gap left by the illustrious Moriarty. And now, my poor Watson, here we
are, stranded and friendless in this inhospitable town, which we cannot leave
without abandoning our case. This little inn just opposite Armstrong’s house is
singularly adapted to our needs. If you would engage a front room and purchase
the necessaries for the night, I may have time to make a few inquiries.”
These few inquiries proved, however, to be a more lengthy proceeding than
Holmes had imagined, for he did not return to the inn until nearly nine o’clock.
He was pale and dejected, stained with dust, and exhausted with hunger and
fatigue. A cold supper was ready upon the table, and when his needs were
satisfied and his pipe alight he was ready to take that half comic and wholly
philosophic view which was natural to him when his affairs were going awry.
The sound of carriage wheels caused him to rise and glance out of the window. A
brougham and pair of greys, under the glare of a gas-lamp, stood before the
doctor’s door.
“It’s been out three hours,” said Holmes; “started at half-past six, and here it is
back again. That gives a radius of ten or twelve miles, and he does it once, or
sometimes twice, a day.”
“No unusual thing for a doctor in practice.”
“But Armstrong is not really a doctor in practice. He is a lecturer and a
consultant, but he does not care for general practice, which distracts him from
his literary work. Why, then, does he make these long journeys, which must be
exceedingly irksome to him, and who is it that he visits?”
“His coachman——”
“My dear Watson, can you doubt that it was to him that I first applied? I do
not know whether it came from his own innate depravity or from the promptings
of his master, but he was rude enough to set a dog at me. Neither dog nor man
liked the look of my stick, however, and the matter fell through. Relations were
strained after that, and further inquiries out of the question. All that I have
learned I got from a friendly native in the yard of our own inn. It was he who
told me of the doctor’s habits and of his daily journey. At that instant, to give
point to his words, the carriage came round to the door.”
“Could you not follow it?”
“Excellent, Watson! You are scintillating this evening. The idea did cross my
mind. There is, as you may have observed, a bicycle shop next to our inn. Into
this I rushed, engaged a bicycle, and was able to get started before the carriage
was quite out of sight. I rapidly overtook it, and then, keeping at a discreet
distance of a hundred yards or so, I followed its lights until we were clear of the
town. We had got well out on the country road, when a somewhat mortifying
incident occurred. The carriage stopped, the doctor alighted, walked swiftly back
to where I had also halted, and told me in an excellent sardonic fashion that he
feared the road was narrow, and that he hoped his carriage did not impede the
passage of my bicycle. Nothing could have been more admirable than his way of
putting it. I at once rode past the carriage, and, keeping to the main road, I went
on for a few miles, and then halted in a convenient place to see if the carriage
passed. There was no sign of it, however, and so it became evident that it had
turned down one of several side roads which I had observed. I rode back, but
again saw nothing of the carriage, and now, as you perceive, it has returned after
me. Of course, I had at the outset no particular reason to connect these journeys
with the disappearance of Godfrey Staunton, and was only inclined to investigate
them on the general grounds that everything which concerns Dr. Armstrong is at
present of interest to us, but, now that I find he keeps so keen a look-out upon
anyone who may follow him on these excursions, the affair appears more
important, and I shall not be satisfied until I have made the matter clear.”
“We can follow him to-morrow.”
“Can we? It is not so easy as you seem to think. You are not familiar with
Cambridgeshire scenery, are you? It does not lend itself to concealment. All this
country that I passed over to-night is as flat and clean as the palm of your hand,
and the man we are following is no fool, as he very clearly showed to-night. I
have wired to Overton to let us know any fresh London developments at this
address, and in the meantime we can only concentrate our attention upon Dr.
Armstrong, whose name the obliging young lady at the office allowed me to read
upon the counterfoil of Staunton’s urgent message. He knows where the young
man is—to that I’ll swear, and if he knows, then it must be our own fault if we
cannot manage to know also. At present it must be admitted that the odd trick is
in his possession, and, as you are aware, Watson, it is not my habit to leave the
game in that condition.”
And yet the next day brought us no nearer to the solution of the mystery. A
note was handed in after breakfast, which Holmes passed across to me with a
smile.
SIR [it ran],—I can assure you that you are wasting your time in
dogging my movements. I have, as you discovered last night, a
window at the back of my brougham, and if you desire a twentymile ride which will lead you to the spot from which you started,
you have only to follow me. Meanwhile, I can inform you that
no spying upon me can in any way help Mr. Godfrey Staunton,
and I am convinced that the best service you can do to that
gentleman is to return at once to London and to report to your
employer that you are unable to trace him. Your time in
Cambridge will certainly be wasted.
Yours faithfully,
LESLIE ARMSTRONG.
“An outspoken, honest antagonist is the doctor,” said Holmes. “Well, well, he
excites my curiosity, and I must really know before I leave him.”
“His carriage is at his door now,” said I. “There he is stepping into it. I saw
him glance up at our window as he did so. Suppose I try my luck upon the
bicycle?”
“No, no, my dear Watson! With all respect for your natural acumen, I do not
think that you are quite a match for the worthy doctor. I think that possibly I can
attain our end by some independent explorations of my own. I am afraid that I
must leave you to your own devices, as the appearance of two inquiring strangers
upon a sleepy countryside might excite more gossip than I care for. No doubt
you will find some sights to amuse you in this venerable city, and I hope to bring
back a more favourable report to you before evening.”
Once more, however, my friend was destined to be disappointed. He came
back at night weary and unsuccessful.
“I have had a blank day, Watson. Having got the doctor’s general direction, I
spent the day in visiting all the villages upon that side of Cambridge, and
comparing notes with publicans and other local news agencies. I have covered
some ground. Chesterton, Histon, Waterbeach, and Oakington have each been
explored, and have each proved disappointing. The daily appearance of a
brougham and pair could hardly have been overlooked in such Sleepy Hollows.
The doctor has scored once more. Is there a telegram for me?”
“Yes, I opened it. Here it is:
“Ask for Pompey from Jeremy Dixon, Trinity College.”
“I don’t understand it.”
“Oh, it is clear enough. It is from our friend Overton, and is in answer to a
question from me. I’ll just send round a note to Mr. Jeremy Dixon, and then I
have no doubt that our luck will turn. By the way, is there any news of the
match?”
“Yes, the local evening paper has an excellent account in its last edition.
Oxford won by a goal and two tries. The last sentences of the description say:
“‘The defeat of the Light Blues may be entirely attributed to the unfortunate
absence of the crack International, Godfrey Staunton, whose want was felt at
every instant of the game. The lack of combination in the three-quarter line and
their weakness both in attack and defence more than neutralized the efforts of a
heavy and hard-working pack.’”
“Then our friend Overton’s forebodings have been justified,” said Holmes.
“Personally I am in agreement with Dr. Armstrong, and football does not come
within my horizon. Early to bed to-night, Watson, for I foresee that to-morrow
may be an eventful day.”
I was horrified by my first glimpse of Holmes next morning, for he sat by the
fire holding his tiny hypodermic syringe. I associated that instrument with the
single weakness of his nature, and I feared the worst when I saw it glittering in
his hand. He laughed at my expression of dismay and laid it upon the table.
“No, no, my dear fellow, there is no cause for alarm. It is not upon this
occasion the instrument of evil, but it will rather prove to be the key which will
unlock our mystery. On this syringe I base all my hopes. I have just returned
from a small scouting expedition, and everything is favourable. Eat a good
breakfast, Watson, for I propose to get upon Dr. Armstrong’s trail to-day, and
once on it I will not stop for rest or food until I run him to his burrow.”
“In that case,” said I, “we had best carry our breakfast with us, for he is
making an early start. His carriage is at the door.”
“Never mind. Let him go. He will be clever if he can drive where I cannot
follow him. When you have finished, come downstairs with me, and I will
introduce you to a detective who is a very eminent specialist in the work that lies
before us.”
When we descended I followed Holmes into the stable yard, where he opened
the door of a loose-box and led out a squat, lop-eared, white-and-tan dog,
something between a beagle and a foxhound.
“Let me introduce you to Pompey,” said he. “Pompey is the pride of the local
draghounds—no very great flier, as his build will show, but a staunch hound on a
scent. Well, Pompey, you may not be fast, but I expect you will be too fast for a
couple of middle-aged London gentlemen, so I will take the liberty of fastening
this leather leash to your collar. Now, boy, come along, and show what you can
do.” He led him across to the doctor’s door. The dog sniffed round for an instant,
and then with a shrill whine of excitement started off down the street, tugging at
his leash in his efforts to go faster. In half an hour, we were clear of the town and
hastening down a country road.
“What have you done, Holmes?” I asked.
“A threadbare and venerable device, but useful upon occasion. I walked into
the doctor’s yard this morning, and shot my syringe full of aniseed over the hind
wheel. A draghound will follow aniseed from here to John o’Groat’s, and our
friend, Armstrong, would have to drive through the Cam before he would shake
Pompey off his trail. Oh, the cunning rascal! This is how he gave me the slip the
other night.”
The dog had suddenly turned out of the main road into a grass-grown lane.
Half a mile farther this opened into another broad road, and the trail turned hard
to the right in the direction of the town, which we had just quitted. The road took
a sweep to the south of the town, and continued in the opposite direction to that
in which we started.
“This détour has been entirely for our benefit, then?” said Holmes. “No
wonder that my inquiries among those villagers led to nothing. The doctor has
certainly played the game for all it is worth, and one would like to know the
reason for such elaborate deception. This should be the village of Trumpington
to the right of us. And, by Jove! here is the brougham coming round the corner.
Quick, Watson—quick, or we are done!”
He sprang through a gate into a field, dragging the reluctant Pompey after
him. We had hardly got under the shelter of the hedge when the carriage rattled
past. I caught a glimpse of Dr. Armstrong within, his shoulders bowed, his head
sunk on his hands, the very image of distress. I could tell by my companion’s
graver face that he also had seen.
“I fear there is some dark ending to our quest,” said he. “It cannot be long
before we know it. Come, Pompey! Ah, it is the cottage in the field!”
There could be no doubt that we had reached the end of our journey. Pompey
ran about and whined eagerly outside the gate, where the marks of the
brougham’s wheels were still to be seen. A footpath led across to the lonely
cottage. Holmes tied the dog to the hedge, and we hastened onward. My friend
knocked at the little rustic door, and knocked again without response. And yet
the cottage was not deserted, for a low sound came to our ears—a kind of drone
of misery and despair which was indescribably melancholy. Holmes paused
irresolute, and then he glanced back at the road which he had just traversed. A
brougham was coming down it, and there could be no mistaking those grey
horses.
“By Jove, the doctor is coming back!” cried Holmes. “That settles it. We are
bound to see what it means before he comes.”
He opened the door, and we stepped into the hall. The droning sound swelled
louder upon our ears until it became one long, deep wail of distress. It came
from upstairs. Holmes darted up, and I followed him. He pushed open a halfclosed door, and we both stood appalled at the sight before us.
A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the bed. Her calm pale
face, with dim, wide-opened blue eyes, looked upward from amid a great tangle
of golden hair. At the foot of the bed, half sitting, half kneeling, his face buried
in the clothes, was a young man, whose frame was racked by his sobs. So
absorbed was he by his bitter grief, that he never looked up until Holmes’s hand
was on his shoulder.
“Are you Mr. Godfrey Staunton?”
“Yes, yes, I am—but you are too late. She is dead.”
The man was so dazed that he could not be made to understand that we were
anything but doctors who had been sent to his assistance. Holmes was
endeavouring to utter a few words of consolation and to explain the alarm which
had been caused to his friends by his sudden disappearance when there was a
step upon the stairs, and there was the heavy, stern, questioning face of Dr.
Armstrong at the door.
“So, gentlemen,” said he, “you have attained your end and have certainly
chosen a particularly delicate moment for your intrusion. I would not brawl in
the presence of death, but I can assure you that if I were a younger man your
monstrous conduct would not pass with impunity.”
“Excuse me, Dr. Armstrong, I think we are a little at cross-purposes,” said my
friend, with dignity. “If you could step downstairs with us, we may each be able
to give some light to the other upon this miserable affair.”
A minute later, the grim doctor and ourselves were in the sitting-room below.
“Well, sir?” said he.
“I wish you to understand, in the first place, that I am not employed by Lord
Mount-James, and that my sympathies in this matter are entirely against that
nobleman. When a man is lost it is my duty to ascertain his fate, but having done
so the matter ends so far as I am concerned, and so long as there is nothing
criminal I am much more anxious to hush up private scandals than to give them
publicity. If, as I imagine, there is no breach of the law in this matter, you can
absolutely depend upon my discretion and my cooperation in keeping the facts
out of the papers.”
Dr. Armstrong took a quick step forward and wrung Holmes by the hand.
“You are a good fellow,” said he. “I had misjudged you. I thank heaven that
my compunction at leaving poor Staunton all alone in this plight caused me to
turn my carriage back and so to make your acquaintance. Knowing as much as
you do, the situation is very easily explained. A year ago Godfrey Staunton
lodged in London for a time and became passionately attached to his landlady’s
daughter, whom he married. She was as good as she was beautiful and as
intelligent as she was good. No man need be ashamed of such a wife. But
Godfrey was the heir to this crabbed old nobleman, and it was quite certain that
the news of his marriage would have been the end of his inheritance. I knew the
lad well, and I loved him for his many excellent qualities. I did all I could to help
him to keep things straight. We did our very best to keep the thing from
everyone, for, when once such a whisper gets about, it is not long before
everyone has heard it. Thanks to this lonely cottage and his own discretion,
Godfrey has up to now succeeded. Their secret was known to no one save to me
and to one excellent servant, who has at present gone for assistance to
Trumpington. But at last there came a terrible blow in the shape of dangerous
illness to his wife. It was consumption of the most virulent kind. The poor boy
was half crazed with grief, and yet he had to go to London to play this match, for
he could not get out of it without explanations which would expose his secret. I
tried to cheer him up by wire, and he sent me one in reply, imploring me to do all
I could. This was the telegram which you appear in some inexplicable way to
have seen. I did not tell him how urgent the danger was, for I knew that he could
do no good here, but I sent the truth to the girl’s father, and he very injudiciously
communicated it to Godfrey. The result was that he came straight away in a state
bordering on frenzy, and has remained in the same state, kneeling at the end of
her bed, until this morning death put an end to her sufferings. That is all, Mr.
Holmes, and I am sure that I can rely upon your discretion and that of your
friend.”
Holmes grasped the doctor’s hand.
“Come, Watson,” said he, and we passed from that house of grief into the pale
sunlight of the winter day.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE
It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning, towards the end of the winter of
’97, that I was awakened by a tugging at my shoulder. It was Holmes. The
candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping face, and told me at a glance
that something was amiss.
“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your
clothes and come!”
Ten minutes later we were both in a cab, and rattling through the silent streets
on our way to Charing Cross Station. The first faint winter’s dawn was
beginning to appear, and we could dimly see the occasional figure of an early
workman as he passed us, blurred and indistinct in the opalescent London reek.
Holmes nestled in silence into his heavy coat, and I was glad to do the same, for
the air was most bitter, and neither of us had broken our fast.
It was not until we had consumed some hot tea at the station and taken our
places in the Kentish train that we were sufficiently thawed, he to speak and I to
listen. Holmes drew a note from his pocket, and read aloud:
Abbey Grange, Marsham, Kent, 3:30 A.M.
MY DEAR MR. HOLMES:
I should be very glad of your immediate assistance in what
promises to be a most remarkable case. It is something quite in
your line. Except for releasing the lady I will see that everything
is kept exactly as I have found it, but I beg you not to lose an
instant, as it is difficult to leave Sir Eustace there.
Yours faithfully,
STANLEY HOPKINS.
“Hopkins has called me in seven times, and on each occasion his summons
has been entirely justified,” said Holmes. “I fancy that every one of his cases has
found its way into your collection, and I must admit, Watson, that you have some
power of selection, which atones for much which I deplore in your narratives.
Your fatal habit of looking at everything from the point of view of a story instead
of as a scientific exercise has ruined what might have been an instructive and
even classical series of demonstrations. You slur over work of the utmost finesse
and delicacy, in order to dwell upon sensational details which may excite, but
cannot possibly instruct, the reader.”
“Why do you not write them yourself?” I said, with some bitterness.
“I will, my dear Watson, I will. At present I am, as you know, fairly busy, but I
propose to devote my declining years to the composition of a textbook, which
shall focus the whole art of detection into one volume. Our present research
appears to be a case of murder.”
“You think this Sir Eustace is dead, then?”
“I should say so. Hopkins’s writing shows considerable agitation, and he is not
an emotional man. Yes, I gather there has been violence, and that the body is left
for our inspection. A mere suicide would not have caused him to send for me. As
to the release of the lady, it would appear that she has been locked in her room
during the tragedy. We are moving in high life, Watson, crackling paper, ‘E.B.’
monogram, coat-of-arms, picturesque address. I think that friend Hopkins will
live up to his reputation, and that we shall have an interesting morning. The
crime was committed before twelve last night.”
“How can you possibly tell?”
“By an inspection of the trains, and by reckoning the time. The local police
had to be called in, they had to communicate with Scotland Yard, Hopkins had to
go out, and he in turn had to send for me. All that makes a fair night’s work.
Well, here we are at Chiselhurst Station, and we shall soon set our doubts at
rest.”
A drive of a couple of miles through narrow country lanes brought us to a park
gate, which was opened for us by an old lodge-keeper, whose haggard face bore
the reflection of some great disaster. The avenue ran through a noble park,
between lines of ancient elms, and ended in a low, widespread house, pillared in
front after the fashion of Palladio. The central part was evidently of a great age
and shrouded in ivy, but the large windows showed that modern changes had
been carried out, and one wing of the house appeared to be entirely new. The
youthful figure and alert, eager face of Inspector Stanley Hopkins confronted us
in the open doorway.
“I’m very glad you have come, Mr. Holmes. And you, too, Dr. Watson. But,
indeed, if I had my time over again, I should not have troubled you, for since the
lady has come to herself, she has given so clear an account of the affair that there
is not much left for us to do. You remember that Lewisham gang of burglars?”
“What, the three Randalls?”
“Exactly; the father and two sons. It’s their work. I have not a doubt of it.
They did a job at Sydenham a fortnight ago and were seen and described. Rather
cool to do another so soon and so near, but it is they, beyond all doubt. It’s a
hanging matter this time.”
“Sir Eustace is dead, then?”
“Yes, his head was knocked in with his own poker.”
“Sir Eustace Brackenstall, the driver tells me.”
“Exactly—one of the richest men in Kent—Lady Brackenstall is in the
morning-room. Poor lady, she has had a most dreadful experience. She seemed
half dead when I saw her first. I think you had best see her and hear her account
of the facts. Then we will examine the dining-room together.”
Lady Brackenstall was no ordinary person. Seldom have I seen so graceful a
figure, so womanly a presence, and so beautiful a face. She was a blonde,
golden-haired, blue-eyed, and would no doubt have had the perfect complexion
which goes with such colouring, had not her recent experience left her drawn
and haggard. Her sufferings were physical as well as mental, for over one eye
rose a hideous, plum-coloured swelling, which her maid, a tall, austere woman,
was bathing assiduously with vinegar and water. The lady lay back exhausted
upon a couch, but her quick, observant gaze, as we entered the room, and the
alert expression of her beautiful features, showed that neither her wits nor her
courage had been shaken by her terrible experience. She was enveloped in a
loose dressing-gown of blue and silver, but a black sequin-covered dinner-dress
lay upon the couch beside her.
“I have told you all that happened, Mr. Hopkins,” she said, wearily. “Could
you not repeat it for me? Well, if you think it necessary, I will tell these
gentlemen what occurred. Have they been in the dining-room yet?”
“I thought they had better hear your ladyship’s story first.”
“I shall be glad when you can arrange matters. It is horrible to me to think of
him still lying there.” She shuddered and buried her face in her hands. As she did
so, the loose gown fell back from her forearms. Holmes uttered an exclamation.
“You have other injuries, madam! What is this?” Two vivid red spots stood
out on one of the white, round limbs. She hastily covered it.
“It is nothing. It has no connection with this hideous business to-night. If you
and your friend will sit down, I will tell you all I can.
“I am the wife of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. I have been married about a year. I
suppose that it is no use my attempting to conceal that our marriage has not been
a happy one. I fear that all our neighbours would tell you that, even if I were to
attempt to deny it. Perhaps the fault may be partly mine. I was brought up in the
freer, less conventional atmosphere of South Australia, and this English life, with
its proprieties and its primness, is not congenial to me. But the main reason lies
in the one fact, which is notorious to everyone, and that is that Sir Eustace was a
confirmed drunkard. To be with such a man for an hour is unpleasant. Can you
imagine what it means for a sensitive and high-spirited woman to be tied to him
for day and night? It is a sacrilege, a crime, a villainy to hold that such a
marriage is binding. I say that these monstrous laws of yours will bring a curse
upon the land—God will not let such wickedness endure.” For an instant she sat
up, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes blazing from under the terrible mark upon
her brow. Then the strong, soothing hand of the austere maid drew her head
down on to the cushion, and the wild anger died away into passionate sobbing.
At last she continued:
“I will tell you about last night. You are aware, perhaps, that in this house all
the servants sleep in the modern wing. This central block is made up of the
dwelling-rooms, with the kitchen behind and our bedroom above. My maid,
Theresa, sleeps above my room. There is no one else, and no sound could alarm
those who are in the farther wing. This must have been well-known to the
robbers, or they would not have acted as they did.
“Sir Eustace retired about half-past ten. The servants had already gone to their
quarters. Only my maid was up, and she had remained in her room at the top of
the house until I needed her services. I sat until after eleven in this room,
absorbed in a book. Then I walked round to see that all was right before I went
upstairs. It was my custom to do this myself, for, as I have explained, Sir Eustace
was not always to be trusted. I went into the kitchen, the butler’s pantry, the gunroom, the billiard-room, the drawing-room, and finally the dining-room. As I
approached the window, which is covered with thick curtains, I suddenly felt the
wind blow upon my face and realized that it was open. I flung the curtain aside
and found myself face to face with a broad-shouldered elderly man, who had just
stepped into the room. The window is a long French one, which really forms a
door leading to the lawn. I held my bedroom candle lit in my hand, and, by its
light, behind the first man I saw two others, who were in the act of entering. I
stepped back, but the fellow was on me in an instant. He caught me first by the
wrist and then by the throat. I opened my mouth to scream, but he struck me a
savage blow with his fist over the eye, and felled me to the ground. I must have
been unconscious for a few minutes, for when I came to myself, I found that
they had torn down the bell-rope, and had secured me tightly to the oaken chair
which stands at the head of the dining-table. I was so firmly bound that I could
not move, and a handkerchief round my mouth prevented me from uttering a
sound. It was at this instant that my unfortunate husband entered the room. He
had evidently heard some suspicious sounds, and he came prepared for such a
scene as he found. He was dressed in nightshirt and trousers, with his favourite
blackthorn cudgel in his hand. He rushed at the burglars, but another—it was an
elderly man—stooped, picked the poker out of the grate and struck him a
horrible blow as he passed. He fell with a groan and never moved again. I
fainted once more, but again it could only have been for a very few minutes
during which I was insensible. When I opened my eyes I found that they had
collected the silver from the sideboard, and they had drawn a bottle of wine
which stood there. Each of them had a glass in his hand. I have already told you,
have I not, that one was elderly, with a beard, and the others young, hairless lads.
They might have been a father with his two sons. They talked together in
whispers. Then they came over and made sure that I was securely bound. Finally
they withdrew, closing the window after them. It was quite a quarter of an hour
before I got my mouth free. When I did so, my screams brought the maid to my
assistance. The other servants were soon alarmed, and we sent for the local
police, who instantly communicated with London. That is really all that I can tell
you, gentlemen, and I trust that it will not be necessary for me to go over so
painful a story again.”
“Any questions, Mr. Holmes?” asked Hopkins.
“I will not impose any further tax upon Lady Brackenstall’s patience and
time,” said Holmes. “Before I go into the dining-room, I should like to hear your
experience.” He looked at the maid.
“I saw the men before ever they came into the house,” said she. “As I sat by
my bedroom window I saw three men in the moonlight down by the lodge gate
yonder, but I thought nothing of it at the time. It was more than an hour after that
I heard my mistress scream, and down I ran, to find her, poor lamb, just as she
says, and him on the floor, with his blood and brains over the room. It was
enough to drive a woman out of her wits, tied there, and her very dress spotted
with him, but she never wanted courage, did Miss Mary Fraser of Adelaide and
Lady Brackenstall of Abbey Grange hasn’t learned new ways. You’ve
questioned her long enough, you gentlemen, and now she is coming to her own
room, just with her old Theresa, to get the rest that she badly needs.”
With a motherly tenderness the gaunt woman put her arm round her mistress
and led her from the room.
“She has been with her all her life,” said Hopkins. “Nursed her as a baby, and
came with her to England when they first left Australia, eighteen months ago.
Theresa Wright is her name, and the kind of maid you don’t pick up nowadays.
This way, Mr. Holmes, if you please!”
The keen interest had passed out of Holmes’s expressive face, and I knew that
with the mystery all the charm of the case had departed. There still remained an
arrest to be effected, but what were these commonplace rogues that he should
soil his hands with them? An abstruse and learned specialist who finds that he
has been called in for a case of measles would experience something of the
annoyance which I read in my friend’s eyes. Yet the scene in the dining-room of
the Abbey Grange was sufficiently strange to arrest his attention and to recall his
waning interest.
It was a very large and high chamber, with carved oak ceiling, oaken
panelling, and a fine array of deer’s heads and ancient weapons around the walls.
At the further end from the door was the high French window of which we had
heard. Three smaller windows on the right-hand side filled the apartment with
cold winter sunshine. On the left was a large, deep fireplace, with a massive,
overhanging oak mantelpiece. Beside the fireplace was a heavy oaken chair with
arms and cross-bars at the bottom. In and out through the open woodwork was
woven a crimson cord, which was secured at each side to the crosspiece below.
In releasing the lady, the cord had been slipped off her, but the knots with which
it had been secured still remained. These details only struck our attention
afterwards, for our thoughts were entirely absorbed by the terrible object which
lay upon the tigerskin hearthrug in front of the fire.
It was the body of a tall, well-made man, about forty years of age. He lay
upon his back, his face upturned, with his white teeth grinning through his short,
black beard. His two clenched hands were raised above his head, and a heavy,
blackthorn stick lay across them. His dark, handsome, aquiline features were
convulsed into a spasm of vindictive hatred, which had set his dead face in a
terribly fiendish expression. He had evidently been in his bed when the alarm
had broken out, for he wore a foppish, embroidered nightshirt, and his bare feet
projected from his trousers. His head was horribly injured, and the whole room
bore witness to the savage ferocity of the blow which had struck him down.
Beside him lay the heavy poker, bent into a curve by the concussion. Holmes
examined both it and the indescribable wreck which it had wrought.
“He must be a powerful man, this elder Randall,” he remarked.
“Yes,” said Hopkins. “I have some record of the fellow, and he is a rough
customer.”
“You should have no difficulty in getting him.”
“Not the slightest. We have been on the look-out for him, and there was some
idea that he had got away to America. Now that we know that the gang are here,
I don’t see how they can escape. We have the news at every seaport already, and
a reward will be offered before evening. What beats me is how they could have
done so mad a thing, knowing that the lady could describe them and that we
could not fail to recognize the description.”
“Exactly. One would have expected that they would silence Lady Brackenstall
as well.”
“They may not have realized,” I suggested, “that she had recovered from her
faint.”
“That is likely enough. If she seemed to be senseless, they would not take her
life. What about this poor fellow, Hopkins? I seem to have heard some queer
stories about him.”
“He was a good-hearted man when he was sober, but a perfect fiend when he
was drunk, or rather when he was half drunk, for he seldom really went the
whole way. The devil seemed to be in him at such times, and he was capable of
anything. From what I hear, in spite of all his wealth and his title, he very nearly
came our way once or twice. There was a scandal about his drenching a dog with
petroleum and setting it on fire—her ladyship’s dog, to make the matter worse—
and that was only hushed up with difficulty. Then he threw a decanter at that
maid, Theresa Wright—there was trouble about that. On the whole, and between
ourselves, it will be a brighter house without him. What are you looking at
now?”
Holmes was down on his knees, examining with great attention the knots upon
the red cord with which the lady had been secured. Then he carefully scrutinized
the broken and frayed end where it had snapped off when the burglar had
dragged it down.
“When this was pulled down, the bell in the kitchen must have rung loudly,”
he remarked.
“No one could hear it. The kitchen stands right at the back of the house.”
“How did the burglar know no one would hear it? How dared he pull at a bellrope in that reckless fashion?”
“Exactly, Mr. Holmes, exactly. You put the very question which I have asked
myself again and again. There can be no doubt that this fellow must have known
the house and its habits. He must have perfectly understood that the servants
would all be in bed at that comparatively early hour, and that no one could
possibly hear a bell ring in the kitchen. Therefore, he must have been in close
league with one of the servants. Surely that is evident. But there are eight
servants, and all of good character.”
“Other things being equal,” said Holmes, “one would suspect the one at whose
head the master threw a decanter. And yet that would involve treachery towards
the mistress to whom this woman seems devoted. Well, well, the point is a minor
one, and when you have Randall you will probably find no difficulty in securing
his accomplice. The lady’s story certainly seems to be corroborated, if it needed
corroboration, by every detail which we see before us.” He walked to the French
window and threw it open. “There are no signs here, but the ground is iron hard,
and one would not expect them. I see that these candles in the mantelpiece have
been lighted.”
“Yes, it was by their light and that of the lady’s bedroom candle, that the
burglars saw their way about.”
“And what did they take?”
“Well, they did not take much—only half a dozen articles of plate off the
sideboard. Lady Brackenstall thinks that they were themselves so disturbed by
the death of Sir Eustace that they did not ransack the house, as they would
otherwise have done.”
“No doubt that is true, and yet they drank some wine, I understand.”
“To steady their nerves.”
“Exactly. These three glasses upon the sideboard have been untouched, I
suppose?”
“Yes, and the bottle stands as they left it.”
“Let us look at it. Halloa, halloa! What is this?”
The three glasses were grouped together, all of them tinged with wine, and
one of them containing some dregs of beeswing. The bottle stood near them,
two-thirds full, and beside it lay a long, deeply stained cork. Its appearance and
the dust upon the bottle showed that it was no common vintage which the
murderers had enjoyed.
A change had come over Holmes’s manner. He had lost his listless expression,
and again I saw an alert light of interest in his keen, deep-set eyes. He raised the
cork and examined it minutely.
“How did they draw it?” he asked.
Hopkins pointed to a half-opened drawer. In it lay some table linen and a large
corkscrew.
“Did Lady Brackenstall say that screw was used?”
“No, you remember that she was senseless at the moment when the bottle was
opened.”
“Quite so. As a matter of fact, that screw was not used. This bottle was opened
by a pocket screw, probably contained in a knife, and not more than an inch and
a half long. If you will examine the top of the cork, you will observe that the
screw was driven in three times before the cork was extracted. It has never been
transfixed. This long screw would have transfixed it and drawn it up with a
single pull. When you catch this fellow, you will find that he has one of these
multiplex knives in his possession.”
“Excellent!” said Hopkins.
“But these glasses do puzzle me, I confess. Lady Brackenstall actually saw the
three men drinking, did she not?”
“Yes; she was clear about that.”
“Then there is an end of it. What more is to be said? And yet, you must admit,
that the three glasses are very remarkable, Hopkins. What? You see nothing
remarkable? Well, well, let it pass. Perhaps, when a man has special knowledge
and special powers like my own, it rather encourages him to seek a complex
explanation when a simpler one is at hand. Of course, it must be a mere chance
about the glasses. Well, good-morning, Hopkins. I don’t see that I can be of any
use to you, and you appear to have your case very clear. You will let me know
when Randall is arrested, and any further developments which may occur. I trust
that I shall soon have to congratulate you upon a successful conclusion. Come,
Watson, I fancy that we may employ ourselves more profitably at home.”
During our return journey, I could see by Holmes’s face that he was much
puzzled by something which he had observed. Every now and then, by an effort,
he would throw off the impression, and talk as if the matter were clear, but then
his doubts would settle down upon him again, and his knitted brows and
abstracted eyes would show that his thoughts had gone back once more to the
great dining-room of the Abbey Grange, in which this midnight tragedy had
been enacted. At last, by a sudden impulse, just as our train was crawling out of
a suburban station, he sprang on to the platform and pulled me out after him.
“Excuse me, my dear fellow,” said he, as we watched the rear carriages of our
train disappearing round a curve, “I am sorry to make you the victim of what
may seem a mere whim, but on my life, Watson, I simply can’t leave that case in
this condition. Every instinct that I possess cries out against it. It’s wrong—it’s
all wrong—I’ll swear that it’s wrong. And yet the lady’s story was complete, the
maid’s corroboration was sufficient, the detail was fairly exact. What have I to
put up against that? Three wine-glasses, that is all. But if I had not taken things
for granted, if I had examined everything with the care which I should have
shown had we approached the case de novo and had no cut-and-dried story to
warp my mind, should I not then have found something more definite to go
upon? Of course I should. Sit down on this bench, Watson, until a train for
Chiselhurst arrives, and allow me to lay the evidence before you, imploring you
in the first instance to dismiss from your mind the idea that anything which the
maid or her mistress may have said must necessarily be true. The lady’s
charming personality must not be permitted to warp our judgment.
“Surely there are details in her story which, if we looked at in cold blood,
would excite our suspicion. These burglars made a considerable haul at
Sydenham a fortnight ago. Some account of them and of their appearance was in
the papers, and would naturally occur to anyone who wished to invent a story in
which imaginary robbers should play a part. As a matter of fact, burglars who
have done a good stroke of business are, as a rule, only too glad to enjoy the
proceeds in peace and quiet without embarking on another perilous undertaking.
Again, it is unusual for burglars to operate at so early an hour, it is unusual for
burglars to strike a lady to prevent her screaming, since one would imagine that
was the sure way to make her scream, it is unusual for them to commit murder
when their numbers are sufficient to overpower one man, it is unusual for them
to be content with a limited plunder when there was much more within their
reach, and finally, I should say, that it was very unusual for such men to leave a
bottle half empty. How do all these unusuals strike you, Watson?”
“Their cumulative effect is certainly considerable, and yet each of them is
quite possible in itself. The most unusual thing of all, as it seems to me, is that
the lady should be tied to the chair.”
“Well, I am not so clear about that, Watson, for it is evident that they must
either kill her or else secure her in such a way that she could not give immediate
notice of their escape. But at any rate I have shown, have I not, that there is a
certain element of improbability about the lady’s story? And now, on the top of
this, comes the incident of the wineglasses.”
“What about the wineglasses?”
“Can you see them in your mind’s eye?”
“I see them clearly.”
“We are told that three men drank from them. Does that strike you as likely?”
“Why not? There was wine in each glass.”
“Exactly, but there was beeswing only in one glass. You must have noticed
that fact. What does that suggest to your mind?”
“The last glass filled would be most likely to contain beeswing.”
“Not at all. The bottle was full of it, and it is inconceivable that the first two
glasses were clear and the third heavily charged with it. There are two possible
explanations, and only two. One is that after the second glass was filled the
bottle was violently agitated, and so the third glass received the beeswing. That
does not appear probable. No, no, I am sure that I am right.”
“What, then, do you suppose?”
“That only two glasses were used, and that the dregs of both were poured into
a third glass, so as to give the false impression that three people had been here.
In that way all the beeswing would be in the last glass, would it not? Yes, I am
convinced that this is so. But if I have hit upon the true explanation of this one
small phenomenon, then in an instant the case rises from the commonplace to the
exceedingly remarkable, for it can only mean that Lady Brackenstall and her
maid have deliberately lied to us, that not one word of their story is to be
believed, that they have some very strong reason for covering the real criminal,
and that we must construct our case for ourselves without any help from them.
That is the mission which now lies before us, and here, Watson, is the Sydenham
train.”
The household at the Abbey Grange were much surprised at our return, but
Sherlock Holmes, finding that Stanley Hopkins had gone off to report to
headquarters, took possession of the dining-room, locked the door upon the
inside, and devoted himself for two hours to one of those minute and laborious
investigations which form the solid basis on which his brilliant edifices of
deduction were reared. Seated in a corner like an interested student who
observes the demonstration of his professor, I followed every step of that
remarkable research. The window, the curtains, the carpet, the chair, the rope—
each in turn was minutely examined and duly pondered. The body of the
unfortunate baronet had been removed, and all else remained as we had seen it in
the morning. Finally, to my astonishment, Holmes climbed up on to the massive
mantelpiece. Far above his head hung the few inches of red cord which were still
attached to the wire. For a long time he gazed upward at it, and then in an
attempt to get nearer to it he rested his knee upon a wooden bracket on the wall.
This brought his hand within a few inches of the broken end of the rope, but it
was not this so much as the bracket itself which seemed to engage his attention.
Finally, he sprang down with an ejaculation of satisfaction.
“It’s all right, Watson,” said he. “We have got our case—one of the most
remarkable in our collection. But, dear me, how slow-witted I have been, and
how nearly I have committed the blunder of my lifetime! Now, I think that, with
a few missing links, my chain is almost complete.”
“You have got your men?”
“Man, Watson, man. Only one, but a very formidable person. Strong as a lion
—witness the blow that bent that poker! Six foot three in height, active as a
squirrel, dexterous with his fingers, finally, remarkably quick-witted, for this
whole ingenious story is of his concoction. Yes, Watson, we have come upon the
handiwork of a very remarkable individual. And yet, in that bell-rope, he has
given us a clue which should not have left us a doubt.”
“Where was the clue?”
“Well, if you were to pull down a bell-rope, Watson, where would you expect
it to break? Surely at the spot where it is attached to the wire. Why should it
break three inches from the top, as this one has done?”
“Because it is frayed there?”
“Exactly. This end, which we can examine, is frayed. He was cunning enough
to do that with his knife. But the other end is not frayed. You could not observe
that from here, but if you were on the mantelpiece you would see that it is cut
clean off without any mark of fraying whatever. You can reconstruct what
occurred. The man needed the rope. He would not tear it down for fear of giving
the alarm by ringing the bell. What did he do? He sprang up on the mantelpiece,
could not quite reach it, put his knee on the bracket—you will see the impression
in the dust—and so got his knife to bear upon the cord. I could not reach the
place by at least three inches—from which I infer that he is at least three inches a
bigger man than I. Look at that mark upon the seat of the oaken chair! What is
it?”
“Blood.”
“Undoubtedly it is blood. This alone puts the lady’s story out of court. If she
were seated on the chair when the crime was done, how comes that mark? No,
no, she was placed in the chair after the death of her husband. I’ll wager that the
black dress shows a corresponding mark to this. We have not yet met our
Waterloo, Watson, but this is our Marengo, for it begins in defeat and ends in
victory. I should like now to have a few words with the nurse, Theresa. We must
be wary for a while, if we are to get the information which we want.”
She was an interesting person, this stern Australian nurse—taciturn,
suspicious, ungracious, it took some time before Holmes’s pleasant manner and
frank acceptance of all that she said thawed her into a corresponding amiability.
She did not attempt to conceal her hatred for her late employer.
“Yes, sir, it is true that he threw the decanter at me. I heard him call my
mistress a name, and I told him that he would not dare to speak so if her brother
had been there. Then it was that he threw it at me. He might have thrown a
dozen if he had but left my bonny bird alone. He was forever ill-treating her, and
she too proud to complain. She will not even tell me all that he has done to her.
She never told me of those marks on her arm that you saw this morning, but I
know very well that they come from a stab with a hatpin. The sly devil—God
forgive me that I should speak of him so, now that he is dead! But a devil he
was, if ever one walked the earth. He was all honey when first we met him—
only eighteen months ago, and we both feel as if it were eighteen years. She had
only just arrived in London. Yes, it was her first voyage—she had never been
from home before. He won her with his title and his money and his false London
ways. If she made a mistake she has paid for it, if ever a woman did. What
month did we meet him? Well, I tell you it was just after we arrived. We arrived
in June, and it was July. They were married in January of last year. Yes, she is
down in the morning-room again, and I have no doubt she will see you, but you
must not ask too much of her, for she has gone through all that flesh and blood
will stand.”
Lady Brackenstall was reclining on the same couch, but looked brighter than
before. The maid had entered with us, and began once more to foment the bruise
upon her mistress’s brow.
“I hope,” said the lady, “that you have not come to cross-examine me again?”
“No,” Holmes answered, in his gentlest voice, “I will not cause you any
unnecessary trouble, Lady Brackenstall, and my whole desire is to make things
easy for you, for I am convinced that you are a much-tried woman. If you will
treat me as a friend and trust me, you may find that I will justify your trust.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“To tell me the truth.”
“Mr. Holmes!”
“No, no, Lady Brackenstall—it is no use. You may have heard of any little
reputation which I possess. I will stake it all on the fact that your story is an
absolute fabrication.”
Mistress and maid were both staring at Holmes with pale faces and frightened
eyes.
“You are an impudent fellow!” cried Theresa. “Do you mean to say that my
mistress has told a lie?”
Holmes rose from his chair.
“Have you nothing to tell me?”
“I have told you everything.”
“Think once more, Lady Brackenstall. Would it not be better to be frank?”
For an instant there was hesitation in her beautiful face. Then some new
strong thought caused it to set like a mask.
“I have told you all I know.”
Holmes took his hat and shrugged his shoulders. “I am sorry,” he said, and
without another word we left the room and the house. There was a pond in the
park, and to this my friend led the way. It was frozen over, but a single hole was
left for the convenience of a solitary swan. Holmes gazed at it, and then passed
on to the lodge gate. There he scribbled a short note for Stanley Hopkins, and
left it with the lodge-keeper.
“It may be a hit, or it may be a miss, but we are bound to do something for
friend Hopkins, just to justify this second visit,” said he. “I will not quite take
him into my confidence yet. I think our next scene of operations must be the
shipping office of the Adelaide-Southampton line, which stands at the end of
Pall Mall, if I remember right. There is a second line of steamers which connect
South Australia with England, but we will draw the larger cover first.”
Holmes’s card sent in to the manager ensured instant attention, and he was not
long in acquiring all the information he needed. In June of ’95, only one of their
line had reached a home port. It was the Rock of Gibraltar, their largest and best
boat. A reference to the passenger list showed that Miss Fraser, of Adelaide, with
her maid had made the voyage in her. The boat was now somewhere south of the
Suez Canal on her way to Australia. Her officers were the same as in ’95, with
one exception. The first officer, Mr. Jack Crocker, had been made a captain and
was to take charge of their new ship, the Bass Rock, sailing in two days’ time
from Southampton. He lived at Sydenham, but he was likely to be in that
morning for instructions, if we cared to wait for him.
No, Mr. Holmes had no desire to see him, but would be glad to know more
about his record and character.
His record was magnificent. There was not an officer in the fleet to touch him.
As to his character, he was reliable on duty, but a wild, desperate fellow off the
deck of his ship—hot-headed, excitable, but loyal, honest, and kind-hearted.
That was the pith of the information with which Holmes left the office of the
Adelaide-Southampton company. Thence he drove to Scotland Yard, but, instead
of entering, he sat in his cab with his brows drawn down, lost in profound
thought. Finally he drove round to the Charing Cross telegraph office, sent off a
message, and then, at last, we made for Baker Street once more.
“No, I couldn’t do it, Watson,” said he, as we reentered our room. “Once that
warrant was made out, nothing on earth would save him. Once or twice in my
career I feel that I have done more real harm by my discovery of the criminal
than ever he had done by his crime. I have learned caution now, and I had rather
play tricks with the law of England than with my own conscience. Let us know a
little more before we act.”
Before evening, we had a visit from Inspector Stanley Hopkins. Things were
not going very well with him.
“I believe that you are a wizard, Mr. Holmes. I really do sometimes think that
you have powers that are not human. Now, how on earth could you know that
the stolen silver was at the bottom of that pond?”
“I didn’t know it.”
“But you told me to examine it.”
“You got it, then?”
“Yes, I got it.”
“I am very glad if I have helped you.”
“But you haven’t helped me. You have made the affair far more difficult.
What sort of burglars are they who steal silver and then throw it into the nearest
pond?”
“It was certainly rather eccentric behaviour. I was merely going on the idea
that if the silver had been taken by persons who did not want it—who merely
took it for a blind, as it were—then they would naturally be anxious to get rid of
it.”
“But why should such an idea cross your mind?”
“Well, I thought it was possible. When they came out through the French
window, there was the pond with one tempting little hole in the ice, right in front
of their noses. Could there be a better hiding-place?”
“Ah, a hiding-place—that is better!” cried Stanley Hopkins. “Yes, yes, I see it
all now! It was early, there were folk upon the roads, they were afraid of being
seen with the silver, so they sank it in the pond, intending to return for it when
the coast was clear. Excellent, Mr. Holmes—that is better than your idea of a
blind.”
“Quite so, you have got an admirable theory. I have no doubt that my own
ideas were quite wild, but you must admit that they have ended in discovering
the silver.”
“Yes, sir—yes. It was all your doing. But I have had a bad setback.”
“A setback?”
“Yes, Mr. Holmes. The Randall gang were arrested in New York this
morning.”
“Dear me, Hopkins! That is certainly rather against your theory that they
committed a murder in Kent last night.”
“It is fatal, Mr. Holmes—absolutely fatal. Still, there are other gangs of three
besides the Randalls, or it may be some new gang of which the police have never
heard.”
“Quite so, it is perfectly possible. What, are you off?”
“Yes, Mr. Holmes, there is no rest for me until I have got to the bottom of the
business. I suppose you have no hint to give me?”
“I have given you one.”
“Which?”
“Well, I suggested a blind.”
“But why, Mr. Holmes, why?”
“Ah, that’s the question, of course. But I commend the idea to your mind. You
might possibly find that there was something in it. You won’t stop for dinner?
Well, good-bye, and let us know how you get on.”
Dinner was over, and the table cleared before Holmes alluded to the matter
again. He had lit his pipe and held his slippered feet to the cheerful blaze of the
fire. Suddenly he looked at his watch.
“I expect developments, Watson.”
“When?”
“Now—within a few minutes. I dare say you thought I acted rather badly to
Stanley Hopkins just now?”
“I trust your judgment.”
“A very sensible reply, Watson. You must look at it this way: what I know is
unofficial, what he knows is official. I have the right to private judgment, but he
has none. He must disclose all, or he is a traitor to his service. In a doubtful case
I would not put him in so painful a position, and so I reserve my information
until my own mind is clear upon the matter.”
“But when will that be?”
“The time has come. You will now be present at the last scene of a remarkable
little drama.”
There was a sound upon the stairs, and our door was opened to admit as fine a
specimen of manhood as ever passed through it. He was a very tall young man,
golden-moustached, blue-eyed, with a skin which had been burned by tropical
suns, and a springy step, which showed that the huge frame was as active as it
was strong. He closed the door behind him, and then he stood with clenched
hands and heaving breast, choking down some overmastering emotion.
“Sit down, Captain Crocker. You got my telegram?”
Our visitor sank into an armchair and looked from one to the other of us with
questioning eyes.
“I got your telegram, and I came at the hour you said. I heard that you had
been down to the office. There was no getting away from you. Let’s hear the
worst. What are you going to do with me? Arrest me? Speak out, man! You can’t
sit there and play with me like a cat with a mouse.”
“Give him a cigar,” said Holmes. “Bite on that, Captain Crocker, and don’t let
your nerves run away with you. I should not sit here smoking with you if I
thought that you were a common criminal, you may be sure of that. Be frank
with me and we may do some good. Play tricks with me, and I’ll crush you.”
“What do you wish me to do?”
“To give me a true account of all that happened at the Abbey Grange last night
—a true account, mind you, with nothing added and nothing taken off. I know so
much already that if you go one inch off the straight, I’ll blow this police whistle
from my window and the affair goes out of my hands forever.”
The sailor thought for a little. Then he struck his leg with his great sunburned
hand.
“I’ll chance it,” he cried. “I believe you are a man of your word, and a white
man, and I’ll tell you the whole story. But one thing I will say first. So far as I
am concerned, I regret nothing and I fear nothing, and I would do it all again and
be proud of the job. Damn the beast, if he had as many lives as a cat, he would
owe them all to me! But it’s the lady, Mary—Mary Fraser—for never will I call
her by that accursed name. When I think of getting her into trouble, I who would
give my life just to bring one smile to her dear face, it’s that that turns my soul
into water. And yet—and yet—what less could I do? I’ll tell you my story,
gentlemen, and then I’ll ask you, as man to man, what less could I do?
“I must go back a bit. You seem to know everything, so I expect that you
know that I met her when she was a passenger and I was first officer of the Rock
of Gibraltar. From the first day I met her, she was the only woman to me. Every
day of that voyage I loved her more, and many a time since have I kneeled down
in the darkness of the night watch and kissed the deck of that ship because I
knew her dear feet had trod it. She was never engaged to me. She treated me as
fairly as ever a woman treated a man. I have no complaint to make. It was all
love on my side, and all good comradeship and friendship on hers. When we
parted she was a free woman, but I could never again be a free man.
“Next time I came back from sea, I heard of her marriage. Well, why
shouldn’t she marry whom she liked? Title and money—who could carry them
better than she? She was born for all that is beautiful and dainty. I didn’t grieve
over her marriage. I was not such a selfish hound as that. I just rejoiced that good
luck had come her way, and that she had not thrown herself away on a penniless
sailor. That’s how I loved Mary Fraser.
“Well, I never thought to see her again, but last voyage I was promoted, and
the new boat was not yet launched, so I had to wait for a couple of months with
my people at Sydenham. One day out in a country lane I met Theresa Wright,
her old maid. She told me all about her, about him, about everything. I tell you,
gentlemen, it nearly drove me mad. This drunken hound, that he should dare to
raise his hand to her, whose boots he was not worthy to lick! I met Theresa
again. Then I met Mary herself—and met her again. Then she would meet me no
more. But the other day I had a notice that I was to start on my voyage within a
week, and I determined that I would see her once before I left. Theresa was
always my friend, for she loved Mary and hated this villain almost as much as I
did. From her I learned the ways of the house. Mary used to sit up reading in her
own little room downstairs. I crept round there last night and scratched at the
window. At first she would not open to me, but in her heart I know that now she
loves me, and she could not leave me in the frosty night. She whispered to me to
come round to the big front window, and I found it open before me, so as to let
me into the dining-room. Again I heard from her own lips things that made my
blood boil, and again I cursed this brute who mishandled the woman I loved.
Well, gentlemen, I was standing with her just inside the window, in all
innocence, as God is my judge, when he rushed like a madman into the room,
called her the vilest name that a man could use to a woman, and welted her
across the face with the stick he had in his hand. I had sprung for the poker, and
it was a fair fight between us. See here, on my arm, where his first blow fell.
Then it was my turn, and I went through him as if he had been a rotten pumpkin.
Do you think I was sorry? Not I! It was his life or mine, but far more than that, it
was his life or hers, for how could I leave her in the power of this madman? That
was how I killed him. Was I wrong? Well, then, what would either of you
gentlemen have done, if you had been in my position?
“She had screamed when he struck her, and that brought old Theresa down
from the room above. There was a bottle of wine on the sideboard, and I opened
it and poured a little between Mary’s lips, for she was half dead with shock.
Then I took a drop myself. Theresa was as cool as ice, and it was her plot as
much as mine. We must make it appear that burglars had done the thing. Theresa
kept on repeating our story to her mistress, while I swarmed up and cut the rope
of the bell. Then I lashed her in her chair, and frayed out the end of the rope to
make it look natural, else they would wonder how in the world a burglar could
have got up there to cut it. Then I gathered up a few plates and pots of silver, to
carry out the idea of the robbery, and there I left them, with orders to give the
alarm when I had a quarter of an hour’s start. I dropped the silver into the pond,
and made off for Sydenham, feeling that for once in my life I had done a real
good night’s work. And that’s the truth and the whole truth, Mr. Holmes, if it
costs me my neck.”
Holmes smoked for some time in silence. Then he crossed the room, and
shook our visitor by the hand.
“That’s what I think,” said he. “I know that every word is true, for you have
hardly said a word which I did not know. No one but an acrobat or a sailor could
have got up to that bell-rope from the bracket, and no one but a sailor could have
made the knots with which the cord was fastened to the chair. Only once had this
lady been brought into contact with sailors, and that was on her voyage, and it
was someone of her own class of life, since she was trying hard to shield him,
and so showing that she loved him. You see how easy it was for me to lay my
hands upon you when once I had started upon the right trail.”
“I thought the police never could have seen through our dodge.”
“And the police haven’t, nor will they, to the best of my belief. Now, look
here, Captain Crocker, this is a very serious matter, though I am willing to admit
that you acted under the most extreme provocation to which any man could be
subjected. I am not sure that in defence of your own life your action will not be
pronounced legitimate. However, that is for a British jury to decide. Meanwhile I
have so much sympathy for you that, if you choose to disappear in the next
twenty-four hours, I will promise you that no one will hinder you.”
“And then it will all come out?”
“Certainly it will come out.”
The sailor flushed with anger.
“What sort of proposal is that to make a man? I know enough of law to
understand that Mary would be held as accomplice. Do you think I would leave
her alone to face the music while I slunk away? No, sir, let them do their worst
upon me, but for heaven’s sake, Mr. Holmes, find some way of keeping my poor
Mary out of the courts.”
Holmes for a second time held out his hand to the sailor.
“I was only testing you, and you ring true every time. Well, it is a great
responsibility that I take upon myself, but I have given Hopkins an excellent hint
and if he can’t avail himself of it I can do no more. See here, Captain Crocker,
we’ll do this in due form of law. You are the prisoner. Watson, you are a British
jury, and I never met a man who was more eminently fitted to represent one. I
am the judge. Now, gentleman of the jury, you have heard the evidence. Do you
find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?”
“Not guilty, my lord,” said I.
“Vox populi, vox Dei. You are acquitted, Captain Crocker. So long as the law
does not find some other victim you are safe from me. Come back to this lady in
a year, and may her future and yours justify us in the judgment which we have
pronounced this night!”

THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN
I had intended “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange” to be the last of those
exploits of my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, which I should ever communicate
to the public. This resolution of mine was not due to any lack of material, since I
have notes of many hundreds of cases to which I have never alluded, nor was it
caused by any waning interest on the part of my readers in the singular
personality and unique methods of this remarkable man. The real reason lay in
the reluctance which Mr. Holmes has shown to the continued publication of his
experiences. So long as he was in actual professional practice the records of his
successes were of some practical value to him, but since he has definitely retired
from London and betaken himself to study and bee-farming on the Sussex
Downs, notoriety has become hateful to him, and he has peremptorily requested
that his wishes in this matter should be strictly observed. It was only upon my
representing to him that I had given a promise that “The Adventure of the
Second Stain” should be published when the times were ripe, and pointing out to
him that it is only appropriate that this long series of episodes should culminate
in the most important international case which he has ever been called upon to
handle, that I at last succeeded in obtaining his consent that a carefully guarded
account of the incident should at last be laid before the public. If in telling the
story I seem to be somewhat vague in certain details, the public will readily
understand that there is an excellent reason for my reticence.
It was, then, in a year, and even in a decade, that shall be nameless, that upon
one Tuesday morning in autumn we found two visitors of European fame within
the walls of our humble room in Baker Street. The one, austere, high-nosed,
eagle-eyed, and dominant, was none other than the illustrious Lord Bellinger,
twice Premier of Britain. The other, dark, clear-cut, and elegant, hardly yet of
middle age, and endowed with every beauty of body and of mind, was the Right
Honourable Trelawney Hope, Secretary for European Affairs, and the most
rising statesman in the country. They sat side by side upon our paper-littered
settee, and it was easy to see from their worn and anxious faces that it was
business of the most pressing importance which had brought them. The
Premier’s thin, blue-veined hands were clasped tightly over the ivory head of his
umbrella, and his gaunt, ascetic face looked gloomily from Holmes to me. The
European Secretary pulled nervously at his moustache and fidgeted with the
seals of his watch-chain.
“When I discovered my loss, Mr. Holmes, which was at eight o’clock this
morning, I at once informed the Prime Minister. It was at his suggestion that we
have both come to you.”
“Have you informed the police?”
“No, sir,” said the Prime Minister, with the quick, decisive manner for which
he was famous. “We have not done so, nor is it possible that we should do so. To
inform the police must, in the long run, mean to inform the public. This is what
we particularly desire to avoid.”
“And why, sir?”
“Because the document in question is of such immense importance that its
publication might very easily—I might almost say probably—lead to European
complications of the utmost moment. It is not too much to say that peace or war
may hang upon the issue. Unless its recovery can be attended with the utmost
secrecy, then it may as well not be recovered at all, for all that is aimed at by
those who have taken it is that its contents should be generally known.”
“I understand. Now, Mr. Trelawney Hope, I should be much obliged if you
would tell me exactly the circumstances under which this document
disappeared.”
“That can be done in a very few words, Mr. Holmes. The letter—for it was a
letter from a foreign potentate—was received six days ago. It was of such
importance that I have never left it in my safe, but have taken it across each
evening to my house in Whitehall Terrace, and kept it in my bedroom in a locked
despatch-box. It was there last night. Of that I am certain. I actually opened the
box while I was dressing for dinner and saw the document inside. This morning
it was gone. The despatch-box had stood beside the glass upon my dressing-table
all night. I am a light sleeper, and so is my wife. We are both prepared to swear
that no one could have entered the room during the night. And yet I repeat that
the paper is gone.”
“What time did you dine?”
“Half-past seven.”
“How long was it before you went to bed?”
“My wife had gone to the theatre. I waited up for her. It was half-past eleven
before we went to our room.”
“Then for four hours the despatch-box had lain unguarded?”
“No one is ever permitted to enter that room save the house-maid in the
morning, and my valet, or my wife’s maid, during the rest of the day. They are
both trusty servants who have been with us for some time. Besides, neither of
them could possibly have known that there was anything more valuable than the
ordinary departmental papers in my despatch-box.”
“Who did know of the existence of that letter?”
“No one in the house.”
“Surely your wife knew?”
“No, sir. I had said nothing to my wife until I missed the paper this morning.”
The Premier nodded approvingly.
“I have long known, sir, how high is your sense of public duty,” said he. “I am
convinced that in the case of a secret of this importance it would rise superior to
the most intimate domestic ties.”
The European Secretary bowed.
“You do me no more than justice, sir. Until this morning I have never breathed
one word to my wife upon this matter.”
“Could she have guessed?”
“No, Mr. Holmes, she could not have guessed—nor could anyone have
guessed.”
“Have you lost any documents before?”
“No, sir.”
“Who is there in England who did know of the existence of this letter?”
“Each member of the Cabinet was informed of it yesterday, but the pledge of
secrecy which attends every Cabinet meeting was increased by the solemn
warning which was given by the Prime Minister. Good heavens, to think that
within a few hours I should myself have lost it!” His handsome face was
distorted with a spasm of despair, and his hands tore at his hair. For a moment
we caught a glimpse of the natural man, impulsive, ardent, keenly sensitive. The
next the aristocratic mask was replaced, and the gentle voice had returned.
“Besides the members of the Cabinet there are two, or possibly three,
departmental officials who know of the letter. No one else in England, Mr.
Holmes, I assure you.”
“But abroad?”
“I believe that no one abroad has seen it save the man who wrote it. I am well
convinced that his Ministers—that the usual official channels have not been
employed.”
Holmes considered for some little time.
“Now, sir, I must ask you more particularly what this document is, and why its
disappearance should have such momentous consequences?”
The two statesmen exchanged a quick glance and the Premier’s shaggy
eyebrows gathered in a frown.
“Mr. Holmes, the envelope is a long, thin one of pale blue colour. There is a
seal of red wax stamped with a crouching lion. It is addressed in large, bold
handwriting to——”
“I fear, sir,” said Holmes, “that, interesting and indeed essential as these
details are, my inquiries must go more to the root of things. What was the
letter?”
“That is a State secret of the utmost importance, and I fear that I cannot tell
you, nor do I see that it is necessary. If by the aid of the powers which you are
said to possess you can find such an envelope as I describe with its enclosure,
you will have deserved well of your country, and earned any reward which it lies
in our power to bestow.”
Sherlock Holmes rose with a smile.
“You are two of the most busy men in the country,” said he, “and in my own
small way I have also a good many calls upon me. I regret exceedingly that I
cannot help you in this matter, and any continuation of this interview would be a
waste of time.”
The Premier sprang to his feet with that quick, fierce gleam of his deep-set
eyes before which a Cabinet has cowered. “I am not accustomed, sir,” he began,
but mastered his anger and resumed his seat. For a minute or more we all sat in
silence. Then the old statesman shrugged his shoulders.
“We must accept your terms, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right, and it is
unreasonable for us to expect you to act unless we give you our entire
confidence.”
“I agree with you,” said the younger statesman.
“Then I will tell you, relying entirely upon your honour and that of your
colleague, Dr. Watson. I may appeal to your patriotism also, for I could not
imagine a greater misfortune for the country than that this affair should come
out.”
“You may safely trust us.”
“The letter, then, is from a certain foreign potentate who has been ruffled by
some recent Colonial developments of this country. It has been written hurriedly
and upon his own responsibility entirely. Inquiries have shown that his Ministers
know nothing of the matter. At the same time it is couched in so unfortunate a
manner, and certain phrases in it are of so provocative a character, that its
publication would undoubtedly lead to a most dangerous state of feeling in this
country. There would be such a ferment, sir, that I do not hesitate to say that
within a week of the publication of that letter this country would be involved in a
great war.”
Holmes wrote a name upon a slip of paper and handed it to the Premier.
“Exactly. It was he. And it is this letter—this letter which may well mean the
expenditure of a thousand millions and the lives of a hundred thousand men—
which has become lost in this unaccountable fashion.”
“Have you informed the sender?”
“Yes, sir, a cipher telegram has been despatched.”
“Perhaps he desires the publication of the letter.”
“No, sir, we have strong reason to believe that he already understands that he
has acted in an indiscreet and hot-headed manner. It would be a greater blow to
him and to his country than to us if this letter were to come out.”
“If this is so, whose interest is it that the letter should come out? Why should
anyone desire to steal it or to publish it?”
“There, Mr. Holmes, you take me into regions of high international politics.
But if you consider the European situation you will have no difficulty in
perceiving the motive. The whole of Europe is an armed camp. There is a double
league which makes a fair balance of military power. Great Britain holds the
scales. If Britain were driven into war with one confederacy, it would assure the
supremacy of the other confederacy, whether they joined in the war or not. Do
you follow?”
“Very clearly. It is then the interest of the enemies of this potentate to secure
and publish this letter, so as to make a breach between his country and ours?”
“Yes, sir.”
“And to whom would this document be sent if it fell into the hands of an
enemy?”
“To any of the great Chancelleries of Europe. It is probably speeding on its
way thither at the present instant as fast as steam can take it.”
Mr. Trelawney Hope dropped his head on his chest and groaned aloud. The
Premier placed his hand kindly upon his shoulder.
“It is your misfortune, my dear fellow. No one can blame you. There is no
precaution which you have neglected. Now, Mr. Holmes, you are in full
possession of the facts. What course do you recommend?”
Holmes shook his head mournfully.
“You think, sir, that unless this document is recovered there will be war?”
“I think it is very probable.”
“Then, sir, prepare for war.”
“That is a hard saying, Mr. Holmes.”
“Consider the facts, sir. It is inconceivable that it was taken after eleven-thirty
at night, since I understand that Mr. Hope and his wife were both in the room
from that hour until the loss was found out. It was taken, then, yesterday evening
between seven-thirty and eleven-thirty, probably near the earlier hour, since
whoever took it evidently knew that it was there and would naturally secure it as
early as possible. Now, sir, if a document of this importance were taken at that
hour, where can it be now? No one has any reason to retain it. It has been passed
rapidly on to those who need it. What chance have we now to overtake or even
to trace it? It is beyond our reach.”
The Prime Minister rose from the settee.
“What you say is perfectly logical, Mr. Holmes. I feel that the matter is indeed
out of our hands.”
“Let us presume, for argument’s sake, that the document was taken by the
maid or by the valet——”
“They are both old and tried servants.”
“I understand you to say that your room is on the second floor, that there is no
entrance from without, and that from within no one could go up unobserved. It
must, then, be somebody in the house who has taken it. To whom would the thief
take it? To one of several international spies and secret agents, whose names are
tolerably familiar to me. There are three who may be said to be the heads of their
profession. I will begin my research by going round and finding if each of them
is at his post. If one is missing—especially if he has disappeared since last night
—we will have some indication as to where the document has gone.”
“Why should he be missing?” asked the European Secretary. “He would take
the letter to an Embassy in London, as likely as not.”
“I fancy not. These agents work independently, and their relations with the
Embassies are often strained.”
The Prime Minister nodded his acquiescence.
“I believe you are right, Mr. Holmes. He would take so valuable a prize to
headquarters with his own hands. I think that your course of action is an
excellent one. Meanwhile, Hope, we cannot neglect all our other duties on
account of this one misfortune. Should there be any fresh developments during
the day we shall communicate with you, and you will no doubt let us know the
results of your own inquiries.”
The two statesmen bowed and walked gravely from the room.
When our illustrious visitors had departed Holmes lit his pipe in silence and
sat for some time lost in the deepest thought. I had opened the morning paper
and was immersed in a sensational crime which had occurred in London the
night before, when my friend gave an exclamation, sprang to his feet, and laid
his pipe down upon the mantelpiece.
“Yes,” said he, “there is no better way of approaching it. The situation is
desperate, but not hopeless. Even now, if we could be sure which of them has
taken it, it is just possible that it has not yet passed out of his hands. After all, it
is a question of money with these fellows, and I have the British treasury behind
me. If it’s on the market I’ll buy it—if it means another penny on the incometax. It is conceivable that the fellow might hold it back to see what bids come
from this side before he tries his luck on the other. There are only those three
capable of playing so bold a game—there are Oberstein, La Rothiere, and
Eduardo Lucas. I will see each of them.”
I glanced at my morning paper.
“Is that Eduardo Lucas of Godolphin Street?”
“Yes.”
“You will not see him.”
“Why not?”
“He was murdered in his house last night.”
My friend has so often astonished me in the course of our adventures that it
was with a sense of exultation that I realized how completely I had astonished
him. He stared in amazement, and then snatched the paper from my hands. This
was the paragraph which I had been engaged in reading when he rose from his
chair:
MURDER IN WESTMINSTER
A crime of mysterious character was committed last night at 16,
Godolphin Street, one of the old-fashioned and secluded rows of
eighteenth century houses which lie between the river and the
Abbey, almost in the shadow of the great Tower of the Houses of
Parliament. This small but select mansion has been inhabited for
some years by Mr. Eduardo Lucas, well-known in society circles
both on account of his charming personality and because he has
the well-deserved reputation of being one of the best amateur
tenors in the country. Mr. Lucas is an unmarried man, thirty-four
years of age, and his establishment consists of Mrs. Pringle, an
elderly housekeeper, and of Mitton, his valet. The former retires
early and sleeps at the top of the house. The valet was out for the
evening, visiting a friend at Hammersmith. From ten o’clock
onward Mr. Lucas had the house to himself. What occurred
during that time has not yet transpired, but at a quarter to twelve
Police-constable Barrett, passing along Godolphin Street
observed that the door of No. 16 was ajar. He knocked, but
received no answer. Perceiving a light in the front room, he
advanced into the passage and again knocked, but without reply.
He then pushed open the door and entered. The room was in a
state of wild disorder, the furniture being all swept to one side,
and one chair lying on its back in the centre. Beside this chair,
and still grasping one of its legs, lay the unfortunate tenant of
the house. He had been stabbed to the heart and must have died
instantly. The knife with which the crime had been committed
was a curved Indian dagger, plucked down from a trophy of
Oriental arms which adorned one of the walls. Robbery does not
appear to have been the motive of the crime, for there had been
no attempt to remove the valuable contents of the room. Mr.
Eduardo Lucas was so well-known and popular that his violent
and mysterious fate will arouse painful interest and intense
sympathy in a widespread circle of friends.
“Well, Watson, what do you make of this?” asked Holmes, after a long pause.
“It is an amazing coincidence.”
“A coincidence! Here is one of the three men whom we had named as possible
actors in this drama, and he meets a violent death during the very hours when we
know that that drama was being enacted. The odds are enormous against its
being coincidence. No figures could express them. No, my dear Watson, the two
events are connected—must be connected. It is for us to find the connection.”
“But now the official police must know all.”
“Not at all. They know all they see at Godolphin Street. They know—and
shall know—nothing of Whitehall Terrace. Only we know of both events, and
can trace the relation between them. There is one obvious point which would, in
any case, have turned my suspicions against Lucas. Godolphin Street,
Westminster, is only a few minutes’ walk from Whitehall Terrace. The other
secret agents whom I have named live in the extreme West End. It was easier,
therefore, for Lucas than for the others to establish a connection or receive a
message from the European Secretary’s household—a small thing, and yet where
events are compressed into a few hours it may prove essential. Halloa! what
have we here?”
Mrs. Hudson had appeared with a lady’s card upon her salver. Holmes glanced
at it, raised his eyebrows, and handed it over to me.
“Ask Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope if she will be kind enough to step up,” said
he.
A moment later our modest apartment, already so distinguished that morning,
was further honoured by the entrance of the most lovely woman in London. I
had often heard of the beauty of the youngest daughter of the Duke of
Belminster, but no description of it, and no contemplation of colourless
photographs, had prepared me for the subtle, delicate charm and the beautiful
colouring of that exquisite head. And yet as we saw it that autumn morning, it
was not its beauty which would be the first thing to impress the observer. The
cheek was lovely but it was paled with emotion, the eyes were bright but it was
the brightness of fever, the sensitive mouth was tight and drawn in an effort after
self-command. Terror—not beauty—was what sprang first to the eye as our fair
visitor stood framed for an instant in the open door.
“Has my husband been here, Mr. Holmes?”
“Yes, madam, he has been here.”
“Mr. Holmes. I implore you not to tell him that I came here.” Holmes bowed
coldly, and motioned the lady to a chair.
“Your ladyship places me in a very delicate position. I beg that you will sit
down and tell me what you desire, but I fear that I cannot make any
unconditional promise.”
She swept across the room and seated herself with her back to the window. It
was a queenly presence—tall, graceful, and intensely womanly. “Mr. Holmes,”
she said—and her white-gloved hands clasped and unclasped as she spoke—“I
will speak frankly to you in the hopes that it may induce you to speak frankly in
return. There is complete confidence between my husband and me on all matters
save one. That one is politics. On this his lips are sealed. He tells me nothing.
Now, I am aware that there was a most deplorable occurrence in our house last
night. I know that a paper has disappeared. But because the matter is political my
husband refuses to take me into his complete confidence. Now it is essential—
essential, I say—that I should thoroughly understand it. You are the only other
person, save only these politicians, who knows the true facts. I beg you then, Mr.
Holmes, to tell me exactly what has happened and what it will lead to. Tell me
all, Mr. Holmes. Let no regard for your client’s interests keep you silent, for I
assure you that his interests, if he would only see it, would be best served by
taking me into his complete confidence. What was this paper which was stolen?”
“Madam, what you ask me is really impossible.”
She groaned and sank her face in her hands.
“You must see that this is so, madam. If your husband thinks fit to keep you in
the dark over this matter, is it for me, who has only learned the true facts under
the pledge of professional secrecy, to tell what he has withheld? It is not fair to
ask it. It is him whom you must ask.”
“I have asked him. I come to you as a last resource. But without your telling
me anything definite, Mr. Holmes, you may do a great service if you would
enlighten me on one point.”
“What is it, madam?”
“Is my husband’s political career likely to suffer through this incident?”
“Well, madam, unless it is set right it may certainly have a very unfortunate
effect.”
“Ah!” She drew in her breath sharply as one whose doubts are resolved.
“One more question, Mr. Holmes. From an expression which my husband
dropped in the first shock of this disaster I understood that terrible public
consequences might arise from the loss of this document.”
“If he said so, I certainly cannot deny it.”
“Of what nature are they?”
“Nay, madam, there again you ask me more than I can possibly answer.”
“Then I will take up no more of your time. I cannot blame you, Mr. Holmes,
for having refused to speak more freely, and you on your side will not, I am sure,
think the worse of me because I desire, even against his will, to share my
husband’s anxieties. Once more I beg that you will say nothing of my visit.”
She looked back at us from the door, and I had a last impression of that
beautiful haunted face, the startled eyes, and the drawn mouth. Then she was
gone.
“Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department,” said Holmes, with a smile,
when the dwindling frou-frou of skirts had ended in the slam of the front door.
“What was the fair lady’s game? What did she really want?”
“Surely her own statement is clear and her anxiety very natural.”
“Hum! Think of her appearance, Watson—her manner, her suppressed
excitement, her restlessness, her tenacity in asking questions. Remember that she
comes of a caste who do not lightly show emotion.”
“She was certainly much moved.”
“Remember also the curious earnestness with which she assured us that it was
best for her husband that she should know all. What did she mean by that? And
you must have observed, Watson, how she manœuvred to have the light at her
back. She did not wish us to read her expression.”
“Yes, she chose the one chair in the room.”
“And yet the motives of women are so inscrutable. You remember the woman
at Margate whom I suspected for the same reason. No powder on her nose—that
proved to be the correct solution. How can you build on such a quicksand? Their
most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may
depend upon a hairpin or a curling tongs. Good-morning, Watson.”
“You are off?”
“Yes, I will while away the morning at Godolphin Street with our friends of
the regular establishment. With Eduardo Lucas lies the solution of our problem,
though I must admit that I have not an inkling as to what form it may take. It is a
capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. Do you stay on guard, my
good Watson, and receive any fresh visitors. I’ll join you at lunch if I am able.”
All that day and the next and the next Holmes was in a mood which his
friends would call taciturn, and others morose. He ran out and ran in, smoked
incessantly, played snatches on his violin, sank into reveries, devoured
sandwiches at irregular hours, and hardly answered the casual questions which I
put to him. It was evident to me that things were not going well with him or his
quest. He would say nothing of the case, and it was from the papers that I
learned the particulars of the inquest, and the arrest with the subsequent release
of John Mitton, the valet of the deceased. The coroner’s jury brought in the
obvious Wilful Murder, but the parties remained as unknown as ever. No motive
was suggested. The room was full of articles of value, but none had been taken.
The dead man’s papers had not been tampered with. They were carefully
examined, and showed that he was a keen student of international politics, an
indefatigable gossip, a remarkable linguist, and an untiring letter writer. He had
been on intimate terms with the leading politicians of several countries. But
nothing sensational was discovered among the documents which filled his
drawers. As to his relations with women, they appeared to have been
promiscuous but superficial. He had many acquaintances among them, but few
friends, and no one whom he loved. His habits were regular, his conduct
inoffensive. His death was an absolute mystery and likely to remain so.
As to the arrest of John Mitton, the valet, it was a council of despair as an
alternative to absolute inaction. But no case could be sustained against him. He
had visited friends in Hammersmith that night. The alibi was complete. It is true
that he started home at an hour which should have brought him to Westminster
before the time when the crime was discovered, but his own explanation that he
had walked part of the way seemed probable enough in view of the fineness of
the night. He had actually arrived at twelve o’clock, and appeared to be
overwhelmed by the unexpected tragedy. He had always been on good terms
with his master. Several of the dead man’s possessions—notably a small case of
razors—had been found in the valet’s boxes, but he explained that they had been
presents from the deceased, and the housekeeper was able to corroborate the
story. Mitton had been in Lucas’s employment for three years. It was noticeable
that Lucas did not take Mitton on the Continent with him. Sometimes he visited
Paris for three months on end, but Mitton was left in charge of the Godolphin
Street house. As to the housekeeper, she had heard nothing on the night of the
crime. If her master had a visitor he had himself admitted him.
So for three mornings the mystery remained, so far as I could follow it in the
papers. If Holmes knew more, he kept his own counsel, but, as he told me that
Inspector Lestrade had taken him into his confidence in the case, I knew that he
was in close touch with every development. Upon the fourth day there appeared
a long telegram from Paris which seemed to solve the whole question.
A discovery has just been made by the Parisian police (said the
Daily Telegraph) which raises the veil which hung round the
tragic fate of Mr. Eduardo Lucas, who met his death by violence
last Monday night at Godolphin Street, Westminster. Our readers
will remember that the deceased gentleman was found stabbed
in his room, and that some suspicion attached to his valet, but
that the case broke down on an alibi. Yesterday a lady, who has
been known as Mme. Henri Fournaye, occupying a small villa in
the Rue Austerlitz, was reported to the authorities by her
servants as being insane. An examination showed she had
indeed developed mania of a dangerous and permanent form. On
inquiry, the police have discovered that Mme. Henri Fournaye
only returned from a journey to London on Tuesday last, and
there is evidence to connect her with the crime at Westminster. A
comparison of photographs has proved conclusively that M.
Henri Fournaye and Eduardo Lucas were really one and the
same person, and that the deceased had for some reason lived a
double life in London and Paris. Mme. Fournaye, who is of
Creole origin, is of an extremely excitable nature, and has
suffered in the past from attacks of jealousy which have
amounted to frenzy. It is conjectured that it was in one of these
that she committed the terrible crime which has caused such a
sensation in London. Her movements upon the Monday night
have not yet been traced, but it is undoubted that a woman
answering to her description attracted much attention at Charing
Cross Station on Tuesday morning by the wildness of her
appearance and the violence of her gestures. It is probable,
therefore, that the crime was either committed when insane, or
that its immediate effect was to drive the unhappy woman out of
her mind. At present she is unable to give any coherent account
of the past, and the doctors hold out no hopes of the
reestablishment of her reason. There is evidence that a woman,
who might have been Mme. Fournaye, was seen for some hours
upon Monday night watching the house in Godolphin Street.
“What do you think of that, Holmes?” I had read the account aloud to him,
while he finished his breakfast.
“My dear Watson,” said he, as he rose from the table and paced up and down
the room, “You are most long-suffering, but if I have told you nothing in the last
three days, it is because there is nothing to tell. Even now this report from Paris
does not help us much.”
“Surely it is final as regards the man’s death.”
“The man’s death is a mere incident—a trivial episode—in comparison with
our real task, which is to trace this document and save a European catastrophe.
Only one important thing has happened in the last three days, and that is that
nothing has happened. I get reports almost hourly from the government, and it is
certain that nowhere in Europe is there any sign of trouble. Now, if this letter
were loose—no, it can’t be loose—but if it isn’t loose, where can it be? Who has
it? Why is it held back? That’s the question that beats in my brain like a hammer.
Was it, indeed, a coincidence that Lucas should meet his death on the night when
the letter disappeared? Did the letter ever reach him? If so, why is it not among
his papers? Did this mad wife of his carry it off with her? If so, is it in her house
in Paris? How could I search for it without the French police having their
suspicions aroused? It is a case, my dear Watson, where the law is as dangerous
to us as the criminals are. Every man’s hand is against us, and yet the interests at
stake are colossal. Should I bring it to a successful conclusion, it wil