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 landGod 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 butlers pantry, the gun-room,
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 anotherit
was an elderly manstooped, 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
Brackenstalls 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 hasnt learned new ways. Youve 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 dont pick
up nowadays. This way, Mr. Holmes, if you please!
The keen interest had passed out of Holmess 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 friends 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 deers 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 crossbars 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 tiger-skin 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
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 dont 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 fireher ladyships dog, to make the matter worseand that
was only hushed up with difficulty. Then he threw a decanter at that maid, Theresa
Wrightthere 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.
did the burglar know no one would hear it? How dared he pull at a bell-rope in that
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
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 ladys 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
Yes, it was by their light, and that of the ladys
bedroom candle, that the burglars saw their way about.
And what did they take?
Well, they did not take muchonly 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
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
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 Holmess 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 dont 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
During our return journey, I could see by Holmess
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 cant
leave that case in this condition. Every instinct that I possess cries out against it.
Its wrong its all wrongIll swear that its wrong. And
yet the ladys story was complete, the maids 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 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 ladys 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 ladys story? And now, on the
top of this, comes the incident of the wineglasses.
What about the wineglasses?
Can you see them in your minds 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
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.
Its all right, Watson, said he. We
have got our caseone 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 lionwitness 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 bracketyou will see the impression in the dustand so got his knife
to bear upon the cord. I could not reach the place by at least three inchesfrom
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?
Undoubtedly it is blood. This alone puts the ladys
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.
Ill 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
nursetaciturn, suspicious, ungracious, it took some time before Holmess
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 devilGod 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 himonly 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 voyageshe 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 mistresss 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.
No, no, Lady Brackenstallit 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
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.
Holmess 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 shiphot-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 couldnt 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 didnt 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 havent 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
itwho merely took it for a blind, as it werethen 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-placethat 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. Holmesthat 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, siryes. It was all your doing. But I have had
a bad 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. Holmesabsolutely 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
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.
Well, I suggested a blind.
But why, Mr. Holmes, why?
Ah, thats the question, of course. But I commend
the idea to your mind. You might possibly find that there was something in it. You
wont 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.
Nowwithin 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. Lets
hear the worst. What are you going to do with me? Arrest me? Speak out, man! You
cant sit there and play with me like a cat with a mouse.
him a cigar, said Holmes. Bite on that, Captain Crocker, and dont 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 Ill crush you.
What do you wish me to do?
To give me a true account of all that happened at the
Abbey Grange last nighta 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,
Ill blow this police whistle from my window and the affair goes out of my hands
The sailor thought for a little. Then he struck his leg with
his great sunburned hand.
Ill chance it, he cried. I believe you
are a man of your word, and a white man, and Ill 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 its the lady, MaryMary
Fraserfor 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, its
that that turns my soul into water. And yetand yetwhat less could I do?
Ill tell you my story, gentlemen, and then Ill 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 shouldnt she marry whom she liked? Title and moneywho could carry
them better than she? She was born for all that is beautiful and dainty. I didnt
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. Thats 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
herselfand 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 Marys 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 hours 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 nights work. And thats 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.
Thats 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
And the police havent, 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
heavens sake, Mr. Holmes, find some way of keeping my poor Mary out of the
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 cant avail himself of it I can do no more. See here,
Captain Crocker, well 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!