At my summons, instead of the man of violence whom we
expected, a very old and wrinkled woman hobbled into the apartment. She appeared to be
dazzled by the sudden blaze of light, and after dropping a curtsey, she stood blinking at
us with her bleared eyes and fumbling in her pocket with nervous, shaky fingers. I glanced
at my companion, and his face had assumed such a disconsolate expression that it was all I
could do to keep my countenance.
The old crone drew out an evening paper, and pointed at our
advertisement. Its this as has brought me, good gentlemen, she said,
dropping another curtsey; a gold wedding ring in the Brixton Road. It belongs to my
girl Sally, as was married only this time twelvemonth, which her husband is steward aboard
a Union boat, and what hed say if he comes ome and found her without her ring
is more than I can think, he being short enough at the best o times, but more
especially when he has the drink. If it please you, she went to the circus last night
Is that her ring? I asked.
The Lord be thanked! cried the old woman;
Sally will be a glad woman this night. Thats the ring.
And what may your address be? I inquired, taking
up a pencil.
13, Duncan Street, Houndsditch. A weary way from
The Brixton Road does not lie between any circus and
Houndsditch, said Sherlock Holmes sharply.
The old woman faced round and looked keenly at him from her
little red-rimmed eyes. The gentleman asked me for my address, she
said. Sally lives in lodgings at 3, Mayfield Place, Peckham.
And your name is ?
My name is Sawyerhers is Dennis, which Tom Dennis
married herand a smart, clean lad, too, as long as hes at sea, and no steward
in the company more thought of; but when on shore, what with the women and what with
Here is your ring, Mrs. Sawyer, I interrupted, in
obedience to a sign from my companion; it clearly belongs to your daughter, and I am
glad to be able to restore it to the rightful owner.
With many mumbled blessings and protestations of gratitude the
old crone packed it away in her pocket, and shuffled off down the stairs. Sherlock Holmes
sprang to his feet the moment that she was gone and rushed into his room. He returned in a
few seconds enveloped in an ulster and a cravat. Ill follow her, he
said, hurriedly; she must be an accomplice, and will lead me to him. Wait up for
me. The hall door had hardly slammed behind our visitor before Holmes had descended
the stair. Looking through the window I could see her walking feebly along the other side,
while her pursuer dogged her some little distance behind. Either his whole theory is
incorrect, I thought to myself, or else he will be led now to the heart of the
mystery. There was no need for him to ask me to wait up for him, for I felt that
sleep was impossible until I heard the result of his adventure.
It was close upon nine when he set out. I had no idea how long
he might be, but I sat stolidly puffing at my pipe and skipping over the pages of Henri
Murgers  Vie de
Boheme. Ten oclock passed, and I heard the footsteps of the maid as she
pattered off to bed. Eleven, and the more stately tread of the landlady passed my door,
bound for the same destination. It was close upon twelve before I heard the sharp sound of
his latchkey. The instant he entered I saw by his face that he had not been successful.
Amusement and chagrin seemed to be struggling for the mastery, until the former suddenly
carried the day, and he burst into a hearty laugh.
I wouldnt have the Scotland Yarders know it for
the world, he cried, dropping into his chair; I have chaffed them so much that
they would never have let me hear the end of it. I can afford to laugh, because I know
that I will be even with them in the long run.
What is it then? I asked.
Oh, I dont mind telling a story against myself.
That creature had gone a little way when she began to limp and show every sign of being
footsore. Presently she came to a halt, and hailed a four-wheeler which was passing. I
managed to be close to her so as to hear the address, but I need not have been so anxious,
for she sang it out loud enough to be heard at the other side of the street, Drive
to 13, Duncan Street, Houndsditch, she cried. This begins to look genuine, I
thought, and having seen her safely inside, I perched myself behind. Thats an art
which every detective should be an expert at. Well, away we rattled, and never drew rein
until we reached the street in question. I hopped off before we came to the door, and
strolled down the street in an easy, lounging way. I saw the cab pull up. The driver
jumped down, and I saw him open the door and stand expectantly. Nothing came out though.
When I reached him, he was groping about frantically in the empty cab, and giving vent to
the finest assorted collection of oaths that ever I listened to. There was no sign or
trace of his passenger, and I fear it will be some time before he gets his fare. On
inquiring at Number 13 we found that the house belonged to a respectable paperhanger,
named Keswick, and that no one of the name either of Sawyer or Dennis had ever been heard
You dont mean to say, I cried, in amazement,
that that tottering, feeble old woman was able to get out of the cab while it was in
motion, without either you or the driver seeing her?
Old woman be damned! said Sherlock Holmes,
sharply. We were the old women to be so taken in. It must have been a young man, and
an active one, too, besides being an incomparable actor. The get-up was inimitable. He saw
that he was followed, no doubt, and used this means of giving me the slip. It shows that
the man we are after is not as lonely as I imagined he was, but has friends who are ready
to risk something for him. Now, Doctor, you are looking done-up. Take my advice and turn
I was certainly feeling very weary, so I obeyed his
injunction. I left Holmes seated in front of the smouldering fire, and long into the
watches of the night I heard the low melancholy wailings of his violin, and knew that he
was still pondering over the strange problem which he had set himself to unravel.