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the adventures of sherlock holmes bysir arthur conan doyle adventure ix.the adventure of the engineer’s thumb of all the problems which have beensubmitted to my friend, mr. sherlock holmes, for solution during the years ofour intimacy, there were only two which i was the means of introducing to his notice- -that of mr. hatherley’s thumb, and that ofcolonel warburton’s madness. of these the latter may have afforded afiner field for an acute and original observer, but the other was so strange inits inception and so dramatic in its details that it may be the more worthy of

being placed upon record, even if it gavemy friend fewer openings for those deductive methods of reasoning by which heachieved such remarkable results. the story has, i believe, been told morethan once in the newspapers, but, like all such narratives, its effect is much lessstriking when set forth en bloc in a single half-column of print than when the facts slowly evolve before your own eyes, and themystery clears gradually away as each new discovery furnishes a step which leads onto the complete truth. at the time the circumstances made a deepimpression upon me, and the lapse of two years has hardly served to weaken theeffect.

it was in the summer of ’89, not long aftermy marriage, that the events occurred which i am now about to summarise. i had returned to civil practice and hadfinally abandoned holmes in his baker street rooms, although i continuallyvisited him and occasionally even persuaded him to forgo his bohemian habits so far asto come and visit us. my practice had steadily increased, and asi happened to live at no very great distance from paddington station, i got afew patients from among the officials. one of these, whom i had cured of a painfuland lingering disease, was never weary of advertising my virtues and of endeavouringto send me on every sufferer over whom he

might have any influence. one morning, at a little before seveno’clock, i was awakened by the maid tapping at the door to announce that two men hadcome from paddington and were waiting in the consulting-room. i dressed hurriedly, for i knew byexperience that railway cases were seldom trivial, and hastened downstairs. as i descended, my old ally, the guard,came out of the room and closed the door tightly behind him. "i’ve got him here," he whispered, jerkinghis thumb over his shoulder; "he’s all

right.""what is it, then?" i asked, for his manner suggested that itwas some strange creature which he had caged up in my room."it’s a new patient," he whispered. "i thought i’d bring him round myself; thenhe couldn’t slip away. there he is, all safe and sound.i must go now, doctor; i have my dooties, just the same as you." and off he went, this trusty tout, withouteven giving me time to thank him. i entered my consulting-room and found agentleman seated by the table. he was quietly dressed in a suit of heathertweed with a soft cloth cap which he had

laid down upon my books. round one of his hands he had ahandkerchief wrapped, which was mottled all over with bloodstains. he was young, not more than five-and-twenty, i should say, with a strong, masculine face; but he was exceedingly paleand gave me the impression of a man who was suffering from some strong agitation, which it took all his strength of mind tocontrol. "i am sorry to knock you up so early,doctor," said he, "but i have had a very serious accident during the night.

i came in by train this morning, and oninquiring at paddington as to where i might find a doctor, a worthy fellow very kindlyescorted me here. i gave the maid a card, but i see that shehas left it upon the side-table." i took it up and glanced at it."mr. victor hatherley, hydraulic engineer, 16a, victoria street (3rd floor)." that was the name, style, and abode of mymorning visitor. "i regret that i have kept you waiting,"said i, sitting down in my library-chair. "you are fresh from a night journey, iunderstand, which is in itself a monotonous occupation.""oh, my night could not be called

monotonous," said he, and laughed. he laughed very heartily, with a high,ringing note, leaning back in his chair and shaking his sides.all my medical instincts rose up against that laugh. "stop it!"i cried; "pull yourself together!" and i poured out some water from a caraffe.it was useless, however. he was off in one of those hystericaloutbursts which come upon a strong nature when some great crisis is over and gone.presently he came to himself once more, very weary and pale-looking.

"i have been making a fool of myself," hegasped. "not at all.drink this." i dashed some brandy into the water, andthe colour began to come back to his bloodless cheeks."that’s better!" said he. "and now, doctor, perhaps you would kindlyattend to my thumb, or rather to the place where my thumb used to be."he unwound the handkerchief and held out his hand. it gave even my hardened nerves a shudderto look at it. there were four protruding fingers and ahorrid red, spongy surface where the thumb

should have been. it had been hacked or torn right out fromthe roots. "good heavens!"i cried, "this is a terrible injury. it must have bled considerably." "yes, it did.i fainted when it was done, and i think that i must have been senseless for a longtime. when i came to i found that it was stillbleeding, so i tied one end of my handkerchief very tightly round the wristand braced it up with a twig." "excellent!

you should have been a surgeon.""it is a question of hydraulics, you see, and came within my own province." "this has been done," said i, examining thewound, "by a very heavy and sharp instrument.""a thing like a cleaver," said he. "an accident, i presume?" "by no means.""what! a murderous attack?" "very murderous indeed.""you horrify me." i sponged the wound, cleaned it, dressedit, and finally covered it over with cotton wadding and carbolised bandages.he lay back without wincing, though he bit

his lip from time to time. "how is that?"i asked when i had finished. "capital!between your brandy and your bandage, i feel a new man. i was very weak, but i have had a good dealto go through." "perhaps you had better not speak of thematter. it is evidently trying to your nerves." "oh, no, not now. i shall have to tell my tale to the police;but, between ourselves, if it were not for

the convincing evidence of this wound ofmine, i should be surprised if they believed my statement, for it is a very extraordinary one, and i have not much inthe way of proof with which to back it up; and, even if they believe me, the clueswhich i can give them are so vague that it is a question whether justice will bedone." "ha!" cried i, "if it is anything in thenature of a problem which you desire to see solved, i should strongly recommend you tocome to my friend, mr. sherlock holmes, before you go to the official police." "oh, i have heard of that fellow," answeredmy visitor, "and i should be very glad if

he would take the matter up, though ofcourse i must use the official police as well. would you give me an introduction to him?""i’ll do better. i’ll take you round to him myself.""i should be immensely obliged to you." "we’ll call a cab and go together. we shall just be in time to have a littlebreakfast with him. do you feel equal to it?""yes; i shall not feel easy until i have told my story." "then my servant will call a cab, and ishall be with you in an instant."

i rushed upstairs, explained the mattershortly to my wife, and in five minutes was inside a hansom, driving with my newacquaintance to baker street. sherlock holmes was, as i expected,lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown, reading the agony column ofthe times and smoking his before-breakfast pipe, which was composed of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the daybefore, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantelpiece. he received us in his quietly genialfashion, ordered fresh rashers and eggs, and joined us in a hearty meal.

when it was concluded he settled our newacquaintance upon the sofa, placed a pillow beneath his head, and laid a glass ofbrandy and water within his reach. "it is easy to see that your experience hasbeen no common one, mr. hatherley," said he."pray, lie down there and make yourself absolutely at home. tell us what you can, but stop when you aretired and keep up your strength with a little stimulant." "thank you," said my patient, "but i havefelt another man since the doctor bandaged me, and i think that your breakfast hascompleted the cure.

i shall take up as little of your valuabletime as possible, so i shall start at once upon my peculiar experiences." holmes sat in his big armchair with theweary, heavy-lidded expression which veiled his keen and eager nature, while i satopposite to him, and we listened in silence to the strange story which our visitordetailed to us. "you must know," said he, "that i am anorphan and a bachelor, residing alone in lodgings in london. by profession i am a hydraulic engineer,and i have had considerable experience of my work during the seven years that i wasapprenticed to venner & matheson, the well-

known firm, of greenwich. two years ago, having served my time, andhaving also come into a fair sum of money through my poor father’s death, idetermined to start in business for myself and took professional chambers in victoriastreet. "i suppose that everyone finds his firstindependent start in business a dreary experience. to me it has been exceptionally so.during two years i have had three consultations and one small job, and thatis absolutely all that my profession has brought me.

my gross takings amount to 27 pounds 10s. every day, from nine in the morning untilfour in the afternoon, i waited in my little den, until at last my heart began tosink, and i came to believe that i should never have any practice at all. "yesterday, however, just as i was thinkingof leaving the office, my clerk entered to say there was a gentleman waiting whowished to see me upon business. he brought up a card, too, with the name of’colonel lysander stark’ engraved upon it. close at his heels came the colonelhimself, a man rather over the middle size, but of an exceeding thinness.

i do not think that i have ever seen sothin a man. his whole face sharpened away into nose andchin, and the skin of his cheeks was drawn quite tense over his outstanding bones. yet this emaciation seemed to be hisnatural habit, and due to no disease, for his eye was bright, his step brisk, and hisbearing assured. he was plainly but neatly dressed, and hisage, i should judge, would be nearer forty than thirty."’mr. hatherley?’ said he, with something of a german accent. ‘you have been recommended to me, mr.hatherley, as being a man who is not only

proficient in his profession but is alsodiscreet and capable of preserving a secret.’ "i bowed, feeling as flattered as any youngman would at such an address. ‘may i ask who it was who gave me so good acharacter?’ "’well, perhaps it is better that i shouldnot tell you that just at this moment. i have it from the same source that you areboth an orphan and a bachelor and are residing alone in london.’ "’that is quite correct,’ i answered; ‘butyou will excuse me if i say that i cannot see how all this bears upon my professionalqualifications.

i understand that it was on a professionalmatter that you wished to speak to me?’ "’undoubtedly so.but you will find that all i say is really to the point. i have a professional commission for you,but absolute secrecy is quite essential– absolute secrecy, you understand, and ofcourse we may expect that more from a man who is alone than from one who lives in thebosom of his family.’ "’if i promise to keep a secret,’ said i,’you may absolutely depend upon my doing so.’ "he looked very hard at me as i spoke, andit seemed to me that i had never seen so

suspicious and questioning an eye."’do you promise, then?’ said he at last. "’yes, i promise.’ "’absolute and complete silence before,during, and after? no reference to the matter at all, eitherin word or writing?’ "’i have already given you my word.’ "’very good.’he suddenly sprang up, and darting like lightning across the room he flung open thedoor. the passage outside was empty. "’that’s all right,’ said he, coming back.’i know that clerks are sometimes curious

as to their master’s affairs.now we can talk in safety.’ he drew up his chair very close to mine andbegan to stare at me again with the same questioning and thoughtful look. "a feeling of repulsion, and of somethingakin to fear had begun to rise within me at the strange antics of this fleshless man.even my dread of losing a client could not restrain me from showing my impatience. "’i beg that you will state your business,sir,’ said i; ‘my time is of value.’ heaven forgive me for that last sentence,but the words came to my lips. "’how would fifty guineas for a night’swork suit you?’ he asked.

"’most admirably.’"’i say a night’s work, but an hour’s would be nearer the mark. i simply want your opinion about ahydraulic stamping machine which has got out of gear.if you show us what is wrong we shall soon set it right ourselves. what do you think of such a commission asthat?’ "’the work appears to be light and the paymunificent.’ "’precisely so. we shall want you to come to-night by thelast train.’

"’where to?’"’to eyford, in berkshire. it is a little place near the borders ofoxfordshire, and within seven miles of reading.there is a train from paddington which would bring you there at about 11:15.’ "’very good.’"’i shall come down in a carriage to meet you.’"’there is a drive, then?’ "’yes, our little place is quite out in thecountry. it is a good seven miles from eyfordstation.’ "’then we can hardly get there beforemidnight.

i suppose there would be no chance of atrain back. i should be compelled to stop the night.’ "’yes, we could easily give you a shake-down.’ "’that is very awkward.could i not come at some more convenient hour?’ "’we have judged it best that you shouldcome late. it is to recompense you for anyinconvenience that we are paying to you, a young and unknown man, a fee which wouldbuy an opinion from the very heads of your profession.

still, of course, if you would like to drawout of the business, there is plenty of time to do so.’"i thought of the fifty guineas, and of how very useful they would be to me. ‘not at all,’ said i, ‘i shall be veryhappy to accommodate myself to your wishes. i should like, however, to understand alittle more clearly what it is that you wish me to do.’ "’quite so.it is very natural that the pledge of secrecy which we have exacted from youshould have aroused your curiosity. i have no wish to commit you to anythingwithout your having it all laid before you.

i suppose that we are absolutely safe fromeavesdroppers?’ "’entirely.’ "’then the matter stands thus.you are probably aware that fuller’s-earth is a valuable product, and that it is onlyfound in one or two places in england?’ "’i have heard so.’ "’some little time ago i bought a smallplace–a very small place–within ten miles of reading. i was fortunate enough to discover thatthere was a deposit of fuller’s-earth in one of my fields.

on examining it, however, i found that thisdeposit was a comparatively small one, and that it formed a link between two very muchlarger ones upon the right and left–both of them, however, in the grounds of myneighbours. these good people were absolutely ignorantthat their land contained that which was quite as valuable as a gold-mine. naturally, it was to my interest to buytheir land before they discovered its true value, but unfortunately i had no capitalby which i could do this. i took a few of my friends into the secret,however, and they suggested that we should quietly and secretly work our own littledeposit and that in this way we should earn

the money which would enable us to buy theneighbouring fields. this we have now been doing for some time,and in order to help us in our operations we erected a hydraulic press. this press, as i have already explained,has got out of order, and we wish your advice upon the subject. we guard our secret very jealously,however, and if it once became known that we had hydraulic engineers coming to ourlittle house, it would soon rouse inquiry, and then, if the facts came out, it would be good-bye to any chance of getting thesefields and carrying out our plans.

that is why i have made you promise me thatyou will not tell a human being that you are going to eyford to-night. i hope that i make it all plain?’"’i quite follow you,’ said i. ‘the only point which i could not quiteunderstand was what use you could make of a hydraulic press in excavating fuller’s-earth, which, as i understand, is dug out like gravel from a pit.’ "’ah!’ said he carelessly, ‘we have our ownprocess. we compress the earth into bricks, so as toremove them without revealing what they are.

but that is a mere detail.i have taken you fully into my confidence now, mr. hatherley, and i have shown youhow i trust you.’ he rose as he spoke. ‘i shall expect you, then, at eyford at11:15.’ "’i shall certainly be there.’"’and not a word to a soul.’ he looked at me with a last long,questioning gaze, and then, pressing my hand in a cold, dank grasp, he hurried fromthe room. "well, when i came to think it all over incool blood i was very much astonished, as you may both think, at this suddencommission which had been intrusted to me.

on the one hand, of course, i was glad, forthe fee was at least tenfold what i should have asked had i set a price upon my ownservices, and it was possible that this order might lead to other ones. on the other hand, the face and manner ofmy patron had made an unpleasant impression upon me, and i could not think that hisexplanation of the fuller’s-earth was sufficient to explain the necessity for my coming at midnight, and his extreme anxietylest i should tell anyone of my errand. however, i threw all fears to the winds,ate a hearty supper, drove to paddington, and started off, having obeyed to theletter the injunction as to holding my

tongue. "at reading i had to change not only mycarriage but my station. however, i was in time for the last trainto eyford, and i reached the little dim-lit station after eleven o’clock. i was the only passenger who got out there,and there was no one upon the platform save a single sleepy porter with a lantern. as i passed out through the wicket gate,however, i found my acquaintance of the morning waiting in the shadow upon theother side. without a word he grasped my arm andhurried me into a carriage, the door of

which was standing open. he drew up the windows on either side,tapped on the wood-work, and away we went as fast as the horse could go.""one horse?" interjected holmes. "yes, only one." "did you observe the colour?""yes, i saw it by the side-lights when i was stepping into the carriage.it was a chestnut." "tired-looking or fresh?" "oh, fresh and glossy.""thank you. i am sorry to have interrupted you.pray continue your most interesting

statement." "away we went then, and we drove for atleast an hour. colonel lysander stark had said that it wasonly seven miles, but i should think, from the rate that we seemed to go, and from thetime that we took, that it must have been nearer twelve. he sat at my side in silence all the time,and i was aware, more than once when i glanced in his direction, that he waslooking at me with great intensity. the country roads seem to be not very goodin that part of the world, for we lurched and jolted terribly.

i tried to look out of the windows to seesomething of where we were, but they were made of frosted glass, and i could make outnothing save the occasional bright blur of a passing light. now and then i hazarded some remark tobreak the monotony of the journey, but the colonel answered only in monosyllables, andthe conversation soon flagged. at last, however, the bumping of the roadwas exchanged for the crisp smoothness of a gravel-drive, and the carriage came to astand. colonel lysander stark sprang out, and, asi followed after him, pulled me swiftly into a porch which gaped in front of us.

we stepped, as it were, right out of thecarriage and into the hall, so that i failed to catch the most fleeting glance ofthe front of the house. the instant that i had crossed thethreshold the door slammed heavily behind us, and i heard faintly the rattle of thewheels as the carriage drove away. "it was pitch dark inside the house, andthe colonel fumbled about looking for matches and muttering under his breath. suddenly a door opened at the other end ofthe passage, and a long, golden bar of light shot out in our direction. it grew broader, and a woman appeared witha lamp in her hand, which she held above

her head, pushing her face forward andpeering at us. i could see that she was pretty, and fromthe gloss with which the light shone upon her dark dress i knew that it was a richmaterial. she spoke a few words in a foreign tonguein a tone as though asking a question, and when my companion answered in a gruffmonosyllable she gave such a start that the lamp nearly fell from her hand. colonel stark went up to her, whisperedsomething in her ear, and then, pushing her back into the room from whence she hadcome, he walked towards me again with the lamp in his hand.

"’perhaps you will have the kindness towait in this room for a few minutes,’ said he, throwing open another door. it was a quiet, little, plainly furnishedroom, with a round table in the centre, on which several german books were scattered.colonel stark laid down the lamp on the top of a harmonium beside the door. ‘i shall not keep you waiting an instant,’said he, and vanished into the darkness. "i glanced at the books upon the table, andin spite of my ignorance of german i could see that two of them were treatises onscience, the others being volumes of poetry.

then i walked across to the window, hopingthat i might catch some glimpse of the country-side, but an oak shutter, heavilybarred, was folded across it. it was a wonderfully silent house. there was an old clock ticking loudlysomewhere in the passage, but otherwise everything was deadly still.a vague feeling of uneasiness began to steal over me. who were these german people, and what werethey doing living in this strange, out-of- the-way place?and where was the place? i was ten miles or so from eyford, that wasall i knew, but whether north, south, east,

or west i had no idea. for that matter, reading, and possiblyother large towns, were within that radius, so the place might not be so secluded,after all. yet it was quite certain, from the absolutestillness, that we were in the country. i paced up and down the room, humming atune under my breath to keep up my spirits and feeling that i was thoroughly earningmy fifty-guinea fee. "suddenly, without any preliminary sound inthe midst of the utter stillness, the door of my room swung slowly open. the woman was standing in the aperture, thedarkness of the hall behind her, the yellow

light from my lamp beating upon her eagerand beautiful face. i could see at a glance that she was sickwith fear, and the sight sent a chill to my own heart. she held up one shaking finger to warn meto be silent, and she shot a few whispered words of broken english at me, her eyesglancing back, like those of a frightened horse, into the gloom behind her. "’i would go,’ said she, trying hard, as itseemed to me, to speak calmly; ‘i would go. i should not stay here.there is no good for you to do.’ "’but, madam,’ said i, ‘i have not yet donewhat i came for.

i cannot possibly leave until i have seenthe machine.’ "’it is not worth your while to wait,’ shewent on. ‘you can pass through the door; no onehinders.’ and then, seeing that i smiled and shook myhead, she suddenly threw aside her constraint and made a step forward, withher hands wrung together. ‘for the love of heaven!’ she whispered,’get away from here before it is too late!’ "but i am somewhat headstrong by nature,and the more ready to engage in an affair when there is some obstacle in the way. i thought of my fifty-guinea fee, of mywearisome journey, and of the unpleasant

night which seemed to be before me.was it all to go for nothing? why should i slink away without havingcarried out my commission, and without the payment which was my due?this woman might, for all i knew, be a monomaniac. with a stout bearing, therefore, though hermanner had shaken me more than i cared to confess, i still shook my head and declaredmy intention of remaining where i was. she was about to renew her entreaties whena door slammed overhead, and the sound of several footsteps was heard upon thestairs. she listened for an instant, threw up herhands with a despairing gesture, and

vanished as suddenly and as noiselessly asshe had come. "the newcomers were colonel lysander starkand a short thick man with a chinchilla beard growing out of the creases of hisdouble chin, who was introduced to me as mr. ferguson. "’this is my secretary and manager,’ saidthe colonel. ‘by the way, i was under the impressionthat i left this door shut just now. i fear that you have felt the draught.’ "’on the contrary,’ said i, ‘i opened thedoor myself because i felt the room to be a little close.’"he shot one of his suspicious looks at me.

‘perhaps we had better proceed to business,then,’ said he. ‘mr. ferguson and i will take you up to seethe machine.’ "’i had better put my hat on, i suppose.’ "’oh, no, it is in the house.’"’what, you dig fuller’s-earth in the house?’"’no, no. this is only where we compress it. but never mind that.all we wish you to do is to examine the machine and to let us know what is wrongwith it.’ "we went upstairs together, the colonelfirst with the lamp, the fat manager and i

behind him. it was a labyrinth of an old house, withcorridors, passages, narrow winding staircases, and little low doors, thethresholds of which were hollowed out by the generations who had crossed them. there were no carpets and no signs of anyfurniture above the ground floor, while the plaster was peeling off the walls, and thedamp was breaking through in green, unhealthy blotches. i tried to put on as unconcerned an air aspossible, but i had not forgotten the warnings of the lady, even though idisregarded them, and i kept a keen eye

upon my two companions. ferguson appeared to be a morose and silentman, but i could see from the little that he said that he was at least a fellow-countryman. "colonel lysander stark stopped at lastbefore a low door, which he unlocked. within was a small, square room, in whichthe three of us could hardly get at one time. ferguson remained outside, and the colonelushered me in. "’we are now,’ said he, ‘actually withinthe hydraulic press, and it would be a particularly unpleasant thing for us ifanyone were to turn it on.

the ceiling of this small chamber is reallythe end of the descending piston, and it comes down with the force of many tons uponthis metal floor. there are small lateral columns of wateroutside which receive the force, and which transmit and multiply it in the mannerwhich is familiar to you. the machine goes readily enough, but thereis some stiffness in the working of it, and it has lost a little of its force. perhaps you will have the goodness to lookit over and to show us how we can set it right.’"i took the lamp from him, and i examined the machine very thoroughly.

it was indeed a gigantic one, and capableof exercising enormous pressure. when i passed outside, however, and presseddown the levers which controlled it, i knew at once by the whishing sound that therewas a slight leakage, which allowed a regurgitation of water through one of theside cylinders. an examination showed that one of theindia-rubber bands which was round the head of a driving-rod had shrunk so as not quiteto fill the socket along which it worked. this was clearly the cause of the loss ofpower, and i pointed it out to my companions, who followed my remarks verycarefully and asked several practical questions as to how they should proceed toset it right.

when i had made it clear to them, ireturned to the main chamber of the machine and took a good look at it to satisfy myown curiosity. it was obvious at a glance that the storyof the fuller’s-earth was the merest fabrication, for it would be absurd tosuppose that so powerful an engine could be designed for so inadequate a purpose. the walls were of wood, but the floorconsisted of a large iron trough, and when i came to examine it i could see a crust ofmetallic deposit all over it. i had stooped and was scraping at this tosee exactly what it was when i heard a muttered exclamation in german and saw thecadaverous face of the colonel looking down

at me. "’what are you doing there?’ he asked."i felt angry at having been tricked by so elaborate a story as that which he had toldme. ‘i was admiring your fuller’s-earth,’ saidi; ‘i think that i should be better able to advise you as to your machine if i knewwhat the exact purpose was for which it was used.’ "the instant that i uttered the words iregretted the rashness of my speech. his face set hard, and a baleful lightsprang up in his grey eyes. "’very well,’ said he, ‘you shall know allabout the machine.’

he took a step backward, slammed the littledoor, and turned the key in the lock. i rushed towards it and pulled at thehandle, but it was quite secure, and did not give in the least to my kicks andshoves. ‘hullo!’ i yelled.’hullo! colonel!let me out!’ "and then suddenly in the silence i heard asound which sent my heart into my mouth. it was the clank of the levers and theswish of the leaking cylinder. he had set the engine at work.

the lamp still stood upon the floor where ihad placed it when examining the trough. by its light i saw that the black ceilingwas coming down upon me, slowly, jerkily, but, as none knew better than myself, witha force which must within a minute grind me to a shapeless pulp. i threw myself, screaming, against thedoor, and dragged with my nails at the lock. i implored the colonel to let me out, butthe remorseless clanking of the levers drowned my cries. the ceiling was only a foot or two above myhead, and with my hand upraised i could

feel its hard, rough surface. then it flashed through my mind that thepain of my death would depend very much upon the position in which i met it. if i lay on my face the weight would comeupon my spine, and i shuddered to think of that dreadful snap. easier the other way, perhaps; and yet, hadi the nerve to lie and look up at that deadly black shadow wavering down upon me? already i was unable to stand erect, whenmy eye caught something which brought a gush of hope back to my heart.

"i have said that though the floor andceiling were of iron, the walls were of wood. as i gave a last hurried glance around, isaw a thin line of yellow light between two of the boards, which broadened andbroadened as a small panel was pushed backward. for an instant i could hardly believe thathere was indeed a door which led away from death.the next instant i threw myself through, and lay half-fainting upon the other side. the panel had closed again behind me, butthe crash of the lamp, and a few moments

afterwards the clang of the two slabs ofmetal, told me how narrow had been my escape. "i was recalled to myself by a franticplucking at my wrist, and i found myself lying upon the stone floor of a narrowcorridor, while a woman bent over me and tugged at me with her left hand, while sheheld a candle in her right. it was the same good friend whose warning ihad so foolishly rejected. "’come! come!’ she cried breathlessly. ‘they will be here in a moment.they will see that you are not there. oh, do not waste the so-precious time, butcome!’

"this time, at least, i did not scorn heradvice. i staggered to my feet and ran with heralong the corridor and down a winding stair. the latter led to another broad passage,and just as we reached it we heard the sound of running feet and the shouting oftwo voices, one answering the other from the floor on which we were and from theone beneath. my guide stopped and looked about her likeone who is at her wit’s end. then she threw open a door which led into abedroom, through the window of which the moon was shining brightly."’it is your only chance,’ said she.

‘it is high, but it may be that you canjump it.’ "as she spoke a light sprang into view atthe further end of the passage, and i saw the lean figure of colonel lysander starkrushing forward with a lantern in one hand and a weapon like a butcher’s cleaver inthe other. i rushed across the bedroom, flung open thewindow, and looked out. how quiet and sweet and wholesome thegarden looked in the moonlight, and it could not be more than thirty feet down. i clambered out upon the sill, but ihesitated to jump until i should have heard what passed between my saviour and theruffian who pursued me.

if she were ill-used, then at any risks iwas determined to go back to her assistance. the thought had hardly flashed through mymind before he was at the door, pushing his way past her; but she threw her arms roundhim and tried to hold him back. "’fritz! fritz!’ she cried in english, ‘rememberyour promise after the last time. you said it should not be again.he will be silent! oh, he will be silent!’ "’you are mad, elise!’ he shouted,struggling to break away from her.

‘you will be the ruin of us.he has seen too much. let me pass, i say!’ he dashed her to one side, and, rushing tothe window, cut at me with his heavy weapon.i had let myself go, and was hanging by the hands to the sill, when his blow fell. i was conscious of a dull pain, my griploosened, and i fell into the garden below. "i was shaken but not hurt by the fall; soi picked myself up and rushed off among the bushes as hard as i could run, for iunderstood that i was far from being out of danger yet.

suddenly, however, as i ran, a deadlydizziness and sickness came over me. i glanced down at my hand, which wasthrobbing painfully, and then, for the first time, saw that my thumb had been cutoff and that the blood was pouring from my wound. i endeavoured to tie my handkerchief roundit, but there came a sudden buzzing in my ears, and next moment i fell in a deadfaint among the rose-bushes. "how long i remained unconscious i cannottell. it must have been a very long time, for themoon had sunk, and a bright morning was breaking when i came to myself.

my clothes were all sodden with dew, and mycoat-sleeve was drenched with blood from my wounded thumb. the smarting of it recalled in an instantall the particulars of my night’s adventure, and i sprang to my feet with thefeeling that i might hardly yet be safe from my pursuers. but to my astonishment, when i came to lookround me, neither house nor garden were to be seen. i had been lying in an angle of the hedgeclose by the highroad, and just a little lower down was a long building, whichproved, upon my approaching it, to be the

very station at which i had arrived uponthe previous night. were it not for the ugly wound upon myhand, all that had passed during those dreadful hours might have been an evildream. "half dazed, i went into the station andasked about the morning train. there would be one to reading in less thanan hour. the same porter was on duty, i found, ashad been there when i arrived. i inquired of him whether he had ever heardof colonel lysander stark. the name was strange to him. had he observed a carriage the night beforewaiting for me?

no, he had not.was there a police-station anywhere near? there was one about three miles off. "it was too far for me to go, weak and illas i was. i determined to wait until i got back totown before telling my story to the police. it was a little past six when i arrived, soi went first to have my wound dressed, and then the doctor was kind enough to bring mealong here. i put the case into your hands and shall doexactly what you advise." we both sat in silence for some little timeafter listening to this extraordinary narrative.

then sherlock holmes pulled down from theshelf one of the ponderous commonplace books in which he placed his cuttings."here is an advertisement which will interest you," said he. "it appeared in all the papers about a yearago. listen to this: ‘lost, on the 9th inst.,mr. jeremiah hayling, aged twenty-six, a hydraulic engineer. left his lodgings at ten o’clock at night,and has not been heard of since. was dressed in,’ etc., etc.ha! that represents the last time that thecolonel needed to have his machine

overhauled, i fancy.""good heavens!" cried my patient. "then that explains what the girl said." "undoubtedly. it is quite clear that the colonel was acool and desperate man, who was absolutely determined that nothing should stand in theway of his little game, like those out-and- out pirates who will leave no survivor froma captured ship. well, every moment now is precious, so ifyou feel equal to it we shall go down to scotland yard at once as a preliminary tostarting for eyford." some three hours or so afterwards we wereall in the train together, bound from

reading to the little berkshire village. there were sherlock holmes, the hydraulicengineer, inspector bradstreet, of scotland yard, a plain-clothes man, and myself. bradstreet had spread an ordnance map ofthe county out upon the seat and was busy with his compasses drawing a circle witheyford for its centre. "there you are," said he. "that circle is drawn at a radius of tenmiles from the village. the place we want must be somewhere nearthat line. you said ten miles, i think, sir."

"it was an hour’s good drive.""and you think that they brought you back all that way when you were unconscious?""they must have done so. i have a confused memory, too, of havingbeen lifted and conveyed somewhere." "what i cannot understand," said i, "is whythey should have spared you when they found you lying fainting in the garden. perhaps the villain was softened by thewoman’s entreaties." "i hardly think that likely.i never saw a more inexorable face in my life." "oh, we shall soon clear up all that," saidbradstreet.

"well, i have drawn my circle, and i onlywish i knew at what point upon it the folk that we are in search of are to be found." "i think i could lay my finger on it," saidholmes quietly. "really, now!" cried the inspector, "youhave formed your opinion! come, now, we shall see who agrees withyou. i say it is south, for the country is moredeserted there." "and i say east," said my patient. "i am for west," remarked the plain-clothesman. "there are several quiet little villages upthere."

"and i am for north," said i, "becausethere are no hills there, and our friend says that he did not notice the carriage goup any." "come," cried the inspector, laughing;"it’s a very pretty diversity of opinion. we have boxed the compass among us.who do you give your casting vote to?" "you are all wrong." "but we can’t all be.""oh, yes, you can. this is my point."he placed his finger in the centre of the circle. "this is where we shall find them.""but the twelve-mile drive?" gasped

hatherley."six out and six back. nothing simpler. you say yourself that the horse was freshand glossy when you got in. how could it be that if it had gone twelvemiles over heavy roads?" "indeed, it is a likely ruse enough,"observed bradstreet thoughtfully. "of course there can be no doubt as to thenature of this gang." "none at all," said holmes. "they are coiners on a large scale, andhave used the machine to form the amalgam which has taken the place of silver.""we have known for some time that a clever

gang was at work," said the inspector. "they have been turning out half-crowns bythe thousand. we even traced them as far as reading, butcould get no farther, for they had covered their traces in a way that showed that theywere very old hands. but now, thanks to this lucky chance, ithink that we have got them right enough." but the inspector was mistaken, for thosecriminals were not destined to fall into the hands of justice. as we rolled into eyford station we saw agigantic column of smoke which streamed up from behind a small clump of trees in theneighbourhood and hung like an immense

ostrich feather over the landscape. "a house on fire?" asked bradstreet as thetrain steamed off again on its way. "yes, sir!" said the station-master."when did it break out?" "i hear that it was during the night, sir,but it has got worse, and the whole place is in a blaze.""whose house is it?" "dr. becher’s." "tell me," broke in the engineer, "is dr.becher a german, very thin, with a long, sharp nose?"the station-master laughed heartily. "no, sir, dr. becher is an englishman, andthere isn’t a man in the parish who has a

better-lined waistcoat. but he has a gentleman staying with him, apatient, as i understand, who is a foreigner, and he looks as if a little goodberkshire beef would do him no harm." the station-master had not finished hisspeech before we were all hastening in the direction of the fire. the road topped a low hill, and there was agreat widespread whitewashed building in front of us, spouting fire at every chinkand window, while in the garden in front three fire-engines were vainly striving tokeep the flames under. "that’s it!" cried hatherley, in intenseexcitement.

"there is the gravel-drive, and there arethe rose-bushes where i lay. that second window is the one that i jumpedfrom." "well, at least," said holmes, "you havehad your revenge upon them. there can be no question that it was youroil-lamp which, when it was crushed in the press, set fire to the wooden walls, thoughno doubt they were too excited in the chase after you to observe it at the time. now keep your eyes open in this crowd foryour friends of last night, though i very much fear that they are a good hundredmiles off by now." and holmes’ fears came to be realised, forfrom that day to this no word has ever been

heard either of the beautiful woman, thesinister german, or the morose englishman. early that morning a peasant had met a cartcontaining several people and some very bulky boxes driving rapidly in thedirection of reading, but there all traces of the fugitives disappeared, and even holmes’ ingenuity failed ever to discoverthe least clue as to their whereabouts. the firemen had been much perturbed at thestrange arrangements which they had found within, and still more so by discovering anewly severed human thumb upon a window- sill of the second floor. about sunset, however, their efforts wereat last successful, and they subdued the

flames, but not before the roof had fallenin, and the whole place been reduced to such absolute ruin that, save some twisted cylinders and iron piping, not a traceremained of the machinery which had cost our unfortunate acquaintance so dearly. large masses of nickel and of tin werediscovered stored in an out-house, but no coins were to be found, which may haveexplained the presence of those bulky boxes which have been already referred to. how our hydraulic engineer had beenconveyed from the garden to the spot where he recovered his senses might have remainedforever a mystery were it not for the soft

mould, which told us a very plain tale. he had evidently been carried down by twopersons, one of whom had remarkably small feet and the other unusually large ones. on the whole, it was most probable that thesilent englishman, being less bold or less murderous than his companion, had assistedthe woman to bear the unconscious man out of the way of danger. "well," said our engineer ruefully as wetook our seats to return once more to london, "it has been a pretty business forme! i have lost my thumb and i have lost afifty-guinea fee, and what have i gained?"

"experience," said holmes, laughing. "indirectly it may be of value, you know;you have only to put it into words to gain the reputation of being excellent companyfor the remainder of your existence." > adventure x.the adventure of the noble bachelor the lord st. simon marriage, and itscurious termination, have long ceased to be a subject of interest in those exaltedcircles in which the unfortunate bridegroom moves. fresh scandals have eclipsed it, and theirmore piquant details have drawn the gossips

away from this four-year-old drama. as i have reason to believe, however, thatthe full facts have never been revealed to the general public, and as my friendsherlock holmes had a considerable share in clearing the matter up, i feel that no memoir of him would be complete withoutsome little sketch of this remarkable episode. it was a few weeks before my own marriage,during the days when i was still sharing rooms with holmes in baker street, that hecame home from an afternoon stroll to find a letter on the table waiting for him.

i had remained indoors all day, for theweather had taken a sudden turn to rain, with high autumnal winds, and the jezailbullet which i had brought back in one of my limbs as a relic of my afghan campaignthrobbed with dull persistence. with my body in one easy-chair and my legsupon another, i had surrounded myself with a cloud of newspapers until at last,saturated with the news of the day, i tossed them all aside and lay listless, watching the huge crest and monogram uponthe envelope upon the table and wondering lazily who my friend’s noble correspondentcould be. "here is a very fashionable epistle," iremarked as he entered.

"your morning letters, if i remember right,were from a fish-monger and a tide-waiter." "yes, my correspondence has certainly thecharm of variety," he answered, smiling, "and the humbler are usually the moreinteresting. this looks like one of those unwelcomesocial summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie."he broke the seal and glanced over the contents. "oh, come, it may prove to be something ofinterest, after all." "not social, then?""no, distinctly professional." "and from a noble client?"

"one of the highest in england.""my dear fellow, i congratulate you." "i assure you, watson, without affectation,that the status of my client is a matter of less moment to me than the interest of hiscase. it is just possible, however, that thatalso may not be wanting in this new investigation.you have been reading the papers diligently of late, have you not?" "it looks like it," said i ruefully,pointing to a huge bundle in the corner. "i have had nothing else to do.""it is fortunate, for you will perhaps be able to post me up.

i read nothing except the criminal news andthe agony column. the latter is always instructive. but if you have followed recent events soclosely you must have read about lord st. simon and his wedding?""oh, yes, with the deepest interest." "that is well. the letter which i hold in my hand is fromlord st. simon. i will read it to you, and in return youmust turn over these papers and let me have whatever bears upon the matter. this is what he says:"’my dear mr. sherlock holmes:–lord

backwater tells me that i may placeimplicit reliance upon your judgment and discretion. i have determined, therefore, to call uponyou and to consult you in reference to the very painful event which has occurred inconnection with my wedding. mr. lestrade, of scotland yard, is actingalready in the matter, but he assures me that he sees no objection to your co-operation, and that he even thinks that it might be of some assistance. i will call at four o’clock in theafternoon, and, should you have any other engagement at that time, i hope that youwill postpone it, as this matter is of

paramount importance. yours faithfully, st. simon.’ "it is dated from grosvenor mansions,written with a quill pen, and the noble lord has had the misfortune to get a smearof ink upon the outer side of his right little finger," remarked holmes as hefolded up the epistle. "he says four o’clock.it is three now. he will be here in an hour." "then i have just time, with yourassistance, to get clear upon the subject. turn over those papers and arrange theextracts in their order of time, while i

take a glance as to who our client is." he picked a red-covered volume from a lineof books of reference beside the mantelpiece."here he is," said he, sitting down and flattening it out upon his knee. "’lord robert walsingham de vere st. simon,second son of the duke of balmoral.’ hum!’arms: azure, three caltrops in chief over a fess sable. born in 1846.’he’s forty-one years of age, which is mature for marriage.was under-secretary for the colonies in a

late administration. the duke, his father, was at one timesecretary for foreign affairs. they inherit plantagenet blood by directdescent, and tudor on the distaff side. ha! well, there is nothing very instructive inall this. i think that i must turn to you watson, forsomething more solid." "i have very little difficulty in findingwhat i want," said i, "for the facts are quite recent, and the matter struck me asremarkable. i feared to refer them to you, however, asi knew that you had an inquiry on hand and

that you disliked the intrusion of othermatters." "oh, you mean the little problem of thegrosvenor square furniture van. that is quite cleared up now–though,indeed, it was obvious from the first. pray give me the results of your newspaperselections." "here is the first notice which i can find. it is in the personal column of the morningpost, and dates, as you see, some weeks back: ‘a marriage has been arranged,’ itsays, ‘and will, if rumour is correct, very shortly take place, between lord robert st. simon, second son of the duke of balmoral,and miss hatty doran, the only daughter of

aloysius doran.esq., of san francisco, cal., u.s.a.’ that is all." "terse and to the point," remarked holmes,stretching his long, thin legs towards the fire."there was a paragraph amplifying this in one of the society papers of the same week. ah, here it is: ‘there will soon be a callfor protection in the marriage market, for the present free-trade principle appears totell heavily against our home product. one by one the management of the noblehouses of great britain is passing into the hands of our fair cousins from across theatlantic.

an important addition has been made duringthe last week to the list of the prizes which have been borne away by thesecharming invaders. lord st. simon, who has shown himself forover twenty years proof against the little god’s arrows, has now definitely announcedhis approaching marriage with miss hatty doran, the fascinating daughter of acalifornia millionaire. miss doran, whose graceful figure andstriking face attracted much attention at the westbury house festivities, is an onlychild, and it is currently reported that her dowry will run to considerably over the six figures, with expectancies for thefuture.

as it is an open secret that the duke ofbalmoral has been compelled to sell his pictures within the last few years, and aslord st. simon has no property of his own save the small estate of birchmoor, it is obvious that the californian heiress is notthe only gainer by an alliance which will enable her to make the easy and commontransition from a republican lady to a british peeress.’" "anything else?" asked holmes, yawning."oh, yes; plenty. then there is another note in the morningpost to say that the marriage would be an absolutely quiet one, that it would be atst. george’s, hanover square, that only

half a dozen intimate friends would be invited, and that the party would return tothe furnished house at lancaster gate which has been taken by mr. aloysius doran. two days later–that is, on wednesday last–there is a curt announcement that the wedding had taken place, and that thehoneymoon would be passed at lord backwater’s place, near petersfield. those are all the notices which appearedbefore the disappearance of the bride." "before the what?" asked holmes with astart. "the vanishing of the lady."

"when did she vanish, then?""at the wedding breakfast." "indeed.this is more interesting than it promised to be; quite dramatic, in fact." "yes; it struck me as being a little out ofthe common." "they often vanish before the ceremony, andoccasionally during the honeymoon; but i cannot call to mind anything quite soprompt as this. pray let me have the details." "i warn you that they are very incomplete.""perhaps we may make them less so." "such as they are, they are set forth in asingle article of a morning paper of

yesterday, which i will read to you. it is headed, ‘singular occurrence at afashionable wedding’: "’the family of lord robert st. simon hasbeen thrown into the greatest consternation by the strange and painful episodes whichhave taken place in connection with his wedding. the ceremony, as shortly announced in thepapers of yesterday, occurred on the previous morning; but it is only now thatit has been possible to confirm the strange rumours which have been so persistentlyfloating about. in spite of the attempts of the friends tohush the matter up, so much public

attention has now been drawn to it that nogood purpose can be served by affecting to disregard what is a common subject forconversation. "’the ceremony, which was performed at st.george’s, hanover square, was a very quiet one, no one being present save the fatherof the bride, mr. aloysius doran, the duchess of balmoral, lord backwater, lord eustace and lady clara st. simon (theyounger brother and sister of the bridegroom), and lady alicia whittington. the whole party proceeded afterwards to thehouse of mr. aloysius doran, at lancaster gate, where breakfast had been prepared.

it appears that some little trouble wascaused by a woman, whose name has not been ascertained, who endeavoured to force herway into the house after the bridal party, alleging that she had some claim upon lordst. simon. it was only after a painful and prolongedscene that she was ejected by the butler and the footman. the bride, who had fortunately entered thehouse before this unpleasant interruption, had sat down to breakfast with the rest,when she complained of a sudden indisposition and retired to her room. her prolonged absence having caused somecomment, her father followed her, but

learned from her maid that she had onlycome up to her chamber for an instant, caught up an ulster and bonnet, and hurrieddown to the passage. one of the footmen declared that he hadseen a lady leave the house thus apparelled, but had refused to credit thatit was his mistress, believing her to be with the company. on ascertaining that his daughter haddisappeared, mr. aloysius doran, in conjunction with the bridegroom, instantlyput themselves in communication with the police, and very energetic inquiries are being made, which will probably result in aspeedy clearing up of this very singular

business. up to a late hour last night, however,nothing had transpired as to the whereabouts of the missing lady. there are rumours of foul play in thematter, and it is said that the police have caused the arrest of the woman who hadcaused the original disturbance, in the belief that, from jealousy or some other motive, she may have been concerned in thestrange disappearance of the bride.’" "and is that all?" "only one little item in another of themorning papers, but it is a suggestive

one.""and it is–" "that miss flora millar, the lady who hadcaused the disturbance, has actually been arrested. it appears that she was formerly a danseuseat the allegro, and that she has known the bridegroom for some years. there are no further particulars, and thewhole case is in your hands now–so far as it has been set forth in the public press.""and an exceedingly interesting case it appears to be. i would not have missed it for worlds.but there is a ring at the bell, watson,

and as the clock makes it a few minutesafter four, i have no doubt that this will prove to be our noble client. do not dream of going, watson, for i verymuch prefer having a witness, if only as a check to my own memory.""lord robert st. simon," announced our page-boy, throwing open the door. a gentleman entered, with a pleasant,cultured face, high-nosed and pale, with something perhaps of petulance about themouth, and with the steady, well-opened eye of a man whose pleasant lot it had everbeen to command and to be obeyed. his manner was brisk, and yet his generalappearance gave an undue impression of age,

for he had a slight forward stoop and alittle bend of the knees as he walked. his hair, too, as he swept off his verycurly-brimmed hat, was grizzled round the edges and thin upon the top. as to his dress, it was careful to theverge of foppishness, with high collar, black frock-coat, white waistcoat, yellowgloves, patent-leather shoes, and light- coloured gaiters. he advanced slowly into the room, turninghis head from left to right, and swinging in his right hand the cord which held hisgolden eyeglasses. "good-day, lord st. simon," said holmes,rising and bowing.

"pray take the basket-chair.this is my friend and colleague, dr. watson. draw up a little to the fire, and we willtalk this matter over." "a most painful matter to me, as you canmost readily imagine, mr. holmes. i have been cut to the quick. i understand that you have already managedseveral delicate cases of this sort, sir, though i presume that they were hardly fromthe same class of society." "no, i am descending." "i beg pardon.""my last client of the sort was a king."

"oh, really!i had no idea. and which king?" "the king of scandinavia.""what! had he lost his wife?" "you can understand," said holmes suavely,"that i extend to the affairs of my other clients the same secrecy which i promise toyou in yours." "of course! very right! very right!i’m sure i beg pardon. as to my own case, i am ready to give youany information which may assist you in

forming an opinion." "thank you.i have already learned all that is in the public prints, nothing more. i presume that i may take it as correct–this article, for example, as to the disappearance of the bride."lord st. simon glanced over it. "yes, it is correct, as far as it goes." "but it needs a great deal of supplementingbefore anyone could offer an opinion. i think that i may arrive at my facts mostdirectly by questioning you." "pray do so."

"when did you first meet miss hatty doran?""in san francisco, a year ago." "you were travelling in the states?""yes." "did you become engaged then?" "no.""but you were on a friendly footing?" "i was amused by her society, and she couldsee that i was amused." "her father is very rich?" "he is said to be the richest man on thepacific slope." "and how did he make his money?""in mining. he had nothing a few years ago.

then he struck gold, invested it, and cameup by leaps and bounds." "now, what is your own impression as to theyoung lady’s–your wife’s character?" the nobleman swung his glasses a littlefaster and stared down into the fire. "you see, mr. holmes," said he, "my wifewas twenty before her father became a rich man. during that time she ran free in a miningcamp and wandered through woods or mountains, so that her education has comefrom nature rather than from the schoolmaster. she is what we call in england a tomboy,with a strong nature, wild and free,

unfettered by any sort of traditions.she is impetuous–volcanic, i was about to say. she is swift in making up her mind andfearless in carrying out her resolutions. on the other hand, i would not have givenher the name which i have the honour to bear"–he gave a little stately cough–"hadnot i thought her to be at bottom a noble woman. i believe that she is capable of heroicself-sacrifice and that anything dishonourable would be repugnant to her.""have you her photograph?" "i brought this with me."

he opened a locket and showed us the fullface of a very lovely woman. it was not a photograph but an ivoryminiature, and the artist had brought out the full effect of the lustrous black hair,the large dark eyes, and the exquisite mouth. holmes gazed long and earnestly at it.then he closed the locket and handed it back to lord st. simon."the young lady came to london, then, and you renewed your acquaintance?" "yes, her father brought her over for thislast london season. i met her several times, became engaged toher, and have now married her."

"she brought, i understand, a considerabledowry?" "a fair dowry.not more than is usual in my family." "and this, of course, remains to you, sincethe marriage is a fait accompli?" "i really have made no inquiries on thesubject." "very naturally not. did you see miss doran on the day beforethe wedding?" "yes.""was she in good spirits?" "never better. she kept talking of what we should do inour future lives."

"indeed!that is very interesting. and on the morning of the wedding?" "she was as bright as possible–at leastuntil after the ceremony." "and did you observe any change in herthen?" "well, to tell the truth, i saw then thefirst signs that i had ever seen that her temper was just a little sharp. the incident however, was too trivial torelate and can have no possible bearing upon the case.""pray let us have it, for all that." "oh, it is childish.

she dropped her bouquet as we went towardsthe vestry. she was passing the front pew at the time,and it fell over into the pew. there was a moment’s delay, but thegentleman in the pew handed it up to her again, and it did not appear to be theworse for the fall. yet when i spoke to her of the matter, sheanswered me abruptly; and in the carriage, on our way home, she seemed absurdlyagitated over this trifling cause." "indeed! you say that there was a gentleman in thepew. some of the general public were present,then?"

"oh, yes. it is impossible to exclude them when thechurch is open." "this gentleman was not one of your wife’sfriends?" "no, no; i call him a gentleman bycourtesy, but he was quite a common-looking person.i hardly noticed his appearance. but really i think that we are wanderingrather far from the point." "lady st. simon, then, returned from thewedding in a less cheerful frame of mind than she had gone to it. what did she do on re-entering her father’shouse?"

"i saw her in conversation with her maid.""and who is her maid?" "alice is her name. she is an american and came from californiawith her." "a confidential servant?""a little too much so. it seemed to me that her mistress allowedher to take great liberties. still, of course, in america they look uponthese things in a different way." "how long did she speak to this alice?" "oh, a few minutes.i had something else to think of." "you did not overhear what they said?""lady st. simon said something about

‘jumping a claim.’ she was accustomed to use slang of thekind. i have no idea what she meant.""american slang is very expressive sometimes. and what did your wife do when she finishedspeaking to her maid?" "she walked into the breakfast-room.""on your arm?" "no, alone. she was very independent in little matterslike that. then, after we had sat down for ten minutesor so, she rose hurriedly, muttered some

words of apology, and left the room. she never came back.""but this maid, alice, as i understand, deposes that she went to her room, coveredher bride’s dress with a long ulster, put on a bonnet, and went out." "quite so. and she was afterwards seen walking intohyde park in company with flora millar, a woman who is now in custody, and who hadalready made a disturbance at mr. doran’s house that morning." "ah, yes.i should like a few particulars as to this

young lady, and your relations to her."lord st. simon shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows. "we have been on a friendly footing forsome years–i may say on a very friendly footing.she used to be at the allegro. i have not treated her ungenerously, andshe had no just cause of complaint against me, but you know what women are, mr.holmes. flora was a dear little thing, butexceedingly hot-headed and devotedly attached to me. she wrote me dreadful letters when sheheard that i was about to be married, and,

to tell the truth, the reason why i had themarriage celebrated so quietly was that i feared lest there might be a scandal in thechurch. she came to mr. doran’s door just after wereturned, and she endeavoured to push her way in, uttering very abusive expressionstowards my wife, and even threatening her, but i had foreseen the possibility of something of the sort, and i had two policefellows there in private clothes, who soon pushed her out again.she was quiet when she saw that there was no good in making a row." "did your wife hear all this?""no, thank goodness, she did not."

"and she was seen walking with this verywoman afterwards?" "yes. that is what mr. lestrade, ofscotland yard, looks upon as so serious. it is thought that flora decoyed my wifeout and laid some terrible trap for her." "well, it is a possible supposition." "you think so, too?""i did not say a probable one. but you do not yourself look upon this aslikely?" "i do not think flora would hurt a fly." "still, jealousy is a strange transformerof characters. pray what is your own theory as to whattook place?"

"well, really, i came to seek a theory, notto propound one. i have given you all the facts. since you ask me, however, i may say thatit has occurred to me as possible that the excitement of this affair, theconsciousness that she had made so immense a social stride, had the effect of causing some little nervous disturbance in mywife." "in short, that she had become suddenlyderanged?" "well, really, when i consider that she hasturned her back–i will not say upon me, but upon so much that many have aspired towithout success–i can hardly explain it in

any other fashion." "well, certainly that is also a conceivablehypothesis," said holmes, smiling. "and now, lord st. simon, i think that ihave nearly all my data. may i ask whether you were seated at thebreakfast-table so that you could see out of the window?""we could see the other side of the road and the park." "quite so.then i do not think that i need to detain you longer.i shall communicate with you." "should you be fortunate enough to solvethis problem," said our client, rising.

"i have solved it.""eh? what was that?" "i say that i have solved it.""where, then, is my wife?" "that is a detail which i shall speedilysupply." lord st. simon shook his head. "i am afraid that it will take wiser headsthan yours or mine," he remarked, and bowing in a stately, old-fashioned mannerhe departed. "it is very good of lord st. simon tohonour my head by putting it on a level with his own," said sherlock holmes,laughing.

"i think that i shall have a whisky andsoda and a cigar after all this cross- questioning.i had formed my conclusions as to the case before our client came into the room." "my dear holmes!""i have notes of several similar cases, though none, as i remarked before, whichwere quite as prompt. my whole examination served to turn myconjecture into a certainty. circumstantial evidence is occasionallyvery convincing, as when you find a trout in the milk, to quote thoreau’s example." "but i have heard all that you have heard.""without, however, the knowledge of pre-

existing cases which serves me so well. there was a parallel instance in aberdeensome years back, and something on very much the same lines at munich the year after thefranco-prussian war. it is one of these cases–but, hullo, hereis lestrade! good-afternoon, lestrade! you will find an extra tumbler upon thesideboard, and there are cigars in the box." the official detective was attired in apea-jacket and cravat, which gave him a decidedly nautical appearance, and hecarried a black canvas bag in his hand.

with a short greeting he seated himself andlit the cigar which had been offered to him."what’s up, then?" asked holmes with a twinkle in his eye. "you look dissatisfied.""and i feel dissatisfied. it is this infernal st. simon marriagecase. i can make neither head nor tail of thebusiness." "really!you surprise me." "who ever heard of such a mixed affair? every clue seems to slip through myfingers.

i have been at work upon it all day." "and very wet it seems to have made you,"said holmes laying his hand upon the arm of the pea-jacket."yes, i have been dragging the serpentine." "in heaven’s name, what for?" "in search of the body of lady st. simon."sherlock holmes leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily."have you dragged the basin of trafalgar square fountain?" he asked. "why?what do you mean?" "because you have just as good a chance offinding this lady in the one as in the

other." lestrade shot an angry glance at mycompanion. "i suppose you know all about it," hesnarled. "well, i have only just heard the facts,but my mind is made up." "oh, indeed!then you think that the serpentine plays no part in the matter?" "i think it very unlikely.""then perhaps you will kindly explain how it is that we found this in it?" he opened his bag as he spoke, and tumbledonto the floor a wedding-dress of watered

silk, a pair of white satin shoes and abride’s wreath and veil, all discoloured and soaked in water. "there," said he, putting a new wedding-ring upon the top of the pile. "there is a little nut for you to crack,master holmes." "oh, indeed!" said my friend, blowing bluerings into the air. "you dragged them from the serpentine?""no. they were found floating near the margin by a park-keeper. they have been identified as her clothes,and it seemed to me that if the clothes were there the body would not be far off."

"by the same brilliant reasoning, everyman’s body is to be found in the neighbourhood of his wardrobe.and pray what did you hope to arrive at through this?" "at some evidence implicating flora millarin the disappearance." "i am afraid that you will find itdifficult." "are you, indeed, now?" cried lestrade withsome bitterness. "i am afraid, holmes, that you are not verypractical with your deductions and your inferences. you have made two blunders in as manyminutes.

this dress does implicate miss floramillar." "and how?" "in the dress is a pocket.in the pocket is a card-case. in the card-case is a note.and here is the very note." he slapped it down upon the table in frontof him. "listen to this: ‘you will see me when allis ready. come at once. f.h.m.’now my theory all along has been that lady st. simon was decoyed away by flora millar,and that she, with confederates, no doubt,

was responsible for her disappearance. here, signed with her initials, is the verynote which was no doubt quietly slipped into her hand at the door and which luredher within their reach." "very good, lestrade," said holmes,laughing. "you really are very fine indeed.let me see it." he took up the paper in a listless way, buthis attention instantly became riveted, and he gave a little cry of satisfaction."this is indeed important," said he. "ha! you find it so?" "extremely so.i congratulate you warmly."

lestrade rose in his triumph and bent hishead to look. "why," he shrieked, "you’re looking at thewrong side!" "on the contrary, this is the right side.""the right side? you’re mad! here is the note written in pencil overhere." "and over here is what appears to be thefragment of a hotel bill, which interests me deeply." "there’s nothing in it.i looked at it before," said lestrade. "’oct. 4th, rooms 8s., breakfast 2s.6d., cocktail 1s., lunch 2s.

6d., glass sherry, 8d.’ i see nothing in that.""very likely not. it is most important, all the same. as to the note, it is important also, or atleast the initials are, so i congratulate you again.""i’ve wasted time enough," said lestrade, rising. "i believe in hard work and not in sittingby the fire spinning fine theories. good-day, mr. holmes, and we shall seewhich gets to the bottom of the matter first."

he gathered up the garments, thrust theminto the bag, and made for the door. "just one hint to you, lestrade," drawledholmes before his rival vanished; "i will tell you the true solution of the matter. lady st. simon is a myth.there is not, and there never has been, any such person."lestrade looked sadly at my companion. then he turned to me, tapped his foreheadthree times, shook his head solemnly, and hurried away.he had hardly shut the door behind him when holmes rose to put on his overcoat. "there is something in what the fellow saysabout outdoor work," he remarked, "so i

think, watson, that i must leave you toyour papers for a little." it was after five o’clock when sherlockholmes left me, but i had no time to be lonely, for within an hour there arrived aconfectioner’s man with a very large flat box. this he unpacked with the help of a youthwhom he had brought with him, and presently, to my very great astonishment, aquite epicurean little cold supper began to be laid out upon our humble lodging-housemahogany. there were a couple of brace of coldwoodcock, a pheasant, a pã¢tã© de foie gras pie with a group of ancient and cobwebbybottles.

having laid out all these luxuries, my twovisitors vanished away, like the genii of the arabian nights, with no explanationsave that the things had been paid for and were ordered to this address. just before nine o’clock sherlock holmesstepped briskly into the room. his features were gravely set, but therewas a light in his eye which made me think that he had not been disappointed in hisconclusions. "they have laid the supper, then," he said,rubbing his hands. "you seem to expect company.they have laid for five." "yes, i fancy we may have some companydropping in," said he.

"i am surprised that lord st. simon has notalready arrived. i fancy that i hear his step now upon thestairs." it was indeed our visitor of the afternoonwho came bustling in, dangling his glasses more vigorously than ever, and with a veryperturbed expression upon his aristocratic features. "my messenger reached you, then?" askedholmes. "yes, and i confess that the contentsstartled me beyond measure. have you good authority for what you say?" "the best possible."lord st. simon sank into a chair and passed

his hand over his forehead. "what will the duke say," he murmured,"when he hears that one of the family has been subjected to such humiliation?""it is the purest accident. i cannot allow that there is anyhumiliation." "ah, you look on these things from anotherstandpoint." "i fail to see that anyone is to blame. i can hardly see how the lady could haveacted otherwise, though her abrupt method of doing it was undoubtedly to beregretted. having no mother, she had no one to adviseher at such a crisis."

"it was a slight, sir, a public slight,"said lord st. simon, tapping his fingers upon the table. "you must make allowance for this poorgirl, placed in so unprecedented a position.""i will make no allowance. i am very angry indeed, and i have beenshamefully used." "i think that i heard a ring," said holmes."yes, there are steps on the landing. if i cannot persuade you to take a lenientview of the matter, lord st. simon, i have brought an advocate here who may be moresuccessful." he opened the door and ushered in a ladyand gentleman.

"lord st. simon," said he "allow me tointroduce you to mr. and mrs. francis hay moulton. the lady, i think, you have already met." at the sight of these newcomers our clienthad sprung from his seat and stood very erect, with his eyes cast down and his handthrust into the breast of his frock-coat, a picture of offended dignity. the lady had taken a quick step forward andhad held out her hand to him, but he still refused to raise his eyes. it was as well for his resolution, perhaps,for her pleading face was one which it was

hard to resist."you’re angry, robert," said she. "well, i guess you have every cause to be." "pray make no apology to me," said lord st.simon bitterly. "oh, yes, i know that i have treated youreal bad and that i should have spoken to you before i went; but i was kind ofrattled, and from the time when i saw frank here again i just didn’t know what i wasdoing or saying. i only wonder i didn’t fall down and do afaint right there before the altar." "perhaps, mrs. moulton, you would like myfriend and me to leave the room while you explain this matter?"

"if i may give an opinion," remarked thestrange gentleman, "we’ve had just a little too much secrecy over this businessalready. for my part, i should like all europe andamerica to hear the rights of it." he was a small, wiry, sunburnt man, clean-shaven, with a sharp face and alert manner. "then i’ll tell our story right away," saidthe lady. "frank here and i met in ’84, in mcquire’scamp, near the rockies, where pa was working a claim. we were engaged to each other, frank and i;but then one day father struck a rich pocket and made a pile, while poor frankhere had a claim that petered out and came

to nothing. the richer pa grew the poorer was frank; soat last pa wouldn’t hear of our engagement lasting any longer, and he took me away to’frisco. frank wouldn’t throw up his hand, though;so he followed me there, and he saw me without pa knowing anything about it.it would only have made him mad to know, so we just fixed it all up for ourselves. frank said that he would go and make hispile, too, and never come back to claim me until he had as much as pa. so then i promised to wait for him to theend of time and pledged myself not to marry

anyone else while he lived. ‘why shouldn’t we be married right away,then,’ said he, ‘and then i will feel sure of you; and i won’t claim to be yourhusband until i come back?’ well, we talked it over, and he had fixedit all up so nicely, with a clergyman all ready in waiting, that we just did it rightthere; and then frank went off to seek his fortune, and i went back to pa. "the next i heard of frank was that he wasin montana, and then he went prospecting in arizona, and then i heard of him from newmexico. after that came a long newspaper storyabout how a miners’ camp had been attacked

by apache indians, and there was my frank’sname among the killed. i fainted dead away, and i was very sickfor months after. pa thought i had a decline and took me tohalf the doctors in ‘frisco. not a word of news came for a year andmore, so that i never doubted that frank was really dead. then lord st. simon came to ‘frisco, and wecame to london, and a marriage was arranged, and pa was very pleased, but ifelt all the time that no man on this earth would ever take the place in my heart thathad been given to my poor frank. "still, if i had married lord st. simon, ofcourse i’d have done my duty by him.

we can’t command our love, but we can ouractions. i went to the altar with him with theintention to make him just as good a wife as it was in me to be. but you may imagine what i felt when, justas i came to the altar rails, i glanced back and saw frank standing and looking atme out of the first pew. i thought it was his ghost at first; butwhen i looked again there he was still, with a kind of question in his eyes, as ifto ask me whether i were glad or sorry to see him. i wonder i didn’t drop.i know that everything was turning round,

and the words of the clergyman were justlike the buzz of a bee in my ear. i didn’t know what to do. should i stop the service and make a scenein the church? i glanced at him again, and he seemed toknow what i was thinking, for he raised his finger to his lips to tell me to be still. then i saw him scribble on a piece ofpaper, and i knew that he was writing me a note. as i passed his pew on the way out idropped my bouquet over to him, and he slipped the note into my hand when hereturned me the flowers.

it was only a line asking me to join himwhen he made the sign to me to do so. of course i never doubted for a moment thatmy first duty was now to him, and i determined to do just whatever he mightdirect. "when i got back i told my maid, who hadknown him in california, and had always been his friend.i ordered her to say nothing, but to get a few things packed and my ulster ready. i know i ought to have spoken to lord st.simon, but it was dreadful hard before his mother and all those great people.i just made up my mind to run away and explain afterwards.

i hadn’t been at the table ten minutesbefore i saw frank out of the window at the other side of the road.he beckoned to me and then began walking into the park. i slipped out, put on my things, andfollowed him. some woman came talking something or otherabout lord st. simon to me–seemed to me from the little i heard as if he had alittle secret of his own before marriage also–but i managed to get away from herand soon overtook frank. we got into a cab together, and away wedrove to some lodgings he had taken in gordon square, and that was my true weddingafter all those years of waiting.

frank had been a prisoner among theapaches, had escaped, came on to ‘frisco, found that i had given him up for dead andhad gone to england, followed me there, and had come upon me at last on the verymorning of my second wedding." "i saw it in a paper," explained theamerican. "it gave the name and the church but notwhere the lady lived." "then we had a talk as to what we shoulddo, and frank was all for openness, but i was so ashamed of it all that i felt as ifi should like to vanish away and never see any of them again–just sending a line topa, perhaps, to show him that i was alive. it was awful to me to think of all thoselords and ladies sitting round that

breakfast-table and waiting for me to comeback. so frank took my wedding-clothes and thingsand made a bundle of them, so that i should not be traced, and dropped them awaysomewhere where no one could find them. it is likely that we should have gone on toparis to-morrow, only that this good gentleman, mr. holmes, came round to usthis evening, though how he found us is more than i can think, and he showed us very clearly and kindly that i was wrongand that frank was right, and that we should be putting ourselves in the wrong ifwe were so secret. then he offered to give us a chance oftalking to lord st. simon alone, and so we

came right away round to his rooms at once. now, robert, you have heard it all, and iam very sorry if i have given you pain, and i hope that you do not think very meanly ofme." lord st. simon had by no means relaxed hisrigid attitude, but had listened with a frowning brow and a compressed lip to thislong narrative. "excuse me," he said, "but it is not mycustom to discuss my most intimate personal affairs in this public manner.""then you won’t forgive me? you won’t shake hands before i go?" "oh, certainly, if it would give you anypleasure."

he put out his hand and coldly grasped thatwhich she extended to him. "i had hoped," suggested holmes, "that youwould have joined us in a friendly supper." "i think that there you ask a little toomuch," responded his lordship. "i may be forced to acquiesce in theserecent developments, but i can hardly be expected to make merry over them.i think that with your permission i will now wish you all a very good-night." he included us all in a sweeping bow andstalked out of the room. "then i trust that you at least will honourme with your company," said sherlock holmes.

"it is always a joy to meet an american,mr. moulton, for i am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and theblundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-widecountry under a flag which shall be a quartering of the union jack with the starsand stripes." "the case has been an interesting one,"remarked holmes when our visitors had left us, "because it serves to show very clearlyhow simple the explanation may be of an affair which at first sight seems to bealmost inexplicable. nothing could be more natural than thesequence of events as narrated by this

lady, and nothing stranger than the resultwhen viewed, for instance, by mr. lestrade of scotland yard." "you were not yourself at fault at all,then?" "from the first, two facts were veryobvious to me, the one that the lady had been quite willing to undergo the weddingceremony, the other that she had repented of it within a few minutes of returninghome. obviously something had occurred during themorning, then, to cause her to change her mind. what could that something be?she could not have spoken to anyone when

she was out, for she had been in thecompany of the bridegroom. had she seen someone, then? if she had, it must be someone from americabecause she had spent so short a time in this country that she could hardly haveallowed anyone to acquire so deep an influence over her that the mere sight of him would induce her to change her plans socompletely. you see we have already arrived, by aprocess of exclusion, at the idea that she might have seen an american. then who could this american be, and whyshould he possess so much influence over

her?it might be a lover; it might be a husband. her young womanhood had, i knew, been spentin rough scenes and under strange conditions.so far i had got before i ever heard lord st. simon’s narrative. when he told us of a man in a pew, of thechange in the bride’s manner, of so transparent a device for obtaining a noteas the dropping of a bouquet, of her resort to her confidential maid, and of her very significant allusion to claim-jumping–which in miners’ parlance means taking possession of that which another person hasa prior claim to–the whole situation

became absolutely clear. she had gone off with a man, and the manwas either a lover or was a previous husband–the chances being in favour of thelatter." "and how in the world did you find them?" "it might have been difficult, but friendlestrade held information in his hands the value of which he did not himself know. the initials were, of course, of thehighest importance, but more valuable still was it to know that within a week he hadsettled his bill at one of the most select london hotels."

"how did you deduce the select?""by the select prices. eight shillings for a bed and eightpencefor a glass of sherry pointed to one of the most expensive hotels. there are not many in london which chargeat that rate. in the second one which i visited innorthumberland avenue, i learned by an inspection of the book that francis h.moulton, an american gentleman, had left only the day before, and on looking over the entries against him, i came upon thevery items which i had seen in the duplicate bill.

his letters were to be forwarded to 226gordon square; so thither i travelled, and being fortunate enough to find the lovingcouple at home, i ventured to give them some paternal advice and to point out to them that it would be better in every waythat they should make their position a little clearer both to the general publicand to lord st. simon in particular. i invited them to meet him here, and, asyou see, i made him keep the appointment." "but with no very good result," i remarked."his conduct was certainly not very gracious." "ah, watson," said holmes, smiling,"perhaps you would not be very gracious

either, if, after all the trouble of wooingand wedding, you found yourself deprived in an instant of wife and of fortune. i think that we may judge lord st. simonvery mercifully and thank our stars that we are never likely to find ourselves in thesame position. draw your chair up and hand me my violin,for the only problem we have still to solve is how to while away these bleak autumnalevenings."

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