HOLMES," said I, as I stood one morning in our bow-window looking down the street, "here is a madman coming along. It seems rather sad that his relatives should allow
him to come out alone."
My friend rose lazily from his arm-chair and stood with his hands in the pockets of his dressing-gown, looking over my shoulder. It was a bright, crisp
February morning, and the snow of the day before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the wintry
sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed into a brown crumbly band by the traffic
, but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it fell. The gray pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but was still dangerously slippery, so that there were fewer passengers than usual. Indeed, from the direction
of the Metropolitan Station no one was coming save the single gentleman whose eccentric conduct
had drawn my attention
He was a man of about fifty, tall, portly
, and imposing
, with a massive
, strongly marked
face and a commanding figure
. He was dressed in a sombre yet rich style
, in black frock-coat, shining hat, neat brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-gray trousers. Yet his actions were in absurd contrast
to the dignity
of his dress and features, for he was running hard, with occasional
little springs, such as a weary
man gives who is little accustomed
to set any tax upon his legs. As he ran he jerked his hands up and down, waggled his head, and writhed his face into the most contortions.
"What on earth
can be the matter
with him?" I asked. "He is looking up at the numbers of the houses."
"I believe that he is coming here," said Holmes, rubbing his hands.
"Yes; I rather think he is coming to consult
me professionally. I think that I recognize
the symptoms. Ha! did I not tell you?" As he spoke
, the man, puffing and blowing, rushed at our door and pulled at our bell until the whole house resounded with the clanging.
A few moments later he was in our room, still puffing, still gesticulating, but with so fixed a look of grief
in his eyes that our smiles were turned in an instant
. For a while he could not get his words out, but swayed his body and plucked at his hair like one who has been driven to the extreme
limits of his reason
. Then, suddenly
springing to his feet, he beat his head against the wall with such force
that we both rushed upon him and tore him away to the centre of the room. Sherlock Holmes pushed him down into the easy-chair, and, sitting beside him, patted his hand, and chatted with him in the easy, soothing
tones which he knew so well how to employ
"You have come to me to tell your story, have you not?" said he. "You are fatigued with your haste
. Pray wait until you have recovered yourself, and then I shall be most happy to look into any little problem
which you may submit
The man sat for a minute
or more with a heaving chest, fighting against his emotion
. Then he passed his handkerchief
over his brow, set his lips tight, and turned his face towards us.
you think me mad
?" said he.
"I see that you have had some great trouble," responded Holmes.
"God knows I have!-a trouble which is enough to unseat my reason
, so sudden and so terrible is it. Public disgrace
have faced, although I am a man whose character
has never yet borne a stain. Private affliction
also is the lot of every man; but the two coming together, and in so frightful
a form, have been enough to shake my very soul
. Besides, it is not I alone. The very noblest in the land may suffer
, unless some way be found out of this horrible affair
yourself, sir," said Holmes, "and let me have a clear account
of who you are, and what it is that has befallen you."
"My name," answered our visitor, "is probably familiar
to your ears. I am Alexander Holder, of the banking firm of Holder & Stevenson, of Threadneedle Street."
The name was indeed well known to us as belonging to the senior partner
in the second largest private
in the City of London. What could have happened, then, to bring one of the foremost
citizens of London to this most pitiable
pass? We waited, all curiosity
, until with another effort
he braced himself to tell his story.
"I feel that time is of value
," said he; "that is why I hastened here when the police inspector
suggested that I should secure
your co-operation. I came to Baker Street by the Underground, and hurried from there on foot, for the cabs go slowly through
this snow. That is why I was so out of breath, for I am a man who takes very little exercise
. I feel better now, and I will put the facts before you as shortly and yet as clearly as I can.
"It is, of course, well known to you that in a successful
banking business as much depends upon our being able
to find remunerative
investments for our funds as upon our increasing our connection
and the number of our depositors. One of our most lucrative
means of laying out money is in the shape
of loans, where the security
. We have done a good deal in this direction
during the last few years, and there are many noble
families to whom we have advanced large sums upon the security
of their pictures, libraries, or plate
"Yesterday morning I was seated in my office
at the bank
when a card was brought in to me by one of the clerks. I started when I saw the name, for it was that of none other than-well, perhaps even to you I had better say no more than that it was a name which is a household
word all over the earth
-one of the highest, noblest, most exalted
names in England. I was overwhelmed by the honor
, and attempted, when he entered, to say so, but he plunged at once into business with the air of a man who wishes to hurry quickly through
a disagreeable task
"'Mr. Holder,' said he, 'I have been informed that you are in the habit
of advancing money.'
"'The firm do so when the security
is good,' I answered.
"'It is absolutely essential
to me,' said he, 'that I should have £50,000 at once. I could of course borrow
ten times over from my friends, but I much prefer
to make it a matter
of business, and to carry
out that business myself. In my position you can readily understand
that it is unwise to place one's self under obligations.'
"'For how long, may I ask, do you want this sum
?' I asked.
"'Next Monday I have a large sum
due to me, and I shall then most certainly
repay what you advance
, with whatever interest
you think it right
to charge. But it is very essential
to me that the money should be paid at once.'
"'I should be happy to advance
it without further parley
from my own private purse
,' said I, 'were it not that the strain
would be rather more than it could bear. If, on the other hand, I am to do it in the name of the firm, then in justice
to my partner
I must insist
that, even in your case, every business-like precaution
should be taken.'
"'I should much prefer
to have it so,' said he, raising up a square, black morocco case which he had laid beside his chair. 'You have doubtless
heard of the Beryl Coronet?'
"'One of the most precious public
possessions of the empire
,' said I.
"'Precisely.' He opened the case, and there, imbedded in soft, flesh-colored velvet
, lay the magnificent
piece of jewelry
which he had named. 'There are thirty-nine enormous
beryls,' said he, 'and the price of the gold chasing is incalculable
. The lowest estimate
would put the worth of the coronet at double the sum
which I have asked. I am prepared to leave it with you as my security
"I took the precious
case into my hands and looked in some perplexity
from it to my illustrious client
?' he asked.
"'Not at all. I only doubt
of my leaving it. You may set your mind
at rest about that. I should not dream
of doing so were it not absolutely certain
that I should be able
in four days to reclaim
it. It is a pure matter
of form. Is the security sufficient
, Mr. Holder, that I am giving you a strong proof
of the confidence
which I have in you, founded upon all that I have heard of you. I rely
upon you not only to be discreet
and to refrain
from all gossip
upon the matter
, but, above all, to preserve
this coronet with every possible precaution
, because I need
not say that a great public scandal
would be caused if any harm were to befall
it. Any injury
to it would be almost as serious
as its complete
loss, for there are no beryls in the world to match
these, and it would be impossible
them. I leave it with you, however, with every confidence
, and I shall call for it in person on Monday morning.'
"Seeing that my client
to leave, I said no more; but, calling for my cashier
, I ordered him to pay over fifty £1000 notes. When I was alone once more, however, with the precious
case lying upon the table
in front of me, I could not but think with some misgivings of the immense responsibility
which it entailed upon me. There could be no doubt
that, as it was a national possession
, a horrible scandal
if any misfortune
to it. I already regretted having ever consented to take charge of it. However, it was too late to alter
now, so I locked it up in my private
safe, and turned once more to my work.
"When evening came I felt that it would be an imprudence
to leave so precious
a thing in the office
behind me. Bankers' safes had been forced before now, and why should not mine
be? If so, how terrible would be the position in which I should find myself! I determined
, therefore, that for the next few days I would always carry
the case backward
with me, so that it might
never be really out of my reach. With this intention
, I called a cab, and drove out to my house at Streatham, carrying the jewel with me. I did not breathe freely until I had taken it up-stairs and locked it in the bureau
of my dressing-room.
"And now a word as to my household
, Mr. Holmes, for I wish you to thoroughly understand
. My groom
and my page sleep out of the house, and may be set aside
altogether. I have three maid-servants who have been with me a number of years, and whose absolute reliability
is quite above suspicion
. Another, Lucy Parr, the second waiting-maid, has only been in my service
a few months. She came with an excellent character
, however, and has always given me satisfaction
. She is a very pretty girl, and has attracted admirers who have occasionally
hung about the place. That is the only drawback
which we have found to her, but we believe her to be a thoroughly
good girl in every way.
"So much for the servants. My family itself is so small that it will not take me long to describe
it. I am a widower
, and have an only son, Arthur. He has been a disappointment
to me, Mr. Holmes-a grievous disappointment
. I have no doubt
that I am myself to blame
. People tell me that I have spoiled
him. Very likely
I have. When my dear wife died I felt that he was all I had to love. I could not bear to see the smile fade
even for a moment
from his face. I have never denied him a wish. Perhaps it would have been better for both of us had I been sterner, but I meant it for the best.
"It was naturally my intention
that he should succeed
me in my business, but he was not of a business turn. He was wild, wayward
, and, to speak the truth, I could not trust
him in the handling of large sums of money. When he was young he became a member of an aristocratic
club, and there, having charming
manners, he was soon the intimate
of a number of men with long purses and expensive
habits. He learned
to play heavily
at cards and to squander
money on the turf
, until he had again and again to come to me and implore
me to give him an advance
upon his allowance
, that he might settle
his debts of honor
. He tried more than once to break away from the dangerous
company which he was keeping, but each time the influence
of his friend Sir George Burnwell was enough to draw him back again.
"And, indeed, I could not wonder
that such a man as Sir George Burnwell should gain
over him, for he has frequently
brought him to my house, and I have found myself that I could hardly resist
of his manner. He is older than Arthur, a man of the world to his finger-tips, one who had been everywhere, seen everything, a brilliant
talker, and a man of great personal
beauty. Yet when I think of him in cold blood, far away from the glamour
of his presence
, I am convinced
from his cynical speech
, and the look which I have caught in his eyes, that he is one who should be deeply distrusted. So I think, and so, too, thinks my little Mary, who has a woman's quick insight
"And now there is only she to be described. She is my niece; but when my brother died five years ago and left her alone in the world I adopted her, and have looked upon her ever since as my daughter. She is a sunbeam in my house-sweet, loving, beautiful, a wonderful manager
and house-keeper, yet as tender
and quiet and gentle
as a woman could be. She is my right
hand. I do not know what I could do without her. In only one matter
has she ever gone against my wishes. Twice my boy has asked her to marry him, for he loves her devotedly, but each time she has refused him. I think that if any one could have drawn him into the right
path it would have been she, and that his marriage might
have changed his whole life; but now, alas! it is too late-for ever too late!
"Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who live under my roof, and I shall continue
with my miserable
"When we were taking coffee in the drawing-room that night, after dinner, I told Arthur and Mary my experience
, and of the precious treasure
which we had under our roof, suppressing only the name of my client
. Lucy Parr, who had brought in the coffee, had, I am sure, left the room; but I cannot swear
that the door was closed. Mary and Arthur were much interested
, and wished to see the famous
coronet, but I thought
it better not to disturb
"'Where have you put it?' asked Arthur.
"'In my own bureau
"'Well, I hope to goodness the house won't be burgled during the night,' said he.
"'It is locked up,' I answered.
"'Oh, any old key will fit
. When I was a youngster I have opened it myself with the key of the box-room cupboard.'
"He often had a wild way of talking, so that I thought
little of what he said. He followed me to my room, however, that night with a very grave
"'Look here, dad,' said he, with his eyes cast down, 'can you let me have £200?'
"'No, I cannot!' I answered, sharply
. 'I have been far too generous
with you in money matters.'
"'You have been very kind,' said he: 'but I must have this money, or else I can never show my face inside the club again.'
"'And a very good thing, too!' I cried.
"'Yes, but you would not have me leave it a dishonored man,' said he. 'I could not bear the disgrace
. I must raise
the money in some way, and if you will not let me have it, then I must try other means.'
"I was very angry
, for this was the third demand
during the month. 'You shall not have a farthing from me,' I cried; on which he bowed and left the room without another word.
"When he was gone I unlocked my bureau
, made sure that my treasure
was safe, and locked it again. Then I started to go round the house to see that all was secure
which I usually leave to Mary, but which I thought
it well to perform
myself that night. As I came down the stairs I saw Mary herself at the side window of the hall, which she closed and fastened as I approached.
"'Tell me, dad,' said she, looking, I thought
, a little disturbed, 'did you give Lucy, the maid, leave to go out to-night?'
"'She came in just now by the back door. I have no doubt
that she has only been to the side gate to see some one; but I think that it is hardly safe, and should be stopped."
"'You must speak to her in the morning, or I will, if you prefer
it. Are you sure that everything is fastened?'
"'Quite sure, dad.'
"'Then, good-night.' I kissed her, and went up to my bedroom again, where I was soon asleep.
"I am endeavoring to tell you everything, Mr. Holmes, which may have any bearing
upon the case, but I beg that you will question me upon any point which I do not make clear."
"On the contrary
, your statement is singularly lucid
"I come to a part of my story now in which I should wish to be particularly
so. I am not a very heavy sleeper
, and the anxiety
in my mind
tended, no doubt
, to make me even less so than usual. About two in the morning, then, I was awakened by some sound
in the house. It had ceased ere I was wide awake, but it had left an impression
behind it as though a window had gently closed somewhere. I lay listening with all my ears. Suddenly, to my horror
, there was a distinct sound
of footsteps moving softly in the next room. I slipped out of bed, all palpitating with fear, and peeped round the corner
of my dressing-room door.
"'Arthur!' I screamed, 'you villain
! you thief
! How dare
you touch that coronet?'
"The gas was half up, as I had left it, and my unhappy boy, dressed only in his shirt and trousers, was standing beside the light, holding the coronet in his hands. He appeared to be wrenching at it, or bending it with all his strength
. At my cry he dropped it from his grasp
, and turned as pale
as death. I snatched it up and examined it. One of the gold corners, with three of the beryls in it, was missing.
!' I shouted, beside myself with rage
. 'You have destroyed it! You have dishonored me for ever! Where are the jewels which you have stolen?'
"'Stolen!' he cried.
"'Yes, you thief
!' I roared, shaking him by the shoulder.
"'There are none missing. There cannot be any missing,' said he.
"'There are three missing. And you know where they are. Must I call you a liar
as well as a thief
? Did I not see you trying to tear off another piece?'
"'You have called me names enough,' said he; 'I will not stand it any longer. I shall not say another word about this business since you have chosen to insult
me. I will leave your house in the morning and make my own way in the world.'
"'You shall leave it in the hands of the police!' I cried, half-mad
. 'I shall have this matter
probed to the bottom.'
"'You shall learn nothing from me,' said he, with a passion
such as I should not have thought
was in his nature
. 'If you choose to call the police, let the police find what they can.'
"By this time the whole house was astir
, for I had raised my voice in my anger. Mary was the first to rush into my room, and, at the sight
of the coronet and of Arthur's face, she read the whole story, and, with a scream, fell down senseless
on the ground. I sent the house-maid for the police, and put the investigation
into their hands at once. When the inspector
and a constable entered the house, Arthur, who had stood sullenly
with his arms folded, asked me whether it was my intention
to charge him with theft
. I answered that it had ceased to be a private matter
, but had become a public
one, since the ruined
coronet was national property
. I was determined
that the law should have its way in everything.
"'At least,' said he, 'you will not have me arrested at once. It would be to your advantage
as well as mine
if I might
leave the house for five minutes.'
"'That you may get away, or perhaps that you may conceal
what you have stolen,' said I. And then realizing the dreadful
position in which I was placed, I implored him to remember
that not only my honor
, but that of one who was far greater than I was at stake
; and that he threatened to raise
which would convulse
. He might avert
it all if he would but tell me what he had done with the three missing stones.
"'You may as well face the matter
,' said I; 'you have been caught in the act, and no confession
could make your guilt
. If you but make such reparation
as is in your power
, by telling us where the beryls are, all shall be forgiven and forgotten.'
"'Keep your forgiveness
for those who ask for it,' he answered, turning away from me, with a sneer
. I saw that he was too hardened for any words of mine
him. There was but one way for it. I called in the inspector
, and gave him into custody
. A search
was made at once, not only of his person, but of his room, and of every portion
of the house where he could possibly have concealed
the gems; but no trace
of them could be found, nor would the wretched
boy open his mouth for all our persuasions and our threats. This morning he was removed to a cell
, and I, after going through
all the police formalities, have hurried round to you, to implore
you to use your skill
in unravelling the matter
. The police have openly confessed that they can at present make nothing of it. You may go to any expense which you think necessary
. I have already offered a reward
of £1000. My God, what shall I do! I have lost
, my gems, and my son in one night. Oh, what shall I do!"
He put a hand on either side of his head, and rocked himself to and fro, droning to himself like a child whose grief
has got beyond words.
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for some few minutes, with his brows knitted and his eyes fixed upon the fire.
"Do you receive
much company?" he asked.
"None, save my partner
with his family, and an occasional
friend of Arthur's. Sir George Burnwell has been several
times lately. No one else, I think."
"Do you go out much in society
"Arthur does. Mary and I stay at home. We neither of us care for it."
"That is unusual in a young girl."
"She is of a quiet nature
. Besides, she is not so very young. She is four-and-twenty."
, from what you say, seems to have been a shock to her also."
"Terrible! She is even more affected
"You have neither of you any doubt
as to your son's guilt
"How can we have, when I saw him with my own eyes with the coronet in his hands."
"I hardly consider
that a conclusive proof
. Was the remainder
of the coronet at all injured
"Yes, it was twisted."
"Do you not think, then, that he might
have been trying to straighten it?"
"God bless you! You are doing what you can for him and for me. But it is too heavy a task
. What was he doing there at all? If his purpose
, why did he not say so?"
"Precisely. And if it were guilty
, why did he not invent
a lie? His silence
appears to me to cut both ways. There are several singular
points about the case. What did the police think of the noise which awoke you from your sleep?"
that it might
be caused by Arthur's closing his bedroom door."
story! As if a man bent
would slam his door so as to wake
. What did they say, then, of the disappearance of these gems?"
"They are still sounding the planking and probing the furniture in the hope of finding them."
"Have they thought
of looking outside the house?"
"Yes, they have shown energy
. The whole garden has already been minutely
"Now, my dear sir," said Holmes, "is it not obvious
to you now that this matter
really strikes very much deeper than either you or the police were at first inclined
to think? It appeared to you to be a simple
case; to me it seems exceedingly complex
. Consider what is involved
by your theory
. You suppose
that your son came down from his bed, went, at great risk
, to your dressing-room, opened your bureau
, took out your coronet, broke off by main force
a small portion
of it, went off to some other place, concealed
three gems out of the thirty-nine, with such skill
that nobody can find them, and then returned with the other thirty-six into the room in which he exposed
himself to the greatest danger of being discovered. I ask you now, is such a theory tenable
"But what other is there?" cried the banker, with a gesture
. "If his motives were innocent
, why does he not explain
"It is our task
to find that out," replied Holmes; "so now, if you please, Mr. Holder, we will set off for Streatham together, and devote
an hour to glancing a little more closely into details."
My friend insisted upon my accompanying
them in their expedition
, which I was eager
enough to do, for my curiosity
were deeply stirred by the story to which we had listened. I confess
that the guilt
of the banker's son appeared to me to be as obvious
as it did to his unhappy father, but still I had such faith
in Holmes's judgment
that I felt that there must be some grounds for hope as long as he was dissatisfied with the accepted explanation
. He hardly spoke
a word the whole way out to the southern suburb
, but sat with his chin upon his breast and his hat drawn over his eyes, sunk in the deepest thought
. Our client
appeared to have taken fresh heart
at the little glimpse
of hope which had been presented to him, and he even broke into a desultory chat
with me over his business affairs. A short railway journey
and a shorter walk brought us to Fairbank, the modest residence
of the great financier
Fairbank was a good-sized square house of white stone, standing back a little from the road. A double carriage-sweep, with a snow-clad lawn, stretched down in front to two large iron
gates which closed the entrance
. On the right
side was a small wooden thicket
, which led into a narrow
path between two neat hedges stretching from the road to the kitchen door, and forming the tradesmen's entrance
. On the left ran a lane which led to the stables, and was not itself within the grounds at all, being a public
, though little used, thoroughfare
. Holmes left us standing at the door, and walked slowly all round the house, across the front, down the tradesmen's path, and so round by the garden behind into the stable
lane. So long was he that Mr. Holder and I went into the dining-room and waited by the fire until he should return. We were sitting there in silence
when the door opened and a young lady came in. She was rather above the middle height
, with dark hair and eyes, which seemed the darker against the absolute pallor
of her skin. I do not think that I have ever seen such deadly paleness in a woman's face. Her lips, too, were bloodless, but her eyes were flushed with crying. As she swept silently into the room she impressed
me with a greater sense of grief
than the banker had done in the morning, and it was the more striking
in her as she was evidently a woman of strong character
, with immense capacity
for self-restraint. Disregarding my presence
, she went straight
to her uncle, and passed her hand over his head with a sweet womanly caress
"You have given orders that Arthur should be liberated
, have you not, dad?" she asked.
"No, no, my girl, the matter
must be probed to the bottom."
"But I am so sure that he is innocent
. You know what women's instincts are. I know that he has done no harm and that you will be sorry for having acted so harshly."
"Why is he silent, then, if he is innocent
"Who knows? Perhaps because he was so angry
that you should suspect
"How could I help suspecting him, when I actually
saw him with the coronet in his hand?"
"Oh, but he had only picked it up to look at it. Oh do, do take my word for it that he is innocent
. Let the matter drop
and say no more. It is so dreadful
to think of our dear Arthur in prison!"
"I shall never let it drop
until the gems are found-never, Mary! Your affection
for Arthur blinds you as to the awful consequences to me. Far from hushing the thing up, I have brought a gentleman down from London to inquire
more deeply into it."
"This gentleman?" she asked, facing round to me.
"No, his friend. He wished us to leave him alone. He is round in the stable
lane?" She raised her dark eyebrows. "What can he hope to find there? Ah! this, I suppose
, is he. I trust
, sir, that you will succeed
in proving, what I feel sure is the truth, that my cousin Arthur is innocent
of this crime."
"I fully share your opinion
, and I trust
, with you, that we may prove
it," returned Holmes, going back to the mat to knock the snow from his shoes. "I believe I have the honor
of addressing Miss Mary Holder. Might I ask you a question or two?"
"Pray do, sir, if it may help to clear this horrible affair
"You heard nothing yourself last night?"
"Nothing, until my uncle here began to speak loudly. I heard that, and I came down."
"You shut up the windows and doors the night before. Did you fasten
all the windows?"
"Were they all fastened this morning?"
"You have a maid who has a sweetheart? I think that you remarked to your uncle last night that she had been out to see him?"
"Yes, and she was the girl who waited in the drawing-room, and who may have heard uncle's remarks about the coronet."
"I see. You infer
that she may have gone out to tell her sweetheart, and that the two may have planned the robbery."
"But what is the good of all these vague
theories," cried the banker, impatiently, "when I have told you that I saw Arthur with the coronet in his hands?"
"Wait a little, Mr. Holder. We must come back to that. About this girl, Miss Holder. You saw her return by the kitchen door, I presume
"Yes; when I went to see if the door was fastened for the night I met her slipping in. I saw the man, too, in the gloom
"Do you know him?"
"Oh yes; he is the green-grocer who brings our vegetables round. His name is Francis Prosper."
"He stood," said Holmes, "to the left of the door-that is to say, farther up the path than is necessary
to reach the door?"
"Yes, he did."
"And he is a man with a wooden leg?"
Something like fear sprang up in the young lady's expressive
black eyes. "Why, you are like a magician
," said she. "How do you know that?" She smiled, but there was no answering smile in Holmes's thin
"I should be very glad now to go up-stairs," said he. "I shall probably
wish to go over the outside of the house again. Perhaps I had better take a look at the lower windows before I go up."
He walked swiftly round from one to the other, pausing only at the large one which looked from the hall onto the stable
lane. This he opened, and made a very careful examination
of the sill with his powerful
. "Now we shall go up-stairs," said he, at last.
The banker's dressing-room was a plainly
furnished little chamber
, with a gray carpet, a large bureau
, and a long mirror. Holmes went to the bureau
first and looked hard at the lock.
"Which key was used to open it?" he asked.
"That which my son himself indicated-that of the cupboard of the lumber-room."
"Have you it here?"
"That is it on the dressing-table
Sherlock Holmes took it up and opened the bureau
"It is a noiseless lock," said he. "It is no wonder
that it did not wake
you. This case, I presume
, contains the coronet. We must have a look at it." He opened the case, and, taking out the diadem
, he laid it upon the table
. It was a magnificent specimen
of the jeweller's art, and the thirty-six stones were the finest that I have ever seen. At one side of the coronet was a cracked edge
, where a corner
holding three gems had been torn away.
"Now, Mr. Holder," said Holmes, "here is the corner
which corresponds to that which has been so unfortunately lost
. Might I beg that you will break it off."
The banker recoiled in horror
. "I should not dream
of trying," said he.
"Then I will." Holmes suddenly bent
upon it, but without result
. "I feel it give a little," said he; "but, though I am exceptionally strong in the fingers, it would take me all my time to break it. An ordinary
man could not do it. Now, what do you think would happen if I did break it, Mr. Holder? There would be a noise like a pistol
shot. Do you tell me that all this happened within a few yards of your bed, and that you heard nothing of it?"
"I do not know what to think. It is all dark to me."
"But perhaps it may grow lighter as we go. What do you think, Miss Holder?"
that I still share my uncle's perplexity
"Your son had no shoes or slippers on when you saw him?"
"He had nothing on save only his trousers and shirt."
"Thank you. We have certainly
been favored with luck during this inquiry
, and it will be entirely our own fault
if we do not succeed
up. With your permission
, Mr. Holder, I shall now continue
my investigations outside."
He went alone, at his own request
, for he explained that any unnecessary
make his task
. For an hour or more he was at work, returning at last with his feet heavy with snow and his features as inscrutable
"I think that I have seen now all that there is to see, Mr. Holder," said he; "I can serve
you best by returning to my rooms."
"But the gems, Mr. Holmes. Where are they?"
"I cannot tell."
The banker wrung his hands. "I shall never see them again!" he cried. "And my son? You give me hopes?"
is in no way altered
"Then, for God's sake, what was this dark business which was acted in my house last night?"
"If you can call upon me at my Baker Street rooms to-morrow morning between nine and ten I shall be happy to do what I can to make it clearer. I understand
that you give me carte blanche to act for you, provided only that I get back the gems, and that you place no limit
on the sum
I may draw."
"I would give my fortune
to have them back."
"Very good. I shall look into the matter
between this and then. Good-bye; it is just possible
that I may have to come over here again before evening."
It was obvious
to me that my companion
was now made up about the case, although what his conclusions were was more than I could even dimly imagine
. Several times during our homeward journey
I endeavored to sound
him upon the point, but he always glided away to some other topic
, until at last I gave it over in despair
. It was not yet three when we found ourselves in our room once more. He hurried to his chamber
, and was down again in a few minutes dressed as a common
loafer. With his collar turned up, his shiny
coat, his red cravat
, and his worn boots, he was a perfect sample
of the class.
"I think that this should do," said he, glancing into the glass above the fireplace. "I only wish that you could come with me, Watson, but I fear that it won't do. I may be on the trail in this matter
, or I may be following a will-of-the-wisp, but I shall soon know which it is. I hope that I may be back in a few hours." He cut a slice of beef from the joint
upon the sideboard, sandwiched it between two rounds of bread, and, thrusting this rude
meal into his pocket, he started off upon his expedition
I had just finished my tea when he returned, evidently in excellent
spirits, swinging an old elastic-sided boot in his hand. He chucked it down into a corner
and helped himself to a cup of tea.
"I only looked in as I passed," said he. "I am going right
"Oh, to the other side of the West End. It may be some time before I get back. Don't wait up for me in case I should be late."
"How are you getting on?"
"Oh, so so. Nothing to complain
of. I have been out to Streatham since I saw you last, but I did not call at the house. It is a very sweet little problem
, and I would not have missed it for a good deal. However, I must not sit gossiping here, but must get these disreputable
clothes off and return to my highly respectable
I could see by his manner that he had stronger reasons for satisfaction
than his words alone would imply
. His eyes twinkled, and there was even a touch of color upon his sallow
cheeks. He hastened up-stairs, and a few minutes later I heard the slam of the hall door, which told me that he was off once more upon his congenial
I waited until midnight, but there was no sign of his return, so I retired to my room. It was no uncommon thing for him to be away for days and nights on end when he was hot upon a scent
, so that his lateness caused me no surprise
. I do not know at what hour he came in, but when I came down to breakfast in the morning, there he was with a cup of coffee in one hand and the paper in the other, as fresh
"You will excuse
my beginning without you, Watson," said he; "but you remember
that our client
has rather an early appointment
"Why, it is after nine now," I answered. "I should not be surprised if that were he. I thought
I heard a ring."
It was, indeed, our friend the financier
. I was shocked by the change which had come over him, for his face, which was naturally of a broad
mould, was now pinched and fallen
in, while his hair seemed to me at least a shade whiter. He entered with a weariness
which was even more painful than his violence
of the morning before, and he dropped heavily
into the arm-chair which I pushed forward
"I do not know what I have done to be so severely tried," said he. "Only two days ago I was a happy and prosperous
man, without a care in the world. Now I am left to a lonely
and dishonored age. One sorrow
comes close upon the heels of another. My niece, Mary, has deserted
"Yes. Her bed this morning had not been slept in, her room was empty
, and a note for me lay upon the hall table
. I had said to her last night, in sorrow
and not in anger, that if she had married my boy all might
have been well with him. Perhaps it was thoughtless of me to say so. It is to that that she refers in this note:
"'My dearest Uncle,-I feel that I have brought trouble upon you, and that if I had acted differently this terrible misfortune might
never have occurred. I cannot, with this thought
in my mind
, ever again be happy under your roof, and I feel that I must leave you for ever. Do not worry
about my future
, for that is provided for; and, above all, do not search
for me, for it will be fruitless labor
and an ill-service
to me. In life or in death, I am ever your loving
"It is, unfortunately
, more than possible
; it is certain
. Neither you nor your son knew the true character
of this man when you admitted him into your family circle. He is one of the most dangerous
men in England-a ruined
gambler, an absolutely desperate villain
, a man without heart
. Your niece knew nothing of such men. When he breathed his vows to her, as he had done to a hundred before her, she flattered herself that she alone had touched his heart
. The devil knows best what he said, but at least she became his tool
, and was in the habit
of seeing him nearly every evening."
"I cannot, and I will not, believe it!" cried the banker, with an ashen