To put this volume back on the shelf, please click here.
To return to the Table of Contents, please click here
The Diogenes Club Logo

Adventure XI:
The Adventure of the
Beryl Coronet
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Strand Magazine
May, 1892


  "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 armchair 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
extraordinary 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 .
  "Here?"
  "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 and despair in his
eyes that our smiles were turned in an instant to horror and pity.
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 to me."
  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.
  "No doubt you think me mad?" said he.
  "I see that you have had some great trouble," responded
Holmes.
  "Cod knows I have! -- a trouble which is enough to unseat my
reason, so sudden and so terrible is it. Public disgrace I might
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."
  "Pray compose 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 banking concern 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 cooperation. 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 is unimpeachable. 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 over-
whelmed by the honour 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 does so when the security is good.' I answered.
  '' 'It is absolutely essential to me,' said he, 'that I should
have 50,000 pounds at once. I could, of course, borrow so trifling a
sum 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 businesslike 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 em-
pire,' said I.
  " 'Precisely.' He opened the case, and there, imbedded in
soft, flesh-coloured velvet, lay the magnificent piece of jewellery
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.
  " 'You doubt its value?' he asked.
  " 'Not at all. I only doubt --'
  " 'The propriety 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?'
  " 'Ample. '
  " 'You understand, 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 to replace 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 was anxious to leave, I said no more
but, calling for my cashier, I ordered him to pay over fifty
1000 pound 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 would ensue if any mis-
fortune should occur to it. I already regretted having ever con-
sented to take charge of it. However, it was too late to alter the
matter 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 and forward 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
upstairs 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 the situation. 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 heav-
ily 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 honour. 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 Bumwell should gain an influence over him, for he has
frequently brought him to my house, and I have found myself
that I could hardly resist the fascination 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 con-
vinced 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 into character.
  "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, beauti-
ful, a wonderful manager and housekeeper, 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 anyone 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 --
forever too late!
  "Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who live under my
roof, and I shall continue with my miserable story.
  "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 it.
  " '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 that bureau. When I was a young-
ster 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 face.
  " 'Look here, dad,' said he with his eyes cast down, 'can you
let me have 200 pounds?'
  " '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 dishonoured
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 -- a duty 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 dis-
turbed, 'did you give Lucy, the maid, leave to go out to-night?'
  " 'Certainly not.'
  " 'She came in just now by the back door. I have no doubt
that she has only been to the side gate to see someone, 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 bed-
room again, where I was soon asleep.
  "I am endeavouring 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 comer 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.
  " 'You blackguard!' I shouted, beside myself with rage. 'You
have destroyed it! You have dishonoured me forever! Where are
the jewels which you have stolen?'
  " 'Stolen!' he cried.
  " 'Yes, 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 moming and make my own way in the world.'
  " 'You shall leave it in the hands of the police!' I cried
half-mad with grief and rage. '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 senscless on the
ground. I sent the house-maid for the police and put the investi-
gation into their hands at once. When the inspector and a consta-
ble 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 honour but that of one who was far greater than I
was at stake; and that he threatened to raise a scandal which
would convulse the nation. 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 more
heinous. 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 an-
swered, turning away from me with a sneer. I saw that he was
too hardened for any words of mine to influence 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 unravel-
ling 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 lOOO pounds.
My God, what shall I do! I have lost my honour, 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."
  "This matter, from what you say, seems to have been a shock
to her also."
  "Terrible! She is even more affected than I."
  "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 were innocent, 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?"
  "They considered that it might be caused by Arthur's closing
his bedroom door."
  "A likely story! As if a man bent on felony would slam his
door so as to wake a household. What did they say, then, of the
disappearance of these gems?"
  "They are still sounding the planking and probing the furni-
ture in the hope of finding them."
  "Have they thought of looking outside the house?"
  "Yes, they have shown extraordinary energy. The whole gar-
den has already been minutely examined."
  "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
otf 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 of
despair. "If his motives were innocent, why does he not explain
them?"
  "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 expe-
dition, which I was eager enough to do, for my curiosity and
sympathy 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, stand-
ing 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, slim, 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. Disre-
garding 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
woman'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 him."
  "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 now."
  "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 honour 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 up."
  "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?"
  "Yes ."
  "Were they all fastened this morning?"
  "Yes."
  "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, eager face.
  "I should be very glad now to go upstairs," 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 magnifying lens. "Now we shall go upstairs,"
said he at last.
  The banker's dressing-room was a plainly furnished little cham-
ber, 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 thiny-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 his strength 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?"
  "I confess 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 favoured with extraordi-
nary luck during this inquiry, and it will be entirely our own
fault if we do not succeed in clearing the matter up. With your
pemmission, Mr. Holder, I shall now continue my investigations
outside."
  He went alone, at his own request, for he explained that any
unnecessary footmarks might make his task more difficult. For
an hour or more he was at work, returning at last with his feet
heavy with snow and his features as inscrutable as ever.
  "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?"
  "My opinion 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's mind 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 endeavoured 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 rooms 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, seedy 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. "l 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-o'-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 excel-
lent 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 on."
  "Where to?"
  "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 re-
spectable self."
  I could see by his manner that he had stronger reasons for
satisfaction than his words alone would imply. His eyes twin-
kled, and there was even a touch of colour upon his sallow
cheeks. He hastened upstairs, 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 hunt.
  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 and trim as possible.
  "You will excuse my beginning without you, Watson," said
he, "but you remember that our client has rather an early
appointment this morning."
  "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 and massive mould, was now pinched and
fallen in, while his hair seemed to me at least a shade whiter. He
entered with a weariness and lethargy which was even more
painful than his violence of the morning before, and he dropped
heavily into the armchair which I pushed forward for him.
  "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
dishonoured age. One sorrow comes close upon the heels of
another. My niece, Mary, has deserted me."
  "Deserted you?"
  "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 remark 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 forever. Do not worry about my future, for that is
         provided for; and, above all, do not search for me, for it
         will be fruitless labour and an ill-service to me. In life or in
         death, I am ever
                                                      "Your loving
                                                            "MARY.

  "What could she mean by that note, Mr. Holmes? Do you think
it points to suicide?"
  "No, no, nothing of the kind. It is perhaps the best possible
solution. I trust, Mr. Holder, that you are nearing the end of
your troubles."
  "Ha! You say so! You have heard something, Mr. Holmes;
you have learned something! Where are the gems?"
  "You would not think 1000 pounds apiece an excessive sum for
them?"
  "I would pay ten."
  "That would be unnecessary. Three thousand will cover the
matter. And there is a little reward, I fancy. Have you your
check-book? Here is a pen. Better make it out for 4000 pounds."
  With a dazed face the banker made out the required check.
Holmes walked over to his desk, took out a little triangular piece
of gold with three gems in it, and threw it down upon the table.
  With a shriek of joy our client clutched it up.
  "You have it!" he gasped. "I am saved! I am saved!"
  The reaction of joy was as passionate as his grief had been,
and he hugged his recovered gems to his bosom.
  "There is one other thing you owe, Mr. Holder," said Sher-
lock Holmes rather sternly.
  "Owe!" He caught up a pen. "Name the sum, and I will pay
it."
  "No, the debt is not to me. You owe a very humble apology
to that noble lad, your son, who has carried himself in this
matter as I should be proud to see my own son do, should I ever
chance to have one."
  "Then it was not Arthur who took them?''
  "I told you yesterday, and I repeat to-day, that it was not."
  "You are sure of it! Then let us hurry to him at once to let
him know that the truth is known."
  "He knows it already. When I had cleared it all up I had an
interview with him. and finding that he would not tell me the
story, I told it to him, on which he had to confess that I was right
and to add the very few details which were not yet quite clear to
me. Your news of this morning, however, may open his lips."
  "For heaven's sake, tell me, then, what is this extraordinary
mystery !"
  "I will do so, and I will show you the steps by which I
reached it. And let me say to you, first, that which it is hardest
for me to say and for you to hear: there has been an understand-
ing between Sir George Burnwell and your niece Mary. They
have now fled together."
  "My Mary? Impossible!"
  "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 or conscience. 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 face.
  "I will tell you, then, what occurred in your house last night.
Your niece, when you had, as she thought, gone to your room.
slipped down and talked to her lover through the window which
leads into the stable lane. His footmarks had pressed right through
the snow, so long had he stood there. She told him of the
coronet. His wicked lust for gold kindled at the news, and he
bent her to his will. I have no doubt that she loved you, but there
are women in whom the love of a lover extinguishes all other
loves, and I think that she must have been one. She had hardly
listened to his instructions when she saw you coming downstairs,
on which she closed the window rapidly and told you about one
of the servants' escapade with her wooden-legged lover, which
was all perfectly true.
  "Your boy, Arthur, went to bed after his interview with you
but he slept badly on account of his uneasiness about his club
debts. In the middle of the night he heard a soft tread pass his
door, so he rose and, looking out, was surprised to see his
cousin walking very stealthily along the passage until she disap-
peared into your dressing-room. Petrified with astonishment. the
lad slipped on some clothes and waited there in the dark to see
what would come of this strange affair. Presently she emerged
from the room again, and in the light of the passage-lamp your
son saw that she carried the precious coronet in her hands. She
passed down the stairs, and he, thrilling with horror, ran along
and slipped behind the curtain near your door, whence he could
see what passed in the hall beneath. He saw her stealthily open
the window, hand out the coronet to someone in the gloom, and
then closing it once more hurry back to her room, passing quite
close to where he stood hid behind the curtain.
  "As long as she was on the scene he could not take any action
without a horrible exposure of the woman whom he loved. But
the instant that she was gone he realized how crushing a misfor-
tune this would be for you, and how all-important it was to set it
right. He rushed down, just as he was, in his bare feet, opened
the window, sprang out into the snow, and ran down the lane,
where he could see a dark figure in the moonlight. Sir George
Burnwell tried to get away, but Arthur caught him, and there
was a struggle between them, your lad tugging at one side of the
coronet, and his opponent at the other. In the scuffle, your son
struck Sir George and cut him over the eye. Then something
suddenly snapped, and your son, finding that he had the coronet
in his hands, rushed back, closed the window, ascended to your
room, and had just observed that the coronet had been twisted in
the struggle and was endeavouring to straighten it when you
appeared upon the scene."
  "Is it possible?" gasped the banker.
  "You then roused his anger by calling him names at a moment
when he felt that he had deserved your warmest thanks. He could
not explain the true state of affairs without betraying one who
certainly deserved little enough consideration at his hands. He
took the more chivalrous view, however, and preserved her
secret."
  "And that was why she shrieked and fainted when she saw
the coronet," cried Mr. Holder. "Oh, my God! what a blind
fool I have been! And his asking to be allowed to go out for five
minutes! The dear fellow wanted to see if the missing piece were
at the scene of the struggle. How cruelly I have misjudged him!'
  "When I arrived at the house," continued Holmes, "I at once
went very carefully round it to observe if there were any traces in
the snow which might help me. I knew that none had fallen since
the evening before, and also that there had been a strong frost to
preserve impressions. I passed along the tradesmen's path, but
found it all trampled down and indistinguishable. Just beyond it,
however, at the far side of the kitchen door, a woman had stood
and talked with a man, whose round impressions on one side
showed that he had a wooden leg. I could even tell that they had
been disturbed, for the woman had run back swiftly to the door,
as was shown by the deep toe and light heel marks, while
Wooden-leg had waited a little, and then had gone away. I
thought at the time that this might be the maid and her sweet-
heart, of whom you had already spoken to me, and inquiry
showed it was so. I passed round the garden without seeing
anything more than random tracks, which I took to be the police;
but when I got into the stable lane a very long and complex story
was written in the snow in front of me.
  "There was a double line of tracks of a booted man, and a
second double line which I saw with delight belonged to a man
with naked feet. I was at once convinced from what you had told
me that the latter was your son. The first had walked both ways,
but the other had run swiftly, and as his tread was marked in
places over the depression of the boot, it was obvious that he had
passed after the other. I followed them up and found they led to
the hall window, where Boots had worn all the snow away while
waiting. Then I walked to the other end, which was a hundred
yards or more down the lane. I saw where Boots had faced
round, where the snow was cut up as though there had been a
struggle, and, finally, where a few drops of blood had fallen, to
show me that I was not mistaken. Boots had then run down the
lane, and another little smudge of blood showed that it was he
who had been hurt. When he came to the highroad at the other
end, I found that the pavement had been cleared, so there was an
end to that clue.
  "On entering the house, however, I examined, as you remem-
ber, the sill and framework of the hall window with my lens, and
I could at once see that someone had passed out. I could distin-
guish the outline of an instep where the wet foot had been placed
in coming in. I was then beginning to be able to form an opinion
as to what had occurred. A man had waited outside the window;
someone had brought the gems; the deed had been overseen by
your son; he had pursued the thief; had struggled with him; they
had each tugged at the coronet, their united strength causing
injuries which neither alone could have effected. He had returned
with the prize, but had left a fragment in the grasp of his
opponent. So far I was clear. The question now was, who was
the man and who was it brought him the coronet?
  "It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the
truth. Now, I knew that it was not you who had brought it down,
so there only remained your niece and the maids. But if it were
the maids, why should your son allow himself to be accused in
their place? There could be no possible reason. As he loved his
cousin, however, there was an excellent explanation why he
should retain her secret -- the more so as the secret was a dis-
graceful one. When I remembered that you had seen her at that
window, and how she had fainted on seeing the coronet again,
my conjecture became a certainty.
  "And who could it be who was her confederate? A lover
evidently, for who else could outweigh the love and gratitude
which she must feel to you? I knew that you went out little, and
that your circle of friends was a very limited one. But among
them was Sir George Burnwell. I had heard of him before as
being a man of evil reputation among women. It must have been
he who wore those boots and retained the missing gems. Even
though he knew that Arthur had discovered him, he might still
flatter himself that he was safe, for the lad could not say a word
without compromising his own family.
  "Well, your own good sense will suggest what measures I
took next. I went in the shape of a loafer to Sir George's house,
managed to pick up an acquaintance with his valet, learned that
his master had cut his head the night before, and, finally, at the
expense of six shillings, made all sure by buying a pair of his
cast-off shoes. With these I journeyed down to Streatham and
saw that they exactly fitted the tracks."
  "I saw an ill-dressed vagabond in the lane yesterday evening,"
said Mr. Holder.
  "Precisely. It was I. I found that I had my man, so I came
home and changed my clothes. It was a delicate part which I had
to play then, for I saw that a prosecution must be avoided to
avert scandal, and I knew that so astute a villain would see that
our hands were tied in the matter. I went and saw him. At first,
of course, he denied everything. But when I gave him every
particular that had occurred, he tried to bluster and took down a
life-preserver from the wall. I knew my man, however, and I
clapped a pistol to his head before he could strike. Then he
became a little more reasonable. I told him that we would give
him a price for the stones he held lOOO pounds apiece. That brought
out the first signs of grief that he had shown. 'Why, dash it all!'
said he, 'I've let them go at six hundred for the three!' I soon
managed to get the address of the receiver who had them, on
promising him that there would be no prosecution. Off I set to
him, and after much chaffering I got our stones at 1000 pounds apiece.
Then I looked in upon your son, told him that all was right, and
eventually got to my bed about two o'clock, after what I may
call a really hard day's work."
  "A day which has saved England from a great public scan-
dal," said the banker, rising. "Sir, I cannot find words to thank
you, but you shall not find me ungrateful for what you have
done. Your skill has indeed exceeded all that I have heard of it.
And now I must fly to my dear boy to apologize to him for the
wrong which I have done him. As to what you tell me of poor
Mary, it goes to my very heart. Not even your skill can inform
me where she is now."
  "I think that we may safely say," returned Holmes, "that she
is wherever Sir George Burnwell is. It is equally certain, too,
that whatever her sins are, they will soon receive a more than
sufficient punishment."

To return to the Table of Contents, please click here

The Diogenes Club:  (c) Copyright 1999-2000 The Diogenes Club All Rights Reserved