| In choosing a few typical cases which illustrate
mental qualities of my friend, Sherlock Holmes, I
oured, as far as possible, to select those which presented
minimum of sensationalism, while offering a fair field
talents. It is, however, unfortunately impossible
entirely to sepa-
rate the sensational from the criminal, and a chronicler
is left in
the dilemma that he must either sacrifice details
essential to his statement and so give a false impression
problem, or he must use matter which chance, and not
has provided him with. With this short preface I shall
turn to my
notes of what proved to be a strange, though a peculiarly
ble, chain of events.
It was a blazing hot day in August. Baker Street
was like an
oven, and the glare of the sunlight upon the yellow
the house across the road was painful to the eye.
It was hard to
believe that these were the same walls which loomed
through the fogs of winter. Our blinds were half-drawn,
Holmes lay curled upon the sofa, reading and re-reading
which he had received by the morning post. For myself,
of service in India had trained me to stand heat better
and a thermometer at ninety was no hardship. But the
paper was uninteresting. Parliament had risen. Everybody
out of town, and I yearned for the glades of the New
the shingle of Southsea. A depleted bank account had
to postpone my holiday, and as to my companion, neither
country nor the sea presented the slightest attraction
to him. He
loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of
people, with his
filaments stretching out and running through them,
every little rumour or suspicion of unsolved crime.
of nature found no place among his many gifts, and
change was when he turned his mind from the evil-doer
town to track down his brother of the country.
Finding that Holmes was too absorbed for conversation
tossed aside the barren paper, and leaning back in
my chair I fell
into a brown study. Suddenly my companion's voice
upon my thoughts:
"You are right, Watson," said he. "It does
seem a most
preposterous way of settling a dispute."
"Most preposterous!" I exclaimed, and then
ing how he had echoed the inmost thought of my soul,
I sat up in
my chair and stared at him in blank amazement.
"What is this, Holmes?" I cried. "This is beyond
which I could have imagined."
He laughed heartily at my perplexity.
"You remember," said he, "that some little
time ago when I
read you the passage in one of Poe's sketches in which
reasoner follows the unspoken thoughts of his companion,
were inclined to treat the matter as a mere tour-de-force
author. On my remarking that I was constantly in the
doing the same thing you expressed incredulity."
"Perhaps not with your tongue, my dear Watson,
with your eyebrows. So when I saw you throw down your
and enter upon a train of thought, I was very happy
to have the
oportunity of reading it off, and eventually of breaking
as a proof that I had been in rapport with you."
But I was still far from satisfied. "In the
example which you
read to me," said I, "the reasoner drew his conclusions
actions of the man whom he observed. If I remember
stumbled over a heap of stones, looked up at the stars,
on. But I have been seated quietly in my chair, and
can I have given you?"
"You do yourself an injustice. The features
are given to man
as the means by which he shall express his emotions,
are faithful servants."
"Do you mean to say that you read my train
of thoughts from
"Your features and especially your eyes. Perhaps
yourself recall how your reverie commenced?"
"No, I cannot."
"Then I will tell you. After throwing down
your paper, which
was the action which drew my attention to you, you
sat for half a
minute with a vacant expression. Then your eyes fixed
selves upon your newly framed picture of General Gordon,
saw by the alteration in your face that a train of
thought had been
started. But it did not lead very far. Your eyes flashed
the unframed portrait of Henry Ward Beecher which
the top of your books. Then you glanced up at the
wall, and of
course your meaning was obvious. You were thinking
that if the
portrait were framed it would just cover that bare
correspond with Gordon's picture over there."
"You have followed me wonderfully!" I exclaimed.
"So far I could hardly have gone astray. But
thoughts went back to Beecher, and you looked hard
across as if
you were studying the character in his features. Then
ceased to pucker, but you continued to look across,
face was thoughtful. You were recalling the incidents
cher's career. I was well aware that you could not
without thinking of the mission which he undertook
on behalf of
the North at the time of the Civil War, for I remember
expressing your passionate indignation at the way
in which he
was received by the more turbulent of our people.
You felt so
strongly about it that I knew you could not think
without thinking of that also. When a moment later
I saw your
eyes wander away from the picture, I suspected that
had now turned to the Civil War, and when I observed
lips set, your eyes sparkled, and your hands clenched
positive that you were indeed thinking of the gallantry
shown by both sides in that desperate struggle. But
your face grew sadder; you shook your head. You were
upon the sadness and horror and useless waste of life.
stole towards your own old wound and a smile quivered
lips, which showed me that the ridiculous side of
this method of
settling international questions had forced itself
upon your mind.
At this point I agreed with you that it was preposterous
glad to find that all my deductions had been correct."
"Absolutely!" said I. "And now that you have
explained it, I
confess that I am as amazed as before."
"It was very superficial, my dear Watson, I
assure you. I
should not have intruded it upon your attention had
shown some incredulity the other day. But I have in
here a little problem which may prove to be more difficult
solution than my small essay in thought reading. Have
observed in the paper a short paragraph referring
to the remark-
able contents of a packet sent through the post to
of Cross Street, Croydon?"
"No, I saw nothing."
"Ah! then you must have overlooked it. Just
toss it over to
me. Here it is, under the financial column. Perhaps
be good enough to read it aloud."
I picked up the paper which he had thrown back
to me and
read the paragraph indicated. It was headed "A Gruesome
Cushing, living at Cross Street, Croydon,
has been made the victim
of what must be regarded as a
peculiarly revolting practical
joke unless some more sinister
meaning should prove to
be attached to the incident. At two
o'clock yesterday afternoon
a small packet, wrapped in
brown paper, was handed
in by the postman. A cardboard
box was inside, which
was filled with coarse salt. On
emptying this, Miss Cushing
was horrified to find two
human ears, apparently
quite freshly severed. The box had
been sent by parcel post
from Belfast upon the morning
before. There is no indication
as to the sender, and the
matter is the more mysterious
as Miss Cushing, who is a
maiden lady of fifty,
has led a most retired life, and has so
few acquaintances or correspondents
that it is a rare event
for her to receive anything
through the post. Some years
ago, however, when she
resided at Penge, she let apart-
ments in her house to
three young medical students,
whom she was obliged to
get rid of on account of their
noisy and irregular habits.
The police are of opinion that
this outrage may have
been perpetrated upon Miss Cush-
ing by these youths, who
owed her a grudge and who
hoped to frighten her
by sending her these relics of the
probability is lent to the theory
by the fact that one of
these students came from the
north of Ireland, and,
to the best of Miss Cushing's
belief, from Belfast.
In the meantime, the matter is being
Mr. Lestrade, one of the very smart-
est of our detective officers,
being in charge of the
"So much for the Daily Chronicle," said Holmes
as I finished
reading. "Now for our friend Lestrade. I had a note
this morning, in which he says:
"I think that
this case is very much in your line. We have
every hope of clearing
the matter up, but we find a little
difficulty in getting
anything to work upon. We have, of
course, wired to the Belfast
post-office, but a large number
of parcels were handed
in upon that day, and they have no
means of identifying this
particular one, or of remembering
the sender. The box is
a half-pound box of honeydew
tobacco and does not help
us in any way. The medical
student theory still appears
to me to be the most feasible,
but if you should have
a few hours to spare I should be very
happy to see you out here.
I shall be either at the house or
in the police-station
What say you, Watson? Can you rise superior to the
run down to Croydon with me on the off chance of a
"I was longing for something to do."
"You shall have it then. Ring for our boots
and tell them to
order a cab. I'll be back in a moment when I have
dressing-gown and filled my cigar-case."
A shower of rain fell while we were in the
train, and the heat
was far less oppressive in Croydon than in town. Holmes
sent on a wire, so that Lestrade, as wiry, as dapper,
ferret-like as ever, was waiting for us at the station.
A walk of
five minutes took us to Cross Street, where Miss Cushing
It was a very long street of two-story brick
houses, neat and
prim, with whitened stone steps and little groups
women gossiping at the doors. Halfway down, Lestrade
and tapped at a door, which was opened by a small
Miss Cushing was sitting in the front room, into which
ushered. She was a placid-faced woman, with large,
and grizzled hair curving down over her temples on
each side. A
worked antimacassar lay upon her lap and a basket
silks stood upon a stool beside her.
"They are in the outhouse, those dreadful things,"
said she as
Lestrade entered. "I wish that you would take them
"So I shall, Miss Cushing. I only kept them
here until my
friend, Mr. Holmes, should have seen them in your
"Why in my presence, sir?"
"In case he wished to ask any questions."
"What is the use of asking me questions when
I tell you I
know nothing whatever about it?"
"Quite so, madam," said Holmes in his soothing
have no doubt that you have been annoyed more than
already over this business."
"Indeed, I have, sir. I am a quiet woman and
live a retired
life. It is something new for me to see my name in
and to find the police in my house. I won't have those
here, Mr. Lestrade. If you wish to see them you must
go to the
It was a small shed in the narrow garden which
ran behind the
house. Lestrade went in and brought out a yellow cardboard
with a piece of brown paper and some string. There
was a bench
at the end of the path, and we all sat down while
examined, one by one, the articles which Lestrade
had handed to
"The string is exceedingly interesting," he
it up to the light and sniffing at it. "What do you
make of this
"It has been tarred."
"Precisely. It is a piece of tarred twine.
You have also, no
doubt, remarked that Miss Cushing has cut the cord
scissors, as can be seen by the double fray on each
side. This is
"I cannot see the importance," said Lestrade.
"The importance lies in the fact that the knot
is left intact, and
that this knot is of a peculiar character."
"It is very neatly tied. I had already made
a note to that
effect," said Lestrade complacently.
"So much for the string, then," said Holmes,
for the box wrapper. Brown paper, with a distinct
coffee. What, did you not observe it? I think there
can be no
doubt of it. Address printed in rather straggling
S. Cushing, Cross Street, Croydon.' Done with a broad-pointed
pen, probably a J, and with very inferior ink. The
has been originally spelled with an 'i,' which has
to 'y.' The parcel was directed, then, by a man --
the printing is
distinctly masculine -- of limited education and unacquainted
the town of Croydon. So far, so good! The box is a
half-pound honeydew box, with nothing distinctive
thumb marks at the left bottom corner. It is filled
with rough salt
of the quality used for preserving hides and other
of the coarser
commercial purposes. And embedded in it are these
He took out the two ears as he spoke, and laying
across his knee he examined them minutely, while Lestrade
I, bending forward on each side of him, glanced alternately
these dreadful relics and at the thoughtful, eager
face of our
companion. Finally he returned them to the box once
sat for a while in deep meditation.
"You have observed, of course," said he at
last, "that the
ears are not a pair."
"Yes, I have noticed that. But if this were
the practical joke
of some students from the dissecting-rooms, it would
be as easy
for them to send two odd ears as a pair."
"Precisely. But this is not a practical joke."
"You are sure of it?"
"The presumption is strongly against it. Bodies
in the dissecting-
rooms are injected with preservative fluid. These
ears bear no
signs of this. They are fresh, too. They have been
cut off with a
blunt ihstrument, which would hardly happen if a student
done it. Again, carbolic or rectified spirits would
be the preserva-
tives ivhich would suggest themselves to the medical
certainly not rough salt. I repeat that there is no
here, but that we are investigating a serious crime."
A vague thrill ran through me as I listened
to my companion's
words and saw the stern gravity which had hardened
This brutal preliminary seemed to shadow forth some
inexplicable horror in the background. Lestrade, however,
his head like a man who is only half convinced.
"There are objections to the joke theory, no
doubt," said he,
"but there are much stronger reasons against the other.
that this woman has led a most quiet and respectable
Penge and here for the last twenty years. She has
away from her home for a day during that time. Why
then, should any criminal send her the proofs of his
especially as, unless she is a most consummate actress,
understands quite as little of the matter as we do?"
"That is the problem which we have to solve,"
answered, "and for my part I shall set about it by
my reasoning is correct, and that a double murder
committed. One of these ears is a woman's, small,
and pierced for an earring. The other is a man's,
discoloured, and also pierced for an earring. These
are presumably dead, or we should have heard their
now. To-day is Friday. The packet was posted on Thursday
morning. The tragedy, then, occurred on Wednesday
or earlier. If the two people were murdered, who but
murderer would have sent this sign of his work to
We may take it that the sender of the packet is the
man whom we
want. But he must have some strong reason for sending
Cushing this packet. What reason then? It must have
been to tell
her that the deed was done! or to pain her, perhaps.
But in that
case she knows who it is. Does she know? I doubt it.
knew, why should she call the police in? She might
the ears, and no one would have been the wiser. That
is what she
would have done if she had wished to shield the criminal.
she does not wish to shield him she would give his
is a tangle here which needs straightening out." He
talking in a high, quick voice, staring blankly up
over the garden
fence, but now he sprang briskly to his feet and walked
"I have a few questions to ask Miss Cushing,"
"In that case I may leave you here," said Lestrade,
have another small business on hand. I think that
I have nothing
further to learn from Miss Cushing. You will find
me at the
"We shall look in on our way to the train,"
A moment later he and I were back in the front room,
impassive lady was still quietly working away at her
sar. She put it down on her lap as we entered and
looked at us
with her frank, searching blue eyes.
"I am convinced, sir," she said, "that this
matter is a mis-
take, and that the parcel was never meant for me at
all. I have
said this several times to the gentleman from Scotland
he simply laughs at me. I have not an enemy in the
world, as far
as I know, so why should anyone play me such a trick?"
"I am coming to be of the same opinion, Miss
Holmes, taking a seat beside her. "I think that it
is more than
probable " he paused, and I was surprised, on glancing
to see that he was staring with singular intentness
at the lady's
profile. Surprise and satisfaction were both for an
instant to be
read upon his eager face, though when she glanced
round to find
out the cause of his silence he had become as demure
as ever. I
stared hard myself at her flat, grizzled hair, her
trim cap, her
little gilt earrings, her placid features; but I could
which could account for my companion's evident excitement.
"There were one or two questions --"
"Oh, I am weary of questions!" cried Miss Cushing
"You have two sisters, I believe."
"How could you know that?"
"I observed the very instant that I entered
the room that you
have a portrait group of three ladies upon the mantelpiece,
whom is undoubtedly yourself, while the others are
ingly like you that there could be no doubt of the
"Yes, you are quite right. Those are my sisters,
"And here at my elbow is another portrait,
taken at Liverpool,
of your younger sister, in the company of a man who
be a steward by his uniform. I observe that she was
"You are very quick at observing."
"That is my trade."
"Well, you are quite right. But she was married
Browner a few days afterwards. He was on the South
line when that was taken, but he was so fond of her
couldn't abide to leave her for so long, and he got
Liverpool and London boats."
"Ah, the Conqueror, perhaps?"
"No, the May Day, when last I heard. Jim came
down here to
see me once. That was before he broke the pledge;
wards he would always take drink when he was ashore,
little drink would send him stark, staring mad. Ah!
it was a bad
day that ever he took a glass in his hand again. First
me, then he quarrelled with Sarah, and now that Mary
stopped writing we don't know how things are going
It was evident that Miss Cushing had come upon
a subject on
which she felt very deeply. Like most people who lead
life, she was shy at first, but ended by becoming
communicative. She told us many details about her
the steward, and then wandering off on the subject
of her former
lodgers, the medical students, she gave us a long
account of their
delinquencies, with their names and those of their
Holmes listened attentively to everything, throwing
in a question
from time to time.
"About your second sister, Sarah," said he.
"I wonder, since
you are both maiden ladies, that you do not keep house
"Ah! you don't know Sarah's temper or you would
more. I tried it when I came to Croydon, and we kept
about two months ago, when we had to part. I don't
want to say
a word against my own sister, but she was always meddlesome
and hard to please, was Sarah."
"You say that she quarrelled with your Liverpool
"Yes, and they were the best of friends at
one time. Why, she
went up there to live in order to be near them. And
now she has
no word hard enough for Jim Browner. The last six
she was here she would speak of nothing but his drinking
ways. He had caught her meddling, I suspect, and given
her a bit
of his mind, and that was the start of it."
"Thank you, Miss Cushing," said Holmes, rising
ing. "Your sister Sarah lives, I think you said, at
Wallington? Good-bye, and I am very sorry that you
been troubled over a case with which, as you say,
nothing whatever to do."
There was a cab passing as we came out, and
"How far to Wallington?" he asked.
"Only about a mile, sir."
"Very good. Jump in, Watson. We must strike
while the iron
is hot. Simple as the case is, there have been one
or two very
instructive details in connection with it. Just pull
up at a tele-
graph office as you pass, cabby."
Holmes sent off a short wire and for the rest
of the drive lay
back in the cab, with his hat tilted over his nose
to keep the sun
from his face. Our driver pulled up at a house which
unlike the one which we had just quitted. My companion
him to wait, and had his hand upon the knocker, when
opened and a grave young gentleman in black, with
a very shiny
hat, appeared on the step.
"Is Miss Cushing at home?" asked Holmes.
"Miss Sarah Cushing is extremely ill," said
he. "She has
been suffering since yesterday from brain symptoms
severity. As her medical adviser, I cannot possibly
responsibility of allowing anyone to see her. I should
mend you to call again in ten days." He drew on his
closed the door, and marched off down the street.
"Well, if we can't we can't," said Holmes,
"Perhaps she could not or would not have told
"I did not wish her to tell me anything. I
only wanted to look
at her. However, I think that I have got all that
I want. Drive us
to some decent hotel, cabby, where we may have some
and afterwards we shall drop down upon friend Lestrade
We had a pleasant little meal together, during
would talk about nothing but violins, narrating with
tion how he had purchased his own Stradivarius, which
worth at least five hundred guineas, at a Jew broker's
Court Road for fifty-five shillings. This led him
to Paganini, and
we sat for an hour over a bottle of claret while he
anecdote after anecdote of that extraordinary man.
was far advanced and the hot glare had softened into
glow before we found ourselves at the police-station.
waiting for us at the door.
"A telegram for you, Mr. Holmes," said he.
"Ha! It is the answer!" He tore it open, glanced
his eyes over
it, and crumpled it into his pocket. "That's all right,"
"Have you found out anything?"
"I have found out everything!"
"What!" Lestrade stared at him in amazement.
"I was never more serious in my life. A shocking
been committed, and I think I have now laid bare every
"And the criminal?"
Holmes scribbled a few words upon the back
of one of his
visiting cards and threw it over to Lestrade.
"That is the name," he said. "You cannot effect
until to-morrow night at the earliest. I should prefer
that you do
not mention my name at all in connection with the
case, as I
choose to be only associated with those crimes which
some difficulty in their solution. Come on, Watson."
off together to the station, leaving Lestrade still
staring with a
delighted face at the card which Holmes had thrown
"The case," said Sherlock Holmes as we chatted
cigars that night in our rooms at Baker Street, "is
one where, as
in the investigations which you have chronicled under
of 'A Study in Scarlet' and of 'The Sign of Four,'
we have been
compelled to reason backward from effects to causes.
written to Lestrade asking him to supply us with the
which are now wanting, and which he will only get
after he has
secured his man. That he may be safely trusted to
although he is absolutely devoid of reason, he is
as tenacious as
a bulldog when he once understands what he has to
indeed, it is just this tenacity which has brought
him to the top at
"Your case is not complete, then?" I asked.
"It is fairly complete in essentials. We know
who the author of
the revolting business is, although one of the victims
us. Of course, you have formed your own conclusions."
"I presume that this Jim Browner, the steward
of a Liverpool
boat, is the man whom you suspect?"
"Oh! it is more than a suspicion."
"And yet I cannot see anything save very vague
"On the contrary, to my mind nothing could
be more clear.
Let me run over the principal steps. We approached
you remember, with an absolutely blank mind, which
an advantage. We had formed no theories. We were simply
to observe and to draw inferences from our observations.
did we see first? A very placid and respectable lady,
quite innocent of any secret, and a portrait which
showed me that
she had two younger sisters. It instantly flashed
across my mind
that the box might have been meant for one of these.
I set the
idea aside as one which could be disproved or confirmed
leisure. Then we went to the garden, as you remember,
saw the very singular contents of the little yellow
"The string was of the quality which is used
aboard ship, and at once a whiff of the sea was perceptible
investigation. When I observed that the knot was one
popular with sailors, that the parcel had been posted
at a port,
and that the male ear was pierced for an earring which
much more common among sailors than landsmen, I was
certain that all the actors in the tragedy were to
be found among
our seafaring classes.
"When I came to examine the address of the
packet I ob-
served that it was to Miss S. Cushing. Now, the oldest
would, of course, be Miss Cushing, and although her
'S' it might belong to one of the others as well.
In that case we
should have to commence our investigation from a fresh
altogether. I therefore went into the house with the
clearing up this point. I was about to assure Miss
Cushing that I
was convinced that a mistake had been made when you
remember that I came suddenly to a stop. The fact
was that I had
just seen something which filled me with surprise
and at the
same time narrowed the field of our inquiry immensely.
"As a medical man, you are aware, Watson, that
there is no
part of the body which varies so much as the human
ear is as a rule quite distinctive and differs from
all other ones.
In last year's Anthropological Journal you will find
monographs from my pen upon the subject. I had, therefore,
examined the ears in the box with the eyes of an expert
carefully noted their anatomical peculiarities. Imagine
prise, then, when on looking at Miss Cushing I perceived
her ear corresponded exactly with the female ear which
I had just
inspected. The matter was entirely beyond coincidence.
was the same shortening of the pinna, the same broad
the upper lobe, the same convolution of the inner
cartilage. In all
essentials it was the same ear.
"Of course I at once saw the enormous importance
observation. It was evident that the victim was a
and probably a very close one. I began to talk to
her about her
family, and you remember that she at once gave us
ingly valuable details
"In the first place, her sister's name was
Sarah, and her
address had until recently been the same, so that
it was quite
obvious how the mistake had occurred and for whom
was meant. Then we heard of this steward, married
to the third
sister, and learned that he had at one time been so
Miss Sarah that she had actually gone up to Liverpool
to be near
the Browners, but a quarrel had afterwards divided
quarrel had put a stop to all communications for some
so that if Browner had occasion to address a packet
Sarah, he would undoubtedly have done so to her old
"And now the matter had begun to straighten
itself out won-
derfully. We had learned of the existence of this
impulsive man, of strong passions -- you remember
that he threw
up what must have been a very superior berth in order
nearer to his wife -- subject, too, to occasional
fits of hard drink-
ing. We had reason to believe that his wife had been
and that a man -- presumably a seafaring man -- had
dered at the same time. Jealousy, of course, at once
itself as the motive for the crime. And why should
of the deed be sent to Miss Sarah Cushing? Probably
during her residence in Liverpool she had some hand
about the events which led to the tragedy. You will
this line of boats calls at Belfast, Dublin, and Waterford;
presuming that Browner had committed the deed and
at once upon his steamer, the May Day, Belfast would
first place at which he could post his terrible packet.
"A second solution was at this stage obviously
although I thought it exceedingly unlikely, I was
elucidate it before going further. An unsuccessful
have killed Mr. and Mrs. Browner, and the male ear
belonged to the husband. There were many grave objections
this theory, but it was conceivable. I therefore sent
off a tele-
gram to my friend Algar, of the Liverpool force, and
to find out if Mrs. Browner were at home, and if Browner
departed in the May Day. Then we went on to Wallington
"I was curious, in the first place, to see
how far the family ear
had been reproduced in her. Then, of course, she might
very important information, but I was not sanguine
would. She must have heard of the business the day
all Croydon was ringing with it, and she alone could
understood for whom the packet was meant. If she had
willing to help justice she would probably have communicated
with the police already. However, it was clearly our
duty to see
her, so we went. We found that the news of the arrival
packet -- for her illness dated from that time --
had such an effect
upon her as to bring on brain fever. It was clearer
than ever that
she understood its full significance, but equally
clear that we
should have to wait some time for any assistance from
"However, we were really independent of her
answers were waiting for us at the police-station,
where I had
directed Algar to send them. Nothing could be more
Mrs. Browner's house had been closed for more than
and the neighbours were of opinion that she had gone
see her relatives. It had been ascertained at the
that Browner had left aboard of the May Day, and I
she is due in the Thames to-morrow night. When he
will be met by the obtuse but resolute Lestrade, and
I have no
doubt that we shall have all our details filled in."
Sherlock Holmes was not disappointed in his
Two days later he received a bulky envelope, which
short note from the detective, and a typewritten document,
covered several pages of foolscap.
"Lestrade has got him all right," said Holmes,
glancing up at
me. "Perhaps it would interest you to hear what he
"MY DEAR MR. HOLMES:
with the scheme which we had formed in
order to test our theories"
["the 'we' is rather fine, Wat-
son, is it not?"] "I went
down to the Albert Dock yesterday
at 6 P. M., and boarded
the S. S. May Day, belonging to the
Liverpool, Dublin, and
London Steam Packet Company. On
inquiry, I found that
there was a steward on board of the
name of James Browner
and that he had acted during
the voyage in such an
extraordinary manner that the captain
had been compelled to
relieve him of his duties. On de-
scending to his berth,
I found him seated upon a chest with
his head sunk upon his
hands, rocking himself to and fro.
He is a big, powerful
chap, clean-shaven, and very swarthy --
something like Aldridge,
who helped us in the bogus laun-
dry affair. He jumped
up when he heard my business, and I
had my whistle to my lips
to call a couple of river police,
who were round the corner,
but he seemed to have no heart
in him, and he held out
his hands quietly enough for the
darbies. We brought him
along to the cells, and his box as
well, for we thought there
might be something incriminat-
ing; but, bar a big sharp
knife such as most sailors have, we
got nothing for our trouble.
However, we find that we shall
want no more evidence,
for on being brought before the
inspector at the station
he asked leave to make a statement,
which was, of course,
taken down, just as he made it, by
our shorthand man. We
had three copies typewritten, one of
which I enclose. The affair
proves, as I always thought it
would, to be an extremely
simple one, but I am obliged to
you for assisting me in
my investigation. With kind regards,
"Yours very truly,
"Hum! The investigation really was a very simple
remarked Holmes, "but I don't think it struck him
in that light
when he first called us in. However, let us see what
has to say for himself. This is his statement as made
Inspector Montgomery at the Shadwell Police Station,
and it has
the advantage of being verbatim."
* * *
" 'Have I anything to say? Yes, I have a deal
to say. I have to
make a clean breast of it all. You can hang me, or
you can leave
me alone. I don't care a plug which you do. I tell
you I've not
shut an eye in sleep since I did it, and I don't believe
I ever will
again until I get past all waking. Sometimes it's
his face, but
most generally it's hers. I'm never without one or
before me. He looks frowning and black-like, but she
has a kind
o' surprise upon her face. Ay, the white lamb, she
might well be
surprised when she read death on a face that had seldom
anything but love upon her before.
" 'But it was Sarah's fault, and may the curse
of a broken
man put a blight on her and set the blood rotting
in her veins! It's
not that I want to clear myself. I know that I went
back to drink,
like the beast that I was. But she would have forgiven
would have stuck as close to me as a rope to a block
woman had never darkened our door. For Sarah Cushing
me -- that's the root of the business -- she loved
me until all her
love turned to poisonous hate when she knew that I
of my wife's footmark in the mud than I did of her
" 'There were three sisters altogether. The
old one was just a
good woman, the second was a devil, and the third
was an angel.
Sarah was thirty-three, and Mary was twenty-nine when
ried. We were just as happy as the day was long when
we set up
house together, and in all Liverpool there was no
than my Mary. And then we asked Sarah up for a week,
week grew into a month, and one thing led to another,
was just one of ourselves.
" 'I was blue ribbon at that time, and we were
putting a little
money by, and all was as bright as a new dollar. My
whoever would have thought that it could have come
Whoever would have dreamed it?
" 'I used to be home for the week-ends very
sometimes if the ship were held back for cargo I would
whole week at a time, and in this way I saw a deal
sister-in-law, Sarah. She was a fine tall woman, black
and fierce, with a proud way of carrying her head,
and a glint
from her eye like a spark from a flint. But when little
there I had never a thought of her, and that I swear
as I hope for
" 'It had seemed to me sometimes that she liked
to be alone
with me, or to coax me out for a walk with her, but
I had never
thought anything of that. But one evening my eyes
I had come up from the ship and found my wife out,
but Sarah at
home. "Where's Mary?" I asked. "Oh, she has gone to
some accounts." I was impatient and paced up and down
room. "Can't you be happy for five minutes without
Jim?" says she. "It's a bad compliment to me that
you can't be
contented with my society for so short a time." "That's
right, my lass," said I, putting out my hand towards
her in a
kindly way, but she had it in both hers in an instant,
burned as if they were in a fever. I looked into her
eyes and I
read it all there. There was no need for her to speak,
nor for me
either. I frowned and drew my hand away. Then she
my side in silence for a bit, and then put up her
hand and patted
me on the shoulder. "Steady old Jim!" said she, and
with a kind
o' mocking laugh, she ran out of the room.
" 'Well, from that time Sarah hated me with
her whole heart
and soul, and she is a woman who can hate, too. I
was a fool to
let her go on biding with us -- a besotted fool --
but I never said a
word to Mary, for I knew it would grieve her. Things
much as before, but after a time I began to find that
there was a
bit of a change in Mary herself. She had always been
and so innocent, but now she became queer and suspicious,
wanting to know where I had been and what I had been
and whom my letters were from, and what I had in my
and a thousand such follies. Day by day she grew queerer
more irritable, and we had ceaseless rows about nothing.
fairly puzzled by it all. Sarah avoided me now, but
she and Mary
were just inseparable. I can see now how she was plotting
scheming and poisoning my wife's mind against me,
but I was
such a blind beetle that I could not understand it
at the time.
Then I broke my blue ribbon and began to drink again,
think I should not have done it if Mary had been the
ever. She had some reason to be disgusted with me
now, and the
gap between us began to be wider and wider. And then
Fairbairn chipped in, and things became a thousand
" 'It was to see Sarah that he came to my house
first, but soon
it was to see us, for he was a man with winning ways,
made friends wherever he went. He was a dashing, swaggering
chap, smart and curled, who had seen half the world
talk of what he had seen. He was good company, I won't
it, and he had wonderful polite ways with him for
a sailor man,
so that I think there must have been a time when he
of the poop than the forecastle. For a month he was
in and out of
my house, and never once did it cross my mind that
come of his soft, tricky ways. And then at last something
me suspect, and from that day my peace was gone forever.
" 'It was only a little thing, too. I had come
into the parlour
unexpected, and as I walked in at the door I saw a
welcome on my wife's face. But as she saw who it was
again, and she turned away with a look of disappointment.
was enough for me. There was no one but Alec Fairbairn
step she could have mistaken for mine. If I could
have seen him
then I should have killed him, for I have always been
madman when my temper gets loose. Mary saw the devil's
in my eyes, and she ran forward with her hands on
"Don't, Jim, don't!" says she. "Where's Sarah?" I
the kitchen," says she. "Sarah," says I as I went
in, "this man
Fairbairn is never to darken my door again." "Why
she. "Because I order it." "Oh!" says she, "if my
not good enough for this house, then I am not good
enough for it
either." "You can do what you like," says I, "but
shows his face here again I'll send you one of his
ears for a
keepsake." She was frightened by my face, I think,
never answered a word, and the same evening she left
" 'Well, I don't know now whether it was pure
devilry on the
part of this woman, or whether she thought that she
me against my wife by encouraging her to misbehave.
she took a house just two streets off and let lodgings
Fairbairn used to stay there, and Mary would go round
tea with her sister and him. How often she went I
but I followed her one day, and as I broke in at the
Fairbairn got away over the back garden wall, like
skunk that he was. I swore to my wife that I would
kill her if I
found her in his company again, and I led her back
sobbing and trembling, and as white as a piece of
was no trace of love between us any longer. I could
see that she
hated me and feared me, and when the thought of it
drove me to
drink, then she despised me as well.
" 'Well, Sarah found that she could not make
a living in
Liverpool, so she went back, as I understand, to live
sister in Croydon, and things jogged on much the same
as ever at
home. And then came this last week and all the misery
" 'It was in this way. We had gone on the May
Day for a
round voyage of seven days, but a hogshead got loose
started one of our plates, so that we had to put back
into port for
twelve hours. I left the ship and came home, thinking
surprise it would be for my wife, and hoping that
would be glad to see me so soon. The thought was in
my head as
I turned into my own street, and at that moment a
me, and there she was, sitting by the side of Fairbairn,
chatting and laughing, with never a thought for me
as I stood
watching them from the footpath.
" 'I tell you, and I give you my word for it,
that from that
moment I was not my own master, and it is all like
a dim dream
when I look back on it. I had been drinking hard of
late, and the
two things together fairly turned my brain. There's
throbbing in my head now, like a docker's hammer,
morning I seemed to have all Niagara whizzing and
" 'Well, I took to my heels, and l ran after
the cab. I had a
heavy oak stick in my hand, and I tell you I saw red
first; but as I ran I got cunning, too, and hung back
a little to see
them without being seen. They pulled up soon at the
station. There was a good crowd round the booking-office,
got quite close to them without being seen. They took
New Brighton. So did I, but I got in three carriages
When we reached it they walked along the Parade, and
never more than a hundred yards from them. At last
I saw them
hire a boat and start for a row, for it was a very
hot day, and
they thought, no doubt, that it would be cooler on
" 'It was just as if they had been given into
my hands. There
was a bit of a haze, and you could not see more than
hundred yards. I hired a boat for myself, and I pulled
I could see the blur of their craft, but they were
going nearly as
fast as I, and they must have been a long mile from
before I caught them up. The haze was like a curtain
us, and there were we three in the middle of it. My
God, shall I
ever forget their faces when they saw who was in the
was closing in upon them? She screamed out. He swore
madman and jabbed at me with an oar, for he must have
death in my eyes. I got past it and got one in with
my stick that
crushed his head like an egg. I would have spared
for all my madness, but she threw her arms round him,
out to him, and calling him "Alec." I struck again,
and she lay
stretched beside him. I was like a wild beast then
that had tasted
blood. If Sarah had been there, by the Lord, she should
joined them. I pulled out my knife, and -- well, there!
enough. It gave me a kind of savage joy when I thought
Sarah would feel when she had such signs as these
of what her
meddling had brought about. Then I tied the bodies
into the boat,
stove a plank, and stood by until they had sunk. I
well that the owner would think that they had lost
in the haze, and had drifted off out to sea. I cleaned
got back to land, and joined my ship without a soul
suspicion of what had passed. That night I made up
for Sarah Cushing, and next day I sent it from Belfast.
" 'There you have the whole truth of it. You
can hang me, or
do what you like with me, but you cannot punish me
as I have
been punished already. I cannot shut my eyes but I
see those two
faces staring at me -- staring at me as they stared
when my boat
broke through the haze. I killed them quick, but they
me slow; and if I have another night of it I shall
be either mad or
dead before morning. You won't put me alone into a
Por pity's sake don't, and may you be treated in your
agony as you treat me now.'
"What is the meaning of it, Watson?" said Holmes
als he laid down the paper. "What object is served
by this circle
of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some
else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable.
what end? There is the great standing perennial problem
human reason is as far from an answer as ever."