| When I look at the three massive manuscript
contain our work for the year 1894, I confess that
it is very
difficult for me, out of such a wealth of material,
to select the
cases which are most interesting in themselves, and
at the same
time most conducive to a display of those peculiar
which my friend was famous. As I turn over the pages,
I see my
notes upon the repulsive story of the red leech and
death of Crosby, the banker. Here also I find an account
Addleton tragedy, and the singular contents of the
barrow. The famous Smith-Mortimer succession case
within this period, and so does the tracking and arrest
the Boulevard assassin -- an exploit which won for
autograph letter of thanks from the French President
Order of the Legion of Honour. Each of these would
narrative, but on the whole I am of opinion that none
unites so many singular points of interest as the
Yoxley Old Place, which includes not only the lamentable
of young Willoughby Smith, but also those subsequent
ments which threw so curious a light upon the causes
It was a wild, tempestuous night, towards the
close of Novem-
ber. Holmes and I sat together in silence all the
engaged with a powerful lens deciphering the remains
original inscription upon a palimpsest, I deep in
a recent treatise
upon surgery. Outside the wind howled down Baker Street,
while the rain beat fiercely against the windows.
It was strange
there, in the very depths of the town, with ten miles
handiwork on every side of us, to feel the iron grip
and to be conscious that to the huge elemental forces
was no more than the molehills that dot the fields.
I walked to
the window, and looked out on the deserted street.
sional lamps gleamed on the expanse of muddy road
pavement. A single cab was splashing its way from
"Well, Watson, it's as well we have not to
turn out to-night,"
said Holmes, laying aside his lens and rolling up
"I've done enough for one sitting. It is trying work
for the eyes.
So far as I can make out, it is nothing more exciting
Abbey's accounts dating from the second half of the
century. Halloa! halloa! halloa! What's this?"
Amid the droning of the wind there had come
the stamping of
a horse's hoofs, and the long grind of a wheel as
against the curb. The cab which I had seen had pulled
up at our
"What can he want?" I ejaculated, as a man
stepped out of it.
"Want? He wants us. And we, my poor Watson,
coats and cravats and goloshes, and every aid that
invented to fight the weather. Wait a bit, though!
There's the cab
off again! There's hope yet. He'd have kept it if
he had wanted
us to come. Run down, my dear fellow, and open the
all virtuous folk have been long in bed."
When the light of the hall lamp fell upon our
I had no difficulty in recognizing him. It was young
Hopkins, a promising detective, in whose career Holmes
several times shown a very practical interest.
"Is he in?" he asked, eagerly.
"Come up, my dear sir," said Holmes's voice
from above. "I
hope you have no designs upon us on such a night as
The detective mounted the stairs, and our lamp
his shining waterproof. I helped him out of it, while
knocked a blaze out of the logs in the grate.
"Now, my dear Hopkins, draw up and warm your
he. "Here's a cigar, and the doctor has a prescription
hot water and a lemon, which is good medicine on a
this. It must be something important which has brought
in such a gale."
"It is indeed, Mr. Holmes. I've had a bustling
promise you. Did you see anything of the Yoxley case
"I've seen nothing later than the fifteenth
"Well, it was only a paragraph, and all wrong
at that, so you
have not missed anything. I haven't let the grass
grow under my
feet. It's down in Kent, seven miles from Chatham
from the railway line. I was wired for at 3:15, reached
Old Place at 5, conducted my investigation, was back
Cross by the last train, and straight to you by cab."
"Which means, I suppose, that you are not quite
"lt means that I can make neither head nor
tail of it. So far as
I can see, it is just as tangled a business as ever
I handled, and
yet at first it seemed so simple that one couldn't
There's no motive, Mr. Holmes. That's what bothers
me -- I
can't put my hand on a motive. Here's a man dead --
denying that -- but, so far as I can see, no reason
on earth why
anyone should wish him harm."
Holmes lit his cigar and leaned back in his
"Let us hear about it," said he.
"I've got my facts pretty clear," said Stanley
Hopkins. "All I
want now is to know what they all mean. The story,
so far as I
can make it out, is like this. Some years ago this
Yoxley Old Place, was taken by an elderly man, who
name of Professor Coram. He was an invalid, keeping
half the time, and the other half hobbling round the
house with a
stick or being pushed about the grounds by the gardener
Bath chair. He was well liked by the few neighbours
upon him, and he has the reputation down there of
being a very
learned man. His household used to consist of an elderly
keeper, Mrs. Marker, and of a maid, Susan Tarlton.
both been with him since his arrival, and they seem
to be women
of excellent character. The professor is writing a
and he found it necessary, about a year ago, to engage
tary. The first two that he tried were not successes,
but the third,
Mr. Willoughby Smith, a very young man straight from
university, seems to have been just what his employer
His work consisted in writing all the morning to the
dictation, and he usually spent the evening in hunting
ences and passages which bore upon the next day's
Willoughby Smith has nothing against him, either as
a boy at
Uppingham or as a young man at Cambridge. I have seen
testimonials, and from the first he was a decent,
working fellow, with no weak spot in him at all. And
yet this is
the lad who has met his death this morning in the
study under circumstances which can point only to
The wind howled and screamed at the windows.
I drew closer to the fire, while the young inspector
point by point developed his singular narrative.
"If you were to search all England," said he,
suppose you could find a household more self-contained
from outside influences. Whole weeks would pass, and
of them go past the garden gate. The professor was
buried in his
work and existed for nothing else. Young Smith knew
the neighbourhood, and lived very much as his employer
The two women had nothing to take them from the house.
Mortimer, the gardener, who wheels the Bath chair,
is an army
pensioner -- an old Crimean man of excellent character.
not live in the house, but in a three-roomed cottage
at the other
end of the garden. Those are the only people that
you would find
within the grounds of Yoxley Old Place. At the same
gate of the garden is a hundred yards from the main
Chatham road. It opens with a latch, and there is
prevent anyone from walking in.
"Now I will give you the evidence of Susan
Tarlton, who is
the only person who can say anything positive about
It was in the forenoon, between eleven and twelve.
engaged at the moment in hanging some curtains in
front bedroom. Professor Coram was still in bed, for
weather is bad he seldom rises before midday. The
was busied with some work in the back of the house.
loughby Smith had been in his bedroom, which he uses
sitting-room, but the maid heard him at that moment
the passage and descend to the study immediately below
did not see him, but she says that she could not be
his quick, firm tread. She did not hear the study
door close, but a
minute or so later there was a dreadful cry in the
room below. It
was a wild, hoarse scream, so strange and unnatural
that it might
have come either from a man or a woman. At the same
there was a heavy thud, which shook the old house,
and then all
was silence. The maid stood petrified for a moment,
recovering her courage, she ran downstairs. The study
shut and she opened it. Inside, young Mr. Willoughby
was stretched upon the floor. At first she could see
no injury, but
as she tried to raise him she saw that blood was pouring
underside of his neck. It was pierced by a very small
deep wound, which had divided the carotid artery.
ment with which the injury had been inflicted lay
upon the carpet
beside him. It was one of those small sealing-wax
knives to be
found on old-fashioned writing-tables, with an ivory
a stiff blade. It was part of the fittings of the
"At first the maid thought that young Smith
was already dead,
but on pouring some water from the carafe over his
opened his eyes for an instant. 'The professor,' he
murmured -- 'it
was she.' The maid is prepared to swear that those
exact words. He tried desperately to say something
and he held his right hand up in the air. Then he
"In the meantime the housekeeper had also arrived
scene, but she was just too late to catch the young
words. Leaving Susan with the body, she hurried to
sor's room. He was sitting up in bed horribly agitated,
for he had
heard enough to convince him that something terrible
curred. Mrs. Marker is prepared to swear that the
still in his night-clothes, and indeed it was impossible
for him to
dress without the help of Mortimer, whose orders were
at twelve o'clock. The professor declares that he
distant cry, but that he knows nothing more. He can
explanation of the young man's last words, 'The professor
was she,' but imagines that they were the outcome
He believes that Willoughby Smith had not an enemy
world, and can give no reason for the crime. His first
to send Mortimer, the gardener, for the local police.
A little later
the chief constable sent for me. Nothing was moved
before I got
there, and strict orders were given that no one should
the paths leading to the house. It was a splendid
putting your theories into practice, Mr. Sherlock
was really nothing wanting."
"Except Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said my companion,
somewhat bitter smile. "Well, let us hear about it.
What sort of
job did you make of it?"
"I must ask you first, Mr. Holmes, to glance
at this rough
plan, which will give you a general idea of the position
professor's study and the various points of the case.
It will help
you in following my investigation."
He unfolded the rough chart, which I here reproduce,
laid it across Holmes's knee. I rose and, standing
Holmes, studied it over his shoulder.
"It is very rough, of course, and it only deals
with the points
which seem to me to be essential. All the rest you
will see later
for yourself. Now, first of all, presuming that the
the house, how did he or she come in? Undoubtedly
garden path and the back door, from which there is
to the study. Any other way would have been exceedingly
complicated. The escape must have also been made along
line, for of the two other exits from the room one
by Susan as she ran downstairs and the other leads
straight to the
professor's bedroom. I therefore directed my attention
at once to
the garden path, which was saturated with recent rain,
certainly show any footmarks.
"My examination showed me that I was dealing
with a cautious
and expert criminal. No footmarks were to be found
on the path.
There could be no question, however, that someone
along the grass border which lines the path, and that
he had done
so in order to avoid leaving a track. I could not
find anything in
the nature of a distinct impression, but the grass
down, and someone had undoubtedly passed. It could
been the murderer, since neither the gardener nor
had been there that morning, and the rain had only
"One moment," said Holmes. "Where does this
"To the road."
"How long is it?"
"A hundred yards or so."
"At the point where the path passes through
the gate, you
could surely pick up the tracks?"
"Unfortunately, the path was tiled at that
"Well, on the road itself?"
"No, it was all trodden into mire."
"Tut-tut! Well, then, these tracks upon the
grass, were they
coming or going?"
"It was impossible to say. There was never
"A large foot or a small?"
"You could not distinguish."
Holmes gave an ejaculation of impatience.
"It has been pouring rain and blowing a hurricane
said he. "It will be harder to read now than that
Well, well. it can't be helped. What did you do. Hopkins,
you had made certain that you had made certain of
"I think I made certain of a good deal, Mr.
Holmes. I knew
that someone had entered the house cautiously from
next examined the corridor. It is lined with cocoanut
had taken no impression of any kind. This brought
me into the
study itself. It is a scantily furnished room. The
main article is a
large writing-table with a fixed bureau. This bureau
consists of a
double column of drawers, with a central small cupboard
tween them. The drawers were open, the cupboard locked.
drawers, it seems, were always open, and nothing of
kept in them. There were some papers of importance
cupboard, but there were no signs that this had been
with, and the professor assures me that nothing was
missing. It is
certain that no robbery has been committed.
"I come now to the body of the young man. It
was found near
the bureau, and just to the left of it, as marked
upon that chart.
The stab was on the right side of the neck and from
forward, so that it is almost impossible tbat it could
"Unless he fell upon the knife," said Holmes.
"Exactly. The idea crossed my mind. But we
found the knife
some feet away from the body, so that seems impossible.
of course, there are the man's own dying words. And,
there was this very important piece of evidence which
clasped in the dead man's right hand."
From his pocket Stanley Hopkins drew a small
He unfolded it and disclosed a golden pince-nez, with
broken ends of black silk cord dangling from the end
"Willoughby Smith had excellent sight," he
added. "There can
be no question that this was snatched from the face
or the person
of the assassin."
Sherlock Holmes took the glasses into his hand,
them with the utmost attention and interest. He held
them on his
nose, endeavoured to read through them, went to the
and stared up the street with them, looked at them
in the full light of the lamp, and finally, with a
himself at the table and wrote a few lines upon a
sheet of paper,
which he tossed across to Stanley Hopkins.
"That's the best I can do for you," said he.
"It may prove to
be of some use."
The astonished detective read the note aloud.
It ran as follows:
"Wanted. a woman of good
address. attired like a lady.
She has a remarkably thick nose, with
eyes which are set
close upon either side of it. She
has a puckered forehead, a
peering expression, and probably rounded
are indications that she has had recourse
to an optician at
least twice during the last few months.
As her glasses are of
remarkable strength, and as opticians
are not very numer-
ous, there should be no difficulty
in tracing her."
Holmes smiled at the astonishment of Hopkins,
have been reflected upon my features.
"Surely my deductions are simplicity itself,"
said he. "It
would be difficult to name any articles which afford
a finer field
for inference than a pair of glasses, especially so
pair as these. That they belong to a woman I infer
delicacy, and also, of course, from the last words
of the dying
man. As to her being a person of refinement and well
they are, as you perceive, handsomely mounted in solid
and it is inconceivable that anyone who wore such
be slatternly in other respects. You will find that
the clips are too
wide for your nose, showing that the lady's nose was
at the base. This sort of nose is usually a short
and coarse one,
but there is a sufficient number of exceptions to
prevent me from
being dogmatic or from insisting upon this point in
tion. My own face is a narrow one, and yet I find
that I cannot
get my eyes into the centre, nor near the centre,
of these glasses.
Therefore, the lady's eyes are set very near to the
sides of the
nose. You will perceive, Watson, that the glasses
and of unusual strength. A lady whose vision has been
extremely contracted all her life is sure to have
characteristics of such vision, which are seen in
the forehead, the
eyelids, and the shoulders."
"Yes," I said, "I can follow each of your arguments.
confess, however, that I am unable to understand how
at the double visit to the optician."
Holmes took the glasses in his hand.
"You will perceive," he said, "that the clips
are lined with
tiny bands of cork to soften the pressure upon the
nose. One of
these is discoloured and worn to some slight extent,
but the other
is new. Evidently one has fallen off and been replaced.
judge that the older of them has not been there more
than a few
months. They exactly correspond, so I gather that
the lady went
back to the same establishment for the second."
"By George, it's marvellous!" cried Hopkins.
in an ecstasy of
admiration. "To think that I had all that evidence
in my hand
and never knew it! I had intended, however, to go
the round of
the London opticians."
"Of course you would. Meanwhile, have you anything
to tell us about the case?"
"Nothing, Mr. Holmes. I think that you know
as much as I do
now -- probably more. We have had inquiries made as
stranger seen on the country roads or at the railway
have heard of none. What beats me is the utter want
of all object
in the crime. Not a ghost of a motive can anyone suggest."
"Ah! there I am not in a position to help you.
But I suppose
you want us to come out to-morrow?"
"If it is not asking too much, Mr. Holmes.
There's a train
from Charing Cross to Chatham at six in the morning,
should be at Yoxley Old Place between eight and nine."
"Then we shall take it. Your case has certainly
of great interest, and I shall be delighted to look
into it. Well,
it's nearly one, and we had best get a few hours'
sleep. I daresay
you can manage all right on the sofa in front of the
fire. I'll light
my spirit lamp, and give you a cup of coffee before
The gale had blown itself out next day, but
it was a bitter
morning when we started upon our journey. We saw the
winter sun rise over the dreary marshes of the Thames
long, sullen reaches of the river, which I shall ever
with our pursuit of the Andaman Islander in the earlier
our career. After a long and weary journey, we alighted
small station some miles from Chatham. While a horse
being put into a trap at the local inn, we snatched
breakfast, and so we were all ready for business when
we at last
arrived at Yoxley Old Place. A constable met us at
"Well, Wilson, any news?"
"No, sir -- nothing."
"No reports of any stranger seen?"
"No, sir. Down at the station they are certain
that no stranger
either came or went yesterday."
"Have you had inquiries made at inns and lodgings?"
"Yes, sir: there is no one that we cannot account
"Well, it's only a reasonable walk to Chatham.
stay there or take a train without being observed.
This is the
garden path of which I spoke, Mr. Holmes. I'll pledge
there was no mark on it yesterday."
"On which side were the marks on the grass?"
"This side, sir. This narrow margin of grass
between the path
and the flowerbed. I can't see the traces now, but
they were clear
to me then."
"Yes, yes: someone has passed along," said
ing over the grass border. "Our lady must have picked
carefully, must she not, since on the one side she
would leave a
track on the path, and on the other an even clearer
one on the
"Yes, sir, she must have been a cool hand."
I saw an intent look pass over Holmes's face.
"You say that she must have come back this
"Yes, sir, there is no other."
"On this strip of grass?"
"Certainly, Mr. Holmes."
"Hum! It was a very remarkable performance
-- very remark-
able. Well, I think we have exhausted the path. Let
farther. This garden door is usually kept open, I
this visitor had nothing to do but to walk in. The
idea of murder
was not in her mind, or she would have provided herself
some sort of weapon, instead of having to pick this
knife off the
writing-table. She advanced along this corridor, leaving
upon the cocoanut matting. Then she found herself
in this study.
How long was she there? We have no means of judging."
"Not more than a few minutes, sir. I forgot
to tell you that
Mrs. Marker, the housekeeper, had been in there tidying
very long before -- about a quarter of an hour, she
"Well, that gives us a limit. Our lady enters
this room, and
what does she do? She goes over to the writing-table.
Not for anything in the drawers. If there had been
worth her taking, it would surely have been locked
up. No, it
was for something in that wooden bureau. Halloa! what
scratch upon the face of it? Just hold a match, Watson.
you not tell me of this, Hopkins?"
The mark which he was examining began upon
on the righthand side of the keyhole, and extended
for about four
inches, where it had scratched the varnish from the
"I noticed it, Mr. Holmes, but you'll always
round a keyhole."
"This is recent, quite recent. See how the
brass shines where
it is cut. An old scratch would be the same colour
as the surface.
Look at it through my lens. There's the varnish, too,
on each side of a furrow. Is Mrs. Marker there?"
A sad-faced, elderly woman came into the room.
"Did you dust this bureau yesterday morning?"
"Did you notice this scratch?"
"No, sir, I did not."
"I am sure you did not, for a duster would
have swept away
these shreds of varnish. Who has the key of this bureau?"
"The professor keeps it on his watch-chain."
"Is it a simple key?"
"No, sir, it is a Chubb's key."
"Very good. Mrs. Marker, you can go. Now we
are making a
little progress. Our lady enters the room, advances
to the bureau,
and either opens it or tries to do so. While she is
young Willoughby Smith enters the room. In her hurry
draw the key, she makes this scratch upon the door.
her, and she, snatching up the nearest object, which
be this knife, strikes at him in order to make him
let go his hold.
The blow is a fatal one. He falls and she escapes,
either with or
without the object for which she has come. Is Susan,
there? Could anyone have got away through that door
time that you heard the cry, Susan?"
"No, sir, it is impossible. Before I got down
the stair, I'd
have seen anyone in the passage. Besides, the door
or I would have heard it."
"That settles this exit. Then no doubt the
lady-went out the
way she came. I understand that this other passage
leads only to
the professor's room. There is no exit that way?"
"We shall go down it and make the acquaintance
professor. Halloa, Hopkins! this is very important,
tant indeed. The professor's corridor is also lined
"Well, sir, what of that?"
"Don't you see any bearing upon the case? Well,
well. I don't
insist upon it. No doubt I am wrong. And yet it seems
to me to
be suggestive. Come with me and introduce me."
We passed down the passage, which was of the
same length as
that which led to the garden. At the end was a short
steps ending in a door. Our guide knocked, and then
into the professor's bedroom.
It was a very large chamber, lined with innumerable
which had overflowed from the shelves and lay in piles
corners, or were stacked all round at the base of
the cases. The
bed was in the centre of the room, and in it, propped
pillows, was the owner of the house. I have seldom
seen a more
remarkable-looking person. It was a gaunt, aquiline
was turned towards us, with piercing dark eyes, which
deep hollows under overhung and tufted brows. His
beard were white, save that the latter was curiously
yellow around his mouth. A cigarette glowed amid the
white hair, and the air of the room was fetid with
smoke. As he held out his hand to Holmes, I perceived
was also stained with yellow nicotine.
"A smoker, Mr. Holmes?" said he, speaking in
English, with a curious little mincing accent. "Pray
cigarette. And you, sir? I can recommend them, for
I have them
especially prepared by lonides, of Alexandria. He
sends me a
thousand at a time, and I grieve to say that I have
to arrange for
a fresh suprly every fortnight. Bad, sir, very bad,
but an old
man has few pleasures. Tobacco and my work -- that
is all that is
left to me."
Holmes had lit a cigarette and was shooting
glances all over the room.
"Tobacco and my work, but now only tobacco,"
the old man
exclaimed. "Alas! what a fatal interruption! Who could
foreseen such a terrible catastrophe? So estimable
a young man!
I assure you that, after a few months' training, he
admirable assistant. What do you think of the matter,
"I have not yet made up my mind."
"I shall indeed be indebted to you if you can
throw a light
where all is so dark to us. To a poor bookworm and
myself such a blow is paralyzing. I seem to have lost
of thought. But you are a man of action -- you are
a man of
affairs. It is part of the everyday routine of your
life. You can
preserve your balance in every emergency. We are fortunate,
indeed, in having you at our side."
Holmes was pacing up and down one side of the
the old professor was talking. I observed that he
with extraordinary rapidity. It was evident that he
host's liking for the fresh Alexandrian cigarettes.
"Yes, sir, it is a crushing blow," said the
old man. "That is
my magnum opus -- the pile of papers on the side table
is my analysis of the documents found in the Coptic
of Syria and Egypt, a work which will cut deep at
foundation of revealed religion. With my enfeebled
health I do
not know whether I shall ever be able to complete
it, now that
my assistant has been taken from me. Dear me! Mr.
why, you are even a quicker smoker than I am myself."
"I am a connoisseur," said he, taking another
the box -- his fourth -- and lighting it from the
stub of that which
he had finished. "I will not trouble you with any
examination, Professor Coram, since I gather that
you were in
bed at the time of the crime, and could know nothing
about it. I
would only ask this: What do you imagine that this
meant by his last words: 'The professor -- it was
The professor shook his head.
"Susan is a country girl," said he, "and you
incredible stupidity of that class. I fancy that the
murmured some incoherent, delirious words, and that
them into this meaningless message."
"I see. You have no explanation yourself of
"Possibly an accident, possibly -- I only breathe
ourselves -- a suicide. Young men have their hidden
some affair of the heart, perhaps, which we have never
It is a more probable supposition than murder."
"But the eyeglasses?"
"Ah! I am only a student -- a man of dreams.
I cannot explain
the practical things of life. But still, we are aware,
that love-gages may take strange shapes. By all means
another cigarette. It is a pleasure to see anyone
so. A fan, a glove, glasses -- who knows what article
carried as a token or treasured when a man puts an
end to his
life? This gentleman speaks of footsteps in the grass,
all, it is easy to be mistaken on such a point. As
to the knife, it
might well be thrown far from the unfortunate man
as he fell. It
is possible that I speak as a child, but to me it
Willoughby Smith has met his fate by his own hand."
Holmes seemed struck by the theory thus put
forward, and hc
continued to walk up and down for some time, lost
and consuming cigarette after cigarette.
"Tell me, Professor Coram," he said. at last,
"what is in that
cupboard in the bureau?"
"Nothing that would help a thief. Family papers,
my poor wife, diplomas of universities which have
honour. Here is the key. You can look for yourself."
Holmes picked up the key, and looked at it
for an instant, then
he handed it back.
"No, I hardly think that it would help me,"
said he. "I
should prefer to go quietly down to your garden, and
whole matter over in my head. There is something to
be said for
the theory of suicide which you have put forward.
apologize for having intruded upon you, Professor
Coram, and I
promise that we won't disturb you until after lunch.
o'clock we will come again, and report to you anything
may have happened in the interval."
Holmes was curiously distrait, and we walked
up and down
the garden path for some time in silence.
"Have you a clue?" I asked, at last.
"It depends upon those cigarettes that I smoked,"
said he. "It
is possible that I am utterly mistaken. The cigarettes
"My dear Holmes," I exclaimed, "how on earth
"Well, well, you may see for yourself. If not,
there's no harm
done. Of course, we always have the optician clue
to fall back
upon, but I take a short cut when I can get it. Ah,
here is the
good Mrs. Marker! Let us enjoy five minutes of instructive
conversation with her."
I may have remarked before that Holmes had,
when he liked,
a peculiarly ingratiating way with women, and that
readily established terms of confidence with them.
In half the
time which he had named, he had captured the housekeeper's
goodwill and was chatting with her as if he had known
"Yes, Mr. Holmes, it is as you say, sir. He
something terrible. All day and sometimes all night,
seen that room of a morning -- well, sir, you'd have
was a London fog. Poor young Mr. Smith, he was a smoker
also, but not as bad as the professor. His health
-- well, I don't
know that it's better nor worse for the smoking."
"Ah!" said Holmes, "but it kills the appetite."
"Well, I don't know about that, sir."
"I suppose the professor eats hardly anything?"
"Well, he is variable. I'll say that for him."
"I'll wager he took no breakfast this morning,
and won't face
his lunch after all the cigarettes I saw him consume."
"Well, you're out there, sir, as it happens,
for he ate a
remarkable big breakfast this morning. I don't know
known him make a better one, and he's ordered a good
cutlets for his lunch. I'm surprised myself, for since
I came into
that room yesterday and saw young Mr. Smith lying
there on the
floor, I couldn't bear to look at food. Well, it takes
all sorts to
make a world, and the professor hasn't let it take
We loitered the morning away in the garden.
had gone down to the village to look into some rumours
strange woman who had been seen by some children on
Chatham Road the previous morning. As to my friend,
usual energy seemed to have deserted him. I had never
him handle a case in such a half-hearted fashion.
Even the news
brought back by Hopkins that he had found the children,
they had undoubtedly seen a woman exactly corresponding
Holmes's description, and wearing either spectacles
failed to rouse any sign of keen interest. He was
when Susan, who waited upon us at lunch, volunteered
information that she believed Mr. Smith had been out
for a walk
yesterday morning, and that he had only returned half
before the tragedy occurred. I could not myself see
of this incident, but I clearly perceived that Holmes
it into the general scheme which he had formed in
Suddenly he sprang from his chair and glanced at his
"Two o'clock, gentlemen." said he. "We must go up
it out with our friend, the professor."
The old man had just finished his lunch, and
empty dish bore evidence to the good appetite with
housekeeper had credited him. He was, indeed, a weird
he turned his white mane and his glowing eyes towards
eternal cigarette smouldered in his mouth. He had
and was seated in an armchair by the fire.
"Well, Mr. Holmes, have you solved this mystery
shoved the large tin of cigarettes which stood on
a table beside
him towards my companion. Holmes stretched out his
the same moment, and between them they tipped the
the edge. For a minute or two we were all on our knees
ing stray cigarettes from impossible places. When
we rose again,
I observed Holmes's eyes were shining and his cheeks
with colour. Only at a crisis have I seen those battle-signals
"Yes," said he, "I have solved it."
Stanley Hopkins and I stared in amazement.
Something like a
sneer quivered over the gaunt features of the old
"Indeed! In the garden?"
"You are surely joking, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
me to tell you that this is too serious a matter to
be treated in
such a fashion."
"I have forged and tested every link of my
Coram, and I am sure that it is sound. What your motives
what exact part you play in this strange business,
I am not yet
able to say. In a few minutes I shall probably hear
it from your
own lips. Meanwhile I will reconstruct what is past
benefit, so that you may know the information which
"A lady yesterday entered your study. She came
intention of possessing herself of certain documents
in your bureau. She had a key of her own. I have had
opportunity of examining yours, and I do not find
discolouration which the scratch made upon the varnish
have produced. You were not an accessory, therefore,
came, so far as I can read the evidence, without your
to rob you."
The professor blew a cloud from his lips. "This
interesting and instructive," said he. "Have you no
add? Surely, having traced this lady so far, you can
what has become of her."
"I will endeavour to do so. In the first place
she was seized
by your secretary, and stabbed him in order to escape.
catastrophe I am inclined to regard as an unhappy
accident, for I
am convinced that the lady had no intention of inflicting
grievous an injury. An assassin does not come unarmed.
fied by what she had done, she rushed wildly away
scene of the tragedy. Unfortunately for her, she had
glasses in the scuffle, and as she was extremely shortsighted
was really helpless without them. She ran down a corridor,
which she imagined to be that by which she had come
were lined with cocoanut matting -- and it was only
when it was
too late that she understood that she had taken the
sage, and that her retreat was cut off behind her.
What was she
to do? She could not go back. She could not remain
was. She must go on. She went on. She mounted a stair,
open a door, and found herself in your room."
The old man sat with his mouth open, staring
Holmes. Amazement and fear were stamped upon his expressive
features. Now, with an effort, he shrugged his shoulders
burst into insincere laughter.
"All very fine, Mr. Holmes," said he. "But
there is one little
flaw in your splendid theory. I was myself in my room,
never left it during the day."
"I am aware of that, Professor Coram."
"And you mean to say that I could lie upon
that bed and not
be aware that a woman had entered my room?"
"I never said so. You were aware of it. You
spoke with her.
You recognized her. You aided her to escape."
Again the professor burst into high-keyed laughter.
risen to his feet, and his eyes glowed like embers.
"You are mad!" he cried. "You are talking insanely.
her to escape? Where is she now?"
"She is there," said Holmes, and he pointed
to a high book-
case in the corner of the room.
I saw the old man throw up his arms, a terrible
passed over his grim face, and he fell back in his
chair. At the
same instant the bookcase at which Holmes pointed
upon a hinge, and a woman rushed out into the room.
right!" she cried, in a strange foreign voice. "You
are right! I
She was brown with the dust and draped with
which had come from the walls of her hiding-place.
too, was streaked with grime, and at the best she
have been handsome, for she had the exact physical
tics which Holmes had divined, with, in addition,
a long and
obstinate chin. What with her natural blindness, and
the change from dark to light, she stood as one dazed,
about her to see where and who we were. And yet, in
spite of all
these disadvantages, there was a certain nobility
in the woman's
bearing -- a gallantry in the defiant chin and in
the upraised head,
which compelled something of respect and admiration.
Stanley Hopkins had laid his hand upon her
arm and claimed
her as his prisoner, but she waved him aside gently,
and yet with
an over-mastering dignity which compelled obedience.
man lay back in his chair with a twitching face, and
with brooding eyes.
"Yes, sir, I am your prisoner," she said. "From
stood I could hear everything, and I know that you
the truth. I confess it all. It was I who killed the
young man. But
you are right -- you who say it was an accident. I
did not even
know that it was a knife which I held in my hand,
for in my
despair I snatched anything from the table and struck
at him to
make him let me go. It is the truth that I tell."
"Madam," said Holmes, "I am sure that it is
the truth. I fear
that you are far from well."
She had turned a dreadful colour, the more
ghastly under the
dark dust-streaks upon her face. She seated herself
on the side of
the bed; then she resumed.
"I have only a little time here," she said,
"but I would have
you to know the whole truth. I am this man's wife.
He is not an
Englishman. He is a Russian. His name I will not tell."
For the first time the old man stirred. "God
bless you, Anna!"
he cried. "God bless you!"
She cast a look of the deepest disdain in his
should you cling so hard to that wretched life of
said she. "It has done harm to many and good to none
even to yourself. However, it is not for me to cause
thread to be snapped before God's time. I have enough
upon my soul since I crossed the threshold of this
But I must speak or I shall be too late.
"I have said, gentlemen, that I am this man's
wife. He was
fifty and I a foolish girl of twenty when we married.
It was in a
city of Russia, a university -- I will not name the
"God bless you, Anna!" murmured the old man
"We were reformers -- revolutionists -- Nihilists,
stand. He and I and many more. Then there came a time
trouble, a police officer was killed, many were arrested,
dence was wanted, and in order to save his own life
and to earn a
great reward, my husband betrayed his own wife and
panions. Yes, we were all arrested upon his confession.
us found our way to the gallows, and some to Siberia.
among these last, but my term was not for life. My
came to England with his ill-gotten gains and has
lived in quiet
ever since, knowing well that if the Brotherhood knew
was not a week would pass before justice would be
The old man reached out a trembling hand and
to a cigarette. "I am in your hands, Anna," said he.
always good to me."
"I have not yet told you the height of his
villainy," said she.
"Among our comrades of the Order, there was one who
friend of my heart. He was noble, unselfish, loving
-- all that my
husband was not. He hated violence. We were all guilty
-- if that
is guilt -- but he was not. He wrote forever dissuading
such a course. These letters would have saved him.
So would my
diary, in which, from day to day, I had entered both
towards him and the view which each of us had taken.
husband found and kept both diary and letters. He
hid them, and
he tried hard to swear away the young man's life.
In this he
failed, but Alexis was sent a convict to Siberia,
where now, at
this moment, he works in a salt mine. Think of that,
you villain! -- now, now, at this very moment, Alexis,
whose name you are not worthy to speak, works and
lives like a
slave, and yet I have your life in my hands, and I
let you go."
"You were always a noble woman, Anna," said
the old man,
puffing at his cigarette.
She had risen, but she fell back again with
a little cry of pain.
"I must finish," she said. "When my term was
over I set
myself to get the diary and letters which, if sent
to the Russian
government, would procure my friend's release. I knew
husband had come to England. After months of searching
covered where he was. I knew that he still had the
when I was in Siberia I had a letter from him once,
me and quoting some passages from its pages. Yet I
that, with his revengeful nature, he would never give
it to me of
his own free-will. I must get it for myself. With
this object I
engaged an agent from a private detective firm, who
husband's house as a secretary -- it was your second
Sergius, the one who left you so hurriedly. He found
were kept in the cupboard, and he got an impression
of the key.
He would not go farther. He furnished me with a plan
house, and he told me that in the forenoon the study
empty, as the secretary was employed up here. So at
last I took
my courage in both hands, and I came down to get the
myself. I succeeded; but at what a cost!
"I had just taken the papers and was locking
when the young man seized me. I had seen him already
morning. He had met me on the road, and I had asked
him to tell
me where Professor Coram lived, not knowing that he
was in his
"Exactly! Exactly!" said Holmes. "The secretary
and told his employer of the woman he had met. Then,
in his last
breath, he tried to send a message that it was she
-- the she whom
he had just discussed with him."
"You must let me speak," said the woman, in
voice, and her face contracted as if in pain. "When
he had fallen
I rushed from the room, chose the wrong door, and
in my husband's room. He spoke of giving me up. I
that if he did so, his life was in my hands. If he
gave me to the
law, I could give him to the Brotherhood. It was not
wished to live for my own sake, but it was that I
accomplish my purpose. He knew that I would do what
I said --
that his own fate was involved in mine. For that reason,
no other, he shielded me. He thrust me into that dark
place -- a relic of old days, known only to himself.
He took his
meals in his own room, and so was able to give me
part of his
food. It was agreed that when the police left the
house I should
slip away by night and come back no more. But in some
you have read our plans." She tore from the bosom
of her dress
a small packet. "These are my last words," said she;
the packet which will save Alexis. I confide it to
and to your love of justice. Take it! You will deliver
it at the
Russian Embassy. Now, I have done my duty, and --"
"Stop her!" cried Holmes. He had bounded across
and had wrenched a small phial from her hand.
"Too late!" she said, sinking back on the bed.
"Too late! I
took the poison before I left my hiding-place. My
head swims! I
am going! I charge you, sir, to remember the packet."
"A simple case, and yet, in some ways, an instructive
Holmes remarked, as we travelled back to town. "It
the outset upon the pince-nez. But for the fortunate
chance of the
dying man having seized these, I am not sure that
we could ever
have reached our solution. It was clear to me, from
of the glasses, that the wearer must have been very
helpless when deprived of them. When you asked me
that she walked along a narrow strip of grass without
making a false step, I remarked, as you may remember,
was a noteworthy performance. In my mind I set it
down as an
impossible performance, save in the unlikely case
that she had a
second pair of glasses. I was forced, therefore, to
seriously the hypothesis that she had remained within
On perceiving the similarity of the two corridors.
it became clear
that she might very easily have made such a mistake,
and, in that
case, it was evident that she must have entered the
room. I was keenly on the alert, therefore, for whatever
bear out this supposition, and I examined the room
anything in the shape of a hiding-place. The carpet
continuous and firmly nailed, so I dismissed the idea
trap-door. There might well be a recess behind the
you are aware, such devices are common in old libraries.
served that books were piled on the floor at all other
that one bookcase was left clear. This, then, might
be the door. I
could see no marks to guide me, but the carpet was
of a dun
colour, which lends itself very well to examination.
smoked a great number of those excellent cigarettes,
dropped the ash all over the space in front of the
bookcase. It was a simple trick, but exceedingly effective.
went downstairs, and I ascertained, in your presence,
without your perceiving the drift of my remarks, that
Coram's consumption of food had increased -- as one
expect when he is supplying a second person. We then
to the room again, when, by upsetting the cigarette-box,
tained a very excellent view of the floor, and was
able to see
quite clearly, from the traces upon the cigarette
ash, that the
prisoner had in our absence come out from her retreat.
Hopkins, here we are at Charing Cross, and I congratulate
on having brought your case to a successful conclusion.
going to headquarters, no doubt. I think, Watson,
you and I will
drive together to the Russian Embassy."