| "From the point of view of the criminal
expert," said Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, "London has become a singularly uninterest-
ing city since the death of the late lamented Professor
"I can hardly think that you would find many
to agree with you," I answered.
"Well, well, I must not be selfish," said he,
with a smile, as
he pushed back his chair from the breakfast-table.
nity is certainly the gainer, and no one the loser,
save the poor
out-of-work specialist, whose occupation has gone.
man in the field, one's morning paper presented infinite
ities. Often it was only the smallest trace, Watson,
indication, and yet it was enough to tell me that
malignant brain was there, as the gentlest tremors
of the edges of
the web remind one of the foul spider which lurks
in the centre.
Petty thefts, wanton assaults, purposeless outrage
-- to the man
who held the clue all could be worked into one connected
To the scientific student of the higher criminal world,
in Europe offered the advantages which London then
But now --" He shrugged his shoulders in humorous
of the state of things which he had himself done so
At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been
back for some
months, and I at his request had sold my practice
and returned to
share the old quarters in Baker Street. A young doctor,
Vemer, had purchased my small Kensington practice,
with astonishingly little demur the highest price
that I ventured to
ask -- an incident which only explained itself some
when I found that Vemer was a distant relation of
that it was my friend who had really found the money.
Our months of partnership had not been so uneventful
had stated, for I find, on looking over my notes,
that this period
includes the case of the papers of ex-President Murillo,
the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland,
nearly cost us both our lives. His cold and proud
always averse, however, from anything in the shape
applause, and he bound me in the most stringent terms
to say no
further word of himself, his methods, or his successes
-- a prohi-
bition which, as I have explained, has only now been
Mr. Sherlock Holmes was leaning back in his
chair after his
whimsical protest, and was unfolding his morning paper
leisurely fashion, when our attention was arrested
by a tremen-
dous ring at the bell, followed immediately by a hollow
ming sound, as if someone were beating on the outer
his fist. As it opened there came a tumultuous rush
into the hall,
rapid feet clattered up the stair, and an instant
later a wild-eyed
and frantic young man, pale, dishevelled, and palpitating,
into the room. He looked from one to the other of
us, and under
our gaze of inquiry he became conscious that some
needed for this unceremonious entry.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Holmes," he cried. "You mustn't
I am nearly mad. Mr. Holmes, I am the unhappy John
He made the announcement as if the name alone
plain both his visit and its manner, but I could seel
companion's unresponsive face, that it meant no more
than to me.
"Have a cigarette, Mr. McFarlane," said he,
pushing his case
across. "I am sure that, with your symptoms, my friend
Watson here would prescribe a sedative. The weather
so very warm these last few days. Now, if you feel
a little more
composed, I should be glad if you would sit down in
and tell us very slowly and quietly who you are. and
what it is
that you want. You mentioned your name, as if I should
nize it, but I assure you that, beyond the obvious
facts that you
are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an asthmatic,
know nothing whatever about you."
Familiar as I was with my friend's methods,
it was not diffi-
cult for me to follow his deductions, and to observe
ness of attire, the sheaf of legal papers, the watch-charm,
breathing which had prompted them. Our client, however,
"Yes, I am all that, Mr. Holmes; and, in addition,
I am the
most unfortunate man at this moment in London. For
sake, don't abandon me, Mr. Holmes! If they come to
before I have finished my story, make them give me
that I may tell you the whole truth. I could go to
jail happy if I
knew that you were working for me outside."
"Arrest you!" said Holmes. "This is really
most grati -- most
interesting. On what charge do you expect to be arrested?"
"Upon the charge of murdering Mr. Jonas Oldacre,
My companion's expressive face showed a sympathy
was not, I am afraid, entirely unmixed with satisfaction.
"Dear me," said he, "it was only this moment
that I was saying to my friend, Dr. Watson, that sensational
cases had disappeared out of our papers."
Our visitor stretched forward a quivering hand
and picked up
the Daily Telegraph, which still lay upon Holmes's
"If you had looked at it, sir, you would have
seen at a glance
what the errand is on which I have come to you this
feel as if my name and my misfortune must be in every
mouth." He turned it over to expose the central page.
is, and with your permission I will read it to you.
Listen to this,
Mr. Holmes. The headlines are: 'Mysterious Affair
Norwood. Disappearance of a Well Known Builder. Suspicion
Murder and Arson. A Clue to the Criminal.' That is
which they are already following, Mr. Holmes, and
I know that
it leads infallibly to me. I have been followed from
Bridge Station, and I am sure that they are only waiting
warrant to arrest me. It will break my mother's heart
-- it will
break her heart!" He wrung his hands in an agony of
sion, and swayed backward and forward in his chair.
I looked with interest upon this man, who was
being the perpetrator of a crime of violence. He was
haired and handsome, in a washed-out negative fashion,
frightened blue eyes, and a clean-shaven face, with
sensitive mouth. His age may have been about twenty-seven,
dress and bearing that of a gentleman. From the pocket
light summer overcoat protruded the bundle of endorsed
which proclaimed his profession.
"We must use what time we have," said Holmes.
would you have the kindness to take the paper and
to read the
paragraph in question?"
Underneath the vigorous headlines which our
client had quoted,
I read the following suggestive narrative:
"Late last night,
or early this morning, an incident oc-
curred at Lower Norwood which
points, it is feared, to a
serious crime. Mr. Jonas Oldacre
is a well known resident
of that suburb, where he has
carried on his business as a
builder for many years. Mr.
Oldacre is a bachelor, fifty-two
years of age, and lives in Deep
Dene House, at the Sydenham
end of the road of that name.
He has had the reputation of
being a man of eccentric habits,
secretive and retiring. For
some years he has practically
withdrawn from the business,
in which he is said to have
massed considerable wealth. A
small timber-yard still exists,
however, at the back of the
house, and last night, about
twelve o'clock, an alarm was
given that one of the stacks
was on fire. The engines were
soon upon the spot, but the
dry wood burned with great
fury, and it was impossible
to arrest the conflagration until
the stack had been entirely
consumed. Up to this point the
incident bore the appearance
of an ordinary accident, but
fresh indications seem to point
to serious crime. Surprise
was expressed at the absence
of the master of the establish-
ment from the scene of the fire,
and an inquiry followed,
which showed that he had disappeared
from the house. An
examination of his room revealed
that the bed had not been
slept in, that a safe which
stood in it was open, that a
number of important papers were
scattered about the room,
and finally, that there were
signs of a murderous struggle,
slight traces of blood being
found within the room, and an
oaken walking-stick, which also
showed stains of blood
upon the handle. It is known
that Mr. Jonas Oldacre had
received a late visitor in his
bedroom upon that night, and
the stick found has been identified
as the property of this
person, who is a young London
solicitor named John Hector
McFarlane, junior partner of
Graham and McFarlane, of
426 Gresham Buildings. E. C.
The police believe that they
have evidence in their possession
which supplies a very
convincing motive for the crime,
and altogether it cannot be
doubted that sensational developments
"LATER. -- It is
rumoured as we go to press that Mr. John
Hector McFarlane has actually
been arrested on the charge
of the murder of Mr. Jonas Oldacre.
It is at least certain that
a warrant has been issued. There
have been further and
sinister developments in the
investigation at Norwood. Be-
sides the signs of a struggle
in the room of the unfortunate
builder it is now known that
the French windows of his
bedroom (which is on the ground
floor) were found to be
open, that there were marks
as if some bulky object had
been dragged across to the wood-pile,
and, finally, it is
asserted that charred remains
have been found among the
charcoal ashes of the fire.
The police theory is that a most
sensational crime has been committed,
that the victim was
clubbed to death in his own
bedroom, his papers rifled, and
his dead body dragged across
to the wood-stack, which was
then ignited so as to hide all
traces of the crime. The
conduct of the criminal investigation
has been left in the
experienced hands of Inspector
Lestrade, of Scotland Yard,
who is following up the clues
with his accustomed energy
Sherlock Holmes listened with closed eyes and
gether to this remarkable account.
"The case has certainly some points of interest,"
said he, in
his languid fashion. "May I ask, in the first place,
how it is that you are still at liberty, since there
appears to be
enough evidence to justify your arrest?"
"I live at Torrington Lodge, Blackheath, with
Mr. Holmes but last night, having to do business very
Mr. Jonas Oidacre, I stayed at an hotel in Norwood,
and came to
my business from there. I knew nothing of this affair
until I was
in the train, when I read what you have just heard.
I at once saw
the horrible danger of my position, and I hurried
to put the case
into your hands. I have no doubt that I should have
either at my city office or at my home. A man followed
London Bridge Station, and I have no doubt Great heaven!
what is that?"
It was a clang of the bell, followed instantly
by heavy steps
upon the stair. A moment later, our old friend Lestrade
in the doorway. Over his shoulder I caught a glimpse
of one or
two uniformed policemen outside.
"Mr. John Hector McFarlane?" said LestMde.
Our unfortunate client rose with a ghastly
"I arrest you for the wilful murder of Mr.
Jonas Oldacre, of
McFarlane turned to us with a gesture of despair,
into his chair once more like one who is crushed.
"One moment. Lestrade," said Holmes. "Half
an hour more
or less can make no difference to you, and the gentleman
about to give us an account of this very interesting
might aid us in clearing it up."
"I think there will be no difficulty in clearing
it up," said
"None the less, with your permission, I should
interested to hear his account."
"Well, Mr. Holmes, it is difficult for me to
anything, for you have been of use to the force once
or twice in
the past, and we owe you a good turn at Scotland Yard,"
Lestrade. "At the same time I must remain with my
and I am bound to warn him that anything he may say
appear in evidence against him."
"I wish nothing better," said our client. "All
I ask is that you
should hear and recognize the absolute truth."
Lestrade looked at his watch. "I'll give you
half an hour,"
"I must explain first," said McFarlane, "that
I knew nothing
of Mr. Jonas Oldacre. His name was familiar to me,
years ago my parents were acquainted with him, but
apart. I was very much surprised, therefore, when
about three o'clock in the afternoon, he walked into
my office in
the city. But I was still more astonished when he
told me the
object of his visit. He had in his hand several sheets
notebook, covered with scribbled writing -- here they
are -- and
he laid them on my table.
" 'Here is my will,' said he. 'I want you,
Mr. McFarlane, to
cast it into proper legal shape. I will sit here while
you do so.'
"I set myself to copy it, and you can imagine
ment when I found that, with some reservations, he
had left all
his property to me. He was a strange little ferret-like
white eyelashes, and when I looked up at him I found
gray eyes fixed upon me with an amused expression.
hardly believe my own senses as I read the terms of
the will, but
he explained that he was a bachelor with hardly any
relation, that he had known my parents in his youth,
and that he
had always heard of me as a very deserving young man,
assured that his money would be in worthy hands. Of
could only stammer out my thanks. The will was duly
signed, and witnesscd by my clerk. This is it on the
and these slips, as I have explained. are the rough
Jonas Oldacre then informed me that there were a number
documents -- building leases, title-deeds, mortgages,
so forth -- which it was necessary that I should see
He said that his mind would not be easy until the
was settled, and he begged me to come out to his house
Norwood that night, bringing the will with me, and
matters. 'Remember, my boy, not one word to your parents
about the affair until everything is settled. We will
keep it as a
little surprise for them.' He was very insistent upon
and made me promise it faithfully.
"You can imagine, Mr. Holmes, that I was not
in a humour to
refuse him anything that he might ask. He was my benefactor,
and all my desire was to carry out his wishes in every
I sent a telegram home, therefore, to say that I had
business on hand, and that it was impossible for me
to say how
late I might be. Mr. Oldacre had told me that he would
to have supper with him at nine, as he might not be
that hour. I had some difficulty in finding his house,
and it was nearly half-past before I reached it. I
found him --"
"One moment!" said Holmes. "Who opened the
"A middle-aged woman, who was, I suppose, his
"And it was she, I presume, who mentioned your
"Exactly," said McFarlane.
McFarlane wiped his damp brow, and then continued
"I was shown by this woman into a sitting-room,
frugal supper was laid out. Afterwards, Mr. Jonas
me into his bedroom, in which there stood a heavy
safe. This he
opened and took out a mass of documents, which we
together. It was between eleven and twelve when we
He remarked that we must not disturb the housekeeper.
showed me out through his own French window, which
open all this time."
"Was the blind down?" asked Holmes.
"I will not be sure. but I believe that it
was only half down.
Yes, I remember how he pulled it up in order to swing
window. I could not find my stick, and he said, 'Never
my boy, I shall see a good deal of you now, I hope,
and I will
keep your stick until you come back to claim it.'
I left him there,
the safe open, and the papers made up in packets upon
It was so latc that I could not get back to Blackheath.
so I spent
the night at the Anerley Arms. and I knew nothing
more until I
read of this horrible affair in the morning."
"Anything more that you would like to ask,
said Lestrade, whose eyebrows had gone up once or
this remarkable explanation.
"Not until I have been to Blackheath."
"You mean to Norwood," said Lestrade.
"Oh, yes, no doubt that is what I must have
Holmes, with his enigmatical smile. Lestrade had learned
more experiences than he would care to acknowledge
razor-like brain could cut through that which was
him. I saw him look curiously at my companion.
"I think I should like to have a word with
you presently, Mr,
Sherlock Holmes," said he. "Now, Mr. McFarlane, two
constables are at the door, and there is a four-wheeler
The wretched young man arose, and with a last beseeching
glance at us walked from the room. The officers conducted
to the cab, but Lestrade remained.
Holmes had picked up the pages which formed
the rough draft
of the will, and was looking at them with the keenest
upon his face.
"There are some points about that document,
there not?" said he, pushing them over.
The official looked at them with a puzzled
"I can read the first few lines, and these
in the middle of the
second page, and one or two at the end. Those are
as clear as
print," said he, "but the writing in between is very
there are three places where I cannot read it at all."
"What do you make of that?" said Holmes.
"Well, what do you make of it?"
"That it was written in a train. The good writing
stations, the bad writing movement, and the very bad
passing over points. A scientific expert would pronounce
that this was drawn up on a suburban line, since nowhere
the immediate vicinity of a great city could there
be so quick a
succession of points. Granting that his whole journey
pied in drawing up the will, then the train was an
stopping once between Norwood and London Bridge."
Lestrade began to laugh.
"You are too many for me when you begin to
get on your
theories. Mr. Holmes," said he. "How does this bear
"Well, it corroborates the young man's story
to the extent that
the will was drawn up by Jonas Oldacre in his journey
It is curious -- is it not? -- that a man should draw
up so important
a document in so haphazard a fashion. It suggests
that he did not
think it was going to be of much practical importance.
If a man
drew up a will which he did not intend ever to be
might do it so."
"Well, he drew up his own death warrant at
the same time,"
"Oh, you think so?"
"Well, it is quite possible, but the case is
not clear to me
"Not clear? Well, if that isn't clear, what
could be clear? Here
is a young man who learns suddenly that, if a certain
dies, he will succeed to a fortune. What does he do?
nothing to anyone, but he arranges that he shall go
out on some
pretext to see his client that night. He waits until
the only other
person in the house is in bed, and then in the solitude
of a man's
room he murders him, burns his body in the wood-pile,
departs to a neighbouring hotel. The blood-stains
in the room
and also on the stick are very slight. It is probable
imagined his crime to be a bloodless one, and hoped
that if the
body were consumed it would hide all traces of the
method of his
death -- traces which, for some reason, must have
pointed to him.
Is not all this obvious?"
"It strikes me, my good Lestrade, as being
just a trifle too
obvious," said Holmes. "You do not add imagination
other great qualities, but if you could for one moment
yourself in the place of this young man, would you
very night after the will had been made to commit
Would it not seem dangerous to you to make so very
relation between the two incidents? Again, would you
occasion when you are known to be in the house, when
has let you in? And, finally, would you take the great
conceal the body, and yet leave your own stick as
a sign that you
were the cnminal? Confess, Lestrade, that all this
is very unlikely."
"As to the stick, Mr. Holmes, you know as well
as I do that a
criminal is often flurried, and does such things,
which a cool
man would avoid. He was very likely afraid to go back
room. Give me another theory that would fit the facts."
"I could very easily give you half a dozen,"
"Here, for example, is a very possible and even probable
make you a free present of it. The older man is showing
ments which are of evident value. A passing tramp
through the window, the blind of which is only half
the solicitor. Enter the tramp! He seizes a stick,
observes there, kills Oldacre, and departs after burning
"Why should the tramp burn the body?"
"For the matter of that, why should McFarlane?"
"To hide some evidence."
"Possibly the tramp wanted to hide that any
murder at all had
"And why did the tramp take nothing?"
"Because they were papers that he could not
Lestrade shook his head, though it seemed to
me that his
manner was less absolutely assured than before.
"Well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you may look for
and while you are finding him we will hold on to our
future will show which is right. Just notice this
Holmes: that so far as we know, none of the papers
removed, and that the prisoner is the one man in the
had no reason for removing them, since he was heir-at-law,
would come into them in any case."
My friend seemed struck by this remark.
"I don't mean to deny that the evidence is
in some ways very
strongly in favour of your theory," said he. "I only
point out that there are other theories possible.
As you say, the
future will decide. Good-morning! I dare say that
in the course
of the day I shall drop in at Norwood and see how
When the detective departed, my friend rose
and made his
preparations for the day's work with the alert air
of a man who
has a congenial task before him.
"My first movement, Watson," said he. as he
bustled into his
frockcoat, "must, as I said, be in the direction of
"And why not Norwood?"
"Because we have in this case one singular
close to the heels of another singular incident. The
making the mistake of concentrating their attention
second, because it happens to be the one which is
criminal. But it is evident to me that the logical
way to approach
the case is to begin by trying to throw some light
upon the first
incident -- the curious will, so suddenly made, and
to so unex-
pected an heir. It may do something to simplify what
No, my dear fellow, I don't think you can help me.
There is no
prospect of danger, or I should not dream of stirring
you. I trust that when I see you in the evening, I
will be able to
report that I have been able to do something for this
youngster, who has thrown himself upon my protection."
It was late when my friend returned, and I
could see, by a
glance at his haggard and anxious face, that the high
which he had started had not been fulfilled. For an
droned away upon his violin, endeavouring to soothe
ruffled spirits. At last he flung down the instrument,
into a detailed account of his misadventures.
"It's all going wrong, Watson -- all as wrong
as it can go. I
kept a bold face before Lestrade, but, upon my soul,
that for once the fellow is on the right track and
we are on the
wrong. All my instincts are one way, and all the facts
other, and I much fear that British juries have not
that pitch of intelligence when they will give the
my theories over Lestrade's facts."
"Did you go to Blackheath?"
"Yes, Watson, I went there, and I found very
quickly that the
late lamented Oldacre was a pretty considerable blackguard.
father was away in search of his son. The mother was
at home -- a
little, fluffy, blue-eyed person, in a tremor of fear
tion. Of course, she would not admit even the possibility
guilt. But she would not express either surprise or
regret over the
fate of Oldacre. On the contrary, she spoke of him
bitterness that she was unconsciously considerably
the case of the police for, of course, if her son
had heard her
speak of the man in this fashion, it would predispose
towards hatred and violence. 'He was more like a malignant
cunning ape than a human being,' said she, 'and he
ever since he was a young man.'
" 'You knew him at that time?' said I.
'' 'Yes, I knew him well, in fact, he was an
old suitor of
mine. Thank heaven that I had the sense to turn away
and to marry a better, if poorer, man. I was engaged
to him. Mr.
Holmes, when I heard a shocking story of how he had
cat loose in an aviary, and I was so horrified at
his brutal cruelty
that I would have nothing more to do with him.' She
in a bureau, and presently she produced a photograph
woman, shamefully defaced and mutilated with a knife.
my own photograph.' she said. 'He sent it to me in
with his curse, upon my wedding morning.'
" 'Well,' said I, 'at least he has forgiven
you now, since he
has left all his property to your son.'
" 'Neither my son nor I want anything from
dead or alive!' she cried, with a proper spirit. 'There
is a God in
heaven, Mr. Holmes, and that same God who has punished
wicked man will show, in His own good time, that my
hands are guiltless of his blood.'
"Well, I tried one or two leads, but could
get at nothing
which would help our hypothesis, and several points
would make against it. I gave it up at last, and off
I went to
"This place, Deep Dene House, is a big modern
staring brick, standing back in its own grounds, with
clumped lawn in front of it. To the right and some
from the road was the timber-yard which had been the
the fire. Here's a rough plan on a leaf of my notebook.
window on the left is the one which opens into Oldacre's
You can look into it from the road, you see. That
is about the
only bit of consolation I have had to-day. Lestrade
was not there,
but his head constable did the honours. They had just
great treasure-trove. They had spent the morning raking
the ashes of the burned wood-pile, and besides the
organic remains they had secured several discoloured
I examined them with care, and there was no doubt
were trouser buttons. I even distinguished that one
of them was
marked with the name of 'Hyams,' who was Oldacre's
then worked the lawn very carefully for signs and
traces, but this
drought has made everything as hard as iron. Nothing
was to be
seen save that some body or bundle had been dragged
low privet hedge which is in a line with the wood-pile.
of course, fits in with the official theory. I crawled
lawn with an August sun on my back, but I got up at
the end of
an hour no wiser than before.
"Well, after this fiasco I went into the bedroom
that also. The blood-stains were very slight, mere
discolourations, but undoubtedly fresh. The stick
had been re-
moved, but there also the marks were slight. There
is no doubt
about the stick belonging to our client. He admits
of both men could be made out on the carpet, but none
third person, which again is a trick for the other
side. They were
piling up their score all the time and we were at
"Only one little gleam of hope did I get --
and yet it amounted
to nothing. I examined the contents of the safe, most
had been taken out and left on the table. The papers
made up into sealed envelopes, one or two of which
opened by the police. They were not, so far as I could
any great value, nor did the bank-book show that Mr.
was in such very affluent circumstances. But it seemed
that all the papers were not there. There were allusions
deeds -- possibly the more valuable -- which I could
This, of course, if we could definitely prove it,
Lestrade's argument against himself; for who would
steal a thing
if he knew that he would shortly inherit it?
"Finally, having drawn every other cover and
picked up no
scent, I tried my luck with the housekeeper. Mrs.
her name -- a little, dark, silent person, with suspicious
sidelong eyes. She could tell us somethirig if she
would -- I am
convinced of it. But she was as close as wax. Yes,
she had let
Mr. McFarlane in at half-past nine. She wished her
withered before she had done so. She had gone to bed
half-past ten. Her room was at the other end of the
she could hear nothing of what passed. Mr. McFarlane
his hat, and to the best of her belief his stick,
in the hall. She had
been awakened by the alarm of fire. Her poor, dear
certainly been murdered. Had he any enemies? Well,
had enemies, but Mr. Oldacre kept himself very much
self, and only met people in the way of business.
She had seen
the buttons, and was sure that they belonged to the
he had worn last night. The wood-pile was very dry,
for it had
not rained for a month. It burned like tinder, and
by the time she
reached the spot, nothing could be seen but flames.
She and all
the firemen smelled the burned flesh from inside it.
nothing of the papers, nor of Mr. Oldacre's private
"So, my dear Watson, there's my report of a
yet -- and yet --" he clenched his thin hands in a
conviction-- "I know it's all wrong. I feel it in
my bones. There
is something that has not come out, and that housekeeper
it. There was a sort of sulky defiance in her eyes,
goes with guilty knowledge. However, there's no good
any more about it, Watson; but unless some lucky chance
our way I fear that the Norwood Disappearance Case
figure in that chronicle of our successes which I
foresee that a
patient public will sooner or later have to endure."
"Surely," said I, "the man's appearance would
go far with
"That is a dangerous argument, my dear Watson.
member that terrible murderer, Bert Stevens, who wanted
get him off in '87? Was there ever a more mild-mannered,
Sunday-school young man?"
"It is true."
"Unless we succeed in establishing an alternative
man is lost. You can hardly find a flaw in the case
now be presented against him, and all further investigation
served to strengthen it. By the way, there is one
point about those papers which may serve us as the
for an inquiry. On looking over the bank-book I found
low state of the balance was principally due to large
which have been made out during the last year to Mr.
I confess that I should be interested to know who
Cornelius may be with whom a retired builder has had
large transactions. Is it possible that he has had
a hand in the
affair? Cornelius might be a broker, but we have found
to correspond with these large payments. Failing any
dication, my researches must now take the direction
of an in-
quiry at the bank for the gentleman who has cashed
But I fear, my dear fellow, that our case will end
Lestrade hanging our client, which will certainly
be a triumph
for Scotland Yard."
I do not know how far Sherlock Holmes took
any sleep that
night, but when I came down to breakfast I found him
harassed, his bright eyes the brighter for the dark
them. The carpet round his chair was littered with
and with the early editions of the morning papers.
telegram lay upon the table.
"What do you think of this, Watson?" he asked,
It was from Norwood, and ran as follows:
Important fresh evidence
to hand. McFarlane's guilt defi-
nitely established. Advise you
to abandon case.
"This sounds serious," said I.
"It is Lestrade's little cock-a-doodle of victory,"
answered, with a bitter smile. "And yet it may be
abandon the case. After all, important fresh evidence
is a two-
edged thing, and may possibly cut in a very different
that which Lestrade imagines. Take your breakfast,
we will go out together and see what we can do. I
feel as if I
shall need your company and your moral support to-day."
My friend had no breakfast himself, for it
was one of his
peculiarities that in his more intense moments he
himself no food, and I have known him presume upon
strength until he has fainted from pure inanition.
"At present I
cannot spare energy and nerve force for digestion,"
say in answer to my medical remonstrances. I was not
therefore, when this morning he left his untouched
him, and started with me for Norwood. A crowd of morbid
sightseers were still gathered round Deep Dene House,
was just such a suburban villa as I had pictured.
Within the gates
Lestrade met us, his face flushed with victory, his
"Well, Mr. Holmes, have you proved us to be
Have you found your tramp?" he cried.
"I have formed no conclusion whatever," my
"But we formed ours yesterday, and now it proves
correct, so you must acknowledge that we have been
a little in
front of you this time, Mr. Holmes."
"You certainly have the air of something unusual
occurred," said Holmes.
Lestrade laughed loudly.
"You don't like being beaten any more than
the rest of us
do," said he. "A man can't expect always to have it
way, can he, Dr. Watson? Step this way, if you please,
men, and I think I can convince you once for all that
it was John
McFarlane who did this crime."
He led us through the passage and out into
a dark hall beyond.
"This is where young McFarlane must have come
out to get
his hat after the crime was done," said he. "Now look
With dramatic suddenness he struck a match, and by
exposed a stain of blood upon the whitewashed wall.
As he held
the match nearer, I saw that it was more than a stain.
It was the
well-marked print of a thumb.
"Look at that with your magnifying glass, Mr.
"Yes, I am doing so."
"You are aware that no two thumb-marks are
"I have heard something of the kind."
"Well, then, will you please compare that print
with this wax
impression of young McFarlane's right thumb, taken
orders this morning?"
As he held the waxen print close to the blood-stain,
it did not
take a magnifying glass to see that the two were undoubtedly
from the same thumb. It was evident to me that our
client was lost.
"That is final," said Lestrade.
"Yes, that is final," I involuntarily echoed.
"It is final," said Holmes.
Something in his tone caught my ear, and I
turned to look at
him. An extraordinary change had come over his face.
writhing with inward merriment. His two eyes were
stars. It seemed to me that he was making desperate
restrain a convulsive attack of laughter.
"Dear me! Dear me!" he said at last. "Well,
would have thought it? And how deceptive appearances
to be sure! Such a nice young man to look at! It is
a lesson to us
not to trust our own judgment, is it not, Lestrade?"
"Yes, some of us are a little too much inclined
to be cock-
sure, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade. The man's insolence
maddening, but we could not resent it.
"What a providential thing that this young
man should press
his right thumb against the wall in taking his hat
from the peg!
Such a very natural action, too, if you come to think
Holmes was outwardly calm, but his whole body gave
of suppressed excitement as he spoke.
"By the way, Lestrade, who made this remarkable
"It was the housekeeper, Mrs. Lexington, who
drew the night
constable's attention to it."
"Where was the night constable?"
"He remained on guard in the bedroom where
the crime was
committed, so as to see that nothing was touched."
"But why didn't the police see this mark yesterday?"
"Well, we had no particular reason to make
a careful exami-
nation of the hall. Besides, it's not in a very prominent
"No, no -- of course not. I suppose there is
no doubt that the
mark was there yesterday?"
Lestrade looked at Holmes as if he thought
he was going out
of his mind. I confess that I was myself surprised
both at his
hilarious manner and at his' rather wild observation.
"I don't know whether you think that McFarlane
came out of
jail in the dead of the night in order to strengthen
against himself," said Lestrade. "I leave it to any
expert in the
world whether that is not the mark of his thumb."
"It is unquestionably the mark of his thumb."
"There, that's enough," said Lestrade. "I am
man, Mr. Holmes, and when I have got my evidence I
my conclusions. If you have anything to say, you will
writing my report in the sitting-room."
Holmes had recovered his equanimity, though
I still seemed to
detect gleams of amusement in his expression.
"Dear me, this is a very sad development, Watson,
is it not?"
said he. "And yet there are singular points about
it which hold
out some hopes for our client."
"I am delighted to hear it," said I, heartily.
"I was afraid it
was all up with him."
"I would hardly go so far as to say that, my
dear Watson. The
fact is that there is one really serious flaw in this
which our friend attaches so much importance."
"Indeed, Holmes! What is it?"
"Only this: that I know that that mark was
not there when I
examined the hall yesterday. And now, Watson, let
us have a
little stroll round in the sunshine."
With a confused brain, but with a heart into
warmth of hope was returning, I accompanied my friend
walk round the garden. Holmes took each face of the
turn, and examined it with great interest. He then
led the way
inside, and went over the whole building from basement
Most of the rooms were unfurnished, but none the less
inspected them all minutely. Finally, on the top corridor,
ran outside three untenanted bedrooms, he again was
a spasm of merriment.
"There are really some very unique features
about this case,
Watson," said he. "I think it is time now that we
took our friend
Lestrade into our confidence. He has had his little
smile at our
expense, and perhaps we may do as much by him, if
of this problem proves to be correct. Yes, yes, I
think I see how
we should approach it."
The Scotland Yard inspector was still writing
in the parlour
when Holmes interrupted him.
"I understood that you were writing a report
of this case,"
"So I am."
"Don't you think it may be a little premature?
I can't help
thinking that your evidence is not complete."
Lestrade knew my friend too well to disregard
his words. He
laid down his pen and looked curiously at him.
"What do you mean, Mr. Holmes?"
"Only that there is an important witness whom
you have not
"Can you produce him?"
"I think I can."
"Then do so."
"I will do my best. How many constables have
"There are three within call."
"Excellent!" said Holmes. "May I ask if they
are all large,
able-bodied men with powerful voices?"
"I have no doubt they are, though I fail to
see what their
voices have to do with it."
"Perhaps I can help you to see that and one
or two other
things as well," said Holmes. "Kindly summon your
men, and I
Five minutes later, three policemen had assembled
in the hall.
"In the outhouse you will find a considerable
straw," said Holmes. "I will ask you to carry in two
bundles of it.
I think it will be of the greatest assistance in producing
witness whom I require. Thank you very much. I believe
have some matches in your pocket, Watson. Now, Mr.
I will ask you all to accompany me to the top landing."
As I have said, there was a broad corridor
there, which ran
outside three empty bedrooms. At one end of the corridor
were all marshalled by Sherlock Holmes, the constables
and Lestrade staring at my friend with amazement,
and derision chasing each other across his features.
stood before us with the air of a conjurer who is
"Would you kindly send one of your constables
buckets of water? Put the straw on the floor here.
free from the
wall on either side. Now I think that we are all ready."
Lestrade's face had begun to grow red and angry.
"I don't know whether you are playing a game
with us, Mr.
Sherlock Holmes," said he. "If you know anything,
surely say it without all this tomfoolery."
"I assure you, my good Lestrade, that I have
reason for everything that I do. You may possibly
you chaffed me a little, some hours ago, when the
on your side of the hedge, so you must not grudge
me a little
pomp and ceremony now. Might I ask you, Watson, to
window, and then to put a match to the edge of the
I did so, and driven by the draught, a coil
of gray smoke
swirled down the corridor, while the dry straw crackled
"Now we must see if we can find this witness
for you, Lestrade.
Might I ask you all to join in the cry of 'Fire!'?
Now then; one,
two, three --"
"Fire!" we all yelled.
"Thank you. I will trouble you once again."
"Just once more, gentlemen, and all together."
"Fire!" The shout must have rung over Norwood.
It had hardly died away when an amazing thing
door suddenly flew open out of what appeared to be
solid wall at
the end of the corridor, and a little, wizened man
darted out of it
like a rabbit out of its burrow.
"Capital!" said Holmes, calmly. "Watson, a
bucket of water
over the straw. That will do! Lestrade, allow me to
with your principal missing witness, Mr. Jonas Oldacre."
The detective stared at the newcomer with blank
The latter was blinking in the bright light of the
peering at us and at the smouldering fire. It was
face -- crafty, vicious, malignant, with shifty, light-gray
"What's this, then?" said Lestrade, at last.
"What have you
been doing all this time, eh?"
Oldacre gave an uneasy laugh, shrinking back
from the furious
red face of the angry detective.
"I have done no harm."
"No harm? You have done your best to get an
hanged. If it wasn't for this gentleman here, I am
not sure that
you would not have succeeded."
The wretched creature began to whimper.
"I am sure, sir, it was only my practical joke."
"Oh! a joke, was it? You won't find the laugh
on your side, I
promise you. Take him down, and keep him in the sitting-room
until I come. Mr. Holmes," he continued, when they
"I could not speak before the constables, but I don't
saying, in the presence of Dr. Watson, that this is
thing that you have done yet, though it is a mystery
to me how
you did it. You have saved an innocent man's life,
and you have
prevented a very grave scandal, which would have ruined
reputation in the Force."
Holmes smiled, and clapped Lestrade upon the
"Instead of being ruined, my good sir, you
will find that your
reputation has been enormously enhanced. Just make
alterations in that report which you were writing,
and they will
understand how hard it is to throw dust in the eyes
"And you don't want your name to appear?"
"Not at all. The work is its own reward. Perhaps
I shall get
the credit also at some distant day, when I permit
historian to lay out his foolscap once more -- eh,
now, let us see where this rat has been lurking."
A lath-and-plaster partition had been run across
six feet from the end, with a door cunningly concealed
in it. It
was lit within by slits under the eaves. A few articles
and a supply of food and water were within, together
number of books and papers.
"There's the advantage of being a builder,"
said Holmes, as we
came out. "He was able to fix up his own little hiding-place
without any confederate -- save, of course, that precious
keeper of his, whom I should lose no time in adding
to your bag,
"I'll take your advice. But how did you know
of this place,
"I made up my mind that the fellow was in hiding
house. When I paced one corridor and found it six
than the corresponding one below, it was pretty clear
was. I thought he had not the nerve to lie quiet before
of fire. We could, of course, have gone in and taken
him, but it
amused me to make him reveal himself. Besides, I owed
little mystification, Lestrade, for your chaff in
"Well, sir, you certainly got equal with me
on that. But how
in the world did you know that he was in the house
"The thumb-mark, Lestrade. You said it was
final; and so it
was, in a very different sense. I knew it had not
been there the
day before. I pay a good deal of attention to matters
of detail, as
you may have observed, and I had examined the hall,
sure that the wall was clear. Therefore, it had been
put on during
"Very simply. When those packets were sealed
Oldacre got McFarlane to secure one of the seals by
thumb upon the soft wax. It would be done so quickly
naturally, that I daresay the young man himself has
tion of it. Very likely it just so happened, and Oldacre
himself no notion of the use he would put it to. Brooding
the case in that den of his, it suddenly struck him
lutely damning evidence he could make against McFarlane
using that thumb-mark. It was the simplest thing in
the world for
him to take a wax impression from the seal, to moisten
it in as
much blood as he could get from a pin-prick, and to
put the mark
upon the wall during the night, either with his own
hand or with
that of his housekeeper. If you examine among those
which he took with him into his retreat, I will lay
you a wager
that you find the seal with the thumbmark upon it."
"Wonderful!" said Lestrade. "Wonderful! It's
all as clear as
crystal, as you put it. But what is the object of
deception, Mr. Holmes?"
It was amusing to me to see how the detective's
manner had changed suddenly to that of a child asking
of its teacher.
"Well, I don't think that is very hard to explain.
A very deep,
malicious, vindictive person is the gentleman who
is now wait-
ing us downstairs. You know that he was once refused
McFarlane's mother? You don't! I told you that you
should go to
Blackheath first and Norwood afterwards. Well, this
he would consider it, has rankled in his wicked, scheming
and all his life he has longed for vengeance, but
never seen his
chance. During the last year or two, things have gone
him -- secret speculation, I think -- and he finds
himself in a bad
way. He determines to swindle his creditors, and for
he pays large checks to a certain Mr. Cornelius, who
imagine, himself under another name. I have not traced
checks yet, but I have no doubt that they were banked
name at some provincial town where Oldacre from time
led a double existence. He intended to change his
together, draw this money, and vanish, starting life
"Well, that's likely enough."
"It would strike him that in disappearing he
might throw all
pursuit off his track, and at the same time have an
crushing revenge upon his old sweetheart, if he could
impression that he had been murdered by her only child.
It was a
masterpiece of villainy, and he carried it out like
a master. The
idea of the will, which would give an obvious motive
crime, the secret visit unknown to his own parents,
of the stick, the blood, and the animal remains and
buttons in the
wood-pile, all were admirable. It was a net from which
to me, a few hours ago, that there was no possible
he had not that supreme gift of the artist, the knowledge
to stop. He wished to improve that which was already
perfect -- to
draw the rope tighter yet round the neck of his unfortunate
and so he ruined all. Let us descend, Lestrade. There
are just one
or two questions that I would ask him."
The malignant creature was seated in his own
parlour, with a
policeman upon each side of him.
"It was a joke, my good sir -- a practical
joke, nothing more,"
he whined incessantly. "I assure you, sir, that I
cealed myself in order to see the effect of my disappearance,
I am sure that you would not be so unjust as to imagine
would have allowed any harm to befall poor young Mr.
"That's for a jury to decide," said Lestrade.
shall have you on a charge of conspiracy, if not for
"And you'll probably find that your creditors
the banking account of Mr. Cornelius," said Holmes.
The little man started, and turned his malignant
eyes upon my
"l have to thank you for a good deal," said
he. "Perhaps I'll
pay my debt some day."
Holmes smiled indulgently.
"I fancy that, for some few years, you will
find your time
very fully occupied," said he. "By the way, what was
it you put
into the wood-pile besides your old trousers? A dead
rabbits, or what? You won't tell? Dear me, how very
you! Well, well, I daresay that a couple of rabbits
both for the blood and for the charred ashes. If ever
you write an
account, Watson, you can make rabbits serve your turn."