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A Study in Scarlet

Chapter V
Our Advertisement Brings a Visitor

  Our morning's exertions had been too much for my weak health,
and I was tired out in the afternoon. After Holmes's departure
for the concert, I lay down upon the sofa and endeavoured to get
a couple of hours' sleep. It was a useless attempt. My mind had
been too much excited by all that had occurred, and the strangest
fancies and surmises crowded into it. Every time that I closed
my eyes I saw before me the distorted, baboon-like countenance
of the murdered man. So sinister was the impression which that
face had produced upon me that I found it difficult to feel
anything but gratitude for him who had removed its owner from
the world. If ever human features bespoke vice of the most
malignant type, they were certainly those of Enoch J. Drebber,
of Cleveland. Still I recognized that justice must be done, and
that the depravity of the victim was no condonement in the eyes
of the law.
  The more I thought of it the more extraordinary did my
companion's hypothesis, that the man had been poisoned, ap-
pear. I remembered how he had sniffed his lips, and had no
doubt that he had detected something which had given rise to the
idea. Then, again, if not poison, what had caused the man's
death, since there was neither wound nor marks of strangulation?
But, on the otner hand, whose blood was that which lay so
thickly upon the floor? There were no signs of a struggle, nor
had the victim any weapon with which he might have wounded
an antagonist. As long as all these questions were unsolved, I
felt that sleep would be no easy matter, either for Holmes or
myself. His quiet, self-confident manner convinced me that he
had already formed a theory which explained all the facts,
though what it was I could not for an instant conjecture.
  He was very late in returning -- so late that I knew that the
concert could not have detained him all the time. Dinner was on
the table before he appeared.
  "It was magnificent," he said, as he took his seat. "Do you
remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the
power of producing and appreciating it existed among the human
race long before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that
is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There are vague
memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world
was in its childhood."
  "That's rather a broad idea," I remarked.
  "One's ideas must be as broad as Nature if they are to
interpret Nature," he answered. "What's the matter? You're not
looking quite yourself. This Brixton Road affair has upset you."
  "To tell the truth, it has," I said. "I ought to be more
case-hardened after my Afghan experiences. I saw my own
comrades hacked to pieces at Maiwand without losing my nerve."
  "I can understand. There is a mystery about this which stimu-
lates the imagination; where there is no imagination there is no
horror. Have you seen the evening paper?"
  "It gives a fairly good account of the affair. It does not
mention the fact that when the man was raised up a woman's
wedding ring fell upon the floor. It is just as well it does not."
  "Look at this advertisement," he answered. "I had one sent
to every paper this morning immediately after the affair."
  He threw the paper across to me and I glanced at the place
indicated. It was the first announcement in the "Found" col-
umn. "In Brixton Road, this morning," it ran, "a plain gold
wedding ring, found in the roadway between the White Hart
Tavern and Holland Grove. Apply Dr. Watson, 221 B, Baker
Street, between eight and nine this evening."
  "Excuse my using your name," he said. "If I used my own,
some of these dunderheads would recognize it, and want to
meddle in the affair."
  "That is all right," I answered. "But supposing anyone ap-
plies, I have no ring."
  "Oh, yes, you have," said he, handing me one. "This will do
very well. It is almost a facsimile."
  "And who do you expect will answer this advertisement?"
  "Why, the man in the brown coat -- our florid friend with the
square toes. If he does not come himself, he will send an
  "Would he not consider it as too dangerous?"
  "Not at all. If my view of the case is correct, and I have every
reason to believe that it is, this man would rather risk anything
than lose the ring. According to my notion he dropped it while
stooping over Drebber's body, and did not miss it at the time.
After leaving the house he discovered his loss and hurried back,
but found the police already in possession, owing to his own
folly in leaving the candle burning. He had to pretend to be
drunk in order to allay the suspicions which might have been
aroused by his appearance at the gate. Now put yourself in that
man's place. On thinking the matter over, it must have occurred
to him that it was possible that he had lost the ring in the road
after leaving the house. What would he do then? He would
eagerly look out for the evening papers in the hope of seeing it
among the articles found. His eye, of course, would light upon
this. He would be overjoyed. Why should he fear a trap? There
would be no reason in his eyes why the finding of the ring
should be connected with the murder. He would come. He will
come. You shall see him within an hour."
  "And then?" I asked.
  "Oh, you can leave me to deal with him then. Have you any
  "I have my old service revolver and a few cartridges."
  "You had better clean it and load it. He will be a desperate
man; and though I shall take him unawares, it is as well to be
ready for anything."
  I went to my bedroom and followed his advice. When I
returned with the pistol, the table had been cleared, and Holmes
was engaged in his favourite occupation of scraping upon his
  "The plot thickens," he said, as I entered; "I have just had an
answer to my American telegram. My view of the case is the
correct one."
  "And that is?" I asked eagerly.
  "My fiddle would be the better for new strings," he re-
marked. "Put your pistol in your pocket. When the fellow
comes, speak to him in an ordinary way. Leave the rest to me.
Don't frighten him by looking at him too hard."
  "It is eight o'clock now," I said, glancing at my watch.
  "Yes. He will probably be here in a few minutes. Open the
door slightly. That will do. Now put the key on the inside.
Thank you! This is a queer old book I picked up at a stall
yesterday -- De Jure inter Gentes -- published in Latin at Liege in
the Lowlands, in 1642. Charles's head was still firm on his
shoulders when this little brown-backed volume was struck off."
  "Who is the printer?"
  "Philippe de Croy, whoever he may have been. On the fly-
leaf, in very faded ink, is written 'Ex libris Guliolmi Whyte.' I
wonder who William Whyte was. Some pragmatical seventeenth-
century lawyer, I suppose. His writing has a legal twist about it.
Here comes our man, I think."
  As he spoke there was a sharp ring at the bell. Sherlock
Holmes rose softly and moved his chair in the direction of the
door. We heard the servant pass along the hall, and the sharp
click of the latch as she opened it.
  "Does Dr. Watson live here?" asked a clear but rather harsh
voice. We could not hear the servant's reply, but the door
closed, and someone began to ascend the stairs. The footfall was
an uncertain and shuffling one. A look of surprise passed over
the face of my companion as he listened to it. It came slowly
along the passage, and there was a feeble tap at the door.
  "Come in," I cried.
  At my summons, instead of the man of violence whom we
expected, a very old and wrinkled woman hobbled into the
apartment. She appeared to be dazzled by the sudden blaze of
light, and after dropping a curtsey, she stood blinking at us with
her bleared eyes and fumbling in her pocket with nervous, shaky
fingers. I glanced at my companion, and his face had assumed
such a disconsolate expression that it was all I could do to keep
my countenance.
  The old crone drew out an evening paper, and pointed at our
advertisement. "It's this as has brought me, good gentlemen,"
she said, dropping another curtsey; "a gold wedding ring in the
Brixton Road. It belongs to my girl Sally, as was married only
this time twelvemonth, which her husband is steward aboard a
Union boat, and what he'd say if he comes 'ome and found her
without her ring is more than I can think, he being short enough
at the best o' times, but more especially when he has the drink.
If it please you, she went to the circus last night along with --"
  "Is that her ring?" I asked.
  "The Lord be thanked!" cried the old woman; "Sally will be
a glad woman this night. That's the ring."
  "And what may your address be?" I inquired, taking up a
  "13, Duncan Street, Houndsditch. A weary way from here."
  "The Brixton Road does not lie between any circus and
Houndsditch," said Sherlock Holmes sharply.
  The old woman faced round and looked keenly at him from
her little red-rimmed eyes. "The gentleman asked me for my
address," she said. "Sally lives in lodgings at 3, Mayfield
Place, Peckham."
  "And your name is?"
  "My name is Sawyer -- hers is Dennis, which Tom Dennis
married her -- and a smart, clean lad, too, as long as he's at sea,
and no steward in the company more thought of; but when on
shore, what with the women and what with liquor shops --"
  "Here is your ring, Mrs. Sawyer," I interrupted, in obedience
to a sign from my companion; "it clearly belongs to your
daughter, and I am glad to be able to restore it to the rightful
  With many mumbled blessings and protestations of gratitude
the old crone packed it away in her pocket, and shuffled off
down the stairs. Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet the moment
that she was gone and rushed into his room. He returned in a few
seconds enveloped in an ulster and a cravat. "I'll follow her,"
he said, hurriedly; "she must be an accomplice, and will lead me
to him. Wait up for me." The hall door had hardly slammed
behind our visitor before Holmes had descended the stair. Look-
ing through the window I could see her walking feebly along the
other side, while her pursuer dogged her some little distance
behind. "Either his whole theory is incorrect," I thought to
myself, "or else he will be led now to the heart of the mystery."
There was no need for him to ask me to wait up for him, for I
felt that sleep was impossible until I heard the result of his
  It was close upon nine when he set out. I had no idea how
long he might be, but I sat stolidly puffing at my pipe and
skipping over the pages of Henri Murger's Vie de Boheme. Ten
o'clock passed, and I heard the footsteps of the maid as she
pattered off to bed. Eleven, and the more stately tread of the
landlady passed my door, bound for the same destination. It was
close upon twelve before I heard the sharp sound of his latchkey.
The instant he entered I saw by his face that he had not been
successful. Amusement and chagrin seemed to be struggling for
the mastery, until the former suddenly carried the day, and he
burst into a hearty laugh.
  "I wouldn't have the Scotland Yarders know it for the world,"
he cried, dropping into his chair; "I have chaffed them so much
that they would never have let me hear the end of it. I can afford
to laugh, because I know that I will be even with them in the
long run."
  "What is it then?" I asked.
  "Oh, I don't mind telling a story against myself. That creature
had gone a little way when she began to limp and show every
sign of being footsore. Presently she came to a halt, and hailed a
four-wheeler which was passing. I managed to be close to her so
as to hear the address, but I need not have been so anxious, for
she sang it out loud enough to be heard at the other side of the
street, 'Drive to 13, Duncan Street, Houndsditch,' she cried.
This begins to look genuine, I thought, and having seen her
safely inside, I perched myself behind. That's an art which every
detective should be an expert at. Well, away we rattled, and
never drew rein until we reached the street in question. I hopped
off before we came to the door, and strolled down the street in
an easy, lounging way. I saw the cab pull up. The driver jumped
down, and I saw him open the door and stand expectantly.
Nothing came out though. When I reached him, he was groping
about frantically in the empty cab, and giving vent to the finest
assorted collection of oaths that ever I listened to. There was no
sign or trace of his passenger, and I fear it will be some time
before he gets his fare. On inquiring at Number 13 we found that
the house belonged to a respeetable paperhanger, named Keswick,
and that no one of the name either of Sawyer or Dennis had ever
been heard of there."
  "You don't mean to say," I cried, in amazement, "that that
tottering, feeble old woman was able to get out of the cab while
it was in motion, without either you or the driver seeing her?"
  "Old woman be damned!" said Sherlock Holmes, sharply.
"We were the old women to be so taken in. It must have been a
young man, and an active one, too, besides being an incompara-
ble actor. The get-up was inimitable. He saw that he was fol-
lowed, no doubt, and used this means of giving me the slip. It
shows that the man we are after is not as lonely as I imagined he
was, but has friends who are ready to risk something for him.
Now, Doctor, you are looking done-up. Take my advice and turn
  I was certainly feeling very weary, so I obeyed his injunction.
I left Holmes seated in front of the smouldering fire, and long
into the watches of the night I heard the low melancholy wailings
of his violin, and knew that he was still pondering over the
strange problem which he had set himself to unravel.
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