| Next morning, after breakfast, we found
and White Mason seated in close consultation in the
lour of the local police sergeant. On the table in
front of them
were piled a number of letters and telegrams, which
carefully sorting and docketing. Three had been placed
"Still on the track of the elusive bicyclist?"
cheerfully. "What is the latest news of the ruffian?"
MacDonald pointed ruefully to his heap of correspondence.
"He is at present reported from Leicester,
ampton, Derby, East Ham, Richmond, and fourteen other
In three of them -- East Ham, Leicester, and Liverpool
-- there is
a clear case against him, and he has actually been
country seems to be full of the fugitives with yellow
"Dear me!" said Holmes sympathetically. "Now,
and you, Mr. White Mason, I wish to give you a very
piece of advice. When I went into this case with you
as you will no doubt remember, that I should not present
with half-proved theories, but that I should retain
and work out
my own ideas until I had satisfied myself that they
For this reason I am not at the present moment telling
that is in my mind. On the other hand, I said that
I would play
the game fairly by you, and I do not think it is a
fair game to
allow you for one unnecessary moment to waste your
upon a profitless task. Therefore I am here to advise
morning, and my advice to you is summed up in three
abandon the case."
MacDonald and White Mason stared in amazement
"You consider it hopeless!" cried the inspector.
"I consider your case to be hopeless. I do
not consider that it
is hopeless to arrive at the truth."
"But this cyclist. He is not an invention.
We have his descrip-
tion, his valise, his bicycle. The fellow must be
Why should we not get him?"
"Yes, yes, no doubt he is somewhere, and no
doubt we shall
get him; but I would not have you waste your energies
Ham or Liverpool. I am sure that we can find some
shorter cut to
"You are holding something back. It's hardly
fair of you, Mr.
Holmes." The inspector was annoyed.
"You know my methods of work, Mr. Mac. But
I will hold it
back for the shortest time possible. I only wish to
details in one way, which can very readily be done,
and then I
make my bow and return to London, leaving my results
at your service. I owe you too much to act otherwise;
for in all
my experience I cannot recall any more singular and
"This is clean beyond me, Mr. Holmes. We saw
we returned from Tunbndge Wells last night, and you
general agreement with our results. What has happened
then to give you a completely new idea of the case?"
"Well, since you ask me, I spent, as I told
you that I would,
some hours last night at the Manor House."
"Well, what happened?"
"Ah, I can only give you a very general answer
to that for the
moment. By the way, I have been reading a short but
interesting account of the old building, purchasable
at the modest
sum of one penny from the local tobacconist."
Here Holmes drew a small tract, embellished
with a rude
engraving of the ancient Manor House, from his waistcoat
"It immensely adds to the zest of an investigation,
Mr. Mac, when one is in conscious sympathy with the
atmosphere of one's surroundings. Don't look so impatient;
assure you that even so bald an account as this raises
of picture of the past in one's mind. Permit me to
give you a
sample. 'Erected in the fifth year of the reign of
James 1, and
standing upon the site of a much older building, the
House of Birlstone presents one of the finest surviving
of the moated Jacobean residence --' "
"You are making fools of us, Mr. Holmes!"
"Tut, tut, Mr. Mac! -- the first sign of temper
I have detected
in you. Well, I won't read it verbatim, since you
feel so strongly
upon the subject. But when I tell you that there is
of the taking of the place by a parliamentary colonel
in 1644, of
the concealment of Charles for several days in the
Civil War, and finally of a visit there by the second
will admit that there are various associations of
nected with this ancient house."
"I don't doubt it, Mr. Holmes; but that is
no business of
"Is it not? Is it not? Breadth of view, my
dear Mr. Mac, is
one of the essentials of our profession. The interplay
of ideas and
the oblique uses of knowledge are often of extraordinary
You will excuse these remarks from one who, though
connoisseur of crime, is still rather older and perhaps
experienced than yourself."
"I'm the first to admit that," said the detective
get to your point, I admit; but you have such a deuced
corner way of doing it."
"Well, well, I'll drop past history and get
down to present-
day facts. I called last night, as I have already
said, at the
Manor House. I did not see either Barker or Mrs. Douglas.
no necessity to disturb them; but I was pleased to
hear that the
lady was not visibly pining and that she had partaken
excellent dinner. My visit was specially made to the
Ames, with whom I exchanged some amiabilities, which
nated in his allowing me, without reference to anyone
else. to sit
alone for a time in the study."
"What! With that?" I ejaculated.
"No, no, everything is now in order. You gave
that, Mr. Mac, as I am informed. The room was in its
state, and in it I passed an instructive quarter of
"What were you doing?"
"Well, not to make a mystery of so simple a
matter, I was
looking for the missing dumb-bell. It has always bulked
large in my estimate of the case. I ended by finding
"Ah, there we come to the edge of the unexplored.
Let me go
a little further, a very little further, and I will
promise that you
shall share everything that I know."
"Well, we're bound to take you on your own
terms," said the
inspector; "but when it comes to telling us to abandon
case -- why in the name of goodness should we abandon
"For the simple reason, my dear Mr. Mac, that
you have not
got the first idea what it is that you are investigating."
"We are investigating the murder of Mr. John
"Yes, yes, so you are. But don't trouble to
trace the mysteri-
ous gentleman upon the bicycle. I assure you that
it won't help
"Then what do you suggest that we do?"
"I will tell you exactly what to do, if you
will do it."
"Well, I'm bound to say I've always found you
behind all your queer ways. I'll do what you advise."
"And you, Mr. White Mason?"
The country detective looked helplessly from
one to the other.
Holmes and his methods were new to him. "Well, if
it is good
enough for the inspector, it is good enough for me,"
he said at
"Capital!" said Holmes. "Well, then, I should
nice, cheery country walk for both of you. They tell
me that the
views from Birlstone Ridge over the Weald are very
No doubt lunch could be got at some suitable hostelry;
my ignorance of the country prevents me from recommending
one. In the evening, tired but happy --"
"Man, this is getting past a joke!" cried MacDonald,
angrily from his chair.
"Well, well, spend the day as you like," said
him cheerfully upon the shoulder. "Do what you like
where you will, but meet me here before dusk without
without fail, Mr. Mac."
"That sounds more like sanity."
"All of it was excellent advice; but I don't
insist, so long as
you are here when I need you. But now, before we part,
you to write a note to Mr. Barker."
"I'll dictate it, if you like. Ready?
has struck me that it is our duty to drain the moat, in
the hope that we
may find some --"
"It's impossible," said the inspector. "I've
"Tut, tut! My dear sir, please do what I ask
"Well, go on."
"-- in the hope that
we may find something which may bear
upon our investigation.
I have made arrangements, and the
workmen will be
at work early to-morrow morning divert-
ing the stream --"
"-- diverting the
stream; so I thought it best to explain
Now sign that, and send it by hand about four o'clock.
hour we shall meet again in this room. Until then
we may each
do what we like; for I can assure you that this inquiry
to a definite pause."
Evening was drawing in when we reassembled.
very serious in his manner, myself curious, and the
obviously critical and annoyed.
"Well, gentlemen," said my friend gravely,
"I am asking
you now to put everything to the test with me, and
judge for yourselves whether the observations I have
tify the conclusions to which I have come. It is a
and I do not know how long our expedition may last;
so I beg
that you will wear your warmest coats. It is of the
tance that we should be in our places before it grows
with your permission we shall get started at once."
We passed along the outer bounds of the Manor
until we came to a place where there was a gap in
the rails which
fenced it. Through this we slipped, and then in the
gloom we followed Holmes until we had reached a shrubbery
which lies nearly opposite to the main door and the
The latter had not been raised. Holmes crouched down
the screen of laurels, and we all three followed his
"Well, what are we to do now?" asked MacDonald
"Possess our souls in patience and make as
little noise as
possible," Holmes answered.
"What are we here for at all? I really think
that you might
treat us with more frankness."
Holmes laughed. "Watson insists that I am the
real life," said he. "Some touch of the artist wells
up within me,
and calls insistently for a well-staged performance.
profession, Mr. Mac, would be a drab and sordid one
if we did
not sometimes set the scene so as to glorify our results.
blunt accusation, the brutal tap upon the shoulder
-- what can one
make of such a denouement? But the quick inference,
trap, the clever forecast of coming events, the triumphant
cation of bold theories -- are these not the pride
and the justifica-
tion of our life's work? At the present moment you
thrill with the
glamour of the situation and the anticipation of the
would be that thrill if I had been as definite as
a timetable? I only
ask a little patience, Mr. Mac, and all will be clear
"Well, I hope the pride and justification and
the rest of it will
come before we all get our death of cold," said the
detective with comic resignation.
We all had good reason to join in the aspiration;
for our vigil
was a long and bitter one. Slowly the shadows darkened
long, sombre face of the old house. A cold, damp reek
moat chilled us to the bones and set our teeth chattering.
was a single lamp over the gateway and a steady globe
of light in
the fatal study. Everything else was dark and still.
"How long is this to last?" asked the inspector
what is it we are watching for?"
"I have no more notion than you how long it
is to last,"
Holmes answered with some asperity. "If criminals
schedule their movements like railway trains, it would
be more convenient for all of us. As to what it is
we -- Well,
that's what we are watching for!"
As he spoke the bright, yellow light in the
study was obscured
by somebody passing to and fro before it. The laurels
which we lay were immediately opposite the window
more than a hundred feet from it. Presently it was
with a whining of hinges, and we could dimly see the
outline of a man's head and shoulders looking out
gloom. For some minutes he peered forth in furtive,
fashion, as one who wishes to be assured that he is
Then he leaned forward, and in the intense silence
aware of the soft lapping of agitated water. He seemed
stirring up the moat with something which he held
in his hand.
Then suddenly he hauled something in as a fisherman
fish -- some large, round object which obscured the
light as it
was dragged through the open casement.
"Now!" cried Holmes. "Now!"
We were all upon our feet, staggering after
him with our
stiffened limbs, while he ran swiftly across the bridge
violently at the bell. There was the rasping of bolts
other side, and the amazed Ames stood in the entrance.
brushed him aside without a word and, followed by
all of us,
rushed into the room which had been occupied by the
we had been watching.
The oil lamp on the table represented the glow
which we had
seen from outside. It was now in the hand of Cecil
held it towards us as we entered. Its light shone
upon his strong,
resolute, clean-shaved face and his menacing eyes.
"What the devil is the meaning of all this?"
he cried. "What
are you after, anyhow?"
Holmes took a swift glance round, and then
pounced upon a
sodden bundle tied together with cord which lay where
been thrust under the writing table.
"This is what we are after, Mr. Barker -- this
with a dumb-bell, which you have just raised from
the bottom of
Barker stared at Holmes with amazement in his
face. "How in
thunder came you to know anything about it?" he asked.
"Simply that I put it there."
"You put it there! You!"
"Perhaps I should have said 'replaced it there,'
" said Holmes.
"You will remember, Inspector MacDonald, that I was
what struck by the absence of a dumb-bell. I drew
to it; but with the pressure of other events you had
time to give it the consideration which would have
to draw deductions from it. When water is near and
a weight is
missing it is not a very far-fetched supposition that
has been sunk in the water. The idea was at least
so with the help of Ames, who admitted me to the room,
crook of Dr. Watson's umbrella, I was able last night
to fish up
and inspect this bundle.
"It was of the first importance, however, that
we should be
able to prove who placed it there. This we accomplished
very obvious device of announcing that the moat would
to-morrow, which had, of course, the effect that whoever
hidden the bundle would most certainly withdraw it
that darkness enabled him to do so. We have no less
witnesses as to who it was who took advantage of the
nity, and so, Mr. Barker, I think the word lies now
Sherlock Holmes put the sopping bundle upon
the table beside
the lamp and undid the cord which bound it. From within
extracted a dumb-bell, which he tossed down to its
fellow in the
corner. Next he drew forth a pair of boots. "American,
perceive," he remarked, pointing to the toes. Then
he laid upon
the table a long, deadly, sheathed knife. Finally
he unravelled a
bundle of clothing, comprising a complete set of underclothes,
socks, a gray tweed suit, and a short yellow overcoat.
"The clothes are commonplace," remarked Holmes,
only the overcoat, which is full of suggestive touches."
it tenderly towards the light. "Here, as you perceive,
is the inner
pocket prolonged into the lining in such fashion as
to give ample
space for the truncated fowling piece. The tailor's
tab is on the
neck -- 'Neal, Outfitter, Vermissa, U. S. A.' I have
instructive afternoon in the rector's library, and
my knowledge by adding the fact that Vermissa is a
little town at the head of one of the best known coal
valleys in the United States. I have some recollection,
Barker, that you associated the coal districts with
first wife, and it would surely not be too far-fetched
that the V. V. upon the card by the dead body might
Vermissa Valley, or that this very valley which sends
emissaries of murder may be that Valley of Fear of
have heard. So much is fairly clear. And now, Mr.
seem to be standing rather in the way of your explanation."
It was a sight to see Cecil Barker's expressive
face during this
exposition of the great detective. Anger, amazement,
tion, and indecision swept over it in turn. Finally
he took refuge
in a somewhat acrid irony.
"You know such a lot, Mr. Holmes, perhaps you
tell us some more," he sneered.
"I have no doubt that I could tell you a great
deal more, Mr.
Barker; but it would come with a better grace from
"Oh, you think so, do you? Well, all I can
say is that if
there's any secret here it is not my secret, and I
am not the man
to give it away."
"Well, if you take that line, Mr. Barker,"
said the inspector
quietly, "we must just keep you in sight until we
warrant and can hold you."
"You can do what you damn please about that,"
The proceedings seemed to have come to a definite
end so far
as he was concerned; for one had only to look at that
to realize that no peine forte et dure would ever
force him to
plead against his will. The deadlock was broken, however,
woman's voice. Mrs. Douglas had been standing listening
half opened door, and now she entered the room.
"You have done enough for now, Cecil," said
ever comes of it in the future, you have done enough."
"Enough and more than enough," remarked Sherlock
gravely. "I have every sympathy with you, madam, and
should strongly urge you to have some confidence in
sense of our jurisdiction and to take the police voluntarily
your complete confidence. It may be that I am myself
at fault for
not following up the hint which you conveyed to me
friend, Dr. Watson; but, at that time I had every
believe that you were directly concerned in the crime.
Now I am
assured that this is not so. At the same time, there
is much that is
unexplained, and I should strongly recommend that
you ask Mr.
Douglas to tell us his own story."
Mrs. Douglas gave a cry of astonishment at
The detectives and I must have echoed it, when we
of a man who seemed to have emerged from the wall,
advanced now from the gloom of the corner in which
appeared. Mrs. Douglas turned, and in an instant her
round him. Barker had seized his outstretched hand.
"It's best this way, Jack," his wife repeated;
"I am sure that
it is best."
"Indeed, yes, Mr. Douglas," said Sherlock Holmes,
sure that you will find it best."
The man stood blinking at us with the dazed
look of one who
comes from the dark into the light. It was a remarkable
bold gray eyes, a strong, short-clipped, grizzled
square, projecting chin, and a humorous mouth. He
took a good
look at us all, and then to my amazement he advanced
to me and
handed me a bundle of paper.
"I've heard of you," said he in a voice which
was not quite
English and not quite American, but was altogether
pleasing. "You are the historian of this bunch. Well,
son, you've never had such a story as that pass through
hands before, and I'll lay my last dollar on that.
Tell it your own
way; but there are the facts, and you can't miss the
long as you have those. I've been cooped up two days,
spent the daylight hours -- as much daylight as I
could get in that
rat trap -- in putting the thing into words. You're
them -- you and your public. There's the story of
the Valley of
"That's the past, Mr. Douglas," said Sherlock
etly. "What we desire now is to hear your story of
"You'll have it, sir," said Douglas. "May I
smoke as I talk?
Well, thank you, Mr. Holmes. You're a smoker yourself,
remember right, and you'll guess what it is to be
sitting for two
days with tobacco in your pocket and afraid that the
give you away." He leaned against the mantelpiece
at the cigar which Holmes had handed him. "I've heard
Mr. Holmes. I never guessed that I should meet you.
you are through with that," he nodded at my papers,
say I've brought you something fresh."
Inspector MacDonald had been staring at the
the greatest amazement. "Well, this fairly beats me!"
he cried at
last. "If you are Mr. John Douglas of Birlstone Manor,
whose death have we been investigating for these two
where in the world have you sprung from now? You seemed
me to come out of the floor like a jack-in-a-box."
"Ah, Mr. Mac," said Holmes, shaking a reproving
ger, "you would not read that excellent local compilation
described the concealment of King Charles. People
did not hide
in those days without excellent hiding places, and
place that has once been used may be again. I had
myself that we should find Mr. Douglas under this
"And how long have you been playing this trick
upon us, Mr.
Holmes?" said the inspector angrily. "How long have
allowed us to waste ourselves upon a search that you
knew to be
an absurd one?"
"Not one instant, my dear Mr. Mac. Only last
night did I
form my views of the case. As they could not be put
to the proof
until this evening, I invited you and your colleague
to take a
holiday for the day. Pray what more could I do? When
the suit of clothes in the moat, it at once became
apparent to me
that the body we had found could not have been the
body of Mr.
John Douglas at all, but must be that of the bicyclist
Tunbridge Wells. No other conclusion was possible.
had to determine where Mr. John Douglas himself could
the balance of probability was that with the connivance
wife and his friend he was concealed in a house which
conveniences for a fugitive, and awaiting quieter
times when he
could make his final escape."
"Well, you figured it out about right," said
ingly. "I thought I'd dodge your British law; for
I was not sure
how I stood under it, and also I saw my chance to
hounds once for all off my track. Mind you, from first
to last I
have done nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing that
not do again; but you'll judge that for yourselves
when I tell you
my story. Never mind warning me, Inspector: I'm ready
pat upon the truth.
"I'm not going to begin at the beginning. That's
all there," he
indicated my bundle of papers, "and a mighty queer
find it. It all comes down to this: That there are
some men that
have good cause to hate me and would give their last
know that they had got me. So long as I am alive and
alive, there is no safety in this world for me. They
from Chicago to California, then they chased me out
but when I married and settled down in this quiet
spot I thought
my last years were going to be peaceable.
"I never explained to my wife how things were.
Why should I
pull her into it? She would never have a quiet moment
would always be imagining trouble. I fancy she knew
for I may have dropped a word here or a word there;
yesterday, after you gentlemen had seen her, she never
rights of the matter. She told you all she knew, and
Barker here; for on the night when this thing happened
mighty little time for explanations. She knows everything
and I would have been a wiser man if I had told her
it was a hard question, dear," he took her hand for
an instant in
his own, "and I acted for the best.
"Well, gentlemen, the day before these happenings
I was over
in Tunbridge Wells, and I got a glimpse of a man in
the street. It
was only a glimpse; but I have a quick eye for these
things, and I
never doubted who it was. It was the worst enemy I
them all -- one who has been after me like a hungry
wolf after a
caribou all these years. I knew there was trouble
coming, and I
came home and made ready for it. I guessed I'd fight
all right on my own, my luck was a proverb in the
'76. I never doubted that it would be with me still.
"I was on my guard all that next day, and never
went out into
the park. It's as well, or he'd have had the drop
on me with that
buckshot gun of his before ever I could draw on him.
bridge was up -- my mind was always more restful when
bridge was up in the evenings -- I put the thing clear
out of my
head. I never dreamed of his getting into the house
for me. But when I made my round in my dressing gown,
my habit, I had no sooner entered the study than I
danger. I guess when a man has had dangers in his
life -- and I've
had more than most in my time -- there is a kind of
that waves the red flag. I saw the signal clear enough,
and yet I
couldn't tell you why. Next instant I spotted a boot
window curtain, and then I saw why plain enough.
"I'd just the one candle that was in my hand;
but there was a
good light from the hall lamp through the open door.
I put down
the candle and jumped for a hammer that I'd left on
At the same moment he sprang at me. I saw the glint
of a knife,
and I lashed at him with the hammer. I got him somewhere;
the knife tinkled down on the floor. He dodged round
as quick as an eel, and a moment later he'd got his
under his coat. I heard him cock it; but I had got
hold of it before
he could fire. I had it by the barrel, and we wrestled
for it all
ends up for a minute or more. It was death to the
man that lost
"He never lost his grip; but he got it butt
downward for a
moment too long. Maybe it was I that pulled the trigger.
we just jolted it off between us. Anyhow, he got both
the face, and there I was, staring down at all that
was left of Ted
Baldwin. I'd recognized him in the township, and again
sprang for me; but his own mother wouldn't recognize
him as I
saw him then. I'm used to rough work; but I fairly
turned sick at
the sight of him.
"I was hanging on the side of the table when
hurrying down. I heard my wife coming, and I ran to
and stopped her. It was no sight for a woman. I promised
come to her soon. I said a word or two to Barker --
he took it all
in at a glance -- and we waited for the rest to come
there was no sign of them. Then we understood that
hear nothing, and that all that had happened was known
"It was at that instant that the idea came
to me. I was fairly
dazzled by the brilliance of it. The man's sleeve
had slipped up
and there was the branded mark of the lodge upon his
The man whom we had known as Douglas turned
up his own
coat and cuff to show a brown triangle within a circle
like that which we had seen upon the dead man.
"It was the sight of that which started me
on it. I seemed to
see it all clear at a glance. There were his height
and hair and
figure, about the same as my own. No one could swear
face, poor devil! I brought down this suit of clothes,
and in a
quarter of an hour Barker and I had put my dressing
him and he lay as you found him. We tied all his things
bundle, and I weighted them with the only weight I
and put them through the window. The card he had meant
upon my body was lying beside his own.
"My rings were put on his finger; but when
it came to the
wedding ring," he held out his muscular hand, "you
can see for
yourselves that I had struck the limit. I have not
moved it since
the day I was married, and it would have taken a file
to get it
off. I don't know, anyhow, that I should have cared
to part with
it; but if I had wanted to I couldn't. So we just
had to leave that
detail to take care of itself. On the other hand,
I brought a bit of
plaster down and put it where I am wearing one myself
instant. You slipped up there, Mr. Holmes, clever
as you are; for
if you had chanced to take off that plaster you would
no cut underneath it.
"Well, that was the situation. If I could lie
low for a while
and then get away where I could be joined by my 'widow'
should have a chance at last of living in peace for
the rest of our
lives. These devils would give me no rest so long
as I was above
ground; but if they saw in the papers that Baldwin
had got his
man, there would be an end of all my troubles. I hadn't
time to make it all clear to Barker and to my wife;
understood enough to be able to help me. I knew all
hiding place, so did Ames; but it never entered his
connect it with the matter. I retired into it, and
it was up to
Barker to do the rest.
"I guess you can fill in for yourselves what
he did. He opened
the window and made the mark on the sill to give an
idea of how
the murderer escaped. It was a tall order, that; but
as the bridge
was up there was no other way. Then, when everything
fixed, he rang the bell for all he was worth. What
afterward you know. And so, gentlemen, you can do
please; but I've told you the truth and the whole
truth, so help
me God! What I ask you now is how do I stand by the
There was a silence which was broken by Sherlock
"The English law is in the main a just law.
You will get no
worse than your deserts from that, Mr. Douglas. But
I would ask
you how did this man know that you lived here, or
how to get
into your house, or where to hide to get you?"
"I know nothing of this."
Holmes's face was very white and grave. "The
story is not
over yet, I fear," said he. "You may find worse dangers
the English law, or even than your enemies from America.
trouble before you, Mr. Douglas. You'll take my advice
be on your guard."
And now, my long-suffering readers, I will
ask you to come
away with me for a time, far from the Sussex Manor
Birlstone, and far also from the year of grace in
which we made
our eventful journey which ended with the strange
story of the
man who had been known as John Douglas. I wish you
journey back some twenty years in time, and westward
thousands of miles in space, that I may lay before
you a singular
and terrible narrative -- so singular and so terrible
that you may
find it hard to believe that even as I tell it, even
so did it occur.
Do not think that I intrude one story before
another is finished.
As you read on you will find that this is not so.
And when I have
detailed those distant events and you have solved
this mystery of
the past, we shall meet once more in those rooms on
Street, where this, like so many other wonderful happenings,
will find its end.