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ADVENTURE XI. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BERYL CORONET

“Holmes,” said I as I stood one morning in our bow-window looking

  down the street, “here is a madman coming along. It seems rather

  sad that his relatives should allow him to come out alone.”

  My friend rose lazily from his armchair and stood with his hands

  in the pockets of his dressing-gown, looking over my shoulder. It

  was a bright, crisp February morning, and the snow of the day

  before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the

  wintry sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed

  into a brown crumbly band by the traffic, but at either side and

  on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as

  when it fell. The gray pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but

  was still dangerously slippery, so that there were fewer

  passengers than usual. Indeed, from the direction of the

  Metropolitan Station no one was coming save the single gentleman

  whose eccentric conduct had drawn my attention.

  He was a man of about fifty, tall, portly, and imposing, with a

  massive, strongly marked face and a commanding figure. He was

  dressed in a sombre yet rich style, in black frock-coat, shining

  hat, neat brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-gray trousers. Yet

  his actions were in absurd contrast to the dignity of his dress

  and features, for he was running hard, with occasional little

  springs, such as a weary man gives who is little accustomed to

  set any tax upon his legs. As he ran he jerked his hands up and

  down, waggled his head, and writhed his face into the most

  extraordinary contortions.

  “What on earth can be the matter with him?” I asked. “He is

  looking up at the numbers of the houses.”

  “I believe that he is coming here,” said Holmes, rubbing his

  hands.

  “Here?”

  “Yes; I rather think he is coming to consult me professionally. I

  think that I recognize the symptoms. Ha! did I not tell you?” As

  he spoke, the man, puffing and blowing, rushed at our door and

  pulled at our bell until the whole house resounded with the

  clanging.

  A few moments later he was in our room, still puffing, still

  gesticulating, but with so fixed a look of grief and despair in

  his eyes that our smiles were turned in an instant to horror and

  pity. For a while he could not get his words out, but swayed his

  body and plucked at his hair like one who has been driven to the

  extreme limits of his reason. Then, suddenly springing to his

  feet, he beat his head against the wall with such force that we

  both rushed upon him and tore him away to the centre of the room.

  Sherlock Holmes pushed him down into the easy-chair and, sitting

  beside him, patted his hand and chatted with him in the easy,

  soothing tones which he knew so well how to employ.

  “You have come to me to tell your story, have you not?” said he.

  “You are fatigued with your haste. Pray wait until you have

  recovered yourself, and then I shall be most happy to look into

any little problem which you may submit to me.”

  The man sat for a minute or more with a heaving chest, fighting

  against his emotion. Then he passed his handkerchief over his

  brow, set his lips tight, and turned his face towards us.

  “No doubt you think me mad?” said he.

  “I see that you have had some great trouble,” responded Holmes.

  “God knows I have!–a trouble which is enough to unseat my

  reason, so sudden and so terrible is it. Public disgrace I might

  have faced, although I am a man whose character has never yet

  borne a stain. Private affliction also is the lot of every man;

  but the two coming together, and in so frightful a form, have

  been enough to shake my very soul. Besides, it is not I alone.

  The very noblest in the land may suffer unless some way be found

  out of this horrible affair.”

  “Pray compose yourself, sir,” said Holmes, “and let me have a

  clear account of who you are and what it is that has befallen

  you.”

  “My name,” answered our visitor, “is probably familiar to your

  ears. I am Alexander Holder, of the banking firm of Holder &

  Stevenson, of Threadneedle Street.”

  The name was indeed well known to us as belonging to the senior

  partner in the second largest private banking concern in the City

  of London. What could have happened, then, to bring one of the

  foremost citizens of London to this most pitiable pass? We

  waited, all curiosity, until with another effort he braced

  himself to tell his story.

  “I feel that time is of value,” said he; “that is why I hastened

  here when the police inspector suggested that I should secure

  your cooperation. I came to Baker Street by the Underground and

  hurried from there on foot, for the cabs go slowly through this

  snow. That is why I was so out of breath, for I am a man who

  takes very little exercise. I feel better now, and I will put the

  facts before you as shortly and yet as clearly as I can.

  “It is, of course, well known to you that in a successful banking

  business as much depends upon our being able to find remunerative

  investments for our funds as upon our increasing our connection

  and the number of our depositors. One of our most lucrative means

  of laying out money is in the shape of loans, where the security

  is unimpeachable. We have done a good deal in this direction

  during the last few years, and there are many noble families to

  whom we have advanced large sums upon the security of their

  pictures, libraries, or plate.

  “Yesterday morning I was seated in my office at the bank when a

  card was brought in to me by one of the clerks. I started when I

  saw the name, for it was that of none other than–well, perhaps

  even to you I had better say no more than that it was a name

  which is a household word all over the earth–one of the highest,

  noblest, most exalted names in England. I was overwhelmed by the

  honor and attempted, when he entered, to say so, but he plunged

  at once into business with the air of a man who wishes to hurry

  quickly through a disagreeable task.

  “‘Mr. Holder,’ said he, ‘I have been informed that you are in the

  habit of advancing money.’

  “‘The firm does so when the security is good.’ I answered.

  “‘It is absolutely essential to me,’ said he, ‘that I should have

  50,000 pounds at once. I could, of course, borrow so trifling a

  sum ten times over from my friends, but I much prefer to make it

  a matter of business and to carry out that business myself. In my

  position you can readily understand that it is unwise to place

  one’s self under obligations.’

  “‘For how long, may I ask, do you want this sum?’ I asked.

  “‘Next Monday I have a large sum due to me, and I shall then most

  certainly repay what you advance, with whatever interest you

  think it right to charge. But it is very essential to me that the

  money should be paid at once.’

  “‘I should be happy to advance it without further parley from my

  own private purse,’ said I, ‘were it not that the strain would be

  rather more than it could bear. If, on the other hand, I am to do

  it in the name of the firm, then in justice to my partner I must

  insist that, even in your case, every businesslike precaution

  should be taken.’

  “‘I should much prefer to have it so,’ said he, raising up a

  square, black morocco case which he had laid beside his chair.

  ‘You have doubtless heard of the Beryl Coronet?’

  “‘One of the most precious public possessions of the empire,’

  said I.

  “‘Precisely.’ He opened the case, and there, imbedded in soft,

  flesh-colored velvet, lay the magnificent piece of jewellery

  which he had named. ‘There are thirty-nine enormous beryls,’ said

  he, ‘and the price of the gold chasing is incalculable. The

  lowest estimate would put the worth of the coronet at double the

  sum which I have asked. I am prepared to leave it with you as my

  security.’

  “I took the precious case into my hands and looked in some

  perplexity from it to my illustrious client.

  “‘You doubt its value?’ he asked.

  “‘Not at all. I only doubt –‘

  “‘The propriety of my leaving it. You may set your mind at rest

  about that. I should not dream of doing so were it not absolutely

  certain that I should be able in four days to reclaim it. It is a

  pure matter of form. Is the security sufficient?’

  “‘Ample.’

  “‘You understand, Mr. Holder, that I am giving you a strong proof

  of the confidence which I have in you, founded upon all that I

  have heard of you. I rely upon you not only to be discreet and to

  refrain from all gossip upon the matter but, above all, to

  preserve this coronet with every possible precaution because I

  need not say that a great public scandal would be caused if any

  harm were to befall it. Any injury to it would be almost as

  serious as its complete loss, for there are no beryls in the

  world to match these, and it would be impossible to replace them.

  I leave it with you, however, with every confidence, and I shall

  call for it in person on Monday morning.’

  “Seeing that my client was anxious to leave, I said no more but,

  calling for my cashier, I ordered him to pay over fifty 1000

  pound notes. When I was alone once more, however, with the

  precious case lying upon the table in front of me, I could not

  but think with some misgivings of the immense responsibility

  which it entailed upon me. There could be no doubt that, as it

  was a national possession, a horrible scandal would ensue if any

  misfortune should occur to it. I already regretted having ever

  consented to take charge of it. However, it was too late to alter

  the matter now, so I locked it up in my private safe and turned

  once more to my work.

  “When evening came I felt that it would be an imprudence to leave

  so precious a thing in the office behind me. Bankers’ safes had

  been forced before now, and why should not mine be? If so, how

  terrible would be the position in which I should find myself! I

  determined, therefore, that for the next few days I would always

  carry the case backward and forward with me, so that it might

  never be really out of my reach. With this intention, I called a

  cab and drove out to my house at Streatham, carrying the jewel

  with me. I did not breathe freely until I had taken it upstairs

  and locked it in the bureau of my dressing-room.

  “And now a word as to my household, Mr. Holmes, for I wish you to

  thoroughly understand the situation. My groom and my page sleep

  out of the house, and may be set aside altogether. I have three

  maid-servants who have been with me a number of years and whose

  absolute reliability is quite above suspicion. Another, Lucy

  Parr, the second waiting-maid, has only been in my service a few

  months. She came with an excellent character, however, and has

  always given me satisfaction. She is a very pretty girl and has

  attracted admirers who have occasionally hung about the place.

  That is the only drawback which we have found to her, but we

  believe her to be a thoroughly good girl in every way.

  “So much for the servants. My family itself is so small that it

  will not take me long to describe it. I am a widower and have an

  only son, Arthur. He has been a disappointment to me, Mr.

  Holmes– a grievous disappointment. I have no doubt that I am

  myself to blame. People tell me that I have spoiled him. Very

  likely I have. When my dear wife died I felt that he was all I

  had to love. I could not bear to see the smile fade even for a

  moment from his face. I have never denied him a wish. Perhaps it

  would have been better for both of us had I been sterner, but I

  meant it for the best.

  “It was naturally my intention that he should succeed me in my

  business, but he was not of a business turn. He was wild,

  wayward, and, to speak the truth, I could not trust him in the

  handling of large sums of money. When he was young he became a

  member of an aristocratic club, and there, having charming

  manners, he was soon the intimate of a number of men with long

  purses and expensive habits. He learned to play heavily at cards

  and to squander money on the turf, until he had again and again

  to come to me and implore me to give him an advance upon his

  allowance, that he might settle his debts of honor. He tried

  more than once to break away from the dangerous company which he

  was keeping, but each time the influence of his friend, Sir

  George Burnwell, was enough to draw him back again.

  “And, indeed, I could not wonder that such a man as Sir George

  Burnwell should gain an influence over him, for he has frequently

  brought him to my house, and I have found myself that I could

  hardly resist the fascination of his manner. He is older than

  Arthur, a man of the world to his finger-tips, one who had been

  everywhere, seen everything, a brilliant talker, and a man of

  great personal beauty. Yet when I think of him in cold blood, far

  away from the glamour of his presence, I am convinced from his

  cynical speech and the look which I have caught in his eyes that

  he is one who should be deeply distrusted. So I think, and so,

  too, thinks my little Mary, who has a woman’s quick insight into

  character.

  “And now there is only she to be described. She is my niece; but

  when my brother died five years ago and left her alone in the

  world I adopted her, and have looked upon her ever since as my

  daughter. She is a sunbeam in my house–sweet, loving, beautiful,

  a wonderful manager and housekeeper, yet as tender and quiet and

  gentle as a woman could be. She is my right hand. I do not know

  what I could do without her. In only one matter has she ever gone

  against my wishes. Twice my boy has asked her to marry him, for

  he loves her devotedly, but each time she has refused him. I

  think that if anyone could have drawn him into the right path it

  would have been she, and that his marriage might have changed his

  whole life; but now, alas! it is too late–forever too late!

  “Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who live under my roof, and

I shall continue with my miserable story.

  “When we were taking coffee in the drawing-room that night after

  dinner, I told Arthur and Mary my experience, and of the precious

  treasure which we had under our roof, suppressing only the name

  of my client. Lucy Parr, who had brought in the coffee, had, I am

  sure, left the room; but I cannot swear that the door was closed.

  Mary and Arthur were much interested and wished to see the famous

  coronet, but I thought it better not to disturb it.

  “‘Where have you put it?’ asked Arthur.

  “‘In my own bureau.’

  “‘Well, I hope to goodness the house won’t be burgled during the

  night.’ said he.

  “‘It is locked up,’ I answered.

  “‘Oh, any old key will fit that bureau. When I was a youngster I

  have opened it myself with the key of the box-room cupboard.’

  “He often had a wild way of talking, so that I thought little of

  what he said. He followed me to my room, however, that night with

  a very grave face.

  “‘Look here, dad,’ said he with his eyes cast down, ‘can you let

  me have 200 pounds?’

  “‘No, I cannot!’ I answered sharply. ‘I have been far too

  generous with you in money matters.’

  “‘You have been very kind,’ said he, ‘but I must have this money,

  or else I can never show my face inside the club again.’

  “‘And a very good thing, too!’ I cried.

  “‘Yes, but you would not have me leave it a dishonored man,’

  said he. ‘I could not bear the disgrace. I must raise the money

  in some way, and if you will not let me have it, then I must try

  other means.’

  “I was very angry, for this was the third demand during the

  month. ‘You shall not have a farthing from me,’ I cried, on which

  he bowed and left the room without another word.

  “When he was gone I unlocked my bureau, made sure that my

  treasure was safe, and locked it again. Then I started to go

  round the house to see that all was secure–a duty which I

  usually leave to Mary but which I thought it well to perform

  myself that night. As I came down the stairs I saw Mary herself

  at the side window of the hall, which she closed and fastened as

  I approached.

  “‘Tell me, dad,’ said she, looking, I thought, a little

  disturbed, ‘did you give Lucy, the maid, leave to go out

  to-night?’

  “‘Certainly not.’

  “‘She came in just now by the back door. I have no doubt that she

  has only been to the side gate to see someone, but I think that

  it is hardly safe and should be stopped.’

  “‘You must speak to her in the morning, or I will if you prefer

  it. Are you sure that everything is fastened?’

  “‘Quite sure, dad.’

  “‘Then. good-night.’ I kissed her and went up to my bedroom

  again, where I was soon asleep.

  “I am endeavoring to tell you everything, Mr. Holmes, which may

  have any bearing upon the case, but I beg that you will question

  me upon any point which I do not make clear.”

  “On the contrary, your statement is singularly lucid.”

  “I come to a part of my story now in which I should wish to be

  particularly so. I am not a very heavy sleeper, and the anxiety

  in my mind tended, no doubt, to make me even less so than usual.

  About two in the morning, then, I was awakened by some sound in

  the house. It had ceased ere I was wide awake, but it had left an

  impression behind it as though a window had gently closed

  somewhere. I lay listening with all my ears. Suddenly, to my

  horror, there was a distinct sound of footsteps moving softly in

  the next room. I slipped out of bed, all palpitating with fear,

  and peeped round the comer of my dressing-room door.

  “‘Arthur!’ I screamed, ‘you villain! you thief! How dare you

  touch that coronet?’

  “The gas was half up, as I had left it, and my unhappy boy,

  dressed only in his shirt and trousers, was standing beside the

  light, holding the coronet in his hands. He appeared to be

  wrenching at it, or bending it with all his strength. At my cry

  he dropped it from his grasp and turned as pale as death. I

  snatched it up and examined it. One of the gold corners, with

  three of the beryls in it, was missing.

  “‘You blackguard!’ I shouted, beside myself with rage. ‘You have

  destroyed it! You have dishonored me forever! Where are the

  jewels which you have stolen?’

  “‘Stolen!’ he cried.

  “‘Yes, thief!’ I roared, shaking him by the shoulder.

  “‘There are none missing. There cannot be any missing,’ said he.

  “‘There are three missing. And you know where they are. Must I

  call you a liar as well as a thief? Did I not see you trying to

  tear off another piece?’

  “‘You have called me names enough,’ said he, ‘I will not stand it

  any longer. I shall not say another word about this business,

  since you have chosen to insult me. I will leave your house in

  the morning and make my own way in the world.’

  “‘You shall leave it in the hands of the police!’ I cried

  half-mad with grief and rage. ‘I shall have this matter probed to

  the bottom.’

  “‘You shall learn nothing from me,’ said he with a passion such

  as I should not have thought was in his nature. ‘If you choose to

  call the police, let the police find what they can.’

  “By this time the whole house was astir, for I had raised my

  voice in my anger. Mary was the first to rush into my room, and,

  at the sight of the coronet and of Arthur’s face, she read the

  whole story and, with a scream, fell down senseless on the

  ground. I sent the house-maid for the police and put the

  investigation into their hands at once. When the inspector and a

  constable entered the house, Arthur, who had stood sullenly with

  his arms folded, asked me whether it was my intention to charge

  him with theft. I answered that it had ceased to be a private

  matter, but had become a public one, since the ruined coronet was

  national property. I was determined that the law should have its

  way in everything.

  “‘At least,’ said he, ‘you will not have me arrested at once. It

  would be to your advantage as well as mine if I might leave the

  house for five minutes.’

  “‘That you may get away, or perhaps that you may conceal what you

  have stolen,’ said I. And then, realizing the dreadful position

  in which I was placed, I implored him to remember that not only

  my honor but that of one who was far greater than I was at

  stake; and that he threatened to raise a scandal which would

  convulse the nation. He might avert it all if he would but tell

  me what he had done with the three missing stones.

  “‘You may as well face the matter,’ said I; ‘you have been caught

  in the act, and no confession could make your guilt more heinous.

  If you but make such reparation as is in your power, by telling

  us where the beryls are, all shall be forgiven and forgotten.’

  “‘Keep your forgiveness for those who ask for it,’ he answered,

  turning away from me with a sneer. I saw that he was too hardened

  for any words of mine to influence him. There was but one way for

  it 

. I called in the inspector and gave him into custody. A search

  was made at once not only of his person but of his room and of

  every portion of the house where he could possibly have concealed

  the gems; but no trace of them could be found, nor would the

  wretched boy open his mouth for all our persuasions and our

  threats. This morning he was removed to a cell, and I, after

  going through all the police formalities, have hurried round to

  you to implore you to use your skill in unravelling the matter.

  The police have openly confessed that they can at present make

  nothing of it. You may go to any expense which you think

  necessary. I have already offered a reward of 1000 pounds. My

  God, what shall I do! I have lost my honor, my gems, and my son

  in one night. Oh, what shall I do!”

  He put a hand on either side of his head and rocked himself to

  and fro, droning to himself like a child whose grief has got

  beyond words.

  Sherlock Holmes sat silent for some few minutes, with his brows

  knitted and his eyes fixed upon the fire.

  “Do you receive much company?” he asked.

  “None save my partner with his family and an occasional friend of

  Arthur’s. Sir George Burnwell has been several times lately. No

  one else, I think.”

  “Do you go out much in society?”

  “Arthur does. Mary and I stay at home. We neither of us care for

  it.”

  “That is unusual in a young girl.”

  “She is of a quiet nature. Besides, she is not so very young. She

  is four-and-twenty.”

  “This matter, from what you say, seems to have been a shock to

  her also.”

  “Terrible! She is even more affected than I.”

  “You have neither of you any doubt as to your son’s guilt?”

  “How can we have when I saw him with my own eyes with the coronet

  in his hands.”

  “I hardly consider that a conclusive proof. Was the remainder of

  the coronet at all injured?”

  “Yes, it was twisted.”

  “Do you not think, then, that he might have been trying to

  straighten it?”

  “God bless you! You are doing what you can for him and for me.

  But it is too heavy a task. What was he doing there at all? If

  his purpose were innocent, why did he not say so?”

  “Precisely. And if it were guilty, why did he not invent a lie?

  His silence appears to me to cut both ways. There are several

  singular points about the case. What did the police think of the

  noise which awoke you from your sleep?”

  “They considered that it might be caused by Arthur’s closing his

  bedroom door.”

  “A likely story! As if a man bent on felony would slam his door

  so as to wake a household. What did they say, then, of the

  disappearance of these gems?”

  “They are still sounding the planking and probing the furniture

  in the hope of finding them.”

  “Have they thought of looking outside the house?”

  “Yes, they have shown extraordinary energy. The whole garden has

  already been minutely examined.”

  “Now, my dear sir,” said Holmes. “is it not obvious to you now

  that this matter really strikes very much deeper than either you

  or the police were at first inclined to think? It appeared to you

  to be a simple case; to me it seems exceedingly complex. Consider

  what is involved by your theory. You suppose that your son came

  down from his bed, went, at great risk, to your dressing-room,

  opened your bureau, took out your coronet, broke off by main

  force a small portion of it, went off to some other place,

  concealed three gems out of the thirty-nine, with such skill that

  nobody can find them, and then returned with the other thirty-six

  into the room in which he exposed himself to the greatest danger

  of being discovered. I ask you now, is such a theory tenable?”

  “But what other is there?” cried the banker with a gesture of

  despair. “If his motives were innocent, why does he not explain

  them?”

  “It is our task to find that out,” replied Holmes; “so now, if

  you please, Mr. Holder, we will set off for Streatham together,

  and devote an hour to glancing a little more closely into

  details.”

  My friend insisted upon my accompanying them in their expedition,

  which I was eager enough to do, for my curiosity and sympathy

  were deeply stirred by the story to which we had listened. I

  confess that the guilt of the banker’s son appeared to me to be

  as obvious as it did to his unhappy father, but still I had such

  faith in Holmes’s judgment that I felt that there must be some

  grounds for hope as long as he was dissatisfied with the accepted

  explanation. He hardly spoke a word the whole way out to the

  southern suburb, but sat with his chin upon his breast and his

  hat drawn over his eyes, sunk in the deepest thought. Our client

  appeared to have taken fresh heart at the little glimpse of hope

  which had been presented to him, and he even broke into a

  desultory chat with me over his business affairs. A short railway

  journey and a shorter walk brought us to Fairbank, the modest

  residence of the great financier.

  Fairbank was a good-sized square house of white stone, standing

  back a little from the road. A double carriage-sweep, with a

  snow-clad lawn, stretched down in front to two large iron gates

  which closed the entrance. On the right side was a small wooden

  thicket, which led into a narrow path between two neat hedges

  stretching from the road to the kitchen door, and forming the

  tradesmen’s entrance. On the left ran a lane which led to the

  stables, and was not itself within the grounds at all, being a

  public, though little used, thoroughfare. Holmes left us standing

  at the door and walked slowly all round the house, across the

  front, down the tradesmen’s path, and so round by the garden

  behind into the stable lane. So long was he that Mr. Holder and I

  went into the dining-room and waited by the fire until he should

  return. We were sitting there in silence when the door opened and

  a young lady came in. She was rather above the middle height,

  slim, with dark hair and eyes, which seemed the darker against

  the absolute pallor of her skin. I do not think that I have ever

  seen such deadly paleness in a woman’s face. Her lips, too, were

  bloodless, but her eyes were flushed with crying. As she swept

  silently into the room she impressed me with a greater sense of

  grief than the banker had done in the morning, and it was the

  more striking in her as she was evidently a woman of strong

  character, with immense capacity for self-restraint. Disregarding

  my presence, she went straight to her uncle and passed her hand

  over his head with a sweet womanly caress.

  “You have given orders that Arthur should be liberated, have you

  not, dad?” she asked.

  “No, no, my girl, the matter must be probed to the bottom.”

  “But I am so sure that he is innocent. You know what woman’s

  instincts are. I know that he has done no harm and that you will

  be sorry for having acted so harshly.”

  “Why is he silent, then, if he is innocent?”

  “Who knows? Perhaps because he was so angry that you should

  suspect him.”

  “How could I help suspecting him, when I actually saw him with

  the coronet in his hand?”

  “Oh, but he had only picked it up to look at it. Oh, do, do take

  my word for it that he is innocent. Let the matter drop and say

  no more. It is so dreadful to think of our dear Arthur in

  prison!”

  “I shall never let it drop until the gems are found–never, Mary!

  Your affection for Arthur blinds you as to the awful consequences

  to me. Far from hushing the thing up, I have brought a gentleman

  down from London to inquire more deeply into it.”

  “This gentleman?” she asked, facing round to me.

  “No, his friend. He wished us to leave him alone. He is round in

  the stable lane now.”

  “The stable lane?” She raised her dark eyebrows. “What can he

  hope to find there? Ah! this, I suppose, is he. I trust, sir,

  that you will succeed in proving, what I feel sure is the truth,

  that my cousin Arthur is innocent of this crime.”

  “I fully share your opinion, and I trust, with you, that we may

  prove it,” returned Holmes, going back to the mat to knock the

  snow from his shoes. “I believe I have the honor of addressing

  Miss Mary Holder. Might I ask you a question or two?”

  “Pray do, sir, if it may help to clear this horrible affair up.”

  “You heard nothing yourself last night?”

  “Nothing, until my uncle here began to speak loudly. I heard

  that, and I came down.”

  “You shut up the windows and doors the night before. Did you

  fasten all the windows?”

  “Yes.”

  “Were they all fastened this morning?”

  “Yes.”

  “You have a maid who has a sweetheart? I think that you remarked

  to your uncle last night that she had been out to see him?”

  “Yes, and she was the girl who waited in the drawing-room. and

  who may have heard uncle’s remarks about the coronet.”

  “I see. You infer that she may have gone out to tell her

  sweetheart, and that the two may have planned the robbery.”

  “But what is the good of all these vague theories,” cried the

  banker impatiently, “when I have told you that I saw Arthur with

  the coronet in his hands?”

  “Wait a little, Mr. Holder. We must come back to that. About this

  girl, Miss Holder. You saw her return by the kitchen door, I

  presume?”

  “Yes; when I went to see if the door was fastened for the night I

  met her slipping in. I saw the man, too, in the gloom.”

  “Do you know him?”

  “Oh, yes! he is the green-grocer who brings our vegetables round.

  His name is Francis Prosper.”

  “He stood,” said Holmes, “to the left of the door–that is to

  say, farther up the path than is necessary to reach the door?”

  “Yes, he did.”

  “And he is a man with a wooden leg?”

  Something like fear sprang up in the young lady’s expressive

  black eyes. “Why, you are like a magician,” said she. “How do you

  know that?” She smiled, but there was no answering smile in

  Holmes’s thin, eager face.

  “I should be very glad now to go upstairs,” said he. “I shall

  probably wish to go over the outside of the house again. Perhaps

  I had better take a look at the lower windows before I go up.”

  He walked swiftly round from one to the other, pausing only at

  the large one which looked from the hall onto the stable lane.

  This he opened and made a very careful examination of the sill

  with his powerful magnifying lens. “Now we shall go upstairs,”

  said he at last.

  The banker’s dressing-room was a plainly furnished little

  chamber, with a gray carpet, a large bureau, and a long mirror.

  Holmes went to the bureau first and looked hard at the lock.

  “Which key was used to open it?” he asked.

  “That which my son himself indicated–that of the cupboard of the

lumber-room.”

  “Have you it here?”

  “That is it on the dressing-table.”

  Sherlock Holmes took it up and opened the bureau.

  “It is a noiseless lock,” said he. “It is no wonder that it did

  not wake you. This case, I presume, contains the coronet. We must

  have a look at it.” He opened the case, and taking out the diadem

  he laid it upon the table. It was a magnificent specimen of the

  jeweller’s art, and the thirty-six stones were the finest that I

  have ever seen. At one side of the coronet was a cracked edge,

  where a corner holding three gems had been torn away.

  “Now, Mr. Holder,” said Holmes, “here is the corner which

  corresponds to that which has been so unfortunately lost. Might I

  beg that you will break it off.”

  The banker recoiled in horror. “I should not dream of trying,”

  said he.

  “Then I will.” Holmes suddenly bent his strength upon it, but

  without result. “I feel it give a little,” said he; “but, though

  I am exceptionally strong in the fingers, it would take me all my

  time to break it. An ordinary man could not do it. Now, what do

  you think would happen if I did break it, Mr. Holder? There would

  be a noise like a pistol shot. Do you tell me that all this

  happened within a few yards of your bed and that you heard

  nothing of it?”

  “I do not know what to think. It is all dark to me.”

  “But perhaps it may grow lighter as we go. What do you think,

  Miss Holder?”

  “I confess that I still share my uncle’s perplexity.”

  “Your son had no shoes or slippers on when you saw him?”

  “He had nothing on save only his trousers and shirt.”

  “Thank you. We have certainly been favored with extraordinary

  luck during this inquiry, and it will be entirely our own fault

  if we do not succeed in clearing the matter up. With your

  pemmission, Mr. Holder, I shall now continue my investigations

  outside.”

  He went alone, at his own request, for he explained that any

  unnecessary footmarks might make his task more difficult. For an

  hour or more he was at work, returning at last with his feet

  heavy with snow and his features as inscrutable as ever.

  “I think that I have seen now all that there is to see, Mr.

  Holder,” said he; “I can serve you best by returning to my

  rooms.”

  “But the gems, Mr. Holmes. Where are they?”

  “I cannot tell.”

  The banker wrung his hands. “I shall never see them again!” he

  cried. “And my son? You give me hopes?”

  “My opinion is in no way altered.”

  “Then, for God’s sake, what was this dark business which was

  acted in my house last night?”

  “If you can call upon me at my Baker Street rooms to-morrow

  morning between nine and ten I shall be happy to do what I can to

  make it clearer. I understand that you give me carte blanche to

  act for you, provided only that I get back the gems, and that you

  place no limit on the sum I may draw.”

  “I would give my fortune to have them back.”

  “Very good. I shall look into the matter between this and then.

  Good-bye; it is just possible that I may have to come over here

  again before evening.”

  It was obvious to me that my companion’s mind was now made up

  about the case, although what his conclusions were was more than

  I could even dimly imagine. Several times during our homeward

  journey I endeavored to sound him upon the point, but he always

  glided away to some other topic, until at last I gave it over in

  despair. It was not yet three when we found ourselves in our

  rooms once more. He hurried to his chamber and was down again in

  a few minutes dressed as a common loafer. With his collar turned

  up, his shiny, seedy coat, his red cravat, and his worn boots, he

  was a perfect sample of the class.

  “I think that this should do,” said he, glancing into the glass

  above the fireplace. “I only wish that you could come with me,

  Watson, but I fear that it won’t do. I may be on the trail in

  this matter, or I may be following a will-o’-the-wisp, but I

  shall soon know which it is. I hope that I may be back in a few

  hours.” He cut a slice of beef from the joint upon the sideboard,

  sandwiched it between two rounds of bread, and thrusting this

  rude meal into his pocket he started off upon his expedition.

  I had just finished my tea when he returned, evidently in

  excellent spirits, swinging an old elastic-sided boot in his

  hand. He chucked it down into a corner and helped himself to a

  cup of tea.

  “I only looked in as I passed,” said he. “I am going right on.”

  “Where to?”

  “Oh, to the other side of the West End. It may be some time

  before I get back. Don’t wait up for me in case I should be

  late.”

  “How are you getting on?”

  “Oh, so so. Nothing to complain of. I have been out to Streatham

  since I saw you last, but I did not call at the house. It is a

  very sweet little problem, and I would not have missed it for a

  good deal. However, I must not sit gossiping here, but must get

  these disreputable clothes off and return to my highly

  respectable self.”

  I could see by his manner that he had stronger reasons for

  satisfaction than his words alone would imply. His eyes twinkled,

  and there was even a touch of color upon his sallow cheeks. He

  hastened upstairs, and a few minutes later I heard the slam of

  the hall door, which told me that he was off once more upon his

  congenial hunt.

  I waited until midnight, but there was no sign of his return, so

  I retired to my room. It was no uncommon thing for him to be away

  for days and nights on end when he was hot upon a scent, so that

  his lateness caused me no surprise. I do not know at what hour he

  came in, but when I came down to breakfast in the morning there

  he was with a cup of coffee in one hand and the paper in the

  other, as fresh and trim as possible.

  “You will excuse my beginning without you, Watson,” said he, “but

  you remember that our client has rather an early appointment this

  morning.”

  “Why, it is after nine now,” I answered. “I should not be

  surprised if that were he. I thought I heard a ring.”

  It was, indeed, our friend the financier. I was shocked by the

  change which had come over him, for his face which was naturally

  of a broad and massive mould, was now pinched and fallen in,

  while his hair seemed to me at least a shade whiter. He entered

  with a weariness and lethargy which was even more painful than

  his violence of the morning before, and he dropped heavily into

  the armchair which I pushed forward for him.

  “I do not know what I have done to be so severely tried,” said

  he. “Only two days ago I was a happy and prosperous man, without

  a care in the world. Now I am left to a lonely and dishonored

  age. One sorrow comes close upon the heels of another. My niece,

  Mary, has deserted me.”

  “Deserted you?”

  “Yes. Her bed this morning had not been slept in, her room was

  empty, and a note for me lay up 

on the hall table. I had said to

  her last night, in sorrow and not in anger, that if she had

  married my boy all might have been well with him. Perhaps it was

  thoughtless of me to say so. It is to that remark that she refers

  in this note:

  “‘MY DEAREST UNCLE:–I feel that I have brought trouble upon you,

  and that if I had acted differently this terrible misfortune

  might never have occurred. I cannot, with this thought in my

  mind, ever again be happy under your roof, and I feel that I must

  leave you forever. Do not worry about my future, for that is

  provided for; and, above all, do not search for me, for it will

  be fruitless labour and an ill-service to me. In life or in 

  death, I am ever your loving MARY.’

  “What could she mean by that note, Mr. Holmes? Do you think it

  points to suicide?”

  “No, no, nothing of the kind. It is perhaps the best possible

  solution. I trust, Mr. Holder, that you are nearing the end of

  your troubles.”

  “Ha! You say so! You have heard something, Mr. Holmes; you have

  learned something! Where are the gems?”

  “You would not think 1000 pounds apiece an excessive sum for

  them?”

  “I would pay ten.”

  “That would be unnecessary. Three thousand will cover the matter.

  And there is a little reward, I fancy. Have you your check-book?

  Here is a pen. Better make it out for 4000 pounds.”

  With a dazed face the banker made out the required check. Holmes

  walked over to his desk, took out a little triangular piece of

  gold with three gems in it, and threw it down upon the table.

  With a shriek of joy our client clutched it up.

  “You have it!” he gasped. “I am saved! I am saved!”

  The reaction of joy was as passionate as his grief had been, and

  he hugged his recovered gems to his bosom.

  “There is one other thing you owe, Mr. Holder,” said Sherlock

  Holmes rather sternly.

  “Owe!” He caught up a pen. “Name the sum, and I will pay it.”

  “No, the debt is not to me. You owe a very humble apology to that

  noble lad, your son, who has carried himself in this matter as I

  should be proud to see my own son do, should I ever chance to

  have one.”

  “Then it was not Arthur who took them?”

  “I told you yesterday, and I repeat to-day, that it was not.”

  “You are sure of it! Then let us hurry to him at once to let him

  know that the truth is known.”

  “He knows it already. When I had cleared it all up I had an

  interview with him, and finding that he would not tell me the

  story, I told it to him, on which he had to confess that I was

  right and to add the very few details which were not yet quite

  clear to me. Your news of this morning, however, may open his

  lips.”

  “For heaven’s sake, tell me, then, what is this extraordinary

  mystery !”

  “I will do so, and I will show you the steps by which I reached

  it. And let me say to you, first, that which it is hardest for me

  to say and for you to hear: there has been an understanding

  between Sir George Burnwell and your niece Mary. They have now

  fled together.”

  “My Mary? Impossible!”

  “It is unfortunately more than possible; it is certain. Neither

  you nor your son knew the true character of this man when you

  admitted him into your family circle. He is one of the most

  dangerous men in England–a ruined gambler, an absolutely

  desperate villain, a man without heart or conscience. Your niece

  knew nothing of such men. When he breathed his vows to her, as he

  had done to a hundred before her, she flattered herself that she

  alone had touched his heart. The devil knows best what he said,

  but at least she became his tool and was in the habit of seeing

  him nearly every evening.”

  “I cannot, and I will not, believe it!” cried the banker with an

  ashen face.

  “I will tell you, then, what occurred in your house last night.

  Your niece, when you had, as she thought, gone to your room.

  slipped down and talked to her lover through the window which

  leads into the stable lane. His footmarks had pressed right

  through the snow, so long had he stood there. She told him of the

  coronet. His wicked lust for gold kindled at the news, and he

  bent her to his will. I have no doubt that she loved you, but

  there are women in whom the love of a lover extinguishes all

  other loves, and I think that she must have been one. She had

  hardly listened to his instructions when she saw you coming

  downstairs, on which she closed the window rapidly and told you

  about one of the servants’ escapade with her wooden-legged lover,

  which was all perfectly true.

  “Your boy, Arthur, went to bed after his interview with you but

  he slept badly on account of his uneasiness about his club debts.

  In the middle of the night he heard a soft tread pass his door,

  so he rose and, looking out, was surprised to see his cousin

  walking very stealthily along the passage until she disappeared

  into your dressing-room. Petrified with astonishment. the lad

  slipped on some clothes and waited there in the dark to see what

  would come of this strange affair. Presently she emerged from the

  room again, and in the light of the passage-lamp your son saw

  that she carried the precious coronet in her hands. She passed

  down the stairs, and he, thrilling with horror, ran along and

  slipped behind the curtain near your door, whence he could see

  what passed in the hall beneath. He saw her stealthily open the

  window, hand out the coronet to someone in the gloom, and then

  closing it once more hurry back to her room, passing quite close

  to where he stood hid behind the curtain.

  “As long as she was on the scene he could not take any action

  without a horrible exposure of the woman whom he loved. But the

  instant that she was gone he realized how crushing a misfortune

  this would be for you, and how all-important it was to set it

  right. He rushed down, just as he was, in his bare feet, opened

  the window, sprang out into the snow, and ran down the lane,

  where he could see a dark figure in the moonlight. Sir George

  Burnwell tried to get away, but Arthur caught him, and there was

  a struggle between them, your lad tugging at one side of the

  coronet, and his opponent at the other. In the scuffle, your son

  struck Sir George and cut him over the eye. Then something

  suddenly snapped, and your son, finding that he had the coronet

  in his hands, rushed back, closed the window, ascended to your

  room, and had just observed that the coronet had been twisted in

  the struggle and was endeavoring to straighten it when you

  appeared upon the scene.”

  “Is it possible?” gasped the banker.

  “You then roused his anger by calling him names at a moment when

  he felt that he had deserved your warmest thanks. He could not

  explain the true state of affairs without betraying one who

  certainly deserved little enough consideration at his hands. He

  took the more chivalrous view, however, and preserved her secret.”

  “And that was why she shrieked and fainted when she saw the

  coronet,” cried Mr. Holder. “Oh, my God! what a blind fool I have

  been! And his asking to be allowed to go out for five minutes!

  The dear fellow wanted to see if the missing piece were at the

  scene of the struggle. How cruelly I have misjudged him!’

  “When I arrived at the house,” continued Holmes, “I at once went

  very carefully round it to observe if there were any traces in

  the snow which might help me. I knew that none had fallen since

  the evening before, and also that there had been a strong frost

  to preserve impressions. I passed along the tradesmen’s path, but

  found it all trampled down and indistinguishable. Just beyond it,

  however, at the far side of the kitchen door, a woman had stood

  and talked with a man, whose round impressions on one side showed

  that he had a wooden leg. I could even tell that they had been

  disturbed, for the woman had run back swiftly to the door, as was

  shown by the deep toe and light heel marks, while Wooden-leg had

  waited a little, and then had gone away. I thought at the time

  that this might be the maid and her sweetheart, of whom you had

  already spoken to me, and inquiry showed it was so. I passed

  round the garden without seeing anything more than random tracks,

  which I took to be the police; but when I got into the stable

  lane a very long and complex story was written in the snow in

  front of me.

  “There was a double line of tracks of a booted man, and a second

  double line which I saw with delight belonged to a man with naked

  feet. I was at once convinced from what you had told me that the

  latter was your son. The first had walked both ways, but the

  other had run swiftly, and as his tread was marked in places over

  the depression of the boot, it was obvious that he had passed

  after the other. I followed them up and found they led to the

  hall window, where Boots had worn all the snow away while

  waiting. Then I walked to the other end, which was a hundred

  yards or more down the lane. I saw where Boots had faced round,

  where the snow was cut up as though there had been a struggle,

  and, finally, where a few drops of blood had fallen, to show me

  that I was not mistaken. Boots had then run down the lane, and

  another little smudge of blood showed that it was he who had been

  hurt. When he came to the highroad at the other end, I found that

  the pavement had been cleared, so there was an end to that clew.

  “On entering the house, however, I examined, as you remember, the

  sill and framework of the hall window with my lens, and I could

  at once see that someone had passed out. I could distinguish the

  outline of an instep where the wet foot had been placed in coming

  in. I was then beginning to be able to form an opinion as to what

  had occurred. A man had waited outside the window; someone had

  brought the gems; the deed had been overseen by your son; he had

  pursued the thief; had struggled with him; they had each tugged

  at the coronet, their united strength causing injuries which

  neither alone could have effected. He had returned with the

  prize, but had left a fragment in the grasp of his opponent. So

  far I was clear. The question now was, who was the man and who

  was it brought him the coronet?

  “It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the

  impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the

  truth. Now, I knew that it was not you who had brought it down,

  so there only remained your niece and the maids. But if it were

  the maids, why should your son allow himself to be accused in

  their place? There could be no possible reason. As he loved his

  cousin, however, there was an excellent explanation why he should

  retain her secret–the more so as the secret was a disgraceful

  one. When I remembered that you had seen her at that window, and

  how she had fainted on seeing the coronet again, my conjecture

became a certainty.

  “And who could it be who was her confederate? A lover evidently,

  for who else could outweigh the love and gratitude which she must

  feel to you? I knew that you went out little, and that your

  circle of friends was a very limited one. But among them was Sir

  George Burnwell. I had heard of him before as being a man of evil

  reputation among women. It must have been he who wore those boots

  and retained the missing gems. Even though he knew that Arthur

  had discovered him, he might still flatter himself that he was

  safe, for the lad could not say a word without compromising his

  own family.

  “Well, your own good sense will suggest what measures I took

  next. I went in the shape of a loafer to Sir George’s house,

  managed to pick up an acquaintance with his valet, learned that

  his master had cut his head the night before, and, finally, at

  the expense of six shillings, made all sure by buying a pair of

  his cast-off shoes. With these I journeyed down to Streatham and

  saw that they exactly fitted the tracks.”

  “I saw an ill-dressed vagabond in the lane yesterday evening,”

  said Mr. Holder.

  “Precisely. It was I. I found that I had my man, so I came home

  and changed my clothes. It was a delicate part which I had to

  play then, for I saw that a prosecution must be avoided to avert

  scandal, and I knew that so astute a villain would see that our

  hands were tied in the matter. I went and saw him. At first, of

  course, he denied everything. But when I gave him every

  particular that had occurred, he tried to bluster and took down a

  life-preserver from the wall. I knew my man, however, and I

  clapped a pistol to his head before he could strike. Then he

  became a little more reasonable. I told him that we would give

  him a price for the stones he held 1000 pounds apiece. That

  brought out the first signs of grief that he had shown. ‘Why,

  dash it all!’ said he, ‘I’ve let them go at six hundred for the

  three!’ I soon managed to get the address of the receiver who had

  them, on promising him that there would be no prosecution. Off I

  set to him, and after much chaffering I got our stones at 1000

  pounds apiece. Then I looked in upon your son, told him that all

  was right, and eventually got to my bed about two o’clock, after

  what I may call a really hard day’s work.”

  “A day which has saved England from a great public scandal,” said

  the banker, rising. “Sir, I cannot find words to thank you, but

  you shall not find me ungrateful for what you have done. Your

  skill has indeed exceeded all that I have heard of it. And now I

  must fly to my dear boy to apologize to him for the wrong which I

  have done him. As to what you tell me of poor Mary, it goes to my

  very heart. Not even your skill can inform me where she is now.”

  “I think that we may safely say,” returned Holmes, “that she is

  wherever Sir George Burnwell is. It is equally certain, too, that

  whatever her sins are, they will soon receive a more than

  sufficient punishment.”

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