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Adventure X. The Naval Treaty

The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was

  made memorable by three cases of interest, in which I

  had the privilege of being associated with Sherlock

  Holmes and of studying his methods. I find them

  recorded in my notes under the headings of “The

  Adventure of the Second Stain,” “The Adventure of the

  Naval Treaty,” and “The Adventure of the Tired

  Captain.” The first of these, however, deals with

  interest of such importance and implicates so many of

  the first families in the kingdom that for many years

  it will be impossible to make it public. No case,

  however, in which Holmes was engaged has ever

  illustrated the value of his analytical methods so

  clearly or has impressed those who were associated

  with him so deeply. I still retain an almost verbatim

  report of the interview in which he demonstrated the

  true facts of the case to Monsieur Dubugue of the

  Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the well-known

  specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their

  energies upon what proved to be side-issues. The new

  century will have come, however, before the story can

  be safely told. Meanwhile I pass on to the second on

  my list, which promised also at one time to be of

  national importance, and was marked by several

  incidents which give it a quite unique character.

  During my school-days I had been intimately associated

  with a lad named Percy Phelps, who was of much the

  same age as myself, though he was two classes ahead of

  me. He was a very brilliant boy, and carried away

  every prize which the school had to offer, finished

  his exploits by winning a scholarship which sent him

  on to continue his triumphant career at Cambridge. He

  was, I remember, extremely well connected, and even

  when we were all little boys together we knew that his

  mother’s brother was Lord Holdhurst, the great

  conservative politician. This gaudy relationship did

  him little good at school. On the contrary, it seemed

  rather a piquant thing to us to chevy him about the

  playground and hit him over the shins with a wicket. 

  But it was another thing when he came out into the

  world. I heard vaguely that his abilities and the

  influences which he commanded had won him a good

  position at the Foreign Office, and then he passed

  completely out of my mind until the following letter

  recalled his existence:

  Briarbrae, Woking.

  My dear Watson,–I have no doubt that you can remember

  “Tadpole” Phelps, who was in the fifth form when you

  were in the third. It is possible even that you may

  have heard that through my uncle’s influence I

  obtained a good appointment at the Foreign Office, and

  that I was in a situation of trust and honor until a

  horrible misfortune came suddenly to blast my career.

  There is no use writing of the details of that

  dreadful event. In the event of your acceding to my

  request it is probably that I shall have to narrate

  them to you. I have only just recovered from nine

  weeks of brain-fever, and am still exceedingly weak. 

  Do you think that you could bring your friend Mr.

  Holmes down to see me? I should like to have his

  opinion of the case, though the authorities assure me

  that nothing more can be done. Do try to bring him

  down, and as soon as possible. Every minute seems an

  hour while I live in this state of horrible suspense. 

  Assure him that if I have not asked his advice sooner

  it was not because I did not appreciate his talents,

  but because I have been off my head ever since the

  blow fell. Now I am clear again, though I dare not

  think of it too much for fear of a relapse. I am still

  so weak that I have to write, as you see, by dictating.

  Do try to bring him.

  Your old school-fellow,

  Percy Phelps.

  There was something that touched me as I read this

  letter, something pitiable in the reiterated appeals

  to bring Holmes. So moved was I that even had it been

  a difficult matter I should have tried it, but of

  course I knew well that Holmes loved his art, so that

  he was ever as ready to bring his aid as his client

  could be to receive it. My wife agreed with me that

  not a moment should be lost in laying the matter

  before him, and so within an hour of breakfast-time I

  found myself back once more in the old rooms in Baker


  Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his

  dressing-gown, and working hard over a chemical

  investigation. A large curved retort was boiling

  furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen burner, and

  the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre

  measure. My friend hardly glanced up as I entered,

  and I, seeing that his investigation must be of

  importance, seated myself in an arm-chair and waited. 

  He dipped into this bottle or that, drawing out a few

  drops of each with his glass pipette, and finally

brought a test-tube containing a solution over to the

  table. In his right hand he held a slip of


  “You come at a crisis, Watson,” said he. “If this

  paper remains blue, all is well. If it turns red, it

  means a man’s life.” He dipped it into the test-tube

  and it flushed at once into a dull, dirty crimson. 

  “Hum! I thought as much!” he cried. “I will be at

  your service in an instant, Watson. You will find

  tobacco in the Persian slipper.” He turned to his

  desk and scribbled off several telegrams, which were

  handed over to the page-boy. Then he threw himself

  down into the chair opposite, and drew up his knees

  until his fingers clasped round his long, thin shins.

  “A very commonplace little murder,” said he. “You’ve

  got something better, I fancy. You are the stormy

  petrel of crime, Watson. What is it?”

  I handed him the letter, which he read with the most

  concentrated attention.

  “It does not tell us very much, does it?” he remarked,

  as he handed it back to me.

  “Hardly anything.”

  “And yet the writing is of interest.”

  “But the writing is not his own.”

  “Precisely. It is a woman’s.”

  “A man’s surely,” I cried.

  “No, a woman’s, and a woman of rare character. You

  see, at the commencement of an investigation it is

  something to know that your client is in close contact

  with some one who, for good or evil, has an

  exceptional nature. My interest is already awakened

  in the case. If you are ready we will start at once

  for Woking, and see this diplomatist who is in such

  evil case, and the lady to whom he dictates his


  We were fortunate enough to catch an early train at

  Waterloo, and in a little under an hour we found

  ourselves among the fir-woods and the heather of

  Woking. Briarbrae proved to be a large detached house

  standing in extensive grounds within a few minutes’

  walk of the station. On sending in our cards we were

  shown into an elegantly appointed drawing-room, where

  we were joined in a few minutes by a rather stout man

  who received us with much hospitality. His age may

  have been nearer forty than thirty, but his cheeks

  were so ruddy and his eyes so merry that he still

  conveyed the impression of a plump and mischievous


  “I am so glad that you have come,” said he, shaking

  our hands with effusion. “Percy has been inquiring

  for you all morning. Ah, poor old chap, he clings to

  any straw! His father and his mother asked me to see

  you, for the mere mention of the subject is very

  painful to them.”

  “We have had no details yet,” observed Holmes. “I

  perceive that you are not yourself a member of the


  Our acquaintance looked surprised, and then, glancing

  down, he began to laugh.

  “Of course you saw the J H monogram on my locket,”

  said he. “For a moment I thought you had done

  something clever. Joseph Harrison is my name, and as

  Percy is to marry my sister Annie I shall at least be

  a relation by marriage. You will find my sister in

  his room, for she has nursed him hand-and-foot this

  two months back. Perhaps we’d better go in at once,

  for I know how impatient he is.”

  The chamber in which we were shown was on the same

  floor as the drawing-room. It was furnished partly as

  a sitting and partly as a bedroom, with flowers

  arranged daintily in every nook and corner. A young

  man, very pale and worn, was lying upon a sofa near

  the open window, through which came the rich scent of

  the garden and the balmy summer air. A woman was

  sitting beside him, who rose as we entered.

  “Shall I leave, Percy?” she asked.

  He clutched her hand to detain her. “How are you,

  Watson?” said he, cordially. “I should never have

  known you under that moustache, and I dare say you

  would not be prepared to swear to me. This I presume

  is your celebrated friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?”

  I introduced him in a few words, and we both sat down. 

  The stout young man had left us, but his sister still

  remained with her hand in that of the invalid. She

  was a striking-looking woman, a little short and thick

  for symmetry, but with a beautiful olive complexion,

  large, dark, Italian eyes, and a wealth of deep black

  hair. Her rich tints made the white face of her

  companion the more worn and haggard by the contrast.

  “I won’t waste your time,” said he, raising himself

  upon the sofa. “I’ll plunge into the matter without

  further preamble. I was a happy and successful man,

  Mr. Holmes, and on the eve of being married, when a

  sudden and dreadful misfortune wrecked all my

  prospects in life.

  “I was, as Watson may have told you, in the Foreign

  Office, and through the influences of my uncle, Lord

  Holdhurst, I rose rapidly to a responsible position. 

  When my uncle became foreign minister in this

  administration he gave me several missions of trust,

  and as I always brought them to a successful

  conclusion, he came at last to have the utmost

  confidence in my ability and tact.

  “Nearly ten weeks ago–to be more accurate, on the 23d

  of May–he called me into his private room, and, after

  complimenting me on the good work which I had done, he

  informed me that he had a new commission of trust for

  me to execute.

  “‘This,’ said he, taking a gray roll of paper from his

  bureau, ‘is the original of that secret treaty between

  England and Italy of which, I regret to say, some

  rumors have already got into the public press. It is

  of enormous importance that nothing further should

  leak out. The French or the Russian embassy would pay

  an immense sum to learn the contents of these papers. 

  They should not leave my bureau were it not that it is

  absolutely necessary to have them copied. You have a

  desk in your office?”

  “‘Yes, sir.’

  “‘Then take the treaty and lock it up there. I shall

  give directions that you may remain behind when the

  others go, so that you may copy it at your leisure

  without fear of being overlooked. When you have

  finished, relock both the original and the draft in

  the desk, and hand them over to me personally

  to-morrow morning.’

  “I took the papers and–“

  “Excuse me an instant,” said Holmes. “Were you alone

  during this conversation?”


  “In a large room?”

  “Thirty feet each way.”

  “In the centre?”

  “Yes, about it.”

  “And speaking low?”

  “My uncle’s voice is always remarkably low. I hardly

  spoke at all.”

  “Thank you,” said Holmes, shutting his eyes; “pray go


  “I did exactly what he indicated, and waited until the

  other clerks had departed. 

One of them in my room,

  Charles Gorot, had some arrears of work to make up, so

  I left him there and went out to dine. When I

  returned he was gone. I was anxious to hurry my work,

  for I knew that Joseph–the Mr. Harrison whom you saw

  just now–was in town, and that he would travel down

  to Woking by the eleven-o’clock train, and I wanted if

  possible to catch it.

  “When I came to examine the treaty I saw at once that

  it was of such importance that my uncle had been

guilty of no exaggeration in what he had said. 

  Without going into details, I may say that it defined

  the position of Great Britain towards the Triple

  Alliance, and fore-shadowed the policy which this

  country would pursue in the event of the French fleet

  gaining a complete ascendancy over that of Italy in

  the Mediterranean. The questions treated in it were

  purely naval. At the end were the signatures of the

  high dignitaries who had signed it. I glanced my eyes

  over it, and then settled down to my task of copying.

  “It was a long document, written in the French

  language, and containing twenty-six separate articles. 

  I copied as quickly as I could, but at nine o’clock I

  had only done nine articles, and it seemed hopeless

  for me to attempt to catch my train. I was feeling

  drowsy and stupid, partly from my dinner and also from

  the effects of a long day’s work. A cup of coffee

  would clear my brain. A commissionnaire remains all

  night in a little lodge at the foot of the stairs, and

  is in the habit of making coffee at his spirit-lamp

  for any of the officials who may be working over time. 

  I rang the bell, therefore, to summon him.

  “To my surprise, it was a woman who answered the

  summons, a large, coarse-faced, elderly woman, in an

  apron. She explained that she was the

  commissionnaire’s wife, who did the charing, and I

  gave her the order for the coffee.

  “I wrote two more articles and then, feeling more

  drowsy than ever, I rose and walked up and down the

  room to stretch my legs. My coffee had not yet come,

  and I wondered what was the cause of the delay could

  be. Opening the door, I started down the corridor to

  find out. There was a straight passage, dimly

  lighted, which led from the room in which I had been

  working, and was the only exit from it. It ended in a

  curving staircase, with the commissionnaire’s lodge in

  the passage at the bottom. Half way down this

  staircase is a small landing, with another passage

  running into it at right angles. This second one

  leads by means of a second small stair to a side door,

  used by servants, and also as a short cut by clerks

  when coming from Charles Street. Here is a rough

  chart of the place.”

  “Thank you. I think that I quite follow you,” said

  Sherlock Holmes.

  “It is of the utmost importance that you should notice

  this point. I went down the stairs and into the hall,

  where I found the commissionnaire fast asleep in his

  box, with the kettle boiling furiously upon the

  spirit-lamp. I took off the kettle and blew out the

  lamp, for the water was spurting over the floor. Then

  I put out my hand and was about to shake the man, who

  was still sleeping soundly, when a bell over his head

  rang loudly, and he woke with a start.

  “‘Mr. Phelps, sir!’ said he, looking at me in


  “‘I came down to see if my coffee was ready.’

  “‘I was boiling the kettle when I fell asleep, sir.’ 

  He looked at me and then up at the still quivering

  bell with an ever-growing astonishment upon his face.

  “‘If you was here, sir, then who rang the bell?’ he


  “‘The bell!’ I cried. ‘What bell is it?’

  “‘It’s the bell of the room you were working in.’

  “A cold hand seemed to close round my heart. Some

  one, then, was in that room where my precious treaty

  lay upon the table. I ran frantically up the stair

  and along the passage. There was no one in the

  corridors, Mr. Holmes. There was no one in the room. 

  All was exactly as I left it, save only that the

  papers which had been committed to my care had been

  taken from the desk on which they lay. The copy was

  there, and the original was gone.”

  Holmes sat up in his chair and rubbed his hands. I

  could see that the problem was entirely to his heart. 

  “Pray, what did you do then?” he murmured.

  “I recognized in an instant that the thief must have

  come up the stairs from the side door. Of course I

  must have met him if he had come the other way.”

  “You were satisfied that he could not have been

  concealed in the room all the time, or in the corridor

  which you have just described as dimly lighted?”

  “It is absolutely impossible. A rat could not conceal

  himself either in the room or the corridor. There is

  no cover at all.”

  “Thank you. Pray proceed.”

  “The commissionnaire, seeing by my pale face that

  something was to be feared, had followed me upstairs. 

  Now we both rushed along the corridor and down the

  steep steps which led to Charles Street. The door at

  the bottom was closed, but unlocked. We flung it open

  and rushed out. I can distinctly remember that as we

  did so there came three chines from a neighboring

  clock. It was quarter to ten.”

  “That is of enormous importance,” said Holmes, making

  a note upon his shirt-cuff.

  “The night was very dark, and a thin, warm rain was

  falling. There was no one in Charles Street, but a

  great traffic was going on, as usual, in Whitehall, at

  the extremity. We rushed along the pavement,

  bare-headed as we were, and at the far corner we found

  a policeman standing.

  “‘A robbery has been committed,’ I gasped. ‘A

  document of immense value has been stolen from the

  Foreign Office. Has any one passed this way?’

  “‘I have been standing here for a quarter of an hour,

  sir,’ said he; ‘only one person has passed during that

  time–a woman, tall and elderly, with a Paisley


  “‘Ah, that is only my wife,’ cried the

  commissionnaire; ‘has no one else passed?’

  “‘No one.’

  “‘Then it must be the other way that the thief took,’

  cried the fellow, tugging at my sleeve.

  “‘But I was not satisfied, and the attempts which he

  made to draw me away increased my suspicions.

  “‘Which way did the woman go?’ I cried.

  “‘I don’t know, sir. I noticed her pass, but I had no

  special reason for watching her. She seemed to be in

  a hurry.’

  “‘How long ago was it?’

  “‘Oh, not very many minutes.’

  “‘Within the last vie?’

  “‘Well, it could not be more than five.’

  “‘You’re only wasting your time, sir, and every minute

  now is of importance,’ cried the commissionnaire;

  ‘take my word for it that my old woman has nothing to

  do with it, and come down to the other end of the

  street. Well, if you won’t, I will.’ And with that

  he rushed off in the other direction.

  “But I was after him in an instant and caught him by

  the sleeve.

  “‘Where do you live?’ said I.

  “’16 Ivy Lane, Brixton,’ he answered. ‘But don’t let

  yourself be drawn away upon a false scent, Mr. Phelps. 

  Come to the other end of the street and let us see if

  we can hear of anything.’

  “Nothing was to be lost by following his advice. With

  the policeman we both hurried down, but only to find

  the street full of traffic, many people coming and

  going, but all only too eager to get to a place of

  safety upon so wet a night. There was no lounger who

  could tell us who had passed.

  “Then we returned to the office, and searched the

  stairs and the passage without result. The corridor

  which led to the room was laid down with a kind of

  creamy linoleum which shows an impression very easily. 

  We examined it very carefully, but found no outline of

  any footmark.”

  “Had it been raining all evening?”

  “Since about seven.”

  “How is it, then, that the woman who came into the

  room about nine left no traces with her muddy boots?”

  “I am glad you raised the point. It occurred to me at

  the time. The charwomen are in the habit of taking

  off their boots at the commissionnaire’s office, and

  putting on list slippers.”

  “That is very clear. There were no marks, then,

  though the night was a wet one? The chain of events

  is certainly one of extraordinary interest. What did

  you do next?

  “We examined the room also. There is no possibility

  of a secret door, and the windows are quite thirty

  feet from the ground. Both of them were fastened on

  the inside. The carpet prevents any possibility of a

  trap-door, and the ceiling is of the ordinary

  whitewashed kind. I will pledge my life that whoever

  stole my papers could only have come through the


  “How about the fireplace?”

  “They use none. There is a stove. The bell-rope

  hangs from the wire just to the right of my desk. 

  Whoever rang it must have come right up to the desk to

  do it. But why should any criminal wish to ring the

  bell? It is a most insoluble mystery.”

  “”Certainly the incident was unusual. What were your

  next steps? You examined the room, I presume, to see

  if the intruder had left any traces–any cigar-end or

  dropped glove or hairpin or other trifle?”

  “There was nothing of the sort.”

  “No smell?”

  “Well, we never thought of that.”

  “Ah, a scent of tobacco would have been worth a great

  deal to us in such an investigation.”

  “I never smoke myself, so I think I should have

  observed it if there had been any smell of tobacco. 

  There was absolutely no clue of any kind. The only

  tangible fact was that the commissionnaire’s wife-Mrs.

  Tangey was the name–had hurried our of the place. He

  could give no explanation save that it was about the

  time when the woman always went home. The policeman

  and I agreed that our best plan would be to seize the

  woman before she could get rid of the papers,

  presuming that she had them.

  “The alarm had reached Scotland Yard by this time, and

  Mr. Forbes, the detective, came round at once and took

  up the case with a great deal of energy. We hire a

  hansom, and in half an hour we were at the address

  which had been given to us. A young woman opened the

  door, who proved to be Mrs. Tangey’s eldest daughter. 

  Her mother had not come back yet, and we were shown

  into the front room to wait.

  “About ten minutes later a knock came at the door, and

  here we made the one serious mistake for which I blame

  myself. Instead of opening the door ourselves, we

  allowed the girl to do so. We heard her say, ‘Mother,

  there are two men in the house waiting to see you,’

  and an instant afterwards we heard the patter of feet

  rushing down the passage. Forbes flung open the door,

  and we both ran into the back room or kitchen, but the

  woman had got there before us. She stared at us with

defiant eyes, and then, suddenly recognizing me, an

  expression of absolute astonishment came over her


  “‘Why, if it isn’t Mr. Phelps, of the office!’ she


  “‘Come, come, who did you think we were when you ran

  away from us?’ asked my companion.

  “‘I thought you were the brokers,’ said she, ‘we have

  had some trouble with a tradesman.’

  “‘That’s not quite good enough,’ answered Forbes. ‘We

  have reason to believe that you have taken a paper of

  importance fro the Foreign Office, and that you ran in

  here to dispose of it. You must come back with us to

  Scotland Yard to be searched.’

  “It was in vain that she protested and resisted. A

  four-wheeler was brought, and we all three drove back

  in it. We had first made an examination of the

  kitchen, and especially of the kitchen fire, to see

  whether she might have made away with the papers

  during the instant that she was alone. There were no

  signs, however, of any ashes or scraps. When we

  reached Scotland Yard she was handed over at once to

  the female searcher. I waited in an agony of suspense

  until she came back with her report. There were no

  signs of the papers.

  “Then for the first time the horror of my situation

  came in its full force. Hitherto I had been acting,

  and action had numbed thought. I had been so

  confident of regaining the treaty at once that I had

  not dared to think of what would be the consequence if

  I failed to do so. But now there was nothing more to

  be done, and I had leisure to realize my position. It

  was horrible. Watson there would tell you that I was

  a nervous, sensitive boy at school. It is my nature. 

  I thought of my uncle and of his colleagues in the

  Cabinet, of the shame which I had brought upon him,

  upon myself, upon every one connected with me. What

  though I was the victim of an extraordinary accident? 

  No allowance is made for accidents where diplomatic

  interests are at stake. I was ruined, shamefully,

  hopelessly ruined. I don’t know what I did. I fancy

  I must have made a scene. I have a dim recollection

  of a group of officials who crowded round me,

  endeavoring to soothe me. One of them drove down with

  me to Waterloo, and saw me into the Woking train. I

  believe that he would have come all the way had it not

  been that Dr. Ferrier, who lives near me, was going

  down by that very train. The doctor most kindly took

  charge of me, and it was well he did so, for I had a

  fit in the station, and before we reached home I was

  practically a raving maniac.

  “You can imagine the state of things here when they

  were roused from their beds by the doctor’s ringing

  and found me in this condition. Poor Annie here and

  my mother were broken-hearted. Dr. Ferrier had just

  heard enough from the detective at the station to be

  able to give an idea of what had happened, and his

  story did not mend matters. It was evident to all

  that I was in for a long illness, so Joseph was

  bundled out of this cheery bedroom, and it was turned

  into a sick-room for me. Here I have lain, Mr.

  Holmes, for over nine weeks, unconscious, and raving

  with brain-fever. If it had not been for Miss

  Harrison here and for the doctor’s care I should not

  be speaking to you now. She has nursed me by day and

  a hired nurse has looked after me by night, for in my

  mad fits I was capable of anything. Slowly my reason

  has cleared, but it is only during the last three days

  that my memory has quite returned. Sometimes I wish

  that it never had. The first thing that I did was to

  wire to Mr. Forbes, who had the case in hand. He came

  out, and assures me that, though everything has been

  done, no trace of a clue has been discovered. The

  commissionnaire and his wife have been examined in

  every way without any light being thrown upon the

  matter. The suspicions of the police then rested upon

  young Gorot, who, as you may remember, stayed over

  time in the office that night. His remaining behind

  and is French name were really the only two points

  which could suggest suspicion; but, as a matter of

  fact, I did not begin work until he had gone, and his

  people are of Huguenot extraction, but as English in

  sympathy and tradition as you and I are. Nothing was

  found to implicate him in any way, and there the

  matter dropped. I turn to you, Mr. Holmes, as

  absolutely my last hope. If you fail me, then my

  honor as well as my position are forever forfeited.”

  The invalid sank back upon his cushions, tired out by

  this long recital, while his nurse poured him out a

  glass of some stimulating medicine. Holmes sat

  silently, with his head thrown back and his eyes

  closed, in an attitude which might seem listless to a

  stranger, but which I knew betokened the most intense


  “You statement has been so explicit,” said he at last,

  “that you have really left me very few questions to

  ask. There is one of the very utmost importance,

  however. Did you tell any one that you had this

  special task to perform?”

  “No one.”

  “Not Miss Harrison here, for example?”

  “No. I had not been back to Woking between getting

  the order and executing the commission.”

  “And none of your people had by chance been to see



  “Did any of them know their way about in the office?”

  “Oh, yes, all of them had been shown over it.”

  “Still, of course, if you said nothing to any one

  about the treaty these inquiries are irrelevant.”

  “I said nothing.”

  “Do you know anything of the commissionnaire?”

  “Nothing except that he is an old soldier.”

  “What regiment?”

  “Oh, I have heard–Coldstream Guards.”

  “Thank you. I have no doubt I can get details from

  Forbes. The authorities are excellent at amassing

  facts, though they do not always use them to

  advantage. What a lovely thing a rose is!”

  He walked past the couch to the open window, and held

  up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at

  the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new

  phase of his character to me, for I had never before

  seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.

  “There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary

  as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back

  against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact

  science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the

  goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the

  flowers. All other things, our powers our desires,

  our food, are all really necessary for our existence

  in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. 

  Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life,

  not a condition of it. It is only goodness which

gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to

  hope from the flowers.

  Percy Phelps and his nurse looked at Holmes during

  this demonstration with surprise and a good deal of

  disappointment written upon their faces. He had

  fallen into a reverie, with the moss-rose between his

  fingers. It had lasted some minutes before the young

  lady broke in upon it.

  “Do you see any prospect of solving this mystery, Mr.

  Holmes?” she asked, with a touch of asperity in her


  “Oh, the mystery!” he answered, coming back with a

  start to the realities of life. “Well, it would be

  absurd to deny that the case is a very abstruse and

  complicated one, but I can promise you that I will

  look into the matter and let you know any points which

  may strike me.”

  “Do you see any clue?”

  “You have furnished me with seven, but, of course, I

  must test them before I can pronounce upon their


  “You suspect some one?”

  “I suspect myself.”


  “Of coming to conclusions to rapidly.”

  “Then go to London and test your conclusions.”

  “Your advice is very excellent, Miss Harrison,” said

  Holmes, rising. “I think, Watson, we cannot do

  better. Do not allow yourself to indulge in false

  hopes, Mr. Phelps. The affair is a very tangled one.”

  “I shall be in a fever until I see you again,” cried

  the diplomatist.

  “Well, I’ll come out be the same train to-morrow,

  though it’s more than likely that my report will be a

  negative one.”

  “God bless you for promising to come,” cried our

  client. “It gives me fresh life to know that

  something is being done. By the way, I have had a

  letter from Lord Holdhurst.”

  “Ha! What did he say?”

  “He was cold, but not harsh. I dare say my severe

  illness prevented him from being that. He repeated

  that the matter was of the utmost importance, and

  added that no steps would be taken about my future–by

  which he means, of course, my dismissal–until my

  health was restored and I had an opportunity of

  repairing my misfortune.”

  “Well, that was reasonable and considerate,” said

  Holmes. “Come, Watson, for we have a goody day’s work

  before us in town.”

  Mr. Joseph Harrison drove us down to the station, and

  we were soon whirling up in a Portsmouth train. 

  Holmes was sunk in profound thought, and hardly opened

  his mouth until we had passed Clapham Junction.

  “It’s a very cheery thing to come into London by any

  of these lines which run high, and allow you to look

  down upon the houses like this.”

  I thought he was joking, for the view was sordid

  enough, but he soon explained himself.

  “Look at those big, isolated clumps of building rising

  up above the slates, like brick islands in a

  lead-colored sea.”

  “The board-schools.”

  “Light-houses, my boy! Beacons of the future! 

  Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds in each,

  out of which will spring the wise, better England of

  the future. I suppose that man Phelps does not


  “I should not think so.”

  “Nor should I, but we are bound to take every

  possibility into account. The poor devil has

  certainly got himself into very deep water, and it’s a

  question whether we shall ever be able to get him

  ashore. What did you think of Miss Harrison?”

  “A girl of strong character.”

  “Yes, but she is a good sort, or I am mistaken. She

  and her brother are the only children of an

  iron-master somewhere up Northumberland way. He got

  engaged to her when traveling last winter, and she

  came down to be introduced to his people, with her

  brother as escort. Then came the smash, and she

  stayed on to nurse her lover, while brother Joseph,

  finding himself pretty snug, stayed on too. I’ve been

  making a few independent inquiries, you see. But

  to-day must be a day of inquiries.”

  “My practice–” I began.

  “Oh, if you find your own cases more interesting than

  mine–” said Holmes, with some asperity.

  “I was going to say that my practice could get along

  very well for a day or two, since it is the slackest

  time in the year.”

  “Excellent,” said he, recovering his good-humor. 

  “Then we’ll look into this matter together. I think

  that we should begin be seeing Forbes. He can

  probably tell us all the details we want until we know

  from what side the case is to be approached.

  “You said you had a clue?”

  “Well, we have several, but we can only test their

  value by further inquiry. The most difficult crime to

  track is the one which is purposeless. Now this is

  not purposeless. Who is it who profits by it? There

  is the French ambassador, there is the Russian, there

  is who-ever might sell it to either of these, and

  there is Lord Holdhurst.”

  “Lord Holdhurst!”

  “Well, it is just conceivable that a statesman might

  find himself in a position where he was not sorry to

  have such a document accidentally destroyed.”

  “Not a statesman wit the honorable record of Lord


  “It is a possibility and we cannot afford to disregard

  it. We shall see the noble lord to-day and find out

  if he can tell us anything. Meanwhile I have already

  set inquiries on foot.”


  “Yes, I sent wires from Woking station to every

  evening paper in London. This advertisement will

  appear in each of them.”

  He handed over a sheet torn from a note-book. On it

  was scribbled in pencil: “L10 reward. The number of

  the cab which dropped a fare at or about the door of

  the Foreign Office in Charles Street at quarter to ten

  in the evening of May 23d. Apply 221 B, Baker


  “You are confident that the thief came in a cab?”

  “If not, there is no harm done. But if Mr. Phelps is

  correct in stating that there is no hiding-place

  either in the room or the corridors, then the person

  must have come from outside. If he came from outside

  on so wet a night, and yet left no trace of damp upon

  the linoleum, which was examined within a few minutes

  of his passing, then it is exceeding probably that he

  came in a cab. Yes, I think that we may safely deduce

  a cab.”

  “It sounds plausible.”

  “That is one of the clues of which I spoke. It may

  lead us to something. And then, of course, there is

  the bell–which is the most distinctive feature of the

  case. Why should the bell ring? Was it the thief who

  did it out of bravado? Or was it some one who was

  with the thief who did it in order to prevent the

  crime? Or was it an accident? Or was it–?” He sank

  back into the state of intense and silent thought from

which he had emerged; but it seemed to me, accustomed

  as I was to his every mood, that some new possibility

  had dawned suddenly upon him.

  It was twenty past three when we reached our terminus,

  and after a hasty luncheon at the buffet we pushed on

  at once to Scotland Yard. Holmes had already wired to

  Forbes, and we found him waiting to receive us–a

  small, foxy man with a sharp but by no means amiable

  expression. He was decidedly frigid in his manner to

  us, especially when he heard the errand upon which we

  had come.

  “I’ve heard of your methods before now, Mr. Holmes,”

  said he, tartly. “You are ready enough to use all the

  information that the police can lay at your disposal,

  and then you try to finish the case yourself and bring

  discredit on them.”

  “On the contrary,” said Holmes, “out of my last

  fifty-three cases my name has only appeared in four,

  and the police have had all the credit in forty-nine. 

  I don’t blame you for not knowing this, for you are

  young and inexperienced, but if you wish to get on in

  your new duties you will work with me and not against


  “I’d be very glad of a hint or two,” said the

  detective, changing his manner. “I’ve certainly had

  no credit from the case so far.”

  “What steps have you taken?”

  “Tangey, the commissionnaire, has been shadowed. He

  left the Guards with a good character and we can find

  nothing against him. His wife is a bad lot, though. 

  I fancy she knows more about this than appears.”

  “Have you shadowed her?”

  “We have set one of our women on to her. Mrs. Tangey

  drinks, and our woman has been with her twice when she

  was well on, but she could get nothing out of her.”

  “I understand that they have had brokers in the


  “Yes, but they were paid off.”

  “Where did the money come from?”

  “That was all right. His pension was due. They have

  not shown any sign of being in funds.”

  “What explanation did she give of having answered the

  bell when Mr. Phelps rang for the coffee?”

  “She said that he husband was very tired and she

  wished to relieve him.”

  “Well, certainly that would agree with his being found

  a little later asleep in his chair. There is nothing

  against them then but the woman’s character. Did you

  ask her why she hurried away that night? Her haste

  attracted the attention of the police constable.”

  “She was later than usual and wanted to get home.”

  “Did you point out to her that you and Mr. Phelps, who

  started at least twenty minutes after he, got home

  before her?”

  “She explains that by the difference between a ‘bus

  and a hansom.”

  “Did she make it clear why, on reaching her house, she

  ran into the back kitchen?”

  “Because she had the money there with which to pay off

  the brokers.”

  “She has at least an answer for everything. Did you

  ask her whether in leaving she met any one or saw any

  one loitering about Charles Street?”

  “She saw no one but the constable.”

  “Well, you seem to have cross-examined her pretty

  thoroughly. What else have you done?”

  “The clerk Gorot has been shadowed all these nine

  weeks, but without result. We can show nothing

  against him.”

  “Anything else?”

  “Well, we have nothing else to go upon–no evidence of

  any kind.”

  “Have you formed a theory about how that bell rang?”

  “Well, I must confess that it beats me. It was a cool

  hand, whoever it was, to go and give the alarm like


  “Yes, it was queer thing to do. Many thanks to you

  for what you have told me. If I can put the man into

  your hands you shall hear from me. Come along,


  “Where are we going to now?” I asked, as we left the


  “We are now going to interview Lord Holdhurst, the

statesman received us with that old-fashioned courtesy

  for which he is remarkable, and seated us on the two

luxuriant lounges on either side of the fireplace. 

  Standing on the run between us, with his slight, tall

  figure, his sharp features, thoughtful face, and

  curling hair prematurely tinged with gray, he seemed

  to represent that not to common type, a nobleman who

  is in truth noble.

  “You name is very familiar to me, Mr. Holmes,” said

  he, smiling. “And, of course, I cannot pretend to be

  ignorant of the object of your visit. There has only

  been once occurrence in these offices which could call

  for your attention. In whose interest are you acting,

  may I ask?”

  “In that of Mr. Percy Phelps,” answered Holmes.

  “Ah, my unfortunate nephew! You can understand that

  our kinship makes it the more impossible for me to

  screen him in any way. I fear that the incident must

  have a very prejudicial effect upon his career.”

  “But if the document if found?”

  “Ah, that, of course, would be different.”

  “I had one or two questions which I wished to ask you,

  Lord Holdhurst.”

  “I shall be happy to give you any information in my


  “Was it in this room that you gave your instructions

  as to the copying of the document?”

  “It was.”

  “Then you could hardly have been overheard?”

  “It is out of the question.”

  “Did you ever mention to any one that it was your

  intention to give any one the treaty to be copied?”


  “You are certain of that?”


  “Well, since you never said so, and Mr. Phelps never

  said so, and nobody else knew anything of the matter,

  then the thief’s presence in the room was purely

  accidental. He saw his chance and he took it.”

  The statesman smiled. “You take me out of my province

  there,” said he.

  Holmes considered for a moment. “There is another

  very important point which I wish to discuss with

  you,” said he. “You feared, as I understand, that

  very grave results might follow from the details of

  this treaty becoming known.”

  A shadow passed over the expressive face of the

  statesman. “Very grave results indeed.”

  “Any have they occurred?”

  “Not yet.”

  “If the treaty had reached, let us say, the French or

  Russian Foreign Office, you would expect to hear of


  “I should,” said Lord Holdhurst, with a wry face.

  “Since nearly ten weeks have elapsed, then, and

  nothing has been heard, it is not unfair to suppose

  that for some reason the treaty has not reached them.”

  Lord Holdhurst shrugged his shoulders.

  “We can hardly suppose, Mr. Holmes, that the thief

  took the treaty in order to frame it and hang it up.”

  “Perhaps he is waiting for a better price.”

  “If he waits a little longer he will get no price at

  all. The treaty will cease to be secret in a few


  “That is most important,” said Holmes. “Of course, it

  is a possible supposition that the thief has had a

  sudden illness–“

  “An attack of brain-fever, for example?” asked the

  statesman, flashing a swift glance at him.

  “I did not say so,” said Holmes, imperturbably. “And

  now, Lord Holdhurst, we have already taken up too much

  of your valuable time, and we shall wish you


  “Every success to your investigation, be the criminal

  who it may,” answered the nobleman, as he bowed us out

  the door.

  “He’s a fine fellow,” said Holmes, as we came out into

  Whitehall. “But he has a struggle to keep up his

  position. He is far from rich and has many calls. 

  You noticed, of course, that his boots had been

  resoled. Now, Watson, I won’t detain you from your

  legitimate work any longer. I shall do nothing more

  to-day, unless I have an answer to my cab

  advertisement. But I should be extremely obliged to

  you if you would come down with me to Woking

  to-morrow, by the same train which we took yesterday.”

  I met him accordingly next morning and we traveled

  down to Woking together. He had had no answer to his

  advertisement, he said, and no fresh light had been

  thrown upon the case. He had, when he so willed it,

  the utter immobility of countenance of a red Indian,

  and I could not gather from his appearance whether he

  was satisfied or not with the position of the case. 

  His conversation, I remember, was about the Bertillon

  system of measurements, and he expressed his

  enthusiastic admiration of the French savant.

  We found our client still under the charge of his

  devoted nurse, but looking considerably better than

  before. He rose from the sofa and greeted us without

  difficulty when we entered.

  “Any news?” he asked, eagerly.

  “My report, as I expected, is a negative one,” said

  Holmes. “I have seen Forbes, and I have seen your

  uncle, and I have set one or two trains of inquiry

  upon foot which may lead to something.”

  “You have not lost heart, then?”

  “By no means.”

  “God bless you for saying that!” cried Miss Harrison. 

  “If we keep our courage and our patience the truth

  must come out.”

  “We have more to tell you than you have for us,” said

  Phelps, reseating himself upon the couch.

  “I hoped you might have something.”

  “Yes, we have had an adventure during the night, and

  one which might have proved to be a serious one.” His

  expression grew very grave as he spoke, and a look of

  something akin to fear sprang up in his eyes. “Do you

  know,” said he, “that I begin to believe that I am the

  unconscious centre of some monstrous conspiracy, and

  that my life is aimed at as well as my honor?”

  “Ah!” cried Holmes.

  “It sounds incredible, for I have not, as far as I

  know, an enemy in the world. Yet from last night’s

  experience I can come to no other conclusion.”

  “Pray let me hear it.”

  “You must know that last night was the very first

  night that I have ever slept without a nurse in the

  room. I was so much better that I thought I could

  dispense with one. I had a night-light burning,

  however. Well, about two in the morning I had sunk

  into a light sleep when I was suddenly aroused by a

  slight noise. It was like the sound which a mouse

  makes when it is gnawing a plank, and I lay listening

  to it for some time under the impression that it must

  come from that cause. Then it grew louder, and

  suddenly there came from the window a sharp metallic

  snick. I sat up in amazement. There could be no

  doubt what the sounds were now. The first ones had

  been caused by some one forcing an instrument through

  the slit between the sashes, and the second by the

  catch being pressed back.

  “There was a pause then for about ten minutes, as if

  the person were waiting to see whether the noise had

  awakened me. Then 

I heard a gentle creaking as the

  window was very slowly opened. I could stand it no

  longer, for my nerves are not what they used to be. I

  sprang out of bed and flung open the shutters. A man

  was crouching at the window. I could see little of

  him, for he was gone like a flash. He was wrapped in

  some sort of cloak which came across the lower part of

  his face. One thing only I am sure of, and that is

  that he had some weapon in his hand. It looked to me

  like a long knife. I distinctly saw the gleam of it

  as he turned to run.”

  “This is most interesting,” said Holmes. “Pray what

  did you do then?”

  “I should have followed him through the open window if

  I had been stronger. As it was, I rang the bell and

  roused the house. It took me some little time, for

  the bell rings in the kitchen and the servants all

  sleep upstairs. I shouted, however, and that brought

  Joseph down, and he roused the others. Joseph and the

  groom found marks on the bed outside the window, but

  the weather has been so dry lately that they found it

  hopeless to follow the trail across the grass. 

  There’s a place, however, on the wooden fence which

  skirts the road which shows signs, they tell me, as if

  some one had got over, and had snapped the top of the

  rail in doing so. I have said nothing to the local

  police yet, for I thought I had best have your opinion


  This tale of our client’s appeared to have an

  extraordinary effect upon Sherlock Holmes. He rose

  from his chair and paced about the room in

  uncontrollable excitement.

  “Misfortunes never come single,” said Phelps, smiling,

  though it was evident that his adventure had somewhat

  shaken him.

  “You have certainly had your share,” said Holmes. “Do

  you think you could walk round the house with me?”

  “Oh, yes, I should like a little sunshine. Joseph

  will come, too.”

  “And I also,” said Miss Harrison.

  “I am afraid not,” said Holmes, shaking his head. “I

  think I must ask you to remain sitting exactly where

  you are.”

  The young lady resumed her seat with an air of

  displeasure. Her brother, however, had joined us and

  we set off all four together. We passed round the

  lawn to the outside of the young diplomatist’s window. 

  There were, as he had said, marks upon the bed, but

  they were hopelessly blurred and vague. Holmes

  stopped over them for an instant, and then rose

  shrugging his shoulders.

  “I don’t think any one could make much of this,” said

  he. “Let us go round the house and see why this

  particular room was chose by the burglar. I should

  have thought those larger windows of the drawing-room

  and dining-room would have had more attractions for


  “They are more visible from the road,” suggested Mr.

  Joseph Harrison.

  “Ah, yes, of course. There is a door here which he

  might have attempted. What is it for?”

  “It is the side entrance for trades-people. Of course

  it is locked at night.”

  “Have you ever had an alarm like this before?”

  “Never,” said our client.

  “Do you keep plate in the house, or anything to

  attract burglars?”

  “Nothing of value.”

  Holmes strolled round the house with his hands in his

  pockets and a negligent air which was unusual with


  “By the way,” said he to Joseph Harrison, “you found

  some place, I understand, where the fellow scaled the

  fence. Let us have a look at that!”

  The plump young man led us to a spot where the top of

  one of the wooden rails had been cracked. A small

  fragment of the wood was hanging down. Holmes pulled

  it off and examined it critically.

  “Do you think that was done last night? It looks

  rather old, does it not?”

  “Well, possibly so.”

  “There are no marks of any one jumping down upon the

  other side. No, I fancy we shall get no help here. 

  Let us go back to the bedroom and talk the matter


  Percy Phelps was walking very slowly, leaning upon the

  arm of his future brother-in-law. Holmes walked

  swiftly across the lawn, and we were at the open

  window of the bedroom long before the others came up.

  “Miss Harrison,” said Holmes, speaking with the utmost

  intensity of manner, “you must stay where you are all

  day. Let nothing prevent you from staying where you

  are all day. It is of the utmost importance.”

  “Certainly, if you wish it, Mr. Holmes,” said the girl

  in astonishment.

  “When you go to bed lock the door of this room on the

  outside and keep the key. Promise to do this.”

  “But Percy?”

  “He will come to London with us.”

  “And am I to remain here?”

  “It is for his sake. You can serve him. Quick! 


  She gave a quick nod of assent just as the other two

  came up.

  “Why do you sit moping there, Annie?” cried her

  brother. “Come out into the sunshine!”

  “No, thank you, Joseph. I have a slight headache and

  this room is deliciously cool and soothing.”

  “What do you propose now, Mr. Holmes?” asked our


  “Well, in investigating this minor affair we must not

  lose sight of our main inquiry. It would be a very

  great help to me if you would come up to London with


  “At once?”

  “Well, as soon as you conveniently can. Say in an


  “I feel quite strong enough, if I can really be of any


  “The greatest possible.”

  “Perhaps you would like me the stay there to-night?”

  “I was just going to propose it.”

  “Then, if my friend of the night comes to revisit me,

  he will find the bird flown. We are all in your

  hands, Mr. Holmes, and you must tell us exactly what

  you would like done. Perhaps you would prefer that

  Joseph came wit us so as to look after me?”

  “Oh, no; my friend Watson is a medical man, you know,

  and he’ll look after you. We’ll have our lunch here,

  if you will permit us, and then we shall al three set

  off for town together.”

  It was arranged as he suggested, though Miss Harrison

  excused herself from leaving the bedroom, in

  accordance with Holmes’s suggestion. What the object

  of my friend’s manoeuvres was I could not conceive,

  unless it were to keep the lady away from Phelps, who,

  rejoiced by his returning health and by the prospect

  of action, lunched with us in the dining-room. Holmes

  had still more startling surprise for us, however,

  for, after accompanying us down to the station and

  seeing us into our carriage, he calmly announced that

  he had no intention of leaving Woking.

  “There are one or two small points which I should

  desire to clear up before I go,” said he. “Your

absence, Mr. Phelps, will in some ways rather assist

  me. Watson, when you reach London you would oblige me

  by driving at once to Baker Street with our friend

  here, and remaining with him until I see you again. 

  It is fortunate that you are old school-fellows, as

  you must have much to talk over. Mr. Phelps can have

  the spare bedroom to-night, and I will be with you in

  time for breakfast, for there is a train which will

  take me into Waterloo at eight.”

  “But how about our investigation in London?” asked

  Phelps, ruefully.

  “We can do that to-morrow. I think that just at

  present I can be of more immediate use here.”

  “You might tell them at Briarbrae that I hope to be

  back to-morrow night,” cried Phelps, as we began to

  move from the platform.

  “I hardly expect to go back to Briarbrae,” answered

  Holmes, and waved his hand to us cheerily as we shot

  out from the station.

  Phelps and I talked it over on our journey, but

  neither of us could devise a satisfactory reason for

  this new development.

  “I suppose he wants to find out some clue as to the

  burglary last night, if a burglar it was. For myself,

  I don’t believe it was an ordinary thief.”

  “What is your own idea, then?”

  “Upon my word, you may put it down to my weak nerves

  or not, but I believe there is some deep political

  intrigue going on around me, and that for some reason

  that passes my understanding my life is aimed at by

  the conspirators. It sounds high-flown and absurd,

  but consider the fats! Why should a thief try to

  break in at a bedroom window, where there could be no

  hope of any plunder, and why should he come with a

  long knife in his hand?”

  “You are sure it was not a house-breaker’s jimmy?”

  “Oh, no, it was a knife. I saw the flash of the blade

  quite distinctly.”

  “But why on earth should you be pursued with such


  “Ah, that is the question.”

  “Well, if Holmes takes the same view, that would

  account for his action, would it not? Presuming that

  your theory is correct, if he can lay his hands upon

  the man who threatened you last night he will have

  gone a long way towards finding who took the naval

  treaty. It is absurd to suppose that you have two

  enemies, one of whom robs you, while the other

  threatens your life.”

  “But Holmes said that he was not going to Briarbrae.”

  “I have known him for some time,” said I, “but I never

  knew him do anything yet without a very good reason,”

  and with that our conversation drifted off on to other


  But it was a weary day for me. Phelps was still weak

  after his long illness, and his misfortune made him

  querulous and nervous. In vain I endeavored to

  interest him in Afghanistan, in India, in social

  questions, in anything which might take his mind out

  of the groove. He would always come back to his lost

  treaty, wondering, guessing, speculating, as to what

  Holmes was doing, what steps Lord Holdhurst was

  taking, what news we should have in the morning. As

  the evening wore on his excitement became quite


  “You have implicit faith in Holmes?” he asked.

  “I have seen him do some remarkable things.”

  “But he never brought light into anything quite so

  dark as this?”

  “Oh, yes; I have known him solve questions which

  presented fewer clues than yours.”

  “But not where such large interests are at stake?”

  “I don’t know that. To my certain knowledge he has

  acted on behalf of three of the reigning houses of

  Europe in very vital matters.”

  “But you know him well, Watson. He is such an

  inscrutable fellow that I never quite know what to

  make of him. Do you think he is hopeful? Do you

  think he expects to make a success of it?”

  “He has said nothing.”

  “That is a bad sign.”

  “On the contrary, I have noticed that when he is off

  the trail he generally says so. It is when he is on a

  scent and is not quite absolutely sure yet that it is

  the right one that he is most taciturn. Now, my dear

fellow, we can’t help matter by making ourselves

  nervous about them, so let me implore you to go to bed

  and so be fresh for whatever may await us to-morrow.”

  I was able at last to persuade my companion to take my

  advice, though I knew from his excited manner that

  there was not much hope of sleep for him. Indeed, his

  mood was infectious, for I lay tossing half the night

  myself, brooding over this strange problem, and

  inventing a hundred theories, each of which was more

  impossible than the last. Why had Holmes remained at

  Woking? Why had he asked Miss Harrison to remain in

  the sick-room all day? Why had he been so careful not

  to inform the people at Briarbrae that he intended to

  remain near them? I cudgelled my brains until I fell

  asleep in the endeavor to find some explanation which

  would cover all these facts.

  It was seven o’clock when I awoke, and I set off at

  once for Phelps’s room, to find him haggard and spent

  after a sleepless night. His first question was

  whether Holmes had arrived yet.

  “He’ll be here when he promised,” said I, “and not an

  instant sooner or later.”

  And my words were true, for shortly after eight a

  hansom dashed up to the door and our friend got out of

  it. Standing in the window we saw that his left hand

  was swathed in a bandage and that his face was very

  grim and pale. He entered the house, but it was some

  little time before he came upstairs.

  “He looks like a beaten man,” cried Phelps.

  I was forced to confess that he was right. “After

  all,” said I, “the clue of the matter lies probably

  here in town.”

  Phelps gave a groan.

  “I don’t know how it is,” said he, “but I had hoped

  for so much from his return. But surely his hand was

  not tied up like that yesterday. What can be the


  “You are not wounded, Holmes?” I asked, as my friend

  entered the room.

  “Tut, it is only a scratch through my own clumsiness,”

  he answered, nodding his good-mornings to us. “This

  case of yours, Mr. Phelps, is certainly one of the

  darkest which I have ever investigated.”

  “I feared that you would find it beyond you.”

  “It has been a most remarkable experience.”

  “That bandage tells of adventures,” said I. “Won’t

  you tell us what has happened?”

  “After breakfast, my dear Watson. Remember that I

  have breathed thirty mile of Surrey air this morning. 

  I suppose that there has been no answer from my cabman

  advertisement? Well, well, we cannot expect to score

  every time.”

  The table was all laid, and just as I was about to

  ring Mrs. Hudson entered wit the tea and coffee. A

  few minutes later she brought in three covers, and we

  all drew up to the table, Holmes ravenous, I curious,

  and Phelps in the gloomiest state of depression.

  “Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion,” said Holmes,

  uncovering a dish of curried chicken. “Her cuisine is

  a little limited, but she has as good an idea of

  breakfast as a Scotch-woman. What have you here,


  “Ham and eggs,” I answered.

  “Good! What are you going to take, Mr.

  Phelps–curried fowl or eggs, or will you help


  “Thank you. I can eat nothing,” said Phelps.

  “Oh, come! Try the dish before you.”

  “Thank you, I would really rather not.”

  “Well, then,” said Holmes, with a mischievous twinkle,

  “I suppose that you have no objection to helping me?”

  Phelps raised the cover, and as hi did so he uttered a

  scream, and sat there staring with a face as white as

  the plate upon which he looked. Across the centre of

  it was lying a little cylinder of blue-gray paper. He

  caught it up, devoured it with his eyes, and then

  danced madly about the room, passing it to his bosom

  and shrieking out in his delight. Then he fell back

  into an arm-chair so limp and exhausted with his own

  emotions that we had to pour brandy down his throat to

  keep him from fainting.

  “There! there!” said Holmes, soothing, patting him

  upon the shoulder. “It was too bad to spring it on

  you like this, but Watson here will tell you that I

  never can resist a touch of the dramatic.”

  Phelps seized his hand and kissed it. “God bless

  you!” he cried. “You have saved my honor.”

  “Well, my own was at stake, you know,” said Holmes. 

  “I assure you it is just as hateful to me to fail in a

  case as it can be to you to blunder over a


  Phelps thrust away the precious document into the

  innermost pocket of his coat.

  “I have not the heart to interrupt your breakfast any

  further, and yet I am dying to know how you got it and

  where it was.”

  Sherlock Holmes swallowed a cup of coffee, and turned

  his attention to the ham and eggs. Then he rose, lit

  his pipe, and settled himself down into his chair.

  “I’ll tell you what I did first, and how I came to do

  it afterwards,” said he. “After leaving you at the

  station I went for a charming walk through some

  admirable Surrey scenery to a pretty little village

  called Ripley, where I had my tea at an inn, and took

  the precaution of filling my flask and of putting a

  paper of sandwiches in my pocket. There I remained

  until evening, when I set off for Woking again, and

  found myself in the high-road outside Briarbrae just

  after sunset.

  “Well, I waited until the road was clear–it is never

  a very frequented one at any time, I fancy–and then I

  clambered over the fence into the grounds.”

  “Surely the gate was open!” ejaculated Phelps.

  “Yes, but I have a peculiar taste in these matters. I

  chose the place where the three fir-trees stand, and

  behind their screen I got over without the least

  chance of any one in the house being able to see me. 

  I crouched down among the bushes on the other side,

  and crawled from one to the other–witness the

  disreputable state of my trouser knees–until I had

  reached the clump of rhododendrons just opposite to

  your bedroom window. There I squatted down and

  awaited developments.

  “The blind was not down in your room, and I could see

  Miss Harrison sitting there reading by the table. It

  was quarter-past ten when she closed her book,

  fastened the shutters, and retired.

  “I heard her shut the door, and felt quite sure that

  she had turned the key in the lock.”

  “The key!” ejaculated Phelps.

  “Yes; I had given Miss Harrison instructions to lock

  the door on the outside and take the key with her when

  she went to bed. She carried out every one of my

  injunctions to the letter, and certainly without her

  cooperation you would not have that paper in you

  coat-pocket. She departed then and the lights went

  out, and I was left squatting in the


  “The night was fine, but still it was a very weary

  vigil. Of course it has the sort of excitement about

  it that the sportsman feels when he lies beside the

  water-course and waits for the big game. It was very

  long, though–almost as long, Watson, as when you and

  I waited in that deadly room when we looked into the

  little problem of the Speckled Band. There was a

  church-clock down at Woking which struck the quarters,

  and I thought more than once that it had stopped. At

  last however about two in the morning, I suddenly

  heard the gentle sound of a bolt being pushed back and

  the creaking of a key. A moment later the servant’s

  door was opened, and Mr. Joseph Harrison stepped out

  into the moonlight.”

  “Joseph!” ejaculated Phelps.

  “He was bare-headed, but he had a black coat thrown

  over his shoulder so that he could conceal his face in

  an instant if there were any alarm. He walked on

  tiptoe under the shadow of the wall, and when he

  reached the window he worked a long-bladed knife

  through the sash and pushed back the catch. Then he

  flung open the window, and putting his knife through

  the crack in the shutters, he thrust the bar up and

  swung them open.

  “From where I lay I had a perfect view of the inside

  of the room and of every one of his movements. He lit

  the two candles which stood upon the mantelpiece, and

  then he proceeded to turn back the corner of the

  carpet in the neighborhood of the door. Presently he

  stopped and picked out a square piece of board, such

  as is usually left to enable plumbers to get at the

  joints of the gas-pipes. This one covered, as a

  matter of fact, the T joint which gives off the pipe

  which supplies the kitchen underneath. Out of this

  hiding-place he drew that little cylinder of paper,

  pushed down the board, rearranged the carpet, blew out

  the candles, and walked straight into my arms as I

  stood waiting for him outside the window.

  “Well, he has rather more viciousness than I gave him

  credit for, has Master Joseph. He flew at me with his

  knife, and I had to grass him twice, and got a cut

  over the knuckles, before I had the upper hand of him. 

  He looked murder out of the only eye he could see with

  when we had finished, but he listened to reason and

  gave up the papers. Having got them I let my man go,

  but I wired full particulars to Forbes this morning. 

  If he is quick enough to catch is bird, well and good. 

  But if, as I shrewdly suspect, he finds the nest empty

  before he gets there, why, all the better for the

  government. I fancy that Lord Holdhurst for one, and

  Mr. Percy Phelps for another, would very much rather

  that the affair never got as far as a police-court.

  “My God!” gasped our client. “Do you tell me that

  during these long ten weeks of agony the stolen papers

  were within the very room with me all the time?”

  “So it was.”

  “And Joseph! Joseph a villain and a thief!”

  “Hum! I am afraid Joseph’s character is a rather

  deeper and more dangerous one than one might judge

  from his appearance. From what I have heard from him

  this morning, I gather that he has lost heavily in

  dabbling with stocks, and that he is ready to do

  anything on earth to better his fortunes. Being an

  absolutely selfish man, when a chance presented itself

  he did not allow either his sister’s happiness or your

  reputation to hold his hand.”

  Percy Phelps sank back in his chair. “My head

  whirls,” said he. “Your words have dazed me.”

  “The principal difficulty in your case,” remarked

  Holmes, in his didactic fashion, “lay in the fact of

  there being too much evidence. What was vital was

  overlaid and hidden by what was irrelevant. Of all

  the facts which were presented to us we had to pick

  just those which we deemed to be essential, and then

  piece them together in their order, so as to

  reconstruct this very remarkable chain of events. I

  had already begun to suspect Joseph, from the fact

  that you had intended to travel home with him that

  night, and that therefore it was a likely enough thing

  that he should call for you, knowing the Foreign

  Office well, upon his way. When I heard that some one

  had been so anxious to get into the bedroom, in which

  no one but Joseph could have concealed anything–you

  told us in your narrative how you had turned Joseph

  out when you arrived with the doctor–my suspicions

  all changed to certainties, especially as the attempt

  was made on the first night upon which the nurse was

  absent, showing that the intruder was well acquainted

  with the ways of the house.”

  “How blind I have been!”

  “The facts of the case, as far as I have worked them

  out, are these: this Joseph Harrison entered the

  office through the Charles Street door, and knowing

  his way he walked straight into your room the instant

  after you left it. Finding no one there he promptly

  rang the bell, and at the instant that he did so his

  eyes caught the paper upon the table. A glance showed

  him that chance had put in his way a State document of

  immense value, and in an instant he had thrust it into

  his pocket and was gone. A few minutes elapsed, as

  you remember, before the sleepy commissionnaire drew

  your attention to the bell, and those were just enough

  to give the thief time to make his escape.

  “He made his way to Woking by the first train, and

  having examined his booty and assured himself that it

  really was of immense value, he had concealed it in

  what he thought was a very safe place, with the

  intention of taking it out again in a day or two, and

  carrying it to the French embassy, or wherever he

  thought that a long price was to be had. Then came

  your sudden return. He, without a moment’s warning,

  was bundled out of his room, and from that time onward

  there were always at least two of you there to prevent

  him from regaining his treasure. The situation to him

  must have been a maddening one. But at last he

  thought he saw his chance. He tried to steal in, but

  was baffled by your wakefulness. You remember that

  you did not take your usual draught that night.”

  “I remember.”

  “I fancy that he had taken steps to make that draught

  efficacious, and that he quite relied upon your being

  unconscious. Of course, I understood that he would

  repeat the attempt whenever it could be done with

  safety. Your leaving the room gave him the chance he

  wanted. I kept Miss Harrison in it all day so that he

  might not anticipate us. Then, having given him the

  idea that the coast was clear, I kept guard as I have

  described. I already knew that the papers were

  probably in the room, but I had no desire to rip up

  all the planking and skirting in search of them. I

  let him take them, therefore, from the hiding-place,

  and so saved myself an infinity of trouble. Is there

  any other point which I can make clear?”

  “Why did he try the window on the first occasion,” I

  asked, “when he might have entered by the door?”

  “In reaching the door he would have to pass seven

  bedrooms. On the other hand, he could get out on to

  the lawn with ease. Anything else?”

  “You do not think,” asked Phelps, “that he had any

  murderous intention? The knife was only meant as a


  “It may be so,” answered Holmes, shrugging his

  shoulders. “I can only say for certain that Mr.

  Joseph Harrison is a gentleman to whose mercy I should

  be extremely unwilling to trust.”

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