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THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


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."



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