It was dated from Montague Place upon the preceding evening,
"DEAR MR. HOLMES:--I am very anxious to consult you as to
I should or should not accept a situation which has been offered
to me as governess. I shall call at half-past ten to-morrow if
do not inconvenience you.
Yours faithfully, VIOLET HUNTER."
"Do you know the young lady?" I asked.
"It is half-past ten now."
"Yes, and I have no doubt that is her ring."
"It may turn out to be of more interest than you think.
remember that the affair of the blue carbuncle, which appeared
be a mere whim at first, developed into a serious investigation.
It may be so in this case, also."
"Well, let us hope so. But our doubts will very soon be
for here, unless I am much mistaken, is the person in question."
As he spoke the door opened and a young lady entered the room.
She was plainly but neatly dressed, with a bright, quick face,
freckled like a plover's egg, and with the brisk manner of a
woman who has had her own way to make in the world.
"You will excuse my troubling you, I am sure," said
she, as my
companion rose to greet her, "but I have had a very strange
experience, and as I have no parents or relations of any sort
from whom I could ask advice, I thought that perhaps you would
kind enough to tell me what I should do."
"Pray take a seat, Miss Hunter. I shall be happy to do anything
that I can to serve you."
I could see that Holmes was favorably impressed by the manner
and speech of his new client. He looked her over in his searching
fashion, and then composed himself, with his lids drooping and
his finger-tips together, to listen to her story.
"I have been a governess for five years," said she,
family of Colonel Spence Munro, but two months ago the colonel
received an appointment at Halifax, in Nova Scotia, and took his
children over to America with him, so that I found myself without
a situation. I advertised, and I answered advertisements, but
without success. At last the little money which I had saved began
to run short, and I was at my wit's end as to what I should do.
"There is a well-known agency for governesses in the West
called Westaway's, and there I used to call about once a week
order to see whether anything had turned up which might suit me.
Westaway was the name of the founder of the business, but it is
really managed by Miss Stoper. She sits in her own little office,
and the ladies who are seeking employment wait in an anteroom,
and are then shown in one by one, when she consults her ledgers
and sees whether she has anything which would suit them.
"Well, when I called last week I was shown into the little
as usual, but I found that Miss Stoper was not alone. A
prodigiously stout man with a very smiling face and a great heavy
chin which rolled down in fold upon fold over his throat sat at
her elbow with a pair of glasses on his nose, looking very
earnestly at the ladies who entered. As I came in he gave quite
jump in his chair and turned quickly to Miss Stoper.
"'That will do,' said he; 'I could not ask for anything
Capital! capital!' He seemed quite enthusiastic and rubbed his
hands together in the most genial fashion. He was such a
comfortable-looking man that it was quite a pleasure to look at
"'You are looking for a situation, miss?' he asked.
"'And what salary do you ask?'
"'I had 4 pounds a month in my last place with Colonel Spence
"'Oh, tut, tut! sweating--rank sweating!' he cried, throwing
fat hands out into the air like a man who is in a boiling
passion. 'How could anyone offer so pitiful a sum to a lady with
such attractions and accomplishments?'
"'My accomplishments, sir, may be less than you imagine,'
'A little French, a little German, music, and drawing --'
"'Tut, tut!' he cried. 'This is all quite beside the question.
The point is, have you or have you not the bearing and deportment
of a lady? There it is in a nutshell. If you have not, you are
not fined for the rearing of a child who may some day play a
considerable part in the history of the country. But if you have
why, then, how could any gentleman ask you to condescend to
accept anything under the three figures? Your salary with me,
madam, would commence at 100 pounds a year.'
"You may imagine, Mr. Holmes, that to me, destitute as I
such an offer seemed almost too good to be true. The gentleman,
however, seeing perhaps the look of incredulity upon my face,
opened a pocket-book and took out a note.
"'It is also my custom,' said he, smiling in the most pleasant
fashion until his eyes were just two little shining slits amid
the white creases of his face, 'to advance to my young ladies
half their salary beforehand, so that they may meet any little
expenses of their journey and their wardrobe.'
"It seemed to me that I had never met so fascinating and
thoughtful a man. As I was already in debt to my tradesmen, the
advance was a great convenience, and yet there was something
unnatural about the whole transaction which made me wish to know
a little more before I quite committed myself.
"'May I ask where you live, sir?' said I.
"'Hampshire. Charming rural place. The Copper Beeches, five
on the far side of Winchester. It is the most lovely country,
dear young lady, and the dearest old country-house.'
"'And my duties, sir? I should be glad to know what they
"'One child--one dear little romper just six years old.
you could see him killing cockroaches with a slipper! Smack!
smack! smack! Three gone before you could wink!' He leaned back
in his chair and laughed his eyes into his head again.
"I was a little startled at the nature of the child's amusement,
but the father's laughter made me think that perhaps he was
"'My sole duties, then,' I asked, 'are to take charge of
"'No, no, not the sole, not the sole, my dear young lady,'
cried. 'Your duty would be, as I am sure your good sense would
suggest, to obey any little commands my wife might give, provided
always that they were such commands as a lady might with
propriety obey. You see no difficulty, heh?'
"'I should be happy to make myself useful.'
"'Quite so. In dress now, for example. We are faddy people,
know--faddy but kind-hearted. If you were asked to wear any dress
which we might give you, you would not object to our little whim.
"'No,' said I, considerably astonished at his words.
"'Or to sit here, or sit there, that would not be offensive
"'Or to cut your hair quite short before you come to us?'
"I could hardly believe my ears. As you may observe, Mr.
my hair is somewhat luxuriant, and of a rather peculiar tint of
chestnut. It has been considered artistic. I could not dream of
sacrificing it in this offhand fashion.
"'I am afraid that that is quite impossible,' said I. He
watching me eagerly out of his small eyes, and I could see a
shadow pass over his face as I spoke.
"'I am afraid that it is quite essential,' said he. 'It
little fancy of my wife's, and ladies' fancies, you know, madam,
ladies' fancies must be consulted. And so you won't cut your
"'No, sir, I really could not,' I answered firmly.
"'Ah, very well; then that quite settles the matter. It
pity, because in other respects you would really have done very
nicely. In that case, Miss Stoper, I had best inspect a few more
of your young ladies.'
"The manageress had sat all this while busy with her papers
without a word to either of us, but she glanced at me now with
much annoyance upon her face that I could not help suspecting
that she had lost a handsome commission through my refusal.
"'Do you desire your name to be kept upon the books?' she
"'If you please, Miss Stoper.'
"'Well, really, it seems rather useless, since you refuse
most excellent offers in this fashion,' said she sharply. 'You
can hardly expect us to exert ourselves to find another such
opening for you. Good-day to you, Miss Hunter.' She struck a gong
upon the table, and I was shown out by the page.