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THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


It was nearly one o'clock when Sherlock Holmes returned from his
excursion. He held in his hand a sheet of blue paper, scrawled
over with notes and figures.

"I have seen the will of the deceased wife," said he. "To
determine its exact meaning I have been obliged to work out the
present prices of the investments with which it is concerned. The
total income, which at the time of the wife's death was little
short of 1100 pounds, is now, through the fall in agricultural
prices, not more than 750 pounds. Each daughter can claim an
income of 250 pounds, in case of marriage. It is evident,
therefore, that if both girls had married, this beauty would have
had a mere pittance, while even one of them would cripple him to
a very serious extent. My morning's work has not been wasted,
since it has proved that he has the very strongest motives for
standing in the way of anything of the sort. And now, Watson,
this is too serious for dawdling, especially as the old man is
aware that we are interesting ourselves in his affairs; so if you
are ready, we shall call a cab and drive to Waterloo. I should be
very much obliged if you would slip your revolver into your
pocket. An Eley's No. 2 is an excellent argument with gentlemen
who can twist steel pokers into knots. That and a tooth-brush
are, I think, all that we need."

At Waterloo we were fortunate in catching a train for
Leatherhead, where we hired a trap at the station inn and drove
for four or five miles through the lovely Surrey laries. It was a
perfect day, with a bright sun and a few fleecy clouds in the
heavens. The trees and wayside hedges were just throwing out
their first green shoots, and the air was full of the pleasant
smell of the moist earth. To me at least there was a strange
contrast between the sweet promise of the spring and this
sinister quest upon which we were engaged. My companion sat in
the front of the trap, his arms folded, his hat pulled down over
his eyes, and his chin sunk upon his breast, buried in the
deepest thought. Suddenly, however, he started, tapped me on the
shoulder, and pointed over the meadows

"Look there!" said he.

A heavily timbered park stretched up in a gentle slope,
thickening mto a grove at the highest point. From amid the
branches there jutted out the gray gables and high roof-tree of a
very old mansion.

"Stoke Moran?" said he.

"Yes, sir, that be the house of Dr. Grimesby Roylott," remarked
the driver.

"There is some building going on there," said Holmes; "that is
where we are going."

"There's the village," said the driver, pointing to a cluster of
roofs some distance to the left; "but if you want to get to the
house, you'll find it shorter to get over this stile, and so by
the foot-path over the fields. There it is, where the lady is
walking."

"And the lady, I fancy, is Miss Stoner," observed Holmes, shading
his eyes. "Yes, I think we had better do as you suggest."

We got off, paid our fare, and the trap rattled back on its way
to Leatherhead.

"I thought it as well," said Holmes as we climbed the stile,
"that this fellow should think we had come here as architects, or
on some definite business. It may stop his gossip.
Good-afternoon, Miss Stoner. You see that we have been as good as
our word."

Our client of the morning had hurried forward to meet us with a
face which spoke her joy. "I have been waiting so eagerly for
you," she cried, shaking hands with us warmly. "All has turned
out splendidly. Dr. Roylott has gone to town, and it is unlikely
that he will be back before evening."

"We have had the pleasure of making the doctor's acquaintance,"
said Holmes, and in a few words he sketched out what had
occurred. Miss Stoner turned white to the lips as she listened.

"Good heavens!" she cried, "he has followed me, then."

"So it appears."

"He is so cunning that I never know when I am safe from him. What
will he say when he returns?"

"He must guard himself, for he may find that there is someone
more cunning than himself upon his track. You must lock yourself
up from him to-night. If he is violent, we shall take you away to
your aunt's at Harrow. Now, we must make the best use of our
time, so kindly take us at once to the rooms which we are to
examine."

The building was of gray, lichen-blotched stone, with a high
central portion and two curving wings, like the claws of a crab,
thrown out on each side. In one of these wings the windows were
broken and blocked with wooden boards, while the roof was partly
caved in, a picture of ruin. The central portion was in little
better repair, but the right-hand block was comparatively modern,
and the blinds in the windows, with the blue smoke curling up
from the chimneys, showed that this was where the family resided.
Some scaffolding had been erected against the end wall, and the
stone-work had been broken into, but there were no signs of any
workmen at the moment of our visit. Holmes walked slowly up and
down the ill-trimmed lawn and examined with deep attention the
outsides of the windows.

"This, I take it, belongs to the room in which you used to sleep,
the centre one to your sister's, and the one next to the main
building to Dr. Roylott's chamber?"

"Exactly so. But I am now sleeping in the middle one."

"Pending the alterations, as I understand. By the way, there does
not seem to be any very pressing need for repairs at that end
wall."

"There were none. I believe that it was an excuse to move me from
my room."

"Ah! that is suggestive. Now, on the other side of this narrow
wing runs the corridor from which these three rooms open. There
are windows in it, of course?"

"Yes, but very small ones. Too narrow for anyone to pass
through."

"As you both locked your doors at night, your rooms were
unapproachable from that side. Now, would you have the kindness
to go into your room and bar your shutters?"

Miss Stoner did so, and Holmes, after a careful examination
through the open window, endeavored in every way to force the
shutter open, but without success. There was no slit through
which a knife could be passed to raise the bar. Then with his
lens he tested the hinges, but they were of solid iron, built
firmly into the massive masonry. "Hum!" said he, scratching his
chin in some perplexity, "my theory certainly presents some
difficulties. No one could pass these shutters if they were
bolted. Well, we shall see if the inside throws any light upon
the matter."

A small side door led into the whitewashed corridor from which
the three bedrooms opened. Holmes refused to examine the third
chamber, so we passed at once to the second, that in which Miss
Stoner was now sleeping, and in which her sister had met with her
fate. It was a homely little room, with a low ceiling and a
gaping fireplace, after the fashion of old country-houses. A
brown chest of drawers stood in one corner, a narrow
white-counterpaned bed in another, and a dressing-table on the
left-hand side of the window. These articles, with two small
wicker-work chairs, made up all the furniture in the room save
for a square of Wilton carpet in the centre. The boards round and
the panelling of the walls were of brown, worm-eaten oak, so old
and discolored that it may have dated from the original building
of the house. Holmes drew one of the chairs into a corner and sat
silent, while his eyes travelled round and round and up and down,
taking in every detail of the apartment.

"Where does that bell communicate with?" he asked at last
pointing to a thick belt-rope which hung down beside the bed, the
tassel actually lying upon the pillow.

"It goes to the housekeeper's room."

"It looks newer than the other things?"

"Yes, it was only put there a couple of years ago."

"Your sister asked for it, I suppose?"

"No, I never heard of her using it. We used always to get what we
wanted for ourselves."

"Indeed, it seemed unnecessary to put so nice a bell-pull there.
You will excuse me for a few minutes while I satisfy myself as to
this floor." He threw himself down upon his face with his lens in
his hand and crawled swiftly backward and forward, examining
minutely the cracks between the boards. Then he did the same with
the wood-work with which the chamber was panelled. Finally he
walked over to the bed and spent some time in staring at it and
in running his eye up and down the wall. Finally he took the
bell-rope in his hand and gave it a brisk tug.

"Why, it's a dummy," said he.

"Won't it ring?"

"No, it is not even attached to a wire. This is very interesting.
You can see now that it is fastened to a hook just above where
the little opening for the ventilator is."

"How very absurd! I never noticed that before."

"Very strange!" muttered Holmes, pulling at the rope. "There are
one or two very singular points about this room. For example,
what a fool a builder must be to open a ventilator into another
room, when, with the same trouble, he might have communicated
with the outside air!"

"That is also quite modern," said the lady.

"Done about the same time as the bell-rope?" remarked Holmes.

"Yes, there were several little changes carried out about that
time."

"They seem to have been of a most interesting character--dummy
bell-ropes, and ventilators which do not ventilate. With your
permission, Miss Stoner, we shall now carry our researches into
the inner apartment."

Dr. Grimesby Roylott's chamber was larger than that of his
step-daughter, but was as plainly furnished. A camp-bed, a small
wooden shelf full of books, mostly of a technical character an
armchair beside the bed, a plain wooden chair against the wall, a
round table, and a large iron safe were the principal things
which met the eye. Holmes walked slowly round and examined each
and all of them with the keenest interest.

"What's in here?" he asked, tapping the safe.

"My stepfather's business papers."

"Oh! you have seen inside, then?"

"Only once, some years ago. I remember that it was full of
papers."

"There isn't a cat in it, for example?"

"No. What a strange idea!"

"Well, look at this!" He took up a small saucer of milk which
stood on the top of it.

"No; we don't keep a cat. But there is a cheetah and a baboon."

"Ah, yes, of course! Well, a cheetah is just a big cat, and yet a
saucer of milk does not go very far in satisfying its wants, I
daresay. There is one point which I should wish to determine." He
squatted down in front of the wooden chair and examined the seat
of it with the greatest attention.

"Thank you. That is quite settled," said he, rising and putting
his lens in his pocket. "Hello! Here is something interesting!"

The object which had caught his eye was a small dog lash hung on
one corner of the bed. The lash, however, was curled upon itself
and tied so as to make a loop of whipcord.

"What do you make of that, Watson?"

"It's a common enough lash. But I don't know why if should be
tied."

"That is not quite so common, is it? Ah, me! it's a wicked world,
and when a clever man turns his brains to crime it is the worst
of all. I think that I have seen enough now, Miss Stoner, and
with your permission we shall walk out upon the lawn."

I had never seen my friend's face so grim or his brow so dark as
it was when we turned from the scene of this investigation. We
had walked several times up and down the lawn, neither Miss
Stoner nor myself liking to break in upon his thoughts before he
roused himself from his reverie.

"It is very essential, Miss Stoner," said he, "that you should
absolutely follow my advice in every respect."

"I shall most certainly do so."

"The matter is too serious for any hesitation. Your life may
depend upon your compliance."

"I assure you that I am in your hands."

"In the first place, both my friend and I must spend the night in
your room."

Both Miss Stoner and I gazed at him in astonishment.

"Yes, it must be so. Let me explain. I believe that that is the
village inn over there?"

"Yes, that is the Crown."

"Very good. Your windows would be visible from there?"

"Certainly."

"You must confine yourself to your room, on pretence of a
headache, when your stepfather comes back. Then when you hear him
retire for the night, you must open the shutters of your window,
undo the hasp, put your lamp there as a signal to us, and then
withdraw quietly with everything which you are likely to want
into the room which you used to occupy. I have no doubt that, in
spite of the repairs, you could manage there for one night."

"Oh, yes, easily."

"The rest you will leave in our hands."

"But what will you do?"

"We shall spend the night in your room, and we shall investigate
the cause of this noise which has disturbed you."

"I believe, Mr. Holmes, that you have already made up your mind,"
said Miss Stoner, laying her hand upon my companion's sleeve.

"Perhaps I have."

"Then, for pity's sake, tell me what was the cause of my sister's
death."

"I should prefer to have clearer proofs before I speak."

"You can at least tell me whether my own thought is correct, and
if she died from some sudden fright."

"No, I do not think so. I think that there was probably some more
tangible cause. And now, Miss Stoner, we must leave you for if
Dr. Roylott returned and saw us our journey would be in vain.
Good-bye, and be brave, for if you will do what I have told you
you may rest assured that we shall soon drive away the dangers
that threaten you."


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