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by Arthur Conan Doyle

"There was a double line of tracks of a booted man, and a second
double line which I saw with delight belonged to a man with naked
feet. I was at once convinced from what you had told me that the
latter was your son. The first had walked both ways, but the
other had run swiftly, and as his tread was marked in places over
the depression of the boot, it was obvious that he had passed
after the other. I followed them up and found they led to the
hall window, where Boots had worn all the snow away while
waiting. Then I walked to the other end, which was a hundred
yards or more down the lane. I saw where Boots had faced round,
where the snow was cut up as though there had been a struggle,
and, finally, where a few drops of blood had fallen, to show me
that I was not mistaken. Boots had then run down the lane, and
another little smudge of blood showed that it was he who had been
hurt. When he came to the highroad at the other end, I found that
the pavement had been cleared, so there was an end to that clew.

"On entering the house, however, I examined, as you remember, the
sill and framework of the hall window with my lens, and I could
at once see that someone had passed out. I could distinguish the
outline of an instep where the wet foot had been placed in coming
in. I was then beginning to be able to form an opinion as to what
had occurred. A man had waited outside the window; someone had
brought the gems; the deed had been overseen by your son; he had
pursued the thief; had struggled with him; they had each tugged
at the coronet, their united strength causing injuries which
neither alone could have effected. He had returned with the
prize, but had left a fragment in the grasp of his opponent. So
far I was clear. The question now was, who was the man and who
was it brought him the coronet?

"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the
truth. Now, I knew that it was not you who had brought it down,
so there only remained your niece and the maids. But if it were
the maids, why should your son allow himself to be accused in
their place? There could be no possible reason. As he loved his
cousin, however, there was an excellent explanation why he should
retain her secret--the more so as the secret was a disgraceful
one. When I remembered that you had seen her at that window, and
how she had fainted on seeing the coronet again, my conjecture
became a certainty.

"And who could it be who was her confederate? A lover evidently,
for who else could outweigh the love and gratitude which she must
feel to you? I knew that you went out little, and that your
circle of friends was a very limited one. But among them was Sir
George Burnwell. I had heard of him before as being a man of evil
reputation among women. It must have been he who wore those boots
and retained the missing gems. Even though he knew that Arthur
had discovered him, he might still flatter himself that he was
safe, for the lad could not say a word without compromising his
own family.

"Well, your own good sense will suggest what measures I took
next. I went in the shape of a loafer to Sir George's house,
managed to pick up an acquaintance with his valet, learned that
his master had cut his head the night before, and, finally, at
the expense of six shillings, made all sure by buying a pair of
his cast-off shoes. With these I journeyed down to Streatham and
saw that they exactly fitted the tracks."

"I saw an ill-dressed vagabond in the lane yesterday evening,"
said Mr. Holder.

"Precisely. It was I. I found that I had my man, so I came home
and changed my clothes. It was a delicate part which I had to
play then, for I saw that a prosecution must be avoided to avert
scandal, and I knew that so astute a villain would see that our
hands were tied in the matter. I went and saw him. At first, of
course, he denied everything. But when I gave him every
particular that had occurred, he tried to bluster and took down a
life-preserver from the wall. I knew my man, however, and I
clapped a pistol to his head before he could strike. Then he
became a little more reasonable. I told him that we would give
him a price for the stones he held 1000 pounds apiece. That
brought out the first signs of grief that he had shown. 'Why,
dash it all!' said he, 'I've let them go at six hundred for the
three!' I soon managed to get the address of the receiver who had
them, on promising him that there would be no prosecution. Off I
set to him, and after much chaffering I got our stones at 1000
pounds apiece. Then I looked in upon your son, told him that all
was right, and eventually got to my bed about two o'clock, after
what I may call a really hard day's work."

"A day which has saved England from a great public scandal," said
the banker, rising. "Sir, I cannot find words to thank you, but
you shall not find me ungrateful for what you have done. Your
skill has indeed exceeded all that I have heard of it. And now I
must fly to my dear boy to apologize to him for the wrong which I
have done him. As to what you tell me of poor Mary, it goes to my
very heart. Not even your skill can inform me where she is now."

"I think that we may safely say," returned Holmes, "that she is
wherever Sir George Burnwell is. It is equally certain, too, that
whatever her sins are, they will soon receive a more than
sufficient punishment."

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