"Well, Mr. Holmes, when I got back to my lodgings and found
little enough in the cupboard, and two or three bills upon the
table. I began to ask myself whether I had not done a very
foolish thing. After all, if these people had strange fads and
expected obedience on the most extraordinary matters, they were
at least ready to pay for their eccentricity. Very few
governesses in England are getting 100 pounds a year. Besides,
what use was my hair to me? Many people are improved by wearing
it short and perhaps I should be among the number. Next day I
inciined to think that I had made a mistake, and by the day after
I was sure of it. I had almost overcome my pride so far as to
back to the agency and inquire whether the place was still open
when I received this letter from the gentleman himself. I have
here and I will read it to you:
"'The Copper Beeches, near Winchester.
"'DEAR MISS HUNTER:--"Miss Stoper has very kindly given
address, and I write from here to ask you whether you have
reconsidered your decision. My wife is very anxious that you
should come, for she has been much attracted by my description
you. We are willing to give 30 pounds a quarter, or 120 pounds
year, so as to recompense you for any little inconvenience which
our fads may cause you. They are not very exacting, after all.
wife is fond of a particular shade of electric blue and would
like you to wear such a dress indoors in the morning. You need
not, however, go to the expense of purchasing one, as we have
belonging to my dear daughter Alice (now in Philadelphia), which
would, I should think, fit you very well. Then, as to sitting
here or there,or amusing yourself in any manner indicated, that
need cause you no inconvenience. As regards your hair, it is no
doubt a pity, especially as I could not help remarking its beauty
during our short interview, but I am afraid that I must remain
firm upon this point, and I only hope that the increased salary
may recompense you for the loss. Your duties, as far as the child
is concerned, are very light. Now do try to come, and I shall
meet you with the dog-cart at Winchester. Let me know your train.
"Yours faithfully, JEPHRO RUCASTLE.'
"That is the letter which I have just received, Mr. Holmes,
my mind is made up that I will accept it. I thought, however,
that before taking the final step I should like to submit the
whole matter to your consideration."
"Well, Miss Hunter, if your mind is made up, that settles
question," said Holmes, smiling.
"But you would not advise me to refuse?"
"I confess that it is not the situation which I should like
see a sister of mine apply for."
"What is the meaning of it all, Mr. Holmes?"
"Ah, I have no data. I cannot tell. Perhaps you have yourself
formed some opinion?"
"Well, there seems to me to be only one possible solution.
Rucastle seemed to be a very kind, good-natured man. Is it not
possible that his wife is a lunatic, that he desires to keep the
matter quiet for fear she should be taken to an asylum, and that
he humours her fancies in every way in order to prevent an
"That is a possible solution--in fact, as matters stand,
the most probable one. But in any case it does not seem to be
nice household for a young lady."
"But the money, Mr. Holmes the money!"
"Well, yes, of course the pay is good--too good. That is
makes me uneasy. Why should they give you 120 pounds a year, when
they could have their pick for 40 pounds? There must be some
strong reason behind."
"I thought that if I told you the circumstances you would
understand afterwards if I wanted your help. I should feel so
much stronger if I felt that you were at the back of me."
"Oh, you may carry that feeling away with you. I assure
your little problem promises to be the most interesting which
come my way for some months. There is something distinctly novel
about some of the features. If you should find yourself in doubt
or in danger--"
"Danger! What danger do you foresee?"
Holmes shook his head gravely. "It would cease to be a danger
we could define it," said he. "But at any time, day
or night, a
telegram would bring me down to your help."
"That is enough." She rose briskly from her chair with
anxiety all swept from her face. "I shall go down to Hampshire
quite easy in my mind now. I shall write to Mr. Rucastle at once,
sacrifice my poor hair to-night, and start for Winchester
to-morrow." With a few grateful words to Holmes she bade
good-night and bustled off upon her way.