The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

"To the man who loves art for its own sake," re­marked Sher­lock Holmes, toss­ing aside the ad­vert­ise­ment sheet of the Daily Tele­graph, "it is fre­quently in its least im­port­ant and lowli­est mani­fest­a­tions that the keen­est pleas­ure is to be de­rived. It is pleas­ant to me to ob­serve, Wat­son, that you have so far grasped this truth that in these little re­cords of our cases which you have been good enough to draw up, and, I am bound to say, oc­ca­sion­ally to em­bel­lish, you have giv­en prom­in­ence not so much to the many causes celebres and sen­sa­tion­al tri­als in which I have figured but rather to those in­cid­ents which may have been trivi­al in them­selves, but which have giv­en room for those fac­ulties of de­duc­tion and of lo­gic­al syn­thes­is which I have made my spe­cial province.""And yet," said I, smil­ing, "I can­not quite hold my­self ab­solved from the charge of sen­sa­tion­al­ism which has been urged against my re­cords.""You have erred, per­haps," he ob­served, tak­ing up a glow­ing cinder with the tongs and light­ing with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to re­place his clay when he was in a dis­pu­ta­tious rather than a med­it­at­ive mood –" you have erred per­haps in at­tempt­ing to put col­our and life in­to each of your state­ments in­stead of confining your­self to the task of pla­cing upon re­cord that severe reas­on­ing from cause to ef­fect which is really the only not­able fea­ture about the thing.""It seems to me that I have done you full justice in the mat­ter," I re­marked with some cold­ness, for I was re­pelled by the egot­ism which I had more than once ob­served to be a strong factor in my friend’s sin­gu­lar char­ac­ter."No, it is not selfishness or con­ceit," said he, an­swer­ing, as was his wont, my thoughts rather than my words. "If I claim full justice for my art, it is be­cause it is an im­per­son­al thing – a thing bey­ond my­self. Crime is com­mon. Lo­gic is rare. There­fore it is upon the lo­gic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell. You have de­graded what should have been a course of lec­tures in­to a series of tales."It was a cold morn­ing of the early spring, and we sat after break­fast on either side of a cheery fire in the old room at Baker Street. A thick fog rolled down between the lines of dun-col­oured houses, and the op­pos­ing win­dows loomed like dark, shape­less blurs through the heavy yel­low wreaths. Our gas was lit and shone on the white cloth and glim­mer of china and met­al, for the ta­ble had not been cleared yet. Sher­lock Holmes had been si­lent all the morn­ing, dip­ping con­tinu­ously in­to the ad­vert­ise­ment columns of a suc­ces­sion of pa­pers un­til at last, hav­ing ap­par­ently giv­en up his search, he had emerged in no very sweet tem­per to lec­ture me upon my lit­er­ary short­com­ings."At the same time," he re­marked after a pause, dur­ing which he had sat puff­ing at his long pipe and gaz­ing down in­to the fire, "you can hardly be open to a charge of sen­sa­tion­al­ism, for out of these cases which you have been so kind as to in­terest your­self in, a fair pro­por­tion do not treat of crime, in its leg­al sense, at all. The small mat­ter in which I en­deav­oured to help the King of Bo­hemia, the sin­gu­lar ex­per­i­ence of Miss Mary Suth­er­land, the prob­lem con­nec­ted with the man with the twis­ted lip, and the in­cid­ent of the noble bach­el­or, were all mat­ters which are out­side the pale of the law. But in avoid­ing the sen­sa­tion­al, I fear that you may have bordered on the trivi­al.""The end may have been so," I answered, "but the meth­ods I hold to have been nov­el and of in­terest.""Pshaw, my dear fel­low, what do the pub­lic, the great un­ob­serv­ant pub­lic, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a com­pos­it­or by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of ana­lys­is and de­duc­tion! But, in­deed, if you are trivi­al. I can­not blame you, for the days of the great cases are past. Man, or at least crim­in­al man, has lost all en­ter­prise and ori­gin­al­ity. As to my own little prac­tice, it seems to be de­gen­er­at­ing in­to an agency for re­cov­er­ing lost lead pen­cils and giv­ing ad­vice to young ladies from board­ing-schools. I think that I have touched bot­tom at last, however. This note I had this morn­ing marks my zero-point, I fancy. Read it!" He tossed a crumpled let­ter across to me.It was dated from Montague Place upon the pre­ced­ing even­ing, and ran thus:Dear Mr. Holmes:I am very anxious to con­sult you as to wheth­er 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 I do not in­con­veni­ence you.Yours faith­fully,Vi­ol­et Hunter."Do you know the young lady?’ I asked."Not I.""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. You re­mem­ber that the af­fair of the blue car­buncle, which ap­peared to 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 solved, 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 be 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 fa­vour­ably 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, "in the 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 End called West­away’s, and there I used to call about once a week in 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 of­fice 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 a jump in his chair and turned quickly to Miss Stoper." ’That will do,’ said he; ’I could not ask for any­thing bet­ter. 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 him." ’You are look­ing for a situ­ation, miss?’ he asked." ’Yes, sir.’" ’As gov­erness?’" ’Yes, sir.’" ’And what salary do you ask?’" ’I had 4 pounds a month in my last place with Col­on­el Spence Mun­ro.’" ’Oh, tut, tut! sweat­ing – rank sweat­ing!’ he cried, throw­ing his 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,’ said I. ’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 was, 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 so 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 miles on the far side of Winchester. It is the most lovely coun­try, my dear young lady, and the dearest old coun­try-house.’" ’And my du­ties, sir? I should be glad to know what they would be.’" ’One child – one dear little romper just six years old. Oh, if 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 jok­ing." ’My sole du­ties, then,’ I asked, ’are to take charge of a single child?’" ’No, no, not the sole, not the sole, my dear young lady,’ he 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, you 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. Heh?’" ’No,’ said I, con­sid­er­ably as­ton­ished at his words." ’Or to sit here, or sit there, that would not be of­fens­ive to you?’" ’Oh, no.’" ’Or to cut your hair quite short be­fore you come to us?’"I could hardly be­lieve my ears. As you may ob­serve, Mr. Holmes, 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 had been 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 is a little fancy of my wife’s, and ladies’ fan­cies, you know, madam, ladies’ fan­cies must be con­sul­ted. And so you wonn’t cut your hair?’" ’No, sir, I really could not,’ I answered firmly." ’Ah, very well; then that quite settles the mat­ter. It is a 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 so 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 asked." ’If you please, Miss Stoper.’" ’Well, really, it seems rather use­less, since you re­fuse the 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."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 was 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 go back to the agency and in­quire wheth­er the place was still open when I re­ceived this let­ter from the gen­tle­man him­self. I have it here and I will read it to you:"The Cop­per Beeches, near Winchester."Dear Mlss Hunter:"Miss Stoper has very kindly giv­en me your 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 of you. We are will­ing to give 30 pounds a quarter, or 120 pounds a year, so as to re­com­pense you for any little in­con­veni­ence which our fads may cause you. They are not very ex­act­ing, after all. My 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 one 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 l 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, and 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 the ques­tion," said Holmes, smil­ing."But you would not ad­vise me to re­fuse?""I con­fess that it is not the situ­ation which I should like to 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. Mr. 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 out­break?""That is a pos­sible solu­tion – in fact, as mat­ters stand, it is the most prob­able one. But in any case it does not seem to be a 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 what 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 you that your little prob­lem prom­ises to be the most in­ter­est­ing which has 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 if 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 the 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 us both good-night and bustled off upon her way."At least," said I as we heard her quick, firm steps des­cend­ing the stairs, "she seems to be a young lady who is very well able to take care of her­self.""And she would need to be," said Holmes gravely. "I am much mis­taken if we do not hear from her be­fore many days are past."It was not very long be­fore my friend’s pre­dic­tion was fulfilled. A fort­night went by, dur­ing which I fre­quently found my thoughts turn­ing in her dir­ec­tion and won­der­ing what strange side-al­ley of hu­man ex­per­i­ence this lonely wo­man had strayed in­to. The un­usu­al salary, the curi­ous con­di­tions, the light du­ties, all poin­ted to something ab­nor­mal, though wheth­er a fad or a plot, or wheth­er the man were a phil­an­throp­ist or a vil­lain, it was quite bey­ond my powers to de­term­ine. As to Holmes, I ob­served that he sat fre­quently for half an hour on end, with knit­ted brows and an ab­strac­ted air, but he swept the mat­ter away with a wave of his hand when I men­tioned it. "Data! data! data!" he cried im­pa­tiently. "I can’t make bricks without clay." And yet he would al­ways wind up by mut­ter­ing that no sis­ter of his should ever have ac­cep­ted such a situ­ation.The tele­gram which we even­tu­ally re­ceived came late one night just as I was think­ing of turn­ing in and Holmes was set­tling down to one of those all-night chem­ic­al re­searches which he fre­quently in­dulged in, when I would leave him stoop­ing over a re­tort and a test-tube at night and find him in the same po­s­i­tion when I came down to break­fast in the morn­ing. He opened the yel­low en­vel­ope, and then, glan­cing at the mes­sage, threw it across to me."Just look up the trains in Brad­shaw," said he, and turned back to his chem­ic­al stud­ies.The sum­mons was a brief and ur­gent one.Please be at the Black Swan Hotel at Winchester at mid­day to-mor­row [it said]. Do come! I am at my wit’s end.Hunter."Will you come with me?" asked Holmes, glan­cing up."I should wish to.""Just look it up, then.""There is a train at half-past nine," said I, glan­cing over my Brad­shaw. "It is due at Winchester at 11:30.""That will do very nicely. Then per­haps I had bet­ter post­pone my ana­lys­is of the acet­ones, as we may need to be at our best in the morn­ing."By el­ev­en o’clock the next day we were well upon our way to the old Eng­lish cap­it­al. Holmes had been bur­ied in the morn­ing pa­pers all the way down, but after we had passed the Hamp­shire bor­der he threw them down and began to ad­mire the scenery. It was an ideal spring day, a light blue sky, flecked with little fleecy white clouds drift­ing across from west to east. The sun was shin­ing very brightly, and yet there was an ex­hil­ar­at­ing nip in the air, which set an edge to a man’s en­ergy. All over the coun­tryside, away to the rolling hills around Alder­shot, the little red and gray roofs of the farm-stead­ings peeped out from amid the light green of the new fo­liage."Are they not fresh and beau­ti­ful?" I cried with all the en­thu­si­asm of a man fresh from the fogs of Baker Street.But Holmes shook his head gravely."Do you know, Wat­son," said he, "that it is one of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine that I must look at everything with ref­er­ence to my own spe­cial sub­ject. You look at these scattered houses, and you are im­pressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feel­ing of their isol­a­tion and of the im­pun­ity with which crime may be com­mit­ted there.""Good heav­ens!" I cried. "Who would as­so­ciate crime with these dear old homesteads?""They al­ways fill me with a cer­tain hor­ror. It is my be­lief, Wat­son, foun­ded upon my ex­per­i­ence, that the low­est and vilest al­leys in Lon­don do not present a more dread­ful re­cord of sin than does the smil­ing and beau­ti­ful coun­tryside.""You hor­rify me!""But the reas­on is very ob­vi­ous. The pres­sure of pub­lic opin­ion can do in the town what the law can­not ac­com­plish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tor­tured child, or the thud of a drunk­ard’s blow, does not be­get sym­pathy and in­dig­na­tion among the neigh­bours, and then the whole ma­chinery of justice is ever so close that a word of com­plaint can set it go­ing, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ig­nor­ant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hid­den wicked­ness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser. Had this lady who ap­peals to us for help gone to live in Winchester, I should nev­er have had a fear for her. It is the five miles of coun­try which makes the danger. Still, it is clear that she is not per­son­ally threatened.""No. If she can come to Winchester to meet us she can get away.""Quite so. She has her free­dom.""What can be the mat­ter, then? Can you sug­gest no ex­plan­a­tion?""I have de­vised sev­en sep­ar­ate ex­plan­a­tions, each of which would cov­er the facts as far as we know them. But which of these is cor­rect can only be de­term­ined by the fresh in­form­a­tion which we shall no doubt find wait­ing for us. Well, there is the tower of the cathed­ral, and we shall soon learn all that Miss Hunter has to tell."The Black Swan is an inn of re­pute in the High Street, at no dis­tance from the sta­tion, and there we found the young lady wait­ing for us. She had en­gaged a sit­ting-room, and our lunch awaited us upon the ta­ble."I am so de­lighted that you have come," she said earn­estly. "It is so very kind of you both; but in­deed I do not know what I should do. Your ad­vice will be al­to­geth­er in­valu­able to me.""Pray tell us what has happened to you.""I will do so, and I must be quick, for I have prom­ised Mr. Ru­castle to be back be­fore three. I got his leave to come in­to town this morn­ing, though he little knew for what pur­pose.""Let us have everything in its due or­der." Holmes thrust his long thin legs out to­wards the fire and com­posed him­self to listen."In the first place, I may say that I have met, on the whole, with no ac­tu­al ill-treat­ment from Mr. and Mrs. Ru­castle. It is only fair to them to say that. But I can­not un­der­stand them, and I am not easy in my mind about them.""What can you not un­der­stand?""Their reas­ons for their con­duct. But you shall have it all just as it oc­curred. When I came down, Mr. Ru­castle met me here and drove me in his dog-cart to the Cop­per Beeches. It is, as he said, beau­ti­fully situ­ated, but it is not beau­ti­ful in it­self, for it is a large square block of a house, white­washed, but all stained and streaked with damp and bad weath­er. There are grounds round it, woods on three sides, and on the fourth a field which slopes down to the Southamp­ton highroad, which curves past about a hun­dred yards from the front door. This ground in front be­longs to the house, but the woods all round are part of Lord Souther­ton’s pre­serves. A clump of cop­per beeches im­me­di­ately in front of the hall door has giv­en its name to the place."I was driv­en over by my em­ploy­er, who was as ami­able as ever, and was in­tro­duced by him that even­ing to his wife and the child. There was no truth, Mr. Holmes, in the con­jec­ture which seemed to us to be prob­able in your rooms at Baker Street. Mrs. Ru­castle is not mad. I found her to be a si­lent, pale-faced wo­man, much young­er than her hus­band, not more than thirty, I should think, while he can hardly be less than forty-five. From their con­ver­sa­tion I have gathered that they have been mar­ried about sev­en years, that he was a wid­ower, and that his only child by the first wife was the daugh­ter who has gone to Phil­adelphia. Mr. Ru­castle told me in private that the reas­on why she had left them was that she had an un­reas­on­ing aver­sion to her step­moth­er. As the daugh­ter could not have been less than twenty, I can quite ima­gine-that her po­s­i­tion must have been un­com­fort­able with her fath­er’s young wife."Mrs. Ru­castle seemed to me to be col­our­less in mind as well as in fea­ture. She im­pressed me neither fa­vour­ably nor the re­verse. She was a non­entity. It was easy to see that she was pas­sion­ately de­voted both to her hus­band and to her little son. Her light gray eyes wandered con­tinu­ally from one to the oth­er, not­ing every little want and fore­stalling it if pos­sible. He was kind to her also in his bluff, bois­ter­ous fash­ion, and on the whole they seemed to be a happy couple. And yet she had some secret sor­row, this wo­man. She would of­ten be lost in deep thought, with the sad­dest look upon her face. More than once I have sur­prised her in tears. I have thought some­times that it was the dis­pos­i­tion of her child which weighed upon her mind, for I have nev­er met so ut­terly spoiled and so ill-natured a little creature. He is small for his age, with a head which is quite dis­pro­por­tion­ately large. His whole life ap­pears to be spent in an al­tern­a­tion between sav­age fits of pas­sion and gloomy in­ter­vals of sulk­ing. Giv­ing pain to any creature weak­er than him­self seems to be his one idea of amuse­ment, and he shows quite re­mark­able tal­ent in plan­ning the cap­ture of mice, little birds, and in­sects. But I would rather not talk about the creature, Mr. Holmes, and, in­deed, he has little to do with my story.""I am glad of all de­tails," re­marked my friend, "wheth­er they seem to you to be rel­ev­ant or not.""I shall try not to miss any­thing of im­port­ance. The one un­pleas­ant thing about the house, which struck me at once, was the ap­pear­ance and con­duct of the ser­vants. There are only two, a man and his wife. Toller, for that is his name, is a rough, un­couth man, with grizzled hair and whiskers, and a per­petu­al smell of drink. Twice since I have been with them he has been quite drunk, and yet Mr. Ru­castle seemed to take no no­tice of it. His wife is a very tall and strong wo­man with a sour face, as si­lent as Mrs. Ru­castle and much less ami­able. They are a most un­pleas­ant couple, but for­tu­nately I spend most of my time in the nurs­ery and my own room, which are next to each oth­er in one corner of the build­ing."For two days after my ar­rival at the Cop­per Beeches my life was very quiet; on the third, Mrs. Ru­castle came down just after break­fast and whispered something to her hus­band." ’Oh, yes,’ said he, turn­ing to me, ’we are very much ob­liged to you, Miss Hunter, for fall­ing in with our whims so far as to cut your hair. I as­sure you that it has not de­trac­ted in the ti­ni­est iota from your ap­pear­ance. We shall now see how the elec­tric-blue dress will be­come you. You will find it laid out upon the bed in your room, and if you would be so good as to put it on we should both be ex­tremely ob­liged.’"The dress which I found wait­ing for me was of a pe­cu­li­ar shade of blue. It was of ex­cel­lent ma­ter­i­al, a sort of beige, but it bore un­mis­tak­able signs of hav­ing been worn be­fore. It could not have been a bet­ter fit if I had been meas­ured for it. Both Mr. and Mrs. Ru­castle ex­pressed a de­light at the look of it, which seemed quite ex­ag­ger­ated in its vehe­mence. They were wait­ing for me in the draw­ing-room, which is a very large room, stretch­ing along the en­tire front of the house, with three long win­dows reach­ing down to the floor. A chair had been placed close to the cent­ral win­dow, with its back turned to­wards it. In this I was asked to sit, and then Mr. Ru­castle, walk­ing up and down on the oth­er side of the room, began to tell me a series of the fun­ni­est stor­ies that I have ever listened to. You can­not ima­gine how com­ic­al he was, and I laughed un­til I was quite weary. Mrs. Ru­castle, however, who has evid­ently no sense of hu­mour, nev­er so much as smiled, but sat with her hands in her lap, and a sad, anxious look upon her face. After an hour or so, Mr. Ru­castle sud­denly re­marked that it was time to com­mence the du­ties of the day, and that I might change my dress and go to little Ed­ward in the nurs­ery."Two days later this same per­form­ance was gone through un­der ex­actly sim­il­ar cir­cum­stances. Again I changed my dress, again I sat in the win­dow, and again I laughed very heart­ily at the funny stor­ies of which my em­ploy­er had an im­mense rep­er­toire, and which he told in­im­it­ably. Then he handed me a yel­low­backed nov­el, and mov­ing my chair a little side­ways, that my own shad­ow might not fall upon the page. he begged me to read aloud to him. I read for about ten minutes, be­gin­ning in the heart of a chapter, and then sud­denly, in the middle of a sen­tence, he ordered me to cease and to change my dress."You can eas­ily ima­gine, Mr. Holmes, how curi­ous I be­came as to what the mean­ing of this ex­traordin­ary per­form­ance could pos­sibly be. They were al­ways very care­ful, I ob­served, to turn my face away from the win­dow, so that I be­came con­sumed with the de­sire to see what was go­ing on be­hind my back. At first it seemed to be im­possible, but I soon de­vised a means. My hand-mir­ror had been broken, so a happy thought seized me, and I con­cealed a piece of the glass in my handker­chief. On the next oc­ca­sion, in the midst of my laughter, I put my handker­chief up to my eyes, and was able with a little man­age­ment to see all that there was be­hind me. I con­fess that I was dis­ap­poin­ted. There was noth­ing. At least that was my first im­pres­sion. At the second glance, however, I per­ceived that there was a man stand­ing in the Southamp­ton Road, a small bearded man in a gray suit, who seemed to be look­ing in my dir­ec­tion. The road is an im­port­ant high­way, and there are usu­ally people there. This man, however, was lean­ing against the rail­ings which bordered our field and was look­ing earn­estly up. I lowered my handker­chief and glanced at Mrs. Ru­castle to find her eyes fixed upon me with a most search­ing gaze. She said noth­ing, but I am con­vinced that she had di­vined that I had a mir­ror in my hand and had seen what was be­hind me. She rose at once." ’Jephro,’ said she, ’there is an im­per­tin­ent fel­low upon the road there who stares up at Miss Hunter.’" ’No friend of yours, Miss Hunter?’ he asked." ’No, I know no one in these parts.’" ’Dear me! How very im­per­tin­ent! Kindly turn round and mo­tion to him to go away.’" ’Surely it would be bet­ter to take no no­tice.’" ’No, no, we should have him loiter­ing here al­ways. Kindly turn round and wave him away like that.’"I did as I was told, and at the same in­stant Mrs. Ru­castle drew down the blind. That was a week ago, and from that time I have not sat again in the win­dow, nor have I worn the blue dress, nor seen the man in the road.""Pray con­tin­ue," said Holmes. "Your nar­rat­ive prom­ises to be a most in­ter­est­ing one.""You will find it rather dis­con­nec­ted, I fear, and there may prove to be little re­la­tion between the dif­fer­ent in­cid­ents of which I speak. On the very first day that I was at the Cop­per Beeches, Mr. Ru­castle took me to a small out­house which stands near the kit­chen door. As we ap­proached it I heard the sharp rat­tling of a chain, and the sound as of a large an­im­al mov­ing about." ’Look in here!’ said Mr. Ru­castle, show­ing me a slit between two planks. ’Is he not a beauty?’"I looked through and was con­scious of two glow­ing eyes, and of a vague figure huddled up in the dark­ness." ’Don’t be frightened,’ said my em­ploy­er, laugh­ing at the start which I had giv­en. ’It’s only Carlo, my mastiff. I call him mine, but really old Toller, my groom, is the only man who can do any­thing with him. We feed him once a day, and not too much then, so that he is al­ways as keen as mus­tard. Toller lets him loose every night, and God help the tres­pass­er whom he lays his fangs upon. For good­ness’ sake don’t you ever on any pre­text set your foot over the threshold at night, for it’s as much as your life is worth.’"The warn­ing was no idle one, for two nights later I happened to look out of my bed­room win­dow about two o’clock in the morn­ing. It was a beau­ti­ful moon­light night, and the lawn in front of the house was silvered over and al­most as bright as day. I was stand­ing, rapt in the peace­ful beauty of the scene, when I was aware that something was mov­ing un­der the shad­ow of the cop­per beeches. As it emerged in­to the moon­shine I saw what it was. It was a gi­ant dog, as large as a calf, tawny tin­ted, with hanging jowl, black muzzle, and huge pro­ject­ing bones. It walked slowly across the lawn and van­ished in­to the shad­ow upon the oth­er side. That dread­ful sen­tinel sent a chill to my heart which I do not think that any burg­lar could have done."And now I have a very strange ex­per­i­ence to tell you. I had, as you know, cut off my hair in Lon­don, and I had placed it in a great coil at the bot­tom of my trunk. One even­ing, after the child was in bed, I began to amuse my­self by ex­amin­ing the fur­niture of my room and by re­arran­ging my own little things. There was an old chest of draw­ers in the room, the two up­per ones empty and open, the lower one locked. I had filled the first two with my lin­en. and as I had still much to pack away I was nat­ur­ally an­noyed at not hav­ing the use of the third draw­er. It struck me that it might have been fastened by a mere over­sight, so I took out my bunch of keys and tried to open it. The very first key fitted to per­fec­tion, and I drew the draw­er open. There was only one thing in it, but I am sure that you would nev­er guess what it was. It was my coil of hair."I took it up and ex­amined it. It was of the same pe­cu­li­ar tint, and the same thick­ness. But then the im­possib­il­ity of the thing ob­truded it­self upon me. How could my hair have been locked in the draw­er? With trem­bling hands I un­did my trunk, turned out the con­tents, and drew from the bonom my own hair. I laid the two tresses to­geth­er, and I as­sure you that they were identic­al. Was it not ex­traordin­ary? Puzzle as I would, I could make noth­ing at all of what it meant. I re­turned the strange hair to the draw­er, and I said noth­ing of the mat­ter to the Ru­castles as I felt that I had put my­self in the wrong by open­ing a draw­er which they had locked."I am nat­ur­ally ob­ser­v­ant, as you may have re­marked, Mr. Holmes, and I soon had a pretty good plan of the whole house in my head. There was one wing, however, which ap­peared not to be in­hab­ited at all. A door which faced that which led in­to the quar­ters of the Tollers opened in­to this suite, but it was in­vari­ably locked. One day, however, as I as­cen­ded the stair, I met Mr. Ru­castle com­ing out through this door, his keys in his hand, and a look on his face which made him a very dif­fer­ent per­son to the round, jovi­al man to whom I was ac­cus­tomed. His cheeks were red, his brow was all crinkled with an­ger, and the veins stood out at his temples with pas­sion. He locked the door and hur­ried past me without a word or a look."This aroused my curi­os­ity, so when I went out for a walk in the grounds with my charge, I strolled round to the side from which I could see the win­dows of this part of the house. There were four of them in a row, three of which were simply dirty, while the fourth was shuttered up. They were evid­ently all deser­ted. As I strolled up and down, glan­cing at them oc­ca­sion­ally, Mr. Ru­castle came out to me, look­ing as merry and jovi­al as ever." ’Ah!’ said he, ’you must not think me rude if I passed you without a word, my dear young lady. I was pre­oc­cu­pied with busi­ness mat­ters.’"I as­sured him that I was not of­fen­ded. ’By the way,’ said I, ’you seem to have quite a suite of spare rooms up there, and one of them has the shut­ters up.’"He looked sur­prised and, as it seemed to me, a little startled at my re­mark." ’Pho­to­graphy is one of my hob­bies,’ said he. ’I have made my dark room up there. But, dear me! what an ob­ser­v­ant young lady we have come upon. Who would have be­lieved it? Who would have ever be­lieved it?’ He spoke in a jest­ing tone, but there was no jest in his eyes as he looked at me. I read sus­pi­cion there and an­noy­ance, but no jest."Well, Mr. Holmes, from the mo­ment that I un­der­stood that there was something about that suite of rooms which I was not to know, I was all on fire to go over them. It was not mere curi­os­ity, though I have my share of that. It was more a feel­ing of duty – a feel­ing that some good might come from my pen­et­rat­ing to this place. They talk of wo­man’s in­stinct; per­haps it was wo­man’s in­stinct which gave me that feel­ing. At any rate, it was there, and I was keenly on the lookout for any chance to pass the for­bid­den door."It was only yes­ter­day that the chance came. I may tell you that, be­sides Mr. Ru­castle, both Toller and his wife find something to do in these deser­ted rooms, and I once saw him car­ry­ing a large black lin­en bag with him through the door. Re­cently he has been drink­ing hard, and yes­ter­day even­ing he was very drunk; and when I came up­stairs there was the key in the door. I have no doubt at all that he had left it there. Mr. and Mrs. Ru­castle were both down­stairs, and the child was with them, so that I had an ad­mir­able op­por­tun­ity. I turned the key gently in the lock, opened the door, and slipped through."There was a little pas­sage in front of me, un­papered and un­car­peted, which turned at a right angle at the farther end. Round this corner were three doors in a line, the first and third of which were open. They each led in­to an empty room, dusty and cheer­less, with two win­dows in the one and one in the oth­er, so thick with dirt that the even­ing light glimmered dimly through them. The centre door was closed, and across the out­side of it had been fastened one of the broad bars of an iron bed, pad­locked at one end to a ring in the wall, and fastened at the oth­er with stout cord. The door it­self was locked as well, and the key was not there. This bar­ri­caded door cor­res­pon­ded clearly with the shuttered win­dow out­side, and yet I could see by the glim­mer from be­neath it that the room was not in dark­ness. Evid­ently there was a sky­light which let in light from above. As I stood in the pas­sage gaz­ing at the sin­is­ter door and won­der­ing what secret it might veil, I sud­denly heard the sound of steps with­in the room and saw a shad­ow pass back­ward and for­ward against the little slit of dim light which shone out from un­der the door. A mad, un­reas­on­ing ter­ror rose up in me at the sight, Mr. Holmes. My over­strung nerves failed me sud­denly, and I turned and ran – ran as though some dread­ful hand were be­hind me clutch­ing at the skirt of my dress. I rushed down the pas­sage, through the door, and straight in­to the arms of Mr. Ru­castle, who was wait­ing out­side." ’So,’ said he, smil­ing, ’it was you, then. I thought that it must be when I saw the door open.’" ’Oh, I am so frightened!’ I panted." ’My dear young lady! my dear young lady!’ – you can­not think how caress­ing and sooth­ing his man­ner was – ’and what has frightened you, my dear young lady?’"But his voice was just a little too coax­ing. He over­did it. I was keenly on my guard against him." ’I was fool­ish enough to go in­to the empty wing,’ I answered. ’But it is so lonely and eer­ie in this dim light that I was frightened and ran out again. Oh, it is so dread­fully still in there!’" ’Only that?’ said he, look­ing at me keenly." ’Why, what did you think?’ I asked." ’Why do you think that I lock this door?’" ’I am sure that I do not know.’" ’It is to keep people out who have no busi­ness there. Do you see?’ He was still smil­ing in the most ami­able man­ner." ’I am sure if I had known" ’Well, then, you know now. And if you ever put your foot over that threshold again’ – here in an in­stant the smile hardened in­to a grin of rage, and he glared down at me with the face of a de­mon – ’I’ll throw you to the mastiff.’"I was so terrified that I do not know what I did. I sup­pose that I must have rushed past him in­to my room. I re­mem­ber noth­ing un­til I found my­self ly­ing on my bed trem­bling all over. Then I thought of you, Mr. Holmes. I could not live there longer without some ad­vice. I was frightened of the house, of the man of the wo­man, of the ser­vants, even of the child. They were ali hor­rible to me. If I could only bring you down all would be well. Of course I might have fled from the house, but my curi­os­ity was al­most as strong as my fears. My mind was soon made up. I would send you a wire. I put on my hat and cloak, went down to the of­fice, which is about half a mile from the house, and then re­turned, feel­ing very much easi­er. A hor­rible doubt came in­to my mind as I ap­proached the door lest the dog might be loose, but I re­membered that Toller had drunk him­self in­to a state of in­sens­ib­il­ity that even­ing, and I knew that he was the only one in the house­hold who had any influence with the sav­age creature, or who would ven­ture to set him free. I slipped in in safety and lay awake half the night in my joy at the thought of see­ing you. I had no dif­fi­culty in get­ting leave to come in­to Winchester this morn­ing, but I must be back be­fore three o’clock, for Mr. and Mrs. Ru­castle are go­ing on a vis­it, and will be away all the even­ing, so that I must look after the child. Now I have told you all my ad­ven­tures, Mr. Holmes, and I should be very glad if you could tell me what it all means, and, above all, what I should do."Holmes and I had listened spell­bound to this ex­traordin­ary story. My friend rose now and paced up and down the room, his hands in his pock­ets, and an ex­pres­sion of the most pro­found grav­ity upon his face."Is Toller still drunk?" he asked."Yes. I heard his wife tell Mrs. Ru­castle that she could do noth­ing with him.""That is well. And the Ru­castles go out to-night?""Yes.""Is there a cel­lar with a good strong lock?""Yes, the wine-cel­lar.""You seem to me to have ac­ted all through this mat­ter like a very brave and sens­ible girl, Miss Hunter. Do you think that you could per­form one more feat? I should not ask it of you if I did not think you a quite ex­cep­tion­al wo­man.""I will try. What is it?""We shall be at the Cop­per Beeches by sev­en o’clock, my friend and I. The Ru­castles will be gone by that time, and Toller will, we hope, be in­cap­able. There only re­mains Mrs. Toller, who might give the alarm. If you could send her in­to the cel­lar on some er­rand, and then turn the key upon her, you would fa­cil­it­ate mat­ters im­mensely.""I will do it.""Ex­cel­lent! We shall then look thor­oughly in­to the af­fair. Of course there is only one feas­ible ex­plan­a­tion. You have been brought there to per­son­ate someone, and the real per­son is im­prisoned in this cham­ber. That is ob­vi­ous. As to who this pris­on­er is, I have no doubt that it is the daugh­ter, Miss Alice Ru­castle, if I re­mem­ber right, who was said to have gone to Amer­ica. You were chosen, doubt­less, as re­sem­bling her in height, figure, and the col­our of your hair. Hers had been cut off, very pos­sibly in some ill­ness through which she has passed, and so, of course, yours had to be sacrificed also. By a curi­ous chance you came upon her tresses. The man in the road was un­doubtedly some friend of hers – pos­sibly her fiance – and no doubt, as you wore the girl’s dress and were so like her, he was con­vinced from your laughter, whenev­er he saw you, and af­ter­wards from your ges­ture, that Miss Ru­castle was per­fectly happy, and that she no longer de­sired his at­ten­tions. The dog is let loose at night to pre­vent him from en­deav­our­ing to com­mu­nic­ate with her. So much is fairly clear. The most ser­i­ous point in the case is the dis­pos­i­tion of the child.""What on earth has that to do with it?" I ejac­u­lated."My dear Wat­son, you as a med­ic­al man are con­tinu­ally gain­ing light as to the tend­en­cies of a child by the study of the par­ents. Don’t you see that the con­verse is equally val­id. I have fre­quently gained my first real in­sight in­to the char­ac­ter of par­ents by study­ing their chil­dren. This child’s dis­pos­i­tion is ab­nor­mally cruel, merely for cruelty’s sake, and wheth­er he de­rives this from his smil­ing fath­er, as I should sus­pect, or from his moth­er, it bodes evil for the poor girl who is in their power.""I am sure that you are right, Mr. Holmes," cried our cli­ent. "A thou­sand things come back to me which make me cer­tain that you have hit it. Oh, let us lose not an in­stant in bring­ing help to this poor creature.""We must be cir­cum­spect, for we are deal­ing with a very cun­ning man. We can do noth­ing un­til sev­en o’clock. At that hour we shall be with you, and it will not be long be­fore we solve the mys­tery."We were as good as our word, for it was just sev­en when we reached the Cop­per Beeches, hav­ing put up our trap at a way­side pub­lic-house. The group of trees, with their dark leaves shin­ing like burn­ished met­al in the light of the set­ting sun, were suf­fi­cient to mark the house even had Miss Hunter not been stand­ing smil­ing on the door-step."Have you man­aged it?" asked Holmes.A loud thud­ding noise came from some­where down­stairs. "That is Mrs. Toller in the cel­lar," said she. "Her hus­band lies snor­ing on the kit­chen rug. Here are his keys, which are the du­plic­ates of Mr. Ru­castle’s.""You have done well in­deed!" cried Holmes with en­thu­si­asm. "Now lead the way, and we shall soon see the end of this black busi­ness."We passed up the stair, un­locked the door, fol­lowed on down a pas­sage, and found ourselves in front of the bar­ri­cade which Miss Hunter had de­scribed. Holmes cut the cord and re­moved the trans­verse bar. Then he tried the vari­ous keys in the lock, but without suc­cess. No sound came from with­in, and at the si­lence Holmes’s face clouded over."I trust that we are not too late," said he. "I think, Miss Hunter, that we had bet­ter go in without you. Now, Wat­son, put your shoulder to it, and we shall see wheth­er we can­not make our way in."It was an old rick­ety door and gave at once be­fore our united strength. To­geth­er we rushed in­to the room. It was empty. There was no fur­niture save a little pal­let bed, a small ta­ble, and a bas­ket­ful of lin­en. The sky­light above was open, and the pris­on­er gone."There has been some vil­lainy here," said Holmes; "this beauty has guessed Miss Hunter’s in­ten­tions and has car­ried his vic­tim off.""But how?""Through the sky­light. We shall soon see how he man­aged it." He swung him­self up onto the roof. "Ah, yes," he cried, "here’s the end of a long light lad­der against the eaves. That is how he did it.""But it is im­possible," said Miss Hunter; "the lad­der was not there when the Ru­castles went away.""He has come back and done it. I tell you that he is a clev­er and dan­ger­ous man. I should not be very much sur­prised if this were he whose step I hear now upon the stair. I think, Wat­son, that it would be as well for you to have your pis­tol ready."The words were hardly out of his mouth be­fore a man ap­peared at the door of the room, a very fat and burly man, with a heavy stick in his hand. Miss Hunter screamed and shrunk against the wall at the sight of him, but Sher­lock Holmes sprang for­ward and con­fron­ted him."You vil­lain!" said he, "where’s your daugh­ter?"The fat man cast his eyes round, and then up at the open sky­light."It is for me to ask you that," he shrieked, "you thieves! Spies and thieves! I have caught you, have l? You are in my power. I’ll serve you!" He turned and clattered down the stairs as hard as he could go."He’s gone for the dog!" cried Miss Hunter."I have my re­volver," said I."Bet­ter close the front door," cried Holmes, and we all rushed down the stairs to­geth­er. We had hardly reached the hall when we heard the bay­ing of a hound, and then a scream of agony, with a hor­rible wor­ry­ing sound which it was dread­ful to listen to. An eld­erly man with a red face and shak­ing limbs came stag­ger­ing out at a side door."My God!" he cried. "Someone has loosed the dog. It’s not been fed for two days. Quick, quick, or it’ll be too late!"Holmes and I rushed out and round the angle of the house, with Toller hur­ry­ing be­hind us. There was the huge fam­ished brute, its black muzzle bur­ied in Ru­castle’s throat, while he writhed and screamed upon the ground. Run­ning up, I blew its brains out, and it fell over with its keen white teeth still meet­ing in the great creases of his neck. With much la­bour we sep­ar­ated them and car­ried him, liv­ing but hor­ribly mangled, in­to the house. We laid him upon the draw­ing-room sofa, and hav­ing dis­patched the sobered Toller to bear the news to his wife, I did what I could to re­lieve his pain. We were all as­sembled round him when the door opened, and a tall, gaunt wo­man entered the room."Mrs. Toller!" cried Miss Hunter."Yes, miss. Mr. Ru­castle let me out when he came back be­fore he went up to you. Ah, miss, it is a pity you didn’t let me know what you were plan­ning, for I would have told you that your pains were wasted.""Ha!" said Holmes, look­ing keenly at her. "It is clear that Mrs. Toller knows more about this mat­ter than any­one else.""Yes, sir, I do, and I am ready enough to tell what I know.""Then, pray, sit down, and let us hear it for there are sev­er­al points on which I must con­fess that I am still in the dark.""I will soon make it clear to you," said she; "and I’d have done so be­fore now if I could ha’ got out from the cel­lar. If there’s po­lice-court busi­ness over this, you’ll re­mem­ber that I was the one that stood your friend, and that I was Miss Alice’s friend too."She was nev­er happy at home, Miss Alice wasn’t, from the time that her fath­er mar­ried again. She was slighted like and had no say in any­thing, but it nev­er really be­came bad for her un­til after she met Mr. Fowl­er at a friend’s house. As well as I could learn, Miss Alice had rights of her own by will, but she was so quiet and pa­tient, she was, that she nev­er said a word about them but just left everything in Mr. Ru­castle’s hands. He knew he was safe with her; but when there was a chance of a hus­band com­ing for­ward, who would ask for all that the law would give him, then her fath­er thought it time to put a stop on it. He wanted her to sign a pa­per, so that wheth­er she mar­ried or not, he could use her money. When she wouldn’t do it, he kept on wor­ry­ing her un­til she got brain-fever, and for six weeks was at death’s door. Then she got bet­ter at last, all worn to a shad­ow, and with her beau­ti­ful hair cut off; but that didn’t make no change in her young man, and he stuck to her as true as man could be.""Ah," said Holmes, "I think that what you have been good enough to tell us makes the mat­ter fairly clear, and that I can de­duce all that re­mains. Mr. Ru­castle then, I pre­sume, took to this sys­tem of im­pris­on­ment?""Yes, sir.""And brought Miss Hunter down from Lon­don in or­der to get rid of the dis­agree­able per­sist­ence of Mr. Fowl­er.""That was it, sir.""But Mr. Fowl­er be­ing a per­sever­ing man, as a good sea­man should be, block­aded the house, and hav­ing met you suc­ceeded by cer­tain ar­gu­ments, metal­lic or oth­er­wise, in con­vin­cing you that your in­terests were the same as his.""Mr. Fowl­er was a very kind-spoken, free-handed gen­tle­man," said Mrs. Toller se­renely."And in this way he man­aged that your good man should have no want of drink, and that a lad­der should be ready at the mo­ment when your mas­ter had gone out.""You have it, sir, just as it happened.""I am sure we owe you an apo­logy, Mrs. Toller," said Holmes, "for you have cer­tainly cleared up everything which puzzled us. And here comes the coun­try sur­geon and Mrs. Ru­castle, so I think. Wat­son, that we had best es­cort Miss Hunter back to Winchester, as it seems to me that our locus standi now is rather a ques­tion­able one."And thus was solved the mys­tery of the sin­is­ter house with the cop­per beeches in front of the door. Mr. Ru­castle sur­vived, but was al­ways a broken man, kept alive solely through the care of his de­voted wife. They still live with their old ser­vants, who prob­ably know so mUch of Ru­castle’s past life that he finds it dif­fi­cult to part from them. Mr. Fowl­er and Miss Ru­castle were mar­ried, by spe­cial li­cense, in Southamp­ton the day after their flight, and he is now the hold­er of a gov­ern­ment ap­point­ment in the is­land of Maur­i­ti­us. As to Miss Vi­ol­et Hunter, my friend Holmes, rather to my dis­ap­point­ment, mani­fes­ted no fur­ther in­terest in her when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his prob­lems, and she is now the head of a private school at Walsall, where I be­lieve that she has met with con­sid­er­able suc­cess.

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