The Man with the Twisted Lip

Isa Whit­ney, broth­er of the late Eli­as Whit­ney, D.D., Prin­cip­al of the Theo­lo­gic­al Col­lege of St. George’s, was much ad­dicted to opi­um. The habit grew upon him, as I un­der­stand, from some fool­ish freak when he was at col­lege; for hav­ing read De Quin­cey’s de­scrip­tion of his dreams and sen­sa­tions, he had drenched his to­bacco with laudan­um in an at­tempt to pro­duce the same ef­fects. He found, as so many more have done, that the prac­tice is easi­er to at­tain than to get rid of, and for many years he con­tin­ued to be a slave to the drug, an ob­ject of mingled hor­ror and pity to his friends and re­l­at­ives. I can see him now, with yel­low, pasty face, droop­ing lids, and pin-point pu­pils, all huddled in a chair, the wreck and ru­in of a noble man.One night – it was in June, ’89 – there came a ring to my bell, about the hour when a man gives his first yawn and glances at the clock. I sat up in my chair, and my wife laid her needle-work down in her lap and made a little face of dis­ap­point­ment.”A pa­tient!” said she. “You’ll have to go out.”I groaned, for I was newly come back from a weary day.We heard the door open, a few hur­ried words, and then quick steps upon the li­no­leum. Our own door flew open, and a lady, clad in some dark-col­oured stuff, with a black veil, entered the room.”You will ex­cuse my call­ing so late,” she began, and then, sud­denly los­ing her self-con­trol, she ran for­ward, threw her arms about my wife’s neck, and sobbed upon her shoulder. “Oh, I’m in such trouble!” she cried; “I do so want a little help.””Why,” said my wife, pulling up her veil, “it is Kate Whit­ney. How you startled me, Kate! I had not an idea who you were when you came in.””I didn’t know what to do, so l came straight to you.” That was al­ways the way. Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house.”It was very sweet of you to come. Now, you must have some wine and wa­ter, and sit here com­fort­ably and tell us all about it. Or should you rather that I sent James off to bed?””Oh, no, no! I want the doc­tor’s ad­vice and help, too. It’s about Isa. He has not been home for two days. I am so frightened about him!”It was not the first time that she had spoken to us of her hus­band’s trouble, to me as a doc­tor, to my wife as an old friend and school com­pan­ion. We soothed and com­for­ted her by such words as we could find. Did she know where her hus­band was? Was it pos­sible that we could bring him back to her?It seems that it was. She had the surest in­form­a­tion that of late he had, when the fit was on him, made use of an opi­um den in the farthest east of the City. Hitherto his or­gies had al­ways been confined to one day, and he had come back, twitch­ing and shattered, in the even­ing. But now the spell had been upon him eight-and-forty hours, and he lay there, doubt­less among the dregs of the docks, breath­ing in the pois­on or sleep­ing off the ef­fects. There he was to be found, she was sure of it, at the Bar of Gold, in Up­per Swan­dam Lane. But what was she to do? How could she, a young and tim­id wo­man, make her way in­to such a place and pluck her hus­band out from among the ruf­fi­ans who sur­roun­ded him?There was the case, and of course there was but one way out of it. Might I not es­cort her to this place? And then, as a second thought, why should she come at all? I was Isa Whit­ney’s med­ic­al ad­viser, and as such I had influence over him. I could man­age it bet­ter if I were alone. I prom­ised her on my word that I would send him home in a cab with­in two hours if he were in­deed at the ad­dress which she had giv­en me. And so in ten minutes I had left my arm­chair and cheery sit­ting-room be­hind me, and was speed­ing east­ward in a hansom on a strange er­rand, as it seemed to me at the time, though the fu­ture only could show how strange it was to be.But there was no great dif­fi­culty in the first stage of my ad­ven­ture. Up­per Swan­dam Lane is a vile al­ley lurk­ing be­hind the high wharves which line the north side of the river to the east of Lon­don Bridge. Between a slop-shop and a gin-shop, ap­proached by a steep flight of steps lead­ing down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave, I found the den of which I was in search. Or­der­ing my cab to wait, I passed down the steps, worn hol­low in the centre by the cease­less tread of drunk­en feet; and by the light of a flickering oil-lamp above the door I found the latch and made my way in­to a long, low room, thick and heavy with the brown opi­um smoke, and ter­raced with wooden berths, like the fore­castle of an emig­rant ship.Through the gloom one could dimly catch a glimpse of bod­ies ly­ing in strange fant­ast­ic poses, bowed shoulders, bent knees, heads thrown back, and chins point­ing up­ward, with here and there a dark, lack-lustre eye turned upon the new­comer. Out of the black shad­ows there glimmered little red circles of light, now bright, now faint, as the burn­ing pois­on waxed or waned in the bowls of the met­al pipes. The most lay si­lent, but some muttered to them­selves, and oth­ers talked to­geth­er in a strange, low, mono­ton­ous voice, their con­ver­sa­tion com­ing in gushes, and then sud­denly tail­ing off in­to si­lence, each mum­bling out his own thoughts and pay­ing little heed to the words of his neigh­bour. At the farther end was a small bra­zi­er of burn­ing char­coal, be­side which on a three-legged wooden stool there sat a tall, thin old man, with his jaw rest­ing upon his two fists, and his el­bows upon his knees, star­ing in­to the fire.As I entered, a sal­low Malay at­tend­ant had hur­ried up with a pipe for me and a sup­ply of the drug, beck­on­ing me to an empty berth.”Thank you. I have not come to stay,” said I. “There is a friend of mine here, Mr. Isa Whit­ney, and I wish to speak with him.”There was a move­ment and an ex­clam­a­tion from my right, and peer­ing through the gloom I saw Whit­ney, pale, hag­gard, and un­kempt, star­ing out at me.”My God! It’s Wat­son,” said he. He was in a pi­ti­able state of re­ac­tion, with every nerve in a twit­ter. “I say, Wat­son, what o’clock is it?””Nearly el­ev­en.””Of what day?””Of Fri­day, June 19th.””Good heav­ens! I thought it was Wed­nes­day. It is Wed­nes­day. What d’you want to fright­en the chap for?” He sank his face onto his arms and began to sob in a high treble key.”I tell you that it is Fri­day, man. Your wife has been wait­ing this two days for you. You should be ashamed of your­self!””So I am. But you’ve got mixed, Wat­son, for I have only been here a few hours, three pipes, four pipes – I for­get how many. But I’ll go home with you. I wouldn’t fright­en Kate -poor little Kate. Give me your hand! Have you a cab?””Yes, I have one wait­ing.””Then I shall go in it. But I must owe something. Find what I owe, Wat­son. I am all off col­our. I can do noth­ing for my­self.”I walked down the nar­row pas­sage between the double row of sleep­ers, hold­ing my breath to keep out the vile, stu­pefy­ing fumes of the drug, and look­ing about for the man­ager. As I passed the tall man who sat by the bra­zi­er I felt a sud­den pluck at my skirt, and a low voice whispered, “Walk past me, and then look back at me.” The words fell quite dis­tinctly upon my ear. I glanced down. They could only have come from the old man at my side, and yet he sat now as ab­sorbed as ever, very thin, very wrinkled, bent with age, an opi­um pipe dangling down from between his knees, as though it had dropped in sheer las­sit­ude from his fingers. I took two steps for­ward and looked back. It took all my self-con­trol to pre­vent me from break­ing out in­to a cry of as­ton­ish­ment. He had turned his back so that none could see him but I. His form had filled out, his wrinkles were gone, the dull eyes had re­gained their fire, and there, sit­ting by the fire and grin­ning at my sur­prise, was none oth­er than Sher­lock Holmes. He made a slight mo­tion to me to ap­proach him, and in­stantly, as he turned his face half round to the com­pany once more, sub­sided in­to a dod­der­ing, loose-lipped senil­ity.”Holmes!” I whispered, “what on earth are you do­ing in this den?””As low as you can,” he answered; “I have ex­cel­lent ears. If you would have the great kind­ness to get rid of that sot­tish friend of yours I should be ex­ceed­ingly glad to have a little talk with you.’”I have a cab out­side.””Then pray send him home in it. You may safely trust him, for he ap­pears to be too limp to get in­to any mis­chief. I should re­com­mend you also to send a note by the cab­man to your wife to say that you have thrown in your lot with me. If you will wait out­side, I shall be with you in five minutes.”It was dif­fi­cult to re­fuse any of Sher­lock Holmes’s re­quests, for they were al­ways so ex­ceed­ingly definite, and put for­ward with such a quiet air of mas­tery. I felt, however, that when Whit­ney was once confined in the cab my mis­sion was prac­tic­ally ac­com­plished; and for the rest, I could not wish any­thing bet­ter than to be as­so­ci­ated with my friend in one of those sin­gu­lar ad­ven­tures which were the nor­mal con­di­tion of his ex­ist­ence. In a few minutes I had writ­ten my note, paid Whit­ney’s bill, led him out to the cab, and seen him driv­en through the dark­ness. In a very short time a de­crep­it figure had emerged from the opi­um den, and I was walk­ing down the street with Sher­lock Holmes. For two streets he shuffled along with a bent back and an un­cer­tain foot. Then, glan­cing quickly round, he straightened him­self out and burst in­to a hearty fit of laughter.”I sup­pose, Wat­son,” said he, “that you ima­gine that I have ad­ded opi­um-smoking to co­caine in­jec­tions, and all the oth­er little weak­nesses on which you have fa­voured me with your med­ic­al views.””I was cer­tainly sur­prised to find you there.””But not more so than I to find you.””I came to find a friend.””And I to find an en­emy.””An en­emy?””Yes; one of my nat­ur­al en­emies, or, shall I say, my nat­ur­al prey. Briefly, Wat­son, I am in the midst of a very re­mark­able in­quiry, and I have hoped to find a clue in the in­co­her­ent ram­blings of these sots, as I have done be­fore now. Had I been re­cog­nized in that den my life would not have been worth an hour’s pur­chase; for I have used it be­fore now for my own pur­poses, and the ras­cally las­car who runs it has sworn to have ven­geance upon me. There is a trap-door at the back of that build­ing, near the corner of Paul’s Wharf, which could tell some strange tales of what has passed through it upon the moon­less nights.””What! You do not mean bod­ies?””Ay, bod­ies, Wat­son. We should be rich men if we had 1000 pounds for every poor dev­il who has been done to death in that den. It is the vilest murder-trap on the whole river­side, and I fear that Neville St. Clair has entered it nev­er to leave it more. But our trap should be here.” He put his two forefingers between his teeth and whistled shrilly – a sig­nal which was answered by a sim­il­ar whistle from the dis­tance, fol­lowed shortly by the rattle of wheels and the clink of horses’ hoofs.”Now, Wat­son,” said Holmes, as a tall dog-cart dashed up through the gloom, throw­ing out two golden tun­nels of yel­low light from its side lan­terns. “You’ll come with me, won’t you?”If I can be of use.””Oh, a trusty com­rade is al­ways of use; and a chron­icler still more so. My room at The Ce­dars is a double-bed­ded one.””The Ce­dars?””Yes; that is Mr. St. Clair’s house. I am stay­ing there while I con­duct the in­quiry.””Where is it, then?””Near Lee, in Kent. We have a sev­en-mile drive be­fore us.””But I am all in the dark.””Of course you are. You’ll know all about it presently. Jump up here. All right, John; we shall not need you. Here’s half a crown. Look out for me to-mor­row, about el­ev­en. Give her her head. So long, then!”He flicked the horse with his whip, and we dashed away through the end­less suc­ces­sion of sombre and deser­ted streets, which widened gradu­ally, un­til we were flying across a broad bal­us­traded bridge, with the murky river flowing slug­gishly be­neath us. Bey­ond lay an­oth­er dull wil­der­ness of bricks and mor­tar, its si­lence broken only by the heavy, reg­u­lar foot­fall of the po­lice­man, or the songs and shouts of some be­lated party of rev­el­lers. A dull wrack was drift­ing slowly across the sky, and a star or two twinkled dimly here and there through the rifts of the clouds. Holmes drove in si­lence, with his head sunk upon his breast, and the air of a man who is lost in thought, while I sat be­side him, curi­ous to learn what this new quest might be which seemed to tax his powers so sorely, and yet afraid to break in upon the cur­rent of his thoughts. We had driv­en sev­er­al miles, and were be­gin­ning to get to the fringe of the belt of sub­urb­an vil­las, when he shook him­self, shrugged his shoulders, and lit up his pipe with the air of a man who has satisfied him­self that he is act­ing for the best.”You have a grand gift of si­lence, Wat­son,” said he. “It makes you quite in­valu­able as a com­pan­ion. ’Pon my word, it is a great thing for me to have someone to talk to, for my own thoughts are not over-pleas­ant. I was won­der­ing what I should say to this dear little wo­man to-night when she meets me at the door.””You for­get that I know noth­ing about it.””I shall just have time to tell you the facts of the case be­fore we get to Lee. It seems ab­surdly simple, and yet, some­how I can get noth­ing to go upon. There’s plenty of thread, no doubt, but I can’t get the end of it in­to my hand. Now, I’ll state the case clearly and con­cisely to you, Wat­son, and maybe you can see a spark where all is dark to me.””Pro­ceed, then.””Some years ago – to be definite, in May, 1884 – there came to Lee a gen­tle­man, Neville St. Clair by name, who ap­peared to have plenty of money. He took a large villa, laid out the grounds very nicely, and lived gen­er­ally in good style. By de­grees he made friends in the neigh­bour­hood, and in 1887 he mar­ried the daugh­ter of a loc­al brew­er, by whom he now has two chil­dren. He had no oc­cu­pa­tion, but was in­ter­ested in sev­er­al com­pan­ies and went in­to town as a rule in the morn­ing, re­turn­ing by the 5:14 from Can­non Street every night. Mr. St. Clair is now thirty-sev­en years of age, is a man of tem­per­ate habits, a good hus­band, a very af­fec­tion­ate fath­er, and a man who is pop­u­lar with all who know him. I may add that his whole debts at the present mo­ment, as far as we have been able to as­cer­tain amount to 88 pounds lOs., while he has 220 pounds stand­ing to his cred­it in the Cap­it­al and Counties Bank. There is no reas­on, there­fore, to think that money troubles have been weigh­ing upon his mind.”Last Monday Mr. Neville St. Clair went in­to town rather earli­er than usu­al, re­mark­ing be­fore he star­ted that he had two im­port­ant com­mis­sions to per­form, and that he would bring his little boy home a box of bricks. Now, by the merest chance, his wife re­ceived a tele­gram upon this same Monday, very shortly after his de­par­ture, to the ef­fect that a small par­cel of con­sid­er­able value which she had been ex­pect­ing was wait­ing for her at the of­fices of the Ab­er­deen Ship­ping Com­pany. Now, if you are well up in your Lon­don, you will know that the of­fice of the com­pany is in Fresno Street, which branches out of Up­per Swan­dam Lane, where you found me to-night. Mrs. St. Clair had her lunch, star­ted for the City, did some shop­ping, pro­ceeded to the com­pany’s of­fice, got her pack­et, and found her­self at ex­actly 4:35 walk­ing through Swan­dam Lane on her way back to the sta­tion. Have you fol­lowed me so far?””It is very clear.””lf you re­mem­ber, Monday was an ex­ceed­ingly hot day, and Mrs. St. Clair walked slowly, glan­cing about in the hope of see­ing a cab, as she did not like the neigh­bour­hood in which she found her­self. While she was walk­ing in this way down Swan­dam Lane, she sud­denly heard an ejac­u­la­tion or cry, and was struck cold to see her hus­band look­ing down at her and, as it seemed to her, beck­on­ing to her from a second-floor win­dow. The win­dow was open, and she dis­tinctly saw his face, which she de­scribes as be­ing ter­ribly agit­ated. He waved his hands frantic­ally to her, and then van­ished from the win­dow so sud­denly that it seemed to her that he had been plucked back by some ir­res­ist­ible force from be­hind. One sin­gu­lar point which struck her quick fem­in­ine eye was that al­though he wore some dark coat, such as he had star­ted to town in, he had on neither col­lar nor neck­tie.”Con­vinced that something was amiss with him, she rushed down the steps – for the house was none oth­er than the opi­um den in which you found me to-night – and run­ning through the front room she at­temp­ted to as­cend the stairs which led to the first floor. At the foot of the stairs, however, she met this las­car scoun­drel of whom I have spoken, who thrust her back and, aided by a Dane, who acts as as­sist­ant there, pushed her out in­to the street. Filled with the most mad­den­ing doubts and fears, she rushed down the lane and, by rare good-for­tune, met in Fresno Street a num­ber of con­stables with an in­spect­or, all on their way to their beat. The in­spect­or and two men ac­com­pan­ied her back, and in spite of the con­tin­ued res­ist­ance of the pro­pri­et­or, they made their way to the room in which Mr. St. Clair had last been seen. There was no sign of him there. In fact, in the whole of that floor there was no one to be found save a crippled wretch of hideous as­pect, who, it seems, made his home there. Both he and the las­car stoutly swore that no one else had been in the front room dur­ing the af­ter­noon. So de­term­ined was their deni­al that the in­spect­or was staggered, and had al­most come to be­lieve that Mrs. St. Clair had been de­luded when, with a cry, she sprang at a small deal box which lay upon the ta­ble and tore the lid from it. Out there fell a cas­cade of chil­dren’s bricks. It was the toy which he had prom­ised to bring home.”This dis­cov­ery, and the evid­ent con­fu­sion which the cripple showed, made the in­spect­or real­ize that the mat­ter was ser­i­ous. The rooms were care­fully ex­amined, and res­ults all poin­ted to an ab­om­in­able crime. The front room was plainly fur­nished as a sit­ting-room and led in­to a small bed­room, which looked out upon the back of one of the wharves. Between the wharf and the bed­room win­dow is a nar­row strip, which is dry at low tide but is covered at high tide with at least four and a half feet of wa­ter. The bed­room win­dow was a broad one and opened from be­low. On ex­am­in­a­tion traces of blood were to be seen upon the win­dowsill, and sev­er­al scattered drops were vis­ible upon the wooden floor of the bed­room. Thrust away be­hind a cur­tain in the front room were all the clothes of Mr. Neville St. Clair, with the ex­cep­tion of his coat. His boots, his socks, his hat, and his watch – all were there. There were no signs of vi­ol­ence upon any of these gar­ments, and there were no oth­er traces of Mr. Neville St. Clair. Out of the win­dow he must ap­par­ently have gone for no oth­er exit could be dis­covered, and the omin­ous blood­stains upon the sill gave little prom­ise that he could save him­self by swim­ming, for the tide was at its very highest at the mo­ment of the tragedy.”And now as to the vil­lains who seemed to be immed­lately im­plic­ated in the mat­ter. The las­car was known to be a man of the vilest ante­cedents, but as, by Mrs. St. Clair’s story, he was known to have been at the foot of the stair with­in a very few seconds of her hus­band’s ap­pear­ance at the win­dow, he could hardly have been more than an ac­cess­ory to the crime. His de­fense was one of ab­so­lute ig­nor­ance, and he pro­tested that he had no know­ledge as to the do­ings of Hugh Boone, his lodger, and that he could not ac­count in any way for the pres­ence of the miss­ing gen­tle­man’s clothes.”So much for the las­car man­ager. Now for the sin­is­ter cripple who lives upon the second floor of the opi­um den, and who was cer­tainly the last hu­man be­ing whose eyes res­ted upon Neville St. Clair. His name is Hugh Boone, and his hideous face is one which is fa­mil­i­ar to every man who goes much to the City. He is a pro­fes­sion­al beg­gar, though in or­der to avoid the po­lice reg­u­la­tions he pre­tends to a small trade in wax ves­tas. Some little dis­tance down Thread­needle Street. upon the left-hand side, there is, as you may have re­marked, a small angle in the wall. Here it is that this creature takes his daily seat, cross-legged with his tiny stock of matches on his lap, and as he is a piteous spec­tacle a small rain of char­ity des­cends in­to the greasy leath­er cap which lies upon the pave­ment be­side him. I have watched the fel­low more than once be­fore ever I thought of mak­ing his pro­fes­sion­al ac­quaint­ance, and I have been sur­prised at the har­vest which he has reaped in a short time. His ap­pear­ance, you see, is so re­mark­able that no one can pass him without ob­serving him. A shock of or­ange hair, a pale face disfigured by a hor­rible scar, which, by its con­trac­tion, has turned up the out­er edge of his up­per lip, a bull­dog chin, and a pair of very pen­et­rat­ing dark eyes, which present a sin­gu­lar con­trast to the col­our of his hair, all mark him out from amid the com­mon crowd of men­dic­ants and so, too, does his wit, for he is ever ready with a reply to any piece of chaff which may be thrown at him by the pass­ers-by. This is the man whom we now learn to have been the lodger at the opi­um den, and to have been the last man to see the gen­tle­man of whom we are in quest.””But a cripple!” said I. “What could he have done single­han­ded against a man in the prime of life?””He is a cripple in the sense that he walks with a limp; but in oth­er re­spects he ap­pears to be a power­ful and well-nur­tured man. Surely your med­ic­al ex­per­i­ence would tell you, Wat­son, that weak­ness in one limb is of­ten com­pensated for by ex­cep­tion­al strength in the oth­ers.””Pray con­tin­ue your nar­rat­ive.””Mrs. St. Clair had fain­ted at the sight of the blood upon the win­dow, and she was es­cor­ted home in a cab by the po­lice, as her pres­ence could be of no help to them in their in­vest­ig­a­tions. In­spect­or Bar­ton, who had charge of the case, made a very care­ful ex­am­in­a­tion of the premises, but without finding any­thing which threw any light upon the mat­ter. One mis­take had been made in not ar­rest­ing Boone in­stantly, as he was al­lowed some few minutes dur­ing which he might have com­mu­nic­ated with his friend the las­car, but this fault was soon remedied, and he was seized and searched, without any­thing be­ing found which could in­crim­in­ate him. There were, it is true, some blood-stains upon his right shirt-sleeve, but he poin­ted to his ring-finger, which had been cut near the nail, and ex­plained that the bleed­ing came from there, adding that he had been to the win­dow not long be­fore, and that the stains which had been ob­served there came doubt­less from the same source. He denied strenu­ously hav­ing ever seen Mr. Neville St. Clair and swore that the pres­ence of the clothes in his room was as much a mys­tery to him as to the po­lice. As to Mrs. St. Clair’s as­ser­tion that she had ac­tu­ally seen her hus­band at the win­dow, he de­clared that she must have been either mad or dream­ing. He was re­moved, loudly protest­ing, to the po­lice-sta­tion, while the in­spect­or re­mained upon the premises in the hope that the ebbing tide might af­ford some fresh clue.”And it did, though they hardly found upon the mud-bank what they had feared to find. It was Neville St. Clair’s coat, and not Neville St. Clair, which lay un­covered as the tide re­ceded. And what do you think they found in the pock­ets?””I can­not ima­gine.””No, I don’t think you would guess. Every pock­et stuffed with pen­nies and half-pen­nies – 421 pen­nies and 270 half-pen­nies. It was no won­der that it had not been swept away by the tide. But a hu­man body is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. There is a fierce eddy between the wharf and the house. It seemed likely enough that the weighted coat had re­mained when the stripped body had been sucked away in­to the river.””But I un­der­stand that all the oth­er clothes were found in the room. Would the body be dressed in a coat alone?””No, sir, but the facts might be met spe­ciously enough. Sup­pose that this man Boone had thrust Neville St. Clair through the win­dow, there is no hu­man eye which could have seen the deed. What would he do then? It would of course in­stantly strike him that he must get rid of the tell-tale gar­ments. He would seize the coat, then, and be in the act of throw­ing it out, when it would oc­cur to him that it would swim and not sink. He has little time, for he has heard the scuffle down­stairs when the wife tried to force her way up, and per­haps he has already heard from his las­car con­fed­er­ate that the po­lice are hur­ry­ing up the street. There is not an in­stant to be lost. He rushes to some secret hoard, where he has ac­cu­mu­lated the fruits of his beg­gary, and he stuffs all the coins upon which he can lay his hands in­to the pock­ets to make sure of the coat’s sink­ing. He throws it out, and would have done the same with the oth­er gar­ments had not he heard the rush of steps be­low, and only just had time to close the win­dow when the po­lice ap­peared.””It cer­tainly sounds feas­ible.””Well, we will take it as a work­ing hy­po­thes­is for want of a bet­ter. Boone, as I have told you, was ar­res­ted and taken to the sta­tion, but it could not be shown that there had ever be­fore been any­thing against him. He had for years been known as a pro­fes­sion­al beg­gar, but his life ap­peared to have been a very quiet and in­no­cent one. There the mat­ter stands at present, and the ques­tions which have to be solved – what Neville St. Clair was do­ing in the opi­um den, what happened to him when there, where is he now, and what Hugh Boone had to do with his dis­ap­pear­ance -are all as far from a solu­tion as ever. I con­fess that I can­not re­call any case with­in my ex­per­i­ence which looked at the first glance so simple and yet which presen­ted such dif­fi­culties.”While Sher­lock Holmes had been de­tail­ing this sin­gu­lar series of events, we had been whirl­ing through the out­skirts of the great town un­til the last strag­gling houses had been left be­hind, and we rattled along with a coun­try hedge upon either side of us. Just as he finished, however, we drove through two scattered vil­lages, where a few lights still glimmered in the win­dows.”We are on the out­skirts of Lee,” said my com­pan­ion. “We have touched on three Eng­lish counties in our short drive. start­ing in Middle­sex, passing over an angle of Sur­rey, and end­ing in Kent. See that light among the trees? That is The Ce­dars, and be­side that lamp sits a wo­man whose anxious ears have already, I have little doubt, caught the clink of our horse’s feet.””But why are you not con­duct­ing the case from Baker Street?” I asked.”Be­cause there are many in­quir­ies which must be made out here. Mrs. St. Clair has most kindly put two rooms at my dis­pos­al, and you may rest as­sured that she will have noth­ing but a wel­come for my friend and col­league. I hate to meet her, Wat­son, when I have no news of her hus­band. Here we are. Whoa, there, whoa!”We had pulled up in front of a large villa which stood with­in its own grounds. A stable-boy had run out to the horse’s head, and spring­ing down I fol­lowed Holmes up the small, wind­ing gravel-drive which led to the house. As we ap­proached, the door flew open, and a little blonde wo­man stood in the open­ing, clad in some sort of light mous­seline de soie, with a touch of fluffy pink chif­fon at her neck and wrists. She stood with her figure out­lined against the flood of light, one hand upon the door, one half-raised in her eager­ness, her body slightly bent, her head and face pro­truded, with eager eyes and par­ted lips, a stand­ing ques­tion.”Well?” she cried, “well?” And then, see­ing that there were two of us, she gave a cry of hope which sank in­to a groan as she saw that my com­pan­ion shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.”No good news?””None.””No bad?””No.””Thank God for that. But come in. You must be weary, for you have had a long day.””This is my friend, Dr. Wat­son. He has been of most vi­tal use to me in sev­er­al of my cases, and a lucky chance has made it pos­sible for me to bring him out and as­so­ciate him with this in­vest­ig­a­tion.””I am de­lighted to see you,” said she, press­ing my hand warmly. “You will, I am sure, for­give any­thing that may be want­ing in our ar­range­ments, when you con­sider the blow which has come so sud­denly upon us.””My dear madam,” said I, “I am an old cam­paign­er, and if I were not I can very well see that no apo­logy is needed. If I can be of any as­sist­ance, either to you or to my friend here, I shall be in­deed happy.””Now, Mr. Sher­lock Holmes,” said the lady as we entered a well-lit din­ing-room, upon the ta­ble of which a cold sup­per had been laid out, “I should very much like to ask you one or two plain ques­tions, to which I beg that you will give a plain an­swer.””Cer­tainly, madam.””Do not trouble about my feel­ings. I am not hys­ter­ic­al, nor giv­en to faint­ing. I simply wish to hear your real, real opin­ion.””Upon what point?””In your heart of hearts, do you think that Neville is alive?”Sher­lock Holmes seemed to be em­bar­rassed by the ques­tion. “Frankly, now!” she re­peated, stand­ing upon the rug and look­ing keenly down at him as he leaned back in a bas­ket-chair.”Frankly, then, madam, I do not.””You think that he is dead?””I do.””Murdered?””I don’t say that. Per­haps.””And on what day did he meet his death?””On Monday.””Then per­haps, Mr. Holmes, you will be good enough to ex­plain how it is that I have re­ceived a let­ter from him to-day.”Sher­lock Holmes sprang out of his chair as if he had been gal­van­ized.”What!” he roared.”Yes, to-day.” She stood smil­ing, hold­ing up a little slip of pa­per in the air.”May I see it?””Cer­tainly.”He snatched it from her in his eager­ness, and smooth­ing it out upon the ta­ble he drew over the lamp and ex­amined it in­tently. I had left my chair and was gaz­ing at it over his shoulder. The en­vel­ope was a very coarse one and was stamped with the Gravesend post­mark and with the date of that very day, or rather of the day be­fore, for it was con­sid­er­ably after mid­night.”Coarse writ­ing,” mur­mured Holmes. “Surely this is not your hus­band’s writ­ing, madam.””No, but the en­clos­ure is.””I per­ceive also that who­ever ad­dressed the en­vel­ope had to go and in­quire as to the ad­dress.””How can you tell that?””The name, you see, is in per­fectly black ink, which has dried it­self. The rest is of the gray­ish col­our, which shows that blot­ting­pa­per has been used. If it had been writ­ten straight off, and then blot­ted, none would be of a deep black shade. This man has writ­ten the name, and there has then been a pause be­fore he wrote the ad­dress, which can only mean that he was not fa­mil­i­ar with it. It is, of course, a trifle, but there is noth­ing so im­port­ant as trifles. Let us now see the let­ter. Ha! there has been an en­clos­ure here!””Yes, there was a ring. His signet-ring.””And you are sure that this is your hus­band’s hand?””One of his hands.””One?””His hand when he wrote hur­riedly. It is very un­like his usu­al writ­ing, and yet I know it well.””Dearest do not be frightened. All will come well. There is a huge er­ror which it may take some little time to rec­ti­fy. Wait in pa­tience.”Neville.Writ­ten in pen­cil upon the fly-leaf of a book, octavo size, no wa­ter-mark. Hum! Pos­ted to-day in Gravesend by a man with a dirty thumb. Ha! And the flap has been gummed, if I am not very much in er­ror, by a per­son who had been chew­ing to­bacco. And you have no doubt that it is your hus­band’s hand, madam?””None. Neville wrote those words.””And they were pos­ted to-day at Gravesend. Well, Mrs. St. Clair, the clouds light­en, though I should not ven­ture to say that the danger is over.””But he must be alive, Mr. Holmes.””Un­less this is a clev­er for­gery to put us on the wrong scent. The ring, after all, proves noth­ing. It may have been taken from him.”No, no; it is, it is his very own writ­ing!””Very well. It may, however, have been writ­ten on Monday and only pos­ted to-day.””That is pos­sible.””If so, much may have happened between.””Oh, you must not dis­cour­age me, Mr. Holmes. I know that all is well with him. There is so keen a sym­pathy between us that I should know if evil came upon him. On the very day that I saw him last he cut him­self in the bed­room, and yet I in the din­in­groom rushed up­stairs in­stantly with the ut­most cer­tainty that something had happened. Do you think that I would re­spond to such a trifle and yet be ig­nor­ant of his death?””I have seen too much not to know that the im­pres­sion of a wo­man may be more valu­able than the con­clu­sion of an ana­lyt­ic­al reason­er. And in this let­ter you cer­tainly have a very strong piece of evid­ence to cor­rob­or­ate your view. But if your hus­band is alive and able to write let­ters, why should he re­main away from you?””I can­not ima­gine. It is un­think­able.””And on Monday he made no re­marks be­fore leav­ing you?””No.””And you were sur­prised to see him in Swan­dam Lane?””Very much so.””Was the win­dow open?””Yes.””Then he might have called to you?””He might.””He only, as I un­der­stand, gave an in­ar­tic­u­late cry?””Yes.””A call for help, you thought?””Yes. He waved his hands.””But it might have been a cry of sur­prise. As­ton­ish­ment at the un­ex­pec­ted sight of you might cause him to throw up his hands?””It is pos­sible.””And you thought he was pulled back?””He dis­ap­peared so sud­denly.””He might have leaped back. You did not see any­one else in the room?””No, but this hor­rible man con­fessed to hav­ing been there, and the las­car was at the foot of the stairs.””Quite so. Your hus­band, as far as you could see, had his or­din­ary clothes on?””But without his col­lar or tie. I dis­tinctly saw his bare throat.””Had he ever spoken of Swan­dam Lane?””Nev­er.””Had he ever showed any signs of hav­ing taken opi­um?””Nev­er.””Thank you, Mrs. St. Clair. Those are the prin­cip­al points about which I wished to be ab­so­lutely clear. We shall now have a little sup­per and then re­tire, for we may have a very busy day to-mor­row.”A large and com­fort­able double-bed­ded room had been placed at our dis­pos­al, and I was quickly between the sheets, for I was weary after my night of ad­ven­ture. Sher­lock Holmes was a man, however, who, when he had an un­solved prob­lem upon his mind, would go for days, and even for a week, without rest, turn­ing it over, re­arran­ging his facts, look­ing at it from every point of view un­til he had either fathomed it or con­vinced him­self that his data were in­suf­fi­cient. It was soon evid­ent to me that he was now pre­par­ing for an all-night sit­ting. He took off his coat and waist­coat, put on a large blue dress­ing-gown, and then wandered about the room col­lect­ing pil­lows from his bed and cush­ions from the sofa and arm­chairs. With these he con­struc­ted a sort of East­ern di­van, upon which he perched him­self cross­legged, with an ounce of shag to­bacco and a box of matches laid out in front of him. In the dim light of the lamp I saw him sit­ting there, an old bri­ar pipe between his lips, his eyes fixed va­cantly upon the corner of the ceil­ing, the blue smoke curl­ing up from him, si­lent, mo­tion­less, with the light shin­ing upon his strong-set aquil­ine fea­tures. So he sat as I dropped off to sleep, and so he sat when a sud­den ejac­u­la­tion caused me to wake up, and I found the sum­mer sun shin­ing in­to the apart­ment. The pipe was still between his lips, the smoke still curled up­ward, and the room was full of a dense to­bacco haze, but noth­ing re­mained of the heap of shag which I had seen upon the pre­vi­ous night.”Awake, Wat­son?” he asked.”Yes.””Game for a morn­ing drive?””Cer­tainly.””Then dress. No one is stir­ring yet, but I know where the stable-boy sleeps, and we shall soon have the trap out.” He chuckled to him­self as he spoke, his eyes twinkled, and he seemed a dif­fer­ent man to the sombre thinker of the pre­vi­ous night.As I dressed I glanced at my watch. It was no won­der that no one was stir­ring. It was twenty-five minutes past four. I had hardly finished when Holmes re­turned with the news that the boy was put­ting in the horse.”I want to test a little the­ory of mine,” said he, pulling on his boots. “I think, Wat­son, that you are now stand­ing in the pres­ence of one of the most ab­so­lute fools in Europe. I de­serve to be kicked from here to Char­ing Cross. But I think I have the key of the af­fair now.””And where is it?” I asked, smil­ing.”In the bath­room,” he answered. “Oh, yes, I am not jok­ing,” he con­tin­ued, see­ing my look of in­credu­lity. “I have just been there, and I have taken it out, and I have got it in this Glad­stone bag. Come on, my boy, and we shall see wheth­er it will not fit the lock.”We made our way down­stairs as quietly as pos­sible, and out in­to the bright morn­ing sun­shine. In the road stood our horse and trap, with the half-clad stable-boy wait­ing at the head. We both sprang in, and away we dashed down the Lon­don Road. A few coun­try carts were stir­ring, bear­ing in ve­get­ables to the met­ro­pol­is, but the lines of vil­las on either side were as si­lent and life­less as some city in a dream.”It has been in some points a sin­gu­lar case,” said Holmes, flicking the horse on in­to a gal­lop. “I con­fess that I have been as blind as a mole, but it is bet­ter to learn wis­dom late than nev­er to learn it at all.”In town the earli­est risers were just be­gin­ning to look sleepily from their win­dows as we drove through the streets of the Sur­rey side. Passing down the Wa­ter­loo Bridge Road we crossed over the river, and dash­ing up Wel­ling­ton Street wheeled sharply to the right and found ourselves in Bow Street. Sher­lock Holmes was well known to the force, and the two con­stables at the door sa­luted him. One of them held the horse’s head while the oth­er led us in.”Who is on duty?” asked Holmes.”In­spect­or Brad­street, sir.””Ah, Brad­street, how are you?” A tall, stout of­fi­cial had come down the stone-flagged pas­sage, in a peaked cap and frogged jack­et. “I wish to have a quiet word with you, Brad­street.” “Cer­tainly, Mr. Holmes. Step in­to my room here.” It was a small, of­fice-like room, with a huge ledger upon the ta­ble, and a tele­phone pro­ject­ing from the wall. The in­spect­or sat down at his desk.”What can I do for you, Mr. Holmes?””I called about that beg­gar­man, Boone – the one who was charged with be­ing con­cerned in the dis­ap­pear­ance of Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee.””Yes. He was brought up and re­manded for fur­ther in­quir­ies.””So I heard. You have him here?””In the cells.””Is he quiet?””Oh, he gives no trouble. But he is a dirty scoun­drel.””Dirty?””Yes, it is all we can do to make him wash his hands, and his face is as black as a tinker’s. Well, when once his case has been settled, he will have a reg­u­lar pris­on bath; and I think, if you saw him, you would agree with me that he needed it.””I should like to see him very much.””Would you? That is eas­ily done. Come this way. You can leave your bag.””No, I think that I’ll take it.””Very good. Come this way, if you please.” He led us down a pas­sage, opened a barred door, passed down a wind­ing stair, and brought us to a white­washed cor­ridor with a line of doors on each side.”The third on the right is his,” said the in­spect­or. “Here it is!” He quietly shot back a pan­el in the up­per part of the door and glanced through.”He is asleep,” said he. “You can see him very well.”We both put our eyes to the grat­ing. The pris­on­er lay with his face to­wards us, in a very deep sleep, breath­ing slowly and heav­ily. He was a middle-sized man, coarsely clad as be­came his call­ing, with a col­oured shirt pro­trud­ing through the rent in his tattered coat. He was, as the in­spect­or had said, ex­tremely dirty, but the grime which covered his face could not con­ceal its re­puls­ive ugli­ness. A broad wheal from an old scar ran right across it from eye to chin, and by its con­trac­tion had turned up one side of the up­per lip, so that three teeth were ex­posed in a per­petu­al snarl. A shock of very bright red hair grew low over his eyes and fore­head.”He’s a beauty, isn’t he?” said the in­spect­or.”He cer­tainly needs a wash,” re­marked Holmes. “I had an idea that he might, and I took the liberty of bring­ing the tools with me.” He opened the Glad­stone bag as he spoke, and took out, to my as­ton­ish­ment, a very large bath-sponge.”He! he! You are a funny one,” chuckled the in­spect­or.”Now, if you will have the great good­ness to open that door very quietly, we will soon make him cut a much more re­spect­able figure.””Well, I don’t know why not,” said the in­spect­or. “He doesn’t look a cred­it to the Bow Street cells, does he?” He slipped his key in­to the lock, and we all very quietly entered the cell. The sleep­er half turned, and then settled down once more in­to a deep slum­ber. Holmes stooped to the wa­ter­jug, moistened his sponge, and then rubbed it twice vig­or­ously across and down the pris­on­er’s face.”Let me in­tro­duce you,” he shouted, “to Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee, in the county of Kent.”Nev­er in my life have I seen such a sight. The man’s face peeled off un­der the sponge like the bark from a tree. Gone was the coarse brown tint! Gone, too, was the hor­rid scar which had seamed it across, and the twis­ted lip which had giv­en the re­puls­ive sneer to the face! A twitch brought away the tangled red hair, and there, sit­ting up in his bed, was a pale, sad-faced, refined-look­ing man, black-haired and smooth-skinned, rub­bing his eyes and star­ing about him with sleepy be­wil­der­ment. Then sud­denly real­iz­ing the ex­pos­ure, he broke in­to a scream and threw him­self down with his face to the pil­low.”Great heav­ens!” cried the in­spect­or, “it is, in­deed, the miss­ing man. I know him from the pho­to­graph.”The pris­on­er turned with the reck­less air of a man who aban­dons him­self to his des­tiny. “Be it so,” said he. “And pray what am I charged with?””With mak­ing away with Mr. Neville St. Oh, come, you can’t be charged with that un­less they make a case of at­temp­ted sui­cide of it,” said the in­spect­or with a grin. “Well, I have been twenty-sev­en years in the force, but this really takes the cake.””If I am Mr. Neville St. Clair, then it is ob­vi­ous that no crime has been com­mit­ted, and that, there­fore, I am il­leg­ally de­tained.””No crime, but a very great er­ror has been com­mit­ted,” said Holmes. “You would have done bet­ter to have trus­ted you wife.””It was not the wife; it was the chil­dren,” groaned the pris­on­er. “God help me, I would not have them ashamed of their fath­er. My God! What an ex­pos­ure! What can I do?”Sher­lock Holmes sat down be­side him on the couch and pat­ted him kindly on the shoulder.”If you leave it to a court of law to clear the mat­ter up,” said he, “of course you can hardly avoid pub­li­city. On the oth­er hand, if you con­vince the po­lice au­thor­it­ies that there is no pos­sible case against you, I do not know that there is any reas­oa that the de­tails should find their way in­to the pa­pers. In­spect­or Brad­street would, I am sure, make notes upon any­thing which you might tell us and sub­mit it to the prop­er au­thor­it­ies. The case would then nev­er go in­to court at all.””God bless you!” cried the pris­on­er pas­sion­ately. “I would have en­dured im­pris­on­ment, ay, even ex­e­cu­tion, rather than have left my miser­able secret as a fam­ily blot to my chil­dren.”You are the first who have ever heard my story. My fath­er was a school-mas­ter in Chesterfield, where I re­ceived an ex­cel-: lent edu­ca­tion. I trav­elled in my youth, took to the stage, and finally be­came a re­port­er on an even­ing pa­per in Lon­don. One day my ed­it­or wished to have a series of art­icles upon beg­ging in the met­ro­pol­is, and I vo­lun­teered to sup­ply them. There was the point from which all my ad­ven­tures star­ted. It was only by try­ing beg­ging as an am­a­teur that I could get the facts upon which to base my art­icles. When an act­or I had, of course, learned all the secrets of mak­ing up, and had been fam­ous in the green-room for my skill. I took ad­vant­age now of my at­tain­ments. I painted my face, and to make my­self as pi­ti­able as pos­sible I made a good scar and fixed one side of my lip in a twist by the aid of a small slip of flesh-col­oured plaster. Then with a red head of hair, and an ap­pro­pri­ate dress, I took my sta­tion in the busi­ness part of the city, os­tens­ibly as a match-seller but really as a beg­gar. For sev­en hours I plied my trade, and when I re­turned home in the even­ing I found to my sur­prise that I had re­ceived no less than 26s. 4d.”I wrote my art­icles and thought little more of the mat­ter un­til, some time later, I backed a bill for a friend and had a writ served upon me for 25 pounds. I was at my wit’s end where to get the money, but a sud­den idea came to me. I begged a fort­night’s grace from the cred­it­or, asked for a hol­i­day from my em­ploy­ers, and spent the time in beg­ging in the City un­der my dis­guise. In ten days I had the money and had paid the debt.”Well, you can ima­gine how hard it was to settle down to ar­du­ous work at 2 pounds a week when I knew that I could earn as much in a day by smear­ing my face with a little paint, lay­ing my cap on the ground, and sit­ting still. It was a long fight between my pride and the money, but the dol­lars won at last, and I threw up re­port­ing and sat day after day in the corner which I had first chosen, in­spir­ing pity by my ghastly face and filling my pock­ets with cop­pers. Only one man knew my secret. He was the keep­er of a low den in which I used to lodge in Swan­dam Lane, where I could every morn­ing emerge as a squal­id beg­gar and in the even­ings trans­form my­self in­to a well-dressed man about town. This fel­low, a las­car, was well paid by me for his rooms, so that I knew that my secret was safe in his pos­ses­sion.”Well, very soon I found that I was sav­ing con­sid­er­able sums of money. I do not mean that any beg­gar in the streets of Lon­don could earn 700 pounds a year – which is less than my av­er­age tak­ings -but I had ex­cep­tion­al ad­vant­ages in my power of mak­ing up, and also in a fa­cil­ity of re­partee, which im­proved by prac­tice and made me quite a re­cog­nized char­ac­ter in the City. All day a stream of pen­nies, var­ied by sil­ver, poured in upon me, and it was a very bad day in which I failed to take 2 pounds.”As I grew rich­er I grew more am­bi­tious, took a house in the coun­try, and even­tu­ally mar­ried, without any­one hav­ing a sus­pi­cion as to my real oc­cu­pa­tion. My dear wife knew that I had busi­ness in the City. She little knew what.”Last Monday I had finished for the day and was dress­ing in my room above the opi­um den when I looked out of my win­dow and saw, to my hor­ror and as­ton­ish­ment, that my wife was stand­ing in the street, with her eyes fixed full upon me. I gave a cry of sur­prise, threw up my arms to cov­er my face, and, rush­ing to my confidant, the las­car, en­treated him to pre­vent any­one from com­ing up to me. I heard her voice down­stairs, but I knew that she could not as­cend. Swiftly I threw off my clothes, pulled on those of a beg­gar, and put on my pig­ments and wig. Even a wife’s eyes could not pierce so com­plete a dis­guise. But then it oc­curred to me that there might be a search in the room, and that the clothes might be­tray me. I threw open the win­dow, re­open­ing by my vi­ol­ence a small cut which I had inflicted upon my­self in the bed­room that morn­ing. Then I seized my coat, which was weighted by the cop­pers which I had just trans­ferred to it from the leath­er bag in which I car­ried my tak­ings. I hurled it out of the win­dow, and it dis­appered in­to the Thames. The oth­er clothes would have fol­lowed, but at that mo­ment there was a rush of con­stables up the stair, and a few minutes after I found, rather, I con­fess, to my re­lief, that in­stead of be­ing identified as Mr. Neville St. Clair, I was ar­res­ted as his mur­der­er.”I do not know that there is any­thing else for me to ex­plain. I was de­term­ined to pre­serve my dis­guise as long as pos­sible, and hence my pref­er­ence for a dirty face. Know­ing that my wife would be ter­ribly anxious, I slipped off my ring and confided it to the las­car at a mo­ment when no con­stable was watch­ing me, to­geth­er with a hur­ried scrawl, telling her that she had no cause to fear.””That note only reached her yes­ter­day,” said Holmes.”Good God! What a week she must have spent!””The po­lice have watched this las­car,” said In­spect­or Brad­street, “and I can quite un­der­stand that he might find it dif­fi­cult to post a let­ter un­ob­served. Prob­ably he handed it to some sail­or cus­tom­er of his, who for­got all about it for some days.””That was it,” said Holmes, nod­ding ap­prov­ingly; “I have no doubt of it. But have you nev­er been pro­sec­uted for beg­ging?””Many times; but what was a fine to me?””It must stop here, however,” said Brad­street. “If the po­lice are to hush this thing up, there must be no more of Hugh Boone.””I have sworn it by the most sol­emn oaths which a man can take.””In that case I think that it is prob­able that no fur­ther steps may be taken. But if you are found again, then all must come out. I am sure, Mr. Holmes, that we are very moch in­debted to you for hav­ing cleared the mat­ter up. I wish I knew how you reach your res­ults.””I reached this one,” said my friend, “by sit­ting upon five pil­lows and con­sum­ing an ounce of shag. I think, Wat­son, that if we drive to Baker Street we shall just be in time for break­fast.”

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