The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet

“Holmes,” said I as I stood one morn­ing in our bow-win­dow look­ing down the street, “here is a mad­man com­ing along. It seems rather sad that his re­l­at­ives should al­low him to come out alone.”My friend rose lazily from his arm­chair and stood with his hands in the pock­ets of his dress­ing-gown, look­ing over my shoulder. It was a bright, crisp Feb­ru­ary morn­ing, and the snow of the day be­fore still lay deep upon the ground, shim­mer­ing brightly in the wintry sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed in­to a brown crumbly band by the traffic, but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it fell. The gray pave­ment had been cleaned and scraped, but was still dan­ger­ously slip­pery, so that there were few­er pas­sen­gers than usu­al. In­deed, from the dir­ec­tion of the Met­ro­pol­it­an Sta­tion no one was com­ing save the single gen­tle­man whose ec­cent­ric con­duct had drawn my at­ten­tion.He was a man of about fifty, tall, portly, and im­pos­ing, with a massive, strongly marked face and a com­mand­ing figure. He was dressed in a sombre yet rich style, in black frock-coat, shin­ing hat, neat brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-gray trousers. Yet his ac­tions were in ab­surd con­trast to the dig­nity of his dress and fea­tures, for he was run­ning hard, with oc­ca­sion­al little springs, such as a weary man gives who is little ac­cus­tomed to set any tax upon his legs. As he ran he jerked his hands up and down, waggled his head, and writhed his face in­to the most ex­traordin­ary con­tor­tions.”What on earth can be the mat­ter with him?” I asked. “He is look­ing up at the num­bers of the houses.””I be­lieve that he is com­ing here,” said Holmes, rub­bing his hands .”Here?””Yes; I rather think he is com­ing to con­sult me pro­fes­sion­ally. I think that I re­cog­nize the symp­toms. Ha! did I not tell you?” As he spoke, the man, puff­ing and blow­ing, rushed at our door and pulled at our bell un­til the whole house re­soun­ded with the clanging.A few mo­ments later he was in our room, still puff­ing, still ges­tic­u­lat­ing, but with so fixed a look of grief and des­pair in his eyes that our smiles were turned in an in­stant to hor­ror and pity. For a while he could not get his words out, but swayed his body and plucked at his hair like one who has been driv­en to the ex­treme lim­its of his reas­on. Then, sud­denly spring­ing to his feet, he beat his head against the wall with such force that we both rushed upon him and tore him away to the centre of the room. Sher­lock Holmes pushed him down in­to the easy-chair and, sit­ting be­side him, pat­ted his hand and chat­ted with him in the easy, sooth­ing tones which he knew so well how to em­ploy.”You have come to me to tell your story, have you not?” said he. “You are fa­tigued with your haste. Pray wait un­til you have re­covered your­self, and then I shall be most happy to look in­to any little prob­lem which you may sub­mit to me.”The man sat for a minute or more with a heav­ing chest, fighting against his emo­tion. Then he passed his handker­chief over his brow, set his lips tight, and turned his face to­wards us.”No doubt you think me mad?” said he.”I see that you have had some great trouble,” re­spon­ded Holmes.”Cod knows I have! – a trouble which is enough to un­seat my reas­on, so sud­den and so ter­rible is it. Pub­lic dis­grace I might have faced, al­though I am a man whose char­ac­ter has nev­er yet borne a stain. Private af­flic­tion also is the lot of every man; but the two com­ing to­geth­er, and in so fright­ful a form, have been enough to shake my very soul. Be­sides, it is not I alone. The very noblest in the land may suf­fer un­less some way be found out of this hor­rible af­fair.””Pray com­pose your­self, sir,” said Holmes, “and let me have a clear ac­count of who you are and what it is that has be­fallen you.””My name,” answered our vis­it­or, “is prob­ably fa­mil­i­ar to your ears. I am Al­ex­an­der Hold­er, of the bank­ing firm of Hold­er & Steven­son, of Thread­needle Street.”The name was in­deed well known to us as be­long­ing to the seni­or part­ner in the second largest private bank­ing con­cern in the City of Lon­don. What could have happened, then, to bring one of the fore­most cit­izens of Lon­don to this most pi­ti­able pass? We waited, all curi­os­ity, un­til with an­oth­er ef­fort he braced him­self to tell his story.”I feel that time is of value,” said he; “that is why I hastened here when the po­lice in­spect­or sug­ges­ted that I should se­cure your co­oper­a­tion. I came to Baker Street by the Un­der­ground and hur­ried from there on foot, for the cabs go slowly through this snow. That is why I was so out of breath, for I am a man who takes very little ex­er­cise. I feel bet­ter now, and I will put the facts be­fore you as shortly and yet as clearly as I can.”It is, of course, well known to you that in a suc­cess­ful bank­ing busi­ness as much de­pends upon our be­ing able to find re­mu­ner­at­ive in­vest­ments for our funds as upon our in­creas­ing our con­nec­tion and the num­ber of our de­pos­it­ors. One of our most luc­rat­ive means of lay­ing out money is in the shape of loans, where the se­cur­ity is un­im­peach­able. We have done a good deal in this dir­ec­tion dur­ing the last few years, and there are many noble fam­il­ies to whom we have ad­vanced large sums upon the se­cur­ity of their pic­tures, lib­rar­ies, or plate.”Yes­ter­day morn­ing I was seated in my of­fice at the bank when a card was brought in to me by one of the clerks. I star­ted when I saw the name, for it was that of none oth­er than – well, per­haps even to you I had bet­ter say no more than that it was a name which is a house­hold word all over the earth – one of the highest, noblest, most ex­al­ted names in Eng­land. I was over­whelmed by the hon­our and at­temp­ted, when he entered, to say so, but he plunged at once in­to busi­ness with the air of a man who wishes to hurry quickly through a dis­agree­able task.” ’Mr. Hold­er,’ said he, ’I have been in­formed that you are in the habit of ad­van­cing money.’” ’The firm does so when the se­cur­ity is good.’ I answered.” ’It is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial to me,’ said he, ’that I should have 50,000 pounds at once. I could, of course, bor­row so trifling a sum ten times over from my friends, but I much prefer to make it a mat­ter of busi­ness and to carry out that busi­ness my­self. In my po­s­i­tion you can read­ily un­der­stand that it is un­wise to place one’s self un­der ob­lig­a­tions.’” ’For how long, may I ask, do you want this sum?’ I asked.” ’Next Monday I have a large sum due to me, and I shall then most cer­tainly re­pay what you ad­vance, with whatever in­terest you think it right to charge. But it is very es­sen­tial to me that the money should be paid at once.’” ’I should be happy to ad­vance it without fur­ther par­ley from my own private purse,’ said I, ’were it not that the strain would be rather more than it could bear. If, on the oth­er hand, I am to do it in the name of the firm, then in justice to my part­ner I must in­sist that, even in your case, every busi­ness­like pre­cau­tion should be taken.’” ’I should much prefer to have it so,’ said he, rais­ing up a square, black mo­rocco case which he had laid be­side his chair. ’You have doubt­less heard of the Beryl Cor­on­et?’” ’One of the most pre­cious pub­lic pos­ses­sions of the em­pire,’ said I.” ’Pre­cisely.’ He opened the case, and there, im­bed­ded in soft, flesh-col­oured vel­vet, lay the magnificent piece of jew­ellery which he had named. ’There are thirty-nine enorm­ous beryls,’ said he, ’and the price of the gold chas­ing is in­cal­cul­able. The low­est es­tim­ate would put the worth of the cor­on­et at double the sum which I have asked. I am pre­pared to leave it with you as my se­cur­ity.’”I took the pre­cious case in­to my hands and looked in some per­plex­ity from it to my il­lus­tri­ous cli­ent.” ’You doubt its value?’ he asked.” ’Not at all. I only doubt –’” ’The pro­pri­ety of my leav­ing it. You may set your mind at rest about that. I should not dream of do­ing so were it not ab­so­lutely cer­tain that I should be able in four days to re­claim it. It is a pure mat­ter of form. Is the se­cur­ity suf­fi­cient?’” ’Ample. ’” ’You un­der­stand, Mr. Hold­er, that I am giv­ing you a strong proof of the confidence which I have in you, foun­ded upon all that I have heard of you. I rely upon you not only to be dis­creet and to re­frain from all gos­sip upon the mat­ter but, above all, to pre­serve this cor­on­et with every pos­sible pre­cau­tion be­cause I need not say that a great pub­lic scan­dal would be caused if any harm were to be­fall it. Any in­jury to it would be al­most as ser­i­ous as its com­plete loss, for there are no beryls in the world to match these, and it would be im­possible to re­place them. I leave it with you, however, with every confidence, and I shall call for it in per­son on Monday morn­ing.’”See­ing that my cli­ent was anxious to leave, I said no more but, call­ing for my cash­ier, I ordered him to pay over fifty 1000 pound notes. When I was alone once more, however, with the pre­cious case ly­ing upon the ta­ble in front of me, I could not but think with some mis­giv­ings of the im­mense re­spons­ib­il­ity which it en­tailed upon me. There could be no doubt that, as it was a na­tion­al pos­ses­sion, a hor­rible scan­dal would en­sue if any mis­for­tune should oc­cur to it. I already re­gret­ted hav­ing ever con­sen­ted to take charge of it. However, it was too late to al­ter the mat­ter now, so I locked it up in my private safe and turned once more to my work.”When even­ing came I felt that it would be an im­prudence to leave so pre­cious a thing in the of­fice be­hind me. Bankers’ safes had been forced be­fore now, and why should not mine be? If so, how ter­rible would be the po­s­i­tion in which I should find my­self! I de­term­ined, there­fore, that for the next few days I would al­ways carry the case back­ward and for­ward with me, so that it might nev­er be really out of my reach. With this in­ten­tion, I called a cab and drove out to my house at Streath­am, car­ry­ing the jew­el with me. I did not breathe freely un­til I had taken it up­stairs and locked it in the bur­eau of my dress­ing-room.”And now a word as to my house­hold, Mr. Holmes, for I wish you to thor­oughly un­der­stand the situ­ation. My groom and my page sleep out of the house, and may be set aside al­to­geth­er. I have three maid-ser­vants who have been with me a num­ber of years and whose ab­so­lute re­li­ab­il­ity is quite above sus­pi­cion. An­oth­er, Lucy Parr, the second wait­ing-maid, has only been in my ser­vice a few months. She came with an ex­cel­lent char­ac­ter, however, and has al­ways giv­en me sat­is­fac­tion. She is a very pretty girl and has at­trac­ted ad­mirers who have oc­ca­sion­ally hung about the place. That is the only draw­back which we have found to her, but we be­lieve her to be a thor­oughly good girl in every way.”So much for the ser­vants. My fam­ily it­self is so small that it will not take me long to de­scribe it. I am a wid­ower and have an only son, Ar­thur. He has been a dis­ap­point­ment to me, Mr. Holmes – a griev­ous dis­ap­point­ment. I have no doubt that I am my­self to blame. People tell me that I have spoiled him. Very likely I have. When my dear wife died I felt that he was all I had to love. I could not bear to see the smile fade even for a mo­ment from his face. I have nev­er denied him a wish. Per­haps it would have been bet­ter for both of us had I been stern­er, but I meant it for the best.”It was nat­ur­ally my in­ten­tion that he should suc­ceed me in my busi­ness, but he was not of a busi­ness turn. He was wild, way­ward, and, to speak the truth, I could not trust him in the hand­ling of large sums of money. When he was young he be­came a mem­ber of an ar­is­to­crat­ic club, and there, hav­ing charm­ing man­ners, he was soon the in­tim­ate of a num­ber of men with long purses and ex­pens­ive habits. He learned to play heav­ily at cards and to squander money on the turf, un­til he had again and again to come to me and im­plore me to give him an ad­vance upon his al­low­ance, that he might settle his debts of hon­our. He tried more than once to break away from the dan­ger­ous com­pany which he was keep­ing, but each time the influence of his friend, Sir George Burn­well, was enough to draw him back again.”And. in­deed, I could not won­der that such a man as Sir George Bum­well should gain an influence over him, for he has fre­quently brought him to my house, and I have found my­self that I could hardly res­ist the fas­cin­a­tion of his man­ner. He is older than Ar­thur, a man of the world to his finger-tips, one who had been every­where. seen everything, a bril­liant talk­er, and a man of great per­son­al beauty. Yet when I think of him in cold blood, far away from the glam­our of his pres­ence, I am con­vinced from his cyn­ic­al speech and the look which I have caught in his eyes that he is one who should be deeply dis­trus­ted. So I think, and so, too, thinks my little Mary, who has a wo­man’s quick in­sight in­to char­ac­ter.”And now there is only she to be de­scribed. She is my niece; but when my broth­er died five years ago and left her alone in the world I ad­op­ted her, and have looked upon her ever since as my daugh­ter. She is a sun­beam in my house – sweet, lov­ing, beau­ti­ful, a won­der­ful man­ager and house­keep­er, yet as tender and quiet and gentle as a wo­man could be. She is my right hand. I do not know what I could do without her. In only one mat­ter has she ever gone against my wishes. Twice my boy has asked her to marry him, for he loves her de­votedly, but each time she has re­fused him. I think that if any­one could have drawn him in­to the right path it would have been she, and that his mar­riage might have changed his whole life; but now, alas! it is too late -forever too late!”Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who live un­der my roof, and I shall con­tin­ue with my miser­able story.”When we were tak­ing cof­fee in the draw­ing-room that night after din­ner, I told Ar­thur and Mary my ex­per­i­ence, and of the pre­cious treas­ure which we had un­der our roof, sup­press­ing only the name of my cli­ent. Lucy Parr, who had brought in the cof­fee, had, I am sure, left the room; but I can­not swear that the door was closed. Mary and Ar­thur were much in­ter­ested and wished to see the fam­ous cor­on­et, but I thought it bet­ter not to dis­turb it.” ’Where have you put it?’ asked Ar­thur.” ’In my own bur­eau.’” ’Well, I hope to good­ness the house won’t be burgled dur­ing the night.’ said he.” ’It is locked up,’ I answered.” ’Oh, any old key will fit that bur­eau. When I was a young­ster I have opened it my­self with the key of the box-room cup­board. ’”He of­ten had a wild way of talk­ing, so that I thought little of what he said. He fol­lowed me to my room, however, that night with a very grave face.” ’Look here, dad,’ said he with his eyes cast down, ’can you let me have 200 pounds?’” ’No, I can­not!’ I answered sharply. ’I have been far too gen­er­ous with you in money mat­ters.’” ’You have been very kind,’ said he, ’but I must have this money, or else I can nev­er show my face in­side the club again.’” ’And a very good thing, too!’ I cried.” ’Yes, but you would not have me leave it a dis­hon­oured man,’ said he. ’I could not bear the dis­grace. I must raise the money in some way, and if you will not let me have it, then I must try oth­er means.’”I was very angry, for this was the third de­mand dur­ing the month. ’You shall not have a farth­ing from me,’ I cried, on which he bowed and left the room without an­oth­er word.”When he was gone I un­locked my bur­eau, made sure that my treas­ure was safe, and locked it again. Then I star­ted to go round the house to see that all was se­cure – a duty which I usu­ally leave to Mary but which I thought it well to per­form my­self that night. As I came down the stairs I saw Mary her­self at the side win­dow of the hall, which she closed and fastened as I ap­proached.” ’Tell me, dad,’ said she, look­ing, I thought, a little dis­turbed, ’did you give Lucy, the maid, leave to go out to-night?’” ’Cer­tainly not.’” ’She came in just now by the back door. I have no doubt that she has only been to the side gate to see someone, but I think that it is hardly safe and should be stopped.’” ’You must speak to her in the morn­ing, or I will if you prefer it. Are you sure that everything is fastened?’” ’Quite sure. dad.’” ’Then. good-night.’ I kissed her and went up to my bed­room again, where I was soon asleep.”I am en­deav­our­ing to tell you everything, Mr. Holmes, which may have any bear­ing upon the case, but I beg that you will ques­tion me upon any point which I do not make clear.””On the con­trary, your state­ment is sin­gu­larly lu­cid.””I come to a part of my story now in which I should wish to be par­tic­u­larly so. I am not a very heavy sleep­er, and the anxi­ety in my mind ten­ded, no doubt, to make me even less so than usu­al. About two in the morn­ing. then, I was awakened by some sound in the house. It had ceased ere I was wide awake, but it had left an im­pres­sion be­hind it as though a win­dow had gently closed some­where. I lay listen­ing with all my ears. Sud­denly, to my hor­ror. there was a dis­tinct sound of foot­steps mov­ing softly in the next room. I slipped out of bed, all pal­pit­at­ing with fear, and peeped round the comer of my dress­ing-room door.” ’Ar­thur!’ I screamed, ’you vil­lain! you thief! How dare you touch that cor­on­et?’”The gas was half up, as I had left it, and my un­happy boy, dressed only in his shirt and trousers, was stand­ing be­side the light, hold­ing the cor­on­et in his hands. He ap­peared to be wrench­ing at it, or bend­ing it with all his strength. At my cry he dropped it from his grasp and turned as pale as death. I snatched it up and ex­amined it. One of the gold corners, with three of the beryls in it, was miss­ing.” ’You black­guard!’ I shouted, be­side my­self with rage. ’You have des­troyed it! You have dis­hon­oured me forever! Where are the jew­els which you have stolen?’” ’Stolen!’ he cried.” ’Yes, thief!’ I roared, shak­ing him by the shoulder.” ’There are none miss­ing. There can­not be any miss­ing,’ said he.” ’There are three miss­ing. And you know where they are. Must I call you a li­ar as well as a thief? Did I not see you try­ing to tear off an­oth­er piece?’” ’You have called me names enough,’ said he, ’I will not stand it any longer. I shall not say an­oth­er word about this busi­ness, since you have chosen to in­sult me. I will leave your house in the mo­m­ing and make my own way in the world.’” ’You shall leave it in the hands of the po­lice!’ I cried half-mad with grief and rage. ’I shall have this mat­ter probed to the bot­tom.’” ’You shall learn noth­ing from me,’ said he with a pas­sion such as I should not have thought was in his nature. ’If you choose to call the po­lice, let the po­lice find what they can.’”By this time the whole house was astir, for I had raised my voice in my an­ger. Mary was the first to rush in­to my room, and, at the sight of the cor­on­et and of Ar­thur’s face, she read the whole story and, with a scream. fell down sensc­less on the ground. I sent the house-maid for the po­lice and put the in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to their hands at once. When the in­spect­or and a con­stable entered the house, Ar­thur, who had stood sul­lenly with his arms fol­ded, asked me wheth­er it was my in­ten­tion to charge him with theft. I answered that it had ceased to be a private mat­ter, but had be­come a pub­lic one, since the ruined cor­on­et was na­tion­al prop­erty. I was de­term­ined that the law should have its way in everything.” ’At least,’ said he, ’you will not have me ar­res­ted at once. It would be to your ad­vant­age as well as mine if I might leave the house for five minutes.’” ’That you may get away, or per­haps that you may con­ceal what you have stolen,’ said I. And then, real­iz­ing the dread­ful po­s­i­tion in which I was placed, I im­plored him to re­mem­ber that not only my hon­our but that of one who was far great­er than I was at stake; and that he threatened to raise a scan­dal which would con­vulse the na­tion. He might avert it all if he would but tell me what he had done with the three miss­ing stones.” ’You may as well face the mat­ter,’ said I; ’you have been caught in the act, and no con­fes­sion could make your guilt more hein­ous. If you but make such re­par­a­tion as is in your power, by telling us where the beryls are, all shall be for­giv­en and for­got­ten.’” ’Keep your for­give­ness for those who ask for it,’ he answered, turn­ing away from me with a sneer. I saw that he was too hardened for any words of mine to influence him. There was but one way for it. I called in the in­spect­or and gave him in­to cus­tody. A search was made at once not only of his per­son but of his room and-of every por­tion of the house where he could pos­sibly have con­cealed the gems; but no trace of them could be found, nor would the wretched boy open his mouth for all our per­sua­sions and our threats. This morn­ing he was re­moved to a cell, and I, after go­ing through all the po­lice form­al­it­ies, have hur­ried round to you to im­plore you to use your skill in un­rav­el­ling the mat­ter. The po­lice have openly con­fessed that they can at present make noth­ing of it. You may go to any ex­pense which you think ne­ces­sary. I have already offered a re­ward of lOOO pounds. My God, what shall I do! I have lost my hon­our, my gems, and my son in one night. Oh, what shall I do!”He put a hand on either side of his head and rocked him­self to and fro, dron­ing to him­self like a child whose grief has got bey­ond words.Sher­lock Holmes sat si­lent for some few minutes. with his brows knit­ted and his eyes fixed upon the fire.”Do you re­ceive much com­pany?” he asked.”None save my part­ner with his fam­ily and an oc­ca­sion­al friend of Ar­thur’s. Sir George Burn­well has been sev­er­al times lately. No one else, I think.””Do you go out much in so­ci­ety?””Ar­thur does. Mary and I stay at home. We neither of us care for it.””That is un­usu­al in a young girl.””She is of a quiet nature. Be­sides, she is not so very young. She is four-and-twenty.””This mat­ter, from what you say, seems to have been a shock to her also.””Ter­rible! She is even more af­fected than I.””You have neither of you any doubt as to your son’s guilt?””How can we have when I saw him with my own eyes with the cor­on­et in his hands.””I hardly con­sider that a con­clus­ive proof. Was the re­mainder of the cor­on­et at all in­jured?””Yes, it was twis­ted.””Do you not think, then, that he might have been try­ing to straight­en it?””God bless you! You are do­ing what you can for him and for me. But it is too heavy a task. What was he do­ing there at all? If his pur­pose were in­no­cent, why did he not say so?””Pre­cisely. And if it were guilty, why did he not in­vent a lie? His si­lence ap­pears to me to cut both ways. There are sev­er­al sin­gu­lar points about the case. What did the po­lice think of the noise which awoke you from your sleep?””They con­sidered that it might be caused by Ar­thur’s clos­ing his bed­room door.””A likely story! As if a man bent on felony would slam his door so as to wake a house­hold. What did they say, then, of the dis­ap­pear­ance of these gems?””They are still sound­ing the plank­ing and prob­ing the fur­niture in the hope of finding them.””Have they thought of look­ing out­side the house?””Yes, they have shown ex­traordin­ary en­ergy. The whole garden has already been minutely ex­amined.””Now, my dear sir,” said Holmes. “is it not ob­vi­ous to you now that this mat­ter really strikes very much deep­er than either you or the po­lice were at first in­clined to think? It ap­peared to you to be a simple case; to me it seems ex­ceed­ingly com­plex. Con­sider what is in­volved by your the­ory. You sup­pose that your son came down from his bed, went. at great risk, to your dress­ing-room, opened your bur­eau, took out your cor­on­et, broke otf by main force a small por­tion of it, went off to some oth­er place, con­cealed three gems out of the thirty-nine. with such skill that nobody can find them, and then re­turned with the oth­er thirty-six in­to the room in which he ex­posed him­self to the greatest danger of be­ing dis­covered. I ask you now, is such a the­ory ten­able?””But what oth­er is there?” cried the banker with a ges­ture of des­pair. “If his motives were in­no­cent, why does he not ex­plain them?””It is our task to find that out,” replied Holmes; “so now, if you please, Mr. Hold­er, we will set off for Streath­am to­geth­er, and de­vote an hour to glan­cing a little more closely in­to de­tails.”My friend in­sisted upon my ac­com­pa­ny­ing them in their ex­ped­i­tion, which I was eager enough to do, for my curi­os­ity and sym­pathy were deeply stirred by the story to which we had listened. I con­fess that the guilt of the banker’s son ap­peared to me to be as ob­vi­ous as it did to his un­happy fath­er, but still I had such faith in Holmes’s judg­ment that I felt that there must be some grounds for hope as long as he was dissatisfied with the ac­cep­ted ex­plan­a­tion. He hardly spoke a word the whole way out to the south­ern sub­urb, but sat with his chin upon his breast and his hat drawn over his eyes, sunk in the deep­est thought. Our cli­ent ap­peared to have taken fresh heart at the little glimpse of hope which had been presen­ted to him, and he even broke in­to a des­ultory chat with me over his busi­ness af­fairs. A short rail­way jour­ney and a short­er walk brought us to Fairb­ank, the mod­est res­id­ence of the great financier.Fairb­ank was a good-sized square house of white stone, stand­ing back a little from the road. A double car­riage-sweep, with a snow-clad lawn, stretched down in front to two large iron gates which closed the en­trance. On the right side was a small wooden thick­et, which led in­to a nar­row path between two neat hedges stretch­ing from the road to the kit­chen door, and form­ing the trades­men’s en­trance. On the left ran a lane which led to the stables, and was not it­self with­in the grounds at all, be­ing a pub­lic, though little used, thor­ough­fare. Holmes left us stand­ing at the door and walked slowly all round the house, across the front, down the trades­men’s path, and so round by the garden be­hind in­to the stable lane. So long was he that Mr. Hold­er and I went in­to the din­ing-room and waited by the fire un­til he should re­turn. We were sit­ting there in si­lence when the door opened and a young lady came in. She was rather above the middle height, slim, with dark hair and eyes, which seemed the dark­er against the ab­so­lute pal­lor of her skin. I do not think that I have ever seen such deadly pale­ness in a wo­man’s face. Her lips, too, were blood­less, but her eyes were flushed with cry­ing. As she swept si­lently in­to the room she im­pressed me with a great­er sense of grief than the banker had done in the morn­ing, and it was the more strik­ing in her as she was evid­ently a wo­man of strong char­ac­ter, with im­mense ca­pa­city for self-re­straint. Dis­reg­ard­ing my pres­ence, she went straight to her uncle and passed her hand over his head with a sweet wo­manly caress.”You have giv­en or­ders that Ar­thur should be lib­er­ated, have you not, dad?” she asked.”No, no, my girl, the mat­ter must be probed to the bot­tom.””But I am so sure that he is in­no­cent. You know what wo­man’s in­stincts are. I know that he has done no harm and that you will be sorry for hav­ing ac­ted so harshly.””Why is he si­lent, then, if he is in­no­cent?””Who knows? Per­haps be­cause he was so angry that you should sus­pect him.””How could I help sus­pect­ing him, when I ac­tu­ally saw him with the cor­on­et in his hand?””Oh, but he had only picked it up to look at it. Oh, do, do take my word for it that he is in­no­cent. Let the mat­ter drop and say no more. It is so dread­ful to think of our dear Ar­thur in pris­on!””I shall nev­er let it drop un­til the gems are found – nev­er, Mary! Your af­fec­tion for Ar­thur blinds you as to the aw­ful con­sequences to me. Far from hush­ing the thing up, I have brought a gen­tle­man down from Lon­don to in­quire more deeply in­to it.””This gen­tle­man?” she asked, fa­cing round to me.”No, his friend. He wished us to leave him alone. He is round in the stable lane now.””The stable lane?” She raised her dark eye­brows. “What can he hope to find there? Ah! this, I sup­pose, is he. I trust, sir, that you will suc­ceed in prov­ing, what I feel sure is the truth, that my cous­in Ar­thur is in­no­cent of this crime.””I fully share your opin­ion, and I trust, with you, that we may prove it,” re­turned Holmes, go­ing back to the mat to knock the snow from his shoes. “I be­lieve I have the hon­our of ad­dress­ing Miss Mary Hold­er. Might I ask you a ques­tion or two?””Pray do, sir, if it may help to clear this hor­rible af­fair up.””You heard noth­ing your­self last night?””Noth­ing, un­til my uncle here began to speak loudly. I heard that, and I came down.””You shut up the win­dows and doors the night be­fore. Did you fasten all the win­dows?””Yes .””Were they all fastened this morn­ing?””Yes.””You have a maid who has a sweet­heart? I think that you re­marked to your uncle last night that she had been out to see him?””Yes, and she was the girl who waited in the draw­ing-room. and who may have heard uncle’s re­marks about the cor­on­et.””I see. You in­fer that she may have gone out to tell her sweet­heart, and that the two may have planned the rob­bery.””But what is the good of all these vague the­or­ies,” cried the banker im­pa­tiently, “when I have told you that I saw Ar­thur with the cor­on­et in his hands?””Wait a little, Mr. Hold­er. We must come back to that. About this girl, Miss Hold­er. You saw her re­turn by the kit­chen door, I pre­sume?””Yes; when I went to see if the door was fastened for the night I met her slip­ping in. I saw the man, too, in the gloom.””Do you know him?””Oh, yes! he is the green-gro­cer who brings our ve­get­ables round. His name is Fran­cis Prosper.””He stood,” said Holmes, “to the left of the door – that is to say, farther up the path than is ne­ces­sary to reach the door?””Yes, he did.””And he is a man with a wooden leg?”Something like fear sprang up in the young lady’s ex­press­ive black eyes. “Why, you are like a ma­gi­cian,” said she. “How do you know that?” She smiled, but there was no an­swer­ing smile in Holmes’s thin, eager face.”I should be very glad now to go up­stairs,” said he. “I shall prob­ably wish to go over the out­side of the house again. Per­haps I had bet­ter take a look at the lower win­dows be­fore I go up.”He walked swiftly round from one to the oth­er, paus­ing only at the large one which looked from the hall onto the stable lane. This he opened and made a very care­ful ex­am­in­a­tion of the sill with his power­ful mag­ni­fy­ing lens. “Now we shall go up­stairs,” said he at last.The banker’s dress­ing-room was a plainly fur­nished little cham­ber, with a gray car­pet, a large bur­eau, and a long mir­ror. Holmes went to the bur­eau first and looked hard at the lock.”Which key was used to open it?” he asked.”That which my son him­self in­dic­ated – that of the cup­board of the lum­ber-room.””Have you it here?””That is it on the dress­ing-ta­ble.”Sher­lock Holmes took it up and opened the bur­eau.”It is a noise­less lock,” said he. “It is no won­der that it did not wake you. This case, I pre­sume, con­tains the cor­on­et. We must have a look at it.” He opened the case, and tak­ing out the dia­dem he laid it upon the ta­ble. It was a magnificent spe­ci­men of the jew­eller’s art, and the thiny-six stones were the finest that I have ever seen. At one side of the cor­on­et was a cracked edge, where a corner hold­ing three gems had been torn away.”Now, Mr. Hold­er,” said Holmes, “here is the corner which cor­res­ponds to that which has been so un­for­tu­nately lost. Might I beg that you will break it off.”The banker re­coiled in hor­ror. “I should not dream of try­ing,” said he.”Then I will.” Holmes sud­denly bent his strength upon it, but without res­ult. “I feel it give a little,” said he; “but, though I am ex­cep­tion­ally strong in the fingers, it would take me all my time to break it. An or­din­ary man could not do it. Now, what do you think would hap­pen if I did break it, Mr. Hold­er? There would be a noise like a pis­tol shot. Do you tell me that all this happened with­in a few yards of your bed and that you heard noth­ing of it?””I do not know what to think. It is all dark to me.””But per­haps it may grow light­er as we go. What do you think, Miss Hold­er?””I con­fess that I still share my uncle’s per­plex­ity.””Your son had no shoes or slip­pers on when you saw him?””He had noth­ing on save only his trousers and shirt.””Thank you. We have cer­tainly been fa­voured with ex­traordin­ary luck dur­ing this in­quiry, and it will be en­tirely our own fault if we do not suc­ceed in clear­ing the mat­ter up. With your pem­mis­sion, Mr. Hold­er, I shall now con­tin­ue my in­vest­ig­a­tions out­side.”He went alone, at his own re­quest, for he ex­plained that any un­ne­ces­sary foot­marks might make his task more dif­fi­cult. For an hour or more he was at work, re­turn­ing at last with his feet heavy with snow and his fea­tures as in­scrut­able as ever.”I think that I have seen now all that there is to see, Mr. Hold­er,” said he; “I can serve you best by re­turn­ing to my rooms.””But the gems, Mr. Holmes. Where are they?””I can­not tell.”The banker wrung his hands. “I shall nev­er see them again!” he cried. “And my son? You give me hopes?””My opin­ion is in no way altered.””Then, for God’s sake, what was this dark busi­ness which was ac­ted in my house last night?””If you can call upon me at my Baker Street rooms to-mor­row morn­ing between nine and ten I shall be happy to do what I can to make it clear­er. I un­der­stand that you give me carte blanche to act for you, provided only that I get back the gems, and that you place no lim­it on the sum I may draw.””I would give my for­tune to have them back.””Very good. I shall look in­to the mat­ter between this and then. Good-bye; it is just pos­sible that I may have to come over here again be­fore even­ing.”It was ob­vi­ous to me that my com­pan­ion’s mind was now made up about the case, al­though what his con­clu­sions were was more than I could even dimly ima­gine. Sev­er­al times dur­ing our home­ward jour­ney I en­deav­oured to sound him upon the point, but he al­ways glided away to some oth­er top­ic, un­til at last I gave it over in des­pair. It was not yet three when we found ourselves in our rooms once more. He hur­ried to his cham­ber and was down again in a few minutes dressed as a com­mon loafer. With his col­lar turned up, his shiny, seedy coat, his red cravat, and his worn boots, he was a per­fect sample of the class.”I think that this should do,” said he, glan­cing in­to the glass above the fireplace. “l only wish that you could come with me, Wat­son, but I fear that it won’t do. I may be on the trail in this mat­ter, or I may be fol­low­ing a will-o’-the-wisp, but I shall soon know which it is. I hope that I may be back in a few hours.” He cut a slice of beef from the joint upon the side­board, sand­wiched it between two rounds of bread, and thrust­ing this rude meal in­to his pock­et he star­ted off upon his ex­ped­i­tion.I had just finished my tea when he re­turned, evid­ently in ex­cel­lent spir­its, swinging an old elast­ic-sided boot in his hand. He chucked it down in­to a corner and helped him­self to a cup of tea.”I only looked in as I passed,” said he. “I am go­ing right on.””Where to?””Oh, to the oth­er side of the West End. It may be some time be­fore I get back. Don’t wait up for me in case I should be late.””How are you get­ting on?””Oh, so so. Noth­ing to com­plain of. I have been out to Streath­am since I saw you last, but I did not call at the house. It is a very sweet little prob­lem, and I would not have missed it for a good deal. However, I must not sit gos­sip­ing here, but must get these dis­rep­ut­able clothes off and re­turn to my highly re­spect­able self.”I could see by his man­ner that he had stronger reas­ons for sat­is­fac­tion than his words alone would im­ply. His eyes twinkled, and there was even a touch of col­our upon his sal­low cheeks. He hastened up­stairs, and a few minutes later I heard the slam of the hall door, which told me that he was off once more upon his con­geni­al hunt.I waited un­til mid­night, but there was no sign of his re­turn, so I re­tired to my room. It was no un­com­mon thing for him to be away for days and nights on end when he was hot upon a scent, so that his late­ness caused me no sur­prise. I do not know at what hour he came in, but when I came down to break­fast in the morn­ing there he was with a cup of cof­fee in one hand and the pa­per in the oth­er, as fresh and trim as pos­sible.”You will ex­cuse my be­gin­ning without you, Wat­son,” said he, “but you re­mem­ber that our cli­ent has rather an early ap­point­ment this morn­ing.””Why, it is after nine now,” I answered. “I should not be sur­prised if that were he. I thought I heard a ring.”It was, in­deed, our friend the financier. I was shocked by the change which had come over him, for his face which was nat­ur­ally of a broad and massive mould, was now pinched and fallen in, while his hair seemed to me at least a shade whiter. He entered with a wear­i­ness and leth­argy which was even more pain­ful than his vi­ol­ence of the morn­ing be­fore, and he dropped heav­ily in­to the arm­chair which I pushed for­ward for him.”I do not know what I have done to be so severely tried,” said he. “Only two days ago I was a happy and pros­per­ous man, without a care in the world. Now I am left to a lonely and dis­hon­oured age. One sor­row comes close upon the heels of an­oth­er. My niece, Mary, has deser­ted me.””Deser­ted you?””Yes. Her bed this morn­ing had not been slept in, her room was empty, and a note for me lay upon the hall ta­ble. I had said to her last night, in sor­row and not in an­ger, that if she had mar­ried my boy all might have been well with him. Per­haps it was thought­less of me to say so. It is to that re­mark that she refers in this note:”My Dearest Uncle:”I feel that I have brought trouble upon you, and that if I had ac­ted dif­fer­ently this ter­rible mis­for­tune might nev­er have oc­curred. I can­not, with this thought in my mind, ever again be happy un­der your roof, and I feel that I must leave you forever. Do not worry about my fu­ture, for that is provided for; and, above all, do not search for me, for it will be fruit­less la­bour and an ill-ser­vice to me. In life or in death, I am ever”Your lov­ing”Mary.”What could she mean by that note, Mr. Holmes? Do you think it points to sui­cide?””No, no, noth­ing of the kind. It is per­haps the best pos­sible solu­tion. I trust, Mr. Hold­er, that you are near­ing the end of your troubles.””Ha! You say so! You have heard something, Mr. Holmes; you have learned something! Where are the gems?””You would not think 1000 pounds apiece an ex­cess­ive sum for them?””I would pay ten.””That would be un­ne­ces­sary. Three thou­sand will cov­er the mat­ter. And there is a little re­ward, I fancy. Have you your check-book? Here is a pen. Bet­ter make it out for 4000 pounds.”With a dazed face the banker made out the re­quired check. Holmes walked over to his desk, took out a little tri­an­gu­lar piece of gold with three gems in it, and threw it down upon the ta­ble.With a shriek of joy our cli­ent clutched it up.”You have it!” he gasped. “I am saved! I am saved!”The re­ac­tion of joy was as pas­sion­ate as his grief had been, and he hugged his re­covered gems to his bos­om.”There is one oth­er thing you owe, Mr. Hold­er,” said Sher­lock Holmes rather sternly.”Owe!” He caught up a pen. “Name the sum, and I will pay it.””No, the debt is not to me. You owe a very humble apo­logy to that noble lad, your son, who has car­ried him­self in this mat­ter as I should be proud to see my own son do, should I ever chance to have one.””Then it was not Ar­thur who took them?””I told you yes­ter­day, and I re­peat to-day, that it was not.””You are sure of it! Then let us hurry to him at once to let him know that the truth is known.””He knows it already. When I had cleared it all up I had an in­ter­view with him. and finding that he would not tell me the story, I told it to him, on which he had to con­fess that I was right and to add the very few de­tails which were not yet quite clear to me. Your news of this morn­ing, however, may open his lips.””For heav­en’s sake, tell me, then, what is this ex­traordin­ary mys­tery !””I will do so, and I will show you the steps by which I reached it. And let me say to you, first, that which it is hard­est for me to say and for you to hear: there has been an un­der­stand­ing between Sir George Burn­well and your niece Mary. They have now fled to­geth­er.””My Mary? Im­possible!””It is un­for­tu­nately more than pos­sible; it is cer­tain. Neither you nor your son knew the true char­ac­ter of this man when you ad­mit­ted him in­to your fam­ily circle. He is one of the most dan­ger­ous men in Eng­land – a ruined gam­bler, an ab­so­lutely des­per­ate vil­lain, a man without heart or con­science. Your niece knew noth­ing of such men. When he breathed his vows to her, as he had done to a hun­dred be­fore her, she flattered her­self that she alone had touched his heart. The dev­il knows best what he said, but at least she be­came his tool and was in the habit of see­ing him nearly every even­ing.””I can­not, and I will not, be­lieve it!” cried the banker with an ashen face.”I will tell you, then, what oc­curred in your house last night. Your niece, when you had, as she thought, gone to your room. slipped down and talked to her lov­er through the win­dow which leads in­to the stable lane. His foot­marks had pressed right through the snow, so long had he stood there. She told him of the cor­on­et. His wicked lust for gold kindled at the news, and he bent her to his will. I have no doubt that she loved you, but there are wo­men in whom the love of a lov­er ex­tin­guishes all oth­er loves, and I think that she must have been one. She had hardly listened to his in­struc­tions when she saw you com­ing down­stairs, on which she closed the win­dow rap­idly and told you about one of the ser­vants’ es­capade with her wooden-legged lov­er, which was all per­fectly true.”Your boy, Ar­thur, went to bed after his in­ter­view with you but he slept badly on ac­count of his un­eas­i­ness about his club debts. In the middle of the night he heard a soft tread pass his door, so he rose and, look­ing out, was sur­prised to see his cous­in walk­ing very stealth­ily along the pas­sage un­til she dis­ap­peared in­to your dress­ing-room. Petrified with as­ton­ish­ment. the lad slipped on some clothes and waited there in the dark to see what would come of this strange af­fair. Presently she emerged from the room again, and in the light of the pas­sage-lamp your son saw that she car­ried the pre­cious cor­on­et in her hands. She passed down the stairs, and he, thrill­ing with hor­ror, ran along and slipped be­hind the cur­tain near your door, whence he could see what passed in the hall be­neath. He saw her stealth­ily open the win­dow, hand out the cor­on­et to someone in the gloom, and then clos­ing it once more hurry back to her room, passing quite close to where he stood hid be­hind the cur­tain.”As long as she was on the scene he could not take any ac­tion without a hor­rible ex­pos­ure of the wo­man whom he loved. But the in­stant that she was gone he real­ized how crush­ing a mis­for­tune this would be for you, and how all-im­port­ant it was to set it right. He rushed down, just as he was, in his bare feet, opened the win­dow, sprang out in­to the snow, and ran down the lane, where he could see a dark figure in the moon­light. Sir George Burn­well tried to get away, but Ar­thur caught him, and there was a struggle between them, your lad tug­ging at one side of the cor­on­et, and his op­pon­ent at the oth­er. In the scuffle, your son struck Sir George and cut him over the eye. Then something sud­denly snapped, and your son, finding that he had the cor­on­et in his hands, rushed back, closed the win­dow, as­cen­ded to your room, and had just ob­served that the cor­on­et had been twis­ted in the struggle and was en­deav­our­ing to straight­en it when you ap­peared upon the scene.””Is it pos­sible?” gasped the banker.”You then roused his an­ger by call­ing him names at a mo­ment when he felt that he had de­served your warmest thanks. He could not ex­plain the true state of af­fairs without be­tray­ing one who cer­tainly de­served little enough con­sid­er­a­tion at his hands. He took the more chiv­al­rous view, however, and pre­served her secret.””And that was why she shrieked and fain­ted when she saw the cor­on­et,” cried Mr. Hold­er. “Oh, my God! what a blind fool I have been! And his ask­ing to be al­lowed to go out for five minutes! The dear fel­low wanted to see if the miss­ing piece were at the scene of the struggle. How cruelly I have mis­judged him!’”When I ar­rived at the house,” con­tin­ued Holmes, “I at once went very care­fully round it to ob­serve if there were any traces in the snow which might help me. I knew that none had fallen since the even­ing be­fore, and also that there had been a strong frost to pre­serve im­pres­sions. I passed along the trades­men’s path, but found it all trampled down and in­dis­tin­guish­able. Just bey­ond it, however, at the far side of the kit­chen door, a wo­man had stood and talked with a man, whose round im­pres­sions on one side showed that he had a wooden leg. I could even tell that they had been dis­turbed, for the wo­man had run back swiftly to the door, as was shown by the deep toe and light heel marks, while Wooden-leg had waited a little, and then had gone away. I thought at the time that this might be the maid and her sweet­heart, of whom you had already spoken to me, and in­quiry showed it was so. I passed round the garden without see­ing any­thing more than ran­dom tracks, which I took to be the po­lice; but when I got in­to the stable lane a very long and com­plex story was writ­ten in the snow in front of me.”There was a double line of tracks of a booted man, and a second double line which I saw with de­light be­longed to a man with na­ked feet. I was at once con­vinced from what you had told me that the lat­ter was your son. The first had walked both ways, but the oth­er had run swiftly, and as his tread was marked in places over the de­pres­sion of the boot, it was ob­vi­ous that he had passed after the oth­er. I fol­lowed them up and found they led to the hall win­dow, where Boots had worn all the snow away while wait­ing. Then I walked to the oth­er end, which was a hun­dred yards or more down the lane. I saw where Boots had faced round, where the snow was cut up as though there had been a struggle, and, finally, where a few drops of blood had fallen, to show me that I was not mis­taken. Boots had then run down the lane, and an­oth­er little smudge of blood showed that it was he who had been hurt. When he came to the highroad at the oth­er end, I found that the pave­ment had been cleared, so there was an end to that clue.”On en­ter­ing the house, however, I ex­amined, as you re­mem­ber, the sill and frame­work of the hall win­dow with my lens, and I could at once see that someone had passed out. I could dis­tin­guish the out­line of an in­step where the wet foot had been placed in com­ing in. I was then be­gin­ning to be able to form an opin­ion as to what had oc­curred. A man had waited out­side the win­dow; someone had brought the gems; the deed had been over­seen by your son; he had pur­sued the thief; had struggled with him; they had each tugged at the cor­on­et, their united strength caus­ing in­jur­ies which neither alone could have ef­fected. He had re­turned with the prize, but had left a frag­ment in the grasp of his op­pon­ent. So far I was clear. The ques­tion now was, who was the man and who was it brought him the cor­on­et?”It is an old max­im of mine that when you have ex­cluded the im­possible, whatever re­mains, however im­prob­able, must be the truth. Now, I knew that it was not you who had brought it down, so there only re­mained your niece and the maids. But if it were the maids, why should your son al­low him­self to be ac­cused in their place? There could be no pos­sible reas­on. As he loved his cous­in, however, there was an ex­cel­lent ex­plan­a­tion why he should re­tain her secret – the more so as the secret was a dis­grace­ful one. When I re­membered that you had seen her at that win­dow, and how she had fain­ted on see­ing the cor­on­et again, my con­jec­ture be­came a cer­tainty.”And who could it be who was her con­fed­er­ate? A lov­er evid­ently, for who else could out­weigh the love and grat­it­ude which she must feel to you? I knew that you went out little, and that your circle of friends was a very lim­ited one. But among them was Sir George Burn­well. I had heard of him be­fore as be­ing a man of evil repu­ta­tion among wo­men. It must have been he who wore those boots and re­tained the miss­ing gems. Even though he knew that Ar­thur had dis­covered him, he might still flatter him­self that he was safe, for the lad could not say a word without com­prom­ising his own fam­ily.”Well, your own good sense will sug­gest what meas­ures I took next. I went in the shape of a loafer to Sir George’s house, man­aged to pick up an ac­quaint­ance with his valet, learned that his mas­ter had cut his head the night be­fore, and, finally, at the ex­pense of six shil­lings, made all sure by buy­ing a pair of his cast-off shoes. With these I jour­neyed down to Streath­am and saw that they ex­actly fitted the tracks.””I saw an ill-dressed vag­a­bond in the lane yes­ter­day even­ing,” said Mr. Hold­er.”Pre­cisely. It was I. I found that I had my man, so I came home and changed my clothes. It was a del­ic­ate part which I had to play then, for I saw that a pro­sec­u­tion must be avoided to avert scan­dal, and I knew that so as­tute a vil­lain would see that our hands were tied in the mat­ter. I went and saw him. At first, of course, he denied everything. But when I gave him every par­tic­u­lar that had oc­curred, he tried to bluster and took down a life-pre­serv­er from the wall. I knew my man, however, and I clapped a pis­tol to his head be­fore he could strike. Then he be­came a little more reas­on­able. I told him that we would give him a price for the stones he held lOOO pounds apiece. That brought out the first signs of grief that he had shown. ’Why, dash it all!’ said he, ’I’ve let them go at six hun­dred for the three!’ I soon man­aged to get the ad­dress of the re­ceiv­er who had them, on prom­ising him that there would be no pro­sec­u­tion. Off I set to him, and after much chaf­fer­ing I got our stones at 1000 pounds apiece. Then I looked in upon your son, told him that all was right, and even­tu­ally got to my bed about two o’clock, after what I may call a really hard day’s work.””A day which has saved Eng­land from a great pub­lic scan­dal,” said the banker, rising. “Sir, I can­not find words to thank you, but you shall not find me un­grate­ful for what you have done. Your skill has in­deed ex­ceeded all that I have heard of it. And now I must fly to my dear boy to apo­lo­gize to him for the wrong which I have done him. As to what you tell me of poor Mary, it goes to my very heart. Not even your skill can in­form me where she is now.””I think that we may safely say,” re­turned Holmes, “that she is wherever Sir George Burn­well is. It is equally cer­tain, too, that whatever her sins are, they will soon re­ceive a more than suf­fi­cient pun­ish­ment.”


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