Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
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"I am very much afraid that it is not. But between ourselves,
Windibank, it was as cruel and selfish and heartless a trick in a
petty way as ever came before me. Now, let me just run over the
course of events, and you will contradict me if I go wrong."
The man sat huddled up in his chair, with his head sunk upon his
breast, like one who is utterly crushed. Holmes stuck his feet up
on the corner of the mantelpiece and, leaning back with his hands
in his pockets, began talking, rather to himself, as it seemed,
than to us.
"The man married a woman very much older than himself for her
money," said he, "and he enjoyed the use of the money of the
daughter as long as she lived with them. It was a considerable
sum, for people in their position, and the loss of it would have
made a serious difference. It was worth an effort to preserve it.
The daughter was of a good, amiable disposition, but affectionate
and warm-hearted in her ways, so that it was evident that with
her fair personal advantages, and her little income, she would
not be allowed to remain single long. Now her marriage would
mean, of course, the loss of a hundred a year, so what does her
stepfather do to prevent it? He takes the obvious course of
keeping her at home and forbidding her to seek the company of
people of her own age. But soon he found that that would not
answer forever. She became restive, insisted upon her rights, and
finally announced her positive intention of going to a certain
ball. What does her clever stepfather do then? He conceives an
idea more creditable to his head than to his heart. With the
connivance and assistance of his wife he disguised himself,
covered those keen eyes with tinted glasses, masked the face with
a moustache and a pair of bushy whiskers, sunk that clear voice
into an insinuating whisper, and doubly secure on account of the
girl's short sight, he appears as Mr. Hosmer Angel, and keeps off
other lovers by making love himself."
"It was only a joke at first," groaned our visitor. "We never
thought that she would have been so carried away."
"Very likely not. However that may be, the young lady was very
decidedly carried away, and, having quite made up her mind that
her stepfather was in France, the suspicion of treachery never
for an instant entered her mind. She was flattered by the
gentleman's attentions, and the effect was increased by the
loudly expressed admiration of her mother. Then Mr. Angel began
to call, for it was obvious that the matter should be pushed as
far as it would go if a real effect were to be produced. There
were meetings, and an engagement, which would finally secure the
girl's affections from turning towards anyone else. But the
deception could not be kept up forever. These pretended journeys
to France were rather cumbrous. The thing to do was clearly to
bring the business to an end in such a dramatic manner that it
would leave a permanent impression upon the young lady's mind and
prevent her from looking upon any other suitor for some time to
come. Hence those vows of fidelity exacted upon a Testament, and
hence also the allusions to a possibility of something happening
on the very morning of the wedding. James Windibank wished Miss
Sutherland to be so bound to Hosmer Angel, and so uncertain as to
his fate, that for ten years to come, at any rate, she would not
listen to another man. As far as the church door he brought her,
and then, as he could go no farther, he conveniently vanished
away by the old trick of stepping in at one door of a
four-wheeler and out at the other. I think that was the chain of
events, Mr. Windibank!"
Our visitor had recovered something of his assurance while Holmes
had been talking, and he rose from his chair now with a cold
sneer upon his pale face.
"It may be so, or it may not. Mr. Holmes," said he, "but if you
are so very sharp you ought to be sharp enough to know that it is
you who are breaking the law now, and not me. I have done nothing
actionable from the first, but as long as you keep that door
locked you lay yourself open to an action for assault and illegal
"The law cannot, as you say, touch you," said Holmes, unlocking
and throwing open the door, "yet there never was a man who
deserved punishment more. If the young lady has a brother or a
friend, he ought to lay a whip across your shoulders. By Jove!"
he continued, flushing up at the sight of the bitter sneer upon
the man's face, "it is not part of my duties to my client, but
here's a hunting crop handy, and I think I shall just treat
myself to--" He took two swift steps to the whip, but before he
could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon the stairs,
the heavy hall door banged, and from the window we could see Mr.
James Windibank running at the top of his speed down the road.
"There's a cold-blooded scoundrel!" said Holmes, laughing, as he
threw himself down into his chair once more. "That fellow will
rise from crime to crime until he does something very bad, and
ends on a gallows. The case has, in some respects, been not
entirely devoid of interest."
"I cannot now entirely see all the steps of your reasoning," I
"Well, of course it was obvious from the first that this Mr.
Hosmer Angel must have some strong object for his curious
conduct, and it was equally clear that the only man who really
profited by the incident, as far as we could see, was the
stepfather. Then the fact that the two men were never together,
but that the one always appeared when the other was away, was
suggestive. So were the tinted spectacles and the curious voice,
which both hinted at a disguise, as did the bushy whiskers. My
suspicions were all confirmed by his peculiar action in
typewriting his signature, which, of course, inferred that his
handwriting was so familiar to her that she would recognize even
the smallest sample of it. You see all these isolated facts,
together with many minor ones, all pointed in the same
"And how did you verify them?"
"Having once spotted my man, it was easy to get corroboration. I
knew the firm for which this man worked. Having taken the printed
description. I eliminated everything from it which could be the
result of a disguise--the whiskers, the glasses, the voice, and I
sent it to the firm, with a request that they would inform me
whether it answered to the description of any of their
travellers. I had already noticed the peculiarities of the
typewriter, and I wrote to the man himself at his business
address asking him if he would come here. As I expected, his
reply was typewritten and revealed the same trivial but
characteristic defects. The same post brought me a letter from
Westhouse & Marbank, of Fenchurch Street, to say that the
description tallied in every respect with that of their employee,
James Windibank. Voila tout!"
"And Miss Sutherland?"
"If I tell her she will not believe me. You may remember the old
Persian saying, 'There is danger for him who taketh the tiger
cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.'
There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much
knowledge of the world."
ADVENTURE IV. THE BOSCOMBE VALLEY MYSTERY
We were seated at breakfast one morning, my wife and I, when the
maid brought in a telegram. It was from Sherlock Holmes and ran
in this way:
Have you a couple of days to spare? Have just been wired for from
the west of England in connection with Boscombe Valley tragedy.
Shall be glad if you will come with me. Air and scenery perfect.
Leave Paddington by the 11:15.
"What do you say, dear?" said my wife, looking across at me.
"Will you go?"
"I really don't know what to say. I have a fairly long list at
"Oh, Anstruther would do your work for you. You have been looking
a little pale lately. I think that the change would do you good,
and you are always so interested in Mr. Sherlock Holmes's cases."
"I should be ungrateful if I were not, seeing what I gained
through one of them," I answered. "But if I am to go, I must pack
at once, for I have only half an hour."
My experience of camp life in Afghanistan had at least had the
effect of making me a prompt and ready traveller. My wants were
few and simple, so that in less than the time stated I was in a
cab with my valise, rattling away to Paddington Station. Sherlock
Holmes was pacing up and down the platform, his tall, gaunt
figure made even gaunter and taller by his long gray
travelling-cloak and close-fitting cloth cap.
"It is really very good of you to come, Watson," said he. "It
makes a considerable difference to me, having someone with me on
whom I can thoroughly rely. Local aid is always either worthless
or else biassed. If you will keep the two corner seats I shall
get the tickets."
We had the carriage to ourselves save for an immense litter of
papers which Holmes had brought with him. Among these he rummaged
and read, with intervals of note-taking and of meditation, until
we were past Reading. Then he suddenly rolled them all into a
gigantic ball and tossed them up onto the rack.
"Have you heard anything of the case?" he asked.
"Not a word. I have not seen a paper for some days."
"The London press has not had very full accounts. I have just
been looking through all the recent papers in order to master the
particulars. It seems, from what I gather, to be one of those
simple cases which are so extremely difficult."
"That sounds a little paradoxical."
"But it is profoundly true. Singularity is almost invariably a
clew. The more featureless and commonplace a crime is, the more
difficult it is to bring it home. In this case, however, they
have established a very serious case against the son of the