Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
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"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 color, which shows that
blotting-paper 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."
"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
"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
"No, no; it is, it is his very own writing!"
"Very well. It may, however, have been written on Monday and only
"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 dining-room
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
"I cannot imagine. It is unthinkable."
"And on Monday he made no remarks before leaving you?"
"And you were surprised to see him in Swandam Lane?"
"Very much so."
"Was the window open?"
"Then he might have called to you?"
"He only, as I understand, gave an inarticulate cry?"
"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
"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
"Had he ever spoken of Swandam Lane?"
"Had he ever showed any signs of having taken opium?"
"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
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 cross-legged, 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.
"Game for a morning drive?"
"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.