Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
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a very long time, for the moon had sunk, and a bright morning was
breaking when I came to myself. My clothes were all sodden with
dew, and my coat-sleeve was drenched with blood from my wounded
thumb. The smarting of it recalled in an instant all the
particulars of my night's adventure, and I sprang to my feet with
the feeling that I might hardly yet be safe from my pursuers. But
to my astonishment, when I came to look round me, neither house
nor garden were to be seen. I had been lying in an angle of the
hedge close by the highroad, and just a little lower down was a
long building, which proved, upon my approaching it, to be the
very station at which I had arrived upon the previous night. Were
it not for the ugly wound upon my hand, all that had passed
during those dreadful hours might have been an evil dream.
"Half dazed, I went into the station and asked about the morning
train. There would be one to Reading in less than an hour. The
same porter was on duty, I found, as had been there when I
arrived. I inquired of him whether he had ever heard of Colonel
Lysander Stark. The name was strange to him. Had he observed a
carriage the night before waiting for me? No, he had not. Was
there a police-station anywhere near? There was one about three
"It was too far for me to go, weak and ill as I was. I determined
to wait until I got back to town before telling my story to the
police. It was a little past six when I arrived, so I went first
to have my wound dressed, and then the doctor was kind enough to
bring me along here. I put the case into your hands and shall do
exactly what you advise."
We both sat in silence for some little time after listening to
this extraordinary narrative. Then Sherlock Holmes pulled down
from the shelf one of the ponderous commonplace books in which he
placed his cuttings.
"Here is an advertisement which will interest you," said he. "It
appeared in all the papers about a year ago. Listen to this:
'Lost, on the 9th inst., Mr. Jeremiah Hayling, aged
twenty-six, a hydraulic engineer. Left his lodgings at ten
o'clock at night, and has not been heard of since. Was
dressed in,' etc., etc. Ha! That represents the last time that
the colonel needed to have his machine overhauled, I fancy."
"Good heavens!" cried my patient. "Then that explains what the
"Undoubtedly. It is quite clear that the colonel was a cool and
desperate man, who was absolutely determined that nothing should
stand in the way of his little game, like those out-and-out
pirates who will leave no survivor from a captured ship. Well,
every moment now is precious, so if you feel equal to it we shall
go down to Scotland Yard at once as a preliminary to starting for
Some three hours or so afterwards we were all in the train
together, bound from Reading to the little Berkshire village.
There were Sherlock Holmes, the hydraulic engineer, Inspector
Bradstreet, of Scotland Yard, a plain-clothes man, and myself.
Bradstreet had spread an ordnance map of the county out upon the
seat and was busy with his compasses drawing a circle with Eyford
for its centre.
"There you are," said he. "That circle is drawn at a radius of
ten miles from the village. The place we want must be somewhere
near that line. You said ten miles, I think, sir."
"It was an hour's good drive."
"And you think that they brought you back all that way when you
"They must have done so. I have a confused memory, too, of having
been lifted and conveyed somewhere."
"What I cannot understand," said I, "is why they should have
spared you when they found you lying fainting in the garden.
Perhaps the villain was softened by the woman's entreaties."
"I hardly think that likely. I never saw a more inexorable face
in my life."
"Oh, we shall soon clear up all that," said Bradstreet. "Well, I
have drawn my circle, and I only wish I knew at what point upon
it the folk that we are in search of are to be found."
"I think I could lay my finger on it," said Holmes quietly.
"Really, now!" cried the inspector, "you have formed your
opinion! Come, now, we shall see who agrees with you. I say it is
south, for the country is more deserted there."
"And I say east," said my patient.
"I am for west," remarked the plain-clothes man. "There are
several quiet little villages up there."
"And I am for north," said I, "because there are no hills there,
and our friend says that he did not notice the carriage go up
"Come," cried the inspector, laughing; "it's a very pretty
diversity of opinion. We have boxed the compass among us. Who do
you give your casting vote to?"
"You are all wrong."
"But we can't all be."
"Oh, yes, you can. This is my point." He placed his finger in the
centre of the circle. "This is where we shall find them."
"But the twelve-mile drive?" gasped Hatherley.
"Six out and six back. Nothing simpler. You say yourself that the
horse was fresh and glossy when you got in. How could it be that
if it had gone twelve miles over heavy roads?"
"Indeed, it is a likely ruse enough," observed Bradstreet
thoughtfully. "Of course there can be no doubt as to the nature
of this gang."
"None at all," said Holmes. "They are coiners on a large scale,
and have used the machine to form the amalgam which has taken the
place of silver."
"We have known for some time that a clever gang was at work,"
said the inspector. "They have been turning out half-crowns by
the thousand. We even traced them as far as Reading, but could
get no farther, for they had covered their traces in a way that
showed that they were very old hands. But now, thanks to this
lucky chance, I think that we have got them right enough."
But the inspector was mistaken, for those criminals were not
destined to fall into the hands of justice. As we rolled into
Eyford Station we saw a gigantic column of smoke which streamed
up from behind a small clump of trees in the neighborhood and
hung like an immense ostrich feather over the landscape.
"A house on fire?" asked Bradstreet as the train steamed off
again on its way.
"Yes, sir!" said the station-master.
"When did it break out?"
"I hear that it was during the night, sir, but it has got worse,
and the whole place is in a blaze."
"Whose house is it?"
"Tell me," broke in the engineer, "is Dr. Becher a German, very
thin, with a long, sharp nose?"
The station-master laughed heartily. "No, sir, Dr. Becher is an
Englishman, and there isn't a man in the parish who has a
better-lined waistcoat. But he has a gentleman staying with him,
a patient, as I understand, who is a foreigner, and he looks as
if a little good Berkshire beef would do him no harm."
The station-master had not finished his speech before we were all
hastening in the direction of the fire. The road topped a low
hill, and there was a great widespread whitewashed building in
front of us, spouting fire at every chink and window, while in
the garden in front three fire-engines were vainly striving to
keep the flames under.
"That's it!" cried Hatherley, in intense excitement. "There is
the gravel-drive, and there are the rose-bushes where I lay. That
second window is the one that I jumped from."
"Well, at least," said Holmes, "you have had your revenge upon
them. There can be no question that it was your oil-lamp which,
when it was crushed in the press, set fire to the wooden walls,
though no doubt they were too excited in the chase after you to
observe it at the time. Now keep your eyes open in this crowd for
your friends of last night, though I very much fear that they are
a good hundred miles off by now."
And Holmes's fears came to be realized, for from that day to this
no word has ever been heard either of the beautiful woman, the
sinister German, or the morose Englishman. Early that morning a
peasant had met a cart containing several people and some very
bulky boxes driving rapidly in the direction of Reading, but
there all traces of the fugitives disappeared, and even Holmes's
ingenuity failed ever to discover the least clew as to their
The firemen had been much perturbed at the strange arrangements
which they had found within, and still more so by discovering a
newly severed human thumb upon a window-sill of the second floor.
About sunset, however, their efforts were at last successful, and
they subdued the flames, but not before the roof had fallen in,
and the whole place been reduced to such absolute ruin that, save
some twisted cylinders and iron piping, not a trace remained of
the machinery which had cost our unfortunate acquaintance so
dearly. Large masses of nickel and of tin were discovered stored
in an out-house, but no coins were to be found, which may have
explained the presence of those bulky boxes which have been