Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
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rough scenes and under strange conditions. So far I had got
before I ever heard Lord St. Simon's narrative. When he told us
of a man in a pew, of the change in the bride's manner, of so
transparent a device for obtaining a note as the dropping of a
bouquet, of her resort to her confidential maid, and of her very
significant allusion to claim-jumping--which in miners' parlance
means taking possession of that which another person has a prior
claim to--the whole situation became absolutely clear. She had
gone off with a man, and the man was either a lover or was a
previous husband--the chances being in favor of the latter."
"And how in the world did you find them?"
"It might have been difficult, but friend Lestrade held
information in his hands the value of which he did not himself
know. The initials were, of course, of the highest importance,
but more valuable still was it to know that within a week he had
settled his bill at one of the most select London hotels."
"How did you deduce the select?"
"By the select prices. Eight shillings for a bed and eight-pence
for a glass of sherry pointed to one of the most expensive
hotels. There are not many in London which charge at that rate.
In the second one which I visited in Northumberland Avenue, I
learned by an inspection of the book that Francis H. Moulton, an
American gentleman, had left only the day before, and on looking
over the entries against him, I came upon the very items which I
had seen in the duplicate bill. His letters were to be forwarded
to 226 Gordon Square; so thither I travelled, and being fortunate
enough to find the loving couple at home, I ventured to give them
some paternal advice and to point out to them that it would be
better in every way that they should make their position a little
clearer both to the general public and to Lord St. Simon in
particular. I invited them to meet him here, and, as you see, I
made him keep the appointment."
"But with no very good result," I remarked. "His conduct was
certainly not very gracious."
"Ah, Watson," said Holmes, smiling, "perhaps you would not be
very gracious either, if, after all the trouble of wooing and
wedding, you found yourself deprived in an instant of wife and of
fortune. I think that we may judge Lord St. Simon very mercifully
and thank our stars that we are never likely to find ourselves in
the same position. Draw your chair up and hand me my violin, for
the only problem we have still to solve is how to while away
these bleak autumnal evenings."
ADVENTURE XI. 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
"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
"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
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.
"God 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
"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
honor 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.