Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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before we catch the criminal?"
"Well, well, it was worth thinking over. Then there
is another obvious point. The note was sent to
William. The man who wrote it could not have taken
it; otherwise, of course, he might have delivered his
own message by word of mouth. Who brought the note,
then? Or did it come through the post?"
"I have made inquiries," said the Inspector. "William
received a letter by the afternoon post yesterday.
The envelope was destroyed by him."
"Excellent!" cried Holmes, clapping the Inspector on
the back. "You've seen the postman. It is a pleasure
to work with you. Well, here is the lodge, and if you
will come up, Colonel, I will show you the scene of
We passed the pretty cottage where the murdered man
had lived, and walked up an oak-lined avenue to the
fine old Queen Anne house, which bears the date of
Malplaquet upon the lintel of the door. Holmes and
the Inspector led us round it until we came to the
side gate, which is separated by a stretch of garden
from the hedge which lines the road. A constable was
standing at the kitchen door.
"Throw the door open, officer," said Holmes. "Now, it
was on those stairs that young Mr. Cunningham stood
and saw the two men struggling just where we are. Old
Mr. Cunningham was at that window--the second on the
left--and he saw the fellow get away just to the left
of that bush. Then Mr. Alec ran out and knelt beside
the wounded man. The ground is very hard, you see,
and there are no marks to guide us." As he spoke two
men came down the garden path, from round the angle of
the house. The one was an elderly man, with a strong,
deep-lined, heavy-eyed face; the other a dashing young
fellow, whose bright, smiling expression and showy
dress were in strange contract with the business which
had brought us there.
"Still at it, then?" said he to Holmes. "I thought
you Londoners were never at fault. You don't seem to
be so very quick, after all."
"Ah, you must give us a little time," said Holmes
"You'll want it," said young Alec Cunningham. "Why, I
don't see that we have any clue at all."
"There's only one," answered the Inspector. "We
thought that if we could only find--Good heavens, Mr.
Holmes! What is the matter?"
My poor friend's face had suddenly assumed the most
dreadful expression. His eyes rolled upwards, his
features writhed in agony, and with a suppressed groan
he dropped on his face upon the ground. Horrified at
the suddenness and severity of the attack, we carried
him into the kitchen, where he lay back in a large
chair, and breathed heavily for some minutes.
Finally, with a shamefaced apology for his weakness,
he rose once more.
"Watson would tell you that I have only just recovered
from a severe illness," he explained. "I am liable to
these sudden nervous attacks."
"Shall I send you home in my trap?" asked old
"Well, since I am here, there is one point on which I
should like to feel sure. We can very easily verify
"What was it?"
"Well, it seems to me that it is just possible that
the arrival of this poor fellow William was not
before, but after, the entrance of the burglary into
the house. You appear to take it for granted that,
although the door was forced, the robber never got
"I fancy that is quite obvious," said Mr. Cunningham,
gravely. "Why, my son Alec had not yet gone to bed,
and he would certainly have heard any one moving
"Where was he sitting?"
"I was smoking in my dressing-room."
"Which window is that?"
"The last on the left next my father's."
"Both of your lamps were lit, of course?"
"There are some very singular points here," said
Holmes, smiling. "Is it not extraordinary that a
burglary--and a burglar who had had some previous
experience--should deliberately break into a house at
a time when he could see from the lights that two of
the family were still afoot?"
"He must have been a cool hand."
"Well, of course, if the case were not an odd one we
should not have been driven to ask you for an
explanation," said young Mr. Alec. "But as to your
ideas that the man had robbed the house before William
tackled him, I think it a most absurd notion.
Wouldn't we have found the place disarranged, and
missed the things which he had taken?"
"It depends on what the things were," said Holmes.
"You must remember that we are dealing with a burglar
who is a very peculiar fellow, and who appears to work
on lines of his own. Look, for example, at the queer
lot of things which he took from Acton's--what was
it?--a ball of string, a letter-weight, and I don't
know what other odds and ends."
"Well, we are quite in your hands, Mr. Holmes," said
old Cunningham. "Anything which you or the Inspector
may suggest will most certainly be done."
"In the first place," said Holmes, "I should like you
to offer a reward--coming from yourself, for the
officials may take a little time before they would
agree upon the sum, and these things cannot be done
too promptly. I have jotted down the form here, if
you would not mind signing it. Fifty pound was quite
enough, I thought."
"I would willingly give five hundred," said the J.P.,
taking the slip of paper and the pencil which Holmes
handed to him. "This is not quite correct, however,"
he added, glancing over the document.
"I wrote it rather hurriedly."
"You see you begin, 'Whereas, at about a quarter to
one on Tuesday morning an attempt was made,' and so
on. It was at a quarter to twelve, as a matter of
I was pained at the mistake, for I knew how keenly
Holmes would feel any slip of the kind. It was his
specialty to be accurate as to fact, but his recent
illness had shaken him, and this one little incident
was enough to show me that he was still far from being
himself. He was obviously embarrassed for an instant,
while the Inspector raised his eyebrows, and Alec
Cunningham burst into a laugh. The old gentleman
corrected the mistake, however, and handed the paper
back to Holmes.
"Get it printed as soon as possible," he said; "I
think your idea is an excellent one."
Holmes put the slip of paper carefully away into his
"And now," said he, "it really would be a good thing
that we should all go over the house together and make
certain that this rather erratic burglar did not,
after all, carry anything away with him."
Before entering, Holmes made an examination of the
door which had been forced. It was evident that a
chisel or strong knife had been thrust in, and the
lock forced back with it. We could see the marks in
the wood where it had been pushed in.
"You don't use bars, then?" he asked.
"We have never found it necessary."
"You don't keep a dog?"
"Yes, but he is chained on the other side of the
"When do the servants go to bed?"
"I understand that William was usually in bed also at
"It is singular that on this particular night he