Scandal in Bohemia
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insufficient data. The presence of the gypsies, and the use of
the word 'band,' which was used by the poor girl, no doubt to
explain the appearance which she had caught a hurried glimpse of
by the light of her match, were sufficient to put me upon an
entirely wrong scent. I can only claim the merit that I instantly
reconsidered my position when, however, it became clear to me
that whatever danger threatened an occupant of the room could not
come either from the window or the door. My attention was
speedily drawn, as I have already remarked to you, to this
ventilator, and to the bell-rope which hung down to the bed. The
discovery that this was a dummy, and that the bed was clamped to
the floor, instantly gave rise to the suspicion that the rope was
there as a bridge for something passing through the hole and
coming to the bed. The idea of a snake instantly occurred to me,
and when I coupled it with my knowledge that the doctor was
furnished with a supply of creatures from India, I felt that I
was probably on the right track. The idea of using a form of
poison which could not possibly be discovered by any chemical
test was just such a one as would occur to a clever and ruthless
man who had had an Eastern training. The rapidity with which such
a poison would take effect would also, from his point of view, be
an advantage. It would be a sharp-eyed coroner, indeed, who could
distinguish the two little dark punctures which would show where
the poison fangs had done their work. Then I thought of the
whistle. Of course he must recall the snake before the morning
light revealed it to the victim. He had trained it, probably by
the use of the milk which we saw, to return to him when summoned.
He would put it through this ventilator at the hour that he
thought best, with the certainty that it would crawl down the
rope and land on the bed. It might or might not bite the
occupant, perhaps she might escape every night for a week, but
sooner or later she must fall a victim.
"I had come to these conclusions before ever I had entered his
room. An inspection of his chair showed me that he had been in
the habit of standing on it, which of course would be necessary
in order that he should reach the ventilator. The sight of the
safe, the saucer of milk, and the loop of whipcord were enough to
finally dispel any doubts which may have remained. The metallic
clang heard by Miss Stoner was obviously caused by her stepfather
hastily closing the door of his safe upon its terrible occupant.
Having once made up my mind, you know the steps which I took in
order to put the matter to the proof. I heard the creature hiss
as I have no doubt that you did also, and I instantly lit the
light and attacked it."
"With the result of driving it through the ventilator."
"And also with the result of causing it to turn upon its master
at the other side. Some of the blows of my cane came home and
roused its snakish temper, so that it flew upon the first person
it saw. In this way I am no doubt indirectly responsible for Dr.
Grimesby Roylott's death, and I cannot say that it is likely to
weigh very heavily upon my conscience."
ADVENTURE IX. THE ADVENTURE OF THE ENGINEER'S THUMB
Of all the problems which have been submitted to my friend, Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, for solution during the years of our intimacy,
there were only two which I was the means of introducing to his
notice--that of Mr. Hatherley's thumb, and that of Colonel
Warburton's madness. Of these the latter may have afforded a
finer field for an acute and original observer, but the other was
so strange in its inception and so dramatic in its details that
it may be the more worthy of being placed upon record, even if it
gave my friend fewer openings for those deductive methods of
reasoning by which he achieved such remarkable results. The story
has, I believe, been told more than once in the newspapers, but,
like all such narratives, its effect is much less striking when
set forth en bloc in a single half-column of print than when the
facts slowly evolve before your own eyes, and the mystery clears
gradually away as each new discovery furnishes a step which leads
on to the complete truth. At the time the circumstances made a
deep impression upon me, and the lapse of two years has hardly
served to weaken the effect.
It was in the summer of '89, not long after my marriage, that the
events occurred which I am now about to summarize. I had returned
to civil practice and had finally abandoned Holmes in his Baker
Street rooms, although I continually visited him and occasionally
even persuaded him to forgo his Bohemian habits so far as to come
and visit us. My practice had steadily increased, and as I
happened to live at no very great distance from Paddington
Station, I got a few patients from among the officials. One of
these, whom I had cured of a painful and lingering disease, was
never weary of advertising my virtues and of endeavoring to send
me on every sufferer over whom he might have any influence.
One morning, at a little before seven o'clock, I was awakened by
the maid tapping at the door to announce that two men had come
from Paddington and were waiting in the consulting-room. I
dressed hurriedly, for I knew by experience that railway cases
were seldom trivial, and hastened downstairs. As I descended, my
old ally, the guard, came out of the room and closed the door
tightly behind him.
"I've got him here," he whispered, jerking his thumb over his
shoulder; "he's all right."
"What is it, then?" I asked, for his manner suggested that it was
some strange creature which he had caged up in my room.
"It's a new patient," he whispered. "I thought I'd bring him
round myself; then he couldn't slip away. There he is, all safe
and sound. I must go now, Doctor; I have my dooties, just the
same as you." And off he went, this trusty tout, without even
giving me time to thank him.
I entered my consulting-room and found a gentleman seated by the
table. He was quietly dressed in a suit of heather tweed with a
soft cloth cap which he had laid down upon my books. Round one of
his hands he had a handkerchief wrapped, which was mottled all
over with bloodstains. He was young, not more than
five-and-twenty, I should say, with a strong, masculine face; but
he was exceedingly pale and gave me the impression of a man who
was suffering from some strong agitation, which it took all his
strength of mind to control.
"I am sorry to knock you up so early, Doctor," said he, "but I
have had a very serious accident during the night. I came in by
train this morning, and on inquiring at Paddington as to where I
might find a doctor, a worthy fellow very kindly escorted me
here. I gave the maid a card, but I see that she has left it upon
I took it up and glanced at it. "Mr. Victor Hatherley, hydraulic
engineer, 16A. Victoria Street (3d floor)." That was the name,
style, and abode of my morning visitor. "I regret that I have
kept you waiting," said I, sitting down in my library-chair. "You
are fresh from a night journey, I understand, which is in itself
a monotonous occupation."
"Oh, my night could not be called monotonous," said he, and
laughed. He laughed very heartily, with a high, ringing note,
leaning back in his chair and shaking his sides. All my medical
instincts rose up against that laugh.
"Stop it!" I cried; "pull yourself together!" and I poured out
some water from a caraffe.
It was useless, however. He was off in one of those hysterical
outbursts which come upon a strong nature when some great crisis
is over and gone. Presently he came to himself once more, very
weary and pale-looking.
"I have been making a fool of myself," he gasped.
"Not at all. Drink this." I dashed some brandy into the water,
and the color began to come back to his bloodless cheeks.
"That's better!" said he. "And now, Doctor, perhaps you would
kindly attend to my thumb, or rather to the place where my thumb
used to be."
He unwound the handkerchief and held out his hand. It gave even
my hardened nerves a shudder to look at it. There were four
protruding fingers and a horrid red, spongy surface where the
thumb should have been. It had been hacked or torn right out from
"Good heavens!" I cried, "this is a terrible injury. It must have
"Yes, it did. I fainted when it was done, and I think that I must
have been senseless for a long time. When I came to I found that
it was still bleeding, so I tied one end of my handkerchief very
tightly round the wrist and braced it up with a twig."
"Excellent! You should have been a surgeon."
"It is a question of hydraulics, you see, and came within my own
"This has been done," said I, examining the wound, "by a very
heavy and sharp instrument."
"A thing like a cleaver," said he.
"An accident, I presume?"
"By no means."
"What! a murderous attack?"
"Very murderous indeed."
"You horrify me."
I sponged the wound, cleaned it, dressed it, and finally covered
it over with cotton wadding and carbolized bandages. He lay back
without wincing, though he bit his lip from time to time.
"How is that?" I asked when I had finished.
"Capital! Between your brandy and your bandage, I feel a new man.
I was very weak, but I have had a good deal to go through."
"Perhaps you had better not speak of the matter. It is evidently