The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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In town the earliest risers were just beginning to look sleepily from their
windows as we drove through the streets of the Surrey side. Passing down the
Waterloo Bridge Road we crossed over the river, and dashing up Wellington Street
wheeled sharply to the right and found ourselves in Bow Street. Sherlock Holmes
was well known to the force, and the two constables at the door saluted him. One
of them held the horse's head while the other led us in.
"Who is on duty?" asked Holmes.
"Inspector Bradstreet, sir."
"Ah, Bradstreet, how are you?" A tall, stout official had come down the
stone-flagged passage, in a peaked cap and frogged jacket. "I wish to have a
quiet word with you, Bradstreet." "Certainly, Mr. Holmes. Step into my room
here." It was a small, office-like room, with a huge ledger upon the table, and
a telephone projecting from the wall. The inspector sat down at his desk.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Holmes?"
"I called about that beggarman, Boone--the one who was charged with being
concerned in the disappearance of Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee."
"Yes. He was brought up and remanded for further inquiries."
"So I heard. You have him here?"
"In the cells."
"Is he quiet?"
"Oh, he gives no trouble. But he is a dirty scoundrel."
"Yes, it is all we can do to make him wash his hands, and his face is as
black as a tinker's. Well, when once his case has been settled, he will have a
regular prison bath; and I think, if you saw him, you would agree with me that
he needed it."
"I should like to see him very much."
"Would you? That is easily done. Come this way. You can leave your bag."
"No, I think that I'll take it."
"Very good. Come this way, if you please." He led us down a passage, opened
a barred door, passed down a winding stair, and brought us to a whitewashed
corridor with a line of doors on each side.
"The third on the right is his," said the inspector. "Here it is!" He
quietly shot back a panel in the upper part of the door and glanced through.
"He is asleep," said he. "You can see him very well."
We both put our eyes to the grating. The prisoner lay with his face towards
us, in a very deep sleep, breathing slowly and heavily. He was a middle-sized
man, coarsely clad as became his calling, with a colored shirt protruding
through the rent in his tattered coat. He was, as the inspector had said,
extremely dirty, but the grime which covered his face could not conceal its
repulsive ugliness. A broad wheal from an old scar ran right across it from eye
to chin, and by its contraction had turned up one side of the upper lip, so that
three teeth were exposed in a perpetual snarl. A shock of very bright red hair
grew low over his eyes and forehead.
"He's a beauty, isn't he?" said the inspector.
"He certainly needs a wash," remarked Holmes. "I had an idea that he might,
and I took the liberty of bringing the tools with me." He opened the Gladstone
bag as he spoke, and took out, to my astonishment, a very large bath-sponge.
"He! he! You are a funny one," chuckled the inspector.
"Now, if you will have the great goodness to open that door very quietly,
we will soon make him cut a much more respectable figure."
"Well, I don't know why not," said the inspector. "He doesn't look a credit
to the Bow Street cells, does he?" He slipped his key into the lock, and we all
very quietly entered the cell. The sleeper half turned, and then settled down
once more into a deep slumber. Holmes stooped to the waterjug, moistened his
sponge, and then rubbed it twice vigorously across and down the prisoner's face.
"Let me introduce you," he shouted, "to Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee, in
the county of Kent."
Never in my life have I seen such a sight. The man's face peeled off under
the sponge like the bark from a tree. Gone was the coarse brown tint! Gone, too,
was the horrid scar which had seamed it across, and the twisted lip which had
given the repulsive sneer to the face! A twitch brought away the tangled red
hair, and there, sitting up in his bed, was a pale, sad-faced, refined-looking
man, black-haired and smooth-skinned, rubbing his eyes and staring about him
with sleepy bewilderment. Then suddenly realizing the exposure, he broke into a
scream and threw himself down with his face to the pillow.
"Great heavens!" cried the inspector, "it is, indeed, the missing man. I
know him from the photograph."
The prisoner turned with the reckless air of a man who abandons himself to
his destiny. "Be it so," said he. "And pray what am I charged with?"
"With making away with Mr. Neville St.-- Oh, come, you can't be charged
with that unless they make a case of attempted suicide of it," said the
inspector with a grin. "Well, I have been twenty-seven years in the force, but
this really takes the cake."
"If I am Mr. Neville St. Clair, then it is obvious that no crime has been
committed, and that, therefore, I am illegally detained."
"No crime, but a very great error has been committed," said Holmes. "You
would have done better to have trusted you wife."
"It was not the wife; it was the children," groaned the prisoner. "God help
me, I would not have them ashamed of their father. My God! What an exposure!
What can I do?"
Sherlock Holmes sat down beside him on the couch and patted him kindly on
"If you leave it to a court of law to clear the matter up," said he, "of
course you can hardly avoid publicity. On the other hand, if you convince the
police authorities that there is no possible case against you, I do not know
that there is any reason that the details should find their way into the papers.
Inspector Bradstreet would, I am sure, make notes upon anything which you might
tell us and submit it to the proper authorities. The case would then never go
into court at all."
"God bless you!" cried the prisoner passionately. "I would have endured
imprisonment, ay, even execution, rather than have left my miserable secret as a
family blot to my children.
"You are the first who have ever heard my story. My father was a
school-master in Chesterfield, where I received an excellent education. I
travelled in my youth, took to the stage, and finally became a reporter on an
evening paper in London. One day my editor wished to have a series of articles
upon begging in the metropolis, and I volunteered to supply them. There was the
point from which all my adventures started. It was only by trying begging as an
amateur that I could get the facts upon which to base my articles. When an actor
I had, of course, learned all the secrets of making up, and had been famous in
the greenroom for my skill. I took advantage now of my attainments. I painted my
face, and to make myself as pitiable as possible I made a good scar and fixed
one side of my lip in a twist by the aid of a small slip of flesh-colored
plaster. Then with a red head of hair, and an appropriate dress, I took my
station in the business part of the city, ostensibly as a match-seller but
really as a beggar. For seven hours I plied my trade, and when I returned home
in the evening I found to my surprise that I had received no less than 26s. 4d.
"I wrote my articles and thought little more of the matter until, some time
later, I backed a bill for a friend and had a writ served upon me for 25 pounds.
I was at my wit's end where to get the money, but a sudden idea came to me. I
begged a fortnight's grace from the creditor, asked for a holiday from my
employers, and spent the time in begging in the City under my disguise. In ten
days I had the money and had paid the debt.
"Well, you can imagine how hard it was to settle down to arduous work at 2
pounds a week when I knew that I could earn as much in a day by smearing my face
with a little paint, laying my cap on the ground, and sitting still. It was a
long fight between my pride and the money, but the dollars won at last, and I
threw up reporting and sat day after day in the corner which I had first chosen,
inspiring pity by my ghastly face and filling my pockets with coppers. Only one
man knew my secret. He was the keeper of a low den in which I used to lodge in
Swandam Lane, where I could every morning emerge as a squalid beggar and in the
evenings transform myself into a well-dressed man about town. This fellow, a
Lascar, was well paid by me for his rooms, so that I knew that my secret was
safe in his possession.
"Well, very soon I found that I was saving considerable sums of money. I do
not mean that any beggar in the streets of London could earn 700 pounds a
year--which is less than my average takings--but I had exceptional advantages in
my power of making up, and also in a facility of repartee, which improved by
practice and made me quite a recognized character in the City. All day a stream
of pennies, varied by silver, poured in upon me, and it was a very bad day in
which I failed to take 2 pounds.
"As I grew richer I grew more ambitious, took a house in the country, and
eventually married, without anyone having a suspicion as to my real occupation.
My dear wife knew that I had business in the City. She little knew what.
"Last Monday I had finished for the day and was dressing in my room above
the opium den when I looked out of my window and saw, to my horror and
astonishment, that my wife was standing in the street, with her eyes fixed full
upon me. I gave a cry of surprise, threw up my arms to cover my face, and,
rushing to my confidant, the Lascar, entreated him to prevent anyone from coming
up to me. I heard her voice downstairs, but I knew that she could not ascend.
Swiftly I threw off my clothes, pulled on those of a beggar, and put on my
pigments and wig. Even a wife's eyes could not pierce so complete a disguise.
But then it occurred to me that there might be a search in the room, and that
the clothes might betray me. I threw open the window, reopening by my violence a
small cut which I had inflicted upon myself in the bedroom that morning. Then I
seized my coat, which was weighted by the coppers which I had just transferred
to it from the leather bag in which I carried my takings. I hurled it out of the
window, and it disappeared into the Thames. The other clothes would have
followed, but at that moment there was a rush of constables up the stair, and a
few minutes after I found, rather, I confess, to my relief, that instead of
being identified as Mr. Neville St. Clair, I was arrested as his murderer.
"I do not know that there is anything else for me to explain. I was
determined to preserve my disguise as long as possible, and hence my preference
for a dirty face. Knowing that my wife would be terribly anxious, I slipped off
my ring and confided it to the Lascar at a moment when no constable was watching
me, together with a hurried scrawl, telling her that she had no cause to fear."
"That note only reached her yesterday," said Holmes.
"Good God! What a week she must have spent!"
"The police have watched this Lascar," said Inspector Bradstreet, "and I
can quite understand that he might find it difficult to post a letter
unobserved. Probably he handed it to some sailor customer of his, who forgot all
about it for some days."
"That was it," said Holmes, nodding approvingly; "I have no doubt of it.
But have you never been prosecuted for begging?"
"Many times; but what was a fine to me?"
"It must stop here, however," said Bradstreet. "If the police are to hush
this thing up, there must be no more of Hugh Boone."
"I have sworn it by the most solemn oaths which a man can take."
"In that case I think that it is probable that no further steps may be
taken. But if you are found again, then all must come out. I am sure, Mr.
Holmes, that we are very much indebted to you for having cleared the matter up.
I wish I knew how you reach your results."
"I reached this one," said my friend, "by sitting upon five pillows and
consuming an ounce of shag. I think, Watson, that if we drive to Baker Street we
shall just be in time for breakfast."
ADVENTURE VII. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLUE CARBUNCLE
I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after
Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He
was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack within his
reach upon the right, and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly
studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a wooden chair, and on the angle of
the back hung a very seedy and disreputable hard-felt hat, much the worse for
wear, and cracked in several places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of
the chair suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner for the
purpose of examination.
"You are engaged," said I; "perhaps I interrupt you."
"Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my results.
The matter is a perfectly trivial one"--he jerked his thumb in the direction of
the old hat--"but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely
devoid of interest and even of instruction."
I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his crackling
fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows were thick with the ice
crystals. "I suppose," I remarked, "that, homely as it looks, this thing has
some deadly story linked on to it--that it is the clew which will guide you in
the solution of some mystery and the punishment of some crime."
"No, no. No crime," said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. "Only one of those
whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have four million human
beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles. Amid the