The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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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 extraordinary contortions.
"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 hands.
"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 clanging.
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
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
"Pray compose yourself, sir," said Holmes, "and let me have a clear account
of who you are and what it is that has befallen you."
"My name," answered our visitor, "is probably familiar to your ears. I am
Alexander Holder, of the banking firm of Holder & Stevenson, of Threadneedle
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
"'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. 'You have doubtless heard of
the Beryl Coronet?'
"'One of the most precious public possessions of the empire,' said I.
"'Precisely.' He opened the case, and there, imbedded in soft,
flesh-colored velvet, lay the magnificent piece of jewellery which he had named.
'There are thirty-nine enormous beryls,' said he, 'and the price of the gold
chasing is incalculable. The lowest estimate would put the worth of the coronet
at double the sum which I have asked. I am prepared to leave it with you as my
"I took the precious case into my hands and looked in some perplexity from
it to my illustrious client.
"'You doubt its value?' he asked.
"'Not at all. I only doubt --'
"'The propriety of my leaving it. You may set your mind at rest about that.
I should not dream of doing so were it not absolutely certain that I should be
able in four days to reclaim it. It is a pure matter of form. Is the security
"'You understand, Mr. Holder, that I am giving you a strong proof of the
confidence which I have in you, founded upon all that I have heard of you. I
rely upon you not only to be discreet and to refrain from all gossip upon the
matter but, above all, to preserve this coronet with every possible precaution
because I need not say that a great public scandal would be caused if any harm
were to befall it. Any injury to it would be almost as serious as its complete
loss, for there are no beryls in the world to match these, and it would be
impossible to replace them. I leave it with you, however, with every confidence,
and I shall call for it in person on Monday morning.'
"Seeing that my client was anxious to leave, I said no more but, calling
for my cashier, I ordered him to pay over fifty 1000 pound notes. When I was
alone once more, however, with the precious case lying upon the table in front
of me, I could not but think with some misgivings of the immense responsibility
which it entailed upon me. There could be no doubt that, as it was a national
possession, a horrible scandal would ensue if any misfortune should occur to it.
I already regretted having ever consented to take charge of it. However, it was
too late to alter the matter now, so I locked it up in my private safe and
turned once more to my work.
"When evening came I felt that it would be an imprudence to leave so
precious a thing in the office behind me. Bankers' safes had been forced before
now, and why should not mine be? If so, how terrible would be the position in
which I should find myself! I determined, therefore, that for the next few days
I would always carry the case backward and forward with me, so that it might
never be really out of my reach. With this intention, I called a cab and drove
out to my house at Streatham, carrying the jewel with me. I did not breathe
freely until I had taken it upstairs and locked it in the bureau of my
"And now a word as to my household, Mr. Holmes, for I wish you to
thoroughly understand the situation. My groom and my page sleep out of the
house, and may be set aside altogether. I have three maid-servants who have been
with me a number of years and whose absolute reliability is quite above
suspicion. Another, Lucy Parr, the second waiting-maid, has only been in my
service a few months. She came with an excellent character, however, and has
always given me satisfaction. She is a very pretty girl and has attracted
admirers who have occasionally hung about the place. That is the only drawback
which we have found to her, but we believe her to be a thoroughly good girl in
"So much for the servants. My family itself is so small that it will not
take me long to describe it. I am a widower and have an only son, Arthur. He has
been a disappointment to me, Mr. Holmes-- a grievous disappointment. I have no
doubt that I am myself to blame. People tell me that I have spoiled him. Very
likely I have. When my dear wife died I felt that he was all I had to love. I
could not bear to see the smile fade even for a moment from his face. I have
never denied him a wish. Perhaps it would have been better for both of us had I
been sterner, but I meant it for the best.
"It was naturally my intention that he should succeed me in my business,
but he was not of a business turn. He was wild, wayward, and, to speak the
truth, I could not trust him in the handling of large sums of money. When he was
young he became a member of an aristocratic club, and there, having charming
manners, he was soon the intimate of a number of men with long purses and
expensive habits. He learned to play heavily at cards and to squander money on
the turf, until he had again and again to come to me and implore me to give him
an advance upon his allowance, that he might settle his debts of honor. He tried
more than once to break away from the dangerous company which he was keeping,
but each time the influence of his friend, Sir George Burnwell, was enough to
draw him back again.
"And, indeed, I could not wonder that such a man as Sir George Burnwell
should gain an influence over him, for he has frequently brought him to my
house, and I have found myself that I could hardly resist the fascination of his
manner. He is older than Arthur, a man of the world to his finger-tips, one who
had been everywhere, seen everything, a brilliant talker, and a man of great
personal beauty. Yet when I think of him in cold blood, far away from the
glamour of his presence, I am convinced from his cynical speech and the look
which I have caught in his eyes that he is one who should be deeply distrusted.
So I think, and so, too, thinks my little Mary, who has a woman's quick insight
"And now there is only she to be described. She is my niece; but when my
brother died five years ago and left her alone in the world I adopted her, and
have looked upon her ever since as my daughter. She is a sunbeam in my
house--sweet, loving, beautiful, a wonderful manager and housekeeper, yet as
tender and quiet and gentle as a woman could be. She is my right hand. I do not
know what I could do without her. In only one matter has she ever gone against
my wishes. Twice my boy has asked her to marry him, for he loves her devotedly,
but each time she has refused him. I think that if anyone could have drawn him
into the right path it would have been she, and that his marriage might have
changed his whole life; but now, alas! it is too late--forever too late!
"Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who live under my roof, and I shall
continue with my miserable story.
"When we were taking coffee in the drawing-room that night after dinner, I
told Arthur and Mary my experience, and of the precious treasure which we had
under our roof, suppressing only the name of my client. Lucy Parr, who had
brought in the coffee, had, I am sure, left the room; but I cannot swear that
the door was closed. Mary and Arthur were much interested and wished to see the
famous coronet, but I thought it better not to disturb it.
"'Where have you put it?' asked Arthur.
"'In my own bureau.'
"'Well, I hope to goodness the house won't be burgled during the night.'
"'It is locked up,' I answered.
"'Oh, any old key will fit that bureau. When I was a youngster I have
opened it myself with the key of the box-room cupboard.'
"He often had a wild way of talking, so that I thought little of what he
said. He followed me to my room, however, that night with a very grave face.
"'Look here, dad,' said he with his eyes cast down, 'can you let me have