The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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"My dear Watson, you as a medical man are continually gaining light as to
the tendencies of a child by the study of the parents. Don't you see that the
converse is equally valid. I have frequently gained my first real insight into
the character of parents by studying their children. This child's disposition is
abnormally cruel, merely for cruelty's sake, and whether he derives this from
his smiling father, as I should suspect, or from his mother, it bodes evil for
the poor girl who is in their power."
"I am sure that you are right, Mr. Holmes," cried our client. "A thousand
things come back to me which make me certain that you have hit it. Oh, let us
lose not an instant in bringing help to this poor creature."
"We must be circumspect, for we are dealing with a very cunning man. We can
do nothing until seven o'clock. At that hour we shall be with you, and it will
not be long before we solve the mystery."
We were as good as our word, for it was just seven when we reached the
Copper Beeches, having put up our trap at a wayside public-house. The group of
trees, with their dark leaves shining like burnished metal in the light of the
setting sun, were sufficient to mark the house even had Miss Hunter not been
standing smiling on the door-step.
"Have you managed it?" asked Holmes.
A loud thudding noise came from somewhere downstairs. "That is Mrs. Toller
in the cellar," said she. "Her husband lies snoring on the kitchen rug. Here are
his keys, which are the duplicates of Mr. Rucastle's."
"You have done well indeed!" cried Holmes with enthusiasm. "Now lead the
way, and we shall soon see the end of this black business."
We passed up the stair, unlocked the door, followed on down a passage, and
found ourselves in front of the barricade which Miss Hunter had described.
Holmes cut the cord and removed the transverse bar. Then he tried the various
keys in the lock, but without success. No sound came from within, and at the
silence Holmes's face clouded over.
"I trust that we are not too late," said he. "I think, Miss Hunter, that we
had better go in without you. Now, Watson, put your shoulder to it, and we shall
see whether we cannot make our way in."
It was an old rickety door and gave at once before our united strength.
Together we rushed into the room. It was empty. There was no furniture save a
little pallet bed, a small table, and a basketful of linen. The skylight above
was open, and the prisoner gone.
"There has been some villainy here," said Holmes; "this beauty has guessed
Miss Hunter's intentions and has carried his victim off."
"Through the skylight. We shall soon see how he managed it." He swung
himself up onto the roof. "Ah, yes," he cried, "here's the end of a long light
ladder against the eaves. That is how he did it."
"But it is impossible," said Miss Hunter; "the ladder was not there when
the Rucastles went away."
"He has come back and done it. I tell you that he is a clever and dangerous
man. I should not be very much surprised if this were he whose step I hear now
upon the stair. I think, Watson, that it would be as well for you to have your
The words were hardly out of his mouth before a man appeared at the door of
the room, a very fat and burly man, with a heavy stick in his hand. Miss Hunter
screamed and shrunk against the wall at the sight of him, but Sherlock Holmes
sprang forward and confronted him.
"You villain!" said he, "where's your daughter?"
The fat man cast his eyes round, and then up at the open skylight.
"It is for me to ask you that," he shrieked, "you thieves! Spies and
thieves! I have caught you, have I? You are in my power. I'll serve you!" He
turned and clattered down the stairs as hard as he could go.
"He's gone for the dog!" cried Miss Hunter.
"I have my revolver," said I.
"Better close the front door," cried Holmes, and we all rushed down the
stairs together. We had hardly reached the hall when we heard the baying of a
hound, and then a scream of agony, with a horrible worrying sound which it was
dreadful to listen to. An elderly man with a red face and shaking limbs came
staggering out at a side door.
"My God!" he cried. "Someone has loosed the dog. It's not been fed for two
days. Quick, quick, or it'll be too late!"
Holmes and I rushed out and round the angle of the house, with Toller
hurrying behind us. There was the huge famished brute, its black muzzle buried
in Rucastle's throat, while he writhed and screamed upon the ground. Running up,
I blew its brains out, and it fell over with its keen white teeth still meeting
in the great creases of his neck. With much labour we separated them and carried
him, living but horribly mangled, into the house. We laid him upon the
drawing-room sofa, and having dispatched the sobered Toller to bear the news to
his wife, I did what I could to relieve his pain. We were all assembled round
him when the door opened, and a tall, gaunt woman entered the room.
"Mrs. Toller!" cried Miss Hunter.
"Yes, miss. Mr. Rucastle let me out when he came back before he went up to
you. Ah, miss, it is a pity you didn't let me know what you were planning, for I
would have told you that your pains were wasted."
"Ha!" said Holmes, looking keenly at her. "It is clear that Mrs. Toller
knows more about this matter than anyone else."
"Yes, sir, I do, and I am ready enough to tell what I know."
"Then, pray, sit down, and let us hear it for there are several points on
which I must confess that I am still in the dark."
"I will soon make it clear to you," said she; "and I'd have done so before
now if I could ha' got out from the cellar. If there's police-court business
over this, you'll remember that I was the one that stood your friend, and that I
was Miss Alice's friend too.
"She was never happy at home, Miss Alice wasn't, from the time that her
father married again. She was slighted like and had no say in anything, but it
never really became bad for her until after she met Mr. Fowler at a friend's
house. As well as I could learn, Miss Alice had rights of her own by will, but
she was so quiet and patient, she was, that she never said a word about them but
just left everything in Mr. Rucastle's hands. He knew he was safe with her; but
when there was a chance of a husband coming forward, who would ask for all that
the law would give him, then her father thought it time to put a stop on it. He
wanted her to sign a paper, so that whether she married or not, he could use her
money. When she wouldn't do it, he kept on worrying her until she got
brain-fever, and for six weeks was at death's door. Then she got better at last,
all worn to a shadow, and with her beautiful hair cut off; but that didn't make
no change in her young man, and he stuck to her as true as man could be."
"Ah," said Holmes, "I think that what you have been good enough to tell us
makes the matter fairly clear, and that I can deduce all that remains. Mr.
Rucastle then, I presume, took to this system of imprisonment?"
"And brought Miss Hunter down from London in order to get rid of the
disagreeable persistence of Mr. Fowler."
"That was it, sir."
"But Mr. Fowler being a persevering man, as a good seaman should be,
blockaded the house, and having met you succeeded by certain arguments, metallic
or otherwise, in convincing you that your interests were the same as his."
"Mr. Fowler was a very kind-spoken, free-handed gentleman," said Mrs.
"And in this way he managed that your good man should have no want of
drink, and that a ladder should be ready at the moment when your master had gone
"You have it, sir, just as it happened."
"I am sure we owe you an apology, Mrs. Toller," said Holmes, "for you have
certainly cleared up everything which puzzled us. And here comes the country
surgeon and Mrs. Rucastle, so I think. Watson, that we had best escort Miss
Hunter back to Winchester, as it seems to me that our locus standi now is rather
a questionable one."
And thus was solved the mystery of the sinister house with the copper
beeches in front of the door. Mr. Rucastle survived, but was always a broken
man, kept alive solely through the care of his devoted wife. They still live
with their old servants, who probably know so much of Rucastle's past life that
he finds it difficult to part from them. Mr. Fowler and Miss Rucastle were
married, by special license, in Southampton the day after their flight, and he
is now the holder of a government appointment in the island of Mauritius. As to
Miss Violet Hunter, my friend Holmes, rather to my disappointment, manifested no
further interest in her when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his
problems, and she is now the head of a private school at Walsall, where I
believe that she has met with considerable success.
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes