The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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"Your case is not complete, then?" I asked.
"It is fairly complete in essentials. We know who the author of
the revolting business is, although one of the victims still escapes
us. Of course, you have formed your own conclusions."
"I presume that this Jim Browner, the steward of a Liverpool
boat, is the man whom you suspect?"
"Oh! it is more than a suspicion."
"And yet I cannot see anything save very vague indications."
"On the contrary, to my mind nothing could be more clear.
Let me run over the principal steps. We approached the case,
you remember, with an absolutely blank mind, which is always
an advantage. We had formed no theories. We were simply there
to observe and to draw inferences from our observations. What
did we see first? A very placid and respectable lady, who seemed
quite innocent of any secret, and a portrait which showed me that
she had two younger sisters. It instantly flashed across my mind
that the box might have been meant for one of these. I set the
idea aside as one which could be disproved or confirmed at our
leisure. Then we went to the garden, as you remember, and we
saw the very singular contents of the little yellow box.
"The string was of the quality which is used by sailmakers
aboard ship, and at once a whiff of the sea was perceptible in our
investigation. When I observed that the knot was one which is
popular with sailors, that the parcel had been posted at a port,
and that the male ear was pierced for an earring which is so
much more common among sailors than landsmen, I was quite
certain that all the actors in the tragedy were to be found among
our seafaring classes.
"When I came to examine the address of the packet I ob-
served that it was to Miss S. Cushing. Now, the oldest sister
would, of course, be Miss Cushing, and although her initial was
'S' it might belong to one of the others as well. In that case we
should have to commence our investigation from a fresh basis
altogether. I therefore went into the house with the intention of
clearing up this point. I was about to assure Miss Cushing that I
was convinced that a mistake had been made when you may
remember that I came suddenly to a stop. The fact was that I had
just seen something which filled me with surprise and at the
same time narrowed the field of our inquiry immensely.
"As a medical man, you are aware, Watson, that there is no
part of the body which varies so much as the human ear. Each
ear is as a rule quite distinctive and differs from all other ones.
In last year's Anthropological Journal you will find two short
monographs from my pen upon the subject. I had, therefore,
examined the ears in the box with the eyes of an expert and had
carefully noted their anatomical peculiarities. Imagine my sur-
prise, then, when on looking at Miss Cushing I perceived that
her ear corresponded exactly with the female ear which I had just
inspected. The matter was entirely beyond coincidence. There
was the same shortening of the pinna, the same broad curve of
the upper lobe, the same convolution of the inner cartilage. In all
essentials it was the same ear.
"Of course I at once saw the enormous importance of the
observation. It was evident that the victim was a blood relation
and probably a very close one. I began to talk to her about her
family, and you remember that she at once gave us some exceed-
ingly valuable details
"In the first place, her sister's name was Sarah, and her
address had until recently been the same, so that it was quite
obvious how the mistake had occurred and for whom the packet
was meant. Then we heard of this steward, married to the third
sister, and learned that he had at one time been so intimate with
Miss Sarah that she had actually gone up to Liverpool to be near
the Browners, but a quarrel had afterwards divided them. This
quarrel had put a stop to all communications for some months,
so that if Browner had occasion to address a packet to Miss
Sarah, he would undoubtedly have done so to her old address.
"And now the matter had begun to straighten itself out won-
derfully. We had learned of the existence of this steward, an
impulsive man, of strong passions -- you remember that he threw
up what must have been a very superior berth in order to be
nearer to his wife -- subject, too, to occasional fits of hard drink-
ing. We had reason to believe that his wife had been murdered,
and that a man -- presumably a seafaring man -- had been mur-
dered at the same time. Jealousy, of course, at once suggests
itself as the motive for the crime. And why should these proofs
of the deed be sent to Miss Sarah Cushing? Probably because
during her residence in Liverpool she had some hand in bringing
about the events which led to the tragedy. You will observe that
this line of boats calls at Belfast, Dublin, and Waterford; so that,
presuming that Browner had committed the deed and had embarked
at once upon his steamer, the May Day, Belfast would be the
first place at which he could post his terrible packet.
"A second solution was at this stage obviously possible, and
although I thought it exceedingly unlikely, I was determined to
elucidate it before going further. An unsuccessful lover might
have killed Mr. and Mrs. Browner, and the male ear might have
belonged to the husband. There were many grave objections to
this theory, but it was conceivable. I therefore sent off a tele-
gram to my friend Algar, of the Liverpool force, and asked him
to find out if Mrs. Browner were at home, and if Browner had
departed in the May Day. Then we went on to Wallington to visit
"I was curious, in the first place, to see how far the family ear
had been reproduced in her. Then, of course, she might give us
very important information, but I was not sanguine that she
would. She must have heard of the business the day before, since
all Croydon was ringing with it, and she alone could have
understood for whom the packet was meant. If she had been
willing to help justice she would probably have communicated
with the police already. However, it was clearly our duty to see
her, so we went. We found that the news of the arrival of the
packet -- for her illness dated from that time -- had such an effect
upon her as to bring on brain fever. It was clearer than ever that
she understood its full significance, but equally clear that we
should have to wait some time for any assistance from her.
"However, we were really independent of her help. Our
answers were waiting for us at the police-station, where I had
directed Algar to send them. Nothing could be more conclusive.
Mrs. Browner's house had been closed for more than three days,
and the neighbours were of opinion that she had gone south to
see her relatives. It had been ascertained at the shipping offices
that Browner had left aboard of the May Day, and I calculate that
she is due in the Thames to-morrow night. When he arrives he
will be met by the obtuse but resolute Lestrade, and I have no
doubt that we shall have all our details filled in."
Sherlock Holmes was not disappointed in his expectations.
Two days later he received a bulky envelope, which contained a
short note from the detective, and a typewritten document, which
covered several pages of foolscap.
"Lestrade has got him all right," said Holmes, glancing up at
me. "Perhaps it would interest you to hear what he says.
"MY DEAR MR. HOLMES:
"In accordance with the scheme which we had formed in
order to test our theories" ["the 'we' is rather fine, Wat-
son, is it not?"] "I went down to the Albert Dock yesterday
at 6 P. M., and boarded the S. S. May Day, belonging to the
Liverpool, Dublin, and London Steam Packet Company. On
inquiry, I found that there was a steward on board of the
name of James Browner and that he had acted during
the voyage in such an extraordinary manner that the captain
had been compelled to relieve him of his duties. On de-
scending to his berth, I found him seated upon a chest with
his head sunk upon his hands, rocking himself to and fro.
He is a big, powerful chap, clean-shaven, and very swarthy --
something like Aldridge, who helped us in the bogus laun-
dry affair. He jumped up when he heard my business, and I
had my whistle to my lips to call a couple of river police,
who were round the corner, but he seemed to have no heart
in him, and he held out his hands quietly enough for the
darbies. We brought him along to the cells, and his box as
well, for we thought there might be something incriminat-
ing; but, bar a big sharp knife such as most sailors have, we
got nothing for our trouble. However, we find that we shall
want no more evidence, for on being brought before the
inspector at the station he asked leave to make a statement,
which was, of course, taken down, just as he made it, by
our shorthand man. We had three copies typewritten, one of
which I enclose. The affair proves, as I always thought it
would, to be an extremely simple one, but I am obliged to
you for assisting me in my investigation. With kind regards,
"Yours very truly,