The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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Holmes grunted from the sofa.
"The county police ought to make something of that," said
he; "why, it is surely obvious that --"
But I held up a warning finger.
"You are here for a rest, my dear fellow. For heaven's sake
don't get started on a new problem when your nerves are all in
Holmes shrugged his shoulders with a glance of comic resig-
nation towards the colonel, and the talk drifted away into less
It was destined, however, that all my professional caution
should be wasted, for next morning the problem obtruded itself
upon us in such a way that it was impossible to ignore it, and our
country visit took a turn which neither of us could have antici-
pated. We were at breakfast when the colonel's butler rushed in
with all his propriety shaken out of him.
"Have you heard the news, sir?" he gasped. "At the Cun-
"Burglary!" cried the colonel, with his coffee-cup in mid-air.
The colonel whistled. "By Jove!" said he. "Who's killed,
then? The J. P. or his son?"
"Neither, sir. It was William the coachman. Shot through the
heart, sir, and never spoke again."
"Who shot him, then?"
"The burglar, sir. He was off like a shot and got clean away.
He'd just broke in at the pantry window when William came on
him and met his end in saving his master's property."
"It was last night, sir, somewhere about twelve."
"Ah, then, we'll step over afterwards," said the colonel
coolly settling down to his breakfast again. "It's a baddish
business," he added when the butler had gone; "he's our leading
man about here, is old Cunningham, and a very decent fellow
too. He'll be cut up over this, for the man has been in his service
for years and was a good servant. It's evidently the same villains
who broke into Acton's."
"And stole that very singular collection," said Holmes
"Hum! It may prove the simplest matter in the world, but all
the same at first glance this is just a little curious, is it not? A
gang of burglars acting in the country might be expected to vary
the scene of their operations, and not to crack two cribs in the
same district within a few days. When you spoke last night of
taking precautions I remember that it passed through my mind
that this was probably the last parish in England to which the
thief or thieves would be likely to turn their attention -- which
shows that I have still much to learn."
"I fancy it's some local practitioner," said the colonel. "In
that case, of course, Acton's and Cunningham's are just the
places he would go for, since they are far the largest about
"Well, they ought to be, but they've had a lawsuit for some
years which has sucked the blood out of both of them, I fancy.
Old Acton has some claim on half Cunningham's estate, and the
lawyers have been at it with both hands."
"If it's a local villain there should not be much difficulty in
running him down," said Holmes with a yawn. "All right,
Watson, I don't intend to meddle."
"Inspector Forrester, sir," said the butler, throwing open the
The official, a smart, keen-faced young fellow, stepped into
the room. "Good-morning, Colonel," said he. "I hope I don't
intrude, but we hear that Mr. Holmes of Baker Street is here."
The colonel waved his hand towards my friend, and the
"We thought that perhaps you would care to step across, Mr.
"The fates are against you, Watson," said he, laughing. "We
were chatting about the matter when you came in, Inspector.
Perhaps you can let us have a few details." As he leaned back in
his chair in the familiar attitude I knew that the case was
"We had no clue in the Acton affair. But here we have plenty
to go on, and there's no doubt it is the same party in each case.
The man was seen."
"Yes, sir. But he was off like a deer after the shot that killed
poor William Kirwan was fired. Mr. Cunningham saw him from
the bedroom window, and Mr. Alec Cunningham saw him from
the back passage. It was quarter to twelve when the alarm broke
out. Mr. Cunningham had just got into bed, and Mr. Alec was
smoking a pipe in his dressing-gown. They both heard William,
the coachman, calling for help, and Mr. Alec ran down to see
what was the matter. The back door was open, and as he came to
the foot of the stairs he saw two men wrestling together outside.
One of them fired a shot, the other dropped, and the murderer
rushed across the garden and over the hedge. Mr. Cunningham,
looking out of his bedroom, saw the fellow as he gained the
road, but lost sight of him at once. Mr. Alec stopped to see if he
could help the dying man, and so the villain got clean away.
Beyond the fact that he was a middle-sized man and dressed in
some dark stuff, we have no personal clue; but we are making
energetic inquiries, and if he is a stranger we shall soon find him
"What was this William doing there? Did he say anything
before he died?"
"Not a word. He lives at the lodge with his mother, and as he
was a very faithful fellow we imagine that he walked up to the
house with the intention of seeing that all was right there. Of
course this Acton business has put everyone on their guard. The
robber must have just burst open the door -- the lock has been
forced -- when William came upon him."
"Did William say anything to his mother before going out?"
"She is very old and deaf, and we can get no information
from her. The shock has made her half-witted, but I understand
that she was never very bright. There is one very important
circumstance, however. Look at this!"
He took a small piece of torn paper from a notebook and
spread it out upon his knee.
"This was found between the finger and thumb of the dead
man. It appears to be a fragment torn from a larger sheet. You
will observe that the hour mentioned upon it is the very time at
which the poor fellow met his fate. You see that his murderer
might have torn the rest of the sheet from him or he might have
taken this fragment from the murderer. It reads almost as though
it were an appointment."
Holmes took up the scrap of paper, a facsimile of which is
AT QUARTER TO TWELVE
"Presuming that it is an appointment," continued the inspec-
tor, "it is of course a conceivable theory that this William
Kirwan, though he had the reputation of being an honest man,
may have been in league with the thief. He may have met him
there, may even have helped him to break in the door, and then
they may have fallen out between themselves."
"This writing is of extraordinary interest," said Holmes, who
had been examining it with intense concentration. "These are
much deeper waters than I had thought." He sank his head upon
his hands, while the inspector smiled at the effect which his case
had had upon the famous London specialist.
"Your last remark," said Holmes presently, "as to the possi-
bility of there being an understanding between the burglar and
the servant, and this being a note of appointment from one to the
other, is an ingenious and not entirely impossible supposition.
But this writing opens up --" He sank his head into his hands
again and remained for some minutes in the deepest thought.
When he raised his face again I was surprised to see that his
cheek was tinged with colour, and his eyes as bright as before
his illness. He sprang to his feet with all his old energy.
"I'll tell you what," said he, "I should like to have a quiet
little glance into the details of this case. There is something in it
which fascinates me extremely. If you will permit me, Colonel, I
will leave my friend Watson and you, and I will step round with
the inspector to test the truth of one or two little fancies of mine.
I will be with you again in half an hour."
An hour and a half had elapsed before the inspector returned
"Mr. Holmes is walking up and down in the field outside,
said he. "He wants us all four to go up to the house together."