The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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ham saw that the case against him was so strong he lost all heart
and made a clean breast of everything. It seems that William had
secretly followed his two masters on the night when they made
their raid upon Mr. Acton's and, having thus got them into his
power, proceeded, under threats of exposure, to levy blackmail
upon them. Mr. Alec, however, was a dangerous man to play
games of that sort with. It was a stroke of positive genius on his
part to see in the burglary scare which was convulsing the
countryside an opportunity of plausibly getting rid of the man
whom he feared. William was decoyed up and shot. and had
they only got the whole of the note and paid a little more
attention to detail in their accessories, it is very possible that
suspicion might never have been aroused."
"And the note?" I asked.
Sherlock Holmes placed the subjoined paper before us.
IF YOU WILL ONLY COME AROUND
TO THE EAST GATE YOU WILL
WILL VERY MUCH SURPRISE YOU AND
BE OF THE GREATEST SERVICE TO YOU AND ALSO
TO ANNIE MORRISON. BUT SAY NOTHING TO ANYONE
UPON THE MATTER.
"It is very much the sort of thing that I expected," said he.
"Of course, we do not yet know what the relations may have
been between Alec Cunningham, William Kirwan, and Annie
Morrison. The result shows that the trap was skilfully baited. I
am sure that you cannot fail to be delighted with the traces of
heredity shown in the p's and in the tails of the g's. The absence
of the i-dots in the old man's writing is also most characteristic.
Watson, I think our quiet rest in the country has been a distinct
success, and I shall certainly return much invigorated to Baker
The Crooked Man
One summer night, a few months after my marriage, I was
seated by my own hearth smoking a last pipe and nodding over a
novel, for my day's work had been an exhausting one. My wife
had already gone upstairs, and the sound of the locking of the
hall door some time before told me that the servants had also
retired. I had risen from my seat and was knocking out the ashes
of my pipe when I suddenly heard the clang of the bell.
I looked at the clock. It was a quarter to twelve. This could
not be a visitor at so late an hour. A patient evidently, and
possibly an all-night sitting. With a wry face I went out into the
hall and opened the door. To my astonishment it was Sherlock
Holmes who stood upon my step.
"Ah, Watson," said he, "I hoped that I might not be too late
to catch you."
"My dear fellow, pray come in."
"You look surprised, and no wonder! Relieved, too, I fancy!
Hum! You still smoke the Arcadia mixture of your bachelor
days, then! There's no mistaking that fluffy ash upon your coat.
It's easy to tell that you have been accustomed to wear a
uniform, Watson. You'll never pass as a pure-bred civilian as
long as you keep that habit of carrying your handkerchief in your
sleeve. Could you put me up to-night?"
"You told me that you had bachelor quarters for one, and I
see that you have no gentleman visitor at present. Your hat-stand
proclaims as much."
"I shall be delighted if you will stay."
"Thank you. I'll fill the vacant peg then. Sorry to see that
you've had the British workman in the house. He's a token of
evil. Not the drains, I hope?"
"No, the gas."
"Ah! He has left two nail-marks from his boot upon your
linoleum just where the light strikes it. No, thank you, I had
some supper at Waterloo, but I'll smoke a pipe with you with
I handed him my pouch, and he seated himself opposite to me
and smoked for some time.in silence. I was well aware that
nothing but business of importance would have brought him to
me at such an hour, so I waited patiently until he should come
round to it.
"I see that you are professionally rather busy just now," said
he, glancing very keenly across at me.
"Yes, I've had a busy day," I answered. "It may seem very
foolish in your eyes," I added, "but really I don't know how
you deduced it."
Holmes chuckled to himself.
"I have the advantage of knowing your habits, my dear Wat-
son," said he. "When your round is a short one you walk, and
when it is a long one you use a hansom. As I perceive that your
boots, although used, are by no means dirty, I cannot doubt that
you are at present busy enough to justify the hansom."
"Excellent!" I cried.
"Elementary," said he. "It is one of those instances where
the reasoner can produce an effect which seems remarkable to
his neighbour, because the latter has missed the one little point
which is the basis of the deduction. The same may be said, my
dear fellow, for the effect of some of these little sketches of
yours, which is entirely meretricious, depending as it does upon
your retaining in your own hands some factors in the problem
which are never imparted to the reader. Now, at present I am in
the position of these same readers, for I hold in this hand several
threads of one of the strangest cases which ever perplexed a
man's brain, and yet I lack the one or two which are needful to
complete my theory. But I'll have them, Watson, I'll have
them!" His eyes kindled and a slight flush sprang into his thin
cheeks. For an instant the veil had lifted upon his keen, intense
nature, but for an instant only. When I glanced again his face
had resumed that red-Indian composure which had made so
many regard him as a machine rather than a man.
"The problem presents features of interest," said he. "I may
even say exceptional features of interest. I have already looked
into the matter, and have come, as I think, within sight of my
solution. If you could accompany me in that last step you might
be of considerable service to me."
"I should be delighted."
"Could you go as far as Aldershot to-morrow?"
"I have no doubt Jackson would take my practice."
"Very good. I want to start by the 11:10 from Waterloo."
"That would give me time."
"Then, if you are not too sleepy, I will give you a sketch of
what has happened, and of what remains to be done."
"I was sleepy before you came. I am quite wakeful now."
"I will compress the story as far as may be done without
omitting anything vital to the case. It is conceivable that you
may even have read some account of the matter. It is the
supposed murder of Colonel Barclay, of the Royal Munsters, at
Aldershot, which I am investigating."
"I have heard nothing of it."
"It has not excited much attention yet, except locally. The
facts are only two days old. Briefly they are these:
"The Royal Munsters is, as you know, one of the most
famous Irish regiments in the British Army. It did wonders both
in the Crimea and the Mutiny, and has since that time distin-
guished itself upon every possible occasion. It was commanded
up to Monday night by James Barclay, a gallant veteran, who
started as a full private, was raised to commissioned rank for his
bravery at the time of the Mutiny, and so lived to command the
regiment in which he had once carried a musket.
"Colonel Barclay had married at the time when he was a
sergeant, and his wife, whose maiden name was Miss Nancy
Devoy, was the daughter of a former colour-sergeant in the same
corps. There was, therefore, as can be imagined, some little
social friction when the young couple (for they were still young)
found themselves in their new surroundings. They appear, how-
ever, to have quickly adapted themselves, and Mrs. Barclay has
always, I understand, been as popular with the ladies of the
regiment as her husband was with his brother officers. I may add
that she was a woman of great beauty, and that even now, when
she has been married for upward of thirty years, she is still of a
striking and queenly appearance.
"Colonel Barclay's family life appears to have been a uni-
formly happy one. Major Murphy, to whom I owe most of my
facts, assures me that he has never heard of any misunderstand-
ing between the pair. On the whole, he thinks that Barclay's
devotion to his wife was greater than his wife's to Barclay. He
was acutely uneasy if he were absent from her for a day. She, on
the other hand, though devoted and faithful, was less obtrusively
affectionate. But they were regarded in the regiment as the very
model of a middle-aged couple. There was absolutely nothing in
their mutual relations to prepare people for the tragedy which
was to follow.
"Colonel Barclay himself seems to have had some singular
traits in his character. He was a dashing, jovial old soldier in his
usual mood, but there were occasions on which he seemed to
show himself capable of considerable violence and vindictiveness.