The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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and partly by acting as guide to any wealthy Orientals who may
visit the Northumberland Avenue hotels. I think I will leave him
to tell his very remarkable experience in his own fashion."
A few minutes later we were joined by a short, stout man
whose olive face and coal black hair proclaimed his Southern
origin, though his speech was that of an educated Englishman.
He shook hands eagerly with Sherlock Holmes, and his dark
eyes sparkled with pleasure when he understood that the special-
ist was anxious to hear his story.
"I do not believe that the police credit me -- on my word, I do
not," said he in a wailing voice. "Just because they have never
heard of it before, they think that such a thing cannot be. But I
know that I shall never be easy in my mind until I know what
has become of my poor man with the sticking-plaster upon his
"I am all attention," said Sherlock Holmes.
"This is Wednesday evening," said Mr. Melas. "Well, then,
it was Monday night -- only two days ago, you understand -- that
all this happened. I am an interpreter, as perhaps my neighbour
there has told you. I interpret all languages -- or nearly all -- but
as I am a Greek by birth and with a Grecian name, it is with that
particular tongue that I am principally associated. For many
years I have been the chief Greek interpreter in London, and my
name is very well known in the hotels.
"It happens not unfrequently that I am sent for at strange
hours by foreigners who get into difficulties, or by travellers who
arrive late and wish my services. I was not surprised, therefore,
on Monday night when a Mr. Latimer, a very fashionably
dressed young man, came up to my rooms and asked me to
accompany him in a cab which was waiting at the door. A Greek
friend had come to see him upon business, he said, and as he
could speak nothing but his own tongue, the services of an
interpreter were indispensable. He gave me to understand that his
house was some little distance off, in Kensington, and he seemed
to be in a great hurry, bustling me rapidly into the cab when we
had descended to the street.
"I say into the cab, but I soon became doubtful as to whether
tt was not a carriage in which I found myself. It was certainly
more roomy than the ordinary four-wheeled disgrace to London,
and the fittings, though frayed, were of rich quality. Mr. Latimer
seated himself opposite to me and we started off through Charing
Cross and up the Shaftesbury Avenue. We had come out upon
Oxford Street and I had ventured some remark as to this being a
roundabout way to Kensington, when my words were arrested by
the extraordinary conduct of my companion.
"He began by drawing a most formidable-looking bludgeon
loaded with lead from his pocket, and switching it backward and
forward several times, as if to test its weight and strength. Then
he placed it without a word upon the seat beside him. Having
done this, he drew up the windows on each side, and I found to
my astonishment that they were covered with paper so as to
prevent my seeing through them.
" 'I am sorry to cut off your view, Mr. Melas,' said he. 'The
fact is that I have no intention that you should see what the place
is to which we are driving. It might possibly be inconvenient to
me if you could find your way there again.'
"As you can imagine, I was utterly taken aback by such an
address. My companion was a powerful, broad-shouldered young
fellow, and, apart from the weapon, I should not have had the
slightest chance in a struggle with him.
" 'This is very extraordinary conduct, Mr. Latimer,' I stam-
mered. 'You must be aware that what you are doing is quite
" 'It is somewhat of a liberty, no doubt,' said he, 'but we'll
make it up to you. I must warn you, however, Mr. Melas, that if
at any time to-night you attempt to raise an alarm or do anything
which is against my interest, you will find it a very serious thing.
I beg you to remember that no one knows where you are, and
that, whether you are in this carriage or in my house, you are
equally in my power.'
"His words were quiet, but he had a rasping way of saying
them, which was very menacing. I sat in silence wondering what
on earth could be his reason for kidnapping me in this extraordi-
nary fashion. Whatever it might be, it was perfectly clear that
there was no possible use in my resisting, and that I could only
wait to see what might befall.
"For nearly two hours we drove without my having the least
clue as to where we were going. Sometimes the rattle of the
stones told of a paved causeway, and at others our smooth, silent
course suggested asphalt; but, save by this variation in sound,
there was nothing at all which could in the remotest way help me
to form a guess as to where we were. The paper over each
window was impenetrable to light, and a blue curtain was drawn
across the glasswork in front. It was a quarter-past seven when
we left Pall Mall, and my watch showed me that it was ten
minutes to nine when we at last came to a standstill. My com-
panion let down the window, and I caught a glimpse of a low,
arched doorway with a lamp burning above it. As I was hurried
from the carriage it swung open, and I found myself inside the
house, with a vague impression of a lawn and trees on each side
of me as I entered. Whether these were private grounds, how-
ever, or bona-fide country was more than I could possibly ven-
ture to say.
"There was a coloured gas-lamp inside which was turned so
low that I could see little save that the hall was of some size and
hung with pictures. In the dim light I could make out that the
person who had opened the door was a small, mean-looking,
middle-aged man with rounded shoulders. As he turned towards
us the glint of the light showed me that he was wearing glasses.
" 'Is this Mr. Melas, Harold?' said he.
" 'Well done, well done! No ill-will, Mr. Melas, I hope, but
we could not get on without you. If you deal fair with us you'll
not regret it, but if you try any tricks, God help you!' He spoke
in a nervous, jerky fashion, and with little giggling laughs in
between, but somehow he impressed me with fear more than the
" 'What do you want with me?' I asked.
" 'Only to ask a few questions of a Greek gentleman who is
visiting us, and to let us have the answers. But say no more than
you are told to say, or --' here came the nervous giggle again --
'you had better never have been born.'
"As he spoke he opened a door and showed the way into a
room which appeared to be very richly furnished, but again the
only light was afforded by a single lamp half-turned down. The
chamber was certainly large, and the way in which my feet sank
into the carpet as I stepped across it told me of its richness. I
caught glimpses of velvet chairs, a high white marble mantel-
piece, and what seemed to be a suit of Japanese armour at one
side of it. There was a chair just under the lamp, and the elderly
man motioned that I should sit in it. The younger had left us, but
he suddenly returned through another door, leading with him a
gentleman clad in some sort of loose dressing-gown who moved
slowly towards us. As he came into the circle of dim light which
enabled me to see him more clearly I was thrilled with horror at
his appearance. He was deadly pale and terribly emaciated, with
the protruding, brilliant eyes of a man whose spirit was greater
than his strength. But what shocked me more than any signs of
physical weakness was that his face was grotesquely criss-crossed
with sticking-plaster, and that one large pad of it was fastened
over his mouth.
" 'Have you the slate, Harold?' cried the older man, as this
strange being fell rather than sat down into a chair. 'Are his
hands loose? Now, then, give him the pencil. You are to ask the
questions, Mr. Melas, and he will write the answers. Ask him
first of all whether he is prepared to sign the papers?"
"The man's eyes flashed fire.
" 'Never!' he wrote in Greek upon the slate.
" 'On no conditions?' I asked at the bidding of our tyrant.
" 'Only if I see her married in my presence by a Greek priest
whom I know.'
"The man giggled in his venomous way.
" 'You know what awaits you, then?'
" 'I care nothing for myself.'
"These are samples of the questions and answers which made
up our strange half-spoken, half-written conversation. Again and
again I had to ask him whether he would give in and sign the
documents. Again and again I had the same indignant reply. But
soon a happy thought came to me. I took to adding on little
sentences of my own to each question, innocent ones at first, to
test whether either of our companions knew anything of the
matter, and then, as I found that they showed no sign I played a
more dangerous game. Our conversation ran something like this:
" 'You can do no good by this obstinacy. Who are you?'
" 'I care not. I am a stranger in London.'
" 'Your fate will be on your own head. How long have you
" 'Let it be so. Three weeks.'
" 'The property can never be yours. What ails you?'
" 'It shall not go to villains. They are starving me.'
" 'You shall go free if you sign. What house is this?'
" 'I will never sign. I do not know.'