The Return of Sherlock Holmes
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I saw her look about her as she came to the Charlington hedge.
An instant later the man emerged from his hiding-place, sprang
upon his cycle, and followed her. In all the broad landscape
those were the only moving figures, the graceful girl sitting very
straight upon her machine, and the man behind her bending low
over his handle-bar with a curiously furtive suggestion in every
movement. She locked back at him and slowed her pace. He
slowed also. She stopped. He at once stopped, too, keeping two
hundred yards behind her. Her next movement was as unex-
pected as it was spirited. She suddenly whisked her wheels round
and dashed straight at him. He was as quick as she, however,
and darted off in desperate flight. Presently she came back up the
road again, her head haughtily in the air, not deigning to take
any further notice of her silent attendant. He had turned also, and
still kept his distance until the curve of the road hid them from
I remained in my hiding-place, and it was well that I did so,
for presently the man reappeared, cycling slowly back. He turned
in at the Hall gates, and dismounted from his machine. For some
minutes I could see him standing among the trees. His hands
were raised, and he seemed to be settling his necktie. Then he
mounted his cycle and rode away from me down the drive
towards the Hall. I ran across the heath and peered through the
trees. Far away I could catch glimpses of the old gray building
with its bristling Tudor chimneys, but the drive ran through a
dense shrubbery, and I saw no more of my man.
However, it seemed to me that I had done a fairly good
morning's work, and I walked back in high spirits to Farnham.
The local house agent could tell me nothing about Charlington
Hall, and referred me to a well known firm in Pall Mall. There I
halted on my way home, and met with courtesy from the repre-
sentative. No, I could not have Charlington Hall for the summer.
I was just too late. It had been let about a month ago. Mr.
Williamson was the name of the tenant. He was a respectable,
elderly gentleman. The polite agent was afraid he could say no
more, as the affairs of his clients were not matters which he
Mr. Sherlock Holmes listened with attention to the long report
which I was able to present to him that evening, but it did not
elicit that word of curt praise which I had hoped for and should
have valued. On the contrary. his austere face was even more
severe than usual as he commented upon the things that I had
done and the things that I had not.
"Your hiding-place, my dear Watson, was very faulty. You
should have been behind the hedge, then you would have had a
close view of this interesting person. As it is, you were some
hundreds of yards away and can tell me even less than Miss Smith.
She thinks she does not know the man; I am convinced she does.
Why, otherwise, should he be so desperately anxious that she
should not get so near him as to see his features? You describe him
as bending over the handle-bar. Concealment again, you see. You
really have done remarkably badly. He returns to the house, and you
want to find out who he is. You come to a London house agent!"
"What should I have done?" I cried, with some heat.
"Gone to the nearest public-house. That is the centre of
country gossip. They would have told you every name, from the
master to the scullery-maid. Williamson? It conveys nothing to
my mind. If he is an elderly man he is not this active cyclist who
sprints away from that young lady's athletic pursuit. What have
we gained by your expedition? The knowledge that the girl's
story is true. I never doubted it. That there is a connection
between the cyclist and the Hall. I never doubted that either.
That the Hall is tenanted by Williamson. Who's the better for
that? Well, well, my dear sir, don't look so depressed. We can
do little more until next Saturday, and in the meantime I may
make one or two inquiries myself."
Next morning, we had a note from Miss Smith, recounting
shortly and accurately the very incidents which I had seen, but
the pith of the letter lay in the postscript:
I am sure that you will respect my confidence, Mr.
Holmes, when I tell you that my place here has become
difficult, owing to the fact that my employer has proposed
marriage to me. I am convinced that his feelings are most
deep and most honourable. At the same time, my promise is
of course given. He took my refusal very seriously, but also
very gently. You can understand, however, that the situa-
tion is a little strained.
"Our young friend seems to be getting into deep waters," said
Holmes, thoughtfully, as he finished the letter. "The case cer-
tainly presents more features of interest and more possibility of
development than I had originally thought. I should be none the
worse for a quiet, peaceful day in the country, and I am inclined
to run down this afternoon and test one or two theories which I
Holmes's quiet day in the country had a singular termination,
for he arrived at Baker Street late in the evening, with a cut lip
and a discoloured lump upon his forehead, besides a general air
of dissipation which would have made his own person the fitting
object of a Scotland Yard investigation. He was immensely
tickled by his own adventures and laughed heartily as he re-
"I get so little active exercise that it is always a treat," said
he. "You are aware that I have some proficiency in the good old
British sport of boxing. Occasionally, it is of service; today, for
example, I should have come to very ignominious grief without
I begged him to tell me what had occurred.
"I found that country pub which I had already recommended
to your notice, and there I made my discreet inquiries. I was in
the bar, and a garrulous landlord was giving me all that I
wanted. Williamson is a white-bearded man, and he lives alone
with a small staff of servants at the Hall. There is some rumor
that he is or has been a clergyman, but one or two incidents of
his short residence at the Hall struck me as peculiarly unec-
clesiastical. I have already made some inquiries at a clerical
agency, and they tell me that there was a man of that name in
orders, whose career has been a singularly dark one. The land-
lord further informed me that there are usually weekend visitors -- 'a
warm lot, sir' -- at the Hall, and especially one gentleman with a
red moustache, Mr. Woodley by name, who was always there.
We had got as far as this, when who should walk in but the
gentleman himself, who had been drinking his beer in the tap-
room and had heard the whole conversation. Who was l? What
did I want? What did I mean by asking questions? He had a fine
flow of language, and his adjectives were very vigorous. He
ended a string of abuse by a vicious backhander, which I failed to
entirely avoid. The next few minutes were delicious. It was a
straight left against a slogging ruffian. I emerged as you see me.
Mr. Woodley went home in a cart. So ended my country trip,
and it must be confessed that, however enjoyable, my day on the
Surrey border has not been much more profitable than your
The Thursday brought us another letter from our client.
You will not be surprised, Mr. Holmes [said she] to hear
that I am leaving Mr. Carruthers's employment. Even the
high pay cannot reconcile me to the discomforts of my
situation. On Saturday I come up to town, and I do not
intend to return. Mr. Carruthers has got a trap, and so the
dangers of the lonely road, if there ever were any dangers,
are now over.
As to the special cause of my leaving, it is not merely the
strained situation with Mr. Carruthers, but it is the reap-
pearance of that odious man, Mr. Woodley. He was always
hideous, but he looks more awful than ever now, for he
appears to have had an accident, and he is much disfigured.
I saw him out of the window, but I am glad to say I did not
meet him. He had a long talk with Mr. Carruthers, who
seemed much excited afterwards. Woodley must be staying
in the neighbourhood, for he did not sleep here, and yet I
caught a glimpse of him again this morning, slinking about
in the shrubbery. I would sooner have a savage wild animal
loose about the place. I loathe and fear him more than I can
say. How can Mr. Carruthers endure such a creature for a
moment? However, all my troubles will be over on Saturday.
"So I trust, Watson, so I trust," said Holmes, gravely. "There
is some deep intrigue going on round that little woman, and it is
our duty to see that no one molests her upon that last journey. I
think, Watson, that we must spare time to run down together on
Saturday morning and make sure that this curious and inclusive
investigation has no untoward ending."
I confess that I had not up to now taken a very serious view of
the case, which had seemed to me rather grotesque and bizarre
than dangerous. That a man should lie in wait for and follow a
very handsome woman is no unheard-of thing, and if he has so
little audacity that he not only dared not address her, but even
fled from her approach. he was not a very formidable assailant.