The Return of Sherlock Holmes
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The ruffian Woodley was a very different person, but, except on
one occasion, he had not molested our client, and now he visited
the house of Carruthers without intruding upon her presence. The
man on the bicycle was doubtless a member of those week-end
parties at the Hall of which the publican had spoken, but who he
was, or what he wanted, was as obscure as ever. It was the
severity of Holmes's manner and the fact that he slipped a
revolver into his pocket before leaving our rooms which im-
pressed me with the feeling that tragedy might prove to lurk
behind this curious train of events.
A rainy night had been followed by a glorious morning, and
the heath-covered countryside. with the glowing clumps of flow-
ering gorse, seemed all the more beautiful to eyes which were
weary of the duns and drabs and slate grays of London. Holmes
and I walked along the broad, sandy road inhaling the fresh
morning air and rejoicing in the music of the birds and the fresh
breath of the spring. From a rise of the road on the shoulder of
Crooksbury Hill, we could see the grim Hall bristling out from
amidst the ancient oaks, which, old as they were, were still
younger than the building which they surrounded. Holmes pointed
down the long tract of road which wound, a reddish yellow
band, between the brown of the heath and the budding green of
the woods. Far away, a black dot, we could see a vehicle
moving in our direction. Holmes gave an exclamation of
"I have given a margin of half an hour," said he. "If that is
her trap, she must be making for the earlier train. I fear, Watson,
that she will be past Charlington before we can possibly meet
From the instant that we passed the rise, we could no longer
see the vehicle, but we hastened onward at such a pace that my
sedentary life began to tell upon me, and I was compelled to fall
behind. Holmes, however, was always in training, for he had
inexhaustible stores of nervous energy upon which to draw. His
springy step never slowed until suddenly, when he was a hun-
dred yards in front of me, he halted, and I saw him throw up his
hand with a gesture of grief and despair. At the same instant an
empty dog-cart, the horse cantering, the reins trailing, appeared
round the curve of the road and rattled swiftly towards us.
"Too late, Watson, too late!" cried Holmes, as I ran panting
to his side. "Fool that I was not to allow for that earlier train!
It's abduction, Watson -- abduction! Murder! Heaven knows whatl
Block the road! Stop the horse! That's right. Now, jump in, and
let us see if I can repair the consequences of my own blunder."
We had sprung into the dog-cart, and Holmes, after turning
the horse, gave it a sharp cut with the whip, and we flew back
along the road. As we turned the curve, the whole stretch of road
between the Hall and the heath was opened up. I grasped Holmes's
"That's the man!" I gasped.
A solitary cyclist was coming towards us. His head was down
and his shoulders rounded, as he put every ounce of energy that
he possessed on to the pedals. He was flying like a racer.
Suddenly he raised his bearded face, saw us close to him, and
pulled up, springing from his machine. That coal-black beard
was in singular contrast to the pallor of his face, and his eyes
were as bright as if he had a fever. He stared at us and at the
dog-cart. Then a look oF amazement came over his face.
"Halloa! Stop there!" he shouted, holding his bicycle to block
our road. "Where did you get that dog-cart? Pull up, man!" he
yelled, drawing a pistoll from his side pocket. "Pull up, I say
or, by George, I'll put al bullet into your horse."
Holmes threw the reins into my lap and sprang down from the
"You're the man we want to see. Where is Miss Violet
Smith?" he said, in his quick, clear way.
"That's what I'm asking you. You're in her dog-cart. You
ought to know where she is."
"We met the dog-cart on the road. There was no one in it. We
drove back to help the young lady."
"Good Lord! Good Lord! What shall I do?" cried the stranger
in an ecstasy of despair. "They've got her, that hell-hound
Woodley and the blackguard parson. Come, man, come, if you
really are her friend. Stand by me and we'll save her, if I have to
leave my carcass in Charllington Wood."
He ran distractedly, his pistol in his hand, towards a gap in the
hedge. Holmes followed him, and I, leaving the horse grazing
beside the road, followed Holmes.
"This is where they came through," said he, pointing to the
marks of several feet upon the muddy path. "Halloa! Stop a
minute! Who's this in the bush?"
It was a young fellow about seventeen, dressed like an ostler
with leather cords and gaiters. He lay upon his back, his knees
drawn up, a terrible cut upon his head. He was insensible, but
alive. A glance at his wound told me that it had not penetrated
"That's Peter, the groom," cried the stranger. "He drove her.
The beasts have pulled him off and clubbed him. Let him lie: we
can't do him any good, but' we may save her from the worst fate
that can befall a woman."
We ran frantically down the path, which wound among the
trees. We had reached the shrubbery which surrounded the house
when Holmes pulled up.
"They didn't go to the house. Here are their marks on the
left -- here, beside the laurel bushes. Ah! I said so."
As he spoke, a woman's shrill scream -- a scream which vi-
brated with a frenzy of horror -- burst from the thick, green
clump of bushes in front of us. It ended suddenly on its highest
note with a choke and a gurgle.
"This way! This way! They are in the bowling-alley," cried
the stranger, darting through the bushes. "Ah, the cowardly
dogs! Follow me, gentlemen! Too late! too late! by the living
We had broken suddenly into a lovely glade of greensward
surrounded by ancient trees. On the farther side of it, under the
shadow of a mighty oak, there stood a singular group of three
people. One was a woman, our client, drooping and faint, a
handkerchief round her mouth. Opposite her stood a brutal,
heavy-faced, red-moustached young man, his gaitered legs parted
wide, one arm akimbo, the other waving a riding crop, his whole
attitude suggesive of triumphant bravado. Between them an el-
derly, gray-bearded man, wearing a short surplice over a light
tweed suit, had evidently just completed the wedding service, for
he pocketed his prayer-book as we appeared, and slapped the
sinister bridegroom upon the back in jovial congratulation.
"They're married?" I gasped.
"Come on!" cried our guide; "come on!" He rushed across
the glade, Holmes and I at his heels. As we approached, the lady
staggered against the trunk of the tree for support. Williamson,
the ex-clergyman, bowed to us with mock politeness, and the
bully, Woodley, advanced with a shout of brutal and exultant
"You can take your beard off, Bob," said he. "I know you,
right enough. Well, you and your pals have just come in time for
me to be able to introduce you to Mrs. Woodley."
Our guide's answer was a singular one. He snatched off the
dark beard which had disguised him and threw it on the ground,
disclosing a long, sallow, clean-shaven face below it. Then he
raised his revolver and covered the young ruffian, who was
advancing upon him with his dangerous riding crop swinging in
"Yes," said our ally, "I am Bob Carruthers. and I'll see this
woman righted, if I have to swing for it. I told you what I'd do if
you molested her, and, by the Lord! I'll be as good as my
"You're too late. She's my wife."
"No, she's your widow."
His revolver cracked, and I saw the blood spurt from the front
of Woodley's waistcoat. He spun round with a scream and fell
upon his back, his hideous red face turning suddenly to a dread-
ful mottled pallor. The old man, still clad in his surplice, burst
into such a string of foul oaths as I have never heard, and pulled
out a revolver of his own, but, before he could raise it, he was
looking down the barrel of Holmes's weapon.
"Enough of this," said my friend, coldly. "Drop that pistol!
Watson, pick it up! Hold it to his head! Thank you. You
Carruthers, give me that revolver. We'll have no more violence
Come, hand it over!"
"Who are you, then?"
"My name is Sherlock Holmes."
"You have heard of me, I see. I will represent the official
police until their arrival. Here, you!" he shouted to a frightened
groom, who had appeared at the edge of the glade. "Come here.
Take this note as hard as you can ride to Farnham." He scrib-
bled a few words upon a leaf from his notebook. "Give it to the
superintendent at the police-station. Until he comes, I must
detain you all under my personal custody."
The strong, masterful personality of Holmes dominated the
tragic scene, and all were equally puppets in his hands. William-
son and Carruthers found themselves carrying the wounded
Woodley into the house, and I gave my arm to the frightened
girl. The injured man was laid on his bed, and at Holmes's
request I examined him. I carried my report to where he sat in