The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 Next page
"So would you, if a flock of strangers came in on you when
you were preparing for an examination next day, and every
moment was of value. No, I see nothing in that. Pencils, too,
and knives -- all was satisfactory. But that fellow does puzzle
"Why, Bannister, the servant. What's his game in the matter?"
"He impressed me as being a perfectly honest man."
"So he did me. That's the puzzling part. Why should a
perfectly honest man -- Well, well, here's a large stationer's. We
shall begin our researches here."
There were only four stationers of any consequences in the
town, and at each Holmes produced his pencil chips, and bid
high for a duplicate. All were agreed that one could be ordered,
but that it was not a usual size of pencil, and that it was seldom
kept in stock. My friend did not appear to be depressed by his
failure, but shrugged his shoulders in half-humorous resignation.
"No good, my dear Watson. This, the best and only final
clue, has run to nothing. But, indeed, I have little doubt that we
can build up a sufficient case without it. By Jove! my dear
fellow, it is nearly nine, and the landlady babbled of green peas
at seven-thirty. What with your eternal tobacco, Watson, and
your irregularity at meals, I expect that you will get notice to
quit, and that I shall share your downfall -- not, however, before
we have solved the problem of the nervous tutor, the careless
servant, and the three enterprising students."
Holmes made no further allusion to the matter that day, though
he sat lost in thought for a long time after our belated dinner. At
eight in the morning, he came into my room just as I finished my
"Well, Watson," said he, "it is time we went down to St.
Luke's. Can you do without breakfast?"
"Soames will be in a dreadful fidget until we are able to tell
him something positive."
"Have you anything positive to tell him?"
"I think so."
"You have formed a conclusion?"
"Yes, my dear Watson, I have solved the mystery."
"But what fresh evidence could you have got?"
"Aha! It is not for nothing that I have turned myself out of
bed at the untimely hour of six. I have put in two hours' hard
work and covered at least five miles, with something to show for
it. Look at that!"
He held out his hand. On the palm were three little pyramids
of black, doughy clay.
"Why, Holmes, you had only two yesterday."
"And one more this morning. It is a fair argument that
wherever No. 3 came from is also the source of Nos. 1 and 2.
Eh, Watson? Well, come along and put friend Soames out of his
The unfortunate tutor was certainly in a state of pitiable agita-
tion when we found him in his chambers. In a few hours the
examination would commence, and he was still in the dilemma
between making the facts public and allowing the culprit to
compete for the valuable scholarship. He could hardly stand still,
so great was his mental agitation, and he ran towards Holmes
with two eager hands outstretched.
"Thank heaven that you have come! I feared that you had
given it up in despair. What am I to do? Shall the examination
"Yes, let it proceed, by all means."
"But this rascal?"
"He shall not compete."
"You know him?"
"I think so. If this matter is not to become public. we must
give ourselves certain powers and resolve ourselves into a small
private court-martial. You there, if you please, Soames! Watson
you here! I'll take the armchair in the middle. I think that we are
now sufficiently imposing to strike terror into a guilty breast.
Kindly ring the bell!"
Bannister entered, and shrank back in evident surprise and fear
at our judicial appearance.
"You will kindly close the door," said Holmes. "Now
Bannister, will you please tell us the truth about yesterday's
The man turned white to the roots of his hair.
"I have told you everything, sir."
"Nothing to add?"
"Nothing at all, sir."
"Well, then, I must make some suggestions to you. When you
sat down on that chair yesterday, did you do so in order to
conceal some object which would have shown who had been in
Bannister's face was ghastly.
"No, sir, certainly not."
"It is only a suggestion," said Holmes, suavely. "I frankly
admit that I am unable to prove it. But it seems probable enough
since the moment that Mr. Soames's back was turned, you
released the man who was hiding in that bedroom."
Bannister licked his dry lips.
"There was no man, sir."
"Ah, that's a pity, Bannister. Up to now you may have
spoken the truth, but now I know that you have lied."
The man's face set in sullen defiance.
"There was no man, sir."
"Come, come, Bannister!"
"No, sir, there was no one."
"In that case, you can give us no further information. Would
you please remain in the room? Stand over there near the bed-
room door. Now, Soames, I am going to ask you to have the
great kindness to go up to the room of young Gilchrist. and to
ask him to step down into yours."
An instant later the tutor returned, bringing with him the
student. He was a fine figure of a man, tall, lithe, and agile, with
a springy step and a pleasant, open face. His troubled blue eyes
glanced at each of us, and finally rested with an expression of
blank dismay upon Bannister in the farther corner.
"Just close the door," said Holmes. "Now, Mr. Gilchrist, we
are all quite alone here, and no one need ever know one word of
what passes between us. We can be perfectly frank with each
other. We want to know, Mr. Gilchrist, how you, an honourable
man, ever came to commit such an action as that of yesterday?"
The unfortunate young man staggered back, and cast a look
full of horror and reproach at Bannister.
"No, no, Mr. Gilchrist, sir, I never said a word -- never one
word!" cried the servant.
"No, but you have now," said Holmes. "Now, sir, you must
see that after Bannister's words your position is hopeless, and
that your only chance lies in a frank confession."
For a moment Gilchrist, with upraised hand, tried to control
his writhing features. The next he had thrown himself on his
knees beside the table, and burying his face in his hands, he had
burst into a storm of passionate sobbing.
"Come, come," said Holmes, kindly, "it is human to err,
and at least no one can accuse you of being a callous criminal.
Perhaps it would be easier for you if I were to tell Mr. Soames
what occurred, and you can check me where I am wrong. Shall I
do so? Well, well, don't trouble to answer. Listen, and see that I
do you no injustice.
"From the moment, Mr. Soames, that you said to me that no
one, not even Bannister, could have told that the papers were in
your room, the case began to take a definite shape in my mind.
The printer one could, of course, dismiss. He could examine the
papers in his own office. The Indian I also thought nothing of. If
the proofs were in a roll, he could not possibly know what they
were. On the other hand, it seemed an unthinkable coincidence
that a man should dare to enter the room, and that by chance on
that very day the papers were on the table. I dismissed that. The
man who entered knew that the papers were there. How did he
"When I approached your room, I examined the window. You
amused me by supposing that I was contemplating the possibility
of someone having in broad daylight, under the eyes of all these
opposite rooms, forced himself through it. Such an idea was
absurd. I was measuring how tall a man would need to be in
order to see, as he passed, what papers were on the central table.