The Return of Sherlock Holmes
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stands at the head of the dining-table. I was so firmly bound that
I could not move, and a handkerchief round my mouth prevented
me from uttering a sound. It was at this instant that my unfortu-
nate husband entered the room. He had evidently heard some
suspicious sounds, and he came prepared for such a scene as he
found. He was dressed in nightshirt and trousers, with his fa-
vourite blackthorn cudgel in his hand. He rushed at the burglars,
but another -- it was an elderly man -- stooped, picked the poker
out of the grate and struck him a horrible blow as he passed. He
fell with a groan and never moved again. I fainted once more,
but again it could only have been for a very few minutes during
which I was insensible. When I opened my eyes I found that
they had collected the silver from the sideboard, and they had
drawn a bottle of wine which stood there. Each of them had a
glass in his hand. I have already told you, have I not, that one
was elderly, with a beard, and the others young, hairless lads.
They might have been a father with his two sons. They talked
together in whispers. Then they came over and made sure that I
was securely bound. Finally they withdrew, closing the window
after them. It was quite a quarter of an hour before I got my
mouth free. When I did so, my sceams brought the maid to my
assistance. The other servants were soon alarmed, and we sent
for the local police, who instantly communicated with London.
That is really all that I can tell you, gentlemen, and I trust that it
will not be necessary for me to go over so painful a story
"Any questions, Mr. Holmes?" asked Hopkins.
"I will not impose any further tax upon Lady Brackenstall's
patience and time," said Holmes. "Before I go into the dining-
room, I should like to hear your experience." He looked at the
"I saw the men before ever they came into the house," said
she. "As I sat by my bedroom window I saw three men in the
moonlight down by the lodge gate yonder, but I thought nothing
of it at the time. It was more than an hour after that I heard my
mistress scream and down I ran, to find her, poor lamb, just as
she says, and him on the floor, with his blood and brains over
the room. It was enough to drive a woman out of her wits, tied
there, and her very dress spotted with him, but she never wanted
courage, did Miss Mary Fraser of Adelaide, and Lady Brack-
enstall of Abbey Grange hasn't learned new ways. You've ques-
tioned her long enough, you gentlemen, and now she is coming
to her own room, just with her old Theresa, to get the rest that
she badly needs."
With a motherly tenderness the gaunt woman put her arm
round her mistress and led her from the room.
"She has been with her all her life," said Hopkins. "Nursed
her as a baby, and came with her to England when they first left
Australia, eighteen months ago. Theresa Wright is her name, and
the kind of maid you don't pick up nowadays. This way, Mr.
Holmes, if you please!"
The keen interest had passed out of Holmes's expressive face,
and I knew that with the mystery all the charm of the case had
departed. There still remained an arrest to be effected, but what
were these commonplace rogues that he should soil his hands
with them? An abstruse and learned specialist who finds that he
has been called in for a case of measles would experience
something of the annoyance which I read in my friend's eyes.
Yet the scene in the dining-room of the Abbey Grange was
sufficiently strange to arrest his attention and to recall his waning
It was a very large and high chamber, with carved oak ceiling,
oaken panelling, and a fine array of deer's heads and ancient
weapons around the walls. At the further end from the door was
the high French window of which we had heard. Three smaller
windows on the right-hand side filled the apartment with cold
winter sunshine. On the left was a large, deep fireplace, with a
massive, overhanging oak mantelpiece. Beside the fireplace was
a heavy oaken chair with arms and crossbars at the bottom. In
and out through the open woodwork was woven a crimson cord
which was secured at each side to the crosspiece below. In
releasing the lady, the cord had been slipped off her, but the
knots with which it had been secured still remained. These
details only struck our attention afterwards, for our thoughts
were entirely absorbed by the terrible object which lay upon the
tigerskin hearthrug in front of the fire.
It was the body of a tall, well-made man, about forty years of
age. He lay upon his back, his face upturned, with his white
teeth grinning through his short, black beard. His two clenched
hands were raised above his head, and a heavy, blackthorn stick
lay across them. His dark, handsome, aquiline features were
convulsed into a spasm of vindictive hatred, which had set his
dead face in a terribly fiendish expression. He had evidently
been in his bed when the alarm had broken out, for he wore a
foppish, embroidered nightshirt, and his bare feet projected from
his trousers. His head was horribly injured, and the whole room
bore witness to the savage ferocity of the blow which had struck
him down. Beside him lay the heavy poker, bent into a curve by
the concussion. Holmes examined both it and the indescribable
wreck which it had wrought.
"He must be a powerful man, this elder Randall," he remarked.
"Yes," said Hopkins. "I have some record of the fellow, and
he is a rough customer."
"You should have no difficulty in getting him."
"Not the slightest. We have been on the look-out for him, and
there was some idea that he had got away to America. Now that
we know that the gang are here, I don't see how they can escape.
We have the news at every seaport already, and a reward will be
offered before evening. What beats me is how they could have
done so mad a thing, knowing that the lady could describe them
and that we could not fail to recognize the description."
"Exactly. One would have expected that they would silence
Lady Brackenstall as well."
"They may not have realized," I suggested, "that she had
recovered from her faint."
"That is likely enough. If she seemed to be senseless, they
would not take her life. What about this poor fellow, Hopkins? I
seem to have heard some queer stories about him."
" He was a good-hearted man when he was sober, but a
perfect fiend when he was drunk, or rather when he was half
drunk, for he seldom really went the whole way. The devil
seemed to be in him at such times, and he was capable of
anything. From what I hear, in spite of all his wealth and his
title, he very nearly came our way once or twice. There was a
scandal about his drenching a dog with petroleum and setting it
on fire -- her ladyship's dog, to make the matter worse -- and that
was only hushed up with difficulty. Then he threw a decanter at
that maid, Theresa Wright -- there was trouble about that. On the
whole, and between ourselves, it will be a brighter house without
him. What are you looking at now?"
Holmes was down on his knees, examining with great atten-
tion the knots upon the red cord with which the lady had been
secured. Then he carefully scrutinized the broken and frayed end
where it had snapped off when the burglar had dragged it down.
"When this was pulled down, the bell in the kitchen must
have rung loudly," he remarked.
"No one could hear it. The kitchen stands right at the back of
"How did the burglar know no one would hear it? How dared
he pull at a bellrope in that reckless fashion?"
"Exactly, Mr. Holmes, exactly. You put the very question
which I have asked myself again and again. There can be no
doubt that this fellow must have known the house and its habits.
He must have perfectly understood that the servants would all be
in bed at that comparatively early hour, and that no one could
possibly hear a bell ring in the kitchen. Therefore, he must have
been in close league with one of the servants. Surely that is
evident. But there are eight servants, and all of good character."
"Other things being equal," said Holmes, "one would sus-
pect the one at whose head the master threw a decanter. And yet
that would involve treachery towards the mistress to whom this
woman seems devoted. Well, well, the point is a minor one, and
when you have Randall you will probably find no difficulty in
securing his accomplice. The lady's story certainly seems to be
corroborated, if it needed corroboration, by every detail which
we see before us." He walked to the French window and threw
it open. "There are no signs here, but the ground is iron hard,
and one would not expect them. I see that these candles in the
mantelpiece have been lighted."
"Yes, it was by their light, and that of the lady's bedroom
candle, that the burglars saw their way about."
"And what did they take?"
"Well, they did not take much -- only half a dozen articles of
plate off the sideboard. Lady Brackenstall thinks that they were
themselves so disturbed by the death of Sir Eustace that they did
not ransack the house, as they would otherwise have done."
"No doubt that is true, and yet they drank some wine, I
"To steady their nerves."
"Exactly. These three glasses upon the sideboard have been
untouched, I suppose?"
"Yes, and the bottle stands as they left it."
"Let us look at it. Halloa, halloa! What is this?"
The three glasses were grouped together, all of them tinged
with wine, and one of them containing some dregs of beeswing.
The bottle stood near them, two-thirds full, and beside it lay a
long, deeply stained cork. Its appearance and the dust upon the
bottle showed that it was no common vintage which the murder-
ers had enjoyed.