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The naval treaty


              Arthur Conan Doyle

  The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was made memorable by threecases of interest in which I had the privilege of being associated with SherlockHolmes, and of studying his methods. I find them recorded in my notes under theheadings of 'the adventure of the Second stain', 'the adventure of the naval treaty',and 'the adventure of the tired captain'. The first of these, however, deals withinterests of such importance, and implicates so many of the first families in thekingdom, that for many years it will be impossible to make it public. No case,however, in which Holmes was ever engaged has illustrated the value of his analyticalmethods so clearly or has impressed those who were associated with him so deeply. Istill retain an almost verbatim report of the interview in which he demonstrated thetrue facts of the case to Monsieur Dubuque, of the Paris police, and fritz vonWaldbaum, the well-known specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted theirenergies upon what proved to be side-issues. The new century will have come,however, before the story can be safely told. Meanwhile, I pass on to the second uponmy list, which promised also, at one time, to be of national importance, and wasmarked by several incidents which give it a quite unique character.During my school-days I had been intimately associated with a lad named PercyPhelps, who was of much the same age as myself, though he was two classes ahead ofme. He was a very brilliant boy, and carried away every prize which the school had tooffer, finishing his exploits by winning a scholarship, which sent him on to continuehis triumphant career at Cambridge. He was, I remember, extremely well connectedand ever when we were all little boys together, we knew that his mother's brother wasLord Holdhurst, the great Conservative politician. This gaudy relationship did himlittle good at school; on the contrary, it seemed rather a piquant thing to us to chevyhim about the playground and hit him over the shins with a wicket. But it was anotherthing when he came out into the world. I heard vaguely that his abilities and theinfluence which he commanded had won him a good position at the Foreign Office,and then he passed completely out of my mind until the following letter recalled hisexistence:

                         'BRIARBRAE, WOKING
  'MY DEAR WATSON, ----- I have no doubt that you can remember "tadpole" Phelps,who was in the fifth form when you were in the third. It is possible even that you mayhave heard that, through my uncle's influence, I obtained a good appointment at theForeign Office, and that I was in situation of trust and honour until a horriblemisfortune came suddenly to blast my career.
  'There is no use writing the details of that dreadful event. In the event of youracceding to my request, it is probable that I shall have narrated them to you. I haveonly just recovered from nine weeks of brain fever, and am still exceedingly weak. Doyou think that you could bring your friend, Mr. Holmes, down to see me? I should liketo have his opinion of the case, though the authorities assure me that nothing more canbe dong. Do try to bring him down, and as soon as possible. Every minute seems anhour while I live in this horrible suspense. Assure him that, if I have not asked hisadvice sooner, it was not because I did not appreciate his talents, but because I havebeen off my head ver since the blow fell. Now I am clear again, though I dare notthink of it too much for fear of a relapse. I am still so weak that I have to write, as yousee, by dictating. Do try and bring him.'Your old schoolfellow,PERCY PHELPS
  There was something that touched me as I read this letter, something pitiable in thereiterated appeals to bring Holmes. So moved was I that, even if it had been a difficultmatter, I should have tried it; but, of course, I knew well that Holmes loved his art so,that he was ever as ready to bring his aid as his client could be to receive it. My wifeagreed with me that not a moment should be lost in laying the matter before him, andso, within an hour of breakfast-time, I found myself back once more in the old roomsin Baker Street.
  Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his dressing-gown and working hardover a chemical investigation. A large curved retort was boiling furiously in the bluishflame of a Bunsen burner, and the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litremeasure. My friend hardly glanced up as I entered, and I, seeing that his investigationmust be of importance, seated myself in an arm-chair and waited. He dipped into thisbottle or that, drawing out a few drops of each with his glass pipette, and finallybrought a test-tube containing a solution over to the table. In his right hand he had aslip of litmus-paper.
  'You come at a crisis, Watson,' said he. 'If this paper remains blue, all is well. If itturns red, it means a man's life.' He dipped it into the test-tube, and it flushed at onceinto a dull, dirty crimson. 'Hum! I thought as much!' he cried. 'I shall be at yourservice in one instant, Watson. You will find tobacco in the Persian slipper.' He turnedto his desk and scribbled off several telegrams, which were handed over to thepage-boy. Then he threw himself down in the chair opposite, and drew up his kneesuntil his fingers clasped round his long, thin shins.
  'A very commonplace little murder,' said he. 'You've got something better, I fancy.You are the stormy petrel of crime, Watson. What is it?'
  I handed him the letter, which he read with the most concentrated attention.
  'It does not tell us very much, does it?' he remarked, as he handed it back to me.
  'Hardly anything.'
  'And yet the writing is not his own.'
  'Precisely. It is a woman's.'
  'A man's surely!' I cried.
  'No, a woman's; and a woman of rare character. You see, at the commencement ofan investigation, it is something to know that your client is in close contact withsomeone who for good or evil has an exceptional nature. My interest is alreadyawakened in the case. If you are ready, we will start at once for Woking and see thisdiplomatist who is in such evil case, and the lady to whom he dictates his letters.'
  We were fortunate enough to catch an early train at Waterloo, and in a little underan hour we found ourselves among the fir-woods and the heather of Woking.Briarbrae proved to be a large detached house standing in extensive grounds, within afew minutes' walk of the station. On sending in our cards we were shown into anelegantly appointed drawing-room, where we were joined in a few minutes by a ratherstout man, who received us with much hospitality. His age may have been nearer fortythan thirty, but his cheeks were so ruddy and his eyes so merry, that he still conveyedthe impression of a plump and mischievous boy.
  'I am so glad that you have come' said he, shaking our hands with effusion. 'Percyhas been inquiring for you all the morning. Ah, poor old chap, he clings to any straw.His father and mother asked me to see you, for the mere mention of the subject is verypainful to them.'
  'We have had no details yet,' observed Holmes. 'I perceive that you are notyourself a member of the family.'
  Our acquaintance looked surprised, and then glancing down he began to laugh.
  'Of course you saw the "J. H." Monogram on my locket,' said he. 'For a moment Ithought you had done something clever. Joseph Harrison is my name, and as Percy isto marry my sister Annie, I shall at least be a relation by marriage. You will find mysister in his room, for she has nursed him hand-and-foot these two months back.Perhaps we had better go in at once, for I know how impatient he is.'
  The chamber into which we were shown was on the same floor as thedrawing-room. It was furnished partly as a sitting- and partly as a bedroom, withflowers arranged daintily in every nook and corner. A young man, very pale and worn,was lying upon a sofa near the open window, through which came the rich scent of thegarden and the balmy summer air. A woman was sitting beside him, and rose as weentered.
  'Shall I leave, Percy?' she asked.
  He clutched her hand to detain her. 'How are you, Watson?' said he, cordially. 'Ishould never have known you under that moustache, and I dare say you would not beprepared to swear to me. This, I presume, is your celebrated friend, Mr. SherlockHolmes?'
  I introduced him in a few words, and we both sat down. The stout young man hadleft us, but his sister still remained, with her hand in that of the invalid. She was astriking-looking woman, a little short and thick for symmetry, but with a beautifulolive complexion, large, dark Italian eyes, and a wealth of deep black hair. Her richtints made the white face of her companion the more worn and haggard by thecontrast.
  'I won't waste your time,' said he, raising himself upon the sofa. 'I'll plunge intothe matter without further preamble. I was a happy and successful man, Mr. Holmes,and on the eve of being married, when a sudden and dreadful misfortune wrecked allmy prospects in life.
  'I was, as Watson may have told you, in the Foreign Office, and through theinfluence of my uncle, Lord Holdhurst, I rose rapidly to a responsible position. Whenmy uncle became Foreign Minister in this Administration he gave me severalmissions of trust, and as I always brought them to a successful conclusion, he came atlast to have the utmost confidence in my ability and tact.
  'Nearly ten weeks ago- to be more accurate, on the 23rd of May Che called me intohis private room and, after complimenting me upon the good work which I had done,informed me that he had a new commission of trust for me to execute.
  ' "This," said he, taking a grey roll of paper from his bureau, "is the original of thatsecret treaty between England and Italy, of which, I regret to say, some rumours havealready got into the public Press. It is of enormous importance that nothing furthershould leak out. The French or Russian Embassies would pay an immense sum learnthe contents of these papers. They should not leave my bureau were it not that it isabsolutely necessary to have them copied. You have a desk in your office?"
  ' "Yes, sir."
  ' "Then take the treaty and lock it up there. I shall give directions that you mayremain behind when the others go, so that you may copy it at your leisure, withoutfear of being overlooked. When you have finished, re-lock both the original and thedraft in the desk, and hand them over to personally to-morrow morning."
  'I took the papers and!'
  'Excuse me an instant,' said Holmes; 'were you alone during this conversation?'
  'Absolutely.'
  'In a large room?'
  'Thirty feet each way.'
  'In the centre?'
  'Yes, about it.'
  'And speaking low?'
  'My uncle's voice is always remarkably low. I hardly spoke at all.'
  'Thank you,' said Holmes, shutting his eyes; 'pray go on.'
  'I did exactly what he had indicated, and waited until the other clerks had departed.One of them in my room, Charles Gorot, had some arrears of work to make up, so Ileft him there and went out to dine. When I returned he was gone. I was anxious tohurry my work, for I knew that Joseph, the Mr. Harrison whom you saw just now, wasin town, and that he would travel down to Woking by the eleven o'clock train, and Iwanted if possible to catch it.
  'When I came to examine the treaty I saw at once that it was of such importancethat my uncle had been guilty of no exaggeration in what he had said. Without goinginto details, I may say that it defined the position of Great Britain towards the TripleAlliance, and foreshadowed the policy which this country would pursue in the eventof the French fleet gaining a complete ascendency over that of Italy in theMediterranean. The questions treated in it were purely naval. At the end were thesignatures of the high dignitaries who had signed it. I glanced my eyes over it, andthen settled down to my task of copying.
  'It was a long document, written in the French language, and containing twenty-sixseparate articles. I copied as quickly as I could, but at nine o'clock I had only donenine articles, and it seemed hopeless for me to attempt to catch my train. I was fellingdrowsy and stupid, partly from my dinner and also from the effects of along day'swork. A cup of coffee would clear my brain. A commissionaire remains all night in alittle lodge at the foot of the stairs, and is in the habit of making coffee at hisspirit-lamp for any of the officials who may be working overtime. I rang the bell,therefore, to summon him.
  'To my surprise, it was a woman who answered the summons, a large, coarse-faced,elderly woman, in an apron. She explained that she was the commissionaire's wife,who did the charing, and I gave her the order for the coffee.
  'I wrote two more articles, and then, feeling more drowsy than ever, I rose andwalked up and down the room to stretch my legs. My coffee had not yet come, and Iwondered what the cause of the delay could be. Opening the door, I started down thecorridor to find out. There was a straight passage dimly lit which led from the room inwhich I had been working, and was the only exit from it. It ended in curving staircase,with the commissionaire's lodge in the passage at the bottom. Half-way down thisstaircase is a small landing, with another passage running into it at right angles. Thesecond one leads, by means of a second small stair, to a side-door used by servants,and also as a short cut by clerks when coming from Charles Street.
  'Here is a rough chart of the place.'
  'Thank you. I think that I quite follow you,' said Sherlock Holmes.
  'It is of the utmost importance that you should notice this point. I went down thestairs and into the hall, where I found the commissionaire fast asleep in his box, withthe kettle boiling furiously upon the spirit-lamp, for the water was spurting over thefloor. I had put out my hand and was about to shake the man, who was still sleepingsoundly, when a bell over his head rang loudly, and he woke with a start.
  ' "Mr. Phelps, sir!" said he, looking at me in bewilderment.
  ' "I came down to see if my coffee was ready."
  ' "I was boiling the kettle when I fell asleep, sir." He looked at me and then up atthe still quivering bell, with an ever-growing astonishment upon his face.
  ' "If you was here, sir, then who rang the bell?" he asked.
  ' "The bell!" I said. "What bell is it?"
  ' "It's the bell of the room you were working in."
  'A cold hand seemed to close round my heart. Someone, then, was in that roomwhere my precious treaty lay upon the table. I ran frantically up the stairs and alongthe passage. There was no one in the corridor, Mr. Holmes. There was no one in theroom. All was exactly as I left it, save only that the papers committed to my care hadbeen taken from the desk on which they lay. The copy was there and the original wasgone.'
  Holmes sat up in his chair and rubbed his hands. I could see that the problem wasentirely to his heart. 'Pray, what did you do then?' he murmured.
  'I recognized in an instant that the thief must have come up the stairs from theside-door. Of course I must have met him if he had come the other way.'
  'You were satisfied that he could not have been concealed in the room all the time,or in the corridor which you have just described as dimly lighted?'
  'It is absolutely impossible. A rat could not conceal himself either in the room orthe corridor. There is no cover at all.'
  'Thank you. Pray proceed.'
  'The commissionaire, seeing by may pale face that something was to be feared, hadfollowed me upstairs. Now we both rushed along the corridor and down the steepsteps which led to Charles Street. The door at bottom was closed but unlocked. Weflung it open and rushed out. I can distinctly remember that as we did so there camethree chimes from a neighbouring church. It was a quarter to ten.'
  'That is of enormous importance,' said Holmes, making a note upon his shirt cuff.
  'The night was very dark, and a thin, warm rain was falling. There was no one inCharles Street, but a great traffic was going on, as usual, in Whitehall, at the extremity.We rushed along the pavement, bareheaded as we were, and at the far corner we founda policeman standing.
  ' "A robbery has been committed," I gasped. "A document of immense value hasbeen stolen from the Foreign Office. Has anyone passed this way?'
  ' "I have been standing here for a quarter of an hour, sir," said he; "only one personhas passed during that time!a woman, tall and elderly, with a Paisley Shawl."
  ' "Ah, that is only my wife," cried the commissionaire. "Has no one else passed?"
  ' "No one."
  ' "Then it must be the other way that the thief took," cried the fellow, tugging at mysleeve.
  'But I was not satisfied, and the attempts which he made to draw me awayincreased my suspicions.
  ' "Which way did the woman go?" I cried.
  ' "I don't know, sir. I noticed her pass, but I had no special reason for watching her.She seemed to be in a hurry."
  ' "How long ago was it?"
  ' " Oh, not very many minutes."
  ' "Within the last five?"
  ' "Well, it could not be more than five."
  ' "You're only wasting your time, sir, and every minute now is of importance,"cried the commissionaire. "Take my word for it that my old woman has nothing to dowith it, and come down to the other end of the street. Well, if you won't, I will," andwith that he rushed off in the other direction.
  'But I was after him in an instant and caught him by the sleeve.
  ' "Where do you live?" said I.
  ' "No. 16 Ivy Lane, Brixton," he answered; "but don't let yourself be drawn awayupon a false scent, Mr. Phelps. Come to the other end of the street, and let us see if wecan hear of anything."
  'Nothing was to be lost by following his advice. With the policeman we bothhurried down, but only to find the street full of traffic, many people coming and going,but all only too eager to get to a place of safety upon so wet a night. There was nolounger who could tell us who had passed.
  'Then we returned to the office, and searched the stairs and the passage withoutresult. The corridor which led to the room was laid down with a kind of creamylinoleum, which shows an impression very easily. We examined it very carefully, butfound no outline of any footmark.'
  'Had it been raining all the evening?'
  'Since about seven.'
  'How is it, then, that the woman who came into the room about nine left no traceswith her muddy boots?'
  'I am glad you raise the point. It occurred to me at the time. The charwomen are inthe habit of taking off their boots at the commissionaire's office, and putting on listslippers.'
  'That is very clear. There were no marks, then, though the night was a wet one?The chain of events is certainly one of extraordinary interest. What did you do next?'
  'We examined the room also. There was no possibility of a secret door, and thewindows are quite thirty feet from the ground. Both of them were fastened on theinside. The carpet prevents any possibility of a trap-door, and the ceiling is of theordinary white-washed kind. I will pledge my life that whoever stole my papers couldonly have come through the door.'
  'How about the fireplace?'
  'They use none. There is a stove. The bell-rope hangs from the wire just to the rightof my desk. Whoever rang it must have come right up to the desk to do it. But whyshould any criminal wish to ring the bell? It is a most insoluble mystery.'
  Certainly the incident was unusual. What were your next steps? You examined theroom, I presume, to see if the intruder had left any traces!any cigar-end, or droppedglove, or hairpin, or other trifle?'
  'There was of nothing of the sort.'
  'No smell?'
  'Well, we never thought of that.'
  'Ah, a scent of tobacco would have been worth a great deal to us in such aninvestigation.'
  'I never smoke myself, so I think I should have observed it if there had been anysmell of tobacco. There was absolutely no clue of any kind. The only tangible factwas that the commissionaire's wife!Mrs. Tangey was the name!had hurried out ofthe place. He could give no explanation save that it was about the time when thewoman always went home. The policeman and I agreed that our best plan would be toseize the woman before she could get rid of the papers, presuming that she had them.
  'The alarm had reached Scotland Yard by this time, and Mr. Forbes, the detective,came round at once and took up the case with a great deal of energy. We hired ahansom, and in half an hour we were at the address which had been given to us. Ayoung woman opened the door, who proved to be Mrs. Tangey's eldest daughter. Hermother had to come back yet, and we were shown into the front room to wait.
  'About ten minutes later a knock came at the door, and here we made the oneserious mistake for which we allowed the girl to do so. We heard her say, "Mother,there are two men in the house waiting to see you," and an instant afterwards weheard the patter of feet rushing down the passage. Forbes flung open the door, and weboth ran into the back room or kitchen, but the woman had got there before us. Shestared at us with defiant eyes, and then suddenly recognizing me, an expression ofabsolute astonishment came over her face.
  ' "Why, if it isn't Mr. Phelps, of the office!" she cried.
  Come, come, who did you think we were when you ran away from us?" asked mycompanion.
  I thought you were the brokers," said she. "We've had some trouble with atradesman."
  That's not quite good enough," answered Forbes. "We have reason to believe thatyou have taken a paper of importance from the Foreign Office, and that you ran in herto dispose of it. You must come back with us to Scotland Yard to be searched."
  'It was in vain that she protested and resisted. A four-wheeler was brought, and weall three drove back in it. We had first made an examination of the kitchen, andespecially of the kitchen fire, to see whether she might have made away with thepapers during the instant that she was alone. There were no signs. However, of anyashes or scraps. When we reached Scotland Yard she was handed over at once to thefemale searcher. I waited in an agony of suspense until she came back with her report.There were no signs of the papers.
  'Then, for the first time, the horror of my situation came in its full force upon me.Hitherto I had been so confident of regaining the treaty at once that I had not dared tothink of what would be the consequence if I failed to do so. But now there wasnothing more to be done, and I had leisure to realize my position. It was horrible!Watson there would tell you that I was a nervous, sensitive boy at school. It is mynature. I thought of my uncle and of his colleagues in the Cabinet, of the shame whichI had brought upon him, upon myself, upon everyone connected with me. Whatthought I was the victim of an extraordinary accident? No allowance is made foraccidents where diplomatic interests are at stake. I was ruined; shamefully, hopelesslyruined. I don't know what I did. I fancy I must have made a scene. I have a dimrecollection of a group of officials who crowded round me endeavouring to soothe me.One of them drove down with me to Waterloo and saw me into the Woking train. Ibelieve that he would have come all the way had it not been that Dr. Ferrier, who livesnear me, was going down by that very train. The doctor most kindly took charge ofme, and it was well he did so, for I had a fit in the station, and before we reachedhome I was practically a raving maniac.
  'You can imagine the state of things here when they were roused from their beds bythe doctor's ringing, and found me in this condition. Poor Annie here and my motherwere broken-hearted. Dr. Ferrier had just heard enough from the detective at thestation to be able to give an idea of what had happened, and his story did not mendmatters. It was evident to all that I was in for a long illness, so Joseph was bundled outof this cheery bedroom, and it was turned into a sickroom for me. Here I have lain, Mr.Holmes, for over nine weeks, unconscious, and raving with brain fever. If it had notbeen for Miss Harrison here and for the doctor's care I should not be speaking to younow. she has nursed me by day, and a hired nurse has looked after me by night, for inmy mad fits I was capable of anything. Slowly my reason has cleared, but it is onlyduring the last three days that my memory has quite returned. Sometimes I wish that itnever had. The first thing I did was to wire to Mr. Forbes, who had the case in hand.He came out and assured me that, though everything has been done, no trace of a cluehas been discovered. The commissionaire and his wife have been examined in everyway without any light being thrown upon the matter. The suspicions of the police thenrested upon young Gorot, who, as you may remember, stayed overtime in the officethat night. His remaining behind and his French name were really the only two pointswhich could suggest suspicion; but as a matter of fact, I did not begin work until hehad gone, and his people are of Huguenot extraction, but as English in sympathy andtradition as you and I are. Nothing was found to implicate him in any way, and therethe matter dropped. I turn to you, Mr. Holmes, as absolutely my last hope. If you failme, then my honour as well as my position are for ever forfeited.'
  The invalid sank back upon his cushions, tired out by this long recital, while hisnurse poured him out a glass of some stimulating medicine. Holmes sat silently withhis head thrown back and his eyes closed in an attitude which might seem listless to astranger, but which I knew betokened the most intense absorption.
  'Your statement has been so explicit,' said he at last, 'that you have really left mevery few questions to ask. There is one of the very utmost importance, however. Didyou tell anyone that you had this special task to perform?'
  'No one.'
  'Not Miss Harrison here, for example?'
  'No. I had not been back to Woking between getting the order and executing thecommission.'
  'And none of your people had by chance been to see you?'
  'None.'
  'Did any of them know their way about in the office?'
  'Oh, yes; all of them had been shown over it.'
  'Still, of course, if you said nothing to anyone about the treaty, these inquiries areirrelevant.'
  'I said nothing.'
  'Do you know anything that he is an old soldier.'
  'What regiment?'
  'Oh, I have heard!Coldstream Guards.'
  'Thank you. I have no doubt I can get details from Forbes. The authorities areexcellent at amassing facts, though they do not always use them to advantage. What alovely thing a rose is!'
  he walked past the couch to the open window, and held up the drooping stalk of amoss rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phaseof his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest innatural objects.
  'There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,' said he, leaningwith his back against the shutters. 'It can be built up as an exact science by thereasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest inthe flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessaryfor our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colourare an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which givesextras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.'
  Percy Phelps and his nurse looked at Holmes during this demonstration withsurprise and a good deal of disappointment written upon their faces. He had falleninto a reverie, with the moss rose between his fingers. It had lasted some minutesbefore the young lady broke in upon it.
  'Do you see any prospect of solving this mystery, Mr. Holmes?' she asked, with atouch of asperity in her voice.
  'Oh, the mystery!' he answered, coming back with a start to the realities of life.'Well, it would be absurd to deny that the case is a very abstruse and complicated one;but I can promise you that I will look into the matter and let you know any pointswhich may strike me.'
  'Do you see any clue?'
  'You have furnished me with seven, but of course I must test them before I canpronounce upon their value.'
  'You suspect someone?'
  'I suspect myself!'
  'What?'
  'Of coming to conclusion too rapidly.'
  'Then go to London and test your conclusions.'
  'Your advice is very excellent, Miss Harrison,' said Holmes, rising. 'I think,Watson, we cannot do better. Do not allow yourself to indulge in false hopes, Mr.Phelps. The affair is a very tangled one.'
  'I shall be in a fever until I see you again,' cried the diplomatist.
  'Well, I'll come out by the same train to-morrow, though it's more than likely thatmy report will be a negative one.'
  'God bless you for promising to come,' cried our client. 'It gives me fresh life toknow that something is being done. By the way, I have had a letter from LordHoldhurst.'
  'Ha! What did he say?'
  'He was cold, but not harsh. I dare say my severe illness prevented him from beingthat. He repeated that the matter was of the utmost importance, and added that nosteps would be taken about my future!by which he means, of course, mydismissal!until my health was restored and I had an opportunity of repairing mymisfortune.'
  'Well, that was reasonable and considerate,' said Holmes. 'Come, Watson, for wehave a good day's work before us in town.'
  Mr. Joseph Harrison drove us down to the station, and we were soon whirling up ina Portsmouth train. Holmes was sunk in profound thought, and hardly opened hismouth until we had passed Clapham Junction.
  'It's a very cheering thing to come into London by any of these lines which runhigh and allow you to look down upon the houses like this.'
  I thought he was joking, for the view was sordid enough, but he soon explainedhimself.
  'Look at those big, isolated clumps of buildings rising up above the slates, likebrick islands in a lead-coloured sea.'
  'The Board schools.'
  'Lighthouses, my boy! Beacons of the future! Capsules, with hundreds of brightlittle seeds in each, out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future. Isuppose that man Phelps does not drink?'
  'I should not think so.'
  'Nor should I. But we are bound to take every possibility into account. The poordevil has certainly got himself into very deep water, and it's a question whether weshall ever be able to get him ashore. What did you think of Miss Harrison?'
  'A girl of strong character.'
  'Yes, but she is a good sort, or I am mistaken. She and her brother are the onlychildren of an iron-master somewhere up Northumberland way. Phelps got engaged toher when travelling last winter, and she came down to be introduced to his people,with her brother as escort. Then came the smash, and she stayed on to nurse her lover,while brother Joseph, finding himself pretty snug, stayed on too. I've been making afew independent inquiries, you see. But today must be a day of inquiries.'
  'My practice!'I began.
  'Oh, if you find your own cases more interesting than mine!'said Holmes, withsome asperity.
  'I was going to say that my practice could get along very well for a day or two,since it is the slackest time in the year.'
  'Excellent,' said he, recovering his good humour. 'Then we'll look into this mattertogether. I think that we should begin by seeing Forbes. He can probably tell us all thedetails we want, until we know from what side the case is to be approached.'
  'You said you had a clue.'
  'Well, we have several, but we can only test their value by further inquiry. Themost difficult crime to track is the one which is purposeless. Now, this is notpurposeless. Who is it that profits by it? There is the French Ambassador, there is theRussian, there is whoever might sell it to either of these, and there is Lord Holdhurst.'
  'Lord Holdhurst!'
  'Well, it is just conceivable that a statesman might find himself in a position wherehe was not sorry to have such a document accidentally destroyed.'
  'Not a statesman with the honourable record of Lord Holdhurst.'
  'It is a possibility, and we cannot afford to disregard it. We shall see the noble lordto-day, and find out if he can tell us anything. Meanwhile, I have already set inquiriesupon foot.'
  'Already?'
  'Yes, I sent wires from Woking station to every evening paper in London. Thisadvertisement will appear in each of them.'
  He handed over a sheet torn from the notebook. On it was scribbled in pencil:
  '♀10 Reward.!The number of the cab which dropped a fare at or about the doorof the Foreign Office in Charles Street, at a quarter to ten in the evening of May 23rd.Apply 221B Baker Street.'
  'You are confident that the thief came in a cab?'
  'If not, there is no harm done. But if Mr. Phelps is correct in stating that there is nohiding-place either in the room or the corridors, then the person must have come fromoutside. If he came from outside on so wet a night, and yet left no trace of damp uponthe linoleum, which was examined within a few minutes of his passing, then it isexceedingly probable that he came in a cab. Yes, I think that we may safely deduce acab.'
  'It sounds plausible.'
  'That is one of the clues of which I spoke. It may lead us to something. And then,of course, there is the bell!which is the most distinctive feature of the case. Whyshould the bell ring? Was it the thief that did it out of bravado? Or was it someonewho was with the thief who did it in order to prevent the crime? Or was it an accident?Or was it!?' He sank back into the state of intense and silent thought from which hehad emerged, but it seemed to me, accustomed as I was to his every mood, that somenew possibility had dawned suddenly upon him.
  It was twenty-past three when we reached our terminus, and after a hasty luncheonat the buffer we pushed on at once to Scotland Yard. Holmes had already wired toForbes, and we found him waiting to receive us: a small, foxy man, with a sharp butby no means amiable expression. He was decidedly frigid in his manner to us,especially when he heard the errand upon which we had come.
  'I've heard of your methods before now, Mr. Holmes,' said he, tartly. 'You areready enough to use all the information that the police can lay at your disposal, andthen you try to finish the case yourself and bring discredit upon them.'
  'On the contrary,' said Holmes; 'out of my last fifty-three cases my name has onlyappeared in four, and the police have had all the credit in forty-nine. I don't blame youfor not knowing this; for you are young and inexperienced; but if you wished to get onin your new duties you will work with me, and not against me.'
  'I'd be very glad of a hint or two,' said the detective, changing his manner. 'I'vecertainly had no credit from the case so far.'
  'What steps have you taken?'
  'Tangey, the commissionaire, has been shadowed. He left the Guards with a goodcharacter, and we can find nothing against him. His wife is a bad lot, though. I fancyshe knows more about this than appears.'
  'Have you shadowed her?'
  'We have set one of our women on to her. Mrs. Tangey drinks, and our woman hasbeen with her twice when she well on, but she could get nothing out of her.'
  'I understand that they have had brokers in the house?'
  'Yes, but they were paid off.'
  'Where did the money come from?'
  'That was all right. His pension was due; they have not shown any sign of being infunds.'
  'What explanation did she give of having answered the bell when Mr. Phelps rangfor the coffee?'
  'She said that her husband was very tired and she wished to relieve him.'
  'Well, certainly that would agree with his being found, a little later, asleep in hischair. There is nothing against them, then, but the woman's character. Did you ask herwhy she hurried away that night? Her haste attracted the attention of thepolice-constable.'
  'She was later than usual, and wanted to get home.'
  'Did you point out to her that you and Mr. Phelps, who started at least twentyminutes after her, got there before her?'
  'She explains that by the difference between a bus and a hansom.'
  'Did she make it clear why, on reaching her house, she ran into the back kitchen?'
  'Because she had the money there with which to pay off the brokers.'
  'She has at least an answer for everything. Did you ask her whether in leaving hismet anyone or saw anyone loitering about Charles Street?'
  'She saw no one but the constable.'
  'Well, you seem to have cross-examined her pretty thoroughly. What else have youdone?'
  'The clerk, Gorot, has been shadowed all these nine weeks, but without result. Wecan show nothing against him.'
  'Anything else?'
  'Well, we have nothing else to go upon!no evidence of any kind.'
  'Have you formed any theory about how that bell rang?'
  'Well, I must confess that it bears me. It was a cool hand, whoever it was, to go andgive the alarm like that.'
  'Yes, it was a queer thing to do. Many thanks to you for what you have told me. If Ican put the man into your hands you shall hear from me. Come along, Watson!'
  'Where are we going to now?' I asked, as we left the office.
  'We are now going to interview Lord Holdhurst, the Cabinet Minister and futurePremier of England.'
  We were fortunate in finding that Lord Holdhurst was still in his chambers atDowning Street, and on Holmes sending in his card we were instantly shown up. Thestatesman received us with that old-fashioned courtesy for which he is remarkable,and seated us on the two luxurious easy chairs on either side of the fireplace. Standingon the rug between us, with his slight, tall figure, his sharp-featured, thoughtful face,and his curling hair prematurely tinged with grey, he seemed to represent that not toocommon type, a nobleman who is in truth noble.
  'Your name is very familiar to me, Mr. Holmes,' said he, smiling. 'And, of course, Icannot pretend to be ignorant of the object of your visit. There has only been oneoccurrence in these offices which could call for your attention. In whose interest areyou acting, may I ask?'
  'In that of Mr. Percy Phelps,' answered Holmes.
  'Ah, my unfortunate nephew! You can understand that our kinship makes it themore impossible for me to screen him in any way. I fear that the incident must have avery prejudicial effect upon his career.'
  'But if the document is found?'
  'Ah, that, of course, would be different.'
  'I had one or two questions which I wished to ask you, Lord Holdhurst.'
  'I shall be happy to give you any information in my power.'
  'Was it in this room that you gave your instructions as to the copying of thedocument?'
  'It was.'
  'Then you could hardly have been overheard?'
  'It is out of the question.'
  'Did you ever mention to anyone that it was your intention to give out the treaty tobe copied?'
  'Never.'
  'You are certain of that?'
  'Absolutely.'
  'Well, since you never said so, and Mr. Phelps never said so, and nobody else knewanything of the matter, then the thief's presence in the room was purely accidental. Hesaw his chance and he took it.'
  The statesman smiled. 'You take me out of my province there,' said he.
  Holmes considered for a moment. 'There is another very important point which Iwish to discuss with you,' said he. 'You feared, as I understand, that very grave resultsmight follow from the details of this treaty becoming known?'
  A shadow passed over the expressive face of the statesman. 'Very grave results,indeed.'
  'And have they occurred?'
  'Not yet.'
  'If the treaty had reached, let us say, the French or Russian Foreign Office, youwould expect to hear of it?'
  'I should,' said Lord Holdhurst, with a wry face.
  'Since nearly ten weeks have elapsed, then, and nothing has been heard, it is notunfair to suppose that for some reason the treaty has not reached them?'
  Lord Holdhurst shrugged his shoulders.
  'We can hardly suppose, Mr. Holmes, that the thief took the treaty in order to frameit and hang it up.'
  'Perhaps he is waiting for a better price.'
  'If he waits a little longer he will get no price at all. The treaty will cease to be asecret in a few months.'
  'That is most important,' said Holmes. 'Of course it is a possible supposition thatthe thief has had a sudden illness!'
  'An attack of brain fever, for example?' asked the statesman, flashing a swiftglance at him.
  'I did not say so,' said Holmes, imperturbably. 'And now, Lord Holdhurst, we havealready taken up too much of your valuable time, and we shall wish you a good day.'
  'Every success to your investigation, be the criminal who it may,' answered thenobleman, as he bowed us out at the door.
  'He's a fine fellow,' said Holmes, as we came out into Whitehall. 'But he has astruggle to keep up his position. He is far from rich, and has many calls. You noticed,of course, that his boots had been re-soled? Now, Watson, I won't detain you fromyour legitimate work any longer. I shall do nothing more to-day, unless I have ananswer to my cab advertisement. But I should be extremely obliged to you if youwould come down with me to Woking to-morrow, by the same train which we tookto-day.'
  I met him accordingly next morning, and we travelled down to Woking together.He had had no answer to his advertisement, he said, and no fresh light had beenthrown upon the case. He had, when he so willed it, the utter immobility ofcountenance of a Red Indian, and I could not gather from his appearance whether hewas satisfied or not with the position of the case. His conversation, I remember, wasabout the Bertillon system of measurements, and he expressed his enthusiasticadmiration of the French savant.
  We found our client still under the charge of his devoted nurse, but lookingconsiderably better than before. He rose from the sofa and greeted us withoutdifficulty when we entered.
  'Any news?' he asked, eagerly.
  'My report, as I expected, is a negative one,' said Holmes. 'I have seen Forbes, andI have seen your uncle, and I have set one or two trains of inquiry upon foot whichmay lead to something.'
  'You have not lost heart, then?'
  'By no means.'
  'God bless you for saying that!' cried Miss Harrison. 'If we keep our courage andour patience, the truth must come out.'
  'We have more to tell you than you have for us,' said Phelps, re-seating him uponthe couch.
  'I hoped you might have something.'
  'Yes, we have had an adventure during the night, and one which might have provedto be a serious one.' His expression grew very grave as he spoke, and a look ofsomething akin to fear sprang up in his eyes. 'Do you know,' said he, 'that I begin tobelieve that I am the unconscious centre of some monstrous conspiracy, and that mylife is aimed at as well as my honour?'
  'Ah!' cried Holmes.
  'It sounds incredible, for I have not, as far as I know, an enemy in the world. Yetfrom last night's experience I can come to no other conclusion.'
  'Pray let me hear it.'
  'You must know that last night was the very first night that I have ever sleptwithout a nurse in the room. I was so much better that I thought I could dispense withone. I had a night-light burning, however. Well, about two in the morning I had sunkinto a light sleep, when I was suddenly aroused by a slight noise. It was like the soundwhich a mouse makes when it is gnawing a plank, and I lay listening to it for sometime under the impression that it must come from that cause. Then it grew louder, andsuddenly there came from the window a sharp metallic snick. I sat up in amazement.There could be no doubt what the sounds were now. The faint ones had been causedby someone forcing an instrument through the silt between the sashes, and the secondby the catch being pressed back.
  'There was a pause then for about ten minutes, as if the person were waiting to seewhether the noise had awoken me. Then I heard a gentle creaking as the window wasvery slowly opened. I could stand it no longer, for my nerves are not what they usedto be. I sprang out of bed and flung open the shutter. A man was crouching at thewindow. I could see little of him, for he was gone like a flash. He was wrapped insome sort of cloak, which came across the lower part of his face. One thing only I amsure of, and that is that he had some weapon in his hand. It looked to me like a longknife. I distinctly saw the gleam of it as he turned to run.'
  'This is most interesting,' said Holmes. 'Pray, what did you do then?'
  'I should have followed him through the open window if I had been stronger. As itwas, I rang the bell and roused the house. It took me some little time, for the bell ringsin the kitchen, and the servants all sleep upstairs. I shouted, however, and that broughtJoseph down, and he roused the others. Joseph and the groom found marks on theflower-bed outside the window, but the weather has been so dry lately that they foundit hopeless to follow the trail across the grass. There's a place, however, on thewooden fence which skirts the road which shows signs, they tell me, as if someonehad got over and had snapped the top of the rail in doing so. I have said nothing to thelocal police yet, for I thought I had best have your opinion first.'
  This tale of our client's appeared to have an extraordinary effect upon SherlockHolmes. He rose from his chair and paced about the room in uncontrollableexcitement.
  'Misfortunes never come singly,' said Phelps, smiling, though it was evident thathis adventure had somewhat shaken him.
  'You have certainly had your share,' said Holmes. 'Do you think you could walkround the house with me?'
  'Oh, yes, I should like a little sunshine. Joseph will come too?'
  'And I also,' said Miss Harrison.
  'I am afraid not,' said Holmes, shaking his head. 'I think I must ask you to remainsitting exactly where you are.'
  The young lady resumed her seat with an air of displeasure. Her brother, however,had joined us, and we set off all four together. We passed round the lawn to theoutside of the young diplomatist's window. There were, as he had said, marks uponthe flower-bed, but they were hopelessly blurred and vague. Holmes stooped overthem for an instant, and then rose, shrugging his shoulders.
  'I don't think anyone could make much of this,' said he. 'Let us go round the houseand see why this particular room was chosen by the burglar. I should have thoughtthose larger windows of the drawing-room and dining-room would have had moreattractions for him.'
  'They are more visible from the road,' suggested Mr. Joseph Harrison.
  'Ah, yes, of course. There is a door here which he might have attempted. What is itfor?'
  'It is the side-entrance for tradespeople. Of course, it is locked at night.'
  'Have you ever had an alarm like this before?'
  'Never,' said our client.
  'Do you keep plate in the house, or anything to attract burglars?'
  'Nothing of value.'
  Holmes strolled round the house with his hands in his pockets, and a negligent airwhich was unusual with him.
  'By the way,' said he to Joseph Harrison, 'you found some place, I understand,where the fellow scaled the fence. Let us have a look at that.'
  The young man led us to a spot where the top of one of the wooden rails had beencracked. A small fragment of the wood was hanging down. Holmes pulled it off andexamined it critically.
  'Do you think that was done last night? It looks rather old, does it not?'
  'Well, possibly so.'
  'There are no marks of anyone jumping down upon the other side. No, I fancy weshall get no help here. Let us go back to the bedroom and talk the matter over.'
  Percy Phelps was walking very slowly, leaning upon the arm of his futurebrother-in-law. Holmes walked swiftly across the lawn, and we were at the openwindow of the bedroom long before the others came up.
  'Miss Harrison,' said Holmes, speaking with the utmost intensity of manner, 'youmust stay where you are all day. Let nothing prevent you from staying where you areall day. It is of most vital importance.'
  'Certainly, if you wish it, Mr. Holmes,' said the girl, in astonishment.
  'When you go to bed lock the door of this room on the outside and keep the key.Promise to do this.'
  'But Percy?'
  'He will come to London with us.'
  'And I am to remain here?'
  'It is for his sake. You can serve him! Quick! Promise!'
  she gave a nod of assent just as the other two came up.
  'Why do you sit moping there, Annie?' cried her brother. 'Come out into thesunshine!'
  'No, thank you, Joseph. I have a slight headache, and this room is deliciously cooland soothing.'
  'What do you propose now, Mr. Holmes?' asked out client.
  'Well, in investigating this minor affair we must not lose sight of our main inquiry.It would be a very great help to me if you could come up to London with us.'
  'At once?'
  'Well, as soon as you conveniently can. Say in an hour.'
  'I feel quite strong enough, if I can really be of any help.'
  'The greatest possible.'
  'Perhaps you would like me to stay there to-night.'
  'I was just going to propose it.'
  'Then if my friend of the night comes to revisit me, he will find the bird flown. Weare all in your hands, Mr. Holmes, and you must tell us exactly what you would likedone. Perhaps you would prefer that Joseph came with us, so as to look after me?'
  'Oh, no; my friend Watson is a medical man, you know, and he'll look after you.We'll have our lunch here, if you will permit us, and then we shall all three set off fortown together.'
  It was arranged as he suggested, though Miss Harrison excused herself fromleaving the bedroom, in accordance with Holmes's suggestion. What the object of myfriend's manoeuvres was I could not conceive, unless it were to keep the lady awayfrom Phelps, who, rejoiced by his returning health and by the prospect of action,lunched with us in the dinning-room. Holmes had a still more startling surprise for us,however, for after accompanying us down to the station and seeing us into ourcarriage, he calmly announced that he had no intention of leaving Woking.
  'There are one or two small points which I should desire to clear up before I go,'said he. 'Your absence, Mr. Phelps, will in some ways rather assist me. Watson, whenyou reach London you would oblige me by driving at once to Baker Street with ourfriend here, and remaining with him until I see you again. It is fortunate that you areold schoolfellows, as you must have much to talk over. Mr. Phelps can have the sparebedroom to-night, and I shall be with you in time for breakfast, for there is a trainwhich will take me into Waterloo at eight.'
  'But how about our investigation in London?' asked Phelps, ruefully.
  'We can do that to-morrow. I think that just at present I can be of more immediateuse here.'
  'You might tell them at Briarbrae that I hope to be back to-morrow night,' criedPhelps, as we began to move from the platform.
  'I hardly expect to go back to Briarbrae,' answered Holmes, and waved his hand tous cheerily as we shot out from the station.
  Phelps and I talked it over on our journey, but neither of us could devise asatisfactory reason for this new development.
  'I suppose he wants to find out some clue as to the burglary last night, if a burglar itwas. For myself, I don't believe it was an ordinary thief.'
  'What is your idea, then?'
  'Upon my word, you may put it down to my weak nerves or not, but I believe thereis some deep political intrigue going on around me, and that, for some reason thatpasses my understanding, my life is aimed at by the conspirators. It soundshigh-flown and absurd, but consider the facts! Why should a thief try to break in at abedroom window, where there could be no hope of any plunder, and why should hecome with a long knife in his hand?'
  'You are sure it was not a housebreaker's jemmy?'
  'Oh, no; it was a knife. I saw the flash of the blade quite distinctly.'
  'But why on earth should you be pursued with such animosity?'
  'Ah! That is the question.'
  'Well, if Holmes takes the same view, that would account for his action, would itnot? Presuming that your theory is correct, if he can lay his hands upon the man whothreatened you last night, he will have gone a long way towards finding who took thenaval treaty. It is absurd to suppose that you have two enemies, one of whom robs youwhile the other threatens your life.'
  'But Mr. Holmes said that he was not going to Briarbrae.'
  'I have known him for some time,' said I, 'but I never knew him do anything yetwithout a very good reason,' and with that our conversation drifted off into othertopics.
  But it was a weary day for me. Phelps was still weak after his long illness, and hismisfortunes made him querulous and nervous. In vain I endeavoured to interest him inAfghanistan, in India, in social questions, in anything which might take his mind outof the groove. He would always come back to his lost treaty; wondering, guessing,speculating, as to what Holmes was doing, what steps lord Holdhurst was taking, whatnews we should have in the morning. As the evening wore on his excitement becamequite painful.
  'You have implicit faith in Holmes?' he asked.
  'I have seen him do some remarkable things.'
  'But he never brought light into anything quite so dark as this?'
  'Oh, yes; I have known him solve questions which presented fewer clues thanyours.'
  'But not where such large interests are at stake?'
  'I don't know that. To my certain knowledge he has acted on behalf of three of thereigning Houses of Europe in very vital matters.'
  'But you know him well, Watson. He is such an inscrutable fellow, that I neverquite know what to make of him. Do you think he is hopeful? Do you think he expectsto make a success of it?'
  'He has said nothing.'
  'That is a bad sign.'
  'On the contrary, I have noticed that when he is off the trail he generally says so. Itis when he is on a scent, and is not quite absolutely sure yet that it is the right one,that he is most taciturn. Now, my dear fellow, we can't help matters by makingourselves nervous about them, so let me implore you to go to bed, and so be fresh forwhatever may await us to-morrow.
  I was able at last to persuade my companion to take my advice, though I knew fromhis excited manner that there was not much hope of sleep for him. Indeed, his moodwas infectious, for I lay tossing half the night myself, brooding over this strangeproblem, and inventing a hundred theories, each of which was more impossible thanthe last. Why had Holmes remained at Woking? Why had he asked Miss Harrison tostay in the sick-room all day? Why had he been so careful not to inform the people atBriarbrae that he intended to remain near them? I cudgelled my brains until I fellasleep in the endeavour to find some explanation which would cover all these facts.
  It was seven o'clock when I awoke, and I set off at once for Phelps' room, to findhim haggard and spent after a sleepless night. His first question was whether Holmeshad arrived yet.
  'He'll be here when he promised,' said I, 'and not an instant sooner or later.'
  And my words were true, for shortly after eight a hansom dashed up to the door andour friend got out of it. Standing in the window, we saw that his left hand wasswathed in a bandage and that his face was very grim and pale. He entered the house,but it was some little time before he came upstairs.
  'He looks like a beaten man,' cried Phelps.
  I was forced to confess that he was right. 'After all,' said I, 'the clue of the matterlies probably here in town.'
  Phelps gave a groan.
  'I don't know how it is,' said he, 'but I had hoped for so much from his return. Butsurely his hand was not tied up like that yesterday? What can be the matter?'
  'You are not wounded, Holmes?' I asked, as my friend entered the room.
  'Tut, it is only a scratch through my own clumsiness,' he answered, nodding hisgood morning to us. 'This case of yours, Mr. Phelps, is certainly one of the darkestwhich I have ever investigated.'
  'I feared that you would find it beyond you.'
  'It has been a most remarkable experience.'
  'That bandage tells of adventures,' said I. 'Won't you tell us what has happened?'
  'After breakfast, my dear Watson. Remember that I have breathed thirty miles ofSurrey air this morning. I suppose there has been no answer to my cabmanadvertisement? Well, well, we cannot expect to score every time.'
  The table was all laid, and, just as I was about to ring, Mrs. Hudson entered withthe tea and coffee. A few minutes later she brought in the covers, and we all drew upto the table, Holmes ravenous, I curious, and Phelps in the gloomiest state ofdepression.
  'Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion,' said Holmes, uncovering a dish of curriedchicken. 'Her cuisine is a little limited, but she has as good an idea of breakfast as aScotchwoman. What have you there, Watson?'
  'Ham and eggs,' I answered.
  'Good! What are you going to take, Mr. Phelps: curried fowl, eggs, or will you helpyourself?'
  'Thank you, I can eat nothing,' said Phelps.
  'Oh, come! Try the dish before you.'
  'Thank you, I would really rather not.'
  'Well, then,' said Holmes, with a mischievous twinkle, 'I suppose that you have noobjection to helping me?'
  Phelps raised the cover, and as he did so he uttered a scream, and sat there staringwith a face as white as the plate upon which he looked. Across the centre of it waslying a little cylinder of blue-grey paper. He caught it up, devoured it with his eyes,and then danced madly about the room, pressing it to his bosom and shrieking out inhis delight. Then he fell back into an arm-chair, so limp and exhausted with his ownemotions that we had to pour brandy down his throat to keep him from fainting.
  'There! There!' said Holmes, soothingly, patting him upon the shoulder. 'It was toobad to spring it on you like this; but Watson here will tell you that I never can resist atouch of the dramatic.'
  Phelps seized his hand and kissed it. 'God bless you!' he cried; 'you have saved myhonour.'
  'Well, my own was at stake, you know,' said Holmes. 'I assure you, it is just ashateful to me to fail in a case as it can be to you to blunder over a commission.'
  Phelps thrust away the precious document into the innermost pocket of his coat.
  'I have not the heart to interrupt your breakfast any further, and yet I am dying toknow how you got it and where it was.'
  Sherlock Holmes swallowed a cup of coffee and turned his attention to the ham andeggs. Then he rose, lit his pipe, and settled himself down into his chair.
  'I'll tell you what I did first, and how I came to do it afterwards,' said he. 'Afterleaving you at the station I went for a charming walk through some admirable Surreyscenery to a pretty little village called Ripley, where I had my tea at an inn, and tookthe precaution of filling my flask and of putting a paper of sandwiches in my pocket.There I remained until evening, when I set off for Woking again and found myself inthe high-road outside Briarbrae just after sunset.
  'Well, I waited until the road was clear!it is never a very frequented one at anytime, I fancy!and then I clambered over the fence into the grounds.'
  'Surely the gate was open?' ejaculated Phelps.
  'Yes; but I have a peculiar taste in these matters. I chose the place where the threefir trees stand, and behind their screen I got over without the least chance of anyone inthe house being able to see me. I crouched down among the bushes on the other side,and crawled from one to the other!witness the disreputable state of my trouserknees!until I had reached the clump of rhododendrons just opposite to your bedroomwindow. There I squatted down and awaited developments.
  'The blind was not down in your room, and I could see Miss Harrison sitting therereading by the table. It was a quarter past ten when she closed her book, fastened theshutters, and retired. I heard her shut the door, and felt quite sure that she had turnedthe key in the lock.'
  'The key?' ejaculated Phelps.
  'Yes, I had given Miss Harrison instructions to lock the door on the outside andtake the key with her when she went to bed. She carried out every one of myinjunctions to the letter, and certainly without her co-operation you would not havethat paper in your coat pocket. She departed then, the lights went out, and I was leftsquatting in the rhododendron bush.
  'The night was fine, but still it was a very weary vigil. Of course, it has the sort ofexcitement about it that the sportsman feels when he lies beside the watercourse andwaits for the big game. It was very long, though!almost as long, Watson, as whenyou and I waited in that deadly room when we looked into the little problem of the
  Speckled Band.quarters, and I thought more than once that it had stopped. At last, however, about twoin the morning, I suddenly heard the gentle sound of a bolt being pushed back, and thecreaking of a key. A moment later the servants' door was opened and Mr. JosephHarrison stepped out into the moonlight.'
  'Joseph!' ejaculated Phelps.
  'He was bare-headed, but he had a black cloak thrown over his shoulder, so that hecould conceal his face in an instant if there were any alarm. He walked on tiptoeunder the shadow of the wall, and when he reached the window, he worked along-bladed knife through the sash and pushed back the catch. Then he flung open thewindow and, putting his knife through the crack in the shutters, he thrust the bar upand swung them open.
  'From where I lay I had a perfect view of the inside of the room and of every one ofhis movements. He lit the two candles which stand upon the mantelpiece, and then heproceeded to turn back the corner of the carpet in the neighbourhood of the door.Presently he stooped and picked out a square piece of board, such as is usually left toenable plumbers to get at the joints of the gas pipes. This one covered, as a matter offact, the T-joint which gives off the pipe which supplies the kitchen underneath. Outof this hiding-place he drew that little cylinder of paper, pushed down the board,rearranged the carpet, blew out the candles, and walked straight into my arms as Istood waiting for him outside the window.
  'Well, he has rather more viciousness than I gave him credit for, has Master Joseph.He flew at me with his knife, and I had to grass him twice, and got a cut over theknuckles, before I had the upper hand of him. He looked "murder" out of the only eyehe could see with when we had finished, but he listened to reason and gave up thepapers. Having got them I let my man go, but I wired full particulars to Forbes thismorning. If he is quick enough to catch his bird, well and good! But if, as I shrewdlysuspect, he finds the nest empty before he gets there, why, all the better for theGovernment. I fancy that Lord Holdhurst, for one, and Mr. Percy Phelps, for another,would very much rather that the affair never got so far as a police-court.'
  'My God!' gasped our client. 'Do you tell me that during these long ten weeks ofagony, the stolen papers were within the very room with me all the time?'
  'So it was.'
  'And Joseph! Joseph a villain and a thief!'
  'Hum! I am afraid Joseph's character is a rather deeper and more dangerous onethan one might judge from his appearance. From what I have heard from him thismorning, I gather that he has lost heavily in dabbling with stocks, and that he is readyto do anything on earth to better his fortunes. Being an absolutely selfish man, when achance presented itself he did not allow either his sister's happiness or your reputationto hold his hand.'
  Percy Phelps sank back in his chair. 'My head whirls,' said he; 'your words havedazed me.'
  'The principal difficulty in your case,' remarked Holmes, in his didactic fashion,'lay in the fact of there being too much evidence. What was vital was overlaid andhidden by what was irrelevant. Of all the facts which were presented to us, we had topick just those which we deemed to be essential, and then piece them together in theirorder, so as to reconstruct this very remarkable chain of events. I had already begun tosuspect Joseph, from the fact that you had intended to travel home with him that night,and that therefore it was a likely enough thing that he should call for you!knowingthe Foreign Office well!upon his way. When I heard that someone had been soanxious to get into the bedroom, in which no one but Joseph could have concealedanything!you told us in your narrative how you had turned Joseph out when youarrived with the doctor!my suspicions all changed to certainties, especially as theattempt was made on the first night upon which the nurse was absent, showing thatthe intruder was well acquainted with the ways of the house.'
  'How blind I have been!'
  'The facts of the case, as far as I have worked them out, are these: This JosephHarrison entered the office through the Charles Street door, and knowing his way hewalked straight into your room the instant after you left it. Finding no one there hepromptly rang the bell, and at the instant that he did so his eyes caught the paper uponthe table. A glance showed him that chance had put in his way a State document ofimmense value, and in a flash he had thrust it into his pocket and was gone. A fewminutes elapsed, as you remember, before the sleepy commissionaire drew yourattention to the bell, and those were just enough to give the thief time to make hisescape.
  'He made his way to Woking by the first train, and, having examined his booty, andassured himself that it really was of immense value, he concealed it in what hethought was a very safe place, with the intention of taking it out again in a day or two,and carrying it to the French Embassy, or wherever he thought that a long piece wasto be had. Then came your sudden return. He, without a moment's warning, wasbundled out of his room, and from that time onwards there were always at least two ofyou there to prevent him from regaining his treasure. The situation to him must havebeen a maddening one. But at last he thought he saw his chance. He tired to steal in,but was baffled by your wakefulness. You may remember that you did not take yourusual draught that night.'
  'I remember.'
  'I fancy that he had taken steps to make that draught efficacious, and that he quiterelied upon your being unconscious. Of course, I understood that he would repeat theattempt whenever it could be done with safety. Your leaving the room gave him thechance he wanted. I kept Miss Harrison in it all day, so that he might not anticipate us.Then, having given him the idea that the coast was clear, I kept guard as I havedescribed. I already knew that the papers were probably in the room, but I had nodesire to rip up all the planking and skirting in search of them. I let him take them,therefore, from the hiding-place, and so saved myself an infinity of trouble. Is thereany other point which I can make clear?'
  'Why did he try the window on the first occasion,' I asked, 'when he might haveentered by the door?'
  'In reaching the door he would have to pass seven bedrooms. On the other hand, hecould get out on to the lawn with ease. Anything else?'
  'You do not think,' asked Phelps, 'that he had any murderous intention? The knifewas only meant as a tool.'
  'It may be so,' answered Holmes, shrugging his shoulders. 'I can only say forcertain that Mr. Joseph Harrison is a gentleman to whose mercy I should be extremelyunwilling to trust.'

        THE END

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  補秘Frank Davis    email:fcx99@21cn.com

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