The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

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The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

    The Illustrious Client


    I FEAR that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary. One likes to think that there is some fantastic limbo for the children of imagination, some strange, impossible place where the beaux of Fielding may still make love to the belles of Richardson, where Scott‟s heroes

    still may strut, Dickens‟s delightful Cockneys still raise a laugh, and Thackeray‟s worldlings continue to carry on their reprehensible careers. Perhaps in some humble corner of such a Valhalla, Sherlock and his Watson may for a time find a place, while some more astute sleuth with some even less astute comrade may fill the stage which they have vacated.

    His career has been a long onethough it is possible to exaggerate it; decrepit gentlemen who

    approach me and declare that his adventures formed the reading of their boyhood do not meet the response from me which they seem to expect. One is not anxious to have one‟s personal dates handled so unkindly. As a matter of cold fact, Holmes made his debut in A Study in Scarlet and in The Sign of Four, two small booklets which appeared between 1887 and 1889. It was in 1891 that „A Scandal in Bohemia,‟ the first of the long series of short stories, appeared in The Strand Magazine. The public seemed appreciative and desirous of more, so that from that date, thirty-nine years ago, they have been produced in a broken series which now contains no fewer than fifty-six stories, republished in The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, and His Last Bow, and there remain these twelve published during the last few years which are here produced under the title of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. He began his adventures in the very heart of the later Victorian era, carried it through the all-too-short reign of Edward, and has managed to hold his own little niche even in these feverish days. Thus it would be true to say that those who first read of him, as young men, have lived to see their own grown-up children following the same adventures in the same magazine. It is a striking example of the patience and loyalty of the British public.

    I had fully determined at the conclusion of The Memoirs to bring Holmes to an end, as I felt that my literary energies should not be directed too much into one channel. That pale, clear-cut face and loose-limbed figure were taking up an undue share of my imagination. I did the deed, but fortunately no coroner had pronounced upon the remains, and so, after a long interval, it was not difficult for me to respond to the flattering demand and to explain my rash act away. I have never regretted it, for I have not in actual practice found that these lighter sketches have prevented me from exploring and finding my limitations in such varied branches of literature as history, poetry, historical novels, psychic research, and the drama. Had Holmes never existed I could not have done more, though he may perhaps have stood a little in the way of the recognition of my more serious literary work.

    And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your past

    constancy, and can but hope that some return has been made in the shape

    of that distraction from the worries of life and stimulating change of

    thought which can only be found in the fairy kingdom of romance.


The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

    The Illustrious Client “IT CAN‟T hurt now,” was Mr. Sherlock Holmes‟s comment when, for the tenth time in as many

    years, I asked his leave to reveal the following narrative. So it was that at last I obtained

    permission to put on record what was, in some ways, the supreme moment of my friend‟s career.

    Both Holmes and I had a weakness for the Turkish bath. It was over a smoke in the pleasant

    lassitude of the drying-room that I have found him less reticent and more human than anywhere

    else. On the upper floor of the Northumberland Avenue establishment there is an isolated corner

    where two couches lie side by side, and it was on these that we lay upon September 3, 1902, the

    day when my narrative begins. I had asked him whether anything was stirring, and for answer he

    had shot his long, thin, nervous arm out of the sheets which enveloped him and had drawn an

    envelope from the inside pocket of the coat which hung beside him.

    “It may be some fussy, self-important fool; it may be a matter of life or death,” said he as he

    handed me the note. “I know no more than this message tells me.”

    It was from the Carlton Club and dated the evening before. This is what I read:

    Sir James Damery presents his compliments to Mr. Sherlock

    Holmes and will call upon him at 4:30 to-morrow. Sir James begs

to say that the matter upon which he desires to consult Mr. Holmes is very delicate and also very

    important. He trusts, therefore, that Mr. Holmes will make every effort to grant this interview, and

    that he will confirm it over the telephone to the Carlton Club.

    “I need not say that I have confirmed it, Watson,” said Holmes as I returned the paper. “Do you

    know anything of this man Damery?” “Only that this name is a household word in society.”

    “Well, I can tell you a little more than that. He has rather a reputation for arranging delicate

    matters which are to be kept out of the papers. You may remember his negotiations with Sir

    George Lewis over the Hammerford Will case. He is a man of the world with a natural turn for

    diplomacy. I am bound, therefore, to hope that it is not a false scent and that he has some real need

    for our assistance.”


    “Well, if you will be so good, Watson.” “I shall be honoured.”

    “Then you have the hour–4:30. Until then we can put the matter out of our heads.”

    I was living in my own rooms in Queen Anne Street at the time, but I was round at Baker Street

    before the time named. Sharp to the half-hour, Colonel Sir James Damery was announced. It is

    hardly necessary to describe him, for many will remember that large, bluff, honest personality, that

    broad, clean-shaven face, and, above all, that pleasant, mellow voice. Frankness shone from his

    gray Irish eyes, and good humour played round his mobile, smiling lips. His lucent top-hat, his

    dark frock-coat, indeed, every detail, from the pearl pin in the black satin cravat to the lavender

    spats over the varnished shoes, spoke of the meticulous care in dress for which he was famous.

The big, masterful aristocrat dominated the little room.

    “Of course, I was prepared to find Dr. Watson,” he remarked with a courteous bow. “His

    collaboration may be very necessary, for we are dealing on this occasion, Mr. Holmes, with a man

    to whom violence is familiar and who will, literally, stick at nothing. I should say that there is no

    more dangerous man in Europe.”

    “I have had several opponents to whom that flattering term has been applied,” said Holmes with a

    smile. “Don‟t you smoke? Then you will excuse me if I light my pipe. If your man is more

    dangerous than the late Professor Moriarty, or than the living Colonel Sebastian Moran, then he is

    indeed worth meeting. May I ask his name?”

    “Have you ever heard of Baron Gruner?”

    “You mean the Austrian murderer?”

    Colonel Damery threw up his kid-gloved hands with a laugh. “There is no getting past you, Mr. Holmes! Wonderful! So you have already sized him up as a murderer?” “It is my business to follow the details of Continental crime. Who could possibly have read what

    happened at Prague and have any doubts as to the man‟s guilt! It was a purely technical legal point and the suspicious death of a witness that saved him! I am as sure that he killed his wife when the

    so-called „accident‟ happened in the Splugen Pass as if I had seen him do it. I knew, also, that he

    had come to England and had a presentiment that sooner or later he would find me some work to

    do. Well, what has Baron Gruner been up to? I presume it is not this old tragedy which has come

    up again?”

    “No, it is more serious than that. To revenge crime is important, but to prevent it is more so. It is a terrible thing, Mr. Holmes, to see a dreadful event, an atrocious situation, preparing itself before

    your eyes, to clearly understand whither it will lead and yet to be utterly unable to avert it. Can a

    human being be placed in a more trying position?”

    “Perhaps not.”

    “Then you will sympathize with the client in whose interests I am acting.” “I did not understand that you were merely an intermediary. Who is the principal?” “Mr. Holmes, I must beg you not to press that question. It is important that I should be able to assure him that his honoured name has been in no way dragged into the matter. His motives are, to

    the last degree, honourable and chivalrous, but he prefers to remain unknown. I need not say that

    your fees will be assured and that you will be given a perfectly free hand. Surely the actual name

    of your client is immaterial?”

    “I am sorry,” said Holmes. “I am accustomed to have mystery at one end of my cases, but to have

    it at both ends is too confusing. I fear, Sir James, that I must decline to act.” Our visitor was greatly disturbed. His large, sensitive face was darkened with emotion and


    “You hardly realize the effect of your own action, Mr. Holmes,” said he. “You place me in a most

    serious dilemma, for I am perfectly certain that you would be proud to take over the case if I could

    give you the facts, and yet a promise forbids me from revealing them all. May I, at least, lay all

    that I can before you?”

    “By all means, so long as it is understood that I commit myself to nothing.” “That is understood. In the first place, you have no doubt heard of General de Merville?” “De Merville of Khyber fame? Yes, I have heard of him.”

    “He has a daughter, Violet de Merville, young, rich, beautiful, accomplished, a wonder-woman in

every way. It is this daughter, this lovely, innocent girl, whom we are endeavouring to save from

    the clutches of a fiend.”

    “Baron Gruner has some hold over her, then?”

    “The strongest of all holds where a woman is concerned–the hold of love. The fellow is, as you may have heard, extraordinarily handsome, with a most fascinating manner, a gentle voice, and

    that air of romance and mystery which means so much to a woman. He is said to have the whole

    sex at his mercy and to have made ample use of the fact.” “But how came such a man to meet a lady of the standing of Miss Violet de Merville?”

    “It was on a Mediterranean yachting voyage. The company, though select, paid their own passages.

    No doubt the promoters hardly realized the Baron‟s true character until it was too late. The villain attached himself to the lady, and with such effect that he has completely and absolutely won her

    heart. To say that she loves him hardly expresses it. She dotes upon him; she is obsessed by him.

    Outside of him there is nothing on earth. She will not hear one word against him. Everything has

    been done to cure her of her madness, but in vain. To sum up, she proposes to marry him next

    month. As she is of age and has a will of iron, it is hard to know how to prevent her.”

    “Does she know about the Austrian episode?”

    “The cunning devil has told her every unsavoury public scandal of his past life, but always in such

    a way as to make himself out to be an innocent martyr. She absolutely accepts his version and will

    listen to no other.”

    “Dear me! But surely you have inadvertently let out the name of your client? It is no doubt

    General de Merville.”

    Our visitor fidgeted in his chair.

    “I could deceive you by saying so, Mr. Holmes, but it would not be true. De Merville is a broken man. The strong soldier has been utterly demoralized by this incident.

    He has lost the nerve which never failed him on the battlefield and has become a weak, doddering

    old man, utterly incapable of contending with a brilliant, forceful rascal like this Austrian. My

    client, however, is an old friend, one who has known the General intimately for many years and

    taken a paternal interest in this young girl since she wore short frocks. He cannot see this tragedy

    consummated without some attempt to stop it. There is nothing in which Scotland Yard can act. It

    was his own suggestion that you should be called in, but it was, as I have said, on the express

    stipulation that he should not be personally involved in the matter. I have no doubt, Mr. Holmes,

    with your great powers you could easily trace my client back through me, but I must ask you, as a

    point of honour, to refrain from doing so, and not to break in upon his incognito.”

    Holmes gave a whimsical smile.

    “I think I may safely promise that,” said he. “I may add that your problem interests me, and that I

    shall be prepared to look into it. How shall I keep in touch with you?” “The Carlton Club will find me. But in case of emergency, there is a private telephone call,


    Holmes noted it down and sat, still smiling, with the open memorandum-book upon his knee.

    “The Baron‟s present address, please?”

    “Vernon Lodge, near Kingston. It is a large house. He has been fortunate in some rather shady

    speculations and is a rich man, which naturally makes him a more dangerous antagonist.”

    “Is he at home at present?”


“Apart from what you have told me, can you give me any further information about the man?”

    “He has expensive tastes. He is a horse fancier. For a short time he played polo at Hurlingham, but

    then this Prague affair got noised about and he had to leave. He collects books and pictures. He is

    a man with a considerable artistic side to his nature. He is, I believe, a recognized authority upon

    Chinese pottery and has written a book upon the subject.”

    “A complex mind,” said Holmes. “All great criminals have that. My old friend Charlie Peace was

    a violin virtuoso. Wainwright was no mean artist. I could quote many more. Well, Sir James, you

    will inform your client that I am turning my mind upon Baron Gruner. I can say no more. I have

    some sources of information of my own, and I dare say we may find some means of opening the

    matter up.”

    When our visitor had left us Holmes sat so long in deep thought that it seemed to me that he had

    forgotten my presence. At last, however, he came briskly back to earth.

    “Well, Watson, any views?” he asked.

    “I should think you had better see the young lady herself.”

    “My dear Watson, if her poor old broken father cannot move her, how shall I, a stranger, prevail?

    And yet there is something in the suggestion if all else fails. But I think we must begin from a

    different angle. I rather fancy that Shinwell Johnson might be a help.”

    I have not had occasion to mention Shinwell Johnson in these memoirs because I have seldom

    drawn my cases from the latter phases of my friend‟s career. During the first years of the century

    he became a valuable assistant. Johnson, I grieve to say, made his name first as a very dangerous

    villain and served two terms at Parkhurst. Finally he repented and allied himself to Holmes, acting

    as his agent in the huge criminal underworld of London and obtaining information which often

    proved to be of vital importance. Had Johnson been a “nark” of the police he would soon have

    been exposed, but as he dealt with cases which never came directly into the courts, his activities

    were never realized by his companions. With the glamour of his two convictions upon him, he had

    the entree of every night-club, doss house, and gambling-den in the town, and his quick

    observation and active brain made him an ideal agent for gaining information. It was to him that

    Sherlock Holmes now proposed to turn.

    It was not possible for me to follow the immediate steps taken by my friend, for I had some

    pressing professional business of my own, but I met him by appointment that evening at

    Simpson‟s, where, sitting at a small table in the front window and looking down at the rushing

    stream of life in the Strand, he told me something of what had passed.

    “Johnson is on the prowl,” said he. “He may pick up some garbage in the darker recesses of the

    underworld, for it is down there, amid the black roots of crime, that we must hunt for this man‟s


    “But if the lady will not accept what is already known, why should any fresh discovery of yours

    turn her from her purpose?” “Who knows, Watson? Woman‟s heart and mind are insoluble puzzles to the male. Murder might

    be condoned or explained, and yet some smaller offence might rankle. Baron Gruner remarked to

    me –”

    “He remarked to you!” “Oh, to be sure, I had not told you of my plans. Well, Watson, I love to come to close grips with

    my man. I like to meet him eye to eye and read for myself the stuff that he is made of. When I had

    given Johnson his instructions I took a cab out to Kingston and found the Baron in a most affable


    “Did he recognize you?”

    “There was no difficulty about that, for I simply sent in my card. He is an excellent antagonist,

    cool as ice, silky voiced and soothing as one of your fashionable consultants, and poisonous as a

    cobra. He has breeding in hima real aristocrat of crime, with a superficial suggestion of afternoon

    tea and all the cruelty of the grave behind it. Yes, I am glad to have had my attention called to

    Baron Adelbert Gruner.”

    “You say he was affable?”

    “A purring cat who thinks he sees prospective mice. Some people‟s affability is more deadly than

    the violence of coarser souls. His greeting was characteristic. „I rather thought I should see you

    sooner or later, Mr. Holmes,‟ said he. „You have been engaged, no doubt by General de Merville, to endeavour to stop my marriage with his daughter, Violet. That is so, is it not?‟

    “I acquiesced.

    “ „My dear man,‟ said he, „you will only ruin your own well-deserved reputation. It is not a case in

    which you can possibly succeed. You will have barren work, to say nothing of incurring some

    danger. Let me very strongly advise you to draw off at once.‟ “ „It is curious,‟ I answered, „but that was the very advice which I had intended to give you. I have

    a respect for your brains, Baron, and the little which I have seen of your personality has not

    lessened it. Let me put it to you as man to man. No one wants to rake up your past and make you

    unduly uncomfortable. It is over, and you are now in smooth waters, but if you persist in this

    marriage you will raise up a swarm of powerful enemies who will never leave you alone until they

    have made England too hot to hold you. Is the game worth it? Surely you would be wiser if you

    left the lady alone. It would not be pleasant for you if these facts of your past were brought to her


    “The Baron has little waxed tips of hair under his nose, like the short antennae of an insect. These

    quivered with amusement as he listened, and he finally broke into a gentle chuckle.

    “ „Excuse my amusement, Mr. Holmes,‟ said he, „but it is really funny to see you trying to play a

    hand with no cards in it. I don‟t think anyone could do it better, but it is rather pathetic, all the

    same. Not a colour card there, Mr. Holmes, nothing but the smallest of the small.‟

    “ „So you think.‟

    “ „So I know. Let me make the thing clear to you, for my own hand is so strong that I can afford to

    show it. I have been fortunate enough to win the entire affection of this lady. This was given to me

    in spite of the fact that I told her very clearly of all the unhappy incidents in my past life. I also

    told her that certain wicked and designing personsI hope you recognize yourself would come to

    her and tell her these things, and I warned her how to treat them. You have heard of post-hypnotic

    suggestion, Mr. Holmes? Well, you will see how it works, for a man of personality can use

    hypnotism without any vulgar passes or tomfoolery. So she is ready for you and, I have no doubt,

    would give you an appointment, for she is quite amenable to her father‟s will–save only in the one

    little matter.‟

    “Well, Watson, there seemed to be no more to say, so I took my leave with as much cold dignity as

    I could summon, but, as I had my hand on the door-handle, he stopped me.

    “ „By the way, Mr. Holmes,‟ said he, „did you know Le Brun, the French agent?‟

    “ „Yes,‟ said I.

    “ „Do you know what befell him?‟

“ „I heard that he was beaten by some Apaches in the Montmartre district and crippled for life.‟

    “ „Quite true, Mr. Holmes. By a curious coincidence he had been inquiring into my affairs only a

    week before. Don‟t do it, Mr. Holmes; it‟s not a lucky thing to do. Several have found that out. My

    last word to you is, go your own way and let me go mine. Good-bye!‟

    “So there you are, Watson. You are up to date now.” “The fellow seems dangerous.”

    “Mighty dangerous. I disregard the blusterer, but this is the sort of man who says rather less than

    he means.”

    “Must you interfere? Does it really matter if he marries the girl?”

    “Considering that he undoubtedly murdered his last wife, I should say it mattered very much.

    Besides, the client! Well, well, we need not discuss that. When you have finished your coffee you

    had best come home with me, for the blithe Shinwell will be there with his report.”

    We found him sure enough, a huge, coarse, red-faced, scorbutic man, with a pair of vivid black

    eyes which were the only external sign of the very cunning mind within. It seems that he had

    dived down into what was peculiarly his kingdom, and beside him on the settee was a brand which

    he had brought up in the shape of a slim, flame-like young woman with a pale, intense face,

    youthful, and yet so worn with sin and sorrow that one read the terrible years which had left their

    leprous mark upon her.

    “This is Miss Kitty Winter,” said Shinwell Johnson, waving his fat hand as an introduction. “What

    she don‟t know–well, there, she‟ll speak for herself. Put my hand right on her, Mr. Holmes, within

    an hour of your message.”

    “I‟m easy to find,” said the young woman. “Hell, London, gets me every time. Same address for

    Porky Shinwell. We‟re old mates, Porky, you and I. But, by cripes! there is another who ought to

    be down in a lower hell than we if there was any justice in the world! That is the man you are after,

    Mr. Holmes.”

    Holmes smiled. “I gather we have your good wishes, Miss Winter.”

    “If I can help to put him where he belongs, I‟m yours to the rattle,” said our visitor with fierce

    energy. There was an intensity of hatred in her white, set face and her blazing eyes such as woman

    seldom and man never can attain. “You needn‟t go into my past, Mr. Holmes. That‟s neither here

    nor there. But what I am Adelbert Gruner made me. If I could pull him down!” She clutched

    frantically with her hands into the air. “Oh, if I could only pull him into the pit where he has pushed so many!”

    “You know how the matter stands?”

    “Porky Shinwell has been telling me. He‟s after some other poor fool and wants to marry her this

    time. You want to stop it. Well, you surely know enough about this devil to prevent any decent girl

    in her senses wanting to be in the same parish with him.” “She is not in her senses. She is madly in love. She has been told all about him. She cares


    “Told about the murder?”


    “My Lord, she must have a nerve!”

    “She puts them all down as slanders.”

    “Couldn‟t you lay proofs before her silly eyes?” “Well, can you help us do so?”

“Ain‟t I a proof myself? If I stood before her and told her how he used me– –”

    “Would you do this?”

    “Would I? Would I not!”

    “Well, it might be worth trying. But he has told her most of his sins and had pardon from her, and I

    understand she will not reopen the question.”

    “I‟ll lay he didn‟t tell her all,” said Miss Winter. “I caught a glimpse of one or two murders besides

    the one that made such a fuss. He would speak of someone in his velvet way and then look at me

    with a steady eye and say: „He died within a month.‟ It wasn‟t hot air, either. But I took little

    notice you see, I loved him myself at that time. Whatever he did went with me, same as with this

    poor fool! There was just one thing that shook me. Yes, by cripes! if it had not been for his

    poisonous, lying tongue that explains and soothes, I‟d have left him that very night. It‟s a book he

    hasa brown leather book with a lock, and his arms in gold on the outside. I think he was a bit

    drunk that night, or he would not have shown it to me.” “What was it, then?”

    “I tell you, Mr. Holmes, this man collects women, and takes a pride in his collection, as some men

    collect moths or butterflies. He had it all in that book. Snapshot photographs, names, details,

    everything about them. It was a beastly booka book no man, even if he had come from the gutter, could have put together. But it was Adelbert Gruner‟s book all the same. „Souls I have ruined.‟ He

    could have put that on the outside if he had been so minded. However, that‟s neither here nor there,

    for the book would not serve you, and, if it would, you can‟t get it.” “Where is it?”

    “How can I tell you where it is now? It‟s more than a year since I left him. I know where he kept it

    then. He‟s a precise, tidy cat of a man in many of his ways, so maybe it is still in the pigeon-hole

    of the old bureau in the inner study. Do you know his house?” “I‟ve been in the study,” said Holmes.

    “Have you, though? You haven‟t been slow on the job if you only started this morning. Maybe

    dear Adelbert has met his match this time. The outer study is the one with the Chinese crockery in

    itbig glass cupboard between the windows. Then behind his desk is the door that leads to the

    inner study–a small room where he keeps papers and things.” “Is he not afraid of burglars?”

    “Adelbert is no coward. His worst enemy couldn‟t say that of him. He can look after himself.

    There‟s a burglar alarm at night. Besides, what is there for a burglarunless they got away with all this fancy crockery?”

    “No good,” said Shinwell Johnson with the decided voice of the expert. “No fence wants stuff of

    that sort that you can neither melt nor sell.”

    “Quite so,” said Holmes. “Well, now, Miss Winter, if you would call here to-morrow evening at

    five, I would consider in the meanwhile whether your suggestion of seeing this lady personally

    may not be arranged. I am exceedingly obliged to you for your cooperation. I need not say that my

    clients will consider liberally –”

    “None of that, Mr. Holmes,” cried the young woman. “I am not out for money. Let me see this

    man in the mud, and I‟ve got all I‟ve worked for–in the mud with my foot on his cursed face. That‟s my price. I‟m with you to-morrow or any other day so long as you are on his track. Porky

    here can tell you always where to find me.”

    I did not see Holmes again until the following evening when we dined once more at our Strand

    restaurant. He shrugged his shoulders when I asked him what luck he had had in his interview. Then he told the story, which I would repeat in this way. His hard, dry statement needs some little editing to soften it into the terms of real life.

    “There was no difficulty at all about the appointment,” said Holmes, “for the girl glories in showing abject filial obedience in all secondary things in an attempt to atone for her flagrant breach of it in her engagement. The General ‟phoned that all was ready, and the fiery Miss

    W. turned up according to schedule, so that at half-past five a cab deposited us outside 104 Berkeley Square, where the old soldier residesone of those awful gray London castles which

    would make a church seem frivolous. A footman showed us into a great yellowcurtained drawing-room, and there was the lady awaiting us, demure, pale, self-contained, as inflexible and remote as a snow image on a mountain.

    “I don‟t quite know how to make her clear to you, Watson. Perhaps you may meet her before we are through, and you can use your own gift of words. She is beautiful, but with the ethereal other-world beauty of some fanatic whose thoughts are set on high. I have seen such faces in the pictures of the old masters of the Middle Ages. How a beastman could have laid his vile paws upon such a being of the beyond I cannot imagine. You may have noticed how extremes call to each other, the spiritual to the animal, the cave-man to the angel. You never saw a worse case than this.

    “She knew what we had come for, of course–that villain had lost no time in poisoning her mind

    against us. Miss Winter‟s advent rather amazed her, I think, but she waved us into our respective chairs like a reverend abbess receiving two rather leprous mendicants. If your head is inclined to swell, my dear Watson, take a course of Miss Violet de Merville.

    “ „Well, sir,‟ said she in a voice like the wind from an iceberg, „your name is familiar to me. You have called, as I understand, to malign my fiancé, Baron Gruner. It is only by my father‟s request that I see you at all, and I warn you in advance that anything you can say could not possibly have the slightest effect upon my mind.‟

    “I was sorry for her, Watson. I thought of her for the moment as I would have thought of a daughter of my own. I am not often eloquent. I use my head, not my heart. But I really did plead with her with all the warmth of words that I could find in my nature. I pictured to her the awful position of the woman who only wakes to a man‟s character after she is his wife–a woman who

    has to submit to be caressed by bloody hands and lecherous lips. I spared her nothing the shame,

    the fear, the agony, the hopelessness of it all. All my hot words could not bring one tinge of colour to those ivory cheeks or one gleam of emotion to those abstracted eyes. I thought of what the rascal had said about a post-hypnotic influence. One could really believe that she was living above the earth in some ecstatic dream. Yet there was nothing indefinite in her replies. “ „I have listened to you with patience, Mr. Holmes,‟ said she. „The effect upon my mind is exactly as predicted. I am aware that Adelbert, that my fiancé, has had a stormy life in which he has incurred bitter hatreds and most unjust aspersions. You are only the last of a series who have brought their slanders before me. Possibly you mean well, though I learn that you are a paid agent who would have been equally willing to act for the Baron as against him. But in any case I wish you to understand once for all that I love him and that he loves me, and that the opinion of all the world is no more to me than the twitter of those birds outside the window. If his noble nature has ever for an instant fallen, it may be that I have been specially sent to raise it to its true and lofty level. I am not clear‟–here she turned eyes upon my companion–„who this young lady may be.‟

“I was about to answer when the girl broke in like a whirlwind. If ever you saw flame and ice face

    to face, it was those two women.

    “ „I‟ll tell you who I am,‟ she cried, springing out of her chair, her mouth all twisted with

    passion–„I am his last mistress. I am one of a hundred that he has tempted and used and ruined and thrown into the refuse heap, as he will you also. Your refuse heap is more likely to be a grave, and

    maybe that‟s the best. I tell you, you foolish woman, if you marry this man he‟ll be the death of

    you. It may be a broken heart or it may be a broken neck, but he‟ll have you one way or the other.

    It‟s not out of love for you I‟m speaking. I don‟t care a tinker‟s curse whether you live or die. It‟s

    out of hate for him and to spite him and to get back on him for what he did to me. But it‟s all the

    same, and you needn‟t look at me like that, my fine lady, for you may be lower than I am before

    you are through with it.‟

    “ „I should prefer not to discuss such matters,‟ said Miss de Merville coldly. „Let me say once for

    all that I am aware of three passages in my fiancé‟s life in which he became entangled with

    designing women, and that I am assured of his hearty repentance for any evil that he may have


    “ „Three passages!‟ screamed my companion. „You fool! You unutterable fool!‟

    “ „Mr. Holmes, I beg that you will bring this interview to an end,‟ said the icy voice. „I have

    obeyed my father‟s wish in seeing you, but I am not compelled to listen to the ravings of this


    “With an oath Miss Winter darted forward, and if I had not caught her wrist she would have

    clutched this maddening woman by the hair. I dragged her towards the door and was lucky to get

    her back into the cab without a public scene, for she was beside herself with rage. In a cold way I

    felt pretty furious myself, Watson, for there was something indescribably annoying in the calm

    aloofness and supreme self-complaisance of the woman whom we were trying to save. So now

    once again you know exactly how we stand, and it is clear that I must plan some fresh opening

    move, for this gambit won‟t work. I‟ll keep in touch with you, Watson, for it is more than likely

    that you will have your part to play, though it is just possible that the next move may lie with them

    rather than with us.” And it did. Their blow fellor his blow rather, for never could I believe that the lady was privy to

    it. I think I could show you the very paving-stone upon which I stood when my eyes fell upon the

    placard, and a pang of horror passed through my very soul. It was between the Grand Hotel and

    Charing Cross Station, where a one-legged news-vender displayed his evening papers. The date

    was just two days after the last conversation. There, black upon yellow, was the terrible




I think I stood stunned for some moments. Then I have a confused recollection of snatching at a

    paper, of the remonstrance of the man, whom I had not paid, and, finally, of standing in the

    doorway of a chemist‟s shop while I turned up the fateful paragraph. This was how it ran:

    We learn with regret that Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the well-known private detective, was the victim

    this morning of a murderous assault which has left him in a precarious position. There are no exact

    details to hand, but the event seems to have occurred about twelve o‟clock in Regent Street,

    outside the Cafe Royal. The attack was made by two men armed with sticks, and Mr. Holmes was

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