Silver Blaze is one of the short stories about Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in The Strand Magazine in 1894. It is now in the public domain. It has been transferred to electronic text by optical character recognition, and this copy has been reformatted for E2 and cleaned of OCR errors by rootbeer277. A paper version can be found as the last entry in a collection of short stories called Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
After the opaque Adventure of the Copper Beeches, Doyle returns to the more interesting and entertaining format of allowing us to follow Sherlock's train of logic and deduction nearly from start to finish. Almost all of the details and clues are laid before us, but only Holmes himself has the wit, intelligence, and mastery of obscure branches of knowledge that lets him fill in the gaps and piece the puzzle together.
The Silver Blaze of the title is a racing horse with a striking white streak of hair on his forehead, who disappears shortly before being favored to win an important upcoming race. His trainer is also found dead, and Inspector Gregory, who has apparently worked with Holmes before, is on the scene to arrest the obligatory red herring character. After hearing Holmes complain in previous stories about the official detective force walking around and trampling valuable footprint evidence, it's refreshing to see the inspector not only work to preserve the footprints at the scene, but also have the foresight to bring an assortment of shoes (including the horse's!) with him so Holmes could match the prints to their owners.
Previous Story: The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
Next Story: The Yellow Face
"I am afraid, Watson that I shall have to go," said Holmes as
we sat down together to our breakfast one morning.
"Go! Where to?"
"To Dartmoor; to King's Pyland."
I was not surprised. Indeed, my only wonder was that he had
not already been mixed up in this extraordinary case, which was
the one topic of conversation through the length and breadth of
England. For a whole day my companion had rambled about the
room with his chin upon his chest and his brows knitted, charging and recharging his pipe with the strongest black tobacco, and
absolutely deaf to any of my questions or remarks. Fresh editions
of every paper had been sent up by our news agent, only to be
glanced over and tossed down into a corner. Yet, silent as he
was, I knew perfectly well what it was over which he was
brooding. There was but one problem before the public which
could challenge his powers of analysis, and that was the singular
disappearance of the favourite for the Wessex Cup, and the
tragic murder of its trainer. When, therefore, he suddenly announced his intention of setting out for the scene of the drama, it
was only what I had both expected and hoped for.
"I should be most happy to go down with you if I should not
be in the way," said I.
"My dear Watson, you would confer a great favour upon me
by coming. And I think that your time will not be misspent, for
there are points about the case which promise to make it an
absolutely unique one. We have, I think, just time to catch our
train at Paddington, and I will go further into the matter upon our
journey. You would oblige me by bringing with you your very
And so it happened that an hour or so later I found myself in
the corner of a first-class carriage flying along en route for
Exeter, while Sherlock Holmes, with his sharp, eager face framed
in his ear-flapped travelling-cap, dipped rapidly into the bundle
of fresh papers which he had procured at Paddington. We had
left Reading far behind us before he thrust the last one of them
under the seat and offered me his cigar-case.
"We are going well," said he, looking out of the window and
glancing at his watch. "Our rate at present is fifty-three and a
half miles an hour."
"I have not observed the quarter-mile posts," said I.
"Nor have I. But the telegraph posts upon this line are sixty
yards apart, and the calculation is a simple one. I presume that
you have looked into this matter of the murder of John Straker
and the disappearance of Silver Blaze?"
"I have seen what the Telegraph and the Chronicle have to
"It is one of those cases where the art of the reasoner should
be used rather for the sifting of details than for the acquiring of
fresh evidence. The tragedy has been so uncommon, so complete, and of such personal importance to so many people that
we are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture, and
hypothesis. The difficulty is to detach the framework of fact — of
absolute undeniable fact — from the embellishments of theorists
and reporters. Then, having established ourselves upon this sound
basis, it is our duty to see what inferences may be drawn and
what are the special points upon which the whole mystery turns.
On Tuesday evening I received telegrams from both Colonel
Ross, the owner of the horse, and from Inspector Gregory, who
is looking after the case, inviting my cooperation."
"Tuesday evening!" I exclaimed. "And this is Thursday
morning. Why didn't you go down yesterday?"
"Because I made a blunder, my dear Watson — which is, I am
afraid, a more common occurrence than anyone would think
who only knew me through your memoirs. The fact is that I
could not believe it possible that the most remarkable horse in
England could long remain concealed, especially in so sparsely
inhabited a place as the north of Dartmoor. From hour to hour
yesterday I expected to hear that he had been found, and that his
abductor was the murderer of John Straker. When, however,
another morning had come and I found that beyond the arrest of
young Fitzroy Simpson nothing had been done, I felt that it was
time for me to take action. Yet in some ways I feel that yesterday has not been wasted."
"You have formed a theory, then?"
"At least I have got a grip of the essential facts of the case. I
shall enumerate them to you, for nothing clears up a case so
much as stating it to another person, and I can hardly expect
your cooperation if I do not show you the position from which
I lay back against the cushions, puffing at my cigar, while
Holmes, leaning forward, with his long, thin forefinger checking
off the points upon the palm of his left hand, gave me a sketch of
the events which had led to our journey.
"Silver Blaze," said he, "is from the Somomy stock and
holds as brilliant a record as his famous ancestor. He is now in
his fifth year and has brought in turn each of the prizes of the
turf to Colonel Ross, his fortunate owner. Up to the time of the
catastrophe he was the first favourite for the Wessex Cup, the
betting being three to one on him. He has always, however, been
a prime favourite with the racing public and has never yet
disappointed them, so that even at those odds enormous sums of
money have been laid upon him. It is obvious, therefore, that
there were many people who had the strongest interest in preventing Silver Blaze from being there at the fall of the flag next
"The fact was, of course, appreciated at King's Pyland, where
the colonel's training-stable is situated. Every precaution was
taken to guard the favourite. The trainer, John Straker, is a
retired jockey who rode in Colonel Ross's colours before he
became too heavy for the weighing-chair. He has served the
colonel for five years as jockey and for seven as trainer, and has
always shown himself to be a zealous and honest servant. Under
him were three lads, for the establishment was a small one,
containing only four horses in all. One of these lads sat up each
night in the stable, while the others slept in the loft. All three
bore excellent characters. John Straker, who is a married man
lived in a small villa about two hundred yards from the stables.
He has no children, keeps one maidservant, and is comfortably
off. The country round is very lonely, but about half a mile to
the north there is a small cluster of villas which have been built
by a Tavistock contractor for the use of invalids and others who
may wish to enjoy the pure Dartmoor air. Tavistock itself lies
two miles to the west, while across the moor, also about two
miles distant, is the larger training establishment of Mapleton,
which belongs to Lord Backwater and is managed by Silas
Brown. In every other direction the moor is a complete wilderness, inhabited only by a few roaming gypsies. Such was the
general situation last Monday night when the catastrophe occurred.
"On that evening the horses had been exercised and watered
as usual, and the stables were locked up at nine o'clock. Two of
the lads walked up to the trainer's house, where they had supper
in the kitchen, while the third, Ned Hunter, remained on guard.
At a few minutes after nine the maid, Edith Baxter, carried down
to the stables his supper, which consisted of a dish of curried
mutton. She took no liquid, as there was a water-tap in the
stables, and it was the rule that the lad on duty should drink
nothing else. The maid carried a lantern with her, as it was very
dark and the path ran across the open moor.
"Edith Baxter was within thirty yards of the stables when a
man appeared out of the darkness and called to her to stop. As
she stepped into the circle of yellow light thrown by the lantern
she saw that he was a person of gentlemanly bearing, dressed in
a gray suit of tweeds, with a cloth cap. He wore gaiters and
carried a heavy stick with a knob to it. She was most impressed,
however, by the extreme pallor of his face and by the nervousness of his manner. His age, she thought, would be rather over
thirty than under it.
" 'Can you tell me where I am?' he asked. 'I had almost
made up my mind to sleep on the moor when I saw the light of
" 'You are close to the King's Pyland training stables,' said
" 'Oh, indeed! What a stroke of luck!' he cried. 'I understand
that a stable-boy sleeps there alone every night. Perhaps that is
his supper which you are carrying to him. Now I am sure that
you would not be too proud to earn the price of a new dress,
would you?' He took a piece of white paper folded up out of his
waistcoat pocket. 'See that the boy has this to-night, and you
shall have the prettiest frock that money can buy.'
"She was frightened by the earnestness of his manner and ran
past him to the window through which she was accustomed to
hand the meals. It was already opened, and Hunter was seated at
the small table inside. She had begun to tell him of what had
happened when the stranger came up again.
" 'Good-evening,' said he, looking through the window. 'I
wanted to have a word with you.' The girl has sworn that as he
spoke she noticed the corner of the little paper packet protruding
from his closed hand.
" 'What business have you here?' asked the lad.
" 'It's business that may put something into your pocket.'
said the other. 'You've two horses in for the Wessex Cup —
Silver Blaze and Bayard. Let me have the straight tip and you
won't be a loser. Is it a fact that at the weights Bayard could give
the other a hundred yards in five furlongs, and that the stable
have put their money on him?'
" 'So, you're one of those damned touts!' cried the lad. 'I'll
show you how we serve them in King's Pyland.' He sprang up
and rushed across the stable to unloose the dog. The girl fled
away to the house, but as she ran she looked back and saw that
the stranger was leaning through the window. A minute later,
however, when Hunter rushed out with the hound he was gone,
and though he ran all round the buildings he failed to find any
trace of him."
"One moment," I asked. "Did the stable-boy, when he ran
out with the dog, leave the door unlocked behind him?"
"Excellent, Watson, excellent!" murmured my companion.
"The importance of the point struck me so forcibly that I sent a
special wire to Dartmoor yesterday to clear the matter up. The
boy locked the door before he left it. The window, I may add,
was not large enough for a man to get through.
"Hunter waited until his fellow-grooms had returned, when he
sent a message to the trainer and told him what had occurred.
Straker was excited at hearing the account, although he does not
seem to have quite realized its true significance. It left him,
however, vaguely uneasy, and Mrs. Straker, waking at one in
the morning, found that he was dressing. In reply to her inquiries, he said that he could not sleep on account of his anxiety
about the horses, and that he intended to walk down to the
stables to see that all was well. She begged him to remain at
home, as she could hear the rain pattering against the window,
but in spite of her entreaties he pulled on his large mackintosh
and left the house.
"Mrs. Straker awoke at seven in the morning to find that her
husband had not yet returned. She dressed herself hastily, called
the maid, and set off for the stables. The door was open; inside,
huddled together upon a chair, Hunter was sunk in a state of
absolute stupor, the favourite's stall was empty, and there were
no signs of his trainer.
"The two lads who slept in the chaff-cutting loft above the
harness-room were quickly aroused. They had heard nothing
during the night, for they are both sound sleepers. Hunter was
obviously under the influence of some powerful drug, and as no
sense could be got out of him, he was left to sleep it off while
the two lads and the two women ran out in search of the
absentees. They still had hopes that the trainer had for some
reason taken out the horse for early exercise, but on ascending
the knoll near the house, from which all the neighbouring moors
were visible, they not only could see no signs of the missing
favourite, but they perceived something which warned them that
they were in the presence of a tragedy.
"About a quarter of a mile from the stables John Straker's
overcoat was flapping from a furze-bush. Immediately beyond
there was a bowl-shaped depression in the moor, and at the
bottom of this was found the dead body of the unfortunate
trainer. His head had been shattered by a savage blow from some
heavy weapon, and he was wounded on the thigh, where there
was a long, clean cut, inflicted evidently by some very sharp
instrument. It was clear, however, that Straker had defended
himself vigorously against his assailants, for in his right hand he
held a small knife, which was clotted with blood up to the
handle, while in his left he clasped a red and black silk cravat,
which was recognized by the maid as having been worn on the
preceding evening by the stranger who had visited the stables.
Hunter, on recovering from his stupor, was also quite positive as
to the ownership of the cravat. He was equally certain that the
same stranger had, while standing at the window, drugged his
curried mutton, and so deprived the stables of their watchman.
As to the missing horse, there were abundant proofs in the mud
which lay at the bottom of the fatal hollow that he had been there
at the time of the struggle. But from that morning he has
disappeared, and although a large reward has been offered, and
all the gypsies of Dartmoor are on the alert, no news has come of
him. Finally, an analysis has shown that the remains of his
supper left by the stable-lad contained an appreciable quantity of
powdered opium, while the people at the house partook of the
same dish on the same night without any ill effect.
"Those are the main facts of the case, stripped of all surmise,
and stated as baldly as possible. I shall now recapitulate what the
police have done in the matter.
"Inspector Gregory, to whom the case has been committed, is
an extremely competent officer. Were he but gifted with imagination he might rise to great heights in his profession. On his
arrival he promptly found and arrested the man upon whom
suspicion naturally rested. There was little difficulty in finding
him, for he inhabited one of those villas which I have mentioned. His name, it appears, was Fitzroy Simpson. He was a
man of excellent birth and education, who had squandered a
fortune upon the turf, and who lived now by doing a little quiet
and genteel book-making in the sporting clubs of London. An
examination of his betting-book shows that bets to the amount of
five thousand pounds had been registered by him against the
favourite. On being arrested he volunteered the statement that he
had come down to Dartmoor in the hope of getting some information about the King's Pyland horses, and also about Desborough,
the second favourite, which was in charge of Silas Brown at the
Mapleton stables. He did not attempt to deny that he had acted as
described upon the evening before, but declared that he had no
sinister designs and had simply wished to obtain first-hand information. When confronted with his cravat he turned very pale and
was utterly unable to account for its presence in the hand of the
murdered man. His wet clothing showed that he had been out in
the storm of the night before, and his stick, which was a penang-lawyer weighted with lead, was just such a weapon as might, by
repeated blows, have inflicted the terrible injuries to which the
trainer had succumbed. On the other hand, there was no wound
upon his person, while the state of Straker's knife would show
that one at least of his assailants must bear his mark upon him.
There you have it all in a nutshell, Watson, and if you can give
me any light I shall be infinitely obliged to you."
I had listened with the greatest interest to the statement which
Holmes, with characteristic clearness, had laid before me. Though
most of the facts were familiar to me, I had not sufficiently
appreciated their relative importance, nor their connection to
"Is it not possible," I suggested, "that the incised wound
upon Straker may have been caused by his own knife in the
convulsive struggles which follow any brain injury?"
"It is more than possible; it is probable," said Holmes. "In
that case one of the main points in favour of the accused
"And yet," said I, "even now I fail to understand what the
theory of the police can be."
"I am afraid that whatever theory we state has very grave
objections to it," returned my companion. "The police imagine,
I take it, that this Fitzroy Simpson, having drugged the lad, and
having in some way obtained a duplicate key, opened the stable
door and took out the horse, with the intention, apparently, of
kidnapping him altogether. His bridle is missing, so that Simpson must have put this on. Then, having left the door open
behind him, he was leading the horse away over the moor when
he was either met or overtaken by the trainer. A row naturally
ensued. Simpson beat out the trainer's brains with his heavy
stick without receiving any injury from the small knife which
Straker used in self-defence, and then the thief either led the
horse on to some secret hiding-place, or else it may have bolted
during the struggle, and be now wandering out on the moors.
That is the case as it appears to the police, and improbable as it
is, all other explanations are more improbable still. However, I
shall very quickly test the matter when I am once upon the spot,
and until then I cannot really see how we can get much further
than our present position."
It was evening before we reached the little town of Tavistock,
which lies, like the boss of a shield, in the middle of the huge
circle of Dartmoor. Two gentlemen were awaiting us in the
station — the one a tall, fair man with lion-like hair and beard and
curiously penetrating light blue eyes; the other a small, alert
person, very neat and dapper, in a frock-coat and gaiters, with
trim little side-whiskers and an eyeglass. The latter was Colonel
Ross, the well-known sportsman; the other, Inspector Gregory; a
man who was rapidly making his name in the English detective
"I am delighted that you have come down, Mr. Holmes,"
said the colonel. "The inspector here has done all that could
possibly be suggested, but I wish to leave no stone unturned in
trying to avenge poor Straker and in recovering my horse."
"Have there been any fresh developments?" asked Holmes.
"I am sorry to say that we have made very little progress,"
said the inspector. "We have an open carriage outside, and as
you would no doubt like to see the place before the light fails,
we might talk it over as we drive."
A minute later we were all seated in a comfortable landau and
were rattling through the quaint old Devonshire city. Inspector
Gregory was full of his case and poured out a stream of remarks,
while Holmes threw in an occasional question or interjection.
Colonel Ross leaned back with his arms folded and his hat tilted
over his eyes, while I listened with interest to the dialogue of the
two detectives. Gregory was formulating his theory, which was
almost exactly what Holmes had foretold in the train.
"The net is drawn pretty close round Fitzroy Simpson," he
remarked, "and I believe myself that he is our man. At the same
time I recognize that the evidence is purely circumstantial, and
that some new development may upset it."
"How about Straker's knife?"
"We have quite come to the conclusion that he wounded
himself in his fall."
"My friend Dr. Watson made that suggestion to me as we
came down. If so, it would tell against this man Simpson."
"Undoubtedly. He has neither a knife nor any sign of a
wound. The evidence against him is certainly very strong. He
had a great interest in the disappearance of the favourite. He lies
under suspicion of having poisoned the stable-boy; he was undoubtedly out in the storm; he was armed with a heavy stick, and
his cravat was found in the dead man's hand. I really think we
have enough to go before a jury."
Holmes shook his head. "A clever counsel would tear it all to
rags," said he. "Why should he take the horse out of the stable?
If he wished to injure it, why could he not do it there? Has a
duplicate key been found in his possession? What chemist sold
him the powdered opium? Above all, where could he, a stranger
to the district, hide a horse, and such a horse as this? What is his
own explanation as to the paper which he wished the maid to
give to the stable-boy?"
"He says that it was a ten-pound note. One was found in his
purse. But your other difficulties are not so formidable as they
seem. He is not a stranger to the district. He has twice lodged at
Tavistock in the summer. The opium was probably brought from
London. The key, having served its purpose, would be hurled
away. The horse may be at the bottom of one of the pits or old
mines upon the moor."
"What does he say about the cravat?"
"He acknowledges that it is his and declares that he had lost
it. But a new element has been introduced into the case which
may account for his leading the horse from the stable."
Holmes pricked up his ears.
"We have found traces which show that a party of gypsies
encamped on Monday night within a mile of the spot where the
murder took place. On Tuesday they were gone. Now, presuming that there was some understanding between Simpson and
these gypsies, might he not have been leading the horse to them
when he was overtaken, and may they not have him now?"
"It is certainly possible."
"The moor is being scoured for these gypsies. I have also
examined every stable and outhouse in Tavistock, and for a
radius of ten miles."
"There is another training-stable quite close, I understand?"
"Yes, and that is a factor which we must certainly not neglect. As Desborough, their horse, was second in the betting,
they had an interest in the disappearance of the favourite. Silas
Brown, the trainer, is known to have had large bets upon the
event, and he was no friend to poor Straker. We have, however,
examined the stables, and there is nothing to connect him with
"And nothing to connect this man Simpson with the interests
of the Mapleton stables?"
"Nothing at all."
Holmes leaned back in the carriage, and the conversation
ceased. A few minutes later our driver pulled up at a neat little
red-brick villa with overhanging eaves which stood by the road.
Some distance off, across a paddock, lay a long gray-tiled
outbuilding. In every other direction the low curves of the moor,
bronze-coloured from the fading ferns, stretched away to the
sky-line, broken only by the steeples of Tavistock, and by a
cluster of houses away to the westward which marked the Mapleton
stables. We all sprang out with the exception of Holmes, who
continued to lean back with his eyes fixed upon the sky in front
of him, entirely absorbed in his own thoughts. It was only when
I touched his arm that he roused himself with a violent start and
stepped out of the carriage.
"Excuse me," said he, turning to Colonel Ross, who had
looked at him in some surprise. "I was day-dreaming." There
was a gleam in his eyes and a suppressed excitement in his
manner which convinced me, used as I was to his ways, that his
hand was upon a clue, though I could not imagine where he had
"Perhaps you would prefer at once to go on to the scene of the
crime, Mr. Holmes?" said Gregory.
"I think that I should prefer to stay here a little and go into
one or two questions of detail. Straker was brought back here, I
"Yes, he lies upstairs. The inquest is to-morrow."
"He has been in your service some years, Colonel Ross?"
"I have always found him an excellent servant."
"I presume that you made an inventory of what he had in his
pockets at the time of his death, Inspector?"
"I have the things themselves in the sitting-room if you would
care to see them."
"I should be very glad." We all filed into the front room and
sat round the central table while the inspector unlocked a square
tin box and laid a small heap of things before us. There was a
box of vestas, two inches of tallow candle, an A D P brier-root
pipe, a pouch of sealskin with half an ounce of long-cut Cavendish, a silver watch with a gold chain, five sovereigns in gold,
an aluminum pencil-case, a few papers, and an ivory-handled
knife with a very delicate, inflexible blade marked Weiss & Co.,
"This is a very singular knife," said Holmes, lifting it up and
examining it minutely. "I presume, as I see blood-stains upon it,
that it is the one which was found in the dead man's grasp.
Watson, this knife is surely in your line?"
"It is what we call a cataract knife," said I.
"I thought so. A very delicate blade devised for very delicate
work. A strange thing for a man to carry with him upon a rough
expedition, especially as it would not shut in his pocket."
"The tip was guarded by a disc of cork which we found
beside his body," said the inspector. "His wife tells us that the
knife had lain upon the dressing-table, and that he had picked it
up as he left the room. It was a poor weapon, but perhaps the
best that he could lay his hands on at the moment."
"Very possibly. How about these papers?"
"Three of them are receipted hay-dealers' accounts. One of
them is a letter of instructions from Colonel Ross. This other is a
milliner's account for thirty-seven pounds fifteen made out by
Madame Lesurier, of Bond Street, to William Derbyshire. Mrs.
Straker tells us that Derbyshire was a friend of her husband's
and that occasionally his letters were addressed here."
"Madame Derbyshire had somewhat expensive tastes," remarked Holmes, glancing down the account. "Twenty-two guineas is rather heavy for a single costume. However, there appears
to be nothing more to learn, and we may now go down to the
scene of the crime."
As we emerged from the sitting-room a woman, who had been
waiting in the passage, took a step forward and laid her hand
upon the inspector's sleeve. Her face was haggard and thin and
eager, stamped with the print of a recent horror.
"Have you got them? Have you found them?" she panted.
"No, Mrs. Straker. But Mr. Holmes here has come from
London to help us, and we shall do all that is possible."
"Surely I met you in Plymouth at a garden-party some little
time ago, Mrs. Straker?" said Holmes.
"No, sir; you are mistaken."
"Dear me! Why, I could have sworn to it. You wore a
costume of dove-coloured silk with ostrich-feather trimming."
"I never had such a dress, sir," answered the lady.
"Ah, that quite settles it," said Holmes. And with an apology
he followed the inspector outside. A short walk across the moor
took us to the hollow in which the body had been found. At the
brink of it was the furze-bush upon which the coat had been
"There was no wind that night, I understand," said Holmes.
"None, but very heavy rain."
"In that case the overcoat was not blown against the furze-
bush, but placed there."
"Yes, it was laid across the bush."
"You fill me with interest. I perceive that the ground has been
trampled up a good deal. No doubt many feet have been here
since Monday night."
"A piece of matting has been laid here at the side, and we
have all stood upon that."
"In this bag I have one of the boots which Straker wore, one
of Fitzroy Simpson's shoes, and a cast horseshoe of Silver
"My dear Inspector, you surpass yourself!" Holmes took the
bag, and, descending into the hollow, he pushed the matting into
a more central position. Then stretching himself upon his face
and leaning his chin upon his hands, he made a careful study of
the trampled mud in front of him. "Hullo!" said he suddenly.
"What's this?" It was a wax vesta, half burned, which was so
coated with mud that it looked at first like a little chip of wood.
"I cannot think how I came to overlook it," said the inspector
with an expression of annoyance.
"It was invisible, buried in the mud. I only saw it because I
was looking for it."
"What! you expected to find it?"
"I thought it not unlikely."
He took the boots from the bag and compared the impressions
of each of them with marks upon the ground. Then he clambered
up to the rim of the hollow and crawled about among the ferns
"I am afraid that there are no more tracks," said the inspector. "I have examined the ground very carefully for a hundred
yards in each direction."
"Indeed!" said Holmes, rising. "I should not have the impertinence to do it again after what you say. But I should like to
take a little walk over the moor before it grows dark that I may
know my ground to-morrow, and I think that I shall put this
horseshoe into my pocket for luck."
Colonel Ross, who had shown some signs of impatience at my
companion's quiet and systematic method of work, glanced at
his watch. "I wish you would come back with me, Inspector,"
said he. "There are several points on which I should like your
advice, and especially as to whether we do not owe it to the
public to remove our horse's name from the entries for the cup."
"Certainly not," cried Holmes with decision. "I should let
the name stand."
The colonel bowed. "I am very glad to have had your opinion, sir," said he. "You will find us at poor Straker's house
when you have finished your walk, and we can drive together
He turned back with the inspector, while Holmes and I walked
slowly across the moor. The sun was beginning to sink behind
the stable of Mapleton, and the long sloping plain in front of us
was tinged with gold, deepening into rich, ruddy browns where
the faded ferns and brambles caught the evening light. But the
glories of the landscape were all wasted upon my companion,
who was sunk in the deepest thought.
"It's this way, Watson," said he at last. "We may leave the
question of who killed John Straker for the instant and confine
ourselves to finding out what has become of the horse. Now,
supposing that he broke away during or after the tragedy, where
could he have gone to? The horse is a very gregarious creature.
If left to himself his instincts would have been either to return to
King's Pyland or go over to Mapleton. Why should he run wild
upon the moor? He would surely have been seen by now. And
why should gypsies kidnap him? These people always clear out
when they hear of trouble, for they do not wish to be pestered by
the police. They could not hope to sell such a horse. They would
run a great risk and gain nothing by taking him. Surely that is
"Where is he, then?"
"I have already said that he must have gone to King's Pyland
or to Mapleton. He is not at King's Pyland. Therefore he is at
Mapleton. Let us take that as a working hypothesis and see what
it leads us to. This part of the moor, as the inspector remarked,
is very hard and dry. But it falls away towards Mapleton, and
you can see from here that there is a long hollow over yonder,
which must have been very wet on Monday night. If our supposition is correct, then the horse must have crossed that, and there
is the point where we should look for his tracks."
We had been walking briskly during this conversation, and a
few more minutes brought us to the hollow in question. At
Holmes's request I walked down the bank to the right, and he to
the left, but I had not taken fifty paces before I heard him give a
shout and saw him waving his hand to me. The track of a horse
was plainly outlined in the soft earth in front of him, and the
shoe which he took from his pocket exactly fitted the impression.
"See the value of imagination," said Holmes. "It is the one
quality which Gregory lacks. We imagined what might have
happened, acted upon the supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed."
We crossed the marshy bottom and passed over a quarter of a
mile of dry, hard turf. Again the ground sloped, and again we
came on the tracks. Then we lost them for half a mile, but only
to pick them up once more quite close to Mapleton. It was
Holmes who saw them first, and he stood pointing with a look of
triumph upon his face. A man's track was visible beside the
"The horse was alone before," I cried.
"Quite so. It was alone before. Hullo, what is this?"
The double track turned sharp off and took the direction of
King's Pyland. Holmes whistled, and we both followed along
after it. His eyes were on the trail, but I happened to look a little
to one side and saw to my surprise the same tracks coming back
again in the opposite direction.
"One for you, Watson," said Holmes when I pointed it out.
"You have saved us a long walk, which would have brought us
back on our own traces. Let us follow the return track."
We had not to go far. It ended at the paving of asphalt which
led up to the gates of the Mapleton stables. As we approached, a
groom ran out from them.
"We don't want any loiterers about here," said he.
"I only wished to ask a question," said Holmes, with his
finger and thumb in his waistcoat pocket. "Should I be too early
to see your master, Mr. Silas Brown, if I were to call at five
o'clock to-morrow morning?"
"Bless you, sir, if anyone is about he will be, for he is always
the first stirring. But here he is, sir, to answer your questions for
himself. No, sir, no, it is as much as my place is worth to let
him see me touch your money. Afterwards, if you like."
As Sherlock Holmes replaced the half-crown which he had
drawn from his pocket, a fierce-looking elderly man strode out
from the gate with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand.
"What's this, Dawson!" he cried. "No gossiping! Go about
your business! And you, what the devil do you want here?"
"Ten minutes' talk with you, my good sir," said Holmes in
the sweetest of voices.
"I've no time to talk to every gadabout. We want no strangers
here. Be off, or you may find a dog at your heels."
Holmes leaned forward and whispered something in the trainer's ear. He started violently and flushed to the temples.
"It's a lie!" he shouted. "An infernal lie!"
"Very good. Shall we argue about it here in public or talk it
over in your parlour?"
"Oh, come in if you wish to."
Holmes smiled. "I shall not keep you more than a few minutes, Watson." said he. "Now. Mr. Brown. I am quite at your
It was twenty minutes, and the reds had all faded into grays
before Holmes and the trainer reappeared. Never have I seen
such a change as had been brought about in Silas Brown in that
short time. His face was ashy pale, beads of perspiration shone
upon his brow, and his hands shook until the hunting-crop
wagged like a branch in the wind. His bullying, overbearing
manner was all gone too, and he cringed along at my companion's side like a dog with its master.
"Your instructions will be done. It shall all be done," said he.
"There must be no mistake," said Holmes, looking round at
him. The other winced as he read the menace in his eyes.
"Oh, no, there shall be no mistake. It shall be there. Should I
change it first or not?"
Holmes thought a little and then burst out laughing. "No,
don't," said he, "I shall write to you about it. No tricks, now,
"Oh, you can trust me, you can trust me!"
"Yes, I think I can. Well, you shall hear from me to-morrow."
He turned upon his heel, disregarding the trembling hand which
the other held out to him, and we set off for King's Pyland.
"A more perfect compound of the bully, coward, and sneak
than Master Silas Brown I have seldom met with," remarked
Holmes as we trudged along together.
"He has the horse, then?"
"He tried to bluster out of it, but I described to him so exactly
what his actions had been upon that morning that he is convinced
that I was watching him. Of course you observed the peculiarly
square toes in the impressions, and that his own boots exactly
corresponded to them. Again, of course no subordinate would
have dared to do such a thing. I described to him how, when
according to his custom he was the first down, he perceived a
strange horse wandering over the moor. How he went out to it,
and his astonishment at recognizing, from the white forehead
which has given the favourite its name, that chance had put in
his power the only horse which could beat the one upon which
he had put his money. Then I described how his first impulse
had been to lead him back to King's Pyland, and how the devil
had shown him how he could hide the horse until the race was
over, and how he had led it back and concealed it at Mapleton.
When I told him every detail he gave it up and thought only of
saving his own skin."
"But his stables had been searched?"
"Oh, an old horse-faker like him has many a dodge."
"But are you not afraid to leave the horse in his power now
since he has every interest in injuring it?"
"My dear fellow, he will guard it as the apple of his eye. He
knows that his only hope of mercy is to produce it safe."
"Colonel Ross did not impress me as a man who would be
likely to show much mercy in any case."
"The matter does not rest with Colonel Ross. I follow my
own methods and tell as much or as little as I choose. That is the
advantage of being unofficial. I don't know whether you observed it, Watson, but the colonel's manner has been just a trifle
cavalier to me. I am inclined now to have a little amusement at
his expense. Say nothing to him about the horse."
"Certainly not without your permission."
"And of course this is all quite a minor point compared to the
question of who killed John Straker."
"And you will devote yourself to that?"
"On the contrary, we both go back to London by the night
I was thunderstruck by my friend's words. We had only been
a few hours in Devonshire, and that he should give up an
investigation which he had begun so brilliantly was quite incomprehensible to me. Not a word more could I draw from him until
we were back at the trainer's house. The colonel and the inspector were awaiting us in the parlour.
"My friend and I return to town by the night-express," said
Holmes. "We have had a charming little breath of your beautiful
The inspector opened his eyes, and the colonel's lip curled in
"So you despair of arresting the murderer of poor Straker,"
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. "There are certainly grave
difficulties in the way," said he. "I have every hope, however,
that your horse will start upon Tuesday, and I beg that you will
have your jockey in readiness. Might I ask for a photograph of
Mr. John Straker?"
The inspector took one from an envelope and handed it to
"My dear Gregory, you anticipate all my wants. If I might ask
you to wait here for an instant, I have a question which I should
like to put to the maid."
"I must say that I am rather disappointed in our London
consultant," said Colonel Ross bluntly as my friend left the
room. "I do not see that we are any further than when he
"At least you have his assurance that your horse will run,"
"Yes, I have his assurance," said the colonel with a shrug of
his shoulders. "I should prefer to have the horse."
I was about to make some reply in defence of my friend when
he entered the room again.
"Now, gentlemen," said he, "I am quite ready for Tavistock."
As we stepped into the carriage one of the stable-lads held the
door open for us. A sudden idea seemed to occur to Holmes, for
he leaned forward and touched the lad upon the sleeve.
"You have a few sheep in the paddock," he said. "Who
attends to them?"
"I do, sir."
"Have you noticed anything amiss with them of late?"
"Well, sir, not of much account, but three of them have gone
I could see that Holmes was extremely pleased, for he chuckled and rubbed his hands together.
"A long shot, Watson, a very long shot," said he, pinching
my arm. "Gregory, let me recommend to your attention this
singular epidemic among the sheep. Drive on, coachman!"
Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the poor
opinion which he had formed of my companion's ability, but I
saw by the inspector's face that his attention had been keenly
"You consider that to be important?" he asked.
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
Four days later Holmes and I were again in the train, bound
for Winchester to see the race for the Wessex Cup. Colonel Ross
met us by appointment outside the station, and we drove in his
drag to the course beyond the town. His face was grave, and his
manner was cold in the extreme.
"I have seen nothing of my horse," said he.
"I suppose that you would know him when you saw him?"
The colonel was very angry. "I have been on the turf for
twenty years and never was asked such a question as that before," said he. "A child would know Silver Blaze with his white
forehead and his mottled off-foreleg."
"How is the betting?"
"Well, that is the curious part of it. You could have got
fifteen to one yesterday, but the price has become shorter and
shorter, until you can hardly get three to one now."
"Hum!" said Holmes. "Somebody knows something, that is
As the drag drew up in the enclosure near the grandstand I
glanced at the card to see the entries.
Wessex Plate [it ran] 50 sovs. each h ft with 1000 sovs.
added, for four and five year olds. Second, 300 pounds. Third,
200 pounds. New course (one mile and five furlongs).
1. Mr. Heath Newton's The Negro. Red cap. Cinnamon jacket.
2. Colonel Wardlaw's Pugilist. Pink cap. Blue and black jacket.
3. Lord Backwater's Desborough. Yellow cap and sleeves.
4. Colonel Ross's Silver Blaze. Black cap. Red jacket.
5. Duke of Balmoral's Iris. Yellow and black stripes.
6. Lord Singleford's Rasper. Purple cap. Black sleeves.
"We scratched our other one and put all hopes on your
word," said the colonel. "Why, what is that? Silver Blaze
"Five to four against Silver Blaze!" roared the ring. "Five to
four against Silver Blaze! Five to fifteen against Desborough!
Five to four on the field!"
"There are the numbers up," I cried. "They are all six
"All six there? Then my horse is running," cried the colonel
in great agitation. "But I don't see him. My colours have not
"Only five have passed. This must be he."
As I spoke a powerful bay horse swept out from the weighing
enclosure and cantered past us, bearing on its back the well-known black and red of the colonel.
"That's not my horse," cried the owner. "That beast has not
a white hair upon its body. What is this that you have done, Mr.
"Well, well, let us see how he gets on," said my friend
imperturbably. For a few minutes he gazed through my field-glass. "Capital! An excellent start!" he cried suddenly. "There
they are, coming round the curve!"
From our drag we had a superb view as they came up the
straight. The six horses were so close together that a carpet
could have covered them, but halfway up the yellow of the
Mapleton stable showed to the front. Before they reached us,
however, Desborough's bolt was shot, and the colonel's horse,
coming away with a rush, passed the post a good six lengths
before its rival, the Duke of Balmoral's Iris making a bad
"It's my race, anyhow," gasped the colonel, passing his hand
over his eyes. "I confess that I can make neither head nor tail of
it. Don't you think that you have kept up your mystery long
enough, Mr. Holmes?"
"Certainly, Colonel, you shall know everything. Let us all go
round and have a look at the horse together. Here he is," he
continued as we made our way into the weighing enclosure,
where only owners and their friends find admittance. "You have
only to wash his face and his leg in spirits of wine, and you will
find that he is the same old Silver Blaze as ever."
"You take my breath away!"
"I found him in the hands of a faker and took the liberty of
running him just as he was sent over."
"My dear sir, you have done wonders. The horse looks very fit
and well. It never went better in its life. I owe you a thousand
apologies for having doubted your ability. You have done me a
great service by recovering my horse. You would do me a
greater still if you could lay your hands on the murderer of John
"I have done so," said Holmes quietly.
The colonel and I stared at him in amazement. "You have got
him! Where is he, then?"
"He is here."
"In my company at the present moment."
The colonel flushed angrily. "I quite recognize that I am
under obligations to you, Mr. Holmes," said he, "but I must
regard what you have just said as either a very bad joke or an
Sherlock Holmes laughed. "I assure you that I have not associated you with the crime, Colonel," said he. "The real murderer
is standing immediately behind you." He stepped past and laid
his hand upon the glossy neck of the thoroughbred.
"The horse!" cried both the colonel and myself.
"Yes, the horse. And it may lessen his guilt if I say that it was
done in self-defence, and that John Straker was a man who was
entirely unworthy of your confidence. But there goes the bell,
and as I stand to win a little on this next race, I shall defer a
lengthy explanation until a more fitting time."
We had the corner of a Pullman car to ourselves that evening
as we whirled back to London, and I fancy that the journey was
a short one to Colonel Ross as well as to myself as we listened to
our companion's narrative of the events which had occurred at the
Dartmoor training-stables upon that Monday night, and the means
by which he had unravelled them.
"I confess," said he, "that any theories which I had formed
from the newspaper reports were entirely erroneous. And yet
there were indications there, had they not been overlaid by other
details which concealed their true import. I went to Devonshire
with the conviction that Fitzroy Simpson was the true culprit,
although, of course, I saw that the evidence against him was by
no means complete. It was while I was in the carriage, just as
we reached the trainer's house, that the immense significance of
the curried mutton occurred to me. You may remember that I
was distrait and remained sitting after you had all alighted. I
was marvelling in my own mind how I could possibly have
overlooked so obvious a clue."
"I confess," said the colonel, "that even now I cannot see how
it helps us."
"It was the first link in my chain of reasoning. Powdered
opium is by no means tasteless. The flavour is not disagreeable,
but it is perceptible. Were it mixed with any ordinary dish the
eater would undoubtedly detect it and would probably eat no
more. A curry was exactly the medium which would disguise
this taste. By no possible supposition could this stranger, Fitzroy
Simpson, have caused curry to be served in the trainer's family
that night, and it is surely too monstrous a coincidence to
suppose that he happened to come along with powdered opium
upon the very night when a dish happened to be served which
would disguise the flavour. That is unthinkable. Therefore Simpson becomes eliminated from the case, and our attention centres
upon Straker and his wife, the only two people who could have
chosen curried mutton for supper that night. The opium was
added after the dish was set aside for the stable-boy, for the
others had the same for supper with no ill effects. Which of
them, then, had access to that dish without the maid seeing them?
"Before deciding that question I had grasped the significance
of the silence of the dog, for one true inference invariably
suggests others. The Simpson incident had shown me that a dog
was kept in the stables, and yet, though someone had been in
and had fetched out a horse, he had not barked enough to arouse
the two lads in the loft. Obviously the midnight visitor was
someone whom the dog knew well.
"I was already convinced, or almost convinced, that John
Straker went down to the stables in the dead of the night and
took out Silver Blaze. For what purpose? For a dishonest one,
obviously, or why should he drug his own stable-boy? And yet I
was at a loss to know why. There have been cases before now
where trainers have made sure of great sums of money by laying
against their own horses through agents and then preventing
them from winning by fraud. Sometimes it is a pulling jockey.
Sometimes it is some surer and subtler means. What was it here?
I hoped that the contents of his pockets might help me to form a
"And they did so. You cannot have forgotten the singular
knife which was found in the dead man's hand, a knife which
certainly no sane man would choose for a weapon. It was, as Dr.
Watson told us, a form of knife which is used for the most
delicate operations known in surgery. And it was to be used for a
delicate operation that night. You must know, with your wide
experience of turf matters, Colonel Ross, that it is possible to
make a slight nick upon the tendons of a horse's ham, and to do
it subcutaneously, so as to leave absolutely no trace. A horse so
treated would develop a slight lameness, which would be put
down to a strain in exercise or a touch of rheumatism, but never
to foul play."
"Villain! Scoundrel!" cried the colonel.
"We have here the explanation of why John Straker wished to
take the horse out on to the moor. So spirited a creature would
have certainly roused the soundest of sleepers when it felt the
prick of the knife. It was absolutely necessary to do it in the
"I have been blind!" cried the colonel. "Of course that was
why he needed the candle and struck the match."
"Undoubtedly. But in examining his belongings I was fortunate enough to discover not only the method of the crime but
even its motives. As a man of the world, Colonel, you know that
men do not carry other people's bills about in their pockets. We
have most of us quite enough to do to settle our own. I at once
concluded that Straker was leading a double life and keeping a
second establishment. The nature of the bill showed that there
was a lady in the case, and one who had expensive tastes.
Liberal as you are with your servants, one can hardly expect that
they can buy twenty-guinea walking dresses for their ladies. I
questioned Mrs. Straker as to the dress without her knowing it,
and, having satisfied myself that it had never reached her, I
made a note of the milliner's address and felt that by calling
there with Straker's photograph I could easily dispose of the
"From that time on all was plain. Straker had led out the
horse to a hollow where his light would be invisible. Simpson in
his flight had dropped his cravat, and Straker had picked it
up — with some idea, perhaps, that he might use it in securing the
horse's leg. Once in the hollow, he had got behind the horse and
had struck a light; but the creature, frightened at the sudden
glare, and with the strange instinct of animals feeling that some
mischief was intended, had lashed out, and the steel shoe had
struck Straker full on the forehead. He had already, in spite of
the rain, taken off his overcoat in order to do his delicate task,
and so, as he fell, his knife gashed his thigh. Do I make it
"Wonderful!" cried the colonel. "Wonderful! You might
have been there!"
"My final shot was, I confess, a very long one. It struck me
that so astute a man as Straker would not undertake this delicate
tendon-nicking without a little practise. What could he practise
on? My eyes fell upon the sheep. and I asked a question which,
rather to my surprise, showed that my surmise was correct.
"When I returned to London I called upon the milliner, who
had recognized Straker as an excellent customer of the name of
Derbyshire, who had a very dashing wife, with a strong partiality
for expensive dresses. I have no doubt that this woman had
plunged him over head and ears in debt, and so led him into this
"You have explained all but one thing," cried the colonel.
"Where was the horse?"
"Ah, it bolted, and was cared for by one of your neighbours.
We must have an amnesty in that direction, I think. This is
Clapham Junction, if I am not mistaken, and we shall be in
Victoria in less than ten minutes. If you care to smoke a cigar in
our rooms, Colonel. I shall be happy to give you any other
details which might interest you."
Previous Story: The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
Next Story: The Yellow Face