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At eleven o'clock next morning my friend and I were walking
up the famous yew avenue of Holdemesse Hall. We were ushered through the magnificent Elizabethan doorway and into his
Grace's study. There we found Mr. James Wilder, demure and
courtly, but with some trace of that wild terror of the night
before still lurking in his furtive eyes and in his twitching
"You have come to see his Grace? I am sorry, but the fact is
that the Duke is far from well. He has been very much upset by
the tragic news. We received a telegram from Dr. Huxtable
yesterday afternoon, which told us of your discovery."
"I must see the Duke, Mr. Wilder."
"But he is in his room."
"Then I must go to his room."
"I believe he is in his bed."
"I will see him there."
Holmes's cold and inexorable manner showed the secretary
that it was useless to argue with him.
"Very good, Mr. Holmes, I will tell him that you are here."
After an hour's delay, the great nobleman appeared. His face
was more cadaverous than ever, his shoulders had rounded, and
he seemed to me to be an altogether older man than he had been
the morning before. He greeted us with a stately courtesy and
seated himself at his desk, his red beard streaming down on the
"Well, Mr. Holmes?" said he.
But my friend's eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who stood
by his master's chair.
"I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in Mr.
The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance at
"If your Grace wishes —"
"Yes, yes, you had better go. Now, Mr. Holmes, what have
you to say?"
My friend waited until the door had closed behind the retreating secretary.
"The fact is, your Grace," said he, "that my colleague, Dr.
Watson, and myself had an assurance from Dr. Huxtable that a
reward had been offered in this case. I should like to have this
confirmed from your own lips."
"Certainly, Mr. Holmes."
"It amounted, if I am correctly informed, to five thousand
pounds to anyone who will tell you where your son is?"
"And another thousand to the man who will name the person
or persons who keep him in custody?"
"Under the latter heading is included, no doubt, not only
those who may have taken him away, but also those who conspire to keep him in his present position?"
"Yes, yes," cried the Duke, impatiently. "If you do your
work well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you will have no reason to
complain of niggardly treatment."
My friend rubbed his thin hands together with an appearance
of avidity which was a surprise to me, who knew his frugal
"I fancy that I see your Grace's check-book upon the table,"
said he. "I should be glad if you would make me out a check for
six thousand pounds. It would be as well, perhaps, for you to
cross it. The Capital and Counties Bank, Oxford Street branch
are my agents."
His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair and looked
stonily at my friend.
"Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for
"Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my life."
"What do you mean, then?"
"I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your son
is, and I know some, at least, of those who are holding him."
The Duke's beard had turned more aggressively red than ever
against his ghastly white face.
"Where is he?" he gasped.
"He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn, about two
miles from your park gate."
The Duke fell back in his chair.
"And whom do you accuse?"
Sherlock Holmes's answer was an astounding one. He stepped
swiftly forward and touched the Duke upon the shoulder.
"I accuse you," said he. "And now, your Grace, I'll trouble
you for that check."
Never shall I forget the Duke's appearance as he sprang up
and clawed with his hands, like one who is sinking into an
abyss. Then, with an extraordinary effort of aristocratic self-command, he sat down and sank his face in his hands. It was
some minutes before he spoke.
"How much do you know?" he asked at last, without raising
"I saw you together last night."
"Does anyone else beside your friend know?"
"I have spoken to no one."
The Duke took a pen in his quivering fingers and opened his
"I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about to
write your check, however unwelcome the information which
you have gained may be to me. When the offer was first made, I
little thought the turn which events might take. But you and your
friend are men of discretion, Mr. Holmes?"
"I hardly understand your Grace."
"I must put it plainly, Mr. Holmes. If only you two know of
this incident, there is no reason why it should go any farther. I
think twelve thousand pounds is the sum that I owe you, is it
But Holmes smiled and shook his head.
"I fear, your Grace, that matters can hardly be arranged so
easily. There is the death of this schoolmaster to be accounted
"But James knew nothing of that. You cannot hold him
responsible for that. It was the work of this brutal ruffian whom
he had the misfortune to employ."
"I must take the view, your Grace, that when a man embarks
upon a crime, he is morally guilty of any other crime which may
spring from it."
"Morally, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right. But surely
not in the eyes of the law. A man cannot be condemned for a
murder at which he was not present, and which he loathes and
abhors as much as you do. The instant that he heard of it he
made a complete confession to me, so filled was he with horror
and remorse. He lost not an hour in breaking entirely with the
murderer. Oh, Mr. Holmes, you must save him — you must save
him! I tell you that you must save him!" The Duke had dropped
the last attempt at self-command, and was pacing the room with
a convulsed face and with his clenched hands raving in the air.
At last he mastered himself and sat down once more at his desk.
"I appreciate your conduct in coming here before you spoke to
anyone else," said he. "At least, we may take counsel how far
we can minimize this hideous scandal."
"Exactly," said Holmes. "I think, your Grace, that this can
only be done by absolute frankness between us. I am disposed to
help your Grace to the best of my ability, but, in order to do so,
I must understand to the last detail how the matter stands. I
realize that your words applied to Mr. James Wilder, and that he
is not the murderer."
"No, the murderer has escaped."
Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely.
"Your Grace can hardly have heard of any small reputation
which I possess, or you would not imagine that it is so easy to
escape me. Mr. Reuben Hayes was arrested at Chesterfield, on
my information, at eleven o'clock last night. I had a telegram
from the head of the local police before I left the school this
The Duke leaned back in his chair and stared with amazement
at my friend.
"You seem to have powers that are hardly human," said he.
"So Reuben Hayes is taken? I am right glad to hear it, if it will
not react upon the fate of James."
"No, sir, my son."
It was Holmes's turn to look astonished.
"I confess that this is entirely new to me, your Grace. I must
beg you to be more explicit."
"I will conceal nothing from you. I agree with you that
complete frankness, however painful it may be to me, is the best
policy in this desperate situation to which James's folly and
jealousy have reduced us. When I was a very young man, Mr.
Holmes, I loved with such a love as comes only once in a
lifetime. I offered the lady marriage, but she refused it on the
grounds that such a match might mar my career. Had she lived. I
would certainly never have married anyone else. She died, and
left this one child, whom for her sake I have cherished and cared
for. I could not acknowledge the paternity to the world, but I
gave him the best of educations, and since he came to manhood I
have kept him near my person. He surprised my secret, and has
presumed ever since upon the claim which he has upon me, and
upon his power of provoking a scandal which would be abhorrent to me. His presence had something to do with the unhappy
issue of my marriage. Above all, he hated my young legitimate
heir from the first with a persistent hatred. You may well ask
me why, under these circumstances, I still kept James under my
roof. I answer that it was because I could see his mother's face
in his, and that for her dear sake there was no end to my
long-suffering. All her pretty ways too — there was not one of
them which he could not suggest and bring back to my memory.
I could not send him away. But I feared so much lest he should
do Arthur — that is, Lord Saltire — a mischief, that I dispatched
him for safety to Dr. Huxtable's school.
"James came into contact with this fellow Hayes, because the
man was a tenant of mine, and James acted as agent. The fellow
was a rascal from the beginning, but, in some extraordinary way,
James became intimate with him. He had always a taste for low
company. When James determined to kidnap Lord Saltire, it was
of this man's service that he availed himself. You remember
that I wrote to Arthur upon that last day. Well, James opened the
letter and inserted a note asking Arthur to meet him in a little
wood called the Ragged Shaw, which is near to the school. He
used the Duchess's name, and in that way got the boy to come.
That evening James bicycled over — I am telling you what he has
himself confessed to me — and he told Arthur, whom he met in
the wood, that his mother longed to see him, that she was
awaiting him on the moor, and that if he would come back into
the wood at midnight he would find a man with a horse, who
would take him to her. Poor Arthur fell into the trap. He came to
the appointment, and found this fellow Hayes with a led pony.
Arthur mounted, and they set off together. It appears — though
this James only heard yesterday — that they were pursued, that
Hayes struck the pursuer with his stick, and that the man died of
his injuries. Hayes brought Arthur to his public-house, the Fighting Cock, where he was confined in an upper room, under the
care of Mrs. Hayes, who is a kindly woman, but entirely under
the control of her brutal husband.
"Well, Mr. Holmes, that was the state of affairs when I first
saw you two days ago. I had no more idea of the truth than you.
You will ask me what was James's motive in doing such a deed.
I answer that there was a great deal which was unreasoning and
fanatical in the hatred which he bore my heir. In his view he
should himself have been heir of all my estates, and he deeply
resented those social laws which made it impossible. At the same
time, he had a definite motive also. He was eager that I should
break the entail, and he was of opinion that it lay in my power to
do so. He intended to make a bargain with me — to restore Arthur
if I would break the entail, and so make it possible for the estate
to be left to him by will. He knew well that I should never
willingly invoke the aid of the police against him. I say that he
would have proposed such a bargain to me; but he did not
actually do so, for events moved too quickly for him, and he had
not time to put his plans into practice.
"What brought all his wicked scheme to wreck was your
discovery of this man Heidegger's dead body. James was seized
with horror at the news. It came to us yesterday, as we sat
together in this study. Dr. Huxtable had sent a telegram. James
was so overwhelmed with grief and agitation that my suspicions,
which had never been entirely absent, rose instantly to a certainty, and I taxed him with the deed. He made a complete
voluntary confession. Then he implored me to keep his secret for
three days longer, so as to give his wretched accomplice a
chance of saving his guilty life. I yielded — as I have always
yielded — to his prayers, and instantly James hurried off to the
Fighting Cock to warn Hayes and give him the means of flight. I
could not go there by daylight without provoking comment, but
as soon as night fell I hurried off to see my dear Arthur. I found
him safe and well, but horrified beyond expression by the dreadful deed he had witnessed. In deference to my promise, and
much against my will, I consented to leave him there for three
days, under the charge of Mrs. Hayes, since it was evident that it
was impossible to inform the police where he was without telling
them also who was the murderer, and I could not see how that
murderer could be punished without ruin to my unfortunate
James. You asked for frankness, Mr. Holmes, and I have taken
you at your word, for I have now told you everything without an
attempt at circumlocution or concealment. Do you in turn be as
frank with me."
"I will," said Holmes. "In the first place, your Grace, I am
bound to tell you that you have placed yourself in a most serious
position in the eyes of the law. You have condoned a felony, and
you have aided the escape of a murderer, for I cannot doubt that
any money which was taken by James Wilder to aid his accomplice in his flight came from your Grace's purse."
The Duke bowed his assent.
"This is, indeed, a most serious matter. Even more culpable
in my opinion, your Grace, is your attitude towards your younger son. You leave him in this den for three days."
"Under solemn promises —"
"What are promises to such people as these? You have no
guarantee that he will not be spirited away again. To humour
your guilty older son, you have exposed your innocent younger
son to imminent and unnecessary danger. It was a most unjustifiable action."
The proud lord of Holdemesse was not accustomed to be so
rated in his own ducal hall. The blood flushed into his high
forehead, but his conscience held him dumb.
"I will help you, but on one condition only. It is that you ring
for the footman and let me give such orders as I like."
Without a word, the Duke pressed the electric bell. A servant
"You will be glad to hear," said Holmes, "that your young
master is found. It is the Duke's desire that the carriage shall go
at once to the Fighting Cock Inn to bring Lord Saltire home.
"Now," said Holmes, when the rejoicing lackey had disappeared, "having secured the future, we can afford to be more
lenient with the past. I am not in an official position, and there is
no reason so long as the ends of justice are served, why I should
disclose all that I know. As to Hayes, I say nothing. The gallows
awaits him, and I would do nothing to save him from it. What he
will divulge I cannot tell, but I have no doubt that your Grace
could make him understand that it is to his interest to be silent.
From the police point of view he will have kidnapped the boy for
the purpose of ransom. If they do not themselves find it out, I
see no reason why I should prompt them to take a broader point
of view. I would warn your Grace, however, that the continued
presence of Mr. James Wilder in your household can only lead to
"I understand that, Mr. Holmes, and it is already settled that he
shall leave me forever, and go to seek his fortune in Australia."
"In that case, your Grace, since you have yourself stated that
any unhappiness in your married life was caused by his presence,
I would suggest that you make such amends as you can to the
Duchess, and that you try to resume those relations which have
been so unhappily interrupted."
"That also I have arranged, Mr. Holmes. I wrote to the
Duchess this morning."
"In that case," said Holmes, rising, "I think that my friend
and I can congratulate ourselves upon several most happy results
from our little visit to the North. There is one other small point
upon which I desire some light. This fellow Hayes had shod his
horses with shoes which counterfeited the tracks of cows. Was it
from Mr. Wilder that he learned so extraordinary a device?"
The Duke stood in thought for a moment, with a look of
intense surprise on his face. Then he opened a door and showed
us into a large room furnished as a museum. He led the way to a
glass case in a corner, and pointed to the inscription.
"These shoes," it ran, "were dug up in the moat of Holdemesse
Hall. They are for the use of horses, but they are shaped below
with a cloven foot of iron, so as to throw pursuers off the track.
They are supposed to have belonged to some of the marauding
Barons of Holdernesse in the Middle Ages."
Holmes opened the case, and moistening his finger he passed
it along the shoe. A thin film of recent mud was left upon his
"Thank you," said he, as he replaced the glass. "It is the
second most interesting object that I have seen in the North."
"And the first?"
Holmes folded up his check and placed it carefully in his
notebook. "I am a poor man," said he, as he patted it affectionately, and thrust it into the depths of his inner pocket.
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