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I met him accordingly next morning and we travelled down to
Woking together. He had had no answer to his advertisement, he
said, and no fresh light had been thrown upon the case. He had,
when he so willed it, the utter immobility of countenance of a
red Indian, and I could not gather from his appearance whether
he was satisfied or not with the position of the case. His conversation, I remember, was about the Bertillon system of measurements, and he expressed his enthusiastic admiration of the French
We found our client still under the charge of his devoted
nurse, but looking considerably better than before. He rose from
the sofa and greeted us without difficulty when we entered.
"Any news?" he asked eagerly.
"My report, as I expected, is a negative one," said Holmes.
"I have seen Forbes, and I have seen your uncle, and I have set
one or two trains of inquiry upon foot which may lead to
"You have not lost heart, then?"
"By no means."
"God bless you for saying that!" cried Miss Harrison. "If we
keep our courage and our patience the truth must come out."
"We have more to tell you than you have for us," said
Phelps, reseating himself upon the couch.
"I hoped you might have something."
"Yes, we have had an adventure during the night, and one
which might have proved to be a serious one." His expression
grew very grave as he spoke, and a look of something akin to
fear sprang up in his eyes. "Do you know," said he, "that I
begin to believe that I am the unconscious centre of some
monstrous conspiracy, and that my life is aimed at as well as my
"Ah!" cried Holmes.
"It sounds incredible, for I have not, as far as I know, an
enemy in the world. Yet from last night's experience I can come
to no other conclusion."
"Pray let me hear it."
"You must know that last night was the very first night that I
have ever slept without a nurse in the room. I was so much better
that I thought I could dispense with one. I had a night-light
burning, however. Well, about two in the morning I had sunk
into a light sleep when I was suddenly aroused by a slight noise.
It was like the sound which a mouse makes when it is gnawing a
plank, and I lay listening to it for some time under the impression that it must come from that cause. Then it grew louder, and
suddenly there came from the window a sharp metallic snick. I
sat up in amazement. There could be no doubt what the sounds
were now. The first ones had been caused by someone forcing an
instrument through the slit between the sashes and the second by
the catch being pressed back.
"There was a pause then for about ten minutes, as if the
person were waiting to see whether the noise had awakened me.
Then I heard a gentle creaking as the window was very slowly
opened. I could stand it no longer, for my nerves are not what
they used to be. I sprang out of bed and flung open the shutters.
A man was crouching at the window. I could see little of him,
for he was gone like a flash. He was wrapped in some sort of
cloak which came across the lower part of his face. One thing
only I am sure of, and that is that he had some weapon in his
hand. It looked to me like a long knife. I distinctly saw the
gleam of it as he turned to run."
"This is most interesting," said Holmes. "Pray what did you
"I should have followed him through the open window if I
had been stronger. As it was, I rang the bell and roused the
house. It took some little time, for the bell rings in the kitchen
and the servants all sleep upstairs. I shouted, however, and that
brought Joseph down, and he roused the others. Joseph and the
groom found marks on the bed outside the window, but the
weather has been so dry lately that they found it hopeless to
follow the trail across the grass. There's a place, however, on
the wooden fence which skirts the road which shows signs, they
tell me, as if someone had got over, and had snapped the top of
the rail in doing so. I have said nothing to the local police yet,
for I thought I had best have your opinion first."
This tale of our client's appeared to have an extraordinary
effect upon Sherlock Holmes. He rose from his chair and paced
about the room in uncontrollable excitement.
"Misfortunes never come single," said Phelps, smiling, though
it was evident that his adventure had somewhat shaken him.
"You have certainly had your share," said Holmes. "Do you
think you could walk round the house with me?"
"Oh, yes, I should like a little sunshine. Joseph will come,
"And I also," said Miss Harrison.
"I am afraid not," said Holmes, shaking his head. "I think I
must ask you to remain sitting exactly where you are."
The young lady resumed her seat with an air of displeasure.
Her brother, however, had joined us and we set off all four
together. We passed round the lawn to the outside of the young
diplomatist's window. There were, as he had said, marks upon
the bed, but they were hopelessly blurred and vague. Holmes
stooped over them for an instant, and then rose shrugging his
"I don't think anyone could make much of this," said he.
"Let us go round the house and see why this particular room was
chosen by the burglar. I should have thought those larger windows of the drawing-room and dining-room would have had
more attractions for him."
"They are more visible from the road," suggested Mr. Joseph
"Ah, yes, of course. There is a door here which he might
have attempted. What is it for?"
"It is the side entrance for trades-people. Of course it is
locked at night."
"Have you ever had an alarm like this before?"
"Never," said our client.
"Do you keep plate in the house, or anything to attract
"Nothing of value."
Holmes strolled round the house with his hands in his pockets
and a negligent air which was unusual with him.
"By the way," said he to Joseph Harrison, "you found some
place, I understand, where the fellow scaled the fence. Let us
have a look at that!"
The plump young man led us to a spot where the top of one of
the wooden rails had been cracked. A small fragment of the
wood was hanging down. Holmes pulled it off and examined it
"Do you think that was done last night? It looks rather old,
does it not?"
"Well, possibly so."
"There are no marks of anyone jumping down upon the other
side. No, I fancy we shall get no help here. Let us go back to the
bedroom and talk the matter over."
Percy Phelps was walking very slowly, leaning upon the arm
of his future brother-in-law. Holmes walked swiftly across the
lawn, and we were at the open window of the bedroom long
before the others came up.
"Miss Harrison," said Holmes, speaking with the utmost
intensity of manner, you must stay where you are all day. Let
nothing prevent you from staying where you are all day. It is of
the utmost importance."
"Certainly, if you wish it, Mr. Holmes," said the girl in
"When you go to bed lock the door of this room on the
outside and keep the key. Promise to do this."
"He will come to London with us."
"And am I to remain here?"
"It is for his sake. You can serve him. Quick! Promise!"
She gave a quick nod of assent just as the other two came up.
"Why do you sit moping there, Annie?" cried her brother.
"Come out into the sunshine!"
"No, thank you, Joseph. I have a slight headache and this
room is deliciously cool and soothing."
"What do you propose now, Mr. Holmes?" asked our client.
"Well, in investigating this minor affair we must not lose
sight of our main inquiry. It would be a very great help to me if
you would come up to London with us."
"Well, as soon as you conveniently can. Say in an hour."
"I feel quite strong enough, if I can really be of any help."
"The greatest possible."
"Perhaps you would like me to stay there to-night?"
"I was just going to propose it."
"Then, if my friend of the night comes to revisit me, he will
find the bird flown. We are all in your hands, Mr. Holmes, and
you must tell us exactly what you would like done. Perhaps you
would prefer that Joseph came with us so as to look after me?"
"Oh, no, my friend Watson is a medical man, you know, and
he'll look after you. We'll have our lunch here, if you will
permit us, and then we shall all three set off for town together."
It was arranged as he suggested, though Miss Harrison excused herself from leaving the bedroom, in accordance with
Holmes's suggestion. What the object of my friend's manoeuvres was I could not conceive, unless it were to keep the lady
away from Phelps, who, rejoiced by his returning health and by
the prospect of action, lunched with us in the dining-room.
Holmes had a still more startling surprise for us, however, for,
after accompanying us down to the station and seeing us into our
carriage, he calmly announced that he had no intention of leaving Woking.
"There are one or two small points which I should desire to
clear up before I go," said he. "Your absence, Mr. Phelps, will
in some ways rather assist me. Watson, when you reach London
you would oblige me by driving at once to Baker Street with our
friend here, and remaining with him until I see you again. It is
fortunate that you are old school-fellows, as you must have much
to talk over. Mr. Phelps can have the spare bedroom to-night,
and I will be with you in time for breakfast, for there is a train
which will take me into Waterloo at eight."
"But how about our investigation in London?" asked Phelps
"We can do that to-morrow. I think that just at present I can
be of more immediate use here."
"You might tell them at Briarbrae that I hope to be back
to-morrow night," cried Phelps, as we began to move from the
"I hardly expect to go back to Briarbrae," answered Holmes,
and waved his hand to us cheerily as we shot out from the
Phelps and I talked it over on our journey, but neither of us
could devise a satisfactory reason for this new development.
"I suppose he wants to find out some clues as to the burglary
last night, if a burglar it was. For myself, I don't believe it was
an ordinary thief."
"What is your own idea, then?"
"Upon my word, you may put it down to my weak nerves or
not, but I believe there is some deep political intrigue going on
around me, and that for some reason that passes my understanding my life is aimed at by the conspirators. It sounds high-flown
and absurd, but consider the facts! Why should a thief try to
break in at a bedroom window where there could be no hope of
any plunder, and why should he come with a long knife in his
"You are sure it was not a house-breaker's jimmy?"
"Oh, no, it was a knife. I saw the flash of the blade quite
"But why on earth should you be pursued with such animosity?"
"Ah, that is the question."
"Well, if Holmes takes the same view, that would account for
his action, would it not? Presuming that your theory is correct, if
he can lay his hands upon the man who threatened you last night
he will have gone a long way towards finding who took the naval
treaty. It is absurd to suppose that you have two enemies, one of
whom robs you, while the other threatens your life."
"But Holmes said that he was not going to Briarbrae."
"I have known him for some time," said I, "but I never knew
him do anything yet without a very good reason," and with that
our conversation drifted off on to other topics.
But it was a weary day for me. Phelps was still weak after his
long illness, and his misfortunes made him querulous and nervous. In vain I endeavoured to interest him in Afghanistan, in
India, in social questions, in anything which might take his mind
out of the groove. He would always come back to his lost treaty,
wondering, guessing, speculating as to what Holmes was doing,
what steps Lord Holdhurst was taking, what news we should
have in the morning. As the evening wore on his excitement
became quite painful.
"You have implicit faith in Holmes?" he asked.
"I have seen him do some remarkable things."
"But he never brought light into anything quite so dark as
"Oh, yes, I have known him solve questions which presented
fewer clues than yours."
"But not where such large interests are at stake?"
"I don't know that. To my certain knowledge he has acted on
behalf of three of the reigning houses of Europe in very vital
"But you know him well, Watson. He is such an inscrutable
fellow that I never quite know what to make of him. Do you
think he is hopeful? Do you think he expects to make a success
"He has said nothing."
"That is a bad sign."
"On the contrary. I have noticed that when he is off the trail
he generally says so. It is when he is on a scent and is not quite
absolutely sure yet that it is the right one that he is most taciturn.
Now, my dear fellow, we can't help matters by making ourselves nervous about them, so let me implore you to go to bed
and so be fresh for whatever may await us to-morrow."
I was able at last to persuade my companion to take my
advice, though I knew from his excited manner that there was
not much hope of sleep for him. Indeed, his mood was infectious
for I lay tossing half the night myself, brooding over this strange
problem and inventing a hundred theories, each of which was
more impossible than the last. Why had Holmes remained at
Woking? Why had he asked Miss Harrison to remain in the
sick-room all day? Why had he been so careful not to inform the
people at Briarbrae that he intended to remain near them? I
cudgelled my brains until I fell asleep in the endeavour to find
some explanation which would cover all these facts.
It was seven o'clock when I awoke, and I set off at once for
Phelps's room to find him haggard and spent after a sleepless
night. His first question was whether Holmes had arrived yet.
"He'll be here when he promised," said I, "and not an
instant sooner or later."
And my words were true, for shortly after eight a hansom
dashed up to the door and our friend got out of it. Standing in the
window we saw that his left hand was swathed in a bandage and
that his face was very grim and pale. He entered the house, but it
was some little time before he came upstairs.
"He looks like a beaten man," cried Phelps.
I was forced to confess that he was right. "After all," said I,
"the clue of the matter lies probably here in town."
Phelps gave a groan.
"I don't know how it is," said he, "but I had hoped for so
much from his return. But surely his hand was not tied up like
that yesterday. What can be the matter?"
"You are not wounded, Holmes?" I asked as my friend
entered the room.
"Tut, it is only a scratch through my own clumsiness," he
answered, nodding his good-morning to us. "This case of yours,
Mr. Phelps, is certainly one of the darkest which I have ever
"I feared that you would find it beyond you."
"It has been a most remarkable experience."
"That bandage tells of adventures," said I. "Won't you tell
us what has happened?"
"After breakfast, my dear Watson. Remember that I have
breathed thirty miles of Surrey air this morning. I suppose that
there has been no answer from my cabman advertisement? Well,
well, we cannot expect to score every time."
The table was all laid, and just as I was about to ring Mrs.
Hudson entered with the tea and coffee. A few minutes later she
brought in three covers, and we all drew up to the table, Holmes
ravenous, I curious, and Phelps in the gloomiest state of depression.
"Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion," said Holmes, uncovering a dish of curried chicken. "Her cuisine is a little
limited, but she has as good an idea of breakfast as a Scotchwoman.
What have you there, Watson?"
"Ham and eggs," I answered.
"Good! What are you going to take, Mr. Phelps — curried
fowl or eggs, or will you help yourself?"
"Thank you. I can eat nothing," said Phelps.
"Oh, come! Try the dish before you."
"Thank you, I would really rather not."
"Well, then," said Holmes with a mischievous twinkle, "I
suppose that you have no objection to helping me?"
Phelps raised the cover, and as he did so he uttered a scream
and sat there staring with a face as white as the plate upon which
he looked. Across the centre of it was lying a little cylinder of
blue-gray paper. He caught it up, devoured it with his eyes, and
then danced madly about the room, pressing it to his bosom and
shrieking out in his delight. Then he fell back into an armchair,
so limp and exhausted with his own emotions that we had to
pour brandy down his throat to keep him from fainting.
"There! there!" said Holmes soothingly, patting him upon the
shoulder. "It was too bad to spring it on you like this, but
Watson here will tell you that I never can resist a touch of the
Phelps seized his hand and kissed it. "God bless you!" he
cried. "You have saved my honour."
"Well, my own was at stake, you know," said Holmes. "I
assure you it is just as hateful to me to fail in a case as it can be
to you to blunder over a commission."
Phelps thrust away the precious document into the innermost
pocket of his coat.
"I have not the heart to interrupt your breakfast any further,
and yet I am dying to know how you got it and where it was."
Sherlock Holmes swallowed a cup of coffee and turned his
attention to the ham and eggs. Then he rose, lit his pipe, and
settled himself down into his chair.
"I'll tell you what I did first, and how I came to do it
afterwards," said he. "After leaving you at the station I went for
a charming walk through some admirable Surrey scenery to a
pretty little village called Ripley, where I had my tea at an inn
and took the precaution of filling my flask and of putting a paper
of sandwiches in my pocket. There I remained until evening,
when I set off for Woking again and found myself in the
highroad outside Briarbrae just after sunset.
"Well, I waited until the road was clear — it is never a very
frequented one at any time, I fancy — and then I clambered over
the fence into the grounds."
"Surely the gate was open!" ejaculated Phelps.
"Yes, but I have a peculiar taste in these matters. I chose the
place where the three fir-trees stand, and behind their screen I
got over without the least chance of anyone in the house being
able to see me. I crouched down among the bushes on the other
side and crawled from one to the other — witness the disreputable
state of my trouser knees — until I had reached the clump of
rhododendrons just opposite to your bedroom window. There I
squatted down and awaited developments.
"The blind was not down in your room, and I could see Miss
Harrison sitting there reading by the table. It was quarter-past ten
when she closed her book, fastened the shutters, and retired.
"I heard her shut the door and felt quite sure that she had
turned the key in the lock."
"The key!" ejaculated Phelps.
"Yes, I had given Miss Harrison instructions to lock the door
on the outside and take the key with her when she went to bed.
She carried out every one of my injunctions to the letter, and
certainly without her cooperation you would not have that paper
in your coat-pocket. She departed then and the lights went out
and I was left squatting in the rhododendron-bush.
"The night was fine, but still it was a very weary vigil. Of
course it has the sort of excitement about it that the sportsman
feels when he lies beside the watercourse and waits for the big
game. It was very long, though — almost as long, Watson, as
when you and I waited in that deadly room when we looked
into the little problem of the Speckled Band. There was a
church-clock down at Woking which struck the quarters, and I
thought more than once that it had stopped. At last, however,
about two in the morning, I suddenly heard the gentle sound of a
bolt being pushed back and the creaking of a key. A moment
later the servants door was opened, and Mr. Joseph Harrison
stepped out into the moonlight."
"Joseph!" ejaculated Phelps.
"He was bare-headed, but he had a black cloak thrown over
his shoulder, so that he could conceal his face in an instant if
there were any alarm. He walked on tiptoe under the shadow of
the wall, and when he reached the window he worked a long-bladed knife through the sash and pushed back the catch. Then
he flung open the window, and putting his knife through the
crack in the shutters, he thrust the bar up and swung them open.
"From where I lay I had a perfect view of the inside of the
room and of every one of his movements. He lit the two candles
which stood upon the mantelpiece, and then he proceeded to turn
back the corner of the carpet in the neighbourhood of the door.
Presently he stooped and picked out a square piece of board,
such as is usually left to enable plumbers to get at the joints of
the gas-pipes. This one covered, as a matter of fact, the T joint
which gives off the pipe which supplies the kitchen underneath.
Out of this hiding-place he drew that little cylinder of paper,
pushed down the board, rearranged the carpet, blew out the
candles, and walked straight into my arms as I stood waiting for
him outside the window.
"Well, he has rather more viciousness than I gave him credit
for, has Master Joseph. He flew at me with his knife, and I had
to grasp him twice, and got a cut over the knuckles, before I had
the upper hand of him. He looked murder out of the only eye he
could see with when we had finished, but he listened to reason
and gave up the papers. Having got them I let my man go, but I
wired full particulars to Forbes this morning. If he is quick
enough to catch his bird, well and good. But if, as I shrewdly
suspect, he finds the nest empty before he gets there, why, all
the better for the government. I fancy that Lord Holdhurst, for
one, and Mr. Percy Phelps for another, would very much rather
that the affair never got as far as a police-court."
"My God!" gasped our client. "Do you tell me that during
these long ten weeks of agony the stolen papers were within the
very room with me all the time?"
"So it was."
"And Joseph! Joseph a villain and a thief!"
"Hum! I am afraid Joseph's character is a rather deeper and
more dangerous one than one might judge from his appearance.
From what I have heard from him this morning, I gather that he
has lost heavily in dabbling with stocks, and that he is ready to
do anything on earth to better his fortunes. Being an absolutely
selfish man, when a chance presents itself he did not allow either
his sister's happiness or your reputation to hold his hand."
Percy Phelps sank back in his chair. "My head whirls," said
he. "Your words have dazed me."
"The principal difficulty in your case," remarked Holmes in
his didactic fashion, "lay in the fact of there being too much
evidence. What was vital was overlaid and hidden by what was
irrelevant. Of all the facts which were presented to us we had to
pick just those which we deemed to be essential, and then piece
them together in their order, so as to reconstruct this very
remarkable chain of events. I had already begun to suspect
Joseph from the fact that you had intended to travel home with
him that night, and that therefore it was a likely enough thing
that he should call for you, knowing the Foreign Office well,
upon his way. When I heard that someone had been so anxious
to get into the bedroom, in which no one but Joseph could have
concealed anything — you told us in your narrative how you had
turned Joseph out when you arrived with the doctor — my suspicions all changed to certainties, especially as the attempt was
made on the first night upon which the nurse was absent, showing that the intruder was well acquainted with the ways of the
"How blind I have been!"
"The facts of the case, as far as I have worked them out, are
these: This Joseph Harrison entered the office through the Charles
Street door, and knowing his way he walked straight into your
room the instant after you left it. Finding no one there he
promptly rang the bell, and at the instant that he did so his eyes
caught the paper upon the table. A glance showed him that
chance had put in his way a State document of immense value,
and in an instant he had thrust it into his pocket and was gone. A
few minutes elapsed, as you remember, before the sleepy commissionaire drew your attention to the bell, and those were just
enough to give the thief time to make his escape.
"He made his way to Woking by the first train, and, having
examined his booty and assured himself that it really was of
immense value, he had concealed it in what he thought was a
very safe place, with the intention of taking it out again in a day
or two, and carrying it to the French embassy, or wherever he
thought that a long price was to be had. Then came your sudden
return. He, without a moment's warning, was bundled out of his
room, and from that time onward there were always at least two
of you there to prevent him from regaining his treasure. The
situation to him must have been a maddening one. But at last he
thought he saw his chance. He tried to steal in, but was baffled
by your wakefulness. You may remember that you did not take
your usual draught that night."
"I fancy that he had taken steps to make that draught efficacious, and that he quite relied upon your being unconscious. Of
course, I understood that he would repeat the attempt whenever
it could be done with safety. Your leaving the room gave him the
chance he wanted. I kept Miss Harrison in it all day so that he
might not anticipate us. Then, having given him the idea that the
coast was clear, I kept guard as I have described. I already knew
that the papers were probably in the room, but I had no desire to
rip up all the planking and skirting in search of them. I let him
take them, therefore, from the hiding-place, and so saved myself
an infinity of trouble. Is there any other point which I can make
"Why did he try the window on the first occasion," I asked,
"when he might have entered by the door?"
"In reaching the door he would have to pass seven bedrooms.
On the other hand, he could get out on to the lawn, with ease,
"You do not think," asked Phelps, "that he had any murderous intention? The knife was only meant as a tool."
"It may be so," answered Holmes, shrugging his shoulders.
"I can only say for certain that Mr. Joseph Harrison is a gentleman to whose mercy I should be extremely unwilling to trust."
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