Chapter 6: A Continuation of the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D.
| A Study In Scarlet
Part II, Chapter 7
We had all been warned to appear before the magistrates upon
the Thursday; but when the Thursday came there was no occasion for our testimony. A higher Judge had taken the matter in
hand, and Jefferson Hope had been summoned before a tribunal
where strict justice would be meted out to him. On the very night
after his capture the aneurism burst, and he was found in the
morning stretched upon the floor of the cell, with a placid smile
upon his face, as though he had been able in his dying moments
to look back upon a useful life, and on work well done.
"Gregson and Lestrade will be wild about his death," Holmes
remarked, as we chatted it over next evening. "Where will their
grand advertisement be now?"
"I don't see that they had very much to do with his capture,"
"What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence,"
returned my companion, bitterly. "The question is, what can
you make people believe that you have done? Never mind," he
continued, more brightly, after a pause. "I would not have
missed the investigation for anything. There has been no better
case within my recollection. Simple as it was, there were several
most instructive points about it."
"Simple!" I ejaculated.
"Well, really, it can hardly be described as otherwise," said
Sherlock Holmes, smiling at my surprise. "The proof of its
intrinsic simplicity is, that without any help save a few very
ordinary deductions I was able to lay my hand upon the criminal
within three days."
"That is true," said I.
"I have already explained to you that what is out of the
common is usually a guide rather than a hindrance. In solving a
problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason
backward. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy
one, but people do not practise it much. In the everyday affairs
of life it is more useful to reason forward, and so the other
comes to be neglected. There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically."
"I confess," said I, "that I do not quite follow you."
"I hardly expected that you would. Let me see if I can make it
clearer. Most people, if you describe a train of events to them
will tell you what the result would be. They can put those events
together in their minds, and argue from them that something will
come to pass. There are few people, however, who, if you told
them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner
consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result.
This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backward, or
"I understand," said I.
"Now this was a case in which you were given the result and
had to find everything else for yourself. Now let me endeavour
to show you the different steps in my reasoning. To begin at the
beginning. I approached the house, as you know, on foot, and
with my mind entirely free from all impressions. I naturally
began by examining the roadway, and there, as I have already
explained to you, I saw clearly the marks of a cab, which, I
ascertained by inquiry, must have been there during the night. I
satisfied myself that it was a cab and not a private carriage by the
narrow gauge of the wheels. The ordinary London growler is
considerably less wide than a gentleman's brougham.
"This was the first point gained. I then walked slowly down
the garden path, which happened to be composed of a clay soil,
peculiarly suitable for taking impressions. No doubt it appeared
to you to be a mere trampled line of slush, but to my trained eyes
every mark upon its surface had a meaning. There is no branch
of detective science which is so important and so much neglected
as the art of tracing footsteps. Happily, I have always laid great
stress upon it, and much practice has made it second nature to
me. I saw the heavy footmarks of the constables, but I saw also
the track of the two men who had first passed through the
garden. It was easy to tell that they had been before the others,
because in places their marks had been entirely obliterated by the
others coming upon the top of them. In this way my second link
was formed, which told me that the nocturnal visitors were two
in number, one remarkable for his height (as I calculated from
the length of his stride), and the other fashionably dressed, to
judge from the small and elegant impression left by his boots.
"On entering the house this last inference was confirmed. My
well-booted man lay before me. The tall one, then, had done the
murder, if murder there was. There was no wound upon the dead
man's person, but the agitated expression upon his face assured
me that he had foreseen his fate before it came upon him. Men
who die from heart disease, or any sudden natural cause, never
by any chance exhibit agitation upon their features. Having
sniffed the dead man's lips, I detected a slightly sour smell, and
I came to the conclusion that he had had poison forced upon
him. Again, I argued that it had been forced upon him from the
hatred and fear expressed upon his face. By the method of
exclusion, I had arrived at this result, for no other hypothesis
would meet the facts. Do not imagine that it was a very unheard-of
idea. The forcible administration of poison is by no means a new
thing in criminal annals. The cases of Dolsky in Odessa, and of
Leturier in Montpellier, will occur at once to any toxicologist.
"And now came the great question as to the reason why.
Robbery had not been the object of the murder, for nothing was
taken. Was it politics, then, or was it a woman? That was the
question which confronted me. I was inclined from the first to
the latter supposition. Political assassins are only too glad to do
their work and to fly. This murder had, on the contrary, been
done most deliberately, and the perpetrator had left his tracks all
over the room, showing that he had been there all the time. It
must have been a private wrong, and not a political one, which
called for such a methodical revenge. When the inscription was
discovered upon the wall, I was more inclined than ever to my
opinion. The thing was too evidently a blind. When the ring was
found, however, it settled the question. Clearly the murderer had
used it to remind his victim of some dead or absent woman. It
was at this point that I asked Cregson whether he had inquired in
his telegram to Cleveland as to any particular point in Mr.
Drebber's former career. He answered, you remember, in the
"I then proceeded to make a careful examination of the room
which confirmed me in my opinion as to the murderer's height,
and furnished me with the additional details as to the Trichinopoly
cigar and the length of his nails. I had already come to the
conclusion, since there were no signs of a struggle, that the
blood which covered the floor had burst from the murderer's
nose in his excitement. I could perceive that the track of blood
coincided with the track of his feet. It is seldom that any man,
unless he is very full-blooded, breaks out in this way through
emotion, so I hazarded the opinion that the criminal was probably a robust and ruddy-faced man. Events proved that I had
"Having left the house, I proceeded to do what Gregson had
neglected. I telegraphed to the head of the police at Cleveland,
limiting my inquiry to the circumstances connected with the
marriage of Enoch Drebber. The answer was conclusive. It told
me that Drebber had already applied for the protection of the law
against an old rival in love, named Jefferson Hope, and that this
same Hope was at present in Europe. I knew now that I held the
clue to the mystery in my hand, and all that remained was to
secure the murderer.
"I had already determined in my own mind that the man who
had walked into the house with Drebber was none other than the
man who had driven the cab. The marks in the road showed me
that the horse had wandered on in a way which would have been
impossible had there been anyone in charge of it. Where, then,
could the driver be, unless he were inside the house? Again, it is
absurd to suppose that any sane man would carry out a deliberate
crime under the very eyes, as it were, of a third person who was
sure to betray him. Lastly, supposing one man wished to dog
another through London, what better means could he adopt than
to turn cabdriver? All these considerations led me to the irresistible conclusion that Jefferson Hope was to be found among the
jarveys of the Metropolis.
"If he had been one, there was no reason to believe that he
had ceased to be. On the contrary, from his point of view, any
sudden change would be likely to draw attention to himself. He
would probably, for a time at least, continue to perform his
duties. There was no reason to suppose that he was going under
an assumed name. Why should he change his name in a country
where no one knew his original one? I therefore organized my
street Arab detective corps, and sent them systematically to
every cab proprietor in London until they ferreted out the man
that I wanted. How well they succeeded, and how quickly I took
advantage of it, are still fresh in your recollection. The murder of
Stangerson was an incident which was entirely unexpected, but
which could hardly in any case have been prevented. Through it,
as you know, I came into possession of the pills, the existence of
which I had already surmised. You see, the whole thing is a
chain of logical sequences without a break or flaw."
"It is wonderful!" I cried. "Your merits should be publicly
recognized. You should publish an account of the case. If you
won't, I will for you."
"You may do what you like, Doctor," he answered. "See
here!" he continued, handing a paper over to me, "look at
It was the Echo for the day, and the paragraph to which he
pointed was devoted to the case in question.
"The public," it said, "have lost a sensational treat through
the sudden death of the man Hope, who was suspected of the
murder of Mr. Enoch Drebber and of Mr. Joseph Stangerson.
The details of the case will probably be never known now,
though we are informed upon good authority that the crime was
the result of an old-standing and romantic feud, in which love
and Mormonism bore a part. It seems that both the victims
belonged, in their younger days, to the Latter Day Saints, and
Hope, the deceased prisoner, hails also from Salt Lake City. If
the case has had no other effect, it, at least, brings out in the
most striking manner the efficiency of our detective police force,
and will serve as a lesson to all foreigners that they will do
wisely to settle their feuds at home, and not to carry them on to
British soil. It is an open secret that the credit of this smart
capture belongs entirely to the well-known Scotland Yard officials, Messrs. Lestrade and Gregson. The man was apprehended,
it appears, in the rooms of a certain Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who
has himself, as an amateur, shown some talent in the detective
line and who, with such instructors, may hope in time to attain to
some degree of their skill. It is expected that a testimonial of
some sort will be presented to the two officers as a fitting
recognition of their services."
"Didn't I tell you so when we started?" cried Sherlock Holmes
with a laugh. "That's the result of all our Study in Scarlet: to get
them a testimonial!"
"Never mind," I answered; "I have all the facts in my
journal, and the public shall know them. In the meantime you
must make yourself contented by the consciousness of success,
like the Roman miser —
"Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo
Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplar in arca."
Chapter 6: A Continuation of the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D.
| A Study In Scarlet
Thanks to Halspal for the Latin translation