The Adventure of the Abbey Grange is one of the short stories about Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in 1905. 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 in a collection of short stories called The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
Inspector Stanley Hopkins is becoming a regular character in Sherlock Holmes stories, once again calling in Holmes to Abbey Grange to consult on a mysterious case involving murder. And once again the victim, Sir Eustace Brackenstall, is a cruel and malicious man, whose passing will be mourned by few. Still, the available evidence points to robbery, and his wife, the Lady Mary Brackenstall neé Fraser, received a blow to the head in the process.
The stories provided by Lady Brackenstall and her maid appear to show a straightforward case, and the identities of the thieves must only be confirmed. But Sherlock's sharp eyes and quick mind are able to see additional clues that make her story, at best, unlikely. But who is she protecting, and what was the true motive?
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The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
It was on a bitterly cold night and frosty morning, towards the
end of the winter of '97, that I was awakened by a tugging at my
shoulder. It was Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon his
eager, stooping face, and told me at a glance that something was
"Come, Watson, come!" he cried. "The game is afoot. Not a
word! Into your clothes and come!"
Ten minutes later we were both in a cab, and rattling through the
silent streets on our way to Charing Cross Station. The first faint
winter's dawn was beginning to appear, and we could dimly see
the occasional figure of an early workman as he passed us, blurred
and indistinct in the opalescent London reek. Holmes nestled in
silence into his heavy coat, and I was glad to do the same, for
the air was most bitter, and neither of us had broken our fast.
It was not until we had consumed some hot tea at the station
and taken our places in the Kentish train that we were sufficiently thawed, he to speak and I to listen. Holmes drew a note
from his pocket, and read aloud:
Abbey Grange, Marsham, Kent,
MY DEAR MR. HOLMES:
I should be very glad of your immediate assistance in
what promises to be a most remarkable case. It is something
quite in your line. Except for releasing the lady I will see
that everything is kept exactly as I have found it, but I beg
you not to lose an instant, as it is difficult to leave Sir
"Hopkins has called me in seven times, and on each occasion
his summons has been entirely justified," said Holmes. "I fancy
that every one of his cases has found its way into your collection, and I must admit, Watson, that you have some power of
selection, which atones for much which I deplore in your narratives. Your fatal habit of looking at everything from the point of
view of a story instead of as a scientific exercise has ruined what
might have been an instructive and even classical series of
demonstrations. You slur over work of the utmost finesse and
delicacy, in order to dwell upon sensational details which may
excite, but cannot possibly instruct, the reader."
"Why do you not write them yourself?" I said, with some
"I will, my dear Watson, I will. At present I am, as you
know, fairly busy, but I propose to devote my declining years to
the composition of a textbook, which shall focus the whole art of
detection into one volume. Our present research appears to be a
case of murder."
"You think this Sir Eustace is dead, then?"
"I should say so. Hopkins's writing shows considerable agitation, and he is not an emotional man. Yes, I gather there has
been violence, and that the body is left for our inspection. A
mere suicide would not have caused him to send for me. As to
the release of the lady, it would appear that she has been locked
in her room during the tragedy. We are moving in high life,
Watson, crackling paper, 'E. B.' monogram, coat-of-arms, picturesque address. I think that friend Hopkins will live up to his
reputation, and that we shall have an interesting morning. The
crime was committed before twelve last night."
"How can you possibly tell?"
"By an inspection of the trains, and by reckoning the time.
The local police had to be called in, they had to communicate
with Scotland Yard, Hopkins had to go out, and he in turn had to
send for me. All that makes a fair night's work. Well, here we
are at Chiselhurst Station, and we shall soon set our doubts at
A drive of a couple of miles through narrow country lanes
brought us to a park gate, which was opened for us by an old
lodge-keeper, whose haggard face bore the reflection of some
great disaster. The avenue ran through a noble park, between
lines of ancient elms, and ended in a low, widespread house,
pillared in front after the fashion of Palladio. The central part
was evidently of a great age and shrouded in ivy, but the large
windows showed that modern changes had been carried out, and
one wing of the house appeared to be entirely new. The youthful
figure and alert, eager face of Inspector Stanley Hopkins confronted us in the open doorway.
"I'm very glad you have come, Mr. Holmes. And you, too,
Dr. Watson. But, indeed, if I had my time over again, I should
not have troubled you, for since the lady has come to herself,
she has given so clear an account of the affair that there is not
much left for us to do. You remember that Lewisham gang of
"What, the three Randalls?"
"Exactly; the father and two sons. It's their work. I have not a
doubt of it. They did a job at Sydenham a fortnight ago and were
seen and described. Rather cool to do another so soon and so
near, but it is they, beyond all doubt. It's a hanging matter this
"Sir Eustace is dead, then?"
"Yes, his head was knocked in with his own poker."
"Sir Eustace Brackenstall, the driver tells me."
"Exactly — one of the richest men in Kent — Lady Brackenstall
is in the morning-room. Poor lady, she has had a most dreadful
experience. She seemed half dead when I saw her first. I think
you had best see her and hear her account of the facts. Then we
will examine the dining-room together."
Lady Brackenstall was no ordinary person. Seldom have I
seen so graceful a figure, so womanly a presence, and so beautiful a face. She was a blonde, golden-haired, blue-eyed, and
would no doubt have had the perfect complexion which goes
with such colouring, had not her recent experience left her drawn
and haggard. Her sufferings were physical as well as mental, for
over one eye rose a hideous, plum-coloured swelling, which her
maid, a tall, austere woman, was bathing assiduously with vinegar and water. The lady lay back exhausted upon a couch, but
her quick, observant gaze, as we entered the room, and the alert
expression of her beautiful features, showed that neither her wits
nor her courage had been shaken by her terrible experience. She
was enveloped in a loose dressing-gown of blue and silver, but a
black sequin-covered dinner-dress lay upon the couch beside her.
"I have told you all that happened, Mr. Hopkins," she said,
wearily. "Could you not repeat it for me? Well, if you think it
necessary, I will tell these gentlemen what occurred. Have they
been in the dining-room yet?"
"I thought they had better hear your ladyship's story first."
"I shall be glad when you can arrange matters. It is horrible to
me to think of him still lying there." She shuddered and buried
her face in her hands. As she did so, the loose gown fell back
from her forearms. Holmes uttered an exclamation.
"You have other injuries, madam! What is this?" Two vivid
red spots stood out on one of the white, round limbs. She hastily
"It is nothing. It has no connection with this hideous business
to-night. If you and your friend will sit down, I will tell you all I
"I am the wife of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. I have been
married about a year. I suppose that it is no use my attempting to
conceal that our marriage has not been a happy one. I fear that
all our neighbours would tell you that, even if I were to attempt
to deny it. Perhaps the fault may be partly mine. I was brought
up in the freer, less conventional atmosphere of South Australia,
and this English life, with its proprieties and its primness, is not
congenial to me. But the main reason lies in the one fact, which
is notorious to everyone, and that is that Sir Eustace was a
confirmed drunkard. To be with such a man for an hour is
unpleasant. Can you imagine what it means for a sensitive and
high-spirited woman to be tied to him for day and night? It is a
sacrilege, a crime, a villainy to hold that such a marriage is
binding. I say that these monstrous laws of yours will bring a
curse upon the land — God will not let such wickedness endure."
For an instant she sat up, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes
blazing from under the terrible mark upon her brow. Then the
strong, soothing hand of the austere maid drew her head down
on to the cushion, and the wild anger died away into passionate
sobbing. At last she continued:
"I will tell you about last night. You are aware, perhaps, that
in this house all the servants sleep in the modern wing. This
central block is made up of the dwelling-rooms, with the kitchen
behind and our bedroom above. My maid, Theresa, sleeps above
my room. There is no one else, and no sound could alarm those
who are in the farther wing. This must have been well known to
the robbers, or they would not have acted as they did.
"Sir Eustace retired about half-past ten. The servants had
already gone to their quarters. Only my maid was up, and she
had remained in her room at the top of the house until I needed
her services. I sat until after eleven in this room, absorbed in a
book. Then I walked round to see that all was right before I went
upstairs. It was my custom to do this myself, for, as I have
explained, Sir Eustace was not always to be trusted. I went into
the kitchen, the butler's pantry, the gun-room, the billiard-room,
the drawing-room, and finally the dining-room. As I approached the
window, which is covered with thick curtains, I suddenly felt
the wind blow upon my face and realized that it was open. I
flung the curtain aside and found myself face to face with a
broad-shouldered elderly man, who had just stepped into the
room. The window is a long French one, which really forms a
door leading to the lawn. I held my bedroom candle lit in my
hand, and, by its light, behind the first man I saw two others,
who were in the act of entering. I stepped back, but the fellow
was on me in an instant. He caught me first by the wrist and then
by the throat. I opened my mouth to scream, but he struck me a
savage blow with his fist over the eye, and felled me to the
ground. I must have been unconscious for a few minutes, for
when I came to myself, I found that they had torn down the
bell-rope, and had secured me tightly to the oaken chair which
stands at the head of the dining-table. I was so firmly bound that
I could not move, and a handkerchief round my mouth prevented
me from uttering a sound. It was at this instant that my unfortunate husband entered the room. He had evidently heard some
suspicious sounds, and he came prepared for such a scene as he
found. He was dressed in nightshirt and trousers, with his favourite blackthorn cudgel in his hand. He rushed at the burglars,
but another — it was an elderly man — stooped, picked the poker
out of the grate and struck him a horrible blow as he passed. He
fell with a groan and never moved again. I fainted once more,
but again it could only have been for a very few minutes during
which I was insensible. When I opened my eyes I found that
they had collected the silver from the sideboard, and they had
drawn a bottle of wine which stood there. Each of them had a
glass in his hand. I have already told you, have I not, that one
was elderly, with a beard, and the others young, hairless lads.
They might have been a father with his two sons. They talked
together in whispers. Then they came over and made sure that I
was securely bound. Finally they withdrew, closing the window
after them. It was quite a quarter of an hour before I got my
mouth free. When I did so, my screams brought the maid to my
assistance. The other servants were soon alarmed, and we sent
for the local police, who instantly communicated with London.
That is really all that I can tell you, gentlemen, and I trust that it
will not be necessary for me to go over so painful a story
"Any questions, Mr. Holmes?" asked Hopkins.
"I will not impose any further tax upon Lady Brackenstall's
patience and time," said Holmes. "Before I go into the dining-room, I should like to hear your experience." He looked at the
"I saw the men before ever they came into the house," said
she. "As I sat by my bedroom window I saw three men in the
moonlight down by the lodge gate yonder, but I thought nothing
of it at the time. It was more than an hour after that I heard my
mistress scream and down I ran, to find her, poor lamb, just as
she says, and him on the floor, with his blood and brains over
the room. It was enough to drive a woman out of her wits, tied
there, and her very dress spotted with him, but she never wanted
courage, did Miss Mary Fraser of Adelaide, and Lady Brackenstall of Abbey Grange hasn't learned new ways. You've questioned her long enough, you gentlemen, and now she is coming
to her own room, just with her old Theresa, to get the rest that
she badly needs."
With a motherly tenderness the gaunt woman put her arm
round her mistress and led her from the room.
"She has been with her all her life," said Hopkins. "Nursed
her as a baby, and came with her to England when they first left
Australia, eighteen months ago. Theresa Wright is her name, and
the kind of maid you don't pick up nowadays. This way, Mr.
Holmes, if you please!"
The keen interest had passed out of Holmes's expressive face,
and I knew that with the mystery all the charm of the case had
departed. There still remained an arrest to be effected, but what
were these commonplace rogues that he should soil his hands
with them? An abstruse and learned specialist who finds that he
has been called in for a case of measles would experience
something of the annoyance which I read in my friend's eyes.
Yet the scene in the dining-room of the Abbey Grange was
sufficiently strange to arrest his attention and to recall his waning
It was a very large and high chamber, with carved oak ceiling,
oaken panelling, and a fine array of deer's heads and ancient
weapons around the walls. At the further end from the door was
the high French window of which we had heard. Three smaller
windows on the right-hand side filled the apartment with cold
winter sunshine. On the left was a large, deep fireplace, with a
massive, overhanging oak mantelpiece. Beside the fireplace was
a heavy oaken chair with arms and crossbars at the bottom. In
and out through the open woodwork was woven a crimson cord
which was secured at each side to the crosspiece below. In
releasing the lady, the cord had been slipped off her, but the
knots with which it had been secured still remained. These
details only struck our attention afterwards, for our thoughts
were entirely absorbed by the terrible object which lay upon the
tigerskin hearthrug in front of the fire.
It was the body of a tall, well-made man, about forty years of
age. He lay upon his back, his face upturned, with his white
teeth grinning through his short, black beard. His two clenched
hands were raised above his head, and a heavy, blackthorn stick
lay across them. His dark, handsome, aquiline features were
convulsed into a spasm of vindictive hatred, which had set his
dead face in a terribly fiendish expression. He had evidently
been in his bed when the alarm had broken out, for he wore a
foppish, embroidered nightshirt, and his bare feet projected from
his trousers. His head was horribly injured, and the whole room
bore witness to the savage ferocity of the blow which had struck
him down. Beside him lay the heavy poker, bent into a curve by
the concussion. Holmes examined both it and the indescribable
wreck which it had wrought.
"He must be a powerful man, this elder Randall," he remarked.
"Yes," said Hopkins. "I have some record of the fellow, and
he is a rough customer."
"You should have no difficulty in getting him."
"Not the slightest. We have been on the look-out for him, and
there was some idea that he had got away to America. Now that
we know that the gang are here, I don't see how they can escape.
We have the news at every seaport already, and a reward will be
offered before evening. What beats me is how they could have
done so mad a thing, knowing that the lady could describe them
and that we could not fail to recognize the description."
"Exactly. One would have expected that they would silence
Lady Brackenstall as well."
"They may not have realized," I suggested, "that she had
recovered from her faint."
"That is likely enough. If she seemed to be senseless, they
would not take her life. What about this poor fellow, Hopkins? I
seem to have heard some queer stories about him."
"He was a good-hearted man when he was sober, but a
perfect fiend when he was drunk, or rather when he was half
drunk, for he seldom really went the whole way. The devil
seemed to be in him at such times, and he was capable of
anything. From what I hear, in spite of all his wealth and his
title, he very nearly came our way once or twice. There was a
scandal about his drenching a dog with petroleum and setting it
on fire — her ladyship's dog, to make the matter worse — and that
was only hushed up with difficulty. Then he threw a decanter at
that maid, Theresa Wright — there was trouble about that. On the
whole, and between ourselves, it will be a brighter house without
him. What are you looking at now?"
Holmes was down on his knees, examining with great attention the knots upon the red cord with which the lady had been
secured. Then he carefully scrutinized the broken and frayed end
where it had snapped off when the burglar had dragged it down.
"When this was pulled down, the bell in the kitchen must
have rung loudly," he remarked.
"No one could hear it. The kitchen stands right at the back of
"How did the burglar know no one would hear it? How dared
he pull at a bellrope in that reckless fashion?"
"Exactly, Mr. Holmes, exactly. You put the very question
which I have asked myself again and again. There can be no
doubt that this fellow must have known the house and its habits.
He must have perfectly understood that the servants would all be
in bed at that comparatively early hour, and that no one could
possibly hear a bell ring in the kitchen. Therefore, he must have
been in close league with one of the servants. Surely that is
evident. But there are eight servants, and all of good character."
"Other things being equal," said Holmes, "one would suspect the one at whose head the master threw a decanter. And yet
that would involve treachery towards the mistress to whom this
woman seems devoted. Well, well, the point is a minor one, and
when you have Randall you will probably find no difficulty in
securing his accomplice. The lady's story certainly seems to be
corroborated, if it needed corroboration, by every detail which
we see before us." He walked to the French window and threw
it open. "There are no signs here, but the ground is iron hard,
and one would not expect them. I see that these candles in the
mantelpiece have been lighted."
"Yes, it was by their light, and that of the lady's bedroom
candle, that the burglars saw their way about."
"And what did they take?"
"Well, they did not take much — only half a dozen articles of
plate off the sideboard. Lady Brackenstall thinks that they were
themselves so disturbed by the death of Sir Eustace that they did
not ransack the house, as they would otherwise have done."
"No doubt that is true, and yet they drank some wine, I
"To steady their nerves."
"Exactly. These three glasses upon the sideboard have been
untouched, I suppose?"
"Yes, and the bottle stands as they left it."
"Let us look at it. Halloa, halloa! What is this?"
The three glasses were grouped together, all of them tinged
with wine, and one of them containing some dregs of beeswing.
The bottle stood near them, two-thirds full, and beside it lay a
long, deeply stained cork. Its appearance and the dust upon the
bottle showed that it was no common vintage which the murderers had enjoyed.
A change had come over Holmes's manner. He had lost his
listless expression, and again I saw an alert light of interest in
his keen, deep-set eyes. He raised the cork and examined it
"How did they draw it?" he asked.
Hopkins pointed to a half-opened drawer. In it lay some table
linen and a large corkscrew.
"Did Lady Brackenstall say that screw was used?"
"No, you remember that she was senseless at the moment
when the bottle was opened."
"Quite so. As a matter of fact, that screw was not used. This
bottle was opened by a pocket screw, probably contained in a
knife, and not more than an inch and a half long. If you will
examine the top of the cork, you will observe that the screw was
driven in three times before the cork was extracted. It has never
been transfixed. This long screw would have transfixed it and
drawn it up with a single pull. When you catch this fellow, you
will find that he has one of these multiplex knives in his
"Excellent!" said Hopkins.
"But these glasses do puzzle me, I confess. Lady Brackenstall
actually saw the three men drinking, did she not?"
"Yes; she was clear about that."
"Then there is an end of it. What more is to be said? And yet,
you must admit, that the three glasses are very remarkable,
Hopkins. What? You see nothing remarkable? Well, well, let it
pass. Perhaps, when a man has special knowledge and special
powers like my own, it rather encourages him to seek a complex
explanation when a simpler one is at hand. Of course, it must be
a mere chance about the glasses. Well, good-morning, Hopkins.
I don't see that I can be of any use to you, and you appear to
have your case very clear. You will let me know when Randall is
arrested, and any further developments which may occur. I trust
that I shall soon have to congratulate you upon a successful
conclusion. Come, Watson, I fancy that we may employ ourselves more profitably at home."
During our return journey, I could see by Holmes's face that
he was much puzzled by something which he had observed.
Every now and then, by an effort, he would throw off the
impression, and talk as if the matter were clear, but then his
doubts would settle down upon him again, and his knitted brows
and abstracted eyes would show that his thoughts had gone back
once more to the great dining-room of the Abbey Grange, in
which this midnight tragedy had been enacted. At last, by a
sudden impulse, just as our train was crawling out of a suburban
station, he sprang on to the platform and pulled me out after
"Excuse me, my dear fellow," said he, as we watched the
rear carriages of our train disappearing round a curve, "I am
sorry to make you the victim of what may seem a mere whim,
but on my life, Watson, I simply can't leave that case in this
condition. Every instinct that I possess cries out against it. It's
wrong — it's all wrong — I'll swear that it's wrong. And yet the
lady's story was complete, the maid's corroboration was sufficient, the detail was fairly exact. What have I to put up against
that? Three wine-glasses, that is all. But if I had not taken things
for granted, if I had examined everything with care which I
should have shown had we approached the case de novo and had
no cut-and-dried story to warp my mind, should I not then have
found something more definite to go upon? Of course I should.
Sit down on this bench, Watson, until a train for Chiselhurst
arrives, and allow me to lay the evidence before you, imploring
you in the first instance to dismiss from your mind the idea that
anything which the maid or her mistress may have said must
necessarily be true. The lady's charming personality must not be
permitted to warp our judgment.
"Surely there are details in her story which, if we looked at
in cold blood, would excite our suspicion. These burglars made a
considerable haul at Sydenham a fortnight ago. Some account of
them and of their appearance was in the papers, and would
naturally occur to anyone who wished to invent a story in which
imaginary robbers should play a part. As a matter of fact,
burglars who have done a good stroke of business are as a rule
only too glad to enjoy the proceeds in peace and quiet without
embarking on another perilous undertaking. Again, it is unusual
for burglars to operate at so early an hour, it is unusual for
burglars to strike a lady to prevent her screaming, since one
would imagine that was the sure way to make her scream, it is
unusual for them to commit murder when their numbers are
sufficient to overpower one man, it is unusual for them to be
content with a limited plunder when there was much more within
their reach, and finally, I should say, that it was very unusual for
such men to leave a bottle half empty. How do all these unusuals
strike you, Watson?"
"Their cumulative effect is certainly considerable, and yet
each of them is quite possible in itself. The most unusual thing
of all, as it seems to me, is that the lady should be tied to the
"Well, I am not so clear about that, Watson, for it is evident
that they must either kill her or else secure her in such a way that
she could not give immediate notice of their escape. But at any
rate I have shown, have I not, that there is a certain element of
improbability about the lady's story? And now, on the top of
this, comes the incident of the wineglasses."
"What about the wineglasses?"
"Can you see them in your mind's eye?"
"I see them clearly."
"We are told that three men drank from them. Does that strike
you as likely?"
"Why not? There was wine in each glass."
"Exactly, but there was beeswing only in one glass. You must
have noticed that fact. What does that suggest to your mind?"
"The last glass filled would be most likely to contain beeswing."
"Not at all. The bottle was full of it, and it is inconceivable
that the first two glasses were clear and the third heavily charged
with it. There are two possible explanations, and only two. One
is that after the second glass was filled the bottle was violently
agitated, and so the third glass received the beeswing. That does
not appear probable. No, no, I am sure that I am right."
"What, then, do you suppose?"
"That only two glasses were used, and that the dregs of both
were poured into a third glass, so as to give the false impression
that three people had been here. In that way all the beeswing
would be in the last glass, would it not? Yes, I am convinced
that this is so. But if I have hit upon the true explanation of this
one small phenomenon, then in an instant the case rises from the
commonplace to the exceedingly remarkable, for it can only
mean that Lady Brackenstall and her maid have deliberately lied
to us, that not one word of their story is to be believed, that they
have some very strong reason for covering the real criminal, and
that we must construct our case for ourselves without any help
from them. That is the mission which now lies before us, and
here, Watson, is the Sydenham train."
The household at the Abbey Grange were much surprised at
our return, but Sherlock Holmes, finding that Stanley Hopkins
had gone off to report to headquarters, took possession of the
dining-room, locked the door upon the inside, and devoted himself for two hours to one of those minute and laborious investigations which form the solid basis on which his brilliant edifices of
deduction were reared. Seated in a corner like an interested
student who observes the demonstration of his professor, I followed every step of that remarkable research. The window, the
curtains, the carpet, the chair, the rope — each in turn was minutely examined and duly pondered. The body of the unfortunate
baronet had been removed, and all else remained as we had seen
it in the morning. Finally, to my astonishment, Holmes climbed
up on to the massive mantelpiece. Far above his head hung the
few inches of red cord which were still attached to the wire. For
a long time he gazed upward at it, and then in an attempt to get
nearer to it he rested his knee upon a wooden bracket on the
wall. This brought his hand within a few inches of the broken
end of the rope, but it was not this so much as the bracket itself
which seemed to engage his attention. Finally, he sprang down
with an ejaculation of satisfaction.
"It's all right, Watson," said he. "We have got our case —
one of the most remarkable in our collection. But, dear me, how
slow-witted I have been, and how nearly I have committed the
blunder of my lifetime! Now, I think that, with a few missing
links, my chain is almost complete."
"You have got your men?"
"Man, Watson, man. Only one, but a very formidable person.
Strong as a lion — witness the blow that bent that poker! Six foot
three in height, active as a squirrel, dexterous with his fingers,
finally, remarkably quick-witted, for this whole ingenious story
is of his concoction. Yes, Watson, we have come upon the
handiwork of a very remarkable individual. And yet, in that
bell-rope, he has given us a clue which should not have left us a
"Where was the clue?"
"Well, if you were to pull down a bell-rope, Watson, where
would you expect it to break? Surely at the spot where it is
attached to the wire. Why should it break three inches from the
top, as this one has done?"
"Because it is frayed there?"
"Exactly. This end, which we can examine, is frayed. He was
cunning enough to do that with his knife. But the other end is not
frayed. You could not observe that from here, but if you were on
the mantelpiece you would see that it is cut clean off without any
mark of fraying whatever. You can reconstruct what occurred.
The man needed the rope. He would not tear it down for fear of
giving the alarm by ringing the bell. What did he do? He sprang
up on the mantelpiece, could not quite reach it, put his knee on
the bracket — you will see the impression in the dust — and so got
his knife to bear upon the cord. I could not reach the place by at
least three inches — from which I infer that he is at least three
inches a bigger man than I. Look at that mark upon the seat of
the oaken chair! What is it?"
"Undoubtedly it is blood. This alone puts the lady's story out
of court. If she were seated on the chair when the crime was
done, how comes that mark? No, no, she was placed in the chair
after the death of her husband. I'll wager that the black dress
shows a corresponding mark to this. We have not yet met our
Waterloo, Watson, but this is our Marengo, for it begins in
defeat and ends in victory. I should like now to have a few
words with the nurse, Theresa. We must be wary for a while, if
we are to get the information which we want."
She was an interesting person, this stern Australian nurse —
taciturn, suspicious, ungracious, it took some time before Holmes's
pleasant manner and frank acceptance of all that she said thawed
her into a corresponding amiability. She did not attempt to
conceal her hatred for her late employer.
"Yes, sir, it is true that he threw the decanter at me. I heard
him call my mistress a name, and I told him that he would not
dare to speak so if her brother had been there. Then it was that
he threw it at me. He might have thrown a dozen if he had but
left my bonny bird alone. He was forever ill-treating her, and she
too proud to complain. She will not even tell me all that he has
done to her. She never told me of those marks on her arm that
you saw this morning, but I know very well that they come from
a stab with a hatpin. The sly devil — God forgive me that I should
speak of him so, now that he is dead! But a devil he was, if ever
one walked the earth. He was all honey when first we met
him — only eighteen months ago, and we both feel as if it were
eighteen years. She had only just arrived in London. Yes, it was
her first voyage — she had never been from home before. He won
her with his title and his money and his false London ways. If
she made a mistake she has paid for it, if ever a woman did.
What month did we meet him? Well, I tell you it was just after
we arrived. We arrived in June, and it was July. They were
married in January of last year. Yes, she is down in the morning-room again, and I have no doubt she will see you, but you must
not ask too much of her, for she has gone through all that flesh
and blood will stand."
Lady Brackenstall was reclining on the same couch, but looked
brighter than before. The maid had entered with us, and began
once more to foment the bruise upon her mistress's brow.
"I hope," said the lady, "that you have not come to cross-examine me again?"
"No," Holmes answered, in his gentlest voice, "I will not
cause you any unnecessary trouble, Lady Brackenstall, and my
whole desire is to make things easy for you, for I am convinced
that you are a much-tried woman. If you will treat me as a friend
and trust me, you may find that I will justify your trust."
"What do you want me to do?"
"To tell me the truth."
"No, no, Lady Brackenstall — it is no use. You may have
heard of any little reputation which I possess. I will stake it all
on the fact that your story is an absolute fabrication."
Mistress and maid were both staring at Holmes with pale faces
and frightened eyes.
"You are an impudent fellow!" cried Theresa. "Do you mean
to say that my mistress has told a lie?"
Holmes rose from his chair.
"Have you nothing to tell me?"
"I have told you everything."
"Think once more, Lady Brackenstall. Would it not be better
to be frank?"
For an instant there was hesitation in her beautiful face. Then
some new strong thought caused it to set like a mask.
"I have told you all I know."
Holmes took his hat and shrugged his shoulders. "I am sorry,"
he said, and without another word we left the room and the
house. There was a pond in the park, and to this my friend led
the way. It was frozen over, but a single hole was left for the
convenience of a solitary swan. Holmes gazed at it, and then
passed on to the lodge gate. There he scribbled a short note for
Stanley Hopkins, and left it with the lodge-keeper.
"It may be a hit, or it may be a miss, but we are bound to do
something for friend Hopkins, just to justify this second visit,"
said he. "I will not quite take him into my confidence yet. I
think our next scene of operations must be the shipping office of
the Adelaide-Southampton line, which stands at the end of Pall
Mall, if I remember right. There is a second line of steamers
which connect South Australia with England, but we will draw
the larger cover first."
Holmes's card sent in to the manager ensured instant attention,
and he was not long in acquiring all the information he needed.
In June of '95, only one of their line had reached a home port. It
was the Rock of Gibraltar, their largest and best boat. A reference to the passenger list showed that Miss Fraser, of Adelaide,
with her maid had made the voyage in her. The boat was now
somewhere south of the Suez Canal on her way to Australia. Her
officers were the same as in '95, with one exception. The first
officer, Mr. Jack Crocker, had been made a captain and was to
take charge of their new ship, the Bass Rock, sailing in two
days' time from Southampton. He lived at Sydenham, but he
was likely to be in that morning for instructions, if we cared to
wait for him.
No, Mr. Holmes had no desire to see him, but would be glad
to know more about his record and character.
His record was magnificent. There was not an officer in the
fleet to touch him. As to his character, he was reliable on duty
but a wild, desperate fellow off the deck of his ship — hot-headed, excitable, but loyal, honest, and kind-hearted. That was
the pith of the information with which Holmes left the office of
the Adelaide-Southampton company. Thence he drove to Scotland Yard, but, instead of entering, he sat in his cab with his
brows drawn down, lost in profound thought. Finally he drove
round to the Charing Cross telegraph office, sent off a message,
and then, at last, we made for Baker Street once more.
"No, I couldn't do it, Watson," said he, as we reentered our
room. "Once that warrant was made out, nothing on earth would
save him. Once or twice in my career I feel that I have done
more real harm by my discovery of the criminal than ever he had
done by his crime. I have learned caution now, and I had rather
play tricks with the law of England than with my own conscience. Let us know a little more before we act."
Before evening, we had a visit from Inspector Stanley Hopkins. Things were not going very well with him.
"I believe that you are a wizard, Mr. Holmes. I really do
sometimes think that you have powers that are not human. Now,
how on earth could you know that the stolen silver was at the
bottom of that pond?"
"I didn't know it."
"But you told me to examine it."
"You got it, then?"
"Yes, I got it."
"I am very glad if I have helped you."
"But you haven't helped me. You have made the affair far
more difficult. What sort of burglars are they who steal silver
and then throw it into the nearest pond?"
"It was certainly rather eccentric behaviour. I was merely
going on the idea that if the silver had been taken by persons
who did not want it — who merely took it for a blind, as it
were — then they would naturally be anxious to get rid of it."
"But why should such an idea cross your mind?"
"Well, I thought it was possible. When they came out through
the French window, there was the pond with one tempting little
hole in the ice, right in front of their noses. Could there be a
"Ah, a hiding-place — that is better!" cried Stanley Hopkins.
"Yes, yes, I see it all now! It was early, there were folk upon
the roads, they were afraid of being seen with the silver, so they
sank it in the pond, intending to return for it when the coast was
clear. Excellent, Mr. Holmes — that is better than your idea of a
"Quite so, you have got an admirable theory. I have no doubt
that my own ideas were quite wild, but you must admit that they
have ended in discovering the silver."
"Yes, sir — yes. It was all your doing. But I have had a bad
"Yes, Mr. Holmes. The Randall gang were arrested in New
York this morning."
"Dear me, Hopkins! That is certainly rather against your
theory that they committed a murder in Kent last night."
"It is fatal, Mr. Holmes — absolutely fatal. Still, there are
other gangs of three besides the Randalls, or it may be some new
gang of which the police have never heard."
"Quite so, it is perfectly possible. What, are you off?"
"Yes, Mr. Holmes, there is no rest for me until I have got to
the bottom of the business. I suppose you have no hint to give
"I have given you one."
"Well, I suggested a blind."
"But why, Mr. Holmes, why?"
"Ah, that's the question, of course. But I commend the idea
to your mind. You might possibly find that there was something
in it. You won't stop for dinner? Well, good-bye, and let us
know how you get on."
Dinner was over, and the table cleared before Holmes alluded
to the matter again. He had lit his pipe and held his slippered feet
to the cheerful blaze of the fire. Suddenly he looked at his
"I expect developments, Watson."
"Now — within a few minutes. I dare say you thought I acted
rather badly to Stanley Hopkins just now?"
"I trust your judgment."
"A very sensible reply, Watson. You must look at it this way:
what I know is unofficial, what he knows is official. I have the
right to private judgment, but he has none. He must disclose all,
or he is a traitor to his service. In a doubtful case I would not put
him in so painful a position, and so I reserve my information
until my own mind is clear upon the matter."
"But when will that be?"
"The time has come. You will now be present at the last
scene of a remarkable little drama."
There was a sound upon the stairs, and our door was opened
to admit as fine a specimen of manhood as ever passed through
it. He was a very tall young man, golden-moustached, blue-eyed, with a skin which had been burned by tropical suns, and a
springy step, which showed that the huge frame was as active as
it was strong. He closed the door behind him, and then he stood
with clenched hands and heaving breast, choking down some
"Sit down, Captain Crocker. You got my telegram?"
Our visitor sank into an armchair and looked from one to the
other of us with questioning eyes.
"I got your telegram, and I came at the hour you said. I heard
that you had been down to the office. There was no getting away
from you. Let's hear the worst. What are you going to do with
me? Arrest me? Speak out, man! You can't sit there and play
with me like a cat with a mouse."
"Give him a cigar," said Holmes. "Bite on that, Captain
Crocker, and don't let your nerves run away with you. I should
not sit here smoking with you if I thought that you were a
common criminal, you may be sure of that. Be frank with me
and we may do some good. Play tricks with me, and I'll crush
"What do you wish me to do?"
"To give me a true account of all that happened at the Abbey
Grange last night — a true account, mind you, with nothing added
and nothing taken off. I know so much already that if you go one
inch off the straight, I'll blow this police whistle from my
window and the affair goes out of my hands forever."
The sailor thought for a little. Then he struck his leg with his
great sunburned hand.
"I'll chance it," he cried. "I believe you are a man of your
word, and a white man, and I'll tell you the whole story. But one
thing I will say first. So far as I am concerned, I regret nothing
and I fear nothing, and I would do it all again and be proud of
the job. Damn the beast, if he had as many lives as a cat, he
would owe them all to me! But it's the lady, Mary — Mary
Fraser — for never will I call her by that accursed name. When I
think of getting her into trouble, I who would give my life just to
bring one smile to her dear face, it's that that turns my soul into
water. And yet — and yet — what less could I do? I'll tell you my
story, gentlemen, and then I'll ask you, as man to man, what
less could I do?
"I must go back a bit. You seem to know everything, so I
expect that you know that I met her when she was a passenger
and I was first officer of the Rock of Gibraltar. From the first
day I met her, she was the only woman to me. Every day of that
voyage I loved her more, and many a time since have I kneeled
down in the darkness of the night watch and kissed the deck of
that ship because I knew her dear feet had trod it. She was never
engaged to me. She treated me as fairly as ever a woman treated
a man. I have no complaint to make. It was all love on my side,
and all good comradeship and friendship on hers. When we
parted she was a free woman, but I could never again be a free
"Next time I came back from sea, I heard of her marriage.
Well, why shouldn't she marry whom she liked? Title and
money — who could carry them better than she? She was born for
all that is beautiful and dainty. I didn't grieve over her marriage.
I was not such a selfish hound as that. I just rejoiced that good
luck had come her way, and that she had not thrown herself
away on a penniless sailor. That's how I loved Mary Fraser.
"Well, I never thought to see her again, but last voyage I was
promoted, and the new boat was not yet launched, so I had to
wait for a couple of months with my people at Sydenham. One
day out in a country lane I met Theresa Wright, her old maid.
She told me all about her, about him, about everything. I tell
you, gentlemen, it nearly drove me mad. This drunken hound,
that he should dare to raise his hand to her, whose boots he was
not worthy to lick! I met Theresa again. Then I met Mary
herself — and met her again. Then she would meet me no more.
But the other day I had a notice that I was to start on my voyage
within a week, and I determined that I would see her once before
I left. Theresa was always my friend, for she loved Mary and
hated this villain almost as much as I did. From her I learned the
ways of the house. Mary used to sit up reading in her own little
room downstairs. I crept round there last night and scratched at
the window. At first she would not open to me, but in her heart I
know that now she loves me, and she could not leave me in the
frosty night. She whispered to me to come round to the big front
window, and I found it open before me, so as to let me into the
dining-room. Again I heard from her own lips things that made
my blood boil, and again I cursed this brute who mishandled the
woman I loved. Well, gentlemen, I was standing with her just
inside the window, in all innocence, as God is my judge, when
he rushed like a madman into the room, called her the vilest
name that a man could use to a woman, and welted her across
the face with the stick he had in his hand. I had sprung for the
poker, and it was a fair fight between us. See here, on my arm,
where his first blow fell. Then it was my turn, and I went
through him as if he had been a rotten pumpkin. Do you think I
was sorry? Not I! It was his life or mine, but far more than that,
it was his life or hers, for how could I leave her in the power of
this madman? That was how I killed him. Was I wrong? Well,
then, what would either of you gentlemen have done, if you had
been in my position?"
"She had screamed when he struck her, and that brought old
Theresa down from the room above. There was a bottle of wine
on the sideboard, and I opened it and poured a little between
Mary's lips, for she was half dead with shock. Then I took a
drop myself. Theresa was as cool as ice, and it was her plot as
much as mine. We must make it appear that burglars had done
the thing. Theresa kept on repeating our story to her mistress,
while I swarmed up and cut the rope of the bell. Then I lashed
her in her chair, and frayed out the end of the rope to make it
look natural, else they would wonder how in the world a burglar
could have got up there to cut it. Then I gathered up a few plates
and pots of silver, to carry out the idea of the robbery, and there
I left them, with orders to give the alarm when I had a quarter of
an hour's start. I dropped the silver into the pond, and made off
for Sydenham, feeling that for once in my life I had done a real
good night's work. And that's the truth and the whole truth, Mr.
Holmes, if it costs me my neck."
Holmes smoked for some time in silence. Then he crossed the
room, and shook our visitor by the hand.
"That's what I think," said he. "I know that every word is
true, for you have hardly said a word which I did not know. No
one but an acrobat or a sailor could have got up to that bell-rope
from the bracket, and no one but a sailor could have made the
knots with which the cord was fastened to the chair. Only once
had this lady been brought into contact with sailors, and that was
on her voyage, and it was someone of her own class of life,
since she was trying hard to shield him, and so showing that she
loved him. You see how easy it was for me to lay my hands
upon you when once I had started upon the right trail."
"I thought the police never could have seen through our
"And the police haven't, nor will they, to the best of my
belief. Now, look here, Captain Crocker, this is a very serious
matter, though I am willing to admit that you acted under the
most extreme provocation to which any man could be subjected.
I am not sure that in defence of your own life your action will
not be pronounced legitimate. However, that is for a British jury
to decide. Meanwhile I have so much sympathy for you that, if
you choose to disappear in the next twenty-four hours, I will
promise you that no one will hinder you."
"And then it will all come out?"
"Certainly it will come out."
The sailor flushed with anger.
"What sort of proposal is that to make a man? I know enough
of law to understand that Mary would be held as accomplice. Do
you think I would leave her alone to face the music while I slunk
away? No, sir, let them do their worst upon me, but for heaven's
sake, Mr. Holmes, find some way of keeping my poor Mary out
of the courts. "
Holmes for a second time held out his hand to the sailor.
"I was only testing you, and you ring true every time. Well, it
is a great responsibility that I take upon myself, but I have given
Hopkins an excellent hint, and if he can't avail himself of it I can
do no more. See here, Captain Crocker, we'll do this in due
form of law. You are the prisoner. Watson, you are a British
jury, and I never met a man who was more eminently fitted to
represent one. I am the judge. Now, gentleman of the jury, you
have heard the evidence. Do you find the prisoner guilty or not
"Not guilty, my lord," said I.
"Vox populi, vox Dei. You are acquitted, Captain Crocker.
So long as the law does not find some other victim you are safe
from me. Come back to this lady in a year, and may her future
and yours justify us in the judgment which we have pronounced
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