The Resident Patient is one of the short stories about Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in The Strand Magazine in 1894. It is now in the public domain. It has been transferred to electronic text by optical character recognition, and this copy has been reformatted for E2 and cleaned of OCR errors by rootbeer277. A paper version can be found in a collection of short stories called Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
Back and forth the last few stories have taken us, before and after Watson's marriage after The Sign of Four, and here we return to before, when he was still living with Holmes at 221b Baker Street. On a rainy October day, a doctor specializing in nervous disorders calls on Holmes to explain the strange appearance of an old man and a young man at his practice, and the apparent intrusion of the younger on his resident patient's room while he was out for a walk. Sherlock's deductive process is brought more to the forefront in this story than many of the previous ones, and it's this fascinating process which is the highlight of the story.
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The Resident Patient
In glancing over the somewhat incoherent series of Memoirs
with which I have endeavoured to illustrate a few of the mental
peculiarities of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have been
struck by the difficulty which I have experienced in picking out
examples which shall in every way answer my purpose. For in
those cases in which Holmes has performed some tour de force
of analytical reasoning, and has demonstrated the value of his
peculiar methods of investigation, the facts themselves have
often been so slight or so commonplace that I could not feel
justified in laying them before the public. On the other hand, it
has frequently happened that he has been concerned in some
research where the facts have been of the most remarkable and
dramatic character, but where the share which he has himself
taken in determining their causes has been less pronounced than
I, as his biographer, could wish. The small matter which I have
chronicled under the heading of A Study in Scarlet, and that
other later one connected with the loss of the "Gloria Scott", may
serve as examples of this Scylla and Charybdis which are forever
threatening the historian. It may be that in the business of which
I am now about to write the part which my friend played is not
sufficiently accentuated; and yet the whole train of circumstances
is so remarkable that I cannot bring myself to omit it entirely
from this series.
It had been a close, rainy day in October. Our blinds were
half-drawn, and Holmes lay curled upon the sofa, reading and
re-reading a letter which he had received by the morning post.
For myself, my term of service in India had trained me to stand
heat better than cold, and a thermometer of ninety was no
hardship. But the paper was uninteresting. Parliament had risen.
Everybody was out of town, and I yearned for the glades of the
New Forest or the shingle of Southsea. A depleted bank account
had caused me to postpone my holiday, and as to my companion, neither the country nor the sea presented the slightest attraction to him. He loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of
people, with his filaments stretching out and running through
them, responsive to every little rumour or suspicion of unsolved
crime. Appreciation of nature found no place among his many
gifts, and his only change was when he turned his mind from the
evildoer of the town to track down his brother of the country.
Finding that Holmes was too absorbed for conversation, I had
tossed aside the barren paper, and, leaning back in my chair I
fell into a brown study. Suddenly my companion's voice broke
in upon my thoughts.
"You are right, Watson," said he. "It does seem a very
preposterous way of settling a dispute."
"Most preposterous!" I exclaimed, and then, suddenly realizing how he had echoed the inmost thought of my soul, I sat up in
my chair and stared at him in blank amazement.
"What is this, Holmes?" I cried. "This is beyond anything
which I could have imagined."
He laughed heartily at my perplexity.
"You remember," said he, "that some little time ago, when I
read you the passage in one of Poe's sketches, in which a close
reasoner follows the unspoken thoughts of his companion, you
were inclined to treat the matter as a mere tour de force of the
author. On my remarking that I was constantly in the habit of
doing the same thing you expressed incredulity."
"Perhaps not with your tongue, my dear Watson, but certainly
with your eyebrows. So when I saw you throw down your paper
and enter upon a train of thought, I was very happy to have the
opportunity of reading it off, and eventually of breaking into it,
as a proof that I had been in rapport with you."
But I was still far from satisfied. "In the example which you
read to me," said I, "the reasoner drew his conclusions from the
actions of the man whom he observed. If I remember right, he
stumbled over a heap of stones, looked up at the stars, and so
on. But I have been seated quietly in my chair, and what clues
can I have given you?"
"You do yourself an injustice. The features are given to man
as the means by which he shall express his emotions, and yours
are faithful servants."
"Do you mean to say that you read my train of thoughts from
"Your features, and especially your eyes. Perhaps you cannot
yourself recall how your reverie commenced?"
"No, I cannot."
"Then I will tell you. After throwing down your paper, which
was the action which drew my attention to you, you sat for half a
minute with a vacant expression. Then your eyes fixed themselves upon your newly framed picture of General Gordon, and I
saw by the alteration in your face that a train of thought had been
started. But it did not lead very far. Your eyes turned across to
the unframed portrait of Henry Ward Beecher, which stands
upon the top of your books. You then glanced up at the wall, and
of course your meaning was obvious. You were thinking that if
the portrait were framed it would just cover that bare space and
correspond with Gordon's picture over there."
"You have followed me wonderfully!" I exclaimed.
"So far I could hardly have gone astray. But now your
thoughts went back to Beecher, and you looked hard across as if
you were studying the character in his features. Then your eyes
ceased to pucker, but you continued to look across, and your
face was thoughtful. You were recalling the incidents of Beecher's career. I was well aware that you could not do this
without thinking of the mission which he undertook on behalf of
the North at the time of the Civil War, for I remember you
expressing your passionate indignation at the way in which he
was received by the more turbulent of our people. You felt so
strongly about it that I knew you could not think of Beecher
without thinking of that also. When a moment later I saw your
eyes wander away from the picture, I suspected that your mind
had now turned to the Civil War, and when I observed that your
lips set, your eyes sparkled, and your hands clinched, I was
positive that you were indeed thinking of the gallantry which was
shown by both sides in that desperate struggle. But then, again,
your face grew sadder; you shook your head. You were dwelling
upon the sadness and horror and useless waste of life. Your hand
stole towards your own old wound, and a smile quivered on your
lips, which showed me that the ridiculous side of this method of
settling international questions had forced itself upon your mind.
At this point I agreed with you that it was preposterous, and was
glad to find that all my deductions had been correct.
"Absolutely!" said I. "And now that you have explained it, I
confess that I am as amazed as before."
"It was very superficial, my dear Watson, I assure you. I
should not have intruded it upon your attention had you not
shown some incredulity the other day. But the evening has
brought a breeze with it. What do you say to a ramble through
I was weary of our little sitting-room and gladly acquiesced.
For three hours we strolled about together, watching the ever-changing kaleidoscope of life as it ebbs and flows through Fleet
Street and the Strand. His characteristic talk, with its keen
observance of detail and subtle power of inference, held me
amused and enthralled. It was ten o'clock before we reached
Baker Street again. A brougham was waiting at our door.
"Hum! A doctor's — general practitioner, I perceive," said
Holmes. "Not been long in practice, but has a good deal to do.
Come to consult us, I fancy! Lucky we came back!"
I was sufficiently conversant with Holmes's methods to be
able to follow his reasoning, and to see that the nature and state
of the various medical instruments in the wicker basket which
hung in the lamp-light inside the brougham had given him the
data for his swift deduction. The light in our window above
showed that this late visit was indeed intended for us. With some
curiosity as to what could have sent a brother medico to us at
such an hour, I followed Holmes into our sanctum.
A pale, taper-faced man with sandy whiskers rose up from a
chair by the fire as we entered. His age may not have been more
than three or four and thirty, but his haggard expression and
unhealthy hue told of a life which had sapped his strength and
robbed him of his youth. His manner was nervous and shy, like
that of a sensitive gentleman, and the thin white hand which he
laid on the mantelpiece as he rose was that of an artist rather than
of a surgeon. His dress was quiet and sombre — a black frock-coat, dark trousers, and a touch of colour about his necktie.
"Good-evening, Doctor," said Holmes cheerily. "I am glad
to see that you have only been waiting a very few minutes."
"You spoke to my coachman, then?"
"No, it was the candle on the side-table that told me. Pray
resume your seat and let me know how I can serve you."
"My name is Dr. Percy Trevelyan," said our visitor, "and I
live at 403 Brook Street."
"Are you not the author of a monograph upon obscure nervous lesions?" I asked.
His pale cheeks flushed with pleasure at hearing that his work
was known to me.
"I so seldom hear of the work that I thought it was quite
dead," said he. "My publishers gave me a most discouraging
account of its sale. You are yourself, I presume, a medical man."
"A retired army surgeon."
"My own hobby has always been nervous disease. I should
wish to make it an absolute specialty, but of course a man must
take what he can get at first. This, however, is beside the
question, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I quite appreciate how
valuable your time is. The fact is that a very singular train of
events has occurred recently at my house in Brook Street, and
to-night they came to such a head that I felt it was quite
impossible for me to wait another hour before asking for your
advice and assistance."
Sherlock Holmes sat down and lit his pipe. "You are very
welcome to both," said he. "Pray let me have a detailed account
of what the circumstances are which have disturbed you."
"One or two of them are so trivial," said Dr. Trevelyan
"that really I am almost ashamed to mention them. But the
matter is so inexplicable, and the recent turn which it has taken
is so elaborate, that I shall lay it all before you, and you shall
judge what is essential and what is not.
"I am compelled, to begin with, to say something of my own
college career. I am a London University man, you know, and I
am sure that you will not think that I am unduly singing my own
praises if I say that my student career was considered by my
professors to be a very promising one. After I had graduated I
continued to devote myself to research, occupying a minor position in King's College Hospital, and I was fortunate enough to
excite considerable interest by my research into the pathology of
catalepsy, and finally to win the Bruce Pinkerton prize and
medal by the monograph on nervous lesions to which your friend
has just alluded. I should not go too far if I were to say that there
was a general impression at that time that a distinguished career
lay before me.
"But the one great stumbling-block lay in my want of capital.
As you will readily understand, a specialist who aims high is
compelled to start in one of a dozen streets in the Cavendish
Square quarter, all of which entail enormous rents and furnishing
expenses. Besides this preliminary outlay, he must be prepared
to keep himself for some years, and to hire a presentable carriage
and horse. To do this was quite beyond my power, and I could
only hope that by economy I might in ten years' time save
enough to enable me to put up my plate. Suddenly, however, an
unexpected incident opened up quite a new prospect to me.
"This was a visit from a gentleman of the name of Blessington,
who was a complete stranger to me. He came up into my room
one morning, and plunged into business in an instant.
" 'You are the same Percy Trevelyan who has had so distinguished a career and won a great prize lately?' said he.
" 'Answer me frankly,' he continued, 'for you will find it to
your interest to do so. You have all the cleverness which makes a
successful man. Have you the tact?'
"I could not help smiling at the abruptness of the question.
" 'l trust that I have my share,' I said.
" 'Any bad habits? Not drawn towards drink, eh?'
" 'Really, sir!' I cried.
" 'Quite right! That's all right! But I was bound to ask. With
all these qualities, why are you not in practice?'
"I shrugged my shoulders.
" 'Come, come!' said he in his bustling way. 'It's the old story.
More in your brains than in your pocket, eh? What would you
say if I were to start you in Brook Street?'
"I stared at him in astonishment.
" 'Oh, it's for my sake, not for yours,' he cried. 'I'll be
perfectly frank with you, and if it suits you it will suit me very
well. I have a few thousands to invest, d'ye see, and I think I'll
sink them in you.'
" 'But why?' I gasped.
" 'Well, it's just like any other speculation, and safer than
" 'What am I to do, then?'
" 'I'll tell you. I'll take the house, furnish it, pay the maids,
and run the whole place. All you have to do is just to wear out
your chair in the consulting-room. I'll let you have pocket-money and everything. Then you hand over to me three quarters
of what you earn, and you keep the other quarter for yourself.'
"This was the strange proposal, Mr. Holmes, with which the
man Blessington approached me. I won't weary you with the
account of how we bargained and negotiated. It ended in my
moving into the house next Lady Day, and starting in-practice on
very much the same conditions as he had suggested. He came
himself to live with me in the character of a resident patient. His
heart was weak, it appears, and he needed constant medical
supervision. He turned the two best rooms of the first floor into a
sitting-room and bedroom for himself. He was a man of singular
habits, shunning company and very seldom going out. His life
was irregular, but in one respect he was regularity itself. Every
evening, at the same hour, he walked into the consulting-room,
examined the books, put down five and three-pence for every
guinea that I had earned, and carried the rest off to the strong-box in his own room.
"I may say with confidence that he never had occasion to
regret his speculation. From the first it was a success. A few
good cases and the reputation which I had won in the hospital
brought me rapidly to the front, and during the last few years I
have made him a rich man.
"So much, Mr. Holmes, for my past history and my relations
with Mr. Blessington. It only remains for me now to tell you
what has occurred to bring me here tonight.
"Some weeks ago Mr. Blessington came down to me in, as it
seemed to me, a state of considerable agitation. He spoke of
some burglary which, he said, had been committed in the West
End, and he appeared, I remember, to be quite unnecessarily
excited about it, declaring that a day should not pass before we
should add stronger bolts to our windows and doors. For a week
he continued to be in a peculiar state of restlessness, peering
continually out of the windows, and ceasing to take the short
walk which had usually been the prelude to his dinner. From his
manner it struck me that he was in mortal dread of something or
somebody, but when I questioned him upon the point he became
so offensive that I was compelled to drop the subject. Gradually,
as time passed, his fears appeared to die away, and he renewed
his former habits, when a fresh event reduced him to the pitiable
state of prostration in which he now lies.
"What happened was this. Two days ago I received the letter
which I now read to you. Neither address nor date is attached to it.
A Russian nobleman who is now resident in England [it
runs], would be glad to avail himself of the professional
assistance of Dr. Percy Trevelyan. He has been for some
years a victim to cataleptic attacks, on which, as is well
known, Dr. Trevelyan is an authority. He proposes to call at
about a quarter-past six to-morrow evening, if Dr. Trevelyan
will make it convenient to be at home.
"This letter interested me deeply, because the chief difficulty
in the study of catalepsy is the rareness of the disease. You may
believe, then, that I was in my consulting-room when, at the
appointed hour, the page showed in the patient.
"He was an elderly man, thin, demure, and commonplace — by
no means the conception one forms of a Russian nobleman. I
was much more struck by the appearance of his companion. This
was a tall young man, surprisingly handsome, with a dark, fierce
face, and the limbs and chest of a Hercules. He had his hand
under the other's arm as they entered, and helped him to a chair
with a tenderness which one would hardly have expected from
" 'You will excuse my coming in, Doctor,' said he to me,
speaking English with a slight lisp. 'This is my father, and his
health is a matter of the most overwhelming importance to me.'
"I was touched by this filial anxiety. 'You would, perhaps,
care to remain during the consultation?' said I.
" 'Not for the world,' he cried with a gesture of horror. 'It is
more painful to me than I can express. If I were to see my father
in one of these dreadful seizures I am convinced that I should
never survive it. My own nervous system is an exceptionally
sensitive one. With your permission, I will remain in the waiting-room while you go into my father's case.'
"To this, of course, I assented, and the young man withdrew.
The patient and I then plunged into a discussion of his case, of
which I took exhaustive notes. He was not remarkable for intelligence, and his answers were frequently obscure, which I attributed to his limited acquaintance with our language. Suddenly,
however, as I sat writing, he ceased to give any answer at all to
my inquiries, and on my turning towards him I was shocked to
see that he was sitting bolt upright in his chair, staring at me with
a perfectly blank and rigid face. He was again in the grip of his
"My first feeling, as I have just said, was one of pity and
horror. My second, I fear, was rather one of professional satisfaction. I made notes of my patient's pulse and temperature,
tested the rigidity of his muscles, and examined his reflexes.
There was nothing markedly abnormal in any of these conditions, which harmonized with my former experiences. I had
obtained good results in such cases by the inhalation of nitrite of
amyl, and the present seemed an admirable opportunity of
testing its virtues. The bottle was downstairs in my laboratory,
so, leaving my patient seated in his chair, I ran down to get it.
There was some little delay in finding it — five minutes, let us
say — and then I returned. Imagine my amazement to find the
room empty and the patient gone.
"Of course, my first act was to run into the waiting-room.
The son had gone also. The hall door had been closed, but not
shut. My page who admits patients is a new boy and by no
means quick. He waits downstairs and runs up to show patients
out when I ring the consulting-room bell. He had heard nothing,
and the affair remained a complete mystery. Mr. Blessington
came in from his walk shortly afterwards, but I did not say
anything to him upon the subject, for, to tell the truth, I have got
in the way of late of holding as little communication with him as
"Well, I never thought that I should see anything more of the
Russian and his son, so you can imagine my amazement when,
at the very same hour this evening, they both came marching
into my consulting-room, just as they had done before.
" 'I feel that I owe you a great many apologies for my abrupt
departure yesterday, Doctor,' said my patient.
" 'I confess that I was very much surprised at it,' said I.
" 'Well, the fact is,' he remarked, 'that when I recover from
these attacks my mind is always very clouded as to all that has
gone before. I woke up in a strange room, as it seemed to me,
and made my way out into the street in a sort of dazed way when
you were absent.'
" 'And I,' said the son, 'seeing my father pass the door of the
waiting-room, naturally thought that the consultation had come
to an end. It was not until we had reached home that I began to
realize the true state of affairs.'
" 'Well,' said I, laughing, 'there is no harm done except that
you puzzled me terribly; so if you, sir, would kindly step into the
waiting-room I shall be happy to continue our consultation which
was brought to so abrupt an ending.'
"For half an hour or so I discussed the old gentleman's
symptoms with him, and then, having prescribed for him, I saw
him go off upon the arm of his son.
"I have told you that Mr. Blessington generally chose this
hour of the day for his exercise. He came in shortly afterwards
and passed upstairs. An instant later I heard him running down,
and he burst into my consulting-room like a man who is mad
" 'Who has been in my room?' he cried.
" 'No one,' said I.
" 'It's a lie!' he yelled. 'Come up and look!'
"I passed over the grossness of his language, as he seemed
half out of his mind with fear. When I went upstairs with him he
pointed to several footprints upon the light carpet.
" 'Do you mean to say those are mine?' he cried.
"They were certainly very much larger than any which he
could have made, and were evidently quite fresh. It rained hard
this afternoon, as you know, and my patients were the only
people who called. It must have been the case, then, that the
man in the waiting-room had, for some unknown reason, while I
was busy with the other, ascended to the room of my resident
patient. Nothing had been touched or taken, but there were the
footprints to prove that the intrusion was an undoubted fact.
"Mr. Blessington seemed more excited over the matter than I
should have thought possible, though of course it was enough to
disturb anybody's peace of mind. He actually sat crying in an
armchair, and I could hardly get him to speak coherently. It was
his suggestion that I should come round to you, and of course I
at once saw the propriety of it, for certainly the incident is a very
singular one, though he appears to completely overrate its importance. If you would only come back with me in my brougham,
you would at least be able to soothe him, though I can hardly
hope that you will be able to explain this remarkable occurrence."
Sherlock Holmes had listened to this long narrative with an
intentness which showed me that his interest was keenly aroused.
His face was as impassive as ever, but his lids had drooped more
heavily over his eyes, and his smoke had curled up more thickly
from his pipe to emphasize each curious episode in the doctor's
tale. As our visitor concluded, Holmes sprang up without a
word, handed me my hat, picked his own from the table, and
followed Dr. Trevelyan to the door. Within a quarter of an hour
we had been dropped at the door of the physician's residence in
Brook Street, one of those sombre, flat-faced houses which one
associates with a West End practice. A small page admitted us,
and we began at once to ascend the broad, well-carpeted stair.
But a singular interruption brought us to a standstill. The light
at the top was suddenly whisked out, and from the darkness
came a reedy, quavering voice.
"I have a pistol," it cried. "I give you my word that I'll fire
if you come any nearer."
"This really grows outrageous, Mr. Blessington," cried Dr.
"Oh, then it is you, Doctor." said the voice with a great
heave of relief. "But those other gentlemen, are they what they
pretend to be ?"
We were conscious of a long scrutiny out of the darkness.
"Yes, yes, it's all right," said the voice at last. "You can
come up, and I am sorry if my precautions have annoyed you."
He relit the stair gas as he spoke, and we saw before us a
singular-looking man, whose appearance, as well as his voice,
testified to his jangled nerves. He was very fat, but had apparently at some time been much fatter, so that the skin hung about
his face in loose pouches, like the cheeks of a bloodhound. He
was of a sickly colour, and his thin, sandy hair seemed to bristle
up with the intensity of his emotion. In his hand he held a pistol,
but he thrust it into his pocket as we advanced.
"Good-evening, Mr. Holmes," said he. "I am sure I am very
much obliged to you for coming round. No one ever needed your
advice more than I do. I suppose that Dr. Trevelyan has told you
of this most unwarrantable intrusion into my rooms."
"Quite so," said Holmes. "Who are these two men, Mr.
Blessington, and why do they wish to molest you?"
"Well, well," said the resident patient in a nervous fashion,
"of course it is hard to say that. You can hardly expect me to
answer that, Mr. Holmes."
"Do you mean that you don't know?"
"Come in here, if you please. Just have the kindness to step in
He led the way into his bedroom, which was large and comfortably furnished.
"You see that," said he, pointing to a big black box at the
end of his bed. "I have never been a very rich man, Mr.
Holmes — never made but one investment in my life, as Dr.
Trevelyan would tell you. But I don't believe in bankers. I
would never trust a banker, Mr. Holmes. Between ourselves,
what little I have is in that box, so you can understand what it
means to me when unknown people force themselves into my
Holmes looked at Blessington in his questioning way and
shook his head.
"I cannot possibly advise you if you try to deceive me," said
"But I have told you everything."
Holmes turned on his heel with a gesture of disgust. "Good-night, Dr. Trevelyan," said he.
"And no advice for me?" cried Blessington in a breaking
"My advice to you, sir, is to speak the truth."
A minute later we were in the street and walking for home.
We had crossed Oxford Street and were halfway down Harley
Street before I could get a word from my companion.
"Sorry to bring you out on such a fool's errand, Watson," he
said at last. "It is an interesting case, too, at the bottom of it."
"I can make little of it," I confessed.
"Well, it is quite evident that there are two men — more
perhaps, but at least two — who are determined for some reason
to get at this fellow Blessington. I have no doubt in my mind that
both on the first and on the second occasion that young man
penetrated to Blessington's room, while his confederate, by an
ingenious device, kept the doctor from interfering."
"And the catalepsy?"
"A fraudulent imitation, Watson, though I should hardly dare
to hint as much to our specialist. It is a very easy complaint to
imitate. I have done it myself."
"By the purest chance Blessington was out on each occasion.
Their reason for choosing so unusual an hour for a consultation
was obviously to insure that there should be no other patient in
the waiting-room. It just happened, however, that this hour
coincided with Blessington's constitutional, which seems to show
that they were not very well acquainted with his daily routine. Of
course, if they had been merely after plunder they would at least
have made some attempt to search for it. Besides, I can read in a
man's eye when it is his own skin that he is frightened for. It is
inconceivable that this fellow could have made two such vindictive enemies as these appear to be without knowing of it. I hold
it, therefore, to be certain that he does know who these men are,
and that for reasons of his own he suppresses it. It is just
possible that to-morrow may find him in a more communicative
"Is there not one alternative," I suggested, "grotesquely improbable, no doubt, but still just conceivable? Might the whole
story of the cataleptic Russian and his son be a concoction of Dr.
Trevelyan's, who has, for his own purposes, been in Blessington's
I saw in the gas-light that Holmes wore an amused smile at
this brilliant departure of mine.
"My dear fellow," said he, "it was one of the first solutions
which occurred to me, but I was soon able to corroborate the
doctor's tale. This young man has left prints upon the stair-carpet
which made it quite superfluous for me to ask to see those which
he had made in the room. When I tell you that his shoes were
square-toed instead of being pointed like Blessington's, and were
quite an inch and a third longer than the doctor's, you will
acknowledge that there can be no doubt as to his individuality.
But we may sleep on it now, for I shall be surprised if we do not
hear something further from Brook Street in the morning."
Sherlock Holmes's prophecy was soon fulfilled, and in a
dramatic fashion. At half-past seven next morning, in the first
dim glimmer of daylight, I found him standing by my bedside in
"There's a brougham waiting for us, Watson," said he.
"What's the matter, then?"
"The Brook Street business."
"Any fresh news?"
"Tragic, but ambiguous," said he, pulling up the blind. "Look
at this — a sheet from a notebook, with 'For God's sake come at
once. P. T.,' scrawled upon it in pencil. Our friend, the doctor,
was hard put to it when he wrote this. Come along, my dear
fellow, for it's an urgent call."
In a quarter of an hour or so we were back at the physician's
house. He came running out to meet us with a face of horror.
"Oh, such a business!" he cried with his hands to his temples.
"Blessington has committed suicide!"
"Yes, he hanged himself during the night."
We had entered, and the doctor had preceded us into what was
evidently his waiting-room.
"I really hardly know what I am doing," he cried. "The
police are already upstairs. It has shaken me most dreadfully."
"When did you find it out?"
"He has a cup of tea taken in to him early every morning.
When the maid entered, about seven, there the unfortunate fellow
was hanging in the middle of the room. He had tied his cord to
the hook on which the heavy lamp used to hang, and he had
jumped off from the top of the very box that he showed us
Holmes stood for a moment in deep thought.
"With your permission," said he at last, "I should like to go
upstairs and look into the matter."
We both ascended, followed by the doctor.
It was a dreadful sight which met us as we entered the
bedroom door. I have spoken of the impression of flabbiness
which this man Blessington conveyed. As he dangled from the
hook it was exaggerated and intensified until he was scarce
human in his appearance. The neck was drawn out like a plucked
chicken's, making the rest of him seem the more obese and
unnatural by the contrast. He was clad only in his long night-dress, and his swollen ankles and ungainly feet protruded starkly
from beneath it. Beside him stood a smart-looking police-inspector,
who was taking notes in a pocketbook
"Ah, Mr. Holmes," said he heartily as my friend entered, "I
am delighted to see you."
"Good-morning, Lanner," answered Holmes, "you won't think
me an intruder, I am sure. Have you heard of the events which
led up to this affair?"
"Yes, I heard something of them."
"Have you formed any opinion?"
"As far as I can see, the man has been driven out of his senses
by fright. The bed has been well slept in, you see. There's his
impression, deep enough. It's about five in the morning, you
know, that suicides are most common. That would be about his
time for hanging himself. It seems to have been a very deliberate
"I should say that he has been dead about three hours, judging
by the rigidity of the muscles," said I.
"Noticed anything peculiar about the room?" asked Holmes.
"Found a screw-driver and some screws on the wash-hand
stand. Seems to have smoked heavily during the night, too. Here
are four cigar-ends that I picked out of the fireplace."
"Hum!" said Holmes, "have you got his cigar-holder?"
"No, I have seen none."
"His cigar-case, then?"
"Yes, it was in his coat-pocket."
Holmes opened it and smelled the single cigar which it
"Oh, this is a Havana, and these others are cigars of the
peculiar sort which are imported by the Dutch from their East
Indian colonies. They are usually wrapped in straw, you know,
and are thinner for their length than any other brand." He picked
up the four ends and examined them with his pocket-lens.
"Two of these have been smoked from a holder and two
without," said he. "Two have been cut by a not very sharp
knife, and two have had the ends bitten off by a set of excellent
teeth. This is no suicide, Mr. Lanner. It is a very deeply planned
and cold-blooded murder."
"Impossible!" cried the inspector.
"Why should anyone murder a man in so clumsy a fashion as
by hanging him?"
"That is what we have to find out."
"How could they get in?"
"Through the front door."
"It was barred in the morning."
"Then it was barred after them."
"How do you know?"
"I saw their traces. Excuse me a moment, and I may be able
to give you some further information about it."
He went over to the door, and turning the lock he examined it
in his methodical way. Then he took out the key, which was on
the inside, and inspected that also. The bed, the carpet, the
chairs, the mantelpiece, the dead body, and the rope were each
in turn examined, until at last he professed himself satisfied, and
with my aid and that of the inspector cut down the wretched
object and laid it reverently under a sheet.
"How about this rope?" he asked.
"It is cut off this," said Dr. Trevelyan, drawing a large coil
from under the bed. "He was morbidly nervous of fire, and
always kept this beside him, so that he might escape by the
window in case the stairs were burning."
"That must have saved them trouble," said Holmes thoughtfully. "Yes, the actual facts are very plain, and I shall be
surprised if by the afternoon I cannot give you the reasons for
them as well. I will take this photograph of Blessington, which I
see upon the mantelpiece, as it may help me in my inquiries."
"But you have told us nothing!" cried the doctor.
"Oh, there can be no doubt as to the sequence of events,"
said Holmes. "There were three of them in it: the young man,
the old man, and a third, to whose identity I have no clue. The
first two, I need hardly remark, are the same who masqueraded
as the Russian count and his son, so we can give a very full
description of them. They were admitted by a confederate inside
the house. If I might offer you a word of advice. Inspector, it
would be to arrest the page, who, as I understand, has only
recently come into your service, Doctor."
"The young imp cannot be found," said Dr. Trevelyan; "the
maid and the cook have just been searching for him."
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"He has played a not unimportant part in this drama," said
he. "The three men having ascended the stairs, which they did
on tiptoe, the elder man first, the younger man second, and the
unknown man in the rear —"
"My dear Holmes!" I ejaculated.
"Oh, there could be no question as to the superimposing of
the footmarks. I had the advantage of learning which was which
last night. They ascended, then, to Mr. Blessington's room, the
door of which they found to be locked. With the help of a wire,
however, they forced round the key. Even without the lens you
will perceive, by the scratches on this ward, where the pressure
"On entering the room their first proceeding must have been
to gag Mr. Blessington. He may have been asleep, or he may
have been so paralyzed with terror as to have been unable to cry
out. These walls are thick, and it is conceivable that his shriek, if
he had time to utter one, was unheard.
"Having secured him, it is evident to me that a consultation of
some sort was held. Probably it was something in the nature of a
judicial proceeding. It must have lasted for some time, for it was
then that these cigars were smoked. The older man sat in that
wicker chair; it was he who used the cigar-holder. The younger
man sat over yonder; he knocked his ash off against the chest of
drawers. The third fellow paced up and down. Blessington, I
think, sat upright in the bed, but of that I cannot be absolutely
"Well, it ended by their taking Blessington and hanging him.
The matter was so prearranged that it is my belief that they
brought with them some sort of block or pulley which might
serve as a gallows. That screw-driver and those screws were, as I
conceive, for fixing it up. Seeing the hook, however, they
naturally saved themselves the trouble. Having finished their
work they made off, and the door was barred behind them by
We had all listened with the deepest interest to this sketch of
the night's doings, which Holmes had deduced from signs so
subtle and minute that, even when he had pointed them out to us,
we could scarcely follow him in his reasonings. The inspector
hurried away on the instant to make inquiries about the page,
while Holmes and I returned to Baker Street for breakfast.
"I'll be back by three," said he when we had finished our
meal. "Both the inspector and the doctor will meet me here at
that hour, and I hope by that time to have cleared up any little
obscurity which the case may still present."
Our visitors arrived at the appointed time, but it was a quarter
to four before my friend put in an appearance. From his expression as he entered, however, I could see that all had gone well
"Any news, Inspector?"
"We have got the boy, sir."
"Excellent, and I have got the men."
"You have got them!" we cried, all three.
"Well, at least I have got their identity. This so-called
Blessington is, as I expected, well known at headquarters, and so
are his assailants. Their names are Biddle, Hayward, and Moffat."
"The Worthingdon bank gang," cried the inspector.
"Precisely," said Holmes.
"Then Blessington must have been Sutton."
"Exactly," said Holmes.
"Why, that makes it as clear as crystal," said the inspector.
But Trevelyan and I looked at each other in bewilderment.
"You must surely remember the great Worthingdon bank
business," said Holmes. "Five men were in it — these four and a
fifth called Cartwright. Tobin, the caretaker, was murdered, and
the thieves got away with seven thousand pounds. This was in
1875. They were all five arrested, but the evidence against them
was by no means conclusive. This Blessington or Sutton, who
was the worst of the gang, turned informer. On his evidence
Cartwright was hanged and the other three got fifteen years
apiece. When they got out the other day, which was some years
before their full term, they set themselves, as you perceive, to
hunt down the traitor and to avenge the death of their comrade
upon him. Twice they tried to get at him and failed; a third time
you see, it came off. Is there anything further which I can
explain, Dr. Trevelyan?"
"I think you have made it all remarkably clear," said the
doctor. "No doubt the day on which he was so perturbed was the
day when he had seen of their release in the newspapers."
"Quite so. His talk about a burglary was the merest blind."
"But why could he not tell you this?"
"Well, my dear sir, knowing the vindictive character of his
old associates, he was trying to hide his own identity from
everybody as long as he could. His secret was a shameful one
and he could not bring himself to divulge it. However, wretch as
he was, he was still living under the shield of British law, and I
have no doubt, Inspector, that you will see that, though that
shield may fail to guard, the sword of justice is still there to
Such were the singular circumstances in connection with the
Resident Patient and the Brook Street Doctor. From that night
nothing has been seen of the three murderers by the police, and it
is surmised at Scotland Yard that they were among the passengers of the ill-fated steamer Norah Creina, which was lost some
years ago with all hands upon the Portuguese coast, some leagues
to the north of Oporto. The proceedings against the page broke
down for want of evidence, and the Brook Street Mystery, as it
was called, has never until now been fully dealt with in any
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