Why, Mr. Holmes, I thought you knew things, said
he. I suppose, then, if you have never heard of Godfrey Staunton, you dont
know Cyril Overton either?
Holmes shook his head good humouredly.
Great Scott! cried the athlete. Why, I was
first reserve for England against Wales, and Ive skippered the Varsity all
this year. But thats nothing! I didnt think there was a soul in England who
didnt know Godfrey Staunton, the crack three-quarter, Cambridge, Blackheath, and
five Internationals. Good Lord! Mr. Holmes, where have you lived?
Holmes laughed at the young giants naive astonishment.
You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overtona
sweeter and healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many sections of society, but
never, I am happy to say, into amateur sport, which is the best and soundest thing in
England. However, your unexpected visit this morning shows me that even in that world of
fresh air and fair play, there may be work for me to do. So now, my good sir, I beg you to
sit down and to tell me, slowly and quietly, exactly what it is that has occurred, and how
you desire that I should help you.
Young Overtons face assumed the bothered look of the man
who is more accustomed to using his muscles than his wits, but by degrees, with many
repetitions and obscurities which I may omit from his narrative, he laid his strange story
Its this way, Mr. Holmes. As I have said, I am the
skipper of the Rugger team of Cambridge Varsity, and Godfrey Staunton is my best
man. To-morrow we play Oxford. Yesterday we all came up, and we settled at Bentleys
private hotel. At ten oclock I went round and saw that all the fellows had gone to
roost, for I believe in strict training and plenty of sleep to keep a team fit. I had a
word or two with Godfrey before he turned in. He seemed to me to be pale and bothered. I
asked him what was the matter. He said he was all right just a touch of headache. I
bade him good-night and left him. Half an hour later, the porter tells me that a
rough-looking man with a beard called with a note for Godfrey. He had not gone to bed, and
the note was taken to his room. Godfrey read it, and fell back in a chair as if he had
been pole-axed. The porter was so scared that he was going to fetch me, but Godfrey
stopped him, had a drink of water, and pulled himself together. Then he went downstairs,
said a few words to the man who was waiting in the hall, and the two of them went off
together. The last that the porter saw of them, they were almost running down the street
in the direction of the  Strand.
This morning Godfreys room was empty, his bed had never been slept in, and his
things were all just as I had seen them the night before. He had gone off at a
moments notice with this stranger, and no word has come from him since. I dont
believe he will ever come back. He was a sportsman, was Godfrey, down to his marrow, and
he wouldnt have stopped his training and let in his skipper if it were not for some
cause that was too strong for him. No: I feel as if he were gone for good, and we should
never see him again.
Sherlock Holmes listened with the deepest attention to this
What did you do? he asked.
I wired to Cambridge to learn if anything had been heard
of him there. I have had an answer. No one has seen him.
Could he have got back to Cambridge?
Yes, there is a late trainquarter-past
But, so far as you can ascertain, he did not take
No, he has not been seen.
What did you do next?
I wired to Lord Mount-James.
Why to Lord Mount-James?
Godfrey is an orphan, and Lord Mount-James is his
nearest relativehis uncle, I believe.
Indeed. This throws new light upon the matter. Lord
Mount-James is one of the richest men in England.
So Ive heard Godfrey say.
And your friend was closely related?
Yes, he was his heir, and the old boy is nearly
eightycram full of gout, too. They say he could chalk his billiard-cue with his
knuckles. He never allowed Godfrey a shilling in his life, for he is an absolute miser,
but it will all come to him right enough.
Have you heard from Lord Mount-James?
What motive could your friend have in going to Lord
Well, something was worrying him the night before, and
if it was to do with money it is possible that he would make for his nearest relative, who
had so much of it, though from all I have heard he would not have much chance of getting
it. Godfrey was not fond of the old man. He would not go if he could help it.
Well, we can soon determine that. If your friend was
going to his relative, Lord Mount-James, you have then to explain the visit of this
rough-looking fellow at so late an hour, and the agitation that was caused by his
Cyril Overton pressed his hands to his head. I can make
nothing of it, said he.
Well, well, I have a clear day, and I shall be happy to
look into the matter, said Holmes. I should strongly recommend you to make
your preparations for your match without reference to this young gentleman. It must, as
you say, have been an overpowering necessity which tore him away in such a fashion, and
the same necessity is likely to hold him away. Let us step round together to the hotel,
and see if the porter can throw any fresh light upon the matter.
Sherlock Holmes was a past-master in the art of putting a
humble witness at his ease, and very soon, in the privacy of Godfrey Stauntons
abandoned room, he had extracted all that the porter had to tell. The visitor of the night
before was not a gentleman, neither was he a workingman. He was simply what the porter  described as a
medium-looking chap, a man of fifty, beard grizzled, pale face, quietly
dressed. He seemed himself to be agitated. The porter had observed his hand trembling when
he had held out the note. Godfrey Staunton had crammed the note into his pocket. Staunton
had not shaken hands with the man in the hall. They had exchanged a few sentences, of
which the porter had only distinguished the one word time. Then they had
hurried off in the manner described. It was just half-past ten by the hall clock.
Let me see, said Holmes, seating himself on
Stauntons bed. You are the day porter, are you not?
Yes, sir, I go off duty at eleven.
The night porter saw nothing, I suppose?
No, sir, one theatre party came in late. No one
Were you on duty all day yesterday?
Did you take any messages to Mr. Staunton?
Yes, sir, one telegram.
Ah! thats interesting. What oclock was
Where was Mr. Staunton when he received it?
Here in his room.
Were you present when he opened it?
Yes, sir, I waited to see if there was an answer.
Well, was there?
Yes, sir, he wrote an answer.
Did you take it?
No, he took it himself.
But he wrote it in your presence?
Yes, sir. I was standing by the door, and he with his
back turned to that table. When he had written it, he said: All right, porter, I
will take this myself.
What did he write it with?
A pen, sir.
Was the telegraphic form one of these on the
Yes, sir, it was the top one.
Holmes rose. Taking the forms, he carried them over to the
window and carefully examined that which was uppermost.
It is a pity he did not write in pencil, said he,
throwing them down again with a shrug of disappointment. As you have no doubt
frequently observed, Watson, the impression usually goes througha fact which has
dissolved many a happy marriage. However, I can find no trace here. I rejoice, however, to
perceive that he wrote with a broad-pointed quill pen, and I can hardly doubt that we will
find some impression upon this blotting-pad. Ah, yes, surely this is the very thing!
He tore off a strip of the blotting-paper and turned towards
us the following hieroglyphic:
Overton was much excited. Hold it to the glass! he cried.
That is unnecessary, said Holmes. The paper
is thin, and the reverse will give the message. Here it is. He turned it over, and
So that is the tail end of the telegram which Godfrey
Staunton dispatched within a few hours of his disappearance. There are at least six words
of the message which have escaped us; but what remainsStand by us for
Gods sake! proves that this young man saw a formidable danger which
approached him, and from which someone else could protect him. Us,
mark you! Another person was involved. Who should it be but the pale-faced, bearded man,
who seemed himself in so nervous a state? What, then, is the connection between Godfrey
Staunton and the bearded man? And what is the third source from which each of them sought
for help against pressing danger? Our inquiry has already narrowed down to that.
We have only to find to whom that telegram is
addressed, I suggested.
Exactly, my dear Watson. Your reflection, though
profound, had already crossed my mind. But I daresay it may have come to your notice that,
if you walk into a postoffice and demand to see the counterfoil of another mans
message, there may be some disinclination on the part of the officials to oblige you.
There is so much red tape in these matters. However, I have no doubt that with a little
delicacy and finesse the end may be attained. Meanwhile, I should like in your presence,
Mr. Overton, to go through these papers which have been left upon the table.
There were a number of letters, bills, and notebooks, which
Holmes turned over and examined with quick, nervous fingers and darting, penetrating eyes.
Nothing here, he said, at last. By the way, I suppose your friend was a
healthy young fellownothing amiss with him?
Sound as a bell.
Have you ever known him ill?
Not a day. He has been laid up with a hack, and once he
slipped his knee-cap, but that was nothing.
Perhaps he was not so strong as you suppose. I should
think he may have had some secret trouble. With your assent, I will put one or two of
these papers in my pocket, in case they should bear upon our future inquiry.
One momentone moment! cried a querulous
voice, and we looked up to find a queer little old man, jerking and twitching in the
doorway. He was dressed in rusty black, with a very broad-brimmed top-hat and a loose
white necktiethe whole effect being that of a very rustic parson or of an
undertakers mute. Yet, in spite of his shabby and even absurd appearance, his voice
had a sharp crackle, and his manner a quick intensity which commanded attention.
Who are you, sir, and by what right do you touch this
gentlemans papers? he asked.
I am a private detective, and I am endeavouring to
explain his disappearance.
Oh, you are, are you? And who instructed you, eh?
gentleman, Mr. Stauntons friend, was referred to me by Scotland Yard.
Who are you, sir?
I am Cyril Overton.
Then it is you who sent me a telegram. My name is Lord
Mount-James. I came round as quickly as the Bayswater bus would bring me. So you have
instructed a detective?
And are you prepared to meet the cost?
I have no doubt, sir, that my friend Godfrey, when we
find him, will be prepared to do that.
But if he is never found, eh? Answer me that!
In that case, no doubt his family
Nothing of the sort, sir! screamed the little man.
Dont look to me for a pennynot a penny! You understand that, Mr.
Detective! I am all the family that this young man has got, and I tell you that I am not
responsible. If he has any expectations it is due to the fact that I have never wasted
money, and I do not propose to begin to do so now. As to those papers with which you are
making so free, I may tell you that in case there should be anything of any value among
them, you will be held strictly to account for what you do with them.
Very good, sir, said Sherlock Holmes. May I
ask, in the meanwhile, whether you have yourself any theory to account for this young
No, sir, I have not. He is big enough and old enough to
look after himself, and if he is so foolish as to lose himself, I entirely refuse to
accept the responsibility of hunting for him.
I quite understand your position, said Holmes,
with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Perhaps you dont quite understand
mine. Godfrey Staunton appears to have been a poor man. If he has been kidnapped, it could
not have been for anything which he himself possesses. The fame of your wealth has gone
abroad, Lord Mount-James, and it is entirely possible that a gang of thieves have secured
your nephew in order to gain from him some information as to your house, your habits, and
The face of our unpleasant little visitor turned as white as
Heavens, sir, what an idea! I never thought of such
villainy! What inhuman rogues there are in the world! But Godfrey is a fine lada
staunch lad. Nothing would induce him to give his old uncle away. Ill have the plate
moved over to the bank this evening. In the meantime spare no pains, Mr. Detective! I beg
you to leave no stone unturned to bring him safely back. As to money, well, so far as a
fiver or even a tenner goes you can always look to me.
Even in his chastened frame of mind, the noble miser could
give us no information which could help us, for he knew little of the private life of his
nephew. Our only clue lay in the truncated telegram, and with a copy of this in his hand
Holmes set forth to find a second link for his chain. We had shaken off Lord Mount-James,
and Overton had gone to consult with the other members of his team over the misfortune
which had befallen them.
There was a telegraph-office at a short distance from the
hotel. We halted outside it.
Its worth trying, Watson, said Holmes.
Of course, with a warrant we could demand to see the counterfoils, but we have not
reached that stage yet. I dont suppose they remember faces in so busy a place. Let
us venture it.
am sorry to trouble you, said he, in his blandest manner, to the young woman behind
the grating; there is some small mistake about a telegram I sent yesterday. I have
had no answer, and I very much fear that I must have omitted to put my name at the end.
Could you tell me if this was so?
The young woman turned over a sheaf of counterfoils.
What oclock was it? she asked.
A little after six.
Whom was it to?
Holmes put his finger to his lips and glanced at me. The
last words in it were for Gods sake, he whispered, confidentially;
I am very anxious at getting no answer.
The young woman separated one of the forms.
This is it. There is no name, said she, smoothing
it out upon the counter.
Then that, of course, accounts for my getting no
answer, said Holmes. Dear me, how very stupid of me, to be sure! Good-morning,
miss, and many thanks for having relieved my mind. He chuckled and rubbed his hands
when we found ourselves in the street once more.
Well? I asked.
We progress, my dear Watson, we progress. I had seven
different schemes for getting a glimpse of that telegram, but I could hardly hope to
succeed the very first time.
And what have you gained?
A starting-point for our investigation. He hailed
a cab. Kings Cross Station, said he.
We have a journey, then?
Yes, I think we must run down to Cambridge together. All
the indications seem to me to point in that direction.
Tell me, I asked, as we rattled up Grays Inn
Road, have you any suspicion yet as to the cause of the disappearance? I dont
think that among all our cases I have known one where the motives are more obscure. Surely
you dont really imagine that he may be kidnapped in order to give information
against his wealthy uncle?
I confess, my dear Watson, that that does not appeal to
me as a very probable explanation. It struck me, however, as being the one which was most
likely to interest that exceedingly unpleasant old person.
It certainly did that; but what are your
I could mention several. You must admit that it is
curious and suggestive that this incident should occur on the eve of this important match,
and should involve the only man whose presence seems essential to the success of the side.
It may, of course, be a coincidence, but it is interesting. Amateur sport is free from
betting, but a good deal of outside betting goes on among the public, and it is possible
that it might be worth someones while to get at a player as the ruffians of the turf
get at a race-horse. There is one explanation. A second very obvious one is that this
young man really is the heir of a great property, however modest his means may at present
be, and it is not impossible that a plot to hold him for ransom might be concocted.
These theories take no account of the telegram.
Quite true, Watson. The telegram still remains the only
solid thing with which we have to deal, and we must not permit our attention to wander
away from it.  It is to
gain light upon the purpose of this telegram that we are now upon our way to Cambridge.
The path of our investigation is at present obscure, but I shall be very much surprised if
before evening we have not cleared it up, or made a considerable advance along it.
It was already dark when we reached the old university city.
Holmes took a cab at the station and ordered the man to drive to the house of Dr. Leslie
Armstrong. A few minutes later, we had stopped at a large mansion on the busiest
thoroughfare. We were shown in, and after a long wait were at last admitted into the
consulting-room, where we found the doctor seated behind his table.
It argues the degree in which I had lost touch with my
profession that the name of Leslie Armstrong was unknown to me. Now I am aware that he is
not only one of the heads of the medical school of the university, but a thinker of
European reputation in more than one branch of science. Yet even without knowing his
brilliant record one could not fail to be impressed by a mere glance at the man, the
square, massive face, the brooding eyes under the thatched brows, and the granite moulding
of the inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a man with an alert mind, grim, ascetic,
self-contained, formidableso I read Dr. Leslie Armstrong. He held my friends
card in his hand, and he looked up with no very pleased expression upon his dour features.
I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I am
aware of your professionone of which I by no means approve.
In that, Doctor, you will find yourself in agreement
with every criminal in the country, said my friend, quietly.
So far as your efforts are directed towards the
suppression of crime, sir, they must have the support of every reasonable member of the
community, though I cannot doubt that the official machinery is amply sufficient for the
purpose. Where your calling is more open to criticism is when you pry into the secrets of
private individuals, when you rake up family matters which are better hidden, and when you
incidentally waste the time of men who are more busy than yourself. At the present moment,
for example, I should be writing a treatise instead of conversing with you.
No doubt, Doctor; and yet the conversation may prove
more important than the treatise. Incidentally, I may tell you that we are doing the
reverse of what you very justly blame, and that we are endeavouring to prevent anything
like public exposure of private matters which must necessarily follow when once the case
is fairly in the hands of the official police. You may look upon me simply as an irregular
pioneer, who goes in front of the regular forces of the country. I have come to ask you
about Mr. Godfrey Staunton.
What about him?
You know him, do you not?
He is an intimate friend of mine.
You are aware that he has disappeared?
Ah, indeed! There was no change of expression in
the rugged features of the doctor.
He left his hotel last nighthe has not been heard
No doubt he will return.
To-morrow is the Varsity football match.
I have no sympathy with these childish games. The young
mans fate interests  me
deeply, since I know him and like him. The football match does not come within my horizon
I claim your sympathy, then, in my investigation of Mr.
Stauntons fate. Do you know where he is?
You have not seen him since yesterday?
No, I have not.
Was Mr. Staunton a healthy man?
Did you ever know him ill?
Holmes popped a sheet of paper before the doctors eyes.
Then perhaps you will explain this receipted bill for thirteen guineas, paid by Mr.
Godfrey Staunton last month to Dr. Leslie Armstrong, of Cambridge. I picked it out from
among the papers upon his desk.
The doctor flushed with anger.
I do not feel that there is any reason why I should
render an explanation to you, Mr. Holmes.
Holmes replaced the bill in his notebook. If you prefer
a public explanation, it must come sooner or later, said he. I have already
told you that I can hush up that which others will be bound to publish, and you would
really be wiser to take me into your complete confidence.
I know nothing about it.
Did you hear from Mr. Staunton in London?
Dear me, dear methe postoffice again! Holmes
sighed, wearily. A most urgent telegram was dispatched to you from London by Godfrey
Staunton at six-fifteen yesterday eveninga telegram which is undoubtedly associated
with his disappearanceand yet you have not had it. It is most culpable. I shall
certainly go down to the office here and register a complaint.
Dr. Leslie Armstrong sprang up from behind his desk, and his
dark face was crimson with fury.
Ill trouble you to walk out of my house,
sir, said he. You can tell your employer, Lord Mount-James, that I do not wish
to have anything to do either with him or with his agents. No, sirnot another
word! He rang the bell furiously. John, show these gentlemen out! A
pompous butler ushered us severely to the door, and we found ourselves in the street.
Holmes burst out laughing.
Dr. Leslie Armstrong is certainly a man of energy and
character, said he. I have not seen a man who, if he turns his talents that
way, was more calculated to fill the gap left by the illustrious Moriarty. And now, my
poor Watson, here we are, stranded and friendless in this inhospitable town, which we
cannot leave without abandoning our case. This little inn just opposite Armstrongs
house is singularly adapted to our needs. If you would engage a front room and purchase
the necessaries for the night, I may have time to make a few inquiries.
These few inquiries proved, however, to be a more lengthy
proceeding than Holmes had imagined, for he did not return to the inn until nearly nine
oclock. He was pale and dejected, stained with dust, and exhausted with hunger and
fatigue. A cold supper was ready upon the table, and when his needs were satisfied and his
pipe alight he was ready to take that half comic and wholly philosophic  view which was natural to
him when his affairs were going awry. The sound of carriage wheels caused him to rise and
glance out of the window. A brougham and pair of grays, under the glare of a gas-lamp,
stood before the doctors door.
Its been out three hours, said Holmes;
started at half-past six, and here it is back again. That gives a radius of ten or
twelve miles, and he does it once, or sometimes twice, a day.
No unusual thing for a doctor in practice.
But Armstrong is not really a doctor in practice. He is
a lecturer and a consultant, but he does not care for general practice, which distracts
him from his literary work. Why, then, does he make these long journeys, which must be
exceedingly irksome to him, and who is it that he visits?
My dear Watson, can you doubt that it was to him that I
first applied? I do not know whether it came from his own innate depravity or from the
promptings of his master, but he was rude enough to set a dog at me. Neither dog nor man
liked the look of my stick, however, and the matter fell through. Relations were strained
after that, and further inquiries out of the question. All that I have learned I got from
a friendly native in the yard of our own inn. It was he who told me of the doctors
habits and of his daily journey. At that instant, to give point to his words, the carriage
came round to the door.
Could you not follow it?
Excellent, Watson! You are scintillating this evening.
The idea did cross my mind. There is, as you may have observed, a bicycle shop next to our
inn. Into this I rushed, engaged a bicycle, and was able to get started before the
carriage was quite out of sight. I rapidly overtook it, and then, keeping at a discreet
distance of a hundred yards or so, I followed its lights until we were clear of the town.
We had got well out on the country road, when a somewhat mortifying incident occurred. The
carriage stopped, the doctor alighted, walked swiftly back to where I had also halted, and
told me in an excellent sardonic fashion that he feared the road was narrow, and that he
hoped his carriage did not impede the passage of my bicycle. Nothing could have been more
admirable than his way of putting it. I at once rode past the carriage, and, keeping to
the main road, I went on for a few miles, and then halted in a convenient place to see if
the carriage passed. There was no sign of it, however, and so it became evident that it
had turned down one of several side roads which I had observed. I rode back, but again saw
nothing of the carriage, and now, as you perceive, it has returned after me. Of course, I
had at the outset no particular reason to connect these journeys with the disappearance of
Godfrey Staunton, and was only inclined to investigate them on the general grounds that
everything which concerns Dr. Armstrong is at present of interest to us, but, now that I
find he keeps so keen a look-out upon anyone who may follow him on these excursions, the
affair appears more important, and I shall not be satisfied until I have made the matter
We can follow him to-morrow.
Can we? It is not so easy as you seem to think. You are
not familiar with Cambridgeshire scenery, are you? It does not lend itself to concealment.
All this country that I passed over to-night is as flat and clean as the palm of your
hand, and the man we are following is no fool, as he very clearly showed to-night. I have
wired to Overton to let us know any fresh London developments at this address, and in the
meantime we can only concentrate our attention upon Dr. Armstrong,  whose name the obliging young lady at the office
allowed me to read upon the counterfoil of Stauntons urgent message. He knows where
the young man isto that Ill swear, and if he knows, then it must be our own
fault if we cannot manage to know also. At present it must be admitted that the odd trick
is in his possession, and, as you are aware, Watson, it is not my habit to leave the game
in that condition.
And yet the next day brought us no nearer to the solution of
the mystery. A note was handed in after breakfast, which Holmes passed across to me with a
- SIR [it ran]:
I can assure you that you are wasting your time in dogging my
movements. I have, as you discovered last night, a window at the back of my brougham, and
if you desire a twenty-mile ride which will lead you to the spot from which you started,
you have only to follow me. Meanwhile, I can inform you that no spying upon me can in any
way help Mr. Godfrey Staunton, and I am convinced that the best service you can do to that
gentleman is to return at once to London and to report to your employer that you are
unable to trace him. Your time in Cambridge will certainly be wasted.
- Yours faithfully,
- LESLIE ARMSTRONG.
An outspoken, honest antagonist is the doctor,
said Holmes. Well, well, he excites my curiosity, and I must really know before I
His carriage is at his door now, said I.
There he is stepping into it. I saw him glance up at our window as he did so.
Suppose I try my luck upon the bicycle?
No, no, my dear Watson! With all respect for your
natural acumen, I do not think that you are quite a match for the worthy doctor. I think
that possibly I can attain our end by some independent explorations of my own. I am afraid
that I must leave you to your own devices, as the appearance of two inquiring strangers
upon a sleepy countryside might excite more gossip than I care for. No doubt you will find
some sights to amuse you in this venerable city, and I hope to bring back a more
favourable report to you before evening.
Once more, however, my friend was destined to be disappointed.
He came back at night weary and unsuccessful.
I have had a blank day, Watson. Having got the
doctors general direction, I spent the day in visiting all the villages upon that
side of Cambridge, and comparing notes with publicans and other local news agencies. I
have covered some ground. Chesterton, Histon, Waterbeach, and Oakington have each been
explored, and have each proved disappointing. The daily appearance of a brougham and pair
could hardly have been overlooked in such Sleepy Hollows. The doctor has scored once more.
Is there a telegram for me?
Yes, I opened it. Here it is:
- Ask for Pompey from Jeremy Dixon, Trinity College.
I dont understand it.
Oh, it is clear enough. It is from our friend Overton,
and is in answer to a question from me. Ill just send round a note to Mr. Jeremy
Dixon, and then I have no doubt that our luck will turn. By the way, is there any news of
Yes, the local evening paper has an excellent account in
its last edition. Oxford won by a goal and two tries. The last sentences of the
-  The
defeat of the Light Blues may be entirely attributed to the unfortunate absence of the
crack International, Godfrey Staunton, whose want was felt at every instant of the game.
The lack of combination in the three-quarter line and their weakness both in attack and
defence more than neutralized the efforts of a heavy and hard-working pack.
Then our friend Overtons forebodings have been
justified, said Holmes. Personally I am in agreement with Dr. Armstrong, and
football does not come within my horizon. Early to bed to-night, Watson, for I foresee
that to-morrow may be an eventful day.
I was horrified by my first glimpse of Holmes next morning,
for he sat by the fire holding his tiny hypodermic syringe. I associated that instrument
with the single weakness of his nature, and I feared the worst when I saw it glittering in
his hand. He laughed at my expression of dismay and laid it upon the table.
No, no, my dear fellow, there is no cause for alarm. It
is not upon this occasion the instrument of evil, but it will rather prove to be the key
which will unlock our mystery. On this syringe I base all my hopes. I have just returned
from a small scouting expedition, and everything is favourable. Eat a good breakfast,
Watson, for I propose to get upon Dr. Armstrongs trail to-day, and once on it I will
not stop for rest or food until I run him to his burrow.
In that case, said I, we had best carry our
breakfast with us, for he is making an early start. His carriage is at the door.
Never mind. Let him go. He will be clever if he can
drive where I cannot follow him. When you have finished, come downstairs with me, and I
will introduce you to a detective who is a very eminent specialist in the work that lies
When we descended I followed Holmes into the stable yard,
where he opened the door of a loose-box and led out a squat, lop-eared, white-and-tan dog,
something between a beagle and a foxhound.
Let me introduce you to Pompey, said he.
Pompey is the pride of the local draghoundsno very great flier, as his build
will show, but a staunch hound on a scent. Well, Pompey, you may not be fast, but I expect
you will be too fast for a couple of middle-aged London gentlemen, so I will take the
liberty of fastening this leather leash to your collar. Now, boy, come along, and show
what you can do. He led him across to the doctors door. The dog sniffed round
for an instant, and then with a shrill whine of excitement started off down the street,
tugging at his leash in his efforts to go faster. In half an hour, we were clear of the
town and hastening down a country road.
What have you done, Holmes? I asked.
A threadbare and venerable device, but useful upon
occasion. I walked into the doctors yard this morning, and shot my syringe full of
aniseed over the hind wheel. A draghound will follow aniseed from here to John o
Groats, and our friend, Armstrong, would have to drive through the Cam before he
would shake Pompey off his trail. Oh, the cunning rascal! This is how he gave me the slip
the other night.
The dog had suddenly turned out of the main road into a
grass-grown lane. Half a mile farther this opened into another broad road, and the trail
turned hard to the right in the direction of the town, which we had just quitted. The road
took a sweep to the south of the town, and continued in the opposite direction to that in
which we started.
détour has been entirely for our benefit, then? said Holmes. No
wonder that my inquiries among those villagers led to nothing. The doctor has certainly
played the game for all it is worth, and one would like to know the reason for such
elaborate deception. This should be the village of Trumpington to the right of us. And, by
Jove! here is the brougham coming round the corner. Quick, Watsonquick, or we are
He sprang through a gate into a field, dragging the reluctant
Pompey after him. We had hardly got under the shelter of the hedge when the carriage
rattled past. I caught a glimpse of Dr. Armstrong within, his shoulders bowed, his head
sunk on his hands, the very image of distress. I could tell by my companions graver
face that he also had seen.
I fear there is some dark ending to our quest,
said he. It cannot be long before we know it. Come, Pompey! Ah, it is the cottage in
There could be no doubt that we had reached the end of our
journey. Pompey ran about and whined eagerly outside the gate, where the marks of the
broughams wheels were still to be seen. A footpath led across to the lonely cottage.
Holmes tied the dog to the hedge, and we hastened onward. My friend knocked at the little
rustic door, and knocked again without response. And yet the cottage was not deserted, for
a low sound came to our earsa kind of drone of misery and despair which was
indescribably melancholy. Holmes paused irresolute, and then he glanced back at the road
which he had just traversed. A brougham was coming down it, and there could be no
mistaking those gray horses.
By Jove, the doctor is coming back! cried Holmes.
That settles it. We are bound to see what it means before he comes.
He opened the door, and we stepped into the hall. The droning
sound swelled louder upon our ears until it became one long, deep wail of distress. It
came from upstairs. Holmes darted up, and I followed him. He pushed open a half-closed
door, and we both stood appalled at the sight before us.
A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the bed. Her
calm, pale face, with dim, wide-opened blue eyes, looked upward from amid a great tangle
of golden hair. At the foot of the bed, half sitting, half kneeling, his face buried in
the clothes, was a young man, whose frame was racked by his sobs. So absorbed was he by
his bitter grief, that he never looked up until Holmess hand was on his shoulder.
Are you Mr. Godfrey Staunton?
Yes, yes, I ambut you are too late. She is
The man was so dazed that he could not be made to understand
that we were anything but doctors who had been sent to his assistance. Holmes was
endeavouring to utter a few words of consolation and to explain the alarm which had been
caused to his friends by his sudden disappearance when there was a step upon the stairs,
and there was the heavy, stern, questioning face of Dr. Armstrong at the door.
So, gentlemen, said he, you have attained
your end and have certainly chosen a particularly delicate moment for your intrusion. I
would not brawl in the presence of death, but I can assure you that if I were a younger
man your monstrous conduct would not pass with impunity.
Excuse me, Dr. Armstrong, I think we are a little at
cross-purposes, said my friend, with dignity. If you could step downstairs
with us, we may each be able to give some light to the other upon this miserable
A minute later, the grim doctor and ourselves were in the
sir? said he.
I wish you to understand, in the first place, that I am
not employed by Lord Mount-James, and that my sympathies in this matter are entirely
against that nobleman. When a man is lost it is my duty to ascertain his fate, but having
done so the matter ends so far as I am concerned, and so long as there is nothing criminal
I am much more anxious to hush up private scandals than to give them publicity. If, as I
imagine, there is no breach of the law in this matter, you can absolutely depend upon my
discretion and my cooperation in keeping the facts out of the papers.
Dr. Armstrong took a quick step forward and wrung Holmes by
You are a good fellow, said he. I had
misjudged you. I thank heaven that my compunction at leaving poor Staunton all alone in
this plight caused me to turn my carriage back and so to make your acquaintance. Knowing
as much as you do, the situation is very easily explained. A year ago Godfrey Staunton
lodged in London for a time and became passionately attached to his landladys
daughter, whom he married. She was as good as she was beautiful and as intelligent as she
was good. No man need be ashamed of such a wife. But Godfrey was the heir to this crabbed
old nobleman, and it was quite certain that the news of his marriage would have been the
end of his inheritance. I knew the lad well, and I loved him for his many excellent
qualities. I did all I could to help him to keep things straight. We did our very best to
keep the thing from everyone, for, when once such a whisper gets about, it is not long
before everyone has heard it. Thanks to this lonely cottage and his own discretion,
Godfrey has up to now succeeded. Their secret was known to no one save to me and to one
excellent servant, who has at present gone for assistance to Trumpington. But at last
there came a terrible blow in the shape of dangerous illness to his wife. It was
consumption of the most virulent kind. The poor boy was half crazed with grief, and yet he
had to go to London to play this match, for he could not get out of it without
explanations which would expose his secret. I tried to cheer him up by wire, and he sent
me one in reply, imploring me to do all I could. This was the telegram which you appear in
some inexplicable way to have seen. I did not tell him how urgent the danger was, for I
knew that he could do no good here, but I sent the truth to the girls father, and he
very injudiciously communicated it to Godfrey. The result was that he came straight away
in a state bordering on frenzy, and has remained in the same state, kneeling at the end of
her bed, until this morning death put an end to her sufferings. That is all, Mr. Holmes,
and I am sure that I can rely upon your discretion and that of your friend.
Holmes grasped the doctors hand.
Come, Watson, said he, and we passed from that
house of grief into the pale sunlight of the winter day.