I called this morning, Dr. Huxtable, too late to prevent
you from starting for London. I learned that your object was to invite Mr. Sherlock Holmes
to undertake the conduct of this case. His Grace is surprised, Dr. Huxtable, that you
should have taken such a step without consulting him.
When I learned that the police had failed
His Grace is by no means convinced that the police have
But surely, Mr. Wilder
You are well aware, Dr. Huxtable, that his Grace is
particularly anxious to avoid all public scandal. He prefers to take as few people as
possible into his confidence.
The matter can be easily remedied, said the
browbeaten doctor; Mr. Sherlock Holmes can return to London by the morning
Hardly that, Doctor, hardly that, said Holmes, in
his blandest voice. This northern air is invigorating and pleasant, so I propose to
spend a few days upon your  moors,
and to occupy my mind as best I may. Whether I have the shelter of your roof or of the
village inn is, of course, for you to decide.
I could see that the unfortunate doctor was in the last stage
of indecision, from which he was rescued by the deep, sonorous voice of the red-bearded
Duke, which boomed out like a dinner-gong.
I agree with Mr. Wilder, Dr. Huxtable, that you would
have done wisely to consult me. But since Mr. Holmes has already been taken into your
confidence, it would indeed be absurd that we should not avail ourselves of his services.
Far from going to the inn, Mr. Holmes, I should be pleased if you would come and stay with
me at Holdernesse Hall.
I thank your Grace. For the purposes of my
investigation, I think that it would be wiser for me to remain at the scene of the
Just as you like, Mr. Holmes. Any information which Mr.
Wilder or I can give you is, of course, at your disposal.
It will probably be necessary for me to see you at the
Hall, said Holmes. I would only ask you now, sir, whether you have formed any
explanation in your own mind as to the mysterious disappearance of your son?
No, sir, I have not.
Excuse me if I allude to that which is painful to you,
but I have no alternative. Do you think that the Duchess had anything to do with the
The great minister showed perceptible hesitation.
I do not think so, he said, at last.
The other most obvious explanation is that the child has
been kidnapped for the purpose of levying ransom. You have not had any demand of the
One more question, your Grace. I understand that you
wrote to your son upon the day when this incident occurred.
No, I wrote upon the day before.
Exactly. But he received it on that day?
Was there anything in your letter which might have
unbalanced him or induced him to take such a step?
No, sir, certainly not.
Did you post that letter yourself?
The noblemans reply was interrupted by his secretary,
who broke in with some heat.
His Grace is not in the habit of posting letters
himself, said he. This letter was laid with others upon the study table, and I
myself put them in the post-bag.
You are sure this one was among them?
Yes, I observed it.
How many letters did your Grace write that day?
Twenty or thirty. I have a large correspondence. But
surely this is somewhat irrelevant?
Not entirely, said Holmes.
For my own part, the Duke continued, I have
advised the police to turn their attention to the south of France. I have already said
that I do not believe that the Duchess would encourage so monstrous an action, but the lad
had the most wrong-headed opinions, and it is possible that he may have fled to her, aided
and abetted by this German. I think, Dr. Huxtable, that we will now return to the
could see that there were other questions which Holmes would have wished to put, but the
noblemans abrupt manner showed that the interview was at an end. It was evident that
to his intensely aristocratic nature this discussion of his intimate family affairs with a
stranger was most abhorrent, and that he feared lest every fresh question would throw a
fiercer light into the discreetly shadowed corners of his ducal history.
When the nobleman and his secretary had left, my friend flung
himself at once with characteristic eagerness into the investigation.
The boys chamber was carefully examined, and yielded
nothing save the absolute conviction that it was only through the window that he could
have escaped. The German masters room and effects gave no further clue. In his case
a trailer of ivy had given way under his weight, and we saw by the light of a lantern the
mark on the lawn where his heels had come down. That one dint in the short, green grass
was the only material witness left of this inexplicable nocturnal flight.
Sherlock Holmes left the house alone, and only returned after
eleven. He had obtained a large ordnance map of the neighbourhood, and this he brought
into my room, where he laid it out on the bed, and, having balanced the lamp in the middle
of it, he began to smoke over it, and occasionally to point out objects of interest with
the reeking amber of his pipe.
This case grows upon me, Watson, said he.
There are decidedly some points of interest in connection with it. In this early
stage, I want you to realize those geographical features which may have a good deal to do
with our investigation.
Look at this map. This dark square is the Priory School.
Ill put a pin in it. Now, this line is the main road. You see that it runs east and
west past the school, and you see also that there is no side road for a mile either way.
If these two folk passed away by road, it was this road.
By a singular and happy chance, we are able to some
extent to check what passed along this road during the night in question. At this point,
where my pipe is now resting, a county constable was on duty from twelve to six. It is, as
you perceive, the first cross-road on the east side. This man declares that he was not
absent from his post for an instant, and he is positive that neither boy nor man could
have gone that way unseen. I have spoken with this policeman to-night, and he appears to
me to be a perfectly reliable person. That blocks this end. We have now to deal with the
other. There is an inn here, the Red Bull, the landlady of which was ill. She had sent to
Mackleton for a doctor, but he did not arrive until morning, being absent at another case.
The people at the inn were alert all night, awaiting his coming, and one or other of them
seems to have continually had an eye upon the road. They declare that no one passed. If
their evidence is good, then we are fortunate enough to be able to block the west, and
also to be able to say that the fugitives did not use the road at all.
But the bicycle? I objected.
Quite so. We will come to the bicycle presently. To
continue our reasoning: if these people did not go by the road, they must have traversed
the country to the north of the house or to the south of the house. That is certain. Let
us weigh the one against the other. On the south of the house is, as you perceive, a large
district of arable land, cut up into small fields, with stone walls between them. There, I
admit that a bicycle is impossible. We can dismiss the idea. We turn to the country on the
north. Here there lies a grove of trees, marked as the Ragged Shaw, and on the
farther side stretches a great rolling moor, Lower Gill Moor, extending for ten miles and
sloping gradually upward. Here, at one side of this wilderness, is Holdernesse Hall, ten
miles by road, but only six across the moor. It is a peculiarly desolate plain. A few moor
farmers have small holdings, where they rear sheep and cattle. Except these, the plover
and the curlew are the only inhabitants until you come to the Chesterfield high road.
There is a church there, you see, a few cottages, and an inn. Beyond that the hills become
precipitous. Surely it is here to the north that our quest must lie.
But the bicycle? I persisted.
Well, well! said Holmes, impatiently. A good
cyclist does not need a high road. The moor is intersected with paths, and the moon was at
the full. Halloa! what is this?
There was an agitated knock at the door, and an instant
afterwards Dr. Huxtable was in the room. In his hand he held a blue cricket-cap with a
white chevron on the peak.
At last we have a clue! he cried. Thank
heaven! at last we are on the dear boys track! It is his cap.
Where was it found?
In the van of the gipsies who camped on the moor. They
left on Tuesday. To-day the police traced them down and examined their caravan. This was
How do they account for it?
They shuffled and liedsaid that they found it on
the moor on Tuesday morning. They know where he is, the rascals! Thank goodness, they are
all safe under lock and key. Either the fear of the law or the Dukes purse will
certainly get out of them all that they know.
So far, so good, said Holmes, when the doctor had
at last left the room. It at  least
bears out the theory that it is on the side of the Lower Gill Moor that we must hope for
results. The police have really done nothing locally, save the arrest of these gipsies.
Look here, Watson! There is a watercourse across the moor. You see it marked here in the
map. In some parts it widens into a morass. This is particularly so in the region between
Holdernesse Hall and the school. It is vain to look elsewhere for tracks in this dry
weather, but at that point there is certainly a chance of some record being left.
I will call you early to-morrow morning, and you and I will try if we can throw some
little light upon the mystery.
The day was just breaking when I woke to find the long, thin
form of Holmes by my bedside. He was fully dressed, and had apparently already been out.
I have done the lawn and the bicycle shed, said
he. I have also had a ramble through the Ragged Shaw. Now, Watson, there is cocoa
ready in the next room. I must beg you to hurry, for we have a great day before us.
His eyes shone, and his cheek was flushed with the
exhilaration of the master workman who sees his work lie ready before him. A very
different Holmes, this active, alert man, from the introspective and pallid dreamer of
Baker Street. I felt, as I looked upon that supple figure, alive with nervous energy, that
it was indeed a strenuous day that awaited us.
And yet it opened in the blackest disappointment. With high
hopes we struck across the peaty, russet moor, intersected with a thousand sheep paths,
until we came to the broad, light-green belt which marked the morass between us and
Holdernesse. Certainly, if the lad had gone homeward, he must have passed this, and he
could not pass it without leaving his traces. But no sign of him or the German could be
seen. With a darkening face my friend strode along the margin, eagerly observant of every
muddy stain upon the mossy surface. Sheep-marks there were in profusion, and at one place,
some miles down, cows had left their tracks. Nothing more.
Check number one, said Holmes, looking gloomily
over the rolling expanse of the moor. There is another morass down yonder, and a
narrow neck between. Halloa! halloa! halloa! what have we here?
We had come on a small black ribbon of pathway. In the middle
of it, clearly marked on the sodden soil, was the track of a bicycle.
Hurrah! I cried. We have it.
But Holmes was shaking his head, and his face was puzzled and
expectant rather than joyous.
A bicycle, certainly, but not the
bicycle, said he. I am familiar with forty-two different impressions left by
tyres. This, as you perceive, is a Dunlop, with a patch upon the outer cover.
Heideggers tyres were Palmers, leaving longitudinal stripes. Aveling, the
mathematical master, was sure upon the point. Therefore, it is not Heideggers
The boys, then?
Possibly, if we could prove a bicycle to have been in
his possession. But this we have utterly failed to do. This track, as you perceive, was
made by a rider who was going from the direction of the school.
Or towards it?
No, no, my dear Watson. The more deeply sunk impression
is, of course, the hind wheel, upon which the weight rests. You perceive several places
where it has passed across and obliterated the more shallow mark of the front one. It was
undoubtedly heading away from the school. It may or may not be connected with our inquiry,
but we will follow it backwards before we go any farther.
did so, and at the end of a few hundred yards lost the tracks as we emerged from the boggy
portion of the moor. Following the path backwards, we picked out another spot, where a
spring trickled across it. Here, once again, was the mark of the bicycle, though nearly
obliterated by the hoofs of cows. After that there was no sign, but the path ran right on
into Ragged Shaw, the wood which backed on to the school. From this wood the cycle must
have emerged. Holmes sat down on a boulder and rested his chin in his hands. I had smoked
two cigarettes before he moved.
Well, well, said he, at last. It is, of
course, possible that a cunning man might change the tyres of his bicycle in order to
leave unfamiliar tracks. A criminal who was capable of such a thought is a man whom I
should be proud to do business with. We will leave this question undecided and hark back
to our morass again, for we have left a good deal unexplored.
We continued our systematic survey of the edge of the sodden
portion of the moor, and soon our perseverance was gloriously rewarded. Right across the
lower part of the bog lay a miry path. Holmes gave a cry of delight as he approached it.
An impression like a fine bundle of telegraph wires ran down the centre of it. It was the
Here is Herr Heidegger, sure enough! cried
Holmes, exultantly. My reasoning seems to have been pretty sound, Watson.
I congratulate you.
But we have a long way still to go. Kindly walk clear of
the path. Now let us follow the trail. I fear that it will not lead very far.
We found, however, as we advanced that this portion of the
moor is intersected with soft patches, and, though we frequently lost sight of the track,
we always succeeded in picking it up once more.
Do you observe, said Holmes, that the rider
is now undoubtedly forcing the pace? There can be no doubt of it. Look at this impression,
where you get both tires clear. The one is as deep as the other. That can only mean that
the rider is throwing his weight on to the handle-bar, as a man does when he is sprinting.
By Jove! he has had a fall.
There was a broad, irregular smudge covering some yards of the
track. Then there were a few footmarks, and the tyres reappeared once more.
A side-slip, I suggested.
Holmes held up a crumpled branch of flowering gorse. To my
horror I perceived that the yellow blossoms were all dabbled with crimson. On the path,
too, and among the heather were dark stains of clotted blood.
Bad! said Holmes. Bad! Stand clear, Watson!
Not an unnecessary footstep! What do I read here? He fell woundedhe stood uphe
remounted he proceeded. But there is no other track. Cattle on this side path. He
was surely not gored by a bull? Impossible! But I see no traces of anyone else. We must
push on, Watson. Surely, with stains as well as the track to guide us, he cannot escape us
Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tyre
began to curve fantastically upon the wet and shining path. Suddenly, as I looked ahead,
the gleam of metal caught my eye from amid the thick gorse-bushes. Out of them we dragged
a bicycle, Palmer-tyred, one pedal bent, and the whole front of it horribly smeared and
slobbered with blood. On the other side of the bushes, a shoe was projecting. We ran
round, and there lay the unfortunate rider. He was a tall man, full-bearded, with
spectacles, one glass of which had been knocked out. The cause of his death  was a frightful blow upon
the head, which had crushed in part of his skull. That he could have gone on after
receiving such an injury said much for the vitality and courage of the man. He wore shoes,
but no socks, and his open coat disclosed a nightshirt beneath it. It was undoubtedly the
Holmes turned the body over reverently, and examined it
with great attention. He then sat in deep thought for a time, and I could see by his
ruffled brow that this grim discovery had not, in his opinion, advanced us much in our
It is a little difficult to know what to do,
Watson, said he, at last. My own inclinations are to push this inquiry on, for
we have already lost so much time that we cannot afford to waste another hour. On the
other hand, we are bound to inform the police of the discovery, and to see that this poor
fellows body is looked after.
I could take a note back.
But I need your company and assistance. Wait a bit!
There is a fellow cutting peat up yonder. Bring him over here, and he will guide the
I brought the peasant across, and Holmes dispatched the
frightened man with a note to Dr. Huxtable.
Now, Watson, said he, we have picked up two
clues this morning. One is the bicycle with the Palmer tyre, and we see what that has led
to. The other is the bicycle with the patched Dunlop. Before we start to investigate that,
let us try to realize what we do know, so as to make the most of it, and to
separate the essential from the accidental.
First of all, I wish to impress upon you that the boy
certainly left of his own free-will. He got down from his window and he went off, either
alone or with someone. That is sure.
Well, now, let us turn to this unfortunate German
master. The boy was fully dressed when he fled. Therefore, he foresaw what he would do.
But the German went without his socks. He certainly acted on very short notice.
Why did he go? Because, from his bedroom window, he saw
the flight of the boy; because he wished to overtake him and bring him back. He seized his
bicycle, pursued the lad, and in pursuing him met his death.
So it would seem.
Now I come to the critical part of my argument. The
natural action of a man in pursuing a little boy would be to run after him. He would know
that he could overtake him. But the German does not do so. He turns to his bicycle. I am
told that he was an excellent cyclist. He would not do this, if he did not see that the
boy had some swift means of escape.
The other bicycle.
Let us continue our reconstruction. He meets his death
five miles from the schoolnot by a bullet, mark you, which even a lad might
conceivably discharge, but by a savage blow dealt by a vigorous arm. The lad, then, had
a companion in his flight. And the flight was a swift one, since it took five miles before
an expert cyclist could overtake them. Yet we survey the ground round the scene of the
tragedy. What do we find? A few cattle-tracks, nothing more. I took a wide sweep round,
and there is no path within fifty yards. Another cyclist could have had nothing to do with
the actual murder, nor were there any human footmarks.
Holmes, I cried, this is impossible.
he said. A most illuminating remark. It is impossible as I state it, and
therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong. Yet you saw for yourself. Can you
suggest any fallacy?
He could not have fractured his skull in a fall?
In a morass, Watson?
I am at my wits end.
Tut, tut, we have solved some worse problems. At least
we have plenty of material, if we can only use it. Come, then, and, having exhausted the
Palmer, let us see what the Dunlop with the patched cover has to offer us.
We picked up the track and followed it onward for some
distance, but soon the moor rose into a long, heather-tufted curve, and we left the
watercourse behind us. No further help from tracks could be hoped for. At the spot where
we saw the last of the Dunlop tyre it might equally have led to Holdernesse Hall, the
stately towers of which rose some miles to our left, or to a low, gray village which lay
in front of us and marked the position of the Chesterfield high road.
As we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the sign
of a game-cock above the door, Holmes gave a sudden groan, and clutched me by the shoulder
to save himself from falling. He had had one of those violent strains of the ankle which
leave a man helpless. With difficulty he limped up to the door, where a squat, dark,
elderly man was smoking a black clay pipe.
How are you, Mr. Reuben Hayes? said Holmes.
Who are you, and how do you get my name so pat?
the countryman answered, with a suspicious flash of a pair of cunning eyes.
Well, its printed on the board above your head.
Its easy to see a man who is master of his own house. I suppose you havent
such a thing as a carriage in your stables?
No, I have not.
I can hardly put my foot to the ground.
Dont put it to the ground.
But I cant walk.
Well, then, hop.
Mr. Reuben Hayess manner was far from gracious, but
Holmes took it with admirable good-humour.
Look here, my man, said he. This is really
rather an awkward fix for me. I dont mind how I get on.
Neither do I, said the morose landlord.
The matter is very important. I would offer you a
sovereign for the use of a bicycle.
The landlord pricked up his ears.
Where do you want to go?
To Holdernesse Hall.
Pals of the Dook, I suppose? said the landlord,
surveying our mud-stained garments with ironical eyes.
Holmes laughed good-naturedly.
Hell be glad to see us, anyhow.
Because we bring him news of his lost son.
The landlord gave a very visible start.
What, youre on his track?
has been heard of in Liverpool. They expect to get him every hour.
Again a swift change passed over the heavy, unshaven face. His
manner was suddenly genial.
Ive less reason to wish the Dook well than most
men, said he, for I was his head coachman once, and cruel bad he treated me.
It was him that sacked me without a character on the word of a lying corn-chandler. But
Im glad to hear that the young lord was heard of in Liverpool, and Ill help
you to take the news to the Hall.
Thank you, said Holmes. Well have some
food first. Then you can bring round the bicycle.
I havent got a bicycle.
Holmes held up a sovereign.
I tell you, man, that I havent got one. Ill
let you have two horses as far as the Hall.
Well, well, said Holmes, well talk
about it when weve had something to eat.
When we were left alone in the stone-flagged kitchen, it was
astonishing how rapidly that sprained ankle recovered. It was nearly nightfall, and we had
eaten nothing since early morning, so that we spent some time over our meal. Holmes was
lost in thought, and once or twice he walked over to the window and stared earnestly out.
It opened on to a squalid courtyard. In the far corner was a smithy, where a grimy lad was
at work. On the other side were the stables. Holmes had sat down again after one of these
excursions, when he suddenly sprang out of his chair with a loud exclamation.
By heaven, Watson, I believe that Ive got
it! he cried. Yes, yes, it must be so. Watson, do you remember seeing any
Well, everywhere. They were at the morass, and again on
the path, and again near where poor Heidegger met his death.
Exactly. Well, now, Watson, how many cows did you see on
I dont remember seeing any.
Strange, Watson, that we should see tracks all along our
line, but never a cow on the whole moor. Very strange, Watson, eh?
Yes, it is strange.
Now, Watson, make an effort, throw your mind back. Can
you see those tracks upon the path?
Yes, I can.
Can you recall that the tracks were sometimes like that,
Watsonhe arranged a number of bread-crumbs in this fashion : : : : :
and sometimes like this : . : . : . : . and
occasionally like this . · . · . · .
Can you remember that?
No, I cannot.
But I can. I could swear to it. However, we will go back
at our leisure and verify it. What a blind beetle I have been, not to draw my
And what is your conclusion?
Only that it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters,
and gallops. By George! Watson, it was no brain of a country publican that thought out
such a blind as that. The coast seems to be clear, save for that lad in the smithy. Let us
slip out and see what we can see.
were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble-down stable. Holmes raised the hind
leg of one of them and laughed aloud.
Old shoes, but newly shodold shoes, but new nails.
This case deserves to be a classic. Let us go across to the smithy.
The lad continued his work without regarding us. I saw
Holmess eye darting to right and left among the litter of iron and wood which was
scattered about the floor. Suddenly, however, we heard a step behind us, and there was the
landlord, his heavy eyebrows drawn over his savage eyes, his swarthy features convulsed
with passion. He held a short, metal-headed stick in his hand, and he advanced in so
menacing a fashion that I was right glad to feel the revolver in my pocket.
You infernal spies! the man cried. What are
you doing there?
Why, Mr. Reuben Hayes, said Holmes, coolly,
one might think that you were afraid of our finding something out.
The man mastered himself with a violent effort, and his grim
mouth loosened into a false laugh, which was more menacing than his frown.
Youre welcome to all you can find out in my
smithy, said he. But look here, mister, I dont care for folk poking
about my place without my leave, so the sooner you pay your score and get out of this the
better I shall be pleased.
All right, Mr. Hayes, no harm meant, said Holmes.
We have been having a look at your horses, but I think Ill walk, after all.
Its not far, I believe.
Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. Thats
the road to the left. He watched us with sullen eyes until we had left his premises.
We did not go very far along the road, for Holmes stopped the
instant that the curve hid us from the landlords view.
We were warm, as the children say, at that inn,
said he. I seem to grow colder every step that I take away from it. No, no, I
cant possibly leave it.
I am convinced, said I, that this Reuben
Hayes knows all about it. A more self-evident villain I never saw.
Oh! he impressed you in that way, did he? There are the
horses, there is the smithy. Yes, it is an interesting place, this Fighting Cock. I think
we shall have another look at it in an unobtrusive way.
A long, sloping hillside, dotted with gray limestone boulders,
stretched behind us. We had turned off the road, and were making our way up the hill,
when, looking in the direction of Holdernesse Hall, I saw a cyclist coming swiftly along.
Get down, Watson! cried Holmes, with a heavy hand
upon my shoulder. We had hardly sunk from view when the man flew past us on the road. Amid
a rolling cloud of dust, I caught a glimpse of a pale, agitated facea face with
horror in every lineament, the mouth open, the eyes staring wildly in front. It was like
some strange caricature of the dapper James Wilder whom we had seen the night before.
The Dukes secretary! cried Holmes.
Come, Watson, let us see what he does.
We scrambled from rock to rock, until in a few moments we had
made our way to a point from which we could see the front door of the inn. Wilders
bicycle was leaning against the wall beside it. No one was moving about the house, nor
could we catch a glimpse of any faces at the windows. Slowly the twilight crept down as
the sun sank behind the high towers of Holdernesse Hall. Then, in the gloom, we saw the
two side-lamps of a trap light up in the stable-yard of the inn, and shortly afterwards
heard the rattle of hoofs, as it wheeled out into the road and tore off at a furious pace
in the direction of Chesterfield.
do you make of that, Watson? Holmes whispered.
It looks like a flight.
A single man in a dog-cart, so far as I could see. Well,
it certainly was not Mr. James Wilder, for there he is at the door.
A red square of light had sprung out of the darkness. In the
middle of it was the black figure of the secretary, his head advanced, peering out into
the night. It was evident that he was expecting someone. Then at last there were steps in
the road, a second figure was visible for an instant against the light, the door shut, and
all was black once more. Five minutes later a lamp was lit in a room upon the first floor.
It seems to be a curious class of custom that is done by
the Fighting Cock, said Holmes.
The bar is on the other side.
Quite so. These are what one may call the private
guests. Now, what in the world is Mr. James Wilder doing in that den at this hour of
night, and who is the companion who comes to meet him there? Come, Watson, we must really
take a risk and try to investigate this a little more closely.
Together we stole down to the road and crept across to the
door of the inn. The bicycle still leaned against the wall. Holmes struck a match and held
it to the back wheel, and I heard him chuckle as the light fell upon a patched Dunlop
tyre. Up above us was the lighted window.
I must have a peep through that, Watson. If you bend
your back and support yourself upon the wall, I think that I can manage.
An instant later, his feet were on my shoulders, but he was
hardly up before he was down again.
Come, my friend, said he, our days
work has been quite long enough. I think that we have gathered all that we can. Its
a long walk to the school, and the sooner we get started the better.
He hardly opened his lips during that weary trudge across the
moor, nor would he enter the school when he reached it, but went on to Mackleton Station,
whence he could send some telegrams. Late at night I heard him consoling Dr. Huxtable,
prostrated by the tragedy of his masters death, and later still he entered my room
as alert and vigorous as he had been when he started in the morning. All goes well,
my friend, said he. I promise that before to-morrow evening we shall have
reached the solution of the mystery.
At eleven oclock next morning my friend and I were
walking up the famous yew avenue of Holdernesse Hall. We were ushered through the
magnificent Elizabethan doorway and into his Graces study. There we found Mr. James
Wilder, demure and courtly, but with some trace of that wild terror of the night before
still lurking in his furtive eyes and in his twitching features.
You have come to see his Grace? I am sorry, but the fact
is that the Duke is far from well. He has been very much upset by the tragic news. We
received a telegram from Dr. Huxtable yesterday afternoon, which told us of your
I must see the Duke, Mr. Wilder.
But he is in his room.
Then I must go to his room.
I believe he is in his bed.
I will see him there.
cold and inexorable manner showed the secretary that it was useless to argue with him.
Very good, Mr. Holmes, I will tell him that you are
After an hours delay, the great nobleman appeared. His
face was more cadaverous than ever, his shoulders had rounded, and he seemed to me to be
an altogether older man than he had been the morning before. He greeted us with a stately
courtesy and seated himself at his desk, his red beard streaming down on the table.
Well, Mr. Holmes? said he.
But my friends eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who
stood by his masters chair.
I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in
Mr. Wilders absence.
The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance at
If your Grace wishes
Yes, yes, you had better go. Now, Mr. Holmes, what have
you to say?
My friend waited until the door had closed behind the
The fact is, your Grace, said he, that my
colleague, Dr. Watson, and myself had an assurance from Dr. Huxtable that a reward had
been offered in this case. I should like to have this confirmed from your own lips.
Certainly, Mr. Holmes.
It amounted, if I am correctly informed, to five
thousand pounds to anyone who will tell you where your son is?
And another thousand to the man who will name the person
or persons who keep him in custody?
Under the latter heading is included, no doubt, not only
those who may have taken him away, but also those who conspire to keep him in his present
Yes, yes, cried the Duke, impatiently. If
you do your work well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you will have no reason to complain of
My friend rubbed his thin hands together with an appearance of
avidity which was a surprise to me, who knew his frugal tastes.
I fancy that I see your Graces check-book upon the
table, said he. I should be glad if you would make me out a check for six
thousand pounds. It would be as well, perhaps, for you to cross it. The Capital and
Counties Bank, Oxford Street branch are my agents.
His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair and looked
stonily at my friend.
Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for
Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my
What do you mean, then?
I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your
son is, and I know some, at least, of those who are holding him.
The Dukes beard had turned more aggressively red than
ever against his ghastly white face.
Where is he? he gasped.
He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn,
about two miles from your park gate.
The Duke fell back in his chair.
And whom do you accuse?
Holmess answer was an astounding one. He stepped swiftly forward and touched the
Duke upon the shoulder.
I accuse you, said he. And now,
your Grace, Ill trouble you for that check.
Never shall I forget the Dukes appearance as he sprang
up and clawed with his hands, like one who is sinking into an abyss. Then, with an
extraordinary effort of aristocratic self-command, he sat down and sank his face in his
hands. It was some minutes before he spoke.
How much do you know? he asked at last, without
raising his head.
I saw you together last night.
Does anyone else beside your friend know?
I have spoken to no one.
The Duke took a pen in his quivering fingers and opened his
I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about to
write your check, however unwelcome the information which you have gained may be to me.
When the offer was first made, I little thought the turn which events might take. But you
and your friend are men of discretion, Mr. Holmes?
I hardly understand your Grace.
I must put it plainly, Mr. Holmes. If only you two know
of this incident, there is no reason why it should go any farther. I think twelve thousand
pounds is the sum that I owe you, is it not?
But Holmes smiled and shook his head.
I fear, your Grace, that matters can hardly be arranged
so easily. There is the death of this schoolmaster to be accounted for.
But James knew nothing of that. You cannot hold him
responsible for that. It was the work of this brutal ruffian whom he had the misfortune to
I must take the view, your Grace, that when a man
embarks upon a crime, he is morally guilty of any other crime which may spring from
Morally, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right. But surely
not in the eyes of the law. A man cannot be condemned for a murder at which he was not
present, and which he loathes and abhors as much as you do. The instant that he heard of
it he made a complete confession to me, so filled was he with horror and remorse. He lost
not an hour in breaking entirely with the murderer. Oh, Mr. Holmes, you must save
himyou must save him! I tell you that you must save him! The Duke had dropped
the last attempt at self-command, and was pacing the room with a convulsed face and with
his clenched hands raving in the air. At last he mastered himself and sat down once more
at his desk. I appreciate your conduct in coming here before you spoke to anyone
else, said he. At least, we may take counsel how far we can minimize this
Exactly, said Holmes. I think, your Grace,
that this can only be done by absolute frankness between us. I am disposed to help your
Grace to the best of my ability, but, in order to do so, I must understand to the last
detail how the matter stands. I realize that your words applied to Mr. James Wilder, and
that he is not the murderer.
No, the murderer has escaped.
Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely.
Your Grace can hardly have heard of any small reputation
which I possess, or you would not imagine that it is so easy to escape me. Mr. Reuben
Hayes was arrested at Chesterfield, on my information, at eleven oclock last night.
I had a telegram from the head of the local police before I left the school this
Duke leaned back in his chair and stared with amazement at my friend.
You seem to have powers that are hardly human,
said he. So Reuben Hayes is taken? I am right glad to hear it, if it will not react
upon the fate of James.
No, sir, my son.
It was Holmess turn to look astonished.
I confess that this is entirely new to me, your Grace. I
must beg you to be more explicit.
I will conceal nothing from you. I agree with you that
complete frankness, however painful it may be to me, is the best policy in this desperate
situation to which Jamess folly and jealousy have reduced us. When I was a very
young man, Mr. Holmes, I loved with such a love as comes only once in a lifetime. I
offered the lady marriage, but she refused it on the grounds that such a match might mar
my career. Had she lived, I would certainly never have married anyone else. She died, and
left this one child, whom for her sake I have cherished and cared for. I could not
acknowledge the paternity to the world, but I gave him the best of educations, and since
he came to manhood I have kept him near my person. He surprised my secret, and has
presumed ever since upon the claim which he has upon me, and upon his power of provoking a
scandal which would be abhorrent to me. His presence had something to do with the unhappy
issue of my marriage. Above all, he hated my young legitimate heir from the first with a
persistent hatred. You may well ask me why, under these circumstances, I still kept James
under my roof. I answer that it was because I could see his mothers face in his, and
that for her dear sake there was no end to my long-suffering. All her pretty ways
toothere was not one of them which he could not suggest and bring back to my memory.
I could not send him away. But I feared so much lest he should do
Arthurthat is, Lord Saltire a mischief, that I dispatched him for safety to
Dr. Huxtables school.
James came into contact with this fellow Hayes, because
the man was a tenant of mine, and James acted as agent. The fellow was a rascal from the
beginning, but, in some extraordinary way, James became intimate with him. He had always a
taste for low company. When James determined to kidnap Lord Saltire, it was of this
mans service that he availed himself. You remember that I wrote to Arthur upon that
last day. Well, James opened the letter and inserted a note asking Arthur to meet him in a
little wood called the Ragged Shaw, which is near to the school. He used the
Duchesss name, and in that way got the boy to come. That evening James bicycled
overI am telling you what he has himself confessed to meand he told Arthur,
whom he met in the wood, that his mother longed to see him, that she was awaiting him on
the moor, and that if he would come back into the wood at midnight he would find a man
with a horse, who would take him to her. Poor Arthur fell into the trap. He came to the
appointment, and found this fellow Hayes with a led pony. Arthur mounted, and they set off
together. It appearsthough this James only heard yesterday that they were
pursued, that Hayes struck the pursuer with his stick, and that the man died of his
injuries. Hayes brought Arthur to his public-house, the Fighting Cock, where he was
confined in an upper room, under the care of Mrs. Hayes, who is a kindly woman, but
entirely under the control of her brutal husband.
Well, Mr. Holmes, that was the state of affairs when I
first saw you two days ago. I had no more idea of the truth than you. You will ask me what
was Jamess  motive
in doing such a deed. I answer that there was a great deal which was unreasoning and
fanatical in the hatred which he bore my heir. In his view he should himself have been
heir of all my estates, and he deeply resented those social laws which made it impossible.
At the same time, he had a definite motive also. He was eager that I should break the
entail, and he was of opinion that it lay in my power to do so. He intended to make a
bargain with meto restore Arthur if I would break the entail, and so make it
possible for the estate to be left to him by will. He knew well that I should never
willingly invoke the aid of the police against him. I say that he would have proposed such
a bargain to me; but he did not actually do so, for events moved too quickly for him, and
he had not time to put his plans into practice.
What brought all his wicked scheme to wreck was your
discovery of this man Heideggers dead body. James was seized with horror at the
news. It came to us yesterday, as we sat together in this study. Dr. Huxtable had sent a
telegram. James was so overwhelmed with grief and agitation that my suspicions, which had
never been entirely absent, rose instantly to a certainty, and I taxed him with the deed.
He made a complete voluntary confession. Then he implored me to keep his secret for three
days longer, so as to give his wretched accomplice a chance of saving his guilty life. I
yieldedas I have always yieldedto his prayers, and instantly James hurried off
to the Fighting Cock to warn Hayes and give him the means of flight. I could not go there
by daylight without provoking comment, but as soon as night fell I hurried off to see my
dear Arthur. I found him safe and well, but horrified beyond expression by the dreadful
deed he had witnessed. In deference to my promise, and much against my will, I consented
to leave him there for three days, under the charge of Mrs. Hayes, since it was evident
that it was impossible to inform the police where he was without telling them also who was
the murderer, and I could not see how that murderer could be punished without ruin to my
unfortunate James. You asked for frankness, Mr. Holmes, and I have taken you at your word,
for I have now told you everything without an attempt at circumlocution or concealment. Do
you in turn be as frank with me.
I will, said Holmes. In the first place,
your Grace, I am bound to tell you that you have placed yourself in a most serious
position in the eyes of the law. You have condoned a felony, and you have aided the escape
of a murderer, for I cannot doubt that any money which was taken by James Wilder to aid
his accomplice in his flight came from your Graces purse.
The Duke bowed his assent.
This is, indeed, a most serious matter. Even more
culpable in my opinion, your Grace, is your attitude towards your younger son. You leave
him in this den for three days.
Under solemn promises
What are promises to such people as these? You have no
guarantee that he will not be spirited away again. To humour your guilty elder son, you
have exposed your innocent younger son to imminent and unnecessary danger. It was a most
The proud lord of Holdernesse was not accustomed to be so
rated in his own ducal hall. The blood flushed into his high forehead, but his conscience
held him dumb.
I will help you, but on one condition only. It is that
you ring for the footman and let me give such orders as I like.
Without a word, the Duke pressed the electric bell. A servant
will be glad to hear, said Holmes, that your young master is found. It is the
Dukes desire that the carriage shall go at once to the Fighting Cock Inn to bring
Lord Saltire home.
Now, said Holmes, when the rejoicing lackey had
disappeared, having secured the future, we can afford to be more lenient with the
past. I am not in an official position, and there is no reason, so long as the ends of
justice are served, why I should disclose all that I know. As to Hayes, I say nothing. The
gallows awaits him, and I would do nothing to save him from it. What he will divulge I
cannot tell, but I have no doubt that your Grace could make him understand that it is to
his interest to be silent. From the police point of view he will have kidnapped the boy
for the purpose of ransom. If they do not themselves find it out, I see no reason why I
should prompt them to take a broader point of view. I would warn your Grace, however, that
the continued presence of Mr. James Wilder in your household can only lead to
I understand that, Mr. Holmes, and it is already settled
that he shall leave me forever, and go to seek his fortune in Australia.
In that case, your Grace, since you have yourself stated
that any unhappiness in your married life was caused by his presence, I would suggest that
you make such amends as you can to the Duchess, and that you try to resume those relations
which have been so unhappily interrupted.
That also I have arranged, Mr. Holmes. I wrote to the
Duchess this morning.
In that case, said Holmes, rising, I think
that my friend and I can congratulate ourselves upon several most happy results from our
little visit to the North. There is one other small point upon which I desire some light.
This fellow Hayes had shod his horses with shoes which counterfeited the tracks of cows.
Was it from Mr. Wilder that he learned so extraordinary a device?
The Duke stood in thought for a moment, with a look of intense
surprise on his face. Then he opened a door and showed us into a large room furnished as a
museum. He led the way to a glass case in a corner, and pointed to the inscription.
These shoes, it ran, were dug up in the moat
of Holdernesse Hall. They are for the use of horses, but they are shaped below with a
cloven foot of iron, so as to throw pursuers off the track. They are supposed to have
belonged to some of the marauding Barons of Holdernesse in the Middle Ages.
Holmes opened the case, and moistening his finger he passed
it along the shoe. A thin film of recent mud was left upon his skin.
Thank you, said he, as he replaced the glass.
It is the second most interesting object that I have seen in the North.
And the first?
Holmes folded up his check and placed it carefully in his
notebook. I am a poor man, said he, as he patted it affectionately, and thrust
it into the depths of his inner pocket.