The Premier sprang to his feet with that quick, fierce gleam
of his deep-set eyes before which a Cabinet has cowered. I am not accustomed, sir,
he began, but mastered his anger and resumed his seat. For a minute or more we all
sat in silence. Then the old statesman shrugged his shoulders.
We must accept your terms, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are
right, and it is unreasonable for us to expect you to act unless we give you our entire
agree with you, said the younger statesman.
Then I will tell you, relying entirely upon your honour
and that of your colleague, Dr. Watson. I may appeal to your patriotism also, for I could
not imagine a greater misfortune for the country than that this affair should come
You may safely trust us.
The letter, then, is from a certain foreign potentate
who has been ruffled by some recent Colonial developments of this country. It has been
written hurriedly and upon his own responsibility entirely. Inquiries have shown that his
Ministers know nothing of the matter. At the same time it is couched in so unfortunate a
manner, and certain phrases in it are of so provocative a character, that its publication
would undoubtedly lead to a most dangerous state of feeling in this country. There would
be such a ferment, sir, that I do not hesitate to say that within a week of the
publication of that letter this country would be involved in a great war.
Holmes wrote a name upon a slip of paper and handed it to the
Exactly. It was he. And it is this letterthis
letter which may well mean the expenditure of a thousand millions and the lives of a
hundred thousand menwhich has become lost in this unaccountable fashion.
Have you informed the sender?
Yes, sir, a cipher telegram has been despatched.
Perhaps he desires the publication of the letter.
No, sir, we have strong reason to believe that he
already understands that he has acted in an indiscreet and hot-headed manner. It would be
a greater blow to him and to his country than to us if this letter were to come out.
If this is so, whose interest is it that the letter
should come out? Why should anyone desire to steal it or to publish it?
There, Mr. Holmes, you take me into regions of high
international politics. But if you consider the European situation you will have no
difficulty in perceiving the motive. The whole of Europe is an armed camp. There is a
double league which makes a fair balance of military power. Great Britain holds the
scales. If Britain were driven into war with one confederacy, it would assure the
supremacy of the other confederacy, whether they joined in the war or not. Do you
Very clearly. It is then the interest of the enemies of
this potentate to secure and publish this letter, so as to make a breach between his
country and ours?
And to whom would this document be sent if it fell into
the hands of an enemy?
To any of the great Chancelleries of Europe. It is
probably speeding on its way thither at the present instant as fast as steam can take
Mr. Trelawney Hope dropped his head on his chest and groaned
aloud. The Premier placed his hand kindly upon his shoulder.
It is your misfortune, my dear fellow. No one can blame
you. There is no precaution which you have neglected. Now, Mr. Holmes, you are in full
possession of the facts. What course do you recommend?
Holmes shook his head mournfully.
You think, sir, that unless this document is recovered
there will be war?
I think it is very probable.
Then, sir, prepare for war.
That is a hard saying, Mr. Holmes.
Consider the facts, sir. It is inconceivable that it was
taken after eleven-thirty  at
night, since I understand that Mr. Hope and his wife were both in the room from that hour
until the loss was found out. It was taken, then, yesterday evening between seven-thirty
and eleven-thirty, probably near the earlier hour, since whoever took it evidently knew
that it was there and would naturally secure it as early as possible. Now, sir, if a
document of this importance were taken at that hour, where can it be now? No one has any
reason to retain it. It has been passed rapidly on to those who need it. What chance have
we now to overtake or even to trace it? It is beyond our reach.
The Prime Minister rose from the settee.
What you say is perfectly logical, Mr. Holmes. I feel
that the matter is indeed out of our hands.
Let us presume, for arguments sake, that the
document was taken by the maid or by the valet
They are both old and tried servants.
I understand you to say that your room is on the second
floor, that there is no entrance from without, and that from within no one could go up
unobserved. It must, then, be somebody in the house who has taken it. To whom would the
thief take it? To one of several international spies and secret agents, whose names are
tolerably familiar to me. There are three who may be said to be the heads of their
profession. I will begin my research by going round and finding if each of them is at his
post. If one is missingespecially if he has disappeared since last nightwe
will have some indication as to where the document has gone.
Why should he be missing? asked the European
Secretary. He would take the letter to an Embassy in London, as likely as not.
I fancy not. These agents work independently, and their
relations with the Embassies are often strained.
The Prime Minister nodded his acquiescence.
I believe you are right, Mr. Holmes. He would take so
valuable a prize to headquarters with his own hands. I think that your course of action is
an excellent one. Meanwhile, Hope, we cannot neglect all our other duties on account of
this one misfortune. Should there be any fresh developments during the day we shall
communicate with you, and you will no doubt let us know the results of your own
The two statesmen bowed and walked gravely from the room.
When our illustrious visitors had departed Holmes lit his pipe
in silence and sat for some time lost in the deepest thought. I had opened the morning
paper and was immersed in a sensational crime which had occurred in London the night
before, when my friend gave an exclamation, sprang to his feet, and laid his pipe down
upon the mantelpiece.
Yes, said he, there is no better way of
approaching it. The situation is desperate, but not hopeless. Even now, if we could be
sure which of them has taken it, it is just possible that it has not yet passed out of his
hands. After all, it is a question of money with these fellows, and I have the British
treasury behind me. If its on the market Ill buy itif it means another
penny on the income-tax. It is conceivable that the fellow might hold it back to see what
bids come from this side before he tries his luck on the other. There are only those three
capable of playing so bold a gamethere are Oberstein, La Rothiere, and Eduardo
Lucas. I will see each of them.
I glanced at my morning paper.
that Eduardo Lucas of Godolphin Street?
You will not see him.
He was murdered in his house last night.
My friend has so often astonished me in the course of our
adventures that it was with a sense of exultation that I realized how completely I had
astonished him. He stared in amazement, and then snatched the paper from my hands. This
was the paragraph which I had been engaged in reading when he rose from his chair.
MURDER IN WESTMINSTER
- A crime of mysterious character was committed last night at
16 Godolphin Street, one of the old-fashioned and secluded rows of eighteenth century
houses which lie between the river and the Abbey, almost in the shadow of the great Tower
of the Houses of Parliament. This small but select mansion has been inhabited for some
years by Mr. Eduardo Lucas, well known in society circles both on account of his charming
personality and because he has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the best
amateur tenors in the country. Mr. Lucas is an unmarried man, thirty-four years of age,
and his establishment consists of Mrs. Pringle, an elderly housekeeper, and of Mitton, his
valet. The former retires early and sleeps at the top of the house. The valet was out for
the evening, visiting a friend at Hammersmith. From ten oclock onward Mr. Lucas had
the house to himself. What occurred during that time has not yet transpired, but at a
quarter to twelve Police-constable Barrett, passing along Godolphin Street, observed that
the door of No. 16 was ajar. He knocked, but received no answer. Perceiving a light in the
front room, he advanced into the passage and again knocked, but without reply. He then
pushed open the door and entered. The room was in a state of wild disorder, the furniture
being all swept to one side, and one chair lying on its back in the centre. Beside this
chair, and still grasping one of its legs, lay the unfortunate tenant of the house. He had
been stabbed to the heart and must have died instantly. The knife with which the crime had
been committed was a curved Indian dagger, plucked down from a trophy of Oriental arms
which adorned one of the walls. Robbery does not appear to have been the motive of the
crime, for there had been no attempt to remove the valuable contents of the room. Mr.
Eduardo Lucas was so well known and popular that his violent and mysterious fate will
arouse painful interest and intense sympathy in a widespread circle of friends.
Well, Watson, what do you make of this? asked
Holmes, after a long pause.
It is an amazing coincidence.
A coincidence! Here is one of the three men whom we
had named as possible actors in this drama, and he meets a violent death during the very
hours when we know that that drama was being enacted. The odds are enormous against its
being coincidence. No figures could express them. No, my dear Watson, the two events are
connectedmust be connected. It is for us to find the connection.
But now the official police must know all.
Not at all. They know all they see at Godolphin Street.
They knowand shall  knownothing
of Whitehall Terrace. Only we know of both events, and can trace the relation
between them. There is one obvious point which would, in any case, have turned my
suspicions against Lucas. Godolphin Street, Westminster, is only a few minutes walk
from Whitehall Terrace. The other secret agents whom I have named live in the extreme West
End. It was easier, therefore, for Lucas than for the others to establish a connection or
receive a message from the European Secretarys householda small thing, and yet
where events are compressed into a few hours it may prove essential. Halloa! what have we
Mrs. Hudson had appeared with a ladys card upon her
salver. Holmes glanced at it, raised his eyebrows, and handed it over to me.
Ask Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope if she will be kind enough
to step up, said he.
A moment later our modest apartment, already so
distinguished that morning, was further honoured by the entrance of the most lovely woman
in London. I had often heard of the beauty of the youngest daughter of the Duke of
Belminster, but no description of it, and no contemplation of colourless photographs, had
prepared me for the subtle, delicate charm and the beautiful colouring of that exquisite
head. And yet as we saw it that autumn morning, it was not its beauty which would be the
first thing to impress the observer. The cheek was lovely but it was paled with emotion,
the eyes were bright, but it was the brightness of fever, the sensitive mouth was tight
and drawn in an effort after self-command. Terrornot beautywas what sprang
first to the eye as our fair visitor stood framed for an instant in the open door.
Has my husband been here, Mr. Holmes?
Yes, madam, he has been here.
Mr. Holmes, I implore you not to tell him that I came
here. Holmes bowed coldly, and motioned the lady to a chair.
Your ladyship places me in a very delicate position. I
beg that you will sit down and tell me what you desire, but I fear that I cannot make any
She swept across the room and seated herself with her back to
the window. It was a queenly presencetall, graceful, and intensely womanly.
Mr. Holmes, she saidand her white-gloved
hands clasped and unclasped as she spokeI will speak frankly to you in the
hopes that it may induce you to speak frankly in return. There is complete confidence
between my husband and me on all matters save one. That one is politics. On this his lips
are sealed. He tells me nothing. Now, I am aware that there was a most deplorable
occurrence in our house last night. I know that a paper has disappeared. But because the
matter is political my husband refuses to take me into his complete confidence. Now it is
essentialessential, I saythat I should thoroughly understand it. You are the
only other person, save only these politicians, who knows the true facts. I beg you then,
Mr. Holmes, to tell me exactly what has happened and what it will lead to. Tell me all,
Mr. Holmes. Let no regard for your clients interests keep you silent, for I assure
you that his interests, if he would only see it, would be best served by taking me into
his complete confidence. What was this paper which was stolen?
Madam, what you ask me is really impossible.
She groaned and sank her face in her hands.
You must see that this is so, madam. If your husband
thinks fit to keep you in the dark over this matter, is it for me, who has only learned
the true facts under  the
pledge of professional secrecy, to tell what he has withheld? It is not fair to ask it. It
is him whom you must ask.
I have asked him. I come to you as a last resource. But
without your telling me anything definite, Mr. Holmes, you may do a great service if you
would enlighten me on one point.
What is it, madam?
Is my husbands political career likely to suffer
through this incident?
Well, madam, unless it is set right it may certainly
have a very unfortunate effect.
Ah! She drew in her breath sharply as one whose
doubts are resolved.
One more question, Mr. Holmes. From an expression which
my husband dropped in the first shock of this disaster I understood that terrible public
consequences might arise from the loss of this document.
If he said so, I certainly cannot deny it.
Of what nature are they?
Nay, madam, there again you ask me more than I can
Then I will take up no more of your time. I cannot blame
you, Mr. Holmes, for having refused to speak more freely, and you on your side will not, I
am sure, think the worse of me because I desire, even against his will, to share my
husbands anxieties. Once more I beg that you will say nothing of my visit.
She looked back at us from the door, and I had a last
impression of that beautiful haunted face, the startled eyes, and the drawn mouth. Then
she was gone.
Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department, said
Holmes, with a smile, when the dwindling frou-frou of skirts had ended in the slam of the
front door. What was the fair ladys game? What did she really want?
Surely her own statement is clear and her anxiety very
Hum! Think of her appearance, Watsonher manner,
her suppressed excitement, her restlessness, her tenacity in asking questions. Remember
that she comes of a caste who do not lightly show emotion.
She was certainly much moved.
Remember also the curious earnestness with which she
assured us that it was best for her husband that she should know all. What did she mean by
that? And you must have observed, Watson, how she manoeuvred to have the light at her
back. She did not wish us to read her expression.
Yes, she chose the one chair in the room.
And yet the motives of women are so inscrutable. You
remember the woman at Margate whom I suspected for the same reason. No powder on her
nosethat proved to be the correct solution. How can you build on such a quicksand?
Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend
upon a hairpin or a curling tongs. Good-morning, Watson.
You are off?
Yes, I will while away the morning at Godolphin Street
with our friends of the regular establishment. With Eduardo Lucas lies the solution of our
problem, though I must admit that I have not an inkling as to what form it may take. It is
a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. Do you stay on guard, my good
Watson, and receive any fresh visitors. Ill join you at lunch if I am able.
All that day and the next and the next Holmes was in a mood
which his friends would call taciturn, and others morose. He ran out and ran in, smoked
incessantly, played snatches on his violin, sank into reveries, devoured sandwiches at
irregular  hours, and
hardly answered the casual questions which I put to him. It was evident to me that things
were not going well with him or his quest. He would say nothing of the case, and it was
from the papers that I learned the particulars of the inquest, and the arrest with the
subsequent release of John Mitton, the valet of the deceased. The coroners jury
brought in the obvious Wilful Murder, but the parties remained as unknown as ever. No
motive was suggested. The room was full of articles of value, but none had been taken. The
dead mans papers had not been tampered with. They were carefully examined, and
showed that he was a keen student of international politics, an indefatigable gossip, a
remarkable linguist, and an untiring letter writer. He had been on intimate terms with the
leading politicians of several countries. But nothing sensational was discovered among the
documents which filled his drawers. As to his relations with women, they appeared to have
been promiscuous but superficial. He had many acquaintances among them, but few friends,
and no one whom he loved. His habits were regular, his conduct inoffensive. His death was
an absolute mystery and likely to remain so.
As to the arrest of John Mitton, the valet, it was a council
of despair as an alternative to absolute inaction. But no case could be sustained against
him. He had visited friends in Hammersmith that night. The alibi was complete. It
is true that he started home at an hour which should have brought him to Westminster
before the time when the crime was discovered, but his own explanation that he had walked
part of the way seemed probable enough in view of the fineness of the night. He had
actually arrived at twelve oclock, and appeared to be overwhelmed by the unexpected
tragedy. He had always been on good terms with his master. Several of the dead mans
possessionsnotably a small case of razorshad been found in the valets
boxes, but he explained that they had been presents from the deceased, and the housekeeper
was able to corroborate the story. Mitton had been in Lucass employment for three
years. It was noticeable that Lucas did not take Mitton on the Continent with him.
Sometimes he visited Paris for three months on end, but Mitton was left in charge of the
Godolphin Street house. As to the housekeeper, she had heard nothing on the night of the
crime. If her master had a visitor he had himself admitted him.
So for three mornings the mystery remained, so far as I could
follow it in the papers. If Holmes knew more, he kept his own counsel, but, as he told me
that Inspector Lestrade had taken him into his confidence in the case, I knew that he was
in close touch with every development. Upon the fourth day there appeared a long telegram
from Paris which seemed to solve the whole question.
A discovery has just been made by the Parisian police [said
the Daily Telegraph] which raises the veil which hung round the tragic fate of
Mr. Eduardo Lucas, who met his death by violence last Monday night at Godolphin Street,
Westminster. Our readers will remember that the deceased gentleman was found stabbed in
his room, and that some suspicion attached to his valet, but that the case broke down on
an alibi. Yesterday a lady, who has been known as Mme. Henri Fournaye, occupying
a small villa in the Rue Austerlitz, was reported to the authorities by her servants as
being insane. An examination showed she had indeed developed mania of a dangerous and
permanent form. On inquiry, the police have discovered that Mme. Henri Fournaye only
returned from a journey to London on Tuesday last, and there is evidence to connect her
with the crime at Westminster.  A
comparison of photographs has proved conclusively that M. Henri Fournaye and Eduardo Lucas
were really one and the same person, and that the deceased had for some reason lived a
double life in London and Paris. Mme. Fournaye, who is of Creole origin, is of an
extremely excitable nature, and has suffered in the past from attacks of jealousy which
have amounted to frenzy. It is conjectured that it was in one of these that she committed
the terrible crime which has caused such a sensation in London. Her movements upon the
Monday night have not yet been traced, but it is undoubted that a woman answering to her
description attracted much attention at Charing Cross Station on Tuesday morning by the
wildness of her appearance and the violence of her gestures. It is probable, therefore,
that the crime was either committed when insane, or that its immediate effect was to drive
the unhappy woman out of her mind. At present she is unable to give any coherent account
of the past, and the doctors hold out no hopes of the reestablishment of her reason. There
is evidence that a woman, who might have been Mme. Fournaye, was seen for some hours upon
Monday night watching the house in Godolphin Street.
What do you think of that, Holmes? I had read
the account aloud to him, while he finished his breakfast.
My dear Watson, said he, as he rose from the table
and paced up and down the room, you are most long-suffering, but if I have told you
nothing in the last three days, it is because there is nothing to tell. Even now this
report from Paris does not help us much.
Surely it is final as regards the mans
The mans death is a mere incidenta trivial
episodein comparison with our real task, which is to trace this document and save a
European catastrophe. Only one important thing has happened in the last three days, and
that is that nothing has happened. I get reports almost hourly from the government, and it
is certain that nowhere in Europe is there any sign of trouble. Now, if this letter were
looseno, it cant be loosebut if it isnt loose, where can
it be? Who has it? Why is it held back? Thats the question that beats in my brain
like a hammer. Was it, indeed, a coincidence that Lucas should meet his death on the night
when the letter disappeared? Did the letter ever reach him? If so, why is it not among his
papers? Did this mad wife of his carry it off with her? If so, is it in her house in
Paris? How could I search for it without the French police having their suspicions
aroused? It is a case, my dear Watson, where the law is as dangerous to us as the
criminals are. Every mans hand is against us, and yet the interests at stake are
colossal. Should I bring it to a successful conclusion, it will certainly represent the
crowning glory of my career. Ah, here is my latest from the front! He glanced
hurriedly at the note which had been handed in. Halloa! Lestrade seems to have
observed something of interest. Put on your hat, Watson, and we will stroll down together
It was my first visit to the scene of the crimea high,
dingy, narrow-chested house, prim, formal, and solid, like the century which gave it
birth. Lestrades bulldog features gazed out at us from the front window, and he
greeted us warmly when a big constable had opened the door and let us in. The room into
which we were shown was that in which the crime had been committed, but no trace of it now
remained save an ugly, irregular stain upon the carpet. This carpet was a  small square drugget in the
centre of the room, surrounded by a broad expanse of beautiful, old-fashioned
wood-flooring in square blocks, highly polished. Over the fireplace was a magnificent
trophy of weapons, one of which had been used on that tragic night. In the window was a
sumptuous writing-desk, and every detail of the apartment, the pictures, the rugs, and the
hangings, all pointed to a taste which was luxurious to the verge of effeminacy.
Seen the Paris news? asked Lestrade.
Our French friends seem to have touched the spot this
time. No doubt its just as they say. She knocked at the doorsurprise visit, I
guess, for he kept his life in water-tight compartmentshe let her in, couldnt
keep her in the street. She told him how she had traced him, reproached him. One thing led
to another, and then with that dagger so handy the end soon came. It wasnt all done
in an instant, though, for these chairs were all swept over yonder, and he had one in his
hand as if he had tried to hold her off with it. Weve got it all clear as if we had
Holmes raised his eyebrows.
And yet you have sent for me?
Ah, yes, thats another mattera mere trifle,
but the sort of thing you take an interest inqueer, you know, and what you might
call freakish. It has nothing to do with the main factcant have, on the face
What is it, then?
Well, you know, after a crime of this sort we are very
careful to keep things in their position. Nothing has been moved. Officer in charge here
day and night. This morning, as the man was buried and the investigation overso far
as this room is concernedwe thought we could tidy up a bit. This carpet. You see, it
is not fastened down, only just laid there. We had occasion to raise it. We found
Yes? You found
Holmess face grew tense with anxiety.
Well, Im sure you would never guess in a hundred
years what we did find. You see that stain on the carpet? Well, a great deal must have
soaked through, must it not?
Undoubtedly it must.
Well, you will be surprised to hear that there is no
stain on the white woodwork to correspond.
No stain! But there must
Yes, so you would say. But the fact remains that there
He took the corner of the carpet in his hand and, turning
it over, he showed that it was indeed as he said.
But the under side is as stained as the upper. It must
have left a mark.
Lestrade chuckled with delight at having puzzled the famous
Now, Ill show you the explanation. There is
a second stain, but it does not correspond with the other. See for yourself. As he
spoke he turned over another portion of the carpet, and there, sure enough, was a great
crimson spill upon the square white facing of the old-fashioned floor. What do you
make of that, Mr. Holmes?
Why, it is simple enough. The two stains did correspond,
but the carpet has been turned round. As it was square and unfastened it was easily
The official police dont need you, Mr. Holmes, to
tell them that the carpet must have been turned round. Thats clear enough, for the
stains lie above each  otherif
you lay it over this way. But what I want to know is, who shifted the carpet, and
I could see from Holmess rigid face that he was
vibrating with inward excitement.
Look here, Lestrade, said he, has that
constable in the passage been in charge of the place all the time?
Yes, he has.
Well, take my advice. Examine him carefully. Dont
do it before us. Well wait here. You take him into the back room. Youll be
more likely to get a confession out of him alone. Ask him how he dared to admit people and
leave them alone in this room. Dont ask him if he has done it. Take it for granted.
Tell him you know someone has been here. Press him. Tell him that a full confession is his
only chance of forgiveness. Do exactly what I tell you!
By George, if he knows Ill have it out of
him! cried Lestrade. He darted into the hall, and a few moments later his bullying
voice sounded from the back room.
Now, Watson, now! cried Holmes with frenzied
eagerness. All the demoniacal force of the man masked behind that listless manner burst
out in a paroxysm of energy. He tore the drugget from the floor, and in an instant was
down on his hands and knees clawing at each of the squares of wood beneath it. One turned
sideways as he dug his nails into the edge of it. It hinged back like the lid of a box. A
small black cavity opened beneath it. Holmes plunged his eager hand into it and drew it
out with a bitter snarl of anger and disappointment. It was empty.
Quick, Watson, quick! Get it back again! The
wooden lid was replaced, and the drugget had only just been drawn straight when
Lestrades voice was heard in the passage. He found Holmes leaning languidly against
the mantelpiece, resigned and patient, endeavouring to conceal his irrepressible yawns.
Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Holmes. I can see that
you are bored to death with the whole affair. Well, he has confessed, all right. Come in
here, MacPherson. Let these gentlemen hear of your most inexcusable conduct.
The big constable, very hot and penitent, sidled into the
I meant no harm, sir, Im sure. The young woman
came to the door last eveningmistook the house, she did. And then we got talking.
Its lonesome, when youre on duty here all day.
Well, what happened then?
She wanted to see where the crime was donehad read
about it in the papers, she said. She was a very respectable, well-spoken young woman,
sir, and I saw no harm in letting her have a peep. When she saw that mark on the carpet,
down she dropped on the floor, and lay as if she were dead. I ran to the back and got some
water, but I could not bring her to. Then I went round the corner to the Ivy Plant for
some brandy, and by the time I had brought it back the young woman had recovered and was
offashamed of herself, I daresay, and dared not face me.
How about moving that drugget?
Well, sir, it was a bit rumpled, certainly, when I came
back. You see, she fell on it and it lies on a polished floor with nothing to keep it in
place. I straightened it out afterwards.
Its a lesson to you that you cant deceive
me, Constable MacPherson, said Lestrade, with dignity. No doubt you thought
that your breach of duty could never be discovered, and yet a mere glance at that drugget
was enough to convince me  that
someone had been admitted to the room. Its lucky for you, my man, that nothing is
missing, or you would find yourself in Queer Street. Im sorry to have called you
down over such a petty business, Mr. Holmes, but I thought the point of the second stain
not corresponding with the first would interest you.
Certainly, it was most interesting. Has this woman only
been here once, constable?
Yes, sir, only once.
Who was she?
Dont know the name, sir. Was answering an
advertisement about typewriting and came to the wrong numbervery pleasant, genteel
young woman, sir.
Yes, sir, she was a well-grown young woman. I suppose
you might say she was handsome. Perhaps some would say she was very handsome. Oh,
officer, do let me have a peep! says she. She had pretty, coaxing ways, as you might
say, and I thought there was no harm in letting her just put her head through the
How was she dressed?
Quiet, sira long mantle down to her feet.
What time was it?
It was just growing dusk at the time. They were lighting
the lamps as I came back with the brandy.
Very good, said Holmes. Come, Watson, I
think that we have more important work elsewhere.
As we left the house Lestrade remained in the front room,
while the repentant constable opened the door to let us out. Holmes turned on the step and
held up something in his hand. The constable stared intently.
Good Lord, sir! he cried, with amazement on his
face. Holmes put his finger on his lips, replaced his hand in his breast pocket, and burst
out laughing as we turned down the street. Excellent! said he. Come,
friend Watson, the curtain rings up for the last act. You will be relieved to hear that
there will be no war, that the Right Honourable Trelawney Hope will suffer no setback in
his brilliant career, that the indiscreet Sovereign will receive no punishment for his
indiscretion, that the Prime Minister will have no European complication to deal with, and
that with a little tact and management upon our part nobody will be a penny the worse for
what might have been a very ugly incident.
My mind filled with admiration for this extraordinary man.
You have solved it! I cried.
Hardly that, Watson. There are some points which are as
dark as ever. But we have so much that it will be our own fault if we cannot get the rest.
We will go straight to Whitehall Terrace and bring the matter to a head.
When we arrived at the residence of the European Secretary it
was for Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope that Sherlock Holmes inquired. We were shown into the
Mr. Holmes! said the lady, and her face was pink
with her indignation. This is surely most unfair and ungenerous upon your part. I
desired, as I have explained, to keep my visit to you a secret, lest my husband should
think that I was intruding into his affairs. And yet you compromise me by coming here and
so showing that there are business relations between us.
Unfortunately, madam, I had no possible alternative. I
have been commissioned  to
recover this immensely important paper. I must therefore ask you, madam, to be kind enough
to place it in my hands.
The lady sprang to her feet, with the colour all dashed in an
instant from her beautiful face. Her eyes glazedshe totteredI thought that she
would faint. Then with a grand effort she rallied from the shock, and a supreme
astonishment and indignation chased every other expression from her features.
Youyou insult me, Mr. Holmes.
Come, come, madam, it is useless. Give up the
She darted to the bell.
The butler shall show you out.
Do not ring, Lady Hilda. If you do, then all my earnest
efforts to avoid a scandal will be frustrated. Give up the letter and all will be set
right. If you will work with me I can arrange everything. If you work against me I must
She stood grandly defiant, a queenly figure, her eyes fixed
upon his as if she would read his very soul. Her hand was on the bell, but she had
forborne to ring it.
You are trying to frighten me. It is not a very manly
thing, Mr. Holmes, to come here and browbeat a woman. You say that you know something.
What is it that you know?
Pray sit down, madam. You will hurt yourself there if
you fall. I will not speak until you sit down. Thank you.
I give you five minutes, Mr. Holmes.
One is enough, Lady Hilda. I know of your visit to
Eduardo Lucas, of your giving him this document, of your ingenious return to the room last
night, and of the manner in which you took the letter from the hiding-place under the
She stared at him with an ashen face and gulped twice before
she could speak.
You are mad, Mr. Holmesyou are mad! she
cried, at last.
He drew a small piece of cardboard from his pocket. It was the
face of a woman cut out of a portrait.
I have carried this because I thought it might be
useful, said he. The policeman has recognized it.
She gave a gasp, and her head dropped back in the chair.
Come, Lady Hilda. You have the letter. The matter may
still be adjusted. I have no desire to bring trouble to you. My duty ends when I have
returned the lost letter to your husband. Take my advice and be frank with me. It is your
Her courage was admirable. Even now she would not own defeat.
I tell you again, Mr. Holmes, that you are under some
Holmes rose from his chair.
I am sorry for you, Lady Hilda. I have done my best for
you. I can see that it is all in vain.
He rang the bell. The butler entered.
Is Mr. Trelawney Hope at home?
He will be home, sir, at a quarter to one.
Holmes glanced at his watch.
Still a quarter of an hour, said he. Very
good, I shall wait.
The butler had hardly closed the door behind him when Lady
Hilda was down on her knees at Holmess feet, her hands outstretched, her beautiful
face upturned and wet with her tears.
Oh, spare me, Mr. Holmes! Spare me! she pleaded,
in a frenzy of  supplication.
For heavens sake, dont tell him! I love him so! I would not bring one
shadow on his life, and this I know would break his noble heart.
Holmes raised the lady. I am thankful, madam, that you
have come to your senses even at this last moment! There is not an instant to lose. Where
is the letter?
She darted across to a writing-desk, unlocked it, and drew out
a long blue envelope.
Here it is, Mr. Holmes. Would to heaven I had never seen
How can we return it? Holmes muttered.
Quick, quick, we must think of some way! Where is the despatch-box?
Still in his bedroom.
What a stroke of luck! Quick, madam, bring it
A moment later she had appeared with a red flat box in her
How did you open it before? You have a duplicate key?
Yes, of course you have. Open it!
From out of her bosom Lady Hilda had drawn a small key. The
box flew open. It was stuffed with papers. Holmes thrust the blue envelope deep down into
the heart of them, between the leaves of some other document. The box was shut, locked,
and returned to the bedroom.
Now we are ready for him, said Holmes. We
have still ten minutes. I am going far to screen you, Lady Hilda. In return you will spend
the time in telling me frankly the real meaning of this extraordinary affair.
Mr. Holmes, I will tell you everything, cried the
lady. Oh, Mr. Holmes, I would cut off my right hand before I gave him a moment of
sorrow! There is no woman in all London who loves her husband as I do, and yet if he knew
how I have actedhow I have been compelled to acthe would never forgive me. For
his own honour stands so high that he could not forget or pardon a lapse in another. Help
me, Mr. Holmes! My happiness, his happiness, our very lives are at stake!
Quick, madam, the time grows short!
It was a letter of mine, Mr. Holmes, an indiscreet
letter written before my marriagea foolish letter, a letter of an impulsive, loving
girl. I meant no harm, and yet he would have thought it criminal. Had he read that letter
his confidence would have been forever destroyed. It is years since I wrote it. I had
thought that the whole matter was forgotten. Then at last I heard from this man, Lucas,
that it had passed into his hands, and that he would lay it before my husband. I implored
his mercy. He said that he would return my letter if I would bring him a certain document
which he described in my husbands despatch-box. He had some spy in the office who
had told him of its existence. He assured me that no harm could come to my husband. Put
yourself in my position, Mr. Holmes! What was I to do?
Take your husband into your confidence.
I could not, Mr. Holmes, I could not! On the one side
seemed certain ruin, on the other, terrible as it seemed to take my husbands paper,
still in a matter of politics I could not understand the consequences, while in a matter
of love and trust they were only too clear to me. I did it, Mr. Holmes! I took an
impression of his key. This man, Lucas, furnished a duplicate. I opened his despatch-box,
took the paper, and conveyed it to Godolphin Street.
What happened there, madam?
tapped at the door as agreed. Lucas opened it. I followed him into his room, leaving the
hall door ajar behind me, for I feared to be alone with the man. I remember that there was
a woman outside as I entered. Our business was soon done. He had my letter on his desk, I
handed him the document. He gave me the letter. At this instant there was a sound at the
door. There were steps in the passage. Lucas quickly turned back the drugget, thrust the
document into some hiding-place there, and covered it over.
What happened after that is like some fearful dream. I
have a vision of a dark, frantic face, of a womans voice, which screamed in French,
My waiting is not in vain. At last, at last I have found you with her! There
was a savage struggle. I saw him with a chair in his hand, a knife gleamed in hers. I
rushed from the horrible scene, ran from the house, and only next morning in the paper did
I learn the dreadful result. That night I was happy, for I had my letter, and I had not
seen yet what the future would bring.
It was the next morning that I realized that I had only
exchanged one trouble for another. My husbands anguish at the loss of his paper went
to my heart. I could hardly prevent myself from there and then kneeling down at his feet
and telling him what I had done. But that again would mean a confession of the past. I
came to you that morning in order to understand the full enormity of my offence. From the
instant that I grasped it my whole mind was turned to the one thought of getting back my
husbands paper. It must still be where Lucas had placed it, for it was concealed
before this dreadful woman entered the room. If it had not been for her coming, I should
not have known where his hiding-place was. How was I to get into the room? For two days I
watched the place, but the door was never left open. Last night I made a last attempt.
What I did and how I succeeded, you have already learned. I brought the paper back with
me, and thought of destroying it, since I could see no way of returning it without
confessing my guilt to my husband. Heavens, I hear his step upon the stair!
The European Secretary burst excitedly into the room.
Any news, Mr. Holmes, any news? he cried.
I have some hopes.
Ah, thank heaven! His face became radiant.
The Prime Minister is lunching with me. May he share your hopes? He has nerves of
steel, and yet I know that he has hardly slept since this terrible event. Jacobs, will you
ask the Prime Minister to come up? As to you, dear, I fear that this is a matter of
politics. We will join you in a few minutes in the dining-room.
The Prime Ministers manner was subdued, but I could see
by the gleam of his eyes and the twitchings of his bony hands that he shared the
excitement of his young colleague.
I understand that you have something to report, Mr.
Purely negative as yet, my friend answered.
I have inquired at every point where it might be, and I am sure that there is no
danger to be apprehended.
But that is not enough, Mr. Holmes. We cannot live
forever on such a volcano. We must have something definite.
I am in hopes of getting it. That is why I am here. The
more I think of the matter the more convinced I am that the letter has never left this
If it had it would certainly have been public by
But why should anyone take it in order to keep it in his
am not convinced that anyone did take it.
Then how could it leave the despatch-box?
I am not convinced that it ever did leave the
Mr. Holmes, this joking is very ill-timed. You have my
assurance that it left the box.
Have you examined the box since Tuesday morning?
No. It was not necessary.
You may conceivably have overlooked it.
Impossible, I say.
But I am not convinced of it. I have known such things
to happen. I presume there are other papers there. Well, it may have got mixed with
It was on the top.
Someone may have shaken the box and displaced it.
No, no, I had everything out.
Surely it is easily decided, Hope, said the
Premier. Let us have the despatch-box brought in.
The Secretary rang the bell.
Jacobs, bring down my despatch-box. This is a farcical
waste of time, but still, if nothing else will satisfy you, it shall be done. Thank you,
Jacobs, put it here. I have always had the key on my watch-chain. Here are the papers, you
see. Letter from Lord Merrow, report from Sir Charles Hardy, memorandum from Belgrade,
note on the Russo-German grain taxes, letter from Madrid, note from Lord Flowers
Good heavens! what is this? Lord Bellinger! Lord Bellinger!
The Premier snatched the blue envelope from his hand.
Yes, it is itand the letter is intact. Hope, I
Thank you! Thank you! What a weight from my heart. But
this is inconceivableimpossible. Mr. Holmes, you are a wizard, a sorcerer! How did
you know it was there?
Because I knew it was nowhere else.
I cannot believe my eyes! He ran wildly to the
door. Where is my wife? I must tell her that all is well. Hilda! Hilda! we
heard his voice on the stairs.
The Premier looked at Holmes with twinkling eyes.
Come, sir, said he. There is more in this
than meets the eye. How came the letter back in the box?
Holmes turned away smiling from the keen scrutiny of those
We also have our diplomatic secrets, said he and,
picking up his hat, he turned to the door.