Thank you. Ill fill the vacant peg then. Sorry to
see that youve had the British workman in the house. Hes a token of evil. Not
the drains, I hope?
No, the gas.
Ah! He has left two nail-marks from his boot upon your
linoleum just where the light strikes it. No, thank you, I had some supper at Waterloo,
but Ill smoke a pipe with you with pleasure.
I handed him my pouch, and he seated himself opposite to me
and smoked for some time in silence. I was well aware that nothing but business of
importance  would have
brought him to me at such an hour, so I waited patiently until he should come round to it.
I see that you are professionally rather busy just
now, said he, glancing very keenly across at me.
Yes, Ive had a busy day, I answered.
It may seem very foolish in your eyes, I added, but really I dont
know how you deduced it.
Holmes chuckled to himself.
I have the advantage of knowing your habits, my dear
Watson, said he. When your round is a short one you walk, and when it is a
long one you use a hansom. As I perceive that your boots, although used, are by no means
dirty, I cannot doubt that you are at present busy enough to justify the hansom.
Excellent! I cried.
Elementary, said he. It is one of those
instances where the reasoner can produce an effect which seems remarkable to his
neighbour, because the latter has missed the one little point which is the basis of the
deduction. The same may be said, my dear fellow, for the effect of some of these little
sketches of yours, which is entirely meretricious, depending as it does upon your
retaining in your own hands some factors in the problem which are never imparted to the
reader. Now, at present I am in the position of these same readers, for I hold in this
hand several threads of one of the strangest cases which ever perplexed a mans
brain, and yet I lack the one or two which are needful to complete my theory. But
Ill have them, Watson, Ill have them! His eyes kindled and a slight
flush sprang into his thin cheeks. For an instant the veil had lifted upon his keen,
intense nature, but for an instant only. When I glanced again his face had resumed that
red-Indian composure which had made so many regard him as a machine rather than a man.
The problem presents features of interest, said
he. I may even say exceptional features of interest. I have already looked into the
matter, and have come, as I think, within sight of my solution. If you could accompany me
in that last step you might be of considerable service to me.
I should be delighted.
Could you go as far as Aldershot to-morrow?
I have no doubt Jackson would take my practice.
Very good. I want to start by the 11:10 from
That would give me time.
Then, if you are not too sleepy, I will give you a
sketch of what has happened, and of what remains to be done.
I was sleepy before you came. I am quite wakeful
I will compress the story as far as may be done without
omitting anything vital to the case. It is conceivable that you may even have read some
account of the matter. It is the supposed murder of Colonel Barclay, of the Royal
Munsters, at Aldershot, which I am investigating.
I have heard nothing of it.
It has not excited much attention yet, except locally.
The facts are only two days old. Briefly they are these:
The Royal Munsters is, as you know, one of the most
famous Irish regiments in the British Army. It did wonders both in the Crimea and the
Mutiny, and has since that time distinguished itself upon every possible occasion. It was
commanded up to Monday night by James Barclay, a gallant veteran, who started as  a full private, was raised
to commissioned rank for his bravery at the time of the Mutiny, and so lived to command
the regiment in which he had once carried a musket.
Colonel Barclay had married at the time when he was a
sergeant, and his wife, whose maiden name was Miss Nancy Devoy, was the daughter of a
former colour-sergeant in the same corps. There was, therefore, as can be imagined, some
little social friction when the young couple (for they were still young) found themselves
in their new surroundings. They appear, however, to have quickly adapted themselves, and
Mrs. Barclay has always, I understand, been as popular with the ladies of the regiment as
her husband was with his brother officers. I may add that she was a woman of great beauty,
and that even now, when she has been married for upward of thirty years, she is still of a
striking and queenly appearance.
Colonel Barclays family life appears to have been
a uniformly happy one. Major Murphy, to whom I owe most of my facts, assures me that he
has never heard of any misunderstanding between the pair. On the whole, he thinks that
Barclays devotion to his wife was greater than his wifes to Barclay. He was
acutely uneasy if he were absent from her for a day. She, on the other hand, though
devoted and faithful, was less obtrusively affectionate. But they were regarded in the
regiment as the very model of a middle-aged couple. There was absolutely nothing in their
mutual relations to prepare people for the tragedy which was to follow.
Colonel Barclay himself seems to have had some singular
traits in his character. He was a dashing, jovial old soldier in his usual mood, but there
were occasions on which he seemed to show himself capable of considerable violence and
vindictiveness. This side of his nature, however, appears never to have been turned
towards his wife. Another fact which had struck Major Murphy and three out of five of the
other officers with whom I conversed was the singular sort of depression which came upon
him at times. As the major expressed it, the smile has often been struck from his mouth,
as if by some invisible hand, when he has been joining in the gaieties and chaff of the
mess-table. For days on end, when the mood was on him, he has been sunk in the deepest
gloom. This and a certain tinge of superstition were the only unusual traits in his
character which his brother officers had observed. The latter peculiarity took the form of
a dislike to being left alone, especially after dark. This puerile feature in a nature
which was conspicuously manly had often given rise to comment and conjecture.
The first battalion of the Royal Munsters (which is the
old One Hundred and Seventeenth) has been stationed at Aldershot for some years. The
married officers live out of barracks, and the colonel has during all this time occupied a
villa called Lachine, about half a mile from the north camp. The house stands
in its own grounds, but the west side of it is not more than thirty yards from the
highroad. A coachman and two maids form the staff of servants. These with their master and
mistress were the sole occupants of Lachine, for the Barclays had no children, nor was it
usual for them to have resident visitors.
Now for the events at Lachine between nine and ten on
the evening of last Monday.
Mrs. Barclay was, it appears, a member of the Roman
Catholic Church and had interested herself very much in the establishment of the Guild of
St. George, which was formed in connection with the Watt Street Chapel for the purpose of
supplying the poor with cast-off clothing. A meeting of the Guild had been held that
evening at eight, and Mrs. Barclay had hurried over her dinner in order to  be present at it. When
leaving the house she was heard by the coachman to make some commonplace remark to her
husband, and to assure him that she would be back before very long. She then called for
Miss Morrison, a young lady who lives in the next villa, and the two went off together to
their meeting. It lasted forty minutes, and at a quarter-past nine Mrs. Barclay returned
home, having left Miss Morrison at her door as she passed.
There is a room which is used as a morning-room at
Lachine. This faces the road and opens by a large glass folding-door on to the lawn. The
lawn is thirty yards across and is only divided from the highway by a low wall with an
iron rail above it. It was into this room that Mrs. Barclay went upon her return. The
blinds were not down, for the room was seldom used in the evening, but Mrs. Barclay
herself lit the lamp and then rang the bell, asking Jane Stewart, the housemaid, to bring
her a cup of tea, which was quite contrary to her usual habits. The colonel had been
sitting in the dining-room, but, hearing that his wife had returned, he joined her in the
morning-room. The coachman saw him cross the hall and enter it. He was never seen again
The tea which had been ordered was brought up at the end
of ten minutes; but the maid, as she approached the door, was surprised to hear the voices
of her master and mistress in furious altercation. She knocked without receiving any
answer, and even turned the handle, but only to find that the door was locked upon the
inside. Naturally enough she ran down to tell the cook, and the two women with the
coachman came up into the hall and listened to the dispute which was still raging. They
all agreed that only two voices were to be heard, those of Barclay and of his wife.
Barclays remarks were subdued and abrupt so that none of them were audible to the
listeners. The ladys, on the other hand, were most bitter, and when she raised her
voice could be plainly heard. You coward! she repeated over and over again.
What can be done now? What can be done now? Give me back my life. I will never so
much as breathe the same air with you again! You coward! You coward! Those were
scraps of her conversation, ending in a sudden dreadful cry in the mans voice, with
a crash, and a piercing scream from the woman. Convinced that some tragedy had occurred,
the coachman rushed to the door and strove to force it, while scream after scream issued
from within. He was unable, however, to make his way in, and the maids were too distracted
with fear to be of any assistance to him. A sudden thought struck him, however, and he ran
through the hall door and round to the lawn upon which the long French windows open. One
side of the window was open, which I understand was quite usual in the summertime, and he
passed without difficulty into the room. His mistress had ceased to scream and was
stretched insensible upon a couch, while with his feet tilted over the side of an
armchair, and his head upon the ground near the corner of the fender, was lying the
unfortunate soldier stone dead in a pool of his own blood.
Naturally, the coachmans first thought, on
finding that he could do nothing for his master, was to open the door. But here an
unexpected and singular difficulty presented itself. The key was not in the inner side of
the door, nor could he find it anywhere in the room. He went out again, therefore, through
the window, and, having obtained the help of a policeman and of a medical man, he
returned. The lady, against whom naturally the strongest suspicion rested, was removed to
her room, still in a state of insensibility. The colonels body was then placed upon
the sofa and a careful examination made of the scene of the tragedy.
injury from which the unfortunate veteran was suffering was found to be a jagged cut some
two inches long at the back part of his head, which had evidently been caused by a violent
blow from a blunt weapon. Nor was it difficult to guess what that weapon may have been.
Upon the floor, close to the body, was lying a singular club of hard carved wood with a
bone handle. The colonel possessed a varied collection of weapons brought from the
different countries in which he had fought, and it is conjectured by the police that this
club was among his trophies. The servants deny having seen it before, but among the
numerous curiosities in the house it is possible that it may have been overlooked. Nothing
else of importance was discovered in the room by the police, save the inexplicable fact
that neither upon Mrs. Barclays person nor upon that of the victim nor in any part
of the room was the missing key to be found. The door had eventually to be opened by a
locksmith from Aldershot.
That was the state of things, Watson, when upon the
Tuesday morning I, at the request of Major Murphy, went down to Aldershot to supplement
the efforts of the police. I think that you will acknowledge that the problem was already
one of interest, but my observations soon made me realize that it was in truth much more
extraordinary than would at first sight appear.
Before examining the room I cross-questioned the
servants, but only succeeded in eliciting the facts which I have already stated. One other
detail of interest was remembered by Jane Stewart, the housemaid. You will remember that
on hearing the sound of the quarrel she descended and returned with the other servants. On
that first occasion, when she was alone, she says that the voices of her master and
mistress were sunk so low that she could hardly hear anything, and judged by their tones
rather than their words that they had fallen out. On my pressing her, however, she
remembered that she heard the word David uttered twice by the lady. The point is of the
utmost importance as guiding us towards the reason of the sudden quarrel. The
colonels name, you remember, was James.
There was one thing in the case which had made the
deepest impression both upon the servants and the police. This was the contortion of the
colonels face. It had set, according to their account, into the most dreadful
expression of fear and horror which a human countenance is capable of assuming. More than
one person fainted at the mere sight of him, so terrible was the effect. It was quite
certain that he had foreseen his fate, and that it had caused him the utmost horror. This,
of course, fitted in well enough with the police theory, if the colonel could have seen
his wife making a murderous attack upon him. Nor was the fact of the wound being on the
back of his head a fatal objection to this, as he might have turned to avoid the blow. No
information could be got from the lady herself, who was temporarily insane from an acute
attack of brain-fever.
From the police I learned that Miss Morrison, who you
remember went out that evening with Mrs. Barclay, denied having any knowledge of what it
was which had caused the ill-humour in which her companion had returned.
Having gathered these facts, Watson, I smoked several
pipes over them, trying to separate those which were crucial from others which were merely
incidental. There could be no question that the most distinctive and suggestive point in
the case was the singular disappearance of the door-key. A most careful search had failed
to discover it in the room. Therefore it must have been taken from it. But neither the
colonel nor the colonels wife could have taken it. That was perfectly clear.
Therefore a third person must have entered the room. And that third person  could only have come in
through the window. It seemed to me that a careful examination of the room and the lawn
might possibly reveal some traces of this mysterious individual. You know my methods,
Watson. There was not one of them which I did not apply to the inquiry. And it ended by my
discovering traces, but very different ones from those which I had expected. There had
been a man in the room, and he had crossed the lawn coming from the road. I was able to
obtain five very clear impressions of his footmarks: one in the roadway itself, at the
point where he had climbed the low wall, two on the lawn, and two very faint ones upon the
stained boards near the window where he had entered. He had apparently rushed across the
lawn, for his toe-marks were much deeper than his heels. But it was not the man who
surprised me. It was his companion.
Holmes pulled a large sheet of tissue-paper out of his pocket
and carefully unfolded it upon his knee.
What do you make of that? he asked.
The paper was covered with the tracings of the footmarks of
some small animal. It had five well-marked footpads, an indication of long nails, and the
whole print might be nearly as large as a dessert-spoon.
Its a dog, said I.
Did you ever hear of a dog running up a curtain? I found
distinct traces that this creature had done so.
A monkey, then?
But it is not the print of a monkey.
What can it be, then?
Neither dog nor cat nor monkey nor any creature that we
are familiar with. I have tried to reconstruct it from the measurements. Here are four
prints where the beast has been standing motionless. You see that it is no less than
fifteen inches from fore-foot to hind. Add to that the length of neck and head, and you
get a creature not much less than two feet longprobably more if there is any tail.
But now observe this other measurement. The animal has been moving, and we have the length
of its stride. In each case it is only about three inches. You have an indication, you
see, of a long body with very short legs attached to it. It has not been considerate
enough to leave any of its hair behind it. But its general shape must be what I have
indicated, and it can run up a curtain, and it is carnivorous.
How do you deduce that?
Because it ran up the curtain. A canarys cage was
hanging in the window, and its aim seems to have been to get at the bird.
Then what was the beast?
Ah, if I could give it a name it might go a long way
towards solving the case. On the whole, it was probably some creature of the weasel and
stoat tribe and yet it is larger than any of these that I have seen.
But what had it to do with the crime?
That, also, is still obscure. But we have learned a good
deal, you perceive. We know that a man stood in the road looking at the quarrel between
the Barclaysthe blinds were up and the room lighted. We know, also, that he ran
across the lawn, entered the room, accompanied by a strange animal, and that he either
struck the colonel or, as is equally possible, that the colonel fell down from sheer
fright at  the sight of
him, and cut his head on the corner of the fender. Finally we have the curious fact that
the intruder carried away the key with him when he left.
Your discoveries seem to have left the business more
obscure than it was before, said I.
Quite so. They undoubtedly showed that the affair was
much deeper than was at first conjectured. I thought the matter over, and I came to the
conclusion that I must approach the case from another aspect. But really, Watson, I am
keeping you up, and I might just as well tell you all this on our way to Aldershot
Thank you, you have gone rather too far to stop.
It is quite certain that when Mrs. Barclay left the
house at half-past seven she was on good terms with her husband. She was never, as I think
I have said, ostentatiously affectionate, but she was heard by the coachman chatting with
the colonel in a friendly fashion. Now, it was equally certain that, immediately on her
return, she had gone to the room in which she was least likely to see her husband, had
flown to tea as an agitated woman will, and finally, on his coming in to her, had broken
into violent recriminations. Therefore something had occurred between seven-thirty and
nine oclock which had completely altered her feelings towards him. But Miss Morrison
had been with her during the whole of that hour and a half. It was absolutely certain,
therefore, in spite of her denial, that she must know something of the matter.
My first conjecture was that possibly there had been
some passages between this young lady and the old soldier, which the former had now
confessed to the wife. That would account for the angry return, and also for the
girls denial that anything had occurred. Nor would it be entirely incompatible with
most of the words overheard. But there was the reference to David, and there was the known
affection of the colonel for his wife to weigh against it, to say nothing of the tragic
intrusion of this other man, which might, of course, be entirely disconnected with what
had gone before. It was not easy to pick ones steps, but, on the whole, I was
inclined to dismiss the idea that there had been anything between the colonel and Miss
Morrison, but more than ever convinced that the young lady held the clue as to what it was
which had turned Mrs. Barclay to hatred of her husband. I took the obvious course,
therefore, of calling upon Miss M., of explaining to her that I was perfectly certain that
she held the facts in her possession, and of assuring her that her friend, Mrs. Barclay,
might find herself in the dock upon a capital charge unless the matter were cleared up.
Miss Morrison is a little ethereal slip of a girl, with
timid eyes and blond hair, but I found her by no means wanting in shrewdness and common
sense. She sat thinking for some time after I had spoken, and then, turning to me with a
brisk air of resolution, she broke into a remarkable statement which I will condense for
I promised my friend that I would say nothing of
the matter, and a promise is a promise, said she; but if I can really help her
when so serious a charge is laid against her, and when her own mouth, poor darling, is
closed by illness, then I think I am absolved from my promise. I will tell you exactly
what happened upon Monday evening.
We were returning from the Watt Street Mission
about a quarter to nine oclock. On our way we had to pass through Hudson Street,
which is a very quiet thoroughfare. There is only one lamp in it, upon the left-hand side,
and as we approached this lamp I saw a man coming towards us with his back very bent,  and something like a box
slung over one of his shoulders. He appeared to be deformed, for he carried his head low
and walked with his knees bent. We were passing him when he raised his face to look at us
in the circle of light thrown by the lamp, and as he did so he stopped and screamed out in
a dreadful voice, My God, its Nancy! Mrs. Barclay turned as white as
death and would have fallen down had the dreadful-looking creature not caught hold of her.
I was going to call for the police, but she, to my surprise, spoke quite civilly to the
I thought you had been dead this thirty
years, Henry, said she in a shaking voice.
So I have, said he, and it was awful
to hear the tones that he said it in. He had a very dark, fearsome face, and a gleam in
his eyes that comes back to me in my dreams. His hair and whiskers were shot with gray,
and his face was all crinkled and puckered like a withered apple.
Just walk on a little way, dear,
said Mrs. Barclay; I want to have a word with this man. There is nothing to be
afraid of. She tried to speak boldly, but she was still deadly pale and could hardly
get her words out for the trembling of her lips.
I did as she asked me, and they talked together
for a few minutes. Then she came down the street with her eyes blazing, and I saw the
crippled wretch standing by the lamp-post and shaking his clenched fists in the air as if
he were mad with rage. She never said a word until we were at the door here, when she took
me by the hand and begged me to tell no one what had happened.
Its an old acquaintance of mine who
has come down in the world, said she. When I promised her I would say nothing she
kissed me, and I have never seen her since. I have told you now the whole truth, and if I
withheld it from the police it is because I did not realize then the danger in which my
dear friend stood. I know that it can only be to her advantage that everything should be
There was her statement, Watson, and to me, as you can
imagine, it was like a light on a dark night. Everything which had been disconnected
before began at once to assume its true place, and I had a shadowy presentiment of the
whole sequence of events. My next step obviously was to find the man who had produced such
a remarkable impression upon Mrs. Barclay. If he were still in Aldershot it should not be
a very difficult matter. There are not such a very great number of civilians, and a
deformed man was sure to have attracted attention. I spent a day in the search, and by
eveningthis very evening, WatsonI had run him down. The mans name is
Henry Wood, and he lives in lodgings in this same street in which the ladies met him. He
has only been five days in the place. In the character of a registration-agent I had a
most interesting gossip with his landlady. The man is by trade a conjurer and performer,
going round the canteens after nightfall, and giving a little entertainment at each. He
carries some creature about with him in that box, about which the landlady seemed to be in
considerable trepidation, for she had never seen an animal like it. He uses it in some of
his tricks according to her account. So much the woman was able to tell me, and also that
it was a wonder the man lived, seeing how twisted he was, and that he spoke in a strange
tongue sometimes, and that for the last two nights she had heard him groaning and weeping
in his bedroom. He was all right, as far as money went, but in his deposit he had given
her what looked like a bad florin. She showed it to me, Watson, and it was an Indian
So now, my dear fellow, you see exactly how we stand and
why it is I want  you.
It is perfectly plain that after the ladies parted from this man he followed them at a
distance, that he saw the quarrel between husband and wife through the window, that he
rushed in, and that the creature which he carried in his box got loose. That is all very
certain. But he is the only person in this world who can tell us exactly what happened in
And you intend to ask him?
Most certainlybut in the presence of a
And I am the witness?
If you will be so good. If he can clear the matter up,
well and good. If he refuses, we have no alternative but to apply for a warrant.
But how do you know hell be there when we
You may be sure that I took some precautions. I have one
of my Baker Street boys mounting guard over him who would stick to him like a burr, go
where he might. We shall find him in Hudson Street to-morrow, Watson, and meanwhile I
should be the criminal myself if I kept you out of bed any longer.
It was midday when we found ourselves at the scene of the
tragedy, and, under my companions guidance, we made our way at once to Hudson
Street. In spite of his capacity for concealing his emotions, I could easily see that
Holmes was in a state of suppressed excitement, while I was myself tingling with that
half-sporting, half-intellectual pleasure which I invariably experienced when I associated
myself with him in his investigations.
This is the street, said he as we turned into a
short thoroughfare lined with plain two-storied brick houses. Ah, here is Simpson to
Hes in all right, Mr. Holmes, cried a small
street Arab, running up to us.
Good, Simpson! said Holmes, patting him on the
head. Come along, Watson. This is the house. He sent in his card with a
message that he had come on important business, and a moment later we were face to face
with the man whom we had come to see. In spite of the warm weather he was crouching over a
fire, and the little room was like an oven. The man sat all twisted and huddled in his
chair in a way which gave an indescribable impression of deformity; but the face which he
turned towards us, though worn and swarthy, must at some time have been remarkable for its
beauty. He looked suspiciously at us now out of yellow-shot, bilious eyes, and, without
speaking or rising, he waved towards two chairs.
Mr. Henry Wood, late of India, I believe, said
Holmes affably. Ive come over this little matter of Colonel Barclays
What should I know about that?
Thats what I want to ascertain. You know, I
suppose, that unless the matter is cleared up, Mrs. Barclay, who is an old friend of
yours, will in all probability be tried for murder.
The man gave a violent start.
I dont know who you are, he cried, nor
how you come to know what you do know, but will you swear that this is true that you tell
Why, they are only waiting for her to come to her senses
to arrest her.
My God! Are you in the police yourself?
What business is it of yours, then?
Its every mans business to see justice
You can take my word that she is innocent.
Then you are guilty.
I am not.
Who killed Colonel James Barclay, then?
It was a just Providence that killed him. But, mind you
this, that if I had knocked his brains out, as it was in my heart to do, he would have had
no more than his due from my hands. If his own guilty conscience had not struck him down
it is likely enough that I might have had his blood upon my soul. You want me to tell the
story. Well, I dont know why I shouldnt, for theres no cause for me to
be ashamed of it.
It was in this way, sir. You see me now with my back
like a camel and my ribs all awry, but there was a time when Corporal Henry Wood was the
smartest man in the One Hundred and Seventeenth foot. We were in India, then, in
cantonments, at a place well call Bhurtee. Barclay, who died the other day, was
sergeant in the same company as myself, and the belle of the regiment, ay, and the finest
girl that ever had the breath of life between her lips, was Nancy Devoy, the daughter of
the colour-sergeant. There were two men that loved her, and one that she loved, and
youll smile when you look at this poor thing huddled before the fire and hear me say
that it was for my good looks that she loved me.
Well, though I had her heart, her father was set upon
her marrying Barclay. I was a harum-scarum, reckless lad, and he had had an education and
was already marked for the sword-belt. But the girl held true to me, and it seemed that I
would have had her when the Mutiny broke out, and all hell was loose in the country.
We were shut up in Bhurtee, the regiment of us with half
a battery of artillery, a company of Sikhs, and a lot of civilians and women-folk. There
were ten thousand rebels round us, and they were as keen as a set of terriers round a
rat-cage. About the second week of it our water gave out, and it was a question whether we
could communicate with General Neills column, which was moving up-country. It was
our only chance, for we could not hope to fight our way out with all the women and
children, so I volunteered to go out and to warn General Neill of our danger. My offer was
accepted, and I talked it over with Sergeant Barclay, who was supposed to know the ground
better than any other man, and who drew up a route by which I might get through the rebel
lines. At ten oclock the same night I started off upon my journey. There were a
thousand lives to save, but it was of only one that I was thinking when I dropped over the
wall that night.
My way ran down a dried-up watercourse, which we
hoped would screen me from the enemys sentries; but as I crept round the corner of
it I walked right into six of them, who were crouching down in the dark waiting for me. In
an instant I was stunned with a blow and bound hand and foot. But the real blow was to my
heart and not to my head, for as I came to and listened to as much as I could understand
of their talk, I heard enough to tell me that my comrade, the very man who had arranged
the way I was to take, had betrayed me by means of a native servant into the hands of the
Well, theres no need for me to dwell on that part
of it. You know now what James Barclay was capable of. Bhurtee was relieved by Neill next
day, but the rebels took me away with them in their retreat, and it was many a long year
before ever I saw a white face again. I was tortured and tried to get away, and was
captured and tortured again. You can see for yourselves the state in which I was left.
Some of them that fled into Nepal took me with them, and then afterwards I was up past
Darjeeling. The hill-folk up there murdered the rebels who had me, and I  became their slave for a
time until I escaped; but instead of going south I had to go north, until I found myself
among the Afghans. There I wandered about for many a year, and at last came back to the
Punjab, where I lived mostly among the natives and picked up a living by the conjuring
tricks that I had learned. What use was it for me, a wretched cripple, to go back to
England or to make myself known to my old comrades? Even my wish for revenge would not
make me do that. I had rather that Nancy and my old pals should think of Harry Wood as
having died with a straight back, than see him living and crawling with a stick like a
chimpanzee. They never doubted that I was dead, and I meant that they never should. I
heard that Barclay had married Nancy, and that he was rising rapidly in the regiment, but
even that did not make me speak.
But when one gets old one has a longing for home. For
years Ive been dreaming of the bright green fields and the hedges of England. At
last I determined to see them before I died. I saved enough to bring me across, and then I
came here where the soldiers are, for I know their ways and how to amuse them and so earn
enough to keep me.
Your narrative is most interesting, said Sherlock
Holmes. I have already heard of your meeting with Mrs. Barclay, and your mutual
recognition. You then, as I understand, followed her home and saw through the window an
altercation between her husband and her, in which she doubtless cast his conduct to you in
his teeth. Your own feelings overcame you, and you ran across the lawn and broke in upon
I did, sir, and at the sight of me he looked as I have
never seen a man look before, and over he went with his head on the fender. But he was
dead before he fell. I read death on his face as plain as I can read that text over the
fire. The bare sight of me was like a bullet through his guilty heart.
Then Nancy fainted, and I caught up the key of the door
from her hand, intending to unlock it and get help. But as I was doing it it seemed to me
better to leave it alone and get away, for the thing might look black against me, and
anyway my secret would be out if I were taken. In my haste I thrust the key into my
pocket, and dropped my stick while I was chasing Teddy, who had run up the curtain. When I
got him into his box, from which he had slipped, I was off as fast as I could run.
Whos Teddy? asked Holmes.
The man leaned over and pulled up the front of a kind of hutch
in the corner. In an instant out there slipped a beautiful reddish-brown creature, thin
and lithe, with the legs of a stoat, a long, thin nose, and a pair of the finest red eyes
that ever I saw in an animals head.
Its a mongoose, I cried.
Well, some call them that, and some call them
ichneumon, said the man. Snake-catcher is what I call them, and Teddy is
amazing quick on cobras. I have one here without the fangs, and Teddy catches it every
night to please the folk in the canteen.
Any other point, sir?
Well, we may have to apply to you again if Mrs. Barclay
should prove to be in serious trouble.
In that case, of course, Id come forward.
But if not, there is no object in raking up this scandal
against a dead man,  foully
as he has acted. You have at least the satisfaction of knowing that for thirty years of
his life his conscience bitterly reproached him for his wicked deed. Ah, there goes Major
Murphy on the other side of the street. Good-bye, Wood. I want to learn if anything has
happened since yesterday.
We were in time to overtake the major before he reached the
Ah, Holmes, he said, I suppose you have
heard that all this fuss has come to nothing?
The inquest is just over. The medical evidence showed
conclusively that death was due to apoplexy. You see it was quite a simple case, after
Oh, remarkably superficial, said Holmes,
smiling. Come, Watson, I dont think we shall be wanted in Aldershot any
Theres one thing, said I as we walked down
to the station. If the husbands name was James, and the other was Henry, what
was this talk about David?
That one word, my dear Watson, should have told me the
whole story had I been the ideal reasoner which you are so fond of depicting. It was
evidently a term of reproach.
Yes; David strayed a little occasionally, you know, and
on one occasion in the same direction as Sergeant James Barclay. You remember the small
affair of Uriah and Bathsheba? My Biblical knowledge is a trifle rusty, I fear, but you
will find the story in the first or second of Samuel.