He appeared presently, looking a little irritable at being
disturbed in his slumbers. I made my report at the office, he said.
Holmes took a half-sovereign from his pocket and played with
it pensively. We thought that we should like to hear it all from your own
lips, he said.
I shall be most happy to tell you anything I can,
the constable answered, with his eyes upon the little golden disc.
Just let us hear it all in your own way as it
Rance sat down on the horsehair sofa, and knitted his brows,
as though determined not to omit anything in his narrative.
Ill tell it ye from the beginning, he said.
My time is from ten at night to six in the morning. At eleven there was a fight at
the White Hart; but bar that all was quiet enough on the beat. At one oclock it
began to rain, and I met Harry Murcherhim who has the Holland Grove beatand we
stood together at the corner of Henrietta Street a-talkin. Presentlymaybe
about two or a little afterI thought I would take a look round and see that all was
right down the Brixton Road. It was precious dirty and lonely. Not a soul did I meet all
the way down, though a cab or two went past me. I was a-strollin down, thinkin
between ourselves how uncommon handy a four of gin hot would be, when suddenly the glint
of a light caught my eye in the window of that same house. Now, I knew that them two
houses in Lauriston Gardens was empty on account of him that owns them who wont have
the drains seed to, though the very last tenant what lived in one of them died o
typhoid fever. I was knocked all in a heap, therefore, at seeing a light in the window,
and I suspected as something was wrong. When I got to the door
stopped, and then walked back to the garden gate, my companion interrupted.
What did you do that for?
Rance gave a violent jump, and stared at Sherlock Holmes with
the utmost amazement upon his features.
Why, thats true, sir, he said; though
how you come to know it, Heaven only knows. Ye see when I got up to the door, it was so
still and so lonesome, that I thought Id be none the worse for someone with me. I
aint afeared of anything on this side o the grave; but I thought that maybe it
was him that died o the typhoid inspecting the drains what killed him. The thought
gave me a kind o turn, and I walked back to the gate to see if I could see
Murchers lantern, but there wasnt no sign of him nor of anyone else.
There was no one in the street?
Not a livin soul, sir, nor as much as a dog. Then
I pulled myself together and went back and pushed the door open. All was quiet inside, so
I went into the room where the light was a-burnin. There was a candle
flickerin on the mantelpiecea red wax oneand by its light I saw
Yes, I know all that you saw. You walked round the room
several times, and you knelt down by the body, and then you walked through and tried the
kitchen door, and then
John Rance sprang to his feet with a frightened face and
suspicion in his eyes. Where was you hid to see all that? he cried. It
seems to me that you knows a deal more than you should.
Holmes laughed and threw his card across the table to the
constable. Dont go arresting me for the murder, he said. I am one
of the hounds and not the wolf; Mr. Gregson or Mr. Lestrade will answer for that. Go on,
though. What did you do next?
Rance resumed his seat, without, however, losing his mystified
expression. I went back to the gate and sounded my whistle. That brought Murcher and
two more to the spot.
Was the street empty then?
Well, it was, as far as anybody that could be of any
What do you mean?
The constables features broadened into a grin.
Ive seen many a drunk chap in my time, he said, but never anyone
so cryin drunk as that cove. He was at the gate when I came out, a-leanin up
agin the railings, and a-singin at the pitch o his lungs about
Columbines New-fangled Banner, or some such stuff. He couldnt stand, far less
What sort of a man was he? asked Sherlock
John Rance appeared to be somewhat irritated at this
digression. He was an uncommon drunk sort o man, he said.
Hed ha found hisself in the station if we hadnt been so took
His facehis dressdidnt you notice
them? Holmes broke in impatiently.
I should think I did notice them, seeing that I had to
prop him upme and Murcher between us. He was a long chap, with a red face, the lower
part muffled round
That will do, cried Holmes. What became of
Wed enough to do without lookin after
him, the policeman said, in an aggrieved voice. Ill wager he found his
way home all right.
How was he dressed?
Had he a whip in his hand?
He must have left it behind, muttered my
companion. You didnt happen to see or hear a cab after that?
Theres a half-sovereign for you, my
companion said, standing up and taking his hat. I am afraid, Rance, that you will
never rise in the force. That head of yours should be for use as well as ornament. You
might have gained your sergeants stripes last night. The man whom you held in your
hands is the man who holds the clue of this mystery, and whom we are seeking. There is no
use of arguing about it now; I tell you that it is so. Come along, Doctor.
We started off for the cab together, leaving our informant
incredulous, but obviously uncomfortable.
The blundering fool! Holmes said, bitterly, as we
drove back to our lodgings. Just to think of his having such an incomparable bit of
good luck, and not taking advantage of it.
I am rather in the dark still. It is true that the
description of this man tallies with your idea of the second party in this mystery. But
why should he come back to the house after leaving it? That is not the way of
The ring, man, the ring: that was what he came back for.
If we have no other way of catching him, we can always bait our line with the ring. I
shall have him, DoctorIll lay you two to one that I have him. I must thank you
for it all. I might not have gone but for you, and so have missed the finest study I ever
came across: a study in scarlet, eh? Why shouldnt we use a little art jargon.
Theres the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life,
and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it. And now for
lunch, and then for Norman Neruda. Her attack and her bowing are splendid. Whats
that little thing of Chopins she plays so magnificently:
Leaning back in the cab, this amateur bloodhound carolled away
like a lark while I meditated upon the many-sidedness of the human mind.