The Adventure Of The Priory School
We have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our small stage at
Baker Street, but I cannot recollect anything more sudden and startling
than the first appearance of Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc.
His card, which seemed too small to carry the weight of his academic
distinctions, preceded him by a few seconds, and then he entered
himself--so large, so pompous, and so dignified that he was the very
embodiment of self-possession and solidity. And yet his first action,
when the door had closed behind him, was to stagger against the table,
whence he slipped down upon the floor, and there was that majestic
figure prostrate and insensible upon our bearskin hearth-rug.
We had sprung to our feet, and for a few moments we stared in silent
amazement at this ponderous piece of wreckage, which told of some sudden
and fatal storm far out on the ocean of life. Then Holmes hurried with
a cushion for his head, and I with brandy for his lips. The heavy, white
face was seamed with lines of trouble, the hanging pouches under the
closed eyes were leaden in colour, the loose mouth drooped dolorously at
the corners, the rolling chins were unshaven. Collar and shirt bore
the grime of a long journey, and the hair bristled unkempt from the
well-shaped head. It was a sorely stricken man who lay before us.
"What is it, Watson?" asked Holmes.
"Absolute exhaustion--possibly mere hunger and fatigue," said I, with my
finger on the thready pulse, where the stream of life trickled thin and
"Return ticket from Mackleton, in the north of England," said Holmes,
drawing it from the watch-pocket. "It is not twelve o'clock yet. He has
certainly been an early starter."
The puckered eyelids had begun to quiver, and now a pair of vacant gray
eyes looked up at us. An instant later the man had scrambled on to his
feet, his face crimson with shame.
"Forgive this weakness, Mr. Holmes, I have been a little overwrought.
Thank you, if I might have a glass of milk and a biscuit, I have no
doubt that I should be better. I came personally, Mr. Holmes, in order
to insure that you would return with me. I feared that no telegram would
convince you of the absolute urgency of the case."
"When you are quite restored----"
"I am quite well again. I cannot imagine how I came to be so weak. I
wish you, Mr. Holmes, to come to Mackleton with me by the next train."
My friend shook his head.
"My colleague, Dr. Watson, could tell you that we are very busy at
present. I am retained in this case of the Ferrers Documents, and the
Abergavenny murder is coming up for trial. Only a very important issue
could call me from London at present."
"Important!" Our visitor threw up his hands. "Have you heard nothing of
the abduction of the only son of the Duke of Holdernesse?"
"What! the late Cabinet Minister?"
"Exactly. We had tried to keep it out of the papers, but there was some
rumor in the GLOBE last night. I thought it might have reached your
Holmes shot out his long, thin arm and picked out Volume "H" in his
encyclopaedia of reference.
"'Holdernesse, 6th Duke, K.G., P.C.'--half the alphabet! 'Baron
Beverley, Earl of Carston'--dear me, what a list! 'Lord Lieutenant
of Hallamshire since 1900. Married Edith, daughter of Sir Charles
Appledore, 1888. Heir and only child, Lord Saltire. Owns about two
hundred and fifty thousand acres. Minerals in Lancashire and Wales.
Address: Carlton House Terrace; Holdernesse Hall, Hallamshire; Carston
Castle, Bangor, Wales. Lord of the Admiralty, 1872; Chief Secretary of
State for----' Well, well, this man is certainly one of the greatest
subjects of the Crown!"
"The greatest and perhaps the wealthiest. I am aware, Mr. Holmes, that
you take a very high line in professional matters, and that you are
prepared to work for the work's sake. I may tell you, however, that his
Grace has already intimated that a check for five thousand pounds will
be handed over to the person who can tell him where his son is, and
another thousand to him who can name the man or men who have taken him."
"It is a princely offer," said Holmes. "Watson, I think that we shall
accompany Dr. Huxtable back to the north of England. And now, Dr.
Huxtable, when you have consumed that milk, you will kindly tell me what
has happened, when it happened, how it happened, and, finally, what Dr.
Thorneycroft Huxtable, of the Priory School, near Mackleton, has to do
with the matter, and why he comes three days after an event--the state
of your chin gives the date--to ask for my humble services."
Our visitor had consumed his milk and biscuits. The light had come back
to his eyes and the colour to his cheeks, as he set himself with great
vigour and lucidity to explain the situation.
"I must inform you, gentlemen, that the Priory is a preparatory school,
of which I am the founder and principal. HUXTABLE'S SIDELIGHTS ON HORACE
may possibly recall my name to your memories. The Priory is, without
exception, the best and most select preparatory school in England. Lord
Leverstoke, the Earl of Blackwater, Sir Cathcart Soames--they all have
intrusted their sons to me. But I felt that my school had reached its
zenith when, weeks ago, the Duke of Holdernesse sent Mr. James Wilder,
his secretary, with intimation that young Lord Saltire, ten years old,
his only son and heir, was about to be committed to my charge. Little
did I think that this would be the prelude to the most crushing
misfortune of my life.
"On May 1st the boy arrived, that being the beginning of the summer
term. He was a charming youth, and he soon fell into our ways. I may
tell you--I trust that I am not indiscreet, but half-confidences are
absurd in such a case--that he was not entirely happy at home. It is an
open secret that the Duke's married life had not been a peaceful one,
and the matter had ended in a separation by mutual consent, the Duchess
taking up her residence in the south of France. This had occurred very
shortly before, and the boy's sympathies are known to have been strongly
with his mother. He moped after her departure from Holdernesse Hall,
and it was for this reason that the Duke desired to send him to my
establishment. In a fortnight the boy was quite at home with us and was
apparently absolutely happy.
"He was last seen on the night of May 13th--that is, the night of last
Monday. His room was on the second floor and was approached through
another larger room, in which two boys were sleeping. These boys saw and
heard nothing, so that it is certain that young Saltire did not pass out
that way. His window was open, and there is a stout ivy plant leading to
the ground. We could trace no footmarks below, but it is sure that this
is the only possible exit.
"His absence was discovered at seven o'clock on Tuesday morning. His bed
had been slept in. He had dressed himself fully, before going off, in
his usual school suit of black Eton jacket and dark gray trousers. There
were no signs that anyone had entered the room, and it is quite certain
that anything in the nature of cries or ones struggle would have been
heard, since Caunter, the elder boy in the inner room, is a very light
"When Lord Saltire's disappearance was discovered, I at once called a
roll of the whole establishment--boys, masters, and servants. It was
then that we ascertained that Lord Saltire had not been alone in his
flight. Heidegger, the German master, was missing. His room was on the
second floor, at the farther end of the building, facing the same way
as Lord Saltire's. His bed had also been slept in, but he had apparently
gone away partly dressed, since his shirt and socks were lying on the
floor. He had undoubtedly let himself down by the ivy, for we could see
the marks of his feet where he had landed on the lawn. His bicycle was
kept in a small shed beside this lawn, and it also was gone.
"He had been with me for two years, and came with the best references,
but he was a silent, morose man, not very popular either with masters
or boys. No trace could be found of the fugitives, and now, on Thursday
morning, we are as ignorant as we were on Tuesday. Inquiry was, of
course, made at once at Holdernesse Hall. It is only a few miles away,
and we imagined that, in some sudden attack of homesickness, he had
gone back to his father, but nothing had been heard of him. The Duke is
greatly agitated, and, as to me, you have seen yourselves the state of
nervous prostration to which the suspense and the responsibility have
reduced me. Mr. Holmes, if ever you put forward your full powers, I
implore you to do so now, for never in your life could you have a case
which is more worthy of them."
Sherlock Holmes had listened with the utmost intentness to the statement
of the unhappy schoolmaster. His drawn brows and the deep furrow
between them showed that he needed no exhortation to concentrate all
his attention upon a problem which, apart from the tremendous interests
involved must appeal so directly to his love of the complex and the
unusual. He now drew out his notebook and jotted down one or two
"You have been very remiss in not coming to me sooner," said he,
severely. "You start me on my investigation with a very serious
handicap. It is inconceivable, for example, that this ivy and this lawn
would have yielded nothing to an expert observer."
"I am not to blame, Mr. Holmes. His Grace was extremely desirous to
avoid all public scandal. He was afraid of his family unhappiness being
dragged before the world. He has a deep horror of anything of the kind."
"But there has been some official investigation?"
"Yes, sir, and it has proved most disappointing. An apparent clue was
at once obtained, since a boy and a young man were reported to have been
seen leaving a neighbouring station by an early train. Only last night
we had news that the couple had been hunted down in Liverpool, and they
prove to have no connection whatever with the matter in hand. Then it
was that in my despair and disappointment, after a sleepless night, I
came straight to you by the early train."
"I suppose the local investigation was relaxed while this false clue was
being followed up?"
"It was entirely dropped."
"So that three days have been wasted. The affair has been most
"I feel it and admit it."
"And yet the problem should be capable of ultimate solution. I shall be
very happy to look into it. Have you been able to trace any connection
between the missing boy and this German master?"
"None at all."
"Was he in the master's class?"
"No, he never exchanged a word with him, so far as I know."
"That is certainly very singular. Had the boy a bicycle?"
"Was any other bicycle missing?"
"Is that certain?"
"Well, now, you do not mean to seriously suggest that this German rode
off upon a bicycle in the dead of the night, bearing the boy in his
"Then what is the theory in your mind?"
"The bicycle may have been a blind. It may have been hidden somewhere,
and the pair gone off on foot."
"Quite so, but it seems rather an absurd blind, does it not? Were there
other bicycles in this shed?"
"Would he not have hidden a couple, had he desired to give the idea that
they had gone off upon them?"
"I suppose he would."
"Of course he would. The blind theory won't do. But the incident is an
admirable starting-point for an investigation. After all, a bicycle
is not an easy thing to conceal or to destroy. One other question. Did
anyone call to see the boy on the day before he disappeared?"
"Did he get any letters?"
"Yes, one letter."
"From his father."
"Do you open the boys' letters?"
"How do you know it was from the father?"
"The coat of arms was on the envelope, and it was addressed in the
Duke's peculiar stiff hand. Besides, the Duke remembers having written."
"When had he a letter before that?"
"Not for several days."
"Had he ever one from France?"
"You see the point of my questions, of course. Either the boy was
carried off by force or he went of his own free will. In the latter
case, you would expect that some prompting from outside would be needed
to make so young a lad do such a thing. If he has had no visitors, that
prompting must have come in letters; hence I try to find out who were
"I fear I cannot help you much. His only correspondent, so far as I
know, was his own father."
"Who wrote to him on the very day of his disappearance. Were the
relations between father and son very friendly?"
"His Grace is never very friendly with anyone. He is completely immersed
in large public questions, and is rather inaccessible to all ordinary
emotions. But he was always kind to the boy in his own way."
"But the sympathies of the latter were with the mother?"
"Did he say so?"
"The Duke, then?"
"Good heaven, no!"
"Then how could you know?"
"I have had some confidential talks with Mr. James Wilder, his Graces
secretary. It was he who gave me the information about Lord Saltire's
"I see. By the way, that last letter of the Dukes--was it found in the
boy's room after he was gone?"
"No, he had taken it with him. I think, Mr. Holmes, it is time that we
were leaving for Euston."
"I will order a four-wheeler. In a quarter of an hour, we shall be at
your service. If you are telegraphing home, Mr. Huxtable, it would
be well to allow the people in your neighbourhood to imagine that
the inquiry is still going on in Liverpool, or wherever else that red
herring led your pack. In the meantime I will do a little quiet work at
your own doors, and perhaps the scent is not so cold but that two old
hounds like Watson and myself may get a sniff of it."
That evening found us in the cold, bracing atmosphere of the Peak
country, in which Dr. Huxtable's famous school is situated. It was
already dark when we reached it. A card was lying on the hall table,
and the butler whispered something to his master, who turned to us with
agitation in every heavy feature.
"The Duke is here," said he. "The Duke and Mr. Wilder are in the study.
Come, gentlemen, and I will introduce you."
I was, of course, familiar with the pictures of the famous statesman,
but the man himself was very different from his representation. He was a
tall and stately person, scrupulously dressed, with a drawn, thin face,
and a nose which was grotesquely curved and long. His complexion was
of a dead pallor, which was more startling by contrast with a long,
dwindling beard of vivid red, which flowed down over his white waistcoat
with his watch-chain gleaming through its fringe. Such was the stately
presence who looked stonily at us from the centre of Dr. Huxtable's
hearthrug. Beside him stood a very young man, whom I understood to
be Wilder, the private secretary. He was small, nervous, alert with
intelligent light-blue eyes and mobile features. It was he who at once,
in an incisive and positive tone, opened the conversation.
"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
"When I learned that the police had failed----"
"His Grace is by no means convinced that the police have failed."
"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 brow-beaten doctor; "Mr.
Sherlock Holmes can return to London by the morning train."
"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 mystery."
"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
"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 nobleman's reply was interrupted by his secretary, who broke in with
"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
"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 Hall."
I could see that there were other questions which Holmes would have
wished to put, but the nobleman's 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 boy's 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 master's 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
"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. I'll 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
"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 boy's 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 lied--said 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 Duke's
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
"I have done the lawn and the bicycle shed," said, he. "I have also had
a rumble 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
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
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 tires. This, as you
perceive, is a Dunlop, with a patch upon the outer cover. Heidegger's
tires were Palmer's, leaving longitudinal stripes. Aveling, the
mathematical master, was sure upon the point. Therefore, it is not
"The boy's, 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."
We 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 tires 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
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 Palmer tires.
"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
There was a broad, irregular smudge covering some yards of the track.
Then there were a few footmarks, and the tire 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 wounded--he stood up--he
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 now."
Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tire 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-tired, 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 German master.
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 inquiry.
"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 fellow's 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 tire, 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
"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 school--not 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
"Holmes," I cried, "this is impossible."
"Admirable!" 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 wit's 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
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 tire 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, it's printed on the board above your head. It's easy to see a man
who is master of his own house. I suppose you haven't such a thing as a
carriage in your stables?"
"No, I have not."
"I can hardly put my foot to the ground."
"Don't put it to the ground."
"But I can't walk."
"Well, then hop."
Mr. Reuben Hayes's manner was far from gracious, but Holmes took it with
"Look here, my man," said he. "This is really rather an awkward fix for
me. I don't 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.
"He'll be glad to see us, anyhow."
"Because we bring him news of his lost son."
The landlord gave a very visible start.
"What, you're on his track?"
"He 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.
"I've less reason to wish the Dook well than most men," said he, "for
I was 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
I'm glad to hear that the young lord was heard of in Liverpool, and I'll
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 haven't got a bicycle."
Holmes held up a sovereign.
"I tell you, man, that I haven't got one. I'll let you have two horses
as far as the Hall."
"Well, well," said Holmes, "well talk about it when we've had something
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 I've got it!" he cried. "Yes, yes, it
must be so. Watson, do you remember seeing any cow-tracks to-day?"
"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 the moor?"
"I don't 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, Watson,"--he
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."
There 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 shod--old 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 Holmes's 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.
"You're welcome to all you can find out in my smithy," said he. "But
look here, mister, I don't 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 I'll walk, after all. It's not far, I
"Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. That's 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 landlord's 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 can't
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 face--a
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 Duke's secretary!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, let us see what he
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.
Wilder's 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.
"What 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
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 tire. 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 day's work has been quite long enough.
I think that we have gathered all that we can. It's 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 master's 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 o'clock 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 Grace's 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 discovery."
"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."
Holmes's 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 here."
After an hour's 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 friend's eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who stood by his
"I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in Mr. Wilder's
The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance at Holmes.
"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 retreating
"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
"Yes, yes," cried the Duke, impatiently. "If you do your work well,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you will have no reason to complain of niggardly
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 Grace's 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
"Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for pleasantry."
"Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my life."
"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 Duke's 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?"
Sherlock Holmes's 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, I'll trouble you for that
Never shall I forget the Duke's 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 check-book.
"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.
"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
"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 it."
"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 him--you 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 hideous scandal."
"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
o'clock last night. I had a telegram from the head of the local police
before I left the school this morning."
The Duke leaned back in his chair and stared with amazement at my
"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 Holmes's 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 James's 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 mother's face in his, and
that for her dear sake there was no end to my long-suffering. All her
pretty ways too--there 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 Arthur--that is, Lord Saltire--a mischief, that I
dispatched him for safety to Dr. Huxtable's 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 man's 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 Duchess's name, and in that way got the boy to come. That
evening James bicycled over--I am telling you what he has himself
confessed to me--and 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 appears--though 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 James's 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 me--to 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
"What brought all his wicked scheme to wreck was your discovery of this
man Heidegger's 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 yielded--as I have always yielded--to 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
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 unjustifiable action."
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 entered.
"You will be glad to hear," said Holmes, "that your young master is
found. It is the Duke's 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
"That also I have arranged, Mr. Holmes. I wrote to the Duchess this
"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
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.
Next: The Adventure Of Black Peter
Previous: The Adventure Of The Solitary Cyclist