A curious experience? said the Doctor. Yes, my friends, I have
had one very curious experience. I never expect to have another,
for it is against all doctrines of chances that two such events
would befall any one man in a single lifetime. You may believe
me or not, but the thing happened exactly as I tell it.
I had just become a medical man, but I had not started in
practice, and I lived in rooms in Gower Street. The street has
been renumbered since then, but it was in the only house which has
a bow-window, upon the left-hand side as you go down from the
Metropolitan Station. A widow named Murchison kept the house at
that time, and she had three medical students and one engineer as
lodgers. I occupied the top room, which was the cheapest, but
cheap as it was it was more than I could afford. My small
resources were dwindling away, and every week it became more
necessary that I should find something to do. Yet I was very
unwilling to go into general practice, for my tastes were all in
the direction of science, and especially of zoology, towards which
I had always a strong leaning. I had almost given the fight up and
resigned myself to being a medical drudge for life, when the
turning-point of my struggles came in a very extraordinary way.
One morning I had picked up the Standard and was glancing
over its contents. There was a complete absence of news, and I was
about to toss the paper down again, when my eyes were caught by an
advertisement at the head of the personal column. It was worded in
"Wanted for one or more days the services of a medical man. It
is essential that he should be a man of strong physique, of steady
nerves, and of a resolute nature. Must be an entomologist--
coleopterist preferred. Apply, in person, at 77B, Brook Street.
Application must be made before twelve o'clock today."
Now, I have already said that I was devoted to zoology. Of all
branches of zoology, the study of insects was the most attractive
to me, and of all insects beetles were the species with which I
was most familiar. Butterfly collectors are numerous, but
beetles are far more varied, and more accessible in these islands
than are butterflies. It was this fact which had attracted my
attention to them, and I had myself made a collection which
numbered some hundred varieties. As to the other requisites of the
advertisement, I knew that my nerves could be depended upon, and I
had won the weight-throwing competition at the inter-hospital
sports. Clearly, I was the very man for the vacancy. Within five
minutes of my having read the advertisement I was in a cab and on
my was to Brook Street.
As I drove, I kept turning the matter over in my head and
trying to make a guess as to what sort of employment it could be
which needed such curious qualifications. A strong physique, a
resolute nature, a medical training, and a knowledge of beetles--
what connection could there be between these various requisites?
And then there was the disheartening fact that the situation was
not a permanent one, but terminable from day to day, according to
the terms of the advertisement. The more I pondered over it the
more unintelligible did it become; but at the end of my meditations
I always came back to the ground fact that, come what might, I had
nothing to lose, that I was completely at the end of my resources,
and that I was ready for any adventure, however desperate, which
would put a few honest sovereigns into my pocket. The man fears to
fail who has to pay for his failure, but there was no penalty which
Fortune could exact from me. I was like the gambler with empty
pockets, who is still allowed to try his luck with the others.
No. 77B, Brook Street, was one of those dingy and yet imposing
houses, dun-coloured and flat-faced, with the intensely respectable
and solid air which marks the Georgian builder. As I alighted from
the cab, a young man came out of the door and walked swiftly down
the street. In passing me, I noticed that he cast an inquisitive
and somewhat malevolent glance at me, and I took the incident as a
good omen, for his appearance was that of a rejected candidate, and
if he resented my application it meant that the vacancy was not yet
filled up. Full of hope, I ascended the broad steps and rapped
with the heavy knocker.
A footman in powder and livery opened the door. Clearly I was
in touch with the people of wealth and fashion.
"Yes, sir?" said the footman.
"I came in answer to----"
"Quite so, sir," said the footman. "Lord Linchmere will see
you at once in the library."
Lord Linchmere! I had vaguely heard the name, but could not
for the instant recall anything about him. Following the footman,
I was shown into a large, book-lined room in which there was seated
behind a writing-desk a small man with a pleasant, clean-shaven,
mobile face, and long hair shot with grey, brushed back from his
forehead. He looked me up and down with a very shrewd, penetrating
glance, holding the card which the footman had given him in his
right hand. Then he smiled pleasantly, and I felt that externally
at any rate I possessed the qualifications which he desired.
"You have come in answer to my advertisement, Dr. Hamilton?" he
"Do you fulfil the conditions which are there laid down?"
"I believe that I do."
"You are a powerful man, or so I should judge from your
"I think that I am fairly strong."
"I believe so."
"Have you ever known what it was to be exposed to imminent
"No, I don't know that I ever have."
"But you think you would be prompt and cool at such a time?"
"I hope so."
"Well, I believe that you would. I have the more confidence in
you because you do not pretend to be certain as to what you would
do in a position that was new to you. My impression is that, so
far as personal qualities go, you are the very man of whom I am in
search. That being settled, we may pass on to the next point."
"To talk to me about beetles."
I looked across to see if he was joking, but, on the contrary,
he was leaning eagerly forward across his desk, and there was
an expression of something like anxiety in his eyes.
"I am afraid that you do not know about beetles," he cried.
"On the contrary, sir, it is the one scientific subject about
which I feel that I really do know something."
"I am overjoyed to hear it. Please talk to me about beetles."
I talked. I do not profess to have said anything original upon
the subject, but I gave a short sketch of the characteristics of
the beetle, and ran over the more common species, with some
allusions to the specimens in my own little collection and to the
article upon "Burying Beetles" which I had contributed to the
Journal of Entomological Science.
"What! not a collector?" cried Lord Linchmere. "You don't mean
that you are yourself a collector?" His eyes danced with pleasure
at the thought.
"You are certainly the very man in London for my purpose. I
thought that among five millions of people there must be such a
man, but the difficulty is to lay one's hands upon him. I have
been extraordinarily fortunate in finding you."
He rang a gong upon the table, and the footman entered.
"Ask Lady Rossiter to have the goodness to step this way," said
his lordship, and a few moments later the lady was ushered into the
room. She was a small, middle-aged woman, very like Lord Linchmere
in appearance, with the same quick, alert features and grey-black
hair. The expression of anxiety, however, which I had observed
upon his face was very much more marked upon hers. Some great
grief seemed to have cast its shadow over her features. As Lord
Linchmere presented me she turned her face full upon me, and I was
shocked to observe a half-healed scar extending for two inches over
her right eyebrow. It was partly concealed by plaster, but none
the less I could see that it had been a serious wound and not long
"Dr. Hamilton is the very man for our purpose, Evelyn," said
Lord Linchmere. "He is actually a collector of beetles, and he has
written articles upon the subject."
"Really!" said Lady Rossiter. "Then you must have heard of my
husband. Everyone who knows anything about beetles must have heard
of Sir Thomas Rossiter."
For the first time a thin little ray of light began to break
into the obscure business. Here, at last, was a
connection between these people and beetles. Sir Thomas Rossiter--
he was the greatest authority upon the subject in the world. He
had made it his lifelong study, and had written a most exhaustive
work upon it. I hastened to assure her that I had read and
"Have you met my husband?" she asked.
"No, I have not."
"But you shall," said Lord Linchmere, with decision.
The lady was standing beside the desk, and she put her hand
upon his shoulder. It was obvious to me as I saw their faces
together that they were brother and sister.
"Are you really prepared for this, Charles? It is noble of
you, but you fill me with fears." Her voice quavered with
apprehension, and he appeared to me to be equally moved, though he
was making strong efforts to conceal his agitation.
"Yes, yes, dear; it is all settled, it is all decided; in fact,
there is no other possible way, that I can see."
"There is one obvious way."
"No, no, Evelyn, I shall never abandon you--never. It will
come right--depend upon it; it will come right, and surely it looks
like the interference of Providence that so perfect an instrument
should be put into our hands."
My position was embarrassing, for I felt that for the instant
they had forgotten my presence. But Lord Linchmere came back
suddenly to me and to my engagement.
"The business for which I want you, Dr. Hamilton, is that you
should put yourself absolutely at my disposal. I wish you to come
for a short journey with me, to remain always at my side, and to
promise to do without question whatever I may ask you, however
unreasonable it may appear to you to be."
"That is a good deal to ask," said I.
"Unfortunately I cannot put it more plainly, for I do not
myself know what turn matters may take. You may be sure, however,
that you will not be asked to do anything which your conscience
does not approve; and I promise you that, when all is over, you
will be proud to have been concerned in so good a work."
"If it ends happily," said the lady.
"Exactly; if it ends happily," his lordship repeated.
"And terms?" I asked.
"Twenty pounds a day."
I was amazed at the sum, and must have showed my surprise upon
"It is a rare combination of qualities, as must have struck you
when you first read the advertisement," said Lord Linchmere; "such
varied gifts may well command a high return, and I do not conceal
from you that your duties might be arduous or even dangerous.
Besides, it is possible that one or two days may bring the matter
to an end."
"Please God!" sighed his sister.
"So now, Dr. Hamilton, may I rely upon your aid?"
"Most undoubtedly," said I. "You have only to tell me what my
"Your first duty will be to return to your home. You will pack
up whatever you may need for a short visit to the country. We
start together from Paddington Station at 3:40 this afternoon."
"Do we go far?"
"As far as Pangbourne. Meet me at the bookstall at 3:30. I
shall have the tickets. Goodbye, Dr. Hamilton! And, by the way,
there are two things which I should be very glad if you would bring
with you, in case you have them. One is your case for collecting
beetles, and the other is a stick, and the thicker and heavier the
You may imagine that I had plenty to think of from the time
that I left Brook Street until I set out to meet Lord Linchmere at
Paddington. The whole fantastic business kept arranging and
rearranging itself in kaleidoscopic forms inside my brain, until I
had thought out a dozen explanations, each of them more grotesquely
improbable than the last. And yet I felt that the truth must be
something grotesquely improbable also. At last I gave up all
attempts at finding a solution, and contented myself with exactly
carrying out the instructions which I had received. With a hand
valise, specimen-case, and a loaded cane, I was waiting at the
Paddington bookstall when Lord Linchmere arrived. He was an even
smaller man than I had thought--frail and peaky, with a manner
which was more nervous than it had been in the morning. He wore a
long, thick travelling ulster, and I observed that he carried a
heavy blackthorn cudgel in his hand.
"I have the tickets," said he, leading the way up the platform.
"This is our train. I have engaged a carriage, for I am
particularly anxious to impress one or two things upon you while we
And yet all that he had to impress upon me might have been said
in a sentence, for it was that I was to remember that I was there
as a protection to himself, and that I was not on any consideration
to leave him for an instant. This he repeated again and again as
our journey drew to a close, with an insistence which showed that
his nerves were thoroughly shaken.
"Yes," he said at last, in answer to my looks rather than to my
words, "I AM nervous, Dr. Hamilton. I have always been a timid
man, and my timidity depends upon my frail physical health. But my
soul is firm, and I can bring myself up to face a danger which a
less-nervous man might shrink from. What I am doing now is done
from no compulsion, but entirely from a sense of duty, and yet it
is, beyond doubt, a desperate risk. If things should go wrong, I
will have some claims to the title of martyr."
This eternal reading of riddles was too much for me. I felt
that I must put a term to it.
"I think it would very much better, sir, if you were to trust
me entirely," said I. "It is impossible for me to act effectively,
when I do not know what are the objects which we have in view, or
even where we are going."
"Oh, as to where we are going, there need be no mystery about
that," said he; "we are going to Delamere Court, the residence of
Sir Thomas Rossiter, with whose work you are so conversant. As to
the exact object of our visit, I do not know that at this stage of
the proceedings anything would be gained, Dr. Hamilton, by taking
you into my complete confidence. I may tell you that we are
acting--I say `we,' because my sister, Lady Rossiter, takes the
same view as myself--with the one object of preventing anything in
the nature of a family scandal. That being so, you can understand
that I am loath to give any explanations which are not absolutely
necessary. It would be a different matter, Dr. Hamilton, if I were
asking your advice. As matters stand, it is only your active
help which I need, and I will indicate to you from time to time how
you can best give it."
There was nothing more to be said, and a poor man can put up
with a good deal for twenty pounds a day, but I felt none the less
that Lord Linchmere was acting rather scurvily towards me. He
wished to convert me into a passive tool, like the blackthorn in
his hand. With his sensitive disposition I could imagine, however,
that scandal would be abhorrent to him, and I realized that he
would not take me into his confidence until no other course was
open to him. I must trust to my own eyes and ears to solve the
mystery, but I had every confidence that I should not trust to them
Delamere Court lies a good five miles from Pangbourne Station,
and we drove for that distance in an open fly. Lord Linchmere sat
in deep thought during the time, and he never opened his mouth
until we were close to our destination. When he did speak it was
to give me a piece of information which surprised me.
"Perhaps you are not aware," said he, "that I am a medical man
"No, sir, I did not know it."
"Yes, I qualified in my younger days, when there were several
lives between me and the peerage. I have not had occasion to
practise, but I have found it a useful education, all the same. I
never regretted the years which I devoted to medical study. These
are the gates of Delamere Court."
We had come to two high pillars crowned with heraldic monsters
which flanked the opening of a winding avenue. Over the laurel
bushes and rhododendrons, I could see a long, many-gabled mansion,
girdled with ivy, and toned to the warm, cheery, mellow glow of old
brick-work. My eyes were still fixed in admiration upon this
delightful house when my companion plucked nervously at my sleeve.
"Here's Sir Thomas," he whispered. "Please talk beetle all you
A tall, thin figure, curiously angular and bony, had emerged
through a gap in the hedge of laurels. In his hand he held a spud,
and he wore gauntleted gardener's gloves. A broad-brimmed, grey
hat cast his face into shadow, but it struck me as exceedingly
austere, with an ill-nourished beard and harsh, irregular features.
The fly pulled up and Lord Linchmere sprang out.
"My dear Thomas, how are you?" said he, heartily.
But the heartiness was by no means reciprocal. The owner of
the grounds glared at me over his brother-in-law's shoulder, and I
caught broken scraps of sentences--"well-known wishes . . . hatred
of strangers . . . unjustifiable intrusion . . . perfectly
inexcusable." Then there was a muttered explanation, and the two
of them came over together to the side of the fly.
"Let me present you to Sir Thomas Rossiter, Dr. Hamilton," said
Lord Linchmere. "You will find that you have a strong community of
I bowed. Sir Thomas stood very stiffly, looking at me severely
from under the broad brim of his hat.
"Lord Linchmere tells me that you know something about
beetles," said he. "What do you know about beetles?"
"I know what I have learned from your work upon the coleoptera,
Sir Thomas," I answered.
"Give me the names of the better-known species of the British
scarabaei," said he.
I had not expected an examination, but fortunately I was ready
for one. My answers seemed to please him, for his stern features
"You appear to have read my book with some profit, sir," said
he. "It is a rare thing for me to meet anyone who takes an
intelligent interest in such matters. People can find time for
such trivialities as sport or society, and yet the beetles are
overlooked. I can assure you that the greater part of the idiots
in this part of the country are unaware that I have ever written a
book at all--I, the first man who ever described the true function
of the elytra. I am glad to see you, sir, and I have no doubt that
I can show you some specimens which will interest you." He stepped
into the fly and drove up with us to the house, expounding to me as
we went some recent researches which he had made into the anatomy
of the lady-bird.
I have said that Sir Thomas Rossiter wore a large hat drawn
down over his brows. As he entered the hall he uncovered himself,
and I was at once aware of a singular characteristic which the hat
had concealed. His forehead, which was naturally high, and
higher still on account of receding hair, was in a continual state
of movement. Some nervous weakness kept the muscles in a constant
spasm, which sometimes produced a mere twitching and sometimes a
curious rotary movement unlike anything which I had ever seen
before. It was strikingly visible as he turned towards us after
entering the study, and seemed the more singular from the contrast
with the hard, steady, grey eyes which looked out from underneath
those palpitating brows.
"I am sorry," said he, "that Lady Rossiter is not here to help
me to welcome you. By the way, Charles, did Evelyn say anything
about the date of her return?"
"She wished to stay in town for a few more days," said Lord
Linchmere. "You know how ladies' social duties accumulate if they
have been for some time in the country. My sister has many old
friends in London at present."
"Well, she is her own mistress, and I should not wish to alter
her plans, but I shall be glad when I see her again. It is very
lonely here without her company."
"I was afraid that you might find it so, and that was partly
why I ran down. My young friend, Dr. Hamilton, is so much
interested in the subject which you have made your own, that I
thought you would not mind his accompanying me."
"I lead a retired life, Dr. Hamilton, and my aversion to
strangers grows upon me," said our host. "I have sometimes thought
that my nerves are not so good as they were. My travels in search
of beetles in my younger days took me into many malarious and
unhealthy places. But a brother coleopterist like yourself is
always a welcome guest, and I shall be delighted if you will look
over my collection, which I think that I may without exaggeration
describe as the best in Europe."
And so no doubt it was. He had a huge, oaken cabinet arranged
in shallow drawers, and here, neatly ticketed and classified, were
beetles from every corner of the earth, black, brown, blue, green,
and mottled. Every now and then as he swept his hand over the
lines and lines of impaled insects he would catch up some rare
specimen, and, handling it with as much delicacy and reverence as
if it were a precious relic, he would hold forth upon its
peculiarities and the circumstances under which it came into his
possession. It was evidently an unusual thing for him to meet
with a sympathetic listener, and he talked and talked until the
spring evening had deepened into night, and the gong announced that
it was time to dress for dinner. All the time Lord Linchmere said
nothing, but he stood at his brother-in-law's elbow, and I caught
him continually shooting curious little, questioning glances into
his face. And his own features expressed some strong emotion,
apprehension, sympathy, expectation: I seemed to read them all.
I was sure that Lord Linchmere was fearing something and awaiting
something, but what that something might be I could not imagine.
The evening passed quietly but pleasantly, and I should have
been entirely at my ease if it had not been for that continual
sense of tension upon the part of Lord Linchmere. As to our host,
I found that he improved upon acquaintance. He spoke constantly
with affection of his absent wife, and also of his little son, who
had recently been sent to school. The house, he said, was not the
same without them. If it were not for his scientific studies, he
did not know how he could get through the days. After dinner we
smoked for some time in the billiard-room, and finally went early
And then it was that, for the first time, the suspicion that
Lord Linchmere was a lunatic crossed my mind. He followed me into
my bedroom, when our host had retired.
"Doctor," said he, speaking in a low, hurried voice, "you must
come with me. You must spend the night in my bedroom."
"What do you mean?"
"I prefer not to explain. But this is part of your duties. My
room is close by, and you can return to your own before the servant
calls you in the morning."
"But why?" I asked.
"Because I am nervous of being alone," said he. "That's the
reason, since you must have a reason."
It seemed rank lunacy, but the argument of those twenty pounds
would overcome many objections. I followed him to his room.
"Well," said I, "there's only room for one in that bed."
"Only one shall occupy it," said he.
"And the other?"
"Must remain on watch."
"Why?" said I. "One would think you expected to be attacked."
"Perhaps I do."
"In that case, why not lock your door?"
"Perhaps I WANT to be attacked."
It looked more and more like lunacy. However, there was
nothing for it but to submit. I shrugged my shoulders and sat down
in the arm-chair beside the empty fireplace.
"I am to remain on watch, then?" said I, ruefully.
"We will divide the night. If you will watch until two, I will
watch the remainder."
"Call me at two o'clock, then."
"I will do so."
"Keep your ears open, and if you hear any sounds wake me
instantly--instantly, you hear?"
"You can rely upon it." I tried to look as solemn as he did.
"And for God's sake don't go to sleep," said he, and so, taking
off only his coat, he threw the coverlet over him and settled down
for the night.
It was a melancholy vigil, and made more so by my own sense of
its folly. Supposing that by any chance Lord Linchmere had cause
to suspect that he was subject to danger in the house of Sir Thomas
Rossiter, why on earth could he not lock his door and so protect
himself?" His own answer that he might wish to be attacked was
absurd. Why should he possibly wish to be attacked? And who would
wish to attack him? Clearly, Lord Linchmere was suffering from
some singular delusion, and the result was that on an imbecile
pretext I was to be deprived of my night's rest. Still, however
absurd, I was determined to carry out his injunctions to the letter
as long as I was in his employment. I sat, therefore, beside the
empty fireplace, and listened to a sonorous chiming clock somewhere
down the passage which gurgled and struck every quarter of an hour.
It was an endless vigil. Save for that single clock, an absolute
silence reigned throughout the great house. A small lamp stood on
the table at my elbow, throwing a circle of light round my chair,
but leaving the corners of the room draped in shadow. On the bed
Lord Linchmere was breathing peacefully. I envied him his quiet
sleep, and again and again my own eyelids drooped, but every
time my sense of duty came to my help, and I sat up, rubbing my
eyes and pinching myself with a determination to see my irrational
watch to an end.
And I did so. From down the passage came the chimes of two
o'clock, and I laid my hand upon the shoulder of the sleeper.
Instantly he was sitting up, with an expression of the keenest
interest upon his face.
"You have heard something?"
"No, sir. It is two o'clock."
"Very good. I will watch. You can go to sleep."
I lay down under the coverlet as he had done and was soon
unconscious. My last recollection was of that circle of lamplight,
and of the small, hunched-up figure and strained, anxious face of
Lord Linchmere in the centre of it.
How long I slept I do not know; but I was suddenly aroused by
a sharp tug at my sleeve. The room was in darkness, but a hot
smell of oil told me that the lamp had only that instant been
"Quick! Quick!" said Lord Linchmere's voice in my ear.
I sprang out of bed, he still dragging at my arm.
"Over here!" he whispered, and pulled me into a corner of the
room. "Hush! Listen!"
In the silence of the night I could distinctly hear that
someone was coming down the corridor. It was a stealthy step,
faint and intermittent, as of a man who paused cautiously after
every stride. Sometimes for half a minute there was no sound, and
then came the shuffle and creak which told of a fresh advance. My
companion was trembling with excitement. His hand, which still
held my sleeve, twitched like a branch in the wind.
"What is it?" I whispered.
"What does he want?"
"Hush! Do nothing until I tell you."
I was conscious now that someone was trying the door. There
was the faintest little rattle from the handle, and then I dimly
saw a thin slit of subdued light. There was a lamp burning
somewhere far down the passage, and it just sufficed to make the
outside visible from the darkness of our room. The greyish slit
grew broader and broader, very gradually, very gently, and then
outlined against it I saw the dark figure of a man. He was squat
and crouching, with the silhouette of a bulky and misshapen dwarf.
Slowly the door swung open with this ominous shape framed in the
centre of it. And then, in an instant, the crouching figure shot
up, there was a tiger spring across the room and thud, thud, thud,
came three tremendous blows from some heavy object upon the bed.
I was so paralysed with amazement that I stood motionless and
staring until I was aroused by a yell for help from my companion.
The open door shed enough light for me to see the outline of
things, and there was little Lord Linchmere with his arms round the
neck of his brother-in-law, holding bravely on to him like a game
bull-terrier with its teeth into a gaunt deerhound. The tall, bony
man dashed himself about, writhing round and round to get a grip
upon his assailant; but the other, clutching on from behind, still
kept his hold, though his shrill, frightened cries showed how
unequal he felt the contest to be. I sprang to the rescue, and the
two of us managed to throw Sir Thomas to the ground, though he made
his teeth meet in my shoulder. With all my youth and weight and
strength, it was a desperate struggle before we could master his
frenzied struggles; but at last we secured his arms with the waist-
cord of the dressing-gown which he was wearing. I was holding his
legs while Lord Linchmere was endeavouring to relight the lamp,
when there came the pattering of many feet in the passage, and the
butler and two footmen, who had been alarmed by the cries, rushed
into the room. With their aid we had no further difficulty in
securing our prisoner, who lay foaming and glaring upon the ground.
One glance at his face was enough to prove that he was a dangerous
maniac, while the short, heavy hammer which lay beside the bed
showed how murderous had been his intentions.
"Do not use any violence!" said Lord Linchmere, as we raised
the struggling man to his feet. "He will have a period of stupor
after this excitement. I believe that it is coming on already."
As he spoke the convulsions became less violent, and the madman's
head fell forward upon his breast, as if he were overcome by
sleep. We led him down the passage and stretched him upon his own
bed, where he lay unconscious, breathing heavily.
"Two of you will watch him," said Lord Linchmere. "And now,
Dr. Hamilton, if you will return with me to my room, I will give
you the explanation which my horror of scandal has perhaps caused
me to delay too long. Come what may, you will never have cause to
regret your share in this night's work.
"The case may be made clear in a very few words," he continued,
when we were alone. "My poor brother-in-law is one of the best
fellows upon earth, a loving husband and an estimable father, but
he comes from a stock which is deeply tainted with insanity. He
has more than once had homicidal outbreaks, which are the more
painful because his inclination is always to attack the very person
to whom he is most attached. His son was sent away to school to
avoid this danger, and then came an attempt upon my sister, his
wife, from which she escaped with injuries that you may have
observed when you met her in London. You understand that he knows
nothing of the matter when he is in his sound senses, and would
ridicule the suggestion that he could under any circumstances
injure those whom he loves so dearly. It is often, as you know, a
characteristic of such maladies that it is absolutely impossible to
convince the man who suffers from them of their existence.
"Our great object was, of course, to get him under restraint
before he could stain his hands with blood, but the matter was full
of difficulty. He is a recluse in his habits, and would not see
any medical man. Besides, it was necessary for our purpose that
the medical man should convince himself of his insanity; and he is
sane as you or I, save on these very rare occasions. But,
fortunately, before he has these attacks he always shows certain
premonitory symptoms, which are providential danger-signals,
warning us to be upon our guard. The chief of these is that
nervous contortion of the forehead which you must have observed.
This is a phenomenon which always appears from three to four days
before his attacks of frenzy. The moment it showed itself his wife
came into town on some pretext, and took refuge in my house in
"It remained for me to convince a medical man of Sir Thomas's
insanity, without which it was impossible to put him where he could
do no harm. The first problem was how to get a medical man into
his house. I bethought me of his interest in beetles, and his love
for anyone who shared his tastes. I advertised, therefore, and was
fortunate enough to find in you the very man I wanted. A stout
companion was necessary, for I knew that the lunacy could only be
proved by a murderous assault, and I had every reason to believe
that that assault would be made upon myself, since he had the
warmest regard for me in his moments of sanity. I think your
intelligence will supply all the rest. I did not know that the
attack would come by night, but I thought it very probable, for the
crises of such cases usually do occur in the early hours of the
morning. I am a very nervous man myself, but I saw no other way in
which I could remove this terrible danger from my sister's life.
I need not ask you whether you are willing to sign the lunacy
"Undoubtedly. But TWO signatures are necessary."
"You forget that I am myself a holder of a medical degree. I
have the papers on a side-table here, so if you will be good enough
to sign them now, we can have the patient removed in the morning."
So that was my visit to Sir Thomas Rossiter, the famous beetle-
hunter, and that was also my first step upon the ladder of success,
for Lady Rossiter and Lord Linchmere have proved to be staunch
friends, and they have never forgotten my association with them in
the time of their need. Sir Thomas is out and said to be cured,
but I still think that if I spent another night at Delamere Court,
I should be inclined to lock my door upon the inside.
Next: The Man With The Watches
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