The Naval Treaty
The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was made memorable
by three cases of interest, in which I had the privilege of being
associated with Sherlock Holmes and of studying his methods. I find them
recorded in my notes under the headings of "The Adventure of the Second
Stain," "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty," and "The Adventure of the
Tired Captain." The first of these, however, deals with interest of such
importance and implicates so many of the first families in the kingdom
that for many years it will be impossible to make it public. No case,
however, in which Holmes was engaged has ever illustrated the value
of his analytical methods so clearly or has impressed those who were
associated with him so deeply. I still retain an almost verbatim report
of the interview in which he demonstrated the true facts of the case
to Monsieur Dubugue of the Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the
well-known specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their energies
upon what proved to be side-issues. The new century will have come,
however, before the story can be safely told. Meanwhile I pass on to
the second on my list, which promised also at one time to be of national
importance, and was marked by several incidents which give it a quite
During my school-days I had been intimately associated with a lad named
Percy Phelps, who was of much the same age as myself, though he was two
classes ahead of me. He was a very brilliant boy, and carried away every
prize which the school had to offer, finished his exploits by winning
a scholarship which sent him on to continue his triumphant career at
Cambridge. He was, I remember, extremely well connected, and even when
we were all little boys together we knew that his mother's brother
was Lord Holdhurst, the great conservative politician. This gaudy
relationship did him little good at school. On the contrary, it seemed
rather a piquant thing to us to chevy him about the playground and hit
him over the shins with a wicket. But it was another thing when he
came out into the world. I heard vaguely that his abilities and the
influences which he commanded had won him a good position at the Foreign
Office, and then he passed completely out of my mind until the following
letter recalled his existence:
Briarbrae, Woking. My dear Watson,--I have no doubt that you can
remember "Tadpole" Phelps, who was in the fifth form when you were in
the third. It is possible even that you may have heard that through my
uncle's influence I obtained a good appointment at the Foreign Office,
and that I was in a situation of trust and honor until a horrible
misfortune came suddenly to blast my career.
There is no use writing of the details of that dreadful event. In the
event of your acceding to my request it is probably that I shall have
to narrate them to you. I have only just recovered from nine weeks of
brain-fever, and am still exceedingly weak. Do you think that you could
bring your friend Mr. Holmes down to see me? I should like to have his
opinion of the case, though the authorities assure me that nothing more
can be done. Do try to bring him down, and as soon as possible. Every
minute seems an hour while I live in this state of horrible suspense.
Assure him that if I have not asked his advice sooner it was not because
I did not appreciate his talents, but because I have been off my head
ever since the blow fell. Now I am clear again, though I dare not think
of it too much for fear of a relapse. I am still so weak that I have to
write, as you see, by dictating. Do try to bring him.
Your old school-fellow,
There was something that touched me as I read this letter, something
pitiable in the reiterated appeals to bring Holmes. So moved was I
that even had it been a difficult matter I should have tried it, but
of course I knew well that Holmes loved his art, so that he was ever
as ready to bring his aid as his client could be to receive it. My wife
agreed with me that not a moment should be lost in laying the matter
before him, and so within an hour of breakfast-time I found myself back
once more in the old rooms in Baker Street.
Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his dressing-gown, and
working hard over a chemical investigation. A large curved retort
was boiling furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen burner, and the
distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre measure. My friend
hardly glanced up as I entered, and I, seeing that his investigation
must be of importance, seated myself in an arm-chair and waited. He
dipped into this bottle or that, drawing out a few drops of each with
his glass pipette, and finally brought a test-tube containing a solution
over to the table. In his right hand he held a slip of litmus-paper.
"You come at a crisis, Watson," said he. "If this paper remains blue,
all is well. If it turns red, it means a man's life." He dipped it into
the test-tube and it flushed at once into a dull, dirty crimson. "Hum!
I thought as much!" he cried. "I will be at your service in an instant,
Watson. You will find tobacco in the Persian slipper." He turned to his
desk and scribbled off several telegrams, which were handed over to the
page-boy. Then he threw himself down into the chair opposite, and drew
up his knees until his fingers clasped round his long, thin shins.
"A very commonplace little murder," said he. "You've got something
better, I fancy. You are the stormy petrel of crime, Watson. What is
I handed him the letter, which he read with the most concentrated
"It does not tell us very much, does it?" he remarked, as he handed it
back to me.
"And yet the writing is of interest."
"But the writing is not his own."
"Precisely. It is a woman's."
"A man's surely," I cried.
"No, a woman's, and a woman of rare character. You see, at the
commencement of an investigation it is something to know that your
client is in close contact with some one who, for good or evil, has an
exceptional nature. My interest is already awakened in the case. If you
are ready we will start at once for Woking, and see this diplomatist who
is in such evil case, and the lady to whom he dictates his letters."
We were fortunate enough to catch an early train at Waterloo, and in
a little under an hour we found ourselves among the fir-woods and
the heather of Woking. Briarbrae proved to be a large detached house
standing in extensive grounds within a few minutes' walk of the station.
On sending in our cards we were shown into an elegantly appointed
drawing-room, where we were joined in a few minutes by a rather stout
man who received us with much hospitality. His age may have been nearer
forty than thirty, but his cheeks were so ruddy and his eyes so merry
that he still conveyed the impression of a plump and mischievous boy.
"I am so glad that you have come," said he, shaking our hands with
effusion. "Percy has been inquiring for you all morning. Ah, poor old
chap, he clings to any straw! His father and his mother asked me to see
you, for the mere mention of the subject is very painful to them."
"We have had no details yet," observed Holmes. "I perceive that you are
not yourself a member of the family."
Our acquaintance looked surprised, and then, glancing down, he began to
"Of course you saw the J H monogram on my locket," said he. "For a
moment I thought you had done something clever. Joseph Harrison is my
name, and as Percy is to marry my sister Annie I shall at least be a
relation by marriage. You will find my sister in his room, for she has
nursed him hand-and-foot this two months back. Perhaps we'd better go in
at once, for I know how impatient he is."
The chamber in which we were shown was on the same floor as the
drawing-room. It was furnished partly as a sitting and partly as a
bedroom, with flowers arranged daintily in every nook and corner. A
young man, very pale and worn, was lying upon a sofa near the open
window, through which came the rich scent of the garden and the balmy
summer air. A woman was sitting beside him, who rose as we entered.
"Shall I leave, Percy?" she asked.
He clutched her hand to detain her. "How are you, Watson?" said he,
cordially. "I should never have known you under that moustache, and I
dare say you would not be prepared to swear to me. This I presume is
your celebrated friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
I introduced him in a few words, and we both sat down. The stout young
man had left us, but his sister still remained with her hand in that of
the invalid. She was a striking-looking woman, a little short and
thick for symmetry, but with a beautiful olive complexion, large, dark,
Italian eyes, and a wealth of deep black hair. Her rich tints made the
white face of her companion the more worn and haggard by the contrast.
"I won't waste your time," said he, raising himself upon the sofa.
"I'll plunge into the matter without further preamble. I was a happy
and successful man, Mr. Holmes, and on the eve of being married, when a
sudden and dreadful misfortune wrecked all my prospects in life.
"I was, as Watson may have told you, in the Foreign Office, and
through the influences of my uncle, Lord Holdhurst, I rose rapidly to
a responsible position. When my uncle became foreign minister in this
administration he gave me several missions of trust, and as I always
brought them to a successful conclusion, he came at last to have the
utmost confidence in my ability and tact.
"Nearly ten weeks ago--to be more accurate, on the 23d of May--he called
me into his private room, and, after complimenting me on the good work
which I had done, he informed me that he had a new commission of trust
for me to execute.
"'This,' said he, taking a gray roll of paper from his bureau, 'is the
original of that secret treaty between England and Italy of which, I
regret to say, some rumors have already got into the public press. It is
of enormous importance that nothing further should leak out. The French
or the Russian embassy would pay an immense sum to learn the contents
of these papers. They should not leave my bureau were it not that it
is absolutely necessary to have them copied. You have a desk in your
"'Then take the treaty and lock it up there. I shall give directions
that you may remain behind when the others go, so that you may copy
it at your leisure without fear of being overlooked. When you have
finished, relock both the original and the draft in the desk, and hand
them over to me personally to-morrow morning.'
"I took the papers and--"
"Excuse me an instant," said Holmes. "Were you alone during this
"In a large room?"
"Thirty feet each way."
"In the centre?"
"Yes, about it."
"And speaking low?"
"My uncle's voice is always remarkably low. I hardly spoke at all."
"Thank you," said Holmes, shutting his eyes; "pray go on."
"I did exactly what he indicated, and waited until the other clerks had
departed. One of them in my room, Charles Gorot, had some arrears
of work to make up, so I left him there and went out to dine. When I
returned he was gone. I was anxious to hurry my work, for I knew that
Joseph--the Mr. Harrison whom you saw just now--was in town, and that he
would travel down to Woking by the eleven-o'clock train, and I wanted if
possible to catch it.
"When I came to examine the treaty I saw at once that it was of such
importance that my uncle had been guilty of no exaggeration in what
he had said. Without going into details, I may say that it defined the
position of Great Britain towards the Triple Alliance, and fore-shadowed
the policy which this country would pursue in the event of the
French fleet gaining a complete ascendancy over that of Italy in the
Mediterranean. The questions treated in it were purely naval. At the end
were the signatures of the high dignitaries who had signed it. I glanced
my eyes over it, and then settled down to my task of copying.
"It was a long document, written in the French language, and containing
twenty-six separate articles. I copied as quickly as I could, but at
nine o'clock I had only done nine articles, and it seemed hopeless for
me to attempt to catch my train. I was feeling drowsy and stupid, partly
from my dinner and also from the effects of a long day's work. A cup of
coffee would clear my brain. A commissionnaire remains all night in a
little lodge at the foot of the stairs, and is in the habit of making
coffee at his spirit-lamp for any of the officials who may be working
over time. I rang the bell, therefore, to summon him.
"To my surprise, it was a woman who answered the summons, a large,
coarse-faced, elderly woman, in an apron. She explained that she was the
commissionnaire's wife, who did the charing, and I gave her the order
for the coffee.
"I wrote two more articles and then, feeling more drowsy than ever, I
rose and walked up and down the room to stretch my legs. My coffee had
not yet come, and I wondered what was the cause of the delay could be.
Opening the door, I started down the corridor to find out. There was a
straight passage, dimly lighted, which led from the room in which I
had been working, and was the only exit from it. It ended in a curving
staircase, with the commissionnaire's lodge in the passage at the
bottom. Half way down this staircase is a small landing, with another
passage running into it at right angles. This second one leads by means
of a second small stair to a side door, used by servants, and also as
a short cut by clerks when coming from Charles Street. Here is a rough
chart of the place."
"Thank you. I think that I quite follow you," said Sherlock Holmes.
"It is of the utmost importance that you should notice this point.
I went down the stairs and into the hall, where I found the
commissionnaire fast asleep in his box, with the kettle boiling
furiously upon the spirit-lamp. I took off the kettle and blew out the
lamp, for the water was spurting over the floor. Then I put out my hand
and was about to shake the man, who was still sleeping soundly, when a
bell over his head rang loudly, and he woke with a start.
"'Mr. Phelps, sir!' said he, looking at me in bewilderment.
"'I came down to see if my coffee was ready.'
"'I was boiling the kettle when I fell asleep, sir.' He looked at me and
then up at the still quivering bell with an ever-growing astonishment
upon his face.
"'If you was here, sir, then who rang the bell?' he asked.
"'The bell!' I cried. 'What bell is it?'
"'It's the bell of the room you were working in.'
"A cold hand seemed to close round my heart. Some one, then, was in that
room where my precious treaty lay upon the table. I ran frantically up
the stair and along the passage. There was no one in the corridors, Mr.
Holmes. There was no one in the room. All was exactly as I left it, save
only that the papers which had been committed to my care had been taken
from the desk on which they lay. The copy was there, and the original
Holmes sat up in his chair and rubbed his hands. I could see that the
problem was entirely to his heart. "Pray, what did you do then?" he
"I recognized in an instant that the thief must have come up the stairs
from the side door. Of course I must have met him if he had come the
"You were satisfied that he could not have been concealed in the room
all the time, or in the corridor which you have just described as dimly
"It is absolutely impossible. A rat could not conceal himself either in
the room or the corridor. There is no cover at all."
"Thank you. Pray proceed."
"The commissionnaire, seeing by my pale face that something was to be
feared, had followed me upstairs. Now we both rushed along the corridor
and down the steep steps which led to Charles Street. The door at the
bottom was closed, but unlocked. We flung it open and rushed out. I can
distinctly remember that as we did so there came three chimes from a
neighboring clock. It was quarter to ten."
"That is of enormous importance," said Holmes, making a note upon his
"The night was very dark, and a thin, warm rain was falling. There was
no one in Charles Street, but a great traffic was going on, as usual, in
Whitehall, at the extremity. We rushed along the pavement, bare-headed
as we were, and at the far corner we found a policeman standing.
"'A robbery has been committed,' I gasped. 'A document of immense value
has been stolen from the Foreign Office. Has any one passed this way?'
"'I have been standing here for a quarter of an hour, sir,' said he;
'only one person has passed during that time--a woman, tall and elderly,
with a Paisley shawl.'
"'Ah, that is only my wife,' cried the commissionnaire; 'has no one else
"'Then it must be the other way that the thief took,' cried the fellow,
tugging at my sleeve.
"'But I was not satisfied, and the attempts which he made to draw me
away increased my suspicions.
"'Which way did the woman go?' I cried.
"'I don't know, sir. I noticed her pass, but I had no special reason for
watching her. She seemed to be in a hurry.'
"'How long ago was it?'
"'Oh, not very many minutes.'
"'Within the last five?'
"'Well, it could not be more than five.'
"'You're only wasting your time, sir, and every minute now is of
importance,' cried the commissionnaire; 'take my word for it that my old
woman has nothing to do with it, and come down to the other end of the
street. Well, if you won't, I will.' And with that he rushed off in the
"But I was after him in an instant and caught him by the sleeve.
"'Where do you live?' said I.
"'16 Ivy Lane, Brixton,' he answered. 'But don't let yourself be drawn
away upon a false scent, Mr. Phelps. Come to the other end of the street
and let us see if we can hear of anything.'
"Nothing was to be lost by following his advice. With the policeman we
both hurried down, but only to find the street full of traffic, many
people coming and going, but all only too eager to get to a place of
safety upon so wet a night. There was no lounger who could tell us who
"Then we returned to the office, and searched the stairs and the passage
without result. The corridor which led to the room was laid down with
a kind of creamy linoleum which shows an impression very easily. We
examined it very carefully, but found no outline of any footmark."
"Had it been raining all evening?"
"Since about seven."
"How is it, then, that the woman who came into the room about nine left
no traces with her muddy boots?"
"I am glad you raised the point. It occurred to me at the time.
The charwomen are in the habit of taking off their boots at the
commissionnaire's office, and putting on list slippers."
"That is very clear. There were no marks, then, though the night was a
wet one? The chain of events is certainly one of extraordinary interest.
What did you do next?
"We examined the room also. There is no possibility of a secret door,
and the windows are quite thirty feet from the ground. Both of them
were fastened on the inside. The carpet prevents any possibility of a
trap-door, and the ceiling is of the ordinary whitewashed kind. I will
pledge my life that whoever stole my papers could only have come through
"How about the fireplace?"
"They use none. There is a stove. The bell-rope hangs from the wire just
to the right of my desk. Whoever rang it must have come right up to the
desk to do it. But why should any criminal wish to ring the bell? It is
a most insoluble mystery."
"Certainly the incident was unusual. What were your next steps? You
examined the room, I presume, to see if the intruder had left any
traces--any cigar-end or dropped glove or hairpin or other trifle?"
"There was nothing of the sort."
"Well, we never thought of that."
"Ah, a scent of tobacco would have been worth a great deal to us in such
"I never smoke myself, so I think I should have observed it if there had
been any smell of tobacco. There was absolutely no clue of any kind. The
only tangible fact was that the commissionnaire's wife--Mrs. Tangey was
the name--had hurried out of the place. He could give no explanation
save that it was about the time when the woman always went home. The
policeman and I agreed that our best plan would be to seize the woman
before she could get rid of the papers, presuming that she had them.
"The alarm had reached Scotland Yard by this time, and Mr. Forbes, the
detective, came round at once and took up the case with a great deal of
energy. We hired a hansom, and in half an hour we were at the address
which had been given to us. A young woman opened the door, who proved to
be Mrs. Tangey's eldest daughter. Her mother had not come back yet, and
we were shown into the front room to wait.
"About ten minutes later a knock came at the door, and here we made the
one serious mistake for which I blame myself. Instead of opening the
door ourselves, we allowed the girl to do so. We heard her say, 'Mother,
there are two men in the house waiting to see you,' and an instant
afterwards we heard the patter of feet rushing down the passage. Forbes
flung open the door, and we both ran into the back room or kitchen, but
the woman had got there before us. She stared at us with defiant
eyes, and then, suddenly recognizing me, an expression of absolute
astonishment came over her face.
"'Why, if it isn't Mr. Phelps, of the office!' she cried.
"'Come, come, who did you think we were when you ran away from us?'
asked my companion.
"'I thought you were the brokers,' said she, 'we have had some trouble
with a tradesman.'
"'That's not quite good enough,' answered Forbes. 'We have reason to
believe that you have taken a paper of importance from the Foreign
Office, and that you ran in here to dispose of it. You must come back
with us to Scotland Yard to be searched.'
"It was in vain that she protested and resisted. A four-wheeler was
brought, and we all three drove back in it. We had first made an
examination of the kitchen, and especially of the kitchen fire, to see
whether she might have made away with the papers during the instant that
she was alone. There were no signs, however, of any ashes or scraps.
When we reached Scotland Yard she was handed over at once to the female
searcher. I waited in an agony of suspense until she came back with her
report. There were no signs of the papers.
"Then for the first time the horror of my situation came in its full
force. Hitherto I had been acting, and action had numbed thought. I had
been so confident of regaining the treaty at once that I had not dared
to think of what would be the consequence if I failed to do so. But
now there was nothing more to be done, and I had leisure to realize
my position. It was horrible. Watson there would tell you that I was a
nervous, sensitive boy at school. It is my nature. I thought of my uncle
and of his colleagues in the Cabinet, of the shame which I had brought
upon him, upon myself, upon every one connected with me. What though I
was the victim of an extraordinary accident? No allowance is made
for accidents where diplomatic interests are at stake. I was ruined,
shamefully, hopelessly ruined. I don't know what I did. I fancy I must
have made a scene. I have a dim recollection of a group of officials who
crowded round me, endeavoring to soothe me. One of them drove down with
me to Waterloo, and saw me into the Woking train. I believe that he
would have come all the way had it not been that Dr. Ferrier, who lives
near me, was going down by that very train. The doctor most kindly took
charge of me, and it was well he did so, for I had a fit in the station,
and before we reached home I was practically a raving maniac.
"You can imagine the state of things here when they were roused from
their beds by the doctor's ringing and found me in this condition. Poor
Annie here and my mother were broken-hearted. Dr. Ferrier had just heard
enough from the detective at the station to be able to give an idea of
what had happened, and his story did not mend matters. It was evident to
all that I was in for a long illness, so Joseph was bundled out of this
cheery bedroom, and it was turned into a sick-room for me. Here I have
lain, Mr. Holmes, for over nine weeks, unconscious, and raving with
brain-fever. If it had not been for Miss Harrison here and for the
doctor's care I should not be speaking to you now. She has nursed me by
day and a hired nurse has looked after me by night, for in my mad fits
I was capable of anything. Slowly my reason has cleared, but it is only
during the last three days that my memory has quite returned. Sometimes
I wish that it never had. The first thing that I did was to wire to
Mr. Forbes, who had the case in hand. He came out, and assures me that,
though everything has been done, no trace of a clue has been discovered.
The commissionnaire and his wife have been examined in every way without
any light being thrown upon the matter. The suspicions of the police
then rested upon young Gorot, who, as you may remember, stayed over time
in the office that night. His remaining behind and his French name were
really the only two points which could suggest suspicion; but, as a
matter of fact, I did not begin work until he had gone, and his people
are of Huguenot extraction, but as English in sympathy and tradition as
you and I are. Nothing was found to implicate him in any way, and there
the matter dropped. I turn to you, Mr. Holmes, as absolutely my last
hope. If you fail me, then my honor as well as my position are forever
The invalid sank back upon his cushions, tired out by this long recital,
while his nurse poured him out a glass of some stimulating medicine.
Holmes sat silently, with his head thrown back and his eyes closed, in
an attitude which might seem listless to a stranger, but which I knew
betokened the most intense self-absorption.
"You statement has been so explicit," said he at last, "that you have
really left me very few questions to ask. There is one of the very
utmost importance, however. Did you tell any one that you had this
special task to perform?"
"Not Miss Harrison here, for example?"
"No. I had not been back to Woking between getting the order and
executing the commission."
"And none of your people had by chance been to see you?"
"Did any of them know their way about in the office?"
"Oh, yes, all of them had been shown over it."
"Still, of course, if you said nothing to any one about the treaty these
inquiries are irrelevant."
"I said nothing."
"Do you know anything of the commissionnaire?"
"Nothing except that he is an old soldier."
"Oh, I have heard--Coldstream Guards."
"Thank you. I have no doubt I can get details from Forbes. The
authorities are excellent at amassing facts, though they do not always
use them to advantage. What a lovely thing a rose is!"
He walked past the couch to the open window, and held up the drooping
stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and
green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before
seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.
"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,"
said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. "It can be built
up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the
goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other
things, our powers our desires, our food, are all really necessary for
our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its
smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it.
It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have
much to hope from the flowers."
Percy Phelps and his nurse looked at Holmes during this demonstration
with surprise and a good deal of disappointment written upon their
faces. He had fallen into a reverie, with the moss-rose between his
fingers. It had lasted some minutes before the young lady broke in upon
"Do you see any prospect of solving this mystery, Mr. Holmes?" she
asked, with a touch of asperity in her voice.
"Oh, the mystery!" he answered, coming back with a start to the
realities of life. "Well, it would be absurd to deny that the case is
a very abstruse and complicated one, but I can promise you that I will
look into the matter and let you know any points which may strike me."
"Do you see any clue?"
"You have furnished me with seven, but, of course, I must test them
before I can pronounce upon their value."
"You suspect some one?"
"I suspect myself."
"Of coming to conclusions too rapidly."
"Then go to London and test your conclusions."
"Your advice is very excellent, Miss Harrison," said Holmes, rising. "I
think, Watson, we cannot do better. Do not allow yourself to indulge in
false hopes, Mr. Phelps. The affair is a very tangled one."
"I shall be in a fever until I see you again," cried the diplomatist.
"Well, I'll come out be the same train to-morrow, though it's more than
likely that my report will be a negative one."
"God bless you for promising to come," cried our client. "It gives me
fresh life to know that something is being done. By the way, I have had
a letter from Lord Holdhurst."
"Ha! What did he say?"
"He was cold, but not harsh. I dare say my severe illness prevented
him from being that. He repeated that the matter was of the utmost
importance, and added that no steps would be taken about my future--by
which he means, of course, my dismissal--until my health was restored
and I had an opportunity of repairing my misfortune."
"Well, that was reasonable and considerate," said Holmes. "Come, Watson,
for we have a good day's work before us in town."
Mr. Joseph Harrison drove us down to the station, and we were soon
whirling up in a Portsmouth train. Holmes was sunk in profound thought,
and hardly opened his mouth until we had passed Clapham Junction.
"It's a very cheery thing to come into London by any of these lines
which run high, and allow you to look down upon the houses like this."
I thought he was joking, for the view was sordid enough, but he soon
"Look at those big, isolated clumps of building rising up above the
slates, like brick islands in a lead-colored sea."
"Light-houses, my boy! Beacons of the future! Capsules with hundreds of
bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wise, better
England of the future. I suppose that man Phelps does not drink?"
"I should not think so."
"Nor should I, but we are bound to take every possibility into account.
The poor devil has certainly got himself into very deep water, and it's
a question whether we shall ever be able to get him ashore. What did you
think of Miss Harrison?"
"A girl of strong character."
"Yes, but she is a good sort, or I am mistaken. She and her brother are
the only children of an iron-master somewhere up Northumberland way. He
got engaged to her when traveling last winter, and she came down to
be introduced to his people, with her brother as escort. Then came
the smash, and she stayed on to nurse her lover, while brother Joseph,
finding himself pretty snug, stayed on too. I've been making a few
independent inquiries, you see. But to-day must be a day of inquiries."
"My practice--" I began.
"Oh, if you find your own cases more interesting than mine--" said
Holmes, with some asperity.
"I was going to say that my practice could get along very well for a day
or two, since it is the slackest time in the year."
"Excellent," said he, recovering his good-humor. "Then we'll look into
this matter together. I think that we should begin by seeing Forbes.
He can probably tell us all the details we want until we know from what
side the case is to be approached."
"You said you had a clue?"
"Well, we have several, but we can only test their value by further
inquiry. The most difficult crime to track is the one which is
purposeless. Now this is not purposeless. Who is it who profits by it?
There is the French ambassador, there is the Russian, there is whoever
might sell it to either of these, and there is Lord Holdhurst."
"Well, it is just conceivable that a statesman might find himself in
a position where he was not sorry to have such a document accidentally
"Not a statesman with the honorable record of Lord Holdhurst?"
"It is a possibility and we cannot afford to disregard it. We shall see
the noble lord to-day and find out if he can tell us anything. Meanwhile
I have already set inquiries on foot."
"Yes, I sent wires from Woking station to every evening paper in London.
This advertisement will appear in each of them."
He handed over a sheet torn from a note-book. On it was scribbled in
pencil: "L10 reward. The number of the cab which dropped a fare at or
about the door of the Foreign Office in Charles Street at quarter to ten
in the evening of May 23d. Apply 221 B, Baker Street."
"You are confident that the thief came in a cab?"
"If not, there is no harm done. But if Mr. Phelps is correct in stating
that there is no hiding-place either in the room or the corridors, then
the person must have come from outside. If he came from outside on so
wet a night, and yet left no trace of damp upon the linoleum, which
was examined within a few minutes of his passing, then it is exceeding
probable that he came in a cab. Yes, I think that we may safely deduce a
"It sounds plausible."
"That is one of the clues of which I spoke. It may lead us to something.
And then, of course, there is the bell--which is the most distinctive
feature of the case. Why should the bell ring? Was it the thief who did
it out of bravado? Or was it some one who was with the thief who did it
in order to prevent the crime? Or was it an accident? Or was it--?" He
sank back into the state of intense and silent thought from which he
had emerged; but it seemed to me, accustomed as I was to his every mood,
that some new possibility had dawned suddenly upon him.
It was twenty past three when we reached our terminus, and after a hasty
luncheon at the buffet we pushed on at once to Scotland Yard. Holmes
had already wired to Forbes, and we found him waiting to receive us--a
small, foxy man with a sharp but by no means amiable expression. He
was decidedly frigid in his manner to us, especially when he heard the
errand upon which we had come.
"I've heard of your methods before now, Mr. Holmes," said he, tartly.
"You are ready enough to use all the information that the police can lay
at your disposal, and then you try to finish the case yourself and bring
discredit on them."
"On the contrary," said Holmes, "out of my last fifty-three cases my
name has only appeared in four, and the police have had all the credit
in forty-nine. I don't blame you for not knowing this, for you are young
and inexperienced, but if you wish to get on in your new duties you will
work with me and not against me."
"I'd be very glad of a hint or two," said the detective, changing his
manner. "I've certainly had no credit from the case so far."
"What steps have you taken?"
"Tangey, the commissionnaire, has been shadowed. He left the Guards with
a good character and we can find nothing against him. His wife is a bad
lot, though. I fancy she knows more about this than appears."
"Have you shadowed her?"
"We have set one of our women on to her. Mrs. Tangey drinks, and our
woman has been with her twice when she was well on, but she could get
nothing out of her."
"I understand that they have had brokers in the house?"
"Yes, but they were paid off."
"Where did the money come from?"
"That was all right. His pension was due. They have not shown any sign
of being in funds."
"What explanation did she give of having answered the bell when Mr.
Phelps rang for the coffee?"
"She said that he husband was very tired and she wished to relieve him."
"Well, certainly that would agree with his being found a little later
asleep in his chair. There is nothing against them then but the woman's
character. Did you ask her why she hurried away that night? Her haste
attracted the attention of the police constable."
"She was later than usual and wanted to get home."
"Did you point out to her that you and Mr. Phelps, who started at least
twenty minutes after her, got home before her?"
"She explains that by the difference between a 'bus and a hansom."
"Did she make it clear why, on reaching her house, she ran into the back
"Because she had the money there with which to pay off the brokers."
"She has at least an answer for everything. Did you ask her whether in
leaving she met any one or saw any one loitering about Charles Street?"
"She saw no one but the constable."
"Well, you seem to have cross-examined her pretty thoroughly. What else
have you done?"
"The clerk Gorot has been shadowed all these nine weeks, but without
result. We can show nothing against him."
"Well, we have nothing else to go upon--no evidence of any kind."
"Have you formed a theory about how that bell rang?"
"Well, I must confess that it beats me. It was a cool hand, whoever it
was, to go and give the alarm like that."
"Yes, it was queer thing to do. Many thanks to you for what you have
told me. If I can put the man into your hands you shall hear from me.
Come along, Watson."
"Where are we going to now?" I asked, as we left the office.
"We are now going to interview Lord Holdhurst, the cabinet minister and
future premier of England."
We were fortunate in finding that Lord Holdhurst was still in his
chambers in Downing Street, and on Holmes sending in his card we were
instantly shown up. The statesman received us with that old-fashioned
courtesy for which he is remarkable, and seated us on the two luxuriant
lounges on either side of the fireplace. Standing on the rug between us,
with his slight, tall figure, his sharp features, thoughtful face, and
curling hair prematurely tinged with gray, he seemed to represent that
not too common type, a nobleman who is in truth noble.
"Your name is very familiar to me, Mr. Holmes," said he, smiling. "And,
of course, I cannot pretend to be ignorant of the object of your visit.
There has only been one occurrence in these offices which could call for
your attention. In whose interest are you acting, may I ask?"
"In that of Mr. Percy Phelps," answered Holmes.
"Ah, my unfortunate nephew! You can understand that our kinship makes
it the more impossible for me to screen him in any way. I fear that the
incident must have a very prejudicial effect upon his career."
"But if the document is found?"
"Ah, that, of course, would be different."
"I had one or two questions which I wished to ask you, Lord Holdhurst."
"I shall be happy to give you any information in my power."
"Was it in this room that you gave your instructions as to the copying
of the document?"
"Then you could hardly have been overheard?"
"It is out of the question."
"Did you ever mention to any one that it was your intention to give any
one the treaty to be copied?"
"You are certain of that?"
"Well, since you never said so, and Mr. Phelps never said so, and nobody
else knew anything of the matter, then the thief's presence in the room
was purely accidental. He saw his chance and he took it."
The statesman smiled. "You take me out of my province there," said he.
Holmes considered for a moment. "There is another very important
point which I wish to discuss with you," said he. "You feared, as I
understand, that very grave results might follow from the details of
this treaty becoming known."
A shadow passed over the expressive face of the statesman. "Very grave
"Any have they occurred?"
"If the treaty had reached, let us say, the French or Russian Foreign
Office, you would expect to hear of it?"
"I should," said Lord Holdhurst, with a wry face.
"Since nearly ten weeks have elapsed, then, and nothing has been heard,
it is not unfair to suppose that for some reason the treaty has not
Lord Holdhurst shrugged his shoulders.
"We can hardly suppose, Mr. Holmes, that the thief took the treaty in
order to frame it and hang it up."
"Perhaps he is waiting for a better price."
"If he waits a little longer he will get no price at all. The treaty
will cease to be secret in a few months."
"That is most important," said Holmes. "Of course, it is a possible
supposition that the thief has had a sudden illness--"
"An attack of brain-fever, for example?" asked the statesman, flashing a
swift glance at him.
"I did not say so," said Holmes, imperturbably. "And now, Lord
Holdhurst, we have already taken up too much of your valuable time, and
we shall wish you good-day."
"Every success to your investigation, be the criminal who it may,"
answered the nobleman, as he bowed us out the door.
"He's a fine fellow," said Holmes, as we came out into Whitehall. "But
he has a struggle to keep up his position. He is far from rich and has
many calls. You noticed, of course, that his boots had been resoled.
Now, Watson, I won't detain you from your legitimate work any longer.
I shall do nothing more to-day, unless I have an answer to my cab
advertisement. But I should be extremely obliged to you if you would
come down with me to Woking to-morrow, by the same train which we took
I met him accordingly next morning and we traveled down to Woking
together. He had had no answer to his advertisement, he said, and no
fresh light had been thrown upon the case. He had, when he so willed
it, the utter immobility of countenance of a red Indian, and I could
not gather from his appearance whether he was satisfied or not with
the position of the case. His conversation, I remember, was about the
Bertillon system of measurements, and he expressed his enthusiastic
admiration of the French savant.
We found our client still under the charge of his devoted nurse, but
looking considerably better than before. He rose from the sofa and
greeted us without difficulty when we entered.
"Any news?" he asked, eagerly.
"My report, as I expected, is a negative one," said Holmes. "I have seen
Forbes, and I have seen your uncle, and I have set one or two trains of
inquiry upon foot which may lead to something."
"You have not lost heart, then?"
"By no means."
"God bless you for saying that!" cried Miss Harrison. "If we keep our
courage and our patience the truth must come out."
"We have more to tell you than you have for us," said Phelps, reseating
himself upon the couch.
"I hoped you might have something."
"Yes, we have had an adventure during the night, and one which might
have proved to be a serious one." His expression grew very grave as he
spoke, and a look of something akin to fear sprang up in his eyes. "Do
you know," said he, "that I begin to believe that I am the unconscious
centre of some monstrous conspiracy, and that my life is aimed at as
well as my honor?"
"Ah!" cried Holmes.
"It sounds incredible, for I have not, as far as I know, an enemy in
the world. Yet from last night's experience I can come to no other
"Pray let me hear it."
"You must know that last night was the very first night that I have ever
slept without a nurse in the room. I was so much better that I thought
I could dispense with one. I had a night-light burning, however. Well,
about two in the morning I had sunk into a light sleep when I was
suddenly aroused by a slight noise. It was like the sound which a mouse
makes when it is gnawing a plank, and I lay listening to it for some
time under the impression that it must come from that cause. Then it
grew louder, and suddenly there came from the window a sharp metallic
snick. I sat up in amazement. There could be no doubt what the sounds
were now. The first ones had been caused by some one forcing an
instrument through the slit between the sashes, and the second by the
catch being pressed back.
"There was a pause then for about ten minutes, as if the person were
waiting to see whether the noise had awakened me. Then I heard a gentle
creaking as the window was very slowly opened. I could stand it no
longer, for my nerves are not what they used to be. I sprang out of bed
and flung open the shutters. A man was crouching at the window. I could
see little of him, for he was gone like a flash. He was wrapped in some
sort of cloak which came across the lower part of his face. One thing
only I am sure of, and that is that he had some weapon in his hand. It
looked to me like a long knife. I distinctly saw the gleam of it as he
turned to run."
"This is most interesting," said Holmes. "Pray what did you do then?"
"I should have followed him through the open window if I had been
stronger. As it was, I rang the bell and roused the house. It took me
some little time, for the bell rings in the kitchen and the servants all
sleep upstairs. I shouted, however, and that brought Joseph down, and he
roused the others. Joseph and the groom found marks on the bed outside
the window, but the weather has been so dry lately that they found it
hopeless to follow the trail across the grass. There's a place, however,
on the wooden fence which skirts the road which shows signs, they tell
me, as if some one had got over, and had snapped the top of the rail in
doing so. I have said nothing to the local police yet, for I thought I
had best have your opinion first."
This tale of our client's appeared to have an extraordinary effect upon
Sherlock Holmes. He rose from his chair and paced about the room in
"Misfortunes never come single," said Phelps, smiling, though it was
evident that his adventure had somewhat shaken him.
"You have certainly had your share," said Holmes. "Do you think you
could walk round the house with me?"
"Oh, yes, I should like a little sunshine. Joseph will come, too."
"And I also," said Miss Harrison.
"I am afraid not," said Holmes, shaking his head. "I think I must ask
you to remain sitting exactly where you are."
The young lady resumed her seat with an air of displeasure. Her brother,
however, had joined us and we set off all four together. We passed round
the lawn to the outside of the young diplomatist's window. There were,
as he had said, marks upon the bed, but they were hopelessly blurred and
vague. Holmes stopped over them for an instant, and then rose shrugging
"I don't think any one could make much of this," said he. "Let us go
round the house and see why this particular room was chosen by the
burglar. I should have thought those larger windows of the drawing-room
and dining-room would have had more attractions for him."
"They are more visible from the road," suggested Mr. Joseph Harrison.
"Ah, yes, of course. There is a door here which he might have attempted.
What is it for?"
"It is the side entrance for trades-people. Of course it is locked at
"Have you ever had an alarm like this before?"
"Never," said our client.
"Do you keep plate in the house, or anything to attract burglars?"
"Nothing of value."
Holmes strolled round the house with his hands in his pockets and a
negligent air which was unusual with him.
"By the way," said he to Joseph Harrison, "you found some place, I
understand, where the fellow scaled the fence. Let us have a look at
The plump young man led us to a spot where the top of one of the wooden
rails had been cracked. A small fragment of the wood was hanging down.
Holmes pulled it off and examined it critically.
"Do you think that was done last night? It looks rather old, does it
"Well, possibly so."
"There are no marks of any one jumping down upon the other side. No, I
fancy we shall get no help here. Let us go back to the bedroom and talk
the matter over."
Percy Phelps was walking very slowly, leaning upon the arm of his future
brother-in-law. Holmes walked swiftly across the lawn, and we were at
the open window of the bedroom long before the others came up.
"Miss Harrison," said Holmes, speaking with the utmost intensity of
manner, "you must stay where you are all day. Let nothing prevent you
from staying where you are all day. It is of the utmost importance."
"Certainly, if you wish it, Mr. Holmes," said the girl in astonishment.
"When you go to bed lock the door of this room on the outside and keep
the key. Promise to do this."
"He will come to London with us."
"And am I to remain here?"
"It is for his sake. You can serve him. Quick! Promise!"
She gave a quick nod of assent just as the other two came up.
"Why do you sit moping there, Annie?" cried her brother. "Come out into
"No, thank you, Joseph. I have a slight headache and this room is
deliciously cool and soothing."
"What do you propose now, Mr. Holmes?" asked our client.
"Well, in investigating this minor affair we must not lose sight of our
main inquiry. It would be a very great help to me if you would come up
to London with us."
"Well, as soon as you conveniently can. Say in an hour."
"I feel quite strong enough, if I can really be of any help."
"The greatest possible."
"Perhaps you would like me to stay there to-night?"
"I was just going to propose it."
"Then, if my friend of the night comes to revisit me, he will find the
bird flown. We are all in your hands, Mr. Holmes, and you must tell us
exactly what you would like done. Perhaps you would prefer that Joseph
came with us so as to look after me?"
"Oh, no; my friend Watson is a medical man, you know, and he'll look
after you. We'll have our lunch here, if you will permit us, and then we
shall all three set off for town together."
It was arranged as he suggested, though Miss Harrison excused herself
from leaving the bedroom, in accordance with Holmes's suggestion. What
the object of my friend's manoeuvres was I could not conceive, unless it
were to keep the lady away from Phelps, who, rejoiced by his
returning health and by the prospect of action, lunched with us in the
dining-room. Holmes had a still more startling surprise for us, however,
for, after accompanying us down to the station and seeing us into
our carriage, he calmly announced that he had no intention of leaving
"There are one or two small points which I should desire to clear up
before I go," said he. "Your absence, Mr. Phelps, will in some ways
rather assist me. Watson, when you reach London you would oblige me by
driving at once to Baker Street with our friend here, and remaining
with him until I see you again. It is fortunate that you are old
school-fellows, as you must have much to talk over. Mr. Phelps can
have the spare bedroom to-night, and I will be with you in time for
breakfast, for there is a train which will take me into Waterloo at
"But how about our investigation in London?" asked Phelps, ruefully.
"We can do that to-morrow. I think that just at present I can be of more
immediate use here."
"You might tell them at Briarbrae that I hope to be back to-morrow
night," cried Phelps, as we began to move from the platform.
"I hardly expect to go back to Briarbrae," answered Holmes, and waved
his hand to us cheerily as we shot out from the station.
Phelps and I talked it over on our journey, but neither of us could
devise a satisfactory reason for this new development.
"I suppose he wants to find out some clue as to the burglary last night,
if a burglar it was. For myself, I don't believe it was an ordinary
"What is your own idea, then?"
"Upon my word, you may put it down to my weak nerves or not, but I
believe there is some deep political intrigue going on around me, and
that for some reason that passes my understanding my life is aimed at
by the conspirators. It sounds high-flown and absurd, but consider the
facts! Why should a thief try to break in at a bedroom window, where
there could be no hope of any plunder, and why should he come with a
long knife in his hand?"
"You are sure it was not a house-breaker's jimmy?"
"Oh, no, it was a knife. I saw the flash of the blade quite distinctly."
"But why on earth should you be pursued with such animosity?"
"Ah, that is the question."
"Well, if Holmes takes the same view, that would account for his action,
would it not? Presuming that your theory is correct, if he can lay his
hands upon the man who threatened you last night he will have gone a
long way towards finding who took the naval treaty. It is absurd to
suppose that you have two enemies, one of whom robs you, while the other
threatens your life."
"But Holmes said that he was not going to Briarbrae."
"I have known him for some time," said I, "but I never knew him do
anything yet without a very good reason," and with that our conversation
drifted off on to other topics.
But it was a weary day for me. Phelps was still weak after his long
illness, and his misfortune made him querulous and nervous. In vain
I endeavored to interest him in Afghanistan, in India, in social
questions, in anything which might take his mind out of the groove.
He would always come back to his lost treaty, wondering, guessing,
speculating, as to what Holmes was doing, what steps Lord Holdhurst was
taking, what news we should have in the morning. As the evening wore on
his excitement became quite painful.
"You have implicit faith in Holmes?" he asked.
"I have seen him do some remarkable things."
"But he never brought light into anything quite so dark as this?"
"Oh, yes; I have known him solve questions which presented fewer clues
"But not where such large interests are at stake?"
"I don't know that. To my certain knowledge he has acted on behalf of
three of the reigning houses of Europe in very vital matters."
"But you know him well, Watson. He is such an inscrutable fellow that I
never quite know what to make of him. Do you think he is hopeful? Do you
think he expects to make a success of it?"
"He has said nothing."
"That is a bad sign."
"On the contrary, I have noticed that when he is off the trail he
generally says so. It is when he is on a scent and is not quite
absolutely sure yet that it is the right one that he is most taciturn.
Now, my dear fellow, we can't help matters by making ourselves nervous
about them, so let me implore you to go to bed and so be fresh for
whatever may await us to-morrow."
I was able at last to persuade my companion to take my advice, though I
knew from his excited manner that there was not much hope of sleep for
him. Indeed, his mood was infectious, for I lay tossing half the night
myself, brooding over this strange problem, and inventing a hundred
theories, each of which was more impossible than the last. Why had
Holmes remained at Woking? Why had he asked Miss Harrison to remain
in the sick-room all day? Why had he been so careful not to inform the
people at Briarbrae that he intended to remain near them? I cudgelled
my brains until I fell asleep in the endeavor to find some explanation
which would cover all these facts.
It was seven o'clock when I awoke, and I set off at once for Phelps's
room, to find him haggard and spent after a sleepless night. His first
question was whether Holmes had arrived yet.
"He'll be here when he promised," said I, "and not an instant sooner or
And my words were true, for shortly after eight a hansom dashed up to
the door and our friend got out of it. Standing in the window we saw
that his left hand was swathed in a bandage and that his face was very
grim and pale. He entered the house, but it was some little time before
he came upstairs.
"He looks like a beaten man," cried Phelps.
I was forced to confess that he was right. "After all," said I, "the
clue of the matter lies probably here in town."
Phelps gave a groan.
"I don't know how it is," said he, "but I had hoped for so much from his
return. But surely his hand was not tied up like that yesterday. What
can be the matter?"
"You are not wounded, Holmes?" I asked, as my friend entered the room.
"Tut, it is only a scratch through my own clumsiness," he answered,
nodding his good-mornings to us. "This case of yours, Mr. Phelps, is
certainly one of the darkest which I have ever investigated."
"I feared that you would find it beyond you."
"It has been a most remarkable experience."
"That bandage tells of adventures," said I. "Won't you tell us what has
"After breakfast, my dear Watson. Remember that I have breathed thirty
miles of Surrey air this morning. I suppose that there has been no
answer from my cabman advertisement? Well, well, we cannot expect to
score every time."
The table was all laid, and just as I was about to ring Mrs. Hudson
entered with the tea and coffee. A few minutes later she brought in
three covers, and we all drew up to the table, Holmes ravenous, I
curious, and Phelps in the gloomiest state of depression.
"Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion," said Holmes, uncovering a dish
of curried chicken. "Her cuisine is a little limited, but she has
as good an idea of breakfast as a Scotch-woman. What have you here,
"Ham and eggs," I answered.
"Good! What are you going to take, Mr. Phelps--curried fowl or eggs, or
will you help yourself?"
"Thank you. I can eat nothing," said Phelps.
"Oh, come! Try the dish before you."
"Thank you, I would really rather not."
"Well, then," said Holmes, with a mischievous twinkle, "I suppose that
you have no objection to helping me?"
Phelps raised the cover, and as he did so he uttered a scream, and sat
there staring with a face as white as the plate upon which he looked.
Across the centre of it was lying a little cylinder of blue-gray paper.
He caught it up, devoured it with his eyes, and then danced madly about
the room, pressing it to his bosom and shrieking out in his delight.
Then he fell back into an arm-chair so limp and exhausted with his own
emotions that we had to pour brandy down his throat to keep him from
"There! there!" said Holmes, soothing, patting him upon the shoulder.
"It was too bad to spring it on you like this, but Watson here will tell
you that I never can resist a touch of the dramatic."
Phelps seized his hand and kissed it. "God bless you!" he cried. "You
have saved my honor."
"Well, my own was at stake, you know," said Holmes. "I assure you it is
just as hateful to me to fail in a case as it can be to you to blunder
over a commission."
Phelps thrust away the precious document into the innermost pocket of
"I have not the heart to interrupt your breakfast any further, and yet I
am dying to know how you got it and where it was."
Sherlock Holmes swallowed a cup of coffee, and turned his attention to
the ham and eggs. Then he rose, lit his pipe, and settled himself down
into his chair.
"I'll tell you what I did first, and how I came to do it afterwards,"
said he. "After leaving you at the station I went for a charming walk
through some admirable Surrey scenery to a pretty little village called
Ripley, where I had my tea at an inn, and took the precaution of filling
my flask and of putting a paper of sandwiches in my pocket. There I
remained until evening, when I set off for Woking again, and found
myself in the high-road outside Briarbrae just after sunset.
"Well, I waited until the road was clear--it is never a very frequented
one at any time, I fancy--and then I clambered over the fence into the
"Surely the gate was open!" ejaculated Phelps.
"Yes, but I have a peculiar taste in these matters. I chose the place
where the three fir-trees stand, and behind their screen I got over
without the least chance of any one in the house being able to see me.
I crouched down among the bushes on the other side, and crawled from one
to the other--witness the disreputable state of my trouser knees--until
I had reached the clump of rhododendrons just opposite to your bedroom
window. There I squatted down and awaited developments.
"The blind was not down in your room, and I could see Miss Harrison
sitting there reading by the table. It was quarter-past ten when she
closed her book, fastened the shutters, and retired.
"I heard her shut the door, and felt quite sure that she had turned the
key in the lock."
"The key!" ejaculated Phelps.
"Yes; I had given Miss Harrison instructions to lock the door on the
outside and take the key with her when she went to bed. She carried out
every one of my injunctions to the letter, and certainly without her
cooperation you would not have that paper in you coat-pocket. She
departed then and the lights went out, and I was left squatting in the
"The night was fine, but still it was a very weary vigil. Of course it
has the sort of excitement about it that the sportsman feels when he
lies beside the water-course and waits for the big game. It was very
long, though--almost as long, Watson, as when you and I waited in that
deadly room when we looked into the little problem of the Speckled Band.
There was a church-clock down at Woking which struck the quarters, and I
thought more than once that it had stopped. At last however about two
in the morning, I suddenly heard the gentle sound of a bolt being pushed
back and the creaking of a key. A moment later the servants' door was
opened, and Mr. Joseph Harrison stepped out into the moonlight."
"Joseph!" ejaculated Phelps.
"He was bare-headed, but he had a black coat thrown over his shoulder so
that he could conceal his face in an instant if there were any alarm. He
walked on tiptoe under the shadow of the wall, and when he reached the
window he worked a long-bladed knife through the sash and pushed back
the catch. Then he flung open the window, and putting his knife through
the crack in the shutters, he thrust the bar up and swung them open.
"From where I lay I had a perfect view of the inside of the room and of
every one of his movements. He lit the two candles which stood upon the
mantelpiece, and then he proceeded to turn back the corner of the carpet
in the neighborhood of the door. Presently he stopped and picked out a
square piece of board, such as is usually left to enable plumbers to get
at the joints of the gas-pipes. This one covered, as a matter of
fact, the T joint which gives off the pipe which supplies the kitchen
underneath. Out of this hiding-place he drew that little cylinder
of paper, pushed down the board, rearranged the carpet, blew out the
candles, and walked straight into my arms as I stood waiting for him
outside the window.
"Well, he has rather more viciousness than I gave him credit for, has
Master Joseph. He flew at me with his knife, and I had to grasp him
twice, and got a cut over the knuckles, before I had the upper hand of
him. He looked murder out of the only eye he could see with when we had
finished, but he listened to reason and gave up the papers. Having
got them I let my man go, but I wired full particulars to Forbes this
morning. If he is quick enough to catch his bird, well and good. But
if, as I shrewdly suspect, he finds the nest empty before he gets there,
why, all the better for the government. I fancy that Lord Holdhurst for
one, and Mr. Percy Phelps for another, would very much rather that the
affair never got as far as a police-court.
"My God!" gasped our client. "Do you tell me that during these long ten
weeks of agony the stolen papers were within the very room with me all
"So it was."
"And Joseph! Joseph a villain and a thief!"
"Hum! I am afraid Joseph's character is a rather deeper and more
dangerous one than one might judge from his appearance. From what I
have heard from him this morning, I gather that he has lost heavily in
dabbling with stocks, and that he is ready to do anything on earth to
better his fortunes. Being an absolutely selfish man, when a chance
presented itself he did not allow either his s
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