The Adventure Of The Missing Three-quarter





We were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at Baker Street,

but I have a particular recollection of one which reached us on a gloomy

February morning, some seven or eight years ago, and gave Mr. Sherlock

Holmes a puzzled quarter of an hour. It was addressed to him, and ran

thus:





Please await me. Terrible misfortune. Right wing three-quarter missing,

indispensable to-morrow. OVERTON.





"Strand postmark, and dispatched ten thirty-six," said Holmes, reading

it over and over. "Mr. Overton was evidently considerably excited when

he sent it, and somewhat incoherent in consequence. Well, well, he will

be here, I daresay, by the time I have looked through the TIMES, and

then we shall know all about it. Even the most insignificant problem

would be welcome in these stagnant days."



Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned to dread

such periods of inaction, for I knew by experience that my companion's

brain was so abnormally active that it was dangerous to leave it without

material upon which to work. For years I had gradually weaned him

from that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable

career. Now I knew that under ordinary conditions he no longer craved

for this artificial stimulus, but I was well aware that the fiend was

not dead but sleeping, and I have known that the sleep was a light one

and the waking near when in periods of idleness I have seen the drawn

look upon Holmes's ascetic face, and the brooding of his deep-set and

inscrutable eyes. Therefore I blessed this Mr. Overton whoever he might

be, since he had come with his enigmatic message to break that dangerous

calm which brought more peril to my friend than all the storms of his

tempestuous life.



As we had expected, the telegram was soon followed by its sender, and

the card of Mr. Cyril Overton, Trinity College, Cambridge, announced

the arrival of an enormous young man, sixteen stone of solid bone and

muscle, who spanned the doorway with his broad shoulders, and looked

from one of us to the other with a comely face which was haggard with

anxiety.



"Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"



My companion bowed.



"I've been down to Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes. I saw Inspector Stanley

Hopkins. He advised me to come to you. He said the case, so far as he

could see, was more in your line than in that of the regular police."



"Pray sit down and tell me what is the matter."



"It's awful, Mr. Holmes--simply awful I wonder my hair isn't gray.

Godfrey Staunton--you've heard of him, of course? He's simply the hinge

that the whole team turns on. I'd rather spare two from the pack,

and have Godfrey for my three-quarter line. Whether it's passing, or

tackling, or dribbling, there's no one to touch him, and then, he's got

the head, and can hold us all together. What am I to do? That's what I

ask you, Mr. Holmes. There's Moorhouse, first reserve, but he is trained

as a half, and he always edges right in on to the scrum instead of

keeping out on the touchline. He's a fine place-kick, it's true, but

then he has no judgment, and he can't sprint for nuts. Why, Morton or

Johnson, the Oxford fliers, could romp round him. Stevenson is

fast enough, but he couldn't drop from the twenty-five line, and a

three-quarter who can't either punt or drop isn't worth a place for

pace alone. No, Mr. Holmes, we are done unless you can help me to find

Godfrey Staunton."



My friend had listened with amused surprise to this long speech, which

was poured forth with extraordinary vigour and earnestness, every point

being driven home by the slapping of a brawny hand upon the speaker's

knee. When our visitor was silent Holmes stretched out his hand and took

down letter "S" of his commonplace book. For once he dug in vain into

that mine of varied information.



"There is Arthur H. Staunton, the rising young forger," said he, "and

there was Henry Staunton, whom I helped to hang, but Godfrey Staunton is

a new name to me."



It was our visitor's turn to look surprised.



"Why, Mr. Holmes, I thought you knew things," said he. "I suppose,

then, if you have never heard of Godfrey Staunton, you don't know Cyril

Overton either?"



Holmes shook his head good humouredly.



"Great Scott!" cried the athlete. "Why, I was first reserve for England

against Wales, and I've skippered the 'Varsity all this year. But that's

nothing! I didn't think there was a soul in England who didn't know

Godfrey Staunton, the crack three-quarter, Cambridge, Blackheath, and

five Internationals. Good Lord! Mr. Holmes, where HAVE you lived?"



Holmes laughed at the young giant's naive astonishment.



"You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overton--a sweeter and

healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many sections of

society, but never, I am happy to say, into amateur sport, which is the

best and soundest thing in England. However, your unexpected visit this

morning shows me that even in that world of fresh air and fair play,

there may be work for me to do. So now, my good sir, I beg you to sit

down and to tell me, slowly and quietly, exactly what it is that has

occurred, and how you desire that I should help you."



Young Overton's face assumed the bothered look of the man who is more

accustomed to using his muscles than his wits, but by degrees, with many

repetitions and obscurities which I may omit from his narrative, he laid

his strange story before us.



"It's this way, Mr. Holmes. As I have said, I am the skipper of the

Rugger team of Cambridge 'Varsity, and Godfrey Staunton is my best man.

To-morrow we play Oxford. Yesterday we all came up, and we settled at

Bentley's private hotel. At ten o'clock I went round and saw that all

the fellows had gone to roost, for I believe in strict training and

plenty of sleep to keep a team fit. I had a word or two with Godfrey

before he turned in. He seemed to me to be pale and bothered. I asked

him what was the matter. He said he was all right--just a touch of

headache. I bade him good-night and left him. Half an hour later, the

porter tells me that a rough-looking man with a beard called with a note

for Godfrey. He had not gone to bed, and the note was taken to his room.

Godfrey read it, and fell back in a chair as if he had been pole-axed.

The porter was so scared that he was going to fetch me, but Godfrey

stopped him, had a drink of water, and pulled himself together. Then

he went downstairs, said a few words to the man who was waiting in the

hall, and the two of them went off together. The last that the porter

saw of them, they were almost running down the street in the direction

of the Strand. This morning Godfrey's room was empty, his bed had never

been slept in, and his things were all just as I had seen them the night

before. He had gone off at a moment's notice with this stranger, and no

word has come from him since. I don't believe he will ever come back. He

was a sportsman, was Godfrey, down to his marrow, and he wouldn't have

stopped his training and let in his skipper if it were not for some

cause that was too strong for him. No: I feel as if he were gone for

good, and we should never see him again."



Sherlock Holmes listened with the deepest attention to this singular

narrative.



"What did you do?" he asked.



"I wired to Cambridge to learn if anything had been heard of him there.

I have had an answer. No one has seen him."



"Could he have got back to Cambridge?"



"Yes, there is a late train--quarter-past eleven."



"But, so far as you can ascertain, he did not take it?"



"No, he has not been seen."



"What did you do next?"



"I wired to Lord Mount-James."



"Why to Lord Mount-James?"



"Godfrey is an orphan, and Lord Mount-James is his nearest relative--his

uncle, I believe."



"Indeed. This throws new light upon the matter. Lord Mount-James is one

of the richest men in England."



"So I've heard Godfrey say."



"And your friend was closely related?"



"Yes, he was his heir, and the old boy is nearly eighty--cram full of

gout, too. They say he could chalk his billiard-cue with his knuckles.

He never allowed Godfrey a shilling in his life, for he is an absolute

miser, but it will all come to him right enough."



"Have you heard from Lord Mount-James?"



"No."



"What motive could your friend have in going to Lord Mount-James?"



"Well, something was worrying him the night before, and if it was to do

with money it is possible that he would make for his nearest relative,

who had so much of it, though from all I have heard he would not have

much chance of getting it. Godfrey was not fond of the old man. He would

not go if he could help it."



"Well, we can soon determine that. If your friend was going to his

relative, Lord Mount-James, you have then to explain the visit of this

rough-looking fellow at so late an hour, and the agitation that was

caused by his coming."



Cyril Overton pressed his hands to his head. "I can make nothing of it,"

said he.



"Well, well, I have a clear day, and I shall be happy to look into the

matter," said Holmes. "I should strongly recommend you to make your

preparations for your match without reference to this young gentleman.

It must, as you say, have been an overpowering necessity which tore him

away in such a fashion, and the same necessity is likely to hold him

away. Let us step round together to the hotel, and see if the porter can

throw any fresh light upon the matter."



Sherlock Holmes was a past-master in the art of putting a humble

witness at his ease, and very soon, in the privacy of Godfrey Staunton's

abandoned room, he had extracted all that the porter had to tell.

The visitor of the night before was not a gentleman, neither was he a

workingman. He was simply what the porter described as a "medium-looking

chap," a man of fifty, beard grizzled, pale face, quietly dressed.

He seemed himself to be agitated. The porter had observed his hand

trembling when he had held out the note. Godfrey Staunton had crammed

the note into his pocket. Staunton had not shaken hands with the man in

the hall. They had exchanged a few sentences, of which the porter had

only distinguished the one word "time." Then they had hurried off in the

manner described. It was just half-past ten by the hall clock.



"Let me see," said Holmes, seating himself on Staunton's bed. "You are

the day porter, are you not?"



"Yes, sir, I go off duty at eleven."



"The night porter saw nothing, I suppose?"



"No, sir, one theatre party came in late. No one else."



"Were you on duty all day yesterday?"



"Yes, sir."



"Did you take any messages to Mr. Staunton?"



"Yes, sir, one telegram."



"Ah! that's interesting. What o'clock was this?"



"About six."



"Where was Mr. Staunton when he received it?"



"Here in his room."



"Were you present when he opened it?"



"Yes, sir, I waited to see if there was an answer."



"Well, was there?"



"Yes, sir, he wrote an answer."



"Did you take it?"



"No, he took it himself."



"But he wrote it in your presence."



"Yes, sir. I was standing by the door, and he with his back turned at

that table. When he had written it, he said: 'All right, porter, I will

take this myself.'"



"What did he write it with?"



"A pen, sir."



"Was the telegraphic form one of these on the table?"



"Yes, sir, it was the top one."



Holmes rose. Taking the forms, he carried them over to the window and

carefully examined that which was uppermost.



"It is a pity he did not write in pencil," said he, throwing them down

again with a shrug of disappointment. "As you have no doubt frequently

observed, Watson, the impression usually goes through--a fact which has

dissolved many a happy marriage. However, I can find no trace here. I

rejoice, however, to perceive that he wrote with a broad-pointed quill

pen, and I can hardly doubt that we will find some impression upon this

blotting-pad. Ah, yes, surely this is the very thing!"



He tore off a strip of the blotting-paper and turned towards us the

following hieroglyphic:



Cyril Overton was much excited. "Hold it to the glass!" he cried.



"That is unnecessary," said Holmes. "The paper is thin, and the reverse

will give the message. Here it is." He turned it over, and we read:





[Stand by us for Gods sake]





"So that is the tail end of the telegram which Godfrey Staunton

dispatched within a few hours of his disappearance. There are at least

six words of the message which have escaped us; but what remains--'Stand

by us for God's sake!'--proves that this young man saw a formidable

danger which approached him, and from which someone else could protect

him. 'US,' mark you! Another person was involved. Who should it be but

the pale-faced, bearded man, who seemed himself in so nervous a state?

What, then, is the connection between Godfrey Staunton and the bearded

man? And what is the third source from which each of them sought for

help against pressing danger? Our inquiry has already narrowed down to

that."



"We have only to find to whom that telegram is addressed," I suggested.



"Exactly, my dear Watson. Your reflection, though profound, had already

crossed my mind. But I daresay it may have come to your notice that,

counterfoil of another man's message, there may be some disinclination

on the part of the officials to oblige you. There is so much red tape in

these matters. However, I have no doubt that with a little delicacy

and finesse the end may be attained. Meanwhile, I should like in your

presence, Mr. Overton, to go through these papers which have been left

upon the table."



There were a number of letters, bills, and notebooks, which Holmes

turned over and examined with quick, nervous fingers and darting,

penetrating eyes. "Nothing here," he said, at last. "By the way, I

suppose your friend was a healthy young fellow--nothing amiss with him?"



"Sound as a bell."



"Have you ever known him ill?"



"Not a day. He has been laid up with a hack, and once he slipped his

knee-cap, but that was nothing."



"Perhaps he was not so strong as you suppose. I should think he may

have had some secret trouble. With your assent, I will put one or two

of these papers in my pocket, in case they should bear upon our future

inquiry."



"One moment--one moment!" cried a querulous voice, and we looked up to

find a queer little old man, jerking and twitching in the doorway. He

was dressed in rusty black, with a very broad-brimmed top-hat and a

loose white necktie--the whole effect being that of a very rustic parson

or of an undertaker's mute. Yet, in spite of his shabby and even absurd

appearance, his voice had a sharp crackle, and his manner a quick

intensity which commanded attention.



"Who are you, sir, and by what right do you touch this gentleman's

papers?" he asked.



"I am a private detective, and I am endeavouring to explain his

disappearance."



"Oh, you are, are you? And who instructed you, eh?"



"This gentleman, Mr. Staunton's friend, was referred to me by Scotland

Yard."





"Who are you, sir?"



"I am Cyril Overton."



"Then it is you who sent me a telegram. My name is Lord Mount-James. I

came round as quickly as the Bayswater bus would bring me. So you have

instructed a detective?"



"Yes, sir."



"And are you prepared to meet the cost?"



"I have no doubt, sir, that my friend Godfrey, when we find him, will be

prepared to do that."



"But if he is never found, eh? Answer me that!"



"In that case, no doubt his family----"



"Nothing of the sort, sir!" screamed the little man. "Don't look to me

for a penny--not a penny! You understand that, Mr. Detective! I am all

the family that this young man has got, and I tell you that I am not

responsible. If he has any expectations it is due to the fact that I

have never wasted money, and I do not propose to begin to do so now. As

to those papers with which you are making so free, I may tell you that

in case there should be anything of any value among them, you will be

held strictly to account for what you do with them."



"Very good, sir," said Sherlock Holmes. "May I ask, in the meanwhile,

whether you have yourself any theory to account for this young man's

disappearance?"



"No, sir, I have not. He is big enough and old enough to look after

himself, and if he is so foolish as to lose himself, I entirely refuse

to accept the responsibility of hunting for him."



"I quite understand your position," said Holmes, with a mischievous

twinkle in his eyes. "Perhaps you don't quite understand mine. Godfrey

Staunton appears to have been a poor man. If he has been kidnapped, it

could not have been for anything which he himself possesses. The fame

of your wealth has gone abroad, Lord Mount-James, and it is entirely

possible that a gang of thieves have secured your nephew in order to

gain from him some information as to your house, your habits, and your

treasure."



The face of our unpleasant little visitor turned as white as his

neckcloth.



"Heavens, sir, what an idea! I never thought of such villainy! What

inhuman rogues there are in the world! But Godfrey is a fine lad--a

staunch lad. Nothing would induce him to give his old uncle away. I'll

have the plate moved over to the bank this evening. In the meantime

spare no pains, Mr. Detective! I beg you to leave no stone unturned to

bring him safely back. As to money, well, so far as a fiver or even a

tenner goes you can always look to me."



Even in his chastened frame of mind, the noble miser could give us no

information which could help us, for he knew little of the private life

of his nephew. Our only clue lay in the truncated telegram, and with a

copy of this in his hand Holmes set forth to find a second link for

his chain. We had shaken off Lord Mount-James, and Overton had gone to

consult with the other members of his team over the misfortune which had

befallen them.



There was a telegraph-office at a short distance from the hotel. We

halted outside it.



"It's worth trying, Watson," said Holmes. "Of course, with a warrant we

could demand to see the counterfoils, but we have not reached that stage

yet. I don't suppose they remember faces in so busy a place. Let us

venture it."



"I am sorry to trouble you," said he, in his blandest manner, to the

young woman behind the grating; "there is some small mistake about a

telegram I sent yesterday. I have had no answer, and I very much fear

that I must have omitted to put my name at the end. Could you tell me if

this was so?"



The young woman turned over a sheaf of counterfoils.



"What o'clock was it?" she asked.



"A little after six."



"Whom was it to?"



Holmes put his finger to his lips and glanced at me. "The last words

in it were 'For God's sake,'" he whispered, confidentially; "I am very

anxious at getting no answer."



The young woman separated one of the forms.



"This is it. There is no name," said she, smoothing it out upon the

counter.



"Then that, of course, accounts for my getting no answer," said Holmes.

"Dear me, how very stupid of me, to be sure! Good-morning, miss, and

many thanks for having relieved my mind." He chuckled and rubbed his

hands when we found ourselves in the street once more.



"Well?" I asked.



"We progress, my dear Watson, we progress. I had seven different schemes

for getting a glimpse of that telegram, but I could hardly hope to

succeed the very first time."



"And what have you gained?"



"A starting-point for our investigation." He hailed a cab. "King's Cross

Station," said he.



"We have a journey, then?"



"Yes, I think we must run down to Cambridge together. All the

indications seem to me to point in that direction."



"Tell me," I asked, as we rattled up Gray's Inn Road, "have you any

suspicion yet as to the cause of the disappearance? I don't think that

among all our cases I have known one where the motives are more obscure.

Surely you don't really imagine that he may be kidnapped in order to

give information against his wealthy uncle?"



"I confess, my dear Watson, that that does not appeal to me as a very

probable explanation. It struck me, however, as being the one which was

most likely to interest that exceedingly unpleasant old person."



"It certainly did that; but what are your alternatives?"



"I could mention several. You must admit that it is curious and

suggestive that this incident should occur on the eve of this important

match, and should involve the only man whose presence seems essential to

the success of the side. It may, of course, be a coincidence, but it

is interesting. Amateur sport is free from betting, but a good deal of

outside betting goes on among the public, and it is possible that it

might be worth someone's while to get at a player as the ruffians of

the turf get at a race-horse. There is one explanation. A second

very obvious one is that this young man really is the heir of a great

property, however modest his means may at present be, and it is not

impossible that a plot to hold him for ransom might be concocted."



"These theories take no account of the telegram."



"Quite true, Watson. The telegram still remains the only solid thing

with which we have to deal, and we must not permit our attention to

wander away from it. It is to gain light upon the purpose of this

telegram that we are now upon our way to Cambridge. The path of our

investigation is at present obscure, but I shall be very much surprised

if before evening we have not cleared it up, or made a considerable

advance along it."



It was already dark when we reached the old university city. Holmes took

a cab at the station and ordered the man to drive to the house of Dr.

Leslie Armstrong. A few minutes later, we had stopped at a large mansion

in the busiest thoroughfare. We were shown in, and after a long wait

were at last admitted into the consulting-room, where we found the

doctor seated behind his table.



It argues the degree in which I had lost touch with my profession that

the name of Leslie Armstrong was unknown to me. Now I am aware that he

is not only one of the heads of the medical school of the university,

but a thinker of European reputation in more than one branch of science.

Yet even without knowing his brilliant record one could not fail to be

impressed by a mere glance at the man, the square, massive face, the

brooding eyes under the thatched brows, and the granite moulding of the

inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a man with an alert mind, grim,

ascetic, self-contained, formidable--so I read Dr. Leslie Armstrong. He

held my friend's card in his hand, and he looked up with no very pleased

expression upon his dour features.



"I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I am aware of your

profession--one of which I by no means approve."



"In that, Doctor, you will find yourself in agreement with every

criminal in the country," said my friend, quietly.



"So far as your efforts are directed towards the suppression of crime,

sir, they must have the support of every reasonable member of the

community, though I cannot doubt that the official machinery is amply

sufficient for the purpose. Where your calling is more open to criticism

is when you pry into the secrets of private individuals, when you rake

up family matters which are better hidden, and when you incidentally

waste the time of men who are more busy than yourself. At the present

moment, for example, I should be writing a treatise instead of

conversing with you."



"No doubt, Doctor; and yet the conversation may prove more important

than the treatise. Incidentally, I may tell you that we are doing the

reverse of what you very justly blame, and that we are endeavouring

to prevent anything like public exposure of private matters which must

necessarily follow when once the case is fairly in the hands of the

official police. You may look upon me simply as an irregular pioneer,

who goes in front of the regular forces of the country. I have come to

ask you about Mr. Godfrey Staunton."



"What about him?"



"You know him, do you not?"



"He is an intimate friend of mine."



"You are aware that he has disappeared?"



"Ah, indeed!" There was no change of expression in the rugged features

of the doctor.



"He left his hotel last night--he has not been heard of."



"No doubt he will return."



"To-morrow is the 'Varsity football match."



"I have no sympathy with these childish games. The young man's fate

interests me deeply, since I know him and like him. The football match

does not come within my horizon at all."



"I claim your sympathy, then, in my investigation of Mr. Staunton's

fate. Do you know where he is?"



"Certainly not."



"You have not seen him since yesterday?"



"No, I have not."



"Was Mr. Staunton a healthy man?"



"Absolutely."



"Did you ever know him ill?"



"Never."



Holmes popped a sheet of paper before the doctor's eyes. "Then perhaps

you will explain this receipted bill for thirteen guineas, paid by Mr.

Godfrey Staunton last month to Dr. Leslie Armstrong, of Cambridge. I

picked it out from among the papers upon his desk."



The doctor flushed with anger.



"I do not feel that there is any reason why I should render an

explanation to you, Mr. Holmes."



Holmes replaced the bill in his notebook. "If you prefer a public

explanation, it must come sooner or later," said he. "I have already

told you that I can hush up that which others will be bound to publish,

and you would really be wiser to take me into your complete confidence."



"I know nothing about it."



"Did you hear from Mr. Staunton in London?"



"Certainly not."



"Dear me, dear me--the postoffice again!" Holmes sighed, wearily.

"A most urgent telegram was dispatched to you from London by Godfrey

Staunton at six-fifteen yesterday evening--a telegram which is

undoubtedly associated with his disappearance--and yet you have not had

it. It is most culpable. I shall certainly go down to the office here

and register a complaint."



Dr. Leslie Armstrong sprang up from behind his desk, and his dark face

was crimson with fury.



"I'll trouble you to walk out of my house, sir," said he. "You can tell

your employer, Lord Mount-James, that I do not wish to have anything to

do either with him or with his agents. No, sir--not another word!" He

rang the bell furiously. "John, show these gentlemen out!" A pompous

butler ushered us severely to the door, and we found ourselves in the

street. Holmes burst out laughing.



"Dr. Leslie Armstrong is certainly a man of energy and character," said

he. "I have not seen a man who, if he turns his talents that way, was

more calculated to fill the gap left by the illustrious Moriarty.

And now, my poor Watson, here we are, stranded and friendless in this

inhospitable town, which we cannot leave without abandoning our case.

This little inn just opposite Armstrong's house is singularly adapted to

our needs. If you would engage a front room and purchase the necessaries

for the night, I may have time to make a few inquiries."



These few inquiries proved, however, to be a more lengthy proceeding

than Holmes had imagined, for he did not return to the inn until nearly

nine o'clock. He was pale and dejected, stained with dust, and exhausted

with hunger and fatigue. A cold supper was ready upon the table, and

when his needs were satisfied and his pipe alight he was ready to take

that half comic and wholly philosophic view which was natural to him

when his affairs were going awry. The sound of carriage wheels caused

him to rise and glance out of the window. A brougham and pair of grays,

under the glare of a gas-lamp, stood before the doctor's door.



"It's been out three hours," said Holmes; "started at half-past six, and

here it is back again. That gives a radius of ten or twelve miles, and

he does it once, or sometimes twice, a day."



"No unusual thing for a doctor in practice."



"But Armstrong is not really a doctor in practice. He is a lecturer and

a consultant, but he does not care for general practice, which distracts

him from his literary work. Why, then, does he make these long journeys,

which must be exceedingly irksome to him, and who is it that he visits?"



"His coachman----"



"My dear Watson, can you doubt that it was to him that I first applied?

I do not know whether it came from his own innate depravity or from the

promptings of his master, but he was rude enough to set a dog at me.

Neither dog nor man liked the look of my stick, however, and the matter

fell through. Relations were strained after that, and further inquiries

out of the question. All that I have learned I got from a friendly

native in the yard of our own inn. It was he who told me of the doctor's

habits and of his daily journey. At that instant, to give point to his

words, the carriage came round to the door."



"Could you not follow it?"



"Excellent, Watson! You are scintillating this evening. The idea did

cross my mind. There is, as you may have observed, a bicycle shop next

to our inn. Into this I rushed, engaged a bicycle, and was able to get

started before the carriage was quite out of sight. I rapidly overtook

it, and then, keeping at a discreet distance of a hundred yards or so, I

followed its lights until we were clear of the town. We had got well out

on the country road, when a somewhat mortifying incident occurred. The

carriage stopped, the doctor alighted, walked swiftly back to where I

had also halted, and told me in an excellent sardonic fashion that

he feared the road was narrow, and that he hoped his carriage did not

impede the passage of my bicycle. Nothing could have been more admirable

than his way of putting it. I at once rode past the carriage, and,

keeping to the main road, I went on for a few miles, and then halted in

a convenient place to see if the carriage passed. There was no sign of

it, however, and so it became evident that it had turned down one of

several side roads which I had observed. I rode back, but again saw

nothing of the carriage, and now, as you perceive, it has returned after

me. Of course, I had at the outset no particular reason to connect

these journeys with the disappearance of Godfrey Staunton, and was only

inclined to investigate them on the general grounds that everything

which concerns Dr. Armstrong is at present of interest to us, but, now

that I find he keeps so keen a look-out upon anyone who may follow him

on these excursions, the affair appears more important, and I shall not

be satisfied until I have made the matter clear."



"We can follow him to-morrow."



"Can we? It is not so easy as you seem to think. You are not familiar

with Cambridgeshire scenery, are you? It does not lend itself to

concealment. All this country that I passed over to-night is as flat and

clean as the palm of your hand, and the man we are following is no fool,

as he very clearly showed to-night. I have wired to Overton to let us

know any fresh London developments at this address, and in the meantime

we can only concentrate our attention upon Dr. Armstrong, whose name

the obliging young lady at the office allowed me to read upon the

counterfoil of Staunton's urgent message. He knows where the young man

is--to that I'll swear, and if he knows, then it must be our own fault

if we cannot manage to know also. At present it must be admitted that

the odd trick is in his possession, and, as you are aware, Watson, it is

not my habit to leave the game in that condition."



And yet the next day brought us no nearer to the solution of the

mystery. A note was handed in after breakfast, which Holmes passed

across to me with a smile.





SIR [it ran]:



I can assure you that you are wasting your time in dogging my movements.

I have, as you discovered last night, a window at the back of my

brougham, and if you desire a twenty-mile ride which will lead you to

the spot from which you started, you have only to follow me. Meanwhile,

I can inform you that no spying upon me can in any way help Mr. Godfrey

Staunton, and I am convinced that the best service you can do to that

gentleman is to return at once to London and to report to your employer

that you are unable to trace him. Your time in Cambridge will certainly

be wasted. Yours faithfully, LESLIE ARMSTRONG.





"An outspoken, honest antagonist is the doctor," said Holmes. "Well,

well, he excites my curiosity, and I must really know before I leave

him."



"His carriage is at his door now," said I. "There he is stepping into

it. I saw him glance up at our window as he did so. Suppose I try my

luck upon the bicycle?"



"No, no, my dear Watson! With all respect for your natural acumen, I do

not think that you are quite a match for the worthy doctor. I think that

possibly I can attain our end by some independent explorations of my

own. I am afraid that I must leave you to your own devices, as the

appearance of TWO inquiring strangers upon a sleepy countryside might

excite more gossip than I care for. No doubt you will find some sights

to amuse you in this venerable city, and I hope to bring back a more

favourable report to you before evening."



Once more, however, my friend was destined to be disappointed. He came

back at night weary and unsuccessful.



"I have had a blank day, Watson. Having got the doctor's general

direction, I spent the day in visiting all the villages upon that side

of Cambridge, and comparing notes with publicans and other local news

agencies. I have covered some ground. Chesterton, Histon, Waterbeach,

and Oakington have each been explored, and have each proved

disappointing. The daily appearance of a brougham and pair could hardly

have been overlooked in such Sleepy Hollows. The doctor has scored once

more. Is there a telegram for me?"



"Yes, I opened it. Here it is:



"Ask for Pompey from Jeremy Dixon, Trinity College."



"I don't understand it."



"Oh, it is clear enough. It is from our friend Overton, and is in answer

to a question from me. I'll just send round a note to Mr. Jeremy Dixon,

and then I have no doubt that our luck will turn. By the way, is there

any news of the match?"



"Yes, the local evening paper has an excellent account in its last

edition. Oxford won by a goal and two tries. The last sentences of the

description say:



"'The defeat of the Light Blues may be entirely attributed to the

unfortunate absence of the crack International, Godfrey Staunton, whose

want was felt at every instant of the game. The lack of combination in

the three-quarter line and their weakness both in attack and defence

more than neutralized the efforts of a heavy and hard-working pack.'"



"Then our friend Overton's forebodings have been justified," said

Holmes. "Personally I am in agreement with Dr. Armstrong, and football

does not come within my horizon. Early to bed to-night, Watson, for I

foresee that to-morrow may be an eventful day."



I was horrified by my first glimpse of Holmes next morning, for he

sat by the fire holding his tiny hypodermic syringe. I associated that

instrument with the single weakness of his nature, and I feared the

worst when I saw it glittering in his hand. He laughed at my expression

of dismay and laid it upon the table.



"No, no, my dear fellow, there is no cause for alarm. It is not upon

this occasion the instrument of evil, but it will rather prove to be the

key which will unlock our mystery. On this syringe I base all my hopes.

I have just returned from a small scouting expedition, and everything is

favourable. Eat a good breakfast, Watson, for I propose to get upon Dr.

Armstrong's trail to-day, and once on it I will not stop for rest or

food until I run him to his burrow."



"In that case," said I, "we had best carry our breakfast with us, for he

is making an early start. His carriage is at the door."



"Never mind. Let him go. He will be clever if he can drive where I

cannot follow him. When you have finished, come downstairs with me, and

I will introduce you to a detective who is a very eminent specialist in

the work that lies before us."



When we descended I followed Holmes into the stable yard, where

he opened the door of a loose-box and led out a squat, lop-eared,

white-and-tan dog, something between a beagle and a foxhound.



"Let me introduce you to Pompey," said he. "Pompey is the pride of the

local draghounds--no very great flier, as his build will show, but

a staunch hound on a scent. Well, Pompey, you may not be fast, but

I expect you will be too fast for a couple of middle-aged London

gentlemen, so I will take the liberty of fastening this leather leash to

your collar. Now, boy, come along, and show what you can do." He led him

across to the doctor's door. The dog sniffed round for an instant, and

then with a shrill whine of excitement started off down the street,

tugging at his leash in his efforts to go faster. In half an hour, we

were clear of the town and hastening down a country road.



"What have you done, Holmes?" I asked.



"A threadbare and venerable device, but useful upon occasion. I walked

into the doctor's yard this morning, and shot my syringe full of aniseed

over the hind wheel. A draghound will follow aniseed from here to John

o'Groat's, and our friend, Armstrong, would have to drive through the

Cam before he would shake Pompey off his trail. Oh, the cunning rascal!

This is how he gave me the slip the other night."



The dog had suddenly turned out of the main road into a grass-grown

lane. Half a mile farther this opened into another broad road, and the

trail turned hard to the right in the direction of the town, which we

had just quitted. The road took a sweep to the south of the town, and

continued in the opposite direction to that in which we started.



"This DETOUR has been entirely for our benefit, then?" said Holmes.

"No wonder that my inquiries among those villagers led to nothing. The

doctor has certainly played the game for all it is worth, and one would

like to know the reason for such elaborate deception. This should be

the village of Trumpington to the right of us. And, by Jove! here is the

brougham coming round the corner. Quick, Watson--quick, or we are done!"



He sprang through a gate into a field, dragging the reluctant Pompey

after him. We had hardly got under the shelter of the hedge when the

carriage rattled past. I caught a glimpse of Dr. Armstrong within, his

shoulders bowed, his head sunk on his hands, the very image of distress.

I could tell by my companion's graver face that he also had seen.



"I fear there is some dark ending to our quest," said he. "It cannot

be long before we know it. Come, Pompey! Ah, it is the cottage in the

field!"



There could be no doubt that we had reached the end of our journey.

Pompey ran about and whined eagerly outside the gate, where the marks

of the brougham's wheels were still to be seen. A footpath led across

to the lonely cottage. Holmes tied the dog to the hedge, and we hastened

onward. My friend knocked at the little rustic door, and knocked again

without response. And yet the cottage was not deserted, for a low

sound came to our ears--a kind of drone of misery and despair which was

indescribably melancholy. Holmes paused irresolute, and then he glanced

back at the road which he had just traversed. A brougham was coming down

it, and there could be no mistaking those gray horses.



"By Jove, the doctor is coming back!" cried Holmes. "That settles it. We

are bound to see what it means before he comes."



He opened the door, and we stepped into the hall. The droning sound

swelled louder upon our ears until it became one long, deep wail of

distress. It came from upstairs. Holmes darted up, and I followed him.

He pushed open a half-closed door, and we both stood appalled at the

sight before us.



A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the bed. Her calm pale

face, with dim, wide-opened blue eyes, looked upward from amid a great

tangle of golden hair. At the foot of the bed, half sitting, half

kneeling, his face buried in the clothes, was a young man, whose frame

was racked by his sobs. So absorbed was he by his bitter grief, that he

never looked up until Holmes's hand was on his shoulder.



"Are you Mr. Godfrey Staunton?"



"Yes, yes, I am--but you are too late. She is dead."



The man was so dazed that he could not be made to understand that we

were anything but doctors who had been sent to his assistance. Holmes

was endeavouring to utter a few words of consolation and to explain the

alarm which had been caused to his friends by his sudden disappearance

when there was a step upon the stairs, and there was the heavy, stern,

questioning face of Dr. Armstrong at the door.



"So, gentlemen," said he, "you have attained your end and have certainly

chosen a particularly delicate moment for your intrusion. I would not

brawl in the presence of death, but I can assure you that if I were a

younger man your monstrous conduct would not pass with impunity."



"Excuse me, Dr. Armstrong, I think we are a little at cross-purposes,"

said my friend, with dignity. "If you could step downstairs with us,

we may each be able to give some light to the other upon this miserable

affair."



A minute later, the grim doctor and ourselves were in the sitting-room

below.



"Well, sir?" said he.



"I wish you to understand, in the first place, that I am not employed

by Lord Mount-James, and that my sympathies in this matter are entirely

against that nobleman. When a man is lost it is my duty to ascertain his

fate, but having done so the matter ends so far as I am concerned, and

so long as there is nothing criminal I am much more anxious to hush up

private scandals than to give them publicity. If, as I imagine, there is

no breach of the law in this matter, you can absolutely depend upon my

discretion and my cooperation in keeping the facts out of the papers."



Dr. Armstrong took a quick step forward and wrung Holmes by the hand.



"You are a good fellow," said he. "I had misjudged you. I thank heaven

that my compunction at leaving poor Staunton all alone in this plight

caused me to turn my carriage back and so to make your acquaintance.

Knowing as much as you do, the situation is very easily explained.

A year ago Godfrey Staunton lodged in London for a time and became

passionately attached to his landlady's daughter, whom he married. She

was as good as she was beautiful and as intelligent as she was good.

No man need be ashamed of such a wife. But Godfrey was the heir to this

crabbed old nobleman, and it was quite certain that the news of his

marriage would have been the end of his inheritance. I knew the lad

well, and I loved him for his many excellent qualities. I did all I

could to help him to keep things straight. We did our very best to keep

the thing from everyone, for, when once such a whisper gets about, it is

not long before everyone has heard it. Thanks to this lonely cottage and

his own discretion, Godfrey has up to now succeeded. Their secret was

known to no one save to me and to one excellent servant, who has at

present gone for assistance to Trumpington. But at last there came a

terrible blow in the shape of dangerous illness to his wife. It was

consumption of the most virulent kind. The poor boy was half crazed with

grief, and yet he had to go to London to play this match, for he could

not get out of it without explanations which would expose his secret. I

tried to cheer him up by wire, and he sent me one in reply, imploring

me to do all I could. This was the telegram which you appear in some

inexplicable way to have seen. I did not tell him how urgent the danger

was, for I knew that he could do no good here, but I sent the truth to

the girl's father, and he very injudiciously communicated it to Godfrey.

The result was that he came straight away in a state bordering on

frenzy, and has remained in the same state, kneeling at the end of her

bed, until this morning death put an end to her sufferings. That is all,

Mr. Holmes, and I am sure that I can rely upon your discretion and that

of your friend."



Holmes grasped the doctor's hand.



"Come, Watson," said he, and we passed from that house of grief into the

pale sunlight of the winter day.





The Adventure Of The Golden Pince-nez The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback