The Beetle-hunter





A curious experience? said the Doctor. Yes, my friends, I have

had one very curious experience. I never expect to have another,

for it is against all doctrines of chances that two such events

would befall any one man in a single lifetime. You may believe

me or not, but the thing happened exactly as I tell it.



I had just become a medical man, but I had not started in

practice, and I lived in rooms in Gower Street. The street has

been renumbered since then, but it was in the only house which has

a bow-window, upon the left-hand side as you go down from the

Metropolitan Station. A widow named Murchison kept the house at

that time, and she had three medical students and one engineer as

lodgers. I occupied the top room, which was the cheapest, but

cheap as it was it was more than I could afford. My small

resources were dwindling away, and every week it became more

necessary that I should find something to do. Yet I was very

unwilling to go into general practice, for my tastes were all in

the direction of science, and especially of zoology, towards which

I had always a strong leaning. I had almost given the fight up and

resigned myself to being a medical drudge for life, when the

turning-point of my struggles came in a very extraordinary way.



One morning I had picked up the Standard and was glancing

over its contents. There was a complete absence of news, and I was

about to toss the paper down again, when my eyes were caught by an

advertisement at the head of the personal column. It was worded in

this way:





"Wanted for one or more days the services of a medical man. It

is essential that he should be a man of strong physique, of steady

nerves, and of a resolute nature. Must be an entomologist--

coleopterist preferred. Apply, in person, at 77B, Brook Street.

Application must be made before twelve o'clock today."





Now, I have already said that I was devoted to zoology. Of all

branches of zoology, the study of insects was the most attractive

to me, and of all insects beetles were the species with which I

was most familiar. Butterfly collectors are numerous, but

beetles are far more varied, and more accessible in these islands

than are butterflies. It was this fact which had attracted my

attention to them, and I had myself made a collection which

numbered some hundred varieties. As to the other requisites of the

advertisement, I knew that my nerves could be depended upon, and I

had won the weight-throwing competition at the inter-hospital

sports. Clearly, I was the very man for the vacancy. Within five

minutes of my having read the advertisement I was in a cab and on

my was to Brook Street.



As I drove, I kept turning the matter over in my head and

trying to make a guess as to what sort of employment it could be

which needed such curious qualifications. A strong physique, a

resolute nature, a medical training, and a knowledge of beetles--

what connection could there be between these various requisites?

And then there was the disheartening fact that the situation was

not a permanent one, but terminable from day to day, according to

the terms of the advertisement. The more I pondered over it the

more unintelligible did it become; but at the end of my meditations

I always came back to the ground fact that, come what might, I had

nothing to lose, that I was completely at the end of my resources,

and that I was ready for any adventure, however desperate, which

would put a few honest sovereigns into my pocket. The man fears to

fail who has to pay for his failure, but there was no penalty which

Fortune could exact from me. I was like the gambler with empty

pockets, who is still allowed to try his luck with the others.



No. 77B, Brook Street, was one of those dingy and yet imposing

houses, dun-coloured and flat-faced, with the intensely respectable

and solid air which marks the Georgian builder. As I alighted from

the cab, a young man came out of the door and walked swiftly down

the street. In passing me, I noticed that he cast an inquisitive

and somewhat malevolent glance at me, and I took the incident as a

good omen, for his appearance was that of a rejected candidate, and

if he resented my application it meant that the vacancy was not yet

filled up. Full of hope, I ascended the broad steps and rapped

with the heavy knocker.



A footman in powder and livery opened the door. Clearly I was

in touch with the people of wealth and fashion.





"Yes, sir?" said the footman.



"I came in answer to----"



"Quite so, sir," said the footman. "Lord Linchmere will see

you at once in the library."



Lord Linchmere! I had vaguely heard the name, but could not

for the instant recall anything about him. Following the footman,

I was shown into a large, book-lined room in which there was seated

behind a writing-desk a small man with a pleasant, clean-shaven,

mobile face, and long hair shot with grey, brushed back from his

forehead. He looked me up and down with a very shrewd, penetrating

glance, holding the card which the footman had given him in his

right hand. Then he smiled pleasantly, and I felt that externally

at any rate I possessed the qualifications which he desired.



"You have come in answer to my advertisement, Dr. Hamilton?" he

asked.



"Yes, sir."



"Do you fulfil the conditions which are there laid down?"



"I believe that I do."



"You are a powerful man, or so I should judge from your

appearance.



"I think that I am fairly strong."



"And resolute?"



"I believe so."



"Have you ever known what it was to be exposed to imminent

danger?"



"No, I don't know that I ever have."



"But you think you would be prompt and cool at such a time?"



"I hope so."



"Well, I believe that you would. I have the more confidence in

you because you do not pretend to be certain as to what you would

do in a position that was new to you. My impression is that, so

far as personal qualities go, you are the very man of whom I am in

search. That being settled, we may pass on to the next point."



"Which is?"



"To talk to me about beetles."



I looked across to see if he was joking, but, on the contrary,

he was leaning eagerly forward across his desk, and there was

an expression of something like anxiety in his eyes.



"I am afraid that you do not know about beetles," he cried.



"On the contrary, sir, it is the one scientific subject about

which I feel that I really do know something."



"I am overjoyed to hear it. Please talk to me about beetles."



I talked. I do not profess to have said anything original upon

the subject, but I gave a short sketch of the characteristics of

the beetle, and ran over the more common species, with some

allusions to the specimens in my own little collection and to the

article upon "Burying Beetles" which I had contributed to the

Journal of Entomological Science.



"What! not a collector?" cried Lord Linchmere. "You don't mean

that you are yourself a collector?" His eyes danced with pleasure

at the thought.



"You are certainly the very man in London for my purpose. I

thought that among five millions of people there must be such a

man, but the difficulty is to lay one's hands upon him. I have

been extraordinarily fortunate in finding you."



He rang a gong upon the table, and the footman entered.





"Ask Lady Rossiter to have the goodness to step this way," said

his lordship, and a few moments later the lady was ushered into the

room. She was a small, middle-aged woman, very like Lord Linchmere

in appearance, with the same quick, alert features and grey-black

hair. The expression of anxiety, however, which I had observed

upon his face was very much more marked upon hers. Some great

grief seemed to have cast its shadow over her features. As Lord

Linchmere presented me she turned her face full upon me, and I was

shocked to observe a half-healed scar extending for two inches over

her right eyebrow. It was partly concealed by plaster, but none

the less I could see that it had been a serious wound and not long

inflicted.



"Dr. Hamilton is the very man for our purpose, Evelyn," said

Lord Linchmere. "He is actually a collector of beetles, and he has

written articles upon the subject."



"Really!" said Lady Rossiter. "Then you must have heard of my

husband. Everyone who knows anything about beetles must have heard

of Sir Thomas Rossiter."



For the first time a thin little ray of light began to break

into the obscure business. Here, at last, was a

connection between these people and beetles. Sir Thomas Rossiter--

he was the greatest authority upon the subject in the world. He

had made it his lifelong study, and had written a most exhaustive

work upon it. I hastened to assure her that I had read and

appreciated it.



"Have you met my husband?" she asked.



"No, I have not."



"But you shall," said Lord Linchmere, with decision.



The lady was standing beside the desk, and she put her hand

upon his shoulder. It was obvious to me as I saw their faces

together that they were brother and sister.



"Are you really prepared for this, Charles? It is noble of

you, but you fill me with fears." Her voice quavered with

apprehension, and he appeared to me to be equally moved, though he

was making strong efforts to conceal his agitation.



"Yes, yes, dear; it is all settled, it is all decided; in fact,

there is no other possible way, that I can see."



"There is one obvious way."



"No, no, Evelyn, I shall never abandon you--never. It will

come right--depend upon it; it will come right, and surely it looks

like the interference of Providence that so perfect an instrument

should be put into our hands."



My position was embarrassing, for I felt that for the instant

they had forgotten my presence. But Lord Linchmere came back

suddenly to me and to my engagement.



"The business for which I want you, Dr. Hamilton, is that you

should put yourself absolutely at my disposal. I wish you to come

for a short journey with me, to remain always at my side, and to

promise to do without question whatever I may ask you, however

unreasonable it may appear to you to be."



"That is a good deal to ask," said I.



"Unfortunately I cannot put it more plainly, for I do not

myself know what turn matters may take. You may be sure, however,

that you will not be asked to do anything which your conscience

does not approve; and I promise you that, when all is over, you

will be proud to have been concerned in so good a work."



"If it ends happily," said the lady.



"Exactly; if it ends happily," his lordship repeated.



"And terms?" I asked.



"Twenty pounds a day."



I was amazed at the sum, and must have showed my surprise upon

my features.



"It is a rare combination of qualities, as must have struck you

when you first read the advertisement," said Lord Linchmere; "such

varied gifts may well command a high return, and I do not conceal

from you that your duties might be arduous or even dangerous.

Besides, it is possible that one or two days may bring the matter

to an end."



"Please God!" sighed his sister.



"So now, Dr. Hamilton, may I rely upon your aid?"



"Most undoubtedly," said I. "You have only to tell me what my

duties are."



"Your first duty will be to return to your home. You will pack

up whatever you may need for a short visit to the country. We

start together from Paddington Station at 3:40 this afternoon."



"Do we go far?"



"As far as Pangbourne. Meet me at the bookstall at 3:30. I

shall have the tickets. Goodbye, Dr. Hamilton! And, by the way,

there are two things which I should be very glad if you would bring

with you, in case you have them. One is your case for collecting

beetles, and the other is a stick, and the thicker and heavier the

better."





You may imagine that I had plenty to think of from the time

that I left Brook Street until I set out to meet Lord Linchmere at

Paddington. The whole fantastic business kept arranging and

rearranging itself in kaleidoscopic forms inside my brain, until I

had thought out a dozen explanations, each of them more grotesquely

improbable than the last. And yet I felt that the truth must be

something grotesquely improbable also. At last I gave up all

attempts at finding a solution, and contented myself with exactly



carrying out the instructions which I had received. With a hand

valise, specimen-case, and a loaded cane, I was waiting at the

Paddington bookstall when Lord Linchmere arrived. He was an even

smaller man than I had thought--frail and peaky, with a manner

which was more nervous than it had been in the morning. He wore a

long, thick travelling ulster, and I observed that he carried a

heavy blackthorn cudgel in his hand.



"I have the tickets," said he, leading the way up the platform.



"This is our train. I have engaged a carriage, for I am

particularly anxious to impress one or two things upon you while we

travel down."



And yet all that he had to impress upon me might have been said

in a sentence, for it was that I was to remember that I was there

as a protection to himself, and that I was not on any consideration

to leave him for an instant. This he repeated again and again as

our journey drew to a close, with an insistence which showed that

his nerves were thoroughly shaken.



"Yes," he said at last, in answer to my looks rather than to my

words, "I AM nervous, Dr. Hamilton. I have always been a timid

man, and my timidity depends upon my frail physical health. But my

soul is firm, and I can bring myself up to face a danger which a

less-nervous man might shrink from. What I am doing now is done

from no compulsion, but entirely from a sense of duty, and yet it

is, beyond doubt, a desperate risk. If things should go wrong, I

will have some claims to the title of martyr."



This eternal reading of riddles was too much for me. I felt

that I must put a term to it.



"I think it would very much better, sir, if you were to trust

me entirely," said I. "It is impossible for me to act effectively,

when I do not know what are the objects which we have in view, or

even where we are going."



"Oh, as to where we are going, there need be no mystery about

that," said he; "we are going to Delamere Court, the residence of

Sir Thomas Rossiter, with whose work you are so conversant. As to

the exact object of our visit, I do not know that at this stage of

the proceedings anything would be gained, Dr. Hamilton, by taking

you into my complete confidence. I may tell you that we are

acting--I say `we,' because my sister, Lady Rossiter, takes the

same view as myself--with the one object of preventing anything in

the nature of a family scandal. That being so, you can understand

that I am loath to give any explanations which are not absolutely

necessary. It would be a different matter, Dr. Hamilton, if I were

asking your advice. As matters stand, it is only your active

help which I need, and I will indicate to you from time to time how

you can best give it."



There was nothing more to be said, and a poor man can put up

with a good deal for twenty pounds a day, but I felt none the less

that Lord Linchmere was acting rather scurvily towards me. He

wished to convert me into a passive tool, like the blackthorn in

his hand. With his sensitive disposition I could imagine, however,

that scandal would be abhorrent to him, and I realized that he

would not take me into his confidence until no other course was

open to him. I must trust to my own eyes and ears to solve the

mystery, but I had every confidence that I should not trust to them

in vain.



Delamere Court lies a good five miles from Pangbourne Station,

and we drove for that distance in an open fly. Lord Linchmere sat

in deep thought during the time, and he never opened his mouth

until we were close to our destination. When he did speak it was

to give me a piece of information which surprised me.



"Perhaps you are not aware," said he, "that I am a medical man

like yourself?"



"No, sir, I did not know it."



"Yes, I qualified in my younger days, when there were several

lives between me and the peerage. I have not had occasion to

practise, but I have found it a useful education, all the same. I

never regretted the years which I devoted to medical study. These

are the gates of Delamere Court."



We had come to two high pillars crowned with heraldic monsters

which flanked the opening of a winding avenue. Over the laurel

bushes and rhododendrons, I could see a long, many-gabled mansion,

girdled with ivy, and toned to the warm, cheery, mellow glow of old

brick-work. My eyes were still fixed in admiration upon this

delightful house when my companion plucked nervously at my sleeve.



"Here's Sir Thomas," he whispered. "Please talk beetle all you

can."



A tall, thin figure, curiously angular and bony, had emerged

through a gap in the hedge of laurels. In his hand he held a spud,

and he wore gauntleted gardener's gloves. A broad-brimmed, grey

hat cast his face into shadow, but it struck me as exceedingly

austere, with an ill-nourished beard and harsh, irregular features.

The fly pulled up and Lord Linchmere sprang out.



"My dear Thomas, how are you?" said he, heartily.



But the heartiness was by no means reciprocal. The owner of

the grounds glared at me over his brother-in-law's shoulder, and I

caught broken scraps of sentences--"well-known wishes . . . hatred

of strangers . . . unjustifiable intrusion . . . perfectly

inexcusable." Then there was a muttered explanation, and the two

of them came over together to the side of the fly.



"Let me present you to Sir Thomas Rossiter, Dr. Hamilton," said

Lord Linchmere. "You will find that you have a strong community of

tastes."



I bowed. Sir Thomas stood very stiffly, looking at me severely

from under the broad brim of his hat.



"Lord Linchmere tells me that you know something about

beetles," said he. "What do you know about beetles?"



"I know what I have learned from your work upon the coleoptera,

Sir Thomas," I answered.



"Give me the names of the better-known species of the British

scarabaei," said he.



I had not expected an examination, but fortunately I was ready

for one. My answers seemed to please him, for his stern features

relaxed.



"You appear to have read my book with some profit, sir," said

he. "It is a rare thing for me to meet anyone who takes an

intelligent interest in such matters. People can find time for

such trivialities as sport or society, and yet the beetles are

overlooked. I can assure you that the greater part of the idiots

in this part of the country are unaware that I have ever written a

book at all--I, the first man who ever described the true function

of the elytra. I am glad to see you, sir, and I have no doubt that

I can show you some specimens which will interest you." He stepped

into the fly and drove up with us to the house, expounding to me as

we went some recent researches which he had made into the anatomy

of the lady-bird.



I have said that Sir Thomas Rossiter wore a large hat drawn

down over his brows. As he entered the hall he uncovered himself,

and I was at once aware of a singular characteristic which the hat

had concealed. His forehead, which was naturally high, and

higher still on account of receding hair, was in a continual state

of movement. Some nervous weakness kept the muscles in a constant

spasm, which sometimes produced a mere twitching and sometimes a

curious rotary movement unlike anything which I had ever seen

before. It was strikingly visible as he turned towards us after

entering the study, and seemed the more singular from the contrast

with the hard, steady, grey eyes which looked out from underneath

those palpitating brows.





"I am sorry," said he, "that Lady Rossiter is not here to help

me to welcome you. By the way, Charles, did Evelyn say anything

about the date of her return?"



"She wished to stay in town for a few more days," said Lord

Linchmere. "You know how ladies' social duties accumulate if they

have been for some time in the country. My sister has many old

friends in London at present."



"Well, she is her own mistress, and I should not wish to alter

her plans, but I shall be glad when I see her again. It is very

lonely here without her company."



"I was afraid that you might find it so, and that was partly

why I ran down. My young friend, Dr. Hamilton, is so much

interested in the subject which you have made your own, that I

thought you would not mind his accompanying me."



"I lead a retired life, Dr. Hamilton, and my aversion to

strangers grows upon me," said our host. "I have sometimes thought

that my nerves are not so good as they were. My travels in search

of beetles in my younger days took me into many malarious and

unhealthy places. But a brother coleopterist like yourself is

always a welcome guest, and I shall be delighted if you will look

over my collection, which I think that I may without exaggeration

describe as the best in Europe."



And so no doubt it was. He had a huge, oaken cabinet arranged

in shallow drawers, and here, neatly ticketed and classified, were

beetles from every corner of the earth, black, brown, blue, green,

and mottled. Every now and then as he swept his hand over the

lines and lines of impaled insects he would catch up some rare

specimen, and, handling it with as much delicacy and reverence as

if it were a precious relic, he would hold forth upon its

peculiarities and the circumstances under which it came into his

possession. It was evidently an unusual thing for him to meet

with a sympathetic listener, and he talked and talked until the

spring evening had deepened into night, and the gong announced that

it was time to dress for dinner. All the time Lord Linchmere said

nothing, but he stood at his brother-in-law's elbow, and I caught

him continually shooting curious little, questioning glances into

his face. And his own features expressed some strong emotion,

apprehension, sympathy, expectation: I seemed to read them all.

I was sure that Lord Linchmere was fearing something and awaiting

something, but what that something might be I could not imagine.



The evening passed quietly but pleasantly, and I should have

been entirely at my ease if it had not been for that continual

sense of tension upon the part of Lord Linchmere. As to our host,

I found that he improved upon acquaintance. He spoke constantly

with affection of his absent wife, and also of his little son, who

had recently been sent to school. The house, he said, was not the

same without them. If it were not for his scientific studies, he

did not know how he could get through the days. After dinner we

smoked for some time in the billiard-room, and finally went early

to bed.



And then it was that, for the first time, the suspicion that

Lord Linchmere was a lunatic crossed my mind. He followed me into

my bedroom, when our host had retired.



"Doctor," said he, speaking in a low, hurried voice, "you must

come with me. You must spend the night in my bedroom."



"What do you mean?"



"I prefer not to explain. But this is part of your duties. My

room is close by, and you can return to your own before the servant

calls you in the morning."



"But why?" I asked.



"Because I am nervous of being alone," said he. "That's the

reason, since you must have a reason."



It seemed rank lunacy, but the argument of those twenty pounds

would overcome many objections. I followed him to his room.



"Well," said I, "there's only room for one in that bed."



"Only one shall occupy it," said he.



"And the other?"



"Must remain on watch."



"Why?" said I. "One would think you expected to be attacked."



"Perhaps I do."



"In that case, why not lock your door?"



"Perhaps I WANT to be attacked."



It looked more and more like lunacy. However, there was

nothing for it but to submit. I shrugged my shoulders and sat down

in the arm-chair beside the empty fireplace.



"I am to remain on watch, then?" said I, ruefully.



"We will divide the night. If you will watch until two, I will

watch the remainder."



"Very good."



"Call me at two o'clock, then."



"I will do so."



"Keep your ears open, and if you hear any sounds wake me

instantly--instantly, you hear?"



"You can rely upon it." I tried to look as solemn as he did.



"And for God's sake don't go to sleep," said he, and so, taking

off only his coat, he threw the coverlet over him and settled down

for the night.



It was a melancholy vigil, and made more so by my own sense of

its folly. Supposing that by any chance Lord Linchmere had cause

to suspect that he was subject to danger in the house of Sir Thomas

Rossiter, why on earth could he not lock his door and so protect

himself?" His own answer that he might wish to be attacked was

absurd. Why should he possibly wish to be attacked? And who would

wish to attack him? Clearly, Lord Linchmere was suffering from

some singular delusion, and the result was that on an imbecile

pretext I was to be deprived of my night's rest. Still, however

absurd, I was determined to carry out his injunctions to the letter

as long as I was in his employment. I sat, therefore, beside the

empty fireplace, and listened to a sonorous chiming clock somewhere

down the passage which gurgled and struck every quarter of an hour.

It was an endless vigil. Save for that single clock, an absolute

silence reigned throughout the great house. A small lamp stood on

the table at my elbow, throwing a circle of light round my chair,

but leaving the corners of the room draped in shadow. On the bed

Lord Linchmere was breathing peacefully. I envied him his quiet

sleep, and again and again my own eyelids drooped, but every

time my sense of duty came to my help, and I sat up, rubbing my

eyes and pinching myself with a determination to see my irrational

watch to an end.



And I did so. From down the passage came the chimes of two

o'clock, and I laid my hand upon the shoulder of the sleeper.

Instantly he was sitting up, with an expression of the keenest

interest upon his face.



"You have heard something?"



"No, sir. It is two o'clock."



"Very good. I will watch. You can go to sleep."



I lay down under the coverlet as he had done and was soon

unconscious. My last recollection was of that circle of lamplight,

and of the small, hunched-up figure and strained, anxious face of

Lord Linchmere in the centre of it.



How long I slept I do not know; but I was suddenly aroused by

a sharp tug at my sleeve. The room was in darkness, but a hot

smell of oil told me that the lamp had only that instant been

extinguished.



"Quick! Quick!" said Lord Linchmere's voice in my ear.



I sprang out of bed, he still dragging at my arm.



"Over here!" he whispered, and pulled me into a corner of the

room. "Hush! Listen!"



In the silence of the night I could distinctly hear that

someone was coming down the corridor. It was a stealthy step,

faint and intermittent, as of a man who paused cautiously after

every stride. Sometimes for half a minute there was no sound, and

then came the shuffle and creak which told of a fresh advance. My

companion was trembling with excitement. His hand, which still

held my sleeve, twitched like a branch in the wind.



"What is it?" I whispered.



"It's he!"



"Sir Thomas?"



"Yes."



"What does he want?"



"Hush! Do nothing until I tell you."



I was conscious now that someone was trying the door. There

was the faintest little rattle from the handle, and then I dimly

saw a thin slit of subdued light. There was a lamp burning

somewhere far down the passage, and it just sufficed to make the

outside visible from the darkness of our room. The greyish slit

grew broader and broader, very gradually, very gently, and then

outlined against it I saw the dark figure of a man. He was squat

and crouching, with the silhouette of a bulky and misshapen dwarf.

Slowly the door swung open with this ominous shape framed in the

centre of it. And then, in an instant, the crouching figure shot

up, there was a tiger spring across the room and thud, thud, thud,

came three tremendous blows from some heavy object upon the bed.



I was so paralysed with amazement that I stood motionless and

staring until I was aroused by a yell for help from my companion.

The open door shed enough light for me to see the outline of

things, and there was little Lord Linchmere with his arms round the

neck of his brother-in-law, holding bravely on to him like a game

bull-terrier with its teeth into a gaunt deerhound. The tall, bony

man dashed himself about, writhing round and round to get a grip

upon his assailant; but the other, clutching on from behind, still

kept his hold, though his shrill, frightened cries showed how

unequal he felt the contest to be. I sprang to the rescue, and the

two of us managed to throw Sir Thomas to the ground, though he made

his teeth meet in my shoulder. With all my youth and weight and

strength, it was a desperate struggle before we could master his

frenzied struggles; but at last we secured his arms with the waist-

cord of the dressing-gown which he was wearing. I was holding his

legs while Lord Linchmere was endeavouring to relight the lamp,

when there came the pattering of many feet in the passage, and the

butler and two footmen, who had been alarmed by the cries, rushed

into the room. With their aid we had no further difficulty in

securing our prisoner, who lay foaming and glaring upon the ground.

One glance at his face was enough to prove that he was a dangerous

maniac, while the short, heavy hammer which lay beside the bed

showed how murderous had been his intentions.



"Do not use any violence!" said Lord Linchmere, as we raised

the struggling man to his feet. "He will have a period of stupor

after this excitement. I believe that it is coming on already."

As he spoke the convulsions became less violent, and the madman's

head fell forward upon his breast, as if he were overcome by

sleep. We led him down the passage and stretched him upon his own

bed, where he lay unconscious, breathing heavily.



"Two of you will watch him," said Lord Linchmere. "And now,

Dr. Hamilton, if you will return with me to my room, I will give

you the explanation which my horror of scandal has perhaps caused

me to delay too long. Come what may, you will never have cause to

regret your share in this night's work.



"The case may be made clear in a very few words," he continued,

when we were alone. "My poor brother-in-law is one of the best

fellows upon earth, a loving husband and an estimable father, but

he comes from a stock which is deeply tainted with insanity. He

has more than once had homicidal outbreaks, which are the more

painful because his inclination is always to attack the very person

to whom he is most attached. His son was sent away to school to

avoid this danger, and then came an attempt upon my sister, his

wife, from which she escaped with injuries that you may have

observed when you met her in London. You understand that he knows

nothing of the matter when he is in his sound senses, and would

ridicule the suggestion that he could under any circumstances

injure those whom he loves so dearly. It is often, as you know, a

characteristic of such maladies that it is absolutely impossible to

convince the man who suffers from them of their existence.



"Our great object was, of course, to get him under restraint

before he could stain his hands with blood, but the matter was full

of difficulty. He is a recluse in his habits, and would not see

any medical man. Besides, it was necessary for our purpose that

the medical man should convince himself of his insanity; and he is

sane as you or I, save on these very rare occasions. But,

fortunately, before he has these attacks he always shows certain

premonitory symptoms, which are providential danger-signals,

warning us to be upon our guard. The chief of these is that

nervous contortion of the forehead which you must have observed.

This is a phenomenon which always appears from three to four days

before his attacks of frenzy. The moment it showed itself his wife

came into town on some pretext, and took refuge in my house in

Brook Street.



"It remained for me to convince a medical man of Sir Thomas's

insanity, without which it was impossible to put him where he could

do no harm. The first problem was how to get a medical man into

his house. I bethought me of his interest in beetles, and his love

for anyone who shared his tastes. I advertised, therefore, and was

fortunate enough to find in you the very man I wanted. A stout

companion was necessary, for I knew that the lunacy could only be

proved by a murderous assault, and I had every reason to believe

that that assault would be made upon myself, since he had the

warmest regard for me in his moments of sanity. I think your

intelligence will supply all the rest. I did not know that the

attack would come by night, but I thought it very probable, for the

crises of such cases usually do occur in the early hours of the

morning. I am a very nervous man myself, but I saw no other way in

which I could remove this terrible danger from my sister's life.

I need not ask you whether you are willing to sign the lunacy

papers."



"Undoubtedly. But TWO signatures are necessary."



"You forget that I am myself a holder of a medical degree. I

have the papers on a side-table here, so if you will be good enough

to sign them now, we can have the patient removed in the morning."





So that was my visit to Sir Thomas Rossiter, the famous beetle-

hunter, and that was also my first step upon the ladder of success,

for Lady Rossiter and Lord Linchmere have proved to be staunch

friends, and they have never forgotten my association with them in

the time of their need. Sir Thomas is out and said to be cured,

but I still think that if I spent another night at Delamere Court,

I should be inclined to lock my door upon the inside.





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