Silver Blaze

"I am afraid, Watson, that I shall have to go," said Holmes, as we sat

down together to our breakfast one morning.

"Go! Where to?"

"To Dartmoor; to King's Pyland."

I was not surprised. Indeed, my only wonder was that he had not already

been mixed up in this extraordinary case, which was the one topic of

conversation through the length and breadth of England. For a whole day
my companion had rambled about the room with his chin upon his chest and

his brows knitted, charging and recharging his pipe with the strongest

black tobacco, and absolutely deaf to any of my questions or remarks.

Fresh editions of every paper had been sent up by our news agent, only

to be glanced over and tossed down into a corner. Yet, silent as he was,

I knew perfectly well what it was over which he was brooding. There was

but one problem before the public which could challenge his powers of

analysis, and that was the singular disappearance of the favorite for

the Wessex Cup, and the tragic murder of its trainer. When, therefore,

he suddenly announced his intention of setting out for the scene of the

drama it was only what I had both expected and hoped for.

"I should be most happy to go down with you if I should not be in the

way," said I.

"My dear Watson, you would confer a great favor upon me by coming. And

I think that your time will not be misspent, for there are points about

the case which promise to make it an absolutely unique one. We have, I

think, just time to catch our train at Paddington, and I will go further

into the matter upon our journey. You would oblige me by bringing with

you your very excellent field-glass."

And so it happened that an hour or so later I found myself in the

corner of a first-class carriage flying along en route for Exeter, while

Sherlock Holmes, with his sharp, eager face framed in his ear-flapped

travelling-cap, dipped rapidly into the bundle of fresh papers which he

had procured at Paddington. We had left Reading far behind us before

he thrust the last one of them under the seat, and offered me his


"We are going well," said he, looking out the window and glancing at his

watch. "Our rate at present is fifty-three and a half miles an hour."

"I have not observed the quarter-mile posts," said I.

"Nor have I. But the telegraph posts upon this line are sixty yards

apart, and the calculation is a simple one. I presume that you

have looked into this matter of the murder of John Straker and the

disappearance of Silver Blaze?"

"I have seen what the Telegraph and the Chronicle have to say."

"It is one of those cases where the art of the reasoner should be

used rather for the sifting of details than for the acquiring of fresh

evidence. The tragedy has been so uncommon, so complete and of such

personal importance to so many people, that we are suffering from a

plethora of surmise, conjecture, and hypothesis. The difficulty is to

detach the framework of fact--of absolute undeniable fact--from the

embellishments of theorists and reporters. Then, having established

ourselves upon this sound basis, it is our duty to see what inferences

may be drawn and what are the special points upon which the whole

mystery turns. On Tuesday evening I received telegrams from both Colonel

Ross, the owner of the horse, and from Inspector Gregory, who is looking

after the case, inviting my cooperation."

"Tuesday evening!" I exclaimed. "And this is Thursday morning. Why

didn't you go down yesterday?"

"Because I made a blunder, my dear Watson--which is, I am afraid, a more

common occurrence than any one would think who only knew me through your

memoirs. The fact is that I could not believe it possible that the most

remarkable horse in England could long remain concealed, especially in

so sparsely inhabited a place as the north of Dartmoor. From hour to

hour yesterday I expected to hear that he had been found, and that

his abductor was the murderer of John Straker. When, however, another

morning had come, and I found that beyond the arrest of young Fitzroy

Simpson nothing had been done, I felt that it was time for me to take

action. Yet in some ways I feel that yesterday has not been wasted."

"You have formed a theory, then?"

"At least I have got a grip of the essential facts of the case. I shall

enumerate them to you, for nothing clears up a case so much as stating

it to another person, and I can hardly expect your co-operation if I do

not show you the position from which we start."

I lay back against the cushions, puffing at my cigar, while Holmes,

leaning forward, with his long, thin forefinger checking off the points

upon the palm of his left hand, gave me a sketch of the events which had

led to our journey.

"Silver Blaze," said he, "is from the Somomy stock, and holds as

brilliant a record as his famous ancestor. He is now in his fifth year,

and has brought in turn each of the prizes of the turf to Colonel Ross,

his fortunate owner. Up to the time of the catastrophe he was the first

favorite for the Wessex Cup, the betting being three to one on him. He

has always, however, been a prime favorite with the racing public, and

has never yet disappointed them, so that even at those odds enormous

sums of money have been laid upon him. It is obvious, therefore, that

there were many people who had the strongest interest in preventing

Silver Blaze from being there at the fall of the flag next Tuesday.

"The fact was, of course, appreciated at King's Pyland, where the

Colonel's training-stable is situated. Every precaution was taken to

guard the favorite. The trainer, John Straker, is a retired jockey

who rode in Colonel Ross's colors before he became too heavy for the

weighing-chair. He has served the Colonel for five years as jockey and

for seven as trainer, and has always shown himself to be a zealous and

honest servant. Under him were three lads; for the establishment was a

small one, containing only four horses in all. One of these lads sat up

each night in the stable, while the others slept in the loft. All three

bore excellent characters. John Straker, who is a married man, lived

in a small villa about two hundred yards from the stables. He has no

children, keeps one maid-servant, and is comfortably off. The country

round is very lonely, but about half a mile to the north there is a

small cluster of villas which have been built by a Tavistock contractor

for the use of invalids and others who may wish to enjoy the pure

Dartmoor air. Tavistock itself lies two miles to the west, while

across the moor, also about two miles distant, is the larger training

establishment of Mapleton, which belongs to Lord Backwater, and is

managed by Silas Brown. In every other direction the moor is a complete

wilderness, inhabited only by a few roaming gypsies. Such was the

general situation last Monday night when the catastrophe occurred.

"On that evening the horses had been exercised and watered as usual, and

the stables were locked up at nine o'clock. Two of the lads walked up

to the trainer's house, where they had supper in the kitchen, while the

third, Ned Hunter, remained on guard. At a few minutes after nine

the maid, Edith Baxter, carried down to the stables his supper, which

consisted of a dish of curried mutton. She took no liquid, as there was

a water-tap in the stables, and it was the rule that the lad on duty

should drink nothing else. The maid carried a lantern with her, as it

was very dark and the path ran across the open moor.

"Edith Baxter was within thirty yards of the stables, when a man

appeared out of the darkness and called to her to stop. As he stepped

into the circle of yellow light thrown by the lantern she saw that he

was a person of gentlemanly bearing, dressed in a gray suit of tweeds,

with a cloth cap. He wore gaiters, and carried a heavy stick with a knob

to it. She was most impressed, however, by the extreme pallor of his

face and by the nervousness of his manner. His age, she thought, would

be rather over thirty than under it.

"'Can you tell me where I am?' he asked. 'I had almost made up my mind

to sleep on the moor, when I saw the light of your lantern.'

"'You are close to the King's Pyland training-stables,' said she.

"'Oh, indeed! What a stroke of luck!' he cried. 'I understand that a

stable-boy sleeps there alone every night. Perhaps that is his supper

which you are carrying to him. Now I am sure that you would not be too

proud to earn the price of a new dress, would you?' He took a piece of

white paper folded up out of his waistcoat pocket. 'See that the boy

has this to-night, and you shall have the prettiest frock that money can


"She was frightened by the earnestness of his manner, and ran past him

to the window through which she was accustomed to hand the meals. It was

already opened, and Hunter was seated at the small table inside. She had

begun to tell him of what had happened, when the stranger came up again.

"'Good-evening,' said he, looking through the window. 'I wanted to have

a word with you.' The girl has sworn that as he spoke she noticed the

corner of the little paper packet protruding from his closed hand.

"'What business have you here?' asked the lad.

"'It's business that may put something into your pocket,' said the

other. 'You've two horses in for the Wessex Cup--Silver Blaze and

Bayard. Let me have the straight tip and you won't be a loser. Is it a

fact that at the weights Bayard could give the other a hundred yards in

five furlongs, and that the stable have put their money on him?'

"'So, you're one of those damned touts!' cried the lad. 'I'll show you

how we serve them in King's Pyland.' He sprang up and rushed across the

stable to unloose the dog. The girl fled away to the house, but as she

ran she looked back and saw that the stranger was leaning through the

window. A minute later, however, when Hunter rushed out with the hound

he was gone, and though he ran all round the buildings he failed to find

any trace of him."

"One moment," I asked. "Did the stable-boy, when he ran out with the

dog, leave the door unlocked behind him?"

"Excellent, Watson, excellent!" murmured my companion. "The importance

of the point struck me so forcibly that I sent a special wire to

Dartmoor yesterday to clear the matter up. The boy locked the door

before he left it. The window, I may add, was not large enough for a man

to get through.

"Hunter waited until his fellow-grooms had returned, when he sent a

message to the trainer and told him what had occurred. Straker was

excited at hearing the account, although he does not seem to have quite

realized its true significance. It left him, however, vaguely uneasy,

and Mrs. Straker, waking at one in the morning, found that he was

dressing. In reply to her inquiries, he said that he could not sleep on

account of his anxiety about the horses, and that he intended to walk

down to the stables to see that all was well. She begged him to remain

at home, as she could hear the rain pattering against the window, but in

spite of her entreaties he pulled on his large mackintosh and left the


"Mrs. Straker awoke at seven in the morning, to find that her husband

had not yet returned. She dressed herself hastily, called the maid, and

set off for the stables. The door was open; inside, huddled together

upon a chair, Hunter was sunk in a state of absolute stupor, the

favorite's stall was empty, and there were no signs of his trainer.

"The two lads who slept in the chaff-cutting loft above the harness-room

were quickly aroused. They had heard nothing during the night, for they

are both sound sleepers. Hunter was obviously under the influence of

some powerful drug, and as no sense could be got out of him, he was left

to sleep it off while the two lads and the two women ran out in search

of the absentees. They still had hopes that the trainer had for some

reason taken out the horse for early exercise, but on ascending the

knoll near the house, from which all the neighboring moors were visible,

they not only could see no signs of the missing favorite, but they

perceived something which warned them that they were in the presence of

a tragedy.

"About a quarter of a mile from the stables John Straker's overcoat was

flapping from a furze-bush. Immediately beyond there was a bowl-shaped

depression in the moor, and at the bottom of this was found the dead

body of the unfortunate trainer. His head had been shattered by a savage

blow from some heavy weapon, and he was wounded on the thigh, where

there was a long, clean cut, inflicted evidently by some very sharp

instrument. It was clear, however, that Straker had defended himself

vigorously against his assailants, for in his right hand he held a small

knife, which was clotted with blood up to the handle, while in his left

he clasped a red and black silk cravat, which was recognized by the maid

as having been worn on the preceding evening by the stranger who had

visited the stables. Hunter, on recovering from his stupor, was also

quite positive as to the ownership of the cravat. He was equally certain

that the same stranger had, while standing at the window, drugged his

curried mutton, and so deprived the stables of their watchman. As to the

missing horse, there were abundant proofs in the mud which lay at the

bottom of the fatal hollow that he had been there at the time of the

struggle. But from that morning he has disappeared, and although a large

reward has been offered, and all the gypsies of Dartmoor are on the

alert, no news has come of him. Finally, an analysis has shown that

the remains of his supper left by the stable-lad contain an appreciable

quantity of powdered opium, while the people at the house partook of the

same dish on the same night without any ill effect.

"Those are the main facts of the case, stripped of all surmise, and

stated as baldly as possible. I shall now recapitulate what the police

have done in the matter.

"Inspector Gregory, to whom the case has been committed, is an extremely

competent officer. Were he but gifted with imagination he might rise to

great heights in his profession. On his arrival he promptly found and

arrested the man upon whom suspicion naturally rested. There was little

difficulty in finding him, for he inhabited one of those villas which I

have mentioned. His name, it appears, was Fitzroy Simpson. He was a man

of excellent birth and education, who had squandered a fortune upon the

turf, and who lived now by doing a little quiet and genteel book-making

in the sporting clubs of London. An examination of his betting-book

shows that bets to the amount of five thousand pounds had been

registered by him against the favorite. On being arrested he volunteered

that statement that he had come down to Dartmoor in the hope of

getting some information about the King's Pyland horses, and also about

Desborough, the second favorite, which was in charge of Silas Brown at

the Mapleton stables. He did not attempt to deny that he had acted as

described upon the evening before, but declared that he had no sinister

designs, and had simply wished to obtain first-hand information. When

confronted with his cravat, he turned very pale, and was utterly unable

to account for its presence in the hand of the murdered man. His wet

clothing showed that he had been out in the storm of the night before,

and his stick, which was a Penang-lawyer weighted with lead, was just

such a weapon as might, by repeated blows, have inflicted the terrible

injuries to which the trainer had succumbed. On the other hand, there

was no wound upon his person, while the state of Straker's knife would

show that one at least of his assailants must bear his mark upon him.

There you have it all in a nutshell, Watson, and if you can give me any

light I shall be infinitely obliged to you."

I had listened with the greatest interest to the statement which Holmes,

with characteristic clearness, had laid before me. Though most of the

facts were familiar to me, I had not sufficiently appreciated their

relative importance, nor their connection to each other.

"Is it not possible," I suggested, "that the incised wound upon Straker

may have been caused by his own knife in the convulsive struggles which

follow any brain injury?"

"It is more than possible; it is probable," said Holmes. "In that case

one of the main points in favor of the accused disappears."

"And yet," said I, "even now I fail to understand what the theory of the

police can be."

"I am afraid that whatever theory we state has very grave objections to

it," returned my companion. "The police imagine, I take it, that this

Fitzroy Simpson, having drugged the lad, and having in some way obtained

a duplicate key, opened the stable door and took out the horse, with

the intention, apparently, of kidnapping him altogether. His bridle is

missing, so that Simpson must have put this on. Then, having left the

door open behind him, he was leading the horse away over the moor, when

he was either met or overtaken by the trainer. A row naturally ensued.

Simpson beat out the trainer's brains with his heavy stick without

receiving any injury from the small knife which Straker used in

self-defence, and then the thief either led the horse on to some secret

hiding-place, or else it may have bolted during the struggle, and be

now wandering out on the moors. That is the case as it appears to

the police, and improbable as it is, all other explanations are more

improbable still. However, I shall very quickly test the matter when I

am once upon the spot, and until then I cannot really see how we can get

much further than our present position."

It was evening before we reached the little town of Tavistock, which

lies, like the boss of a shield, in the middle of the huge circle of

Dartmoor. Two gentlemen were awaiting us in the station--the one a tall,

fair man with lion-like hair and beard and curiously penetrating light

blue eyes; the other a small, alert person, very neat and dapper, in a

frock-coat and gaiters, with trim little side-whiskers and an eye-glass.

The latter was Colonel Ross, the well-known sportsman; the other,

Inspector Gregory, a man who was rapidly making his name in the English

detective service.

"I am delighted that you have come down, Mr. Holmes," said the Colonel.

"The Inspector here has done all that could possibly be suggested, but I

wish to leave no stone unturned in trying to avenge poor Straker and in

recovering my horse."

"Have there been any fresh developments?" asked Holmes.

"I am sorry to say that we have made very little progress," said the

Inspector. "We have an open carriage outside, and as you would no doubt

like to see the place before the light fails, we might talk it over as

we drive."

A minute later we were all seated in a comfortable landau, and were

rattling through the quaint old Devonshire city. Inspector Gregory was

full of his case, and poured out a stream of remarks, while Holmes threw

in an occasional question or interjection. Colonel Ross leaned back with

his arms folded and his hat tilted over his eyes, while I listened with

interest to the dialogue of the two detectives. Gregory was formulating

his theory, which was almost exactly what Holmes had foretold in the


"The net is drawn pretty close round Fitzroy Simpson," he remarked, "and

I believe myself that he is our man. At the same time I recognize that

the evidence is purely circumstantial, and that some new development may

upset it."

"How about Straker's knife?"

"We have quite come to the conclusion that he wounded himself in his


"My friend Dr. Watson made that suggestion to me as we came down. If so,

it would tell against this man Simpson."

"Undoubtedly. He has neither a knife nor any sign of a wound. The

evidence against him is certainly very strong. He had a great interest

in the disappearance of the favorite. He lies under suspicion of having

poisoned the stable-boy, he was undoubtedly out in the storm, he was

armed with a heavy stick, and his cravat was found in the dead man's

hand. I really think we have enough to go before a jury."

Holmes shook his head. "A clever counsel would tear it all to rags,"

said he. "Why should he take the horse out of the stable? If he wished

to injure it why could he not do it there? Has a duplicate key been

found in his possession? What chemist sold him the powdered opium? Above

all, where could he, a stranger to the district, hide a horse, and such

a horse as this? What is his own explanation as to the paper which he

wished the maid to give to the stable-boy?"

"He says that it was a ten-pound note. One was found in his purse. But

your other difficulties are not so formidable as they seem. He is not

a stranger to the district. He has twice lodged at Tavistock in the

summer. The opium was probably brought from London. The key, having

served its purpose, would be hurled away. The horse may be at the bottom

of one of the pits or old mines upon the moor."

"What does he say about the cravat?"

"He acknowledges that it is his, and declares that he had lost it. But a

new element has been introduced into the case which may account for his

leading the horse from the stable."

Holmes pricked up his ears.

"We have found traces which show that a party of gypsies encamped on

Monday night within a mile of the spot where the murder took place. On

Tuesday they were gone. Now, presuming that there was some understanding

between Simpson and these gypsies, might he not have been leading the

horse to them when he was overtaken, and may they not have him now?"

"It is certainly possible."

"The moor is being scoured for these gypsies. I have also examined every

stable and out-house in Tavistock, and for a radius of ten miles."

"There is another training-stable quite close, I understand?"

"Yes, and that is a factor which we must certainly not neglect. As

Desborough, their horse, was second in the betting, they had an interest

in the disappearance of the favorite. Silas Brown, the trainer, is known

to have had large bets upon the event, and he was no friend to poor

Straker. We have, however, examined the stables, and there is nothing to

connect him with the affair."

"And nothing to connect this man Simpson with the interests of the

Mapleton stables?"

"Nothing at all."

Holmes leaned back in the carriage, and the conversation ceased. A few

minutes later our driver pulled up at a neat little red-brick villa with

overhanging eaves which stood by the road. Some distance off, across a

paddock, lay a long gray-tiled out-building. In every other direction

the low curves of the moor, bronze-colored from the fading ferns,

stretched away to the sky-line, broken only by the steeples of

Tavistock, and by a cluster of houses away to the westward which marked

the Mapleton stables. We all sprang out with the exception of Holmes,

who continued to lean back with his eyes fixed upon the sky in front of

him, entirely absorbed in his own thoughts. It was only when I touched

his arm that he roused himself with a violent start and stepped out of

the carriage.

"Excuse me," said he, turning to Colonel Ross, who had looked at him in

some surprise. "I was day-dreaming." There was a gleam in his eyes and a

suppressed excitement in his manner which convinced me, used as I was

to his ways, that his hand was upon a clue, though I could not imagine

where he had found it.

"Perhaps you would prefer at once to go on to the scene of the crime,

Mr. Holmes?" said Gregory.

"I think that I should prefer to stay here a little and go into one or

two questions of detail. Straker was brought back here, I presume?"

"Yes; he lies upstairs. The inquest is to-morrow."

"He has been in your service some years, Colonel Ross?"

"I have always found him an excellent servant."

"I presume that you made an inventory of what he had in his pockets at

the time of his death, Inspector?"

"I have the things themselves in the sitting-room, if you would care to

see them."

"I should be very glad." We all filed into the front room and sat round

the central table while the Inspector unlocked a square tin box and laid

a small heap of things before us. There was a box of vestas, two inches

of tallow candle, an A D P brier-root pipe, a pouch of seal-skin with

half an ounce of long-cut Cavendish, a silver watch with a gold chain,

five sovereigns in gold, an aluminum pencil-case, a few papers, and an

ivory-handled knife with a very delicate, inflexible blade marked Weiss

& Co., London.

"This is a very singular knife," said Holmes, lifting it up and

examining it minutely. "I presume, as I see blood-stains upon it, that

it is the one which was found in the dead man's grasp. Watson, this

knife is surely in your line?"

"It is what we call a cataract knife," said I.

"I thought so. A very delicate blade devised for very delicate work.

A strange thing for a man to carry with him upon a rough expedition,

especially as it would not shut in his pocket."

"The tip was guarded by a disk of cork which we found beside his body,"

said the Inspector. "His wife tells us that the knife had lain upon the

dressing-table, and that he had picked it up as he left the room. It was

a poor weapon, but perhaps the best that he could lay his hands on at

the moment."

"Very possible. How about these papers?"

"Three of them are receipted hay-dealers' accounts. One of them is a

letter of instructions from Colonel Ross. This other is a milliner's

account for thirty-seven pounds fifteen made out by Madame Lesurier,

of Bond Street, to William Derbyshire. Mrs. Straker tells us that

Derbyshire was a friend of her husband's and that occasionally his

letters were addressed here."

"Madam Derbyshire had somewhat expensive tastes," remarked Holmes,

glancing down the account. "Twenty-two guineas is rather heavy for a

single costume. However there appears to be nothing more to learn, and

we may now go down to the scene of the crime."

As we emerged from the sitting-room a woman, who had been waiting in

the passage, took a step forward and laid her hand upon the Inspector's

sleeve. Her face was haggard and thin and eager, stamped with the print

of a recent horror.

"Have you got them? Have you found them?" she panted.

"No, Mrs. Straker. But Mr. Holmes here has come from London to help us,

and we shall do all that is possible."

"Surely I met you in Plymouth at a garden-party some little time ago,

Mrs. Straker?" said Holmes.

"No, sir; you are mistaken."

"Dear me! Why, I could have sworn to it. You wore a costume of

dove-colored silk with ostrich-feather trimming."

"I never had such a dress, sir," answered the lady.

"Ah, that quite settles it," said Holmes. And with an apology he

followed the Inspector outside. A short walk across the moor took us to

the hollow in which the body had been found. At the brink of it was the

furze-bush upon which the coat had been hung.

"There was no wind that night, I understand," said Holmes.

"None; but very heavy rain."

"In that case the overcoat was not blown against the furze-bush, but

placed there."

"Yes, it was laid across the bush."

"You fill me with interest, I perceive that the ground has been trampled

up a good deal. No doubt many feet have been here since Monday night."

"A piece of matting has been laid here at the side, and we have all

stood upon that."


"In this bag I have one of the boots which Straker wore, one of Fitzroy

Simpson's shoes, and a cast horseshoe of Silver Blaze."

"My dear Inspector, you surpass yourself!" Holmes took the bag, and,

descending into the hollow, he pushed the matting into a more central

position. Then stretching himself upon his face and leaning his chin

upon his hands, he made a careful study of the trampled mud in front of

him. "Hullo!" said he, suddenly. "What's this?" It was a wax vesta half

burned, which was so coated with mud that it looked at first like a

little chip of wood.

"I cannot think how I came to overlook it," said the Inspector, with an

expression of annoyance.

"It was invisible, buried in the mud. I only saw it because I was

looking for it."

"What! You expected to find it?"

"I thought it not unlikely."

He took the boots from the bag, and compared the impressions of each of

them with marks upon the ground. Then he clambered up to the rim of the

hollow, and crawled about among the ferns and bushes.

"I am afraid that there are no more tracks," said the Inspector. "I

have examined the ground very carefully for a hundred yards in each


"Indeed!" said Holmes, rising. "I should not have the impertinence to

do it again after what you say. But I should like to take a little walk

over the moor before it grows dark, that I may know my ground to-morrow,

and I think that I shall put this horseshoe into my pocket for luck."

Colonel Ross, who had shown some signs of impatience at my companion's

quiet and systematic method of work, glanced at his watch. "I wish you

would come back with me, Inspector," said he. "There are several points

on which I should like your advice, and especially as to whether we do

not owe it to the public to remove our horse's name from the entries for

the Cup."

"Certainly not," cried Holmes, with decision. "I should let the name


The Colonel bowed. "I am very glad to have had your opinion, sir," said

he. "You will find us at poor Straker's house when you have finished

your walk, and we can drive together into Tavistock."

He turned back with the Inspector, while Holmes and I walked slowly

across the moor. The sun was beginning to sink behind the stables of

Mapleton, and the long, sloping plain in front of us was tinged with

gold, deepening into rich, ruddy browns where the faded ferns and

brambles caught the evening light. But the glories of the landscape were

all wasted upon my companion, who was sunk in the deepest thought.

"It's this way, Watson," said he at last. "We may leave the question

of who killed John Straker for the instant, and confine ourselves to

finding out what has become of the horse. Now, supposing that he broke

away during or after the tragedy, where could he have gone to? The horse

is a very gregarious creature. If left to himself his instincts would

have been either to return to King's Pyland or go over to Mapleton. Why

should he run wild upon the moor? He would surely have been seen by now.

And why should gypsies kidnap him? These people always clear out when

they hear of trouble, for they do not wish to be pestered by the police.

They could not hope to sell such a horse. They would run a great risk

and gain nothing by taking him. Surely that is clear."

"Where is he, then?"

"I have already said that he must have gone to King's Pyland or to

Mapleton. He is not at King's Pyland. Therefore he is at Mapleton. Let

us take that as a working hypothesis and see what it leads us to. This

part of the moor, as the Inspector remarked, is very hard and dry. But

it falls away towards Mapleton, and you can see from here that there

is a long hollow over yonder, which must have been very wet on Monday

night. If our supposition is correct, then the horse must have crossed

that, and there is the point where we should look for his tracks."

We had been walking briskly during this conversation, and a few more

minutes brought us to the hollow in question. At Holmes' request I

walked down the bank to the right, and he to the left, but I had not

taken fifty paces before I heard him give a shout, and saw him waving

his hand to me. The track of a horse was plainly outlined in the soft

earth in front of him, and the shoe which he took from his pocket

exactly fitted the impression.

"See the value of imagination," said Holmes. "It is the one quality

which Gregory lacks. We imagined what might have happened, acted upon

the supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed."

We crossed the marshy bottom and passed over a quarter of a mile of dry,

hard turf. Again the ground sloped, and again we came on the tracks.

Then we lost them for half a mile, but only to pick them up once more

quite close to Mapleton. It was Holmes who saw them first, and he stood

pointing with a look of triumph upon his face. A man's track was visible

beside the horse's.

"The horse was alone before," I cried.

"Quite so. It was alone before. Hullo, what is this?"

The double track turned sharp off and took the direction of King's

Pyland. Holmes whistled, and we both followed along after it. His eyes

were on the trail, but I happened to look a little to one side, and

saw to my surprise the same tracks coming back again in the opposite


"One for you, Watson," said Holmes, when I pointed it out. "You have

saved us a long walk, which would have brought us back on our own

traces. Let us follow the return track."

We had not to go far. It ended at the paving of asphalt which led up

to the gates of the Mapleton stables. As we approached, a groom ran out

from them.

"We don't want any loiterers about here," said he.

"I only wished to ask a question," said Holmes, with his finger and

thumb in his waistcoat pocket. "Should I be too early to see your

master, Mr. Silas Brown, if I were to call at five o'clock to-morrow


"Bless you, sir, if any one is about he will be, for he is always

the first stirring. But here he is, sir, to answer your questions for

himself. No, sir, no; it is as much as my place is worth to let him see

me touch your money. Afterwards, if you like."

As Sherlock Holmes replaced the half-crown which he had drawn from his

pocket, a fierce-looking elderly man strode out from the gate with a

hunting-crop swinging in his hand.

"What's this, Dawson!" he cried. "No gossiping! Go about your business!

And you, what the devil do you want here?"

"Ten minutes' talk with you, my good sir," said Holmes in the sweetest

of voices.

"I've no time to talk to every gadabout. We want no stranger here. Be

off, or you may find a dog at your heels."

Holmes leaned forward and whispered something in the trainer's ear. He

started violently and flushed to the temples.

"It's a lie!" he shouted, "an infernal lie!"

"Very good. Shall we argue about it here in public or talk it over in

your parlor?"

"Oh, come in if you wish to."

Holmes smiled. "I shall not keep you more than a few minutes, Watson,"

said he. "Now, Mr. Brown, I am quite at your disposal."

It was twenty minutes, and the reds had all faded into grays before

Holmes and the trainer reappeared. Never have I seen such a change as

had been brought about in Silas Brown in that short time. His face was

ashy pale, beads of perspiration shone upon his brow, and his hands

shook until the hunting-crop wagged like a branch in the wind. His

bullying, overbearing manner was all gone too, and he cringed along at

my companion's side like a dog with its master.

"Your instructions will be done. It shall all be done," said he.

"There must be no mistake," said Holmes, looking round at him. The other

winced as he read the menace in his eyes.

"Oh no, there shall be no mistake. It shall be there. Should I change it

first or not?"

Holmes thought a little and then burst out laughing. "No, don't," said

he; "I shall write to you about it. No tricks, now, or--"

"Oh, you can trust me, you can trust me!"

"Yes, I think I can. Well, you shall hear from me to-morrow." He turned

upon his heel, disregarding the trembling hand which the other held out

to him, and we set off for King's Pyland.

"A more perfect compound of the bully, coward, and sneak than Master

Silas Brown I have seldom met with," remarked Holmes as we trudged along


"He has the horse, then?"

"He tried to bluster out of it, but I described to him so exactly what

his actions had been upon that morning that he is convinced that I was

watching him. Of course you observed the peculiarly square toes in the

impressions, and that his own boots exactly corresponded to them.

Again, of course no subordinate would have dared to do such a thing.

I described to him how, when according to his custom he was the first

down, he perceived a strange horse wandering over the moor. How he went

out to it, and his astonishment at recognizing, from the white forehead

which has given the favorite its name, that chance had put in his power

the only horse which could beat the one upon which he had put his money.

Then I described how his first impulse had been to lead him back to

King's Pyland, and how the devil had shown him how he could hide the

horse until the race was over, and how he had led it back and concealed

it at Mapleton. When I told him every detail he gave it up and thought

only of saving his own skin."

"But his stables had been searched?"

"Oh, an old horse-faker like him has many a dodge."

"But are you not afraid to leave the horse in his power now, since he

has every interest in injuring it?"

"My dear fellow, he will guard it as the apple of his eye. He knows that

his only hope of mercy is to produce it safe."

"Colonel Ross did not impress me as a man who would be likely to show

much mercy in any case."

"The matter does not rest with Colonel Ross. I follow my own methods,

and tell as much or as little as I choose. That is the advantage of

being unofficial. I don't know whether you observed it, Watson, but the

Colonel's manner has been just a trifle cavalier to me. I am inclined

now to have a little amusement at his expense. Say nothing to him about

the horse."

"Certainly not without your permission."

"And of course this is all quite a minor point compared to the question

of who killed John Straker."

"And you will devote yourself to that?"

"On the contrary, we both go back to London by the night train."

I was thunderstruck by my friend's words. We had only been a few hours

in Devonshire, and that he should give up an investigation which he had

begun so brilliantly was quite incomprehensible to me. Not a word more

could I draw from him until we were back at the trainer's house. The

Colonel and the Inspector were awaiting us in the parlor.

"My friend and I return to town by the night-express," said Holmes. "We

have had a charming little breath of your beautiful Dartmoor air."

The Inspector opened his eyes, and the Colonel's lip curled in a sneer.

"So you despair of arresting the murderer of poor Straker," said he.

Holmes shrugged his shoulders. "There are certainly grave difficulties

in the way," said he. "I have every hope, however, that your horse

will start upon Tuesday, and I beg that you will have your jockey in

readiness. Might I ask for a photograph of Mr. John Straker?"

The Inspector took one from an envelope and handed it to him.

"My dear Gregory, you anticipate all my wants. If I might ask you to

wait here for an instant, I have a question which I should like to put

to the maid."

"I must say that I am rather disappointed in our London consultant,"

said Colonel Ross, bluntly, as my friend left the room. "I do not see

that we are any further than when he came."

"At least you have his assurance that your horse will run," said I.

"Yes, I have his assurance," said the Colonel, with a shrug of his

shoulders. "I should prefer to have the horse."

I was about to make some reply in defence of my friend when he entered

the room again.

"Now, gentlemen," said he, "I am quite ready for Tavistock."

As we stepped into the carriage one of the stable-lads held the door

open for us. A sudden idea seemed to occur to Holmes, for he leaned

forward and touched the lad upon the sleeve.

"You have a few sheep in the paddock," he said. "Who attends to them?"

"I do, sir."

"Have you noticed anything amiss with them of late?"

"Well, sir, not of much account; but three of them have gone lame, sir."

I could see that Holmes was extremely pleased, for he chuckled and

rubbed his hands together.

"A long shot, Watson; a very long shot," said he, pinching my arm.

"Gregory, let me recommend to your attention this singular epidemic

among the sheep. Drive on, coachman!"

Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the poor opinion

which he had formed of my companion's ability, but I saw by the

Inspector's face that his attention had been keenly aroused.

"You consider that to be important?" he asked.

"Exceedingly so."

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Four days later Holmes and I were again in the train, bound for

Winchester to see the race for the Wessex Cup. Colonel Ross met us by

appointment outside the station, and we drove in his drag to the course

beyond the town. His face was grave, and his manner was cold in the


"I have seen nothing of my horse," said he.

"I suppose that you would know him when you saw him?" asked Holmes.

The Colonel was very angry. "I have been on the turf for twenty years,

and never was asked such a question as that before," said he. "A

child would know Silver Blaze, with his white forehead and his mottled


"How is the betting?"

"Well, that is the curious part of it. You could have got fifteen to one

yesterday, but the price has become shorter and shorter, until you can

hardly get three to one now."

"Hum!" said Holmes. "Somebody knows something, that is clear."

As the drag drew up in the enclosure near the grand stand I glanced at

the card to see the entries.

Wessex Plate [it ran] 50 sovs each h ft with 1000 sovs added for four

and five year olds. Second, L300. Third, L200. New course (one mile and

five furlongs). Mr. Heath Newton's The Negro. Red cap. Cinnamon jacket.

Colonel Wardlaw's Pugilist. Pink cap. Blue and black jacket. Lord

Backwater's Desborough. Yellow cap and sleeves. Colonel Ross's Silver

Blaze. Black cap. Red jacket. Duke of Balmoral's Iris. Yellow and black

stripes. Lord Singleford's Rasper. Purple cap. Black sleeves.

"We scratched our other one, and put all hopes on your word," said the

Colonel. "Why, what is that? Silver Blaze favorite?"

"Five to four against Silver Blaze!" roared the ring. "Five to four

against Silver Blaze! Five to fifteen against Desborough! Five to four

on the field!"

"There are the numbers up," I cried. "They are all six there."

"All six there? Then my horse is running," cried the Colonel in great

agitation. "But I don't see him. My colors have not passed."

"Only five have passed. This must be he."

As I spoke a powerful bay horse swept out from the weighing enclosure

and cantered past us, bearing on its back the well-known black and red

of the Colonel.

"That's not my horse," cried the owner. "That beast has not a white hair

upon its body. What is this that you have done, Mr. Holmes?"

"Well, well, let us see how he gets on," said my friend, imperturbably.

For a few minutes he gazed through my field-glass. "Capital! An

excellent start!" he cried suddenly. "There they are, coming round the


From our drag we had a superb view as they came up the straight. The six

horses were so close together that a carpet could have covered them,

but half way up the yellow of the Mapleton stable showed to the front.

Before they reached us, however, Desborough's bolt was shot, and the

Colonel's horse, coming away with a rush, passed the post a good six

lengths before its rival, the Duke of Balmoral's Iris making a bad


"It's my race, anyhow," gasped the Colonel, passing his hand over his

eyes. "I confess that I can make neither head nor tail of it. Don't you

think that you have kept up your mystery long enough, Mr. Holmes?"

"Certainly, Colonel, you shall know everything. Let us all go round and

have a look at the horse together. Here he is," he continued, as we made

our way into the weighing enclosure, where only owners and their friends

find admittance. "You have only to wash his face and his leg in spirits

of wine, and you will find that he is the same old Silver Blaze as


"You take my breath away!"

"I found him in the hands of a faker, and took the liberty of running

him just as he was sent over."

"My dear sir, you have done wonders. The horse looks very fit and well.

It never went better in its life. I owe you a thousand apologies

for having doubted your ability. You have done me a great service by

recovering my horse. You would do me a greater still if you could lay

your hands on the murderer of John Straker."

"I have done so," said Holmes quietly.

The Colonel and I stared at him in amazement. "You have got him! Where

is he, then?"

"He is here."

"Here! Where?"

"In my company at the present moment."

The Colonel flushed angrily. "I quite recognize that I am under

obligations to you, Mr. Holmes," said he, "but I must regard what you

have just said as either a very bad joke or an insult."

Sherlock Holmes laughed. "I assure you that I have not associated

you with the crime, Colonel," said he. "The real murderer is standing

immediately behind you." He stepped past and laid his hand upon the

glossy neck of the thoroughbred.

"The horse!" cried both the Colonel and myself.

"Yes, the horse. And it may lessen his guilt if I say that it was

done in self-defence, and that John Straker was a man who was entirely

unworthy of your confidence. But there goes the bell, and as I stand

to win a little on this next race, I shall defer a lengthy explanation

until a more fitting time."

We had the corner of a Pullman car to ourselves that evening as we

whirled back to London, and I fancy that the journey was a short one

to Colonel Ross as well as to myself, as we listened to our

companion's narrative of the events which had occurred at the Dartmoor

training-stables upon the Monday night, and the means by which he had

unravelled them.

"I confess," said he, "that any theories which I had formed from

the newspaper reports were entirely erroneous. And yet there were

indications there, had they not been overlaid by other details which

concealed their true import. I went to Devonshire with the conviction

that Fitzroy Simpson was the true culprit, although, of course, I saw

that the evidence against him was by no means complete. It was while I

was in the carriage, just as we reached the trainer's house, that the

immense significance of the curried mutton occurred to me. You may

remember that I was distrait, and remained sitting after you had all

alighted. I was marvelling in my own mind how I could possibly have

overlooked so obvious a clue."

"I confess," said the Colonel, "that even now I cannot see how it helps


"It was the first link in my chain of reasoning. Powdered opium is by no

means tasteless. The flavor is not disagreeable, but it is perceptible.

Were it mixed with any ordinary dish the eater would undoubtedly detect

it, and would probably eat no more. A curry was exactly the medium

which would disguise this taste. By no possible supposition could

this stranger, Fitzroy Simpson, have caused curry to be served in

the trainer's family that night, and it is surely too monstrous a

coincidence to suppose that he happened to come along with powdered

opium upon the very night when a dish happened to be served which would

disguise the flavor. That is unthinkable. Therefore Simpson becomes

eliminated from the case, and our attention centers upon Straker and

his wife, the only two people who could have chosen curried mutton for

supper that night. The opium was added after the dish was set aside

for the stable-boy, for the others had the same for supper with no ill

effects. Which of them, then, had access to that dish without the maid

seeing them?

"Before deciding that question I had grasped the significance of the

silence of the dog, for one true inference invariably suggests others.

The Simpson incident had shown me that a dog was kept in the stables,

and yet, though some one had been in and had fetched out a horse, he

had not barked enough to arouse the two lads in the loft. Obviously the

midnight visitor was some one whom the dog knew well.

"I was already convinced, or almost convinced, that John Straker went

down to the stables in the dead of the night and took out Silver Blaze.

For what purpose? For a dishonest one, obviously, or why should he drug

his own stable-boy? And yet I was at a loss to know why. There have been

cases before now where trainers have made sure of great sums of money

by laying against their own horses, through agents, and then preventing

them from winning by fraud. Sometimes it is a pulling jockey. Sometimes

it is some surer and subtler means. What was it here? I hoped that the

contents of his pockets might help me to form a conclusion.

"And they did so. You cannot have forgotten the singular knife which was

found in the dead man's hand, a knife which certainly no sane man would

choose for a weapon. It was, as Dr. Watson told us, a form of knife

which is used for the most delicate operations known in surgery. And it

was to be used for a delicate operation that night. You must know, with

your wide experience of turf matters, Colonel Ross, that it is possible

to make a slight nick upon the tendons of a horse's ham, and to do it

subcutaneously, so as to leave absolutely no trace. A horse so treated

would develop a slight lameness, which would be put down to a strain in

exercise or a touch of rheumatism, but never to foul play."

"Villain! Scoundrel!" cried the Colonel.

"We have here the explanation of why John Straker wished to take the

horse out on to the moor. So spirited a creature would have certainly

roused the soundest of sleepers when it felt the prick of the knife. It

was absolutely necessary to do it in the open air."

"I have been blind!" cried the Colonel. "Of course that was why he

needed the candle, and struck the match."

"Undoubtedly. But in examining his belongings I was fortunate enough to

discover not only the method of the crime, but even its motives. As a

man of the world, Colonel, you know that men do not carry other people's

bills about in their pockets. We have most of us quite enough to do to

settle our own. I at once concluded that Straker was leading a double

life, and keeping a second establishment. The nature of the bill showed

that there was a lady in the case, and one who had expensive tastes.

Liberal as you are with your servants, one can hardly expect that they

can buy twenty-guinea walking dresses for their ladies. I questioned

Mrs. Straker as to the dress without her knowing it, and having

satisfied myself that it had never reached her, I made a note of the

milliner's address, and felt that by calling there with Straker's

photograph I could easily dispose of the mythical Derbyshire.

"From that time on all was plain. Straker had led out the horse to a

hollow where his light would be invisible. Simpson in his flight had

dropped his cravat, and Straker had picked it up--with some idea,

perhaps, that he might use it in securing the horse's leg. Once in the

hollow, he had got behind the horse and had struck a light; but the

creature frightened at the sudden glare, and with the strange instinct

of animals feeling that some mischief was intended, had lashed out, and

the steel shoe had struck Straker full on the forehead. He had already,

in spite of the rain, taken off his overcoat in order to do his delicate

task, and so, as he fell, his knife gashed his thigh. Do I make it


"Wonderful!" cried the Colonel. "Wonderful! You might have been there!"

"My final shot was, I confess a very long one. It struck me that so

astute a man as Straker would not undertake this delicate tendon-nicking

without a little practice. What could he practice on? My eyes fell upon

the sheep, and I asked a question which, rather to my surprise, showed

that my surmise was correct.

"When I returned to London I called upon the milliner, who had

recognized Straker as an excellent customer of the name of Derbyshire,

who had a very dashing wife, with a strong partiality for expensive

dresses. I have no doubt that this woman had plunged him over head and

ears in debt, and so led him into this miserable plot."

"You have explained all but one thing," cried the Colonel. "Where was

the horse?"

"Ah, it bolted, and was cared for by one of your neighbors. We must have

an amnesty in that direction, I think. This is Clapham Junction, if I am

not mistaken, and we shall be in Victoria in less than ten minutes. If

you care to smoke a cigar in our rooms, Colonel, I shall be happy to

give you any other details which might interest you."