"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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."
"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
"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
"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
"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."