The Adventure Of The Missing Three-quarter
We were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at Baker Street,
but I have a particular recollection of one which reached us on a gloomy
February morning, some seven or eight years ago, and gave Mr. Sherlock
Holmes a puzzled quarter of an hour. It was addressed to him, and ran
Please await me. Terrible misfortune. Right wing three-quarter missing,
indispensable to-morrow. OVERTON
"Strand postmark, and dispatched ten thirty-six," said Holmes, reading
it over and over. "Mr. Overton was evidently considerably excited when
he sent it, and somewhat incoherent in consequence. Well, well, he will
be here, I daresay, by the time I have looked through the TIMES, and
then we shall know all about it. Even the most insignificant problem
would be welcome in these stagnant days."
Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned to dread
such periods of inaction, for I knew by experience that my companion's
brain was so abnormally active that it was dangerous to leave it without
material upon which to work. For years I had gradually weaned him
from that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable
career. Now I knew that under ordinary conditions he no longer craved
for this artificial stimulus, but I was well aware that the fiend was
not dead but sleeping, and I have known that the sleep was a light one
and the waking near when in periods of idleness I have seen the drawn
look upon Holmes's ascetic face, and the brooding of his deep-set and
inscrutable eyes. Therefore I blessed this Mr. Overton whoever he might
be, since he had come with his enigmatic message to break that dangerous
calm which brought more peril to my friend than all the storms of his
As we had expected, the telegram was soon followed by its sender, and
the card of Mr. Cyril Overton, Trinity College, Cambridge, announced
the arrival of an enormous young man, sixteen stone of solid bone and
muscle, who spanned the doorway with his broad shoulders, and looked
from one of us to the other with a comely face which was haggard with
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
My companion bowed.
"I've been down to Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes. I saw Inspector Stanley
Hopkins. He advised me to come to you. He said the case, so far as he
could see, was more in your line than in that of the regular police."
"Pray sit down and tell me what is the matter."
"It's awful, Mr. Holmes--simply awful I wonder my hair isn't gray.
Godfrey Staunton--you've heard of him, of course? He's simply the hinge
that the whole team turns on. I'd rather spare two from the pack,
and have Godfrey for my three-quarter line. Whether it's passing, or
tackling, or dribbling, there's no one to touch him, and then, he's got
the head, and can hold us all together. What am I to do? That's what I
ask you, Mr. Holmes. There's Moorhouse, first reserve, but he is trained
as a half, and he always edges right in on to the scrum instead of
keeping out on the touchline. He's a fine place-kick, it's true, but
then he has no judgment, and he can't sprint for nuts. Why, Morton or
Johnson, the Oxford fliers, could romp round him. Stevenson is
fast enough, but he couldn't drop from the twenty-five line, and a
three-quarter who can't either punt or drop isn't worth a place for
pace alone. No, Mr. Holmes, we are done unless you can help me to find
My friend had listened with amused surprise to this long speech, which
was poured forth with extraordinary vigour and earnestness, every point
being driven home by the slapping of a brawny hand upon the speaker's
knee. When our visitor was silent Holmes stretched out his hand and took
down letter "S" of his commonplace book. For once he dug in vain into
that mine of varied information.
"There is Arthur H. Staunton, the rising young forger," said he, "and
there was Henry Staunton, whom I helped to hang, but Godfrey Staunton is
a new name to me."
It was our visitor's turn to look surprised.
"Why, Mr. Holmes, I thought you knew things," said he. "I suppose,
then, if you have never heard of Godfrey Staunton, you don't know Cyril
Holmes shook his head good humouredly.
"Great Scott!" cried the athlete. "Why, I was first reserve for England
against Wales, and I've skippered the 'Varsity all this year. But that's
nothing! I didn't think there was a soul in England who didn't know
Godfrey Staunton, the crack three-quarter, Cambridge, Blackheath, and
five Internationals. Good Lord! Mr. Holmes, where HAVE you lived?"
Holmes laughed at the young giant's naive astonishment.
"You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overton--a sweeter and
healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many sections of
society, but never, I am happy to say, into amateur sport, which is the
best and soundest thing in England. However, your unexpected visit this
morning shows me that even in that world of fresh air and fair play,
there may be work for me to do. So now, my good sir, I beg you to sit
down and to tell me, slowly and quietly, exactly what it is that has
occurred, and how you desire that I should help you."
Young Overton's face assumed the bothered look of the man who is more
accustomed to using his muscles than his wits, but by degrees, with many
repetitions and obscurities which I may omit from his narrative, he laid
his strange story before us.
"It's this way, Mr. Holmes. As I have said, I am the skipper of the
Rugger team of Cambridge 'Varsity, and Godfrey Staunton is my best man.
To-morrow we play Oxford. Yesterday we all came up, and we settled at
Bentley's private hotel. At ten o'clock I went round and saw that all
the fellows had gone to roost, for I believe in strict training and
plenty of sleep to keep a team fit. I had a word or two with Godfrey
before he turned in. He seemed to me to be pale and bothered. I asked
him what was the matter. He said he was all right--just a touch of
headache. I bade him good-night and left him. Half an hour later, the
porter tells me that a rough-looking man with a beard called with a note
for Godfrey. He had not gone to bed, and the note was taken to his room.
Godfrey read it, and fell back in a chair as if he had been pole-axed.
The porter was so scared that he was going to fetch me, but Godfrey
stopped him, had a drink of water, and pulled himself together. Then
he went downstairs, said a few words to the man who was waiting in the
hall, and the two of them went off together. The last that the porter
saw of them, they were almost running down the street in the direction
of the Strand. This morning Godfrey's room was empty, his bed had never
been slept in, and his things were all just as I had seen them the night
before. He had gone off at a moment's notice with this stranger, and no
word has come from him since. I don't believe he will ever come back. He
was a sportsman, was Godfrey, down to his marrow, and he wouldn't have
stopped his training and let in his skipper if it were not for some
cause that was too strong for him. No: I feel as if he were gone for
good, and we should never see him again."
Sherlock Holmes listened with the deepest attention to this singular
"What did you do?" he asked.
"I wired to Cambridge to learn if anything had been heard of him there.
I have had an answer. No one has seen him."
"Could he have got back to Cambridge?"
"Yes, there is a late train--quarter-past eleven."
"But, so far as you can ascertain, he did not take it?"
"No, he has not been seen."
"What did you do next?"
"I wired to Lord Mount-James."
"Why to Lord Mount-James?"
"Godfrey is an orphan, and Lord Mount-James is his nearest relative--his
uncle, I believe."
"Indeed. This throws new light upon the matter. Lord Mount-James is one
of the richest men in England."
"So I've heard Godfrey say."
"And your friend was closely related?"
"Yes, he was his heir, and the old boy is nearly eighty--cram full of
gout, too. They say he could chalk his billiard-cue with his knuckles.
He never allowed Godfrey a shilling in his life, for he is an absolute
miser, but it will all come to him right enough."
"Have you heard from Lord Mount-James?"
"What motive could your friend have in going to Lord Mount-James?"
"Well, something was worrying him the night before, and if it was to do
with money it is possible that he would make for his nearest relative,
who had so much of it, though from all I have heard he would not have
much chance of getting it. Godfrey was not fond of the old man. He would
not go if he could help it."
"Well, we can soon determine that. If your friend was going to his
relative, Lord Mount-James, you have then to explain the visit of this
rough-looking fellow at so late an hour, and the agitation that was
caused by his coming."
Cyril Overton pressed his hands to his head. "I can make nothing of it,"
"Well, well, I have a clear day, and I shall be happy to look into the
matter," said Holmes. "I should strongly recommend you to make your
preparations for your match without reference to this young gentleman.
It must, as you say, have been an overpowering necessity which tore him
away in such a fashion, and the same necessity is likely to hold him
away. Let us step round together to the hotel, and see if the porter can
throw any fresh light upon the matter."
Sherlock Holmes was a past-master in the art of putting a humble
witness at his ease, and very soon, in the privacy of Godfrey Staunton's
abandoned room, he had extracted all that the porter had to tell.
The visitor of the night before was not a gentleman, neither was he a
workingman. He was simply what the porter described as a "medium-looking
chap," a man of fifty, beard grizzled, pale face, quietly dressed.
He seemed himself to be agitated. The porter had observed his hand
trembling when he had held out the note. Godfrey Staunton had crammed
the note into his pocket. Staunton had not shaken hands with the man in
the hall. They had exchanged a few sentences, of which the porter had
only distinguished the one word "time." Then they had hurried off in the
manner described. It was just half-past ten by the hall clock.
"Let me see," said Holmes, seating himself on Staunton's bed. "You are
the day porter, are you not?"
"Yes, sir, I go off duty at eleven."
"The night porter saw nothing, I suppose?"
"No, sir, one theatre party came in late. No one else."
"Were you on duty all day yesterday?"
"Did you take any messages to Mr. Staunton?"
"Yes, sir, one telegram."
"Ah! that's interesting. What o'clock was this?"
"Where was Mr. Staunton when he received it?"
"Here in his room."
"Were you present when he opened it?"
"Yes, sir, I waited to see if there was an answer."
"Well, was there?"
"Yes, sir, he wrote an answer."
"Did you take it?"
"No, he took it himself."
"But he wrote it in your presence."
"Yes, sir. I was standing by the door, and he with his back turned at
that table. When he had written it, he said: 'All right, porter, I will
take this myself.'"
"What did he write it with?"
"A pen, sir."
"Was the telegraphic form one of these on the table?"
"Yes, sir, it was the top one."
Holmes rose. Taking the forms, he carried them over to the window and
carefully examined that which was uppermost.
"It is a pity he did not write in pencil," said he, throwing them down
again with a shrug of disappointment. "As you have no doubt frequently
observed, Watson, the impression usually goes through--a fact which has
dissolved many a happy marriage. However, I can find no trace here. I
rejoice, however, to perceive that he wrote with a broad-pointed quill
pen, and I can hardly doubt that we will find some impression upon this
blotting-pad. Ah, yes, surely this is the very thing!"
He tore off a strip of the blotting-paper and turned towards us the
Cyril Overton was much excited. "Hold it to the glass!" he cried.
"That is unnecessary," said Holmes. "The paper is thin, and the reverse
will give the message. Here it is." He turned it over, and we read:
[Stand by us for Gods sake]
"So that is the tail end of the telegram which Godfrey Staunton
dispatched within a few hours of his disappearance. There are at least
six words of the message which have escaped us; but what remains--'Stand
by us for God's sake!'--proves that this young man saw a formidable
danger which approached him, and from which someone else could protect
him. 'US,' mark you! Another person was involved. Who should it be but
the pale-faced, bearded man, who seemed himself in so nervous a state?
What, then, is the connection between Godfrey Staunton and the bearded
man? And what is the third source from which each of them sought for
help against pressing danger? Our inquiry has already narrowed down to
"We have only to find to whom that telegram is addressed," I suggested.
"Exactly, my dear Watson. Your reflection, though profound, had already
crossed my mind. But I daresay it may have come to your notice that,
counterfoil of another man's message, there may be some disinclination
on the part of the officials to oblige you. There is so much red tape in
these matters. However, I have no doubt that with a little delicacy
and finesse the end may be attained. Meanwhile, I should like in your
presence, Mr. Overton, to go through these papers which have been left
upon the table."
There were a number of letters, bills, and notebooks, which Holmes
turned over and examined with quick, nervous fingers and darting,
penetrating eyes. "Nothing here," he said, at last. "By the way, I
suppose your friend was a healthy young fellow--nothing amiss with him?"
"Sound as a bell."
"Have you ever known him ill?"
"Not a day. He has been laid up with a hack, and once he slipped his
knee-cap, but that was nothing."
"Perhaps he was not so strong as you suppose. I should think he may
have had some secret trouble. With your assent, I will put one or two
of these papers in my pocket, in case they should bear upon our future
"One moment--one moment!" cried a querulous voice, and we looked up to
find a queer little old man, jerking and twitching in the doorway. He
was dressed in rusty black, with a very broad-brimmed top-hat and a
loose white necktie--the whole effect being that of a very rustic parson
or of an undertaker's mute. Yet, in spite of his shabby and even absurd
appearance, his voice had a sharp crackle, and his manner a quick
intensity which commanded attention.
"Who are you, sir, and by what right do you touch this gentleman's
papers?" he asked.
"I am a private detective, and I am endeavouring to explain his
"Oh, you are, are you? And who instructed you, eh?"
"This gentleman, Mr. Staunton's friend, was referred to me by Scotland
"Who are you, sir?"
"I am Cyril Overton."
"Then it is you who sent me a telegram. My name is Lord Mount-James. I
came round as quickly as the Bayswater bus would bring me. So you have
instructed a detective?"
"And are you prepared to meet the cost?"
"I have no doubt, sir, that my friend Godfrey, when we find him, will be
prepared to do that."
"But if he is never found, eh? Answer me that!"
"In that case, no doubt his family----"
"Nothing of the sort, sir!" screamed the little man. "Don't look to me
for a penny--not a penny! You understand that, Mr. Detective! I am all
the family that this young man has got, and I tell you that I am not
responsible. If he has any expectations it is due to the fact that I
have never wasted money, and I do not propose to begin to do so now. As
to those papers with which you are making so free, I may tell you that
in case there should be anything of any value among them, you will be
held strictly to account for what you do with them."
"Very good, sir," said Sherlock Holmes. "May I ask, in the meanwhile,
whether you have yourself any theory to account for this young man's
"No, sir, I have not. He is big enough and old enough to look after
himself, and if he is so foolish as to lose himself, I entirely refuse
to accept the responsibility of hunting for him."
"I quite understand your position," said Holmes, with a mischievous
twinkle in his eyes. "Perhaps you don't quite understand mine. Godfrey
Staunton appears to have been a poor man. If he has been kidnapped, it
could not have been for anything which he himself possesses. The fame
of your wealth has gone abroad, Lord Mount-James, and it is entirely
possible that a gang of thieves have secured your nephew in order to
gain from him some information as to your house, your habits, and your
The face of our unpleasant little visitor turned as white as his
"Heavens, sir, what an idea! I never thought of such villainy! What
inhuman rogues there are in the world! But Godfrey is a fine lad--a
staunch lad. Nothing would induce him to give his old uncle away. I'll
have the plate moved over to the bank this evening. In the meantime
spare no pains, Mr. Detective! I beg you to leave no stone unturned to
bring him safely back. As to money, well, so far as a fiver or even a
tenner goes you can always look to me."
Even in his chastened frame of mind, the noble miser could give us no
information which could help us, for he knew little of the private life
of his nephew. Our only clue lay in the truncated telegram, and with a
copy of this in his hand Holmes set forth to find a second link for
his chain. We had shaken off Lord Mount-James, and Overton had gone to
consult with the other members of his team over the misfortune which had
There was a telegraph-office at a short distance from the hotel. We
halted outside it.
"It's worth trying, Watson," said Holmes. "Of course, with a warrant we
could demand to see the counterfoils, but we have not reached that stage
yet. I don't suppose they remember faces in so busy a place. Let us
"I am sorry to trouble you," said he, in his blandest manner, to the
young woman behind the grating; "there is some small mistake about a
telegram I sent yesterday. I have had no answer, and I very much fear
that I must have omitted to put my name at the end. Could you tell me if
this was so?"
The young woman turned over a sheaf of counterfoils.
"What o'clock was it?" she asked.
"A little after six."
"Whom was it to?"
Holmes put his finger to his lips and glanced at me. "The last words
in it were 'For God's sake,'" he whispered, confidentially; "I am very
anxious at getting no answer."
The young woman separated one of the forms.
"This is it. There is no name," said she, smoothing it out upon the
"Then that, of course, accounts for my getting no answer," said Holmes.
"Dear me, how very stupid of me, to be sure! Good-morning, miss, and
many thanks for having relieved my mind." He chuckled and rubbed his
hands when we found ourselves in the street once more.
"Well?" I asked.
"We progress, my dear Watson, we progress. I had seven different schemes
for getting a glimpse of that telegram, but I could hardly hope to
succeed the very first time."
"And what have you gained?"
"A starting-point for our investigation." He hailed a cab. "King's Cross
Station," said he.
"We have a journey, then?"
"Yes, I think we must run down to Cambridge together. All the
indications seem to me to point in that direction."
"Tell me," I asked, as we rattled up Gray's Inn Road, "have you any
suspicion yet as to the cause of the disappearance? I don't think that
among all our cases I have known one where the motives are more obscure.
Surely you don't really imagine that he may be kidnapped in order to
give information against his wealthy uncle?"
"I confess, my dear Watson, that that does not appeal to me as a very
probable explanation. It struck me, however, as being the one which was
most likely to interest that exceedingly unpleasant old person."
"It certainly did that; but what are your alternatives?"
"I could mention several. You must admit that it is curious and
suggestive that this incident should occur on the eve of this important
match, and should involve the only man whose presence seems essential to
the success of the side. It may, of course, be a coincidence, but it
is interesting. Amateur sport is free from betting, but a good deal of
outside betting goes on among the public, and it is possible that it
might be worth someone's while to get at a player as the ruffians of
the turf get at a race-horse. There is one explanation. A second
very obvious one is that this young man really is the heir of a great
property, however modest his means may at present be, and it is not
impossible that a plot to hold him for ransom might be concocted."
"These theories take no account of the telegram."
"Quite true, Watson. The telegram still remains the only solid thing
with which we have to deal, and we must not permit our attention to
wander away from it. It is to gain light upon the purpose of this
telegram that we are now upon our way to Cambridge. The path of our
investigation is at present obscure, but I shall be very much surprised
if before evening we have not cleared it up, or made a considerable
advance along it."
It was already dark when we reached the old university city. Holmes took
a cab at the station and ordered the man to drive to the house of Dr.
Leslie Armstrong. A few minutes later, we had stopped at a large mansion
in the busiest thoroughfare. We were shown in, and after a long wait
were at last admitted into the consulting-room, where we found the
doctor seated behind his table.
It argues the degree in which I had lost touch with my profession that
the name of Leslie Armstrong was unknown to me. Now I am aware that he
is not only one of the heads of the medical school of the university,
but a thinker of European reputation in more than one branch of science.
Yet even without knowing his brilliant record one could not fail to be
impressed by a mere glance at the man, the square, massive face, the
brooding eyes under the thatched brows, and the granite moulding of the
inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a man with an alert mind, grim,
ascetic, self-contained, formidable--so I read Dr. Leslie Armstrong. He
held my friend's card in his hand, and he looked up with no very pleased
expression upon his dour features.
"I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I am aware of your
profession--one of which I by no means approve."
"In that, Doctor, you will find yourself in agreement with every
criminal in the country," said my friend, quietly.
"So far as your efforts are directed towards the suppression of crime,
sir, they must have the support of every reasonable member of the
community, though I cannot doubt that the official machinery is amply
sufficient for the purpose. Where your calling is more open to criticism
is when you pry into the secrets of private individuals, when you rake
up family matters which are better hidden, and when you incidentally
waste the time of men who are more busy than yourself. At the present
moment, for example, I should be writing a treatise instead of
conversing with you."
"No doubt, Doctor; and yet the conversation may prove more important
than the treatise. Incidentally, I may tell you that we are doing the
reverse of what you very justly blame, and that we are endeavouring
to prevent anything like public exposure of private matters which must
necessarily follow when once the case is fairly in the hands of the
official police. You may look upon me simply as an irregular pioneer,
who goes in front of the regular forces of the country. I have come to
ask you about Mr. Godfrey Staunton."
"What about him?"
"You know him, do you not?"
"He is an intimate friend of mine."
"You are aware that he has disappeared?"
"Ah, indeed!" There was no change of expression in the rugged features
of the doctor.
"He left his hotel last night--he has not been heard of."
"No doubt he will return."
"To-morrow is the 'Varsity football match."
"I have no sympathy with these childish games. The young man's fate
interests me deeply, since I know him and like him. The football match
does not come within my horizon at all."
"I claim your sympathy, then, in my investigation of Mr. Staunton's
fate. Do you know where he is?"
"You have not seen him since yesterday?"
"No, I have not."
"Was Mr. Staunton a healthy man?"
"Did you ever know him ill?"
Holmes popped a sheet of paper before the doctor's eyes. "Then perhaps
you will explain this receipted bill for thirteen guineas, paid by Mr.
Godfrey Staunton last month to Dr. Leslie Armstrong, of Cambridge. I
picked it out from among the papers upon his desk."
The doctor flushed with anger.
"I do not feel that there is any reason why I should render an
explanation to you, Mr. Holmes."
Holmes replaced the bill in his notebook. "If you prefer a public
explanation, it must come sooner or later," said he. "I have already
told you that I can hush up that which others will be bound to publish,
and you would really be wiser to take me into your complete confidence."
"I know nothing about it."
"Did you hear from Mr. Staunton in London?"
"Dear me, dear me--the postoffice again!" Holmes sighed, wearily.
"A most urgent telegram was dispatched to you from London by Godfrey
Staunton at six-fifteen yesterday evening--a telegram which is
undoubtedly associated with his disappearance--and yet you have not had
it. It is most culpable. I shall certainly go down to the office here
and register a complaint."
Dr. Leslie Armstrong sprang up from behind his desk, and his dark face
was crimson with fury.
"I'll trouble you to walk out of my house, sir," said he. "You can tell
your employer, Lord Mount-James, that I do not wish to have anything to
do either with him or with his agents. No, sir--not another word!" He
rang the bell furiously. "John, show these gentlemen out!" A pompous
butler ushered us severely to the door, and we found ourselves in the
street. Holmes burst out laughing.
"Dr. Leslie Armstrong is certainly a man of energy and character," said
he. "I have not seen a man who, if he turns his talents that way, was
more calculated to fill the gap left by the illustrious Moriarty.
And now, my poor Watson, here we are, stranded and friendless in this
inhospitable town, which we cannot leave without abandoning our case.
This little inn just opposite Armstrong's house is singularly adapted to
our needs. If you would engage a front room and purchase the necessaries
for the night, I may have time to make a few inquiries."
These few inquiries proved, however, to be a more lengthy proceeding
than Holmes had imagined, for he did not return to the inn until nearly
nine o'clock. He was pale and dejected, stained with dust, and exhausted
with hunger and fatigue. A cold supper was ready upon the table, and
when his needs were satisfied and his pipe alight he was ready to take
that half comic and wholly philosophic view which was natural to him
when his affairs were going awry. The sound of carriage wheels caused
him to rise and glance out of the window. A brougham and pair of grays,
under the glare of a gas-lamp, stood before the doctor's door.
"It's been out three hours," said Holmes; "started at half-past six, and
here it is back again. That gives a radius of ten or twelve miles, and
he does it once, or sometimes twice, a day."
"No unusual thing for a doctor in practice."
"But Armstrong is not really a doctor in practice. He is a lecturer and
a consultant, but he does not care for general practice, which distracts
him from his literary work. Why, then, does he make these long journeys,
which must be exceedingly irksome to him, and who is it that he visits?"
"My dear Watson, can you doubt that it was to him that I first applied?
I do not know whether it came from his own innate depravity or from the
promptings of his master, but he was rude enough to set a dog at me.
Neither dog nor man liked the look of my stick, however, and the matter
fell through. Relations were strained after that, and further inquiries
out of the question. All that I have learned I got from a friendly
native in the yard of our own inn. It was he who told me of the doctor's
habits and of his daily journey. At that instant, to give point to his
words, the carriage came round to the door."
"Could you not follow it?"
"Excellent, Watson! You are scintillating this evening. The idea did
cross my mind. There is, as you may have observed, a bicycle shop next
to our inn. Into this I rushed, engaged a bicycle, and was able to get
started before the carriage was quite out of sight. I rapidly overtook
it, and then, keeping at a discreet distance of a hundred yards or so, I
followed its lights until we were clear of the town. We had got well out
on the country road, when a somewhat mortifying incident occurred. The
carriage stopped, the doctor alighted, walked swiftly back to where I
had also halted, and told me in an excellent sardonic fashion that
he feared the road was narrow, and that he hoped his carriage did not
impede the passage of my bicycle. Nothing could have been more admirable
than his way of putting it. I at once rode past the carriage, and,
keeping to the main road, I went on for a few miles, and then halted in
a convenient place to see if the carriage passed. There was no sign of
it, however, and so it became evident that it had turned down one of
several side roads which I had observed. I rode back, but again saw
nothing of the carriage, and now, as you perceive, it has returned after
me. Of course, I had at the outset no particular reason to connect
these journeys with the disappearance of Godfrey Staunton, and was only
inclined to investigate them on the general grounds that everything
which concerns Dr. Armstrong is at present of interest to us, but, now
that I find he keeps so keen a look-out upon anyone who may follow him
on these excursions, the affair appears more important, and I shall not
be satisfied until I have made the matter clear."
"We can follow him to-morrow."
"Can we? It is not so easy as you seem to think. You are not familiar
with Cambridgeshire scenery, are you? It does not lend itself to
concealment. All this country that I passed over to-night is as flat and
clean as the palm of your hand, and the man we are following is no fool,
as he very clearly showed to-night. I have wired to Overton to let us
know any fresh London developments at this address, and in the meantime
we can only concentrate our attention upon Dr. Armstrong, whose name
the obliging young lady at the office allowed me to read upon the
counterfoil of Staunton's urgent message. He knows where the young man
is--to that I'll swear, and if he knows, then it must be our own fault
if we cannot manage to know also. At present it must be admitted that
the odd trick is in his possession, and, as you are aware, Watson, it is
not my habit to leave the game in that condition."
And yet the next day brought us no nearer to the solution of the
mystery. A note was handed in after breakfast, which Holmes passed
across to me with a smile.
SIR [it ran]:
I can assure you that you are wasting your time in dogging my movements.
I have, as you discovered last night, a window at the back of my
brougham, and if you desire a twenty-mile ride which will lead you to
the spot from which you started, you have only to follow me. Meanwhile,
I can inform you that no spying upon me can in any way help Mr. Godfrey
Staunton, and I am convinced that the best service you can do to that
gentleman is to return at once to London and to report to your employer
that you are unable to trace him. Your time in Cambridge will certainly
be wasted. Yours faithfully, LESLIE ARMSTRONG.
"An outspoken, honest antagonist is the doctor," said Holmes. "Well,
well, he excites my curiosity, and I must really know before I leave
"His carriage is at his door now," said I. "There he is stepping into
it. I saw him glance up at our window as he did so. Suppose I try my
luck upon the bicycle?"
"No, no, my dear Watson! With all respect for your natural acumen, I do
not think that you are quite a match for the worthy doctor. I think that
possibly I can attain our end by some independent explorations of my
own. I am afraid that I must leave you to your own devices, as the
appearance of TWO inquiring strangers upon a sleepy countryside might
excite more gossip than I care for. No doubt you will find some sights
to amuse you in this venerable city, and I hope to bring back a more
favourable report to you before evening."
Once more, however, my friend was destined to be disappointed. He came
back at night weary and unsuccessful.
"I have had a blank day, Watson. Having got the doctor's general
direction, I spent the day in visiting all the villages upon that side
of Cambridge, and comparing notes with publicans and other local news
agencies. I have covered some ground. Chesterton, Histon, Waterbeach,
and Oakington have each been explored, and have each proved
disappointing. The daily appearance of a brougham and pair could hardly
have been overlooked in such Sleepy Hollows. The doctor has scored once
more. Is there a telegram for me?"
"Yes, I opened it. Here it is:
"Ask for Pompey from Jeremy Dixon, Trinity College."
"I don't understand it."
"Oh, it is clear enough. It is from our friend Overton, and is in answer
to a question from me. I'll just send round a note to Mr. Jeremy Dixon,
and then I have no doubt that our luck will turn. By the way, is there
any news of the match?"
"Yes, the local evening paper has an excellent account in its last
edition. Oxford won by a goal and two tries. The last sentences of the
"'The defeat of the Light Blues may be entirely attributed to the
unfortunate absence of the crack International, Godfrey Staunton, whose
want was felt at every instant of the game. The lack of combination in
the three-quarter line and their weakness both in attack and defence
more than neutralized the efforts of a heavy and hard-working pack.'"
"Then our friend Overton's forebodings have been justified," said
Holmes. "Personally I am in agreement with Dr. Armstrong, and football
does not come within my horizon. Early to bed to-night, Watson, for I
foresee that to-morrow may be an eventful day."
I was horrified by my first glimpse of Holmes next morning, for he
sat by the fire holding his tiny hypodermic syringe. I associated that
instrument with the single weakness of his nature, and I feared the
worst when I saw it glittering in his hand. He laughed at my expression
of dismay and laid it upon the table.
"No, no, my dear fellow, there is no cause for alarm. It is not upon
this occasion the instrument of evil, but it will rather prove to be the
key which will unlock our mystery. On this syringe I base all my hopes.
I have just returned from a small scouting expedition, and everything is
favourable. Eat a good breakfast, Watson, for I propose to get upon Dr.
Armstrong's trail to-day, and once on it I will not stop for rest or
food until I run him to his burrow."
"In that case," said I, "we had best carry our breakfast with us, for he
is making an early start. His carriage is at the door."
"Never mind. Let him go. He will be clever if he can drive where I
cannot follow him. When you have finished, come downstairs with me, and
I will introduce you to a detective who is a very eminent specialist in
the work that lies before us."
When we descended I followed Holmes into the stable yard, where
he opened the door of a loose-box and led out a squat, lop-eared,
white-and-tan dog, something between a beagle and a foxhound.
"Let me introduce you to Pompey," said he. "Pompey is the pride of the
local draghounds--no very great flier, as his build will show, but
a staunch hound on a scent. Well, Pompey, you may not be fast, but
I expect you will be too fast for a couple of middle-aged London
gentlemen, so I will take the liberty of fastening this leather leash to
your collar. Now, boy, come along, and show what you can do." He led him
across to the doctor's door. The dog sniffed round for an instant, and
then with a shrill whine of excitement started off down the street,
tugging at his leash in his efforts to go faster. In half an hour, we
were clear of the town and hastening down a country road.
"What have you done, Holmes?" I asked.
"A threadbare and venerable device, but useful upon occasion. I walked
into the doctor's yard this morning, and shot my syringe full of aniseed
over the hind wheel. A draghound will follow aniseed from here to John
o'Groat's, and our friend, Armstrong, would have to drive through the
Cam before he would shake Pompey off his trail. Oh, the cunning rascal!
This is how he gave me the slip the other night."
The dog had suddenly turned out of the main road into a grass-grown
lane. Half a mile farther this opened into another broad road, and the
trail turned hard to the right in the direction of the town, which we
had just quitted. The road took a sweep to the south of the town, and
continued in the opposite direction to that in which we started.
"This DETOUR has been entirely for our benefit, then?" said Holmes.
"No wonder that my inquiries among those villagers led to nothing. The
doctor has certainly played the game for all it is worth, and one would
like to know the reason for such elaborate deception. This should be
the village of Trumpington to the right of us. And, by Jove! here is the
brougham coming round the corner. Quick, Watson--quick, or we are done!"
He sprang through a gate into a field, dragging the reluctant Pompey
after him. We had hardly got under the shelter of the hedge when the
carriage rattled past. I caught a glimpse of Dr. Armstrong within, his
shoulders bowed, his head sunk on his hands, the very image of distress.
I could tell by my companion's graver face that he also had seen.
"I fear there is some dark ending to our quest," said he. "It cannot
be long before we know it. Come, Pompey! Ah, it is the cottage in the
There could be no doubt that we had reached the end of our journey.
Pompey ran about and whined eagerly outside the gate, where the marks
of the brougham's wheels were still to be seen. A footpath led across
to the lonely cottage. Holmes tied the dog to the hedge, and we hastened
onward. My friend knocked at the little rustic door, and knocked again
without response. And yet the cottage was not deserted, for a low
sound came to our ears--a kind of drone of misery and despair which was
indescribably melancholy. Holmes paused irresolute, and then he glanced
back at the road which he had just traversed. A brougham was coming down
it, and there could be no mistaking those gray horses.
"By Jove, the doctor is coming back!" cried Holmes. "That settles it. We
are bound to see what it means before he comes."
He opened the door, and we stepped into the hall. The droning sound
swelled louder upon our ears until it became one long, deep wail of
distress. It came from upstairs. Holmes darted up, and I followed him.
He pushed open a half-closed door, and we both stood appalled at the
sight before us.
A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the bed. Her calm pale
face, with dim, wide-opened blue eyes, looked upward from amid a great
tangle of golden hair. At the foot of the bed, half sitting, half
kneeling, his face buried in the clothes, was a young man, whose frame
was racked by his sobs. So absorbed was he by his bitter grief, that he
never looked up until Holmes's hand was on his shoulder.
"Are you Mr. Godfrey Staunton?"
"Yes, yes, I am--but you are too late. She is dead."
The man was so dazed that he could not be made to understand that we
were anything but doctors who had been sent to his assistance. Holmes
was endeavouring to utter a few words of consolation and to explain the
alarm which had been caused to his friends by his sudden disappearance
when there was a step upon the stairs, and there was the heavy, stern,
questioning face of Dr. Armstrong at the door.
"So, gentlemen," said he, "you have attained your end and have certainly
chosen a particularly delicate moment for your intrusion. I would not
brawl in the presence of death, but I can assure you that if I were a
younger man your monstrous conduct would not pass with impunity."
"Excuse me, Dr. Armstrong, I think we are a little at cross-purposes,"
said my friend, with dignity. "If you could step downstairs with us,
we may each be able to give some light to the other upon this miserable
A minute later, the grim doctor and ourselves were in the sitting-room
"Well, sir?" said he.
"I wish you to understand, in the first place, that I am not employed
by Lord Mount-James, and that my sympathies in this matter are entirely
against that nobleman. When a man is lost it is my duty to ascertain his
fate, but having done so the matter ends so far as I am concerned, and
so long as there is nothing criminal I am much more anxious to hush up
private scandals than to give them publicity. If, as I imagine, there is
no breach of the law in this matter, you can absolutely depend upon my
discretion and my cooperation in keeping the facts out of the papers."
Dr. Armstrong took a quick step forward and wrung Holmes by the hand.
"You are a good fellow," said he. "I had misjudged you. I thank heaven
that my compunction at leaving poor Staunton all alone in this plight
caused me to turn my carriage back and so to make your acquaintance.
Knowing as much as you do, the situation is very easily explained.
A year ago Godfrey Staunton lodged in London for a time and became
passionately attached to his landlady's daughter, whom he married. She
was as good as she was beautiful and as intelligent as she was good.
No man need be ashamed of such a wife. But Godfrey was the heir to this
crabbed old nobleman, and it was quite certain that the news of his
marriage would have been the end of his inheritance. I knew the lad
well, and I loved him for his many excellent qualities. I did all I
could to help him to keep things straight. We did our very best to keep
the thing from everyone, for, when once such a whisper gets about, it is
not long before everyone has heard it. Thanks to this lonely cottage and
his own discretion, Godfrey has up to now succeeded. Their secret was
known to no one save to me and to one excellent servant, who has at
present gone for assistance to Trumpington. But at last there came a
terrible blow in the shape of dangerous illness to his wife. It was
consumption of the most virulent kind. The poor boy was half crazed with
grief, and yet he had to go to London to play this match, for he could
not get out of it without explanations which would expose his secret. I
tried to cheer him up by wire, and he sent me one in reply, imploring
me to do all I could. This was the telegram which you appear in some
inexplicable way to have seen. I did not tell him how urgent the danger
was, for I knew that he could do no good here, but I sent the truth to
the girl's father, and he very injudiciously communicated it to Godfrey.
The result was that he came straight away in a state bordering on
frenzy, and has remained in the same state, kneeling at the end of her
bed, until this morning death put an end to her sufferings. That is all,
Mr. Holmes, and I am sure that I can rely upon your discretion and that
of your friend."
Holmes grasped the doctor's hand.
"Come, Watson," said he, and we passed from that house of grief into the
pale sunlight of the winter day.