whom I should be proud to do business with. We will leave this question
undecided and hark back to our morass again, for we have left a good
We continued our systematic survey of the edge of the sodden portion
of the moor, and soon our perseverance was gloriously rewarded. Right
across the lower part of the bog lay a miry path. Holmes gave a cry
of delight as he approached it. An impression like a fine bundle of
telegraph wires ran down the centre of it. It was the Palmer tires.
"Here is Herr Heidegger, sure enough!" cried Holmes, exultantly. "My
reasoning seems to have been pretty sound, Watson."
"I congratulate you."
"But we have a long way still to go. Kindly walk clear of the path. Now
let us follow the trail. I fear that it will not lead very far."
We found, however, as we advanced that this portion of the moor is
intersected with soft patches, and, though we frequently lost sight of
the track, we always succeeded in picking it up once more.
"Do you observe," said Holmes, "that the rider is now undoubtedly
forcing the pace? There can be no doubt of it. Look at this impression,
where you get both tires clear. The one is as deep as the other.
That can only mean that the rider is throwing his weight on to the
handle-bar, as a man does when he is sprinting. By Jove! he has had a
There was a broad, irregular smudge covering some yards of the track.
Then there were a few footmarks, and the tire reappeared once more.
"A side-slip," I suggested.
Holmes held up a crumpled branch of flowering gorse. To my horror I
perceived that the yellow blossoms were all dabbled with crimson. On the
path, too, and among the heather were dark stains of clotted blood.
"Bad!" said Holmes. "Bad! Stand clear, Watson! Not an unnecessary
footstep! What do I read here? He fell wounded - he stood up - he
remounted - he proceeded. But there is no other track. Cattle on this
side path. He was surely not gored by a bull? Impossible! But I see no
traces of anyone else. We must push on, Watson. Surely, with stains as
well as the track to guide us, he cannot escape us now."
Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tire began to
curve fantastically upon the wet and shining path. Suddenly, as I
looked ahead, the gleam of metal caught my eye from amid the thick
gorse-bushes. Out of them we dragged a bicycle, Palmer-tired, one pedal
bent, and the whole front of it horribly smeared and slobbered with
blood. On the other side of the bushes a shoe was projecting. We
ran round, and there lay the unfortunate rider. He was a tall man,
full-bearded, with spectacles, one glass of which had been knocked out.
The cause of his death was a frightful blow upon the head, which had
crushed in part of his skull. That he could have gone on after receiving
such an injury said much for the vitality and courage of the man. He
wore shoes, but no socks, and his open coat disclosed a nightshirt
beneath it. It was undoubtedly the German master.
Holmes turned the body over reverently, and examined it with great
attention. He then sat in deep thought for a time, and I could see
by his ruffled brow that this grim discovery had not, in his opinion,
advanced us much in our inquiry.
"It is a little difficult to know what to do, Watson," said he, at last.
"My own inclinations are to push this inquiry on, for we have already
lost so much time that we cannot afford to waste another hour. On the
other hand, we are bound to inform the police of the discovery, and to
see that this poor fellow's body is looked after."
"I could take a note back."
"But I need your company and assistance. Wait a bit! There is a fellow
cutting peat up yonder. Bring him over here, and he will guide the
I brought the peasant across, and Holmes dispatched the frightened man
with a note to Dr. Huxtable.
"Now, Watson," said he, "we have picked up two clues this morning. One
is the bicycle with the Palmer tire, and we see what that has led to.
The other is the bicycle with the patched Dunlop. Before we start to
investigate that, let us try to realize what we do know, so as to make
the most of it, and to separate the essential from the accidental."
"First of all, I wish to impress upon you that the boy certainly left of
his own free-will. He got down from his window and he went off, either
alone or with someone. That is sure."
"Well, now, let us turn to this unfortunate German master. The boy was
fully dressed when he fled. Therefore, he foresaw what he would do.
But the German went without his socks. He certainly acted on very short
"Why did he go? Because, from his bedroom window, he saw the flight of
the boy, because he wished to overtake him and bring him back. He seized
his bicycle, pursued the lad, and in pursuing him met his death."
"So it would seem."
"Now I come to the critical part of my argument. The natural action of
a man in pursuing a little boy would be to run after him. He would know
that he could overtake him. But the German does not do so. He turns to
his bicycle. I am told that he was an excellent cyclist. He would not do
this, if he did not see that the boy had some swift means of escape."
"The other bicycle."
"Let us continue our reconstruction. He meets his death five miles
from the school - not by a bullet, mark you, which even a lad might
conceivably discharge, but by a savage blow dealt by a vigorous arm.
The lad, then, HAD a companion in his flight. And the flight was a swift
one, since it took five miles before an expert cyclist could overtake
them. Yet we survey the ground round the scene of the tragedy. What do
we find? A few cattle-tracks, nothing more. I took a wide sweep round,
and there is no path within fifty yards. Another cyclist could have
had nothing to do with the actual murder, nor were there any human
"Holmes," I cried, "this is impossible."
"Admirable!" he said. "A most illuminating remark. It IS impossible as I
state it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong. Yet
you saw for yourself. Can you suggest any fallacy?"
"He could not have fractured his skull in a fall?"
"In a morass, Watson?"
"I am at my wit's end."
"Tut, tut, we have solved some worse problems. At least we have plenty
of material, if we can only use it. Come, then, and, having exhausted
the Palmer, let us see what the Dunlop with the patched cover has to
We picked up the track and followed it onward for some distance, but
soon the moor rose into a long, heather-tufted curve, and we left the
watercourse behind us. No further help from tracks could be hoped for.
At the spot where we saw the last of the Dunlop tire it might equally
have led to Holdernesse Hall, the stately towers of which rose some
miles to our left, or to a low, gray village which lay in front of us
and marked the position of the Chesterfield high road.
As we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the sign of a
game-cock above the door, Holmes gave a sudden groan, and clutched me
by the shoulder to save himself from falling. He had had one of those
violent strains of the ankle which leave a man helpless. With difficulty
he limped up to the door, where a squat, dark, elderly man was smoking a
black clay pipe.
"How are you, Mr. Reuben Hayes?" said Holmes.
"Who are you, and how do you get my name so pat?" the countryman
answered, with a suspicious flash of a pair of cunning eyes.
"Well, it's printed on the board above your head. It's easy to see a man
who is master of his own house. I suppose you haven't such a thing as a
carriage in your stables?"
"No, I have not."
"I can hardly put my foot to the ground."
"Don't put it to the ground."
"But I can't walk."
"Well, then hop."
Mr. Reuben Hayes's manner was far from gracious, but Holmes took it with
"Look here, my man," said he. "This is really rather an awkward fix for
me. I don't mind how I get on."
"Neither do I," said the morose landlord.
"The matter is very important. I would offer you a sovereign for the use
of a bicycle."
The landlord pricked up his ears.
"Where do you want to go?"
"To Holdernesse Hall."
"Pals of the Dook, I suppose?" said the landlord, surveying our
mud-stained garments with ironical eyes.
Holmes laughed good-naturedly.
"He'll be glad to see us, anyhow."
"Because we bring him news of his lost son."
The landlord gave a very visible start.
"What, you're on his track?"
"He has been heard of in Liverpool. They expect to get him every hour."
Again a swift change passed over the heavy, unshaven face. His manner
was suddenly genial.
"I've less reason to wish the Dook well than most men," said he, "for
I was head coachman once, and cruel bad he treated me. It was him that
sacked me without a character on the word of a lying corn-chandler. But
I'm glad to hear that the young lord was heard of in Liverpool, and I'll
help you to take the news to the Hall."
"Thank you," said Holmes. "Well have some food first. Then you can bring
round the bicycle."
"I haven't got a bicycle."
Holmes held up a sovereign.
"I tell you, man, that I haven't got one. I'll let you have two horses
as far as the Hall."
"Well, well," said Holmes, "well talk about it when we've had something
When we were left alone in the stone-flagged kitchen, it was astonishing
how rapidly that sprained ankle recovered. It was nearly nightfall, and
we had eaten nothing since early morning, so that we spent some time
over our meal. Holmes was lost in thought, and once or twice he walked
over to the window and stared earnestly out. It opened on to a squalid
courtyard. In the far corner was a smithy, where a grimy lad was at
work. On the other side were the stables. Holmes had sat down again
after one of these excursions, when he suddenly sprang out of his chair
with a loud exclamation.
"By heaven, Watson, I believe that I've got it!" he cried. "Yes, yes, it
must be so. Watson, do you remember seeing any cow-tracks to-day?"
"Well, everywhere. They were at the morass, and again on the path, and
again near where poor Heidegger met his death."
"Exactly. Well, now, Watson, how many cows did you see on the moor?"
"I don't remember seeing any."
"Strange, Watson, that we should see tracks all along our line, but
never a cow on the whole moor. Very strange, Watson, eh?"
"Yes, it is strange."
"Now, Watson, make an effort, throw your mind back. Can you see those
tracks upon the path?"
"Yes, I can."
"Can you recall that the tracks were sometimes like that, Watson," - he
arranged a number of bread-crumbs in this fashion - : : : : : - "and
sometimes like this" - : . : . : . : . - "and occasionally like this" - . :
. : . : . "Can you remember that?"
"No, I cannot."
"But I can. I could swear to it. However, we will go back at our
leisure and verify it. What a blind beetle I have been, not to draw my
"And what is your conclusion?"
"Only that it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters, and gallops. By
George! Watson, it was no brain of a country publican that thought out
such a blind as that. The coast seems to be clear, save for that lad in
the smithy. Let us slip out and see what we can see."
There were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble-down stable.
Holmes raised the hind leg of one of them and laughed aloud.
"Old shoes, but newly shod - old shoes, but new nails. This case deserves
to be a classic. Let us go across to the smithy."
The lad continued his work without regarding us. I saw Holmes's eye
darting to right and left among the litter of iron and wood which was
scattered about the floor. Suddenly, however, we heard a step behind
us, and there was the landlord, his heavy eyebrows drawn over his savage
eyes, his swarthy features convulsed with passion. He held a short,
metal-headed stick in his hand, and he advanced in so menacing a fashion
that I was right glad to feel the revolver in my pocket.
"You infernal spies!" the man cried. "What are you doing there?"
"Why, Mr. Reuben Hayes," said Holmes, coolly, "one might think that you
were afraid of our finding something out."
The man mastered himself with a violent effort, and his grim mouth
loosened into a false laugh, which was more menacing than his frown.
"You're welcome to all you can find out in my smithy," said he. "But
look here, mister, I don't care for folk poking about my place without
my leave, so the sooner you pay your score and get out of this the
better I shall be pleased."
"All right, Mr. Hayes, no harm meant," said Holmes. "We have been having
a look at your horses, but I think I'll walk, after all. It's not far, I
"Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. That's the road to the
left." He watched us with sullen eyes until we had left his premises.
We did not go very far along the road, for Holmes stopped the instant
that the curve hid us from the landlord's view.
"We were warm, as the children say, at that inn," said he. "I seem
to grow colder every step that I take away from it. No, no, I can't
possibly leave it."
"I am convinced," said I, "that this Reuben Hayes knows all about it. A
more self-evident villain I never saw."
"Oh! he impressed you in that way, did he? There are the horses, there
is the smithy. Yes, it is an interesting place, this Fighting Cock. I
think we shall have another look at it in an unobtrusive way."
A long, sloping hillside, dotted with gray limestone boulders, stretched
behind us. We had turned off the road, and were making our way up
the hill, when, looking in the direction of Holdernesse Hall, I saw a
cyclist coming swiftly along.
"Get down, Watson!" cried Holmes, with a heavy hand upon my shoulder. We
had hardly sunk from view when the man flew past us on the road. Amid
a rolling cloud of dust, I caught a glimpse of a pale, agitated face - a
face with horror in every lineament, the mouth open, the eyes staring
wildly in front. It was like some strange caricature of the dapper James
Wilder whom we had seen the night before.
"The Duke's secretary!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, let us see what he
We scrambled from rock to rock, until in a few moments we had made
our way to a point from which we could see the front door of the inn.
Wilder's bicycle was leaning against the wall beside it. No one was
moving about the house, nor could we catch a glimpse of any faces at the
windows. Slowly the twilight crept down as the sun sank behind the
high towers of Holdernesse Hall. Then, in the gloom, we saw the two
side-lamps of a trap light up in the stable-yard of the inn, and shortly
afterwards heard the rattle of hoofs, as it wheeled out into the road
and tore off at a furious pace in the direction of Chesterfield.
"What do you make of that, Watson?" Holmes whispered.
"It looks like a flight."
"A single man in a dog-cart, so far as I could see. Well, it certainly
was not Mr. James Wilder, for there he is at the door."
A red square of light had sprung out of the darkness. In the middle of
it was the black figure of the secretary, his head advanced, peering out
into the night. It was evident that he was expecting someone. Then at
last there were steps in the road, a second figure was visible for an
instant against the light, the door shut, and all was black once more.
Five minutes later a lamp was lit in a room upon the first floor.
"It seems to be a curious class of custom that is done by the Fighting
Cock," said Holmes.
"The bar is on the other side."
"Quite so. These are what one may call the private guests. Now, what in
the world is Mr. James Wilder doing in that den at this hour of night,
and who is the companion who comes to meet him there? Come, Watson,
we must really take a risk and try to investigate this a little more
Together we stole down to the road and crept across to the door of the
inn. The bicycle still leaned against the wall. Holmes struck a match
and held it to the back wheel, and I heard him chuckle as the light fell
upon a patched Dunlop tire. Up above us was the lighted window.
"I must have a peep through that, Watson. If you bend your back and
support yourself upon the wall, I think that I can manage."
An instant later, his feet were on my shoulders, but he was hardly up
before he was down again.
"Come, my friend," said he, "our day's work has been quite long enough.
I think that we have gathered all that we can. It's a long walk to the
school, and the sooner we get started the better."
He hardly opened his lips during that weary trudge across the moor, nor
would he enter the school when he reached it, but went on to Mackleton
Station, whence he could send some telegrams. Late at night I heard him
consoling Dr. Huxtable, prostrated by the tragedy of his master's death,
and later still he entered my room as alert and vigorous as he had been
when he started in the morning. "All goes well, my friend," said he. "I
promise that before to-morrow evening we shall have reached the solution
of the mystery."
At eleven o'clock next morning my friend and I were walking up the
famous yew avenue of Holdernesse Hall. We were ushered through the
magnificent Elizabethan doorway and into his Grace's study. There we
found Mr. James Wilder, demure and courtly, but with some trace of that
wild terror of the night before still lurking in his furtive eyes and in
his twitching features.
"You have come to see his Grace? I am sorry, but the fact is that the
Duke is far from well. He has been very much upset by the tragic news.
We received a telegram from Dr. Huxtable yesterday afternoon, which told
us of your discovery."
"I must see the Duke, Mr. Wilder."
"But he is in his room."
"Then I must go to his room."
"I believe he is in his bed."
"I will see him there."
Holmes's cold and inexorable manner showed the secretary that it was
useless to argue with him.
"Very good, Mr. Holmes, I will tell him that you are here."
After an hour's delay, the great nobleman appeared. His face was more
cadaverous than ever, his shoulders had rounded, and he seemed to me
to be an altogether older man than he had been the morning before. He
greeted us with a stately courtesy and seated himself at his desk, his
red beard streaming down on the table.
"Well, Mr. Holmes?" said he.
But my friend's eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who stood by his
"I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in Mr. Wilder's
The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance at Holmes.
"If your Grace wishes - - "
"Yes, yes, you had better go. Now, Mr. Holmes, what have you to say?"
My friend waited until the door had closed behind the retreating
"The fact is, your Grace," said he, "that my colleague, Dr. Watson, and
myself had an assurance from Dr. Huxtable that a reward had been offered
in this case. I should like to have this confirmed from your own lips."
"Certainly, Mr. Holmes."
"It amounted, if I am correctly informed, to five thousand pounds to
anyone who will tell you where your son is?"
"And another thousand to the man who will name the person or persons who
keep him in custody?"
"Under the latter heading is included, no doubt, not only those who
may have taken him away, but also those who conspire to keep him in his
"Yes, yes," cried the Duke, impatiently. "If you do your work well,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you will have no reason to complain of niggardly
My friend rubbed his thin hands together with an appearance of avidity
which was a surprise to me, who knew his frugal tastes.
"I fancy that I see your Grace's check-book upon the table," said he. "I
should be glad if you would make me out a check for six thousand pounds.
It would be as well, perhaps, for you to cross it. The Capital and
Counties Bank, Oxford Street branch are my agents."
His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair and looked stonily at
"Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for pleasantry."
"Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my life."
"What do you mean, then?"
"I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your son is, and I
know some, at least, of those who are holding him."
The Duke's beard had turned more aggressively red than ever against his
ghastly white face.
"Where is he?" he gasped.
"He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn, about two miles
from your park gate."
The Duke fell back in his chair.
"And whom do you accuse?"
Sherlock Holmes's answer was an astounding one. He stepped swiftly
forward and touched the Duke upon the shoulder.
"I accuse YOU," said he. "And now, your Grace, I'll trouble you for that
Never shall I forget the Duke's appearance as he sprang up and clawed
with his hands, like one who is sinking into an abyss. Then, with an
extraordinary effort of aristocratic self-command, he sat down and sank
his face in his hands. It was some minutes before he spoke.
"How much do you know?" he asked at last, without raising his head.
"I saw you together last night."
"Does anyone else beside your friend know?"
"I have spoken to no one."
The Duke took a pen in his quivering fingers and opened his check-book.
"I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about to write your
check, however unwelcome the information which you have gained may be
to me. When the offer was first made, I little thought the turn which
events might take. But you and your friend are men of discretion, Mr.
"I hardly understand your Grace."
"I must put it plainly, Mr. Holmes. If only you two know of this
incident, there is no reason why it should go any farther. I think
twelve thousand pounds is the sum that I owe you, is it not?"
But Holmes smiled and shook his head.
"I fear, your Grace, that matters can hardly be arranged so easily.
There is the death of this schoolmaster to be accounted for."
"But James knew nothing of that. You cannot hold him responsible for
that. It was the work of this brutal ruffian whom he had the misfortune
"I must take the view, your Grace, that when a man embarks upon a crime,
he is morally guilty of any other crime which may spring from it."
"Morally, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right. But surely not in the eyes
of the law. A man cannot be condemned for a murder at which he was not
present, and which he loathes and abhors as much as you do. The instant
that he heard of it he made a complete confession to me, so filled was
he with horror and remorse. He lost not an hour in breaking entirely
with the murderer. Oh, Mr. Holmes, you must save him - you must save
him! I tell you that you must save him!" The Duke had dropped the last
attempt at self-command, and was pacing the room with a convulsed face
and with his clenched hands raving in the air. At last he mastered
himself and sat down once more at his desk. "I appreciate your conduct
in coming here before you spoke to anyone else," said he. "At least, we
may take counsel how far we can minimize this hideous scandal."
"Exactly," said Holmes. "I think, your Grace, that this can only be done
by absolute frankness between us. I am disposed to help your Grace to
the best of my ability, but, in order to do so, I must understand to the
last detail how the matter stands. I realize that your words applied to
Mr. James Wilder, and that he is not the murderer."
"No, the murderer has escaped."
Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely.
"Your Grace can hardly have heard of any small reputation which I
possess, or you would not imagine that it is so easy to escape me. Mr.
Reuben Hayes was arrested at Chesterfield, on my information, at eleven
o'clock last night. I had a telegram from the head of the local police
before I left the school this morning."
The Duke leaned back in his chair and stared with amazement at my
"You seem to have powers that are hardly human," said he. "So Reuben
Hayes is taken? I am right glad to hear it, if it will not react upon
the fate of James."
"No, sir, my son."
It was Holmes's turn to look astonished.
"I confess that this is entirely new to me, your Grace. I must beg you
to be more explicit."
"I will conceal nothing from you. I agree with you that complete
frankness, however painful it may be to me, is the best policy in this
desperate situation to which James's folly and jealousy have reduced