justify your trust."
"What do you want me to do?"
"To tell me the truth."
"No, no, Lady Brackenstall - it is no use. You may have heard of any
little reputation which I possess. I will stake it all on the fact that
your story is an absolute fabrication."
Mistress and maid were both staring at Holmes with pale faces and
"You are an impudent fellow!" cried Theresa. "Do you mean to say that my
mistress has told a lie?"
Holmes rose from his chair.
"Have you nothing to tell me?"
"I have told you everything."
"Think once more, Lady Brackenstall. Would it not be better to be
For an instant there was hesitation in her beautiful face. Then some new
strong thought caused it to set like a mask.
"I have told you all I know."
Holmes took his hat and shrugged his shoulders. "I am sorry," he said,
and without another word we left the room and the house. There was a
pond in the park, and to this my friend led the way. It was frozen
over, but a single hole was left for the convenience of a solitary
swan. Holmes gazed at it, and then passed on to the lodge gate. There
he scribbled a short note for Stanley Hopkins, and left it with the
"It may be a hit, or it may be a miss, but we are bound to do something
for friend Hopkins, just to justify this second visit," said he. "I will
not quite take him into my confidence yet. I think our next scene of
operations must be the shipping office of the Adelaide-Southampton line,
which stands at the end of Pall Mall, if I remember right. There is a
second line of steamers which connect South Australia with England, but
we will draw the larger cover first."
Holmes's card sent in to the manager ensured instant attention, and he
was not long in acquiring all the information he needed. In June of
'95, only one of their line had reached a home port. It was the ROCK
OF GIBRALTAR, their largest and best boat. A reference to the passenger
list showed that Miss Fraser, of Adelaide, with her maid had made the
voyage in her. The boat was now somewhere south of the Suez Canal on
her way to Australia. Her officers were the same as in '95, with one
exception. The first officer, Mr. Jack Crocker, had been made a captain
and was to take charge of their new ship, the BASS ROCK, sailing in two
days' time from Southampton. He lived at Sydenham, but he was likely to
be in that morning for instructions, if we cared to wait for him.
No, Mr. Holmes had no desire to see him, but would be glad to know more
about his record and character.
His record was magnificent. There was not an officer in the fleet to
touch him. As to his character, he was reliable on duty, but a wild,
desperate fellow off the deck of his ship - hot-headed, excitable, but
loyal, honest, and kind-hearted. That was the pith of the information
with which Holmes left the office of the Adelaide-Southampton company.
Thence he drove to Scotland Yard, but, instead of entering, he sat in
his cab with his brows drawn down, lost in profound thought. Finally he
drove round to the Charing Cross telegraph office, sent off a message,
and then, at last, we made for Baker Street once more.
"No, I couldn't do it, Watson," said he, as we reentered our room. "Once
that warrant was made out, nothing on earth would save him. Once
or twice in my career I feel that I have done more real harm by my
discovery of the criminal than ever he had done by his crime. I have
learned caution now, and I had rather play tricks with the law of
England than with my own conscience. Let us know a little more before we
Before evening, we had a visit from Inspector Stanley Hopkins. Things
were not going very well with him.
"I believe that you are a wizard, Mr. Holmes. I really do sometimes
think that you have powers that are not human. Now, how on earth could
you know that the stolen silver was at the bottom of that pond?"
"I didn't know it."
"But you told me to examine it."
"You got it, then?"
"Yes, I got it."
"I am very glad if I have helped you."
"But you haven't helped me. You have made the affair far more difficult.
What sort of burglars are they who steal silver and then throw it into
the nearest pond?"
"It was certainly rather eccentric behaviour. I was merely going on
the idea that if the silver had been taken by persons who did not
want it - who merely took it for a blind, as it were - then they would
naturally be anxious to get rid of it."
"But why should such an idea cross your mind?"
"Well, I thought it was possible. When they came out through the French
window, there was the pond with one tempting little hole in the ice,
right in front of their noses. Could there be a better hiding-place?"
"Ah, a hiding-place - that is better!" cried Stanley Hopkins. "Yes, yes,
I see it all now! It was early, there were folk upon the roads, they
were afraid of being seen with the silver, so they sank it in the pond,
intending to return for it when the coast was clear. Excellent, Mr.
Holmes - that is better than your idea of a blind."
"Quite so, you have got an admirable theory. I have no doubt that my
own ideas were quite wild, but you must admit that they have ended in
discovering the silver."
"Yes, sir - yes. It was all your doing. But I have had a bad setback."
"Yes, Mr. Holmes. The Randall gang were arrested in New York this
"Dear me, Hopkins! That is certainly rather against your theory that
they committed a murder in Kent last night."
"It is fatal, Mr. Holmes - absolutely fatal. Still, there are other gangs
of three besides the Randalls, or it may be some new gang of which the
police have never heard."
"Quite so, it is perfectly possible. What, are you off?"
"Yes, Mr. Holmes, there is no rest for me until I have got to the bottom
of the business. I suppose you have no hint to give me?"
"I have given you one."
"Well, I suggested a blind."
"But why, Mr. Holmes, why?"
"Ah, that's the question, of course. But I commend the idea to your
mind. You might possibly find that there was something in it. You won't
stop for dinner? Well, good-bye, and let us know how you get on."
Dinner was over, and the table cleared before Holmes alluded to the
matter again. He had lit his pipe and held his slippered feet to the
cheerful blaze of the fire. Suddenly he looked at his watch.
"I expect developments, Watson."
"Now - within a few minutes. I dare say you thought I acted rather badly
to Stanley Hopkins just now?"
"I trust your judgment."
"A very sensible reply, Watson. You must look at it this way: what
I know is unofficial, what he knows is official. I have the right to
private judgment, but he has none. He must disclose all, or he is a
traitor to his service. In a doubtful case I would not put him in so
painful a position, and so I reserve my information until my own mind is
clear upon the matter."
"But when will that be?"
"The time has come. You will now be present at the last scene of a
remarkable little drama."
There was a sound upon the stairs, and our door was opened to admit as
fine a specimen of manhood as ever passed through it. He was a very
tall young man, golden-moustached, blue-eyed, with a skin which had been
burned by tropical suns, and a springy step, which showed that the huge
frame was as active as it was strong. He closed the door behind him, and
then he stood with clenched hands and heaving breast, choking down some
"Sit down, Captain Crocker. You got my telegram?"
Our visitor sank into an armchair and looked from one to the other of us
with questioning eyes.
"I got your telegram, and I came at the hour you said. I heard that you
had been down to the office. There was no getting away from you. Let's
hear the worst. What are you going to do with me? Arrest me? Speak out,
man! You can't sit there and play with me like a cat with a mouse."
"Give him a cigar," said Holmes. "Bite on that, Captain Crocker, and
don't let your nerves run away with you. I should not sit here smoking
with you if I thought that you were a common criminal, you may be sure
of that. Be frank with me and we may do some good. Play tricks with me,
and I'll crush you."
"What do you wish me to do?"
"To give me a true account of all that happened at the Abbey Grange last
night - a TRUE account, mind you, with nothing added and nothing taken
off. I know so much already that if you go one inch off the straight,
I'll blow this police whistle from my window and the affair goes out of
my hands forever."
The sailor thought for a little. Then he struck his leg with his great
"I'll chance it," he cried. "I believe you are a man of your word, and
a white man, and I'll tell you the whole story. But one thing I will say
first. So far as I am concerned, I regret nothing and I fear nothing,
and I would do it all again and be proud of the job. Damn the beast, if
he had as many lives as a cat, he would owe them all to me! But it's
the lady, Mary - Mary Fraser - for never will I call her by that accursed
name. When I think of getting her into trouble, I who would give my life
just to bring one smile to her dear face, it's that that turns my soul
into water. And yet - and yet - what less could I do? I'll tell you my
story, gentlemen, and then I'll ask you, as man to man, what less could
"I must go back a bit. You seem to know everything, so I expect that you
know that I met her when she was a passenger and I was first officer of
the ROCK OF GIBRALTAR. From the first day I met her, she was the only
woman to me. Every day of that voyage I loved her more, and many a time
since have I kneeled down in the darkness of the night watch and kissed
the deck of that ship because I knew her dear feet had trod it. She was
never engaged to me. She treated me as fairly as ever a woman treated
a man. I have no complaint to make. It was all love on my side, and all
good comradeship and friendship on hers. When we parted she was a free
woman, but I could never again be a free man.
"Next time I came back from sea, I heard of her marriage. Well, why
shouldn't she marry whom she liked? Title and money - who could carry
them better than she? She was born for all that is beautiful and dainty.
I didn't grieve over her marriage. I was not such a selfish hound as
that. I just rejoiced that good luck had come her way, and that she had
not thrown herself away on a penniless sailor. That's how I loved Mary
"Well, I never thought to see her again, but last voyage I was promoted,
and the new boat was not yet launched, so I had to wait for a couple of
months with my people at Sydenham. One day out in a country lane I met
Theresa Wright, her old maid. She told me all about her, about him,
about everything. I tell you, gentlemen, it nearly drove me mad. This
drunken hound, that he should dare to raise his hand to her, whose
boots he was not worthy to lick! I met Theresa again. Then I met Mary
herself - and met her again. Then she would meet me no more. But the
other day I had a notice that I was to start on my voyage within a week,
and I determined that I would see her once before I left. Theresa was
always my friend, for she loved Mary and hated this villain almost as
much as I did. From her I learned the ways of the house. Mary used to
sit up reading in her own little room downstairs. I crept round there
last night and scratched at the window. At first she would not open to
me, but in her heart I know that now she loves me, and she could not
leave me in the frosty night. She whispered to me to come round to the
big front window, and I found it open before me, so as to let me into
the dining-room. Again I heard from her own lips things that made my
blood boil, and again I cursed this brute who mishandled the woman I
loved. Well, gentlemen, I was standing with her just inside the window,
in all innocence, as God is my judge, when he rushed like a madman into
the room, called her the vilest name that a man could use to a woman,
and welted her across the face with the stick he had in his hand. I had
sprung for the poker, and it was a fair fight between us. See here,
on my arm, where his first blow fell. Then it was my turn, and I went
through him as if he had been a rotten pumpkin. Do you think I was
sorry? Not I! It was his life or mine, but far more than that, it was
his life or hers, for how could I leave her in the power of this madman?
That was how I killed him. Was I wrong? Well, then, what would either of
you gentlemen have done, if you had been in my position?"
"She had screamed when he struck her, and that brought old Theresa down
from the room above. There was a bottle of wine on the sideboard, and I
opened it and poured a little between Mary's lips, for she was half dead
with shock. Then I took a drop myself. Theresa was as cool as ice, and
it was her plot as much as mine. We must make it appear that burglars
had done the thing. Theresa kept on repeating our story to her mistress,
while I swarmed up and cut the rope of the bell. Then I lashed her in
her chair, and frayed out the end of the rope to make it look natural,
else they would wonder how in the world a burglar could have got up
there to cut it. Then I gathered up a few plates and pots of silver, to
carry out the idea of the robbery, and there I left them, with orders
to give the alarm when I had a quarter of an hour's start. I dropped the
silver into the pond, and made off for Sydenham, feeling that for once
in my life I had done a real good night's work. And that's the truth and
the whole truth, Mr. Holmes, if it costs me my neck."
Holmes smoked for some time in silence. Then he crossed the room, and
shook our visitor by the hand.
"That's what I think," said he. "I know that every word is true, for you
have hardly said a word which I did not know. No one but an acrobat or a
sailor could have got up to that bell-rope from the bracket, and no one
but a sailor could have made the knots with which the cord was fastened
to the chair. Only once had this lady been brought into contact with
sailors, and that was on her voyage, and it was someone of her own class
of life, since she was trying hard to shield him, and so showing that
she loved him. You see how easy it was for me to lay my hands upon you
when once I had started upon the right trail."
"I thought the police never could have seen through our dodge."
"And the police haven't, nor will they, to the best of my belief. Now,
look here, Captain Crocker, this is a very serious matter, though I am
willing to admit that you acted under the most extreme provocation to
which any man could be subjected. I am not sure that in defence of your
own life your action will not be pronounced legitimate. However, that is
for a British jury to decide. Meanwhile I have so much sympathy for you
that, if you choose to disappear in the next twenty-four hours, I will
promise you that no one will hinder you."
"And then it will all come out?"
"Certainly it will come out."
The sailor flushed with anger.
"What sort of proposal is that to make a man? I know enough of law to
understand that Mary would be held as accomplice. Do you think I would
leave her alone to face the music while I slunk away? No, sir, let them
do their worst upon me, but for heaven's sake, Mr. Holmes, find some way
of keeping my poor Mary out of the courts."
Holmes for a second time held out his hand to the sailor.
"I was only testing you, and you ring true every time. Well, it is a
great responsibility that I take upon myself, but I have given Hopkins
an excellent hint and if he can't avail himself of it I can do no more.
See here, Captain Crocker, we'll do this in due form of law. You are the
prisoner. Watson, you are a British jury, and I never met a man who was
more eminently fitted to represent one. I am the judge. Now, gentleman
of the jury, you have heard the evidence. Do you find the prisoner
guilty or not guilty?"
"Not guilty, my lord," said I.
"VOX POPULI, VOX DEI. You are acquitted, Captain Crocker. So long as the
law does not find some other victim you are safe from me. Come back
to this lady in a year, and may her future and yours justify us in the
judgment which we have pronounced this night!"
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN
I had intended "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" to be the last of
those exploits of my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, which I should ever
communicate to the public. This resolution of mine was not due to any
lack of material, since I have notes of many hundreds of cases to which
I have never alluded, nor was it caused by any waning interest on the
part of my readers in the singular personality and unique methods of
this remarkable man. The real reason lay in the reluctance which Mr.
Holmes has shown to the continued publication of his experiences.
So long as he was in actual professional practice the records of
his successes were of some practical value to him, but since he
has definitely retired from London and betaken himself to study and
bee-farming on the Sussex Downs, notoriety has become hateful to him,
and he has peremptorily requested that his wishes in this matter should
be strictly observed. It was only upon my representing to him that I
had given a promise that "The Adventure of the Second Stain" should be
published when the times were ripe, and pointing out to him that it is
only appropriate that this long series of episodes should culminate in
the most important international case which he has ever been called
upon to handle, that I at last succeeded in obtaining his consent that a
carefully guarded account of the incident should at last be laid before
the public. If in telling the story I seem to be somewhat vague in
certain details, the public will readily understand that there is an
excellent reason for my reticence.
It was, then, in a year, and even in a decade, that shall be nameless,
that upon one Tuesday morning in autumn we found two visitors of
European fame within the walls of our humble room in Baker Street. The
one, austere, high-nosed, eagle-eyed, and dominant, was none other than
the illustrious Lord Bellinger, twice Premier of Britain. The other,
dark, clear-cut, and elegant, hardly yet of middle age, and endowed with
every beauty of body and of mind, was the Right Honourable Trelawney
Hope, Secretary for European Affairs, and the most rising statesman in
the country. They sat side by side upon our paper-littered settee,
and it was easy to see from their worn and anxious faces that it was
business of the most pressing importance which had brought them. The
Premier's thin, blue-veined hands were clasped tightly over the ivory
head of his umbrella, and his gaunt, ascetic face looked gloomily from
Holmes to me. The European Secretary pulled nervously at his moustache
and fidgeted with the seals of his watch-chain.
"When I discovered my loss, Mr. Holmes, which was at eight o'clock this
morning, I at once informed the Prime Minister. It was at his suggestion
that we have both come to you."
"Have you informed the police?"
"No, sir," said the Prime Minister, with the quick, decisive manner for
which he was famous. "We have not done so, nor is it possible that we
should do so. To inform the police must, in the long run, mean to inform
the public. This is what we particularly desire to avoid."
"And why, sir?"
"Because the document in question is of such immense importance that
its publication might very easily - I might almost say probably - lead to
European complications of the utmost moment. It is not too much to say
that peace or war may hang upon the issue. Unless its recovery can be
attended with the utmost secrecy, then it may as well not be recovered
at all, for all that is aimed at by those who have taken it is that its
contents should be generally known."
"I understand. Now, Mr. Trelawney Hope, I should be much obliged if
you would tell me exactly the circumstances under which this document
"That can be done in a very few words, Mr. Holmes. The letter - for it
was a letter from a foreign potentate - was received six days ago. It was
of such importance that I have never left it in my safe, but have taken
it across each evening to my house in Whitehall Terrace, and kept it in
my bedroom in a locked despatch-box. It was there last night. Of that
I am certain. I actually opened the box while I was dressing for dinner
and saw the document inside. This morning it was gone. The despatch-box
had stood beside the glass upon my dressing-table all night. I am a
light sleeper, and so is my wife. We are both prepared to swear that no
one could have entered the room during the night. And yet I repeat that
the paper is gone."
"What time did you dine?"
"How long was it before you went to bed?"
"My wife had gone to the theatre. I waited up for her. It was half-past
eleven before we went to our room."
"Then for four hours the despatch-box had lain unguarded?"
"No one is ever permitted to enter that room save the house-maid in the
morning, and my valet, or my wife's maid, during the rest of the day.
They are both trusty servants who have been with us for some time.
Besides, neither of them could possibly have known that there was
anything more valuable than the ordinary departmental papers in my
"Who did know of the existence of that letter?"
"No one in the house."
"Surely your wife knew?"
"No, sir. I had said nothing to my wife until I missed the paper this
The Premier nodded approvingly.
"I have long known, sir, how high is your sense of public duty," said
he. "I am convinced that in the case of a secret of this importance it
would rise superior to the most intimate domestic ties."
The European Secretary bowed.
"You do me no more than justice, sir. Until this morning I have never
breathed one word to my wife upon this matter."
"Could she have guessed?"
"No, Mr. Holmes, she could not have guessed - nor could anyone have
"Have you lost any documents before?"
"Who is there in England who did know of the existence of this letter?"
"Each member of the Cabinet was informed of it yesterday, but the pledge
of secrecy which attends every Cabinet meeting was increased by the
solemn warning which was given by the Prime Minister. Good heavens,
to think that within a few hours I should myself have lost it!" His
handsome face was distorted with a spasm of despair, and his hands
tore at his hair. For a moment we caught a glimpse of the natural man,
impulsive, ardent, keenly sensitive. The next the aristocratic mask was
replaced, and the gentle voice had returned. "Besides the members of
the Cabinet there are two, or possibly three, departmental officials who
know of the letter. No one else in England, Mr. Holmes, I assure you."
"I believe that no one abroad has seen it save the man who wrote it. I
am well convinced that his Ministers - that the usual official channels
have not been employed."
Holmes considered for some little time.
"Now, sir, I must ask you more particularly what this document is, and
why its disappearance should have such momentous consequences?"
The two statesmen exchanged a quick glance and the Premier's shaggy
eyebrows gathered in a frown.
"Mr. Holmes, the envelope is a long, thin one of pale blue colour. There
is a seal of red wax stamped with a crouching lion. It is addressed in
large, bold handwriting to - - "
"I fear, sir," said Holmes, "that, interesting and indeed essential as
these details are, my inquiries must go more to the root of things. What
WAS the letter?"
"That is a State secret of the utmost importance, and I fear that I
cannot tell you, nor do I see that it is necessary. If by the aid of the
powers which you are said to possess you can find such an envelope as
I describe with its enclosure, you will have deserved well of your
country, and earned any reward which it lies in our power to bestow."
Sherlock Holmes rose with a smile.
"You are two of the most busy men in the country," said he, "and in
my own small way I have also a good many calls upon me. I regret
exceedingly that I cannot help you in this matter, and any continuation
of this interview would be a waste of time."
The Premier sprang to his feet with that quick, fierce gleam of his
deep-set eyes before which a Cabinet has cowered. "I am not accustomed,
sir," he began, but mastered his anger and resumed his seat. For a
minute or more we all sat in silence. Then the old statesman shrugged