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    The Stock-Broker's Clerk

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    Chapter 3
    Previous Chapter
    Shortly after my marriage I had bought a connection in
    the Paddington district. Old Mr. Farquhar, from whom
    I purchased it, had at one time an excellent general
    practice; but his age, and an affliction of the nature
    of St. Vitus's dance from which he suffered, had very
    much thinned it. The public not unnaturally goes on
    the principle that he who would heal others must
    himself be whole, and looks askance at the curative
    powers of the man whose own case is beyond the reach
    of his drugs. Thus as my predecessor weakened his
    practice declined, until when I purchased it from him
    it had sunk from twelve hundred to little more than
    three hundred a year. I had confidence, however, in
    my own youth and energy, and was convinced that in a
    very few years the concern would be as flourishing as
    ever.

    For three months after taking over the practice I was
    kept very closely at work, and saw little of my friend
    Sherlock Holmes, for I was too busy to visit Baker
    Street, and he seldom went anywhere himself save upon
    professional business. I was surprised, therefore,
    when, one morning in June, as I sat reading the
    British Medical Journal after breakfast, I heard a
    ring at the bell, followed by the high, somewhat
    strident tones of my old companion's voice.

    "Ah, my dear Watson," said he, striding into the room,
    "I am very delighted to see you! I trust that Mrs.
    Watson has entirely recovered from all the little
    excitements connected with our adventure of the Sign
    of Four."

    "Thank you, we are both very well," said I, shaking
    him warmly by the hand.

    "And I hope, also," he continued, sitting down in the
    rocking-chair, "that the cares of medical practice
    have not entirely obliterated the interest which you
    used to take in our little deductive problems."

    "On the contrary," I answered, "it was only last night
    that I was looking over my old notes, and classifying
    some of our past results."

    "I trust that you don't consider your collection
    closed."

    "Not at all. I should wish nothing better than to
    have some more of such experiences."

    "To-day, for example?"

    "Yes, to-day, if you like."

    "And as far off as Birmingham?"

    "Certainly, if you wish it."

    "And the practice?"

    "I do my neighbor's when he goes. He is always ready
    to work off the debt."

    "Ha! Nothing could be better," said Holmes, leaning
    back in his chair and looking keenly at me from under
    his half closed lids. "I perceive that you have been
    unwell lately. Summer colds are always a little
    trying."

    "I was confined to the house by a sever chill for
    three days last week. I thought, however, that I had
    cast off every trace of it."

    "So you have. You look remarkably robust."

    "How, then, did you know of it?"

    "My dear fellow, you know my methods."

    "You deduced it, then?"

    "Certainly."

    "And from what?"

    "From your slippers."

    I glanced down at the new patent leathers which I was
    wearing. "How on earth--" I began, but Holmes
    answered my question before it was asked.

    "Your slippers are new," he said. "You could not have
    had them more than a few weeks. The soles which you
    are at this moment presenting to me are slightly
    scorched. For a moment I thought they might have got
    wet and been burned in the drying. But near the instep
    there is a small circular wafer of paper with the
    shopman's hieroglyphics upon it. Damp would of course
    have removed this. You had, then, been sitting with
    our feet outstretched to the fire, which a man would
    hardly do even in so wet a June as this if he were in
    his full health."

    Like all Holmes's reasoning the thing seemed
    simplicity itself when it was once explained. He read
    the thought upon my features, and his smile had a
    tinge of bitterness.

    "I am afraid that I rather give myself away when I
    explain," said he. "Results without causes are much
    more impressive. You are ready to come to Birmingham,
    then?"

    "Certainly. What is the case?"

    "You shall hear it all in the train. My client is
    outside in a four-wheeler. Can you come at once?"

    "In an instant." I scribbled a note to my neighbor,
    rushed upstairs to explain the matter to my wife, and
    joined Holmes upon the door-step.

    "Your neighbor is a doctor," said he, nodding at the
    brass plate.

    "Yes; he bought a practice as I did."

    "An old-established one?"

    "Just the same as mine. Both have been ever since the
    houses were built."

    "Ah! Then you got hold of the best of the two."

    "I think I did. But how do you know?"

    "By the steps, my boy. Yours are worn three inches
    deeper than his. But this gentleman in the cab is my
    client, Mr. Hall Pycroft. Allow me to introduce you
    to him. Whip your horse up, cabby, for we have only
    just time to catch our train."

    The man whom I found myself facing was a well built,
    fresh- complexioned young fellow, with a frank, honest
    face and a slight, crisp, yellow mustache. He wore a
    very shiny top hat and a neat suit of sober black,
    which made him look what he was--a smart young City
    man, of the class who have been labeled cockneys, but
    who give us our crack volunteer regiments, and who
    turn out more fine athletes and sportsmen than any
    body of men in these islands. His round, ruddy face
    was naturally full of cheeriness, but the corners of
    his mouth seemed to me to be pulled down in a
    half-comical distress. It was not, however, until we
    were all in a first-class carriage and well started
    upon our journey to Birmingham that I was able to
    learn what the trouble was which had driven him to
    Sherlock Holmes.

    "We have a clear run here of seventy minutes," Holmes
    remarked. "I want you, Mr. Hall Pycroft, to tell my
    friend your very interesting experience exactly as you
    have told it to me, or with more detail if possible.
    It will be of use to me to hear the succession of
    events again. It is a case, Watson, which may prove
    to have something in it, or may prove to have nothing,
    but which, at least, presents those unusual and outré
    features which are as dear to you as they are to me.
    Now, Mr. Pycroft, I shall not interrupt you again."

    Our young companion looked at me with a twinkle in his
    eye.

    The worst of the story is, said he, that I show myself
    up as such a confounded fool. Of course it may work
    out all right, and I don't see that I could have done
    otherwise; but if I have lost my crib and get nothing
    in exchange I shall feel what a soft Johnnie I have
    been. I'm not very good at telling a story, Dr.
    Watson, but it is like this with me"

    I used to have a billet at Coxon & Woodhouse's, of
    Draper's Gardens, but they were let in early in the
    spring through the Venezuelan loan, as no doubt you
    remember, and came a nasty cropper. I had been with
    them five years, and old Coxon gave me a ripping good
    testimonial when the smash came, but of course we
    clerks were all turned adrift, the twenty-seven of us.
    I tried here and tried there, but there were lots of
    other chaps on the same lay as myself, and it was a
    perfect frost for a long time. I had been taking
    three pounds a week at Coxon's, and I had saved about
    seventy of them, but I soon worked my way through that
    and out at the other end. I was fairly at the end of
    my tether at last, and could hardly find the stamps to
    answer the advertisements or the envelopes to stick
    them to. I had worn out my boots paddling up office
    stairs, and I seemed just as far from getting a billet
    as ever.

    At last I saw a vacancy at Mawson & Williams's, the
    great stock-broking firm in Lombard Street. I dare
    say E. C. Is not much in your line, but I can tell you
    that this is about the richest house in London. The
    advertisement was to be answered by letter only. I
    sent in my testimonial and application, but without
    the least hope of getting it. Back came an answer by
    return, saying that if I would appear next Monday I
    might take over my new duties at once, provided that
    my appearance was satisfactory. No one knows how
    these things are worked. Some people say that the
    manager just plunges his hand into the heap and takes
    the first that comes. Anyhow it was my innings that
    time, and I don't ever wish to feel better pleased.
    The screw was a pound a week rise, and the duties just
    about the same as at Coxon's.

    And now I come to the queer part of the business. I
    was in diggings out Hampstead way, 17 Potter's
    Terrace. Well, I was sitting doing a smoke that very
    evening after I had been promised the appointment,
    when up came my landlady with a card which had "Arthur
    Pinner, Financial Agent," printed upon it. I had
    never heard the name before and could not imagine what
    he wanted with me; but, of course, I asked her to show
    him up. In he walked, a middle-sized, dark- haired,
    dark-eyed, black-bearded man, with a touch of the
    Sheeny about his nose. He had a brisk kind of way
    with him and spoke sharply, like a man who knew the
    value of time.

    "Mr. Hall Pycroft, I believe?" said he.

    "Yes, sir," I answered, pushing a chair towards him.

    "Lately engaged at Coxon & Woodhouse's?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "And now on the staff of Mawson's."

    "Quite so."

    "Well," said he, "the fact is that I have heard some
    really extraordinary stories about your financial
    ability. You remember Parker, who used to be Coxon's
    manager? He can never say enough about it."

    Of course I was pleased to hear this. I had always
    been pretty sharp in the office, but I had never
    dreamed that I was talked about in the City in this
    fashion.

    "You have a good memory?" said he.

    "Pretty fair," I answered, modestly.

    "Have you kept in touch with the market while you have
    been out of work?" he asked.

    "Yes. I read the stock exchange list every morning."

    "Now that shows real application!" he cried. "That is
    the way to prosper! You won't mind my testing you,
    will you? Let me see. How are Ayrshires?"

    "A hundred and six and a quarter to a hundred and five
    and seven-eighths."

    "And New Zealand consolidated?"

    "A hundred and four."

    "And British Broken Hills?"

    "Seven to seven-and-six."

    "Wonderful!" he cried, with his hands up. "This quite
    fits in with all that I had heard. My boy, my boy,
    you are very much too good to be a clerk at Mawson's!"

    This outburst rather astonished me, as you can think.
    "Well," said I, "other people don't think quite so
    much of me as you seem to do, Mr. Pinner. I had a
    hard enough fight to get this berth, and I am very
    glad to have it."

    "Pooh, man; you should soar above it. You are not in
    your true sphere. Now, I'll tell you how it stands
    with me. What I have to offer is little enough when
    measured by your ability, but when compared with
    Mawson's, it's light to dark. Let me see. When do
    you go to Mawson's?"

    "On Monday."

    "Ha, ha! I think I would risk a little sporting
    flutter that you don't go there at all."

    "Not go to Mawson's?"

    "No, sir. By that day you will be the business
    manager of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company,
    Limited, with a hundred and thirty-four branches in
    the towns and villages of France, not counting one in
    Brussels and one in San Remo."

    This took my breath away. "I never heard of it," said
    I.

    "Very likely not. It has been kept very quiet, for
    the capital was all privately subscribed, and it's too
    good a thing to let the public into. My brother,
    Harry Pinner, is promoter, and joins the board after
    allotment as managing director. He knew I was in the
    swim down here, and asked me to pick up a good man
    cheap. A young, pushing man with plenty of snap about
    him. Parker spoke of you, and that brought me here
    tonight. We can only offer you a beggarly five
    hundred to start with."

    "Five hundred a year!" I shouted.

    "Only that at the beginning; but you are to have an
    overriding commission of one per cent on all business
    done by your agents, and you may take my word for it
    that this will come to more than your salary."

    "But I know nothing about hardware."

    "Tut, my boy; you know about figures."

    My head buzzed, and I could hardly sit still in my
    chair. But suddenly a little chill of doubt came upon
    me.

    "I must be frank with you," said I. "Mawson only
    gives me two hundred, but Mawson is safe. Now,
    really, I know so little about your company that--"

    "Ah, smart, smart!" he cried, in a kind of ecstasy of
    delight. "You are the very man for us. You are not
    to be talked over, and quite right, too. Now, here's
    a note for a hundred pounds, and if you think that we
    can do business you may just slip it into your pocket
    as an advance upon your salary."

    "That is very handsome," said I. "When should I take
    over my new duties?"

    "Be in Birmingham to-morrow at one," said he. "I have
    a note in my pocket here which you will take to my
    brother. You will find him at 126b Corporation
    Street, where the temporary offices of the company are
    situated. Of course he must confirm your engagement,
    but between ourselves it will be all right."

    "Really, I hardly know how to express my gratitude,
    Mr. Pinner," said I.

    "Not at all, my boy. You have only got your desserts.
    There are one or two small things--mere
    formalities--which I must arrange with you. You have
    a bit of paper beside you there. Kindly write upon it
    'I am perfectly willing to act as business manager to
    the Franco-Midland Hardware Company, Limited, at a
    minimum salary of L500."

    I did as he asked, and he put the paper in his pocket.

    "There is one other detail," said he. "What do you
    intend to do about Mawson's?"

    I had forgotten all about Mawson's in my joy. "I'll
    write and resign," said I.

    "Precisely what I don't want you to do. I had a row
    over you with Mawson's manager. I had gone up to ask
    him about you, and he was very offensive; accused me
    of coaxing you away from the service of the firm, and
    that sort of thing. At last I fairly lost my temper.
    'If you want good men you should pay them a good
    price,' said I.

    "'He would rather have our small price than your big
    one,' said he.

    "'I'll lay you a fiver,' said I, 'that when he has my
    offer you'll never so much as hear from him again.'

    "'Done!' said he. 'We picked him out of the gutter,
    and he won't leave us so easily.' Those were his very
    words."

    "The impudent scoundrel!" I cried. "I've never so
    much as seen him in my life. Why should I consider
    him in any way? I shall certainly not write if you
    would rather I didn't."

    "Good! That's a promise," said he, rising from his
    chair. "Well, I'm delighted to have got so good a man
    for my brother. Here's your advance of a hundred
    pounds, and here is the letter. Make a not of the
    address, 126b Corporation Street, and remember that
    one o'clock to-morrow is your appointment.
    Good-night; and may you have all the fortune that you
    deserve!"

    That's just about all that passed between us, as near
    as I can remember. You can imagine, Dr. Watson, how
    pleased I was at such an extraordinary bit of good
    fortune. I sat up half the night hugging myself over
    it, and next day I was off to Birmingham in a train
    that would take me in plenty time for my appointment.
    I took my things to a hotel in New Street, and then I
    made my way to the address which had been given me.

    It was a quarter of an hour before my time, but I
    thought that would make no difference. 126b was a
    passage between two large shops, which led to a
    winding stone stair, from which there were many flats,
    let as offices to companies or professional men. The
    names of the occupants were painted at the bottom on
    the wall, but there was no such name as the
    Franco-Midland Hardware Company, Limited. I stood for
    a few minutes with my heart in my boots, wondering
    whether the whole thing was an elaborate hoax or not,
    when up came a man and addressed me. He was very like
    the chap I had seen the night before, the same figure
    and voice, but he was clean shaven and his hair was
    lighter.

    "Are you Mr. Hall Pycroft?" he asked.

    "Yes," said I.

    "Oh! I was expecting you, but you are a trifle before
    your time. I had a note from my brother this morning
    in which he sang your praises very loudly."

    "I was just looking for the offices when you came."

    "We have not got our name up yet, for we only secured
    these temporary premises last week. Come up with me,
    and we will talk the matter over."

    I followed him to the top of a very lofty stair, and
    there, right under the slates, were a couple of empty,
    dusty little rooms, uncarpeted and uncurtained, into
    which he led me. I had thought of a great office with
    shining tables and rows of clerks, such as I was used
    to, and I dare say I stared rather straight at the two
    deal chairs and one little table, which, with a ledger
    and a waste paper basket, made up the whole furniture.

    "Don't be disheartened, Mr. Pycroft," said my new
    acquaintance, seeing the length of my face. "Rome was
    not built in a day, and we have lots of money at our
    backs, though we don't cut much dash yet in offices.
    Pray sit down, and let me have your letter."

    I gave it to him, and her read it over very carefully.

    "You seem to have made a vast impression upon my
    brother Arthur," said he; "and I know that he is a
    pretty shrewd judge. Hew swears by London, you know;
    and I by Birmingham; but this time I shall follow his
    advice. Pray consider yourself definitely engaged."

    "What are my duties?" I asked.

    "You will eventually manage the great depot in Paris,
    which will pour a flood of English crockery into the
    shops of a hundred and thirty-four agents in France.
    The purchase will be completed in a week, and
    meanwhile you will remain in Birmingham and make
    yourself useful."

    "How?"

    For answer, he took a big red book out of a drawer.

    "This is a directory of Paris," said he, "with the
    trades after the names of the people. I want you to
    take it home with you, and to mark off al the hardware
    sellers, with their addresses. It would be of the
    greatest use to me to have them."

    "Surely there are classified lists?" I suggested.

    "Not reliable ones. Their system is different from
    ours. Stick at it, and let me have the lists by
    Monday, at twelve. Good-day, Mr. Pycroft. If you
    continue to show zeal and intelligence you will find
    the company a good master."

    I went back to the hotel with the big book under my
    arm, and with very conflicting feelings in my breast.
    On the one hand, I was definitely engaged and had a
    hundred pounds in my pocket; on the other, the look of
    the offices, the absence of name on the wall, and
    other of the points which would strike a business man
    had left a bad impression as to the position of my
    employers. However, come what might, I had my money,
    so I settled down to my task. All Sunday I was kept
    hard at work, and yet by Monday I had only got as far
    as H. I went round to my employer, found him in the
    same dismantled kind of room, and was told to keep at
    it until Wednesday, and then come again. On Wednesday
    it was still unfinished, so I hammered away until
    Friday--that is, yesterday. Then I brought it round
    to Mr. Harry Pinner.

    "Thank you very much," said he; "I fear that I
    underrated the difficulty of the task. This list will
    be of very material assistance to me."

    "It took some time," said I.

    "And now," said he, "I want you to make a list of the
    furniture shops, for they all sell crockery."

    "Very good."

    "And you can come up to-morrow evening, at seven, and
    let me know how you are getting on. Don't overwork
    yourself. A couple of hours at Day's Music Hall in
    the evening would do you no harm after your labors."
    He laughed as he spoke, and I saw with a thrill that
    his second tooth upon the left-hand side had been very
    badly stuffed with gold.

    Sherlock Holmes rubbed his hands with delight, and I
    stared with astonishment at our client.

    "You may well look surprised, Dr. Watson; but it is
    this way," said he: "When I was speaking to the other
    chap in London, at the time that he laughed at my not
    going to Mawson's, I happened to notice that his tooth
    was stuffed in this very identical fashion. The glint
    of the gold in each case caught my eye, you see. When
    I put that with the voice and figure being the same,
    and only those things altered which might be changed
    by a razor or a wig, I could not doubt that it was the
    same man. Of course you expect two brothers to be
    alike, but not that they should have the same tooth
    stuffed in the same way. He bowed me out, and I found
    myself in the street, hardly knowing whether I was on
    my head or my heels. Back I went to my hotel, put my
    head in a basin of cold water, and tried to think it
    out. Why had he sent me from London to Birmingham?
    Why had he got there before me? And why had he
    written a letter from himself to himself? It was
    altogether too much for me, and I could make no sense
    of it. And then suddenly it struck me that what was
    dark to me might be very light to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
    I had just time to get up to town by the night train
    to see him this morning, and to bring you both back
    with me to Birmingham."

    There was a pause after the stock-broker's clerk had
    concluded his surprising experience. Then Sherlock
    Holmes cocked his eye at me, leaning back on the
    cushions with a pleased and yet critical face, like a
    connoisseur who has just taken his first sip of a
    comet vintage.

    "Rather fine, Watson, is it not?" said he. "There are
    points in it which please me. I think that you will
    agree with me that an interview with Mr. Arthur Harry
    Pinner in the temporary offices of the Franco-Midland
    Hardware Company, Limited, would be a rather
    interesting experience for both of us."

    "But how can we do it?" I asked.

    "Oh, easily enough," said Hall Pycroft, cheerily.
    "You are two friends of mine who are in want of a
    billet, and what could be more natural than that I
    should bring you both round to the managing director?"

    "Quite so, of course," said Holmes. "I should like to
    have a look at the gentleman, and see if I can make
    anything of his little game. What qualities have you,
    my friend, which would make your services so valuable?
    or is it possible that--" He began biting his nails
    and staring blankly out of the window, and we hardly
    drew another word from him until we were in New
    Street.

    At seven o'clock that evening we were walking, the
    three of us, down Corporation Street to the company's
    offices.

    "It is no use our being at all before our time," said
    our client. "He only comes there to see me,
    apparently, for the place is deserted up to the very
    hour he names."

    "That is suggestive," remarked Holmes.

    "By Jove, I told you so!" cried the clerk. "That's he
    walking ahead of us there."

    He pointed to a smallish, dark, well-dressed man who
    was bustling along the other side of the road. As we
    watched him he looked across at a boy who was bawling
    out the latest edition of the evening paper, and
    running over among the cabs and busses, he bought one
    from him. Then, clutching it in his hand, he vanished
    through a door-way.

    "There he goes!" cried Hall Pycroft. "These are the
    company's offices into which he has gone. Come with
    me, and I'll fix it up as easily as possible."

    Following his lead, we ascended five stories, until we
    found ourselves outside a half-opened door, at which
    our client tapped. A voice within bade us enter, and
    we entered a bare, unfurnished room such as Hall
    Pycroft had described. At the single table sat the
    man whom we had seen in the street, with his evening
    paper spread out in front of him, and as he looked up
    at us it seemed to me that I had never looked upon a
    face which bore such marks of grief, and of something
    beyond grief--of a horror such as comes to few men in
    a lifetime. His brow glistened wit perspiration, his
    cheeks were of the dull, dead white of a fish's belly,
    and his eyes were wild and staring. He looked at his
    clerk as though he failed to recognize him, and I
    could see by the astonishment depicted upon our
    conductor's face that this was by no means the usual
    appearance of his employer.

    "You look ill, Mr. Pinner!" he exclaimed.

    "Yes, I am not very well," answered the other, making
    obvious efforts to pull himself together, and licking
    his dry lips before he spoke. "Who are these
    gentlemen whom you have brought with you?"

    "One is Mr. Harris, of Bermondsey, and the other is
    Mr. Price, of this town," said our clerk, glibly.
    "They are friends of mine and gentlemen of experience,
    but they have been out of a place for some little
    time, and they hoped that perhaps you might find an
    opening for them in the company's employment."

    "Very possibly! Very possibly!" cried Mr. Pinner with
    a ghastly smile. "Yes, I have no doubt that we shall
    be able to do something for you. What is your
    particular line, Mr. Harris?"

    "I am an accountant," said Holmes.

    "Ah yes, we shall want something of the sort. And
    you, Mr. Price?"

    "A clerk," said I.

    "I have every hope that the company may accommodate
    you. I will let you know about it as soon as we come
    to any conclusion. And now I beg that you will go.
    For God's sake leave me to myself!"

    These last words were shot out of him, as though the
    constraint which he was evidently setting upon himself
    had suddenly and utterly burst asunder. Holmes and I
    glanced at each other, and Hall Pycroft took a step
    towards the table.

    "You forget, Mr. Pinner, that I am here by appointment
    to receive some directions from you," said he.

    "Certainly, Mr. Pycroft, certainly," the other resumed
    in a calmer tone. "You may wait here a moment; and
    there is no reason why your friends should not wait
    with you. I will be entirely at your service in three
    minutes, if I might trespass upon your patience so
    far." He rose with a very courteous air, and, bowing
    to us, he passed out through a door at the farther end
    of the room, which he closed behind him.

    "What now?" whispered Holmes. "Is he giving us the
    slip?"

    "Impossible," answered Pycroft.

    "Why so?"

    "That door leads into an inner room."

    "There is no exit?"

    "None."

    "Is it furnished?"

    "It was empty yesterday."

    "Then what on earth can he be doing? There is
    something which I don't understand in his manner. If
    ever a man was three parts mad with terror, that man's
    name is Pinner. What can have put the shivers on
    him?"

    "He suspects that we are detectives," I suggested.

    "That's it," cried Pycroft.

    Holmes shook his head. "He did not turn pale. He was
    pale when we entered the room," said he. "It is just
    possible that--"

    His words were interrupted by a sharp rat-tat from the
    direction of the inner door.

    "What the deuce is he knocking at his own door for?"
    cried the clerk.

    Again and much louder cam the rat-tat-tat. We all
    gazed expectantly at the closed door. Glancing at
    Holmes, I saw his face turn rigid, and he leaned
    forward in intense excitement. Then suddenly came a
    low guggling, gargling sound, and a brisk drumming
    upon woodwork. Holmes sprang frantically across the
    room and pushed at the door. It was fastened on the
    inner side. Following his example, we threw ourselves
    upon it with all our weight. One hinge snapped, then
    the other, and down came the door with a crash.
    Rushing over it, we found ourselves in the inner room.
    It was empty.

    But it was only for a moment that we were at fault.
    At one corner, the corner nearest the room which we
    had left, there was a second door. Holmes sprang to
    it and pulled it open. A coat and waistcoat were
    lying on the floor, and from a hook behind the door,
    with his own braces round his neck, was hanging the
    managing director of the Franco-Midland Hardware
    Company. His knees were drawn up, his head hung at a
    dreadful angle to his body, and the clatter of his
    heels against the door made the noise which had broken
    in upon our conversation. In an instant I had caught
    him round the waist, and held him up while Holmes and
    Pycroft untied the elastic bands which had disappeared
    between the livid creases of skin. Then we carried
    him into the other room, where he lay with a
    clay-colored face, puffing his purple lips in and out
    with every breath--a dreadful wreck of all that he had
    been but five minutes before.

    "What do you think of him, Watson?" asked Holmes.

    I stooped over him and examined him. His pule was
    feeble and intermittent, but his breathing grew
    longer, and there was a little shivering of his
    eyelids, which showed a thin white slit of ball
    beneath.

    "It has been touch and go with him," said I, "but
    he'll live now. Just open that window, and hand me
    the water carafe." I undid his collar, poured the
    cold water over his face, and raised and sank his arms
    until he drew a long, natural breath. "It's only a
    question of time now," said I, as I turned away from
    him.

    Holmes stood by the table, with his hands deep in his
    trouser's pockets and his chin upon his breast.

    "I suppose we ought to call the police in now," said
    he. "And yet I confess that I'd like to give them a
    complete case when they come."

    "It's a blessed mystery to me," cried Pycroft,
    scratching his head. "Whatever they wanted to bring
    me all the way up here for, and then--"

    "Pooh! All that is clear enough," said Holmes
    impatiently. "It is this last sudden move."

    "You understand the rest, then?"

    "I think that it is fairly obvious. What do you say,
    Watson?"

    I shrugged my shoulders. "I must confess that I am
    out of my depths," said I.

    "Oh surely if you consider the events at first they
    can only point to one conclusion."

    "What do you make of them?"

    "Well, the whole thing hinges upon two points. The
    first is the making of Pycroft write a declaration by
    which he entered the service of this preposterous
    company. Do you not see how very suggestive that is?"

    "I am afraid I miss the point."

    "Well, why did they want him to do it? Not as a
    business matter, for these arrangements are usually
    verbal, and there was no earthly business reason why
    this should be an exception. Don't you see, my young
    friend, that they were very anxious to obtain a
    specimen of your handwriting, and had no other way of
    doing it?"

    "And why?"

    "Quite so. Why? When we answer that we have made
    some progress with our little problem. Why? There
    can be only one adequate reason. Some one wanted to
    learn to imitate your writing, and had to procure a
    specimen of it first. And now if we pass on to the
    second point we find that each throws light upon the
    other. That point is the request made by Pinner that
    you should not resign your place, but should leave the
    manager of this important business in the full
    expectation that a Mr. Hall Pycroft, whom he had never
    seen, was about to enter the office upon the Monday
    morning."

    "My God!" cried our client, "what a blind beetle I
    have been!"

    "Now you see the point about the handwriting. Suppose
    that some one turned up in your place who wrote a
    completely different hand from that in which you had
    applied for the vacancy, of course the game would have
    been up. But in the interval the rogue had learned to
    imitate you, and his position was therefore secure, as
    I presume that nobody in the office had ever set eyes
    upon you."

    "Not a soul," groaned Hall Pycroft.

    "Very good. Of course it was of the utmost importance
    to prevent you from thinking better of it, and also to
    keep you from coming into contact with any one who
    might tell you that your double was at work in
    Mawson's office. Therefore they gave you a handsome
    advance on your salary, and ran you off to the
    Midlands, where they gave you enough work to do to
    prevent your going to London, where you might have
    burst their little game up. That is all plain
    enough."

    "But why should this man pretend to be his won
    brother?"

    "Well, that is pretty clear also. There are evidently
    only two of them in it. The other is personating you
    at the office. This one acted as your engager, and
    then found that he could not find you an employer
    without admitting a third person into his plot. That
    he was most unwilling to do. He changed his
    appearance as far as he could, and trusted that the
    likeness, which you could not fail to observe, would
    be put down to a family resemblance. But for the
    happy chance of the gold stuffing, your suspicions
    would probably never have been aroused."

    Hall Pycroft shook his clinched hands in the air.
    "Good Lord!" he cried, "while I have been fooled in
    this way, what has this other Hall Pycroft been doing
    at Mawson's? What should we do, Mr. Holmes? Tell me
    what to do."

    "We must wire to Mawson's."

    "They shut at twelve on Saturdays."

    "Never mind. There may be some door-keeper or
    attendant--"

    "Ah yes, they keep a permanent guard there on account
    of the value of the securities that they hold. I
    remember hearing it talked of in the City."

    "Very good; we shall wire to him, and see if all is
    well, and if a clerk of your name is working there.
    That is clear enough; but what is not so clear is why
    at sight of us one of the rogues should instantly walk
    out of the room and hang himself."

    "The paper!" croaked a voice behind us. The man was
    sitting up, blanched and ghastly, with returning
    reason in his eyes, and hands which rubbed nervously
    at the broad red band which still encircled his
    throat.

    "The paper! Of course!" yelled Holmes, in a paroxysm
    of excitement. "Idiot that I was! I thought so must
    of our visit that the paper never entered my head for
    an instant. To be sure, the secret must be there."
    He flattened it out upon the table, and a cry of
    triumph burst from his lips. "Look at this, Watson,"
    he cried. "It is a London paper, an early edition of
    the Evening Standard. Here is what we want. Look at
    the headlines: 'Crime in the City. Murder at Mawson &
    Williams's. Gigantic attempted Robbery. Capture of
    the Criminal.' Here, Watson, we are all equally
    anxious to hear it, so kindly read it aloud to us."

    It appeared from its position in the paper to have
    been the one event of importance in town, and the
    account of it ran in this way:

    "A desperate attempt at robbery, culminating in the
    death of one man and the capture of the criminal,
    occurred this afternoon in the City. For some time
    back Mawson & Williams, the famous financial house,
    have been the guardians of securities which amount in
    the aggregate to a sum of considerably over a million
    sterling. So conscious was the manager of the
    responsibility which devolved upon him in consequence
    of the great interests at stake that safes of the very
    latest construction have been employed, and an armed
    watchman has been left day and night in the building.
    It appears that last week a new clerk named Hall
    Pycroft was engaged by the firm. This person appears
    to have been none other that Beddington, the famous
    forger and cracksman, who, with his brother, had only
    recently emerged from a five years' spell of penal
    servitude. By some mean, which are not yet clear, he
    succeeded in wining, under a false name, this official
    position in the office, which he utilized in order to
    obtain moulding of various locks, and a thorough
    knowledge of the position of the strong room and the
    safes.

    "It is customary at Mawson's for the clerks to leave
    at midday on Saturday. Sergeant Tuson, of the City
    Police, was somewhat surprised, therefore to see a
    gentleman with a carpet bag come down the steps at
    twenty minutes past one. His suspicions being
    aroused, the sergeant followed the man, and with the
    aid of Constable Pollack succeeded, after a most
    desperate resistance, in arresting him. It was at
    once clear that a daring and gigantic robbery had been
    committed. Nearly a hundred thousand pounds' worth of
    American railway bonds, with a large amount of scrip
    in mines and other companies, was discovered in the
    bag. On examining the premises the body of the
    unfortunate watchman was found doubled up and thrust
    into the largest of the safes, where it would not have
    been discovered until Monday morning had it not been
    for the prompt action of Sergeant Tuson. The man's
    skull had been shattered by a blow from a poker
    delivered from behind. There could be no doubt that
    Beddington had obtained entrance by pretending that he
    had left something behind him, and having murdered the
    watchman, rapidly rifled the large safe, and then made
    off with his booty. His brother, who usually works
    with him, has not appeared in this job as far as can
    at present be ascertained, although the police are
    making energetic inquiries as to his whereabouts."

    "Well, we may save the police some little trouble in
    that direction," said Holmes, glancing at the haggard
    figure huddled up by the window. "Human nature is a
    strange mixture, Watson. You see that even a villain
    and murderer can inspire such affection that his
    brother turns to suicide when he learns that his neck
    is forfeited. However, we have no choice as to our
    action. The doctor and I will remain on guard, Mr.
    Pycroft, if you will have the kindness to step out for
    the police."
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