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    The Musgrave Ritual

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    Chapter 5
    Previous Chapter
    An anomaly which often struck me in the character of
    my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his
    methods of thought he was the neatest and most
    methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a
    certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less
    in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that
    ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction. Not that I
    am in the least conventional in that respect myself.
    The rough-and-tumble work in Afghanistan, coming on
    the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has
    made me rather more lax than befits a medical man who
    keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in
    the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered
    correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the
    very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin to
    give myself virtuous airs. I have always held, too,
    that pistol practice should be distinctly an open-air
    pastime; and when Holmes, in one of his queer humors,
    would sit in an arm-chair with his hair-trigger and a
    hundred Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the
    opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. Done in
    bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the
    atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was improved
    by it.

    Our chambers were always full of chemicals and of
    criminal relics which had a way of wandering into
    unlikely positions, and of turning up in the
    butter-dish or in even less desirable places. But his
    papers were my great crux. He had a horror of
    destroying documents, especially those which were
    connected with his past cases, and yet it was only
    once in every year or two that he would muster energy
    to docket and arrange them; for, as I have mentioned
    somewhere in these incoherent memoirs, the outbursts
    of passionate energy when he performed the remarkable
    feats with which his name is associated were followed
    by reactions of lethargy during which he would lie
    about with his violin and his books, hardly moving
    save fro the sofa to the table. Thus month after
    month his papers accumulated, until every corner of
    the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which
    were on no account to be burned, and which could not
    be put away save by their owner. One winter's night,
    as we sat together by the fire, I ventured to suggest
    to him that, as he had finished pasting extracts into
    his common-place book, he might employ the next two
    hours in making our room a little more habitable. He
    could not deny the justice of my request, so with a
    rather rueful face went off to his bedroom, from which
    he returned presently pulling a large tin box behind
    him. This he placed in the middle of the floor and,
    squatting down upon a stool in front of it, he threw
    back the lid. I could see that it was already a third
    full of bundles of paper tied up with red tape into
    separate packages.

    "There are cases enough here, Watson," said he,
    looking at me with mischievous eyes. "I think that if
    you knew all that I had in this box you would ask me
    to pull some out instead of putting others in."

    "These are the records of your early work, then?" I
    asked. "I have often wished that I had notes of those

    "Yes, my boy, these were all done prematurely before
    my biographer had come to glorify me." He lifted
    bundle after bundle in a tender, caressing sort of
    way. "They are not all successes, Watson," said he.
    "But there are some pretty little problems among them.
    Here's the record of the Tarleton murders, and the
    case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure
    of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of
    the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of
    Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife.
    And here--ah, now, this really is something a little

    He dived his arm down to the bottom of the chest, and
    brought up a small wooden box with a sliding lid, such
    as children's toys are kept in. From within he
    produced a crumpled piece of paper, and old-fashioned
    brass key, a peg of wood with a ball of string
    attached to it, and three rusty old disks of metal.

    "Well, my boy, what do you make of this lot?" he
    asked, smiling at my expression.

    "It is a curious collection."

    "Very curious, and the story that hangs round it will
    strike you as being more curious still."

    "These relics have a history then?"

    "So much so that they are history."

    "What do you mean by that?"

    Sherlock Holmes picked them up one by one, and laid
    them along the edge of the table. Then re reseated
    himself in his chair and looked them over with a gleam
    of satisfaction in his eyes.

    "These," said he, "are all that I have left to remind
    me of the adventure of the Musgrave Ritual."

    I had heard him mention the case more than once,
    though I had never been able to gather the details.
    "I should be so glad," said I, "if you would give me
    an account of it."

    "And leave the litter as it is?" he cried,
    mischievously. "Your tidiness won't bear much strain
    after all, Watson. But I should be glad that you
    should add this case to your annals, for there are
    points in it which make it quite unique in the
    criminal records of this or, I believe, of any other
    country. A collection of my trifling achievements
    would certainly be incomplete which contained no
    account of this very singular business.

    "You may remember how the affair of the Gloria Scott,
    and my conversation with the unhappy man whose fate I
    told you of, first turned my attention in the
    direction of the profession which has become my life's
    work. You see me now when my name has become known
    far and wide, and when I am generally recognized both
    by the public and by the official force as being a
    final court of appeal in doubtful cases. Even when
    you knew me first, at the time of the affair which you
    have commemorated in 'A Study in Scarlet,' I had
    already established a considerable, though not a very
    lucrative, connection. You can hardly realize, then,
    how difficult I found it at first, and how long I had
    to wait before I succeeded in making any headway.

    "When I first came up to London I had rooms in
    Montague Street, just round the corner from the
    British Museum, and there I waited, filling in my too
    abundant leisure time by studying all those branches
    of science which might make me more efficient. Now
    and again cases came in my way, principally through
    the introduction of old fellow-students, for during my
    last years at the University there was a good deal of
    talk there about myself and my methods. The third of
    these cases was that of the Musgrave Ritual, and it is
    to the interest which was aroused by that singular
    chain of events, and the large issues which proved to
    be at stake, that I trace my first stride towards to
    position which I now hold.

    "Reginald Musgrave had been in the same college as
    myself, and I had some slight acquaintance with him.
    He was not generally popular among the undergraduates,
    though it always seemed to me that what was set down
    as pride was really an attempt to cover extreme
    natural diffidence. In appearance he was a man of
    exceedingly aristocratic type, thin, high-nosed, and
    large-eyed, with languid and yet courtly manners. He
    was indeed a scion of one of the very oldest families
    in the kingdom, though his branch was a cadet one
    which had separated from the northern Musgraves some
    time in the sixteenth century, and had established
    itself in western Sussex, where the Manor House of
    Hurlstone is perhaps the oldest inhabited building in
    the county. Something of his birth place seemed to
    cling to the man, and I never looked at his pale, keen
    face or the poise of his head without associating him
    with gray archways and mullioned windows and all the
    venerable wreckage of a feudal keep. Once or twice we
    drifted into talk, and I can remember that more than
    once he expressed a keen interest in my methods of
    observation and inference.

    "For four years I had seen nothing of him until one
    morning he walked into my room in Montague Street. He
    had changed little, was dressed like a young man of
    fashion--he was always a bit of a dandy--and preserved
    the same quiet, suave manner which had formerly
    distinguished him.

    "'How has all gone wit you Musgrave?" I asked, after
    we had cordially shaken hands.

    "'You probably heard of my poor father's death,' said
    he; 'he was carried off about two years ago. Since
    then I have of course had the Hurlstone estates to
    manage, and as I am member for my district as well, my
    life has been a busy one. But I understand, Holmes,
    that you are turning to practical ends those powers
    with which you used to amaze us?"

    "'Yes,' said I, 'I have taken to living by my wits.'

    "'I am delighted to hear it, for your advice at
    present would be exceedingly valuable to me. We have
    had some very strange doings at Hurlstone, and the
    police have been able to throw no light upon the
    matter. It is really the most extraordinary and
    inexplicable business.'

    "You can imagine with what eagerness I listened to
    him, Watson, for the very chance for which I had been
    panting during all those months of inaction seemed to
    have come within my reach. In my inmost heart I
    believed that I could succeed where others failed, and
    now I had the opportunity to test myself.

    "'Pray, let me have the details,' I cried.

    "Reginald Musgrave sat down opposite to me, and lit
    the cigarette which I had pushed towards him.

    "'You must know,' said he, 'that though I am a
    bachelor, I have to keep up a considerable staff of
    servants at Hurlstone, for it is a rambling old place,
    and takes a good deal of looking after. I preserve,
    too, and in the pheasant months I usually have a
    house-party, so that it would not do to be
    short-handed. Altogether there are eight maids, the
    cook, the butler, two footmen, and a boy. The garden
    and the stables of course have a separate staff.

    "'Of these servants the one who had been longest in
    our service was Brunton the butler. He was a young
    school-master out of place when he was first taken up
    by my father, but he was a man of great energy and
    character, and he soon became quite invaluable in the
    household. He was a well-grown, handsome man, with a
    splendid forehead, and though he has been with us for
    twenty years he cannot be more than forty now. With
    his personal advantages and his extraordinary
    gifts--for he can speak several languages and play
    nearly every musical instrument--it is wonderful that
    he should have been satisfied so long in such a
    position, but I suppose that he was comfortable, and
    lacked energy to make any change. The butler of
    Hurlstone is always a thing that is remembered by all
    who visit us.

    "'But this paragon has one fault. He is a bit of a
    Don Juan, and you can imagine that for a man like him
    it is not a very difficult part to play in a quiet
    country district. When he was married it was all
    right, but since he has been a widower we have had no
    end of trouble with him. A few months ago we were in
    hopes that he was about to settle down again for he
    became engaged to Rachel Howells, our second
    house-maid; but he has thrown her over since then and
    taken up with Janet Tregellis, the daughter of the
    head game-keeper. Rachel--who is a very good girl,
    but of an excitable Welsh temperament--had a sharp
    touch of brain-fever, and goes about the house now--or
    did until yesterday--like a black-eyed shadow of her
    former self. That was our first drama at Hurlstone;
    but a second one came to drive it from our minds, and
    it was prefaced by the disgrace and dismissal of
    butler Brunton.

    "'This was how it came about. I have said that the
    man was intelligent, and this very intelligence has
    caused his ruin, for it seems to have led to an
    insatiable curiosity about things which did not in the
    least concern him. I had no idea of the lengths to
    which this would carry him, until the merest accident
    opened my eyes to it.

    "'I have said that the house is a rambling one. One
    day last week--on Thursday night, to be more exact--I
    found that I could not sleep, having foolishly taken a
    cup of strong café noir after my dinner. After
    struggling against it until two in the morning, I felt
    that it was quite hopeless, so I rose and lit the
    candle with the intention of continuing a novel which
    I was reading. The book, however, had been left in
    the billiard-room, so I pulled on my dressing-gown and
    started off to get it.

    "'In order to reach the billiard-room I had to descend
    a flight of stairs and then to cross the head of a
    passage which led to the library and the gun-room.
    You can imagine my surprise when, as I looked down
    this corridor, I saw a glimmer of light coming from
    the open door of the library. I had myself
    extinguished the lamp and closed the door before
    coming to bed. Naturally my first thought was of
    burglars. The corridors at Hurlstone have their walls
    largely decorated with trophies of old weapons. From
    one of these I picked a battle-axe, and then, leaving
    my candle behind me, I crept on tiptoe down the
    passage and peeped in at the open door.

    "'Brunton, the butler, was in the library. He was
    sitting, fully dressed, in an easy-chair, with a slip
    of paper which looked lake a map upon his knee, and
    his forehead sunk forward upon his hand in deep
    thought. I stood dumb with astonishment, watching him
    from the darkness. A small taper on the edge of the
    table shed a feeble light which sufficed to show me
    that he was fully dressed. Suddenly, as I looked, he
    rose from his chair, and walking over to a bureau at
    the side, he unlocked it and drew out one of the
    drawers. From this he took a paper, and returning to
    his seat he flattened it out beside the taper on the
    edge of the table, and began to study it with minute
    attention. My indignation at this calm examination of
    our family documents overcame me so far that I took a
    step forward, and Brunton, looking up, saw me standing
    in the doorway. He sprang to his feet, his face
    turned livid with fear, and he thrust into his breast
    the chart-like paper which he had been originally

    "'"So!" said I. "This is how you repay the trust
    which we have reposed in you. You will leave my
    service to-morrow."

    "'He bowed with the look of a man who is utterly
    crushed, and slunk past me without a word. The taper
    was still on the table, and by its light I glanced to
    see what the paper was which Brunton had taken from
    the bureau. To my surprise it was nothing of any
    importance at all, but simply a copy of the questions
    and answers in the singular old observance called the
    Musgrave Ritual. It is a sort of ceremony peculiar to
    our family, which each Musgrave for centuries past has
    gone through on his coming of age--a thing of private
    interest, and perhaps of some little importance to the
    archaeologist, like our own blazonings and charges,
    but of no practical use whatever.'

    "'We had better come back to the paper afterwards,'
    said I.

    "'If you think it really necessary,' he answered, with
    some hesitation. 'To continue my statement, however:
    I relocked the bureau, using the key which Brunton had
    left, and I had turned to go when I was surprised to
    find that the butler had returned, and was standing
    before me.

    "'"Mr. Musgrave, sir," he cried, in a voice which was
    hoarse with emotion, "I can't bear disgrace, sir.
    I've always been proud above my station in life, and
    disgrace would kill me. My blood will be on your
    head, sir--it will, indeed--if you drive me to
    despair. If you cannot keep me after what has passed,
    then for God's sake let me give you notice and leave
    in a month, as if of my own free will. I could stand
    that, Mr. Musgrave, but not to be cast out before all
    the folk that I know so well."

    "'"You don't deserve much consideration, Brunton," I
    answered. "Your conduct has been most infamous.
    However, as you have been a long time in the family, I
    have no wish to bring public disgrace upon you. A
    month, however is too long. Take yourself away in a
    week, and give what reason you like for going."

    "'"Only a week, sir?" he cried, in a despairing voice.
    "A fortnight--say at least a fortnight!"

    "'"A week," I repeated, "and you may consider yourself
    to have been very leniently dealt with."

    "'He crept away, his face sunk upon his breast, like a
    broken man, while I put out the light and returned to
    my room.

    "For two days after this Brunton was most assiduous
    in his attention to his duties. I made no allusion to
    what had passed, and waited with some curiosity to see
    how he would cover his disgrace. On the third
    morning, however he did not appear, as was his custom,
    after breakfast to receive my instructions for the
    day. As I left the dining-room I happened to meet
    Rachel Howells, the maid. I have told you that she
    had only recently recovered from an illness, and was
    looking so wretchedly pale and wan that I remonstrated
    with her for being at work.

    "'"You should be in bed," I said. "Come back to your
    duties when you are stronger."

    "'She looked at me with so strange an expression that
    I began to suspect that her brain was affected.

    "'"I am strong enough, Mr. Musgrave," said she.

    "'"We will see what the doctor says," I answered.
    "You must stop work now, and when you go downstairs
    just say that I wish to see Brunton."

    "'"The butler is gone," said she.

    "'"Gone! Gone where?"

    "'"He is gone. No one has seen him. He is not in his
    room. Oh, yes, he is gone, he is gone!" She fell
    back against the wall with shriek after shriek of
    laughter, while I, horrified at this sudden hysterical
    attack, rushed to the bell to summon help. The girl
    was taken to her room, still screaming and sobbing,
    while I made inquiries about Brunton. There was no
    doubt about it that he had disappeared. His bed had
    not been slept in, he had been seen by no one since he
    had retired to his room the night before, and yet it
    was difficult to see how he could have left the house,
    as both windows and doors were found to be fastened in
    the morning. His clothes, his watch, and even his
    money were in his room, but the black suit which he
    usually wore was missing. His slippers, too, were
    gone, but his boots were left behind. Where then
    could butler Brunton have gone in the night, and what
    could have become of him now?

    "'Of course we searched the house from cellar to
    garret, but there was no trace of him. It is, as I
    have said, a labyrinth of an old house, especially the
    original wing, which is now practically uninhabited;
    but we ransacked every room and cellar without
    discovering the least sign of the missing man. It was
    incredible to me that he could have gone away leaving
    all his property behind him, and yet where could he
    be? I called in the local police, but without
    success. Rain had fallen on the night before and we
    examined the lawn and the paths all round the house,
    but in vain. Matters were in this state, when a new
    development quite drew our attention away from the
    original mystery.

    "'For two days Rachel Howells had been so ill,
    sometimes delirious, sometimes hysterical, that a
    nurse had been employed to sit up with her at night.
    On the third night after Brunton's disappearance, the
    nurse, finding her patient sleeping nicely, had
    dropped into a nap in the arm-chair, when shoe woke in
    the early morning to find the bed empty, the window
    open, and no signs of the invalid. I was instantly
    aroused, and, with the two footmen, started off at
    once in search of the missing girl. It was not
    difficult to tell the direction which she had taken,
    for, starting from under her window, we could follow
    her footmarks easily across the lawn to the edge of
    the mere, where they vanished close to the gravel path
    which leads out of the grounds. The lake there is
    eight feet deep, and you can imagine our feelings when
    we saw that the trail of the poor demented girl came
    to an end at the edge of it.

    "'Of course, we had the drags at once, and set to work
    to recover the remains, but no trace of the body could
    we find. On the other hand, we brought to the surface
    an object of a most unexpected kind. It was a linen
    bag which contained within it a mass of old rusted and
    discolored metal and several dull-colored pieces of
    pebble or glass. This strange find was all that we
    could get from the mere, and, although we made every
    possible search and inquiry yesterday, we know nothing
    of the fate either of Rachel Howells or of Richard
    Brunton. The county police are at their wits' end,
    and I have come up to you as a last resource.'

    "You can imagine, Watson, with what eagerness I
    listened to this extraordinary sequence of events, and
    endeavored to piece them together, and to devise some
    common thread upon which they might all hang. The
    butler was gone. The maid was gone. The maid had
    loved the butler, but had afterwards had cause to hate
    him. She was of Welsh blood, fiery and passionate.
    She had been terribly excited immediately after his
    disappearance. She had flung into the lake a bag
    containing some curious contents. These were all
    factors which had to be taken into consideration, and
    yet none of them got quite to the heart of the matter.
    What was the starting-point of this chain of events?
    There lay the end of this tangled line.

    "'I must see that paper, Musgrave,' said I, 'which
    this butler of your thought it worth his while to
    consult, even at the risk of the loss of his place.'

    "'It is rather an absurd business, this ritual of
    ours,' he answered. 'But it has at least the saving
    grace of antiquity to excuse it. I have a copy of the
    questions and answers here if you care to run your eye
    over them.'

    "He handed me the very paper which I have here,
    Watson, and this is the strange catechism to which
    each Musgrave had to submit when he came to man's
    estate. I will read you the questions and answers as
    they stand.

    "'Whose was it?'

    "'His who is gone.'

    "'Who shall have it?'

    "'He who will come.'

    "'Where was the sun?'

    "'Over the oak.'

    "'Where was the shadow?'

    "'Under the elm.'

    "How was it stepped?'

    "'North by ten and by ten, east by five and by five,
    south by two and by two, west by one and by one, and
    so under.'

    "'What shall we give for it?'

    "'All that is ours.'

    "'Why should we give it?'

    "'For the sake of the trust.'

    "'The original has no date, but is in the spelling of
    the middle of the seventeenth century,' remarked
    Musgrave. 'I am afraid, however, that it can be of
    little help to you in solving this mystery.'

    "'At least,' said I, 'it gives us another mystery, and
    one which is even more interesting than the first. It
    may be that the solution of the one may prove to be
    the solution of the other. You will excuse me,
    Musgrave, if I say that your butler appears to me to
    have been a very clever man, and to have had a clearer
    insight that ten generations of his masters.'

    "'I hardly follow you,' said Musgrave. 'The paper
    seems to me to be of no practical importance.'

    "'But to me it seems immensely practical, and I fancy
    that Brunton took the same view. He had probably seen
    it before that night on which you caught him.'

    "'It is very possible. We took no pains to hide it.'

    "'He simply wished, I should imagine, to refresh his
    memory upon that last occasion. He had, as I
    understand, some sort of map or chart which he was
    comparing with the manuscript, and which he thrust
    into his pocket when you appeared.'

    "'That is true. But what could he have to do with
    this old family custom of ours, and what does this
    rigmarole mean?'

    "'I don't think that we should have much difficulty in
    determining that,' said I; 'with your permission we
    will take the first train down to Sussex, and go a
    little more deeply into the matter upon the spot.'

    "The same afternoon saw us both at Hurlstone.
    Possibly you have seen pictures and read descriptions
    of the famous old building, so I will confine my
    account of it to saying that it is built in the shape
    of an L, the long arm being the more modern portion,
    and the shorter the ancient nucleus, from which the
    other had developed. Over the low, heavily-lintelled
    door, in the centre of this old part, is chiseled the
    date, 1607, but experts are agreed that the beams and
    stone-work are really much older than this. The
    enormously thick walls and tiny windows of this part
    had in the last century driven the family into
    building the new wing, and the old one was used now as
    a store-house and a cellar, when it was used at all.
    A splendid park with fine old timber surrounds the
    house, and the lake, to which my client had referred,
    lay close to the avenue, about tow hundred yards from
    the building.

    "I was already firmly convinced, Watson, that there
    were not three separate mysteries here, but one only,
    and that if I could read the Musgrave Ritual aright I
    should hold in my hand the clue which would lead me to
    the truth concerning both the butler Brunton and the
    maid Howells. To that then I turned all my energies.
    Why should this servant be so anxious to master this
    old formula? Evidently because he saw something in it
    which had escaped all those generations of country
    squires, and from which he expected some personal
    advantage. What was it then, and how had it affected
    his fate?

    "It was perfectly obvious to me, on reading the
    ritual, that the measurements must refer to some spot
    to which the rest of the document alluded, and that if
    we could find that spot, we should be in a fair way
    towards finding what the secret was which the old
    Musgraves had thought it necessary to embalm in so
    curious a fashion. There were two guides given us to
    start with, an oak and an elm. As to the oak there
    could be no question at all. Right in front of the
    house, upon the left-hand side of the drive, there
    stood a patriarch among oaks, one of the most
    magnificent trees that I have ever seen.

    "'That was there when you ritual was drawn up,' said
    I, as we drove past it.

    "'It was there at the Norman Conquest in all
    probability,' he answered. 'It has a girth of
    twenty-three feet.'

    "'Have you any old elms?' I asked.

    "'There used to be a very old one over yonder but it
    was struck by lightning ten years ago, and we cut down
    the stump,'

    "'You can see where it used to be?'

    "'Oh, yes.'

    "'There are no other elms?'

    "'No old ones, but plenty of beeches.'

    "'I should like to see where it grew.'

    "We had driven up in a dogcart, and my client led me
    away at once, without our entering the house, to the
    scar on the lawn where the elm had stood. It was
    nearly midway between the oak and the house. My
    investigation seemed to be progressing.

    "'I suppose it is impossible to find out how high the
    elm was?' I asked.

    "'I can give you it at once. It was sixty-four feet.'

    "'How do you come to know it?' I asked, in surprise.

    "'When my old tutor used to give me an exercise in
    trigonometry, it always took the shape of measuring
    heights. When I was a lad I worked out every tree and
    building in the estate.'

    "This was an unexpected piece of luck. My data were
    coming more quickly than I could have reasonably

    "'Tell me,' I asked, 'did your butler ever ask you
    such a question?'

    "Reginald Musgrave looked at me in astonishment. 'Now
    that you call it to my mind,' he answered, 'Brunton
    did ask me about the height of the tree some months
    ago, in connection with some little argument with the

    "This was excellent news, Watson, for it showed me
    that I was on the right road. I looked up at the sun.
    It was low in the heavens, and I calculated that in
    less than an hour it would lie just above the topmost
    branches of the old oak. One condition mentioned in
    the Ritual would then be fulfilled. And the shadow of
    the elm must mean the farther end of the shadow,
    otherwise the trunk would have been chosen as the
    guide. I had, then, to find where the far end of the
    shadow would fall when the sun was just clear of the

    "That must have been difficult, Holmes, when the elm
    was no longer there."

    "Well, at least I knew that if Brunton could do it, I
    could also. Besides, there was no real difficulty. I
    went with Musgrave to his study and whittled myself
    this peg, to which I tied this long string with a knot
    at each yard. Then I took two lengths of a
    fishing-rod, which came to just six feet, and I went
    back with my client to where the elm had been. The
    sun was just grazing the top of the oak. I fastened
    the rod on end, marked out the direction of the
    shadow, and measured it. It was nine feet in length.

    "Of course the calculation now was a simple one. If a
    rod of six feet threw a shadow of nine, a tree of
    sixty-four feet would throw one of ninety-six, and the
    line of the one would of course the line of the other.
    I measured out the distance, which brought me almost
    to the wall of the house, and I thrust a peg into the
    spot. You can imagine my exultation, Watson, when
    within two inches of my peg I saw a conical depression
    in the ground. I knew that it was the mark made by
    Brunton in his measurements, and that I was still upon
    his trail.

    "From this starting-point I proceeded to step, having
    first taken the cardinal points by my pocket-compass.
    Ten steps with each foot took me along parallel with
    the wall of the house, and again I marked my spot with
    a peg. Then I carefully paced off five to the east
    and two to the south. It brought me to the very
    threshold of the old door. Two steps to the west
    meant now that I was to go two paces down the
    stone-flagged passage, and this was the place
    indicated by the Ritual.

    "Never have I felt such a cold chill of
    disappointment, Watson. For a moment is seemed to me
    that there must be some radical mistake in my
    calculations. The setting sun shone full upon the
    passage floor, and I could see that the old, foot-worn
    gray stones with which it was paved were firmly
    cemented together, and had certainly not been moved
    for many a long year. Brunton had not been at work
    here. I tapped upon the floor, but it sounded the
    same all over, and there was no sign of any crack or
    crevice. But, Fortunately, Musgrave, who had begun to
    appreciate the meaning of my proceedings, and who was
    now as excited as myself, took out his manuscript to
    check my calculation.

    "'And under,' he cried. 'You have omitted the "and

    "I had thought that it meant that we were to dig, but
    now, of course, I saw at once that I was wrong.
    'There is a cellar under this then?' I cried.

    "'Yes, and as old as the house. Down here, through
    this door.'

    "We went down a winding stone stair, and my companion,
    striking a match, lit a large lantern which stood on a
    barrel in the corner. In an instant it was obvious
    that we had at last come upon the true place, and that
    we had not been the only people to visit the spot

    "It had been used for the storage of wood, but the
    billets, which had evidently been littered over the
    floor, were now piled at the sides, so as to leave a
    clear space in the middle. In this space lay a large
    and heavy flagstone with a rusted iron ring in the
    centre to which a thick shepherd's-check muffler was

    "'By Jove!' cried my client. 'That's Brunton's
    muffler. I have seen it on him, and could swear to
    it. What has the villain been doing here?'

    "At my suggestion a couple of the county police were
    summoned to be present, and I then endeavored to raise
    the stone by pulling on the cravat. I could only move
    it slightly, and it was with the aid of one of the
    constables that I succeeded at last in carrying it to
    one side. A black hole yawned beneath into which we
    all peered, while Musgrave, kneeling at the side,
    pushed down the lantern.

    "A small chamber about seven feet deep and four feet
    square lay open to us. At one side of this was a
    squat, brass-bound wooden box, the lid of which was
    hinged upwards, with this curious old-fashioned key
    projecting from the lock. It was furred outside by a
    thick layer of dust, and damp and worms had eaten
    through the wood, so that a crop of livid fungi was
    growing on the inside of it. Several discs of metal,
    old coins apparently, such as I hold here, were
    scattered over the bottom of the box, but it contained
    nothing else.

    "At the moment, however, we had no thought for the old
    chest, for our eyes were riveted upon that which
    crouched beside it. It was the figure of a man, clad
    in a suit of black, who squatted down upon him hams
    with his forehead sunk upon the edge of the box and
    his two arms thrown out on each side of it. The
    attitude had drawn all the stagnant blood to the face,
    and no man could have recognized that distorted
    liver-colored countenance; but his height, his dress,
    and his hair were all sufficient to show my client,
    when we had drawn the body up, that it was indeed his
    missing butler. He had been dead some days, but there
    was no wound or bruise upon his person to show how he
    had met his dreadful end. When his body had been
    carried from the cellar we found ourselves still
    confronted with a problem which was almost as
    formidable as that with which we had started.

    "I confess that so far, Watson, I had been
    disappointed in my investigation. I had reckoned upon
    solving the matter when once I had found the place
    referred to in the Ritual; but now I was there, and
    was apparently as far as ever from knowing what it was
    which the family had concealed with such elaborate
    precautions. It is true that I had thrown a light
    upon the fate of Brunton, but now I had to ascertain
    how that fate had come upon him, and what part had
    been played in the matter by the woman who had
    disappeared. I sat down upon a keg in the corner and
    thought the whole matter carefully over.

    "You know my methods in such cases, Watson. I put
    myself in the man's place and, having first gauged his
    intelligence, I try to imagine how I should myself
    have proceeded under the same circumstances. In this
    case the matter was simplified by Brunton's
    intelligence being quite first-rate, so that it was
    unnecessary to make any allowance for the personal
    equation, as the astronomers have dubbed it. He know
    that something valuable was concealed. He had spotted
    the place. He found that the stone which covered it
    was just too heavy for a man to move unaided. What
    would he do next? He could not get help from outside,
    even if he had some one whom he could trust, without
    the unbarring of doors and considerable risk of
    detection. It was better, if he could, to have his
    helpmate inside the house. But whom could he ask?
    This girl had been devoted to him. A man always finds
    it hard to realize that he may have finally lost a
    woman's love, however badly he may have treated her.
    He would try by a few attentions to make his peace
    with the girl Howells, and then would engage her as
    his accomplice. Together they would come at night to
    the cellar, and their united force would suffice to
    raise the stone. So far I could follow their actions
    as if I had actually seen them.

    "But for two of them, and one a woman, it must have
    been heavy work the raising of that stone. A burly
    Sussex policeman and I had found it no light job.
    What would they do to assist them? Probably what I
    should have done myself. I rose and examined
    carefully the different billets of wood which were
    scattered round the floor. Almost at once I came upon
    what I expected. One piece, about three feet in
    length, had a very marked indentation at one end,
    while several were flattened at the sides as if they
    had been compressed by some considerable weight.
    Evidently, as they had dragged the stone up they had
    thrust the chunks of wood into the chink, until at
    last, when the opening was large enough to crawl
    through, they would hold it open by a billet placed
    lengthwise, which might very well become indented at
    the lower end, since the whole weight of the stone
    would press it down on to the edge of this other slab.
    So far I was still on safe ground.

    "And now how was I to proceed to reconstruct this
    midnight drama? Clearly, only one could fit into the
    hole, and that one was Brunton. The girl must have
    waited above. Brunton then unlocked the box, handed
    up the contents presumably--since they were not to be
    found--and then--and then what happened?

    "What smouldering fire of vengeance had suddenly
    sprung into flame in this passionate Celtic woman's
    soul when she saw the man who had wronged her--wronged
    her, perhaps, far more than we suspected--in her
    power? Was it a chance that the wood had slipped, and
    that the stone had shut Brunton into what had become
    his sepulchre? Had she only been guilty of silence as
    to his fate? Or had some sudden blow from her hand
    dashed the support away and sent the slab crashing
    down into its place? Be that as it might, I seemed to
    see that woman's figure still clutching at her
    treasure trove and flying wildly up the winding stair,
    with her ears ringing perhaps with the muffled screams
    from behind her and with the drumming of frenzied
    hands against the slab of stone which was choking her
    faithless lover's life out.

    "Here was the secret of her blanched face, her shaken
    nerves, her peals of hysterical laughter on the next
    morning. But what had been in the box? What had she
    done with that? Of course, it must have been the old
    metal and pebbles which my client had dragged from the
    mere. She had thrown them in there at the first
    opportunity to remove the last trace of her crime.

    "For twenty minutes I had sat motionless, thinking the
    matter out. Musgrave still stood with a very pale
    face, swinging his lantern and peering down into the

    "'These are coins of Charles the First,' said he,
    holding out the few which had been in the box; 'you
    see we were right in fixing our date for the Ritual.'

    "'We may find something else of Charles the First,' I
    cried, as the probable meaning of the first two
    question of the Ritual broke suddenly upon me. 'Let
    me see the contents of the bag which you fished from
    the mere.'

    "We ascended to his study, and he laid the debris
    before me. I could understand his regarding it as of
    small importance when I looked at it, for the metal
    was almost black and the stones lustreless and dull.
    I rubbed one of them on my sleeve, however, and it
    glowed afterwards like a spark in the dark hollow of
    my hand. The metal work was in the form of a double
    ring, but it had been bent and twisted out of its
    original shape.

    "'You must bear in mind,' said I, 'that the royal
    party made head in England even after the death of the
    king, and that when they at last fled they probably
    left many of their most precious possession buried
    behind them, with the intention of returning for them
    in more peaceful times.'

    "'My ancestor, Sir Ralph Musgrave, as a prominent
    Cavalier and the right-hand man of Charles the Second
    in his wanderings,' said my friend.

    "'Ah, indeed!' I answered. 'Well now, I think that
    really should give us the last link that we wanted. I
    must congratulate you on coming into the possession,
    though in rather a tragic manner of a relic which is
    of great intrinsic value, but of even greater
    importance as an historical curiosity.'

    "'What is it, then?' he gasped in astonishment.

    "'It is nothing less than the ancient crown of the
    kings of England.'

    "'The crown!'

    "'Precisely. Consider what the Ritual says: How does
    it run? "Whose was it?" "His who is gone." That was
    after the execution of Charles. Then, "Who shall have
    it?" "He who will come." That was Charles the
    Second, whose advent was already foreseen. There can,
    I think, be no doubt that this battered and shapeless
    diadem once encircled the brows of the royal Stuarts.'

    "'And how came it in the pond?'

    "'Ah, that is a question that will take some time to
    answer.' And with that I sketched out to him the
    whole long chain of surmise and of proof which I had
    constructed. The twilight had closed in and the moon
    was shining brightly in the sky before my narrative
    was finished.

    "'And how was it then that Charles did not get his
    crown when he returned?' asked Musgrave, pushing back
    the relic into its linen bag.

    "'Ah, there you lay your finger upon the one point
    which we shall probably never be able to clear up. It
    is likely that the Musgrave who held the secret died
    in the interval, and by some oversight left this guide
    to his descendant without explaining the meaning of
    it. From that day to this it has been handed down
    from father to son, until at last it came within reach
    of a man who tore its secret out of it and lost his
    life in the venture.'

    "And that's the story of the Musgrave Ritual, Watson.
    They have the crown down at Hurlstone--though they had
    some legal bother and a considerable sum to pay before
    they were allowed to retain it. I am sure that if you
    mentioned my name they would be happy to show it to
    you. Of the woman nothing was ever heard, and the
    probability is that she got away out of England and
    carried herself and the memory of her crime to some
    land beyond the seas."
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