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    The Crooked Man

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    Chapter 7
    Previous Chapter
    One summer night, a few months after my marriage, I
    was seated by my own hearth smoking a last pipe and
    nodding over a novel, for my day's work had been an
    exhausting one. My wife had already gone upstairs,
    and the sound of the locking of the hall door some
    time before told me that the servants had also
    retired. I had risen from my seat and was knocking
    out the ashes of my pipe when I suddenly heard the
    clang of the bell.

    I looked at the clock. It was a quarter to twelve.
    This could not be a visitor at so late an hour. A
    patient, evidently, and possibly an all-night sitting.
    With a wry face I went out into the hall and opened
    the door. To my astonishment it was Sherlock Holmes
    who stood upon my step.

    "Ah, Watson," said he, "I hoped that I might not be
    too late to catch you."

    "My dear fellow, pray come in."

    "You look surprised, and no wonder! Relieved, too, I
    fancy! Hum! You still smoke the Arcadia mixture of
    your bachelor days then! There's no mistaking that
    fluffy ash upon your coat. It's easy to tell that you
    have been accustomed to wear a uniform, Watson.
    You'll never pass as a pure-bred civilian as long as
    you keep that habit of carrying your handkerchief in
    your sleeve. Could you put me up tonight?"

    "With pleasure."

    "You told me that you had bachelor quarters for one,
    and I see that you have no gentleman visitor at
    present. Your hat-stand proclaims as much."

    "I shall be delighted if you will stay."

    "Thank you. I'll fill the vacant peg then. Sorry to
    see that you've had the British workman in the house.
    He's a token of evil. Not the drains, I hope?"

    "No, the gas."

    "Ah! He has left two nail-marks from his boot upon
    your linoleum just where the light strikes it. No,
    thank you, I had some supper at Waterloo, but I'll
    smoke a pipe with you with pleasure."

    I handed him my pouch, and he seated himself opposite
    to me and smoked for some time in silence. I was well
    aware that nothing but business of importance would
    have brought him to me at such an hour, so I waited
    patiently until he should come round to it.

    "I see that you are professionally rather busy just
    now," said he, glancing very keenly across at me.

    "Yes, I've had a busy day," I answered. "It may seem
    very foolish in your eyes," I added, "but really I
    don't know how you deduced it."

    Holmes chuckled to himself.

    "I have the advantage of knowing your habits, my dear
    Watson," said he. "When your round is a short one you
    walk, and when it is a long one you use a hansom. As
    I perceive that your boots, although used, are by no
    means dirty, I cannot doubt that you are at present
    busy enough to justify the hansom."

    "Excellent!" I cried.

    "Elementary," said he. "It is one of those instances
    where the reasoner can produce an effect which seems
    remarkable to his neighbor, because the latter has
    missed the one little point which is the basis of the
    deduction. The same may be said, my dear fellow, for
    the effect of some of these little sketches of your,
    which is entirely meretricious, depending as it does
    upon your retaining in your own hands some factors in
    the problem which are never imparted to the reader.
    Now, at present I am in the position of these same
    readers, for I hold in this hand several threads of
    one of the strangest cases which ever perplexed a
    man's brain, and yet I lack the one or two which are
    needful to complete my theory. But I'll have them,
    Watson, I'll have them!" His eyes kindled and a
    slight flush sprang into his thin cheeks. For an
    instant only. When I glanced again his face had
    resumed that red-Indian composure which had made so
    many regard him as a machine rather than a man.

    "The problem presents features of interest," said he.
    "I may even say exceptional features of interest. I
    have already looked into the matter, and have come, as
    I think, within sight of my solution. If you could
    accompany me in that last step you might be of
    considerable service to me."

    "I should be delighted."

    "Could you go as far as Aldershot to-morrow?"

    "I have no doubt Jackson would take my practice."

    "Very good. I want to start by the 11.10 from
    Waterloo."

    "That would give me time."

    "Then, if you are not too sleepy, I will give you a
    sketch of what has happened, and of what remains to be
    done."

    "I was sleepy before you came. I am quite wakeful
    now."

    "I will compress the story as far as may be done
    without omitting anything vital to the case. It is
    conceivable that you may even have read some account
    of the matter. It is the supposed murder of Colonel
    Barclay, of the Royal Munsters, at Aldershot, which I
    am investigating."

    "I have heard nothing of it."

    "It has not excited much attention yet, except
    locally. The facts are only two days old. Briefly
    they are these:

    "The Royal Munsters is, as you know, one of the most
    famous Irish regiments in the British army. It did
    wonders both in the Crimea and the Mutiny, and has
    since that time distinguished itself upon every
    possible occasion. It was commanded up to Monday
    night by James Barclay, a gallant veteran, who started
    as a full private, was raised to commissioned rank for
    his bravery at the time of the Mutiny, and so lived to
    command the regiment in which he had once carried a
    musket.

    "Colonel Barclay had married at the time when he was a
    sergeant, and his wife, whose maiden name was Miss
    Nancy Devoy, was the daughter of a former
    color-sergeant in the same corps. There was,
    therefore, as can be imagined, some little social
    friction when the young couple (for they were still
    young) found themselves in their new surroundings.
    They appear, however, to have quickly adapted
    themselves, and Mrs. Barclay has always, I understand,
    been as popular with the ladies of the regiment as her
    husband was with his brother officers. I may add that
    she was a woman of great beauty, and that even now,
    when she has been married for upwards of thirty years,
    she is still of a striking and queenly appearance.

    "Colonel Barclay's family life appears to have been a
    uniformly happy one. Major Murphy, to whom I owe most
    of my facts, assures me that he has never heard of any
    misunderstanding between the pair. On the whole, he
    thinks that Barclay's devotion to his wife was greater
    than his wife's to Barclay. He was acutely uneasy if
    he were absent from her for a day. She, on the other
    hand, though devoted and faithful, was less
    obtrusively affectionate. But they were regarded in
    the regiment as the very model of a middle-aged
    couple. There was absolutely nothing in their mutual
    relations to prepare people for the tragedy which was
    to follow.

    "Colonel Barclay himself seems to have had some
    singular traits in his character. He was a dashing,
    jovial old solder in his usual mood, but there were
    occasions on which he seemed to show himself capable
    of considerable violence and vindictiveness. This
    side of his nature, however, appears never to have
    been turned towards his wife. Another fact, which had
    struck Major Murphy and three out of five of the other
    officers with whom I conversed, was the singular sort
    of depression which came upon him at times. As the
    major expressed it, the smile had often been struck
    from his mouth, as if by some invisible hand, when he
    has been joining the gayeties and chaff of the
    mess-table. For days on end, when the mood was on
    him, he has been sunk in the deepest gloom. This and
    a certain tinge of superstition were the only unusual
    traits in his character which his brother officers had
    observed. The latter peculiarity took the form of a
    dislike to being left alone, especially after dark.
    This puerile feature in a nature which was
    conspicuously manly had often given rise to comment
    and conjecture.

    "The first battalion of the Royal Munsters (which is
    the old 117th) has been stationed at Aldershot for
    some years. The married officers live out of
    barracks, and the Colonel has during all this time
    occupied a villa called Lachine, about half a mile
    from the north camp. The house stands in its own
    grounds, but the west side of it is not more than
    thirty yards from the high-road. A coachman and two
    maids form the staff of servants. These with their
    master and mistress were the sole occupants of
    Lachine, for the Barclays had no children, nor was it
    usual for them to have resident visitors.

    "Now for the events at Lachine between nine and ten on
    the evening of last Monday."

    "Mrs. Barclay was, it appears, a member of the Roman
    Catholic Church, and had interested herself very much
    in the establishment of the Guild of St. George, which
    was formed in connection with the Watt Street Chapel
    for the purpose of supplying the poor with cast-off
    clothing. A meeting of the Guild had been held that
    evening at eight, and Mrs. Barclay had hurried over
    her dinner in order to be present at it. When leaving
    the house she was heard by the coachman to make some
    commonplace remark to her husband, and to assure him
    that she would be back before very long. She then
    called for Miss Morrison, a young lady who lives in
    the next villa, and the two went off together to their
    meeting. It lasted forty minutes, and at a
    quarter-past nine Mrs. Barclay returned home, having
    left Miss Morrison at her door as she passed.

    "There is a room which is used as a morning-room at
    Lachine. This faces the road and opens by a large
    glass folding-door on to the lawn. The lawn is thirty
    yards across, and is only divided from the highway by
    a low wall with an iron rail above it. It was into
    this room that Mrs. Barclay went upon her return. The
    blinds were not down, for the room was seldom used in
    the evening, but Mrs. Barclay herself lit the lamp and
    then rang the bell, asking Jane Stewart, the
    house-maid, to bring her a cup of tea, which was quite
    contrary to her usual habits. The Colonel had been
    sitting in the dining-room, but hearing that his wife
    had returned he joined her in the morning-room. The
    coachman saw him cross the hall and enter it. He was
    never seen again alive.

    "The tea which had been ordered was brought up at the
    end of ten minutes; but the maid, as she approached
    the door, was surprised to hear the voices of her
    master and mistress in furious altercation. She
    knocked without receiving any answer, and even turned
    the handle, but only to find that the door was locked
    upon the inside. Naturally enough she ran down to
    tell the cook, and the two women with the coachman
    came up into the hall and listened to the dispute
    which was still raging. They all agreed that only two
    voices were to be heard, those of Barclay and of his
    wife. Barclay's remarks were subdued and abrupt, so
    that none of them were audible to the listeners. The
    lady's, on the other hand, were most bitter, and when
    she raised her voice could be plainly heard. 'You
    coward!' she repeated over and over again. 'What can
    be done now? What can be done now? Give me back my
    life. I will never so much as breathe the same air
    with you again! You coward! You Coward!' Those were
    scraps of her conversation, ending in a sudden
    dreadful cry in the man's voice, with a crash, and a
    piercing scream from the woman. Convinced that some
    tragedy had occurred, the coachman rushed to the door
    and strove to force it, while scream after scream
    issued from within. He was unable, however, to make
    his way in, and the maids were too distracted with
    fear to be of any assistance to him. A sudden thought
    struck him, however, and he ran through the hall door
    and round to the lawn upon which the long French
    windows open. One side of the window was open, which
    I understand was quite usual in the summer-time, and
    he passed without difficulty into the room. His
    mistress had ceased to scream and was stretched
    insensible upon a couch, while with his feet tilted
    over the side of an arm-chair, and his head upon the
    ground near the corner of the fender, was lying the
    unfortunate soldier stone dead in a pool of his own
    blood.

    "Naturally, the coachman's first thought, on finding
    that he could do nothing for his master, was to open
    the door. But here an unexpected and singular
    difficulty presented itself. The key was not in the
    inner side of the door, nor could he find it anywhere
    in the room. He went out again, therefore, through
    the window, and having obtained the help of a
    policeman and of a medical man, he returned. The
    lady, against whom naturally the strongest suspicion
    rested, was removed to her room, still in a state of
    insensibility. The Colonel's body was then placed
    upon the sofa, and a careful examination made of the
    scene of the tragedy.

    "The injury from which the unfortunate veteran was
    suffering was found to be a jagged cut some two inches
    long at the back part of his head, which had evidently
    been caused by a violent blow from a blunt weapon.
    Nor was it difficult to guess what that weapon may
    have been. Upon the floor, close to the body, was
    lying a singular club of hard carved wood with a bone
    handle. The Colonel possessed a varied collection of
    weapons brought from the different countries in which
    he had fought, and it is conjectured by the police
    that his club was among his trophies. The servants
    deny having seen it before, but among the numerous
    curiosities in the house it is possible that it may
    have been overlooked. Nothing else of importance was
    discovered in the room by the police, save the
    inexplicable fact that neither upon Mrs. Barclay's
    person nor upon that of the victim nor in any part of
    the room was the missing key to be found. The door
    had eventually to be opened by a locksmith from
    Aldershot.

    "That was the state of things, Watson, when upon the
    Tuesday morning I, at the request of Major Murphy,
    went down to Aldershot to supplement the efforts of
    the police. I think that you will acknowledge that
    the problem was already one of interest, but my
    observations soon made me realize that it was in truth
    much more extraordinary than would at first sight
    appear.

    "Before examining the room I cross-questioned the
    servants, but only succeeded in eliciting the facts
    which I have already stated. One other detail of
    interest was remembered by Jane Stewart, the
    housemaid. You will remember that on hearing the
    sound of the quarrel she descended and returned with
    the other servants. On that first occasion, when she
    was alone, she says that the voices of her master and
    mistress were sunk so low that she could hear hardly
    anything, and judged by their tones rather tan their
    words that they had fallen out. On my pressing her,
    however, she remembered that she heard the word David
    uttered twice by the lady. The point is of the utmost
    importance as guiding us towards the reason of the
    sudden quarrel. The Colonel's name, you remember, was
    James.

    "There was one thing in the case which had made the
    deepest impression both upon the servants and the
    police. This was the contortion of the Colonel's
    face. It had set, according to their account, into
    the most dreadful expression of fear and horror which
    a human countenance is capable of assuming. More than
    one person fainted at the mere sight of him, so
    terrible was the effect. It was quite certain that he
    had foreseen his fate, and that it had caused him the
    utmost horror. This, of course, fitted in well enough
    with the police theory, if the Colonel could have seen
    his wife making a murderous attack upon him. Nor was
    the fact of the wound being on the back of his head a
    fatal objection to this, as he might have turned to
    avoid the blow. No information could be got from the
    lady herself, who was temporarily insane from an acute
    attack of brain-fever.

    "From the police I learned that Miss Morrison, who you
    remember went out that evening with Mrs. Barclay,
    denied having any knowledge of what it was which had
    caused the ill-humor in which her companion had
    returned.

    "Having gathered these facts, Watson, I smoke several
    pipes over them, trying to separate those which were
    crucial from others which were merely incidental.
    There could be no question that the most distinctive
    and suggestive point in the case was the singular
    disappearance of the door-key. A most careful search
    had failed to discover it in the room. Therefore it
    must have been taken from it. But neither the Colonel
    nor the Colonel's wife could have taken it. That was
    perfectly clear. Therefore a third person must have
    entered the room. And that third person could only
    have come in through the window. It seemed to me that
    a careful examination of the room and the lawn might
    possibly reveal some traces of this mysterious
    individual. You know my methods, Watson. There was
    not one of them which I did not apply to the inquiry.
    And ones from those which I had expected. There had
    been a man in the room, and he had crossed the lawn
    coming from the road. I was able to obtain five very
    clear impressions of his foot-marks: one in the
    roadway itself, at the point where he had climbed the
    low wall, two on the lawn, and two very faint ones
    upon the stained boards near the window where he had
    entered. He had apparently rushed across the lawn,
    for his toe-marks were much deeper than his heels.
    But it was not the man who surprised me. It was his
    companion."

    "His companion!"

    Holmes pulled a large sheet of tissue-paper out of his
    pocket and carefully unfolded it upon his knee.

    "What do you make of that?" he asked.

    The paper was covered with he tracings of the
    foot-marks of some small animal. It had five
    well-marked foot-pads, an indication of long nails,
    and the whole print might be nearly as large as a
    dessert-spoon.

    "It's a dog," said I.

    "Did you ever hear of a dog running up a curtain? I
    found distinct traces that this creature had done so."

    "A monkey, then?"

    "But it is not the print of a monkey."

    "What can it be, then?"

    "Neither dog nor cat nor monkey nor any creature that
    we are familiar with. I have tried to reconstruct it
    from the measurements. Here are four prints where the
    beast has been standing motionless. You see that it
    is no less than fifteen inches from fore-foot to hind.
    Add to that the length of neck and head, and you get a
    creature not much less than two feet long--probably
    more if there is any tail. But now observe this other
    measurement. The animal has been moving, and we have
    the length of its stride. In each case it is only
    about three inches. You have an indication, you see,
    of a long body with very short legs attached to it.
    It has not been considerate enough to leave any of its
    hair behind it. But its general shape must be what I
    have indicated, and it can run up a curtain, and it is
    carnivorous."

    "How do you deduce that?"

    "Because it ran up the curtain. A canary's cage was
    hanging in the window, and its aim seems to have been
    to get at the bird."

    "Then what was the beast?"

    "Ah, if I could give it a name it might go a long way
    towards solving the case. On the whole, it was
    probably some creature of the weasel and stoat
    tribe--and yet it is larger than any of these that I
    have seen."

    "But what had it to do with the crime?"

    "That, also, is still obscure. But we have learned a
    good deal, you perceive. We know that a man stood in
    the road looking at the quarrel between the
    Barclays--the blinds were up and the room lighted. We
    know, also, that he ran across the lawn, entered the
    room, accompanied by a strange animal, and that he
    either struck the Colonel or, as is equally possible,
    that the Colonel fell down from sheer fright at the
    sight of him, and cut his head on the corner of the
    fender. Finally, we have the curious fact that the
    intruder carried away the key with him when he left."

    "You discoveries seem to have left the business more
    obscure that it was before," said I.

    "Quite so. They undoubtedly showed that the affair
    was much deeper than was at first conjectured. I
    thought the matter over, and I came to the conclusion
    that I must approach the case from another aspect.
    But really, Watson, I am keeping you up, and I might
    just as well tell you all this on our way to Aldershot
    to-morrow."

    "Thank you, you have gone rather too far to stop."

    "It is quite certain that when Mrs. Barclay left the
    house at half-past seven she was on good terms with
    her husband. She was never, as I think I have said,
    ostentatiously affectionate, but she was heard by the
    coachman chatting with the Colonel in a friendly
    fashion. Now, it was equally certain that,
    immediately on her return, she had gone to the room in
    which she was least likely to see her husband, had
    flown to tea as an agitated woman will, and finally,
    on his coming in to her, had broken into violent
    recriminations. Therefore something had occurred
    between seven-thirty and nine o'clock which had
    completely altered her feelings towards him. But Miss
    Morrison had been with her during the whole of that
    hour and a half. It was absolutely certain,
    therefore, in spite of her denial, that she must know
    something of the matter.

    "My first conjecture was, that possibly there had been
    some passages between this young lady and the old
    soldier, which the former had now confessed to the
    wife. That would account for the angry return, and
    also for the girl's denial that anything had occurred.
    Nor would it be entirely incompatible with most of the
    words overhead. But there was the reference to David,
    and there was the known affection of the Colonel for
    his wife, to weigh against it, to say nothing of the
    tragic intrusion of this other man, which might, of
    course, be entirely disconnected with what had gone
    before. It was not easy to pick one's steps, but, on
    the whole, I was inclined to dismiss the idea that
    there had been anything between the Colonel and Miss
    Morrison, but more than ever convinced that the young
    lady held the clue as to what it was which had turned
    Mrs. Barclay to hatred of her husband. I took the
    obvious course, therefore, of calling upon Miss M., of
    explaining to her that I was perfectly certain that
    she held the facts in her possession, and of assuring
    her that her friend, Mrs. Barclay, might find herself
    in the dock upon a capital charge unless the matter
    were cleared up.

    "Miss Morrison is a little ethereal slip of a girl,
    with timid eyes and blond hair, but I found her by no
    means wanting in shrewdness and common-sense. She sat
    thinking for some time after I had spoken, and then,
    turning to me with a brisk air of resolution, she
    broke into a remarkable statement which I will
    condense for your benefit.

    "'I promised my friend that I would say nothing of the
    matter, and a promise is a promise,; said she; 'but if
    I can really help her when so serious a charge is laid
    against her, and when her own mouth, poor darling, is
    closed by illness, then I think I am absolved from my
    promise. I will tell you exactly what happened upon
    Monday evening.

    "'We were returning from the Watt Street Mission about
    a quarter to nine o'clock. On our way we had to pass
    through Hudson Street, which is a very quiet
    thoroughfare. There is only one lamp in it, upon the
    left-hand side, and as we approached this lamp I saw a
    man coming towards us with is back very bent, and
    something like a box slung over one of his shoulders.
    He appeared to be deformed, for he carried his head
    low and walked with his knees bent. We were passing
    him when he raised his face to look at us in the
    circle of light thrown by the lamp, and as he did so
    he stopped and screamed out in a dreadful voice, "My
    God, it's Nancy!" Mrs. Barclay turned as white as
    death, and would have fallen down had the
    dreadful-looking creature not caught hold of her. I
    was going to call for the police, but she, to my
    surprise, spoke quite civilly to the fellow.

    "'"I thought you had been dead this thirty years,
    Henry," said she, in a shaking voice.

    "'"So I have," said he, and it was awful to hear the
    tones that he said it in. He had a very dark,
    fearsome face, and a gleam in his eyes that comes back
    to me in my dreams. His hair and whiskers were shot
    with gray, and his face was all crinkled and puckered
    like a withered apple.

    "'"Just walk on a little way, dear," said Mrs.
    Barclay; "I want to have a word with this man. There
    is nothing to be afraid of." She tried to speak
    boldly, but she was still deadly pale and could hardly
    get her words out for the trembling of her lips.

    "'I did as she asked me, and they talked together for
    a few minutes. Then she came down the street with her
    eyes blazing, and I saw the crippled wretch standing
    by the lamp-post and shaking his clenched fists in the
    air as if he were made with rage. She never said a
    word until we were at the door here, when she took me
    by the hand and begged me to tell no one what had
    happened.

    "'"It's an old acquaintance of mine who has come down
    in the world," said she. When I promised her I would
    say nothing she kissed me, and I have never seen her
    since. I have told you now the whole truth, and if I
    withheld it from the police it is because I did not
    realize then the danger in which my dear friend stood.
    I know that it can only be to her advantage that
    everything should be known.'

    "There was her statement, Watson, and to me, as you
    can imagine, it was like a light on a dark night.
    Everything which had been disconnected before began at
    once to assume its true place, and I had a shadowy
    presentiment of the whole sequence of events. My next
    step obviously was to find the man who had produced
    such a remarkable impression upon Mrs. Barclay. If he
    were still in Aldershot it should not be a very
    difficult matter. There are not such a very great
    number of civilians, and a deformed man was sure to
    have attracted attention. I spent a day in the
    search, and by evening--this very evening, Watson--I
    had run him down. The man's name is Henry Wood, and
    he lives in lodgings in this same street in which the
    ladies met him. He has only been five days in the
    place. In the character of a registration-agent I had
    a most interesting gossip with his landlady. The man
    is by trade a conjurer and performer, going round the
    canteens after nightfall, and giving a little
    entertainment at each. He carries some creature about
    with him in that box; about which the landlady seemed
    to be in considerable trepidation, for she had never
    seen an animal like it. He uses it in some of his
    tricks according to her account. So much the woman
    was able to tell me, and also that it was a wonder the
    man lived, seeing how twisted he was, and that he
    spoke in a strange tongue sometimes, and that for the
    last two nights she had heard him groaning and weeping
    in his bedroom. He was all right, as far as money
    went, but in his deposit he had given her what looked
    like a bad florin. She showed it to me, Watson, and
    it was an Indian rupee.

    "So now, my dear fellow, you see exactly how we stand
    and why it is I want you. It is perfectly plain that
    after the ladies parted from this man he followed them
    at a distance, that he saw the quarrel between husband
    and wife through the window, that he rushed in, and
    that the creature which he carried in his box got
    loose. That is all very certain. But he is the only
    person in this world who can tell us exactly what
    happened in that room."

    "And you intend to ask him?"

    "Most certainly--but in the presence of a witness."

    "And I am the witness?"

    "If you will be so good. If he can clear the matter
    up, well and good. If he refuses, we have no
    alternative but to apply for a warrant."

    "But how do you know he'll be there when we return?"

    "You may be sure that I took some precautions. I have
    one of my Baker Street boys mounting guard over him
    who would stick to him like a burr, go where he might.
    We shall find him in Hudson Street to-morrow, Watson,
    and meanwhile I should be the criminal myself if I
    kept you out of bed any longer."

    It was midday when we found ourselves at the scene of
    the tragedy, and, under my companion's guidance, we
    made our way at once to Hudson Street. In spite of
    his capacity for concealing his emotions, I could
    easily see that Holmes was in a state of suppressed
    excitement, while I was myself tingling with that
    half-sporting, half-intellectual pleasure which I
    invariably experienced when I associated myself with
    him in his investigations.

    "This is the street," said he, as we turned into a
    short thoroughfare lined with plain tow-storied brick
    houses. "Ah, here is Simpson to report."

    "He's in all right, Mr. Holmes," cried a small street
    Arab, running up to us.

    "Good, Simpson!" said Holmes, patting him on the head.
    "Come along, Watson. This is the house." He sent in
    his card with a message that he had come on important
    business, and a moment later we were face to face with
    the man whom we had come to see. In spite of the warm
    weather he was crouching over a fire, and the little
    room was like an oven. The man sat all twisted and
    huddled in his chair in a way which gave an
    indescribably impression of deformity; but the face
    which he turned towards us, though worn and swarthy,
    must at some time have been remarkable for its beauty.
    He looked suspiciously at us now out of yellow-shot,
    bilious eyes, and, without speaking or rising, he
    waved towards two chairs.

    "Mr. Henry Wood, late of India, I believe," said
    Holmes, affably. "I've come over this little matter
    of Colonel Barclay's death."

    "What should I know about that?"

    "That's what I want to ascertain. You know, I
    suppose, that unless the matter is cleared up, Mrs.
    Barclay, who is an old friend of yours, will in all
    probability be tried for murder."

    The man gave a violent start.

    "I don't know who you are," he cried, "nor how you
    come to know what you do know, but will you swear that
    this is true that you tell me?"

    "Why, they are only waiting for her to come to her
    senses to arrest her."

    "My God! Are you in the police yourself?"

    "No."

    "What business is it of yours, then?"

    "It's every man's business to see justice done."

    "You can take my word that she is innocent."

    "Then you are guilty."

    "No, I am not."

    "Who killed Colonel James Barclay, then?"

    "It was a just providence that killed him. But, mind
    you this, that if I had knocked his brains out, as it
    was in my heart to do, he would have had no more than
    his due from my hands. If his own guilty conscience
    had not struck him down it is likely enough that I
    might have had his blood upon my soul. You want me to
    tell the story. Well, I don't know why I shouldn't,
    for there's no cause for me to be ashamed of it.

    "It was in this way, sir. You see me now with my back
    like a camel and by ribs all awry, but there was a
    time when Corporal Henry Wood was the smartest man in
    the 117th foot. We were in India then, in
    cantonments, at a place we'll call Bhurtee. Barclay,
    who died the other day, was sergeant in the same
    company as myself, and the belle of the regiment, ay,
    and the finest girl that ever had the breath of life
    between her lips, was Nancy Devoy, the daughter of the
    color-sergeant. There were two men that loved her,
    and one that she loved, and you'll smile when you look
    at this poor thing huddled before the fire, and hear
    me say that it was for my good looks that she loved
    me.

    "Well, though I had her heart, her father was set upon
    her marrying Barclay. I was a harum-scarum, reckless
    lad, and he had had an education, and was already
    marked for the sword-belt. But the girl held true to
    me, and it seemed that I would have had her when the
    Mutiny broke out, and all hell was loose in the
    country.

    "We were shut up in Bhurtee, the regiment of us with
    half a battery of artillery, a company of Sikhs, and a
    lot of civilians and women-folk. There were ten
    thousand rebels round us, and they were as keen as a
    set of terriers round a rat-cage. About the second
    week of it our water gave out, and it was a question
    whether we could communicate with General Neill's
    column, which was moving up country. It was our only
    chance, for we could not hope to fight our way out
    with all the women and children, so I volunteered to
    go out and to warn General Neill of our danger. My
    offer was accepted, and I talked it over with Sergeant
    Barclay, who was supposed to know the ground better
    than any other man, and who drew up a route by which I
    might get through the rebel lines. At ten o'clock the
    same night I started off upon my journey. There were
    a thousand lives to save, but it was of only one that
    I was thinking when I dropped over the wall that
    night.

    "My way ran down a dried-up watercourse, which we
    hoped would screen me from the enemy's sentries; but
    as I crept round the corner of it I walked right into
    six of them, who were crouching down in the dark
    waiting for me. In an instant I was stunned with a
    blow and bound hand and foot. But the real blow was
    to my heart and not to my head, for as I came to and
    listened to as much as I could understand of their
    talk, I heard enough to tell me that my comrade, the
    very man who had arranged the way that I was to take,
    had betrayed me by means of a native servant into the
    hands of the enemy.

    "Well, there's no need for me to dwell on that part of
    it. You know now what James Barclay was capable of.
    Bhurtee was relieved by Neill next day, but the rebels
    took me away with them in their retreat, and it was
    many a long year before ever I saw a white face again.
    I was tortured and tried to get away, and was captured
    and tortured again. You can see for yourselves the
    state in which I was left. Some of them that fled
    into Nepaul took me with them, and then afterwards I
    was up past Darjeeling. The hill-folk up there
    murdered the rebels who had me, and I became their
    slave for a time until I escaped; but instead of going
    south I had to go north, until I found myself among
    the Afghans. There I wandered about for many ayear,
    and at last came back to the Punjaub, where I lived
    mostly among the natives and picked up a living by the
    conjuring tricks that I had learned. What use was it
    for me, a wretched cripple, to go back to England or
    to make myself known to my old comrades? Even my wish
    for revenge would not make me do that. I had rather
    that Nancy and my old pals should think of Harry Wood
    as having died with a straight back, than see him
    living and crawling with a stick like a chimpanzee.
    They never doubted that I was dead, and I meant that
    they never should. I heard that Barclay had married
    Nancy, and that he was rising rapidly in the regiment,
    but even that did not make me speak.

    "But when one gets old one has a longing for home.
    For years I've been dreaming of the bright green
    fields and the hedges of England. At last I
    determined to see them before I died. I saved enough
    to bring me across, and then I came here where the
    soldiers are, for I know their ways and how to amuse
    them and so earn enough to keep me."

    "Your narrative is most interesting," said Sherlock
    Holmes. "I have already heard of your meeting with
    Mrs. Barclay, and your mutual recognition. You then,
    as I understand, followed her home and saw through the
    window an altercation between her husband and her, in
    which she doubtless cast his conduct to you in his
    teeth. Your own feelings overcame you, and you ran
    across the lawn and broke in upon them."

    "I did, sir, and at the sight of me he looked as I
    have never seen a man look before, and over he went
    with his head on the fender. But he was dead before
    he fell. I read death on his face as plain as I can
    read that text over the fire. The bare sight of me
    was like a bullet through his guilty heart."

    "And then?"

    "Then Nancy fainted, and I caught up the key of the
    door from her hand, intending to unlock it and get
    help. But as I was doing it it seemed to me better to
    leave it alone and get away, for the thing might look
    black against me, and any way my secret would be out
    if I were taken. In my haste I thrust the key into my
    pocket, and dropped my stick while I was chasing
    Teddy, who had run up the curtain. When I got him
    into his box, from which he had slipped, I was off as
    fast as I could run."

    "Who's Teddy?" asked Holmes.

    The man leaned over and pulled up the front of a kind
    of hutch in the corner. In an instant out there
    slipped a beautiful reddish-brown creature, thin and
    lithe, with the legs of a stoat, a long, thin nose,
    and a pair of the finest red eyes that ever I saw in
    an animal's head.

    "It's a mongoose," I cried.

    "Well, some call them that, and some call them
    ichneumon," said the man. "Snake-catcher is what I
    call them, and Teddy is amazing quick on cobras. I
    have one here without the fangs, and Teddy catches it
    every night to please the folk in the canteen.

    "Any other point, sir?"

    "Well, we may have to apply to you again if Mrs.
    Barclay should prove to be in serious trouble."

    "In that case, of course, I'd come forward."

    "But if not, there is no object in raking up this
    scandal against a dead man, foully as he has acted.
    You have at least the satisfaction of knowing that for
    thirty years of his life his conscience bitterly
    reproached him for this wicked deed. Ah, there goes
    Major Murphy on the other side of the street.
    Good-by, Wood. I want to learn if anything has
    happened since yesterday."

    We were in time to overtake the major before he
    reached the corner.

    "Ah, Holmes," he said: "I suppose you have heard that
    all this fuss has come to nothing?"

    "What then?"

    "The inquest is just over. The medical evidence
    showed conclusively that death was due to apoplexy.
    You see it was quite a simple case after all."

    "Oh, remarkably superficial," said Holmes, smiling.
    "Come, Watson, I don't think we shall be wanted in
    Aldershot any more."

    "There's one thing," said I, as we walked down to the
    station. "If the husband's name was James, and the
    other was Henry, what was this talk about David?"

    "That one word, my dear Watson, should have told me
    the whole story had I been the ideal reasoner which
    you are so fond of depicting. It was evidently a term
    of reproach."

    "Of reproach?"

    "Yes; David strayed a little occasionally, you know,
    and on one occasion in the same direction as Sergeant
    James Barclay. You remember the small affair of Uriah
    and Bathsheba? My biblical knowledge is a trifle
    rusty, I fear, but you will find the story in the
    first or second of Samuel."
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