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    The Naval Treaty

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    Chapter 10
    Previous Chapter
    The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was
    made memorable by three cases of interest, in which I
    had the privilege of being associated with Sherlock
    Holmes and of studying his methods. I find them
    recorded in my notes under the headings of "The
    Adventure of the Second Stain," "The Adventure of the
    Naval Treaty," and "The Adventure of the Tired
    Captain." The first of these, however, deals with
    interest of such importance and implicates so many of
    the first families in the kingdom that for many years
    it will be impossible to make it public. No case,
    however, in which Holmes was engaged has ever
    illustrated the value of his analytical methods so
    clearly or has impressed those who were associated
    with him so deeply. I still retain an almost verbatim
    report of the interview in which he demonstrated the
    true facts of the case to Monsieur Dubugue of the
    Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the well-known
    specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their
    energies upon what proved to be side-issues. The new
    century will have come, however, before the story can
    be safely told. Meanwhile I pass on to the second on
    my list, which promised also at one time to be of
    national importance, and was marked by several
    incidents which give it a quite unique character.

    During my school-days I had been intimately associated
    with a lad named Percy Phelps, who was of much the
    same age as myself, though he was two classes ahead of
    me. He was a very brilliant boy, and carried away
    every prize which the school had to offer, finished
    his exploits by winning a scholarship which sent him
    on to continue his triumphant career at Cambridge. He
    was, I remember, extremely well connected, and even
    when we were all little boys together we knew that his
    mother's brother was Lord Holdhurst, the great
    conservative politician. This gaudy relationship did
    him little good at school. On the contrary, it seemed
    rather a piquant thing to us to chevy him about the
    playground and hit him over the shins with a wicket.
    But it was another thing when he came out into the
    world. I heard vaguely that his abilities and the
    influences which he commanded had won him a good
    position at the Foreign Office, and then he passed
    completely out of my mind until the following letter
    recalled his existence:

    Briarbrae, Woking.
    My dear Watson,--I have no doubt that you can remember
    "Tadpole" Phelps, who was in the fifth form when you
    were in the third. It is possible even that you may
    have heard that through my uncle's influence I
    obtained a good appointment at the Foreign Office, and
    that I was in a situation of trust and honor until a
    horrible misfortune came suddenly to blast my career.

    There is no use writing of the details of that
    dreadful event. In the event of your acceding to my
    request it is probably that I shall have to narrate
    them to you. I have only just recovered from nine
    weeks of brain-fever, and am still exceedingly weak.
    Do you think that you could bring your friend Mr.
    Holmes down to see me? I should like to have his
    opinion of the case, though the authorities assure me
    that nothing more can be done. Do try to bring him
    down, and as soon as possible. Every minute seems an
    hour while I live in this state of horrible suspense.
    Assure him that if I have not asked his advice sooner
    it was not because I did not appreciate his talents,
    but because I have been off my head ever since the
    blow fell. Now I am clear again, though I dare not
    think of it too much for fear of a relapse. I am still
    so weak that I have to write, as you see, by dictating.
    Do try to bring him.

    Your old school-fellow,

    Percy Phelps.

    There was something that touched me as I read this
    letter, something pitiable in the reiterated appeals
    to bring Holmes. So moved was I that even had it been
    a difficult matter I should have tried it, but of
    course I knew well that Holmes loved his art, so that
    he was ever as ready to bring his aid as his client
    could be to receive it. My wife agreed with me that
    not a moment should be lost in laying the matter
    before him, and so within an hour of breakfast-time I
    found myself back once more in the old rooms in Baker
    Street.

    Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his
    dressing-gown, and working hard over a chemical
    investigation. A large curved retort was boiling
    furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen burner, and
    the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre
    measure. My friend hardly glanced up as I entered,
    and I, seeing that his investigation must be of
    importance, seated myself in an arm-chair and waited.
    He dipped into this bottle or that, drawing out a few
    drops of each with his glass pipette, and finally
    brought a test-tube containing a solution over to the
    table. In his right hand he held a slip of
    litmus-paper.

    "You come at a crisis, Watson," said he. "If this
    paper remains blue, all is well. If it turns red, it
    means a man's life." He dipped it into the test-tube
    and it flushed at once into a dull, dirty crimson.
    "Hum! I thought as much!" he cried. "I will be at
    your service in an instant, Watson. You will find
    tobacco in the Persian slipper." He turned to his
    desk and scribbled off several telegrams, which were
    handed over to the page-boy. Then he threw himself
    down into the chair opposite, and drew up his knees
    until his fingers clasped round his long, thin shins.

    "A very commonplace little murder," said he. "You've
    got something better, I fancy. You are the stormy
    petrel of crime, Watson. What is it?"

    I handed him the letter, which he read with the most
    concentrated attention.

    "It does not tell us very much, does it?" he remarked,
    as he handed it back to me.

    "Hardly anything."

    "And yet the writing is of interest."

    "But the writing is not his own."

    "Precisely. It is a woman's."

    "A man's surely," I cried.

    "No, a woman's, and a woman of rare character. You
    see, at the commencement of an investigation it is
    something to know that your client is in close contact
    with some one who, for good or evil, has an
    exceptional nature. My interest is already awakened
    in the case. If you are ready we will start at once
    for Woking, and see this diplomatist who is in such
    evil case, and the lady to whom he dictates his
    letters."

    We were fortunate enough to catch an early train at
    Waterloo, and in a little under an hour we found
    ourselves among the fir-woods and the heather of
    Woking. Briarbrae proved to be a large detached house
    standing in extensive grounds within a few minutes'
    walk of the station. On sending in our cards we were
    shown into an elegantly appointed drawing-room, where
    we were joined in a few minutes by a rather stout man
    who received us with much hospitality. His age may
    have been nearer forty than thirty, but his cheeks
    were so ruddy and his eyes so merry that he still
    conveyed the impression of a plump and mischievous
    boy.

    "I am so glad that you have come," said he, shaking
    our hands with effusion. "Percy has been inquiring
    for you all morning. Ah, poor old chap, he clings to
    any straw! His father and his mother asked me to see
    you, for the mere mention of the subject is very
    painful to them."

    "We have had no details yet," observed Holmes. "I
    perceive that you are not yourself a member of the
    family."

    Our acquaintance looked surprised, and then, glancing
    down, he began to laugh.

    "Of course you saw the J H monogram on my locket,"
    said he. "For a moment I thought you had done
    something clever. Joseph Harrison is my name, and as
    Percy is to marry my sister Annie I shall at least be
    a relation by marriage. You will find my sister in
    his room, for she has nursed him hand-and-foot this
    two months back. Perhaps we'd better go in at once,
    for I know how impatient he is."

    The chamber in which we were shown was on the same
    floor as the drawing-room. It was furnished partly as
    a sitting and partly as a bedroom, with flowers
    arranged daintily in every nook and corner. A young
    man, very pale and worn, was lying upon a sofa near
    the open window, through which came the rich scent of
    the garden and the balmy summer air. A woman was
    sitting beside him, who rose as we entered.

    "Shall I leave, Percy?" she asked.

    He clutched her hand to detain her. "How are you,
    Watson?" said he, cordially. "I should never have
    known you under that moustache, and I dare say you
    would not be prepared to swear to me. This I presume
    is your celebrated friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"

    I introduced him in a few words, and we both sat down.
    The stout young man had left us, but his sister still
    remained with her hand in that of the invalid. She
    was a striking-looking woman, a little short and thick
    for symmetry, but with a beautiful olive complexion,
    large, dark, Italian eyes, and a wealth of deep black
    hair. Her rich tints made the white face of her
    companion the more worn and haggard by the contrast.

    "I won't waste your time," said he, raising himself
    upon the sofa. "I'll plunge into the matter without
    further preamble. I was a happy and successful man,
    Mr. Holmes, and on the eve of being married, when a
    sudden and dreadful misfortune wrecked all my
    prospects in life.

    "I was, as Watson may have told you, in the Foreign
    Office, and through the influences of my uncle, Lord
    Holdhurst, I rose rapidly to a responsible position.
    When my uncle became foreign minister in this
    administration he gave me several missions of trust,
    and as I always brought them to a successful
    conclusion, he came at last to have the utmost
    confidence in my ability and tact.

    "Nearly ten weeks ago--to be more accurate, on the 23d
    of May--he called me into his private room, and, after
    complimenting me on the good work which I had done, he
    informed me that he had a new commission of trust for
    me to execute.

    "'This,' said he, taking a gray roll of paper from his
    bureau, 'is the original of that secret treaty between
    England and Italy of which, I regret to say, some
    rumors have already got into the public press. It is
    of enormous importance that nothing further should
    leak out. The French or the Russian embassy would pay
    an immense sum to learn the contents of these papers.
    They should not leave my bureau were it not that it is
    absolutely necessary to have them copied. You have a
    desk in your office?"

    "'Yes, sir.'

    "'Then take the treaty and lock it up there. I shall
    give directions that you may remain behind when the
    others go, so that you may copy it at your leisure
    without fear of being overlooked. When you have
    finished, relock both the original and the draft in
    the desk, and hand them over to me personally
    to-morrow morning.'

    "I took the papers and--"

    "Excuse me an instant," said Holmes. "Were you alone
    during this conversation?"

    "Absolutely."

    "In a large room?"

    "Thirty feet each way."

    "In the centre?"

    "Yes, about it."

    "And speaking low?"

    "My uncle's voice is always remarkably low. I hardly
    spoke at all."

    "Thank you," said Holmes, shutting his eyes; "pray go
    on."

    "I did exactly what he indicated, and waited until the
    other clerks had departed. One of them in my room,
    Charles Gorot, had some arrears of work to make up, so
    I left him there and went out to dine. When I
    returned he was gone. I was anxious to hurry my work,
    for I knew that Joseph--the Mr. Harrison whom you saw
    just now--was in town, and that he would travel down
    to Woking by the eleven-o'clock train, and I wanted if
    possible to catch it.

    "When I came to examine the treaty I saw at once that
    it was of such importance that my uncle had been
    guilty of no exaggeration in what he had said.
    Without going into details, I may say that it defined
    the position of Great Britain towards the Triple
    Alliance, and fore-shadowed the policy which this
    country would pursue in the event of the French fleet
    gaining a complete ascendancy over that of Italy in
    the Mediterranean. The questions treated in it were
    purely naval. At the end were the signatures of the
    high dignitaries who had signed it. I glanced my eyes
    over it, and then settled down to my task of copying.

    "It was a long document, written in the French
    language, and containing twenty-six separate articles.
    I copied as quickly as I could, but at nine o'clock I
    had only done nine articles, and it seemed hopeless
    for me to attempt to catch my train. I was feeling
    drowsy and stupid, partly from my dinner and also from
    the effects of a long day's work. A cup of coffee
    would clear my brain. A commissionnaire remains all
    night in a little lodge at the foot of the stairs, and
    is in the habit of making coffee at his spirit-lamp
    for any of the officials who may be working over time.
    I rang the bell, therefore, to summon him.

    "To my surprise, it was a woman who answered the
    summons, a large, coarse-faced, elderly woman, in an
    apron. She explained that she was the
    commissionnaire's wife, who did the charing, and I
    gave her the order for the coffee.

    "I wrote two more articles and then, feeling more
    drowsy than ever, I rose and walked up and down the
    room to stretch my legs. My coffee had not yet come,
    and I wondered what was the cause of the delay could
    be. Opening the door, I started down the corridor to
    find out. There was a straight passage, dimly
    lighted, which led from the room in which I had been
    working, and was the only exit from it. It ended in a
    curving staircase, with the commissionnaire's lodge in
    the passage at the bottom. Half way down this
    staircase is a small landing, with another passage
    running into it at right angles. This second one
    leads by means of a second small stair to a side door,
    used by servants, and also as a short cut by clerks
    when coming from Charles Street. Here is a rough
    chart of the place."

    "Thank you. I think that I quite follow you," said
    Sherlock Holmes.

    "It is of the utmost importance that you should notice
    this point. I went down the stairs and into the hall,
    where I found the commissionnaire fast asleep in his
    box, with the kettle boiling furiously upon the
    spirit-lamp. I took off the kettle and blew out the
    lamp, for the water was spurting over the floor. Then
    I put out my hand and was about to shake the man, who
    was still sleeping soundly, when a bell over his head
    rang loudly, and he woke with a start.

    "'Mr. Phelps, sir!' said he, looking at me in
    bewilderment.

    "'I came down to see if my coffee was ready.'

    "'I was boiling the kettle when I fell asleep, sir.'
    He looked at me and then up at the still quivering
    bell with an ever-growing astonishment upon his face.

    "'If you was here, sir, then who rang the bell?' he
    asked.

    "'The bell!' I cried. 'What bell is it?'

    "'It's the bell of the room you were working in.'

    "A cold hand seemed to close round my heart. Some
    one, then, was in that room where my precious treaty
    lay upon the table. I ran frantically up the stair
    and along the passage. There was no one in the
    corridors, Mr. Holmes. There was no one in the room.
    All was exactly as I left it, save only that the
    papers which had been committed to my care had been
    taken from the desk on which they lay. The copy was
    there, and the original was gone."

    Holmes sat up in his chair and rubbed his hands. I
    could see that the problem was entirely to his heart.
    "Pray, what did you do then?" he murmured.

    "I recognized in an instant that the thief must have
    come up the stairs from the side door. Of course I
    must have met him if he had come the other way."

    "You were satisfied that he could not have been
    concealed in the room all the time, or in the corridor
    which you have just described as dimly lighted?"

    "It is absolutely impossible. A rat could not conceal
    himself either in the room or the corridor. There is
    no cover at all."

    "Thank you. Pray proceed."

    "The commissionnaire, seeing by my pale face that
    something was to be feared, had followed me upstairs.
    Now we both rushed along the corridor and down the
    steep steps which led to Charles Street. The door at
    the bottom was closed, but unlocked. We flung it open
    and rushed out. I can distinctly remember that as we
    did so there came three chines from a neighboring
    clock. It was quarter to ten."

    "That is of enormous importance," said Holmes, making
    a note upon his shirt-cuff.

    "The night was very dark, and a thin, warm rain was
    falling. There was no one in Charles Street, but a
    great traffic was going on, as usual, in Whitehall, at
    the extremity. We rushed along the pavement,
    bare-headed as we were, and at the far corner we found
    a policeman standing.

    "'A robbery has been committed,' I gasped. 'A
    document of immense value has been stolen from the
    Foreign Office. Has any one passed this way?'

    "'I have been standing here for a quarter of an hour,
    sir,' said he; 'only one person has passed during that
    time--a woman, tall and elderly, with a Paisley
    shawl.'

    "'Ah, that is only my wife,' cried the
    commissionnaire; 'has no one else passed?'

    "'No one.'

    "'Then it must be the other way that the thief took,'
    cried the fellow, tugging at my sleeve.

    "'But I was not satisfied, and the attempts which he
    made to draw me away increased my suspicions.

    "'Which way did the woman go?' I cried.

    "'I don't know, sir. I noticed her pass, but I had no
    special reason for watching her. She seemed to be in
    a hurry.'

    "'How long ago was it?'

    "'Oh, not very many minutes.'

    "'Within the last vie?'

    "'Well, it could not be more than five.'

    "'You're only wasting your time, sir, and every minute
    now is of importance,' cried the commissionnaire;
    'take my word for it that my old woman has nothing to
    do with it, and come down to the other end of the
    street. Well, if you won't, I will.' And with that
    he rushed off in the other direction.

    "But I was after him in an instant and caught him by
    the sleeve.

    "'Where do you live?' said I.

    "'16 Ivy Lane, Brixton,' he answered. 'But don't let
    yourself be drawn away upon a false scent, Mr. Phelps.
    Come to the other end of the street and let us see if
    we can hear of anything.'

    "Nothing was to be lost by following his advice. With
    the policeman we both hurried down, but only to find
    the street full of traffic, many people coming and
    going, but all only too eager to get to a place of
    safety upon so wet a night. There was no lounger who
    could tell us who had passed.

    "Then we returned to the office, and searched the
    stairs and the passage without result. The corridor
    which led to the room was laid down with a kind of
    creamy linoleum which shows an impression very easily.
    We examined it very carefully, but found no outline of
    any footmark."

    "Had it been raining all evening?"

    "Since about seven."

    "How is it, then, that the woman who came into the
    room about nine left no traces with her muddy boots?"

    "I am glad you raised the point. It occurred to me at
    the time. The charwomen are in the habit of taking
    off their boots at the commissionnaire's office, and
    putting on list slippers."

    "That is very clear. There were no marks, then,
    though the night was a wet one? The chain of events
    is certainly one of extraordinary interest. What did
    you do next?

    "We examined the room also. There is no possibility
    of a secret door, and the windows are quite thirty
    feet from the ground. Both of them were fastened on
    the inside. The carpet prevents any possibility of a
    trap-door, and the ceiling is of the ordinary
    whitewashed kind. I will pledge my life that whoever
    stole my papers could only have come through the
    door."

    "How about the fireplace?"

    "They use none. There is a stove. The bell-rope
    hangs from the wire just to the right of my desk.
    Whoever rang it must have come right up to the desk to
    do it. But why should any criminal wish to ring the
    bell? It is a most insoluble mystery."

    "Certainly the incident was unusual. What were your
    next steps? You examined the room, I presume, to see
    if the intruder had left any traces--any cigar-end or
    dropped glove or hairpin or other trifle?"

    "There was nothing of the sort."

    "No smell?"

    "Well, we never thought of that."

    "Ah, a scent of tobacco would have been worth a great
    deal to us in such an investigation."

    "I never smoke myself, so I think I should have
    observed it if there had been any smell of tobacco.
    There was absolutely no clue of any kind. The only
    tangible fact was that the commissionnaire's wife-Mrs.
    Tangey was the name--had hurried our of the place. He
    could give no explanation save that it was about the
    time when the woman always went home. The policeman
    and I agreed that our best plan would be to seize the
    woman before she could get rid of the papers,
    presuming that she had them.

    "The alarm had reached Scotland Yard by this time, and
    Mr. Forbes, the detective, came round at once and took
    up the case with a great deal of energy. We hire a
    hansom, and in half an hour we were at the address
    which had been given to us. A young woman opened the
    door, who proved to be Mrs. Tangey's eldest daughter.
    Her mother had not come back yet, and we were shown
    into the front room to wait.

    "About ten minutes later a knock came at the door, and
    here we made the one serious mistake for which I blame
    myself. Instead of opening the door ourselves, we
    allowed the girl to do so. We heard her say, 'Mother,
    there are two men in the house waiting to see you,'
    and an instant afterwards we heard the patter of feet
    rushing down the passage. Forbes flung open the door,
    and we both ran into the back room or kitchen, but the
    woman had got there before us. She stared at us with
    defiant eyes, and then, suddenly recognizing me, an
    expression of absolute astonishment came over her
    face.

    "'Why, if it isn't Mr. Phelps, of the office!' she
    cried.

    "'Come, come, who did you think we were when you ran
    away from us?' asked my companion.

    "'I thought you were the brokers,' said she, 'we have
    had some trouble with a tradesman.'

    "'That's not quite good enough,' answered Forbes. 'We
    have reason to believe that you have taken a paper of
    importance fro the Foreign Office, and that you ran in
    here to dispose of it. You must come back with us to
    Scotland Yard to be searched.'

    "It was in vain that she protested and resisted. A
    four-wheeler was brought, and we all three drove back
    in it. We had first made an examination of the
    kitchen, and especially of the kitchen fire, to see
    whether she might have made away with the papers
    during the instant that she was alone. There were no
    signs, however, of any ashes or scraps. When we
    reached Scotland Yard she was handed over at once to
    the female searcher. I waited in an agony of suspense
    until she came back with her report. There were no
    signs of the papers.

    "Then for the first time the horror of my situation
    came in its full force. Hitherto I had been acting,
    and action had numbed thought. I had been so
    confident of regaining the treaty at once that I had
    not dared to think of what would be the consequence if
    I failed to do so. But now there was nothing more to
    be done, and I had leisure to realize my position. It
    was horrible. Watson there would tell you that I was
    a nervous, sensitive boy at school. It is my nature.
    I thought of my uncle and of his colleagues in the
    Cabinet, of the shame which I had brought upon him,
    upon myself, upon every one connected with me. What
    though I was the victim of an extraordinary accident?
    No allowance is made for accidents where diplomatic
    interests are at stake. I was ruined, shamefully,
    hopelessly ruined. I don't know what I did. I fancy
    I must have made a scene. I have a dim recollection
    of a group of officials who crowded round me,
    endeavoring to soothe me. One of them drove down with
    me to Waterloo, and saw me into the Woking train. I
    believe that he would have come all the way had it not
    been that Dr. Ferrier, who lives near me, was going
    down by that very train. The doctor most kindly took
    charge of me, and it was well he did so, for I had a
    fit in the station, and before we reached home I was
    practically a raving maniac.

    "You can imagine the state of things here when they
    were roused from their beds by the doctor's ringing
    and found me in this condition. Poor Annie here and
    my mother were broken-hearted. Dr. Ferrier had just
    heard enough from the detective at the station to be
    able to give an idea of what had happened, and his
    story did not mend matters. It was evident to all
    that I was in for a long illness, so Joseph was
    bundled out of this cheery bedroom, and it was turned
    into a sick-room for me. Here I have lain, Mr.
    Holmes, for over nine weeks, unconscious, and raving
    with brain-fever. If it had not been for Miss
    Harrison here and for the doctor's care I should not
    be speaking to you now. She has nursed me by day and
    a hired nurse has looked after me by night, for in my
    mad fits I was capable of anything. Slowly my reason
    has cleared, but it is only during the last three days
    that my memory has quite returned. Sometimes I wish
    that it never had. The first thing that I did was to
    wire to Mr. Forbes, who had the case in hand. He came
    out, and assures me that, though everything has been
    done, no trace of a clue has been discovered. The
    commissionnaire and his wife have been examined in
    every way without any light being thrown upon the
    matter. The suspicions of the police then rested upon
    young Gorot, who, as you may remember, stayed over
    time in the office that night. His remaining behind
    and is French name were really the only two points
    which could suggest suspicion; but, as a matter of
    fact, I did not begin work until he had gone, and his
    people are of Huguenot extraction, but as English in
    sympathy and tradition as you and I are. Nothing was
    found to implicate him in any way, and there the
    matter dropped. I turn to you, Mr. Holmes, as
    absolutely my last hope. If you fail me, then my
    honor as well as my position are forever forfeited."

    The invalid sank back upon his cushions, tired out by
    this long recital, while his nurse poured him out a
    glass of some stimulating medicine. Holmes sat
    silently, with his head thrown back and his eyes
    closed, in an attitude which might seem listless to a
    stranger, but which I knew betokened the most intense
    self-absorption.

    "You statement has been so explicit," said he at last,
    "that you have really left me very few questions to
    ask. There is one of the very utmost importance,
    however. Did you tell any one that you had this
    special task to perform?"

    "No one."

    "Not Miss Harrison here, for example?"

    "No. I had not been back to Woking between getting
    the order and executing the commission."

    "And none of your people had by chance been to see
    you?"

    "None."

    "Did any of them know their way about in the office?"

    "Oh, yes, all of them had been shown over it."

    "Still, of course, if you said nothing to any one
    about the treaty these inquiries are irrelevant."

    "I said nothing."

    "Do you know anything of the commissionnaire?"

    "Nothing except that he is an old soldier."

    "What regiment?"

    "Oh, I have heard--Coldstream Guards."

    "Thank you. I have no doubt I can get details from
    Forbes. The authorities are excellent at amassing
    facts, though they do not always use them to
    advantage. What a lovely thing a rose is!"

    He walked past the couch to the open window, and held
    up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at
    the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new
    phase of his character to me, for I had never before
    seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.

    "There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary
    as in religion," said he, leaning with his back
    against the shutters. "It can be built up as an exact
    science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the
    goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the
    flowers. All other things, our powers our desires,
    our food, are all really necessary for our existence
    in the first instance. But this rose is an extra.
    Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life,
    not a condition of it. It is only goodness which
    gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to
    hope from the flowers.

    Percy Phelps and his nurse looked at Holmes during
    this demonstration with surprise and a good deal of
    disappointment written upon their faces. He had
    fallen into a reverie, with the moss-rose between his
    fingers. It had lasted some minutes before the young
    lady broke in upon it.

    "Do you see any prospect of solving this mystery, Mr.
    Holmes?" she asked, with a touch of asperity in her
    voice.

    "Oh, the mystery!" he answered, coming back with a
    start to the realities of life. "Well, it would be
    absurd to deny that the case is a very abstruse and
    complicated one, but I can promise you that I will
    look into the matter and let you know any points which
    may strike me."

    "Do you see any clue?"

    "You have furnished me with seven, but, of course, I
    must test them before I can pronounce upon their
    value."

    "You suspect some one?"

    "I suspect myself."

    "What!"

    "Of coming to conclusions to rapidly."

    "Then go to London and test your conclusions."

    "Your advice is very excellent, Miss Harrison," said
    Holmes, rising. "I think, Watson, we cannot do
    better. Do not allow yourself to indulge in false
    hopes, Mr. Phelps. The affair is a very tangled one."

    "I shall be in a fever until I see you again," cried
    the diplomatist.

    "Well, I'll come out be the same train to-morrow,
    though it's more than likely that my report will be a
    negative one."

    "God bless you for promising to come," cried our
    client. "It gives me fresh life to know that
    something is being done. By the way, I have had a
    letter from Lord Holdhurst."

    "Ha! What did he say?"

    "He was cold, but not harsh. I dare say my severe
    illness prevented him from being that. He repeated
    that the matter was of the utmost importance, and
    added that no steps would be taken about my future--by
    which he means, of course, my dismissal--until my
    health was restored and I had an opportunity of
    repairing my misfortune."

    "Well, that was reasonable and considerate," said
    Holmes. "Come, Watson, for we have a goody day's work
    before us in town."

    Mr. Joseph Harrison drove us down to the station, and
    we were soon whirling up in a Portsmouth train.
    Holmes was sunk in profound thought, and hardly opened
    his mouth until we had passed Clapham Junction.

    "It's a very cheery thing to come into London by any
    of these lines which run high, and allow you to look
    down upon the houses like this."

    I thought he was joking, for the view was sordid
    enough, but he soon explained himself.

    "Look at those big, isolated clumps of building rising
    up above the slates, like brick islands in a
    lead-colored sea."

    "The board-schools."

    "Light-houses, my boy! Beacons of the future!
    Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds in each,
    out of which will spring the wise, better England of
    the future. I suppose that man Phelps does not
    drink?"

    "I should not think so."

    "Nor should I, but we are bound to take every
    possibility into account. The poor devil has
    certainly got himself into very deep water, and it's a
    question whether we shall ever be able to get him
    ashore. What did you think of Miss Harrison?"

    "A girl of strong character."

    "Yes, but she is a good sort, or I am mistaken. She
    and her brother are the only children of an
    iron-master somewhere up Northumberland way. He got
    engaged to her when traveling last winter, and she
    came down to be introduced to his people, with her
    brother as escort. Then came the smash, and she
    stayed on to nurse her lover, while brother Joseph,
    finding himself pretty snug, stayed on too. I've been
    making a few independent inquiries, you see. But
    to-day must be a day of inquiries."

    "My practice--" I began.

    "Oh, if you find your own cases more interesting than
    mine--" said Holmes, with some asperity.

    "I was going to say that my practice could get along
    very well for a day or two, since it is the slackest
    time in the year."

    "Excellent," said he, recovering his good-humor.
    "Then we'll look into this matter together. I think
    that we should begin be seeing Forbes. He can
    probably tell us all the details we want until we know
    from what side the case is to be approached.

    "You said you had a clue?"

    "Well, we have several, but we can only test their
    value by further inquiry. The most difficult crime to
    track is the one which is purposeless. Now this is
    not purposeless. Who is it who profits by it? There
    is the French ambassador, there is the Russian, there
    is who-ever might sell it to either of these, and
    there is Lord Holdhurst."

    "Lord Holdhurst!"

    "Well, it is just conceivable that a statesman might
    find himself in a position where he was not sorry to
    have such a document accidentally destroyed."

    "Not a statesman wit the honorable record of Lord
    Holdhurst?"

    "It is a possibility and we cannot afford to disregard
    it. We shall see the noble lord to-day and find out
    if he can tell us anything. Meanwhile I have already
    set inquiries on foot."

    "Already?"

    "Yes, I sent wires from Woking station to every
    evening paper in London. This advertisement will
    appear in each of them."

    He handed over a sheet torn from a note-book. On it
    was scribbled in pencil: "L10 reward. The number of
    the cab which dropped a fare at or about the door of
    the Foreign Office in Charles Street at quarter to ten
    in the evening of May 23d. Apply 221 B, Baker
    Street."

    "You are confident that the thief came in a cab?"

    "If not, there is no harm done. But if Mr. Phelps is
    correct in stating that there is no hiding-place
    either in the room or the corridors, then the person
    must have come from outside. If he came from outside
    on so wet a night, and yet left no trace of damp upon
    the linoleum, which was examined within a few minutes
    of his passing, then it is exceeding probably that he
    came in a cab. Yes, I think that we may safely deduce
    a cab."

    "It sounds plausible."

    "That is one of the clues of which I spoke. It may
    lead us to something. And then, of course, there is
    the bell--which is the most distinctive feature of the
    case. Why should the bell ring? Was it the thief who
    did it out of bravado? Or was it some one who was
    with the thief who did it in order to prevent the
    crime? Or was it an accident? Or was it--?" He sank
    back into the state of intense and silent thought from
    which he had emerged; but it seemed to me, accustomed
    as I was to his every mood, that some new possibility
    had dawned suddenly upon him.

    It was twenty past three when we reached our terminus,
    and after a hasty luncheon at the buffet we pushed on
    at once to Scotland Yard. Holmes had already wired to
    Forbes, and we found him waiting to receive us--a
    small, foxy man with a sharp but by no means amiable
    expression. He was decidedly frigid in his manner to
    us, especially when he heard the errand upon which we
    had come.

    "I've heard of your methods before now, Mr. Holmes,"
    said he, tartly. "You are ready enough to use all the
    information that the police can lay at your disposal,
    and then you try to finish the case yourself and bring
    discredit on them."

    "On the contrary," said Holmes, "out of my last
    fifty-three cases my name has only appeared in four,
    and the police have had all the credit in forty-nine.
    I don't blame you for not knowing this, for you are
    young and inexperienced, but if you wish to get on in
    your new duties you will work with me and not against
    me."

    "I'd be very glad of a hint or two," said the
    detective, changing his manner. "I've certainly had
    no credit from the case so far."

    "What steps have you taken?"

    "Tangey, the commissionnaire, has been shadowed. He
    left the Guards with a good character and we can find
    nothing against him. His wife is a bad lot, though.
    I fancy she knows more about this than appears."

    "Have you shadowed her?"

    "We have set one of our women on to her. Mrs. Tangey
    drinks, and our woman has been with her twice when she
    was well on, but she could get nothing out of her."

    "I understand that they have had brokers in the
    house?"

    "Yes, but they were paid off."

    "Where did the money come from?"

    "That was all right. His pension was due. They have
    not shown any sign of being in funds."

    "What explanation did she give of having answered the
    bell when Mr. Phelps rang for the coffee?"

    "She said that he husband was very tired and she
    wished to relieve him."

    "Well, certainly that would agree with his being found
    a little later asleep in his chair. There is nothing
    against them then but the woman's character. Did you
    ask her why she hurried away that night? Her haste
    attracted the attention of the police constable."

    "She was later than usual and wanted to get home."

    "Did you point out to her that you and Mr. Phelps, who
    started at least twenty minutes after he, got home
    before her?"

    "She explains that by the difference between a 'bus
    and a hansom."

    "Did she make it clear why, on reaching her house, she
    ran into the back kitchen?"

    "Because she had the money there with which to pay off
    the brokers."

    "She has at least an answer for everything. Did you
    ask her whether in leaving she met any one or saw any
    one loitering about Charles Street?"

    "She saw no one but the constable."

    "Well, you seem to have cross-examined her pretty
    thoroughly. What else have you done?"

    "The clerk Gorot has been shadowed all these nine
    weeks, but without result. We can show nothing
    against him."

    "Anything else?"

    "Well, we have nothing else to go upon--no evidence of
    any kind."

    "Have you formed a theory about how that bell rang?"

    "Well, I must confess that it beats me. It was a cool
    hand, whoever it was, to go and give the alarm like
    that."

    "Yes, it was queer thing to do. Many thanks to you
    for what you have told me. If I can put the man into
    your hands you shall hear from me. Come along,
    Watson."

    "Where are we going to now?" I asked, as we left the
    office.

    "We are now going to interview Lord Holdhurst, the
    cabinet minister and future premier of England."

    We were fortunate in finding that Lord Holdhurst was
    still in his chambers in Downing Street, and on Holmes
    sending in his card we were instantly shown up. The
    statesman received us with that old-fashioned courtesy
    for which he is remarkable, and seated us on the two
    luxuriant lounges on either side of the fireplace.
    Standing on the run between us, with his slight, tall
    figure, his sharp features, thoughtful face, and
    curling hair prematurely tinged with gray, he seemed
    to represent that not to common type, a nobleman who
    is in truth noble.

    "You name is very familiar to me, Mr. Holmes," said
    he, smiling. "And, of course, I cannot pretend to be
    ignorant of the object of your visit. There has only
    been once occurrence in these offices which could call
    for your attention. In whose interest are you acting,
    may I ask?"

    "In that of Mr. Percy Phelps," answered Holmes.

    "Ah, my unfortunate nephew! You can understand that
    our kinship makes it the more impossible for me to
    screen him in any way. I fear that the incident must
    have a very prejudicial effect upon his career."

    "But if the document if found?"

    "Ah, that, of course, would be different."

    "I had one or two questions which I wished to ask you,
    Lord Holdhurst."

    "I shall be happy to give you any information in my
    power."

    "Was it in this room that you gave your instructions
    as to the copying of the document?"

    "It was."

    "Then you could hardly have been overheard?"

    "It is out of the question."

    "Did you ever mention to any one that it was your
    intention to give any one the treaty to be copied?"

    "Never."

    "You are certain of that?"

    "Absolutely."

    "Well, since you never said so, and Mr. Phelps never
    said so, and nobody else knew anything of the matter,
    then the thief's presence in the room was purely
    accidental. He saw his chance and he took it."

    The statesman smiled. "You take me out of my province
    there," said he.

    Holmes considered for a moment. "There is another
    very important point which I wish to discuss with
    you," said he. "You feared, as I understand, that
    very grave results might follow from the details of
    this treaty becoming known."

    A shadow passed over the expressive face of the
    statesman. "Very grave results indeed."

    "Any have they occurred?"

    "Not yet."

    "If the treaty had reached, let us say, the French or
    Russian Foreign Office, you would expect to hear of
    it?"

    "I should," said Lord Holdhurst, with a wry face.

    "Since nearly ten weeks have elapsed, then, and
    nothing has been heard, it is not unfair to suppose
    that for some reason the treaty has not reached them."

    Lord Holdhurst shrugged his shoulders.

    "We can hardly suppose, Mr. Holmes, that the thief
    took the treaty in order to frame it and hang it up."

    "Perhaps he is waiting for a better price."

    "If he waits a little longer he will get no price at
    all. The treaty will cease to be secret in a few
    months."

    "That is most important," said Holmes. "Of course, it
    is a possible supposition that the thief has had a
    sudden illness--"

    "An attack of brain-fever, for example?" asked the
    statesman, flashing a swift glance at him.

    "I did not say so," said Holmes, imperturbably. "And
    now, Lord Holdhurst, we have already taken up too much
    of your valuable time, and we shall wish you
    good-day."

    "Every success to your investigation, be the criminal
    who it may," answered the nobleman, as he bowed us out
    the door.

    "He's a fine fellow," said Holmes, as we came out into
    Whitehall. "But he has a struggle to keep up his
    position. He is far from rich and has many calls.
    You noticed, of course, that his boots had been
    resoled. Now, Watson, I won't detain you from your
    legitimate work any longer. I shall do nothing more
    to-day, unless I have an answer to my cab
    advertisement. But I should be extremely obliged to
    you if you would come down with me to Woking
    to-morrow, by the same train which we took yesterday."

    I met him accordingly next morning and we traveled
    down to Woking together. He had had no answer to his
    advertisement, he said, and no fresh light had been
    thrown upon the case. He had, when he so willed it,
    the utter immobility of countenance of a red Indian,
    and I could not gather from his appearance whether he
    was satisfied or not with the position of the case.
    His conversation, I remember, was about the Bertillon
    system of measurements, and he expressed his
    enthusiastic admiration of the French savant.

    We found our client still under the charge of his
    devoted nurse, but looking considerably better than
    before. He rose from the sofa and greeted us without
    difficulty when we entered.

    "Any news?" he asked, eagerly.

    "My report, as I expected, is a negative one," said
    Holmes. "I have seen Forbes, and I have seen your
    uncle, and I have set one or two trains of inquiry
    upon foot which may lead to something."

    "You have not lost heart, then?"

    "By no means."

    "God bless you for saying that!" cried Miss Harrison.
    "If we keep our courage and our patience the truth
    must come out."

    "We have more to tell you than you have for us," said
    Phelps, reseating himself upon the couch.

    "I hoped you might have something."

    "Yes, we have had an adventure during the night, and
    one which might have proved to be a serious one." His
    expression grew very grave as he spoke, and a look of
    something akin to fear sprang up in his eyes. "Do you
    know," said he, "that I begin to believe that I am the
    unconscious centre of some monstrous conspiracy, and
    that my life is aimed at as well as my honor?"

    "Ah!" cried Holmes.

    "It sounds incredible, for I have not, as far as I
    know, an enemy in the world. Yet from last night's
    experience I can come to no other conclusion."

    "Pray let me hear it."

    "You must know that last night was the very first
    night that I have ever slept without a nurse in the
    room. I was so much better that I thought I could
    dispense with one. I had a night-light burning,
    however. Well, about two in the morning I had sunk
    into a light sleep when I was suddenly aroused by a
    slight noise. It was like the sound which a mouse
    makes when it is gnawing a plank, and I lay listening
    to it for some time under the impression that it must
    come from that cause. Then it grew louder, and
    suddenly there came from the window a sharp metallic
    snick. I sat up in amazement. There could be no
    doubt what the sounds were now. The first ones had
    been caused by some one forcing an instrument through
    the slit between the sashes, and the second by the
    catch being pressed back.

    "There was a pause then for about ten minutes, as if
    the person were waiting to see whether the noise had
    awakened me. Then I heard a gentle creaking as the
    window was very slowly opened. I could stand it no
    longer, for my nerves are not what they used to be. I
    sprang out of bed and flung open the shutters. A man
    was crouching at the window. I could see little of
    him, for he was gone like a flash. He was wrapped in
    some sort of cloak which came across the lower part of
    his face. One thing only I am sure of, and that is
    that he had some weapon in his hand. It looked to me
    like a long knife. I distinctly saw the gleam of it
    as he turned to run."

    "This is most interesting," said Holmes. "Pray what
    did you do then?"

    "I should have followed him through the open window if
    I had been stronger. As it was, I rang the bell and
    roused the house. It took me some little time, for
    the bell rings in the kitchen and the servants all
    sleep upstairs. I shouted, however, and that brought
    Joseph down, and he roused the others. Joseph and the
    groom found marks on the bed outside the window, but
    the weather has been so dry lately that they found it
    hopeless to follow the trail across the grass.
    There's a place, however, on the wooden fence which
    skirts the road which shows signs, they tell me, as if
    some one had got over, and had snapped the top of the
    rail in doing so. I have said nothing to the local
    police yet, for I thought I had best have your opinion
    first."

    This tale of our client's appeared to have an
    extraordinary effect upon Sherlock Holmes. He rose
    from his chair and paced about the room in
    uncontrollable excitement.

    "Misfortunes never come single," said Phelps, smiling,
    though it was evident that his adventure had somewhat
    shaken him.

    "You have certainly had your share," said Holmes. "Do
    you think you could walk round the house with me?"

    "Oh, yes, I should like a little sunshine. Joseph
    will come, too."

    "And I also," said Miss Harrison.

    "I am afraid not," said Holmes, shaking his head. "I
    think I must ask you to remain sitting exactly where
    you are."

    The young lady resumed her seat with an air of
    displeasure. Her brother, however, had joined us and
    we set off all four together. We passed round the
    lawn to the outside of the young diplomatist's window.
    There were, as he had said, marks upon the bed, but
    they were hopelessly blurred and vague. Holmes
    stopped over them for an instant, and then rose
    shrugging his shoulders.

    "I don't think any one could make much of this," said
    he. "Let us go round the house and see why this
    particular room was chose by the burglar. I should
    have thought those larger windows of the drawing-room
    and dining-room would have had more attractions for
    him."

    "They are more visible from the road," suggested Mr.
    Joseph Harrison.

    "Ah, yes, of course. There is a door here which he
    might have attempted. What is it for?"

    "It is the side entrance for trades-people. Of course
    it is locked at night."

    "Have you ever had an alarm like this before?"

    "Never," said our client.

    "Do you keep plate in the house, or anything to
    attract burglars?"

    "Nothing of value."

    Holmes strolled round the house with his hands in his
    pockets and a negligent air which was unusual with
    him.

    "By the way," said he to Joseph Harrison, "you found
    some place, I understand, where the fellow scaled the
    fence. Let us have a look at that!"

    The plump young man led us to a spot where the top of
    one of the wooden rails had been cracked. A small
    fragment of the wood was hanging down. Holmes pulled
    it off and examined it critically.

    "Do you think that was done last night? It looks
    rather old, does it not?"

    "Well, possibly so."

    "There are no marks of any one jumping down upon the
    other side. No, I fancy we shall get no help here.
    Let us go back to the bedroom and talk the matter
    over."

    Percy Phelps was walking very slowly, leaning upon the
    arm of his future brother-in-law. Holmes walked
    swiftly across the lawn, and we were at the open
    window of the bedroom long before the others came up.

    "Miss Harrison," said Holmes, speaking with the utmost
    intensity of manner, "you must stay where you are all
    day. Let nothing prevent you from staying where you
    are all day. It is of the utmost importance."

    "Certainly, if you wish it, Mr. Holmes," said the girl
    in astonishment.

    "When you go to bed lock the door of this room on the
    outside and keep the key. Promise to do this."

    "But Percy?"

    "He will come to London with us."

    "And am I to remain here?"

    "It is for his sake. You can serve him. Quick!
    Promise!"

    She gave a quick nod of assent just as the other two
    came up.

    "Why do you sit moping there, Annie?" cried her
    brother. "Come out into the sunshine!"

    "No, thank you, Joseph. I have a slight headache and
    this room is deliciously cool and soothing."

    "What do you propose now, Mr. Holmes?" asked our
    client.

    "Well, in investigating this minor affair we must not
    lose sight of our main inquiry. It would be a very
    great help to me if you would come up to London with
    us."

    "At once?"

    "Well, as soon as you conveniently can. Say in an
    hour."

    "I feel quite strong enough, if I can really be of any
    help."

    "The greatest possible."

    "Perhaps you would like me the stay there to-night?"

    "I was just going to propose it."

    "Then, if my friend of the night comes to revisit me,
    he will find the bird flown. We are all in your
    hands, Mr. Holmes, and you must tell us exactly what
    you would like done. Perhaps you would prefer that
    Joseph came wit us so as to look after me?"

    "Oh, no; my friend Watson is a medical man, you know,
    and he'll look after you. We'll have our lunch here,
    if you will permit us, and then we shall al three set
    off for town together."

    It was arranged as he suggested, though Miss Harrison
    excused herself from leaving the bedroom, in
    accordance with Holmes's suggestion. What the object
    of my friend's manoeuvres was I could not conceive,
    unless it were to keep the lady away from Phelps, who,
    rejoiced by his returning health and by the prospect
    of action, lunched with us in the dining-room. Holmes
    had still more startling surprise for us, however,
    for, after accompanying us down to the station and
    seeing us into our carriage, he calmly announced that
    he had no intention of leaving Woking.

    "There are one or two small points which I should
    desire to clear up before I go," said he. "Your
    absence, Mr. Phelps, will in some ways rather assist
    me. Watson, when you reach London you would oblige me
    by driving at once to Baker Street with our friend
    here, and remaining with him until I see you again.
    It is fortunate that you are old school-fellows, as
    you must have much to talk over. Mr. Phelps can have
    the spare bedroom to-night, and I will be with you in
    time for breakfast, for there is a train which will
    take me into Waterloo at eight."

    "But how about our investigation in London?" asked
    Phelps, ruefully.

    "We can do that to-morrow. I think that just at
    present I can be of more immediate use here."

    "You might tell them at Briarbrae that I hope to be
    back to-morrow night," cried Phelps, as we began to
    move from the platform.

    "I hardly expect to go back to Briarbrae," answered
    Holmes, and waved his hand to us cheerily as we shot
    out from the station.

    Phelps and I talked it over on our journey, but
    neither of us could devise a satisfactory reason for
    this new development.

    "I suppose he wants to find out some clue as to the
    burglary last night, if a burglar it was. For myself,
    I don't believe it was an ordinary thief."

    "What is your own idea, then?"

    "Upon my word, you may put it down to my weak nerves
    or not, but I believe there is some deep political
    intrigue going on around me, and that for some reason
    that passes my understanding my life is aimed at by
    the conspirators. It sounds high-flown and absurd,
    but consider the fats! Why should a thief try to
    break in at a bedroom window, where there could be no
    hope of any plunder, and why should he come with a
    long knife in his hand?"

    "You are sure it was not a house-breaker's jimmy?"

    "Oh, no, it was a knife. I saw the flash of the blade
    quite distinctly."

    "But why on earth should you be pursued with such
    animosity?"

    "Ah, that is the question."

    "Well, if Holmes takes the same view, that would
    account for his action, would it not? Presuming that
    your theory is correct, if he can lay his hands upon
    the man who threatened you last night he will have
    gone a long way towards finding who took the naval
    treaty. It is absurd to suppose that you have two
    enemies, one of whom robs you, while the other
    threatens your life."

    "But Holmes said that he was not going to Briarbrae."

    "I have known him for some time," said I, "but I never
    knew him do anything yet without a very good reason,"
    and with that our conversation drifted off on to other
    topics.

    But it was a weary day for me. Phelps was still weak
    after his long illness, and his misfortune made him
    querulous and nervous. In vain I endeavored to
    interest him in Afghanistan, in India, in social
    questions, in anything which might take his mind out
    of the groove. He would always come back to his lost
    treaty, wondering, guessing, speculating, as to what
    Holmes was doing, what steps Lord Holdhurst was
    taking, what news we should have in the morning. As
    the evening wore on his excitement became quite
    painful.

    "You have implicit faith in Holmes?" he asked.

    "I have seen him do some remarkable things."

    "But he never brought light into anything quite so
    dark as this?"

    "Oh, yes; I have known him solve questions which
    presented fewer clues than yours."

    "But not where such large interests are at stake?"

    "I don't know that. To my certain knowledge he has
    acted on behalf of three of the reigning houses of
    Europe in very vital matters."

    "But you know him well, Watson. He is such an
    inscrutable fellow that I never quite know what to
    make of him. Do you think he is hopeful? Do you
    think he expects to make a success of it?"

    "He has said nothing."

    "That is a bad sign."

    "On the contrary, I have noticed that when he is off
    the trail he generally says so. It is when he is on a
    scent and is not quite absolutely sure yet that it is
    the right one that he is most taciturn. Now, my dear
    fellow, we can't help matter by making ourselves
    nervous about them, so let me implore you to go to bed
    and so be fresh for whatever may await us to-morrow."

    I was able at last to persuade my companion to take my
    advice, though I knew from his excited manner that
    there was not much hope of sleep for him. Indeed, his
    mood was infectious, for I lay tossing half the night
    myself, brooding over this strange problem, and
    inventing a hundred theories, each of which was more
    impossible than the last. Why had Holmes remained at
    Woking? Why had he asked Miss Harrison to remain in
    the sick-room all day? Why had he been so careful not
    to inform the people at Briarbrae that he intended to
    remain near them? I cudgelled my brains until I fell
    asleep in the endeavor to find some explanation which
    would cover all these facts.

    It was seven o'clock when I awoke, and I set off at
    once for Phelps's room, to find him haggard and spent
    after a sleepless night. His first question was
    whether Holmes had arrived yet.

    "He'll be here when he promised," said I, "and not an
    instant sooner or later."

    And my words were true, for shortly after eight a
    hansom dashed up to the door and our friend got out of
    it. Standing in the window we saw that his left hand
    was swathed in a bandage and that his face was very
    grim and pale. He entered the house, but it was some
    little time before he came upstairs.

    "He looks like a beaten man," cried Phelps.

    I was forced to confess that he was right. "After
    all," said I, "the clue of the matter lies probably
    here in town."

    Phelps gave a groan.

    "I don't know how it is," said he, "but I had hoped
    for so much from his return. But surely his hand was
    not tied up like that yesterday. What can be the
    matter?"

    "You are not wounded, Holmes?" I asked, as my friend
    entered the room.

    "Tut, it is only a scratch through my own clumsiness,"
    he answered, nodding his good-mornings to us. "This
    case of yours, Mr. Phelps, is certainly one of the
    darkest which I have ever investigated."

    "I feared that you would find it beyond you."

    "It has been a most remarkable experience."

    "That bandage tells of adventures," said I. "Won't
    you tell us what has happened?"

    "After breakfast, my dear Watson. Remember that I
    have breathed thirty mile of Surrey air this morning.
    I suppose that there has been no answer from my cabman
    advertisement? Well, well, we cannot expect to score
    every time."

    The table was all laid, and just as I was about to
    ring Mrs. Hudson entered wit the tea and coffee. A
    few minutes later she brought in three covers, and we
    all drew up to the table, Holmes ravenous, I curious,
    and Phelps in the gloomiest state of depression.

    "Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion," said Holmes,
    uncovering a dish of curried chicken. "Her cuisine is
    a little limited, but she has as good an idea of
    breakfast as a Scotch-woman. What have you here,
    Watson?"

    "Ham and eggs," I answered.

    "Good! What are you going to take, Mr.
    Phelps--curried fowl or eggs, or will you help
    yourself?"

    "Thank you. I can eat nothing," said Phelps.

    "Oh, come! Try the dish before you."

    "Thank you, I would really rather not."

    "Well, then," said Holmes, with a mischievous twinkle,
    "I suppose that you have no objection to helping me?"

    Phelps raised the cover, and as hi did so he uttered a
    scream, and sat there staring with a face as white as
    the plate upon which he looked. Across the centre of
    it was lying a little cylinder of blue-gray paper. He
    caught it up, devoured it with his eyes, and then
    danced madly about the room, passing it to his bosom
    and shrieking out in his delight. Then he fell back
    into an arm-chair so limp and exhausted with his own
    emotions that we had to pour brandy down his throat to
    keep him from fainting.

    "There! there!" said Holmes, soothing, patting him
    upon the shoulder. "It was too bad to spring it on
    you like this, but Watson here will tell you that I
    never can resist a touch of the dramatic."

    Phelps seized his hand and kissed it. "God bless
    you!" he cried. "You have saved my honor."

    "Well, my own was at stake, you know," said Holmes.
    "I assure you it is just as hateful to me to fail in a
    case as it can be to you to blunder over a
    commission."

    Phelps thrust away the precious document into the
    innermost pocket of his coat.

    "I have not the heart to interrupt your breakfast any
    further, and yet I am dying to know how you got it and
    where it was."

    Sherlock Holmes swallowed a cup of coffee, and turned
    his attention to the ham and eggs. Then he rose, lit
    his pipe, and settled himself down into his chair.

    "I'll tell you what I did first, and how I came to do
    it afterwards," said he. "After leaving you at the
    station I went for a charming walk through some
    admirable Surrey scenery to a pretty little village
    called Ripley, where I had my tea at an inn, and took
    the precaution of filling my flask and of putting a
    paper of sandwiches in my pocket. There I remained
    until evening, when I set off for Woking again, and
    found myself in the high-road outside Briarbrae just
    after sunset.

    "Well, I waited until the road was clear--it is never
    a very frequented one at any time, I fancy--and then I
    clambered over the fence into the grounds."

    "Surely the gate was open!" ejaculated Phelps.

    "Yes, but I have a peculiar taste in these matters. I
    chose the place where the three fir-trees stand, and
    behind their screen I got over without the least
    chance of any one in the house being able to see me.
    I crouched down among the bushes on the other side,
    and crawled from one to the other--witness the
    disreputable state of my trouser knees--until I had
    reached the clump of rhododendrons just opposite to
    your bedroom window. There I squatted down and
    awaited developments.

    "The blind was not down in your room, and I could see
    Miss Harrison sitting there reading by the table. It
    was quarter-past ten when she closed her book,
    fastened the shutters, and retired.

    "I heard her shut the door, and felt quite sure that
    she had turned the key in the lock."

    "The key!" ejaculated Phelps.

    "Yes; I had given Miss Harrison instructions to lock
    the door on the outside and take the key with her when
    she went to bed. She carried out every one of my
    injunctions to the letter, and certainly without her
    cooperation you would not have that paper in you
    coat-pocket. She departed then and the lights went
    out, and I was left squatting in the
    rhododendron-bush.

    "The night was fine, but still it was a very weary
    vigil. Of course it has the sort of excitement about
    it that the sportsman feels when he lies beside the
    water-course and waits for the big game. It was very
    long, though--almost as long, Watson, as when you and
    I waited in that deadly room when we looked into the
    little problem of the Speckled Band. There was a
    church-clock down at Woking which struck the quarters,
    and I thought more than once that it had stopped. At
    last however about two in the morning, I suddenly
    heard the gentle sound of a bolt being pushed back and
    the creaking of a key. A moment later the servant's
    door was opened, and Mr. Joseph Harrison stepped out
    into the moonlight."

    "Joseph!" ejaculated Phelps.

    "He was bare-headed, but he had a black coat thrown
    over his shoulder so that he could conceal his face in
    an instant if there were any alarm. He walked on
    tiptoe under the shadow of the wall, and when he
    reached the window he worked a long-bladed knife
    through the sash and pushed back the catch. Then he
    flung open the window, and putting his knife through
    the crack in the shutters, he thrust the bar up and
    swung them open.

    "From where I lay I had a perfect view of the inside
    of the room and of every one of his movements. He lit
    the two candles which stood upon the mantelpiece, and
    then he proceeded to turn back the corner of the
    carpet in the neighborhood of the door. Presently he
    stopped and picked out a square piece of board, such
    as is usually left to enable plumbers to get at the
    joints of the gas-pipes. This one covered, as a
    matter of fact, the T joint which gives off the pipe
    which supplies the kitchen underneath. Out of this
    hiding-place he drew that little cylinder of paper,
    pushed down the board, rearranged the carpet, blew out
    the candles, and walked straight into my arms as I
    stood waiting for him outside the window.

    "Well, he has rather more viciousness than I gave him
    credit for, has Master Joseph. He flew at me with his
    knife, and I had to grass him twice, and got a cut
    over the knuckles, before I had the upper hand of him.
    He looked murder out of the only eye he could see with
    when we had finished, but he listened to reason and
    gave up the papers. Having got them I let my man go,
    but I wired full particulars to Forbes this morning.
    If he is quick enough to catch is bird, well and good.
    But if, as I shrewdly suspect, he finds the nest empty
    before he gets there, why, all the better for the
    government. I fancy that Lord Holdhurst for one, and
    Mr. Percy Phelps for another, would very much rather
    that the affair never got as far as a police-court.

    "My God!" gasped our client. "Do you tell me that
    during these long ten weeks of agony the stolen papers
    were within the very room with me all the time?"

    "So it was."

    "And Joseph! Joseph a villain and a thief!"

    "Hum! I am afraid Joseph's character is a rather
    deeper and more dangerous one than one might judge
    from his appearance. From what I have heard from him
    this morning, I gather that he has lost heavily in
    dabbling with stocks, and that he is ready to do
    anything on earth to better his fortunes. Being an
    absolutely selfish man, when a chance presented itself
    he did not allow either his sister's happiness or your
    reputation to hold his hand."

    Percy Phelps sank back in his chair. "My head
    whirls," said he. "Your words have dazed me."

    "The principal difficulty in your case," remarked
    Holmes, in his didactic fashion, "lay in the fact of
    there being too much evidence. What was vital was
    overlaid and hidden by what was irrelevant. Of all
    the facts which were presented to us we had to pick
    just those which we deemed to be essential, and then
    piece them together in their order, so as to
    reconstruct this very remarkable chain of events. I
    had already begun to suspect Joseph, from the fact
    that you had intended to travel home with him that
    night, and that therefore it was a likely enough thing
    that he should call for you, knowing the Foreign
    Office well, upon his way. When I heard that some one
    had been so anxious to get into the bedroom, in which
    no one but Joseph could have concealed anything--you
    told us in your narrative how you had turned Joseph
    out when you arrived with the doctor--my suspicions
    all changed to certainties, especially as the attempt
    was made on the first night upon which the nurse was
    absent, showing that the intruder was well acquainted
    with the ways of the house."

    "How blind I have been!"

    "The facts of the case, as far as I have worked them
    out, are these: this Joseph Harrison entered the
    office through the Charles Street door, and knowing
    his way he walked straight into your room the instant
    after you left it. Finding no one there he promptly
    rang the bell, and at the instant that he did so his
    eyes caught the paper upon the table. A glance showed
    him that chance had put in his way a State document of
    immense value, and in an instant he had thrust it into
    his pocket and was gone. A few minutes elapsed, as
    you remember, before the sleepy commissionnaire drew
    your attention to the bell, and those were just enough
    to give the thief time to make his escape.

    "He made his way to Woking by the first train, and
    having examined his booty and assured himself that it
    really was of immense value, he had concealed it in
    what he thought was a very safe place, with the
    intention of taking it out again in a day or two, and
    carrying it to the French embassy, or wherever he
    thought that a long price was to be had. Then came
    your sudden return. He, without a moment's warning,
    was bundled out of his room, and from that time onward
    there were always at least two of you there to prevent
    him from regaining his treasure. The situation to him
    must have been a maddening one. But at last he
    thought he saw his chance. He tried to steal in, but
    was baffled by your wakefulness. You remember that
    you did not take your usual draught that night."

    "I remember."

    "I fancy that he had taken steps to make that draught
    efficacious, and that he quite relied upon your being
    unconscious. Of course, I understood that he would
    repeat the attempt whenever it could be done with
    safety. Your leaving the room gave him the chance he
    wanted. I kept Miss Harrison in it all day so that he
    might not anticipate us. Then, having given him the
    idea that the coast was clear, I kept guard as I have
    described. I already knew that the papers were
    probably in the room, but I had no desire to rip up
    all the planking and skirting in search of them. I
    let him take them, therefore, from the hiding-place,
    and so saved myself an infinity of trouble. Is there
    any other point which I can make clear?"

    "Why did he try the window on the first occasion," I
    asked, "when he might have entered by the door?"

    "In reaching the door he would have to pass seven
    bedrooms. On the other hand, he could get out on to
    the lawn with ease. Anything else?"

    "You do not think," asked Phelps, "that he had any
    murderous intention? The knife was only meant as a
    tool."

    "It may be so," answered Holmes, shrugging his
    shoulders. "I can only say for certain that Mr.
    Joseph Harrison is a gentleman to whose mercy I should
    be extremely unwilling to trust."
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