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Chapter 7 Light in the Darkness

  • The intelligence with which Lestrade greeted us was so momentous and s_nexpected, that we were all three fairly dumfoundered. Gregson sprang out o_is chair and upset the remainder of his whiskey and water. I stared i_ilence at Sherlock Holmes, whose lips were compressed and his brows draw_own over his eyes.
  • "Stangerson too!" he muttered. "The plot thickens."
  • "It was quite thick enough before," grumbled Lestrade, taking a chair. "I see_o have dropped into a sort of council of war."
  • "Are you — are you sure of this piece of intelligence?" stammered Gregson.
  • "I have just come from his room," said Lestrade. "I was the first to discove_hat had occurred."
  • "We have been hearing Gregson's view of the matter," Holmes observed. "Woul_ou mind letting us know what you have seen and done?"
  • "I have no objection," Lestrade answered, seating himself. "I freely confes_hat I was of the opinion that Stangerson was concerned in the death o_rebber. This fresh development has shown me that I was completely mistaken.
  • Full of the one idea, I set myself to find out what had become of th_ecretary. They had been seen together at Euston Station about half-past eigh_n the evening of the third. At two in the morning Drebber had been found i_he Brixton Road. The question which confronted me was to find out ho_tangerson had been employed between 8.30 and the time of the crime, and wha_ad become of him afterwards. I telegraphed to Liverpool, giving a descriptio_f the man, and warning them to keep a watch upon the American boats. I the_et to work calling upon all the hotels and lodging-houses in the vicinity o_uston. You see, I argued that if Drebber and his companion had becom_eparated, the natural course for the latter would be to put up somewhere i_he vicinity for the night, and then to hang about the station again nex_orning."
  • "They would be likely to agree on some meeting-place beforehand," remarke_olmes.
  • "So it proved. I spent the whole of yesterday evening in making enquirie_ntirely without avail. This morning I began very early, and at eight o'cloc_ reached Halliday's Private Hotel, in Little George Street. On my enquiry a_o whether a Mr. Stangerson was living there, they at once answered me in th_ffirmative.
  • "'No doubt you are the gentleman whom he was expecting,' they said. 'He ha_een waiting for a gentleman for two days.'
  • "'Where is he now?' I asked.
  • "'He is upstairs in bed. He wished to be called at nine.'
  • "'I will go up and see him at once,' I said.
  • "It seemed to me that my sudden appearance might shake his nerves and lead hi_o say something unguarded. The Boots volunteered to show me the room: it wa_n the second floor, and there was a small corridor leading up to it. Th_oots pointed out the door to me, and was about to go downstairs again when _aw something that made me feel sickish, in spite of my twenty years'
  • experience. From under the door there curled a little red ribbon of blood, which had meandered across the passage and formed a little pool along th_kirting at the other side. I gave a cry, which brought the Boots back. H_early fainted when he saw it. The door was locked on the inside, but we pu_ur shoulders to it, and knocked it in. The window of the room was open, an_eside the window, all huddled up, lay the body of a man in his nightdress. H_as quite dead, and had been for some time, for his limbs were rigid and cold.
  • When we turned him over, the Boots recognized him at once as being the sam_entleman who had engaged the room under the name of Joseph Stangerson. Th_ause of death was a deep stab in the left side, which must have penetrate_he heart. And now comes the strangest part of the affair. What do you suppos_as above the murdered man?"
  • I felt a creeping of the flesh, and a presentiment of coming horror, eve_efore Sherlock Holmes answered.
  • "The word RACHE, written in letters of blood," he said.
  • "That was it," said Lestrade, in an awe-struck voice; and we were all silen_or a while.
  • There was something so methodical and so incomprehensible about the deeds o_his unknown assassin, that it imparted a fresh ghastliness to his crimes. M_erves, which were steady enough on the field of battle tingled as I though_f it.
  • "The man was seen," continued Lestrade. "A milk boy, passing on his way to th_airy, happened to walk down the lane which leads from the mews at the back o_he hotel. He noticed that a ladder, which usually lay there, was raise_gainst one of the windows of the second floor, which was wide open. Afte_assing, he looked back and saw a man descend the ladder. He came down s_uietly and openly that the boy imagined him to be some carpenter or joiner a_ork in the hotel. He took no particular notice of him, beyond thinking in hi_wn mind that it was early for him to be at work. He has an impression tha_he man was tall, had a reddish face, and was dressed in a long, brownis_oat. He must have stayed in the room some little time after the murder, fo_e found blood-stained water in the basin, where he had washed his hands, an_arks on the sheets where he had deliberately wiped his knife."
  • I glanced at Holmes on hearing the description of the murderer, which tallie_o exactly with his own. There was, however, no trace of exultation o_atisfaction upon his face.
  • "Did you find nothing in the room which could furnish a clue to the murderer?"
  • he asked.
  • "Nothing. Stangerson had Drebber's purse in his pocket, but it seems that thi_as usual, as he did all the paying. There was eighty odd pounds in it, bu_othing had been taken. Whatever the motives of these extraordinary crimes, robbery is certainly not one of them. There were no papers or memoranda in th_urdered man's pocket, except a single telegram, dated from Cleveland about _onth ago, and containing the words, 'J. H. is in Europe.' There was no nam_ppended to this message."
  • "And there was nothing else?" Holmes asked.
  • "Nothing of any importance. The man's novel, with which he had read himself t_leep was lying upon the bed, and his pipe was on a chair beside him. Ther_as a glass of water on the table, and on the window-sill a small chi_intment box containing a couple of pills."
  • Sherlock Holmes sprang from his chair with an exclamation of delight.
  • "The last link," he cried, exultantly. "My case is complete."
  • The two detectives stared at him in amazement.
  • "I have now in my hands," my companion said, confidently, "all the thread_hich have formed such a tangle. There are, of course, details to be fille_n, but I am as certain of all the main facts, from the time that Drebbe_arted from Stangerson at the station, up to the discovery of the body of th_atter, as if I had seen them with my own eyes. I will give you a proof of m_nowledge. Could you lay your hand upon those pills?"
  • "I have them," said Lestrade, producing a small white box; "I took them an_he purse and the telegram, intending to have them put in a place of safety a_he Police Station. It was the merest chance my taking these pills, for I a_ound to say that I do not attach any importance to them."
  • "Give them here," said Holmes. "Now, Doctor," turning to me, "are thos_rdinary pills?"
  • They certainly were not. They were of a pearly grey colour, small, round, an_lmost transparent against the light. "From their lightness and transparency, I should imagine that they are soluble in water," I remarked.
  • "Precisely so," answered Holmes. "Now would you mind going down and fetchin_hat poor little devil of a terrier which has been bad so long, and which th_andlady wanted you to put out of its pain yesterday."
  • I went downstairs and carried the dog upstair in my arms. It's laboure_reathing and glazing eye showed that it was not far from its end. Indeed, it_now-white muzzle proclaimed that it had already exceeded the usual term o_anine existence. I placed it upon a cushion on the rug.
  • "I will now cut one of these pills in two," said Holmes, and drawing hi_enknife he suited the action to the word. "One half we return into the bo_or future purposes. The other half I will place in this wine glass, in whic_s a teaspoonful of water. You perceive that our friend, the Doctor, is right, and that it readily dissolves."
  • "This may be very interesting," said Lestrade, in the injured tone of one wh_uspects that he is being laughed at, "I cannot see, however, what it has t_o with the death of Mr. Joseph Stangerson."
  • "Patience, my friend, patience! You will find in time that it has everythin_o do with it. I shall now add a little milk to make the mixture palatable, and on presenting it to the dog we find that he laps it up readily enough."
  • As he spoke he turned the contents of the wine glass into a saucer and place_t in front of the terrier, who speedily licked it dry. Sherlock Holmes'
  • earnest demeanour had so far convinced us that we all sat in silence, watchin_he animal intently, and expecting some startling effect. None such appeared, however. The dog continued to lie stretched upon the cushion, breathing in _aboured way, but apparently neither the better nor the worse for its draught.
  • Holmes had taken out his watch, and as minute followed minute without result, an expression of the utmost chagrin and disappointment appeared upon hi_eatures. He gnawed his lip, drummed his fingers upon the table, and showe_very other symptom of acute impatience. So great was his emotion, that I fel_incerely sorry for him, while the two detectives smiled derisively, by n_eans displeased at this check which he had met.
  • "It can't be a coincidence," he cried, at last springing from his chair an_acing wildly up and down the room; "it is impossible that it should be a mer_oincidence. The very pills which I suspected in the case of Drebber ar_ctually found after the death of Stangerson. And yet they are inert. What ca_t mean? Surely my whole chain of reasoning cannot have been false. It i_mpossible! And yet this wretched dog is none the worse. Ah, I have it! I hav_t!" With a perfect shriek of delight he rushed to the box, cut the other pil_n two, dissolved it, added milk, and presented it to the terrier. Th_nfortunate creature's tongue seemed hardly to have been moistened in i_efore it gave a convulsive shiver in every limb, and lay as rigid an_ifeless as if it had been struck by lightning.
  • Sherlock Holmes drew a long breath, and wiped the perspiration from hi_orehead. "I should have more faith," he said; "I ought to know by this tim_hat when a fact appears to be opposed to a long train of deductions, i_nvariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation. Of th_wo pills in that box one was of the most deadly poison, and the other wa_ntirely harmless. I ought to have known that before ever I saw the box a_ll."
  • This last statement appeared to me to be so startling, that I could hardl_elieve that he was in his sober senses. There was the dead dog, however, t_rove that his conjecture had been correct. It seemed to me that the mists i_y own mind were gradually clearing away, and I began to have a dim, vagu_erception of the truth.
  • "All this seems strange to you," continued Holmes, "because you failed at th_eginning of the inquiry to grasp the importance of the single real clue whic_as presented to you. I had the good fortune to seize upon that, an_verything which has occurred since then has served to confirm my origina_upposition, and, indeed, was the logical sequence of it. Hence things whic_ave perplexed you and made the case more obscure, have served to enlighten m_nd to strengthen my conclusions. It is a mistake to confound strangeness wit_ystery. The most commonplace crime is often the most mysterious because i_resents no new or special features from which deductions may be drawn. Thi_urder would have been infinitely more difficult to unravel had the body o_he victim been simply found lying in the roadway without any of those outr_nd sensational accompaniments which have rendered it remarkable. Thes_trange details, far from making the case more difficult, have really had th_ffect of making it less so."
  • Mr. Gregson, who had listened to this address with considerable impatience, could contain himself no longer. "Look here, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," he said,
  • "we are all ready to acknowledge that you are a smart man, and that you hav_our own methods of working. We want something more than mere theory an_reaching now, though. It is a case of taking the man. I have made my cas_ut, and it seems I was wrong. Young Charpentier could not have been engage_n this second affair. Lestrade went after his man, Stangerson, and it appear_hat he was wrong too. You have thrown out hints here, and hints there, an_eem to know more than we do, but the time has come when we feel that we hav_ right to ask you straight how much you do know of the business. Can you nam_he man who did it?"
  • "I cannot help feeling that Gregson is right, sir," remarked Lestrade. "W_ave both tried, and we have both failed. You have remarked more than onc_ince I have been in the room that you had all the evidence which you require.
  • Surely you will not withhold it any longer."
  • "Any delay in arresting the assassin," I observed, "might give him time t_erpetrate some fresh atrocity."
  • Thus pressed by us all, Holmes showed signs of irresolution. He continued t_alk up and down the room with his head sunk on his chest and his brows draw_own, as was his habit when lost in thought.
  • "There will be no more murders," he said at last, stopping abruptly and facin_s. "You can put that consideration out of the question. You have asked me i_ know the name of the assassin. I do. The mere knowing of his name is a smal_hing, however, compared with the power of laying our hands upon him. This _xpect very shortly to do. I have good hopes of managing it through my ow_rrangements; but it is a thing which needs delicate handling, for we have _hrewd and desperate man to deal with, who is supported, as I have ha_ccasion to prove, by another who is as clever as himself. As long as this ma_as no idea that anyone can have a clue there is some chance of securing him; but if he had the slightest suspicion, he would change his name, and vanish i_n instant among the four million inhabitants of this great city. Withou_eaning to hurt either of your feelings, I am bound to say that I conside_hese men to be more than a match for the official force, and that is why _ave not asked your assistance. If I fail I shall, of course, incur all th_lame due to this omission; but that I am prepared for. At present I am read_o promise that the instant that I can communicate with you withou_ndangering my own combinations, I shall do so."
  • Gregson and Lestrade seemed to be far from satisfied by this assurance, or b_he depreciating allusion to the detective police. The former had flushed u_o the roots of his flaxen hair, while the other's beady eyes glistened wit_uriosity and resentment. Neither of them had time to speak, however, befor_here was a tap at the door, and the spokesman of the street Arabs, youn_iggins, introduced his insignificant and unsavoury person.
  • "Please, sir," he said, touching his forelock, "I have the cab downstairs."
  • "Good boy," said Holmes, blandly. "Why don't you introduce this pattern a_cotland Yard?" he continued, taking a pair of steel handcuffs from a drawer.
  • "See how beautifully the spring works. They fasten in an instant."
  • "The old pattern is good enough," remarked Lestrade, "if we can only find th_an to put them on."
  • "Very good, very good," said Holmes, smiling. "The cabman may as well help m_ith my boxes. Just ask him to step up, Wiggins."
  • I was surprised to find my companion speaking as though he were about to se_ut on a journey, since he had not said anything to me about it. There was _mall portmanteau in the room, and this he pulled out and began to strap. H_as busily engaged at it when the cabman entered the room.
  • "Just give me a help with this buckle, cabman," he said, kneeling over hi_ask, and never turning his head.
  • The fellow came forward with a somewhat sullen, defiant air, and put down hi_ands to assist. At that instant there was a sharp click, the jangling o_etal, and Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet again.
  • "Gentlemen," he cried, with flashing eyes, "let me introduce you to Mr.
  • Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Enoch Drebber and of Joseph Stangerson."
  • The whole thing occurred in a moment — so quickly that I had no time t_ealize it. I have a vivid recollection of that instant, of Holmes' triumphan_xpression and the ring of his voice, of the cabman's dazed, savage face, a_e glared at the glittering handcuffs, which had appeared as if by magic upo_is wrists. For a second or two we might have been a group of statues. Then, with an inarticulate roar of fury, the prisoner wrenched himself free fro_olmes's grasp, and hurled himself through the window. Woodwork and glass gav_ay before him; but before he got quite through, Gregson, Lestrade, and Holme_prang upon him like so many staghounds. He was dragged back into the room, and then commenced a terrific conflict. So powerful and so fierce was he, tha_he four of us were shaken off again and again. He appeared to have th_onvulsive strength of a man in an epileptic fit. His face and hands wer_erribly mangled by his passage through the glass, but loss of blood had n_ffect in diminishing his resistance. It was not until Lestrade succeeded i_etting his hand inside his neckcloth and half-strangling him that we made hi_ealize that his struggles were of no avail; and even then we felt no securit_ntil we had pinioned his feet as well as his hands. That done, we rose to ou_eet breathless and panting.
  • "We have his cab," said Sherlock Holmes. "It will serve to take him t_cotland Yard. And now, gentlemen," he continued, with a pleasant smile, "w_ave reached the end of our little mystery. You are very welcome to put an_uestions that you like to me now, and there is no danger that I will refus_o answer them."