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The Mystery of Cloomber

The Mystery of Cloomber

Arthur Conan Doyle

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 The Hegira of the Wests from Edinburgh

  • I John Fothergill West, student of law in the University of St. Andrews, hav_ndeavoured in the ensuing pages to lay my statement before the public in _oncise and business-like fashion.
  • It is not my wish to achieve literary success, nor have I any desire by th_races of my style, or by the artistic ordering of my incidents, to throw _eeper shadow over the strange passages of which I shall have to speak. M_ighest ambition is that those who know something of the matter should, afte_eading my account, be able to conscientiously indorse it without finding _ingle paragraph in which I have either added to or detracted from the truth.
  • Should I attain this result, I shall rest amply satisfied with the outcome o_y first, and probably my last, venture in literature.
  • It was my intention to write out the sequence of events in due order,
  • depending on trustworthy hearsay when I was describing that which was beyon_y own personal knowledge. I have now, however, through the kind cooperatio_f friends, hit upon a plan which promises to be less onerous to me and mor_atisfactory to the reader. This is nothing less than to make use of th_arious manuscripts which I have by me bearing upon the subject, and to add t_hem the first-hand evidence contributed by those who had the bes_pportunities of knowing Major-General J. B. Heatherstone.
  • In pursuance of this design I shall lay before the public the testimony o_srael Stakes, formerly coachman at Cloomber Hall, and of John Easterling,
  • F.R.C.P. Edin., now practising at Stranraer, in Wigtownshire. To these I shal_dd a verbatim account extracted from the journal of the late John Berthie_eatherstone, of the events which occurred in the Thul Valley in the autumn of
  • '41 towards the end of the first Afghan War, with a description of th_kirmish in the Terada defile, and of the death of the man Ghoolab Shah.
  • To myself I reserve the duty of filling up all the gaps and chinks which ma_e left in the narrative. By this arrangement I have sunk from the position o_n author to that of a compiler, but on the other hand my work has ceased t_e a story and has expanded into a series of affidavits.
  • My Father, John Hunter West, was a well known Oriental and Sanskrit scholar,
  • and his name is still of weight with those who are interested in such matters.
  • He it was who first after Sir William Jones called attention to the grea_alue of early Persian literature, and his translations from the Hafiz an_rom Ferideddin Atar have earned the warmest commendations from the Baron vo_ammer-Purgstall, of Vienna, and other distinguished Continental critics.
  • In the issue of the Orientalisches Scienzblatt for January, 1861, he i_escribed as "Der beruhmte und sehr gelhernte Hunter West von Edinburgh" —_assage which I well remember that he cut out and stowed away, with _ardonable vanity, among the most revered family archives.
  • He had been brought up to be a solicitor, or Writer to the Signet, as it i_ermed in Scotland, but his learned hobby absorbed so much of his time that h_ad little to devote to the pursuit of his profession.
  • When his clients were seeking him at his chambers in George Street, he wa_uried in the recesses of the Advocates' Library, or poring over some mould_anuscript at the Philosophical Institution, with his brain more exercise_ver the code which Menu propounded six hundred years before the birth o_hrist than over the knotty problems of Scottish law in the nineteent_entury. Hence it can hardly be wondered at that as his learning accumulate_is practice dissolved, until at the very moment when he had attained th_enith of his celebrity he had also reached the nadir of his fortunes.
  • There being no chair of Sanscrit in any of his native universities, and n_emand anywhere for the only mental wares which he had to dispose of, w_hould have been forced to retire into genteel poverty, consoling ourselve_ith the aphorisms and precepts of Firdousi, Omar Khayyam, and others of hi_astern favourites, had it not been for the kindness and liberality of hi_alf-brother William Farintosh, the Laird of Branksome, in Wigtownshire.
  • This William Farintosh was the proprietor of a landed estate, the acreag_hich bore, unfortunately, a most disproportional relation to its value, fo_t formed the bleakest and most barren tract of land in the whole of a blea_nd barren shire. As a bachelor, however, his expenses had been small, and h_ad contrived from the rents of his scattered cottages, and the sale of th_alloway nags, which he bred upon the moors, not only to live as a lair_hould, but to put by a considerable sum in the bank.
  • We had heard little from our kinsman during the days of our comparativ_rosperity, but just as we were at our wit's end, there came a letter like _inistering angel, giving us assurance of sympathy and succour. In it th_aird of Branksome told us that one of his lungs had been growing weaker fo_ome time, and that Dr. Easterling, of Stranraer, had strongly advised him t_pend the few years which were left to him in some more genial climate. He ha_etermined, therefore to set out for the South of Italy, and he begged that w_hould take up our residence at Branksome in his absence, and that my fathe_hould act as his land steward and agent at a salary which placed us above al_ear of want.
  • Our mother had been dead for some years, so that there were only myself, m_ather, and my sister Esther to consult, and it may be readily imagined tha_t did not take us long to decide upon the acceptance of the laird's generou_ffer. My father started for Wigtown that very night, while Esther and _ollowed a few days afterwards, bearing with us two potato-sacksful of learne_ooks, and such other of our household effects that were worth the trouble an_xpense of transport.