We have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our small stage at Bake_treet, but I cannot recollect anything more sudden and startling than th_irst appearance of Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. His card, whic_eemed too small to carry the weight of his academic distinctions, precede_im by a few seconds, and then he entered himself — so large, so pompous, an_o dignified that he was the very embodiment of self-possession and solidity.
And yet his first action when the door had closed behind him was to stagge_gainst the table, whence he slipped down upon the floor, and there was tha_ajestic figure prostrate and insensible upon our bearskin hearthrug.
We had sprung to our feet, and for a few moments we stared in silent amazemen_t this ponderous piece of wreckage, which told of some sudden and fatal stor_ar out on the ocean of life. Then Holmes hurried with a cushion for his hea_nd I with brandy for his lips. The heavy white face was seamed with lines o_rouble, the hanging pouches under the closed eyes were leaden in colour, th_oose mouth drooped dolorously at the corners, the rolling chins wer_nshaven. Collar and shirt bore the grime of a long journey, and the hai_ristled unkempt from the well-shaped head. It was a sorely-stricken man wh_ay before us.
"What is it, Watson?" asked Holmes.
"Absolute exhaustion — possibly mere hunger and fatigue," said I, with m_inger on the thready pulse, where the stream of life trickled thin and small.
"Return ticket from Mackleton, in the North of England," said Holmes, drawin_t from the watch-pocket. "It is not twelve o'clock yet. He has certainly bee_n early starter."
The puckered eyelids had begun to quiver, and now a pair of vacant, grey eye_ooked up at us. An instant later the man had scrambled on to his feet, hi_ace crimson with shame.
"Forgive this weakness, Mr. Holmes; I have been a little overwrought. Than_ou, if I might have a glass of milk and a biscuit I have no doubt that _hould be better. I came personally, Mr. Holmes, in order to ensure that yo_ould return with me. I feared that no telegram would convince you of th_bsolute urgency of the case."
"When you are quite restored ——"
"I am quite well again. I cannot imagine how I came to be so weak. I wish you, Mr. Holmes, to come to Mackleton with me by the next train."
My friend shook his head.
"My colleague, Dr. Watson, could tell you that we are very busy at present. _m retained in this case of the Ferrers Documents, and the Abergavenny murde_s coming up for trial. Only a very important issue could call me from Londo_t present."
"Important!" Our visitor threw up his hands. "Have you heard nothing of th_bduction of the only son of the Duke of Holdernesse?"
"What! the late Cabinet Minister?"
"Exactly. We had tried to keep it out of the papers, but there was some rumou_n the GLOBE last night. I thought it might have reached your ears."
Holmes shot out his long, thin arm and picked out Volume "H" in hi_ncyclopaedia of reference.
"`Holdernesse, 6th Duke, K.G., P.C.' — half the alphabet! `Baron Beverley, Earl of Carston' — dear me, what a list! `Lord Lieutenant of Hallamshire sinc_900. Married Edith, daughter of Sir Charles Appledore, 1888. Heir and onl_hild, Lord Saltire. Owns about two hundred and fifty thousand acres. Mineral_n Lancashire and Wales. Address: Carlton House Terrace; Holdernesse Hall, Hallamshire; Carston Castle, Bangor, Wales. Lord of the Admiralty, 1872; Chie_ecretary of State for —' Well, well, this man is certainly one of th_reatest subjects of the Crown!"
"The greatest and perhaps the wealthiest. I am aware, Mr. Holmes, that yo_ake a very high line in professional matters, and that you are prepared t_ork for the work's sake. I may tell you, however, that his Grace has alread_ntimated that a Cheque for five thousand pounds will be handed over to th_erson who can tell him where his son is, and another thousand to him who ca_ame the man, or men, who have taken him."
"It is a princely offer," said Holmes. "Watson, I think that we shal_ccompany Dr. Huxtable back to the North of England. And now, Dr. Huxtable, when you have consumed that milk you will kindly tell me what has happened, when it happened, how it happened, and, finally, what Dr. Thorneycrof_uxtable, of the Priory School, near Mackleton, has to do with the matter, an_hy he comes three days after an event — the state of your chin gives the date — to ask for my humble services."
Our visitor had consumed his milk and biscuits. The light had come back to hi_yes and the colour to his cheeks as he set himself with great vigour an_ucidity to explain the situation.
"I must inform you, gentlemen, that the Priory is a preparatory school, o_hich I am the founder and principal. `Huxtable's Sidelights on Horace' ma_ossibly recall my name to your memories. The Priory is, without exception, the best and most select preparatory school in England. Lord Leverstoke, th_arl of Blackwater, Sir Cathcart Soames — they all have entrusted their son_o me. But I felt that my school had reached its zenith when, three weeks ago, the Duke of Holdernesse sent Mr. James Wilder, his secretary, with th_ntimation that young Lord Saltire, ten years old, his only son and heir, wa_bout to be committed to my charge. Little did I think that this would be th_relude to the most crushing misfortune of my life.
"On May 1st the boy arrived, that being the beginning of the summer term. H_as a charming youth, and he soon fell into our ways. I may tell you — I trus_hat I am not indiscreet, but half-confidences are absurd in such a case — that he was not entirely happy at home. It is an open secret that the Duke'_arried life had not been a peaceful one, and the matter had ended in _eparation by mutual consent, the Duchess taking up her residence in the Sout_f France. This had occurred very shortly before, and the boy's sympathies ar_nown to have been strongly with his mother. He moped after her departure fro_oldernesse Hall, and it was for this reason that the Duke desired to send hi_o my establishment. In a fortnight the boy was quite at home with us, and wa_pparently absolutely happy.
"He was last seen on the night of May 13th — that is, the night of las_onday. His room was on the second floor, and was approached through anothe_arger room in which two boys were sleeping. These boys saw and heard nothing, so that it is certain that young Saltire did not pass out that way. His windo_as open, and there is a stout ivy plant leading to the ground. We could trac_o footmarks below, but it is sure that this is the only possible exit.
"His absence was discovered at seven o'clock on Tuesday morning. His bed ha_een slept in. He had dressed himself fully before going off in his usua_chool suit of black Eton jacket and dark grey trousers. There were no sign_hat anyone had entered the room, and it is quite certain that anything in th_ature of cries, or a struggle, would have been heard, since Caunter, th_lder boy in the inner room, is a very light sleeper.
"When Lord Saltire's disappearance was discovered I at once called a roll o_he whole establishment, boys, masters, and servants. It was then that w_scertained that Lord Saltire had not been alone in his flight. Heidegger, th_erman master, was missing. His room was on the second floor, at the farthe_nd of the building, facing the same way as Lord Saltire's. His bed had als_een slept in; but he had apparently gone away partly dressed, since his shir_nd socks were lying on the floor. He had undoubtedly let himself down by th_vy, for we could see the marks of his feet where he had landed on the lawn.
His bicycle was kept in a small shed beside this lawn, and it also was gone.
"He had been with me for two years, and came with the best references; but h_as a silent, morose man, not very popular either with masters or boys. N_race could be found of the fugitives, and now on Thursday morning we are a_gnorant as we were on Tuesday. Inquiry was, of course, made at once a_oldernesse Hall. It is only a few miles away, and we imagined that in som_udden attack of home-sickness he had gone back to his father; but nothing ha_een heard of him. The Duke is greatly agitated — and as to me, you have see_ourselves the state of nervous prostration to which the suspense and th_esponsibility have reduced me. Mr. Holmes, if ever you put forward your ful_owers, I implore you to do so now, for never in your life could you have _ase which is more worthy of them."
Sherlock Holmes had listened with the utmost intentness to the statement o_he unhappy schoolmaster. His drawn brows and the deep furrow between the_howed that he needed no exhortation to concentrate all his attention upon _roblem which, apart from the tremendous interests involved, must appeal s_irectly to his love of the complex and the unusual. He now drew out his note- book and jotted down one or two memoranda.
"You have been very remiss in not coming to me sooner," said he, severely.
"You start me on my investigation with a very serious handicap. It i_nconceivable, for example, that this ivy and this lawn would have yielde_othing to an expert observer."
"I am not to blame, Mr. Holmes. His Grace was extremely desirous to avoid al_ublic scandal. He was afraid of his family unhappiness being dragged befor_he world. He has a deep horror of anything of the kind."
"But there has been some official investigation?"
"Yes, sir, and it has proved most disappointing. An apparent clue was at onc_btained, since a boy and a young man were reported to have been seen leavin_ neighbouring station by an early train. Only last night we had news that th_ouple had been hunted down in Liverpool, and they prove to have no connectio_hatever with the matter in hand. Then it was that in my despair an_isappointment, after a sleepless night, I came straight to you by the earl_rain."
"I suppose the local investigation was relaxed while this false clue was bein_ollowed up?"
"It was entirely dropped."
"So that three days have been wasted. The affair has been most deplorabl_andled."
"I feel it, and admit it."
"And yet the problem should be capable of ultimate solution. I shall be ver_appy to look into it. Have you been able to trace any connection between th_issing boy and this German master?"
"None at all."
"Was he in the master's class?"
"No; he never exchanged a word with him so far as I know."
"That is certainly very singular. Had the boy a bicycle?"
"Was any other bicycle missing?"
"Is that certain?"
"Well, now, you do not mean to seriously suggest that this German rode of_pon a bicycle in the dead of the night bearing the boy in his arms?"
"Then what is the theory in your mind?"
"The bicycle may have been a blind. It may have been hidden somewhere and th_air gone off on foot."
"Quite so; but it seems rather an absurd blind, does it not? Were there othe_icycles in this shed?"
"Would he not have hidden A COUPLE had he desired to give the idea that the_ad gone off upon them?"
"I suppose he would."
"Of course he would. The blind theory won't do. But the incident is a_dmirable starting-point for an investigation. After all, a bicycle is not a_asy thing to conceal or to destroy. One other question. Did anyone call t_ee the boy on the day before he disappeared?"
"Did he get any letters?"
"Yes; one letter."
"From his father."
"Do you open the boys' letters?"
"How do you know it was from the father?"
"The coat of arms was on the envelope, and it was addressed in the Duke'_eculiar stiff hand. Besides, the Duke remembers having written."
"When had he a letter before that?"
"Not for several days."
"Had he ever one from France?"
"You see the point of my questions, of course. Either the boy was carried of_y force or he went of his own free will. In the latter case you would expec_hat some prompting from outside would be needed to make so young a lad d_uch a thing. If he has had no visitors, that prompting must have come i_etters. Hence I try to find out who were his correspondents."
"I fear I cannot help you much. His only correspondent, so far as I know, wa_is own father."
"Who wrote to him on the very day of his disappearance. Were the relation_etween father and son very friendly?"
"His Grace is never very friendly with anyone. He is completely immersed i_arge public questions, and is rather inaccessible to all ordinary emotions.
But he was always kind to the boy in his own way."
"But the sympathies of the latter were with the mother?"
"Did he say so?"
"The Duke, then?"
"Good heavens, no!"
"Then how could you know?"
"I have had some confidential talks with Mr. James Wilder, his Grace'_ecretary. It was he who gave me the information about Lord Saltire'_eelings."
"I see. By the way, that last letter of the Duke's — was it found in the boy'_oom after he was gone?"
"No; he had taken it with him. I think, Mr. Holmes, it is time that we wer_eaving for Euston."
"I will order a four-wheeler. In a quarter of an hour we shall be at you_ervice. If you are telegraphing home, Mr. Huxtable, it would be well to allo_he people in your neighbourhood to imagine that the inquiry is still going o_n Liverpool, or wherever else that red herring led your pack. In the meantim_ will do a little quiet work at your own doors, and perhaps the scent is no_o cold but that two old hounds like Watson and myself may get a sniff of it."
That evening found us in the cold, bracing atmosphere of the Peak country, i_hich Dr. Huxtable's famous school is situated. It was already dark when w_eached it. A card was lying on the hall table, and the butler whispere_omething to his master, who turned to us with agitation in every heav_eature.
"The Duke is here," said he. "The Duke and Mr. Wilder are in the study. Come, gentlemen, and I will introduce you."
I was, of course, familiar with the pictures of the famous statesman, but th_an himself was very different from his representation. He was a tall an_tately person, scrupulously dressed, with a drawn, thin face, and a nos_hich was grotesquely curved and long. His complexion was of a dead pallor, which was more startling by contrast with a long, dwindling beard of vivi_ed, which flowed down over his white waistcoat, with his watch-chain gleamin_hrough its fringe. Such was the stately presence who looked stonily at u_rom the centre of Dr. Huxtable's hearthrug. Beside him stood a very youn_an, whom I understood to be Wilder, the private secretary. He was small, nervous, alert, with intelligent, light-blue eyes and mobile features. It wa_e who at once, in an incisive and positive tone, opened the conversation.
"I called this morning, Dr. Huxtable, too late to prevent you from startin_or London. I learned that your object was to invite Mr. Sherlock Holmes t_ndertake the conduct of this case. His Grace is surprised, Dr. Huxtable, tha_ou should have taken such a step without consulting him."
"When I learned that the police had failed ——"
"His Grace is by no means convinced that the police have failed."
"But surely, Mr. Wilder ——"
"You are well aware, Dr. Huxtable, that his Grace is particularly anxious t_void all public scandal. He prefers to take as few people as possible int_is confidence."
"The matter can be easily remedied," said the brow-beaten doctor; "Mr.
Sherlock Holmes can return to London by the morning train."
"Hardly that, Doctor, hardly that," said Holmes, in his blandest voice. "Thi_orthern air is invigorating and pleasant, so I propose to spend a few day_pon your moors, and to occupy my mind as best I may. Whether I have th_helter of your roof or of the village inn is, of course, for you to decide."
I could see that the unfortunate doctor was in the last stage of indecision, from which he was rescued by the deep, sonorous voice of the red-bearded Duke, which boomed out like a dinner-gong.
"I agree with Mr. Wilder, Dr. Huxtable, that you would have done wisely t_onsult me. But since Mr. Holmes has already been taken into your confidence, it would indeed be absurd that we should not avail ourselves of his services.
Far from going to the inn, Mr. Holmes, I should be pleased if you would com_nd stay with me at Holdernesse Hall."
"I thank your Grace. For the purposes of my investigation I think that i_ould be wiser for me to remain at the scene of the mystery."
"Just as you like, Mr. Holmes. Any information which Mr. Wilder or I can giv_ou is, of course, at your disposal."
"It will probably be necessary for me to see you at the Hall," said Holmes. "_ould only ask you now, sir, whether you have formed any explanation in you_wn mind as to the mysterious disappearance of your son?"
"No, sir, I have not."
"Excuse me if I allude to that which is painful to you, but I have n_lternative. Do you think that the Duchess had anything to do with th_atter?"
The great Minister showed perceptible hesitation.
"I do not think so," he said, at last.
"The other most obvious explanation is that the child has been kidnapped fo_he purpose of levying ransom. You have not had any demand of the sort?"
"One more question, your Grace. I understand that you wrote to your son upo_he day when this incident occurred."
"No; I wrote upon the day before."
"Exactly. But he received it on that day?"
"Was there anything in your letter which might have unbalanced him or induce_im to take such a step?"
"No, sir, certainly not."
"Did you post that letter yourself?"
The nobleman's reply was interrupted by his secretary, who broke in with som_eat.
"His Grace is not in the habit of posting letters himself," said he. "Thi_etter was laid with others upon the study table, and I myself put them in th_ost-bag."
"You are sure this one was among them?"
"Yes; I observed it."
"How many letters did your Grace write that day?"
"Twenty or thirty. I have a large correspondence. But surely this is somewha_rrelevant?"
"Not entirely," said Holmes.
"For my own part," the Duke continued, "I have advised the police to tur_heir attention to the South of France. I have already said that I do no_elieve that the Duchess would encourage so monstrous an action, but the la_ad the most wrong-headed opinions, and it is possible that he may have fle_o her, aided and abetted by this German. I think, Dr. Huxtable, that we wil_ow return to the Hall."
I could see that there were other questions which Holmes would have wished t_ut; but the nobleman's abrupt manner showed that the interview was at an end.
It was evident that to his intensely aristocratic nature this discussion o_is intimate family affairs with a stranger was most abhorrent, and that h_eared lest every fresh question would throw a fiercer light into th_iscreetly shadowed corners of his ducal history.
When the nobleman and his secretary had left, my friend flung himself at onc_ith characteristic eagerness into the investigation.
The boy's chamber was carefully examined, and yielded nothing save th_bsolute conviction that it was only through the window that he could hav_scaped. The German master's room and effects gave no further clue. In hi_ase a trailer of ivy had given way under his weight, and we saw by the ligh_f a lantern the mark on the lawn where his heels had come down. That one din_n the short green grass was the only material witness left of thi_nexplicable nocturnal flight.
Sherlock Holmes left the house alone, and only returned after eleven. He ha_btained a large ordnance map of the neighbourhood, and this he brought int_y room, where he laid it out on the bed, and, having balanced the lamp in th_iddle of it, he began to smoke over it, and occasionally to point out object_f interest with the reeking amber of his pipe.
"This case grows upon me, Watson," said he. "There are decidedly some point_f interest in connection with it. In this early stage I want you to realis_hose geographical features which may have a good deal to do with ou_nvestigation.
"Look at this map. This dark square is the Priory School. I'll put a pin i_t. Now, this line is the main road. You see that it runs east and west pas_he school, and you see also that there is no side road for a mile either way.
If these two folk passed away by road it was THIS road."
"By a singular and happy chance we are able to some extent to check wha_assed along this road during the night in question. At this point, where m_ipe is now resting, a country constable was on duty from twelve to six. I_s, as you perceive, the first cross road on the east side. This man declare_hat he was not absent from his post for an instant, and he is positive tha_either boy nor man could have gone that way unseen. I have spoken with thi_oliceman to-night, and he appears to me to be a perfectly reliable person.
That blocks this end. We have now to deal with the other. There is an in_ere, the Red Bull, the landlady of which was ill. She had sent to Mackleto_or a doctor, but he did not arrive until morning, being absent at anothe_ase. The people at the inn were alert all night, awaiting his coming, and on_r other of them seems to have continually had an eye upon the road. The_eclare that no one passed. If their evidence is good, then we are fortunat_nough to be able to block the west, and also to be able to say that th_ugitives did not use the road at all."
"But the bicycle?" I objected.
"Quite so. We will come to the bicycle presently. To continue our reasoning: if these people did not go by the road, they must have traversed the countr_o the north of the house or to the south of the house. That is certain. Le_s weigh the one against the other. On the south of the house is, as yo_erceive, a large district of arable land, cut up into small fields, wit_tone walls between them. There, I admit that a bicycle is impossible. We ca_ismiss the idea. We turn to the country on the north. Here there lies a grov_f trees, marked as the `Ragged Shaw,' and on the farther side stretches _reat rolling moor, Lower Gill Moor, extending for ten miles and slopin_radually upwards. Here, at one side of this wilderness, is Holdernesse Hall, ten miles by road, but only six across the moor. It is a peculiarly desolat_lain. A few moor farmers have small holdings, where they rear sheep an_attle. Except these, the plover and the curlew are the only inhabitants unti_ou come to the Chesterfield high road. There is a church there, you see, _ew cottages, and an inn. Beyond that the hills become precipitous. Surely i_s here to the north that our quest must lie."
"But the bicycle?" I persisted.
"Well, well!" said Holmes, impatiently. "A good cyclist does not need a hig_oad. The moor is intersected with paths and the moon was at the full. Halloa!
what is this?"
There was an agitated knock at the door, and an instant afterwards Dr.
Huxtable was in the room. In his hand he held a blue cricket-cap, with a whit_hevron on the peak.
"At last we have a clue!" he cried. "Thank Heaven! at last we are on the dea_oy's track! It is his cap."
"Where was it found?"
"In the van of the gypsies who camped on the moor. They left on Tuesday. To- day the police traced them down and examined their caravan. This was found."
"How do they account for it?"
"They shuffled and lied — said that they found it on the moor on Tuesda_orning. They know where he is, the rascals! Thank goodness, they are all saf_nder lock and key. Either the fear of the law or the Duke's purse wil_ertainly get out of them all that they know."
"So far, so good," said Holmes, when the doctor had at last left the room. "I_t least bears out the theory that it is on the side of the Lower Gill Moo_hat we must hope for results. The police have really done nothing locally, save the arrest of these gypsies. Look here, Watson! There is a watercours_cross the moor. You see it marked here in the map. In some parts it widen_nto a morass. This is particularly so in the region between Holdernesse Hal_nd the school. It is vain to look elsewhere for tracks in this dry weather; but at THAT point there is certainly a chance of some record being left. _ill call you early to-morrow morning, and you and I will try if we can thro_ome little light upon the mystery."
The day was just breaking when I woke to find the long, thin form of Holmes b_y bedside. He was fully dressed, and had apparently already been out.
"I have done the lawn and the bicycle shed," said he. "I have also had _amble through the Ragged Shaw. Now, Watson, there is cocoa ready in the nex_oom. I must beg you to hurry, for we have a great day before us."
His eyes shone, and his cheek was flushed with the exhilaration of the maste_orkman who sees his work lie ready before him. A very different Holmes, thi_ctive, alert man, from the introspective and pallid dreamer of Baker Street.
I felt, as I looked upon that supple figure, alive with nervous energy, tha_t was indeed a strenuous day that awaited us.
And yet it opened in the blackest disappointment. With high hopes we struc_cross the peaty, russet moor, intersected with a thousand sheep paths, unti_e came to the broad, light-green belt which marked the morass between us an_oldernesse. Certainly, if the lad had gone homewards, he must have passe_his, and he could not pass it without leaving his traces. But no sign of hi_r the German could be seen. With a darkening face my friend strode along th_argin, eagerly observant of every muddy stain upon the mossy surface. Sheep- marks there were in profusion, and at one place, some miles down, cows ha_eft their tracks. Nothing more.
"Check number one," said Holmes, looking gloomily over the rolling expanse o_he moor. "There is another morass down yonder and a narrow neck between.
Halloa! halloa! halloa! what have we here?"
We had come on a small black ribbon of pathway. In the middle of it, clearl_arked on the sodden soil, was the track of a bicycle.
"Hurrah!" I cried. "We have it."
But Holmes was shaking his head, and his face was puzzled and expectant rathe_han joyous.
"A bicycle, certainly, but not the bicycle," said he. "I am familiar wit_orty-two different impressions left by tyres. This, as you perceive, is _unlop, with a patch upon the outer cover. Heidegger's tyres were Palmer's, leaving longitudinal stripes. Aveling, the mathematical master, was sure upo_he point. Therefore, it is not Heidegger's track."
"The boy's, then?"
"Possibly, if we could prove a bicycle to have been in his possession. Bu_his we have utterly failed to do. This track, as you perceive, was made by _ider who was going from the direction of the school."
"Or towards it?"
"No, no, my dear Watson. The more deeply sunk impression is, of course, th_ind wheel, upon which the weight rests. You perceive several places where i_as passed across and obliterated the more shallow mark of the front one. I_as undoubtedly heading away from the school. It may or may not be connecte_ith our inquiry, but we will follow it backwards before we go any farther."
We did so, and at the end of a few hundred yards lost the tracks as we emerge_rom the boggy portion of the moor. Following the path backwards, we picke_ut another spot, where a spring trickled across it. Here, once again, was th_ark of the bicycle, though nearly obliterated by the hoofs of cows. Afte_hat there was no sign, but the path ran right on into Ragged Shaw, the woo_hich backed on to the school. From this wood the cycle must have emerged.
Holmes sat down on a boulder and rested his chin in his hands. I had smoke_wo cigarettes before he moved.
"Well, well," said he, at last. "It is, of course, possible that a cunning ma_ight change the tyre of his bicycle in order to leave unfamiliar tracks. _riminal who was capable of such a thought is a man whom I should be proud t_o business with. We will leave this question undecided and hark back to ou_orass again, for we have left a good deal unexplored."
We continued our systematic survey of the edge of the sodden portion of th_oor, and soon our perseverance was gloriously rewarded. Right across th_ower part of the bog lay a miry path. Holmes gave a cry of delight as h_pproached it. An impression like a fine bundle of telegraph wires ran dow_he centre of it. It was the Palmer tyre.
"Here is Herr Heidegger, sure enough!" cried Holmes, exultantly. "My reasonin_eems to have been pretty sound, Watson."
"I congratulate you."
"But we have a long way still to go. Kindly walk clear of the path. Now let u_ollow the trail. I fear that it will not lead very far."
We found, however, as we advanced that this portion of the moor is intersecte_ith soft patches, and, though we frequently lost sight of the track, w_lways succeeded in picking it up once more.
"Do you observe," said Holmes, "that the rider is now undoubtedly forcing th_ace? There can be no doubt of it. Look at this impression, where you get bot_yres clear. The one is as deep as the other. That can only mean that th_ider is throwing his weight on to the handle-bar, as a man does when he i_printing. By Jove! he has had a fall."
There was a broad, irregular smudge covering some yards of the track. The_here were a few footmarks, and the tyre reappeared once more.
"A side-slip," I suggested.
Holmes held up a crumpled branch of flowering gorse. To my horror I perceive_hat the yellow blossoms were all dabbled with crimson. On the path, too, an_mong the heather were dark stains of clotted blood.
"Bad!" said Holmes. "Bad! Stand clear, Watson! Not an unnecessary footstep!
What do I read here? He fell wounded, he stood up, he remounted, he proceeded.
But there is no other track. Cattle on this side path. He was surely not gore_y a bull? Impossible! But I see no traces of anyone else. We must push on, Watson. Surely with stains as well as the track to guide us he cannot escap_s now."
Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tyre began to curv_antastically upon the wet and shining path. Suddenly, as I looked ahead, th_leam of metal caught my eye from amid the thick gorse bushes. Out of them w_ragged a bicycle, Palmer-tyred, one pedal bent, and the whole front of i_orribly smeared and slobbered with blood. On the other side of the bushes _hoe was projecting. We ran round, and there lay the unfortunate rider. He wa_ tall man, full bearded, with spectacles, one glass of which had been knocke_ut. The cause of his death was a frightful blow upon the head, which ha_rushed in part of his skull. That he could have gone on after receiving suc_n injury said much for the vitality and courage of the man. He wore shoes, but no socks, and his open coat disclosed a night-shirt beneath it. It wa_ndoubtedly the German master.
Holmes turned the body over reverently, and examined it with great attention.
He then sat in deep thought for a time, and I could see by his ruffled bro_hat this grim discovery had not, in his opinion, advanced us much in ou_nquiry.
"It is a little difficult to know what to do, Watson," said he, at last. "M_wn inclinations are to push this inquiry on, for we have already lost so muc_ime that we cannot afford to waste another hour. On the other hand, we ar_ound to inform the police of the discovery, and to see that this poo_ellow's body is looked after."
"I could take a note back."
"But I need your company and assistance. Wait a bit! There is a fellow cuttin_eat up yonder. Bring him over here, and he will guide the police."
I brought the peasant across, and Holmes dispatched the frightened man with _ote to Dr. Huxtable.
"Now, Watson," said he, "we have picked up two clues this morning. One is th_icycle with the Palmer tyre, and we see what that has led to. The other i_he bicycle with the patched Dunlop. Before we start to investigate that, le_s try to realise what we do know so as to make the most of it, and t_eparate the essential from the accidental."
"First of all I wish to impress upon you that the boy certainly left of hi_wn free will. He got down from his window and he went off, either alone o_ith someone. That is sure."
"Well, now, let us turn to this unfortunate German master. The boy was full_ressed when he fled. Therefore, he foresaw what he would do. But the Germa_ent without his socks. He certainly acted on very short notice."
"Why did he go? Because, from his bedroom window, he saw the flight of th_oy. Because he wished to overtake him and bring him back. He seized hi_icycle, pursued the lad, and in pursuing him met his death."
"So it would seem."
"Now I come to the critical part of my argument. The natural action of a ma_n pursuing a little boy would be to run after him. He would know that h_ould overtake him. But the German does not do so. He turns to his bicycle. _m told that he was an excellent cyclist. He would not do this if he did no_ee that the boy had some swift means of escape."
"The other bicycle."
"Let us continue our reconstruction. He meets his death five miles from th_chool — not by a bullet, mark you, which even a lad might conceivabl_ischarge, but by a savage blow dealt by a vigorous arm. The lad, then, HAD _ompanion in his flight. And the flight was a swift one, since it took fiv_iles before an expert cyclist could overtake them. Yet we survey the groun_ound the scene of the tragedy. What do we find? A few cattle tracks, nothin_ore. I took a wide sweep round, and there is no path within fifty yards.
Another cyclist could have had nothing to do with the actual murder. Nor wer_here any human footmarks."
"Holmes," I cried, "this is impossible."
"Admirable!" he said. "A most illuminating remark. It IS impossible as I stat_t, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong. Yet you saw fo_ourself. Can you suggest any fallacy?"
"He could not have fractured his skull in a fall?"
"In a morass, Watson?"
"I am at my wit's end."
"Tut, tut; we have solved some worse problems. At least we have plenty o_aterial, if we can only use it. Come, then, and, having exhausted the Palmer, let us see what the Dunlop with the patched cover has to offer us."
We picked up the track and followed it onwards for some distance; but soon th_oor rose into a long, heather-tufted curve, and we left the watercours_ehind us. No further help from tracks could be hoped for. At the spot wher_e saw the last of the Dunlop tyre it might equally have led to Holderness_all, the stately towers of which rose some miles to our left, or to a low, grey village which lay in front of us, and marked the position of th_hesterfield high road.
As we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the sign of a game-coc_bove the door, Holmes gave a sudden groan and clutched me by the shoulder t_ave himself from falling. He had had one of those violent strains of th_nkle which leave a man helpless. With difficulty he limped up to the door, where a squat, dark, elderly man was smoking a black clay pipe.
"How are you, Mr. Reuben Hayes?" said Holmes.
"Who are you, and how do you get my name so pat?" the countryman answered, with a suspicious flash of a pair of cunning eyes.
"Well, it's printed on the board above your head. It's easy to see a man wh_s master of his own house. I suppose you haven't such a thing as a carriag_n your stables?"
"No; I have not."
"I can hardly put my foot to the ground."
"Don't put it to the ground."
"But I can't walk."
"Well, then, hop."
Mr. Reuben Hayes's manner was far from gracious, but Holmes took it wit_dmirable good-humour.
"Look here, my man," said he. "This is really rather an awkward fix for me. _on't mind how I get on."
"Neither do I," said the morose landlord.
"The matter is very important. I would offer you a sovereign for the use of _icycle."
The landlord pricked up his ears.
"Where do you want to go?"
"To Holdernesse Hall."
"Pals of the Dook, I suppose?" said the landlord, surveying our mud-staine_arments with ironical eyes.
Holmes laughed good-naturedly.
"He'll be glad to see us, anyhow."
"Because we bring him news of his lost son."
The landlord gave a very visible start.
"What, you're on his track?"
"He has been heard of in Liverpool. They expect to get him every hour."
Again a swift change passed over the heavy, unshaven face. His manner wa_uddenly genial.
"I've less reason to wish the Dook well than most men," said he, "for I wa_is head coachman once, and cruel bad he treated me. It was him that sacked m_ithout a character on the word of a lying corn-chandler. But I'm glad to hea_hat the young lord was heard of in Liverpool, and I'll help you to take th_ews to the Hall."
"Thank you," said Holmes. "We'll have some food first. Then you can brin_ound the bicycle."
"I haven't got a bicycle."
Holmes held up a sovereign.
"I tell you, man, that I haven't got one. I'll let you have two horses as fa_s the Hall."
"Well, well," said Holmes, "we'll talk about it when we've had something t_at."
When we were left alone in the stone-flagged kitchen it was astonishing ho_apidly that sprained ankle recovered. It was nearly nightfall, and we ha_aten nothing since early morning, so that we spent some time over our meal.
Holmes was lost in thought, and once or twice he walked over to the window an_tared earnestly out. It opened on to a squalid courtyard. In the far corne_as a smithy, where a grimy lad was at work. On the other side were th_tables. Holmes had sat down again after one of these excursions, when h_uddenly sprang out of his chair with a loud exclamation.
"By Heaven, Watson, I believe that I've got it!" he cried. "Yes, yes, it mus_e so. Watson, do you remember seeing any cow-tracks to-day?"
"Well, everywhere. They were at the morass, and again on the path, and agai_ear where poor Heidegger met his death."
"Exactly. Well, now, Watson, how many cows did you see on the moor?"
"I don't remember seeing any."
"Strange, Watson, that we should see tracks all along our line, but never _ow on the whole moor; very strange, Watson, eh?"
"Yes, it is strange."
"Now, Watson, make an effort; throw your mind back! Can you see those track_pon the path?"
"Yes, I can."
"Can you recall that the tracks were sometimes like that, Watson" — h_rranged a number of bread-crumbs in this fashion — : : : : : — "and sometime_ike this" — : . : . : . : . — "and occasionally like this" — . ` . ` . ` .
"Can you remember that?"
"No, I cannot."
"But I can. I could swear to it. However, we will go back at our leisure an_erify it. What a blind beetle I have been not to draw my conclusion!"
"And what is your conclusion?"
"Only that it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters, and gallops. B_eorge, Watson, it was no brain of a country publican that thought out such _lind as that! The coast seems to be clear, save for that lad in the smithy.
Let us slip out and see what we can see."
There were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble-down stable. Holme_aised the hind leg of one of them and laughed aloud.
"Old shoes, but newly shod — old shoes, but new nails. This case deserves t_e a classic. Let us go across to the smithy."
The lad continued his work without regarding us. I saw Holmes's eye darting t_ight and left among the litter of iron and wood which was scattered about th_loor. Suddenly, however, we heard a step behind us, and there was th_andlord, his heavy eyebrows drawn over his savage eyes, his swarthy feature_onvulsed with passion. He held a short, metal-headed stick in his hand, an_e advanced in so menacing a fashion that I was right glad to feel th_evolver in my pocket.
"You infernal spies!" the man cried. "What are you doing there?"
"Why, Mr. Reuben Hayes," said Holmes, coolly, "one might think that you wer_fraid of our finding something out."
The man mastered himself with a violent effort, and his grim mouth loosene_nto a false laugh, which was more menacing than his frown.
"You're welcome to all you can find out in my smithy," said he. "But loo_ere, mister, I don't care for folk poking about my place without my leave, s_he sooner you pay your score and get out of this the better I shall b_leased."
"All right, Mr. Hayes — no harm meant," said Holmes. "We have been having _ook at your horses, but I think I'll walk after all. It's not far, _elieve."
"Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. That's the road to the left." H_atched us with sullen eyes until we had left his premises.
We did not go very far along the road, for Holmes stopped the instant that th_urve hid us from the landlord's view.
"We were warm, as the children say, at that inn," said he. "I seem to gro_older every step that I take away from it. No, no; I can't possibly leav_t."
"I am convinced," said I, "that this Reuben Hayes knows all about it. A mor_elf-evident villain I never saw."
"Oh! he impressed you in that way, did he? There are the horses, there is th_mithy. Yes, it is an interesting place, this Fighting Cock. I think we shal_ave another look at it in an unobtrusive way."
A long, sloping hillside, dotted with grey limestone boulders, stretche_ehind us. We had turned off the road, and were making our way up the hill, when, looking in the direction of Holdernesse Hall, I saw a cyclist comin_wiftly along.
"Get down, Watson!" cried Holmes, with a heavy hand upon my shoulder. We ha_ardly sunk from view when the man flew past us on the road. Amid a rollin_loud of dust I caught a glimpse of a pale, agitated face — a face with horro_n every lineament, the mouth open, the eyes staring wildly in front. It wa_ike some strange caricature of the dapper James Wilder whom we had seen th_ight before.
"The Duke's secretary!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, let us see what he does."
We scrambled from rock to rock until in a few moments we had made our way to _oint from which we could see the front door of the inn. Wilder's bicycle wa_eaning against the wall beside it. No one was moving about the house, no_ould we catch a glimpse of any faces at the windows. Slowly the twiligh_rept down as the sun sank behind the high towers of Holdernesse Hall. Then i_he gloom we saw the two side-lamps of a trap light up in the stable yard o_he inn, and shortly afterwards heard the rattle of hoofs, as it wheeled ou_nto the road and tore off at a furious pace in the direction of Chesterfield.
"What do you make of that, Watson?" Holmes whispered.
"It looks like a flight."
"A single man in a dog-cart, so far as I could see. Well, it certainly was no_r. James Wilder, for there he is at the door."
A red square of light had sprung out of the darkness. In the middle of it wa_he black figure of the secretary, his head advanced, peering out into th_ight. It was evident that he was expecting someone. Then at last there wer_teps in the road, a second figure was visible for an instant against th_ight, the door shut, and all was black once more. Five minutes later a lam_as lit in a room upon the first floor.
"It seems to be a curious class of custom that is done by the Fighting Cock,"
"The bar is on the other side."
"Quite so. These are what one may call the private guests. Now, what in th_orld is Mr. James Wilder doing in that den at this hour of night, and who i_he companion who comes to meet him there? Come, Watson, we must really take _isk and try to investigate this a little more closely."
Together we stole down to the road and crept across to the door of the inn.
The bicycle still leaned against the wall. Holmes struck a match and held i_o the back wheel, and I heard him chuckle as the light fell upon a patche_unlop tyre. Up above us was the lighted window.
"I must have a peep through that, Watson. If you bend your back and suppor_ourself upon the wall, I think that I can manage."
An instant later his feet were on my shoulders. But he was hardly up before h_as down again.
"Come, my friend," said he, "our day's work has been quite long enough. _hink that we have gathered all that we can. It's a long walk to the school, and the sooner we get started the better."
He hardly opened his lips during that weary trudge across the moor, nor woul_e enter the school when he reached it, but went on to Mackleton Station, whence he could send some telegrams. Late at night I heard him consoling Dr.
Huxtable, prostrated by the tragedy of his master's death, and later still h_ntered my room as alert and vigorous as he had been when he started in th_orning. "All goes well, my friend," said he. "I promise that before to-morro_vening we shall have reached the solution of the mystery."
At eleven o'clock next morning my friend and I were walking up the famous ye_venue of Holdernesse Hall. We were ushered through the magnificen_lizabethan doorway and into his Grace's study. There we found Mr. Jame_ilder, demure and courtly, but with some trace of that wild terror of th_ight before still lurking in his furtive eyes and in his twitching features.
"You have come to see his Grace? I am sorry; but the fact is that the Duke i_ar from well. He has been very much upset by the tragic news. We received _elegram from Dr. Huxtable yesterday afternoon, which told us of you_iscovery."
"I must see the Duke, Mr. Wilder."
"But he is in his room."
"Then I must go to his room."
"I believe he is in his bed."
"I will see him there."
Holmes's cold and inexorable manner showed the secretary that it was useles_o argue with him.
"Very good, Mr. Holmes; I will tell him that you are here."
After half an hour's delay the great nobleman appeared. His face was mor_adaverous than ever, his shoulders had rounded, and he seemed to me to be a_ltogether older man than he had been the morning before. He greeted us with _tately courtesy and seated himself at his desk, his red beard streaming dow_n to the table.
"Well, Mr. Holmes?" said he.
But my friend's eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who stood by his master'_hair.
"I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in Mr. Wilder's absence."
The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance at Holmes.
"If your Grace wishes ——"
"Yes, yes; you had better go. Now, Mr. Holmes, what have you to say?"
My friend waited until the door had closed behind the retreating secretary.
"The fact is, your Grace," said he, "that my colleague, Dr. Watson, and mysel_ad an assurance from Dr. Huxtable that a reward had been offered in thi_ase. I should like to have this confirmed from your own lips."
"Certainly, Mr. Holmes."
"It amounted, if I am correctly informed, to five thousand pounds to anyon_ho will tell you where your son is?"
"And another thousand to the man who will name the person or persons who kee_im in custody?"
"Under the latter heading is included, no doubt, not only those who may hav_aken him away, but also those who conspire to keep him in his presen_osition?"
"Yes, yes," cried the Duke, impatiently. "If you do your work well, Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, you will have no reason to complain of niggardly treatment."
My friend rubbed his thin hands together with an appearance of avidity whic_as a surprise to me, who knew his frugal tastes.
"I fancy that I see your Grace's Cheque-book upon the table," said he. "_hould be glad if you would make me out a Cheque for six thousand pounds. I_ould be as well, perhaps, for you to cross it. The Capital and Counties Bank, Oxford Street branch, are my agents."
His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair, and looked stonily at m_riend.
"Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for pleasantry."
"Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my life."
"What do you mean, then?"
"I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your son is, and I kno_ome, at least, of those who are holding him."
The Duke's beard had turned more aggressively red than ever against hi_hastly white face.
"Where is he?" he gasped.
"He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn, about two miles from you_ark gate."
The Duke fell back in his chair.
"And whom do you accuse?"
Sherlock Holmes's answer was an astounding one. He stepped swiftly forward an_ouched the Duke upon the shoulder.
"I accuse YOU," said he. "And now, your Grace, I'll trouble you for tha_heque."
Never shall I forget the Duke's appearance as he sprang up and clawed with hi_ands like one who is sinking into an abyss. Then, with an extraordinar_ffort of aristocratic self-command, he sat down and sank his face in hi_ands. It was some minutes before he spoke.
"How much do you know?" he asked at last, without raising his head.
"I saw you together last night."
"Does anyone else besides your friend know?"
"I have spoken to no one."
The Duke took a pen in his quivering fingers and opened his Cheque-book.
"I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about to write your Cheque, however unwelcome the information which you have gained may be to me. When th_ffer was first made I little thought the turn which events might take. Bu_ou and your friend are men of discretion, Mr. Holmes?"
"I hardly understand your Grace."
"I must put it plainly, Mr. Holmes. If only you two know of this incident, there is no reason why it should go any farther. I think twelve thousan_ounds is the sum that I owe you, is it not?"
But Holmes smiled and shook his head.
"I fear, your Grace, that matters can hardly be arranged so easily. There i_he death of this schoolmaster to be accounted for."
"But James knew nothing of that. You cannot hold him responsible for that. I_as the work of this brutal ruffian whom he had the misfortune to employ."
"I must take the view, your Grace, that when a man embarks upon a crime he i_orally guilty of any other crime which may spring from it."
"Morally, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right. But surely not in the eyes o_he law. A man cannot be condemned for a murder at which he was not present, and which he loathes and abhors as much as you do. The instant that he hear_f it he made a complete confession to me, so filled was he with horror an_emorse. He lost not an hour in breaking entirely with the murderer. Oh, Mr.
Holmes, you must save him — you must save him! I tell you that you must sav_im!" The Duke had dropped the last attempt at self-command, and was pacin_he room with a convulsed face and with his clenched hands raving in the air.
At last he mastered himself and sat down once more at his desk. "I appreciat_our conduct in coming here before you spoke to anyone else," said he. "A_east, we may take counsel how far we can minimise this hideous scandal."
"Exactly," said Holmes. "I think, your Grace, that this can only be done b_bsolute and complete frankness between us. I am disposed to help your Grac_o the best of my ability; but in order to do so I must understand to the las_etail how the matter stands. I realise that your words applied to Mr. Jame_ilder, and that he is not the murderer."
"No; the murderer has escaped."
Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely.
"Your Grace can hardly have heard of any small reputation which I possess, o_ou would not imagine that it is so easy to escape me. Mr. Reuben Hayes wa_rrested at Chesterfield on my information at eleven o'clock last night. I ha_ telegram from the head of the local police before I left the school thi_orning."
The Duke leaned back in his chair and stared with amazement at my friend.
"You seem to have powers that are hardly human," said he. "So Reuben Hayes i_aken? I am right glad to hear it, if it will not react upon the fate o_ames."
"No, sir; my son."
It was Holmes's turn to look astonished.
"I confess that this is entirely new to me, your Grace. I must beg you to b_ore explicit."
"I will conceal nothing from you. I agree with you that complete frankness, however painful it may be to me, is the best policy in this desperat_ituation to which James's folly and jealousy have reduced us. When I was _ery young man, Mr. Holmes, I loved with such a love as comes only once in _ifetime. I offered the lady marriage, but she refused it on the grounds tha_uch a match might mar my career. Had she lived I would certainly never hav_arried anyone else. She died, and left this one child, whom for her sake _ave cherished and cared for. I could not acknowledge the paternity to th_orld; but I gave him the best of educations, and since he came to manhood _ave kept him near my person. He surprised my secret, and has presumed eve_ince upon the claim which he has upon me and upon his power of provoking _candal, which would be abhorrent to me. His presence had something to do wit_he unhappy issue of my marriage. Above all, he hated my young legitimate hei_rom the first with a persistent hatred. You may well ask me why, under thes_ircumstances, I still kept James under my roof. I answer that it was becaus_ could see his mother's face in his, and that for her dear sake there was n_nd to my long-suffering. All her pretty ways, too — there was not one of the_hich he could not suggest and bring back to my memory. I COULD not send hi_way. But I feared so much lest he should do Arthur — that is, Lord Saltire — a mischief that I dispatched him for safety to Dr. Huxtable's school.
"James came into contact with this fellow Hayes because the man was a tenan_f mine, and James acted as agent. The fellow was a rascal from the beginning; but in some extraordinary way James became intimate with him. He had always _aste for low company. When James determined to kidnap Lord Saltire it was o_his man's service that he availed himself. You remember that I wrote t_rthur upon that last day. Well, James opened the letter and inserted a not_sking Arthur to meet him in a little wood called the Ragged Shaw, which i_ear to the school. He used the Duchess's name, and in that way got the boy t_ome. That evening James bicycled over — I am telling you what he has himsel_onfessed to me — and he told Arthur, whom he met in the wood, that his mothe_onged to see him, that she was awaiting him on the moor, and that if he woul_ome back into the wood at midnight he would find a man with a horse, wh_ould take him to her. Poor Arthur fell into the trap. He came to th_ppointment and found this fellow Hayes with a led pony. Arthur mounted, an_hey set off together. It appears — though this James only heard yesterday — that they were pursued, that Hayes struck the pursuer with his stick, and tha_he man died of his injuries. Hayes brought Arthur to his public-house, th_ighting Cock, where he was confined in an upper room, under the care of Mrs.
Hayes, who is a kindly woman, but entirely under the control of her bruta_usband.
"Well, Mr. Holmes, that was the state of affairs when I first saw you two day_go. I had no more idea of the truth than you. You will ask me what wa_ames's motive in doing such a deed. I answer that there was a great dea_hich was unreasoning and fanatical in the hatred which he bore my heir. I_is view he should himself have been heir of all my estates, and he deepl_esented those social laws which made it impossible. At the same time he had _efinite motive also. He was eager that I should break the entail, and he wa_f opinion that it lay in my power to do so. He intended to make a bargai_ith me — to restore Arthur if I would break the entail, and so make i_ossible for the estate to be left to him by will. He knew well that I shoul_ever willingly invoke the aid of the police against him. I say that he woul_ave proposed such a bargain to me, but he did not actually do so, for event_oved too quickly for him, and he had not time to put his plans into practice.
"What brought all his wicked scheme to wreck was your discovery of this ma_eidegger's dead body. James was seized with horror at the news. It came to u_esterday as we sat together in this study. Dr. Huxtable had sent a telegram.
James was so overwhelmed with grief and agitation that my suspicions, whic_ad never been entirely absent, rose instantly to a certainty, and I taxed hi_ith the deed. He made a complete voluntary confession. Then he implored me t_eep his secret for three days longer, so as to give his wretched accomplice _hance of saving his guilty life. I yielded — as I have always yielded — t_is prayers, and instantly James hurried off to the Fighting Cock to war_ayes and give him the means of flight. I could not go there by dayligh_ithout provoking comment, but as soon as night fell I hurried off to see m_ear Arthur. I found him safe and well, but horrified beyond expression by th_readful deed he had witnessed. In deference to my promise, and much agains_y will, I consented to leave him there for three days under the charge o_rs. Hayes, since it was evident that it was impossible to inform the polic_here he was without telling them also who was the murderer, and I could no_ee how that murderer could be punished without ruin to my unfortunate James.
You asked for frankness, Mr. Holmes, and I have taken you at your word, for _ave now told you everything without an attempt at circumlocution o_oncealment. Do you in turn be as frank with me."
"I will," said Holmes. "In the first place, your Grace, I am bound to tell yo_hat you have placed yourself in a most serious position in the eyes of th_aw. You have condoned a felony and you have aided the escape of a murderer; for I cannot doubt that any money which was taken by James Wilder to aid hi_ccomplice in his flight came from your Grace's purse."
The Duke bowed his assent.
"This is indeed a most serious matter. Even more culpable in my opinion, you_race, is your attitude towards your younger son. You leave him in this de_or three days."
"Under solemn promises ——"
"What are promises to such people as these? You have no guarantee that he wil_ot be spirited away again. To humour your guilty elder son you have expose_our innocent younger son to imminent and unnecessary danger. It was a mos_njustifiable action."
The proud lord of Holdernesse was not accustomed to be so rated in his ow_ucal hall. The blood flushed into his high forehead, but his conscience hel_im dumb.
"I will help you, but on one condition only. It is that you ring for th_ootman and let me give such orders as I like."
Without a word the Duke pressed the electric bell. A servant entered.
"You will be glad to hear," said Holmes, "that your young master is found. I_s the Duke's desire that the carriage shall go at once to the Fighting Coc_nn to bring Lord Saltire home.
"Now," said Holmes, when the rejoicing lackey had disappeared, "having secure_he future, we can afford to be more lenient with the past. I am not in a_fficial position, and there is no reason, so long as the ends of justice ar_erved, why I should disclose all that I know. As to Hayes I say nothing. Th_allows awaits him, and I would do nothing to save him from it. What he wil_ivulge I cannot tell, but I have no doubt that your Grace could make hi_nderstand that it is to his interest to be silent. From the police point o_iew he will have kidnapped the boy for the purpose of ransom. If they do no_hemselves find it out I see no reason why I should prompt them to take _roader point of view. I would warn your Grace, however, that the continue_resence of Mr. James Wilder in your household can only lead to misfortune."
"I understand that, Mr. Holmes, and it is already settled that he shall leav_e for ever and go to seek his fortune in Australia."
"In that case, your Grace, since you have yourself stated that any unhappines_n your married life was caused by his presence, I would suggest that you mak_uch amends as you can to the Duchess, and that you try to resume thos_elations which have been so unhappily interrupted."
"That also I have arranged, Mr. Holmes. I wrote to the Duchess this morning."
"In that case," said Holmes, rising, "I think that my friend and I ca_ongratulate ourselves upon several most happy results from our little visi_o the North. There is one other small point upon which I desire some light.
This fellow Hayes had shod his horses with shoes which counterfeited th_racks of cows. Was it from Mr. Wilder that he learned so extraordinary _evice?"
The Duke stood in thought for a moment, with a look of intense surprise on hi_ace. Then he opened a door and showed us into a large room furnished as _useum. He led the way to a glass case in a corner, and pointed to th_nscription.
"These shoes," it ran, "were dug up in the moat of Holdernesse Hall. They ar_or the use of horses; but they are shaped below with a cloven foot of iron, so as to throw pursuers off the track. They are supposed to have belonged t_ome of the marauding Barons of Holdernesse in the Middle Ages."
Holmes opened the case, and moistening his finger he passed it along the shoe.
A thin film of recent mud was left upon his skin.
"Thank you," said he, as he replaced the glass. "It is the second mos_nteresting object that I have seen in the North."
"And the first?"
Holmes folded up his Cheque and placed it carefully in his note-book. "I am _oor man," said he, as he patted it affectionately and thrust it into th_epths of his inner pocket.