It was in the year '95 that a combination of events, into which I need no_nter, caused Mr. Sherlock Holmes and myself to spend some weeks in one of ou_reat University towns, and it was during this time that the small bu_nstructive adventure which I am about to relate befell us. It will be obviou_hat any details which would help the reader to exactly identify the colleg_r the criminal would be injudicious and offensive. So painful a scandal ma_ell be allowed to die out. With due discretion the incident itself may, however, be described, since it serves to illustrate some of those qualitie_or which my friend was remarkable. I will endeavour in my statement to avoi_uch terms as would serve to limit the events to any particular place, or giv_ clue as to the people concerned.
We were residing at the time in furnished lodgings close to a library wher_herlock Holmes was pursuing some laborious researches in early Englis_harters — researches which led to results so striking that they may be th_ubject of one of my future narratives. Here it was that one evening w_eceived a visit from an acquaintance, Mr. Hilton Soames, tutor and lecture_t the College of St. Luke's. Mr. Soames was a tall, spare man, of a nervou_nd excitable temperament. I had always known him to be restless in hi_anner, but on this particular occasion he was in such a state o_ncontrollable agitation that it was clear something very unusual ha_ccurred.
"I trust, Mr. Holmes, that you can spare me a few hours of your valuable time.
We have had a very painful incident at St. Luke's, and really, but for th_appy chance of your being in the town, I should have been at a loss what t_o."
"I am very busy just now, and I desire no distractions," my friend answered.
"I should much prefer that you called in the aid of the police."
"No, no, my dear sir; such a course is utterly impossible. When once the la_s evoked it cannot be stayed again, and this is just one of those case_here, for the credit of the college, it is most essential to avoid scandal.
Your discretion is as well known as your powers, and you are the one man i_he world who can help me. I beg you, Mr. Holmes, to do what you can."
My friend's temper had not improved since he had been deprived of th_ongenial surroundings of Baker Street. Without his scrap-books, hi_hemicals, and his homely untidiness, he was an uncomfortable man. He shrugge_is shoulders in ungracious acquiescence, while our visitor in hurried word_nd with much excitable gesticulation poured forth his story.
"I must explain to you, Mr. Holmes, that to-morrow is the first day of th_xamination for the Fortescue Scholarship. I am one of the examiners. M_ubject is Greek, and the first of the papers consists of a large passage o_reek translation which the candidate has not seen. This passage is printed o_he examination paper, and it would naturally be an immense advantage if th_andidate could prepare it in advance. For this reason great care is taken t_eep the paper secret.
"To-day about three o'clock the proofs of this paper arrived from th_rinters. The exercise consists of half a chapter of Thucydides. I had to rea_t over carefully, as the text must be absolutely correct. At four-thirty m_ask was not yet completed. I had, however, promised to take tea in a friend'_ooms, so I left the proof upon my desk. I was absent rather more than a_our.
"You are aware, Mr. Holmes, that our college doors are double — a green baiz_ne within and a heavy oak one without. As I approached my outer door I wa_mazed to see a key in it. For an instant I imagined that I had left my ow_here, but on feeling in my pocket I found that it was all right. The onl_uplicate which existed, so far as I knew, was that which belonged to m_ervant, Bannister, a man who has looked after my room for ten years, an_hose honesty is absolutely above suspicion. I found that the key was indee_is, that he had entered my room to know if I wanted tea, and that he had ver_arelessly left the key in the door when he came out. His visit to my roo_ust have been within a very few minutes of my leaving it. His forgetfulnes_bout the key would have mattered little upon any other occasion, but on thi_ne day it has produced the most deplorable consequences.
"The moment I looked at my table I was aware that someone had rummaged amon_y papers. The proof was in three long slips. I had left them all together.
Now, I found that one of them was lying on the floor, one was on the sid_able near the window, and the third was where I had left it."
Holmes stirred for the first time.
"The first page on the floor, the second in the window, the third where yo_eft it," said he.
"Exactly, Mr. Holmes. You amaze me. How could you possibly know that?"
"Pray continue your very interesting statement."
"For an instant I imagined that Bannister had taken the unpardonable libert_f examining my papers. He denied it, however, with the utmost earnestness, and I am convinced that he was speaking the truth. The alternative was tha_omeone passing had observed the key in the door, had known that I was out, and had entered to look at the papers. A large sum of money is at stake, fo_he scholarship is a very valuable one, and an unscrupulous man might ver_ell run a risk in order to gain an advantage over his fellows.
"Bannister was very much upset by the incident. He had nearly fainted when w_ound that the papers had undoubtedly been tampered with. I gave him a littl_randy and left him collapsed in a chair while I made a most carefu_xamination of the room. I soon saw that the intruder had left other traces o_is presence besides the rumpled papers. On the table in the window wer_everal shreds from a pencil which had been sharpened. A broken tip of lea_as lying there also. Evidently the rascal had copied the paper in a grea_urry, had broken his pencil, and had been compelled to put a fresh point t_t."
"Excellent!" said Holmes, who was recovering his good-humour as his attentio_ecame more engrossed by the case. "Fortune has been your friend."
"This was not all. I have a new writing-table with a fine surface of re_eather. I am prepared to swear, and so is Bannister, that it was smooth an_nstained. Now I found a clean cut in it about three inches long — not a mer_cratch, but a positive cut. Not only this, but on the table I found a smal_all of black dough, or clay, with specks of something which looks lik_awdust in it. I am convinced that these marks were left by the man who rifle_he papers. There were no footmarks and no other evidence as to his identity.
I was at my wits' ends, when suddenly the happy thought occurred to me tha_ou were in the town, and I came straight round to put the matter into you_ands. Do help me, Mr. Holmes! You see my dilemma. Either I must find the ma_r else the examination must be postponed until fresh papers are prepared, an_ince this cannot be done without explanation there will ensue a hideou_candal, which will throw a cloud not only on the college, but on th_niversity. Above all things I desire to settle the matter quietly an_iscreetly."
"I shall be happy to look into it and to give you such advice as I can," sai_olmes, rising and putting on his overcoat. "The case is not entirely devoi_f interest. Had anyone visited you in your room after the papers came t_ou?"
"Yes; young Daulat Ras, an Indian student who lives on the same stair, came i_o ask me some particulars about the examination."
"For which he was entered?"
"And the papers were on your table?"
"To the best of my belief they were rolled up."
"But might be recognised as proofs?"
"No one else in your room?"
"Did anyone know that these proofs would be there?"
"No one save the printer."
"Did this man Bannister know?"
"No, certainly not. No one knew."
"Where is Bannister now?"
"He was very ill, poor fellow. I left him collapsed in the chair. I was i_uch a hurry to come to you."
"You left your door open?"
"I locked up the papers first."
"Then it amounts to this, Mr. Soames, that unless the Indian studen_ecognised the roll as being proofs, the man who tampered with them came upo_hem accidentally without knowing that they were there."
"So it seems to me."
Holmes gave an enigmatic smile.
"Well," said he, "let us go round. Not one of your cases, Watson — mental, no_hysical. All right; come if you want to. Now, Mr. Soames — at your disposal!"
The sitting-room of our client opened by a long, low, latticed window on t_he ancient lichen-tinted court of the old college. A Gothic arched door le_o a worn stone staircase. On the ground floor was the tutor's room. Abov_ere three students, one on each story. It was already twilight when w_eached the scene of our problem. Holmes halted and looked earnestly at th_indow. Then he approached it, and, standing on tiptoe with his neck craned, he looked into the room.
"He must have entered through the door. There is no opening except the on_ane," said our learned guide.
"Dear me!" said Holmes, and he smiled in a singular way as he glanced at ou_ompanion. "Well, if there is nothing to be learned here we had best g_nside."
The lecturer unlocked the outer door and ushered us into his room. We stood a_he entrance while Holmes made an examination of the carpet.
"I am afraid there are no signs here," said he. "One could hardly hope for an_pon so dry a day. Your servant seems to have quite recovered. You left him i_ chair, you say; which chair?"
"By the window there."
"I see. Near this little table. You can come in now. I have finished with th_arpet. Let us take the little table first. Of course, what has happened i_ery clear. The man entered and took the papers, sheet by sheet, from th_entral table. He carried them over to the window table, because from there h_ould see if you came across the courtyard, and so could effect an escape."
"As a matter of fact he could not," said Soames, "for I entered by the sid_oor."
"Ah, that's good! Well, anyhow, that was in his mind. Let me see the thre_trips. No finger impressions — no! Well, he carried over this one first an_e copied it. How long would it take him to do that, using every possibl_ontraction? A quarter of an hour, not less. Then he tossed it down and seize_he next. He was in the midst of that when your return caused him to make _ery hurried retreat — VERY hurried, since he had not time to replace th_apers which would tell you that he had been there. You were not aware of an_urrying feet on the stair as you entered the outer door?"
"No, I can't say I was."
"Well, he wrote so furiously that he broke his pencil, and had, as yo_bserve, to sharpen it again. This is of interest, Watson. The pencil was no_n ordinary one. It was above the usual size, with a soft lead; the oute_olour was dark blue, the maker's name was printed in silver lettering, an_he piece remaining is only about an inch and a half long. Look for such _encil, Mr. Soames, and you have got your man. When I add that he possesses _arge and very blunt knife, you have an additional aid."
Mr. Soames was somewhat overwhelmed by this flood of information. "I ca_ollow the other points," said he, "but really, in this matter of the length ——"
Holmes held out a small chip with the letters NN and a space of clear woo_fter them.
"No, I fear that even now ——"
"Watson, I have always done you an injustice. There are others. What coul_his NN be? It is at the end of a word. You are aware that Johann Faber is th_ost common maker's name. Is it not clear that there is just as much of th_encil left as usually follows the Johann?" He held the small table sideway_o the electric light. "I was hoping that if the paper on which he wrote wa_hin some trace of it might come through upon this polished surface. No, I se_othing. I don't think there is anything more to be learned here. Now for th_entral table. This small pellet is, I presume, the black, doughy mass yo_poke of. Roughly pyramidal in shape and hollowed out, I perceive. As you say, there appear to be grains of sawdust in it. Dear me, this is very interesting.
And the cut — a positive tear, I see. It began with a thin scratch and ende_n a jagged hole. I am much indebted to you for directing my attention to thi_ase, Mr. Soames. Where does that door lead to?"
"To my bedroom."
"Have you been in it since your adventure?"
"No; I came straight away for you."
"I should like to have a glance round. What a charming, old-fashioned room!
Perhaps you will kindly wait a minute until I have examined the floor. No, _ee nothing. What about this curtain? You hang your clothes behind it. I_nyone were forced to conceal himself in this room he must do it there, sinc_he bed is too low and the wardrobe too shallow. No one there, I suppose?"
As Holmes drew the curtain I was aware, from some little rigidity an_lertness of his attitude, that he was prepared for an emergency. As a matte_f fact the drawn curtain disclosed nothing but three or four suits of clothe_anging from a line of pegs. Holmes turned away and stooped suddenly to th_loor.
"Halloa! What's this?" said he.
It was a small pyramid of black, putty-like stuff, exactly like the one upo_he table of the study. Holmes held it out on his open palm in the glare o_he electric light.
"Your visitor seems to have left traces in your bedroom as well as in you_itting-room, Mr. Soames."
"What could he have wanted there?"
"I think it is clear enough. You came back by an unexpected way, and so he ha_o warning until you were at the very door. What could he do? He caught u_verything which would betray him and he rushed into your bedroom to concea_imself."
"Good gracious, Mr. Holmes, do you mean to tell me that all the time I wa_alking to Bannister in this room we had the man prisoner if we had only know_t?"
"So I read it."
"Surely there is another alternative, Mr. Holmes. I don't know whether yo_bserved my bedroom window?"
"Lattice-paned, lead framework, three separate windows, one swinging on hing_nd large enough to admit a man."
"Exactly. And it looks out on an angle of the courtyard so as to be partl_nvisible. The man might have effected his entrance there, left traces as h_assed through the bedroom, and, finally, finding the door open have escape_hat way."
Holmes shook his head impatiently.
"Let us be practical," said he. "I understand you to say that there are thre_tudents who use this stair and are in the habit of passing your door?"
"Yes, there are."
"And they are all in for this examination?"
"Have you any reason to suspect any one of them more than the others?"
"It is a very delicate question," said he. "One hardly likes to thro_uspicion where there are no proofs."
"Let us hear the suspicions. I will look after the proofs."
"I will tell you, then, in a few words the character of the three men wh_nhabit these rooms. The lower of the three is Gilchrist, a fine scholar an_thlete; plays in the Rugby team and the cricket team for the college, and go_is Blue for the hurdles and the long jump. He is a fine, manly fellow. Hi_ather was the notorious Sir Jabez Gilchrist, who ruined himself on the turf.
My scholar has been left very poor, but he is hard-working and industrious. H_ill do well.
"The second floor is inhabited by Daulat Ras, the Indian. He is a quiet, inscrutable fellow, as most of those Indians are. He is well up in his work, though his Greek is his weak subject. He is steady and methodical.
"The top floor belongs to Miles McLaren. He is a brilliant fellow when h_hooses to work — one of the brightest intellects of the University, but he i_ayward, dissipated, and unprincipled. He was nearly expelled over a car_candal in his first year. He has been idling all this term, and he must loo_orward with dread to the examination."
"Then it is he whom you suspect?"
"I dare not go so far as that. But of the three he is perhaps the leas_nlikely."
"Exactly. Now, Mr. Soames, let us have a look at your servant, Bannister."
He was a little, white-faced, clean-shaven, grizzly-haired fellow of fifty. H_as still suffering from this sudden disturbance of the quiet routine of hi_ife. His plump face was twitching with his nervousness, and his fingers coul_ot keep still.
"We are investigating this unhappy business, Bannister," said his master.
"I understand," said Holmes, "that you left your key in the door?"
"Was it not very extraordinary that you should do this on the very day whe_here were these papers inside?"
"It was most unfortunate, sir. But I have occasionally done the same thing a_ther times."
"When did you enter the room?"
"It was about half-past four. That is Mr. Soames's tea time."
"How long did you stay?"
"When I saw that he was absent I withdrew at once."
"Did you look at these papers on the table?"
"No, sir; certainly not."
"How came you to leave the key in the door?"
"I had the tea-tray in my hand. I thought I would come back for the key. The_ forgot."
"Has the outer door a spring lock?"
"Then it was open all the time?"
"Anyone in the room could get out?"
"When Mr. Soames returned and called for you, you were very much disturbed?"
"Yes, sir. Such a thing has never happened during the many years that I hav_een here. I nearly fainted, sir."
"So I understand. Where were you when you began to feel bad?"
"Where was I, sir? Why, here, near the door."
"That is singular, because you sat down in that chair over yonder near th_orner. Why did you pass these other chairs?"
"I don't know, sir. It didn't matter to me where I sat."
"I really don't think he knew much about it, Mr. Holmes. He was looking ver_ad — quite ghastly."
"You stayed here when your master left?"
"Only for a minute or so. Then I locked the door and went to my room."
"Whom do you suspect?"
"Oh, I would not venture to say, sir. I don't believe there is any gentlema_n this University who is capable of profiting by such an action. No, sir, I'll not believe it."
"Thank you; that will do," said Holmes. "Oh, one more word. You have no_entioned to any of the three gentlemen whom you attend that anything i_miss?"
"No, sir; not a word."
"You haven't seen any of them?"
"Very good. Now, Mr. Soames, we will take a walk in the quadrangle, if yo_lease."
Three yellow squares of light shone above us in the gathering gloom."
"Your three birds are all in their nests," said Holmes, looking up. "Halloa!
What's that? One of them seems restless enough."
It was the Indian, whose dark silhouette appeared suddenly upon his blind. H_as pacing swiftly up and down his room.
"I should like to have a peep at each of them," said Holmes. "Is it possible?"
"No difficulty in the world," Soames answered. "This set of rooms is quite th_ldest in the college, and it is not unusual for visitors to go over them.
Come along, and I will personally conduct you."
"No names, please!" said Holmes, as we knocked at Gilchrist's door. A tall, flaxen-haired, slim young fellow opened it, and made us welcome when h_nderstood our errand. There were some really curious pieces of mediaeva_omestic architecture within. Holmes was so charmed with one of them that h_nsisted on drawing it on his note-book, broke his pencil, had to borrow on_rom our host, and finally borrowed a knife to sharpen his own. The sam_urious accident happened to him in the rooms of the Indian — a silent, little, hook-nosed fellow, who eyed us askance and was obviously glad whe_olmes's architectural studies had come to an end. I could not see that i_ither case Holmes had come upon the clue for which he was searching. Only a_he third did our visit prove abortive. The outer door would not open to ou_nock, and nothing more substantial than a torrent of bad language came fro_ehind it. "I don't care who you are. You can go to blazes!" roared the angr_oice. "To-morrow's the exam, and I won't be drawn by anyone."
"A rude fellow," said our guide, flushing with anger as we withdrew down th_tair. "Of course, he did not realise that it was I who was knocking, but non_he less his conduct was very uncourteous, and, indeed, under th_ircumstances rather suspicious."
Holmes's response was a curious one.
"Can you tell me his exact height?" he asked.
"Really, Mr. Holmes, I cannot undertake to say. He is taller than the Indian, not so tall as Gilchrist. I suppose five foot six would be about it."
"That is very important," said Holmes. "And now, Mr. Soames, I wish you good- night."
Our guide cried aloud in his astonishment and dismay. "Good gracious, Mr.
Holmes, you are surely not going to leave me in this abrupt fashion! You don'_eem to realise the position. To-morrow is the examination. I must take som_efinite action to-night. I cannot allow the examination to be held if one o_he papers has been tampered with. The situation must be faced."
"You must leave it as it is. I shall drop round early to-morrow morning an_hat the matter over. It is possible that I may be in a position then t_ndicate some course of action. Meanwhile you change nothing — nothing a_ll."
"Very good, Mr. Holmes."
"You can be perfectly easy in your mind. We shall certainly find some way ou_f your difficulties. I will take the black clay with me, also the penci_uttings. Good-bye."
When we were out in the darkness of the quadrangle we again looked up at th_indows. The Indian still paced his room. The others were invisible.
"Well, Watson, what do you think of it?" Holmes asked, as we came out into th_ain street. "Quite a little parlour game — sort of three-card trick, is i_ot? There are your three men. It must be one of them. You take your choice.
Which is yours?"
"The foul-mouthed fellow at the top. He is the one with the worst record. An_et that Indian was a sly fellow also. Why should he be pacing his room al_he time?"
"There is nothing in that. Many men do it when they are trying to lear_nything by heart."
"He looked at us in a queer way."
"So would you if a flock of strangers came in on you when you were preparin_or an examination next day, and every moment was of value. No, I see nothin_n that. Pencils, too, and knives — all was satisfactory. But that fellow DOE_uzzle me."
"Why, Bannister, the servant. What's his game in the matter?"
"He impressed me as being a perfectly honest man."
"So he did me. That's the puzzling part. Why should a perfectly honest man — well, well, here's a large stationer's. We shall begin our researches here."
There were only four stationers of any consequence in the town, and at eac_olmes produced his pencil chips and bid high for a duplicate. All were agree_hat one could be ordered, but that it was not a usual size of pencil and tha_t was seldom kept in stock. My friend did not appear to be depressed by hi_ailure, but shrugged his shoulders in half-humorous resignation.
"No good, my dear Watson. This, the best and only final clue, has run t_othing. But, indeed, I have little doubt that we can build up a sufficien_ase without it. By Jove! my dear fellow, it is nearly nine, and the landlad_abbled of green peas at seven-thirty. What with your eternal tobacco, Watson, and your irregularity at meals, I expect that you will get notice to quit an_hat I shall share your downfall — not, however, before we have solved th_roblem of the nervous tutor, the careless servant, and the three enterprisin_tudents."
Holmes made no further allusion to the matter that day, though he sat lost i_hought for a long time after our belated dinner. At eight in the morning h_ame into my room just as I finished my toilet.
"Well, Watson," said he, "it is time we went down to St. Luke's. Can you d_ithout breakfast?"
"Soames will be in a dreadful fidget until we are able to tell him somethin_ositive."
"Have you anything positive to tell him?"
"I think so."
"You have formed a conclusion?"
"Yes, my dear Watson; I have solved the mystery."
"But what fresh evidence could you have got?"
"Aha! It is not for nothing that I have turned myself out of bed at th_ntimely hour of six. I have put in two hours' hard work and covered at leas_ive miles, with something to show for it. Look at that!"
He held out his hand. On the palm were three little pyramids of black, dough_lay.
"Why, Holmes, you had only two yesterday!"
"And one more this morning. It is a fair argument that wherever No. 3 cam_rom is also the source of Nos. 1 and 2. Eh, Watson? Well, come along and pu_riend Soames out of his pain."
The unfortunate tutor was certainly in a state of pitiable agitation when w_ound him in his chambers. In a few hours the examination would commence, an_e was still in the dilemma between making the facts public and allowing th_ulprit to compete for the valuable scholarship. He could hardly stand still, so great was his mental agitation, and he ran towards Holmes with two eage_ands outstretched.
"Thank Heaven that you have come! I feared that you had given it up i_espair. What am I to do? Shall the examination proceed?"
"Yes; let it proceed by all means."
"But this rascal ——?"
"He shall not compete."
"You know him?"
"I think so. If this matter is not to become public we must give ourselve_ertain powers, and resolve ourselves into a small private court-martial. Yo_here, if you please, Soames! Watson, you here! I'll take the arm-chair in th_iddle. I think that we are now sufficiently imposing to strike terror into _uilty breast. Kindly ring the bell!"
Bannister entered, and shrunk back in evident surprise and fear at ou_udicial appearance.
"You will kindly close the door," said Holmes. "Now, Bannister, will yo_lease tell us the truth about yesterday's incident?"
The man turned white to the roots of his hair.
"I have told you everything, sir."
"Nothing to add?"
"Nothing at all, sir."
"Well, then, I must make some suggestions to you. When you sat down on tha_hair yesterday, did you do so in order to conceal some object which woul_ave shown who had been in the room?"
Bannister's face was ghastly.
"No, sir; certainly not."
"It is only a suggestion," said Holmes, suavely. "I frankly admit that I a_nable to prove it. But it seems probable enough, since the moment that Mr.
Soames's back was turned you released the man who was hiding in that bedroom."
Bannister licked his dry lips.
"There was no man, sir."
"Ah, that's a pity, Bannister. Up to now you may have spoken the truth, bu_ow I know that you have lied."
The man's face set in sullen defiance.
"There was no man, sir."
"Come, come, Bannister!"
"No, sir; there was no one."
"In that case you can give us no further information. Would you please remai_n the room? Stand over there near the bedroom door. Now, Soames, I am goin_o ask you to have the great kindness to go up to the room of young Gilchrist, and to ask him to step down into yours."
An instant later the tutor returned, bringing with him the student. He was _ine figure of a man, tall, lithe, and agile, with a springy step and _leasant, open face. His troubled blue eyes glanced at each of us, and finall_ested with an expression of blank dismay upon Bannister in the farthe_orner.
"Just close the door," said Holmes. "Now, Mr. Gilchrist, we are all quit_lone here, and no one need ever know one word of what passes between us. W_an be perfectly frank with each other. We want to know, Mr. Gilchrist, ho_ou, an honourable man, ever came to commit such an action as that o_esterday?"
The unfortunate young man staggered back and cast a look full of horror an_eproach at Bannister.
"No, no, Mr. Gilchrist, sir; I never said a word — never one word!" cried th_ervant.
"No, but you have now," said Holmes. "Now, sir, you must see that afte_annister's words your position is hopeless, and that your only chance lies i_ frank confession."
For a moment Gilchrist, with upraised hand, tried to control his writhin_eatures. The next he had thrown himself on his knees beside the table and, burying his face in his hands, he had burst into a storm of passionat_obbing.
"Come, come," said Holmes, kindly; "it is human to err, and at least no on_an accuse you of being a callous criminal. Perhaps it would be easier for yo_f I were to tell Mr. Soames what occurred, and you can check me where I a_rong. Shall I do so? Well, well, don't trouble to answer. Listen, and se_hat I do you no injustice.
"From the moment, Mr. Soames, that you said to me that no one, not eve_annister, could have told that the papers were in your room, the case bega_o take a definite shape in my mind. The printer one could, of course, dismiss. He could examine the papers in his own office. The Indian I als_hought nothing of. If the proofs were in a roll he could not possibly kno_hat they were. On the other hand, it seemed an unthinkable coincidence that _an should dare to enter the room, and that by chance on that very day th_apers were on the table. I dismissed that. The man who entered knew that th_apers were there. How did he know?
"When I approached your room I examined the window. You amused me by supposin_hat I was contemplating the possibility of someone having in broad daylight, under the eyes of all these opposite rooms, forced himself through it. Such a_dea was absurd. I was measuring how tall a man would need to be in order t_ee as he passed what papers were on the central table. I am six feet high, and I could do it with an effort. No one less than that would have a chance.
Already you see I had reason to think that if one of your three students was _an of unusual height he was the most worth watching of the three.
"I entered and I took you into my confidence as to the suggestions of the sid_able. Of the centre table I could make nothing, until in your description o_ilchrist you mentioned that he was a long-distance jumper. Then the whol_hing came to me in an instant, and I only needed certain corroborativ_roofs, which I speedily obtained.
"What happened was this. This young fellow had employed his afternoon at th_thletic grounds, where he had been practising the jump. He returned carryin_is jumping shoes, which are provided, as you are aware, with several shar_pikes. As he passed your window he saw, by means of his great height, thes_roofs upon your table, and conjectured what they were. No harm would hav_een done had it not been that as he passed your door he perceived the ke_hich had been left by the carelessness of your servant. A sudden impulse cam_ver him to enter and see if they were indeed the proofs. It was not _angerous exploit, for he could always pretend that he had simply looked in t_sk a question.
"Well, when he saw that they were indeed the proofs, it was then that h_ielded to temptation. He put his shoes on the table. What was it you put o_hat chair near the window?"
"Gloves," said the young man.
Holmes looked triumphantly at Bannister. "He put his gloves on the chair, an_e took the proofs, sheet by sheet, to copy them. He thought the tutor mus_eturn by the main gate, and that he would see him. As we know, he came bac_y the side gate. Suddenly he heard him at the very door. There was n_ossible escape. He forgot his gloves, but he caught up his shoes and darte_nto the bedroom. You observe that the scratch on that table is slight at on_ide, but deepens in the direction of the bedroom door. That in itself i_nough to show us that the shoe had been drawn in that direction and that th_ulprit had taken refuge there. The earth round the spike had been left on th_able, and a second sample was loosened and fell in the bedroom. I may ad_hat I walked out to the athletic grounds this morning, saw that tenaciou_lack clay is used in the jumping-pit, and carried away a specimen of it, together with some of the fine tan or sawdust which is strewn over it t_revent the athlete from slipping. Have I told the truth, Mr. Gilchrist?"
The student had drawn himself erect.
"Yes, sir, it is true," said he.
"Good heavens, have you nothing to add?" cried Soames.
"Yes, sir, I have, but the shock of this disgraceful exposure has bewildere_e. I have a letter here, Mr. Soames, which I wrote to you early this mornin_n the middle of a restless night. It was before I knew that my sin had foun_e out. Here it is, sir. You will see that I have said, `I have determined no_o go in for the examination. I have been offered a commission in th_hodesian Police, and I am going out to South Africa at once."'
"I am indeed pleased to hear that you did not intend to profit by your unfai_dvantage," said Soames. "But why did you change your purpose?"
Gilchrist pointed to Bannister.
"There is the man who set me in the right path," said he.
"Come now, Bannister," said Holmes. "It will be clear to you from what I hav_aid that only you could have let this young man out, since you were left i_he room, and must have locked the door when you went out. As to his escapin_y that window, it was incredible. Can you not clear up the last point in thi_ystery, and tell us the reasons for your action?"
"It was simple enough, sir, if you only had known; but with all you_leverness it was impossible that you could know. Time was, sir, when I wa_utler to old Sir Jabez Gilchrist, this young gentleman's father. When he wa_uined I came to the college as servant, but I never forgot my old employe_ecause he was down in the world. I watched his son all I could for the sak_f the old days. Well, sir, when I came into this room yesterday when th_larm was given, the very first thing I saw was Mr. Gilchrist's tan glove_-lying in that chair. I knew those gloves well, and I understood thei_essage. If Mr. Soames saw them the game was up. I flopped down into tha_hair, and nothing would budge me until Mr. Soames he went for you. Then ou_ame my poor young master, whom I had dandled on my knee, and confessed it al_o me. Wasn't it natural, sir, that I should save him, and wasn't it natura_lso that I should try to speak to him as his dead father would have done, an_ake him understand that he could not profit by such a deed? Could you blam_e, sir?"
"No, indeed," said Holmes, heartily, springing to his feet. "Well, Soames, _hink we have cleared your little problem up, and our breakfast awaits us a_ome. Come, Watson! As to you, sir, I trust that a bright future awaits you i_hodesia. For once you have fallen low. Let us see in the future how high yo_an rise."