I lit my pipe and leaned back in my chair.
Perhaps you will explain what you are talking
My client grinned mischievously.
I had got into the way of supposing that you knew
everything without being told, said he. But I will give you the facts, and I
hope to God that you will be able to tell me what they mean. Ive been awake all
night puzzling my brain, and the more I think the more incredible does it become.
When I joined up in January, 1901just two years
agoyoung Godfrey Emsworth had joined the same squadron. He was Colonel
Emsworths only son Emsworth, the Crimean V. C.and he had the fighting
blood in him, so it is no wonder he volunteered. There was not a finer lad in the
regiment. We formed a friendshipthe sort of friendship which can only be made when
one lives the same life and shares the same joys and sorrows. He was my mateand that
means a good deal in the Army. We took the rough and the smooth together for a year of
hard fighting. Then he was hit with a bullet from an elephant gun in the action near
Diamond Hill outside Pretoria. I got one letter from the hospital at Cape Town and one
from Southampton. Since then not a wordnot one word, Mr. Holmes, for six months and
more, and he my closest pal.
Well, when the war was over, and we all got back, I
wrote to his father and asked where Godfrey was. No answer. I waited a bit and then I
wrote again. This time I had a reply, short and gruff. Godfrey had gone on a voyage round
the world, and it was not likely that he would be back for a year. That was all.
I wasnt satisfied, Mr. Holmes. The whole thing
seemed to me so damned unnatural. He was a good lad, and he would not drop a pal like
that. It was not like him. Then, again, I happened to know that he was heir to a lot of
money, and also that his father and he did not always hit it off too well. The old man was
sometimes a bully, and young Godfrey had too much spirit to stand it. No, I wasnt
satisfied, and I determined that I would get to the root of the matter. It happened,
however, that my own affairs needed a lot of straightening out, after two years
absence, and so it is only this week that I have been able to take up Godfreys case
again. But since I have taken it up I mean to drop everything in order to see it
Mr. James M. Dodd appeared to be the sort of person whom it
would be better to have as a friend than as an enemy. His blue eyes were stern and his
square jaw had set hard as he spoke.
Well, what have you done? I asked.
My first move was to get down to his home, Tuxbury Old
Park, near Bedford, and to see for myself how the ground lay. I wrote to the mother,
thereforeI had had quite enough of the curmudgeon of a fatherand I made a
clean frontal  attack:
Godfrey was my chum, I had a great deal of interest which I might tell her of our common
experiences, I should be in the neighbourhood, would there be any objection, et cetera? In
reply I had quite an amiable answer from her and an offer to put me up for the night. That
was what took me down on Monday.
Tuxbury Old Hall is inaccessiblefive miles from
anywhere. There was no trap at the station, so I had to walk, carrying my suitcase, and it
was nearly dark before I arrived. It is a great wandering house, standing in a
considerable park. I should judge it was of all sorts of ages and styles, starting on a
half-timbered Elizabethan foundation and ending in a Victorian portico. Inside it was all
panelling and tapestry and half-effaced old pictures, a house of shadows and mystery.
There was a butler, old Ralph, who seemed about the same age as the house, and there was
his wife, who might have been older. She had been Godfreys nurse, and I had heard
him speak of her as second only to his mother in his affections, so I was drawn to her in
spite of her queer appearance. The mother I liked alsoa gentle little white mouse of
a woman. It was only the colonel himself whom I barred.
We had a bit of barney right away, and I should have
walked back to the station if I had not felt that it might be playing his game for me to
do so. I was shown straight into his study, and there I found him, a huge, bow-backed man
with a smoky skin and a straggling gray beard, seated behind his littered desk. A
red-veined nose jutted out like a vultures beak, and two fierce gray eyes glared at
me from under tufted brows. I could understand now why Godfrey seldom spoke of his father.
Well, sir, said he in a rasping voice,
I should be interested to know the real reasons for this visit.
I answered that I had explained them in my letter to his
Yes, yes, you said that you had known Godfrey in
Africa. We have, of course, only your word for that.
I have his letters to me in my pocket.
Kindly let me see them.
He glanced at the two which I handed him, and then he
tossed them back.
Well, what then? he asked.
I was fond of your son Godfrey, sir. Many ties
and memories united us. Is it not natural that I should wonder at his sudden silence and
should wish to know what has become of him?
I have some recollections, sir, that I had
already corresponded with you and had told you what had become of him. He has gone upon a
voyage round the world. His health was in a poor way after his African experiences, and
both his mother and I were of opinion that complete rest and change were needed. Kindly
pass that explanation on to any other friends who may be interested in the matter.
Certainly, I answered. But perhaps
you would have the goodness to let me have the name of the steamer and of the line by
which he sailed, together with the date. I have no doubt that I should be able to get a
letter through to him.
My request seemed both to puzzle and to irritate my
host. His great eyebrows came down over his eyes, and he tapped his fingers impatiently on
the table. He looked up at last with the expression of one who has seen his adversary make
a dangerous move at chess, and has decided how to meet it.
Many people, Mr. Dodd, said he, would
take offence at your infernal pertinacity and would think that this insistence had reached
the point of damned impertinence.
You must put it down, sir, to my real love for your son.
Exactly. I have already made every allowance upon
that score. I must ask you, however, to drop these inquiries. Every family has its own
inner knowledge and its own motives, which cannot always be made clear to outsiders,
however well-intentioned. My wife is anxious to hear something of Godfreys past
which you are in a position to tell her, but I would ask you to let the present and the
future alone. Such inquiries serve no useful purpose, sir, and place us in a delicate and
So I came to a dead end, Mr. Holmes. There was no
getting past it. I could only pretend to accept the situation and register a vow inwardly
that I would never rest until my friends fate had been cleared up. It was a dull
evening. We dined quietly, the three of us, in a gloomy, faded old room. The lady
questioned me eagerly about her son, but the old man seemed morose and depressed. I was so
bored by the whole proceeding that I made an excuse as soon as I decently could and
retired to my bedroom. It was a large, bare room on the ground floor, as gloomy as the
rest of the house, but after a year of sleeping upon the veldt, Mr. Holmes, one is not too
particular about ones quarters. I opened the curtains and looked out into the
garden, remarking that it was a fine night with a bright half-moon. Then I sat down by the
roaring fire with the lamp on a table beside me, and endeavoured to distract my mind with
a novel. I was interrupted, however, by Ralph, the old butler, who came in with a fresh
supply of coals.
I thought you might run short in the night-time,
sir. It is bitter weather and these rooms are cold.
He hesitated before leaving the room, and when I looked
round he was standing facing me with a wistful look upon his wrinkled face.
Beg your pardon, sir, but I could not help
hearing what you said of young Master Godfrey at dinner. You know, sir, that my wife
nursed him, and so I may say I am his foster-father. Its natural we should take an
interest. And you say he carried himself well, sir?
There was no braver man in the regiment. He
pulled me out once from under the rifles of the Boers, or maybe I should not be
The old butler rubbed his skinny hands.
Yes, sir, yes, that is Master Godfrey all over.
He was always courageous. Theres not a tree in the park, sir, that he has not
climbed. Nothing would stop him. He was a fine boyand oh, sir, he was a fine
I sprang to my feet.
Look here! I cried. You say he was.
You speak as if he were dead. What is all this mystery? What has become of Godfrey
I gripped the old man by the shoulder, but he shrank
I dont know what you mean, sir. Ask the
master about Master Godfrey. He knows. It is not for me to interfere.
He was leaving the room, but I held his arm.
Listen, I said. You are going to
answer one question before you leave if I have to hold you all night. Is Godfrey
He could not face my eyes. He was like a man hypnotized.
The answer was dragged from his lips. It was a terrible and unexpected one.
I wish to God he was! he cried, and,
tearing himself free, he dashed from the room.
You will think, Mr. Holmes, that I returned to my chair
in no very happy  state
of mind. The old mans words seemed to me to bear only one interpretation. Clearly my
poor friend had become involved in some criminal or, at the least, disreputable
transaction which touched the family honour. That stern old man had sent his son away and
hidden him from the world lest some scandal should come to light. Godfrey was a reckless
fellow. He was easily influenced by those around him. No doubt he had fallen into bad
hands and been misled to his ruin. It was a piteous business, if it was indeed so, but
even now it was my duty to hunt him out and see if I could aid him. I was anxiously
pondering the matter when I looked up, and there was Godfrey Emsworth standing before
My client had paused as one in deep emotion.
Pray continue, I said. Your problem presents
some very unusual features.
He was outside the window, Mr. Holmes, with his face
pressed against the glass. I have told you that I looked out at the night. When I did so I
left the curtains partly open. His figure was framed in this gap. The window came down to
the ground and I could see the whole length of it, but it was his face which held my gaze.
He was deadly palenever have I seen a man so white. I reckon ghosts may look like
that; but his eyes met mine, and they were the eyes of a living man. He sprang back when
he saw that I was looking at him, and he vanished into the darkness.
There was something shocking about the man, Mr.
Holmes. It wasnt merely that ghastly face glimmering as white as cheese in the
darkness. It was more subtle than thatsomething slinking, something furtive,
something guilty something very unlike the frank, manly lad that I had known. It
left a feeling of horror in my mind.
But when a man has been soldiering for a year or two
with brother Boer as a playmate, he keeps his nerve and acts quickly. Godfrey had hardly
vanished before I was at the window. There was an awkward catch, and I was some little
time before I could throw it up. Then I nipped through and ran down the garden path in the
direction that I thought he might have taken.
It was a long path and the light was not very good, but
it seemed to me something was moving ahead of me. I ran on and called his name, but it was
no use. When I got to the end of the path there were several others branching in different
directions to various outhouses. I stood hesitating, and as I did so I heard distinctly
the sound of a closing door. It was not behind me in the house, but ahead of me, somewhere
in the darkness. That was enough, Mr. Holmes, to assure me that what I had seen was not a
vision. Godfrey had run away from me, and he had shut a door behind him. Of that I was
There was nothing more I could do, and I spent an uneasy
night turning the matter over in my mind and trying to find some theory which would cover
the facts. Next day I found the colonel rather more conciliatory, and as his wife remarked
that there were some places of interest in the neighbourhood, it gave me an opening to ask
whether my presence for one more night would incommode them. A somewhat grudging
acquiescence from the old man gave me a clear day in which to make my observations. I was
already perfectly convinced that Godfrey was in hiding somewhere near, but where and why
remained to be solved.
The house was so large and so rambling that a regiment
might be hid away in it and no one the wiser. If the secret lay there it was difficult for
me to penetrate it. But the door which I had heard close was certainly not in the house. I
must  explore the
garden and see what I could find. There was no difficulty in the way, for the old people
were busy in their own fashion and left me to my own devices.
There were several small outhouses, but at the end of
the garden there was a detached building of some sizelarge enough for a
gardeners or a gamekeepers residence. Could this be the place whence the sound
of that shutting door had come? I approached it in a careless fashion as though I were
strolling aimlessly round the grounds. As I did so, a small, brisk, bearded man in a black
coat and bowler hatnot at all the gardener typecame out of the door. To my
surprise, he locked it after him and put the key in his pocket. Then he looked at me with
some surprise on his face.
Are you a visitor here? he asked.
I explained that I was and that I was a friend of
What a pity that he should be away on his
travels, for he would have so liked to see me, I continued.
Quite so. Exactly, said he with a rather
guilty air. No doubt you will renew your visit at some more propitious time.
He passed on, but when I turned I observed that he was standing watching me,
half-concealed by the laurels at the far end of the garden.
I had a good look at the little house as I passed it,
but the windows were heavily curtained, and, so far as one could see, it was empty. I
might spoil my own game and even be ordered off the premises if I were too audacious, for
I was still conscious that I was being watched. Therefore, I strolled back to the house
and waited for night before I went on with my inquiry. When all was dark and quiet I
slipped out of my window and made my way as silently as possible to the mysterious lodge.
I have said that it was heavily curtained, but now I
found that the windows were shuttered as well. Some light, however, was breaking through
one of them, so I concentrated my attention upon this. I was in luck, for the curtain had
not been quite closed, and there was a crack in the shutter, so that I could see the
inside of the room. It was a cheery place enough, a bright lamp and a blazing fire.
Opposite to me was seated the little man whom I had seen in the morning. He was smoking a
pipe and reading a paper.
What paper? I asked.
My client seemed annoyed at the interruption of his narrative.
Can it matter? he asked.
It is most essential.
I really took no notice.
Possibly you observed whether it was a broad-leafed
paper or of that smaller type which one associates with weeklies.
Now that you mention it, it was not large. It might have
been the Spectator. However, I had little thought to spare upon such details, for
a second man was seated with his back to the window, and I could swear that this second
man was Godfrey. I could not see his face, but I knew the familiar slope of his shoulders.
He was leaning upon his elbow in an attitude of great melancholy, his body turned towards
the fire. I was hesitating as to what I should do when there was a sharp tap on my
shoulder, and there was Colonel Emsworth beside me.
This way, sir! said he in a low voice. He
walked in silence to the house, and I followed him into my own bedroom. He had picked up a
time-table in the hall.
There is a train to London at 8:30, said he. The trap will be at the
door at eight.
He was white with rage, and, indeed, I felt myself in so
difficult a position that I could only stammer out a few incoherent apologies in which I
tried to excuse myself by urging my anxiety for my friend.
The matter will not bear discussion, said
he abruptly. You have made a most damnable intrusion into the privacy of our family.
You were here as a guest and you have become a spy. I have nothing more to say, sir, save
that I have no wish ever to see you again.
At this I lost my temper, Mr. Holmes, and I spoke with
I have seen your son, and I am convinced that for
some reason of your own you are concealing him from the world. I have no idea what your
motives are in cutting him off in this fashion, but I am sure that he is no longer a free
agent. I warn you, Colonel Emsworth, that until I am assured as to the safety and
well-being of my friend I shall never desist in my efforts to get to the bottom of the
mystery, and I shall certainly not allow myself to be intimidated by anything which you
may say or do.
The old fellow looked diabolical, and I really thought
he was about to attack me. I have said that he was a gaunt, fierce old giant, and though I
am no weakling I might have been hard put to it to hold my own against him. However, after
a long glare of rage he turned upon his heel and walked out of the room. For my part, I
took the appointed train in the morning, with the full intention of coming straight to you
and asking for your advice and assistance at the appointment for which I had already
Such was the problem which my visitor laid before me. It
presented, as the astute reader will have already perceived, few difficulties in its
solution, for a very limited choice of alternatives must get to the root of the matter.
Still, elementary as it was, there were points of interest and novelty about it which may
excuse my placing it upon record. I now proceeded, using my familiar method of logical
analysis, to narrow down the possible solutions.
The servants, I asked; how many were in the
To the best of my belief there were only the old butler
and his wife. They seemed to live in the simplest fashion.
There was no servant, then, in the detached house?
None, unless the little man with the beard acted as
such. He seemed, however, to be quite a superior person.
That seems very suggestive. Had you any indication that
food was conveyed from the one house to the other?
Now that you mention it, I did see old Ralph carrying a
basket down the garden walk and going in the direction of this house. The idea of food did
not occur to me at the moment.
Did you make any local inquiries?
Yes, I did. I spoke to the station-master and also to
the innkeeper in the village. I simply asked if they knew anything of my old comrade,
Godfrey Emsworth. Both of them assured me that he had gone for a voyage round the world.
He had come home and then had almost at once started off again. The story was evidently
You said nothing of your suspicions?
was very wise. The matter should certainly be inquired into. I will go back with you to
Tuxbury Old Park.
It happened that at the moment I was clearing up the case
which my friend Watson has described as that of the Abbey School, in which the Duke of
Greyminster was so deeply involved. I had also a commission from the Sultan of Turkey
which called for immediate action, as political consequences of the gravest kind might
arise from its neglect. Therefore it was not until the beginning of the next week, as my
diary records, that I was able to start forth on my mission to Bedfordshire in company
with Mr. James M. Dodd. As we drove to Euston we picked up a grave and taciturn gentleman
of iron-gray aspect, with whom I had made the necessary arrangements.
This is an old friend, said I to Dodd. It is
possible that his presence may be entirely unnecessary, and, on the other hand, it may be
essential. It is not necessary at the present stage to go further into the matter.
The narratives of Watson have accustomed the reader, no doubt,
to the fact that I do not waste words or disclose my thoughts while a case is actually
under consideration. Dodd seemed surprised, but nothing more was said, and the three of us
continued our journey together. In the train I asked Dodd one more question which I wished
our companion to hear.
You say that you saw your friends face quite
clearly at the window, so clearly that you are sure of his identity?
I have no doubt about it whatever. His nose was pressed
against the glass. The lamplight shone full upon him.
It could not have been someone resembling him?
No, no, it was he.
But you say he was changed?
Only in colour. His face washow shall I describe
it?it was of a fish-belly whiteness. It was bleached.
Was it equally pale all over?
I think not. It was his brow which I saw so clearly as
it was pressed against the window.
Did you call to him?
I was too startled and horrified for the moment. Then I
pursued him, as I have told you, but without result.
My case was practically complete, and there was only one small
incident needed to round it off. When, after a considerable drive, we arrived at the
strange old rambling house which my client had described, it was Ralph, the elderly
butler, who opened the door. I had requisitioned the carriage for the day and had asked my
elderly friend to remain within it unless we should summon him. Ralph, a little wrinkled
old fellow, was in the conventional costume of black coat and pepper-and-salt trousers,
with only one curious variant. He wore brown leather gloves, which at sight of us he
instantly shuffled off, laying them down on the hall-table as we passed in. I have, as my
friend Watson may have remarked, an abnormally acute set of senses, and a faint but
incisive scent was apparent. It seemed to centre on the hall-table. I turned, placed my
hat there, knocked it off, stooped to pick it up, and contrived to bring my nose within a
foot of the gloves. Yes, it was undoubtedly from them that the curious tarry odour was
oozing. I passed on into the study with my case complete. Alas, that I should have to show
my hand so when  I
tell my own story! It was by concealing such links in the chain that Watson was enabled to
produce his meretricious finales.
Colonel Emsworth was not in his room, but he came quickly
enough on receipt of Ralphs message. We heard his quick, heavy step in the passage.
The door was flung open and he rushed in with bristling beard and twisted features, as
terrible an old man as ever I have seen. He held our cards in his hand, and he tore them
up and stamped on the fragments.
Have I not told you, you infernal busybody, that you are
warned off the premises? Never dare to show your damned face here again. If you enter
again without my leave I shall be within my rights if I use violence. Ill shoot you,
sir! By God, I will! As to you, sir, turning upon me, I extend the same
warning to you. I am familiar with your ignoble profession, but you must take your reputed
talents to some other field. There is no opening for them here.
I cannot leave here, said my client firmly,
until I hear from Godfreys own lips that he is under no restraint.
Our involuntary host rang the bell.
Ralph, he said, telephone down to the county
police and ask the inspector to send up two constables. Tell him there are burglars in the
One moment, said I. You must be aware, Mr.
Dodd, that Colonel Emsworth is within his rights and that we have no legal status within
his house. On the other hand, he should recognize that your action is prompted entirely by
solicitude for his son. I venture to hope that if I were allowed to have five
minutes conversation with Colonel Emsworth I could certainly alter his view of the
I am not so easily altered, said the old soldier.
Ralph, do what I have told you. What the devil are you waiting for? Ring up the
Nothing of the sort, I said, putting my back to
the door. Any police interference would bring about the very catastrophe which you
dread. I took out my notebook and scribbled one word upon a loose sheet.
That, said I as I handed it to Colonel Emsworth, is what has brought us
He stared at the writing with a face from which every
expression save amazement had vanished.
How do you know? he gasped, sitting down heavily
in his chair.
It is my business to know things. That is my
He sat in deep thought, his gaunt hand tugging at his
straggling beard. Then he made a gesture of resignation.
Well, if you wish to see Godfrey, you shall. It is no
doing of mine, but you have forced my hand. Ralph, tell Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Kent that in
five minutes we shall be with them.
At the end of that time we passed down the garden path and
found ourselves in front of the mystery house at the end. A small bearded man stood at the
door with a look of considerable astonishment upon his face.
This is very sudden, Colonel Emsworth, said he.
This will disarrange all our plans.
I cant help it, Mr. Kent. Our hands have been
forced. Can Mr. Godfrey see us?
Yes, he is waiting inside. He turned and led us
into a large, plainly furnished front room. A man was standing with his back to the fire,
and at the sight of him my client sprang forward with outstretched hand.
Why, Godfrey, old man, this is fine!
the other waved him back.
Dont touch me, Jimmie. Keep your distance. Yes,
you may well stare! I dont quite look the smart Lance-Corporal Emsworth, of B
Squadron, do I?
His appearance was certainly extraordinary. One could see that
he had indeed been a handsome man with clear-cut features sunburned by an African sun, but
mottled in patches over this darker surface were curious whitish patches which had
bleached his skin.
Thats why I dont court visitors, said
he. I dont mind you, Jimmie, but I could have done without your friend. I
suppose there is some good reason for it, but you have me at a disadvantage.
I wanted to be sure that all was well with you, Godfrey.
I saw you that night when you looked into my window, and I could not let the matter rest
till I had cleared things up.
Old Ralph told me you were there, and I couldnt
help taking a peep at you. I hoped you would not have seen me, and I had to run to my
burrow when I heard the window go up.
But what in heavens name is the matter?
Well, its not a long story to tell, said he,
lighting a cigarette. You remember that morning fight at Buffelsspruit, outside
Pretoria, on the Eastern railway line? You heard I was hit?
Yes, I heard that, but I never got particulars.
Three of us got separated from the others. It was very
broken country, you may remember. There was Simpsonthe fellow we called Baldy
Simpson and Anderson, and I. We were clearing brother Boer, but he lay low and got
the three of us. The other two were killed. I got an elephant bullet through my shoulder.
I stuck on to my horse, however, and he galloped several miles before I fainted and rolled
off the saddle.
When I came to myself it was nightfall, and I raised
myself up, feeling very weak and ill. To my surprise there was a house close beside me, a
fairly large house with a broad stoep and many windows. It was deadly cold. You remember
the kind of numb cold which used to come at evening, a deadly, sickening sort of cold,
very different from a crisp healthy frost. Well, I was chilled to the bone, and my only
hope seemed to lie in reaching that house. I staggered to my feet and dragged myself
along, hardly conscious of what I did. I have a dim memory of slowly ascending the steps,
entering a wide-opened door, passing into a large room which contained several beds, and
throwing myself down with a gasp of satisfaction upon one of them. It was unmade, but that
troubled me not at all. I drew the clothes over my shivering body and in a moment I was in
a deep sleep.
It was morning when I wakened, and it seemed to me that
instead of coming out into a world of sanity I had emerged into some extraordinary
nightmare. The African sun flooded through the big, curtainless windows, and every detail
of the great, bare, whitewashed dormitory stood out hard and clear. In front of me was
standing a small, dwarf-like man with a huge, bulbous head, who was jabbering excitedly in
Dutch, waving two horrible hands which looked to me like brown sponges. Behind him stood a
group of people who seemed to be intensely amused by the situation, but a chill came over
me as I looked at them. Not one of them was a normal human being. Every one was twisted or
swollen or disfigured in some strange way. The laughter of these strange monstrosities was
a dreadful thing to hear.
seemed that none of them could speak English, but the situation wanted clearing up, for
the creature with the big head was growing furiously angry, and, uttering wild-beast
cries, he had laid his deformed hands upon me and was dragging me out of bed, regardless
of the fresh flow of blood from my wound. The little monster was as strong as a bull, and
I dont know what he might have done to me had not an elderly man who was clearly in
authority been attracted to the room by the hubbub. He said a few stern words in Dutch,
and my persecutor shrank away. Then he turned upon me, gazing at me in the utmost
How in the world did you come here? he
asked in amazement. Wait a bit! I see that you are tired out and that wounded
shoulder of yours wants looking after. I am a doctor, and Ill soon have you tied up.
But, man alive! you are in far greater danger here than ever you were on the battlefield.
You are in the Leper Hospital, and you have slept in a lepers bed.
Need I tell you more, Jimmie? It seems that in view of
the approaching battle all these poor creatures had been evacuated the day before. Then,
as the British advanced, they had been brought back by this, their medical superintendent,
who assured me that, though he believed he was immune to the disease, he would none the
less never have dared to do what I had done. He put me in a private room, treated me
kindly, and within a week or so I was removed to the general hospital at Pretoria.
So there you have my tragedy. I hoped against hope, but
it was not until I had reached home that the terrible signs which you see upon my face
told me that I had not escaped. What was I to do? I was in this lonely house. We had two
servants whom we could utterly trust. There was a house where I could live. Under pledge
of secrecy, Mr. Kent, who is a surgeon, was prepared to stay with me. It seemed simple
enough on those lines. The alternative was a dreadful one segregation for life among
strangers with never a hope of release. But absolute secrecy was necessary, or even in
this quiet countryside there would have been an outcry, and I should have been dragged to
my horrible doom. Even you, Jimmieeven you had to be kept in the dark. Why my father
has relented I cannot imagine.
Colonel Emsworth pointed to me.
This is the gentleman who forced my hand. He
unfolded the scrap of paper on which I had written the word Leprosy. It
seemed to me that if he knew so much as that it was safer that he should know all.
And so it was, said I. Who knows but good
may come of it? I understand that only Mr. Kent has seen the patient. May I ask, sir, if
you are an authority on such complaints, which are, I understand, tropical or
semi-tropical in their nature?
I have the ordinary knowledge of the educated medical
man, he observed with some stiffness.
I have no doubt, sir, that you are fully competent, but
I am sure that you will agree that in such a case a second opinion is valuable. You have
avoided this, I understand, for fear that pressure should be put upon you to segregate the
That is so, said Colonel Emsworth.
I foresaw this situation, I explained, and I
have brought with me a friend whose discretion may absolutely be trusted. I was able once
to do him a professional service, and he is ready to advise as a friend rather than as a
specialist. His name is Sir James Saunders.
prospect of an interview with Lord Roberts would not have excited greater wonder and
pleasure in a raw subaltern than was now reflected upon the face of Mr. Kent.
I shall indeed be proud, he murmured.
Then I will ask Sir James to step this way. He is at
present in the carriage outside the door. Meanwhile, Colonel Emsworth, we may perhaps
assemble in your study, where I could give the necessary explanations.
And here it is that I miss my Watson. By cunning questions and
ejaculations of wonder he could elevate my simple art, which is but systematized common
sense, into a prodigy. When I tell my own story I have no such aid. And yet I will give my
process of thought even as I gave it to my small audience, which included Godfreys
mother in the study of Colonel Emsworth.
That process, said I, starts upon the
supposition that when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains,
however improbable, must be the truth. It may well be that several explanations remain, in
which case one tries test after test until one or other of them has a convincing amount of
support. We will now apply this principle to the case in point. As it was first presented
to me, there were three possible explanations of the seclusion or incarceration of this
gentleman in an outhouse of his fathers mansion. There was the explanation that he
was in hiding for a crime, or that he was mad and that they wished to avoid an asylum, or
that he had some disease which caused his segregation. I could think of no other adequate
solutions. These, then, had to be sifted and balanced against each other.
The criminal solution would not bear inspection. No
unsolved crime had been reported from that district. I was sure of that. If it were some
crime not yet discovered, then clearly it would be to the interest of the family to get
rid of the delinquent and send him abroad rather than keep him concealed at home. I could
see no explanation for such a line of conduct.
Insanity was more plausible. The presence of the second
person in the outhouse suggested a keeper. The fact that he locked the door when he came
out strengthened the supposition and gave the idea of constraint. On the other hand, this
constraint could not be severe or the young man could not have got loose and come down to
have a look at his friend. You will remember, Mr. Dodd, that I felt round for points,
asking you, for example, about the paper which Mr. Kent was reading. Had it been the Lancet
or the British Medical Journal it would have helped me. It is not illegal,
however, to keep a lunatic upon private premises so long as there is a qualified person in
attendance and that the authorities have been duly notified. Why, then, all this desperate
desire for secrecy? Once again I could not get the theory to fit the facts.
There remained the third possibility, into which, rare
and unlikely as it was, everything seemed to fit. Leprosy is not uncommon in South Africa.
By some extraordinary chance this youth might have contracted it. His people would be
placed in a very dreadful position, since they would desire to save him from segregation.
Great secrecy would be needed to prevent rumours from getting about and subsequent
interference by the authorities. A devoted medical man, if sufficiently paid, would easily
be found to take charge of the sufferer. There would be no reason why the latter should
not be allowed freedom after dark. Bleaching of the skin is a common result of the
disease. The case was a strong oneso strong that I determined to act as if it were
actually proved. When on arriving here I noticed  that Ralph, who carries out the meals, had gloves
which are impregnated with disinfectants, my last doubts were removed. A single word
showed you, sir, that your secret was discovered, and if I wrote rather than said it, it
was to prove to you that my discretion was to be trusted.
I was finishing this little analysis of the case when the door
was opened and the austere figure of the great dermatologist was ushered in. But for once
his sphinx-like features had relaxed and there was a warm humanity in his eyes. He strode
up to Colonel Emsworth and shook him by the hand.
It is often my lot to bring ill-tidings and seldom
good, said he. This occasion is the more welcome. It is not leprosy.
A well-marked case of pseudo-leprosy or ichthyosis, a
scale-like affection of the skin, unsightly, obstinate, but possibly curable, and
certainly noninfective. Yes, Mr. Holmes, the coincidence is a remarkable one. But is it
coincidence? Are there not subtle forces at work of which we know little? Are we assured
that the apprehension from which this young man has no doubt suffered terribly since his
exposure to its contagion may not produce a physical effect which simulates that which it
fears? At any rate, I pledge my professional reputation But the lady has
fainted! I think that Mr. Kent had better be with her until she recovers from this joyous