It is very rough, of course, and it only deals with the
points which seem to me to be essential. All the rest you will see later for yourself.
Now, first of all, presuming that the assassin entered the house, how did he or she come
in? Undoubtedly by the garden path and the back door, from which there is direct access to
 the study. Any other
way would have been exceedingly complicated. The escape must have also been made along
that line, for of the two other exits from the room one was blocked by Susan as she ran
downstairs and the other leads straight to the professors bedroom. I therefore
directed my attention at once to the garden path, which was saturated with recent rain,
and would certainly show any footmarks.
My examination showed me that I was dealing with a
cautious and expert criminal. No footmarks were to be found on the path. There could be no
question, however, that someone had passed along the grass border which lines the path,
and that he had done so in order to avoid leaving a track. I could not find anything in
the nature of a distinct impression, but the grass was trodden down, and someone had
undoubtedly passed. It could only have been the murderer, since neither the gardener nor
anyone else had been there that morning, and the rain had only begun during the
One moment, said Holmes. Where does this
path lead to?
To the road.
How long is it?
A hundred yards or so.
At the point where the path passes through the gate, you
could surely pick up the tracks?
Unfortunately, the path was tiled at that point.
Well, on the road itself?
No, it was all trodden into mire.
Tut-tut! Well, then, these tracks upon the grass, were
they coming or going?
It was impossible to say. There was never any
A large foot or a small?
You could not distinguish.
Holmes gave an ejaculation of impatience.
It has been pouring rain and blowing a hurricane ever
since, said he. It will be harder to read now than that palimpsest. Well,
well, it cant be helped. What did you do, Hopkins, after you had made certain that
you had made certain of nothing?
I think I made certain of a good deal, Mr. Holmes. I
knew that someone had entered the house cautiously from without. I next examined the
corridor. It is lined with cocoanut matting and had taken no impression of any kind. This
brought me into the study itself. It is a scantily furnished room. The main article is a
large writing-table with a fixed bureau. This bureau consists of a double column of
drawers, with a central small cupboard between them. The drawers were open, the cupboard
locked. The drawers, it seems, were always open, and nothing of value was kept in them.
There were some papers of importance in the cupboard, but there were no signs that this
had been tampered with, and the professor assures me that nothing was missing. It is
certain that no robbery has been committed.
I come now to the body of the young man. It was found
near the bureau, and just to the left of it, as marked upon that chart. The stab was on
the right side of the neck and from behind forward, so that it is almost impossible that
it could have been self-inflicted.
Unless he fell upon the knife, said Holmes.
Exactly. The idea crossed my mind. But we found the
knife some feet away from the body, so that seems impossible. Then, of course, there are
the mans own  dying
words. And, finally, there was this very important piece of evidence which was found
clasped in the dead mans right hand.
From his pocket Stanley Hopkins drew a small paper packet. He
unfolded it and disclosed a golden pince-nez, with two broken ends of black silk cord
dangling from the end of it. Willoughby Smith had excellent sight, he added.
There can be no question that this was snatched from the face or the person of the
Sherlock Holmes took the glasses into his hand, and examined
them with the utmost attention and interest. He held them on his nose, endeavoured to read
through them, went to the window and stared up the street with them, looked at them most
minutely in the full light of the lamp, and finally, with a chuckle, seated himself at the
table and wrote a few lines upon a sheet of paper, which he tossed across to Stanley
Thats the best I can do for you, said he.
It may prove to be of some use.
The astonished detective read the note aloud. It ran as
- Wanted, a woman of good address, attired like a lady.
She has a remarkably thick nose, with eyes which are set close upon either side of it. She
has a puckered forehead, a peering expression, and probably rounded shoulders. There are
indications that she has had recourse to an optician at least twice during the last few
months. As her glasses are of remarkable strength, and as opticians are not very numerous,
there should be no difficulty in tracing her.
Holmes smiled at the astonishment of Hopkins, which must
have been reflected upon my features.
Surely my deductions are simplicity itself, said
he. It would be difficult to name any articles which afford a finer field for
inference than a pair of glasses, especially so remarkable a pair as these. That they
belong to a woman I infer from their delicacy, and also, of course, from the last words of
the dying man. As to her being a person of refinement and well dressed, they are, as you
perceive, handsomely mounted in solid gold, and it is inconceivable that anyone who wore
such glasses could be slatternly in other respects. You will find that the clips are too
wide for your nose, showing that the ladys nose was very broad at the base. This
sort of nose is usually a short and coarse one, but there is a sufficient number of
exceptions to prevent me from being dogmatic or from insisting upon this point in my
description. My own face is a narrow one, and yet I find that I cannot get my eyes into
the centre, nor near the centre, of these glasses. Therefore, the ladys eyes are set
very near to the sides of the nose. You will perceive, Watson, that the glasses are
concave and of unusual strength. A lady whose vision has been so extremely contracted all
her life is sure to have the physical characteristics of such vision, which are seen in
the forehead, the eyelids, and the shoulders.
Yes, I said, I can follow each of your
arguments. I confess, however, that I am unable to understand how you arrive at the double
visit to the optician.
Holmes took the glasses in his hand.
You will perceive, he said, that the clips
are lined with tiny bands of cork to soften the pressure upon the nose. One of these is
discoloured and worn to some slight extent, but the other is new. Evidently one has fallen
off and been replaced. I should judge that the older of them has not been there more than
a few months. They exactly correspond, so I gather that the lady went back to the same
establishment for the second.
George, its marvellous! cried Hopkins, in an ecstasy of admiration. To
think that I had all that evidence in my hand and never knew it! I had intended, however,
to go the round of the London opticians.
Of course you would. Meanwhile, have you anything more
to tell us about the case?
Nothing, Mr. Holmes. I think that you know as much as I
do now probably more. We have had inquiries made as to any stranger seen on the
country roads or at the railway station. We have heard of none. What beats me is the utter
want of all object in the crime. Not a ghost of a motive can anyone suggest.
Ah! there I am not in a position to help you. But I
suppose you want us to come out to-morrow?
If it is not asking too much, Mr. Holmes. Theres a
train from Charing Cross to Chatham at six in the morning, and we should be at Yoxley Old
Place between eight and nine.
Then we shall take it. Your case has certainly some
features of great interest, and I shall be delighted to look into it. Well, its
nearly one, and we had best get a few hours sleep. I daresay you can manage all
right on the sofa in front of the fire. Ill light my spirit lamp, and give you a cup
of coffee before we start.
The gale had blown itself out next day, but it was a bitter
morning when we started upon our journey. We saw the cold winter sun rise over the dreary
marshes of the Thames and the long, sullen reaches of the river, which I shall ever
associate with our pursuit of the Andaman Islander in the earlier days of our career.
After a long and weary journey, we alighted at a small station some miles from Chatham.
While a horse was being put into a trap at the local inn, we snatched a hurried breakfast,
and so we were all ready for business when we at last arrived at Yoxley Old Place. A
constable met us at the garden gate.
Well, Wilson, any news?
No reports of any stranger seen?
No, sir. Down at the station they are certain that no
stranger either came or went yesterday.
Have you had inquiries made at inns and lodgings?
Yes, sir: there is no one that we cannot account
Well, its only a reasonable walk to Chatham.
Anyone might stay there or take a train without being observed. This is the garden path of
which I spoke, Mr. Holmes. Ill pledge my word there was no mark on it
On which side were the marks on the grass?
This side, sir. This narrow margin of grass between the
path and the flower-bed. I cant see the traces now, but they were clear to me
Yes, yes: someone has passed along, said Holmes,
stooping over the grass border. Our lady must have picked her steps carefully, must
she not, since on the one side she would leave a track on the path, and on the other an
even clearer one on the soft bed?
Yes, sir, she must have been a cool hand.
I saw an intent look pass over Holmess face.
You say that she must have come back this way?
Yes, sir, there is no other.
On this strip of grass?
Certainly, Mr. Holmes.
It was a very remarkable performancevery remarkable. Well, I think we have exhausted
the path. Let us go farther. This garden door is usually kept open, I suppose? Then this
visitor had nothing to do but to walk in. The idea of murder was not in her mind, or she
would have provided herself with some sort of weapon, instead of having to pick this knife
off the writing-table. She advanced along this corridor, leaving no traces upon the
cocoanut matting. Then she found herself in this study. How long was she there? We have no
means of judging.
Not more than a few minutes, sir. I forgot to tell you
that Mrs. Marker, the housekeeper, had been in there tidying not very long
beforeabout a quarter of an hour, she says.
Well, that gives us a limit. Our lady enters this room,
and what does she do? She goes over to the writing-table. What for? Not for anything in
the drawers. If there had been anything worth her taking, it would surely have been locked
up. No, it was for something in that wooden bureau. Halloa! what is that scratch upon the
face of it? Just hold a match, Watson. Why did you not tell me of this, Hopkins?
The mark which he was examining began upon the brasswork on
the right-hand side of the keyhole, and extended for about four inches, where it had
scratched the varnish from the surface.
I noticed it, Mr. Holmes, but youll always find
scratches round a keyhole.
This is recent, quite recent. See how the brass shines
where it is cut. An old scratch would be the same colour as the surface. Look at it
through my lens. Theres the varnish, too, like earth on each side of a furrow. Is
Mrs. Marker there?
A sad-faced, elderly woman came into the room.
Did you dust this bureau yesterday morning?
Did you notice this scratch?
No, sir, I did not.
I am sure you did not, for a duster would have swept
away these shreds of varnish. Who has the key of this bureau?
The professor keeps it on his watch-chain.
Is it a simple key?
No, sir, it is a Chubbs key.
Very good. Mrs. Marker, you can go. Now we are making a
little progress. Our lady enters the room, advances to the bureau, and either opens it or
tries to do so. While she is thus engaged, young Willoughby Smith enters the room. In her
hurry to withdraw the key, she makes this scratch upon the door. He seizes her, and she,
snatching up the nearest object, which happens to be this knife, strikes at him in order
to make him let go his hold. The blow is a fatal one. He falls and she escapes, either
with or without the object for which she has come. Is Susan, the maid, there? Could anyone
have got away through that door after the time that you heard the cry, Susan?
No, sir, it is impossible. Before I got down the stair,
Id have seen anyone in the passage. Besides, the door never opened, or I would have
That settles this exit. Then no doubt the lady went out
the way she came. I understand that this other passage leads only to the professors
room. There is no exit that way?
shall go down it and make the acquaintance of the professor. Halloa, Hopkins! this is very
important, very important indeed. The professors corridor is also lined with
Well, sir, what of that?
Dont you see any bearing upon the case? Well,
well. I dont insist upon it. No doubt I am wrong. And yet it seems to me to be
suggestive. Come with me and introduce me.
We passed down the passage, which was of the same length as
that which led to the garden. At the end was a short flight of steps ending in a door. Our
guide knocked, and then ushered us into the professors bedroom.
It was a very large chamber, lined with innumerable volumes,
which had overflowed from the shelves and lay in piles in the corners, or were stacked all
round at the base of the cases. The bed was in the centre of the room, and in it, propped
up with pillows, was the owner of the house. I have seldom seen a more remarkable-looking
person. It was a gaunt, aquiline face which was turned towards us, with piercing dark
eyes, which lurked in deep hollows under overhung and tufted brows. His hair and beard
were white, save that the latter was curiously stained with yellow around his mouth. A
cigarette glowed amid the tangle of white hair, and the air of the room was fetid with
stale tobacco smoke. As he held out his hand to Holmes, I perceived that it was also
stained with yellow nicotine.
A smoker, Mr. Holmes? said he, speaking in
well-chosen English, with a curious little mincing accent. Pray take a cigarette.
And you, sir? I can recommend them, for I have them especially prepared by Ionides, of
Alexandria. He sends me a thousand at a time, and I grieve to say that I have to arrange
for a fresh supply every fortnight. Bad, sir, very bad, but an old man has few pleasures.
Tobacco and my workthat is all that is left to me.
Holmes had lit a cigarette and was shooting little darting
glances all over the room.
Tobacco and my work, but now only tobacco, the old
man exclaimed. Alas! what a fatal interruption! Who could have foreseen such a
terrible catastrophe? So estimable a young man! I assure you that, after a few
months training, he was an admirable assistant. What do you think of the matter, Mr.
I have not yet made up my mind.
I shall indeed be indebted to you if you can throw a
light where all is so dark to us. To a poor bookworm and invalid like myself such a blow
is paralyzing. I seem to have lost the faculty of thought. But you are a man of
actionyou are a man of affairs. It is part of the everyday routine of your life. You
can preserve your balance in every emergency. We are fortunate, indeed, in having you at
Holmes was pacing up and down one side of the room whilst the
old professor was talking. I observed that he was smoking with extraordinary rapidity. It
was evident that he shared our hosts liking for the fresh Alexandrian cigarettes.
Yes, sir, it is a crushing blow, said the old man.
That is my magnum opusthe pile of papers on the side table yonder. It
is my analysis of the documents found in the Coptic monasteries of Syria and Egypt, a work
which will cut deep at the very foundation of revealed religion. With my enfeebled health
I do not know whether I shall ever be able to complete it, now that my assistant has been
taken from me. Dear me! Mr. Holmes, why, you are even a quicker smoker than I am
I am a connoisseur, said he, taking another
cigarette from the boxhis fourthand lighting it from the stub of that which he
had finished. I will not trouble you with any lengthy cross-examination, Professor
Coram, since I gather that you were in bed at the time of the crime, and could know
nothing about it. I would only ask this: What do you imagine that this poor fellow meant
by his last words: The professorit was she?
The professor shook his head.
Susan is a country girl, said he, and you
know the incredible stupidity of that class. I fancy that the poor fellow murmured some
incoherent, delirious words, and that she twisted them into this meaningless
I see. You have no explanation yourself of the
Possibly an accident, possiblyI only breathe it
among ourselvesa suicide. Young men have their hidden troublessome affair of
the heart, perhaps, which we have never known. It is a more probable supposition than
But the eyeglasses?
Ah! I am only a studenta man of dreams. I cannot
explain the practical things of life. But still, we are aware, my friend, that love-gages
may take strange shapes. By all means take another cigarette. It is a pleasure to see
anyone appreciate them so. A fan, a glove, glasseswho knows what article may be
carried as a token or treasured when a man puts an end to his life? This gentleman speaks
of footsteps in the grass, but, after all, it is easy to be mistaken on such a point. As
to the knife, it might well be thrown far from the unfortunate man as he fell. It is
possible that I speak as a child, but to me it seems that Willoughby Smith has met his
fate by his own hand.
Holmes seemed struck by the theory thus put forward, and he
continued to walk up and down for some time, lost in thought and consuming cigarette after
Tell me, Professor Coram, he said, at last,
what is in that cupboard in the bureau?
Nothing that would help a thief. Family papers, letters
from my poor wife, diplomas of universities which have done me honour. Here is the key.
You can look for yourself.
Holmes picked up the key, and looked at it for an instant,
then he handed it back.
No, I hardly think that it would help me, said
he. I should prefer to go quietly down to your garden, and turn the whole matter
over in my head. There is something to be said for the theory of suicide which you have
put forward. We must apologize for having intruded upon you, Professor Coram, and I
promise that we wont disturb you until after lunch. At two oclock we will come
again, and report to you anything which may have happened in the interval.
Holmes was curiously distrait, and we walked up and down the
garden path for some time in silence.
Have you a clue? I asked, at last.
It depends upon those cigarettes that I smoked,
said he. It is possible that I am utterly mistaken. The cigarettes will show
My dear Holmes, I exclaimed, how on
Well, well, you may see for yourself. If not,
theres no harm done. Of course, we always have the optician clue to fall back upon,
but I take a short cut when I  can
get it. Ah, here is the good Mrs. Marker! Let us enjoy five minutes of instructive
conversation with her.
I may have remarked before that Holmes had, when he liked, a
peculiarly ingratiating way with women, and that he very readily established terms of
confidence with them. In half the time which he had named, he had captured the
housekeepers goodwill and was chatting with her as if he had known her for years.
Yes, Mr. Holmes, it is as you say, sir. He does smoke
something terrible. All day and sometimes all night, sir. Ive seen that room of a
morning well, sir, youd have thought it was a London fog. Poor young Mr.
Smith, he was a smoker also, but not as bad as the professor. His healthwell, I
dont know that its better nor worse for the smoking.
Ah! said Holmes, but it kills the
Well, I dont know about that, sir.
I suppose the professor eats hardly anything?
Well, he is variable. Ill say that for him.
Ill wager he took no breakfast this morning, and
wont face his lunch after all the cigarettes I saw him consume.
Well, youre out there, sir, as it happens, for he
ate a remarkable big breakfast this morning. I dont know when Ive known him
make a better one, and hes ordered a good dish of cutlets for his lunch. Im
surprised myself, for since I came into that room yesterday and saw young Mr. Smith lying
there on the floor, I couldnt bear to look at food. Well, it takes all sorts to make
a world, and the professor hasnt let it take his appetite away.
We loitered the morning away in the garden. Stanley Hopkins
had gone down to the village to look into some rumours of a strange woman who had been
seen by some children on the Chatham Road the previous morning. As to my friend, all his
usual energy seemed to have deserted him. I had never known him handle a case in such a
half-hearted fashion. Even the news brought back by Hopkins that he had found the
children, and that they had undoubtedly seen a woman exactly corresponding with
Holmess description, and wearing either spectacles or eyeglasses, failed to rouse
any sign of keen interest. He was more attentive when Susan, who waited upon us at lunch,
volunteered the information that she believed Mr. Smith had been out for a walk yesterday
morning, and that he had only returned half an hour before the tragedy occurred. I could
not myself see the bearing of this incident, but I clearly perceived that Holmes was
weaving it into the general scheme which he had formed in his brain. Suddenly he sprang
from his chair and glanced at his watch. Two oclock, gentlemen, said he.
We must go up and have it out with our friend, the professor.
The old man had just finished his lunch, and certainly his
empty dish bore evidence to the good appetite with which his housekeeper had credited him.
He was, indeed, a weird figure as he turned his white mane and his glowing eyes towards
us. The eternal cigarette smouldered in his mouth. He had been dressed and was seated in
an armchair by the fire.
Well, Mr. Holmes, have you solved this mystery
yet? He shoved the large tin of cigarettes which stood on a table beside him towards
my companion. Holmes stretched out his hand at the same moment, and between them they
tipped the box over the edge. For a minute or two we were all on our knees retrieving
stray cigarettes from impossible places. When we rose again, I observed Holmess eyes
 were shining and his
cheeks tinged with colour. Only at a crisis have I seen those battle-signals flying.
Yes, said he, I have solved it.
Stanley Hopkins and I stared in amazement. Something like a
sneer quivered over the gaunt features of the old professor.
Indeed! In the garden?
You are surely joking, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You compel
me to tell you that this is too serious a matter to be treated in such a fashion.
I have forged and tested every link of my chain,
Professor Coram, and I am sure that it is sound. What your motives are, or what exact part
you play in this strange business, I am not yet able to say. In a few minutes I shall
probably hear it from your own lips. Meanwhile I will reconstruct what is past for your
benefit, so that you may know the information which I still require.
A lady yesterday entered your study. She came with the
intention of possessing herself of certain documents which were in your bureau. She had a
key of her own. I have had an opportunity of examining yours, and I do not find that
slight discolouration which the scratch made upon the varnish would have produced. You
were not an accessory, therefore, and she came, so far as I can read the evidence, without
your knowledge to rob you.
The professor blew a cloud from his lips. This is most
interesting and instructive, said he. Have you no more to add? Surely, having
traced this lady so far, you can also say what has become of her.
I will endeavour to do so. In the first place she was
seized by your secretary, and stabbed him in order to escape. This catastrophe I am
inclined to regard as an unhappy accident, for I am convinced that the lady had no
intention of inflicting so grievous an injury. An assassin does not come unarmed.
Horrified by what she had done, she rushed wildly away from the scene of the tragedy.
Unfortunately for her, she had lost her glasses in the scuffle, and as she was extremely
shortsighted she was really helpless without them. She ran down a corridor, which she
imagined to be that by which she had comeboth were lined with cocoanut
mattingand it was only when it was too late that she understood that she had taken
the wrong passage, and that her retreat was cut off behind her. What was she to do? She
could not go back. She could not remain where she was. She must go on. She went on. She
mounted a stair, pushed open a door, and found herself in your room.
The old man sat with his mouth open, staring wildly at Holmes.
Amazement and fear were stamped upon his expressive features. Now, with an effort, he
shrugged his shoulders and burst into insincere laughter.
All very fine, Mr. Holmes, said he. But
there is one little flaw in your splendid theory. I was myself in my room, and I never
left it during the day.
I am aware of that, Professor Coram.
And you mean to say that I could lie upon that bed and
not be aware that a woman had entered my room?
I never said so. You were aware of it. You
spoke with her. You recognized her. You aided her to escape.
Again the professor burst into high-keyed laughter. He had
risen to his feet, and his eyes glowed like embers.
are mad! he cried. You are talking insanely. I helped her to escape? Where is
She is there, said Holmes, and he pointed to a
high bookcase in the corner of the room.
I saw the old man throw up his arms, a terrible convulsion
passed over his grim face, and he fell back in his chair. At the same instant the bookcase
at which Holmes pointed swung round upon a hinge, and a woman rushed out into the room.
You are right! she cried, in a strange foreign voice. You are right! I
She was brown with the dust and draped with the cobwebs
which had come from the walls of her hiding-place. Her face, too, was streaked with grime,
and at the best she could never have been handsome, for she had the exact physical
characteristics which Holmes had divined, with, in addition, a long and obstinate chin.
What with her natural blindness, and what with the change from dark to light, she stood as
one dazed, blinking about her to see where and who we were. And yet, in spite of all these
disadvantages, there was a certain nobility in the womans bearinga gallantry
in the defiant chin and in the upraised head, which compelled something of respect and
Stanley Hopkins had laid his hand upon her arm and claimed her
as his prisoner, but she waved him aside gently, and yet with an over-mastering dignity
which compelled obedience. The old man lay back in his chair with a twitching face, and
stared at her with brooding eyes.
Yes, sir, I am your prisoner, she said. From
where I stood I could hear everything, and I know that you have learned the truth. I
confess it all. It was I who killed the young man. But you are rightyou who say it
was an accident. I did not even know that it was a knife which I held in my hand, for in
my despair I snatched anything from the table and struck at him to make him let me go. It
is the truth that I tell.
Madam, said Holmes, I am sure that it is the
truth. I fear that you are far from well.
She had turned a dreadful colour, the more ghastly under the
dark dust-streaks upon her face. She seated herself on the side of the bed; then she
I have only a little time here, she said,
but I would have you to know the whole truth. I am this mans wife. He is not
an Englishman. He is a Russian. His name I will not tell.
For the first time the old man stirred. God bless you,
Anna! he cried. God bless you!
She cast a look of the deepest disdain in his direction.
Why should you cling so hard to that wretched life of yours, Sergius? said
she. It has done harm to many and good to nonenot even to yourself. However,
it is not for me to cause the frail thread to be snapped before Gods time. I have
enough already upon my soul since I crossed the threshold of this cursed house. But I must
speak or I shall be too late.
I have said, gentlemen, that I am this mans wife.
He was fifty and I a foolish girl of twenty when we married. It was in a city of Russia, a
universityI will not name the place.
God bless you, Anna! murmured the old man again.
We were reformersrevolutionistsNihilists,
you understand. He and I and many more. Then there came a time of trouble, a police
officer was killed, many  were
arrested, evidence was wanted, and in order to save his own life and to earn a great
reward, my husband betrayed his own wife and his companions. Yes, we were all arrested
upon his confession. Some of us found our way to the gallows, and some to Siberia. I was
among these last, but my term was not for life. My husband came to England with his
ill-gotten gains and has lived in quiet ever since, knowing well that if the Brotherhood
knew where he was not a week would pass before justice would be done.
The old man reached out a trembling hand and helped himself to
a cigarette. I am in your hands, Anna, said he. You were always good to
I have not yet told you the height of his
villainy, said she. Among our comrades of the Order, there was one who was the
friend of my heart. He was noble, unselfish, lovingall that my husband was not. He
hated violence. We were all guiltyif that is guiltbut he was not. He wrote
forever dissuading us from such a course. These letters would have saved him. So would my
diary, in which, from day to day, I had entered both my feelings towards him and the view
which each of us had taken. My husband found and kept both diary and letters. He hid them,
and he tried hard to swear away the young mans life. In this he failed, but Alexis
was sent a convict to Siberia, where now, at this moment, he works in a salt mine. Think
of that, you villain, you villain! now, now, at this very moment, Alexis, a man
whose name you are not worthy to speak, works and lives like a slave, and yet I have your
life in my hands, and I let you go.
You were always a noble woman, Anna, said the old
man, puffing at his cigarette.
She had risen, but she fell back again with a little cry of
I must finish, she said. When my term was
over I set myself to get the diary and letters which, if sent to the Russian government,
would procure my friends release. I knew that my husband had come to England. After
months of searching I discovered where he was. I knew that he still had the diary, for
when I was in Siberia I had a letter from him once, reproaching me and quoting some
passages from its pages. Yet I was sure that, with his revengeful nature, he would never
give it to me of his own free-will. I must get it for myself. With this object I engaged
an agent from a private detective firm, who entered my husbands house as a
secretaryit was your second secretary, Sergius, the one who left you so hurriedly.
He found that papers were kept in the cupboard, and he got an impression of the key. He
would not go farther. He furnished me with a plan of the house, and he told me that in the
forenoon the study was always empty, as the secretary was employed up here. So at last I
took my courage in both hands, and I came down to get the papers for myself. I succeeded;
but at what a cost!
I had just taken the papers and was locking the
cupboard, when the young man seized me. I had seen him already that morning. He had met me
on the road, and I had asked him to tell me where Professor Coram lived, not knowing that
he was in his employ.
Exactly! Exactly! said Holmes. The secretary
came back, and told his employer of the woman he had met. Then, in his last breath, he
tried to send a message that it was shethe she whom he had just discussed with
You must let me speak, said the woman, in an
imperative voice, and her face contracted as if in pain. When he had fallen I rushed
from the room, chose the wrong door, and found myself in my husbands room. He spoke
of giving me up. I showed him that if he did so, his life was in my hands. If he gave me
to the law,  I could
give him to the Brotherhood. It was not that I wished to live for my own sake, but it was
that I desired to accomplish my purpose. He knew that I would do what I saidthat his
own fate was involved in mine. For that reason, and for no other, he shielded me. He
thrust me into that dark hiding-placea relic of old days, known only to himself. He
took his meals in his own room, and so was able to give me part of his food. It was agreed
that when the police left the house I should slip away by night and come back no more. But
in some way you have read our plans. She tore from the bosom of her dress a small
packet. These are my last words, said she; here is the packet which will
save Alexis. I confide it to your honour and to your love of justice. Take it! You will
deliver it at the Russian Embassy. Now, I have done my duty, and
Stop her! cried Holmes. He had bounded across the
room and had wrenched a small phial from her hand.
Too late! she said, sinking back on the bed.
Too late! I took the poison before I left my hiding-place. My head swims! I am
going! I charge you, sir, to remember the packet.
A simple case, and yet, in some ways, an instructive
one, Holmes remarked, as we travelled back to town. It hinged from the outset
upon the pince-nez. But for the fortunate chance of the dying man having seized these, I
am not sure that we could ever have reached our solution. It was clear to me, from the
strength of the glasses, that the wearer must have been very blind and helpless when
deprived of them. When you asked me to believe that she walked along a narrow strip of
grass without once making a false step, I remarked, as you may remember, that it was a
noteworthy performance. In my mind I set it down as an impossible performance, save in the
unlikely case that she had a second pair of glasses. I was forced, therefore, to consider
seriously the hypothesis that she had remained within the house. On perceiving the
similarity of the two corridors, it became clear that she might very easily have made such
a mistake, and, in that case, it was evident that she must have entered the
professors room. I was keenly on the alert, therefore, for whatever would bear out
this supposition, and I examined the room narrowly for anything in the shape of a
hiding-place. The carpet seemed continuous and firmly nailed, so I dismissed the idea of a
trap-door. There might well be a recess behind the books. As you are aware, such devices
are common in old libraries. I observed that books were piled on the floor at all other
points, but that one bookcase was left clear. This, then, might be the door. I could see
no marks to guide me, but the carpet was of a dun colour, which lends itself very well to
examination. I therefore smoked a great number of those excellent cigarettes, and I
dropped the ash all over the space in front of the suspected bookcase. It was a simple
trick, but exceedingly effective. I then went downstairs, and I ascertained, in your
presence, Watson, without your perceiving the drift of my remarks, that Professor
Corams consumption of food had increasedas one would expect when he is
supplying a second person. We then ascended to the room again, when, by upsetting the
cigarette-box, I obtained a very excellent view of the floor, and was able to see quite
clearly, from the traces upon the cigarette ash, that the prisoner had in our absence come
out from her retreat. Well, Hopkins, here we are at Charing Cross, and I congratulate you
on having brought your case to a successful conclusion. You are going to headquarters, no
doubt. I think, Watson, you and I will drive together to the Russian Embassy.