Cut out the poetry, Watson, said Holmes severely.
I note that it was a high brick wall.
Exactly. I should not have known which was The Haven had
I not asked a lounger who was smoking in the street. I have a reason for mentioning him.
He was a tall, dark, heavily moustached, rather military-looking man. He nodded in answer
to my inquiry and gave me a curiously questioning glance, which came back to my memory a
I had hardly entered the gateway before I saw Mr.
Amberley coming down the drive. I only had a glimpse of him this morning, and he certainly
gave me the impression of a strange creature, but when I saw him in full light his
appearance was even more abnormal.
I have, of course, studied it, and yet I should be
interested to have your impression, said Holmes.
He seemed to me like a man who was literally bowed down
by care. His back was curved as though he carried a heavy burden. Yet he was not the
weakling that I had at first imagined, for his shoulders and chest have the framework of a
giant, though his figure tapers away into a pair of spindled legs.
Left shoe wrinkled, right one smooth.
I did not observe that.
No, you wouldnt. I spotted his artificial limb.
I was struck by the snaky locks of grizzled hair which
curled from under his old straw hat, and his face with its fierce, eager expression and
the deeply lined features.
Very good, Watson. What did he say?
He began pouring out the story of his grievances. We
walked down the drive  together,
and of course I took a good look round. I have never seen a worse-kept place. The garden
was all running to seed, giving me an impression of wild neglect in which the plants had
been allowed to find the way of Nature rather than of art. How any decent woman could have
tolerated such a state of things, I dont know. The house, too, was slatternly to the
last degree, but the poor man seemed himself to be aware of it and to be trying to remedy
it, for a great pot of green paint stood in the centre of the hall, and he was carrying a
thick brush in his left hand. He had been working on the woodwork.
He took me into his dingy sanctum, and we had a long
chat. Of course, he was disappointed that you had not come yourself. I hardly
expected, he said, that so humble an individual as myself, especially after my
heavy financial loss, could obtain the complete attention of so famous a man as Mr.
I assured him that the financial question did not arise.
No, of course, it is art for arts sake with him, said he, but even
on the artistic side of crime he might have found something here to study. And human
nature, Dr. Watson the black ingratitude of it all! When did I ever refuse one of
her requests? Was ever a woman so pampered? And that young manhe might have been my
own son. He had the run of my house. And yet see how they have treated me! Oh, Dr. Watson,
it is a dreadful, dreadful world!
That was the burden of his song for an hour or more. He
had, it seems, no suspicion of an intrigue. They lived alone save for a woman who comes in
by the day and leaves every evening at six. On that particular evening old Amberley,
wishing to give his wife a treat, had taken two upper circle seats at the Haymarket
Theatre. At the last moment she had complained of a headache and had refused to go. He had
gone alone. There seemed to be no doubt about the fact, for he produced the unused ticket
which he had taken for his wife.
That is remarkablemost remarkable, said
Holmes, whose interest in the case seemed to be rising. Pray continue, Watson. I
find your narrative most arresting. Did you personally examine this ticket? You did not,
perchance, take the number?
It so happens that I did, I answered with some
pride. It chanced to be my old school number, thirty-one, and so is stuck in my
Excellent, Watson! His seat, then, was either thirty or
Quite so, I answered with some mystification.
And on B row.
That is most satisfactory. What else did he tell
He showed me his strong-room, as he called it. It really
is a strong-room like a bankwith iron door and shutterburglar-proof, as
he claimed. However, the woman seems to have had a duplicate key, and between them they
had carried off some seven thousand pounds worth of cash and securities.
Securities! How could they dispose of those?
He said that he had given the police a list and that he
hoped they would be unsaleable. He had got back from the theatre about midnight and found
the place plundered, the door and window open, and the fugitives gone. There was no letter
or message, nor has he heard a word since. He at once gave the alarm to the police.
Holmes brooded for some minutes.
You say he was painting. What was he painting?
Well, he was painting the passage. But he had already
painted the door and woodwork of this room I spoke of.
Does it not strike you as a strange occupation in the
One must do something to ease an aching heart. That was his own explanation.
It was eccentric, no doubt, but he is clearly an eccentric man. He tore up one of his
wifes photographs in my presencetore it up furiously in a tempest of passion.
I never wish to see her damned face again, he shrieked.
Anything more, Watson?
Yes, one thing which struck me more than anything else.
I had driven to the Blackheath Station and had caught my train there when, just as it was
starting, I saw a man dart into the carriage next to my own. You know that I have a quick
eye for faces, Holmes. It was undoubtedly the tall, dark man whom I had addressed in the
street. I saw him once more at London Bridge, and then I lost him in the crowd. But I am
convinced that he was following me.
No doubt! No doubt! said Holmes. A tall,
dark, heavily moustached man, you say, with gray-tinted sun-glasses?
Holmes, you are a wizard. I did not say so, but he had
And a Masonic tie-pin?
Quite simple, my dear Watson. But let us get down to
what is practical. I must admit to you that the case, which seemed to me to be so absurdly
simple as to be hardly worth my notice, is rapidly assuming a very different aspect. It is
true that though in your mission you have missed everything of importance, yet even those
things which have obtruded themselves upon your notice give rise to serious thought.
What have I missed?
Dont be hurt, my dear fellow. You know that I am
quite impersonal. No one else would have done better. Some possibly not so well. But
clearly you have missed some vital points. What is the opinion of the neighbours about
this man Amberley and his wife? That surely is of importance. What of Dr. Ernest? Was he
the gay Lothario one would expect? With your natural advantages, Watson, every lady is
your helper and accomplice. What about the girl at the post-office, or the wife of the
greengrocer? I can picture you whispering soft nothings with the young lady at the Blue
Anchor, and receiving hard somethings in exchange. All this you have left undone.
It can still be done.
It has been done. Thanks to the telephone and the help
of the Yard, I can usually get my essentials without leaving this room. As a matter of
fact, my information confirms the mans story. He has the local repute of being a
miser as well as a harsh and exacting husband. That he had a large sum of money in that
strong-room of his is certain. So also is it that young Dr. Ernest, an unmarried man,
played chess with Amberley, and probably played the fool with his wife. All this seems
plain sailing, and one would think that there was no more to be saidand
Where lies the difficulty?
In my imagination, perhaps. Well, leave it there,
Watson. Let us escape from this weary workaday world by the side door of music. Carina
sings to-night at the Albert Hall, and we still have time to dress, dine, and enjoy.
In the morning I was up betimes, but some toast crumbs and two
empty egg-shells told me that my companion was earlier still. I found a scribbled note
upon the table.
-  DEAR WATSON:
There are one or two points of contact which I should wish to
establish with Mr. Josiah Amberley. When I have done so we can dismiss the caseor
not. I would only ask you to be on hand about three oclock, as I conceive it
possible that I may want you.
- S. H.
I saw nothing of Holmes all day, but at the hour named he
returned, grave, preoccupied, and aloof. At such times it was wiser to leave him to
Has Amberley been here yet?
Ah! I am expecting him.
He was not disappointed, for presently the old fellow arrived
with a very worried and puzzled expression upon his austere face.
Ive had a telegram, Mr. Holmes. I can make nothing
of it. He handed it over, and Holmes read it aloud.
- Come at once without fail. Can give you information as
to your recent loss.
- The Vicarage.
Dispatched at 2:10 from
Little Purlington, said Holmes. Little Purlington is in Essex, I believe, not
far from Frinton. Well, of course you will start at once. This is evidently from a
responsible person, the vicar of the place. Where is my Crockford? Yes, here we have him:
J. C. Elman, M. A., Living of Moosmoor cum Little Purlington. Look up the
There is one at 5:20 from
Excellent. You had best go with him, Watson. He may need
help or advice. Clearly we have come to a crisis in this affair.
But our client seemed by no means eager to start.
Its perfectly absurd, Mr. Holmes, he said.
What can this man possibly know of what has occurred? It is waste of time and
He would not have telegraphed to you if he did not know
something. Wire at once that you are coming.
I dont think I shall go.
Holmes assumed his sternest aspect.
It would make the worst possible impression both on the
police and upon myself, Mr. Amberley, if when so obvious a clue arose you should refuse to
follow it up. We should feel that you were not really in earnest in this
Our client seemed horrified at the suggestion.
Why, of course I shall go if you look at it in that
way, said he. On the face of it, it seems absurd to suppose that this parson
knows anything, but if you think
I do think, said Holmes with emphasis, and so we
were launched upon our journey. Holmes took me aside before we left the room and gave me
one word of counsel, which showed that he considered the matter to be of importance.
Whatever you do, see that he really does go, said he. Should he break
away or return, get to the nearest telephone exchange and send the single word
Bolted. I will arrange here that it shall reach me wherever I am.
Little Purlington is not an easy place to reach, for it is on
a branch line. My  remembrance
of the journey is not a pleasant one, for the weather was hot, the train slow, and my
companion sullen and silent, hardly talking at all save to make an occasional sardonic
remark as to the futility of our proceedings. When we at last reached the little station
it was a two-mile drive before we came to the Vicarage, where a big, solemn, rather
pompous clergyman received us in his study. Our telegram lay before him.
Well, gentlemen, he asked, what can I do for
We came, I explained, in answer to your
My wire! I sent no wire.
I mean the wire which you sent to Mr. Josiah Amberley
about his wife and his money.
If this is a joke, sir, it is a very questionable
one, said the vicar angrily. I have never heard of the gentleman you name, and
I have not sent a wire to anyone.
Our client and I looked at each other in amazement.
Perhaps there is some mistake, said I; are
there perhaps two vicarages? Here is the wire itself, signed Elman and dated from the
There is only one vicarage, sir, and only one vicar, and
this wire is a scandalous forgery, the origin of which shall certainly be investigated by
the police. Meanwhile, I can see no possible object in prolonging this interview.
So Mr. Amberley and I found ourselves on the roadside in what
seemed to me to be the most primitive village in England. We made for the telegraph
office, but it was already closed. There was a telephone, however, at the little Railway
Arms, and by it I got into touch with Holmes, who shared in our amazement at the result of
Most singular! said the distant voice. Most
remarkable! I much fear, my dear Watson, that there is no return train to-night. I have
unwittingly condemned you to the horrors of a country inn. However, there is always
Nature, WatsonNature and Josiah Amberleyyou can be in close commune with
both. I heard his dry chuckle as he turned away.
It was soon apparent to me that my companions reputation
as a miser was not undeserved. He had grumbled at the expense of the journey, had insisted
upon travelling third-class, and was now clamorous in his objections to the hotel bill.
Next morning, when we did at last arrive in London, it was hard to say which of us was in
the worse humour.
You had best take Baker Street as we pass, said I.
Mr. Holmes may have some fresh instructions.
If they are not worth more than the last ones they are
not of much use, said Amberley with a malevolent scowl. None the less, he kept me
company. I had already warned Holmes by telegram of the hour of our arrival, but we found
a message waiting that he was at Lewisham and would expect us there. That was a surprise,
but an even greater one was to find that he was not alone in the sitting-room of our
client. A stern-looking, impassive man sat beside him, a dark man with gray-tinted glasses
and a large Masonic pin projecting from his tie.
This is my friend Mr. Barker, said Holmes.
He has been interesting himself also in your business, Mr. Josiah Amberley, though
we have been working independently. But we both have the same question to ask you!
Mr. Amberley sat down heavily. He sensed impending danger. I
read it in his straining eyes and his twitching features.
What is the question, Mr. Holmes?
this: What did you do with the bodies?
The man sprang to his feet with a hoarse scream. He clawed
into the air with his bony hands. His mouth was open, and for the instant he looked like
some horrible bird of prey. In a flash we got a glimpse of the real Josiah Amberley, a
misshapen demon with a soul as distorted as his body. As he fell back into his chair he
clapped his hand to his lips as if to stifle a cough. Holmes sprang at his throat like a
tiger and twisted his face towards the ground. A white pellet fell from between his
No short cuts, Josiah Amberley. Things must be done
decently and in order. What about it, Barker?
I have a cab at the door, said our taciturn
It is only a few hundred yards to the station. We will
go together. You can stay here, Watson. I shall be back within half an hour.
The old colourman had the strength of a lion in that great
trunk of his, but he was helpless in the hands of the two experienced man-handlers.
Wriggling and twisting he was dragged to the waiting cab, and I was left to my solitary
vigil in the ill-omened house. In less time than he had named, however, Holmes was back,
in company with a smart young police inspector.
Ive left Barker to look after the
formalities, said Holmes. You had not met Barker, Watson. He is my hated rival
upon the Surrey shore. When you said a tall dark man it was not difficult for me to
complete the picture. He has several good cases to his credit, has he not,
He has certainly interfered several times, the
inspector answered with reserve.
His methods are irregular, no doubt, like my own. The
irregulars are useful sometimes, you know. You, for example, with your compulsory warning
about whatever he said being used against him, could never have bluffed this rascal into
what is virtually a confession.
Perhaps not. But we get there all the same, Mr. Holmes.
Dont imagine that we had not formed our own views of this case, and that we would
not have laid our hands on our man. You will excuse us for feeling sore when you jump in
with methods which we cannot use, and so rob us of the credit.
There shall be no such robbery, MacKinnon. I assure you
that I efface myself from now onward, and as to Barker, he has done nothing save what I
The inspector seemed considerably relieved.
That is very handsome of you, Mr. Holmes. Praise or
blame can matter little to you, but it is very different to us when the newspapers begin
to ask questions.
Quite so. But they are pretty sure to ask questions
anyhow, so it would be as well to have answers. What will you say, for example, when the
intelligent and enterprising reporter asks you what the exact points were which aroused
your suspicion, and finally gave you a certain conviction as to the real facts?
The inspector looked puzzled.
We dont seem to have got any real facts yet, Mr.
Holmes. You say that the prisoner, in the presence of three witnesses, practically
confessed by trying to commit suicide, that he had murdered his wife and her lover. What
other facts have you?
Have you arranged for a search?
There are three constables on their way.
Then you will soon get the clearest fact of all. The
bodies cannot be far away. Try the cellars and the garden. It should not take long to dig
up the likely places.  This
house is older than the water-pipes. There must be a disused well somewhere. Try your luck
But how did you know of it, and how was it done?
Ill show you first how it was done, and then I
will give the explanation which is due to you, and even more to my long-suffering friend
here, who has been invaluable throughout. But, first, I would give you an insight into
this mans mentality. It is a very unusual oneso much so that I think his
destination is more likely to be Broadmoor than the scaffold. He has, to a high degree,
the sort of mind which one associates with the mediaeval Italian nature rather than with
the modern Briton. He was a miserable miser who made his wife so wretched by his niggardly
ways that she was a ready prey for any adventurer. Such a one came upon the scene in the
person of this chess-playing doctor. Amberley excelled at chessone mark, Watson, of
a scheming mind. Like all misers, he was a jealous man, and his jealousy became a frantic
mania. Rightly or wrongly, he suspected an intrigue. He determined to have his revenge,
and he planned it with diabolical cleverness. Come here!
Holmes led us along the passage with as much certainty as if
he had lived in the house and halted at the open door of the strong-room.
Pooh! What an awful smell of paint! cried the
That was our first clue, said Holmes. You
can thank Dr. Watsons observation for that, though he failed to draw the inference.
It set my foot upon the trail. Why should this man at such a time be filling his house
with strong odours? Obviously, to cover some other smell which he wished to conceal
some guilty smell which would suggest suspicions. Then came the idea of a room such
as you see here with iron door and shuttera hermetically sealed room. Put those two
facts together, and whither do they lead? I could only determine that by examining the
house myself. I was already certain that the case was serious, for I had examined the
box-office chart at the Haymarket Theatreanother of Dr. Watsons
bulls-eyesand ascertained that neither B thirty nor thirty-two of the upper
circle had been occupied that night. Therefore, Amberley had not been to the theatre, and
his alibi fell to the ground. He made a bad slip when he allowed my astute friend to
notice the number of the seat taken for his wife. The question now arose how I might be
able to examine the house. I sent an agent to the most impossible village I could think
of, and summoned my man to it at such an hour that he could not possibly get back. To
prevent any miscarriage, Dr. Watson accompanied him. The good vicars name I took, of
course, out of my Crockford. Do I make it all clear to you?
It is masterly, said the inspector in an awed
There being no fear of interruption I proceeded to
burgle the house. Burglary has always been an alternative profession had I cared to adopt
it, and I have little doubt that I should have come to the front. Observe what I found.
You see the gas-pipe along the skirting here. Very good. It rises in the angle of the
wall, and there is a tap here in the corner. The pipe runs out into the strong-room, as
you can see, and ends in that plaster rose in the centre of the ceiling, where it is
concealed by the ornamentation. That end is wide open. At any moment by turning the
outside tap the room could be flooded with gas. With door and shutter closed and the tap
full on I would not give two minutes of conscious sensation to anyone shut up in that
little chamber. By what devilish device he decoyed them there I do not know, but once
inside the door they were at his mercy.
inspector examined the pipe with interest. One of our officers mentioned the smell
of gas, said he, but of course the window and door were open then, and the
paintor some of itwas already about. He had begun the work of painting the day
before, according to his story. But what next, Mr. Holmes?
Well, then came an incident which was rather
unexpected to myself. I was slipping through the pantry window in the early dawn when I
felt a hand inside my collar, and a voice said: Now, you rascal, what are you doing
in there? When I could twist my head round I looked into the tinted spectacles of my
friend and rival, Mr. Barker. It was a curious foregathering and set us both smiling. It
seems that he had been engaged by Dr. Ray Ernests family to make some investigations
and had come to the same conclusion as to foul play. He had watched the house for some
days and had spotted Dr. Watson as one of the obviously suspicious characters who had
called there. He could hardly arrest Watson, but when he saw a man actually climbing out
of the pantry window there came a limit to his restraint. Of course, I told him how
matters stood and we continued the case together.
Why him? Why not us?
Because it was in my mind to put that little test which
answered so admirably. I fear you would not have gone so far.
The inspector smiled.
Well, maybe not. I understand that I have your word, Mr.
Holmes, that you step right out of the case now and that you turn all your results over to
Certainly, that is always my custom.
Well, in the name of the force I thank you. It seems a
clear case, as you put it, and there cant be much difficulty over the bodies.
Ill show you a grim little bit of evidence,
said Holmes, and I am sure Amberley himself never observed it. Youll get
results, Inspector, by always putting yourself in the other fellows place, and
thinking what you would do yourself. It takes some imagination, but it pays. Now, we will
suppose that you were shut up in this little room, had not two minutes to live, but wanted
to get even with the fiend who was probably mocking at you from the other side of the
door. What would you do?
Write a message.
Exactly. You would like to tell people how you died. No
use writing on paper. That would be seen. If you wrote on the wall someone might rest upon
it. Now, look here! Just above the skirting is scribbled with a purple indelible pencil:
We we Thats all.
What do you make of that?
Well, its only a foot above the ground. The poor
devil was on the floor dying when he wrote it. He lost his senses before he could
He was writing, We were murdered.
Thats how I read it. If you find an indelible
pencil on the body
Well look out for it, you may be sure. But those
securities? Clearly there was no robbery at all. And yet he did possess those bonds. We
You may be sure he has them hidden in a safe place. When
the whole elopement had passed into history, he would suddenly discover them and announce
that the guilty couple had relented and sent back the plunder or had dropped it on the
You certainly seem to have met every difficulty,
said the inspector. Of course, 
he was bound to call us in, but why he should have gone to you I cant
Pure swank! Holmes answered. He felt so
clever and so sure of himself that he imagined no one could touch him. He could say to any
suspicious neighbour, Look at the steps I have taken. I have consulted not only the
police but even Sherlock Holmes.
The inspector laughed.
We must forgive you your even, Mr.
Holmes, said he, its as workmanlike a job as I can remember.
A couple of days later my friend tossed across to me a copy of
the bi-weekly North Surrey Observer. Under a series of flaming headlines, which
began with The Haven Horror and ended with Brilliant Police
Investigation, there was a packed column of print which gave the first consecutive
account of the affair. The concluding paragraph is typical of the whole. It ran thus:
- The remarkable acumen by which Inspector MacKinnon deduced
from the smell of paint that some other smell, that of gas, for example, might be
concealed; the bold deduction that the strong-room might also be the death-chamber, and
the subsequent inquiry which led to the discovery of the bodies in a disused well,
cleverly concealed by a dog-kennel, should live in the history of crime as a standing
example of the intelligence of our professional detectives.
Well, well, MacKinnon is a good fellow, said
Holmes with a tolerant smile. You can file it in our archives, Watson. Some day the
true story may be told.