“Holmes,” said I as I
stood one morning in our bow-window looking down the
street, “here is a madman coming along.
It seems rather sad that his relatives should allow
him to come out alone.”
My friend rose lazily from his armchair
and stood with his hands in the pockets of his dressing-gown,
looking over my shoulder. It was a bright, crisp
February morning, and the snow of the day before still
lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the
wintry sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it
had been ploughed into a brown crumbly band by the
traffic, but at either side and on the heaped-up edges
of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it
fell. The grey pavement had been cleaned and scraped,
but was still dangerously slippery, so that there
were fewer passengers than usual. Indeed, from
the direction of the Metropolitan Station no one was
coming save the single gentleman whose eccentric conduct
had drawn my attention.
He was a man of about fifty, tall,
portly, and imposing, with a massive, strongly marked
face and a commanding figure. He was dressed
in a sombre yet rich style, in black frock-coat, shining
hat, neat brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-grey trousers.
Yet his actions were in absurd contrast to the dignity
of his dress and features, for he was running hard,
with occasional little springs, such as a weary man
gives who is little accustomed to set any tax upon
his legs. As he ran he jerked his hands up and
down, waggled his head, and writhed his face into the
most extraordinary contortions.
“What on earth can be the matter
with him?” I asked. “He is looking
up at the numbers of the houses.”
“I believe that he is coming
here,” said Holmes, rubbing his hands.
“Yes; I rather think he is coming
to consult me professionally. I think that I
recognise the symptoms. Ha! did I not tell you?”
As he spoke, the man, puffing and blowing, rushed
at our door and pulled at our bell until the whole
house resounded with the clanging.
A few moments later he was in our
room, still puffing, still gesticulating, but with
so fixed a look of grief and despair in his eyes that
our smiles were turned in an instant to horror and
pity. For a while he could not get his words out,
but swayed his body and plucked at his hair like one
who has been driven to the extreme limits of his reason.
Then, suddenly springing to his feet, he beat his
head against the wall with such force that we both
rushed upon him and tore him away to the centre of
the room. Sherlock Holmes pushed him down into
the easy-chair and, sitting beside him, patted his
hand and chatted with him in the easy, soothing tones
which he knew so well how to employ.
“You have come to me to tell
your story, have you not?” said he. “You
are fatigued with your haste. Pray wait until
you have recovered yourself, and then I shall be most
happy to look into any little problem which you may
submit to me.”
The man sat for a minute or more with
a heaving chest, fighting against his emotion.
Then he passed his handkerchief over his brow, set
his lips tight, and turned his face towards us.
“No doubt you think me mad?” said he.
“I see that you have had some great trouble,”
“God knows I have! a
trouble which is enough to unseat my reason, so sudden
and so terrible is it. Public disgrace I might
have faced, although I am a man whose character has
never yet borne a stain. Private affliction also
is the lot of every man; but the two coming together,
and in so frightful a form, have been enough to shake
my very soul. Besides, it is not I alone.
The very noblest in the land may suffer unless some
way be found out of this horrible affair.”
“Pray compose yourself, sir,”
said Holmes, “and let me have a clear account
of who you are and what it is that has befallen you.”
“My name,” answered our
visitor, “is probably familiar to your ears.
I am Alexander Holder, of the banking firm of Holder
& Stevenson, of Threadneedle Street.”
The name was indeed well known to
us as belonging to the senior partner in the second
largest private banking concern in the City of London.
What could have happened, then, to bring one of the
foremost citizens of London to this most pitiable pass?
We waited, all curiosity, until with another effort
he braced himself to tell his story.
“I feel that time is of value,”
said he; “that is why I hastened here when the
police inspector suggested that I should secure your
co-operation. I came to Baker Street by the Underground
and hurried from there on foot, for the cabs go slowly
through this snow. That is why I was so out of
breath, for I am a man who takes very little exercise.
I feel better now, and I will put the facts before
you as shortly and yet as clearly as I can.
“It is, of course, well known
to you that in a successful banking business as much
depends upon our being able to find remunerative investments
for our funds as upon our increasing our connection
and the number of our depositors. One of our most
lucrative means of laying out money is in the shape
of loans, where the security is unimpeachable.
We have done a good deal in this direction during
the last few years, and there are many noble families
to whom we have advanced large sums upon the security
of their pictures, libraries, or plate.
“Yesterday morning I was seated
in my office at the bank when a card was brought in
to me by one of the clerks. I started when I
saw the name, for it was that of none other than well,
perhaps even to you I had better say no more than
that it was a name which is a household word all over
the earth one of the highest, noblest,
most exalted names in England. I was overwhelmed
by the honour and attempted, when he entered, to say
so, but he plunged at once into business with the
air of a man who wishes to hurry quickly through a
“‘Mr. Holder,’ said
he, ’I have been informed that you are in the
habit of advancing money.’
“‘The firm does so when
the security is good.’ I answered.
“‘It is absolutely essential
to me,’ said he, ’that I should have 50,000
pounds at once. I could, of course, borrow so
trifling a sum ten times over from my friends, but
I much prefer to make it a matter of business and
to carry out that business myself. In my position
you can readily understand that it is unwise to place
one’s self under obligations.’
“‘For how long, may I
ask, do you want this sum?’ I asked.
“’Next Monday I have a
large sum due to me, and I shall then most certainly
repay what you advance, with whatever interest you
think it right to charge. But it is very essential
to me that the money should be paid at once.’
“’I should be happy to
advance it without further parley from my own private
purse,’ said I, ’were it not that the strain
would be rather more than it could bear. If,
on the other hand, I am to do it in the name of the
firm, then in justice to my partner I must insist
that, even in your case, every businesslike precaution
should be taken.’
“‘I should much prefer
to have it so,’ said he, raising up a square,
black morocco case which he had laid beside his chair.
‘You have doubtless heard of the Beryl Coronet?’
“‘One of the most precious
public possessions of the empire,’ said I.
He opened the case, and there, imbedded in soft, flesh-coloured
velvet, lay the magnificent piece of jewellery which
he had named. ‘There are thirty-nine enormous
béryls,’ said he, ’and the price
of the gold chasing is incalculable. The lowest
estimate would put the worth of the coronet at double
the sum which I have asked. I am prepared to
leave it with you as my security.’
“I took the precious case into
my hands and looked in some perplexity from it to
my illustrious client.
“‘You doubt its value?’ he asked.
“‘Not at all. I only doubt ’
“’The propriety of my
leaving it. You may set your mind at rest about
that. I should not dream of doing so were it not
absolutely certain that I should be able in four days
to reclaim it. It is a pure matter of form.
Is the security sufficient?’
“’You understand, Mr.
Holder, that I am giving you a strong proof of the
confidence which I have in you, founded upon all that
I have heard of you. I rely upon you not only
to be discreet and to refrain from all gossip upon
the matter but, above all, to preserve this coronet
with every possible precaution because I need not
say that a great public scandal would be caused if
any harm were to befall it. Any injury to it
would be almost as serious as its complete loss, for
there are no béryls in the world to match these,
and it would be impossible to replace them. I
leave it with you, however, with every confidence,
and I shall call for it in person on Monday morning.’
“Seeing that my client was anxious
to leave, I said no more but, calling for my cashier,
I ordered him to pay over fifty 1000 pound notes.
When I was alone once more, however, with the precious
case lying upon the table in front of me, I could not
but think with some misgivings of the immense responsibility
which it entailed upon me. There could be no doubt
that, as it was a national possession, a horrible
scandal would ensue if any misfortune should occur
to it. I already regretted having ever consented
to take charge of it. However, it was too late
to alter the matter now, so I locked it up in my private
safe and turned once more to my work.
“When evening came I felt that
it would be an imprudence to leave so precious a thing
in the office behind me. Bankers’ safes
had been forced before now, and why should not mine
be? If so, how terrible would be the position
in which I should find myself! I determined,
therefore, that for the next few days I would always
carry the case backward and forward with me, so that
it might never be really out of my reach. With
this intention, I called a cab and drove out to my
house at Streatham, carrying the jewel with me.
I did not breathe freely until I had taken it upstairs
and locked it in the bureau of my dressing-room.
“And now a word as to my household,
Mr. Holmes, for I wish you to thoroughly understand
the situation. My groom and my page sleep out
of the house, and may be set aside altogether.
I have three maid-servants who have been with me a
number of years and whose absolute reliability is
quite above suspicion. Another, Lucy Parr, the
second waiting-maid, has only been in my service a
few months. She came with an excellent character,
however, and has always given me satisfaction.
She is a very pretty girl and has attracted admirers
who have occasionally hung about the place. That
is the only drawback which we have found to her, but
we believe her to be a thoroughly good girl in every
“So much for the servants.
My family itself is so small that it will not take
me long to describe it. I am a widower and have
an only son, Arthur. He has been a disappointment
to me, Mr. Holmes a grievous disappointment.
I have no doubt that I am myself to blame. People
tell me that I have spoiled him. Very likely
I have. When my dear wife died I felt that he
was all I had to love. I could not bear to see
the smile fade even for a moment from his face.
I have never denied him a wish. Perhaps it would
have been better for both of us had I been sterner,
but I meant it for the best.
“It was naturally my intention
that he should succeed me in my business, but he was
not of a business turn. He was wild, wayward,
and, to speak the truth, I could not trust him in the
handling of large sums of money. When he was young
he became a member of an aristocratic club, and there,
having charming manners, he was soon the intimate
of a number of men with long purses and expensive
habits. He learned to play heavily at cards and
to squander money on the turf, until he had again and
again to come to me and implore me to give him an
advance upon his allowance, that he might settle his
debts of honour. He tried more than once to break
away from the dangerous company which he was keeping,
but each time the influence of his friend, Sir George
Burnwell, was enough to draw him back again.
“And, indeed, I could not wonder
that such a man as Sir George Burnwell should gain
an influence over him, for he has frequently brought
him to my house, and I have found myself that I could
hardly resist the fascination of his manner. He
is older than Arthur, a man of the world to his finger-tips,
one who had been everywhere, seen everything, a brilliant
talker, and a man of great personal beauty. Yet
when I think of him in cold blood, far away from the
glamour of his presence, I am convinced from his cynical
speech and the look which I have caught in his eyes
that he is one who should be deeply distrusted.
So I think, and so, too, thinks my little Mary, who
has a woman’s quick insight into character.
“And now there is only she to
be described. She is my niece; but when my brother
died five years ago and left her alone in the world
I adopted her, and have looked upon her ever since
as my daughter. She is a sunbeam in my house sweet,
loving, beautiful, a wonderful manager and housekeeper,
yet as tender and quiet and gentle as a woman could
be. She is my right hand. I do not know
what I could do without her. In only one matter
has she ever gone against my wishes. Twice my
boy has asked her to marry him, for he loves her devotedly,
but each time she has refused him. I think that
if anyone could have drawn him into the right path
it would have been she, and that his marriage might
have changed his whole life; but now, alas! it is
too late forever too late!
“Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the
people who live under my roof, and I shall continue
with my miserable story.
“When we were taking coffee
in the drawing-room that night after dinner, I told
Arthur and Mary my experience, and of the precious
treasure which we had under our roof, suppressing only
the name of my client. Lucy Parr, who had brought
in the coffee, had, I am sure, left the room; but
I cannot swear that the door was closed. Mary
and Arthur were much interested and wished to see the
famous coronet, but I thought it better not to disturb
“‘Where have you put it?’ asked
“‘In my own bureau.’
“’Well, I hope to goodness
the house won’t be burgled during the night.’
“‘It is locked up,’ I answered.
“’Oh, any old key will
fit that bureau. When I was a youngster I have
opened it myself with the key of the box-room cupboard.’
“He often had a wild way of
talking, so that I thought little of what he said.
He followed me to my room, however, that night with
a very grave face.
“‘Look here, dad,’
said he with his eyes cast down, ’can you let
me have 200 pounds?’
“‘No, I cannot!’
I answered sharply. ’I have been far too
generous with you in money matters.’
“‘You have been very kind,’
said he, ’but I must have this money, or else
I can never show my face inside the club again.’
“‘And a very good thing, too!’ I
“‘Yes, but you would not
have me leave it a dishonoured man,’ said he.
’I could not bear the disgrace. I must raise
the money in some way, and if you will not let me
have it, then I must try other means.’
“I was very angry, for this
was the third demand during the month. ‘You
shall not have a farthing from me,’ I cried,
on which he bowed and left the room without another
“When he was gone I unlocked
my bureau, made sure that my treasure was safe, and
locked it again. Then I started to go round the
house to see that all was secure a duty
which I usually leave to Mary but which I thought
it well to perform myself that night. As I came
down the stairs I saw Mary herself at the side window
of the hall, which she closed and fastened as I approached.
“‘Tell me, dad,’
said she, looking, I thought, a little disturbed,
’did you give Lucy, the maid, leave to go out
“’She came in just now
by the back door. I have no doubt that she has
only been to the side gate to see someone, but I think
that it is hardly safe and should be stopped.’
“’You must speak to her
in the morning, or I will if you prefer it. Are
you sure that everything is fastened?’
“‘Quite sure, dad.’
I kissed her and went up to my bedroom again, where
I was soon asleep.
“I am endeavouring to tell you
everything, Mr. Holmes, which may have any bearing
upon the case, but I beg that you will question me
upon any point which I do not make clear.”
“On the contrary, your statement
is singularly lucid.”
“I come to a part of my story
now in which I should wish to be particularly so.
I am not a very heavy sleeper, and the anxiety in
my mind tended, no doubt, to make me even less so than
usual. About two in the morning, then, I was
awakened by some sound in the house. It had ceased
ere I was wide awake, but it had left an impression
behind it as though a window had gently closed somewhere.
I lay listening with all my ears. Suddenly, to
my horror, there was a distinct sound of footsteps
moving softly in the next room. I slipped out
of bed, all palpitating with fear, and peeped round
the corner of my dressing-room door.
“‘Arthur!’ I screamed,
’you villain! you thief! How dare you touch
“The gas was half up, as I had
left it, and my unhappy boy, dressed only in his shirt
and trousers, was standing beside the light, holding
the coronet in his hands. He appeared to be wrenching
at it, or bending it with all his strength. At
my cry he dropped it from his grasp and turned as
pale as death. I snatched it up and examined
it. One of the gold corners, with three of the
béryls in it, was missing.
I shouted, beside myself with rage. ’You
have destroyed it! You have dishonoured me forever!
Where are the jewels which you have stolen?’
“‘Stolen!’ he cried.
“‘Yes, thief!’ I roared, shaking
him by the shoulder.
“‘There are none missing. There cannot
be any missing,’ said he.
“’There are three missing.
And you know where they are. Must I call you
a liar as well as a thief? Did I not see you trying
to tear off another piece?’
“‘You have called me names
enough,’ said he, ’I will not stand it
any longer. I shall not say another word about
this business, since you have chosen to insult me.
I will leave your house in the morning and make my
own way in the world.’
“‘You shall leave it in
the hands of the police!’ I cried half-mad with
grief and rage. ’I shall have this matter
probed to the bottom.’
“‘You shall learn nothing
from me,’ said he with a passion such as I should
not have thought was in his nature. ’If
you choose to call the police, let the police find
what they can.’
“By this time the whole house
was astir, for I had raised my voice in my anger.
Mary was the first to rush into my room, and, at the
sight of the coronet and of Arthur’s face, she
read the whole story and, with a scream, fell down
senseless on the ground. I sent the house-maid
for the police and put the investigation into their
hands at once. When the inspector and a constable
entered the house, Arthur, who had stood sullenly with
his arms folded, asked me whether it was my intention
to charge him with theft. I answered that it
had ceased to be a private matter, but had become
a public one, since the ruined coronet was national
property. I was determined that the law should
have its way in everything.
“‘At least,’ said
he, ’you will not have me arrested at once.
It would be to your advantage as well as mine if I
might leave the house for five minutes.’
“’That you may get away,
or perhaps that you may conceal what you have stolen,’
said I. And then, realising the dreadful position
in which I was placed, I implored him to remember that
not only my honour but that of one who was far greater
than I was at stake; and that he threatened to raise
a scandal which would convulse the nation. He
might avert it all if he would but tell me what he
had done with the three missing stones.
“‘You may as well face
the matter,’ said I; ’you have been caught
in the act, and no confession could make your guilt
more heinous. If you but make such reparation
as is in your power, by telling us where the béryls
are, all shall be forgiven and forgotten.’
“‘Keep your forgiveness
for those who ask for it,’ he answered, turning
away from me with a sneer. I saw that he was too
hardened for any words of mine to influence him.
There was but one way for it. I called in the
inspector and gave him into custody. A search
was made at once not only of his person but of his
room and of every portion of the house where he could
possibly have concealed the gems; but no trace of
them could be found, nor would the wretched boy open
his mouth for all our persuasions and our threats.
This morning he was removed to a cell, and I, after
going through all the police formalities, have hurried
round to you to implore you to use your skill in unravelling
the matter. The police have openly confessed
that they can at present make nothing of it.
You may go to any expense which you think necessary.
I have already offered a reward of 1000 pounds.
My God, what shall I do! I have lost my honour,
my gems, and my son in one night. Oh, what shall
He put a hand on either side of his
head and rocked himself to and fro, droning to himself
like a child whose grief has got beyond words.
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for some
few minutes, with his brows knitted and his eyes fixed
upon the fire.
“Do you receive much company?” he asked.
“None save my partner with his
family and an occasional friend of Arthur’s.
Sir George Burnwell has been several times lately.
No one else, I think.”
“Do you go out much in society?”
“Arthur does. Mary and
I stay at home. We neither of us care for it.”
“That is unusual in a young girl.”
“She is of a quiet nature.
Besides, she is not so very young. She is four-and-twenty.”
“This matter, from what you
say, seems to have been a shock to her also.”
“Terrible! She is even more affected than
“You have neither of you any doubt as to your
“How can we have when I saw
him with my own eyes with the coronet in his hands.”
“I hardly consider that a conclusive
proof. Was the remainder of the coronet at all
“Yes, it was twisted.”
“Do you not think, then, that
he might have been trying to straighten it?”
“God bless you! You are
doing what you can for him and for me. But it
is too heavy a task. What was he doing there at
all? If his purpose were innocent, why did he
not say so?”
“Precisely. And if it were
guilty, why did he not invent a lie? His silence
appears to me to cut both ways. There are several
singular points about the case. What did the police
think of the noise which awoke you from your sleep?”
“They considered that it might
be caused by Arthur’s closing his bedroom door.”
“A likely story! As if
a man bent on felony would slam his door so as to
wake a household. What did they say, then, of
the disappearance of these gems?”
“They are still sounding the
planking and probing the furniture in the hope of
“Have they thought of looking outside the house?”
“Yes, they have shown extraordinary
energy. The whole garden has already been minutely
“Now, my dear sir,” said
Holmes. “is it not obvious to you now that this
matter really strikes very much deeper than either
you or the police were at first inclined to think?
It appeared to you to be a simple case; to me it seems
exceedingly complex. Consider what is involved
by your theory. You suppose that your son came
down from his bed, went, at great risk, to your dressing-room,
opened your bureau, took out your coronet, broke off
by main force a small portion of it, went off to some
other place, concealed three gems out of the thirty-nine,
with such skill that nobody can find them, and then
returned with the other thirty-six into the room in
which he exposed himself to the greatest danger of
being discovered. I ask you now, is such a theory
“But what other is there?”
cried the banker with a gesture of despair. “If
his motives were innocent, why does he not explain
“It is our task to find that
out,” replied Holmes; “so now, if you
please, Mr. Holder, we will set off for Streatham together,
and devote an hour to glancing a little more closely
My friend insisted upon my accompanying
them in their expedition, which I was eager enough
to do, for my curiosity and sympathy were deeply stirred
by the story to which we had listened. I confess
that the guilt of the banker’s son appeared to
me to be as obvious as it did to his unhappy father,
but still I had such faith in Holmes’ judgment
that I felt that there must be some grounds for hope
as long as he was dissatisfied with the accepted explanation.
He hardly spoke a word the whole way out to the southern
suburb, but sat with his chin upon his breast and his
hat drawn over his eyes, sunk in the deepest thought.
Our client appeared to have taken fresh heart at the
little glimpse of hope which had been presented to
him, and he even broke into a desultory chat with
me over his business affairs. A short railway
journey and a shorter walk brought us to Fairbank,
the modest residence of the great financier.
Fairbank was a good-sized square house
of white stone, standing back a little from the road.
A double carriage-sweep, with a snow-clad lawn, stretched
down in front to two large iron gates which closed
the entrance. On the right side was a small wooden
thicket, which led into a narrow path between two neat
hedges stretching from the road to the kitchen door,
and forming the tradesmen’s entrance. On
the left ran a lane which led to the stables, and
was not itself within the grounds at all, being a
public, though little used, thoroughfare. Holmes
left us standing at the door and walked slowly all
round the house, across the front, down the tradesmen’s
path, and so round by the garden behind into the stable
lane. So long was he that Mr. Holder and I went
into the dining-room and waited by the fire until he
should return. We were sitting there in silence
when the door opened and a young lady came in.
She was rather above the middle height, slim, with
dark hair and eyes, which seemed the darker against
the absolute pallor of her skin. I do not think
that I have ever seen such deadly paleness in a woman’s
face. Her lips, too, were bloodless, but her
eyes were flushed with crying. As she swept silently
into the room she impressed me with a greater sense
of grief than the banker had done in the morning,
and it was the more striking in her as she was evidently
a woman of strong character, with immense capacity
for self-restraint. Disregarding my presence,
she went straight to her uncle and passed her hand
over his head with a sweet womanly caress.
“You have given orders that
Arthur should be liberated, have you not, dad?”
“No, no, my girl, the matter
must be probed to the bottom.”
“But I am so sure that he is
innocent. You know what woman’s instincts
are. I know that he has done no harm and that
you will be sorry for having acted so harshly.”
“Why is he silent, then, if he is innocent?”
“Who knows? Perhaps because
he was so angry that you should suspect him.”
“How could I help suspecting
him, when I actually saw him with the coronet in his
“Oh, but he had only picked
it up to look at it. Oh, do, do take my word
for it that he is innocent. Let the matter drop
and say no more. It is so dreadful to think of
our dear Arthur in prison!”
“I shall never let it drop until
the gems are found never, Mary! Your
affection for Arthur blinds you as to the awful consequences
to me. Far from hushing the thing up, I have brought
a gentleman down from London to inquire more deeply
“This gentleman?” she asked, facing round
“No, his friend. He wished
us to leave him alone. He is round in the stable
“The stable lane?” She
raised her dark eyebrows. “What can he
hope to find there? Ah! this, I suppose, is he.
I trust, sir, that you will succeed in proving, what
I feel sure is the truth, that my cousin Arthur is
innocent of this crime.”
“I fully share your opinion,
and I trust, with you, that we may prove it,”
returned Holmes, going back to the mat to knock the
snow from his shoes. “I believe I have the
honour of addressing Miss Mary Holder. Might
I ask you a question or two?”
“Pray do, sir, if it may help
to clear this horrible affair up.”
“You heard nothing yourself last night?”
“Nothing, until my uncle here
began to speak loudly. I heard that, and I came
“You shut up the windows and
doors the night before. Did you fasten all the
“Were they all fastened this morning?”
“You have a maid who has a sweetheart?
I think that you remarked to your uncle last night
that she had been out to see him?”
“Yes, and she was the girl who
waited in the drawing-room, and who may have heard
uncle’s remarks about the coronet.”
“I see. You infer that
she may have gone out to tell her sweetheart, and
that the two may have planned the robbery.”
“But what is the good of all
these vague theories,” cried the banker impatiently,
“when I have told you that I saw Arthur with
the coronet in his hands?”
“Wait a little, Mr. Holder.
We must come back to that. About this girl, Miss
Holder. You saw her return by the kitchen door,
“Yes; when I went to see if
the door was fastened for the night I met her slipping
in. I saw the man, too, in the gloom.”
“Do you know him?”
“Oh, yes! he is the green-grocer
who brings our vegetables round. His name is
“He stood,” said Holmes,
“to the left of the door that is to
say, farther up the path than is necessary to reach
“Yes, he did.”
“And he is a man with a wooden leg?”
Something like fear sprang up in the
young lady’s expressive black eyes. “Why,
you are like a magician,” said she. “How
do you know that?” She smiled, but there was
no answering smile in Holmes’ thin, eager face.
“I should be very glad now to
go upstairs,” said he. “I shall probably
wish to go over the outside of the house again.
Perhaps I had better take a look at the lower windows
before I go up.”
He walked swiftly round from one to
the other, pausing only at the large one which looked
from the hall onto the stable lane. This he opened
and made a very careful examination of the sill with
his powerful magnifying lens. “Now we shall
go upstairs,” said he at last.
The banker’s dressing-room was
a plainly furnished little chamber, with a grey carpet,
a large bureau, and a long mirror. Holmes went
to the bureau first and looked hard at the lock.
“Which key was used to open it?” he asked.
“That which my son himself indicated that
of the cupboard of the lumber-room.”
“Have you it here?”
“That is it on the dressing-table.”
Sherlock Holmes took it up and opened the bureau.
“It is a noiseless lock,”
said he. “It is no wonder that it did not
wake you. This case, I presume, contains the coronet.
We must have a look at it.” He opened the
case, and taking out the diadem he laid it upon the
table. It was a magnificent specimen of the jeweller’s
art, and the thirty-six stones were the finest that
I have ever seen. At one side of the coronet
was a cracked edge, where a corner holding three gems
had been torn away.
“Now, Mr. Holder,” said
Holmes, “here is the corner which corresponds
to that which has been so unfortunately lost.
Might I beg that you will break it off.”
The banker recoiled in horror.
“I should not dream of trying,” said he.
“Then I will.” Holmes
suddenly bent his strength upon it, but without result.
“I feel it give a little,” said he; “but,
though I am exceptionally strong in the fingers, it
would take me all my time to break it. An ordinary
man could not do it. Now, what do you think would
happen if I did break it, Mr. Holder? There would
be a noise like a pistol shot. Do you tell me
that all this happened within a few yards of your
bed and that you heard nothing of it?”
“I do not know what to think. It is all
dark to me.”
“But perhaps it may grow lighter
as we go. What do you think, Miss Holder?”
“I confess that I still share
my uncle’s perplexity.”
“Your son had no shoes or slippers
on when you saw him?”
“He had nothing on save only
his trousers and shirt.”
“Thank you. We have certainly
been favoured with extraordinary luck during this
inquiry, and it will be entirely our own fault if
we do not succeed in clearing the matter up. With
your permission, Mr. Holder, I shall now continue
my investigations outside.”
He went alone, at his own request,
for he explained that any unnecessary footmarks might
make his task more difficult. For an hour or
more he was at work, returning at last with his feet
heavy with snow and his features as inscrutable as
“I think that I have seen now
all that there is to see, Mr. Holder,” said
he; “I can serve you best by returning to my
“But the gems, Mr. Holmes. Where are they?”
“I cannot tell.”
The banker wrung his hands. “I
shall never see them again!” he cried.
“And my son? You give me hopes?”
“My opinion is in no way altered.”
“Then, for God’s sake,
what was this dark business which was acted in my
house last night?”
“If you can call upon me at
my Baker Street rooms to-morrow morning between nine
and ten I shall be happy to do what I can to make
it clearer. I understand that you give me carte
blanche to act for you, provided only that I
get back the gems, and that you place no limit on
the sum I may draw.”
“I would give my fortune to have them back.”
“Very good. I shall look
into the matter between this and then. Good-bye;
it is just possible that I may have to come over here
again before evening.”
It was obvious to me that my companion’s
mind was now made up about the case, although what
his conclusions were was more than I could even dimly
imagine. Several times during our homeward journey
I endeavoured to sound him upon the point, but he always
glided away to some other topic, until at last I gave
it over in despair. It was not yet three when
we found ourselves in our rooms once more. He
hurried to his chamber and was down again in a few
minutes dressed as a common loafer. With his collar
turned up, his shiny, seedy coat, his red cravat,
and his worn boots, he was a perfect sample of the
“I think that this should do,”
said he, glancing into the glass above the fireplace.
“I only wish that you could come with me, Watson,
but I fear that it won’t do. I may be on
the trail in this matter, or I may be following a
will-o’-the-wisp, but I shall soon know which
it is. I hope that I may be back in a few hours.”
He cut a slice of beef from the joint upon the sideboard,
sandwiched it between two rounds of bread, and thrusting
this rude meal into his pocket he started off upon
I had just finished my tea when he
returned, evidently in excellent spirits, swinging
an old elastic-sided boot in his hand. He chucked
it down into a corner and helped himself to a cup
“I only looked in as I passed,”
said he. “I am going right on.”
“Oh, to the other side of the
West End. It may be some time before I get back.
Don’t wait up for me in case I should be late.”
“How are you getting on?”
“Oh, so so. Nothing to
complain of. I have been out to Streatham since
I saw you last, but I did not call at the house.
It is a very sweet little problem, and I would not
have missed it for a good deal. However, I must
not sit gossiping here, but must get these disreputable
clothes off and return to my highly respectable self.”
I could see by his manner that he
had stronger reasons for satisfaction than his words
alone would imply. His eyes twinkled, and there
was even a touch of colour upon his sallow cheeks.
He hastened upstairs, and a few minutes later I heard
the slam of the hall door, which told me that he was
off once more upon his congenial hunt.
I waited until midnight, but there
was no sign of his return, so I retired to my room.
It was no uncommon thing for him to be away for days
and nights on end when he was hot upon a scent, so
that his lateness caused me no surprise. I do
not know at what hour he came in, but when I came
down to breakfast in the morning there he was with
a cup of coffee in one hand and the paper in the other,
as fresh and trim as possible.
“You will excuse my beginning
without you, Watson,” said he, “but you
remember that our client has rather an early appointment
“Why, it is after nine now,”
I answered. “I should not be surprised
if that were he. I thought I heard a ring.”
It was, indeed, our friend the financier.
I was shocked by the change which had come over him,
for his face which was naturally of a broad and massive
mould, was now pinched and fallen in, while his hair
seemed to me at least a shade whiter. He entered
with a weariness and lethargy which was even more painful
than his violence of the morning before, and he dropped
heavily into the armchair which I pushed forward for
“I do not know what I have done
to be so severely tried,” said he. “Only
two days ago I was a happy and prosperous man, without
a care in the world. Now I am left to a lonely
and dishonoured age. One sorrow comes close upon
the heels of another. My niece, Mary, has deserted
“Yes. Her bed this morning
had not been slept in, her room was empty, and a note
for me lay upon the hall table. I had said to
her last night, in sorrow and not in anger, that if
she had married my boy all might have been well with
him. Perhaps it was thoughtless of me to say
so. It is to that remark that she refers in this
uncle: I feel that I have brought trouble
upon you, and that if I had acted differently this
terrible misfortune might never have occurred.
I cannot, with this thought in my mind, ever again
be happy under your roof, and I feel that I must leave
you forever. Do not worry about my future, for
that is provided for; and, above all, do not search
for me, for it will be fruitless labour and an ill-service
to me. In life or in death, I am ever
your loving, Mary.’
“What could she mean by that
note, Mr. Holmes? Do you think it points to suicide?”
“No, no, nothing of the kind.
It is perhaps the best possible solution. I trust,
Mr. Holder, that you are nearing the end of your troubles.”
“Ha! You say so! You
have heard something, Mr. Holmes; you have learned
something! Where are the gems?”
“You would not think 1000 pounds
apiece an excessive sum for them?”
“I would pay ten.”
“That would be unnecessary.
Three thousand will cover the matter. And there
is a little reward, I fancy. Have you your check-book?
Here is a pen. Better make it out for 4000 pounds.”
With a dazed face the banker made
out the required check. Holmes walked over to
his desk, took out a little triangular piece of gold
with three gems in it, and threw it down upon the table.
With a shriek of joy our client clutched it up.
“You have it!” he gasped. “I
am saved! I am saved!”
The reaction of joy was as passionate
as his grief had been, and he hugged his recovered
gems to his bosom.
“There is one other thing you
owe, Mr. Holder,” said Sherlock Holmes rather
“Owe!” He caught up a
pen. “Name the sum, and I will pay it.”
“No, the debt is not to me.
You owe a very humble apology to that noble lad, your
son, who has carried himself in this matter as I should
be proud to see my own son do, should I ever chance
to have one.”
“Then it was not Arthur who took them?”
“I told you yesterday, and I repeat to-day,
that it was not.”
“You are sure of it! Then
let us hurry to him at once to let him know that the
truth is known.”
“He knows it already. When
I had cleared it all up I had an interview with him,
and finding that he would not tell me the story, I
told it to him, on which he had to confess that I was
right and to add the very few details which were not
yet quite clear to me. Your news of this morning,
however, may open his lips.”
“For heaven’s sake, tell
me, then, what is this extraordinary mystery!”
“I will do so, and I will show
you the steps by which I reached it. And let
me say to you, first, that which it is hardest for
me to say and for you to hear: there has been
an understanding between Sir George Burnwell and your
niece Mary. They have now fled together.”
“My Mary? Impossible!”
“It is unfortunately more than
possible; it is certain. Neither you nor your
son knew the true character of this man when you admitted
him into your family circle. He is one of the
most dangerous men in England a ruined
gambler, an absolutely desperate villain, a man without
heart or conscience. Your niece knew nothing
of such men. When he breathed his vows to her,
as he had done to a hundred before her, she flattered
herself that she alone had touched his heart.
The devil knows best what he said, but at least she
became his tool and was in the habit of seeing him
nearly every evening.”
“I cannot, and I will not, believe
it!” cried the banker with an ashen face.
“I will tell you, then, what
occurred in your house last night. Your niece,
when you had, as she thought, gone to your room, slipped
down and talked to her lover through the window which
leads into the stable lane. His footmarks had
pressed right through the snow, so long had he stood
there. She told him of the coronet. His
wicked lust for gold kindled at the news, and he bent
her to his will. I have no doubt that she loved
you, but there are women in whom the love of a lover
extinguishes all other loves, and I think that she
must have been one. She had hardly listened to
his instructions when she saw you coming downstairs,
on which she closed the window rapidly and told you
about one of the servants’ escapade with her
wooden-legged lover, which was all perfectly true.
“Your boy, Arthur, went to bed
after his interview with you but he slept badly on
account of his uneasiness about his club debts.
In the middle of the night he heard a soft tread pass
his door, so he rose and, looking out, was surprised
to see his cousin walking very stealthily along the
passage until she disappeared into your dressing-room.
Petrified with astonishment, the lad slipped on some
clothes and waited there in the dark to see what would
come of this strange affair. Presently she emerged
from the room again, and in the light of the passage-lamp
your son saw that she carried the precious coronet
in her hands. She passed down the stairs, and
he, thrilling with horror, ran along and slipped behind
the curtain near your door, whence he could see what
passed in the hall beneath. He saw her stealthily
open the window, hand out the coronet to someone in
the gloom, and then closing it once more hurry back
to her room, passing quite close to where he stood
hid behind the curtain.
“As long as she was on the scene
he could not take any action without a horrible exposure
of the woman whom he loved. But the instant that
she was gone he realised how crushing a misfortune
this would be for you, and how all-important it was
to set it right. He rushed down, just as he was,
in his bare feet, opened the window, sprang out into
the snow, and ran down the lane, where he could see
a dark figure in the moonlight. Sir George Burnwell
tried to get away, but Arthur caught him, and there
was a struggle between them, your lad tugging at one
side of the coronet, and his opponent at the other.
In the scuffle, your son struck Sir George and cut
him over the eye. Then something suddenly snapped,
and your son, finding that he had the coronet in his
hands, rushed back, closed the window, ascended to
your room, and had just observed that the coronet
had been twisted in the struggle and was endeavouring
to straighten it when you appeared upon the scene.”
“Is it possible?” gasped the banker.
“You then roused his anger by
calling him names at a moment when he felt that he
had deserved your warmest thanks. He could not
explain the true state of affairs without betraying
one who certainly deserved little enough consideration
at his hands. He took the more chivalrous view,
however, and preserved her secret.”
“And that was why she shrieked
and fainted when she saw the coronet,” cried
Mr. Holder. “Oh, my God! what a blind fool
I have been! And his asking to be allowed to
go out for five minutes! The dear fellow wanted
to see if the missing piece were at the scene of the
struggle. How cruelly I have misjudged him!”
“When I arrived at the house,”
continued Holmes, “I at once went very carefully
round it to observe if there were any traces in the
snow which might help me. I knew that none had
fallen since the evening before, and also that there
had been a strong frost to preserve impressions.
I passed along the tradesmen’s path, but found
it all trampled down and indistinguishable. Just
beyond it, however, at the far side of the kitchen
door, a woman had stood and talked with a man, whose
round impressions on one side showed that he had a
wooden leg. I could even tell that they had been
disturbed, for the woman had run back swiftly to the
door, as was shown by the deep toe and light heel
marks, while Wooden-leg had waited a little, and then
had gone away. I thought at the time that this
might be the maid and her sweetheart, of whom you had
already spoken to me, and inquiry showed it was so.
I passed round the garden without seeing anything
more than random tracks, which I took to be the police;
but when I got into the stable lane a very long and
complex story was written in the snow in front of
“There was a double line of
tracks of a booted man, and a second double line which
I saw with delight belonged to a man with naked feet.
I was at once convinced from what you had told me that
the latter was your son. The first had walked
both ways, but the other had run swiftly, and as his
tread was marked in places over the depression of
the boot, it was obvious that he had passed after
the other. I followed them up and found they led
to the hall window, where Boots had worn all the snow
away while waiting. Then I walked to the other
end, which was a hundred yards or more down the lane.
I saw where Boots had faced round, where the snow
was cut up as though there had been a struggle, and,
finally, where a few drops of blood had fallen, to
show me that I was not mistaken. Boots had then
run down the lane, and another little smudge of blood
showed that it was he who had been hurt. When
he came to the highroad at the other end, I found that
the pavement had been cleared, so there was an end
to that clue.
“On entering the house, however,
I examined, as you remember, the sill and framework
of the hall window with my lens, and I could at once
see that someone had passed out. I could distinguish
the outline of an instep where the wet foot had been
placed in coming in. I was then beginning to
be able to form an opinion as to what had occurred.
A man had waited outside the window; someone had brought
the gems; the deed had been overseen by your son; he
had pursued the thief; had struggled with him; they
had each tugged at the coronet, their united strength
causing injuries which neither alone could have effected.
He had returned with the prize, but had left a fragment
in the grasp of his opponent. So far I was clear.
The question now was, who was the man and who was
it brought him the coronet?
“It is an old maxim of mine
that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever
remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Now, I knew that it was not you who had brought it
down, so there only remained your niece and the maids.
But if it were the maids, why should your son allow
himself to be accused in their place? There could
be no possible reason. As he loved his cousin,
however, there was an excellent explanation why he
should retain her secret the more so as
the secret was a disgraceful one. When I remembered
that you had seen her at that window, and how she
had fainted on seeing the coronet again, my conjecture
became a certainty.
“And who could it be who was
her confederate? A lover evidently, for who else
could outweigh the love and gratitude which she must
feel to you? I knew that you went out little,
and that your circle of friends was a very limited
one. But among them was Sir George Burnwell.
I had heard of him before as being a man of evil reputation
among women. It must have been he who wore those
boots and retained the missing gems. Even though
he knew that Arthur had discovered him, he might still
flatter himself that he was safe, for the lad could
not say a word without compromising his own family.
“Well, your own good sense will
suggest what measures I took next. I went in
the shape of a loafer to Sir George’s house,
managed to pick up an acquaintance with his valet,
learned that his master had cut his head the night
before, and, finally, at the expense of six shillings,
made all sure by buying a pair of his cast-off shoes.
With these I journeyed down to Streatham and saw that
they exactly fitted the tracks.”
“I saw an ill-dressed vagabond
in the lane yesterday evening,” said Mr. Holder.
“Precisely. It was I. I
found that I had my man, so I came home and changed
my clothes. It was a delicate part which I had
to play then, for I saw that a prosecution must be
avoided to avert scandal, and I knew that so astute
a villain would see that our hands were tied in the
matter. I went and saw him. At first, of
course, he denied everything. But when I gave
him every particular that had occurred, he tried to
bluster and took down a life-preserver from the wall.
I knew my man, however, and I clapped a pistol to
his head before he could strike. Then he became
a little more reasonable. I told him that we would
give him a price for the stones he held 1000
pounds apiece. That brought out the first signs
of grief that he had shown. ’Why, dash
it all!’ said he, ’I’ve let them
go at six hundred for the three!’ I soon managed
to get the address of the receiver who had them, on
promising him that there would be no prosecution.
Off I set to him, and after much chaffering I got
our stones at 1000 pounds apiece. Then I looked
in upon your son, told him that all was right, and
eventually got to my bed about two o’clock, after
what I may call a really hard day’s work.”
“A day which has saved England
from a great public scandal,” said the banker,
rising. “Sir, I cannot find words to thank
you, but you shall not find me ungrateful for what
you have done. Your skill has indeed exceeded
all that I have heard of it. And now I must fly
to my dear boy to apologise to him for the wrong which
I have done him. As to what you tell me of poor
Mary, it goes to my very heart. Not even your
skill can inform me where she is now.”
“I think that we may safely
say,” returned Holmes, “that she is wherever
Sir George Burnwell is. It is equally certain,
too, that whatever her sins are, they will soon receive
a more than sufficient punishment.”