Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: His Last Bow (1917)
The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
1. The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles
I find it recorded in my notebook that it was a bleak and windy
day towards the end of March in the year 1892. Holmes had
received a telegram while we sat at our lunch, and he had
scribbled a reply. He made no remark, but the matter remained
in his thoughts, for he stood in front of the fire afterwards with a
thoughtful face, smoking his pipe, and casting an occasional
glance at the message. Suddenly he turned upon me with a
mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
"I suppose, Watson, we must look upon you as a man of
letters," said he. "How do you define the word 'grotesque'?"
"Strange -- remarkable," I suggested.
He shook his head at my definition.
"There is surely something more than that," said he; "some
underlying suggestion of the tragic and the terrible. If you cast
your mind back to some of those narratives with which you have
afflicted a long-suffering public, you will recognize how often
the grotesque has deepened into the criminal. Think of that little
affair of the red-headed men. That was grotesque enough in the
outset, and yet it ended in a desperate attempt at robbery. Or,
again, there was that most grotesque affair of the five orange
pips, which led straight to a murderous conspiracy. The word
puts me on the alert."
"Have you it there?" I asked.
He read the telegram aloud.
"Have just had most incredible and grotesque
experience. May I consult you?
"Post-Office, Charing Cross."
"Man or woman?" I asked.
"Oh, man, of course. No woman would ever send a
replypaid telegram. She would have come."
"Will you see him?"
"My dear Watson, you know how bored I have been since we
locked up Colonel Carruthers. My mind is like a racing engine,
tearing itself to pieces because it is not connected up with the
work for which it was built. Life is commonplace; the papers are
sterile; audacity and romance seem to have passed forever from
the criminal world. Can you ask me, then, whether I am ready to
look into any new problem, however trivial it may prove? But
here, unless I am mistaken, is our client."
A measured step was heard upon the stairs, and a moment
later a stout, tall, gray-whiskered and solemnly respectable
person was ushered into the room. His life history was written in his
heavy features and pompous manner. From his spats to his
gold-rimmed spectacles he was a Conservative, a churchman, a
good citizen, orthodox and conventional to the last degree. But
same amazing experience had disturbed his native composure
and left its traces in his bristling hair, his flushed, angry cheeks
and his flurried, excited manner. He plunged instantly into his
"I have had a most singular and unpleasant experience, Mr.
Holmes," said he. "Never in my life have I been placed in such
a situation. It is most improper -- most outrageous. I must insist
upon some explanation." He swelled and puffed in his anger.
"Pray sit down, Mr. Scott Eccles," said Holmes in a soothing
voice. "May I ask, in the first place, why you came to me at
"Well, sir, it did not appear to be a matter which concerned
the police, and yet, when you have heard the facts, you must
admit that I could not leave it where it was. Private detectives
are a class with whom I have absolutely no sympathy, but none
the less, having heard your name --"
"Quite so. But, in the second place, why did you not come at
"What do you mean?"
Holmes glanced at his watch.
"It is a quarter-past two," he said. "Your telegram was
dispatched about one. But no one can glance at your toilet and
attire without seeing that your disturbance dates from the
moment of your waking."
Our client smoothed down his unbrushed hair and felt his
"You are right, Mr. Holmes. I never gave a thought to my
toilet. I was only too glad to get out of such a house. But I have
been running round making inquiries before I came to you. I
went to the house agents, you know, and they said that Mr.
Garcia's rent was paid up all right and that everything was in
order at Wisteria Lodge."
"Come, come, sir," said Holmes, laughing. "You are like
my friend, Dr. Watson, who has a bad habit of telling his stories
wrong end foremost. Please arrange your thoughts and let me
know, in their due sequence, exactly what those events are
which have sent you out unbrushed and unkempt, with dress
boots and waistcoat buttoned awry, in search of advice and
Our client looked down with a rueful face at his own
"I'm sure it must look very bad, Mr. Holmes, and I am not
aware that in my whole life such a thing has ever happened
before. But I will tell you the whole queer business, and when I
have done so you will admit, I am sure, that there has been
enough to excuse me."
But his narrative was nipped in the bud. There was a bustle
outside, and Mrs. Hudson opened the door to usher in two robust
and official-looking individuals, one of whom was well known
to us as Inspector Gregson of Scotland Yard, an energetic,
gallant, and, within his limitations, a capable officer. He shook
hands with Holmes and introduced his comrade as Inspector
Baynes, of the Surrey Constabulary.
"We are hunting together, Mr. Holmes and our trail lay in
this direction." He turned his bulldog ejes upon our visitor.
"Are you Mr. John Scott Eccles, of Popham House, Lee?"
"We have been following you about all the morning."
"You traced him through the telegram, no doubt," said Holmes.
"Exactly, Mr. Holmes. We picked up the scent at Charing
Cross Post-Office and came on here."
"But why do you follow me? What do you want?"
"We wish a statement, Mr. Scott Eccles, as to the events
which led up to the death last night of Mr. Aloysius Garcia, of
Wisteria Lodge, near Esher."
Our client had sat up with staring eyes and every tinge of
colour struck from his astonished face.
"Dead? Did you say he was dead?"
"Yes, sir, he is dead."
"But how? An accident?"
"Murder, if ever there was one upon earth."
"Good God! This is awful! You don't mean -- you don't mean
that I am suspected?"
"A letter of yours was found in the dead man's pocket, and
we know by it that you had planned to pass last night at his
"So I did."
"Oh, you did, did you?"
Out came the official notebook.
"Wait a bit, Gregson," said Sherlock Holmes. "All you
desire is a plain statement, is it not?"
"And it is my duty to warn Mr. Scott Eccles that it may be
used against him."
"Mr. Eccles was going to tell us about it when you entered
the room. I think, Watson, a brandy and soda would do him no
harm. Now, sir, I suggest that you take no notice of this addition
to your audience, and that you proceed with your narrative
exactly as you would have done had you never been interrupted. "
Our visitor had gulped off the brandy and the colour had
returned to his face. With a dubious glance at the inspector's
notebook, he plunged at once into his extraordinary statement.
"I am a bachelor," said he, "and being of a sociable turn I
cultivate a large number of friends. Among these are the family
of a retired brewer called Melville, living at Albemarle Mansion,
Kensington. It was at his table that I met some weeks ago a
young fellow named Garcia. He was, I understood, of Spanish
descent and connected in some way with the embassy. He spoke
perfect English, was pleasing in his manners, and as
goodlooking a man as ever I saw in my life.
"In some way we struck up quite a friendship, this young
fellow and I. He seemed to take a fancy to me from the first, and
within two days of our meeting he came to see me at Lee. One
thing led to another, and it ended in his inviting me out to spend
a few days at his house, Wisteria Lodge, between Esher and
Oxshott. Yesterday evening I went to Esher to fulfil this
"He had described his household to me before I went there.
He lived with a faithful servant, a countryman of his own, who
looked after all his needs. This fellow could speak English and
did his housekeeping for him. Then there was a wonderful cook
he said, a half-breed whom he had picked up in his travels, who
could serve an excellent dinner. I remember that he remarked
what a queer household it was to find in the heart of Surrey, and
that I agreed with him, though it has proved a good deal queerer
than I thought.
"I drove to the place -- about two miles on the south side of
Esher. The house was a fair-sized one, standing back from the
road, with a curving drive which was banked with high
evergreen shrubs. It was an old, tumble-down building in a crazy
state of disrepair. When the trap pulled up on the grass-grown
drive in front of the blotched and weather-stained door, I had
doubts as to my wisdom in visiting a man whom I knew so
slightly. He opened the door himself, however, and greeted me
wlth a great show of cordiality. I was handed over to the
manservant, a melancholy, swarthy individual, who led the way,
my bag in his hand, to my bedroom. The whole place was
depressing. Our dinner was tete-a-tete, and though my host did
his best to be entertaining, his thoughts seemed to continually
wander, and he talked so vaguely and wildly that I could hardly
understand him. He continually drummed his fingers on the
table, gnawed his nails, and gave other signs of nervous
impatience. The dinner itself was neither well served nor well cooked,
and the gloomy presence of the taciturn servant did not help to
enliven us. I can assure you that many times in the course of the
evening I wished that I could invent some excuse which would
take me back to Lee.
"One thing comes back to my memory which may have a
bearing upon the business that you two gentlemen are
investigating. I thought nothing of it at the time. Near the end of dinner a
note was handed in by the servant. I noticed that after my host
had read it he seemed even more distrait and strange than before.
He gave up all pretence at conversation and sat, smoking endless
cigarettes, lost in his own thoughts, but he made no remark as to
the contents. About eleven I was glad to go to bed. Some time
later Garcia looked in at my door -- the room was dark at the
time -- and asked me if I had rung. I said that I had not. He
apologized for having disturbed me so late, saying that it was
nearly one o'clock. I dropped off after this and slept soundly all
"And now I come to the amazing part of my tale. When I
woke it was broad daylight. I glanced at my watch, and the time
was nearly nine. I had particularly asked to be called at eight, so
I was very much astonished at this forgetfulness. I sprang up and
rang for the servant. There was no response. I rang again and
again, with the same result. Then I came to the conclusion that
the bell was out of order. I huddled on my clothes and hurried
downstairs in an exceedingly bad temper to order some hot
water. You can imagine my surprise when I found that there was
no one there. I shouted in the hall. There was no answer. Then I
ran from room to room. All were deserted. My host had shown
me which was his bedroom the night before, so I knocked at the
door. No reply. I turned the handle and walked in. The room
was empty, and the bed had never been slept in. He had gone with
the rest. The foreign host, the foreign footman, the foreign cook,
all had vanished in the night! That was the end of my visit to
Sherlock Holmes was rubbing his hands and chuckling as he
added this bizarre incident to his collection of strange episodes.
"Your experience is, so far as I know, perfectly unique," said
he. "May I ask, sir, what you did then?"
"I was furious. My first idea was that I had been the victim of
some absurd practical joke. I packed my things, banged the hall
door behind me, and set off for Esher, with my bag in my hand.
I called at Allan Brothers, the chief land agents in the village,
and found that it was from this firm that the villa had been
rented. It struck me that the whole proceeding could hardly be
for the purpose of making a fool of me, and that the main object
must be to get out of the rent. It is late in March, so quarter-day
is at hand. But this theory would not work. The agent was
obliged to me for my warning, but told me that the rent had been
paid in advance. Then I made my way to town and called at the
Spanish embassy. The man was unknown there. After this I went
to see Melville, at whose house I had first met Garcia, but I
found that he really knew rather less about him than I did.
Finally when I got your reply to my wire I came out to you,
since I gather that you are a person who gives advice in difficult
cases. But now, Mr. Inspector, I understand, from what you said
when you entered the room, that you can carry the story on, and
that some tragedy has occurred. I can assure you that every word
I have said is the truth, and that, outside of what I have told you,
I know absolutely nothing about the fate of this man. My only
desire is to help the law in every possible way."
"I am sure of it, Mr. Scott Eccles -- I am sure of it," said
Inspector Gregson in a very amiable tone. "I am bound to say
that everything which you have said agrees very closely with the
facts as they have come to our notice. For example, there was
that note which arrived during dinner. Did you chance to observe
what became of it?"
"Yes, I did. Garcia rolled it up and threw it into the fire."
"What do you say to that, Mr. Baynes?"
The country detective was a stout, puffy, red man, whose face
was only redeemed from grossness by two extraordinarily bright
eyes, almost hidden behind the heavy creases of cheek and brow.
With a slow smile he drew a folded and discoloured scrap of
paper from his pocket.
"It was a dog-grate, Mr. Holmes, and he overpitched it. I
picked this out unburned from the back of it."
Holmes smiled his appreciation.
"You must have examined the house very carefully to find a
single pellet of paper."
"I did, Mr. Holmes. It's my way. Shall I read it, Mr. Gregson?"
The Londoner nodded.
"The note is written upon ordinary cream-laid paper without
watermark. It is a quarter-sheet. The paper is cut off in two snips
with a short-bladed scissors. It has been folded over three times
and sealed with purple wax, put on hurriedly and pressed down
with some flat oval object. It is addressed to Mr. Garcia,
Wisteria Lodge. It says:
"Our own colours, green and white. Green open, white
shut. Main stair, first corridor, seventh right, green baize.
It is a woman's writing, done with a sharp-pointed pen, but the
address is either done with another pen or by someone else. It is
thicker and bolder, as you see."
"A very remarkable note," said Holmes, glancing it over. "I
must compliment you, Mr. Baynes, upon your attention to detail
in your examination of it. A few trifling points might perhaps be
added. The oval seal is undoubtedly a plain sleeve-link -- what
else is of such a shape? The scissors were bent nail scissors.
Short as the two snips are, you can distinctly see the same slight
curve in each."
The country detective chuckled.
"I thought I had squeezed all the juice out of it, but I see there
was a little over," he said. "I'm bound to say that I make
nothing of the note except that there was something on hand, and
that a woman, as usual, was at the bottom of it."
Mr. Scott Eccles had fidgeted in his seat during this
"I am glad you found the note, since it corroborates my
story," said he. "But I beg to point out that I have not yet heard
what has happened to Mr. Garcia, nor what has become of his
"As to Garcia," said Gregson, "that is easily answered. He
was found dead this morning upon Oxshott Common, nearly a
mile from his home. His head had been smashed to pulp by
heavy blows of a sandbag or some such instrument, which had
crushed rather than wounded. It is a lonely corner, and there is
no house within a quarter of a mile of the spot. He had
apparently been struck down first from behind, but his assailant had
gone on beating him long after he was dead. It was a most
furious assault. There are no footsteps nor any clue to the
"No, there was no attempt at robbery."
"This lis very painful -- very painful and terrible," said Mr.
Scott Eccles in a querulous voice, "but it is really uncommonly
hard upon me. I had nothing to do with my host going off upon a
nocturnal excursion and meeting so sad an end. How do I come
to be mixled up with the case?"
"Very simply, sir," Inspector Baynes answered. "The only
document found in the pocket of the deceased was a letter from
you saying that you would be with him on the night of his death.
It was the envelope of this letter which gave us the dead man's
name and address. It was after nine this morning when we
reached his house and found neither you nor anyone else inside
it. I wired to Mr. Gregson to run you down in London while I
examined Wisteria Lodge. Then I came into town, joined Mr.
Gregson, and here we are."
"I think now," said Gregson, rising, "we had best put this
matter into an official shape. You will come round with us to the
station, Mr. Scott Eccles, and let us have your statement in
"Certainly, I will come at once. But I retain your services,
Mr. Holmes. I desire you to spare no expense and no pains to get
at the truth."
My friend turned to the country inspector.
"I suppose that you have no objection to my collaborating
with you, Mr. Baynes?"
"Highly honoured, sir, I am sure."
"You appear to have been very prompt and business-like in all
that you have done. Was there any clue, may I ask, as to the
exact hour that the man met his death?"
"He had been there since one o'clock. There was rain about
that time, and his death had certainly been before the rain."
"But that is perfectly impossible, Mr. Baynes," cried our
client. "His voice is unmistakable. I could swear to it that it was
he who addressed me in my bedroom at that very hour."
"Remarkable, but by no means impossible," said Holmes,
"You have a clue?" asked Gregson.
"On the face of it the case is not a very complex one, though
it certainly presents some novel and interesting features. A
further knowledge of facts is necessary before I would venture to
give a final and definite opinion. By the way, Mr. Baynes, did
you find anything remarkable besides this note in your
examination of the house?"
The detective looked at my friend in a singular way.
"There were," said he, "one or two vely remarkable things.
Perhaps when I have finished at the police-station you would
care to come out and give me your opinion of them."
"I am entirely at your service," said Sherlock Holmes,
ringing the bell. "You will show these gentlemen out, Mrs. Hudson,
and kindly send the boy with this telegram. He is to pay a
We sat for some time in silence after our visitors had left.
Holmes smoked hard, with his brows drawn down over his keen
eyes, and his head thrust forward in the eager way characteristic
of the man.
"Well, Watson," he asked, turning suddenly upon me, "what
do you make of it?"
"I can make nothing of this mystification of Scott Eccles."
"But the crime?"
"Well, taken with the disappearance of the man's
companions, I should say that they were in some way concerned in the
murder and had fled from justice."
"That is certainly a possible point of view. On the face of it
you must admit, however, that it is very strange that his two
servants should have been in a conspiracy against him and
should have attacked him on the one night when he had a guest.
They had him alone at their mercy every other night in the
"Then why did they fly?"
"Quite so. Why did they fly? There is a big fact. Another big
fact is the remarkable experience of our client, Scott Eccles.
Now, my dear Watson, is it beyond the limits of human
ingenuity to furnish an explanation which would cover both these big
facts? If it were one which would also admit of the mysterious
note with its very curious phraseology, why, then it would be
worth accepting as a temporary hypothesis. If the fresh facts
which come to our knowledge all fit themselves into the scheme,
then our hypothesis may gradually become a solution."
"But what is our hypothesis?"
Holmes leaned back in his chair with half-closed eyes.
"You must admit, my dear Watson, that the idea of a joke is
impossible. There were grave events afoot, as the sequel showed,
and the coaxing of Scott Eccles to Wisteria Lodge had some
connection with them."
"But what possible connection?"
"Let us take it link by link. There is, on the face of it
something unnatural about this strange and sudden friendship
between the young Spaniard and Scott Eccles. It was the former
who forced the pace. He called upon Eccles at the other end of
London on the very day after he first met him, and he kept in
close touch with him until he got him down to Esher. Now, what
did he want with Eccles? What could Eccles supply? I see no
charm in the man. He is not particularly intelligent -- not a man
likely to be congenial to a quick-witted Latin. Why, then, was he
picked out from all the other people whom Garcia met as
particularly suited to his purpose? Has he any one outstanding quality? I
say that he has. He is the very type of conventional British
respectability, and the very man as a witness to impress another
Briton. You saw yourself how neither of the inspectors dreamed
of questioning his statement, extraordinary as it was."
"But what was he to witness?"
"Nothing, as things turned out, but everything had they gone
another way. That is how I read the matter."
"I see, he might have proved an alibi."
"Exactly, my dear Watson; he might have proved an alibi.
We will suppose, for argument's sake, that the household of
Wisteria Lodge are confederates in some design. The attempt,
whatever it may be, is to come off, we will say, before one
o'clock. By some juggling of the clocks it is quite possible that
they may have got Scott Eccles to bed earlier than he thought
but in any case it is likely that when Garcia went out of his way
to tell him that it was one it was really not more than twelve. If
Garcia could do whatever he had to do and be back by the hour
mentioned he had evidently a powerful reply to any accusation.
Here was this irreproachable Englishman ready to swear in any
court of law that the accused was in his house all the time. It was
an insurance against the worst."
"Yes, yes, I see that. But how about the disappearance of the
"I have not all my facts yet, but I do not think there are any
insuperable difficulties. Still, it is an error to argue in front of
your data. You find yourself insensibly twisting them round to fit
"And the message?"
"How did it run? 'Our own colours, green and white.' Sounds
like racing. 'Green open, white shut.~ That is clearly a signal.
'Main stair, first corridor, seventh right, green baize.' This is an
assignation. We may find a jealous husband at the bottom of it
all. It was clearly a dangerous quest. She would not have said
'Godspeed' had it not been so. 'D' -- that should be a guide."
"The man was a Spaniard. I suggest that 'D' stands for
Dolores, a common female name in Spain."
"Good, Watson, very good -- but quite inadmissible. A Spaniard
would write to a Spaniard in Spanish. The writer of this note is
certainly English. Well, we can only possess our souls in
patience until this excellent inspector comes back for us. Meanwhile
we can thank our lucky fate which has rescued us for a few short
hours from the insufferable fatigues of idleness."
An answer had arrived to Holmes's telegram before our Surrey
officer had returned. Holmes read it and was about to place it in
his notebook when he caught a glimpse of my expectant face. He
tossed it across with a laugh.
"We are moving in exalted circles," said he.
The telegram was a list of names and addresses:
Lord Harringby, The Dingle; Sir George Ffolliott, Oxshott
Towers; Mr. Hynes Hynes, J.P., Purdey Place; Mr. James
Baker Williams, Forton Old Hall; Mr. Henderson, High
Gable; Rev. Joshua Stone, Nether Walsling.
"This is a very obvious way of limiting our field of
operations," said Holmes. "No doubt Baynes, with his methodical
mind, has already adopted some similar plan."
"I don't quite understand."
"Well, my dear fellow, we have already arrived at the
conclusion that the message received by Garcia at dinner was an
appointment or an assignation. Now, if the obvious reading of it
is correct, and in order to keep this tryst one has to ascend a
main stair and seek the seventh door in a corridor, it is perfectly
clear that the house is a very large one. It is equally certain that
this house cannot be more than a mile or two from Oxshott
since Garcia was walking in that direction and hoped, according
to my reading of the facts, to be back in Wisteria Lodge in time
to avail himself of an alibi, which would only be valid up to one
o'clock. As the number of large houses close to Oxshott must be
limited, I adopted the obvious method of sending to the agents
mentioned by Scott Eccles and obtaining a list of them. Here
they are in this telegram, and the other end of our tangled skein
must lie among them."
It was nearly six o'clock before we found ourselves in the
pretty Surrey village of Esher, with Inspector Baynes as our
Holmes and I had taken things for the night, and found
comfortable quarters at the Bull. Finally we set out in the
company of the detective on our visit to Wisteria Lodge. lt was a
cold, dark March evening, with a sharp wind and a fine rain
beating upon our faces, a fit setting for the wild common over
which our road passed and the tragic goal to which it led us.
2. The Tiger of San Pedro
A cold and melancholy walk of a couple of miles brought us to
a high wooden gate, which opened into a gloomy avenue of
chestnuts. The curved and shadowed drive led us to a low, dark
house, pitch-black against a slate-coloured sky. From the front
window upon the left of the door there peeped a glimmer of a
"There's a constable in possession," said Baynes. "I'll knock
at the window." He stepped across the grass plot and tapped
with his hand on the pane. Through the fogged glass I dimly saw
a man spring up from a chair beside the fire, and heard a sharp
cry from within the room. An instant later a white-faced,
hardbreathing policeman had opened the door, the candle wavering in
his trembling hand.
"What's the matter, Walters?" asked Baynes sharply.
The man mopped his forehead with his handkerchief and gave
a long sigh of relief.
"I am glad you have come, sir. It has been a long evening,
and l don't think my nerve is as good as it was."
"Your nerve, Walters? I should not have thought you had a
nerve in your body."
"Well, sir, it's this lonely, silent house and the queer thing in
the kitchen. Then when you tapped at the window I thought it
had come again."
"That what had come again?"
"The devil, sir, for all I know. It was at the window."
"What was at the window, and when?"
"It was just about two hours ago. The light was just fading. I
was sitting reading in the chair. I don't know what made me look
up, but there was a face looking in at me through the lower pane.
Lord, sir, what a face it was! I'll see it in my dreams."
"Tut, tut, Walters. This is not talk for a police-constable."
"I know sir, I know; but it shook me sir, and there's no use
to deny it. it wasn't black, sir, nor was it white, nor any colour
that I know, but a kind of queer shade like clay with a splash of
milk in it. Then there was the size of it -- it was twice yours, sir.
And the look of it -- the great staring goggle eyes, and the line of
white teeth like a hungry beast. I tell you, sir, I couldn't move a
finger, nor get my breath, till it whisked away and was gone.
Out I ran and through the shrubbery, but thank God there was no
"If I didn't know you were a good man, Walters, I should put
a black mark against you for this. If it were the devil himself a
constable on duty should never thank God that he could not lay
his hands upon him. I suppose the whole thing is not a vision
and a touch of nerves?"
"That, at least, is very easily settled," said Holmes, lighting
his little pocket lantern. "Yes," he reported, after a short
examination of the grass bed, "a number twelve shoe, I should say. If
he was all on the same scale as his foot he must certainly have
been a giant."
"What became of him?"
"He seems to have broken through the shrubbery and made
for the road."
"Well," said the inspector with a grave and thoughtful face,
"whoever he may have been, and whatever he may have wanted,
he's gone for the present, and we have more immediate things to
attend to. Now, Mr. Holmes, with your permission, I will show
you round the house."
The various bedrooms and sitting-rooms had yielded nothing
to a careful search. Apparently the tenants had brought little or
nothing with them, and all the furniture down to the smallest
details had been taken over with the house. A good deal of
clothing with the stamp of Marx and Co., High Holborn, had
been left behind. Telegraphic inquiries had been already made
which showed that Marx knew nothing of his customer save that
he was a good payer. Odds and ends, some pipes, a few novels,
two of them in Spanish, an old-fashioned pinfire revolver, and a
guitar were among the personal property.
"Nothing in all this," said Baynes, stalking, candle in hand,
from room to room. "But now, Mr. Holmes, I invite your attention
to the kitchen."
It was a gloomy, high-ceilinged room at the back of the house,
with a straw litter in one corner, which served apparently as a
bed for the cook. The table was piled with half-eaten dishes and
dirty plates, the debris of last night's dinner.
"Look at this," said Baynes. "What do you make of it?"
He held up his candle before an extraordinary object which
stood at the back of the dresser. It was so wrinkled and shrunken
and withered that it was difficult to say what it might have been.
One could but say that it was black and leathery and that it bore
some resemblance to a dwarfish, human figure. At first, as I
examined it, I thought that it was a mummified negro baby, and
then it seemed a very twisted and ancient monkey. Finally I was
left in doubt as to whether it was animal or human. A double
band of white shells was strung round the centre of it.
"Very interesting -- very interesting, indeed!" said Holmes,
peering at this sinister relic. "Anything more?"
In silence Baynes led the way to the sink and held forward his
candle. The limbs and body of some large, white bird, torn
savagely to pieces with the feathers still on, were littered all over
it. Holmes pointed to the wattles on the severed head.
"A white cock," said he. "Most interesting! It is really a very
But Mr. Baynes had kept his most sinister exhibit to the last.
From under the sink he drew a zinc pail which contained a
quantity of blood. Then from the table he took a platter heaped
with small pieces of charred bone.
"Something has been killed and something has been burned.
We raked all these out of the fire. We had a doctor in this
morning. He says that they are not human."
Holmes smiled and rubbed his hands.
"I must congratulate you, Inspector, on handling so
distinctive and instructive a case. Your powers, if I may say so without
offence, seem superior to your opportunities."
Inspector Baynes's small eyes twinkled with pleasure.
"You're right, Mr. Holmes. We stagnate in the provinces. A
case of this sort gives a man a chance, and I hope that I shall
take it. What do you make of these bones?"
"A lamb, I should say, or a kid."
"And the white cock?"
"Curious, Mr. Baynes, very curious. I should say almost
"Yes, sir, there must have been some very strange people
with some very strange ways in this house. One of them is dead.
Did his companions follow him and kill him? If they did we
should have them, for every port is watched. But my own views
are different. Yes, sir, my own views are very different."
"You have a theory then?"
"And I'll work it myself, Mr. Holmes. It's only due to my
own credit to do so. Your name is made, but I have still to make
mine. I should be glad to be able to say afterwards that I had
solved it without your help."
Holmes laughed good-humouredly.
"Well, well, Inspector," said he. "Do you follow your path
and I will follow mine. My results are always very much at your
service if you care to apply to me for them. I think that I have
seen all that I wish in this house, and that my time may be more
profitably employed elsewhere. Au revoir and good luck!"
I could tell by numerous subtle signs, which might have been
lost upon anyone but myself, that Holmes was on a hot scent. As
impassive as ever to the casual observer, there were none the less
a subdued eagerness and suggestion of tension in his brightened
eyes and brisker manner which assured me that the game was
afoot. After his habit he said nothing, and after mine I asked no
questions. Sufficient for me to share the sport and lend my
humble help to the capture without distracting that intent brain
with needless interruption. All would come round to me in due
I waited, therefore -- but to my ever-deepening disappointment
I waited in vain. Day succeeded day, and my friend took no step
forward. One morning he spent in town, and I learned from a
casual reference that he had visited the British Museum. Save for
this one excursion, he spent his days in long and often solitary
walks, or in chatting with a number of village gossips whose
acquaintance he had cultivated.
"I'm sure, Watson, a week in the country will be invaluable
to you," he remarked. "It is very pleasant to see the first green
shoots upon the hedges and the catkins on the hazels once again.
With a spud, a tin box, and an elementary book on botany, there
are instructive days to be spent." He prowled about with this
equipment himself, but it was a poor show of plants which he
would bring back of an evening.
Occasionally in our rambles we came across Inspector Baynes.
His fat, red face wreathed itself in smiles and his small eyes
glittered as he greeted my companion. He said little about the
case, but from that little we gathered that he also was not
dissatisfied at the course of events. I must admit, however, that I
was somewhat surprised when, some five days after the crime, I
opened my morning paper to find in large letters:
THE OXSHOTT MYSTERY
ARREST OF SUPPOSED ASSASSIN
Holmes sprang in his chair as if he had been stung when I read
"By Jove!" he cried. "You don't mean that Baynes has got
"Apparently," said I as I read the following report:
"Great excitement was caused in Esher and the neighbouring
district when it was learned late last night that an arrest had been effected
in connection with the Oxshott murder. It will be remembered that Mr. Garcia,
of Wisteria Lodge, was found dead on Oxshott Common, his body showing signs of
extreme violence, and that on the same night his servant and his cook fled,
which appeared to show their participation in the crime. It was suggested, but
never proved, that the deceased gentleman may have had valuables in the house,
and that their abstraction was the motive of the crime.
Every effort was made by Inspector Baynes, who has the case in hand, to
ascertain the hiding place of the fugitives, and he had good reason to believe
that they had not gone far but were lurking in some retreat which had been
already prepared. It was certain from the first, however, that they would
eventually be detected, as the cook, from the evidence of one or two
tradespeople who have caught a glimpse of him through the window, was a man of
most remarkable appearance -- being a huge and hideous mulatto, with yellowish
features of a pronounced negroid type.
This man has been seen since the crime, for he was detected and pursued by
Constable Walters on the same evening, when he had the audacity to revisit
Wisteria Lodge. Inspector Baynes, considering that such a visit must have some
purpose in view and was likely, therefore, to be repeated, abandoned the house
but left an ambuscade in the shrubbery. The man walked into the trap and was
captured last night after a struggle in which Constable Downing was badly
bitten by the savage. We understand that when the prisoner is brought before
the magistrates a remand will be applied for by the police, and that great
developments are hoped from his capture."
"Really we must see Baynes at once," cried Holmes, picking
up his hat. "We will just catch him before he starts." We
hurried down the village street and found, as we had expected,
that the inspector was just leaving his lodgings.
"You've seen the paper, Mr. Holmes?" he asked, holding
one out to us.
"Yes, Baynes, I've seen it. Pray don't think it a liberty if I
give you a word of friendly warning."
"Of warning, Mr. Holmes?"
"I have looked into this case with some care, and I am not
convinced that you are on the right lines. I don't want you to
commit yourself too far unless you are sure."
"You're very kind, Mr. Holmes."
"I assure you I speak for your good."
It seemed to me that something like a wink quivered for an
instant over one of Mr. Baynes's tiny eyes.
"We agreed to work on our own lines, Mr. Holmes. That's
what I am doing."
"Oh, very good," said Holmes. "Don't blame me."
"No, sir; I believe you mean well by me. But we all have our
own systems, Mr. Holmes. You have yours, and maybe I have
"Let us say no more about it."
"You're welcome always to my news. This fellow is a perfect
savage, as strong as a cart-horse and as fierce as the devil. He
chewed Downing's thumb nearly off before they could master
him. He hardly speaks a word of English, and we can get
nothing out of him but grunts."
"And you think you have evidence that he murdered his late
"I didn't say so, Mr. Holmes- I didn't say so. We all have our
little ways. You try yours and I will try mine. That's the
Holmes shrugged his shoulders as we walked away together.
"I can't make the man out. He seems to be riding for a fall.
Well, as he says, we must each try our own way and see what
comes of it. But there's something in Inspector Baynes which I
can't quite understand."
"Just sit down in that chair, Watson," said Sherlock Holmes
when we had returned to our apartment at the Bull. "I want to
put you in touch with the situation, as I may need your help
to-night. Let me show you the evolution of this case so far as I
have been able to follow it. Simple as it has been in its leading
features, it has none the less presented surprising difficulties in
the way of an arrest. There are gaps in that direction which we
have still to fill.
"We will go back to the note which was handed in to Garcia
upon the evening of his death. We may put aside this idea of
Baynes's that Garcia's servants were concerned in the matter.
The proof of this lies in the fact that it was he who had arranged
for the presence of Scott Eccles, which could only have been
done for the purpose of an alibi. It was Garcia, then, who had an
enterprise, and apparently a criminal enterprise, in hand that
night in the course of which he met his death. I say 'criminal'
because only a man with a criminal enterprise desires to establish
an alibi. Who, then, is most likely to have taken his life? Surely
the person against whom the criminal enterprise was directed. So
far it seems to me that we are on safe ground.
"We can now see a reason for the disappearance of Garcia's
household. They were all confederates in the same unknown
crime. If it came off when Garcia returned, any possible
suspicion would be warded off by the Englishman's evidence, and all
would be well. But the attempt was a dangerous one, and if
Garcia did not return by a certain hour it was probable that his
own life had been sacrificed. It had been arranged, therefore,
that in such a case his two subordinates were to make for some
prearranged spot where they could escape investigation and be in
a position afterwards to renew their attempt. That would fully
explain the facts, would it not?"
The whole inexplicable tangle seemed to straighten out before
me. I wondered, as I always did, how it had not been obvious to
"But why should one servant return?"
"We can imagine that in the confusion of flight something
precious, something which he could not bear to part with, had
been left behind. That would explain his persistence, would it
"Well, what is the next step?"
"The next step is the note received by Garcia at the dinner. It
indicates a confederate at the other end. Now, where was the
other end? I have already shown you that it could only lie in
some large house, and that the number of large houses is limited.
My first days in this village were devoted to a series of walks in
which in the intervals of my botanical researches I made a
reconnaissance of all the large houses and an examination of the
family history of the occupants. One house, and only one,
riveted my attention. It is the famous old Jacobean grange of
High Gable, one mile on the farther side of Oxshott, and less
than half a mile from the scene of the tragedy. The other
mansions belonged to prosaic and respectable people who live
far aloof from romance. But Mr. Henderson, of High Gable, was
by all accounts a curious man to whom curious adventures might
befall. I concentrated my attention, therefore, upon him and his
"A singular set of people, Watson -- the man himself the most
singular of them all. I managed to see him on a plausible pretext,
but I seemed to read in his dark, deep-set, brooding eyes that he
was perfectly aware of my true business. He is a man of fifty,
strong, active, with iron-gray hair, great bunched black
eyebrows, the step of a deer, and the air of an emperor -- a fierce,
masterful man, with a red-hot spirit behind his parchment face.
He is either a foreigner or has lived long in the tropics, for he is
yellow and sapless, but tough as whipcord. His friend and
secretary, Mr. Lucas, is undoubtedly a foreigner, chocolate brown,
wily, suave, and cat-like, with a poisonous gentleness of speech.
You see, Watson, we have come already upon two sets of
foreigners -- one at Wisteria Lodge and one at High Gable -- so
our gaps are beginning to close.
"These two men, close and confidential friends, are the centre
of the household; but there is one other person who for our
immediate purpose may be even more important. Henderson has
two children -- girls of eleven and thirteen. Their governess is a
Miss Burnet, an Englishwoman of forty or thereabouts. There is
also one confidential manservant. This little group forms the real
family, for they travel about together, and Henderson is a great
traveller, always on the move. It is only within the last few
weeks that he has returned, after a year's absence, to High
Gable. I may add that he is enormously rich, and whatever his
whims may be he can very easily satisfy them. For the rest, his
house is full of butlers, footmen, maidservants, and the usual
overfed, underworked staff of a large English country-house.
"So much I learned partly from village gossip and partly from
my own observation. There are no better instruments than
discharged servants with a grievance, and I was lucky enough to
find one. I call it luck, but it would not have come my way had I
not been looking out for it. As Baynes remarks, we all have our
systems. It was my system which enabled me to find John
Warner, late gardener of High Gable, sacked in a moment of
temper by his imperious employer. He in turn had friends among
the indoor servants who unite in their fear and dislike of their
master. So I had my key to the secrets of the establishment.
"Curious people, Watson! I don't pretend to understand it all
yet, but very curious people anyway. It's a double-winged house
and the servants live on one side, the family on the other.
There's no link between the two save for Henderson's own
servant, who serves the family's meals. Everything is carried to
a certain door, which forms the one connection. Governess and
children hardly go out at all, except into the garden. Henderson
never by any chance walks alone. His dark secretary is like his
shadow. The gossip among the servants is that their master is
terribly afraid of something. 'Sold his soul to the devil in
exchange for money,' says Warner, 'and expects his creditor to
come up and claim his own.' Where they came from, or who
they are, nobody has an idea. They are very violent. Twice
Henderson has lashed at folk with his dog-whip, and only his long
purse and heavy compensation have kept him out of the courts.
"Well, now, Watson, let us judge the situation by this new
information. We may take it that the letter came out of this
strange household and was an invitation to Garcia to carry out
some attempt which had already been planned. Who wrote the
note? It was someone within the citadel, and it was a woman.
Who then but Miss Burnet, the governess? All our reasoning
seems to point that way. At any rate, we may take it as a
hypothesis and see what consequences it would entail. I may add
that Miss Burnet's age and character make it certain that my first
idea that there might be a love interest in our story is out of the
"If she wrote the note she was presumably the friend and
confederate of Garcia. What, then, might she be expected to do
if she heard of his death? If he met it in some nefarious
enterprise her lips might be sealed. Still, in her heart, she must retain
bitterness and hatred against those who had killed him and would
presumably help so far as she could to have revenge upon them.
Could we see her, then, and try to use her? That was my first
thought. But now we come to a sinister fact. Miss Burnet has not
been seen by any human eye since the night of the murder. From
that evening she has utterly vanished. Is she alive? Has she
perhaps met her end on the same night as the friend whom she
had summoned? Or is she merely a prisoner? There is the point
which we still have to decide.
"You will appreciate the difficulty of the situation, Watson.
There is nothing upon which we can apply for a warrant. Our
whole scheme might seem fantastic if laid before a magistrate.
The woman's disappearance counts for nothing, since in that
extraordinary household any member of it might be invisible for
a week. And yet she may at the present moment be in danger of
her life. All I can do is to watch the house and leave my agent,
Warner, on guard at the gates. We can't let such a situation
continue. If the law can do nothing we must take the risk
"What do you suggest?"
"I know which is her room. It is accessible from the top of an
outhouse. My suggestion is that you and I go to-night and see if
we can strike at the very heart of the mystery."
It was not, I must confess, a very alluring prospect. The old
house with its atmosphere of murder, the singular and formidable
inhabitants, the unknown dangers of the approach, and the fact
that we were putting ourselves legally in a false position all
combined to damp my ardour. But there was something in the
ice-cold reasoning of Holmes which made it impossible to shrink
from any adventure which he might recommend. One knew that
thus, and only thus, could a solution be found. I clasped his hand
in silence, and the die was cast.
But it was not destined that our investigation should have so
adventurous an ending. It was about five o'clock, and the
shadows of the March evening were beginning to fall, when an
excited rustic rushed into our room.
"They've gone, Mr. Holmes. They went by the last train. The
lady broke away, and I've got her in a cab downstairs."
"Excellent, Warner!" cried Holmes, springing to his feet.
"Watson, the gaps are closing rapidly."
In the cab was a woman, half-collapsed from nervous
exhaustion. She bore upon her aquiline and emaciated face the traces of
some recent tragedy. Her head hung listlessly upon her breast,
but as she raised it and turned her dull eyes upon us I saw that
her pupils were dark dots in the centre of the broad gray iris. She
was drugged with opium.
"I watched at the gate, same as you advised, Mr. Holmes,"
said our emissary, the discharged gardener. "When the carriage
came out I followed it to the station. She was like one walking in
her sleep, but when they tried to get her into the train she came
to life and struggled. They pushed her into the carriage. She
fought her way out again. I took her part, got her into a cab, and
here we are. I shan't forget the face at the carriage window as I
led her away. I'd have a short life if he had his way -- the
black-eyed, scowling, yellow devil."
We carried her upstairs, laid her on the sofa, and a couple of
cups of the strongest coffee soon cleared her brain from the mists
of the drug. Baynes had been summoned by Holmes, and the
situation rapidly explained to him.
"Why, sir, you've got me the very evidence I want," said the
inspector warmly, shaking my friend by the hand. "I was on the
same scent as you from the first."
"What! You were after Henderson?"
"Why, Mr. Holmes, when you were crawling in the
shrubbery at High Gable I was up one of the trees in the plantation and
saw you down below. It was just who would get his evidence
"Then why did you arrest the mulatto?"
"I was sure Henderson, as he calls himself, felt that he was
suspected, and that he would lie low and make no move so long
as he thought he was in any danger. I arrested the wrong man to
make him believe that our eyes were off him. I knew he would
be likely to clear off then and give us a chance of getting at Miss
Holmes laid his hand upon the inspector's shoulder.-
"You will rise high in your profession. You have instinct and
intuition," said he.
Baynes flushed with pleasure.
"I've had a plain-clothes man waiting at the station all the
week. Wherever the High Gable folk go he will keep them in
sight. But he must have been hard put to it when Miss Burnet
broke away. However, your man picked her up, and it all ends
well. We can't arrest without her evidence, that is clear, so the
sooner we get a statement the better."
"Every minute she gets stronger," said Holmes, glancing at
the governess. "But tell me, Baynes, who is this man Henderson?"
"Henderson," the inspector answered, "is Don Murillo, once
called the Tiger of San Pedro."
The Tiger of San Pedro! The whole history of the man came
back to me in a flash. He had made his name as the most lewd
and bloodthirsty tyrant that had ever governed any country with a
pretence to civilization. Strong, fearless, and energetic, he had
sufficient virtue to enable him to impose his odious vices upon a
cowering people for ten or twelve years. His name was a terror
through all Central America. At the end of that time there was a
universal rising against him. But he was as cunning as he was
cruel, and at the first whisper of coming trouble he had secretly
conveyed his treasures aboard a ship which was manned by
devoted adherents. It was an empty palace which was stormed by
the insurgents next day. The dictator, his two children, his
secretary, and his wealth had all escaped them. From that
moment he had vanished from the world, and his identity had been
a frequent subject for comment in the European press.
"Yes, sir, Don Murillo, the Tiger of San Pedro," said Baynes.
"If you look it up you will find that the San Pedro colours are
green and white, same as in the note, Mr. Holmes. Henderson he
called himself, but I traced him back, Paris and Rome and
Madrid to Barcelona, where his ship came in in '86. They've
been looking for him all the time for their revenge, but it is only
now that they have begun to find him out."
"They discovered him a year ago," said Miss Burnet, who
had sat up and was now intently following the conversation.
"Once already his life has been attempted, but some evil spirit
shielded him. Now, again, it is the noble, chivalrous Garcia who
has fallen, while the monster goes safe. But another will come,
and yet another, until some day justice will be done; that is as
certain as the rise of to-morrow's sun." Her thin hands clenched,
and her worn face blanched with the passion of her hatred.
"But how come you into this matter Miss Burnet?" asked
Holmes. "How can an English lady join in such a murderous
"I join in it because there is no other way in the world by
which justice can be gained. What does the law of England care
for the rivers of blood shed years ago in San Pedro, or for the
shipload of treasure which this man has stolen? To you they are
like crimes committed in some other planet. But we know. We
have learned the truth in sorrow and in suffering. To us there is
no fiend in hell like Juan Murillo, and no peace in life while his
victims still cry for vengeance."
"No doubt," said Holmes, "he was as you say I have heard
that he was atrocious. But how are you affected?"
"I will tell you it all. This villain's policy was to murder, on
one pretext or another, every man who showed such promise that
he might in time come to be a dangerous rival. My husband --
yes, my real name is Signora Victor Durando -- was the San
Pedro minister in London. He met me and married me there. A
nobler man never lived upon earth. Unhappily, Murillo heard of
his excellence, recalled him on some pretext, and had him shot.
With a premonition of his fate he had refused to take me with
him. His estates were confiscated, and I was left with a pittance
and a broken heart.
"Then came the downfall af the tyrant. He escaped as you
have just described. But the many whose lives he had ruined,
whose nearest and dearest had suffered torture and death at his
hands, would not let the matter rest. They banded themselves
into a society which should never be dissolved until the work
was done. It was my part after we had discovered in the
transformed Henderson the fallen despot, to attach myself to his
household and keep the others in touch with his movements.
This I was able to do by securing the position of governess in his
family. He little knew that the woman who faced him at every
meal was the woman whose husband he had hurried at an hour's
notice into eternity. I smiled on him, did my duty to his children,
and bided my time. An attempt was made in Paris and failed.
We zig-zagged swiftly here and there over Europe to throw off
the pursuers and finally retulned to this house, which he had
taken upon his first arrival in England.
"But here also the ministers of justice were waiting. Knowing
that he would return there, Garcia, who is the son of the former
highest dignitary in San Pedlro, was waiting with two trusty
companions of humble station, all three fired with the same
reasons for revenge. He could do little during the day, for
Murillo took every precaution and never went out save with his
satellite Lucas, or Lopez as he was known in the days of his
greatness. At night, however, he slept alone, and the avenger
might find him. On a certain evening, which had been
prearranged, I sent my friend final instructions, for the man was
forever on the alert and continually changed his room. I was to
see that the doors were open and the signal of a green or white
light in a window which faced the drive was to give notice if all
was safe or if the attempt had better be postponed.
"But everything went wrong with us. In some way I had
excited the suspicion of Lopez, the secretary. He crept up behind
me and sprang upon me just as I had finished the note. He and
his master dragged me to my room and held judgment upon me
as a convicted traitress. Then and there they would have plunged
their knives into me could they have seen how to escape the
consequences of the deed. Finally, after much debate, they
concluded that my murder was too dangerous. But they
determined to get rid forever of Garcia. They had gagged me, and
Murillo twisted my arm round until I gave him the address. I
swear that he might have twisted it off had I understood what it
would mean to Garcia. Lopez addressed the note which I had
written, sealed it with his sleeve-link, and sent it by the hand of
the servant, Jose. How they murdered him I do not know, save
that it was Murillo's hand who struck him down, for Lopez had
remained to guard me. I believe he must have waited among the
gorse bushes through which the path winds and struck him down
as he passed. At first they were of a mind to let him enter the
house and to kill him as a detected burglar; but they argued that
if they were mixed up in an inquiry their own identity would at
once be publicly disclosed and they would be open to further
attacks. With the death of Garcia, the pursuit might cease, since
such a death might frighten others from the task.
"All would now have been well for them had it not been for
my knowledge of what they had done. I have no doubt that there
were times when my life hung in the balance. I was confined to
my room, terrorized by the most horrible threats, cruelly ill-used
to break my spirit -- see this stab on my shoulder and the bruises
from end to end of my arms -- and a gag was thrust into my
mouth on the one occasion when I tried to call from the window.
For five days this cruel imprisonment continued, with hardly
enough food to hold body and soul together. This afternoon a
good lunch was brought me, but the moment after I took it I
knew that I had been drugged. In a sort of dream I remember
being half-led, half-carried to the carriage; in the same state I was
conveyed to the train. Only then, when the wheels were almost
moving, did I suddenly realize that my liberty lay in my own
hands. I sprang out, they tried to drag me back, and had it not
been for the help of this good man, who led me to the cab, I
should never have broken away. Now, thank God, I am beyond
their power forever."
We had all listened intently to this remarkable statement. It
was Holmes who broke the silence.
"Our difficulties are not over," he remarked, shaking his
head. "Our police work ends, but our legal work begins."
"Exactly," said I. "A plausible lawyer could make it out as
an act of self-defence. There may be a hundred crimes in the
background, but it is only on this one that they can be tried."
"Come, come," said Baynes cheerily, "I think better of the
law than that. Self-defence is one thing. To entice a man in cold
blood with the object of murdering him is another, whatever
danger you may fear from him. No, no, we shall all be justified
when we see the tenants of High Gable at the next Guildford
It is a matter of history, however, that a little time was still to
elapse before the Tiger of San Pedro should meet with his
deserts. Wily and bold, he and his companion threw their
pursuer off their track by entering a lodging-house in Edmonton
Street and leaving by the back-gate into Curzon Square. From
that day they were seen no more in England. Some six months
afterwards the Marquess of Montalva and Signor Rulli, his
secretary, were both murdered in their rooms at the Hotel Escurial at
Madrid. The crime was ascribed to Nihilism, and the murderers
were never arrested. Inspector Baynes visited us at Baker Street
with a printed description of the dark face of the secretary, and
of the masterful features, the magnetic black eyes, and the tufted
brows of his master. We could not doubt that justice, if belated,
had come at last.
"A chaotic case, my dear Watson," said Holmes over an
evening pipe. "It will not be possible for you to present it in that
compact form which is dear to your heart. It covers two
continents, concerns two groups of mysterious persons, and is further
complicated by the highly respectable presence of our friend,
Scott Eccles, whose inclusion shows me that the deceased Garcia
had a scheming mind and a well-developed instinct of
selfpreservation. It is remarkable only for the fact that amid a perfect
jungle of possibilities we, with our worthy collaborator, the
inspector, have kept our close hold on the essentials and so been
guided along the crooked and winding path. Is there any point
which is not quite clear to you?"
"The object of the mulatto cook's return?"
"I think that the strange creature in the kitchen may account
for it. The man was a primitive savage from the backwoods of
San Pedro, and this was his fetish. When his companion and he
had fled to some prearranged retreat -- already occupied, no doubt
by a confederate -- the companion had persuaded him to leave so
compromising an article of furniture. But the mulatto's heart was
with it, and he was driven back to it next day, when, on
reconnoitring through the window, he found policeman Walters
in possession. He waited three days longer, and then his piety or
his superstition drove him to try once more. Inspector Baynes,
who, with his usual astuteness, had minimized the incident
before me, had really recognized its importance and had left a
trap into which the creature walked. Any other point, Watson?"
"The torn bird, the pail of blood, the charred bones, all the
mystery of that weird kitchen?"
Holmes smiled as he turned up an entry in his notebook.
"I spent a morning in the British Museum reading up on that
and other points. Here is a quotation from Eckermann's
Voodooism and the Negroid Religions:
The true voodoo-worshipper attempts nothing of
importance without certain sacrifices which are intended to
propitiate his unclean gods. In extreme cases these rites take the
form of human sacrifices followed by cannibalism. The
more usual victims are a white cock, which is plucked in
pieces alive, or a black goat, whose throat is cut and body
"So you see our savage friend was very orthodox in his ritual.
It is grotesque, Watson," Holmes added, as he slowly fastened
his notebook, "but, as I have had occasion to remark, there is
but one step from the grotesque to the horrible."