Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Valley of Fear (1914)
Next morning, after breakfast, we found Inspector MacDonald
and White Mason seated in close consultation in the small
parlour of the local police sergeant. On the table in front of them
were piled a number of letters and telegrams, which they were
carefully sorting and docketing. Three had been placed on one
"Still on the track of the elusive bicyclist?" Holmes asked
cheerfully. "What is the latest news of the ruffian?"
MacDonald pointed ruefully to his heap of correspondence.
"He is at present reported from Leicester, Nottingham,
Southampton, Derby, East Ham, Richmond, and fourteen other places.
In three of them -- East Ham, Leicester, and Liverpool -- there is
a clear case against him, and he has actually been arrested. The
country seems to be full of the fugitives with yellow coats."
"Dear me!" said Holmes sympathetically. "Now, Mr. Mac
and you, Mr. White Mason, I wish to give you a very earnest
piece of advice. When I went into this case with you I bargained,
as you will no doubt remember, that I should not present you
with half-proved theories, but that I should retain and work out
my own ideas until I had satisfied myself that they were correct.
For this reason I am not at the present moment telling you all
that is in my mind. On the other hand, I said that I would play
the game fairly by you, and I do not think it is a fair game to
allow you for one unnecessary moment to waste your energies
upon a profitless task. Therefore I am here to advise you this
morning, and my advice to you is summed up in three words --
abandon the case."
MacDonald and White Mason stared in amazement at their
"You consider it hopeless!" cried the inspector.
"I consider your case to be hopeless. I do not consider that it
is hopeless to arrive at the truth."
"But this cyclist. He is not an invention. We have his
description, his valise, his bicycle. The fellow must be somewhere.
Why should we not get him?"
"Yes, yes, no doubt he is somewhere, and no doubt we shall
get him; but I would not have you waste your energies in East
Ham or Liverpool. I am sure that we can find some shorter cut to
"You are holding something back. It's hardly fair of you, Mr.
Holmes." The inspector was annoyed.
"You know my methods of work, Mr. Mac. But I will hold it
back for the shortest time possible. I only wish to verify my
details in one way, which can very readily be done, and then I
make my bow and return to London, leaving my results entirely
at your service. I owe you too much to act otherwise; for in all
my experience I cannot recall any more singular and interesting
"This is clean beyond me, Mr. Holmes. We saw you when
we returned from Tunbndge Wells last night, and you were in
general agreement with our results. What has happened since
then to give you a completely new idea of the case?"
"Well, since you ask me, I spent, as I told you that I would,
some hours last night at the Manor House."
"Well, what happened?"
"Ah, I can only give you a very general answer to that for the
moment. By the way, I have been reading a short but clear and
interesting account of the old building, purchasable at the modest
sum of one penny from the local tobacconist."
Here Holmes drew a small tract, embellished with a rude
engraving of the ancient Manor House, from his waistcoat pocket.
"It immensely adds to the zest of an investigation, my dear
Mr. Mac, when one is in conscious sympathy with the historical
atmosphere of one's surroundings. Don't look so impatient; for I
assure you that even so bald an account as this raises some sort
of picture of the past in one's mind. Permit me to give you a
sample. 'Erected in the fifth year of the reign of James 1, and
standing upon the site of a much older building, the Manor
House of Birlstone presents one of the finest surviving examples
of the moated Jacobean residence --' "
"You are making fools of us, Mr. Holmes!"
"Tut, tut, Mr. Mac! -- the first sign of temper I have detected
in you. Well, I won't read it verbatim, since you feel so strongly
upon the subject. But when I tell you that there is some account
of the taking of the place by a parliamentary colonel in 1644, of
the concealment of Charles for several days in the course of the
Civil War, and finally of a visit there by the second George, you
will admit that there are various associations of interest
connected with this ancient house."
"I don't doubt it, Mr. Holmes; but that is no business of
"Is it not? Is it not? Breadth of view, my dear Mr. Mac, is
one of the essentials of our profession. The interplay of ideas and
the oblique uses of knowledge are often of extraordinary interest.
You will excuse these remarks from one who, though a mere
connoisseur of crime, is still rather older and perhaps more
experienced than yourself."
"I'm the first to admit that," said the detective heartily. "You
get to your point, I admit; but you have such a deuced round-
thecorner way of doing it."
"Well, well, I'll drop past history and get down to
presentday facts. I called last night, as I have already said, at the
Manor House. I did not see either Barker or Mrs. Douglas. I saw
no necessity to disturb them; but I was pleased to hear that the
lady was not visibly pining and that she had partaken of an
excellent dinner. My visit was specially made to the good Mr.
Ames, with whom I exchanged some amiabilities, which
culminated in his allowing me, without reference to anyone else. to sit
alone for a time in the study."
"What! With that?" I ejaculated.
"No, no, everything is now in order. You gave permission for
that, Mr. Mac, as I am informed. The room was in its normal
state, and in it I passed an instructive quarter of an hour."
"What were you doing?"
"Well, not to make a mystery of so simple a matter, I was
looking for the missing dumb-bell. It has always bulked rather
large in my estimate of the case. I ended by finding it."
"Ah, there we come to the edge of the unexplored. Let me go
a little further, a very little further, and I will promise that you
shall share everything that I know."
"Well, we're bound to take you on your own terms," said the
inspector; "but when it comes to telling us to abandon the
case -- why in the name of goodness should we abandon the
"For the simple reason, my dear Mr. Mac, that you have not
got the first idea what it is that you are investigating."
"We are investigating the murder of Mr. John Douglas of
"Yes, yes, so you are. But don't trouble to trace the
mysterious gentleman upon the bicycle. I assure you that it won't help
"Then what do you suggest that we do?"
"I will tell you exactly what to do, if you will do it."
"Well, I'm bound to say I've always found you had reason
behind all your queer ways. I'll do what you advise."
"And you, Mr. White Mason?"
The country detective looked helplessly from one to the other.
Holmes and his methods were new to him. "Well, if it is good
enough for the inspector, it is good enough for me," he said at
"Capital!" said Holmes. "Well, then, I should recommend a
nice, cheery country walk for both of you. They tell me that the
views from Birlstone Ridge over the Weald are very remarkable.
No doubt lunch could be got at some suitable hostelry; though
my ignorance of the country prevents me from recommending
one. In the evening, tired but happy --"
"Man, this is getting past a joke!" cried MacDonald, rising
angrily from his chair.
"Well, well, spend the day as you like," said Holmes, patting
him cheerfully upon the shoulder. "Do what you like and go
where you will, but meet me here before dusk without fail --
without fail, Mr. Mac."
"That sounds more like sanity."
"All of it was excellent advice; but I don't insist, so long as
you are here when I need you. But now, before we part, I want
you to write a note to Mr. Barker."
"I'll dictate it, if you like. Ready?
"It has struck me that it is our duty to drain the moat, in
the hope that we may find some --"
"It's impossible," said the inspector. "I've made inquiry."
"Tut, tut! My dear sir, please do what I ask you."
"Well, go on."
"-- in the hope that we may find something which may bear
upon our investigation. I have made arrangements, and the
workmen will be at work early to-morrow morning
diverting the stream --"
"-- diverting the stream; so I thought it best to explain
Now sign that, and send it by hand about four o'clock. At that
hour we shall meet again in this room. Until then we may each
do what we like; for I can assure you that this inquiry has come
to a definite pause."
Evening was drawing in when we reassembled. Holmes was
very serious in his manner, myself curious, and the detectives
obviously critical and annoyed.
"Well, gentlemen," said my friend gravely, "I am asking
you now to put everything to the test with me, and you will
judge for yourselves whether the observations I have made
justify the conclusions to which I have come. It is a chill evening,
and I do not know how long our expedition may last; so I beg
that you will wear your warmest coats. It is of the first
importance that we should be in our places before it grows dark; so
with your permission we shall get started at once."
We passed along the outer bounds of the Manor House park
until we came to a place where there was a gap in the rails which
fenced it. Through this we slipped, and then in the gathering
gloom we followed Holmes until we had reached a shrubbery
which lies nearly opposite to the main door and the drawbridge.
The latter had not been raised. Holmes crouched down behind
the screen of laurels, and we all three followed his example.
"Well, what are we to do now?" asked MacDonald with
"Possess our souls in patience and make as little noise as
possible," Holmes answered.
"What are we here for at all? I really think that you might
treat us with more frankness."
Holmes laughed. "Watson insists that I am the dramatist in
real life," said he. "Some touch of the artist wells up within me,
and calls insistently for a well-staged performance. Surely our
profession, Mr. Mac, would be a drab and sordid one if we did
not sometimes set the scene so as to glorify our results. The
blunt accusation, the brutal tap upon the shoulder -- what can one
make of such a denouement? But the quick inference, the subtle
trap, the clever forecast of coming events, the triumphant
vindication of bold theories -- are these not the pride and the
justification of our life's work? At the present moment you thrill with the
glamour of the situation and the anticipation of the hunt. Where
would be that thrill if I had been as definite as a timetable? I only
ask a little patience, Mr. Mac, and all will be clear to you."
"Well, I hope the pride and justification and the rest of it will
come before we all get our death of cold," said the London
detective with comic resignation.
We all had good reason to join in the aspiration; for our vigil
was a long and bitter one. Slowly the shadows darkened over the
long, sombre face of the old house. A cold, damp reek from the
moat chilled us to the bones and set our teeth chattering. There
was a single lamp over the gateway and a steady globe of light in
the fatal study. Everything else was dark and still.
"How long is this to last?" asked the inspector finally. "And
what is it we are watching for?"
"I have no more notion than you how long it is to last,"
Holmes answered with some asperity. "If criminals would always
schedule their movements like railway trains, it would certainly
be more convenient for all of us. As to what it is we -- Well,
that's what we are watching for!"
As he spoke the bright, yellow light in the study was obscured
by somebody passing to and fro before it. The laurels among
which we lay were immediately opposite the window and not
more than a hundred feet from it. Presently it was thrown open
with a whining of hinges, and we could dimly see the dark
outline of a man's head and shoulders looking out into the
gloom. For some minutes he peered forth in furtive, stealthy
fashion, as one who wishes to be assured that he is unobserved.
Then he leaned forward, and in the intense silence we were
aware of the soft lapping of agitated water. He seemed to be
stirring up the moat with something which he held in his hand.
Then suddenly he hauled something in as a fisherman lands a
fish -- some large, round object which obscured the light as it
was dragged through the open casement.
"Now!" cried Holmes. "Now!"
We were all upon our feet, staggering after him with our
stiffened limbs, while he ran swiftly across the bridge and rang
violently at the bell. There was the rasping of bolts from the
other side, and the amazed Ames stood in the entrance. Holmes
brushed him aside without a word and, followed by all of us,
rushed into the room which had been occupied by the man whom
we had been watching.
The oil lamp on the table represented the glow which we had
seen from outside. It was now in the hand of Cecil Barker, who
held it towards us as we entered. Its light shone upon his strong,
resolute, clean-shaved face and his menacing eyes.
"What the devil is the meaning of all this?" he cried. "What
are you after, anyhow?"
Holmes took a swift glance round, and then pounced upon a
sodden bundle tied together with cord which lay where it had
been thrust under the writing table.
"This is what we are after, Mr. Barker -- this bundle, weighted
with a dumb-bell, which you have just raised from the bottom of
Barker stared at Holmes with amazement in his face. "How in
thunder came you to know anything about it?" he asked.
"Simply that I put it there."
"You put it there! You!"
"Perhaps I should have said 'replaced it there,' " said Holmes.
"You will remember, Inspector MacDonald, that I was
somewhat struck by the absence of a dumb-bell. I drew your attention
to it; but with the pressure of other events you had hardly the
time to give it the consideration which would have enabled you
to draw deductions from it. When water is near and a weight is
missing it is not a very far-fetched supposition that something
has been sunk in the water. The idea was at least worth testing;
so with the help of Ames, who admitted me to the room, and the
crook of Dr. Watson's umbrella, I was able last night to fish up
and inspect this bundle.
"It was of the first importance, however, that we should be
able to prove who placed it there. This we accomplished by the
very obvious device of announcing that the moat would be dried
to-morrow, which had, of course, the effect that whoever had
hidden the bundle would most certainly withdraw it the moment
that darkness enabled him to do so. We have no less than four
witnesses as to who it was who took advantage of the
opportunity, and so, Mr. Barker, I think the word lies now with you."
Sherlock Holmes put the sopping bundle upon the table beside
the lamp and undid the cord which bound it. From within he
extracted a dumb-bell, which he tossed down to its fellow in the
corner. Next he drew forth a pair of boots. "American, as you
perceive," he remarked, pointing to the toes. Then he laid upon
the table a long, deadly, sheathed knife. Finally he unravelled a
bundle of clothing, comprising a complete set of underclothes,
socks, a gray tweed suit, and a short yellow overcoat.
"The clothes are commonplace," remarked Holmes, "save
only the overcoat, which is full of suggestive touches." He held
it tenderly towards the light. "Here, as you perceive, is the inner
pocket prolonged into the lining in such fashion as to give ample
space for the truncated fowling piece. The tailor's tab is on the
neck -- 'Neal, Outfitter, Vermissa, U. S. A.' I have spent an
instructive afternoon in the rector's library, and have enlarged
my knowledge by adding the fact that Vermissa is a flourishing
little town at the head of one of the best known coal and iron
valleys in the United States. I have some recollection, Mr.
Barker, that you associated the coal districts with Mr. Douglas's
first wife, and it would surely not be too far-fetched an inference
that the V. V. upon the card by the dead body might stand for
Vermissa Valley, or that this very valley which sends forth
emissaries of murder may be that Valley of Fear of which we
have heard. So much is fairly clear. And now, Mr. Barker, I
seem to be standing rather in the way of your explanation."
It was a sight to see Cecil Barker's expressive face during this
exposition of the great detective. Anger, amazement,
consternation, and indecision swept over it in turn. Finally he took refuge
in a somewhat acrid irony.
"You know such a lot, Mr. Holmes, perhaps you had better
tell us some more," he sneered.
"I have no doubt that I could tell you a great deal more, Mr.
Barker; but it would come with a better grace from you."
"Oh, you think so, do you? Well, all I can say is that if
there's any secret here it is not my secret, and I am not the man
to give it away."
"Well, if you take that line, Mr. Barker," said the inspector
quietly, "we must just keep you in sight until we have the
warrant and can hold you."
"You can do what you damn please about that," said Barker
The proceedings seemed to have come to a definite end so far
as he was concerned; for one had only to look at that granite face
to realize that no peine forte et dure would ever force him to
plead against his will. The deadlock was broken, however, by a
woman's voice. Mrs. Douglas had been standing listening at the
half opened door, and now she entered the room.
"You have done enough for now, Cecil," said she. "
Whatever comes of it in the future, you have done enough."
"Enough and more than enough," remarked Sherlock Holmes
gravely. "I have every sympathy with you, madam, and
should strongly urge you to have some confidence in the common
sense of our jurisdiction and to take the police voluntarily into
your complete confidence. It may be that I am myself at fault for
not following up the hint which you conveyed to me through my
friend, Dr. Watson; but, at that time I had every reason to
believe that you were directly concerned in the crime. Now I am
assured that this is not so. At the same time, there is much that is
unexplained, and I should strongly recommend that you ask Mr.
Douglas to tell us his own story."
Mrs. Douglas gave a cry of astonishment at Holmes's words.
The detectives and I must have echoed it, when we were aware
of a man who seemed to have emerged from the wall, who
advanced now from the gloom of the corner in which he had
appeared. Mrs. Douglas turned, and in an instant her arms were
round him. Barker had seized his outstretched hand.
"It's best this way, Jack," his wife repeated; "I am sure that
it is best."
"Indeed, yes, Mr. Douglas," said Sherlock Holmes, "I am
sure that you will find it best."
The man stood blinking at us with the dazed look of one who
comes from the dark into the light. It was a remarkable face,
bold gray eyes, a strong, short-clipped, grizzled moustache, a
square, projecting chin, and a humorous mouth. He took a good
look at us all, and then to my amazement he advanced to me and
handed me a bundle of paper.
"I've heard of you," said he in a voice which was not quite
English and not quite American, but was altogether mellow and
pleasing. "You are the historian of this bunch. Well, Dr.
Watson, you've never had such a story as that pass through your
hands before, and I'll lay my last dollar on that. Tell it your own
way; but there are the facts, and you can't miss the public so
long as you have those. I've been cooped up two days, and I've
spent the daylight hours -- as much daylight as I could get in that
rat trap -- in putting the thing into words. You're welcome to
them -- you and your public. There's the story of the Valley of
"That's the past, Mr. Douglas," said Sherlock Holmes
quietly. "What we desire now is to hear your story of the present."
"You'll have it, sir," said Douglas. "May I smoke as I talk?
Well, thank you, Mr. Holmes. You're a smoker yourself, if I
remember right, and you'll guess what it is to be sitting for two
days with tobacco in your pocket and afraid that the smell will
give you away." He leaned against the mantelpiece and sucked
at the cigar which Holmes had handed him. "I've heard of you
Mr. Holmes. I never guessed that I should meet you. But before
you are through with that," he nodded at my papers, "you will
say I've brought you something fresh."
Inspector MacDonald had been staring at the newcomer with
the greatest amazement. "Well, this fairly beats me!" he cried at
last. "If you are Mr. John Douglas of Birlstone Manor, then
whose death have we been investigating for these two days, and
where in the world have you sprung from now? You seemed to
me to come out of the floor like a jack-in-a-box."
"Ah, Mr. Mac," said Holmes, shaking a reproving
forefinger, "you would not read that excellent local compilation which
described the concealment of King Charles. People did not hide
in those days without excellent hiding places, and the hiding
place that has once been used may be again. I had persuaded
myself that we should find Mr. Douglas under this roof."
"And how long have you been playing this trick upon us, Mr.
Holmes?" said the inspector angrily. "How long have you
allowed us to waste ourselves upon a search that you knew to be
an absurd one?"
"Not one instant, my dear Mr. Mac. Only last night did I
form my views of the case. As they could not be put to the proof
until this evening, I invited you and your colleague to take a
holiday for the day. Pray what more could I do? When I found
the suit of clothes in the moat, it at once became apparent to me
that the body we had found could not have been the body of Mr.
John Douglas at all, but must be that of the bicyclist from
Tunbridge Wells. No other conclusion was possible. Therefore I
had to determine where Mr. John Douglas himself could be, and
the balance of probability was that with the connivance of his
wife and his friend he was concealed in a house which had such
conveniences for a fugitive, and awaiting quieter times when he
could make his final escape."
"Well, you figured it out about right," said Douglas
approvingly. "I thought I'd dodge your British law; for I was not sure
how I stood under it, and also I saw my chance to throw these
hounds once for all off my track. Mind you, from first to last I
have done nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing that I would
not do again; but you'll judge that for yourselves when I tell you
my story. Never mind warning me, Inspector: I'm ready to stand
pat upon the truth.
"I'm not going to begin at the beginning. That's all there," he
indicated my bundle of papers, "and a mighty queer yarn you'll
find it. It all comes down to this: That there are some men that
have good cause to hate me and would give their last dollar to
know that they had got me. So long as I am alive and they are
alive, there is no safety in this world for me. They hunted me
from Chicago to California, then they chased me out of America;
but when I married and settled down in this quiet spot I thought
my last years were going to be peaceable.
"I never explained to my wife how things were. Why should I
pull her into it? She would never have a quiet moment again; but
would always be imagining trouble. I fancy she knew something,
for I may have dropped a word here or a word there; but until
yesterday, after you gentlemen had seen her, she never knew the
rights of the matter. She told you all she knew, and so did
Barker here; for on the night when this thing happened there was
mighty little time for explanations. She knows everything now,
and I would have been a wiser man if I had told her sooner. But
it was a hard question, dear," he took her hand for an instant in
his own, "and I acted for the best.
"Well, gentlemen, the day before these happenings I was over
in Tunbridge Wells, and I got a glimpse of a man in the street. It
was only a glimpse; but I have a quick eye for these things, and I
never doubted who it was. It was the worst enemy I had among
them all -- one who has been after me like a hungry wolf after a
caribou all these years. I knew there was trouble coming, and I
came home and made ready for it. I guessed I'd fight through it
all right on my own, my luck was a proverb in the States about
'76. I never doubted that it would be with me still.
"I was on my guard all that next day, and never went out into
the park. It's as well, or he'd have had the drop on me with that
buckshot gun of his before ever I could draw on him. After the
bridge was up -- my mind was always more restful when that
bridge was up in the evenings -- I put the thing clear out of my
head. I never dreamed of his getting into the house and waiting
for me. But when I made my round in my dressing gown, as was
my habit, I had no sooner entered the study than I scented
danger. I guess when a man has had dangers in his life -- and I've
had more than most in my time -- there is a kind of sixth sense
that waves the red flag. I saw the signal clear enough, and yet I
couldn't tell you why. Next instant I spotted a boot under the
window curtain, and then I saw why plain enough.
"I'd just the one candle that was in my hand; but there was a
good light from the hall lamp through the open door. I put down
the candle and jumped for a hammer that I'd left on the mantel.
At the same moment he sprang at me. I saw the glint of a knife,
and I lashed at him with the hammer. I got him somewhere; for
the knife tinkled down on the floor. He dodged round the table
as quick as an eel, and a moment later he'd got his gun from
under his coat. I heard him cock it; but I had got hold of it before
he could fire. I had it by the barrel, and we wrestled for it all
ends up for a minute or more. It was death to the man that lost
"He never lost his grip; but he got it butt downward for a
moment too long. Maybe it was I that pulled the trigger. Maybe
we just jolted it off between us. Anyhow, he got both barrels in
the face, and there I was, staring down at all that was left of Ted
Baldwin. I'd recognized him in the township, and again when he
sprang for me; but his own mother wouldn't recognize him as I
saw him then. I'm used to rough work; but I fairly turned sick at
the sight of him.
"I was hanging on the side of the table when Barker came
hurrying down. I heard my wife coming, and I ran to the door
and stopped her. It was no sight for a woman. I promised I'd
come to her soon. I said a word or two to Barker -- he took it all
in at a glance -- and we waited for the rest to come along. But
there was no sign of them. Then we understood that they could
hear nothing, and that all that had happened was known only to
"It was at that instant that the idea came to me. I was fairly
dazzled by the brilliance of it. The man's sleeve had slipped up
and there was the branded mark of the lodge upon his forearm.
The man whom we had known as Douglas turned up his own
coat and cuff to show a brown triangle within a circle exactly
like that which we had seen upon the dead man.
"It was the sight of that which started me on it. I seemed to
see it all clear at a glance. There were his height and hair and
figure, about the same as my own. No one could swear to his
face, poor devil! I brought down this suit of clothes, and in a
quarter of an hour Barker and I had put my dressing gown on
him and he lay as you found him. We tied all his things into a
bundle, and I weighted them with the only weight I could find
and put them through the window. The card he had meant to lay
upon my body was lying beside his own.
"My rings were put on his finger; but when it came to the
wedding ring," he held out his muscular hand, "you can see for
yourselves that I had struck the limit. I have not moved it since
the day I was married, and it would have taken a file to get it
off. I don't know, anyhow, that I should have cared to part with
it; but if I had wanted to I couldn't. So we just had to leave that
detail to take care of itself. On the other hand, I brought a bit of
plaster down and put it where I am wearing one myself at this
instant. You slipped up there, Mr. Holmes, clever as you are; for
if you had chanced to take off that plaster you would have found
no cut underneath it.
"Well, that was the situation. If I could lie low for a while
and then get away where I could be joined by my 'widow' we
should have a chance at last of living in peace for the rest of our
lives. These devils would give me no rest so long as I was above
ground; but if they saw in the papers that Baldwin had got his
man, there would be an end of all my troubles. I hadn't much
time to make it all clear to Barker and to my wife; but they
understood enough to be able to help me. I knew all about this
hiding place, so did Ames; but it never entered his head to
connect it with the matter. I retired into it, and it was up to
Barker to do the rest.
"I guess you can fill in for yourselves what he did. He opened
the window and made the mark on the sill to give an idea of how
the murderer escaped. It was a tall order, that; but as the bridge
was up there was no other way. Then, when everything was
fixed, he rang the bell for all he was worth. What happened
afterward you know. And so, gentlemen, you can do what you
please; but I've told you the truth and the whole truth, so help
me God! What I ask you now is how do I stand by the English
There was a silence which was broken by Sherlock Holmes.
"The English law is in the main a just law. You will get no
worse than your deserts from that, Mr. Douglas. But I would ask
you how did this man know that you lived here, or how to get
into your house, or where to hide to get you?"
"I know nothing of this."
Holmes's face was very white and grave. "The story is not
over yet, I fear," said he. "You may find worse dangers than
the English law, or even than your enemies from America. I see
trouble before you, Mr. Douglas. You'll take my advice and still
be on your guard."
And now, my long-suffering readers, I will ask you to come
away with me for a time, far from the Sussex Manor House of
Birlstone, and far also from the year of grace in which we made
our eventful journey which ended with the strange story of the
man who had been known as John Douglas. I wish you to
journey back some twenty years in time, and westward some
thousands of miles in space, that I may lay before you a singular
and terrible narrative -- so singular and so terrible that you may
find it hard to believe that even as I tell it, even so did it occur.
Do not think that I intrude one story before another is finished.
As you read on you will find that this is not so. And when I have
detailed those distant events and you have solved this mystery of
the past, we shall meet once more in those rooms on Baker
Street, where this, like so many other wonderful happenings,
will find its end.