A Sherlock Holmes Adventure: 6 The Man with the Twisted Lip

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A Sherlock Holmes Adventure: 6 The Man with the Twisted Lip

the man with the twisted lip eisah whitney brother of the late Elias Whitney DD principal of the Theological College of some George’s was much addicted to opium the habit grew upon him as I understand from some foolish freak when he was at college for having read d Quincey’s description of his dreams and sensations he had drenched his tobacco with laudanum in an attempt to produce the same effects he found as so many more have done that the practice is easier to attain than to get rid of and for many years he continued to be a slave to the drug an object of mingled horror and pity to his friends and relatives I can see him now with yellow pasty face drooping lids and pinpoint pupils all huddled in a chair the wreck and ruin of a noble man one night it was in June 89 there came a ring to my bell about the hour when a man gives his first yawn and glances at the clock I sat up in my chair and my wife laid her needlework down in her lap and made a little face of disappointment a patient said she you’ll have to go out I groaned for I was newly come back from a weary day we heard the door open a few hurried words and then quick steps upon the linoleum our own door flew open and a lady clad in some dark-coloured stuff with a black veil entered the room you will excuse my calling so late she began and then suddenly losing her self-control she ran forward threw her arms about my wife’s neck and sobbed upon her shoulder oh I’m in such trouble she cried I do so want a little help why said my wife pulling up her veil it is Kate Whitney how you startled me Kate I had not an idea who you were when you came in I didn’t know what to do so I came straight to you that was always the way folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a lighthouse it was very sweet of you to come now you must have some wine and water and sit here comfortably and tell us all about it or should you rather that I sent James off to bed oh no no I want the doctor’s advice and help – it’s about aye sir he has not been home for two days I’m so frightened about him it was not the first time that she had spoken to us of her husband’s trouble to me as a doctor to my wife as an old friend and school companion we soothed and comforted her by such words as we could find did she know where her husband was was it possible that we could bring him back to her it seemed that it was she had the surest information that of late he had when the fit was on him made use of an opium den in the farthest east of the city hitherto his orgies had always been confined to one day and he had come back twitching and shattered in the evening but now the spell had been upon him eight and forty hours and he lay there doubtless among the dregs of the docks breathing in the poison or sleeping off the effects there he was to be found she was sure of it at the bar of gold in Upper swandam Lane but what was she to do how could she a young and timid woman make her way into such a place and pluck her husband out from among the ruffians who surrounded him there was the case and of course there was but one way out of it might I not escort her to this place and then as a second thought why should she come at all I was ice a Whitney’s medical adviser and as such I had influence over him I could manage it better if I were alone I promised her on my word that I would send him home in a cab within two hours if he were indeed at the address which he had given me and so in ten minutes I had left my armchair and cheery sitting-room behind me and was speeding eastward in a hansom on a strange errand as it seemed to me at the time though the future only could show how strange it was to be but there was no great difficulty in the first stage of my adventure Upper swandam Lane is a vile alley lurking behind the high wharves which line the north side of the river to the east of London Bridge between a slop shop and a gin shop approached by a steep flight of steps leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave I found the den of which I was in search ordering my cab to wait I passed down the steps worn hollow in the centre by the ceaseless tread of

drunken feet and by the light of a flickering oil-lamp above the door I found the latch and made my way into a long low room thick and heavy with the brown opium smoke and terraced with wooden berths like the fo’c’sle of an emigrant ship through the gloom one could dimly catch a glimpse of bodies lying in strange fantastic poses bowed shoulders bent knees heads thrown back and Chin’s pointed upwards with here and there a dark lackluster I turned upon the newcomer out of the black shadows there glimmered little red circles of light now bright now faint as the burning poison waxed or waned in the bowls of the metal pipes the most lay silent but some muttered to themselves and others talked together in a strange low monotonous voice their conversation coming in gushes and then suddenly tailing off into silence each mumbling out his own thoughts and paying little heed to the words of his neighbor at the further end was a small brazier of burning charcoal beside which on a three-legged wooden stool there sat a tall thin old man with his jaw resting upon his two fists and his elbows upon his knees staring into the fire as I entered a sallow Malay attendant had hurried up with a pipe for me and a supply of the drug beckoning me to an empty berth thank you I have not come to stay said I there is a friend of mine here mr. ice a Whitney and I wish to speak with him there was a movement and an exclamation from my right and peering through the gloom I saw Whitney pale Haggard and unkempt staring out at me my god it’s Watson said he he was in a pitiable state of reaction with every nerve in a Twitter I say Watson what o’clock is it nearly 11 of what day of Friday June the 19th good heavens I thought it was Wednesday it is Wednesday what do you want to frighten a chap for he sank his face onto his arms and began to sob in a high treble key I tell you that it is Friday man your wife has been waiting this two days for you you should be ashamed of yourself so I am but you’ve got mixed Watson for I have only been here a few hours three pipes four pipes I forget how many but I’ll go home with you I wouldn’t frighten Kate poor little Kate give me your hand have you a cab yes I have one waiting then I shall go in it but I must know something find what I Oh Watson I am off-color I can do nothing for myself I walk down the narrow passage between the double row of sleepers holding my breath to keep out the vile stupefying fumes of the drug and looking about for the manager as I passed the tall man who sat by the brazier I felt a sudden pluck at my skirt and a low voice whispered walk past me and then looked back at me the words fell quite distinctly upon my ear I glanced down they could only have come from the very old man at my side and yet he sat now as absorbed as ever very thin very wrinkled bent with age an opium pipe dangling down from between his knees as though it had dropped in sheer lassitude from his fingers I took two steps forward and looked back it took all my self-control to prevent me from breaking out into a cry of astonishment he had turned his back so that none could see him but I his form had filled out his wrinkles were gone the dull eyes had regained their fire and they’re sitting by the fire and grinning at my surprise was none other than Sherlock Holmes he made a slight motion to me to approach him and instantly as he turned his face half round to the company once more subsided into a doddering loo slipt senility Holmes I whispered what an earth are you doing in this den as low as you can he answered I have excellent ears if you would have great kindness to get rid of that sottish friend of yours I should be exceedingly glad to have a little talk with you I have a cab outside then pray send him home in it you may safely trust him for he appears to be too limp to get into any mischief I should recommend you also send a note by the cabman to your wife to say that you have thrown in your lot with me if you will wait outside I shall be with you in five minutes it was difficult to refuse any of Sherlock Holmes’s requests for they were always so exceedingly definite and put forward with such an air of mastery I felt however that when Whitney was once confined in the cab my mission was practically accomplished and for the rest I could not wish anything better than to be associated with my friend in one of those singular adventures which were the normal condition of his existence in a few minutes I had written

my note paid Whitney’s bill led him out to the cab and seen him driven through the darkness in a very short time a decrepit figure had emerged from the opium den and I was walking down the street with Sherlock Holmes for two streets he shuffled along with a bent back and an uncertain foot then glancing quickly round he straightened himself and burst into a hearty fit of laughter I suppose Watson said he that you imagine that I have added opium-smoking to cocaine injections and all the other little weaknesses on which you have favoured me with your medical views I was certainly surprised to find you there but not more so than I to find you I came to find a friend and I to find an enemy an enemy yes one of my natural enemies or shall I say my natural prey briefly Watson I am in the midst of a very remarkable inquiry and I have hoped to find a clue in the incoherent ramblings of these sots as I have done before now had I been recognised in that den my life would not have been worth an hour’s purchase for I have used it before now my own purposes and the rascally Lascar who runs it has sworn vengeance upon me there is a trapdoor at the back of that building near the corner of Paul’s Wharf which could tell some strange tales of what has passed through it upon the moonless nights what you do not mean bodies eye bodies Watson we should be rich men if we had a thousand pounds for every poor devil who has been done to death in that den it is the vilest murder trap on the whole Riverside and I fear Neville Sinclair has entered it never to leave it more but our trap should be here he put his two forefingers between his teeth and whistled truly a signal which was answered by a similar whistle from the distance followed shortly by the rattle of wheels and the clink of horses hoofs now Watson said Holmes as a dog-cart dashed up through the gloom throwing out two golden tunnels of yellow light from its side lanterns you’ll come with me won’t you if I can be of use Oh a trusty comrade is always of use and a chronicler still more so my room at the Cedars is a double-bedded one The Cedars yes that is mr. Sinclair’s house I am staying there while I conduct the inquiry where is it then nearly in Kent we have a seven mile drive before us but I’m all in the dark of course you are you’ll know all about it presently jump up here all right John we shall not need you here’s half a crown look out for me tomorrow about 11:00 give her her head so long then he flicked the horse with his whip and we dashed away through the endless succession of sombre and deserted streets which widened gradually until we were flying across a broad balustraded bridge with the murky river flowing sluggishly beneath us beyond lay another broad wilderness of bricks and mortar its silence broken only by the heavy regular footfall of the policeman of the songs and shouts of some belated party of revelers a dull wrack was drifting slowly across the sky and a star or two twinkled dimly here and there through the rifts of the clouds Holmes drove in silence with his head sunk upon his rest and the air of a man who is lost in thought while I sat beside him curious to learn what this new quest might be which seemed to tax his powers so sorely and yet afraid to break in upon the current of his thoughts we had driven several miles and were beginning to get to the fringe of the belt of suburban villas when he shook himself shrugged his shoulders and lit up his pipe with the air of a man who has satisfied himself that he is acting for the best you have a grand gift of silence Watson said he it makes you quite invaluable as a companion upon my word it is a great thing for me to have someone to talk to for my own thoughts are not over Pleasant I was wondering what I should say to this dear little woman tonight when she meets me at the door you forget that I know nothing about it I shall just have time to tell you the facts of the case before we get to leave it seems absurdly simple and yet somehow I can get nothing to go upon there’s plenty of thread no doubt but I can’t get the end of it in my hand now I’ll state the case clearly and concisely to you Watson and maybe you may see a spark where all is dark to me proceed then some years ago to be definite in May 1884 there came to Lee a gentleman Neville Sinclair by name who appeared to have plenty of money he took a large Villa laid out the grounds very nicely and lived generally in good style by degrees he made friends in the neighbourhood and in 1887 he married the daughter of a local Brewer by whom he

has now had two children he had no occupation but was interested in several companies and went into town as a rule in the morning returning by the 514 from Cannon Street every night mr. Sinclair is now 37 years of age is a man of temperate habits a good husband a very affectionate father and a man who is popular with all who know him I may add that his whole debts at the present moment as far as we have been able to ascertain amount to 88 pounds 10 shillings while he has 220 pounds standing to his credit in the capital and County back there is no reason therefore to think that money troubles have been weighing upon his mind last Monday mr Neville Sinclair went into town rather earlier than usual remarking before he started that he had two important Commission’s to perform and that he would bring his little boy home a box of bricks now by the merest chance his wife received a telegram upon this same Monday very shortly after his departure to the effect that a small parcel of considerable value which she had been expecting was waiting for her at the offices of the Aberdeen shipping company now if you are well up in your London you will note that the office of the company is in Fresno Street which branches out of upper swandam Lane where you found me tonight mrs. Sinclair had her lunch started for the city did some shopping proceeded to the company’s office got her packet and found herself exactly at 4:35 walking through swandam Lane on the way back to the station have you followed me so far it is very clear if you remember Monday was an exceedingly hot day and mrs. Sinclair walked slowly glancing about in the hope of seeing a cab she did not like the neighborhood in which she found herself while she walked in this way down swandam Lane she suddenly heard an ejaculation or cry and was struck cold to see her husband looking down at her and as it seemed to her beckoning to her from a second-floor window the window was open and she distinctly saw his face which she describes as being terribly agitated he waved his hands frantically to her and then vanished from the window so suddenly that it seemed to her that he had been plucked back by some irresistible force from behind one singular point which struck her quick feminine eye was that although he wore some dark coat such as he had started to town in he had on neither collar nor necktie convinced that something was amiss with him she rushed down the steps for the house was none other than the opium den in which you found me tonight and running through the front room she attempted to ascend the stairs which led to the first floor at the foot of the stairs however she met this Lascar scoundrel of whom I have spoken who thrust her back and aided by a Dane who acts as assistant there pushed her out into the street filled with the most maddening doubts and fears she rushed down the lane and by rare good-fortune met in Fresno Street a number of constables with an inspector all on their way to their beat the inspector and two men accompanied her back and in spite of the continued resistance of the proprietor they made their way to the room in which mr Sinclair had last been seen there was no sign of him there in fact in the whole of that floor there was no one to be found save a crippled wretch of hideous aspect who it seems made his home there both he and the Lascar stoutly swore that no one else had been in the front room during that afternoon so determined was their denial that the inspector was staggered and had almost come to believe that mrs. Sinclair had been deluded when with a cry she sprang at a small deal box which lay upon the table and told a lid from it out there fell a cascade of children’s bricks it was the toy which he had promised to bring home this discovery and the evident confusion which the cripple showed made the inspector realized that the matter was serious the rooms were carefully examined and results all pointed to an abominable crime the front room was plainly furnished as a sitting-room and led into a small bedroom which looked out upon the back of one of the wharves between the wharf and the bedroom window is a narrow strip which is dry at low tide but is covered at high tide with at least four and a half feet of water the bedroom window was a broad one and open from below on examination traces of blood were to be seen upon the windowsill and several scattered drops were visible upon the wooden floor of the bedroom thrust away behind the curtain in the front room were all the clothes of mr. Neville Sinclair with the exception of his coat his boots his socks his hat and his watch all were there there were no signs of violence

upon any of these garments and there were no other traces of mr. Neville Sinclair out of the window he must apparently have gone for no other exit could be discovered and the ominous bloodstains upon the sill gave little promise that he could save himself by swimming for the tide was at its very highest at the moment of the tragedy and now as to the villains who seemed to be immediately implicated in the matter the last car was known to be a man of the vilest antecedents but as by mrs Sinclair story he was known to have been at the foot of the stairs within a few seconds of her husband’s appearance at the window he could hardly have been more than an accessory to the crime his defense was one of absolute ignorance and he protested that he had no knowledge as to the doings of Hugh Boone his lodger and that he could not account in any way for the presence of the missing gentleman’s clothes so much for the last car manager now for the sinister cripple who lives upon the second floor of the opium den and who was certainly the last human being whose eyes rested upon Neville Sinclair his name is Hugh Boone and his hideous face is one which is familiar to every man who goes much to the city he is a professional beggar though in order to avoid the police regulations he pretends to a small trade in wax Vestas some little distance down Threadneedle Street upon the left-hand side there is as you may have remarked a small angle in the wall here it is that the creature takes his daily seat cross-legged with his tiny stock of matches on his lap and as he is a piteous spectacle a small rain of charity descends into the greasy leather cap which lies upon the pavement before him I have watched this fellow more than once before ever I thought of making his professional acquaintance and I have been surprised at the harvest which he has reaped in a short time his appearance you see is so remarkable that no one can pass him without observing him a shock of orange hair a pale face disfigured by a horrible scar which by its contraction has turned up the outer edge of his upper lip a bulldog chin and a pair of very penetrating dark eyes which present a singular contrast to the color of his hair all mark him out from amid the common crowd of mendicants and so too does his wit for he is ever ready with a reply to any piece of chaff which may be thrown at him by the passers-by this is the man whom we now learn to have been the lodger at the opium den and who have been the last man to have seen the gentlemen of whom we are in quest but a cripple said I what could he have done single-handed against a man in the prime of life he is a cripple in the sense that he walks with a limp but in other respects he appears to be a powerful and well nurtured man surely your medical experience would tell you Watson that weakness in one limb is often compensated for by exceptional strength in the others pray continue your narrative mrs. Sinclair had fainted at the sight of the blood upon the window and she was escorted home in a cab by the police as her presence could be of no help to them in their investigations inspector Barton who had charge of the case made a very careful examination of the premises but without finding anything which threw any light upon the matter one mistake had been made in not arresting Boone instantly as he was allowed some few minutes during which he might have communicated with his friend Alaska but this fault was soon remedied and he was seized and searched without anything being found which could incriminate him there were it is true some bloodstains upon his right shirt sleeve but he pointed to his ring-finger which had been cut near the nail and explained that the bleeding came from there adding that he had been to the window not long before and that the stains which had been observed there came doubtlessly from the same source he denied strenuously having ever seen mr. Neville Sinclair and swore that the presence of the clothes in his room was as much a mystery to him as to the police as to mrs. Sinclair’s assertion that she had actually seen her husband at the window he declared that she must either have been mad or dreaming he was removed loudly protesting to the police-station while the inspector remained on the premises in the hope that the ebbing tide might afford some fresh clue and it did though they hardly found upon the mudbank what they had feared to find it was Neville Sinclair scoped and not Neville Sinclair which lay uncovered as the tide receded and what do you think they found in the pockets I cannot imagine no I don’t think he will guess every pocket stuffed with

pennies sound hey ponies 421 pennies and 270 happiness it was no wonder that it had not been swept away by the tide but a human body is a different matter there is a fierce Eddy between the war from the house it seemed likely enough that the weighted coat had remained when the stripped body had been sucked away into the river but I understand that all the other clothes were found in the room would the body be dressed in a coat alone no sir but the facts might be met speciously enough suppose that this man Boone had thrust Neville Sinclair through the window there is no human eye which could have seen the deed what would he do then it would of course instantly strike him that he must get rid of the tell-tale garments he would seize the coat then and be in the act of throwing it out when it would occur to him that it would swim and not sink he has little time for he had heard the scuffle downstairs when the white tried to force her way up and perhaps he has already heard from his last car Confederate that the police are hurrying up the street there is not an instant to be lost he rushes to some secret hoard where he has accumulated the fruits of his beggary and he stuffs all the coins upon which he can lay his hands into the pockets to make sure of the coats sinking he throws it out and would have done the same with the other garments had not he heard the rush of steps below and only just had time to close the window when the police appeared it certainly sounds feasible well we will take it as a working hypothesis for want of a better dune as I have told you was arrested and taken to the station but it could not be shown that there had ever before been anything again Tim he had four years been known as a professional beggar but his life appeared to have been a very quiet and innocent one there the matter stands at present and the questions which have to be solved what Neville Sinclair was doing in the opium den what happened to him went there where is he now and what hugh boone had to do with his disappearance are all as far from a solution as ever i confess that I cannot recall any case within my experience which looked at the first glance so simple and yet which presented such difficulties whilst relic Holmes had been detailing this singular series of events we had been whirling through the outskirts of the great town until the last straggling houses had been left behind and we rattled along with a country hedge upon either side of us just as he finished however we drove through two scattered villages where a few light’s still glimmered in the windows we are on the outskirts of Lee said my companion we have touched on three English counties in our short drive starting in Middlesex passing over an angle of Surrey and ending in Kent see that light among the trees that is the cedars and beside that lamp sits a woman whose anxious ears have already I have little doubt caught the clink of our horses feet but why are you not conducting the case from Baker Street I asked because there are many inquiries which must be made out here mrs Sinclair has most kindly put two rooms at my disposal and you may rest assured that she will have nothing but a welcome for my friend and colleague I hate to meet her Watson when I have no news of her husband here we are well there whoa we had pulled up in front of a large villa which stood within its own grounds a stableboy had run out to the horse’s head and springing down I followed Holmes up the small winding gravel-drive which led to the house as we approached the door flew open and a little blonde woman stood in the opening clad in some sort of light mousseline de soie with a touch of fluffy pink chiffon at her neck and wrists she stood with her figure outlined against the flood of light one hand upon the door one half-raised in Ignace her body slightly bent her head and face protruded with eager eyes and parted lips a standing question well she cried well and then seen that there were two of us she gave a cry of Hope which sank into a groan she saw that my companion shook his head and shrugged his shoulders no good news none no bad no thank God for that but coming you must be weary for you have had a long day this is my friend dr. Watson he has been of most vital use to me in several of my cases and a lucky chance has made it possible for me to bring him out and associate him with this investigation I am delighted to see you said she pressing my hand warmly you will I am sure forgive anything which may be wanting in our arrangements when you

consider the blow which has come so suddenly upon us My dear Madame said I I am an old campaigner and if I were not I can very well see that no apology is needed if I can be of any assistance either to you or to my friend here I shall be indeed happy now mr. Sherlock Holmes said the lady as we entered a well-lit dining-room upon the table of which a cold supper had been laid out I should very much like to ask you one or two plain questions to which I beg that you will give a plain answer certainly madam do not trouble about my feelings I am NOT hysterical nor given to fainting I simply wish to hear your real real opinion upon what point in your heart of hearts do you think that Neville is alive Sherlock Holmes seemed to be embarrassed by the question frankly now she repeated standing upon the rug and looking keenly down at him as he leaned back in a basket chair frankly then madam I do not you think that he is dead I do murdered I don’t say that perhaps and on what he meet his death on Monday then perhaps mr. Holmes you would be good enough to explain how it is that I have received this letter from him today Sherlock Holmes sprang out of his chair as if he had been galvanized what he roared yes today she stood smiling holding up a little slip of paper in the air may I see it certainly he snatched it from her in his eagerness and smoothing it out upon the table he drew over the lamp and examined it intently I had left my chair and was gazing at it over his shoulder the envelope was a very coarse one and was stamped with the Gravesend postmark and with the date of that very day or rather of the day before for it was considerably after midnight course writing murmured Holmes surely this is not your husband’s writing madam no but the enclosure is I perceive also that whoever addressed the envelope had to go and inquire as to the address how can you tell that the name you see is in perfectly black ink which has dried itself the rest is of the greyish colour which shows that blotting-paper has been used if it had been written straight off and then blotted none would be of a deep black shade this man has written the name and there has then been a pause before he wrote the address which can only mean that he was not familiar with it it is of course a trifle but there is nothing so important as trifles let us now see the letter ha there has been an enclosure here yes there was a ring his signet ring and you are sure that this is your husband’s hand one of his hands one his hand when he wrote hurriedly it is very unlike his usual writing and yet I know it well dearest do not be frightened all will come well there is a huge error which it may take some little time to rectify wait in patience niffle written in pencil upon a Flyleaf of a book octavo size no watermark hmm posted today in Gravesend by a man with a dirty thumb ha and the flap has been gummed if I’m not very much in error by a person who has been chewing tobacco and you have no doubt that it is your husband’s hand madam nun Neville wrote those words and they were posted today at Gravesend well mrs. Sinclair the clouds lighten though I should not venture to say that the danger is over but he must be alive mr. Holmes unless this is a clever forgery to put us on the wrong scent the ring after all proves nothing it may have been taken from him no no it is it is it is his very own writing very well it may however have been written on Monday and only posted today that is possible if so much may have happened between oh you must not discourage me mr. Holmes I know that all is well with him there is so keen a sympathy between us that I should know if evil came upon him on the very day that I saw him last he cut himself in the bedroom and yet I in the dining-room rushed upstairs instantly with the utmost certainty that something had happened do you think that I would respond to such a trifle and he had to be ignorant of his death I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner and in this letter you certainly have a very strong piece of evidence to corroborate your view but if your husband is alive and able to write letters why should he remain away from you I cannot imagine it is unthinkable and on Monday he made no

remarks before leaving you know and you were surprised to see him in swandam Lane very much so was the window open yes then he might have called to you he might he only as I understand gave an inarticulate cry yes a call for help you thought yes he waved his hands but it might have been a cry of surprise astonishment at the unexpected sight of you might cause him to throw up his hands it is possible and you thought he was pulled back he disappeared so suddenly he might have left back you did not see anyone else in the room no but this horrible man confessed to having been there and the last car was at the foot of the stairs quite so your husband as far as you could see had his ordinary clothes on but without his collar or tie I distinctly saw his bare throat had he ever spoken of swandam Lane never had he ever shown any signs of having taken opium never thank you mrs. Sinclair those are the principal points about which I wish to be absolutely clear we shall now have a little supper and then retire for we may have a very busy day tomorrow a large and comfortable double-bedded room had been placed at our disposal and I was quickly between the sheets for I was weary after my night of adventure Sherlock Holmes was a man however who when he had an unsolved problem upon his mind would go for days and even for a week without wrist turning it over rearranging his facts looking at it from every point of view until he had either fathomed it or convinced himself that his data were insufficient it was soon evident to me that he was now preparing for an all-night sitting he took off his coat and waistcoat put on a large blue dressing-gown and then wandered about the room collecting pillows from his bed and cushions from the sofa and armchairs with these he constructed a sort of Eastern divan upon which he perched himself cross-legged with an ounce of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid out in front of him in the dim light of the lamp I saw him sitting there an old briar pipe between his lips his eyes fixed vacantly upon the corner of the ceiling the blue smoke curling up from him silent motionless with the light shining upon his strong set aquiline features so he sat as I dropped off to sleep and so he sat when a sudden ejaculation caused me to wake up and I found the summer sun shining into the apartment the pipe was still between his lips the smoke still curled upwards and the room was full of a dense tobacco haze but nothing remained of the heap of shag which I had seen upon the previous night awake Watson he asked yes game for a morning drive certainly then dress no one is stirring yet but I know where the stableboy sleeps and we shall soon have the trap out he chuckled to himself as he spoke his eyes twinkled and he seemed a different man to the sombre thinker of the previous night as I dressed I glanced at my watch it was no wonder that no one was stirring it was twenty five minutes past four I had hardly finished when Holmes returned with the news that the boy was putting in the horse I want to test a little theory of mine said he pulling on his boots I think Watson that you are now standing in the presence of one of the most absolute fools in Europe I deserve to be kicked from here to Charing Cross but I think I have the key of the affair now and where is it I asked smiling in the bathroom he answered oh yes I’m not joking he continued seeing my look of incredulity I have just been there and I have taken it out and I have got it in this Gladstone bag come on my boy and we shall see whether it will not fit the lock we made our way downstairs as quickly as possible and out into the bright morning sunshine in the road stood our horse and trap with the half-clad stable boy waiting at the head we both sprang in and away we dashed down the London Road a few country carts were stirring bearing in vegetables to the metropolis but the lines of villas on either side were a silent and lifeless as some City in a dream it has been in some points a singular case said Holmes flicking the horse on into a gallop I confess that I have been as blind as a mole but it is better to learn wisdom late they are never to learn it at all in town the earliest

risers were just beginning to look sleepily from their windows as we drove through the streets of the Surrey side passing down the Waterloo Bridge Road we crossed over the river and dashing up Wellington Street wheeled sharply to the right and found ourselves in Bow Street Sherlock Holmes was well known to the force and the two constables out the door saluted him one of them held the horse’s head while the other led us in who is on duty asked Holmes inspector Bradstreet sir ah Bradstreet how are you a tall stout official had come down the stone-flagged passage in a peaked cap and frogged jacket I wish to have a word with you Bradstreet certainly mr. Holmes step into my room here it was a small office-like room with a huge ledger upon the table and a telephone projecting from the wall the inspector sat down at his desk what can I do for you mr Holmes I called about that beggarman Boone the one who was charged with being concerned in the disappearance of mr Neville Sinclair of Lee yes he was brought up and remanded for further inquiries so I heard you have him here in the cells is he quiet oh he gives no trouble but he is a dirty scoundrel dirty yes it is all we can do to make him wash his hands and his face is as black as a tinker’s well when once his case has been settled he will have a regular prison bath and I think if you saw him you would agree with me that he needed it I should like to see him very much would you that is easily done come this way you can leave you bag no I think I’ll take it very good come this way if you please he led us down a passage opened a barred door passed down a winding stair and brought us to a whitewashed corridor with a line of doors on each side the third on the right is his said the inspector here it is he quietly shot back a panel in the upper part of the door and glanced through he’s asleep said he you can see him very well we both put our eyes to the grating the prisoner lay with his face too towards us in a very deep sleep breathing slowly and heavily he was a middle-sized man coarsely clad as became his calling with a coloured shirt protruding through the rent in his tattered coat he was as the inspector had said extremely dirty but the grime which covered his face could not conceal its repulsive ugliness a broad wheel from an old scar ran across it from eye to chin and by its contraction had turned up one side of the upper lip so the three teeth were exposed in a perpetual snarl a shock of very bright red hair grew low over his eyes and forehead he’s a beauty is named said the inspector he suddenly needs a wash remarked Holmes I had an idea that he might and I took the liberty of bringing the tools with me he opened his Gladstone bag as he spoke and took out to my astonishment a very large bath sponge hey hey you’re a funny one chuckled the inspector now if you will have the great goodness to open that door very quietly we will soon make him cut a much more respectable figure well I don’t know why not said the inspector he doesn’t look a credit to the Bow Street cells does he he slipped his key into the lock and we all very quietly entered the cell the sleeper half turned and then settled down once more into a deep slumber Holmes stooped to the water-jug moistened his sponge and then rubbed it twice vigorously across and down the prisoners face let me introduce you he shouted to mr. Neville Sinclair of Lee in the county of Kent never in my life have I seen such a sight the man’s face peeled off under the sponge like the bark from a tree gone was the coarse brown tint gone to the horrid scar which had seamed it across and the twisted lip which had given the repulsive sneer to the face at which brought away the tangled red hair and there sitting up in his bed was a pale sad-faced refined-looking man black-haired and smooth-skinned rubbing his eyes and staring about him with sleepy bewilderment then suddenly realising the exposure he broke into a scream and threw himself down with his face to the pillow cried heaven cried the inspector it is indeed the missing man or know him from the photograph the prisoner turned with the reckless air of a man who abandons himself to his destiny be it so said he and pray what am i charged with with making away with

mr. Neville how come you can’t be charged with that unless they make a case of attempted suicide of it said the inspector with a grin well I’ve been 27 years in the force well this really takes the cake if I am mr. Neville Sinclair then it is obvious that no crime has been committed and that therefore I am illegally detained no crime but a very great error has been committed said Holmes you would have done better to have trusted your wife it was not the wife it was the children groaned the prisoner God helped me I would not have them ashamed of their father my god what an exposure what can I do Sherlock Holmes sat down beside him on the couch and patted him kindly on the shoulder if you leave it to a court of law to clear the matter up said he of course you can hardly avoid publicity on the other hand if you convince the police authorities that there is no possible case against you I do not know that there is any reason that the details should find their way into the papers inspector Bradstreet would I am sure make notes upon anything which you might tell us and submitted to the proper authorities the case would then never go into court at all god bless you cried the prisoner passionately I would have endured imprisonment I even execution rather than have left my miserable secret as a family blot to my children you were the first to have ever heard my story my father was a schoolmaster in Chesterfield where I received an excellent education I travelled in my youth to of the stage and finally became a reporter on an evening paper in London one day my editor wished to have a series of articles upon begging in the metropolis and I volunteered to supply them there was the point from which all my adventures started it was only by trying begging as an amateur that I could get the facts upon which to base my articles when an actor I had of course learned all the secrets of making up and had been famous in the greenroom for my skill I took advantage now of my attainments I painted my face and to make myself as pitiable as possible I made a good scar and fixed one side of my lip in a twist with the aid of a small slip of flesh-coloured plaster then with a red head of hair and an appropriate dress I took my station in the busiest part of the city ostensibly as a match-seller that really is a beggar for seven hours i plied my trade and when i returned home in the evening i found to my surprise that I had received no less than 26 shillings and fourpence I wrote my articles and thought little more of the matter until some time later I backed a bill for a friend and had a writ served upon me for 25 pounds I was at my wit’s end where to get the money but a sudden idea came to me I begged a fortnight’s grace from the creditor asked for a holiday from my employers and spent the time in begging in the city under my disguise in ten days I had the money and had paid the debt well you can imagine how hard it was to settle down to arduous work at two pounds a week when I knew that I could earn as much in a day by smearing my face with a little paint laying my cap on the ground and sitting still there was a long fight between my pride and the money but the dollars won at last and I threw up reporting and sat day after day in the corner which I had first chosen inspiring pity by my ghastly face and filling my pockets with coppers only one man knew my secret he was the keeper of a load den in which I used to lodge in swandam Lane where I could every morning in Myr a squalid beggar and in the evenings transform myself into a well-dressed man about town this fellow a Lascar was well paid by me for his rooms so that I knew that my secret was safe in his possession well very soon I found that I was saving considerable sums of money I do not mean that any beggar in the streets of London could earn seven hundred pounds a year which is less than my average takings but I had exceptional advantages in my power of making up and also in a facility in repartee which improved by practice and made me quite a recognised character in the city all day a stream of pennies varied by silver poured in upon me and it was a very bad day upon which I failed to take two pounds as I grew richer I grew more ambitious took a house in the country and eventually married without anyone having a suspicion as to my real occupation My dear wife knew that I had

business in the city she little knew what last Monday I had finished for the day and was dressing in my room above the opium den when I looked out of the window and saw to my horror and astonishment that my wife was standing in the street with her eyes fixed full upon me I gave a cry of surprised threw up my arms to cover my face and rushing to my confidant the Lascar entreated him to prevent anyone from coming up to me I heard a voice downstairs but I knew that she could not ascend swiftly I threw up my clothes pulled on those of a beggar and put on my pigments and wig even a wife’s eyes could not pierce so complete a disguise but then it occurred to me that there might be a search in the room and that the clothes might betray me I threw up in the window reopening by my violence a small cut which I had inflicted upon myself in the bedroom that morning then I seized my coat which was weighted by the coppers which I had just transferred to it from the leather bag in which I carried my takings I hurled it out of the window and it disappeared into the Thames the other clothes would have followed but at that moment there was a of constables up the stairs and a few minutes after I found rather I confess to my relief that instead of being identified as mr. Neville Sinclair I was arrested as his murderer I do not know that there is anything else for me to explain I was determined to preserve my disguise as long as possible and hence my preference for a dirty face knowing that my wife would be terribly anxious I slipped off my ring and confided it to the last car at a moment where no constable was watching me together with a hurried scrawl telling her that she had no cause to fear that note only reached her yesterday said Holmes good god what a week she must have spent the police have watched this laskhar said inspector Bradstreet and I can quite understand that he might find it difficult to post a letter unobserved probably he handed it to some sailor customer of his who forgot all about it some days that was it said Holmes nodding approvingly I have no doubt of it but have you never been prosecuted for begging many times but what was a fine to me it must stop here however said Bradstreet if the police are to hush this thing up there must be no more of Hugh Boone I have sworn it by the most solemn oaths which a man can take in that case I think that it is probable that no further steps may be taken but if you were found again then all must come out I’m sure mr. Holmes that we are very much indebted to you for having cleared the matter up I wish I knew how you reach your results I reached this one set my friend by sitting upon five pillows and consuming an ounce of shag I think Watson that if we drive to Baker Street we shall just be in time for breakfast