Imágenes de páginas

was an


eyes. "Yes, I think we had better do as sided. Some scaffolding had been erected you suggest.

against the end wall, and the stone-work We got off, paid our fare, and the trap had been broken into, but there were no rattled back on its way to Leatherhead. signs of any workmen at the moment of

"I thought it as well," said Holmes, as our visit. Holmes walked slowly up and we climbed the stile, “that this fellow down the ill-trimmed lawn, and examined should think we had come here as archi- with deep attention the outsides of the tects, or on some definite business. It windows. may stop his gossip. Good-afternoon, “This, I take it, belongs to the room in Miss Stoner. You see that we have been which you used to sleep, the centre one to as good as our word.”

your sister's, and the one next to the main Our client of the morning had hurried building to Dr. Roylott's chamber?” forward to meet us with a face which "Exactly so. But I am now sleeping spoke her joy. "I have been waiting so in the middle one.” eagerly for you," she cried, shaking hands "Pending the alterations, as I underwith us warmly. "All has turned out stand. By-the-way, there does not seem splendidly. Dr. Roylott has gone to to be any very pressing need for repairs at town, and it is unlikely that he will be that end wall. back before evening.”

“There were none. I believe that it “We have had the pleasure of making

excuse to move me from my the doctor's acquaintance,” said Holmes, and in a few words he sketched out what "Ah! that is suggestive. Now, on the had occurred. Miss Stoner turned white other side of this narrow wing runs the to the lips as she listened.

corridor from which these three rooms Good heavens!” she cried, "he has open. There are windows in it, of followed me, then.” “So it appears."

“Yes, but very small ones. “He is so cunning that I never know row for any one to pass through.” when I am safe from him. What will he "As you both locked your doors at say when he returns?"

night, your rooms were unapproachable "He must guard himself, for he may from that side. Now, would you have find that there is some one more cunning the kindness to go into your room and than himself upon his track. You must bar your shutters.” lock yourself up from him to-night. If Miss Stoner did so, and Holmes, after he is violent, we shall take you away to

a careful examination through the open your aunt's at Harrow. Now, we must window, endeavored in every way to make the best use of our time, so kindly force the shutter open, but without suctake us at once to the rooms which we are cess. There was no slit through which a to examine."

knife could be passed to raise the bar. The building was of gray, lichen- | Then with his lens he tested the hinges, blotched stone, with a high central por- but they were of solid iron, built firmly tion, and two curving wings, like the into the massive masonry. "Hum!” said claws of a crab, thrown out on each side. he, scratching his chin in some perplexity; In one of these wings the windows were "my theory certainly presents some diffibroken, and blocked with wooden boards, culties. No one could pass these shutwhile the roof was partly caved in, a pic-ters if they were bolted. Well, we shall ture of ruin. The central portion was in see if the inside throws any light upon little better repair, but the right-hand the matter." block was comparatively modern, and the A small side door led into the whiteblinds in the windows, with the blue washed corridor from which the three smoke curling up from the chimneys, bedrooms opened. Holmes refused to showed that this was where the family re- | examine the third chamber, so we passed

course ?"

Too nar

at once to the second, that in which Miss This is very interesting. You can see Stoner was now sleeping, and in which now that it is fastened to a hook just her sister had met with her fate. It was above where the little opening for the a homely little room, with a low ceiling ventilator is." and a gaping fireplace, after the fashion “How very absurd! I never noticed of old country-houses. A brown chest of that before." drawers stood in one corner, a narrow "Very strange!" muttered Holmes, white-counterpaned bed in another, and pulling at the rope. “There are one or a dressing-table on the left-hand side of

two very singular points about this room. the window. These articles, with two For example, what a fool a builder must small wicker-work chairs, made up all the be to open a ventilator into another room, furniture in the room, save for a square when, with the same trouble, he might of Wilton carpet in the center. The have communicated with the outside air!" boards round and the panelling of the "That is also quite modern,” said the walls were of brown, worm-eaten oak, so lady. old and discolored that it may have dated 'Done about the same time as the bellfrom the original building of the house. rope?” remarked Holmes. Holmes drew one of the chairs into a cor- "Yes, there were several little changes ner and sat silent, while his eyes travelled carried out about that time." round and round and up and down, tak- “They seem to have been of a most ining in every detail of the apartment. teresting character-dummy bell-ropes,

"Where does that bell communicate and ventilators which do not ventilate. with?” he asked, at last, pointing to a With your permission, Miss Stoner, we thick bell-rope which hung down beside shall now carry our researches into the the bed, the tassel actually lying upon the inner apartment.” pillow.

Dr. Grimesby Roylott's chamber was "It goes to the house-keeper's room." larger than that of his step-daughter, but “It looks newer than the other things?” was as plainly furnished. A camp-bed, a

"Yes, it was only put there a couple of small wooden shelf full of books, mostly years ago."

of a technical character, an arm-chair be“Your sister asked for it, I suppose ?” side the bed, a plain wooden chair against

“No, I never heard of her using it. the wall, a round table, and a large iron We used always to get what we wanted safe were the principal things which met for ourselves."

the eye. Holmes walked slowly round "Indeed, it seemed unnecessary to put and examined each and all of them with so nice a bell-pull there. You will ex- the keenest interest. cuse me for a few minutes while I satisfy "What's in here?" he asked, tapping myself as to this floor.” He threw him- the safe. self down upon his face with his lens in "My step-father's business papers." his hand, and crawled swiftly backward "Oh! you have seen inside, then?" and forward, examining minutely the "Only once, some years ago. cracks between the boards. Then he did member that it was full of papers.” the same with the wood-work with which "There isn't a cat in it, for example?" the chamber was panelled. Finally he “No. What a strange idea!” walked over to the bed, and spent some "Well, look at this!” He took up a time in staring at it, and in running his small saucer of milk which stood on the eye up and down the wall. Finally he took the bell-rope in his hand and gave it “No, we don't keep a cat. But there

is a cheetah and a baboon." "Why, it's a dummy," said he.

“Ah, yes, of course! Well, a cheetah "Won't it ring?"

is just a big cat, and yet a saucer of milk “No, it is not even attached to a wire. does not go very far in satisfying its

I re

top of it.

a brisk tug.


wants, I dare say. There is one point room, on pretence of a headache, when which I should wish to determine." He

your step-father

back. Then squatted down in front of the wooden when you hear him retire for the night, chair, and examined the seat of it with you must open the shutters of your winthe greatest attention.

dow, undo the hasp, put your lamp there “Thank you. That is quite settled," as a signal to us, and then withdraw said he, rising and putting his lens in his quietly with everything which you are pocket. “Hello! Here is something in- likely to want into the room which you teresting!"

used to occupy. I have no doubt that, in The object which had caught his eye spite of the repairs, you could manage was a small dog lash hung on one corner there for one night.” of the bed. The lash, however, was “Oh yes, easily.” curled upon itself, and tied so as to make “The rest you will leave in our hands." a loop of whip-cord.

"But what will you do?" “What do you make of that, Watson ?” “We shall spend the night in your

"It's a common enough lash. But I room, and we shall investigate the cause don't know why it should be tied." of this noise which has disturbed you."

“That is not quite so common, is it? “I believe, Mr. Holmes, that you have Ah, me! it's a wicked world, and when a already made up your mind,” said Miss clever man turns his brains to crime it is Stoner, laying her hand upon my comthe worst of all. I think that I have seen panion's sleeve. enough now, Miss Stoner, and with your "Perhaps I have." permission we shall walk out upon the “Then for pity's sake tell me what was lawn.”

the cause of my sister's death." I had never seen my friend's face so "I should prefer to have clearer proofs grim or his brow so dark as it was when before I speak. we turned from the scene of this investi- "You can at least tell me whether my gation. We had walked several times own thought is correct, and if she died up and down the lawn, neither Miss from some sudden fright.” Stoner nor myself liking to break in upon “No, I do not think so. I think that his thoughts before he roused himself there was probably some more tangible from his reverie.

cause. And now, Miss Stoner, we must “It is very essential, Miss Stoner," said leave you, for if Dr. Roylott returned and he, “that you should absolutely follow my saw us, our journey would be in vain. advice in every respect.”

Good-bye, and be brave, for if you will “I shall most certainly do so."

do what I have told you, you may rest “The matter is too serious for


hesi- assured that we shall soon drive away the tation. Your life may depend upon your dangers that threaten you." compliance."

Sherlock Holmes and I had no diffi“I assure you that I am in your hands.” culty in engaging a bed-room and sitting

"In the first place, both my friend and room at the “Crown Inn.” They were I must spend the night in your room.” on the upper floor, and from our win

Both Miss Stoner and I gazed at him dow we could command a view of the avein astonishment.

nue gate, and of the inhabited wing of “Yes, it must be so. Let me explain. Stoke Moran Manor House. At dusk I believe that that is the village inn over we saw Dr. Grimesby Roylott drive past, there?"

his huge form looming up beside the litYes, that is the 'Crown.'"

tle figure of the lad who drove him. The Very good. Your windows would be boy had some slight difficulty in undoing visible from there?”

the heavy iron gates, and we heard the "Certainly."

hoarse roar of the doctor's voice, and saw "You must confine yourself to your the fury with which he shook his clinched

fists at him. The trap drove on, and a “I cannot say that I have." few minutes later we saw a sudden light “The lady could not move her bed. It spring up among the trees as the lamp must always be in the same relative posiwas lit in one of the sitting-rooms. tion to the ventilator and to the rope

"Do you know, Watson," said Holmes, for so we may call it, since it was clearly as we sat together in the gathering dark- never meant for a bell-pull." ness, “I have really some scruples as to "Holmes," I cried, “I seem to see taking you to-night. There is a distinct dimly what you are hinting at. We are element of danger."

only just in time to prevent some subtle "Can I be of assistance ?"

and horrible crime." "Your presence might be invaluable." "Subtle enough and horrible enough. "Then I shall certainly come."

When a doctor does go wrong, he is the “It is very kind of you."

first of criminals. He has nerve and he "You speak of danger. You have evi- has knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard dently seen more in these rooms than was were among the heads of their profession. visible to me."

This man strikes even deeper, but I think, "No, but I fancy that I may have de- Watson, that we shall be able to strike duced a little more. I imagine that you deeper still. But we shall have horrors saw all that I did.”

enough before the night is over; for good"I saw nothing remarkable save the ness' sake let us have a quiet pipe, and bell-rope, and what purpose that could turn our minds for a few hours to someanswer I confess is more than I can im- thing more cheerful.”


"You saw the ventilator, too ?”

About nine o'clock the light among the “Yes, but I do not think that it is such trees was extinguished, and all was dark a very unusual thing to have a small open- in the direction of the Manor House. ing between two rooms. It was so small Two hours passed slowly away, and then, that a rat could hardly pass through.” suddenly, just at the stroke of eleven, a

“I knew that we should find a ventila- single bright light shone out right in tor before ever we came to Stoke Moran.” | front of us. "My dear Holmes!"

"That is our signal,” said Holmes, "Oh yes, I did. You remember in her springing to his feet; "it comes from the statement she said that her sister could middle window." smell Dr. Roylott's cigar. Now, of As we passed out he exchanged a few course that suggested at once that there words with the landlord, explaining that must be a communication between the we were going on a late visit to an actwo rooms. It could only be a small quaintance, and that it was possible that one, or it would have been remarked we might spend the night there. A moupon at the coroner's inquiry. I deduced ment later we were out on the dark road, a ventilator.

a chill wind blowing in our faces, and one "But what harm can there be in that?" yellow light twinkling in front of us

"Well, there is at least a curious coin- through the gloom to guide us on our cidence of dates. A ventilator is made, sombre errand. a cord is hung, and a lady who sleeps in There was little difficulty in entering the bed dies. Does not that strike you?" the grounds, for unrepaired breaches

"I cannot as yet see any connection." gaped in the old park wall. Making our

“Did you observe anything very pe- way among the trees, we reached the culiar about that bed?

lawn, crossed it, and were about to enter "No."

through the window, when out from a “It was clamped to the floor. Did clump of laurel bushes there darted what you ever see a bed fastened like that be- seemed to be a hideous and distorted child. fore?"

who threw itself upon the grass with


writhing limbs, and then ran swiftly and we waited in absolute darkness. across the lawn into the darkness.

From outside came the occasional cry of "My God!" I whispered; "did you see a night-bird, and once at our very win

dow a long-drawn cat-like whine, which Holmes was for the moment as start- told us that the cheetah was indeed at led as I. His hand closed like a vise upon liberty. Far away we could hear the my wrist in his agitation. Then he broke deep tones of the parish clock, which into a low laugh, and put his lips to my boomed out every quarter of an hour. ear.

How long they seemed, those quarters! It is a nice household,” he murmured. Twelve struck, and one and two and “That is the baboon.”

three, and still we sat waiting silently I had forgotten the strange pets which for whatever might befall. the doctor affected. There was a cheetah, Suddenly there was the momentary too; perhaps we might find it upon our gleam of a light up in the direction of shoulders at any moment. I confess that the ventilator, which vanished immedI felt easier in my mind when, after fol- iately, but was succeeded by a strong lowing Holmes's example and slipping off smell of burning oil and heated metal. my shoes, I found myself inside the bed- Some one in the next room had lit a darkroom. My companion noiselessly closed lantern. I heard a gentle sound of movethe shutters, moved the lamp onto the ment, and then all was silent once more, table, and cast his eyes round the room. though the smell grew stronger.

For All was as we had seen it in the daytime. half an hour I sat with straining ears. Then creeping up to me and making a Then suddenly another sound became trumpet of his hand, he whispered into audible-a very gentle, soothing sound, my ear again so gently that it was all like that of a small jet of steam escaping that I could do to distinguish the words: continually from a kettle. The instant

"The least sound would be fatal to our that we heard it, Holmes sprang from the plans."

bed, struck a match, and lashed furiously I nodded to show that I had heard. with his cane at the bell-pull.

“We must sit without light. He would "You see it, Watson ?” he yelled. “You see it through the ventilator." I nodded again.

But I saw nothing. At the moment “Do not go asleep; your very life may when Holmes struck the light I heard a depend upon it. Have your pistol ready low, clear whistle, but the sudden glare in case we should need it. I will sit on flashing into my weary eyes made it imthe side of the bed, and you in that possible for me to tell what it was at chair."

which my friend lashed so savagely. I I took out my revolver and laid it on could, however, see that his face was the corner of the table.

deadly pale, and filled with horror and Holmes had brought up a long thin loathing. cane, and this he placed upon the bed He had ceased to strike, and was gazbeside him. By it he laid the box of ing up at the ventilator, when suddenly matches and the stump of a candle. Then there broke from the silence of the night he turned down the lamp, and we were the most horrible cry to which I have left in darkness.

ever listened. It swelled up louder and How shall I ever forget that dreadful louder, a hoarse yell of pain and fear vigil? I could not hear a sound, not and anger all mingled in the one dreadful even the drawing of a breath, and yet I shriek. They say that away down in the know that my companion sat open-eyed, village, and even in the distant parsonage, within a few feet of me, in the same state that cry raised the sleepers from their of nervous tension in which I was myself. beds. It struck cold to our hearts, and I The shutters cut off the least ray of light, stood gazing at Holmes, and he at me,

see it ?”

« AnteriorContinuar »