MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
A. CONAN DOYLE
"I am afraid Watson that I shall have to go" said
Holmes as we sat down together to our breakfast one
"Go! Where to?"
"To Dartmoor; to King's Pyland."
I was not surprised. Indeed my only wonder was that
he had not already been mixed upon this extraordinary
case which was the one topic of conversation through
the length and breadth of England. For a whole day my
companion had rambled about the room with his chin
upon his chest and his brows knitted charging and
recharging his pipe with the strongest black tobacco
and absolutely deaf to any of my questions or remarks.
Fresh editions of every paper had been sent up by our
news agent only to be glanced over and tossed down
into a corner. Yet silent as he was I knew
perfectly well what it was over which he was brooding.
There was but one problem before the public which
could challenge his powers of analysis and that was
the singular disappearance of the favorite for the
Wessex Cup and the tragic murder of its trainer.
When therefore he suddenly announced his intention
of setting out for the scene of the drama it was only
what I had both expected and hoped for.
"I should be most happy to go down with you if I
should not be in the way" said I.
"My dear Watson you would confer a great favor upon
me by coming. And I think that your time will not be
misspent for there are points about the case which
promise to make it an absolutely unique one. We have
I think just time to catch our train at Paddington
and I will go further into the matter upon our
journey. You would oblige me by bringing with you
your very excellent field-glass."
And so it happened that an hour or so later I found
myself in the corner of a first-class carriage flying
along en route for Exeter while Sherlock Holmes with
his sharp eager face framed in his ear-flapped
travelling-cap dipped rapidly into the bundle of
fresh papers which he had procured at Paddington. We
had left Reading far behind us before he thrust the
last one of them under the seat and offered me his
"We are going well" said he looking out the window
and glancing at his watch. "Our rate at present is
fifty-three and a half miles an hour."
"I have not observed the quarter-mile posts" said I.
"Nor have I. But the telegraph posts upon this line
are sixty yards apart and the calculation is a simple
one. I presume that you have looked into this matter
of the murder of John Straker and the disappearance of
"I have seen what the Telegraph and the Chronicle have
"It is one of those cases where the art of the
reasoner should be used rather for the sifting of
details than for the acquiring of fresh evidence. The
tragedy has been so uncommon so complete and of such
personal importance to so many people that we are
suffering from a plethora of surmise conjecture and
hypothesis. The difficulty is to detach the framework
of fact--of absolute undeniable fact--from the
embellishments of theorists and reporters. Then
having established ourselves upon this sound basis it
is our duty to see what inferences may be drawn and
what are the special points upon which the whole
mystery turns. On Tuesday evening I received
telegrams from both Colonel Ross the owner of the
horse and from Inspector Gregory who is looking
after the case inviting my cooperation.
"Tuesday evening!" I exclaimed. "And this is Thursday
morning. Why didn't you go down yesterday?"
"Because I made a blunder my dear Watson--which is I
am afraid a more common occurrence than any one would
think who only knew me through your memoirs. The fact
is that I could not believe is possible that the most
remarkable horse in England could long remain
concealed especially in so sparsely inhabited a place
as the north of Dartmoor. From hour to hour yesterday
I expected to hear that he had been found and that
his abductor was the murderer of John Straker. When
however another morning had come and I found that
beyond the arrest of young Fitzroy Simpson nothing had
been done I felt that it was time for me to take
action. Yet in some ways I feel that yesterday has
not been wasted."
"You have formed a theory then?"
"At least I have got a grip of the essential facts of
the case. I shall enumerate them to you for nothing
clears up a case so much as stating it to another
person and I can hardly expect your co-operation if I
do not show you the position from which we start."
I lay back against the cushions puffing at my cigar
while Holmes leaning forward with his long thin
forefinger checking off the points upon the palm of
his left hand gave me a sketch of the events which
had led to our journey.
"Silver Blaze" said he "is from the Somomy stock
and holds as brilliant a record as his famous
ancestor. He is now in his fifth year and has
brought in turn each of the prizes of the turf to
Colonel Ross his fortunate owner. Up to the time of
the catastrophe he was the first favorite for the
Wessex Cup the betting being three to one on him. He
has always however been a prime favorite with the
racing public and has never yet disappointed them so
that even at those odds enormous sums of money have
been laid upon him. It is obvious therefore that
there were many people who had the strongest interest
in preventing Silver Blaze from being there at the
fall of the flag next Tuesday.
"The fact was of course appreciated at King's
Pyland where the Colonel's training-stable is
situated. Every precaution was taken to guard the
favorite. The trainer John Straker is a retired
jockey who rode in Colonel Ross's colors before he
became too heavy for the weighing-chair. He has
served the Colonel for five years as jockey and for
seven as trainer and has always shown himself to be a
zealous and honest servant. Under him were three
lads; for the establishment was a small one
containing only four horses in all. One of these lads
sat up each night in the stable while the others
slept in the loft. All three bore excellent
characters. John Straker who is a married man lived
in a small villa about two hundred yards from the
stables. He has no children keeps one maid-servant
and is comfortably off. The country round is very
lonely but about half a mile to the north there is a
small cluster of villas which have been built by a
Tavistock contractor for the use of invalids and
others who may wish to enjoy the pure Dartmoor air.
Tavistock itself lies two miles to the west while
across the moor also about two miles distant is the
larger training establishment of Mapleton which
belongs to Lord Backwater and is managed by Silas
Brown. In every other direction the moor is a
complete wilderness inhabited only be a few roaming
gypsies. Such was the general situation last Monday
night when the catastrophe occurred.
"On that evening the horses had been exercised and
watered as usual and the stables were locked up at
nine o'clock. Two of the lads walked up to the
trainer's house where they had supper in the kitchen
while the third Ned Hunter remained on guard. At a
few minutes after nine the maid Edith Baxter carried
down to the stables his supper which consisted of a
dish of curried mutton. She took no liquid as there
was a water-tap in the stables and it was the rule
that the lad on duty should drink nothing else. The
maid carried a lantern with her as it was very dark
and the path ran across the open moor.
"Edith Baxter was within thirty yards of the stables
when a man appeared out of the darkness and called to
her to stop. As he stepped into the circle of yellow
light thrown by the lantern she saw that he was a
person of gentlemanly bearing dressed in a gray suit
of tweeds with a cloth cap. He wore gaiters and
carried a heavy stick with a knob to it. She was most
impressed however by the extreme pallor of his face
and by the nervousness of his manner. His age she
thought would be rather over thirty than under it.
"'Can you tell me where I am?' he asked. 'I had almost
made up my mind to sleep on the moor when I saw the
light of your lantern.'
"'You are close to the King's Pyland
training-stables' said she.
"'Oh indeed! What a stroke of luck!' he cried. 'I
understand that a stable-boy sleeps there alone every
night. Perhaps that is his supper which you are
carrying to him. Now I am sure that you would not be
too proud to earn the price of a new dress would
you?' He took a piece of white paper folded up out of
his waistcoat pocket. 'See that the boy has this
to-night and you shall have the prettiest frock that
money can buy.'
"She was frightened by the earnestness of his manner
and ran past him to the window through which she was
accustomed to hand the meals. It was already opened
and Hunter was seated at the small table inside. She
had begun to tell him of what had happened when the
stranger came up again.
"'Good-evening' said he looking through the window.
'I wanted to have a word with you.' The girl has
sworn that as he spoke she noticed the corner of the
little paper packet protruding from his closed hand.
"'What business have you here?' asked the lad.