Some time ago Mr. Sherlock Holmes and I spent a few weeks in one of our great university towns. We lived near a library where Sherlock Holmes was carrying out some historical research. Here it was that Mr. Hilton Soames, lecturer at St. Luke’s College, came to see us one evening. He was a tall man of nervous temperament.
«I hope, Mr. Holmes,» he said, «that you can spare me a few hours’ of your valuable time. We have had a very unpleasant incident at our college.»
«I am very busy just now,» my friend answered, «but you can go to the police and ask them for help.»
«No, no my dear sir, you are the only man in the world who can help me. I beg you, Mr. Holmes, do what you can.»
And our visitor told us his story.
«I must explain to you, Mr. Holmes, that tomorrow is the first day of the examination for the Fortescue Scholarship. I am one of the examiners. My subjects is Greek. The candidates have to translate into English a passage from Greek which they have not seen before. The passage is printed on the examination paper. Today about three o’clock this paper arrived from the printers. I began to read it. At four o’clock, however, I left the paper on my desk and went out to have tea with my friends. I came back an hour later and I was surprised to see a key in the door. For a moment I thought it was my key but I put my hand into my pocket and I felt that it was there. The only duplicate’ belonged to my servant, Bannister, and he told me he had come into my room to ask if I wanted tea and very carelessly lef t his key in the door.
«The moment I looked at the table I realised that someone had been in the room. I had left the papers all together. Now I found that one of the sheets was lying on the floor, one was on the small table near the window, the third was where I had left it.»
Holmes stirred for the first time.
«The first page was on the floor, the second in the window, the third where you had left it,» he said.
«Exactly, Mr. Holmes. How could you possibly know that?»
«Continue your story, please.»
«I asked Bannister if he had examined the papers. He said he had not, and I was sure he was speaking the truth. The alternative was that someone passing had observed the key in the door and, knowing that I was out, had entered to look at the papers.
«Bannister was very much upset4 by the incident. I gave him a little brandy and left him sitting on a chair. Then I examined the room carefully. On the table there were some cuttings of a pencil which had been sharpened.’ In my new writing table there was a cut three inches long. I also found a small ball of black clay’ on the table. There were no other marks left. Do help me, Mr. Holmes! I must find the man or the examination will have to be postponed’ until new papers are prepared, and then a great scandal will follow.»
«I shall be happy to look into this incident and help you as much as I can,» said Holmes putting on his coat. «The case is very interesting. Did anyone visit you after the papers had come to you?»
«Yes, young Daulat Ras, an Indian student who lives on the same stair.»
«And the papers were on the table?»
«Yes, but they were rolled up.»‘
«Was anyone else in your room?»
«Did anyone know that these papers would be there?»
«No one except the printer.»
«Did this man Bannister know?»
«No, certainly not. No one knew.»
«Where is Bannister now?»
«He was very ill, poor fellow. I left him in the room. He was sitting on a chair. I was in such a hurry to come to you.»
«You left your door open?»
«But I locked up the papers first.»
«Then it seems that the man who came to your room when you were having tea did not know that the papers were there. He came upon them accidently.»‘
«So it seems to me.»
«Well,» said he, «let us go round. Come with us, Watson, if you want to. Now, Mr. Soames, we are ready.»
It was dark when we came to Mr. Soames’s house.The sitting-room of our client opened by a long, low window on to the old court of the college. On the ground-floor was the tutor’s room. Above lived three students, one on each floor. Holmes stopped and looked at the window. Then he came nearer and looked into the room. Mr. Soames opened the door and we entered his room. We stood at the door while Holmes examined the floor.
«I’m afraid there are no marks here,» he said, «one could not hope for any upon so dry a day. Your servant seems to be well again. You left him in a chair, you say. Which chair?»
«By the window there.»
«I see. Near this little table. You can come in now. I have finished with the floor. Let us examine the little table first. Of course what happened is very clear. The man entered and took the papers from the central table. He carried them over to the little table by the window because from there he could see if you were coming back and so he could run away.»
“As a matter of fact, he could not”, said Soames, “Because I entered by the side door”.
«Ah, that’s good. Well, anyhow, he thought he would see you. Let me see the papers. No signs» – no. Well, he carried over this paper first and he copied it. How long did it take him to copy it? A quarter of an hour. Then he took the next page. While he was copying it, he heard your steps and he had no time to put it back on the table. He wrote so quickly that he broke his pencil and had to sharpen it. The pencil was not an ordinary one. It was very long and dark blue and the maker’s name»
was printed in silver letters. Look for such a pencil, Mr. Soames, and you have got your man. He also had a large knife.»
Holmes held out a small piece of wood with the letters NN.
Mr. Soames did not understand.
«No, I’m afraid that even now –»
«What could this NN be?» Holmes continued. «It is at the end of a word. You know that Johann Faber is the most common maker’s name. Is it not clear that there is just as much of the pencil left as usually follows the Johann?» He examined the small table carefully. «No, I see nothing. I don’t think there is anything more to be learned here. Now for the central table. Dear me, this is very interesting. And the cut… I see. It began with a thin scratch and ended in a big hole. Well, where does that door lead to, Mr. Soames?»
«To my bedroom.»
«Have you been in it since your adventure?»
«No, I came straight away for you.»
«I would like to have a look at it. What a nice room!
Perhaps you will kindly wait a minute, until I have examined the floor. No, I see nothing.»
Suddenly Holmes turned away and took something from the floor.
«Halloa! What’s this?» said he. It was a small ball of black clay like the one he had found upon the table.
«It seems that your visitor has been in your bedroom as well as in your sitting-room, Mr. Soames.»
«What did he want there?»
«I think it is clear enough. You came back by an unexpected way and so he did not know you had entered the house until you were at the door. What could he do? He rushed into your bedroom to hide himself.»
“Do you mean to tell me that all the time I was talking to Bannister this man was in my bedroom?”
“So I read it”.
“Surely there is another alternative, Mr. Holmes. I do not know if you saw my bedroom window? The man might have come through the window”.
Holmes shook his head.
«Let’s be practical,» said he. «You have said that there are three students who use this stair, and pass your door?»
«Yes, there are.»
«And are they all for this examination?»
«Do you suspect» anyone of them more than the others?»
«It is a very delicate question,» said Mr. Soames, «I will tell you, in a few words, the character of each of these three men. Gilchrist who lives on the first floor is a fine hardworking student. He plays in the rugby cricket teams for the college. He is also a very good jumper. His father ruined himself» and left the boy very poor. But Gilchrist is a good student and he will do well”
«Daublat Ras, from the second floor, is a quiet, methodical fellow though he is not good at Greek.»
“The top floor belongs to Miles McLaren. He is a very intelligent boy but he does not like to work. He must look forward with fear to the examination”.
“Then it is he whom you suspect?”
“I don’t know, but of the three he is perhaps the most likely”.
“Exactly. Now, Mr. Soames, let us have a look at your servant, Bannister”.
He was a white-faced clean shaven little fellow of fifty.
«I understand,» said Holmes to him, «that you left
your key in the door?»
«When did you come into the room?»
«It was about half-past four. That is Mr. Soames’ tea time.»
«How long did you stay?»
«When I saw that he was absent I went out at once.»
«Did you look at these papers on the table?»
«No, sir – certainly not.»
«Why did you leave the key in the door?»
«I had the tea-tray» in my hand. I thought I would come back for the key. Then I forgot.»
«When Mr. Soames returned and called for you, you were very upset.»
«Yes, sir. Such a thing has never happened during the many years that I have been here.»
«So I understand. Where were you when you began to feel ill?»
«Where was I, sir? Here, near the door.»
«That is strange, because you sat down in that chair near the corner. Why didn’t you sit on one of the other chairs which were much nearer the door?»
«I don’t know, sir. It didn’t matter» to me where I sat.»
«You stayed here after your master had left?»
«Only for a minute or so. Then I locked the door and went to my room.»
«Thank you, that will do,» said Holmes. «Now, Mr. Soames I would like to visit the students. It is possible?»
«Of course it is. Their rooms are the oldest in the college and many visitors come to see them. Come along. I will go with you.»
We knocked at Gilchrist’s door. A tall fellow opened it. There were some interesting pieces of architecture in his room. Holmes wanted to draw them in his notebook, but he broke his pen and had to borrow» one from Gilchrist. He also borrowed a knife from him to sharpen his pencil. He did the same in the rooms of the Indian student. Then we knocked at the door of the third student but he did not want to open it.
«Tomorrow is the exam,» he shouted in an angry voice, «and I have no time for visitors.»
«A rude fellow,» said our guide.
Holmes asked a strange question.
«Can you tell me how tall this boy is?»
«Really, Mr. Holmes, I don’t know exactly. He is taller than the Indian and not so tall as Gilchrist.»
«That’s very important,» said Holmes. «And now, I wish you good night, Mr. Soames.»
Our guide cried in despair:» «Mr. Holmes, you are not going to leave me now! Tomorrow is the examination. I must do something about it. The examinations cannot be held’4 if someone has seen the papers.»
«You must leave it as it is. I’ll tell you tomorrow what to do. But now don’t change anything at all.»
«Very good, Mr. Holmes.»
«I’ll take the black clay with me, also the pencil cuttings. Good-bye.»
When we were in the street, Holmes asked:
«Well, Watson, what do you think of it?»
«I suspect the man on the top who did not want to let us in.»
“Why? If you were preparing for an examination, you wouldn’t like to see any strangers in your room, would you? But that fellow does puzzle me”.
«Bannister, the servant.»
«I think he is an honest man.»
«So do I. That’s the puzzle. Well, look, here’s a large stationer’s shop. We shall begin our researches here.»
There were four stationers in the town and at each Holmes showed his pencil cuttings and asked for the same sort of pencil. All of them said it was a very unusual pencil and they had not any like it in their shops. However, Holmes did not seem to be sorry at all, and we went home very pleased.
At eight in the morning next day he came into my room and said:
“Well, Watson, it’s time we went to St. Luke’s”.
«Have you anything to tell Mr. Soames?»
«Yes, my dear Watson, I have solved the mystery.
He held out his hand and showed me three small balls of dark clay.
«Why, Holmes, you had only two yesterday.»
«And one more this morning. Well, come along. Soames is waiting for us.»
The tutor was certainly very upset when we found him in his rooms. He ran towards us and cried:
«Thank heaven you have come: What am I to do? What about the examination?»
«The examination can be held – tomorrow.»
«But this rascal?»
“He will not sit for the examination”.
«Do you know him?»
«I think so. I will show him to you. Ring the bell, please.»
Bannister came in.
«Will you kindly close the door?» said Holmes. «Now, Bannister, will you please tell us the truth about yesterday’s incident?»
The man became very pale.
«I have told you everything, sir.»
“Nothing to add?”
«Nothing at all, sir.»
«Well, then I will help you. When you sat down on that chair yesterday, you did it to hide something.»
Bannister’s face was white.
«No, sir, certainly not.»
«It is only a suggestion but it seems probable that when Mr. Soames’ back was turned you let out» the man who was hiding in the bedroom.»
«There was no man, sir.»
«That’s a pity, Bannister. Up to now» you have spoken the truth but now you have lied.»
«There was no man,» repeated Bannister.
«Come, come, Bannister.»
«No, sir, there was no one.»
«So you can give us no more information. Would you please stand over there near the bedroom door? Now, Mr. Soames, will you go up to the room of young Gilchrist and ask him to come here?»
A minute later the tutor returned bringing in the student. He was a fine tall man with a pleasant open face. His blue eyes looked at each of us and at last rested with an expression of despair upon Bannister.
«Just close the door,» said Holmes. «Now, Mr. Gilchrist we are alone, and no one will know what you will say here. We want to know why you, an honest man, came here yesterday to copy examination papers.»
The young man looked at Bannister.
«No, no, Mr. Gilchrist, I have never said a word – not one word!» cried the servant.
«No, but you have now,» Holmes said.
Gilchrist burst into tears.»
«Come, come. Perhaps it weuld be easier if I told Mr. Soames what happened. Listen and see if I am not wrong.
«Mr. Soames said to me that no one, not even Bannister, knew that the papers were in his room. When the Indian boy called on Mr. Soames, they were in the roll and he could not possibly know what they were. On the other hand» I was sure that the man who came into the room knew the papers were there. How did he know?
«At first I examined the window. I was measuring» how tall a man would need to be to see what papers were on the central table. I am six f eet high and I could do it with great difficulty. So you see, I had reason to think that the tallest of your three students was the most suspicious one.
«While I was looking at the central table I remembered you said that Gilchrist was a long distance jumper. Everything became clear to me. I only needed some proofs» which I soon got. What happened was this:This young fellow spent all the afternoon in the playing field practising the jump. He returned carrying his jumping shoes which, as you know, have several sharp spikes.» As he passed your window he saw these papers on the table. He could easily do so because he is very tall. He also noticed that the key was left in the door. He came in and put his shoes on the table. What was it you put on that chair near the window?»
«Gloves,» said the young man.
Holmes looked triumphantly at Bannister.
«He put his gloves on the chair and took the papers to copy them. He thought Mr. Soames would return by the main gate and he would see him. But Mr. Soames came back by the side gate. He suddenly heard him at the door. It was too late to run away. He forgot his gloves but he took his shoes and rushed into the bedroom. The clay from the spike was left on the table and another ball of clay fell in the bedroom. I went to the playing field this morning and carried away some clay to see if it was the same as we had found here. Have I told the truth, Mr. Gilchrist?»
«Yes, sir, it is true,» answered the student.
«Have you nothing to add?» cried Mr. Soames.
«Yes, sir, I have. I have a letter here, Mr. Soames, which I wrote to you early this morning. Here it is, sir. I have decided not to go in for the examination. I have been offered a post in the Rhodesian Police and I am going away to South Africa at once.»
«I am glad to hear it,» said Soames, «but why have you changed your mind?»
Gilchrist pointed to Bannister.
“There is the man who set me in the right path”, said he.
«Come now, Bannister,» said Holmes. «I have said that it was only you who could have let this young man out» because you were left in the room. Can you tell us why you did it?»
«It is very simple, sir. I was a servant of sir Jaber Gilchrist, this young gentleman’s father. When he was ruined I came to the college as a servant but I never f orgot my old employer.» When I came into this room yesterday, the first thing I saw was Mr. Gilchrist’s brown gloves lying in that chair. I knew those gloves well and I understood his danger. So I sat down on that chair and waited until Mr. Soames went for you.Then I let Mr. Gilchrist out and I spoke to him as his dead father would have done. Wasn’t it natural that I wanted to save him? Could you blame» me, sir?»
«No, indeed,» said Holmes. «Well, Soames, I think we have cleared your little problem up. Come, Watson, let’s have our breakfast now. As to you Mr. Gilchrist, I hope that a bright future awaits you in Rhodesia. For once you have fallen low. Let’s see how high you can rise.»
- historical research – историческое исследование;
- spare me a few hours – уделить мне несколько часов;
- duplicate – дубликат (ключа);
- was very much upset – был очень огорчен, сильно расстроился;
- some cuttings of a pencil which had been sharpened – обрезок от карандаша, который затачивали;
- a ball of black clay – шарик темной глины;
- the examination will have to be postponed – экзамен придется перенести;
- were rolled up – были свернуты;
- came upon them accidently – наткнулся на них случайно;
- as a matter of fact – по правде говоря;
- by the side door – через боковую дверь;
- no signs – никаких следов;
- the maker’s name – имя изготовителя;
- by an unexpected way – неожиданным образом;
- might have come – мог войти;
- suspect – подозревать;
- ruined himself – разорился;
- he will do well – он добьется успеха;
- the most likely – наиболее вероятный;
- the tea-tray – чайный поднос;
- it did not matter – было все равно;
- to borrow – одолжить;
- in despair – в отчаянии;
- cannot be held – не могут проводиться;
- that fellow does puzzle me – этот парень удивляет меня;
- have solved the mystery – разрешил загадку;
- will not sit for the examination – не будет сдавать экзамен;
- Nothing to add? – Вам нечего добавить?
- let out – выпустили;
- up to now – до сих пор;
- burst into tears – расплакаться, удариться в слезы;
- on the other hand – с другой стороны;
- was measuring – измерил;
- the most suspicious – самый подозрительный;
- proof – доказательство;
- several sharp spikes – несколько острых шипов;
- who set me in the right path – который наставил меня на путь истинный;
- it was only you who could have let this young man – только Вы могли выпустить молодого человека;
- my old employer – мой старый хозяин;
- to blame – обвинять;