The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire - Arthur Connan Doyle
Holmes had read carefully a note which the last post had
brought him. Then, with the dry chuckle which was his nearest
approach to a laugh, he tossed it over to me.
"For a mixture of the modern and the mediaeval, of the
practical and of the wildly fanciful, I think this is surely the
limit," said he. "What do you make of it, Watson?"
I read as follows:
46, OLD JEWRY,
Our client, Mr. Robert Ferguson, of Ferguson and
Muirhead, tea brokers, of Mincing Lane, has made some
inquiry from us in a communication of even date concerning
vampires. As our firm specializes entirely upon the as-
sessment of machinery the matter hardly comes within our
purview, and we have therefore recommended Mr. Fergu-
son to call upon you and lay the matter before you. We
have not forgotten your successful action in the case of
We are, sir,
MORRISON, MORRISON, AND DODD.
per E. J. C.
"Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Wat-
son," said Holmes in a reminiscent voice. "It was a ship which
is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the
world is not yet prepared. But what do we know about vampires?
Does it come within our purview either? Anything is better than
stagnation, but really we seem to have been switched on to a
Grimms' fairy tale. Make a long arm, Watson, and see what V
has to say."
I leaned back and took down the great index volume to which
he referred. Holmes balanced it on his knee, and his eyes moved
slowly and lovingly over the record of old cases, mixed with the
accumulated information of a lifetime.
"Voyage of the Gloria Scott," he read. "That was a bad
business. I have some recollection that you made a record of it,
Watson, though I was unable to congratulate you upon the result.
Victor Lynch, the forger. Venomous lizard or gila. Remarkable
case, that! Vittoria, the circus belle. Vanderbilt and the Yegg-
man. Vipers. Vigor, the Hammersmith wonder. Hullo! Hullo!
Good old index. You can't beat it. Listen to this, Watson.
Vampirism in Hungary. And again, Vampires in Transylvania."
He turned over the pages with eagerness, but after a short
intent perusal he threw down the great book with a snarl of disap-
"Rubbish, Watson, rubbish! What have we to do with walking
corpses who can only be held in their grave by stakes driven
through their hearts? It's pure lunacy."
"But surely," said I, "the vampire was not necessarily a dead
man? A living person might have the habit. I have read, for
example, of the old sucking the blood of the young in order to
retain their youth."
"You are right, Watson. It mentions the legend in one of
these references. But are we to give serious attention to such
things? This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and
there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts
need apply. I fear that we cannot take Mr. Robert Ferguson very
seriously. Possibly this note may be from him and may throw
some light upon what is worrying him."
He took up a second letter which had lain unnoticed upon the
table while he had been absorbed with the first. This he began to
read with a smile of amusement upon his face which gradually
faded away into an expression of intense interest and concentra-
tion. When he had finished he sat for some little time lost in
thought with the letter dangling from his fingers. Finally, with a
start, he aroused himself from his reverie.
"Cheeseman's, Lamberley. Where is Lamberley, Watson?"
"lt is in Sussex, South of Horsham."
"Not very far, eh? And Cheeseman's?"
"I know that country, Holmes. It is full of old houses which
are named after the men who built them centuries ago. You get
Odley's and Harvey's and Carriton's -- the folk are forgotten but
their names live in their houses."
"Precisely," said Holmes coldly. It was one of the peculiari-
ties of his proud, self-contained nature that though he docketed
any fresh information very quietly and accurately in his brain, he
seldom made any acknowledgment to the giver. "I rather fancy
we shall know a good deal more about Cheeseman's, Lamberley,
before we are through. The letter is, as I had hoped, from Robert
Ferguson. By the way, he claims acquaintance with you."
"You had better read it."
He handed the letter across. It was headed with the address
DEAR MR HOLMES [it said]:
I have been recommended to you by my lawyers, but
indeed the matter is so extraordinarily delicate that it is most
difficult to discuss. It concerns a friend for whom I am
acting. This gentleman married some five years ago a Peruvian
lady the daughter of a Peruvian merchant, whom he had
met in connection with the importation of nitrates. The lady
was very beautiful, but the fact of her foreign birth and of
her alien religion always caused a separation of interests and
of feelings between husband and wife, so that after a time
his love may have cooled towards her and he may have
come to regard their union as a mistake. He felt there were
sides of her character which he could never explore or
understand. This was the more painful as she was as loving
a wife as a man could have -- to all appearance absolutely
Now for the point which I will make more plain when we
meet. Indeed, this note is merely to give you a general idea
of the situation and to ascertain whether you would care to
interest yourself in the matter. The lady began to show
some curious traits quite alien to her ordinarily sweet and
gentle disposition. The gentleman had been married twice
and he had one son by the first wife. This boy was now
fifteen, a very charming and affectionate youth, though
unhappily injured through an accident in childhood. Twice
the wife was caught in the act of assaulting this poor lad in
the most unprovoked way. Once she struck him with a stick
and left a great weal on his arm.
This was a small matter, however, compared with her
conduct to her own child, a dear boy just under one year of
age. On one occasion about a month ago this child had
been left by its nurse for a few minutes. A loud cry from the
baby, as of pain, called the nurse back. As she ran into the
room she saw her employer, the lady, leaning over the baby
and apparently biting his neck. There was a small wound in
the neck from which a stream of blood had escaped. The
nurse was so horrified that she wished to call the husband,
but the lady implored her not to do so and actually gave her
five pounds as a price for her silence. No explanation was
ever given, and for the moment the matter was passed over.
It left, however, a terrible impression upon the nurse's
mind, and from that time she began to watch her mistress
closely and to keep a closer guard upon the baby, whom she
tenderly loved. It seemed to her that even as she watched
the mother, so the mother watched her, and that every time
she was compelled to leave the baby alone the mother was
waiting to get at it. Day and night the nurse covered the
child, and day and night the silent, watchful mother seemed
to be lying in wait as a wolf waits for a lamb. It must read
most incredible to you, and yet I beg you to take it seri-
ously, for a child's life and a man's sanity may depend
At last there came one dreadful day when the facts could
no longer be concealed from the husband. The nurse's nerve
had given way; she could stand the strain no longer, and
she made a clean breast of it all to the man. To him it
seemed as wild a tale as it may now seem to you.He knew
his wife to be a loving wife, and, save for the assaults
upon her stepson, a loving mother. Why, then, should
she wound her own dear little baby? He told the nurse that
she was dreaming, that her suspicions were those of a
lunatic, and that such libels upon her mistress were not to be
tolerated. While they were talking a sudden cry of pain was
heard. Nurse and master rushed together to the nursery.
Imagine his feelings, Mr. Holmes, as he saw his wife rise
from a kneeling position beside the cot and saw blood upon
the child's exposed neck and upon the sheet. With a cry of
horror, he turned his wife's face to the light and saw blood
all round her lips. It was she -- she beyond all question --
who had drunk the poor baby's blood.
So the matter stands. She is now confined to her room.
There has been no explanation. The husband is half de-
mented. He knows, and I know, little of vampirism beyond
the name. We had thought it was some wild tale of foreign
parts. And yet here in the very heart of the English Sussex --
well, all this can be discussed with you in the morning. Will
you see me? Will you use your great powers in aiding a
distracted man? If so, kindly wire to Ferguson, Cheeseman's,
Lamberley, and I will be at your rooms by ten o'clock.
P. S. I believe your friend Watson played Rugby for
Blackheath when I was three-quarter for Richmond. It is the
only personal introduction which I can give.
"Of course I remembered him," said I as I laid down the
letter. "Big Bob Ferguson, the finest three-quarter Richmond
ever had. He was always a good-natured chap. It's like him to be
so concerned over a friend's case."
Holmes looked at me thoughtfully and shook his head.
"I never get your limits, Watson," said he. "There are
unexplored possibilities about you. Take a wire down, like a
good fellow. 'Will examine your case with pleasure.' "
"We must not let him think that this agency is a home for the
weak-minded. Of course it is his case. Send him that wire and let
the matter rest till morning."
Promptly at ten o'clock next morning Ferguson strode into our
room. I had remembered him as a long, slab-sided man with
loose limbs and a fine turn of speed which had carried him round
many an opposing back. There is surely nothing in life more
painful than to meet the wreck of a fine athlete whom one has
known in his prime. His great frame had fallen in, his flaxen hair
was scanty, and his shoulders were bowed. I fear that I roused
corresponding emotions in him.
"Hullo, Watson," said he, and his voice was still deep and
hearty. "You don't look quite the man you did when I threw you
over the ropes into the crowd at the Old Deer Park. I expect I
have changed a bit also. But it's this last day or two that has
aged me. I see by your telegram, Mr. Holmes, that it is no use
my pretending to be anyone's deputy." .
"It is simpler to deal direct," said Holmes.
"Of course it is. But you can imagine how difficult it is when
you are speaking of the one woman whom you are bound to
protect and help. What can I do? How am I to go to the police
with such a story? And yet the kiddies have got to be protected.
Is it madness, Mr. Holmes? Is it something in the blood? Have
you any similar case in your experience? For God's sake, give
me some advice, for I am at my wit's end."
"Very naturally, Mr. Ferguson. Now sit here and pull your-
self together and give me a few clear answers. I can assure you
that I am very far from being at my wit's end, and that I am
confident we shall find some solution. First of all, tell me what
steps you have taken. Is your wife still near the children?"
"We had a dreadful scene. She is a most loving woman, Mr.
Holmes. If ever a woman loved a man with all her heart and
soul, she loves me. She was cut to the heart that I should have
discovered this horrible, this incredible, secret. She would not
even speak. She gave no answer to my reproaches, save to gaze
at me with a sort of wild, despairing look in her eyes. Then she
rushed to her room and locked herself in. Since then she has
refused to see me. She has a maid who was with her before her
marriage, Dolores by name -- a friend rather than a servant. She
takes her food to her."
"Then the child is in no immediate danger?"
"Mrs. Mason, the nurse, has sworn that she will not leave it
night or day. I can absolutely trust her. I am more uneasy about
poor little Jack, for, as I told you in my note, he has twice been
assaulted by her."
"But never wounded?"
"No, she struck him savagely. It is the more terrible as he is a
poor little inoffensive cripple." Ferguson's gaunt features soft-
ened as he spoke of his boy. "You would think that the dear
lad's condition would soften anyone's heart. A fall in childhood
and a twisted spine, Mr. Holmes. But the dearest, most loving
Holmes had picked up the letter of yesterday and was reading
it over. "What other inmates are there in your house, Mr.
"Two servants who have not been long with us. One stable-
hand, Michael, who sleeps in the house. My wife, myself, my
boy Jack, baby, Dolores, and Mrs. Mason. That is all."
"I gather that you did not know your wife well at the time of
"I had only known her a few weeks."
"How long had this maid Dolores been with her?"
"Then your wife's character would really be better known by
Dolores than by you?"
"Yes, you may say so."
Holmes made a note.
"I fancy," said he, "that I may be of more use at Lamberley
than here. It is eminently a case for personal investigation. If the
lady remains in her room, our presence could not annoy or
inconvenience her. Of course, we would stay at the inn."
Ferguson gave a gesture of relief.
"It is what I hoped, Mr. Holmes. There is an excellent train at
two from Victoria if you could come."
"Of course we could come. There is a lull at present. I can
give you my undivided energies. Watson, of course, comes with
us. But there are one or two points upon which I wish to be very
sure before I start. This unhappy lady, as I understand it, has
appeared to assault both the children, her own baby and your
"That is so."
"But the assaults take different forms, do they not? She has
beaten your son."
"Once with a stick and once very savagely with her hands."
"Did she give no explanation why she struck him?"
"None save that she hated him. Again and again she said so."
"Well, that is not unknown among stepmothers. A posthu-
mous jealousy, we will say. Is the lady jealous by nature?"
"Yes, she is very jealous -- jealous with all the strength of her
fiery tropical love."
"But the boy -- he is fifteen, I understand, and probably very
developed in mind, since his body has been circumscribed in
action. Did he give you no explanation of these assaults?"
"No, he declared there was no reason."
"Were they good friends at other times?"
"No, there was never any love between them."
"Yet you say he is affectionate?"
"Never in the world could there be so devoted a son. My life is
his life. He is absorbed in what I say or do."
Once again Holmes made a note. For some time he sat lost in
"No doubt you and the boy were great comrades before this
second marriage. You were thrown very close together, were
"Very much so."
"And the boy, having so affectionate a nature, was devoted,
no doubt, to the memory of his mother?"
"He would certainly seem to be a most interesting lad. There
is one other point about these assaults. Were the strange attacks
upon the baby and the assaults upon yow son at the same
"In the first case it was so. It was as if some frenzy had seized
her, and she had vented her rage upon both. In the second case it
was only Jack who suffered. Mrs. Mason had no complaint to
make about the baby."
"That certainly complicates matters."
"I don't quite follow you, Mr. Holmes."
"Possibly not. One forms provisional theories and waits for
time or fuller knowledge to explode them. A bad habit, Mr.
Ferguson, but human nature is weak. I fear that your old friend
here has given an exaggerated view of my scientific methods.
However, I will only say at the present stage that your problem
does not appear to me to be insoluble, and that you may expect
to find us at Victoria at two o'clock."
It was evening of a dull, foggy November day when, having
left our bags at the Chequers, Lamberley, we drove through the
Sussex clay of a long winding lane and finally reached the
isolated and ancient farmhouse in which Ferguson dwelt. It was
a large, straggling building, very old in the centre, very new at
the wings with towering Tudor chimneys and a lichen-spotted,
high-pitched roof of Horsham slabs. The doorsteps were worn
into curves, and the ancient tiles which lined the porch were
marked with the rebus of a cheese and a man after the original
builder. Within, the ceilings were corrugated with heavy oaken
beams, and the uneven floors sagged into sharp curves. An
odour of age and decay pervaded the whole crumbling building.
There was one very large central room into which Ferguson
led us. Here, in a huge old-fashioned fireplace with an iron
screen behind it dated 1670, there blazed and spluttered a splen-
did log fire.
The room, as I gazed round, was a most singular mixture of
dates and of places. The half-panelled walls may well have
belonged to the original yeoman farmer of the seventeenth cen-
tury. They were ornamented, however, on the lower part by a
line of well-chosen modern water-colours; while above, where
yellow plaster took the place of oak, there was hung a fine
collection of South American utensils and weapons, which had
been brought, no doubt, by the Peruvian lady upstairs. Holmes
rose, with that quick curiosity which sprang from his eager
mind, and examined them with some care. He returned with his
eyes full of thought.
"Hullo!" he cried. "Hullo!"
A spaniel had lain in a basket in the corner. It came slowly
forward towards its master, walking with difficulty. Its hind legs
moved irregularly and its tail was on the ground. It licked
"What is it, Mr. Holmes?"
"The dog. What's the matter with it?"
"That's what puzzled the vet. A sort of paralysis. Spinal
meningitis, he thought. But it is passing. He'll be all right
soon -- won't you, Carlo?"
A shiver of assent passed through the drooping tail. The dog's
mournful eyes passed from one of us to the other. He knew that
we were discussing his case.
"Did it come on suddenly?"
"In a single night."
"How long ago?"
"It may have been four months ago."
"Very remarkable. Very suggestive."
"What do you see in it, Mr. Holmes?"
"A confirmation of what I had already thought."
"For God's sake, what do you think, Mr. Holmes? It may be
a mere intellectual puzzle to you, but it is life and death to me!
My wife a would-be murderer -- my child in constant danger!
Don't play with me, Mr. Holmes. It is too terribly serious."
The big Rugby three-quarter was trembling all over. Holmes
put his hand soothingly upon his arm.
"I fear that there is pain for you, Mr. Ferguson, whatever the
solution may be," said he. "I would spare you all I can. I
cannot say more for the instant, but before I leave this house I
hope I may have something definite."
"Please God you may! If you will excuse me, gentlemen, I
will go up to my wife's room and see if there has been any
He was away some minutes, during which Holmes resumed
his examination of the curiosities upon the wall. When our host
returned it was clear from his downcast face that he had made no
progress. He brought with him a tall, slim, brown-faced girl.
"The tea is ready, Dolores," said Ferguson. "See that your
mistress has everything she can wish."
"She verra ill," cried the girl, looking with indignant eyes at
her master. "She no ask for food. She verra ill. She need doctor.
I frightened stay alone with her without doctor."
Ferguson looked at me with a question in his eyes.
"I should be so glad if I could be of use."
"Would your mistress see Dr. Watson?"
"I take him. I no ask leave. She needs doctor."
"Then I'll come with you at once."
I followed the girl, who was quivering with strong emotion,
up the staircase and down an ancient corridor. At the end was an
iron-clamped and massive door. It struck me as I looked at it that
if Ferguson tried to force his way to his wife he would find it no
easy matter. The girl drew a key from her pocket, and the heavy
oaken planks creaked upon their old hinges. I passed in and she
swiftly followed, fastening the door behind her.
On the bed a woman was lying who was clearly in a high
fever. She was only half conscious, but as I entered she raised a
pair of frightened but beautiful eyes and glared at me in appre-
hension. Seeing a stranger, she appeared to be relieved and sank
back with a sigh upon the pillow. I stepped up to her with a few
reassuring words, and she lay still while I took her pulse and
temperature. Both were high, and yet my impression was that the
condition was rather that of mental and nervous excitement than
of any actual seizure.
"She lie like that one day, two day. I 'fraid she die," said the
The woman turned her flushed and handsome face towards
"Where is my husband?"
"He is below and would wish to see you."
"I will not see him. I will not see him." Then she seemed to
wander off into delirium. "A fiend! A fiend! Oh, what shall I do
with this devil?"
"Can I help you in any way?"
"No. No one can help. It is finished. All is destroyed. Do
what I will, all is destroyed."
The woman must have some strange delusion. I could not see
honest Bob Ferguson in the character of fiend or devil.
"Madame," I said, "your husband loves you dearly. He is
deeply grieved at this happening."
Again she turned on me those glorious eyes.
"He loves me. Yes. But do I not love him? Do I not love him
even to sacrifice myself rather than break his dear heart? That is
how I love him. And yet he could think of me -- he could speak
of me so."
"He is full of grief, but he cannot understand."
"No, he cannot understand. But he should trust."
"Will you not see him?" I suggested.
"No, no, I cannot forget those terrible words nor the look
upon his face. I will not see him. Go now. You can do nothing
for me. Tell him only one thing. I want my child. I have a right
to my child. That is the only message I can send him." She
turned her face to the wall and would say no more.
I returned to the room downstairs, where Ferguson and Holmes
still sat by the fire. Ferguson listened moodily to my account of
"How can I send her the child?" he said. "How do I know
what strange impulse might come upon her? How can I ever
forget how she rose from beside it with its blood upon her lips?"
He shuddered at the recollection. "The child is safe with Mrs.
Mason, and there he must remain."
A smart maid, the only modern thing which we had seen in
the house, had brought in some tea. As she was serving it the
door opened and a youth entered the room. He was a remarkable
lad, pale-faced and fair-haired, with excitable light blue eyes
which blazed into a sudden flame of emotion and joy as they
rested upon his father. He rushed forward and threw his arms
round his neck with the abandon of a loving girl.
"Oh, daddy," he cried, "I did not know that you were due
yet. I should have been here to meet you. Oh, I am so glad to
Ferguson gently disengaged himself from the embrace with
some little show of embarrassment.
"Dear old chap," said he, patting the flaxen head with a very
tender hand. "I came early because my friends, Mr. Holmes and
Dr. Watson, have been persuaded to come down and spend an
evening with us."
"Is that Mr. Holmes, the detective?"
The youth looked at us with a very penetrating and, as it
seemed to me, unfriendly gaze.
"What about your other child, Mr. Ferguson?" asked Holmes.
"Might we make the acquaintance of the baby?"
"Ask Mrs. Mason to bring baby down," said Ferguson. The
boy went off with a curious, shambling gait which told my
surgical eyes that he was suffering from a weak spine. Presently
he returned, and behind him came a tall, gaunt woman bearing in
her arms a very beautiful child, dark-eyed, golden-haired, a
wonderful mixture of the Saxon and the Latin. Ferguson was
evidently devoted to it, for he took it into his arms and fondled it
"Fancy anyone having the heart to hurt him," he muttered as
he glanced down at the small, angry red pucker upon the cherub
It was at this moment that I chanced to glance at Holmes and
saw a most singular intentness in his expression. His face was as
set as if it had been carved out of old ivory, and his eyes, which
had glanced for a moment at father and child, were now fixed
with eager curiosity upon something at the other side of the
room. Following his gaze I could only guess that he was looking
out through the window at the melancholy, dripping garden. It is
true that a shutter had half closed outside and obstructed the
view, but none the less it was certainly at the window that
Holmes was fixing his concentrated attention. Then he smiled,
and his eyes came back to the baby. On its chubby neck there
was this small puckered mark. Without speaking, Holmes exam-
ined it with care. Finally he shook one of the dimpled fists which
waved in front of him.
"Good-bye, little man. You have made a strange start in life.
Nurse, I should wish to have a word with you in private."
He took her aside and spoke earnestly for a few minutes. I
only heard the last words, which were: "Your anxiety will soon,
I hope, be set at rest." The woman, who seemed to be a sour,
silent kind of creature, withdrew with the child.
"What is Mrs. Mason like?" asked Holmes.
"Not very prepossessing externally, as you can see, but a
heart of gold, and devoted to the child."
"Do you like her, Jack?" Holmes turned suddenly upon the
boy. His expressive mobile face shadowed over, and he shook
"Jacky has very strong likes and dislikes," said Ferguson,
putting his arm round the boy. "Luckily I am one of his likes."
The boy cooed and nestled his head upon his father's breast.
Ferguson gently disengaged him.
"Run away, little Jacky," said he, and he watched his son
with loving eyes until he disappeared. "Now, Mr. Holmes," he
continued when the boy was gone, "I really feel that I have
brought you on a fool's errand, for what can you possibly do
save give me your sympathy? It must be an exceedingly delicate
and complex affair from your point of view."
"It is certainly delicate," said my friend with an amused
smile, "but I have not been struck up to now with its complex-
ity. It has been a case for intellectual deduction, but when this
original intellectual deduction is confirmed point by point by
quite a number of independent incidents, then the subjective
becomes objective and we can say confidently that we have
reached our goal. I had, in fact, reached it before we left Baker
Street, and the rest has merely been observation and confirmation."
Ferguson put his big hand to his furrowed forehead.
"For heaven's sake, Holmes," he said hoarsely; "if you can
see the truth in this matter, do not keep me in suspense. How do
I stand? What shall I do? I care nothing as to how you have
found your facts so long as you have really got them."
"Certainly I owe you an explanation, and you shall have it.
But you will permit me to handle the matter in my own way? Is
the lady capable of seeing us, Watson?"
"She is ill, but she is quite rational."
"Very good. It is only in her presence that we can clear the
matter up. Let us go up to her."
"She will not see me," cried Ferguson.
"Oh, yes, she will," said Holmes. He scribbled a few lines
upon a sheet of paper."You at least have the entree, Watson.
Will you have the goodness to give the lady this note?"
I ascended again and handed the note to Dolores, who cau-
tiously opened the door. A minute later I heard a cry from
within, a cry in which joy and surprise seemed to be blended.
Dolores looked out.
"She will see them. She will leesten," said she.
At my summons Ferguson and Holmes came up. As we
entered the room Ferguson took a step or two towards his wife,
who had raised herself in the bed, but she held out her hand to
repulse him. He sank into an armchair, while Holmes seated
himself beside him, after bowing to the lady, who looked at him
with wide-eyed amazement.
"I think we can dispense with Dolores," said Holmes. "Oh,
very well, madame, if you would rather she stayed I can see no
objection. Now, Mr. Ferguson, I am a busy man wlth many
calls, and my methods have to be short and direct. The swiftest
surgery is the least painful. Let me first say what will ease your
mind. Your wife is a very good, a very loving, and a very
Ferguson sat up with a cry of joy.
"Prove that, Mr. Holmes, and I am your debtor forever."
"I will do so, but in doing so I must wound you deeply in
"I care nothing so long as you clear my wife. Everything on
earth is insignificant compared to that."
"Let me tell you, then, the train of reasoning which passed
through my mind in Baker Street. The idea of a vampire was to
me absurd. Such things do not happen in criminal practice in
England. And yet your observation was precise. You had seen
the lady rise from beside the child's cot with the blood upon her
"Did it not occur to you that a bleeding wound may be sucked
for some other purpose than to draw the blood from it? Was
there not a queen in English history who sucked such a wound to
draw poison from it?"
"A South American household. My instinct felt the presence
of those weapons upon the wall before my eyes ever saw them.
It might have been other poison, but that was what occurred to
me. When I saw that little empty quiver beside the small bird-
bow, it was just what I expected to see. If the child were pricked
with one of those arrows dipped in curare or some other devilish
drug, it would mean death if the venom were not sucked out.
"And the dog! If one were to use such a poison, would one not
try it first in order to see that it had not lost its power? I did not
foresee the dog, but at least I understand him and he fitted into
"Now do you understand? Your wife feared such an attack.
She saw it made and saved the child's life, and yet she shrank
from telling you all the truth, for she knew how you loved the
boy and feared lest it break your heart."
"I watched him as you fondled the child just now. His face
was clearly reflected in the glass of the window where the shutter
formed a background. I saw such jealousy, such cruel hatred, as
I have seldom seen in a human face."
"You have to face it, Mr. Ferguson. It is the more painful
because it is a distorted love, a maniacal exaggerated love for
you, and possibly for his dead mother, which has prompted his
action. His very soul is consumed with hatred for this splendid
child, whose health and beauty are a contrast to his own
"Good God! It is incredible!"
"Have I spoken the truth, madame?"
The lady was sobbing, with her face buried in the pillows.
Now she turned to her husband.
"How could I tell you, Bob? I felt the blow it would be to
you. It was better that I should wait and that it should come from
some other lips than mine. When this gentleman, who seems to
have powers of magic, wrote that he knew all, I was glad."
"I think a year at sea would be my prescription for Master
Jacky," said Holmes, rising from his chair. "Only one thing is
still clouded, madame. We can quite understand your attacks
upon Master Jacky. There is a limit to a mother's patience. But
how did you dare to leave the child these last two days?"
"I had told Mrs. Mason. She knew."
"Exactly. So I imagined."
Ferguson was standing by the bed, choking, his hands out-
stretched and quivering.
"This, I fancy, is the time for our exit, Watson," said Holmes
in a whisper. "If you will take one elbow of the too faithful
Dolores, I will take the other. There, now," he added as he
closed the door behind him, "I think we may leave them to settle
the rest among themselves."
I have only one further note of this case. It is the letter which
Holmes wrote in final answer to that with which the narrative
begins. It ran thus:
Referring to your letter of the 19th, I beg to state that I
have looked into the inquiry of your client, Mr. Robert
Ferguson, of Ferguson and Muirhead, tea brokers, of Minc-
ing Lane, and that the matter has been brought to a satisfac-
tory conclusion. With thanks for your recommendation, I