The Adventure of
by Conan Doyle
"I am afraid, Watson, that I shall have to go," said Holmes, as we sat
down together to our breakfast one morning.
"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
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 traveling 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 cigar-case.
"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 to
"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
"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 it 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 cooperation 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
"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 maidservant,
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 by 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
"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 tonight, 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. "'It's business that may put something into
your pocket,' said the other. 'You've two horses in for the Wessex Cup --
Silver Blaze and Bayard. Let me have the straight tip and you won't be a
loser. Is it a fact that at the weights Bayard could give the other a
hundred yards in five furlongs, and that the stable have put their money on
him?' "'So, you're one of those damned touts!' cried the lad. 'I'll show you
how we serve them in King's Pyland.' He sprang up and rushed across the
stable to unloose the dog. The girl fled away to the house, but as she ran
she looked back and saw that the stranger was leaning through the window. A
minute later, however, when Hunter rushed out with the hound he was gone,
and though he ran all round the buildings he failed to find any trace of
"One moment," I asked. "Did the stable-boy, when he ran out with the dog,
leave the door unlocked behind him?"
"Excellent, Watson, excellent!" murmured my companion. "The importance of
the point struck me so forcibly that I sent a special wire to Dartmoor
yesterday to clear the matter up. The boy locked the door before he left it.
The window, I may add, was not large enough for a man to get through.
"Hunter waited until his fellow-grooms had returned, when he sent a
message to the trainer and told him what had occurred. Straker was excited
at hearing the account, although he does not seem to have quite realized its
true significance. It left him, however, vaguely uneasy, and Mrs. Straker,
waking at one in the morning, found that he was dressing. In reply to her
inquiries, he said that he could not sleep on account of his anxiety about
the horses, and that he intended to walk down to the stables to see that all
was well. She begged him to remain at home, as she could hear the rain
pattering against the window, but in spite of her entreaties he pulled on
his large mackintosh and left the house.
"Mrs. Straker awoke at seven in the morning, to find that her husband had
not yet returned. She dressed herself hastily, called the maid, and set off
for the stables. The door was open; inside, huddled together upon a chair,
Hunter was sunk in a state of absolute stupor, the favorite's stall was
empty, and there were no signs of his trainer.
"The two lads who slept in the chaff-cutting loft above the harness-room
were quickly aroused. They had heard nothing during the night, for they are
both sound sleepers. Hunter was obviously under the influence of some
powerful drug, and as no sense could be got out of him, he was left to sleep
it off while the two lads and the two women ran out in search of the
absentees. They still had hopes that the trainer had for some reason taken
out the horse for early exercise, but on ascending the knoll near the house,
from which all the neighboring moors were visible, they not only could see
no signs of the missing favorite, but they perceived something which warned
them that they were in the presence of a tragedy.
"About a quarter of a mile from the stables John Straker's overcoat was
flapping from a furze-bush. Immediately beyond there was a bowl-shaped
depression in the moor, and at the bottom of this was found the dead body of
the unfortunate trainer. His head had been shattered by a savage blow from
some heavy weapon, and he was wounded on the thigh, where there was a long,
clean cut, inflicted evidently by some very sharp instrument. It was clear,
however, that Straker had defended himself vigorously against his
assailants, for in his right hand he held a small knife, which was clotted
with blood up to the handle, while in his left he clasped a red and black
silk cravat, which was recognized by the maid as having been worn on the
preceding evening by the stranger who had visited the stables.
Hunter, on recovering from his stupor, was also quite positive as to the
ownership of the cravat. He was equally certain that the same stranger had,
while standing at the window, drugged his curried mutton, and so deprived
the stables of their watchman. As to the missing horse, there were abundant
proofs in the mud which lay at the bottom of the fatal hollow that he had
been there at the time of the struggle. But from that morning he has
disappeared, and although a large reward has been offered, and all the
gypsies of Dartmoor are on the alert, no news has come of him. Finally, an
analysis has shown that the remains of his supper left by the stable-lad
contain an appreciable quantity of powdered opium, while the people at the
house partook of the same dish on the same night without any ill effect.
"Those are the main facts of the case, stripped of all surmise, and
stated as baldly as possible. I shall now recapitulate what the police have
done in the matter.
"Inspector Gregory, to whom the case has been committed, is an extremely
competent officer. Were he but gifted with imagination he might rise to
great heights in his profession. On his arrival he promptly found and
arrested the man upon whom suspicion naturally rested. There was little
difficulty in finding him, for he inhabited one of those villas which I have
mentioned. His name, it appears, was Fitzroy Simpson. He was a man of
excellent birth and education, who had squandered a fortune upon the turf,
and who lived now by doing a little quiet and genteel bookmaking in the
sporting clubs of London.
An examination of his betting-book shows that bets to the amount of five
thousand pounds had been registered by him against the favorite. On being
arrested he volunteered that statement that he had come down to Dartmoor in
the hope of getting some information about the King's Pyland horses, and
also about Desborough, the second favorite, which was in charge of Silas
Brown at the Mapleton stables. He did not attempt to deny that he had acted
as described upon the evening before, but declared that he had no sinister
designs, and had simply wished to obtain firsthand information. When
confronted with his cravat, he turned very pale, and was utterly unable to
account for its presence in the hand of the murdered man. His wet clothing
showed that he had been out in the storm of the night before, and his stick,
which was a Penang-lawyer weighted with lead, was just such a weapon as
might, by repeated blows, have inflicted the terrible injuries to which the
trainer had succumbed. On the other hand, there was no wound upon his
person, while the state of Straker's knife would show that one at least of
his assailants must bear his mark upon him. There you have it all in a
nutshell, Watson, and if you can give me any light I shall be infinitely
obliged to you." I had listened with the greatest interest to the statement
which Holmes, with characteristic clearness, had laid before me. Though most
of the facts were familiar to me, I had not sufficiently appreciated their
relative importance, nor their connection to each other.
"Is in not possible," I suggested, "that the incised wound upon Straker
may have been caused by his own knife in the convulsive struggles which
follow any brain injury?"
"It is more than possible; it is probable," said Holmes. "In that case
one of the main points in favor of the accused disappears."
"And yet," said I, "even now I fail to understand what the theory of the
police can be."
"I am afraid that whatever theory we state has very grave objections to
it," returned my companion. "The police imagine, I take it, that this
Fitzroy Simpson, having drugged the lad, and having in some way obtained a
duplicate key, opened the stable door and took out the horse, with the
intention, apparently, of kidnapping him altogether. His bridle is missing,
so that Simpson must have put this on. Then, having left the door open
behind him, he was leading the horse away over the moor, when he was either
met or overtaken by the trainer. A row naturally ensued. Simpson beat out
the trainer's brains with his heavy stick without receiving any injury from
the small knife which Straker used in self-defense, and then the thief
either led the horse on to some secret hiding-place, or else it may have
bolted during the struggle, and be now wandering out on the moors. That is
the case as it appears to the police, and improbable as it is, all other
explanations are more improbable still. However, I shall very quickly test
the matter when I am once upon the spot, and until then I cannot really see
how we can get much further than our present position." It was evening
before we reached the little town of Tavistock, which lies, like the boss of
a shield, in the middle of the huge circle of Dartmoor. Two gentlemen were
awaiting us in the station -- the one a tall, fair man with lion-like hair
and beard and curiously penetrating light blue eyes; the other a small,
alert person, very neat and dapper, in a frock-coat and gaiters, with trim
little side-whiskers and an eyeglass. The latter was Colonel Ross, the
well-known sportsman; the other, Inspector Gregory, a man who was rapidly
making his name in the English detective service.
"I am delighted that you have come down, Mr. Holmes," said the Colonel.
"The Inspector here has done all that could possibly be suggested, but I
wish to leave no stone unturned in trying to avenge poor Straker and in
recovering my horse."
"Have there been any fresh developments?" asked Holmes.
"I am sorry to say that we have made very little progress," said the
Inspector. "We have an open carriage outside, and as you would no doubt like
to see the place before the light fails, we might talk it over as we
A minute later we were all seated in a comfortable landau, and were
rattling through the quaint old Devonshire city. Inspector Gregory was full
of his case, and poured out a stream of remarks, while Holmes threw in an
occasional question or interjection. Colonel Ross leaned back with his arms
folded and his hat tilted over his eyes, while I listened with interest to
the dialogue of the two detectives. Gregory was formulating his theory,
which was almost exactly what Holmes had foretold in the train.
"The net is drawn pretty close round Fitzroy Simpson," he remarked, "and
I believe myself that he is our man. At the same time I recognize that the
evidence is purely circumstantial, and that some new development may upset
"How about Straker's knife?"
"We have quite come to the conclusion that he wounded himself in his
"My friend Dr. Watson made that suggestion to me as we came down. If so,
it would tell against this man Simpson." "Undoubtedly. He has neither a
knife nor any sign of a wound. The evidence against him is certainly very
strong. He had a great interest in the disappearance of the favorite. He
lies under suspicion of having poisoned the stable-boy, he was undoubtedly
out in the storm, he was armed with a heavy stick, and his cravat was found
in the dead man's hand. I really think we have enough to go before a
Holmes shook his head. "A clever counsel would tear it all to rags," said
he. "Why should he take the horse out of the stable? If he wished to injure
it why could he not do it there? Has a duplicate key been found in his
possession? What chemist sold him the powdered opium? Above all, where could
he, a stranger to the district, hide a horse, and such a horse as this? What
is his own explanation as to the paper which he wished the maid to give to
"He says that it was a ten-pound note. One was found in his purse. But
your other difficulties are not so formidable as they seem. He is not a
stranger to the district. He has twice lodged at Tavistock in the summer.
The opium was probably brought from London. The key, having served its
purpose, would be hurled away. The horse may be at the bottom of one of the
pits or old mines upon the moor."
"What does he say about the cravat?"
"He acknowledges that it is his, and declares that he had lost it. But a
new element has been introduced into the case which may account for his
leading the horse from the stable."
Holmes pricked up his ears.
"We have found traces which show that a party of gypsies encamped on
Monday night within a mile of the spot where the murder took place. On
Tuesday they were gone. Now, presuming that there was some understanding
between Simpson and these gypsies, might he not have been leading the horse
to them when he was overtaken, and may they not have him now?"
"It is certainly possible."
"The moor is being scoured for these gypsies. I have also examined every
stable and outhouse in Tavistock, and for a radius of ten miles."
"There is another training-stable quite close, I understand?"
"Yes, and that is a factor which we must certainly not neglect. As
Desborough, their horse, was second in the betting, they had an interest in
the disappearance of the favorite. Silas Brown, the trainer, is known to
have had large bets upon the event, and he was no friend to poor Straker. We
have, however, examined the stables, and there is nothing to connect him
with the affair."
"And nothing to connect this man Simpson with the interests of the
"Nothing at all."
Holmes leaned back in the carriage, and the conversation ceased. A few
minutes later our driver pulled up at a neat little red-brick villa with
overhanging eaves which stood by the road. Some distance off, across a
paddock, lay a long gray-tiled outbuilding. In every other direction the low
curves of the moor, bronze-colored from the fading ferns, stretched away to
the skyline, broken only by the steeples of Tavistock, and by a cluster of
houses away to the westward which marked the Mapleton stables.
We all sprang out with the exception of Holmes, who continued to lean
back with his eyes fixed upon the sky in front of him, entirely absorbed in
his own thoughts. It was only when I touched his arm that he roused himself
with a violent start and stepped out of the carriage. "Excuse me," said he,
turning to Colonel Ross, who had looked at him in some surprise. "I was
There was a gleam in his eyes and a suppressed excitement in his manner
which convinced me, used as I was to his ways, that his hand was upon a
clue, though I could not imagine where he had found it.
"Perhaps you would prefer at once to go on to the scene of the crime, Mr.
Holmes?" said Gregory.
"I think that I should prefer to stay here a little and go into one or
two questions of detail. Straker was brought back here, I presume?"
"Yes; he lies upstairs. The inquest is tomorrow."
"He has been in your service some years, Colonel Ross?"
"I have always found him an excellent servant."
"I presume that you made an inventory of what he had in this pockets at
the time of his death, Inspector?"
"I have the things themselves in the sitting-room, if you would care to
"I should be very glad."
We all filed into the front room and sat round the central table while
the Inspector unlocked a square tin box and laid a small heap of things
before us. There was a box of vestas, two inches of tallow candle, an A D P
brier-root pipe, a pouch of sealskin with half an ounce of long-cut
Cavendish, a silver watch with a gold chain, five sovereigns in gold, an
aluminum pencil-case, a few papers, and an ivory-handled knife with a very
delicate, inflexible bade marked Weiss & Co., London.
"This is a very singular knife," said Holmes, lifting it up and examining
"I presume, as I see bloodstains upon it, that it is the one which was
found in the dead man's grasp. Watson, this knife is surely in your
"It is what we call a cataract knife," said I.
"I thought so. A very delicate blade devised for very delicate work. A
strange thing for a man to carry with him upon a rough expedition,
especially as it would not shut in his pocket."
"The tip was guarded by a disk of cork which we found beside his body,"
said the Inspector.
"His wife tells us that the knife had lain upon the dressing-table, and
that he had picked it up as he left the room. It was a poor weapon, but
perhaps the best that he could lay his hands on at the moment."
"Very possible. How about these papers?"
"Three of them are receipted hay-dealers' accounts. One of them is a
letter of instructions from Colonel Ross. This other is a milliner's account
for thirty-seven pounds fifteen made out by Madame Lesurier, of Bond Street,
to William Derbyshire. Mrs. Straker tells us that Derbyshire was a friend of
her husband's and that occasionally his letters were addressed here."
"Madam Derbyshire had somewhat expensive tastes," remarked Holmes,
glancing down the account.
"Twenty-two guineas is rather heavy for a single costume. However there
appears to be nothing more to learn, and we may now go down to the scene of
As we emerged from the sitting-room a woman, who had been waiting in the
passage, took a step forward and laid her hand upon the Inspector's sleeve.
Her face was haggard and thin and eager, stamped with the print of a recent
"Have you got them? Have you found them?" she panted.
"No, Mrs. Straker. But Mr. Holmes here has come from London to help us,
and we shall do all that is possible."
"Surely I met you in Plymouth at a garden-party some little time ago,
Mrs. Straker?" said Holmes.
"No, sir; you are mistaken."
"Dear me! Why, I could have sworn to it. You wore a costume of
dove-colored silk with ostrich-feather trimming."
"I never had such a dress, sir," answered the lady.
"Ah, that quite settles it," said Holmes. And with an apology he followed
the Inspector outside. A short walk across the moor took us to the hollow in
which the body had been found. At the brink of it was the furze-bush upon
which the coat had been hung.
"There was no wind that night, I understand," said Holmes.
"None; but very heavy rain."
"In that case the overcoat was not blown against the furze-bush, but
"Yes, it was laid across the bush."
"You fill me with interest, I perceive that the ground has been trampled
up a good deal. No doubt many feet have been here since Monday night."
"A piece of matting has been laid here at the side, and we have all stood
"In this bag I have one of the boots which Straker wore, one of Fitzroy
Simpson's shoes, and a cast horseshoe of Silver Blaze."
"My dear Inspector, you surpass yourself!" Holmes took the bag, and,
descending into the hollow, he pushed the matting into a more central
position. Then stretching himself upon his face and leaning his chin upon
his hands, he made a careful study of the trampled mud in front of him.
"Hullo!" said he, suddenly.
"What's this?" It was a wax vesta half burned, which was so coated with
mud that it looked at first like a little chip of wood.
"I cannot think how I came to overlook it," said the Inspector, with an
expression of annoyance.
"It was invisible, buried in the mud. I only saw it because I was looking
"What! You expected to find it?"
"I thought it not unlikely." He took the boots from the bag, and compared
the impressions of each of them with marks upon the ground. Then he
clambered up to the rim of the hollow, and crawled about among the ferns and
"I am afraid that there are no more tracks," said the Inspector. "I have
examined the ground very carefully for a hundred yards in each
"Indeed!" said Holmes, rising. "I should not have the impertinence to do
it again after what you say. But I should like to take a little walk over
the moor before it grows dark, that I may know my ground tomorrow, and I
think that I shall put this horseshoe into my pocket for luck." Colonel
Ross, who had shown some signs of impatience at my companion's quiet and
systematic method of work, glanced at his watch.
"I wish you would come back with me, Inspector," said he. "There are
several points on which I should like your advice, and especially as to
whether we do not owe it to the public to remove our horse's name from the
entries for the Cup."
"Certainly not," cried Holmes, with decision. "I should let the name
The Colonel bowed. "I am very glad to have had your opinion, sir," said
he. "You will find us at poor Straker's house when you have finished your
walk, and we can drive together into Tavistock."
He turned back with the Inspector, while Holmes and I walked slowly
across the moor. The sun was beginning to sink behind the stables of
Mapleton, and the long, sloping plain in front of us was tinged with gold,
deepening into rich, ruddy browns where the faded ferns and brambles caught
the evening light. But the glories of the landscape were all wasted upon my
companion, who was sunk in the deepest thought.
"It's this way, Watson," said he at last. "We may leave the question of
who killed John Straker for the instant, and confine ourselves to finding
out what has become of the horse. Now, supposing that he broke away during
or after the tragedy, where could he have gone to? The horse is a very
gregarious creature. If left to himself his instincts would have been either
to return to King's Pyland or go over to Mapleton. Why should he run wild
upon the moor? He would surely have been seen by now. And why should gypsies
kidnap him? These people always clear out when they hear of trouble, for
they do not wish to be pestered by the police. They could not hope to sell
such a horse. They would run a great risk and gain nothing by taking him.
Surely that is clear."
"Where is he, then?"
"I have already said that he must have gone to King's Pyland or to
Mapleton. He is not at King's Pyland. Therefore he is at Mapleton. Let us
take that as a working hypothesis and see what it leads us to. This part of
the moor, as the Inspector remarked, is very hard and dry. But it falls away
towards Mapleton, and you can see from here that there is a long hollow over
yonder, which must have been very wet on Monday night. If our supposition is
correct, then the horse must have crossed that, and there is the point where
we should look for his tracks."
We had been walking briskly during this conversation, and a few more
minutes brought us to the hollow in question. At Holmes' request I walked
down the bank to the right, and he to the left, but I had not taken fifty
paces before I heard him give a shout, and saw him waving his hand to me.
The track of a horse was plainly outlined in the soft earth in front of him,
and the shoe which he took from his pocket exactly fitted the
"See the value of imagination," said Holmes. "It is the one quality which
Gregory lacks. We imagined what might have happened, acted upon the
supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed."
We crossed the marshy bottom and passed over a quarter of a mile of dry,
hard turf. Again the ground sloped, and again we came on the tracks. Then we
lost them for half a mile, but only to pick them up once more quite close to
Mapleton. It was Holmes who saw them first, and he stood pointing with a
look of triumph upon his face. A man's track was visible beside the
"The horse was alone before," I cried.
"Quite so. It was alone before. Hullo, what is this?" The double track
turned sharp off and took the direction of King's Pyland. Holmes whistled,
and we both followed along after it. His eyes were on the trail, but I
happened to look a little to one side, and saw to my surprise the same
tracks coming back again in the opposite direction.
"One for you, Watson," said Holmes, when I pointed it out.
"You have saved us a long walk, which would have brought us back on our
own traces. Let us follow the return track." We had not to go far. It ended
at the paving of asphalt which led up to the gates of the Mapleton stables.
As we approached, a groom ran out from them.
"We don't want any loiterers about here," said he.
"I only wished to ask a question," said Holmes, with his finger and thumb
in his waistcoat pocket.
"Should I be too early to see your master, Mr. Silas Brown, if I were to
call at five o'clock tomorrow. morning?"
"Bless you, sir, if any one is about he will be, for he is always the
first stirring. But here he is, sir, to answer your questions for himself.
No, sir, no; it is as much as my place is worth to let him see me touch your
money. Afterwards, if you like."
As Sherlock Holmes replaced the half-crown which he had drawn from his
pocket, a fierce-looking elderly man strode out from the gate with a
hunting-crop swinging in his hand.
"What's this, Dawson!" he cried.
"No gossiping! Go about your business! And you, what the devil do you
"Ten minutes' talk with you, my good sir," said Holmes in the sweetest of
"I've no time to talk to every gadabout. We want no stranger here. Be
off, or you may find a dog at your heels."
Holmes leaned forward and whispered something in the trainer's ear. He
started violently and flushed to the temples. "It's a lie!" he shouted, "an
"Very good. Shall we argue about it here in public or talk it over in
"Oh, come in if you wish to."
Holmes smiled. "I shall not keep you more than a few minutes, Watson,"
"Now, Mr. Brown, I am quite at your disposal."
It was twenty minutes, and the reds had all faded into grays before
Holmes and the trainer reappeared. Never have I seen such a change as had
been brought about in Silas Brown in that short time. His face was ashy
pale, beads of perspiration shone upon his brow, and his hands shook until
the hunting-crop wagged like a branch in the wind. His bullying, overbearing
manner was all gone too, and he cringed along at my companion's side like a
dog with its master.
"Your instructions will be done. It shall all be done," said he.
"There must be no mistake," said Holmes, looking round at him.
The other winced as he read the menace in his eyes. "Oh no, there shall
be no mistake. It shall be there. Should I change it first or not?"
Holmes thought a little and then burst out laughing. "No, don't," said
he; "I shall write to you about it. No tricks, now, or -- "
"Oh, you can trust me, you can trust me!"
"Yes, I think I can. Well, you shall hear from me tomorrow." He turned
upon his heel, disregarding the trembling hand which the other held out to
him, and we set off for King's Pyland.
"A more perfect compound of the bully, coward, and sneak than Master
Silas Brown I have seldom met with," remarked Holmes as we trudged along
"He has the horse, then?"
"He tried to bluster out of it, but I described to him so exactly what
his actions had been upon that morning that he is convinced that I was
watching him. Of course you observed the peculiarly square toes in the
impressions, and that his own boots exactly corresponded to them. Again, of
course no subordinate would have dared to do such a thing. I described to
him how, when according to his custom he was the first down, he perceived a
strange horse wandering over the moor. How he went out to it, and his
astonishment at recognizing, from the white forehead which has given the
favorite its name, that chance had put in his power the only horse which
could beat the one upon which he had put his money. Then I described how his
first impulse had been to lead him back to King's Pyland, and how the devil
had shown him how he could hide the horse until the race was over, and how
he had led it back and concealed it at Mapleton. When I told him every
detail he gave it up and thought only of saving his own skin."
"But his stables had been searched?"
"Oh, an old horse-fakir like him has many a dodge."
"But are you not afraid to leave the horse in his power now, since he has
every interest in injuring it?"
"My dear fellow, he will guard it as the apple of his eye. He knows that
his only hope of mercy is to produce it safe."
"Colonel Ross did not impress me as a man who would be likely to show
much mercy in any case."
"The matter does not rest with Colonel Ross. I follow my own methods, and
tell as much or as little as I choose. That is the advantage of being
unofficial. I don't know whether you observed it, Watson, but the Colonel's
manner has been just a trifle cavalier to me. I am inclined now to have a
little amusement at his expense. Say nothing to him about the horse."
"Certainly not without your permission."
"And of course this is all quite a minor point compared to the question
of who killed John Straker."
"And you will devote yourself to that?"
"On the contrary, we both go back to London by the night train." I was
thunderstruck by my friend's words. We had only been a few hours in
Devonshire, and that he should give up an investigation which he had begun
so brilliantly was quite incomprehensible to me. Not a word more could I
draw from him until we were back at the trainer's house. The Colonel and the
Inspector were awaiting us in the parlor.
"My friend and I return to town by the night-express," said Holmes.
"We have had a charming little breath of your beautiful Dartmoor
The Inspector opened his eyes, and the Colonel's lip curled in a sneer.
"So you despair of arresting the murderer of poor Straker," said he.
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. "There are certainly grave difficulties in
the way," said he. "I have every hope, however, that your horse will start
upon Tuesday, and I beg that you will have your jockey in readiness. Might I
ask for a photograph of Mr. John Straker?"
The Inspector took one from an envelope and handed it to him.
"My dear Gregory, you anticipate all my wants. If I might ask you to wait
here for an instant, I have a question which I should like to put to the
"I must say that I am rather disappointed in our London consultant," said
Colonel Ross, bluntly, as my friend left the room. "I do not see that we are
any further than when he came."
"At least you have his assurance that your horse will run," said I.
"Yes, I have his assurance," said the Colonel, with a shrug of his
shoulders. "I should prefer to have the horse."
I was about to make some reply in defense of my friend when he entered
the room again.
"Now, gentlemen," said he,
"I am quite ready for Tavistock."
As we stepped into the carriage one of the stable-lads held the door open
for us. A sudden idea seemed to occur to Holmes, for he leaned forward and
touched the lad upon the sleeve.
"You have a few sheep in the paddock," he said. "Who attends to
"I do, sir."
"Have you noticed anything amiss with them of late?"
"Well, sir, not of much account; but three of them have gone lame,
I could see that Holmes was extremely pleased, for he chuckled and rubbed
his hands together. "A long shot, Watson; a very long shot," said he,
pinching my arm.
"Gregory, let me recommend to your attention this singular epidemic among
the sheep. Drive on, coachman!"
Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the poor opinion which
he had formed of my companion's ability, but I saw by the Inspector's face
that his attention had been keenly aroused. "You consider that to be
important?" he asked.
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime."
"The dog did nothing in the nighttime."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
Four days later Holmes and I were again in the train, bound for
Winchester to see the race for the Wessex Cup. Colonel Ross met us by
appointment outside the station, and we drove in his drag to the course
beyond the town. His face was grave, and his manner was cold in the
"I have seen nothing of my horse," said he.
"I suppose that you would know him when you saw him?" asked Holmes.
The Colonel was very angry. "I have been on the turf for twenty years,
and never was asked such a question as that before," said he. "A child would
know Silver Blaze, with his white forehead and his mottled off-foreleg."
"How is the betting?"
"Well, that is the curious part of it. You could have got fifteen to one
yesterday, but the price has become shorter and shorter, until you can
hardly get three to one now."
"Hum!" said Holmes. "Somebody knows something, that is clear."
As the drag drew up in the enclosure near the grand stand I glanced at
the card to see the entries. It ran: --
Wessex Plate. 50 sovs each h ft, with 1,000 sovs added, for four and
five year olds. Second, L300. Third, L200. New course (one mile and five
furlongs).Mr. Heath Newton's The Negro (red cap. Cinnamon
Colonel Wardlaw's Pugilist (pink cap, blue and black
Lord Backwater's Desborough (yellow cap and
Colonel Ross's Silver Blaze (black cap, red jacket). Duke of
Balmoral's Iris (yellow and black stripes).
Rasper(purple cap, Black sleeves).
"We scratched our other one, and put all hopes on your word," said the
"Why, what is that? Silver Blaze favorite?"
"Five to four against Silver Blaze!" roared the ring.
"Five to four against Silver Blaze! Five to fifteen against Desborough!
Five to four on the field!"
"There are the numbers up," I cried. "They are all six there."
"All six there? Then my horse is running," cried the Colonel in great
agitation. "But I don't see him. My colors have not passed."
"Only five have passed. This must be he." As I spoke a powerful bay horse
swept out from the weighting enclosure and cantered past us, bearing on it
back the well-known black and red of the Colonel.
"That's not my horse," cried the owner. "That beast has not a white hair
upon its body. What is this that you have done, Mr. Holmes?"
"Well, well, let us see how he gets on," said my friend, imperturbably.
For a few minutes he gazed through my field-glass. "Capital! An excellent
start!" he cried suddenly. "There they are, coming round the curve!"
From our drag we had a superb view as they came up the straight. The six
horses were so close together that a carpet could have covered them, but
half way up the yellow of the Mapleton stable showed to the front. Before
they reached us, however, Desborough's bolt was shot, and the Colonel's
horse, coming away with a rush, passed the post a good six lengths before
its rival, the Duke of Balmoral's Iris making a bad third.
"It's my race, anyhow," gasped the Colonel, passing his hand over his
eyes. "I confess that I can make neither head nor tail of it. Don't you
think that you have kept up your mystery long enough, Mr. Holmes?"
"Certainly, Colonel, you shall know everything. Let us all go round and
have a look at the horse together. Here he is," he continued, as we made our
way into the weighing enclosure, where only owners and their friends find
admittance. "You have only to wash his face and his leg in spirits of wine,
and you will find that he is the same old Silver Blaze as ever."
"You take my breath away!"
"I found him in the hands of a fakir, and took the liberty of running him
just as he was sent over."
"My dear sir, you have done wonders. The horse looks very fit and well.
It never went better in its life. I owe you a thousand apologies for having
doubted your ability. You have done me a great service by recovering my
horse. You would do me a greater still if you could lay your hands on the
murderer of John Straker."
"I have done so," said Holmes quietly. The Colonel and I stared at him in
"You have got him! Where is he, then?"
"He is here."
"In my company at the present moment." The Colonel flushed angrily.
"I quite recognize that I am under obligations to you, Mr. Holmes," said
he, "but I must regard what you have just said as either a very bad joke or
an insult." Sherlock Holmes laughed.
"I assure you that I have not associated you with the crime, Colonel,"
"The real murderer is standing immediately behind you." He stepped past
and laid his hand upon the glossy neck of the thoroughbred.
"The horse!" cried both the Colonel and myself.
"Yes, the horse. And it may lessen his guilt if I say that it was done in
self-defense, and that John Straker was a man who was entirely unworthy of
your confidence. But there goes the bell, and as I stand to win a little on
this next race, I shall defer a lengthy explanation until a more fitting
We had the corner of a Pullman car to ourselves that evening as we
whirled back to London, and I fancy that the journey was a short one to
Colonel Ross as well as to myself, as we listened to our companion's
narrative of the events which had occurred at the Dartmoor training-stables
upon the Monday night, and the means by which he had unraveled them.
"I confess," said he, "that any theories which I had formed from the
newspaper reports were entirely erroneous. And yet there were indications
there, had they not been overlaid by other details which concealed their
true import. I went to Devonshire with the conviction that Fitzroy Simpson
was the true culprit, although, of course, I saw that the evidence against
him was by no means complete. It was while I was in the carriage, just as we
reached the trainer's house, that the immense significance of the curried
mutton occurred to me. You may remember that I was distrait, and remained
sitting after you had all alighted. I was marveling in my own mind how I
could possibly have overlooked so obvious a clue."
"I confess," said the Colonel, "that even now I cannot see how it helps
"It was the first link in my chain of reasoning. Powdered opium is by no
means tasteless. The flavor is not disagreeable, but it is perceptible. Were
it mixed with any ordinary dish the eater would undoubtedly detect it, and
would probably eat no more. A curry was exactly the medium which would
disguise this taste. By no possible supposition could this stranger, Fitzroy
Simpson, have caused curry to be served in the trainer's family that night,
and it is surely too monstrous a coincidence to suppose that he happened to
come along with powdered opium upon the very night when a dish happened to
be served which would disguise the flavor. That is unthinkable. Therefore
Simpson becomes eliminated from the case, and our attention centers upon
Straker and his wife, the only two people who could have chosen curried
mutton for supper that night. The opium was added after the dish was set
aside for the stable-boy, for the others had the same for supper with no ill
effects. Which of them, then, had access to that dish without the maid
"Before deciding that question I had grasped the significance of the
silence of the dog, for one true inference invariably suggests others. The
Simpson incident had shown me that a dog was kept in the stables, and yet,
though some one had been in and had fetched out a horse, he had not barked
enough to arouse the two lads in the loft. Obviously the midnight visitor
was some one whom the dog knew well.
"I was already convinced, or almost convinced, that John Straker went
down to the stables in the dead of the night and took out Silver Blaze. For
what purpose? For a dishonest one, obviously, or why should he drug his own
stable-boy? And yet I was at a loss to know why. There have been cases
before now where trainers have made sure of great sums of money by laying
against their own horses, through agents, and then preventing them from
winning by fraud. Sometimes it is a pulling jockey. Sometimes it is some
surer and subtler means. What was it here? I hoped that the contents of his
pockets might help me to form a conclusion.
"And they did so. You cannot have forgotten the singular knife which was
found in the dead man's hand, a knife which certainly no sane man would
choose for a weapon. It was, as Dr. Watson told us, a form of knife which is
used for the most delicate operations known in surgery. And it was to be
used for a delicate operation that night. You must know, with your wide
experience of turf matters, Colonel Ross, that it is possible to make a
slight nick upon the tendons of a horse's ham, and to do it subcutaneously,
so as to leave absolutely no trace. A horse so treated would develop a
slight lameness, which would be put down to a strain in exercise or a touch
of rheumatism, but never to foul play."
"Villain! Scoundrel!" cried the Colonel.
"We have here the explanation of why John Straker wished to take the
horse out on to the moor. So spirited a creature would have certainly roused
the soundest of sleepers when it felt the prick of the knife. It was
absolutely necessary to do it in the open air."
"I have been blind!" cried the Colonel. "Of course that was why he needed
the candle, and struck the match."
"Undoubtedly. But in examining his belongings I was fortunate enough to
discover not only the method of the crime, but even its motives. As a man of
the world, Colonel, you know that men do not carry other people's bills
about in their pockets. We have most of us quite enough to do to settle our
own. I at once concluded that Straker was leading a double life, and keeping
a second establishment. The nature of the bill showed that there was a lady
in the case, and one who had expensive tastes. Liberal as you are with your
servants, one can hardly expect that they can buy twenty-guinea walking
dresses for their ladies. I questioned Mrs. Straker as to the dress without
her knowing it, and having satisfied myself that it had never reached her, I
made a note of the milliner's address, and felt that by calling there with
Straker's photograph I could easily dispose of the mythical Derbyshire.
"From that time on all was plain. Straker had led out the horse to a
hollow where his light would be invisible. Simpson in his flight had dropped
his cravat, and Straker had picked it up -- with some idea, perhaps, that he
might use it in securing the horse's leg. Once in the hollow, he had got
behind the horse and had struck a light; but the creature frightened at the
sudden glare, and with the strange instinct of animals feeling that some
mischief was intended, had lashed out, and the steel shoe had struck Straker
full on the forehead. He had already, in spite of the rain, taken off his
overcoat in order to do his delicate task, and so, as he fell, his knife
gashed his thigh. Do I make it clear?"
"Wonderful!" cried the Colonel. "Wonderful! You might have been
"My final shot was, I confess a very long one. It struck me that so
astute a man as Straker would not undertake this delicate tendon-nicking
without a little practice. What could he practice on? My eyes fell upon the
sheep, and I asked a question which, rather to my surprise, showed that my
surmise was correct.
"When I returned to London I called upon the milliner, who had recognized
Straker as an excellent customer of the name of Derbyshire, who had a very
dashing wife, with a strong partiality for expensive dresses. I have no
doubt that this woman had plunged him over head and ears in debt, and so led
him into this miserable plot."
"You have explained all but one thing," cried the Colonel. "Where was the
"Ah, it bolted, and was cared for by one of your neighbors. We must have
an amnesty in that direction, I think. This is Clapham Junction, if I am not
mistaken, and we shall be in Victoria in less than ten minutes. If you care
to smoke a cigar in our rooms, Colonel, I shall be happy to give you any
other details which might interest you."