It is merely a matter of time. Hullo! we are going to hear some news now with a vengeance! Here is Gregson coming down the road with beatitude written upon every feature of his face. Bound for us, I know. Yes, he is stopping. There he is!"
There was a violent peal at the bell, and in a few seconds the fair-haired detective came up the stairs, three steps at a time, and burst into our sitting-room.
"My dear fellow," he cried, wringing Holmes' unresponsive hand, "congratulate me! I have made the whole thing as clear as day."
A shade of anxiety seemed to me to cross my companion's expressive face.
"Do you mean that you are on the right track?" he asked.
"The right track! Why, sir, we have the man under lock and key."
"And his name is?"
"Arthur Charpentier, sub-lieutenant in Her Majesty's navy," cried Gregson, pompously, rubbing his fat hands and inflating his chest.
Sherlock Holmes gave a sigh of relief, and relaxed into a smile.
"Take a seat, and try one of these cigars," he said. "We are anxious to know how you managed it. Will you have some whiskey and water?"
"I don't mind if I do," the detective answered. "The tremendous exertions which I have gone through during the last day or two have worn me out. Not so much bodily exertion, you understand, as the strain upon the mind. You will appreciate that, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, for we are both brain-workers."
"You do me too much honour," said Holmes, gravely. "Let us hear how you arrived at this most gratifying result."
The detective seated himself in the arm-chair, and puffed complacently at his cigar. Then suddenly he slapped his thigh in a paroxysm of amusement.
"The fun of it is," he cried, "that that fool Lestrade, who thinks himself so smart, has gone off upon the wrong track altogether. He is after the secretary Stangerson, who had no more to do with the crime than the babe unborn. I have no doubt that he has caught him by this time."
The idea tickled Gregson so much that he laughed until he choked.
"And how did you get your clue?"
"Ah, I'll tell you all about it. Of course, Doctor Watson, this is strictly between ourselves. The first difficulty which we had to contend with was the finding of this American's antecedents. Some people would have waited until their advertisements were answered, or until parties came forward and volunteered information. That is not Tobias Gregson's way of going to work. You remember the hat beside the dead man?"
"Yes," said Holmes; "by John Underwood and Sons, 129, Camberwell Road."
Gregson looked quite crest-fallen.
"I had no idea that you noticed that," he said. "Have you been there?"
"Ha!" cried Gregson, in a relieved voice; "you should never neglect a chance, however small it may seem."
"To a great mind, nothing is little," remarked Holmes, sententiously.
"Well, I went to Underwood, and asked him if he had sold a hat of that size and description. He looked over his books, and came on it at once. He had sent the hat to a Mr. Drebber, residing at Charpentier's Boarding Establishment, Torquay Terrace. Thus I got at his address."
"Smart -- very smart!" murmured Sherlock Holmes.
"I next called upon Madame Charpentier," continued the detective. "I found her very pale and distressed. Her daughter was in the room, too -- an uncommonly fine girl she is, too; she was looking red about the eyes and her lips trembled as I spoke to her. That didn't escape my notice. I began to smell a rat. You know the feeling, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, when you come upon the right scent -- a kind of thrill in your nerves. `Have you heard of the mysterious death of your late boarder Mr. Enoch J. Drebber, of Cleveland?' I asked.
"The mother nodded. She didn't seem able to get out a word. The daughter burst into tears. I felt more than ever that these people knew something of the matter.
"`At what o'clock did Mr. Drebber leave your house for the train?' I asked.
"`At eight o'clock,' she said, gulping in her throat to keep down her agitation.