Holmes?”

“Yes, but it explained nothing.”

“It was too delicate a thing for me to put the details on paper. And too complicated. It was only face to face I could do it.”

“Well, we are at your disposal.”

“First of all, Mr. Holmes, I think that my employer, Sir Robert, has gone mad.”

Holmes raised his eyebrows. “This is Baker Street, not Harley Street,” said he. “But why do you say so?”

“Well, sir, when a man does one queer thing, or two queer things, there may be a meaning to it, but when everything he does is queer, then you begin to wonder. I believe Shoscombe Prince and the Derby have turned his brain.”

“That is a colt you are running?”

“The best in England, Mr. Holmes. I should know, if anyone does. Now, I’ll be plain with you, for I know you are gentlemen of honour and that it won’t go beyond the room. Sir Robert has got to win this Derby. He’s up to the neck, and it‘s his last chance. Everything he could raise or borrow is on the horse — and at fine odds, too! You can get forties now, but it was nearer the hundred when he began to back him.”

“But how is that if the horse is so good?”

“The public don’t know how good he is. Sir Robert has been too clever for the touts. He has the Prince’s half-brother out for spins. You can’t tell ’em apart. But there are two lengths in a furlong between them when it comes to a gallop. He thinks of nothing but the horse and the race. His whole life is on it. He’s holding off the Jews till then. If the Prince fails him he is done.”

“It seems a rather desperate gamble, but where does the madness come in?”

“Well, first of all, you have only to look at him. I don’t believe he sleeps at night. He is down at the stables at all hours. His eyes are wild. It has all been too much for his nerves. Then there is his conduct to Lady Beatrice!”

“Ah! What is that?”

“They have always been the best of friends. They had the same tastes, the two of them, and she loved the horses as much as he did. Every day at the same hour she would drive down to see them — and, above all, she loved the Prince. He would prick up his ears when he heard the wheels on the gravel, and he would trot out each morning to the carriage to get his lump of sugar. But that’s all over now.”

“Why?”

“Well, she seems to have lost all interest in the horses. For a week now she has driven past the stables with never so much as ‘Good-morning’! ”

“You think there has been a quarrel?”

“And a bitter, savage, spiteful quarrel at that. Why else would he give away her pet spaniel that she loved as if he were her child? He gave it a few days ago to old Barnes, what keeps the Green Dragon, three miles off, at Crendall.”

“That certainly did seem strange.”

“Of course, with her weak heart and dropsy one couldn’t expect that she could get about with him, but he spent two hours every evening in her room. He might well do what he could, for she has been a rare good friend to him. But that’s all over, too. He never goes near her. And she takes it to heart. She is brooding and sulky and drinking, Mr. Holmes — drinking like a fish.”

“Did she drink before this estrangement?”

“Well, she took her glass, but now it is often a whole bottle of an evening. So Stephens, the butler, told me. It’s all changed, Mr. Holmes, and there is something damned rotten about it. But then, again, what is master doing down at the old church crypt at night? And who is the man that meets him there?”

Holmes rubbed his hands.

“Go on, Mr. Mason. You get more and more interesting.”

“It was the butler who saw him go. Twelve o’clock at night and raining hard. So next night I was up at the house and, sure enough, master was off again. Stephens and I went after him, but it was jumpy work, for it would have been a bad job if he had seen us. He’s a terrible man with his fists if he gets started, and no respecter of persons. So we were shy of getting too near, but we marked him down all light. It was the haunted crypt that he was making for, and there was a man waiting for him there.”

“What is this haunted cryp?”

“Well, sir, there is an old ruined chapel in the park.

The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place Page 03

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Scottish Authors

Sherlock Holmes

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Sherlock Holmes
Classic Literature Library

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