"The night porter saw nothing, I suppose?"
"No, sir; one theatre party came in late. No one else."
"Were you on duty all day yesterday?"
"Did you take any messages to Mr. Staunton?"
"Yes, sir; one telegram."
"Ah! that's interesting. What o'clock was this?"
"Where was Mr. Staunton when he received it?"
"Here in his room."
"Were you present when he opened it?"
"Yes, sir; I waited to see if there was an answer."
"Well, was there?"
"Yes, sir. He wrote an answer."
"Did you take it?"
"No; he took it himself."
"But he wrote it in your presence?"
"Yes, sir. I was standing by the door, and he with his back turned at that table. When he had written it he said, `All right, porter, I will take this myself.'"
"What did he write it with?"
"A pen, sir."
"Was the telegraphic form one of these on the table?"
"Yes, sir; it was the top one."
Holmes rose. Taking the forms he carried them over to the window and carefully examined that which was uppermost.
"It is a pity he did not write in pencil," said he, throwing them down again with a shrug of disappointment. "As you have no doubt frequently observed, Watson, the impression usually goes through -- a fact which has dissolved many a happy marriage. However, I can find no trace here. I rejoice, however, to perceive that he wrote with a broad-pointed quill pen, and I can hardly doubt that we will find some impression upon this blotting-pad. Ah, yes, surely this is the very thing!"
He tore off a strip of the blotting-paper and turned towards us the following hieroglyphic:--
Cyril Overton was much excited. "Hold it to the glass!" he cried.
"That is unnecessary," said Holmes. "The paper is thin, and the reverse will give the message. Here it is." He turned it over and we read:--
"So that is the tail end of the telegram which Godfrey Staunton dispatched within a few hours of his disappearance. There are at least six words of the message which have escaped us; but what remains -- `Stand by us for God's sake!' -- proves that this young man saw a formidable danger which approached him, and from which someone else could protect him. `US,' mark you! Another person was involved. Who should it be but the pale-faced, bearded man, who seemed himself in so nervous a state? What, then, is the connection between Godfrey Staunton and the bearded man? And what is the third source from which each of them sought for help against pressing danger? Our inquiry has already narrowed down to that."
"We have only to find to whom that telegram is addressed," I suggested.
"Exactly, my dear Watson. Your reflection, though profound, had already crossed my mind. But I dare say it may have come to your notice that if you walk into a post-office and demand to see the counterfoil of another man's message there may be some disinclination on the part of the officials to oblige you. There is so much red tape in these matters! However, I have no doubt that with a little delicacy and finesse the end may be attained. Meanwhile, I should like in your presence, Mr. Overton, to go through these papers which have been left upon the table."