"When I learned that the police had failed ----"
"His Grace is by no means convinced that the police have failed."
"But surely, Mr. Wilder ----"
"You are well aware, Dr. Huxtable, that his Grace is particularly anxious to avoid all public scandal. He prefers to take as few people as possible into his confidence."
"The matter can be easily remedied," said the brow-beaten doctor; "Mr. Sherlock Holmes can return to London by the morning train."
"Hardly that, Doctor, hardly that," said Holmes, in his blandest voice. "This northern air is invigorating and pleasant, so I propose to spend a few days upon your moors, and to occupy my mind as best I may. Whether I have the shelter of your roof or of the village inn is, of course, for you to decide."
I could see that the unfortunate doctor was in the last stage of indecision, from which he was rescued by the deep, sonorous voice of the red-bearded Duke, which boomed out like a dinner-gong.
"I agree with Mr. Wilder, Dr. Huxtable, that you would have done wisely to consult me. But since Mr. Holmes has already been taken into your confidence, it would indeed be absurd that we should not avail ourselves of his services. Far from going to the inn, Mr. Holmes, I should be pleased if you would come and stay with me at Holdernesse Hall."
"I thank your Grace. For the purposes of my investigation I think that it would be wiser for me to remain at the scene of the mystery."
"Just as you like, Mr. Holmes. Any information which Mr. Wilder or I can give you is, of course, at your disposal."
"It will probably be necessary for me to see you at the Hall," said Holmes. "I would only ask you now, sir, whether you have formed any explanation in your own mind as to the mysterious disappearance of your son?"
"No, sir, I have not."
"Excuse me if I allude to that which is painful to you, but I have no alternative. Do you think that the Duchess had anything to do with the matter?"
The great Minister showed perceptible hesitation.
"I do not think so," he said, at last.
"The other most obvious explanation is that the child has been kidnapped for the purpose of levying ransom. You have not had any demand of the sort?"
"One more question, your Grace. I understand that you wrote to your son upon the day when this incident occurred."
"No; I wrote upon the day before."
"Exactly. But he received it on that day?"
"Was there anything in your letter which might have unbalanced him or induced him to take such a step?"
"No, sir, certainly not."
"Did you post that letter yourself?"
The nobleman's reply was interrupted by his secretary, who broke in with some heat.
"His Grace is not in the habit of posting letters himself," said he. "This letter was laid with others upon the study table, and I myself put them in the post-bag."
"You are sure this one was among them?"
"Yes; I observed it."
"How many letters did your Grace write that day?"
"Twenty or thirty. I have a large correspondence. But surely this is somewhat irrelevant?"
"Not entirely," said Holmes.