The Adventure of the Silver Blaze

“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 favourite. 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 Mapleton stables?”

“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-coloured from the fading ferns, stretched away to the sky-line, 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 day-dreaming.” 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 to-morrow.”

“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 his pockets at the time of his death, Inspector?”

“I have the things themselves in the sitting-room if you would care to see them.”

“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 lald 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 blade marked Weiss & Co., London.

“This is a very singular knife,” said Holmes, lifting it up and examining it minutely. “I presume, as I see blood-stains upon it, that it is the one which was found in the dead man’s grasp. Watson, this knife is surely in your line?”

“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 disc 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 possibly. 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.”

“Madame 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 the crime.”

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 horror.

“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-coloured 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.

 

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