I was thunderstruck by my friend’s words. We had only been a few hours in Devonshire, and that he should give up an investigation which he had begun so brilliantly was quite incomprehensible to me. Not a word more could I draw from him until we were back at the trainer’s house. The colonel and the inspector were awaiting us in the parlour.
“My friend and I return to town by the night-express,” said Holmes. “We have had a charming little breath of your beautiful Dartmoor air.”
The inspector opened his eyes, and the colonel’s lip curled in a sneer.
“So you despair of arresting the murderer of poor Straker,” said he.
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. “There are certainly grave difficulties in the way,” said he. “I have every hope, however, that your horse will start upon Tuesday, and I beg that you will have your jockey in readiness. Might I ask for a photograph of Mr. John Straker?”
The inspector took one from an envelope and handed it to him.
“My dear Gregory, you anticipate all my wants. If I might ask you to wait here for an instant, I have a question which I should like to put to the maid.”
“I must say that I am rather disappointed in our London consultant,” said Colonel Ross bluntly as my friend left the room. “I do not see that we are any further than when he came.”
“At least you have his assurance that your horse will run,” said I.
“Yes, I have his assurance,” said the colonel with a shrug of his shoulders. “I should prefer to have the horse.”
I was about to make some reply in defence of my friend when he entered the room again.
“Now, gentlemen,” said he, “I am quite ready for Tavistock.”
As we stepped into the carriage one of the stable-lads held the door open for us. A sudden idea seemed to occur to Holmes, for he leaned forward and touched the lad upon the sleeve.
“You have a few sheep in the paddock,” he said. “Who attends to them?”
“I do, sir.”
“Have you noticed anything amiss with them of late?”
“Well, sir, not of much account, but three of them have gone lame, sir.”
I could see that Holmes was extremely pleased, for he chuckled and rubbed his hands together.
“A long shot, Watson, a very long shot,” said he, pinching my arm. “Gregory, let me recommend to your attention this singular epidemic among the sheep. Drive on, coachman!”
Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the poor opinion which he had formed of my companion’s ability, but I saw by the inspector’s face that his attention had been keenly aroused.
“You consider that to be important?” he asked.
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
Four days later Holmes and I were again in the train, bound for Winchester to see the race for the Wessex Cup. Colonel Rloss met us by appointment outside the station, and we drove in his drag to the course beyond the town. His face was grave, and his manner was cold in the extreme.
“I have seen nothing of my horse,” said he.
“I suppose that you would know him when you saw him?” asked Holmes.
The colonel was very angry. “I have been on the turf for twenty years and never was asked such a question as that before,” said he. “A child would know Silver Blaze with his white forehead and his mottled off-foreleg.”
“How is the betting?”
“Well, that is the curious part of it. You could have got fifteen to one yesterday, but the price has become shorter and shorter, until you can hardly get three to one now.”
“Hum!” said Holmes. “Somebody knows something, that is clear.”
As the drag drew up in the enclosure near the grandstand I glanced at the card to see the entries.
Wessex Plate [it ran] 50 sovs. each h ft with 1000 sovs. added, for four and five year olds. Second, 300 pounds. Third, 200 pounds. New course (one mile and five furlongs).
- Mr. Heath Newton’s The Negro. Red cap. Cinnamon jacket.
- Colonel Wardlaw’s Pugilist. Pink cap. Blue and black jacket.
- Lord Backwater’s Desborough. Yellow cap and sleeves.
- Colonel Ross’s Silver Blaze. Black cap. Red jacket.
- Duke of Balmoral’s Iris. Yellow and black stripes.
- Lord Singleford’s Rasper. Purple cap. Black sleeves.