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2020-08-04 14:41:45  Դձ
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ַ:a g 9 559 v i p<"`Why, what is it, then?' I asked. "You see, Mr. Holmes, I ama very stay-at-home man, and as my business came to me instead ofmy having to go to it, I was often weeks on end without putting myfoot over the door-mat. In that way I didn't know much of whatwas going on outside, and I was always glad of a bit of news."`Have you never heard of the League of the Red-headed Men?'he asked with his eyes open.At Baden the track was not difficult to follow. Lady Frances hadstayed at the Englischer Hof for a fortnight. While there she had madethe acquaintance of a Dr. Shlessinger and his wife, a missionaryfrom South America. Like most lonely ladies, Lady Frances found hercomfort and occupation in religion. Dr. Shlessinger's remarkablepersonality, his whole-hearted devotion, and the fact that he wasrecovering from a disease contracted in the exercise of hisapostolic duties affected her deeply. She had helped Mrs.Shlessinger in the nursing of the convalescent saint. He spent hisday, as the manager described it to me, upon a lounge-chair on theveranda, with an attendant lady upon either side of him. He waspreparing a map of the Holy Land, with special reference to thekingdom of the Midianites, upon which he was writing a monograph.Finally, having improved much in health, he and his wife hadreturned to London, and Lady Frances had started thither in theircompany. This was just three weeks before, and the manager had heardnothing since. As to the maid, Marie, she had gone off some daysbeforehand in floods of tears, after informing the other maids thatshe was leaving service forever. Dr. Shlessinger had paid the billof the whole party before his departure.

"Yes, sir, we could hardly open the fingers."

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"The absence of the latter means nothing, though its presence maymean everything," said Holmes. "Unless the powder from a badly fittingcartridge happens to spurt backward, one may fire many shots withoutleaving a sign. I would suggest that Mr. Cubitt's body may now beremoved. I suppose, Doctor, you have not recovered the bullet whichwounded the lady?"

"I am sure we owe you an apology, Mrs. Toller," said Holmes, "foryou have certainly cleared up everything which puzzled us. And herecomes the country surgeon and Mrs. Rucastle, so I think, Watson,that we had best escort Miss Hunter back to Winchester, as it seems tome that our locus standi now is rather a questionable one."And thus was solved the mystery of the sinister house with thecopper beeches in front of the door. Mr. Rucastle survived, but wasalways a broken man, kept alive solely through the care of his devotedwife. They still live with their old servants, who probably know somuch of Rucastle's past life that he finds it difficult to part fromthem. Mr. Fowler and Miss Rucastle were married, by special license,in Southampton the day after their flight, and he is now the holder ofa government appointment in the island of Mauritius. As to Miss VioletHunter, my friend Holmes, rather to my disappointment, manifested nofurther interest in her when once she had ceased to be the centre ofone of his problems, and she is now the head of a private school atWalsall, where I believe that she has met with considerable success.THE END

Watson waited until the door was closed, and then he turnedearnestly to his companion.

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"He looks like a beaten man," cried Phelps.<"Certainly."

"'No, no, Jack, for God's sake!' she gasped in uncontrollableemotion. Then, as I approached the door, she seized my sleeve andpulled me back with convulsive strength.

ǣйҶ ۻ

I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental andphysical, than in the year '95. His increasing fame had brought withit an immense practice, and I should be guilty of an indiscretion if Iwere even to hint at the identity of some of the illustrious clientswho crossed our humble threshold in Baker Street. Holmes, however,like all great artists, lived for his art's sake, and, save in thecase of the Duke of Holdernesse, I have seldom known him claim anylarge reward for his inestimable services. So unworldly was he- orso capricious- that he frequently refused his help to the powerful andwealthy where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while hewould devote weeks of most intense application to the affairs ofsome humble client whose case presented those strange and dramaticqualities which appealed to his imagination and challenged hisingenuity.

"Oh, tut, tut! I have no time! That left foot of yours with itsinward twist is all over the place. A mole could trace it, and thereit vanishes among the reeds. Oh, how simple it would all have been hadI been here before they came like a herd of buffalo and wallowed allover it. Here is where the party with the lodge-keeper came, andthey have covered all tracks for six or eight feet round the body. Buthere are three separate tracks of the same feet." He drew out a lensand lay down upon his waterproof to have a better view, talking allthe time to himself rather than to us. "These are young McCarthy'sfeet. Twice he was walking, and once he ran swiftly, so that the solesare deeply marked and the heels hardly visible. That bears out hisstory. He ran when he saw his father on the ground. Then here arethe father's feet as he paced up and down. What is this, then? It isthe butt-end of the gun as the son stood listening. And this? Ha,ha! What have we here? Tiptoes! tiptoes! Square, too, quite unusualboots! They come, they go, they come again of course that was forthe cloak. Now where did they come from?" He ran up and down,sometimes losing, sometimes finding the track until we were wellwithin the edge of the wood and under the shadow of a great beech, thelargest tree in the neighbourhood. Holmes traced his way to thefarther side of this and lay down once more upon his face with alittle cry of satisfaction. For a long time he remained there, turningover the leaves and dried sticks, gathering up what seemed to me to bedust into an envelope and examining with his lens not only theground but even the bark of the tree as far as he could reach. Ajagged stone was lying among the moss, and this also he carefullyexamined and retained. Then he followed a pathway through the wooduntil he came to the highroad, where all traces were lost."It has been a case of considerable interest," he remarked,returning to his natural manner. "I fancy that this gray house onthe right must be the lodge. I think that I will go in and have a wordwith Moran, and perhaps write a little note. Having done that, wemay drive back to our luncheon. You may walk to the cab, and I shallbe with you presently."

<"Did he suggest any course of action?""If you leave it to a court of law to clear the matter up," said he,"of course you can hardly avoid publicity. On the other hand, if youconvince the police authorities that there is no possible case againstyou., I do not know that there is any reason that the details shouldfind their way into the papers. Inspector Bradstreet would, I am sure,make notes upon anything which you might tell us and submit it tothe proper authorities. The case would then never go into court atall."

I had to confess that I did not.

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<"Do you know, Watson," said Holmes as we sat together in thegathering darkness, "I have really some scruples as to taking youto-night. There is a distinct element of danger.""And over here is what appears to be the fragment of a hotel bill,which interests me deeply."

The station-master laughed heartily. "No, sir, Dr. Becher is anEnglishman, and there isn't a man in the parish who has a better-linedwaistcoat. But he has a gentleman staying with him, a patient, as Iunderstand, who is a foreigner, and he looks as if a little goodBerkshire beef would do him no harm."

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Ǻα־Ը "Well, you're out there, sir, as it happens, for he ate a remarkablebig breakfast this morning. I don't know when I've known him make abetter one, and he's ordered a good dish of cutlets for his lunch. I'msurprised myself, for since I came into that room yesterday and sawyoung Mr. Smith lying there on the floor, I couldn't bear to look atfood. Well, it takes all sorts to make a world, and the professorhasn't let it take his appetite away." ϸ

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