Mystery and Crime, Public Domain Books, Science fiction/fantasy

Read The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle book online

“Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson,” said Holmes in a reminiscent voice. “It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared. But what do we know about vampires? Does it come within our purview either? Anything is better than stagnation, but really we seem to have been switched on to a Grimms’ fairy tale. Make a long arm, Watson, and see what V has to say.”

I leaned back and took down the great index volume to which he referred. Holmes balanced it on his knee, and his eyes moved slowly and lovingly over the record of old cases, mixed with the accumulated information of a lifetime.

“Voyage of the Gloria Scott,” he read. “That was a bad business. I have some recollection that you made a record of it, Watson, though I was unable to congratulate you upon the result. Victor Lynch, the forger. Venomous lizard or gila. Remarkable case, that! Vittoria, the circus belle. Vanderbilt and the Yeggman. Vipers. Vigor, the Hammersmith wonder. Hullo! Hullo! Good old index. You can’t beat it. Listen to this, Watson. Vampirism in Hungary. And again, Vampires in Transylvania.” He turned over the pages with eagerness, but after a short intent perusal he threw down the great book with a snarl of disappointment.

“Rubbish, Watson, rubbish! What have we to do with walking corpses who can only be held in their grave by stakes driven through their hearts? It’s pure lunacy.”

“But surely,” said I, “the vampire was not necessarily a dead man? A living person might have the habit. I have read, for example, of the old sucking the blood of the young in order to retain their youth.”

“You are right, Watson. It mentions the legend in one of these references. But are we to give serious attention to such things? This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply. I fear that we cannot take Mr. Robert Ferguson very seriously. Possibly this note may be from him and may throw some light upon what is worrying him.”

He took up a second letter which had lain unnoticed upon the table while he had been absorbed with the first. This he began to read with a smile of amusement upon his face which gradually faded away into an expression of intense interest and concentration. When he had finished he sat for some little time lost in thought with the letter dangling from his fingers. Finally, with a start, he aroused himself from his reverie.

“Cheeseman’s, Lamberley. Where is Lamberley, Watson?”

“lt is in Sussex, South of Horsham.”

“Not very far, eh? And Cheeseman’s?”

“I know that country, Holmes. It is full of old houses which are named after the men who built them centuries ago. You get Odley’s and Harvey’s and Carriton’s — the folk are forgotten but their names live in their houses.”

“Precisely,” said Holmes coldly. It was one of the peculiarities of his proud, self-contained nature that though he docketed any fresh information very quietly and accurately in his brain, he seldom made any acknowledgment to the giver. “I rather fancy we shall know a good deal more about Cheeseman’s, Lamberley, before we are through. The letter is, as I had hoped, from Robert Ferguson. By the way, he claims acquaintance with you.”

“With me!”

“You had better read it.”

He handed the letter across. It was headed with the address quoted.

DEAR MR HOLMES [it said]:

I have been recommended to you by my lawyers, but

indeed the matter is so extraordinarily delicate that it is most

difficult to discuss. It concerns a friend for whom I am

acting. This gentleman married some five years ago a Peruvian

lady the daughter of a Peruvian merchant, whom he had

met in connection with the importation of nitrates. The lady

was very beautiful, but the fact of her foreign birth and of

her alien religion always caused a separation of interests and

of feelings between husband and wife, so that after a time

his love may have cooled towards her and he may have

come to regard their union as a mistake. He felt there were

sides of her character which he could never explore or

understand. This was the more painful as she was as loving

a wife as a man could have — to all appearance absolutely

devoted.

Now for the point which I will make more plain when we

meet. Indeed, this note is merely to give you a general idea

of the situation and to ascertain whether you would care to

interest yourself in the matter. The lady began to show

some curious traits quite alien to her ordinarily sweet and

gentle disposition. The gentleman had been married twice

and he had one son by the first wife. This boy was now

fifteen, a very charming and affectionate youth, though

unhappily injured through an accident in childhood. Twice

the wife was caught in the act of assaulting this poor lad in

the most unprovoked way. Once she struck him with a stick

and left a great weal on his arm.

This was a small matter, however, compared with her

conduct to her own child, a dear boy just under one year of

age. On one occasion about a month ago this child had

been left by its nurse for a few minutes. A loud cry from the

baby, as of pain, called the nurse back. As she ran into the

room she saw her employer, the lady, leaning over the baby

and apparently biting his neck. There was a small wound in

the neck from which a stream of blood had escaped. The

nurse was so horrified that she wished to call the husband,

but the lady implored her not to do so and actually gave her

five pounds as a price for her silence. No explanation was

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