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

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

ever given, and for the moment the matter was passed over.

It left, however, a terrible impression upon the nurse’s

mind, and from that time she began to watch her mistress

closely and to keep a closer guard upon the baby, whom she

tenderly loved. It seemed to her that even as she watched

the mother, so the mother watched her, and that every time

she was compelled to leave the baby alone the mother was

waiting to get at it. Day and night the nurse covered the

child, and day and night the silent, watchful mother seemed

to be lying in wait as a wolf waits for a lamb. It must read

most incredible to you, and yet I beg you to take it seri-

ously, for a child’s life and a man’s sanity may depend

upon it.

At last there came one dreadful day when the facts could

no longer be concealed from the husband. The nurse’s nerve

had given way; she could stand the strain no longer, and

she made a clean breast of it all to the man. To him it

seemed as wild a tale as it may now seem to you.He knew

his wife to be a loving wife, and, save for the assaults

upon her stepson, a loving mother. Why, then, should

she wound her own dear little baby? He told the nurse that

she was dreaming, that her suspicions were those of a

lunatic, and that such libels upon her mistress were not to be

tolerated. While they were talking a sudden cry of pain was

heard. Nurse and master rushed together to the nursery.

Imagine his feelings, Mr. Holmes, as he saw his wife rise

from a kneeling position beside the cot and saw blood upon

the child’s exposed neck and upon the sheet. With a cry of

horror, he turned his wife’s face to the light and saw blood

all round her lips. It was she — she beyond all question —

who had drunk the poor baby’s blood.

So the matter stands. She is now confined to her room.

There has been no explanation. The husband is half de-

mented. He knows, and I know, little of vampirism beyond

the name. We had thought it was some wild tale of foreign

parts. And yet here in the very heart of the English Sussex —

well, all this can be discussed with you in the morning. Will

you see me? Will you use your great powers in aiding a

distracted man? If so, kindly wire to Ferguson, Cheeseman’s,

Lamberley, and I will be at your rooms by ten o’clock.

Yours faithfully,

ROBERT FERGUSON.

P. S. I believe your friend Watson played Rugby for

Blackheath when I was three-quarter for Richmond. It is the

only personal introduction which I can give.

“Of course I remembered him,” said I as I laid down the letter. “Big Bob Ferguson, the finest three-quarter Richmond ever had. He was always a good-natured chap. It’s like him to be so concerned over a friend’s case.”

Holmes looked at me thoughtfully and shook his head.

“I never get your limits, Watson,” said he. “There are unexplored possibilities about you. Take a wire down, like a good fellow. ‘Will examine your case with pleasure.’ ”

“Your case!”

“We must not let him think that this agency is a home for the weak-minded. Of course it is his case. Send him that wire and let the matter rest till morning.”

Promptly at ten o’clock next morning Ferguson strode into our room. I had remembered him as a long, slab-sided man with loose limbs and a fine turn of speed which had carried him round many an opposing back. There is surely nothing in life more painful than to meet the wreck of a fine athlete whom one has known in his prime. His great frame had fallen in, his flaxen hair was scanty, and his shoulders were bowed. I fear that I roused corresponding emotions in him.

“Hullo, Watson,” said he, and his voice was still deep and hearty. “You don’t look quite the man you did when I threw you over the ropes into the crowd at the Old Deer Park. I expect I have changed a bit also. But it’s this last day or two that has aged me. I see by your telegram, Mr. Holmes, that it is no use my pretending to be anyone’s deputy.” .

“It is simpler to deal direct,” said Holmes.

“Of course it is. But you can imagine how difficult it is when you are speaking of the one woman whom you are bound to protect and help. What can I do? How am I to go to the police with such a story? And yet the kiddies have got to be protected. Is it madness, Mr. Holmes? Is it something in the blood? Have you any similar case in your experience? For God’s sake, give me some advice, for I am at my wit’s end.”

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