“Here you are!” he cried, waving a paper over his head. “I thought I should be in time to get you. Mr. Nathan Garrideb, my congratulations! You are a rich man, sir. Our business is happily finished and all is well. As to you, Mr. Holmes, we can only say we are sorry if we have given you any useless trouble.”
He handed over the paper to our client, who stood staring at a marked advertisement. Holmes and I leaned forward and read it over his shoulder. This is how it ran:
CONSTRUCTOR OF ACRICULTURAL MACHINERY
Binders, reapers, steam and hand plows, drills, harTows,
farmer’s carts, buckboards, and all other appliances.
Estimates for Artesian Wells
Apply Grosvenor Buildings, Aston
“Glorious!” gasped our host. “That makes our third man.”
“I had opened up inquiries in Birmingham,” said the Americn, “and my agent there has sent me this advertisement from a local paper. We must hustle and put the thing through. I have written to this man and told him that you will see him in his office to-morrow afternoon at four o’clock.”
“You want me to see him?”
“What do you say, Mr. Holmes? Don’t you think it would be wiser? Here am I, a wandering American with a wonderful tale. Why should he believe what I tell him? But you are a Britisher wth solid references, and he is bound to take notice of what you say. I would go with you if you wished, but I have a very busy day to-morrow, and I could always follow you if you are in any trouble.”
“Well, I have not made such a journey for years.”
“It is nothing, Mr. Garrideb. I have figured out our connections. You leave at twelve and should be there soon after two. Then you can be back the same night. All you have to do is to see this man, explain the matter, and get an affidavit of his existence. By the Lord!” he added hotly, “considering I’ve come all the way from the centre of America, it is surely little enough if you go a hundred miles in order to put this matter through.”
“Quite so,” said Holmes. “I think what this gentleman says is very true.”
Mr. Nathan Garrideb shrugged his shoulders with a disconsolate air. “Well, if you insist I shall go,” said he. “It is certainly hard for me to refuse you anything, considering the glory of hope that you have brought into my life.”
“Then that is agreed,” said Holmes, “and no doubt you will let me have a report as soon as you can.”
“I’ll see to that,” said the American. “Well,” he added looking at his watch, “I’ll have to get on. I’ll call to-morrow, Mr. Nathan, and see you off to Birmingham. Coming my way, Mr. Holmes? Well, then, good-bye, and we may have good news for you to-morrow night.”
I noticed that my friend’s face cleared when the American left the room, and the look of thoughtful perplexity had vanished.
“I wish I could look over your collection, Mr. Garrideb,” said he. “In my profession all sorts of odd knowledge comes useful, and this room of yours is a storehouse of it.”
Our client shone with pleasure and his eyes gleamed from behind his big glasses.
“I had always heard, sir, that you were a very intelligent man,” said he. “I could take you round now if you have the time.”
“Unfortunately, I have not. But these specimens are so well labelled and classified that they hardly need your personal explanation. If I should be able to look in to-morrow, I presume that there would be no objection to my glancing over them?”
“None at all. You are most welcome. The place will, of course, be shut up, but Mrs. Saunders is in the basement up to four o’clock and would let you in with her key.”
“Well, I happen to be clear to-morrow afternoon. If you would say a word to Mrs. Saunders it would be quite in order. By the way, who is your house-agent?”
Our client was amazed at the sudden question.
“Holloway and Steele, in the Edgware Road. But why?”
“I am a bit of an archaeologist myself when it comes to houses,” said Holmes, laughing. “I was wondering if this was Queen Anne or Georgian.”
“Georgian, beyond doubt.”
“Really. I should have thought a little earlier. However, it is easily ascertained. Well, good-bye, Mr. Garrideb, and may you have every success in your Birmingham journey.”
The house-agent’s was close by, but we found that it was closed for the day, so we made our way back to Baker Street. It was not till after dinner that Holmes reverted to the subject.
“Our little problem draws to a close,” said he. “No doubt you have outlined the solution in your own mind.”
“I can make neither head nor tail of it.”
“The head is surely clear enough and the tail we should see to-morrow. Did you notice nothing curious about that advertisement?”
“I saw that the word ‘plough’ was misspelt.”
“Oh, you did notice that, did you? Come, Watson, you improve all the time. Yes, it was bad English but good American. The printer had set it up as received. Then the buckboards. That is American also. And artesian wells are commoner with them than with us. It was a typical American advertisement, but purporting to be from an English firm. What do you make of that?”
“I can only suppose that this American lawyer put it in himself. What his object was I fail to understand.”
“Well, there are alternative explanations. Anyhow, he wanted to get this good old fossil up to Birmingham. That is very clear. I might have told him that he was clearly going on a wild-goose chase, but, on second thoughts, it seemed better to clear the stage by letting him go. To-morrow, Watson — well, to-morrow will speak for itself.”
Holmes was up and out early. When he returned at lunchtime I noticed that his face was very grave.
“This is a more serious matter than I had expected, Watson,” said he. “It is fair to tell you so, though I know it will only be an additional reason to you for running your head into danger. I should know my Watson by now. But there is danger, and you should know it.”
“Well, it is not the first we have shared, Holmes. I hope it may not be the last. What is the particular danger this time?”
“We are up against a very hard case. I have identified Mr. John Garrideb, Counsellor at Law. He is none other than ‘Killer’ Evans, of sinister and murderous reputation.”
“I fear I am none the wiser.”