“I wonder if you would bear it,” she said.
It was horrible. No words can describe the framework of a face when the face itself is gone. Two living and beautiful brown eyes looking sadly out from that grisly ruin did but make the view more awful. Holmes held up his hand in a gesture of pity and protest, and together we left the room.
Two days later, when I called upon my friend, he pointed with some pride to a small blue bottle upon his mantelpiece. I picked it up. There was a red poison label. A pleasant almondy odour rose when I opened it.
“Prussic acid?” said 1.
“Exactly. It came by post. ‘I send you my temptation. I will follow your advice.’ That was the message. I think, Watson, we can guess the name of the brave woman who sent it.”
The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
Sherlock Holmes had been bending for a long time over a low-power microscope. Now he straightened himself up and looked round at me in triumph.
“It is glue, Watson,” said he. “Unquestionably it is glue. Have a look at these scattered objects in the field!”
I stooped to the eyepiece and focussed for my vision.
“Those hairs are threads from a tweed coat. The irregular gray masses are dust. There are epithelial scales on the left. Those brown blobs in the centre are undoubtedly glue.”
“Well,” I said, laughing, “I am prepared to take your word for it. Does anything depend upon it?”
“It is a very fine demonstration,” he answered. “In the St. Pancras case you may remember that a cap was found beside the dead policeman. The accused man denies that it is his. But he is a picture-frame maker who habitually handles glue.”
“Is it one of your cases?”
“No; my friend, Merivale, of the Yard, asked me to look into the case. Since I ran down that coiner by the zinc and copper filings in the seam of his cuff they have begun to realize the importance of the microscope.” He looked impatiently at his watch. “I had a new client calling, but he is overdue. By the way, Watson, you know something of racing?”
“I ought to. I pay for it with about half my wound pension.”
“Then I’ll make you my ‘Handy Guide to the Turf.’ What about Sir Robert Norberton? Does the name recall anything?”
“Well, I should say so. He lives at Shoscombe Old Place, and I know it well, for my summer quarters were down there once. Norberton nearly came within your province once.”
“How was that?”
“It was when he horsewhipped Sam Brewer, the well-known Curzon Street money-lender, on Newmarket Heath. He nearly killed the man.”
“Ah, he sounds interesting! Does he often indulge in that way?”
“Well, he has the name of being a dangerous man. He is about the most daredevil rider in England — second in the Grand National a few years back. He is one of those men who have overshot their true generation. He should have been a buck in the days of the Regency — a boxer, an athlete, a plunger. on the turf, a lover of fair ladies, and, by all account, so far down Queer Street that he may never find his way back again.”
“Capital, Watson! A thumb-nail sketch. I seem to know the man. Now, can you give me some idea of Shoscombe Old Place?”
“Only that it is in the centre of Shoscombe Park, and that the famous Shoscombe stud and training quarters are to be found there.”
“And the head trainer,” said Holmes, “is John Mason. You need not look surprised at my knowledge, Watson, for this is a letter from him which I am unfolding. But let us have some more about Shoscombe. I seem to have struck a rich vein.”
“There are the Shoscombe spaniels,” said I. “You hear of them at every dog show. The most exclusive breed in England. They are the special pride of the lady of Shoscombe Old Place.”
“Sir Robert Norberton’s wife, I presume!”
“Sir Robert has never married. Just as well, I think, considering his prospects. He lives with his widowed sister, Lady Beatrice Falder.”
“You mean that she lives with him?”
“No, no. The place belonged to her late husband, Sir James. Norberton has no claim on it at all. It is only a life interest and reverts to her husband’s brother. Meantime, she draws the rents every year.”
“And brother Robert, I suppose, spends the said rents?”
“That is about the size of it. He is a devil of a fellow and must lead her a most uneasy life. Yet I have heard that she is devoted to him. But what is amiss at Shoscombe?”
“Ah, that is just what I want to know. And here, I expect, is the man who can tell us.”
The door had opened and the page had shown in a tall, clean-shaven man with the firm, austere expression which is only seen upon those who have to control horses or boys. Mr. John Mason had many of both under his sway, and he looked equal to the task. He bowed with cold self-possession and seated himself upon the chair to which Holmes had waved him.
“You had my note, Mr. Holmes?”
“Yes, but it explained nothing.”
“It was too delicate a thing for me to put the details on paper. And too complicated. It was only face to face I could do it.”
“Well, we are at your disposal.”
“First of all, Mr. Holmes, I think that my employer, Sir Robert, has gone mad.”
Holmes raised his eyebrows. “This is Baker Street, not Harley Street,” said he. “But why do you say so?”
“Well, sir, when a man does one queer thing, or two queer things, there may be a meaning to it, but when everything he does is queer, then you begin to wonder. I believe Shoscombe Prince and the Derby have turned his brain.”
“That is a colt you are running?”
“The best in England, Mr. Holmes. I should know, if anyone does. Now, I’ll be plain with you, for I know you are gentlemen of honour and that it won’t go beyond the room. Sir Robert has got to win this Derby. He’s up to the neck, and it’s his last chance. Everything he could raise or borrow is on the horse -and at fine odds, too! You can get forties now, but it was nearer the hundred when he began to back him.”
“But how is that if the horse is so good?”