The Man With The Twisted Lip
The Man with the Twisted Lip is a scholarly beggar earning a good living in the city of London. Even Holmes has come across him several times. The story begin with Dr Watson going to an opium den to find an errant husband only to bump into Holmes who is in disguise in the same drug den. He is also looking for altogether another missing husband. Neville St Clair, a genteel respectable businessman in the city whose wife spotted him in this very drug den a few days earlier.
The Man with the Twisted Lip
Mr Isa Whitney was, and had been for many years, an opium addict. He could not get rid of the habit. He had once been a fine man, but now people only pitied this bent, unfortunate person with the yellow, unhealthy face, opium was both his ruin and his only pleasure.
One night in June, when it was almost time to go to bed, I heard the doorbell ring. I sat up in my chair, and Mary, my wife, put her sewing down in annoyance.
‘A patient!’ she said. ‘At this hour!’
We heard the servant open the front door and speak to someone. A moment later the door of our sitting room was thrown open and a lady came in. She wore a black veil over her face.
‘Please forgive me for calling on you so late,’ she began. But then she could no longer control her feelings. She ran forward, threw her arms round Mary’s neck, and cried bitterly on her shoulder. ‘Oh, I’m in such trouble!’ she said. ‘I need help so much!’
‘Well!’ said my wife, pulling up the visitor’s veil. ‘It’s Kate Whitney. This is a surprise, Kate! I had no idea who you were when you came in.’
‘I didn’t know what to do, and so I came straight to you.’
That was how it always happened. People who were in trouble came to my wife like birds to a lighthouse.
‘We are very glad to see you,’ Mary said. ‘Now you must have some wine and water, and sit here comfortably and tell US all about it. Or would you like me to send John off to bed?’
‘Oh, no, no! I want the doctor’s advice and help too. It’s about Isa. He hasn’t been home for two days. I’m so worried about him!’
This was not the first time that Mrs Whitney had spoken to US of her husband’s bad ways: she and Mary had been at school together. We did our best to calm her down and comfort her.
‘Have you any idea where he has gone?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ Mrs Whitney replied. ‘He’s probably at a place called the Bar of Gold, in East London, down by the river. It’s in upper Swandam Street. It’s a place where opium addicts go. This is the first time that Isa has spent more than a day there.’
I was Isa Whitney’s doctor and had a certain influence with him.
‘I will go to this place,’ I said. ‘If he is there, I will send him home in a carriage within two hours.’
Five minutes later I had left my comfortable chair and sitting room and was in a fast carriage on my way east.
Upper Swandam Street was on the north side of the river, to the east of London Bridge. The Bar of Gold was below the level of the street. Some steep steps led down to the entrance, which was little more than a hole in the wall. There was an oil lamp hanging above the door. I ordered the driver to wait, and went down the steps.
Inside, it was difficult to see very much through the thick brown opium smoke. Wooden beds fined the walls of a long, low room. In the shadows I could just see bodies lying in strange positions on the beds; and little red circles of fight burning in the bowls of metal pipes. Most of the smokers lay silently, but some talked softly to themselves. Near one end of the room was a fireplace, in which a small fire was burning. A tall, thin old man sat there, his elbows on his knees, looking into the fire.
A Malayan servant who belonged to the place came up to me with some opium and a pipe. He pointed to an empty bed.
‘No, thank you,’ I said. ‘I haven’t come to stay.There is a friend of mine here, Mr Isa Whitney, and I want to speak to him.’
A man on one of the beds suddenly sat up, and I recognized Whitney He was pale, untidy, and wild-looking.
‘Watson!’ he cried. ‘Tell me, Watson, what time is it?’
‘Nearly eleven o’clock.’
‘On what day?’
‘Friday, June the 19th.’
‘Good heavens! I thought it was Wednesday.’
‘No, it’s Friday. And your wife has been waiting two days for you. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!’
He began to cry. ‘I was sure I had been here only a few hours! But I’ll go home with you. I don’t want to worry Kate – poor little Kate! Give me your hand: I can’t do anything for myself. Have you come in a carriage?’
‘Yes, I have one waiting.’
‘Good. But I must owe something here. Find out what I owe them, Watson.’
As I walked along the narrow passage between the beds, looking for the manager, I felt someone touch my arm. It was the tall man by the fire. ‘Walk past me, and then look back at me,’ he said. When I looked again he was still leaning over the fire – a bent, tired old man. Suddenly he looked up and smiled at me. I recognized Sherlock Holmes.
‘Holmes!’ I whispered. ‘What on earth are you doing in this terrible place?’
‘Speak more quietly! I have excellent ears. Please get rid of that friend of yours. I want to talk to you.’
‘I have a carriage waiting outside.’
‘Then send him home in it. And I suggest that you give the driver a note for your wife. Tell her you are with me. And wait outside for me: I’ll be with you in five minutes.’
In a few minutes I had written my note, paid Whitney’s bill, led him out to the carriage, and said good night to him. Then Holmes came out of the Bar of Gold, and we walked along together. At first he walked unsteadily, with a bent back, but after the first few streets he straightened up and laughed loudly.
‘I suppose you think I have become an opium addict,Watson!’ he said.
‘I was certainly surprised to find you in that place,’ I replied.
‘And I was surprised to see you there!’
‘I came to find a friend.’
‘And I came to find an enemy!’
‘Yes, Watson, one of my natural enemies – a criminal! I am working on one of my cases. I fear that Mr Neville Saint Clair entered the Bat of Gold and that he will never come out of the place alive. There is a door at the back of the building that opens onto the river. I believe that many men have been murdered there, and that their bodies have been thrown out through that door. If I had been recognized, the evil Indian sailor who owns the place would have murdered me too! I have used the Bar of Gold before for my own purposes, and have often found useful clues there in the conversation of the opium addicts. The owner has sworn to have his revenge on me for it.’ Suddenly Holmes whistled loudly. ‘The carriage should be here by now!’ he said.
We heard an answering whistle in the distance. Then we saw the yellow lamps of the carriage as it came near.
‘Now, Watson, you will come with me, won’t you?’ said Holmes, as he climbed in.
‘If I can be of any use.’
‘Oh, a friend is always useful. And my room at the Saint Clairs’ has two beds.’
‘At the Saint Clairs’?’
‘Yes. I am staying there while I work on the case.’
‘Where is it, then?’
‘Near Lee, in Kent. It’s a seven-mile drive. Come on!’
‘But I don’t know anything about your case!’
‘Of course you don’t. But you soon will! Jump up here. All right, Harold,’ he said to the driver, ‘we shan’t need you.’ He handed the man a coin. ‘Look out for me tomorrow at about eleven o’clock. Good night!’
For the first part of our drive Holmes was silent and I waited patiently for him to begin.
‘I have been wondering what I can say to that dear little woman tonight when she meets me at the door,’ he said at last. ‘I am talking about Mrs Saint Clair, of course.
‘Neville Saint Clair came to five near Lee five years ago. He took a large house and Eved Eke a rich man. He gradually made friends in the neighbourhood, and two years ago, he married the daughter of a local farmer, by whom he now has two children. Neville Saint Clair was a businessman in London. He used to leave home every morning and then catch the 5.14 train back from Cannon Street Station each evening. If he is still ahve he is now thirty-seven years old. He has no bad habits; he is a good husband and father, and everybody Ekes him. He has debts of .£88 at present, but his bank account contains £220. There is no reason, therefore, to think that he has any money troubles.
‘Last Monday he went into London rather earlier than usual. He said that he had two important pieces of business to do that day. He also promised to buy his Ettle boy a box of toy bricks. Now, that same day his wife happened to receive a telegram from the Aberdeen Shipping Company.
This informed her that a valuable package which she was expecting had arrived at the Company’s offices in London. These offices are in Fresno Street, which is off Upper Swandam Street, where you found me tonight. Mrs Saint Clair had her lunch, caught a train to London, did some shopping,ệ and then went to the shipping company’s offices. When she came out it was 4.35. She walked slowly along Upper Swandam Street, hoping to find a carriage. It was a very hot day, and she did not like the neighbourhood at all. Suddenly she heard a cry, and saw her husband looking down at her from a window on the first floor of one of the houses. He seemed to be waving to her, as if he wanted her to come up. The window was open, and she had a clear view of his face. He looked very worried and nervous. She noticed that he had no collar or tie on; but he was wearing a dark coat Eke the one he had put on that morning. Then, very suddenly, somebody seemed to pull him back from the window.
‘Mrs Saint Clair felt sure that something was seriously wrong. She saw that the entrance to the house was below ground level: this was the door of the Bar of Gold. She rushed down the steps and through the front room, and tried to go up the stairs which led to the upper part of the house. But the owner — the Indian sailor I spoke of — ran downstairs and pushed her back. The Malayan servant helped him to push her out into the street. She rushed along Upper Swandam Street and into Fresno Street, where she fortunately found several policemen. They forced their way into the Bar of Gold and went upstairs to the room in which Mr Saint Clair had last been seen. There was no sign of him there. In fact the only person in the upper part of the house was an ugly cripple who lived there. Both the Indian and this cripple swore that no one else had been in the first-floor front room that afternoon. The policemen were beginning to believe that Mrs Saint Clair had been mistaken when suddenly she noticed a small wooden box on the table. Realizing what it contained, she tore the lid off and emptied out children s bricks. It was the toy that her husband had promised to bring home for his little boy.
‘Of course the rooms were now examined very carefully, and the police found signs of a terrible crime. The front room was an ordinary room with plain furniture, and led into a small bedroom, from which the river could be seen. Along the edge of the river there is a narrow piece of ground which is dry at low tide, but which is covered at high tide by at least four and a half feet of water. At that time of day the river is at its highest point. There were drops of blood on the window, and a few drops on the bedroom floor too. Behind a curtain in the front room the police found all Neville Saint Clair’s clothes except his coat. His shoes, his socks, his hat and his watch – everything was there. There were no signs of violence on any of the clothes, and Mr Saint Clair, alive or dead, was certainly not there. He seemed to have gone out of the window — there was no other possibility.
‘The Indian had often been in trouble with the police before. But as Mrs Saint Clair had seen him at the foot of the stairs only a few seconds after her husband’s appearance at the window, he could not have been responsible for the murder. He said that he knew nothing about the clothes which had been found in the cripple’s rooms.The cripple himself, whose name is Hugh Boone, must have been the last person to see Neville Saint Clair.
‘Boone is a well-known London beggar who always sits in Threadneedle Street, near the Bank of England. He pretends to be a match seller, but there is always a dirty leather cap by his side into which people throw coins. I have watched him more than once, and I have been surprised at the very large amount of money that he receives in this way. His appearance, you see, is so unusual that no one can go past without noticing him. He has a pale face and long red hair, and bright brown eyes. His upper Ep is twisted as the result of an old accident. And he is famous for his clever answers to the jokes of ah the businessmen who go past.’
‘Is it possible that a cripple could have murdered a healthy young man Eke Neville Saint Clair?’ I asked.
‘Hugh Boone’s body is bent and his face is ugly,’ Holmes replied, ‘but there is great strength in him. Cripples are often very strong, you know. When the police were searching him, they noticed some spots of blood on one of the arms of his shirt. But he showed them a cut on his finger, and explained that the blood had come from there. He also said that he had been at the window not long before, and that the blood on the floor and window probably came from his finger too. He refused to admit that he had ever seen Mr Saint Clair, and swore that the presence of the clothes in the room was as much a mystery to him as it was to the police. If Mrs Saint Clair said she had seen her husband at the window she must have been dreaming – or else she was crazy! Boone was taken to the police station, still complaining loudly.
‘When the water level in the river had gone down, the police looked for the body of Mr Saint Clair in the mud. But they only found his coat. And every pocket was full of pennies and halfpennies – 421 pennies, and 270 halfpennies. It was not surprising that the coat had not been carried away by the tide. But possibly the body itself had been swept away. Perhaps Boone pushed Saint Clair through the window, and then decided to get rid of the clothing, which might give clues to the police. But he needed to be sure that the clothes would sink. So he went to the hiding place where he kept the money he earned in Threadneedle Street, and began by filling the pockets of the coat and throwing it out. He would have done the same with the rest of the clothing, but just then he heard the police coming up the stairs, and quickly closed the window.
‘Boone has been a professional beggar for many years, but he has never been in any serious trouble with the police. He seems to live very quietly and harmlessly. I have to find out what Neville Saint Clair was doing in that house, what happened to him while he was there, where he is now, and what Hugh Boone’s involvement was in his disappearance. The problem seemed to be an easy one at first, but now I don’t think it is so easy.
‘Do you see that fight among the trees? That is the Saint Clairs’ house. Beside that lamp an anxious woman is sitting listening, probably, for the sound of our horse.’
We drove through some private grounds, and stopped in front of a large house. A servant ran out to take charge of our horse. The front door opened before we had reached it, and a small fair woman in a pink silk dress hurried out to meet US.
‘Well?’ she cried eagerly. ‘Well?’
Perhaps she thought for a moment that Holmes’s friend was her lost husband.
Holmes shook his head.
‘No good news?’ she asked.
‘But no bad news either?’
‘Well, come in. You must be very tired. You have had a long day’s work.’
‘This is my friend Dr Watson. He has been of great use to me in several of my cases. By a lucky chance he has been able to come with me this evening.’
‘I am pleased to meet you,’ said Mrs Saint Clair, pressing my hand warmly. She led US into a pleasant dining room, where there was a cold supper laid out on the table. ‘Now, Mr Sherlock Holmes, I have one or two questions to ask you, and I should like you to answer them truthfully.’ ‘Certainly, Mrs Saint Clair.’
‘It is your real opinion that I want to know.’
‘About what?’ Holmes asked.
‘Do you truly believe that Neville is still alive?’
Holmes did not seem to Eke this question. ‘Truly, now!’ she repeated, looking at him as he leaned back in his chair.
‘Truly, then, I do not,’ he answered at last.
‘You think he is dead?’
‘And that he was murdered?’
‘I don’t know. Perhaps.’
‘And on what day did he die?’
‘On Monday, June the 15th.’
‘Then, Mr Holmes, how do you explain this letter that I have received from him today?’ Sherlock Holmes jumped out of his chair.‘What!’ he shouted.
‘Yes, today.’ Smiling, she held up an envelope.
‘May I see it?’
In his eagerness he seized it from her quite rudely, smoothed it out on the table, and examined it very thoroughly. I looked at it over his shoulder. The envelope was a cheap one, and it had been posted at Gravesend in Kent earlier in the day.
‘The handwriting on the envelope is poor,’ said Holmes. ‘Surely this is not your husband’s writing, Mrs Saint Clair?’
‘No, but the letter inside is in his handwriting.’
‘I see that whoever addressed the envelope had to go and find out your address.’
‘How can you tell that?’
‘The name, you see, is in perfectly black ink, and has been allowed to dry slowly. The address is almost grey – which proves that sand has been thrown on the writing to dry it. The man who wrote this envelope wrote the name first, and then paused for some time before writing the address. The only explanation is that he did not know it. But let US look at the letter! Ah! some object has been enclosed in this.’
‘Yes,’ said Mrs Saint Clair, ‘there was a ring. Neville’s ring.’
‘And are you sure that this is in your husband’s writing?’
‘Yes – though it’s easy to see that he wrote it in a great hurry.’ This is what the letter said:
Do not be frightened. Everything will be all right. There is a mistake that it will take some time to put right. Wait patiently.
‘This,’ said Holmes, ‘is written in pencil on a page torn from some book. It was posted by a man with a dirty thumb. And whoever closed the envelope had a lump of tobacco in his mouth. Well, Mrs Saint Clair, things are beginning to seem a little more hopeful, but I do not think the danger is over yet.’
‘But Neville must be alive, Mr Holmes!’
‘Unless this letter is the work of a clever man. After all, the ring proves nothing. It may have been taken from him.’
‘No, no! That’s certainly his own handwriting!’
‘Very well. But the letter may have been written on Monday, and only posted today.’ ‘That is possible.’
‘If that is so, many things may have happened between the two days.’
‘Oh, you must not make me lose hope, Mr Holmes! I know that Neville is all right. Our relationship is such a strong one that I always know when he has an accident. On that last morning he cut himself in the bedroom, and although I was in the dining room, I knew immediately that something had happened to him. I rushed upstairs and found that I was right. Do you think I could possibly not know about it if he had been murdered?’
‘But if your husband is alive and able to write letters, why should he remain away from you?’ ‘I can’t imagine!’
‘And on Monday he said nothing unusual before leaving home?’
‘And you were surprised to see him at that window in upper Swandam Street?’
‘Yes, extremely surprised.’
‘Was the window open?’
‘Then he could have spoken to you?’ ‘He could. But he only cried out, as if he were calling for help. And he waved his hands.’
‘But it might have been a cry of surprise. Shock at the sight of you might cause him to throw up his hands.’
‘It is possible. But I thought he was pulled back from the window.’
‘He might have jumped back. You did not see anyone else in the room, did you?’
‘No, but that ugly cripple admitted that he was there, and the owner of the place was at the foot of the stairs.’
‘Did your husband seem to be wearing his ordinary clothes?’
‘Yes, but he had no collar or tie on. I saw the skin of his throat quite clearly.’
‘Had he ever mentioned upper Swandam Street to you?’
‘Had he ever shown any signs of having taken opium?’
‘Thank you, Mrs Saint Clair. We will now have a little supper and then go to bed. We may have a very busy day tomorrow.’
But Holmes did not go to bed that night. He was a man who sometimes stayed awake for a whole week when he was working on one of his cases. He filled his pipe. Then he sat down, crossed his legs, and looked with fixed eyes at the ceiling. I was already in bed and soon went to sleep.
Holmes was still smoking when I woke up next morning. It was a bright sunny day, but the room was full of tobacco smoke.
‘Are you awake, Watson?’
‘Would you Eke to come for an early-morning drive?’
‘Then get dressed! Nobody is up yet, but I know where the servant who looks after the horses sleeps. We shall soon have the carriage on the road!’ Holmes laughed to himself as he spoke. He seemed to be a different man from the Holmes of the night before.
As I dressed, I looked at my watch. It was not surprising that nobody in the house was up: it was only 4.25.
Soon Holmes came back and told me that the carriage was ready.
‘I want to test a little idea of mine,’ he said as he put his shoes on. ‘I think, Watson, that I am the most stupid man in Europe. I deserve to be kicked from here to London. But I think I have found the explanation of Neville Saint Clairs disappearance now. Yes, Watson, I think I have the key to the mystery!’
‘And where is it?’ I asked, smiling.
‘In the bathroom,’ he answered. ‘Oh, yes, I am not joking,’ he went on, seeing the surprise on my face. ‘I have been there, and I have taken it out, and I have it in this bag. Come on, Watson, and let us see whether this key is the right one.’
The carriage was waiting for US in the bright morning sunshine. We both jumped in, and the horse rushed off along the London road. A few country vehicles were about, taking fruit to the London markets, but the houses on either side of the road were as silent and lifeless as in a dream.
‘Oh, I have been blind, Watson!’ said Holmes. ‘But it is better to learn wisdom late than never to
learn it at all.’
In London, a few people were beginning to look out sleepily from their windows as we drove through the streets on the south side of the city. We went down Waterloo Bridge Road and across the river; then along Wellington Street. We stopped at Bow Street Police Station. The two policemen at the door touched their hats to Holmes, who was well known there. One of them looked after the horse while the other led US in.
‘Who is the officer on duty this morning?’ asked Holmes.
‘Mr Bradstreet, sir,’ answered the man.
A large fat man came down the passage just then.
‘Ah, Bradstreet, how are you?’ said Holmes. ‘I’d like to have a word with you.’
‘Certainly, Mr Holmes. Let US go into my room.’
It was a small office, with a desk and a telephone. Bradstreet sat down.
‘What can I do for you, Mr Holmes?’
‘I am here in connection with Hugh Boone, the beggar — the man who has been charged with involvement in the disappearance of Mr Neville Saint Clair.’
‘Yes. We are still busy with that case.’
‘You have Boone here?’
‘Yes. He’s locked up.’
‘Is he quiet?’
‘Oh, he gives no trouble. But he’s a dirty man.’
‘Yes. He doesn’t mind washing his hands, but his face is as black as a coal miner’s. Well, as soon as his case is settled, he’ll have to have a proper prison bath!’
‘I should very much like to see him.’
‘Would you? That can easily be arranged. Come this way.You can leave your bag here.’
‘No, I think I’ll take it with me.’
‘Very good. Come this way, please.’ He led US down a passage, opened a barred door, and took us down some stairs to another white passage. There was a row of doors on each side.
‘The third door on the right is his,’ said Bradstreet. ‘Here it is!’ He looked through a hole in the upper part of the door. ‘He’s asleep. You can see him very well.’
Holmes and I both looked through the hole. The prisoner lay with his face towards US, in a very deep sleep, breathing slowly and heavily. He was a man of medium height, dressed in a torn coat and a coloured shirt. As Bradstreet had said, he was extremely dirty. One side of his top lip was turned up, so that three teeth were showing. He looked like an angry dog. His head was covered almost down to the eyes with very bright red hair.
‘He’s a beauty, isn’t he?’ said Bradstreet. ‘He certainly needs a wash,’ Holmes replied.‘I had an idea that he might be dirty, and so I brought this with me.’ He took a wet cloth out of his bag. ‘What a funny man you are, Mr Holmes!’ laughed Bradstreet.
‘Now, Bradstreet, open that door as quietly as possible, please.’
‘All right.’And Bradstreet slipped his big key into the lock, and we all went in very quietly. The sleeping man half turned, and then settled down once more. Holmes stepped quickly over to him and rubbed the cloth firmly across and down his face.
‘Let me introduce you,’ he shouted, ‘to Mr Neville Saint Clair, of Lee in Kent!’
The effect of Holmes’s cloth was unbelievable. The skin of the man’s face seemed to come off like paper, taking the twisted lip with it. Holmes took hold of the untidy red hair and pulled it off too. The ugly beggar had changed into a pale, sad-faced young gentleman with black hair and a smooth skin. He sat up in his bed and rubbed his eyes, looking round sleepily. Then he realized what had just happened, gave a terrible cry, and hid his face.
‘Good heavens!’ cried Bradstreet. ‘It certainly is the missing man. I recognize him from the photograph.’
By now the prisoner had managed to control himself. ‘And what,’ he asked, ‘am I charged with?’ ‘With being concerned in the disappearance of Mr Neville Saint-’ Bradstreet began. ‘But of course you can’t be charged with that! Well, I have been a member of the police force for twentyseven years, and I have never seen anything like this!’
‘If I am Neville Saint Clair, no crime has been done. It is clear that you are breaking the law by keeping me here.’
‘No crime has been done,’ said Holmes,‘but you ought to have trusted your wife.’
‘It was not my wife that I was worried about. It was the children! I didn’t want,them to be ashamed of their father. And what can I do now?’
Sherlock Holmes sat down beside him on the bed, and touched his shoulder kindly.
‘I advise you to tell everything to Mr Bradstreet,’ he said. ‘It may not be necessary for the case to come into court.Your story will probably never be mentioned in the newspapers. Your children need never find out about it.’
Saint Clair gave him a grateful look.‘I will tell you the whole story.
‘My father was a schoolmaster in Derbyshire, where I received an excellent education. I travelled a great deal after I left school. I was an actor for a time, and then became a reporter for an evening paper in London. One day I was asked to write a series of pieces about begging in London. It was then that all my adventures started. I decided that the best way of collecting facts would be to become a beggar myself, just for one day. When I was an actor I had, of course, learned all the skills of make-up, and I now made good use of them. I painted my face and gave my upper Up an ugly twist so that people would pity me. Red hair and old clothes were the only other things necessary. I then placed myself in one of the busiest streets in London. I pretended to be a match seller, but I was really a beggar. I stayed there for seven hours. At home that evening I was surprised to find that I had received more than a pound.
‘I wrote my pieces, and thought no more of the matter for some time. Then I signed my name on a paper for a friend who wanted to borrow some money; he was unable to pay his debt, and so I found that I owed twenty-five pounds. I did not know what to do. Suddenly I had an idea. I asked for two weeks’ holiday, and spent the time begging in Threadneedle Street. In ten days I had the money and had paid the debt.
‘Well, you can imagine how difficult it was to settle down to hard work on the newspaper at two pounds a week, when I knew that I could earn as much as that in a single day! I only had to paint my face, put my cap on the ground, and sit still. Of course it hurt my pride to do it, but in the end I gave up my post, and sat day after day in the corner I had first chosen. My ugly face made everybody pity me, and my pockets quickly filled with money. Only one man knew my secret. This was the owner of the Bar of Gold in upper Swandam Street, an Indian sailor. It was there that I changed myself into an ugly beggar each morning, and there that I became a well-dressed businessman again in the evenings. I paid the man well for his rooms, so I knew that my secret was safe with him.
‘Well, very soon I realized that I was saving money fast. I do not mean that any beggar in the streets of London could earn seven or eight hundred pounds a year, but I had unusual advantages. My knowledge of make-up helped me a great deal, and my jokes quickly made me almost a public figure. All day and every day, the money poured into my cap. I usually received at least two pounds in a day. I was almost a rich man.
‘I was able to take a large house in the country, and later to marry. Nobody had any idea where my money really came from. My dear wife knew that I had a business in London: that was all.
‘Last Monday I had finished for the day, and was dressing in my room in Upper Swandam Street, when I saw my wife outside. She was looking up at me. This was a great shock to me, and I gave a cry of surprise and threw up my arms to cover my face. I rushed downstairs and begged the owner of the place to prevent anyone from coming up to me. Then I ran upstairs again, took off my clothes, and put on those of‘Hugh Boone’. I heard my wife’s voice downstairs, but I knew that she would not be able to come up. I put on my make-up and my false hair as fast as I could. Just then, I realized that the police might search my rooms. I did not want my own clothes to be found. I filled the coat pockets with coins, and opened the window. I had cut my finger at home that morning, and the cut opened again. I threw the heavy coat out of the window and saw it disappear into the river. I would have thrown the other clothes out too, but just then I heard the policemen rushing up the stairs. A few minutes later I was seized as my own murderer! But I was happy that nobody realized who I was. ‘I was determined not to be recognized, and so I refused to wash my face. I knew that my wife would be very anxious about me, and I therefore slipped off my ring and found an opportunity to give it to the owner of the Bar of Gold, together with a short letter to her.’ ‘Mrs Saint Clair did not get that note until yesterday,’ said Holmes.
‘Good heavens! What a terrible week she must have had!’
‘The police have been watching the Indian,’ said Bradstreet, ‘and he must have had great difficulty in posting the letter without being seen. He probably handed it to one of the sailors who come to the Bar of Gold to smoke opium. The man may have forgotten to post it until yesterday.’
‘I think you are right,’ said Holmes. ‘Mr Saint Clair, have you never been charged with begging in the streets?’
‘Oh, yes, I have often been to court. But I could easily afford the money I had to pay!’
‘Your life as a beggar must stop now,’ said Bradstreet. ‘If Hugh Boone appears once more in the streets of London we shall not be able to prevent the newspaper reporters from writing about the case.’
‘I swear never to beg again,’ said Saint Clair.
‘In that case you will hear no more of the matter,’ said Bradstreet. ‘But if you are ever found begging again, everything will have to be made public. Mr Holmes, we are very grateful to you for your successful handling of the case. I wish I knew how you got your results!’
‘I found the explanation of this affair by sitting in a comfortable armchair and smoking my pipe all night,’ answered my friend. ‘I think, Watson, that if we drive to Baker Street now, we shall be just in time for breakfast.’