This is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Doctor Percy Trevelyan brings Holmes an unusual problem. Having been a brilliant student but a poor man, Dr. Trevelyan has found himself a participant in an unusual business arrangement. A man named Blessington, claiming to have some money to invest, has set Trevelyan up in premises with a prestigious address and paid all his expenses.
One October evening Sherlock Holmes and I were returning to our rooms in Baker Street after a long walk. I had been sharing rooms with Holmes since the death of my wife in 1894. It was quite late in the evening, but there was a carriage outside the house.
A gentleman was waiting for US in our sitting room. He stood up when we came in. He was about thirty-three or thirty-four years old, with thin, artist’s hands, and looked unhealthy and tired. He was dressed completely in black.
‘Good evening,’ Holmes said to him cheerfully. ‘Please sit down again! What can I do to help you?’
‘My name is Dr Percy Trevelyan,’ said our visitor, ‘and I Eve at 403 Brook Street.’
‘You have written a book on catalepsy, haven’t you?’ I asked. Dr Trevelyan was very pleased and proud that I knew his book. His pale face became quite red.
‘I thought that the book had been completely forgotten!’ he said. ‘Very few copies were sold. I suppose you are a doctor yourself, sir?’
‘I used to be an army doctor,’ I replied, ‘and after that I was in private practice for a few years.’
‘My own special interest has always been catalepsy,’ he said. ‘I would Eke to work more on that disease. But one must take what one can get! I must not talk too much about my own interests, though! I realize that your time is valuable, Mr Holmes. Well, some very strange things have been happening recently at the house in Brook Street, and tonight they have reached such a point that I felt that I had to come and ask for your advice and your help.’
Sherlock Holmes sat down and lit his pipe. ‘You are very welcome to both!’ he said.‘Please give me a complete account of the things that are worrying you. Tell me all the details.’
‘Some of them are very unimportant,’ said Dr Trevelyan. ‘But the affair is so difficult to understand that I will tell you the whole story.’
‘I am a London University man. I won several prizes at the University, and my teachers thought that I would become a very successful doctor. I continued my studies afterwards, worked at Kling’s College Hospital, and wrote my book on catalepsy. But, gentlemen, I had no money. A man who wants to become a specialist must Eve in the expensive area round Cavendish Square – there are only about twelve possible streets, and the rents are extremely high! One also has to hire a horse and carriage, and buy furniture for one’s house. I would have needed ten years to be able to save the necessary money. But suddenly I had a great surprise.
‘A stranger came to see me one day in my room at King’s College Hospital. This gentleman’s name was Blessington.
“Are you the man who has won so many prizes?” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” I said, shaking his hand.
“I want to ask you some questions,” he said. “First of all, have you any bad habits? Do you drink too much?”
“Really, sir!” I cried.
‘“Please don’t be angry” he said. “I had to ask you that question. Why are you not working as a private specialist? I suppose you haven’t enough money? I will help you! I will rent a house for you in Brook Street.”
‘I must have looked as surprised as I felt.
“Oh, I’m making you this offer to help me, not just you!” he said. “I will be honest with you. I have a few thousand pounds that I am not using. I want to use it to help you to establish a private practice.”
“But why?” I asked him. “Because I want my money to grow!” he replied.
“What must I do, then?” I asked.
“I just want you to do your job,” he said. “I will buy the furniture for your house, pay the rent, and pay all your costs each week. You can keep a quarter of the money you earn. You will give me the other three-quarters.”
‘It was a strange offer, Mr Holmes, but I accepted it. A few weeks later I moved into the house in Brook Street. Mr Blessington came to Eve there too. He said that his heart was weak: he needed to Eve near a doctor. He turned the best two rooms into a bedroom and a sitting room for himself. He had strange habits. He seemed to have no friends, and very rarely went out.
‘Regularly every evening, he came into my consulting room to find out how much I had earned. He then took all the money and gave me back exactly a quarter of it. The rest of the money he kept in the strongbox in his bedroom.
‘I have been very successful as a specialist, Mr Holmes, and in the last year or two I have made him a rich man.
‘A few weeks ago Mr Blessington came down to speak to me. He mentioned a recent London robbery. He seemed to be surprisingly worried and anxious, and he wanted to get stronger locks put on our doors and windows.
‘He remained in this strange state of anxiety for a week. He never stopped looking out of the window and did not go out at all. He seemed to be living in terrible fear of something or of somebody, but when I asked him about this he answered me very rudely. Then, slowly, he seemed to forget his fears.
‘A recent event, though, has brought all his fears back again. Two days ago I received a letter, which I will read to you. There is no address or date on it.
Dear Dr Trevelyan,
I am a Russian lord, but I now live in England. For some years I have been suffering from catalepsy As you are a great and well- known brain specialist, I would like to consult you.
I will call on you at about a quarter past six tomorrow evening and hope that is convenient for you.
Of course I was waiting in my consulting room at that time the following evening because catalepsy is a rare disease and I was extremely interested.
‘The Russian was a thin old man who did not look very much like a lord. There was a young man with him. He was tall and good-looking, with a dark, strong face and very powerful arms and chest. He gently supported the old man with a hand under his arm as they entered. Then he helped him to sit down.
“Please forgive me for coming in with my father, doctor,” said this young man. His voice was that of a foreigner.
“That is quite all right,” I replied. “Would you Eke to stay with your father while I examine him?”
“No, thank you,” he answered. “I will go back into the waiting room.”
‘Then the young man went out, and I turned to the older man to begin discussing his illness. He did not seem very intelligent, and he did not speak English very well — so it was difficult.
‘Suddenly, he stopped answering my questions. I saw that he was sitting very stiffly, and looking at me with strange, empty eyes. He was in a state of catalepsy. Of course, as a professional, I was excited. I examined him very carefully, and took notes on his condition. He seemed to be in exactly the same state as other people who have the illness.
‘I decided to treat him with some medicine that I believed to be helpful to such conditions. The bottle was in my storeroom, which is behind the consulting room, so I went out to get it. Unfortunately it took me five minutes to find the bottle. Then I went back into my consulting room. Mr Holmes, the old man was not there!
‘The waiting room was empty too. The servants had heard nothing. Mr Blessington, who had been out for a short walk, came in soon afterwards, but I did not tell him about the strange disappearance of my Russian patient.
‘Well, I did not think the Russians would ever come back. But this evening, again at a quarter past six, they both came into my office.
“I am very sorry that I left so suddenly yesterday, Doctor,” said the old man.
‘“I was certainly surprised!” I replied. “I can explain it,” he said. “When my catalepsy goes away, my mind is always empty. I do not remember what has been happening.Yesterday I woke up, confused, in a strange room. I did not know where I was. So I simply got up and walked out into the street.”
“And when I saw my father come out of your consulting room,” said the son, “I thought that the examination was over. I did not realize what had really happened until we had reached home.”
‘“Well,” I said, laughing, “I understand everything now.” I turned to the older man. “I will continue the examination now, sir, if you wish.”
‘For about half an hour I discussed the old gentleman s illness with him, and gave him the best advice I could. Then he and his son went away.
‘Mr Blessington, who often went for a walk at that time of day, came in soon afterwards and went up to his rooms. A moment later I heard him running down again, and he rushed into my consulting room. He seemed to be almost crazy with fear.
‘ “Who has been in my rooms?” he cried.
“No one,” I said.
“That is a he!” he shouted.“Come up and look.”
‘I went up with him, and he pointed to several footprints on the floor.
“‘Those are certainly not the marks of my feet!” Mr Blessington said.
‘They were much larger, and seemed to be quite fresh. As you know, it rained hard this afternoon, and the two Russians were my only visitors.
‘The younger man must have gone up to Mr Blessingtons room. But why? Nothing at all was missing.
‘I was shocked to see that Mr Blessington was crying. He could hardly speak, but he mentioned your name, and of course I came here immediately. He will be so grateful if you can come back with me now, in my carriage.’
Holmes said nothing. He simply gave me my hat, picked up his own, and followed Dr Trevelyan out of the room.
A quarter of an hour later we arrived at the house in Brook Street. A servant let US in, but suddenly somebody turned off the light in the hall.
We heard the person say in a frightened voice: ‘I have a gun! If you come any nearer I will shoot you.’
‘This is very stupid behaviour, Mr Blessington!’ cried the doctor angrily.
‘Oh, it is you, Doctor!’ said the voice. ‘But who are these other gentlemen?’ He lit the gas light again and examined US carefully. He was a very fat man, but had once been much fatter: the skin hung loosely on his face, which looked very unhealthy. He had thin red hair.
At last he put his gun back into his pocket and said: ‘It’s all right now. You may come up. I hope
I have not upset you. How do you do, Mr Holmes. You must advise me! I suppose that
Dr Trevelyan has told you what has happened?’
‘Yes, he has,’ said Holmes. ‘Who are these two strangers, Mr Blessington, and why are they your enemies?’
‘I really don’t know!’ the fat man answered. ‘But please come up to my rooms.’
We went with him into his bedroom. It was large and comfortable. Pointing to a big black box at the end of the bed, Mr Blessington said: ‘I have never been a very rich man, Mr Holmes. And I don’t like banks. I don’t trust them! All my money is in that box, so of course I am very worried about this whole affair.’
Holmes looked at Blessington in his strange way, and then shook his head.
‘I cannot possibly advise you if you try to deceive me,’ he said.
‘But I have told you everything!’ said Blessington.
Holmes turned away.
‘Good night, Dr Trevelyan,’ he said.
‘But aren’t you going to give me any advice?’ cried Blessington.
‘My advice to you, sir,’ Holmes replied, ‘is to tell the truth.’ A minute later we were on our way home. As we walked down Harley Street, Holmes said: ‘I am sorry we have wasted our time this evening, Watson. This Brook Street affair is rather interesting, though.’ ‘I don’t understand it at all,’ I admitted.
‘Well, those two men intend to harm Blessington for some reason. The young man went up to
Blessington’s rooms on both days, I am sure. By chance Blessington was out.’ ‘But Dr Trevelyan thought the old man really had catalepsy!’ I said.
‘It is not difficult to pretend to have catalepsy. I have done it myself.’
‘Why did the men choose such an unusual time of day?’
‘Because there must be nobody else in the waiting room.
Watson, it is easy to see that Blessington is frightened for his life. And of course he knows who these two terrible enemies are. Perhaps tomorrow he will stop telling me lies.’
Holmes woke me up at half past seven the next morning.
‘There is a carriage waiting for US, Watson,’ he said.
‘What is the matter?’ I asked him.
‘I have had a note from Dr Trevelyan. In it he says: “Come immediately!” — and nothing else.’
Twenty minutes later we were back at the doctor’s house. He came running out to meet US. His face was very pale.
‘Oh, it’s terrible!’ he cried.
‘What has happened?’ we asked.
‘Blessington has killed himself.’
‘Yes,’ Dr Trevelyan continued, ‘he hanged himself during the night.’ We went in with him. He took US into the waiting room.
‘The police are already up there,’ he said. ‘This death has been a terrible shock to me.’ ‘When was he found?’ Holmes asked.
‘One of the servants takes him a cup of tea at seven o’clock every morning. When she went into his bedroom this morning she saw the poor man hanging in the middle of the room. He had tied a rope to the hook on which the lamp usually hangs. And he had jumped off the top of his strongbox
– the one he showed US yesterday!’
After thinking for a moment, Holmes said: ‘I would like to go up now.’
We all went up to Blessington’s bedroom.
The body looked hardly human. A police officer was beside it, writing in his notebook.
‘Ah, Mr Holmes!’ he said. ‘I am very glad to see you.’
‘Good morning, Lanner,’ Holmes said. ‘Have you heard all about the events of the last few days?’ ‘Yes.’
‘And what is your opinion of the affair?’
‘I think that fear had made Mr Blessington crazy. He went to bed — his bed has been slept in, as yơii can see. Then at about five o’clock he got up and hanged himself.’ I felt the body.
‘Yes, he does seem to have been dead for about three hours,’ I said.
‘Have you found anything unusual in the room?’ Holmes asked the police officer.
‘Well, sir, Mr Blessington seems to have smoked a lot during the night. I found these four cigar ends in the fireplace.’
Holmes looked at them.
‘And have you found Blessington’s cigar holder?’
‘No. I haven’t seen one.’
‘And where is his cigar case?’
‘Here it is. I found it in his coat pocket.’
Holmes opened it and smelt the one cigar which it contained.
‘Oh, this is a Cuban cigar,’ he said. ‘These others are Dutch.’ He examined them in detail. ‘Two of these were smoked through a cigar holder. The other two were not. Two were cut by a knife that was not very sharp, and the other two were bitten — by a person with excellent teeth. Mr
Blessington did not kill himself. He was murdered.’ ‘That is impossible!’ cried Lanner.
‘Murderers never hang people! And in any case, how did they get in?’
‘Through the front door.’
‘It was barred this morning.’
‘Because someone inside the house barred it. In a moment I will tell you how this murder was done.’
He went over to the door and examined the lock on the bedroom door.Then he took out the key and examined that too; next he looked at the bed, the floor, the chairs, the dead body, and the rope. At last he told US that he was satisfied, and we cut the rope and laid the body gently on the bed. We covered it with a sheet.
‘Where did the rope come from?’ Holmes asked.
‘It was cut off this longer one,’ said Dr Trevelyan. He showed us a rope under the bed. ‘He was terribly afraid of fire. He always kept this rope near him, so that he could climb down from the window if the stairs caught fire.’
‘Yes, all the facts are now very clear,’ Holmes said. ‘I hope that I shall soon be able to tell you the reasons for them as well. I will borrow this photograph of Blessington, as it may help me in my inquiries.’
‘But you haven’t told US anything!’ cried Dr Trevelyan.
‘Oh, there were two murderers – the men who pretended to be Russian lords – and they were helped by one of your own servants.’
‘My man has certainly disappeared,’ said the doctor.
‘He let the murderers into the house,’ Holmes went on. ‘Mr Blessington’s door was locked, but they turned the key with a strong piece of wire. You can see the marks quite clearly.
‘They must have tied something over Mr Blessington’s mouth, to prevent him from crying out. Then they held a trial in which they themselves were the judges. That was when they smoked cigars.
‘When it was over, they took Blessington and hanged him. Then they left. The servant barred the front door after they had gone.’
Lanner hurried away to try to find the servant. Holmes and I returned to Baker Street for breakfast.
‘I shall be back by three o’clock,’ Holmes said when we had finished our meal. ‘Lanner and Dr Trevelyan will meet me here then.’
The police officer and the doctor arrived at three, but Holmes did not join US until a quarter to four. But I could see that he was cheerful.
‘Have you any news, Lanner?’ he asked.
‘We have caught the servant, sir,’ Lanner replied.
‘Excellent! And I have discovered who the murderers are. Their names are Biddle and Hayward.’
‘The Worthingdon Bank robbers!’ cried Lanner. ‘Yes. And the man who used the name ‘Blessington’ was another of them.’
‘So his real name must have been Sutton. Everything is clear now!’ said Lanner. But Trevelyan and I still did not understand.
‘Have you forgotten the great Worthingdon Bank robbery?’ said Holmes. ‘There were four robbers — Biddle, Hayward, Sutton, and a man called Cartwright. A night watchman was killed, and the thieves got away with seven thousand pounds.That was fifteen years ago. When the case came to court there was not much proof against the robbers, but this man Blessington (that is, Sutton) decided to help the police. The result was that Cartwright was hanged, and Biddle and Hayward were sent to prison for fifteen years. When they were let out, they decided to punish Sutton (that is, Blessington) for what he had done.’
Nobody was punished for Blessington’s death. Biddle and Hayward were drowned soon afterwards when a steamer called the Norah Creina sank off the coast of Portugal. And there was not enough proof against Dr Trevelyan’s servant, so he was never charged. No complete account of the Brook Street mystery has ever been given to the public until now.