Showing posts with label Trust. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trust. Show all posts

Friday, 9 August 2019



The loveliest spot on the farm. A beautiful view of the house, barns, river, fields and hills beyond. A gravestone stands in the shade of a soaring oak tree covered with Spanish moss. It reads: 


Above her name is a carving of the night sky, at the center of which is the NORTH STAR, steady and guiding. 

Martin approaches. 
He gives himself a moment to look at the grave. 
A soft wind blows some dry leaves along the ground. 
Martin turns his head, as if listening to spoken words. 

PUSH IN on the North Star on the gravestone. 

That's her, the North Star... 

Martin stands in the doorway, unobserved, while Margaret and Susan look out the window at the night sky. 

... you start from the front two stars of the Big Dipper and count up five fingers lengths... that's right... there. Susan gazes up at the North Star. The girls notice Martin and climb into bed. He puts a chair against Susan's bed and kisses her. He pulls a blanket up around Margaret, who whispers: 

It helps her to know Mother's there. Martin nods with a thin smile, kisses Margaret, picks up his candle and walks out. 

Martin enters, finding William asleep on the floor and Nathan and Samuel both asleep in their beds. He lifts William into bed, takes a slingshot from Nathan's hand. Samuel looks up, three-quarters asleep, murmuring: 

Mail, papa...

MARTIN I know. He tucks in Samuel and walks out.

Georgie is in his bed, back in his nightclothes again. He tosses and turns in his sleep. Mary Poppins sits next to him.

It’s alright, Georgie, it’s alright. You were been having a nice sort of nightmare, I must say.

Mary Poppins turns on his bedside lamp.

You were right, Mary Poppins! A cover is not the book! We thought they were nice, but they were mean!

Whatever are you talking about?

They tried to take Gillie!

Gillie is right here, sleeping - as you should be.

She moves the giraffe next to Georgie.

But it was real!
They stole all our things, and the wolf said we were never going to see our home again.

That’s absurd.

Mary Poppins stands goes to shut the window. She sees Jack cycling away outside, he waves up to her as he goes. John and Annabel climb out of their beds, awake as well.

But I had a nightmare like that, too.

ANNABEL(Turning on light:)
So did I. It seemed awfully real.

I don’t want to lose our home.

Georgie moves over and sits on Annabel’s bed, cuddling Gillie.

You see, Georgie?
That’s why we wanted mother’s bowl; we were going to sell it to save the house.

GEORGIE(After a beat.)
I miss mother.

The room falls silent.

Something flickers ever so briefly in Mary Poppins’ eyes, and then she speaks.

Listen to the three of you.
You’re all worrying far too much.
After all, you can’t lose what you’ve never lost.

I don’t understand.



Mary Poppins puts John back to bed and tucks him in.
She tucks Annabel into her bed.


Mary Poppins takes Georgie’s hand and leads him back to bed.

Now, time to get some sleep. And in the morning, bright and early, we’ll take that bowl to my cousin and have it mended.(She tucks Georgie in.)


Mary Poppins walks over to the window, looking out toward a bright star in the night sky.


Mary Poppins walks out of the nursery, closing the pocket doors that lead to her room. Annabel, gets up, crossing to look out the window at the star.

After a moment, she turns to go back to bed, but then she notices the bowl on the mantelpiece. She peers at it, her eyes growing wide.

(Quiet wonder:)
John... look! Mary Poppins’ scarf. It wasn’t a dream after all...

John crosses to Annabel’s side. She points at the carriage on the bowl; Mary Poppins' scarf is tied around the broken wheel. John is amazed.

Shall we tell her?

We’d better not. I expect she already knows

Michael Burn ‘em :
Burnham to Discovery.
I'm setting coordinates for the Beta Quadrant, Terralysium, 930 years from this launch point.
That should take us where we need to go.
Commander, the quantum fluctuations within the wormhole make it difficult to track your position using standard sensors.

How do you intend to guide us through? I'll send a signal.

The sixth signal.
Like the North Star, that's what this is.
You can follow it to me on the other side.

Copy, Commander.
I'm approaching the briefing room now.
Copy that, Captain.
- Standing by to assist.
- Thank you, Number One.
(DOOR WHOOSHES OPEN) (SCREAMS) (GRUNTING) Your algorithm was the easiest to predict.
You would want fast access to the ship's two most valuable assets.
The data is in the spore console.
(BOTH YELL) (LOCKS DOOR) You think this cage will hold me? (PIKE GRUNTS) What if we transfer the antimatter to antimatter pods? Too risky.
You sure you can't reprogram the guidance system? (EXPLOSION) I've tried.
This thing is gonna blow in 90 seconds.
There's an emergency lever for the blast door.
I can bring it down manually, from the inside, and seal off the rest of the ship.
- No.
- We are out of time.
That last light will change, this torpedo will blow, and everyone on the bridge, maybe everyone on this ship, will die.
And if you do this, you die.
This is my ship, my responsibility.
This isn't where your story ends.
And I think you know that.
If I'm meant for a different future, this thing can't possibly go off with me in here.
Maybe not.
But how many people will pay the price if you're wrong? Kat Go.
It's time.
And, Chris whatever your path may be, you can handle it.
(BEEPING RAPIDLY) Discovery to Enterprise, are you all right? We're okay.
But we lost the admiral.
SARU: Burnham, we are running out of time.
Okay, it's time to go, Spock.
Get back to Discovery.
Michael, I cannot.
What? When my vessel was hit My engines are disabled.
Discovery can lock onto you with a tractor beam.
There is no time.
And even if there were, they would need to lower their shields to bring me aboard, and they will not survive doing so.
Not in this battle.
Not with the amount of damage that ship has already sustained.
You must go.
I just got you back.
I don't want to let go.
Neither do I.
I already lost you once.
You never lost me, Michael.
As a child, I was truly lost.
The path of my father, the path of my mother.
You came into our lives and you taught me it was possible to travel both.
You found me.
You saved me.
That wasn't me.
That was always in you.
You are my balance, Michael, you always have been, and I am afraid that I will not find it again without you.
Listen to me.
Listen to me, little brother.
This is the last advice I'll ever be able to give you.
There is a whole galaxy out there full of people who will reach for you.
You have to let them.
Find that person who seems farthest from you, and reach for them.
Reach for them.
Let them guide you.
I will.
I only wish I could be certain of your safety.
(SIGHS) You will.
(CHUCKLES) (SNIFFLES) I'll send the last signal.
I'll send it through the wormhole when we get to the other side.
I will watch the stars for it.
(GRUNTING) Oh, enough with the tantrum already.
Let's end this now, shall we? You should know I've magnetized the spore cube.
My shuttle's engines are disabled.
I will not be returning to Discovery.
Hold your position.
We'll transport you out.
Commander Saru, how are your shields? Ensign Tilly, where are we? Almost there.
(POWERING UP) (PANTING) Somebody owes me a beer.
We are good to go, sir.
Shields back up to 40%.
More than enough, Captain.
PIKE (OVER COMM): Stand by to transport, Spock.
I love you, too, brother.
(CRYING) Commander Burnham, on your mark.
Burnham to Discovery.
Let's go.
Lieutenant Detmer, full power.
Follow our signal.
(PANTING) All vessels, aim at 3-mark-5-mark-2.
Clear a path.
Goodbye, Captain Pike.
Goodbye, my friends.
My family.
We're on our way, Paul.
We're on our way.
This does not end here.
Actually, it does, and it's going to hurt.
And I'd like to hear you scream now.
(SCREAMING) No! (GIGGLES) Captain, they're all dead in the water.
Open fire.
Georgiou to bridge.
I'm in Engineering.
Leland is dead.
Control is neutralized.
SARU: Copy, Commander.
We are on our way.
Go, go.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Safety Not Guaranteed

Advice is a form of Nostalgia – 
Dispensing it is a way of fishing The Past from The Disposal, 
Wiping it off, Painting-over The Ugly Parts 
and Recycling it for more than it's worth

Listen, I'm sorry about the noise level here. 
But we need to maintain cover. 
I'm certain I'm being recorded, I'm certain I'm being followed. 

Government agents maybe. Probably. 

But The Joke's on them. The technology I've invented can't be understood by the average mind. 

Just hold it in your holster for a second, okay? 
 I'm still making up my mind about you as a potential partner. 

I have to be absolutely certain that I can trust you before I include you in Certain Information. 

Well, I just don't wanna be jerked around. 
You know, jerking around is for jerks. 

Jeff :
What are you doing in The Lobby?

Arnau : 
Are they still in there?

Jeff : Yeah, that's The Point. She's still in there.
You go.

Arnau :
What do you mean I go?

Jeff :
I didn't want to hang out with these three.
I did it for you!
Arnau :
I don't think so. It's fine. You go.

Jeff :
Are you gay?

Arnau :
What? No...

Jeff :
Is that what this is?

Arnau :

Jeff : I'm asking you seriously, I'm not judging you.
You don't know this about me, but I don't care about that stuff.
Arnau :
No, Jeff, I'm not gay, no.

Jeff : This is set up perfectly.
Do you not think she's hot?

Arnau :
You're acting like it's so easy.

Jeff :
Because it is so easy.

Arnau :
No, Jeff. 
It's easy for you, not for me.

Jeff :
Why not?

Arnau :
Because I'm not you, Jeff.
Do you just wanna see me get embarrassed?

Jeff :
Arnau, come here, man. Come here.
Fucking come here.
I'm not pranking you, man.

You're not gonna get this opportunity very much longer.

You're Not Always Gonna Be 21, Young Man.
I promise you fucking that.
Arnau :
I don't know. I don't know what to...
How do I start?

Jeff : First of all, take these pedophile glasses off and don't wear these, they make you look like a weirdo, man.
I'm gonna put these on you. 

Holy shit!
Look at that killer.

That Dude right there crushes chicks.

I would take a photo of you and show you how good you looked right now, 'cause you look fantastic.

You look like a damn pilot.

Arnau :

Like a cool pilot who drives jets.
Pop this shit.
Act like you've been There before.
You're not gonna be your age forever.

One day, you're gonna be The Old Dirtbag.
All by Yourself.

This is The Moment You Live for.

Arnau :

Jeff :
Arnau :

Jeff : Hey, Halloween, you smoke?

Monday, 8 July 2019


I said,  
"We'll lose"
You said,  
"We'll do that together too." 

And guess what, Cap? 
We Lost. 

You Weren't There. 

No Trust. 


YOUTH: There is something about this 'affirmative resignation' that sounds pessimistic. 

It's just too bleak if the upshot of all this lengthy discussion is resignation. 

PHILOSOPHER: Is that so? 

Resignation has the connotation of seeing clearly with fortitude and acceptance. 

Having a firm grasp on the truth of things – that is resignation. 

There is nothing pessimistic about it.

YOUTH: A firm grasp on The Truth....

PHILOSOPHER: Of course, just because one has arrived at affirmative resignation as one's self-acceptance, it does not automatically follow that one finds community feeling. 

That is the reality. 

When one is switching from attachment to self to concern for others, the second key concept – confidence in others – becomes absolutely essential. 

YOUTH: Confidence in others. In other words, believing in others? 

PHILOSOPHER; Here, I will consider the words 'believing in others' in the context of distinguishing trust from confidence. 

First, when we speak of Trust, we are referring to something that comes with set conditions. 

In English, it is referred to as credit. 

For example, when one wants to borrow money from a bank, one has to have some kind of security. 

The Bank calculates the amount of the loan based on the value of that security, and says, 'We will lend you this much.' 

The attitude of 'we will lend it to you on the condition that you will pay it back,' or 'we will lend you as much as you are able to pay back' is not one of having confidence in someone. It is Trust.

YOUTH : Well, that's how bank financing works, I guess.

PHILOSOPHER: By contrast, from the standpoint of Adlerian psychology, the basis of interpersonal relations is not founded on Trust but on Confidence

YOUTH : And 'confidence' in this case is ...?

PHILOSOPHER : It is doing without any set conditions whatsoever when believing in others. 

Even if one does not have sufficient objective grounds for trusting someone, one believes. 

One believes unconditionally without concerning oneself with such things as security. That is Confidence.

YOUTH : Believing unconditionally? 

So, it's back to your pet notion of neighbourly love? 

PHILOSOPHER : Of course, if one believes in others without setting any conditions whatsoever, there will be times when one gets taken advantage of. 

Just like the guarantor of a debt, there are times when one may suffer damages. 

The attitude of continuing to believe in someone even in such instances is what we call Confidence. 

YOUTH: Only a naive dimwit would do such a thing! 

I guess you hold with the doctrine of innate human goodness, while I hold with the doctrine of innate human evilness. 

Believe unconditionally in complete strangers, and you'll just get used and abused. 

PHILOSOPHER: And there are also times when someone deceives you, and you get used that way. 

But look at it from the standpoint of someone who has been taken advantage of. 

There are people who will continue to believe in you unconditionally even if you are the one who has taken advantage of them. 

People who will have confidence in you no matter how they are treated. 

Would you be able to betray such a person again and again?

PHILOSOPHER: I am sure it would be quite difficult for you to do such a thing.

YOUTH: After all that, are you saying one has to appeal to the emotions? 

To keep on holding the faith, like a saint, and act on the conscience of the other person? 

You're telling me that morals don't matter to Adler, but isn't that exactly what we're talking about here?

PHILOSOPHER: No, it is not. 

What would you say is the opposite of confidence? 

YOUTH: An antonym of confidence? Uh.....

PHILOSOPHER: It is Doubt. 

Suppose you have placed 'doubt' at the foundation of your interpersonal relations. 

That you live your life doubting other people – doubting your friends, and even your family and those you love. 

What sort of relationship could possibly arise from that? 

The Other Person will detect the doubt in your eyes in an instant.

He or she will have an instinctive understanding that 'this person does not have confidence in me'.  

Do you think one would be able to build some kind of positive relationship from that point? 

It is precisely because we lay a foundation of unconditional confidence
 that it is possible for us to build a deep relationship.

YOUTH: Okay, I guess.

PHILOSOPHER: The way to understand Adlerian psychology is simple. 

Right now, you are thinking, 'If were to have confidence in someone unconditionally, I would just get taken advantage of.'  

However, you are not the one who decides whether or not to take advantage. That is the other person's task. 

All you need to do is think, 'What should I do?'  

If you are telling yourself, 'I'll give it to him if he isn't going take advantage of me', it is just a relationship of trust that is based on security or conditions.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. As I have stated repeatedly, carrying out the separation of tasks returns life to an astonishingly simple form. 

But while the principle of the separation of tasks is easy to grasp, putting it into practice is difficult. I recognise that.

YOUTH: Then, you are telling me to keep on having confidence in everyone, to keep on believing in all other people even when they deceive me, and just go on being a naive fool? 

That's not philosophy or psychology or anything of the sort – it's just the preaching of a zealot!

PHILOSOPHER; I reject that definitively.  

Adlerian psychology is not saying 'have confidence in others unconditionally' on the basis of a moralistic system of values.  

Unconditional confidence is a means for making your interpersonal relationship with a person better, and for building a horizontal relationship. 

If you do not have the desire to make your relationship with that person better, then go ahead and sever it – because carrying out the severing is your task.

YOUTH: Then, what if I've placed unconditional confidence in a friend in order to make our relationship better? 

I've jumped through all sorts of hoops for this friend, gladly satisfied any requests for money, and been unstinting with my time and efforts in his regard. 

But even in such cases, there are times when one is taken advantage of. 

For example, if one were horribly taken advantage of by a person one has believed in completely, wouldn't that experience lead one to a lifestyle with an 'other people are my enemies' outlook?

PHILOSOPHER: It seems that you have not yet gained an understanding of the goal of confidence. 

Suppose, for example, that you are in a love relationship, but you are having doubts about your partner and you think to yourself, 'I'll bet she's cheating on me.' 

And you start making desperate efforts in search of evidence to prove that.  

What do you think would happen as a result? 

YOUTH: Well, I guess that would depend on the situation.

PHILOSOPHER: No, in every instance, you would find an abundance of evidence that she has been cheating on you.

YOUTH: Wait? Why is that?

PHILOSOPHER: Your partner's casual remarks, her tone when talking to someone on the phone, the times when you can't reach her... 

As long as you are looking with doubt in your eyes, everything around you will appear to be evidence that she is cheating on you. 
Even if she is not.


PHILOSOPHER: Right now, you are only concerned about the times you were taken advantage of, and nothing else. 

You focus only on the pain from the wounds you sustained on such occasions. 

But if you are afraid to have confidence in others, in the long run,
you will not be able to build deep relationships with anyone.

YOUTH: Well, I see what you're getting at – the main objective, which is to build deep relationships. 

But still, being taken advantage of is scary, and that's the reality, isn't it? 

PHILOSOPHER; If it is a shallow relationship, when it falls apart the pain will
be slight. 

And the joy that relationship brings each day will also be slight. 

It is precisely because one can gain the courage to enter into deeper relationships by having confidence in others that the joy of one's interpersonal relations can grow, and one's joy in life can grow, too.

YOUTH: No! That's not what I was talking about, you're changing the subject again. 

The courage to overcome the fear of being taken advantage of – where does it come from?

PHILOSOPHER: It comes from Self-Acceptance. 

If one can simply accept oneself as one is, and ascertain what one can do and what one cannot, one becomes able to understand that 'taking advantage' is the other person's task, and getting to the core of 'confidence in others' becomes less difficult. 

YOUTH: You're saying that taking advantage of someone is the other person's task, and one can't do anything about it? 

That I should be resigned, in an affirmative way? 

Your arguments always ignore our emotions. 

What does one do about all the anger and sadness one feels when one is taken advantage of?

PHILOSOPHER: When one is sad, one should be sad to one's heart's content. 

It is precisely when one tries to escape the pain and sadness that one gets stuck and ceases to be able to build deep relationships with anyone. 

Think about 
it this way. We can Believe. And we can Doubt

But we are aspiring to see others as our comrades. 

To believe or to doubtThe Choice should be clear.

It's been 23 days since Thanos came to Earth. 

World Governments are in pieces. 

The parts that are still working are trying to take a census. 
And it looks like he did... exactly what he said he was going to do. 

Thanos wiped out 50%, of all living creatures.

Where is he now? Where?


We don't know.

He just opened a portal and walked through. 

[Cut to a shot of a sullen-looking Thor, sitting on a bench, seemingly deep in thought.]

What's wrong with him?

He's pissed. He thinks he failed. 
Which of course he did, 
but there's a lot of that's goin' around, ain't there?

Honestly, until this exact second, I thought you were a Build-A-Bear.

Maybe I am.

We've been hunting Thanos for three weeks now. 
Deep Space scans and satellites, and we got nothing.

Tony, you fought him.

Who told you that? I didn't fight him. 
No, he wiped my face with a planet while the Bleecker Street Magician gave away the stone. 
That's what happened. There was no fight.

Did he give you any clues, any coordinates, anything?

Pfft! I saw this coming a few years back. 
I had a vision. I didn't wanna believe it. 
Thought I was dreaming.


Tony, I'm gonna need you to focus.

And I needed you. As in, past tense. 
That trumps what you need. It's too late buddy. 
Sorry. You know what I need.

[Tony stands, pushing things off the table with a clatter. Everyone winces at the noise.]

I need a shave. 
And I believe I remember telling you, Cap.

[Tony goes for Steve. Rhodey quickly comes in front of him, trying to stop him.]

Tony, Tony, Tony, stop!

Otherwise what we needed was 

A Suit of Armor Around The World!
 Remember that? 
Whether it impacted our precious Freedom or not - 
That's what we needed!

Well, that didn't work out, did it?

I said, 
"We'll Lose". 
You said, 
"We'll do that together too." 

And guess what, Cap? 

We Lost. 
You weren't there. 

But that's what we do, right? 
Our best work after the fact? 
We're the Avengers, we're the Avengers. 
Not the Prevengers, right?

Okay, you made your point. 
Just sit down, ok?

Nah, nah, nah. 
[He pushes Rhodey away
Here's my point.

Sit down!

[Referring to Carol] 
She's great, by the way. 
We need you. You're new blood.


Bunch of tired old mills! 
I got nothing for you, Cap! 
I got no coordinates, no clues, 
no plan, no options. 

Zero. Zip. Nada. 
No Trust. Liar.

[Steve looks affected by Tony's words. The old friends just gaze at each other. After a moment, Tony rips his Arc Reactor from his chest and shoves it into Steve's hand.]

Here, take this. 
You find him, and you put that on. 
You hide.

[Tony falls to the ground. Steve is by his side and everyone is starting to gather.]


I'm fine. I...

[Tony falls into a heap, unconscious.]

[Cut to a shot of Tony on a bed, with Pepper at his side.]

Bruce gave him a sedative. 
He's gonna be out for the rest of the day.


You guys take care of him. 
And I'll bring Xorrian Elixir when I come back.

Where are you going?

To Kill Thanos.

You know, we usually work as a team around here, and between you and I, we're also a little fragile. 
We realize this is more your territory, but this is our fight too.


Do you even know where he is?

I know people who might.


Don't bother. I can tell you where Thanos is. 
Thanos spent a long time trying to perfect me. 
Then when he worked, he talked about his Great Plan. 

Even disassembled, I wanted to please him. 

I'd ask "Where Would We Go?",  
once His Plan was complete. 

His answer was always the same: 

To The Garden.


That's cute, Thanos has a retirement plan.

So where is he then?

When Thanos snapped his fingers, Earth became ground zero for a power surge of ridiculously cosmic proportions. 

No one's ever seen anything like it... 
Until two days ago. 

[A hologram of a planet pops up, with a shockwave visibly traversing the surface.]

On this planet. 
Thanos is there.


He used the stones again.


Hey, Hey, we'd be going in short-handed, you know.

Look, he's still got the stones, so...

So let's get him. 
We'll use them to bring everyone back.

Just like that?

Yeah, just like that.

[Steve and Carol share a knowing look.]


Even if there's a small chance that we can undo this... 
I mean we owe it to everyone who's not in this room to try.


If we do this, how do we know it's gonna end any differently than it did before?


Because before, you didn't have me.


Hey, New Girl, everyone here is about that superhero life. 
And if you don't mind my asking, where the hell have you been all this time.


There are a lot of other planets in the universe. 
And unfortunately, they didn't have you guys.

[Thor, who has been eating a snack behind all this time, stands up and walks over to Carol. He holds his hand up, and catches Stormbreaker as it flies over to him, missing Carol by inches. But Carol doesn't even flinch, instead smiling at the God of Thunder.]

I like this one.

Let's go get this son of a bitch. 

[Cut to a shot of everyone except for Carol and Tony aboard the Benatar.]

Monday, 20 May 2019


HOLMES had been seated for some hours in silence with his long, thin back curved over a chemical vessel in which he was brewing a particularly malodorous product. His head was sunk upon his breast, and he looked from my point of view like a strange, lank bird, with dull grey plumage and a black top-knot.
“So, Watson,” said he, suddenly, “you do not propose to invest in South African securities?”
I gave a start of astonishment. Accustomed as I was to Holmes’s curious faculties, this sudden intrusion into my most intimate thoughts was utterly inexplicable.
“How on earth do you know that?” I asked.
He wheeled round upon his stool, with a steaming test-tube in his hand and a gleam of amusement in his deep-set eyes.
“Now, Watson, confess yourself utterly taken aback,” said he.
“I am.”
“I ought to make you sign a paper to that effect.”
“Because in five minutes you will say that it is all so absurdly simple.”
“I am sure that I shall say nothing of the kind.”
“You see, my dear Watson”—he propped his test-tube in the rack and began to lecture with the air of a professor addressing his class—“it is not really difficult to construct a series of inferences, each dependent upon its predecessor and each simple in itself. If, after doing so, one simply knocks out all the central inferences and presents one’s audience with the starting-point and the conclusion, one may produce a startling, though possibly a meretricious, effect. Now, it was not really difficult, by an inspection of the groove between your left forefinger and thumb, to feel sure that you did NOT propose to invest your small capital in the goldfields.”
“I see no connection.”
“Very likely not; but I can quickly show you a close connection. Here are the missing links of the very simple chain: 1. You had chalk between your left finger and thumb when you returned from the club last night. 2. You put chalk there when you play billiards to steady the cue. 3. You never play billiards except with Thurston. 4. You told me four weeks ago that Thurston had an option on some South African property which would expire in a month, and which he desired you to share with him. 5. Your cheque-book is locked in my drawer, and you have not asked for the key. 6. You do not propose to invest your money in this manner.”
“How absurdly simple!” I cried.
“Quite so!” said he, a little nettled. “Every problem becomes very childish when once it is explained to you. Here is an unexplained one. See what you can make of that, friend Watson.” He tossed a sheet of paper upon the table and turned once more to his chemical analysis.
I looked with amazement at the absurd hieroglyphics upon the paper.
“Why, Holmes, it is a child’s drawing,” I cried.
“Oh, that’s your idea!”
“What else should it be?”
“That is what Mr. Hilton Cubitt, of Riding Thorpe Manor, Norfolk, is very anxious to know. This little conundrum came by the first post, and he was to follow by the next train. There’s a ring at the bell, Watson. I should not be very much surprised if this were he.”
A heavy step was heard upon the stairs, and an instant later there entered a tall, ruddy, clean-shaven gentleman, whose clear eyes and florid cheeks told of a life led far from the fogs of Baker Street. He seemed to bring a whiff of his strong, fresh, bracing, east-coast air with him as he entered. Having shaken hands with each of us, he was about to sit down when his eye rested upon the paper with the curious markings, which I had just examined and left upon the table.
“Well, Mr. Holmes, what do you make of these?” he cried. “They told me that you were fond of queer mysteries, and I don’t think you can find a queerer one than that. I sent the paper on ahead so that you might have time to study it before I came.”
“It is certainly rather a curious production,” said Holmes. “At first sight it would appear to be some childish prank. It consists of a number of absurd little figures dancing across the paper upon which they are drawn. Why should you attribute any importance to so grotesque an object?”
“I never should, Mr. Holmes. But my wife does. It is frightening her to death. She says nothing, but I can see terror in her eyes. That’s why I want to sift the matter to the bottom.”
Holmes held up the paper so that the sunlight shone full upon it. It was a page torn from a note-book. The markings were done in pencil, and ran in this way:—
several stick figures in dancing poses
Holmes examined it for some time, and then, folding it carefully up, he placed it in his pocket-book.
“This promises to be a most interesting and unusual case,” said he. “You gave me a few particulars in your letter, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, but I should be very much obliged if you would kindly go over it all again for the benefit of my friend, Dr. Watson.”
“I’m not much of a story-teller,” said our visitor, nervously clasping and unclasping his great, strong hands. “You’ll just ask me anything that I don’t make clear. I’ll begin at the time of my marriage last year; but I want to say first of all that, though I’m not a rich man, my people have been at Ridling Thorpe for a matter of five centuries, and there is no better known family in the County of Norfolk. Last year I came up to London for the Jubilee, and I stopped at a boarding-house in Russell Square, because Parker, the vicar of our parish, was staying in it. There was an American young lady there—Patrick was the name—Elsie Patrick. In some way we became friends, until before my month was up I was as much in love as a man could be. We were quietly married at a registry office, and we returned to Norfolk a wedded couple. You’ll think it very mad, Mr. Holmes, that a man of a good old family should marry a wife in this fashion, knowing nothing of her past or of her people; but if you saw her and knew her it would help you to understand.
“She was very straight about it, was Elsie. I can’t say that she did not give me every chance of getting out of it if I wished to do so. ‘I have had some very disagreeable associations in my life,’ said she; ‘I wish to forget all about them. I would rather never allude to the past, for it is very painful to me. If you take me, Hilton, you will take a woman who has nothing that she need be personally ashamed of; but you will have to be content with my word for it, and to allow me to be silent as to all that passed up to the time when I became yours. If these conditions are too hard, then go back to Norfolk and leave me to the lonely life in which you found me.’ It was only the day before our wedding that she said those very words to me. I told her that I was content to take her on her own terms, and I have been as good as my word.
“Well, we have been married now for a year, and very happy we have been. But about a month ago, at the end of June, I saw for the first time signs of trouble. One day my wife received a letter from America. I saw the American stamp. She turned deadly white, read the letter, and threw it into the fire. She made no allusion to it afterwards, and I made none, for a promise is a promise; but she has never known an easy hour from that moment. There is always a look of fear upon her face— a look as if she were waiting and expecting. She would do better to trust me. She would find that I was her best friend. But until she speaks I can say nothing. Mind you, she is a truthful woman, Mr. Holmes, and whatever trouble there may have been in her past life it has been no fault of hers. I am only a simple Norfolk squire, but there is not a man in England who ranks his family honour more highly than I do. She knows it well, and she knew it well before she married me. She would never bring any stain upon it—of that I am sure.
“Well, now I come to the queer part of my story. About a week ago—it was the Tuesday of last week—I found on one of the window-sills a number of absurd little dancing figures, like these upon the paper. They were scrawled with chalk. I thought that it was the stable-boy who had drawn them, but the lad swore he knew nothing about it. Anyhow, they had come there during the night. I had them washed out, and I only mentioned the matter to my wife afterwards. To my surprise she took it very seriously, and begged me if any more came to let her see them. None did come for a week, and then yesterday morning I found this paper lying on the sun-dial in the garden. I showed it to Elsie, and down she dropped in a dead faint. Since then she has looked like a woman in a dream, half dazed, and with terror always lurking in her eyes. It was then that I wrote and sent the paper to you, Mr. Holmes. It was not a thing that I could take to the police, for they would have laughed at me, but you will tell me what to do. I am not a rich man; but if there is any danger threatening my little woman I would spend my last copper to shield her.”
He was a fine creature, this man of the old English soil, simple, straight, and gentle, with his great, earnest blue eyes and broad, comely face. His love for his wife and his trust in her shone in his features. Holmes had listened to his story with the utmost attention, and now he sat for some time in silent thought.
“Don’t you think, Mr. Cubitt,” said he, at last, “that your best plan would be to make a direct appeal to your wife, and to ask her to share her secret with you?”
Hilton Cubitt shook his massive head.
“A promise is a promise, Mr. Holmes. If Elsie wished to tell me she would. If not, it is not for me to force her confidence. But I am justified in taking my own line—and I will.”
“Then I will help you with all my heart. In the first place, have you heard of any strangers being seen in your neighbourhood?”
“I presume that it is a very quiet place. Any fresh face would cause comment?”
“In the immediate neighbourhood, yes. But we have several small watering-places not very far away. And the farmers take in lodgers.”
“These hieroglyphics have evidently a meaning. If it is a purely arbitrary one it may be impossible for us to solve it. If, on the other hand, it is systematic, I have no doubt that we shall get to the bottom of it. But this particular sample is so short that I can do nothing, and the facts which you have brought me are so indefinite that we have no basis for an investigation. I would suggest that you return to Norfolk, that you keep a keen look-out, and that you take an exact copy of any fresh dancing men which may appear. It is a thousand pities that we have not a reproduction of those which were done in chalk upon the window-sill. Make a discreet inquiry also as to any strangers in the neighbourhood. When you have collected some fresh evidence come to me again. That is the best advice which I can give you, Mr. Hilton Cubitt. If there are any pressing fresh developments I shall be always ready to run down and see you in your Norfolk home.”
The interview left Sherlock Holmes very thoughtful, and several times in the next few days I saw him take his slip of paper from his note-book and look long and earnestly at the curious figures inscribed upon it. He made no allusion to the affair, however, until one afternoon a fortnight or so later. I was going out when he called me back.
“You had better stay here, Watson.”
“Because I had a wire from Hilton Cubitt this morning—you remember Hilton Cubitt, of the dancing men? He was to reach Liverpool Street at one-twenty. He may be here at any moment. I gather from his wire that there have been some new incidents of importance.”
We had not long to wait, for our Norfolk squire came straight from the station as fast as a hansom could bring him. He was looking worried and depressed, with tired eyes and a lined forehead.
“It’s getting on my nerves, this business, Mr. Holmes,” said he, as he sank, like a wearied man, into an arm-chair. “It’s bad enough to feel that you are surrounded by unseen, folk, who have some kind of design upon you; but when, in addition to that, you know that it is just killing your wife by inches, then it becomes as much as flesh and blood can endure. She’s wearing away under it—just wearing away before my eyes.”
“Has she said anything yet?”
“No, Mr. Holmes, she has not. And yet there have been times when the poor girl has wanted to speak, and yet could not quite bring herself to take the plunge. I have tried to help her; but I dare say I did it clumsily, and scared her off from it. She has spoken about my old family, and our reputation in the county, and our pride in our unsullied honour, and I always felt it was leading to the point; but somehow it turned off before we got there.”
“But you have found out something for yourself?”
“A good deal, Mr. Holmes. I have several fresh dancing men pictures for you to examine, and, what is more important, I have seen the fellow.”
“What, the man who draws them?”
“Yes, I saw him at his work. But I will tell you everything in order. When I got back after my visit to you, the very first thing I saw next morning was a fresh crop of dancing men. They had been drawn in chalk upon the black wooden door of the tool-house, which stands beside the lawn in full view of the front windows. I took an exact copy, and here it is.” He unfolded a paper and laid it upon the table. Here is a copy of the hieroglyphics:—
several stick figures in dancing poses
“Excellent!” said Holmes. “Excellent! Pray continue.”
“When I had taken the copy I rubbed out the marks; but two mornings later a fresh inscription had appeared. I have a copy of it here”:—
several stick figures in dancing poses
Holmes rubbed his hands and chuckled with delight.
“Our material is rapidly accumulating,” said he.
“Three days later a message was left scrawled upon paper, and placed under a pebble upon the sun-dial. Here it is. The characters are, as you see, exactly the same as the last one. After that I determined to lie in wait; so I got out my revolver and I sat up in my study, which overlooks the lawn and garden. About two in the morning I was seated by the window, all being dark save for the moonlight outside, when I heard steps behind me, and there was my wife in her dressing-gown. She implored me to come to bed. I told her frankly that I wished to see who it was who played such absurd tricks upon us. She answered that it was some senseless practical joke, and that I should not take any notice of it.
“‘If it really annoys you, Hilton, we might go and travel, you and I, and so avoid this nuisance.’
“‘What, be driven out of our own house by a practical joker?’ said I. ‘Why, we should have the whole county laughing at us.’
“‘Well, come to bed,’ said she, ‘and we can discuss it in the morning.’
“Suddenly, as she spoke, I saw her white face grow whiter yet in the moonlight, and her hand tightened upon my shoulder. Something was moving in the shadow of the tool-house. I saw a dark, creeping figure which crawled round the corner and squatted in front of the door. Seizing my pistol I was rushing out, when my wife threw her arms round me and held me with convulsive strength. I tried to throw her off, but she clung to me most desperately. At last I got clear, but by the time I had opened the door and reached the house the creature was gone. He had left a trace of his presence, however, for there on the door was the very same arrangement of dancing men which had already twice appeared, and which I have copied on that paper. There was no other sign of the fellow anywhere, though I ran all over the grounds. And yet the amazing thing is that he must have been there all the time, for when I examined the door again in the morning he had scrawled some more of his pictures under the line which I had already seen.”
“Have you that fresh drawing?”
“Yes; it is very short, but I made a copy of it, and here it is.”
Again he produced a paper. The new dance was in this form:—
several stick figures in dancing poses
“Tell me,” said Holmes—and I could see by his eyes that he was much excited—“was this a mere addition to the first, or did it appear to be entirely separate?”
“It was on a different panel of the door.”
“Excellent! This is far the most important of all for our purpose. It fills me with hopes. Now, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, please continue your most interesting statement.”
“I have nothing more to say, Mr. Holmes, except that I was angry with my wife that night for having held me back when I might have caught the skulking rascal. She said that she feared that I might come to harm. For an instant it had crossed my mind that perhaps what she really feared was that HE might come to harm, for I could not doubt that she knew who this man was and what he meant by these strange signals. But there is a tone in my wife’s voice, Mr. Holmes, and a look in her eyes which forbid doubt, and I am sure that it was indeed my own safety that was in her mind. There’s the whole case, and now I want your advice as to what I ought to do. My own inclination is to put half-a-dozen of my farm lads in the shrubbery, and when this fellow comes again to give him such a hiding that he will leave us in peace for the future.”
“I fear it is too deep a case for such simple remedies,” said Holmes. “How long can you stay in London?”
“I must go back to-day. I would not leave my wife alone all night for anything. She is very nervous and begged me to come back.”
“I dare say you are right. But if you could have stopped I might possibly have been able to return with you in a day or two. Meanwhile you will leave me these papers, and I think that it is very likely that I shall be able to pay you a visit shortly and to throw some light upon your case.”
Sherlock Holmes preserved his calm professional manner until our visitor had left us, although it was easy for me, who knew him so well, to see that he was profoundly excited. The moment that Hilton Cubitt’s broad back had disappeared through the door my comrade rushed to the table, laid out all the slips of paper containing dancing men in front of him, and threw himself into an intricate and elaborate calculation. For two hours I watched him as he covered sheet after sheet of paper with figures and letters, so completely absorbed in his task that he had evidently forgotten my presence. Sometimes he was making progress and whistled and sang at his work; sometimes he was puzzled, and would sit for long spells with a furrowed brow and a vacant eye. Finally he sprang from his chair with a cry of satisfaction, and walked up and down the room rubbing his hands together. Then he wrote a long telegram upon a cable form. “If my answer to this is as I hope, you will have a very pretty case to add to your collection, Watson,” said he. “I expect that we shall be able to go down to Norfolk to-morrow, and to take our friend some very definite news as to the secret of his annoyance.”
I confess that I was filled with curiosity, but I was aware that Holmes liked to make his disclosures at his own time and in his own way; so I waited until it should suit him to take me into his confidence.
But there was a delay in that answering telegram, and two days of impatience followed, during which Holmes pricked up his ears at every ring of the bell. On the evening of the second there came a letter from Hilton Cubitt. All was quiet with him, save that a long inscription had appeared that morning upon the pedestal of the sun-dial. He inclosed a copy of it, which is here reproduced:—
several stick figures in dancing poses
Holmes bent over this grotesque frieze for some minutes, and then suddenly sprang to his feet with an exclamation of surprise and dismay. His face was haggard with anxiety.
“We have let this affair go far enough,” said he. “Is there a train to North Walsham to-night?”
I turned up the time-table. The last had just gone.
“Then we shall breakfast early and take the very first in the morning,” said Holmes. “Our presence is most urgently needed. Ah! here is our expected cablegram. One moment, Mrs. Hudson; there may be an answer. No, that is quite as I expected. This message makes it even more essential that we should not lose an hour in letting Hilton Cubitt know how matters stand, for it is a singular and a dangerous web in which our simple Norfolk squire is entangled.”
So, indeed, it proved, and as I come to the dark conclusion of a story which had seemed to me to be only childish and bizarre I experience once again the dismay and horror with which I was filled. Would that I had some brighter ending to communicate to my readers, but these are the chronicles of fact, and I must follow to their dark crisis the strange chain of events which for some days made Ridling Thorpe Manor a household word through the length and breadth of England.
We had hardly alighted at North Walsham, and mentioned the name of our destination, when the station-master hurried towards us. “I suppose that you are the detectives from London?” said he.
A look of annoyance passed over Holmes’s face.
“What makes you think such a thing?”
“Because Inspector Martin from Norwich has just passed through. But maybe you are the surgeons. She’s not dead—or wasn’t by last accounts. You may be in time to save her yet—though it be for the gallows.”
Holmes’s brow was dark with anxiety.
“We are going to Ridling Thorpe Manor,” said he, “but we have heard nothing of what has passed there.”
“It’s a terrible business,” said the station-master. “They are shot, both Mr. Hilton Cubitt and his wife. She shot him and then herself—so the servants say. He’s dead and her life is despaired of. Dear, dear, one of the oldest families in the County of Norfolk, and one of the most honoured.”
Without a word Holmes hurried to a carriage, and during the long seven miles’ drive he never opened his mouth. Seldom have I seen him so utterly despondent. He had been uneasy during all our journey from town, and I had observed that he had turned over the morning papers with anxious attention; but now this sudden realization of his worst fears left him in a blank melancholy. He leaned back in his seat, lost in gloomy speculation. Yet there was much around to interest us, for we were passing through as singular a country-side as any in England, where a few scattered cottages represented the population of to-day, while on every hand enormous square-towered churches bristled up from the flat, green landscape and told of the glory and prosperity of old East Anglia. At last the violet rim of the German Ocean appeared over the green edge of the Norfolk coast, and the driver pointed with his whip to two old brick and timber gables which projected from a grove of trees. “That’s Ridling Thorpe Manor,” said he.
As we drove up to the porticoed front door I observed in front of it, beside the tennis lawn, the black tool-house and the pedestalled sun-dial with which we had such strange associations. A dapper little man, with a quick, alert manner and a waxed moustache, had just descended from a high dog-cart. He introduced himself as Inspector Martin, of the Norfolk Constabulary, and he was considerably astonished when he heard the name of my companion.
“Why, Mr. Holmes, the crime was only committed at three this morning. How could you hear of it in London and get to the spot as soon as I?”
“I anticipated it. I came in the hope of preventing it.”
“Then you must have important evidence of which we are ignorant, for they were said to be a most united couple.”
“I have only the evidence of the dancing men,” said Holmes. “I will explain the matter to you later. Meanwhile, since it is too late to prevent this tragedy, I am very anxious that I should use the knowledge which I possess in order to ensure that justice be done. Will you associate me in your investigation, or will you prefer that I should act independently?”
“I should be proud to feel that we were acting together, Mr. Holmes,” said the inspector, earnestly.
“In that case I should be glad to hear the evidence and to examine the premises without an instant of unnecessary delay.”
Inspector Martin had the good sense to allow my friend to do things in his own fashion, and contented himself with carefully noting the results. The local surgeon, an old, white-haired man, had just come down from Mrs. Hilton Cubitt’s room, and he reported that her injuries were serious, but not necessarily fatal. The bullet had passed through the front of her brain, and it would probably be some time before she could regain consciousness. On the question of whether she had been shot or had shot herself he would not venture to express any decided opinion. Certainly the bullet had been discharged at very close quarters. There was only the one pistol found in the room, two barrels of which had been emptied. Mr. Hilton Cubitt had been shot through the heart. It was equally conceivable that he had shot her and then himself, or that she had been the criminal, for the revolver lay upon the floor midway between them.
“Has he been moved?” asked Holmes.
“We have moved nothing except the lady. We could not leave her lying wounded upon the floor.”
“How long have you been here, doctor?”
“Since four o’clock.”
“Anyone else?”
“Yes, the constable here.”
“And you have touched nothing?”
“You have acted with great discretion. Who sent for you?”
“The housemaid, Saunders.”
“Was it she who gave the alarm?”
“She and Mrs. King, the cook.”
“Where are they now?”
“In the kitchen, I believe.”
“Then I think we had better hear their story at once.”
The old hall, oak-panelled and high-windowed, had been turned into a court of investigation. Holmes sat in a great, old-fashioned chair, his inexorable eyes gleaming out of his haggard face. I could read in them a set purpose to devote his life to this quest until the client whom he had failed to save should at last be avenged. The trim Inspector Martin, the old, grey-headed country doctor, myself, and a stolid village policeman made up the rest of that strange company.
The two women told their story clearly enough. They had been aroused from their sleep by the sound of an explosion, which had been followed a minute later by a second one. They slept in adjoining rooms, and Mrs. King had rushed in to Saunders. Together they had descended the stairs. The door of the study was open and a candle was burning upon the table. Their master lay upon his face in the centre of the room. He was quite dead. Near the window his wife was crouching, her head leaning against the wall. She was horribly wounded, and the side of her face was red with blood. She breathed heavily, but was incapable of saying anything. The passage, as well as the room, was full of smoke and the smell of powder. The window was certainly shut and fastened upon the inside. Both women were positive upon the point. They had at once sent for the doctor and for the constable. Then, with the aid of the groom and the stable-boy, they had conveyed their injured mistress to her room. Both she and her husband had occupied the bed. She was clad in her dress —he in his dressing-gown, over his night clothes. Nothing had been moved in the study. So far as they knew there had never been any quarrel between husband and wife. They had always looked upon them as a very united couple.
These were the main points of the servants’ evidence. In answer to Inspector Martin they were clear that every door was fastened upon the inside, and that no one could have escaped from the house. In answer to Holmes they both remembered that they were conscious of the smell of powder from the moment that they ran out of their rooms upon the top floor. “I commend that fact very carefully to your attention,” said Holmes to his professional colleague. “And now I think that we are in a position to undertake a thorough examination of the room.”
The study proved to be a small chamber, lined on three sides with books, and with a writing-table facing an ordinary window, which looked out upon the garden. Our first attention was given to the body of the unfortunate squire, whose huge frame lay stretched across the room. His disordered dress showed that he had been hastily aroused from sleep. The bullet had been fired at him from the front, and had remained in his body after penetrating the heart. His death had certainly been instantaneous and painless. There was no powder-marking either upon his dressing-gown or on his hands. According to the country surgeon the lady had stains upon her face, but none upon her hand.
“The absence of the latter means nothing, though its presence may mean everything,” said Holmes. “Unless the powder from a badly-fitting cartridge happens to spurt backwards, one may fire many shots without leaving a sign. I would suggest that Mr. Cubitt’s body may now be removed. I suppose, doctor, you have not recovered the bullet which wounded the lady?”
“A serious operation will be necessary before that can be done. But there are still four cartridges in the revolver. Two have been fired and two wounds inflicted, so that each bullet can be accounted for.”
“So it would seem,” said Holmes. “Perhaps you can account also for the bullet which has so obviously struck the edge of the window?”
He had turned suddenly, and his long, thin finger was pointing to a hole which had been drilled right through the lower window-sash about an inch above the bottom.
“By George!” cried the inspector. “How ever did you see that?”
“Because I looked for it.”
“Wonderful!” said the country doctor. “You are certainly right, sir. Then a third shot has been fired, and therefore a third person must have been present. But who could that have been and how could he have got away?”
“That is the problem which we are now about to solve,” said Sherlock Holmes. “You remember, Inspector Martin, when the servants said that on leaving their room they were at once conscious of a smell of powder I remarked that the point was an extremely important one?”
“Yes, sir; but I confess I did not quite follow you.”
“It suggested that at the time of the firing the window as well as the door of the room had been open. Otherwise the fumes of powder could not have been blown so rapidly through the house. A draught in the room was necessary for that. Both door and window were only open for a very short time, however.”
“How do you prove that?”
“Because the candle has not guttered.”
“Capital!” cried the inspector. “Capital!”
“Feeling sure that the window had been open at the time of the tragedy I conceived that there might have been a third person in the affair, who stood outside this opening and fired through it. Any shot directed at this person might hit the sash. I looked, and there, sure enough, was the bullet mark!”
“But how came the window to be shut and fastened?”
“The woman’s first instinct would be to shut and fasten the window. But, halloa! what is this?”
It was a lady’s hand-bag which stood upon the study table— a trim little hand-bag of crocodile-skin and silver. Holmes opened it and turned the contents out. There were twenty fifty-pound notes of the Bank of England, held together by an india-rubber band—nothing else.
“This must be preserved, for it will figure in the trial,” said Holmes, as he handed the bag with its contents to the inspector. “It is now necessary that we should try to throw some light upon this third bullet, which has clearly, from the splintering of the wood, been fired from inside the room. I should like to see Mrs. King, the cook, again. You said, Mrs. King, that you were awakened by a LOUD explosion. When you said that, did you mean that it seemed to you to be louder than the second one?”
“Well, sir, it wakened me from my sleep, and so it is hard to judge. But it did seem very loud.”
“You don’t think that it might have been two shots fired almost at the same instant?”
“I am sure I couldn’t say, sir.”
“I believe that it was undoubtedly so. I rather think, Inspector Martin, that we have now exhausted all that this room can teach us. If you will kindly step round with me, we shall see what fresh evidence the garden has to offer.”
A flower-bed extended up to the study window, and we all broke into an exclamation as we approached it. The flowers were trampled down, and the soft soil was imprinted all over with footmarks. Large, masculine feet they were, with peculiarly long, sharp toes. Holmes hunted about among the grass and leaves like a retriever after a wounded bird. Then, with a cry of satisfaction, he bent forward and picked up a little brazen cylinder.
“I thought so,” said he; “the revolver had an ejector, and here is the third cartridge. I really think, Inspector Martin, that our case is almost complete.”
The country inspector’s face had shown his intense amazement at the rapid and masterful progress of Holmes’s investigation. At first he had shown some disposition to assert his own position; but now he was overcome with admiration and ready to follow without question wherever Holmes led.
“Whom do you suspect?” he asked.
“I’ll go into that later. There are several points in this problem which I have not been able to explain to you yet. Now that I have got so far I had best proceed on my own lines, and then clear the whole matter up once and for all.”
“Just as you wish, Mr. Holmes, so long as we get our man.”
“I have no desire to make mysteries, but it is impossible at the moment of action to enter into long and complex explanations. I have the threads of this affair all in my hand. Even if this lady should never recover consciousness we can still reconstruct the events of last night and ensure that justice be done. First of all I wish to know whether there is any inn in this neighbourhood known as ‘Elrige’s’?”
The servants were cross-questioned, but none of them had heard of such a place. The stable-boy threw a light upon the matter by remembering that a farmer of that name lived some miles off in the direction of East Ruston.
“Is it a lonely farm?”
“Very lonely, sir.”
“Perhaps they have not heard yet of all that happened here during the night?”
“Maybe not, sir.”
Holmes thought for a little and then a curious smile played over his face.
“Saddle a horse, my lad,” said he. “I shall wish you to take a note to Elrige’s Farm.”
He took from his pocket the various slips of the dancing men. With these in front of him he worked for some time at the study-table. Finally he handed a note to the boy, with directions to put it into the hands of the person to whom it was addressed, and especially to answer no questions of any sort which might be put to him. I saw the outside of the note, addressed in straggling, irregular characters, very unlike Holmes’s usual precise hand. It was consigned to Mr. Abe Slaney, Elrige’s Farm, East Ruston, Norfolk.
“I think, inspector,” Holmes remarked, “that you would do well to telegraph for an escort, as, if my calculations prove to be correct, you may have a particularly dangerous prisoner to convey to the county gaol. The boy who takes this note could no doubt forward your telegram. If there is an afternoon train to town, Watson, I think we should do well to take it, as I have a chemical analysis of some interest to finish, and this investigation draws rapidly to a close.”
When the youth had been dispatched with the note, Sherlock Holmes gave his instructions to the servants. If any visitor were to call asking for Mrs. Hilton Cubitt no information should be given as to her condition, but he was to be shown at once into the drawing-room. He impressed these points upon them with the utmost earnestness. Finally he led the way into the drawing-room with the remark that the business was now out of our hands, and that we must while away the time as best we might until we could see what was in store for us. The doctor had departed to his patients, and only the inspector and myself remained.
“I think that I can help you to pass an hour in an interesting and profitable manner,” said Holmes, drawing his chair up to the table and spreading out in front of him the various papers upon which were recorded the antics of the dancing men. “As to you, friend Watson, I owe you every atonement for having allowed your natural curiosity to remain so long unsatisfied. To you, inspector, the whole incident may appeal as a remarkable professional study. I must tell you first of all the interesting circumstances connected with the previous consultations which Mr. Hilton Cubitt has had with me in Baker Street.” He then shortly recapitulated the facts which have already been recorded. “I have here in front of me these singular productions, at which one might smile had they not proved themselves to be the fore-runners of so terrible a tragedy. I am fairly familiar with all forms of secret writings, and am myself the author of a trifling monograph upon the subject, in which I analyze one hundred and sixty separate ciphers; but I confess that this is entirely new to me. The object of those who invented the system has apparently been to conceal that these characters convey a message, and to give the idea that they are the mere random sketches of children.
“Having once recognised, however, that the symbols stood for letters, and having applied the rules which guide us in all forms of secret writings, the solution was easy enough. The first message submitted to me was so short that it was impossible for me to do more than to say with some confidence that the symbol XXX stood for E. As you are aware, E is the most common letter in the English alphabet, and it predominates to so marked an extent that even in a short sentence one would expect to find it most often. Out of fifteen symbols in the first message four were the same, so it was reasonable to set this down as E. It is true that in some cases the figure was bearing a flag and in some cases not, but it was probable from the way in which the flags were distributed that they were used to break the sentence up into words. I accepted this as a hypothesis, and noted that E was represented by XXX.
“But now came the real difficulty of the inquiry. The order of the English letters after E is by no means well marked, and any preponderance which may be shown in an average of a printed sheet may be reversed in a single short sentence. Speaking roughly, T, A, O, I, N, S, H, R, D, and L are the numerical order in which letters occur; but T, A, O, and I are very nearly abreast of each other, and it would be an endless task to try each combination until a meaning was arrived at. I, therefore, waited for fresh material. In my second interview with Mr. Hilton Cubitt he was able to give me two other short sentences and one message, which appeared—since there was no flag— to be a single word. Here are the symbols. Now, in the single word I have already got the two E’s coming second and fourth in a word of five letters. It might be ‘sever,’ or ‘lever,’ or ‘never.’ There can be no question that the latter as a reply to an appeal is far the most probable, and the circumstances pointed to its being a reply written by the lady. Accepting it as correct, we are now able to say that the symbols XXX stand respectively for N, V, and R.
“Even now I was in considerable difficulty, but a happy thought put me in possession of several other letters. It occurred to me that if these appeals came, as I expected, from someone who had been intimate with the lady in her early life, a combination which contained two E’s with three letters between might very well stand for the name ‘ELSIE.’ On examination I found that such a combination formed the termination of the message which was three times repeated. It was certainly some appeal to ‘Elsie.’ In this way I had got my L, S, and I. But what appeal could it be? There were only four letters in the word which preceded ‘Elsie,’ and it ended in E. Surely the word must be ‘COME.’ I tried all other four letters ending in E, but could find none to fit the case. So now I was in possession of C, O, and M, and I was in a position to attack the first message once more, dividing it into words and putting dots for each symbol which was still . So treated it worked out in this fashion:—
.M .ERE ..E SL.NE.
“Now the first letter CAN only be A, which is a most useful discovery, since it occurs no fewer than three times in this short sentence, and the H is also apparent in the second word. Now it becomes:—
Or, filling in the obvious vacancies in the name:—
I had so many letters now that I could proceed with considerable confidence to the second message, which worked out in this fashion:—
Here I could only make sense by putting T and G for the missing letters, and supposing that the name was that of some house or inn at which the writer was staying.”
Inspector Martin and I had listened with the utmost interest to the full and clear account of how my friend had produced results which had led to so complete a command over our difficulties.
“What did you do then, sir?” asked the inspector.
“I had every reason to suppose that this Abe Slaney was an American, since Abe is an American contraction, and since a letter from America had been the starting-point of all the trouble. I had also every cause to think that there was some criminal secret in the matter. The lady’s allusions to her past and her refusal to take her husband into her confidence both pointed in that direction. I therefore cabled to my friend, Wilson Hargreave, of the New York Police Bureau, who has more than once made use of my knowledge of London crime. I asked him whether the name of Abe Slaney was known to him. Here is his reply: ‘The most dangerous crook in Chicago.’ On the very evening upon which I had his answer Hilton Cubitt sent me the last message from Slaney. Working with known letters it took this form:—
The addition of a P and a D completed a message which showed me that the rascal was proceeding from persuasion to threats, and my knowledge of the crooks of Chicago prepared me to find that he might very rapidly put his words into action. I at once came to Norfolk with my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, but, unhappily, only in time to find that the worst had already occurred.”
“It is a privilege to be associated with you in the handling of a case,” said the inspector, warmly. “You will excuse me, however, if I speak frankly to you. You are only answerable to yourself, but I have to answer to my superiors. If this Abe Slaney, living at Elrige’s, is indeed the murderer, and if he has made his escape while I am seated here, I should certainly get into serious trouble.”
“You need not be uneasy. He will not try to escape.”
“How do you know?”
“To fly would be a confession of guilt.”
“Then let us go to arrest him.”
“I expect him here every instant.”
“But why should he come?”
“Because I have written and asked him.”
“But this is incredible, Mr. Holmes! Why should he come because you have asked him? Would not such a request rather rouse his suspicions and cause him to fly?”
“I think I have known how to frame the letter,” said Sherlock Holmes. “In fact, if I am not very much mistaken, here is the gentleman himself coming up the drive.”
A man was striding up the path which led to the door. He was a tall, handsome, swarthy fellow, clad in a suit of grey flannel, with a Panama hat, a bristling black beard, and a great, aggressive hooked nose, and flourishing a cane as he walked. He swaggered up the path as if the place belonged to him, and we heard his loud, confident peal at the bell.
“I think, gentlemen,” said Holmes, quietly, “that we had best take up our position behind the door. Every precaution is necessary when dealing with such a fellow. You will need your handcuffs, inspector. You can leave the talking to me.”
We waited in silence for a minute—one of those minutes which one can never forget. Then the door opened and the man stepped in. In an instant Holmes clapped a pistol to his head and Martin slipped the handcuffs over his wrists. It was all done so swiftly and deftly that the fellow was helpless before he knew that he was attacked. He glared from one to the other of us with a pair of blazing black eyes. Then he burst into a bitter laugh.
“Well, gentlemen, you have the drop on me this time. I seem to have knocked up against something hard. But I came here in answer to a letter from Mrs. Hilton Cubitt. Don’t tell me that she is in this? Don’t tell me that she helped to set a trap for me?”
“Mrs. Hilton Cubitt was seriously injured and is at death’s door.”
The man gave a hoarse cry of grief which rang through the house.
“You’re crazy!” he cried, fiercely. “It was he that was hurt, not she. Who would have hurt little Elsie? I may have threatened her, God forgive me, but I would not have touched a hair of her pretty head. Take it back—you! Say that she is not hurt!”
“She was found badly wounded by the side of her dead husband.”
He sank with a deep groan on to the settee and buried his face in his manacled hands. For five minutes he was silent. Then he raised his face once more, and spoke with the cold composure of despair.
“I have nothing to hide from you, gentlemen,” said he. “If I shot the man he had his shot at me, and there’s no murder in that. But if you think I could have hurt that woman, then you don’t know either me or her. I tell you there was never a man in this world loved a woman more than I loved her. I had a right to her. She was pledged to me years ago. Who was this Englishman that he should come between us? I tell you that I had the first right to her, and that I was only claiming my own.”
“She broke away from your influence when she found the man that you are,” said Holmes, sternly. “She fled from America to avoid you, and she married an honourable gentleman in England. You dogged her and followed her and made her life a misery to her in order to induce her to abandon the husband whom she loved and respected in order to fly with you, whom she feared and hated. You have ended by bringing about the death of a noble man and driving his wife to suicide. That is your record in this business, Mr. Abe Slaney, and you will answer for it to the law.”
“If Elsie dies I care nothing what becomes of me,” said the American. He opened one of his hands and looked at a note crumpled up in his palm. “See here, mister, he cried, with a gleam of suspicion in his eyes, “you’re not trying to scare me over this, are you? If the lady is hurt as bad as you say, who was it that wrote this note?” He tossed it forwards on to the table.
“I wrote it to bring you here.”
“You wrote it? There was no one on earth outside the Joint who knew the secret of the dancing men. How came you to write it?”
“What one man can invent another can discover,” said Holmes. There is a cab coming to convey you to Norwich, Mr. Slaney. But, meanwhile, you have time to make some small reparation for the injury you have wrought. Are you aware that Mrs. Hilton Cubitt has herself lain under grave suspicion of the murder of her husband, and that it was only my presence here and the knowledge which I happened to possess which has saved her from the accusation? The least that you owe her is to make it clear to the whole world that she was in no way, directly or indirectly, responsible for his tragic end.”
“I ask nothing better,” said the American. “I guess the very best case I can make for myself is the absolute naked truth.”
“It is my duty to warn you that it will be used against you,” cried the inspector, with the magnificent fair-play of the British criminal law.
Slaney shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ll chance that,” said he. “First of all, I want you gentlemen to understand that I have known this lady since she was a child. There were seven of us in a gang in Chicago, and Elsie’s father was the boss of the Joint. He was a clever man, was old Patrick. It was he who invented that writing, which would pass as a child’s scrawl unless you just happened to have the key to it. Well, Elsie learned some of our ways; but she couldn’t stand the business, and she had a bit of honest money of her own, so she gave us all the slip and got away to London. She had been engaged to me, and she would have married me, I believe, if I had taken over another profession; but she would have nothing to do with anything on the cross. It was only after her marriage to this Englishman that I was able to find out where she was. I wrote to her, but got no answer. After that I came over, and, as letters were no use, I put my messages where she could read them.
“Well, I have been here a month now. I lived in that farm, where I had a room down below, and could get in and out every night, and no one the wiser. I tried all I could to coax Elsie away. I knew that she read the messages, for once she wrote an answer under one of them. Then my temper got the better of me, and I began to threaten her. She sent me a letter then, imploring me to go away and saying that it would break her heart if any scandal should come upon her husband. She said that she would come down when her husband was asleep at three in the morning, and speak with me through the end window, if I would go away afterwards and leave her in peace. She came down and brought money with her, trying to bribe me to go. This made me mad, and I caught her arm and tried to pull her through the window. At that moment in rushed the husband with his revolver in his hand. Elsie had sunk down upon the floor, and we were face to face. I was heeled also, and I held up my gun to scare him off and let me get away. He fired and missed me. I pulled off almost at the same instant, and down he dropped. I made away across the garden, and as I went I heard the window shut behind me. That’s God’s truth, gentlemen, every word of it, and I heard no more about it until that lad came riding up with a note which made me walk in here, like a jay, and give myself into your hands.”
A cab had driven up whilst the American had been talking. Two uniformed policemen sat inside. Inspector Martin rose and touched his prisoner on the shoulder.
“It is time for us to go.”
“Can I see her first?”
“No, she is not conscious. Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I only hope that if ever again I have an important case I shall have the good fortune to have you by my side.”
We stood at the window and watched the cab drive away. As I turned back my eye caught the pellet of paper which the prisoner had tossed upon the table. It was the note with which Holmes had decoyed him.
“See if you can read it, Watson,” said he, with a smile.
It contained no word, but this little line of dancing men:—
several stick figures in dancing poses
“If you use the code which I have explained,” said Holmes, “you will find that it simply means ‘Come here at once.’ I was convinced that it was an invitation which he would not refuse, since he could never imagine that it could come from anyone but the lady. And so, my dear Watson, we have ended by turning the dancing men to good when they have so often been the agents of evil, and I think that I have fulfilled my promise of giving you something unusual for your note-book. Three-forty is our train, and I fancy we should be back in Baker Street for dinner.
Only one word of epilogue. The American, Abe Slaney, was condemned to death at the winter assizes at Norwich; but his penalty was changed to penal servitude in consideration of mitigating circumstances, and the certainty that Hilton Cubitt had fired the first shot. Of Mrs. Hilton Cubitt I only know that I have heard she recovered entirely, and that she still remains a widow, devoting her whole life to the care of the poor and to the administration of her husband’s estate.