The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier

“The old fellow looked diabolical, and I really thought he was about to attack me. I have said that he was a gaunt, fierce old giant, and though I am no weakling I might have been hard put to it to hold my own against him. However, after a long glare of rage he turned upon his heel and walked out of the room. For my part, I took the appointed train in the morning, with the full intention of coming straight to you and asking for your advice and assistance at the appointment for which I had already written.”

Such was the problem which my visitor laid before me. It presented, as the astute reader will have already perceived, few difficulties in its solution, for a very limited choice of alternatives must get to the root of the matter. Still, elementary as it was, there were points of interest and novelty about it which may excuse my placing it upon record. I now proceeded, using my familiar method of logical analysis, to narrow down the possible solutions.

“The servants,” I asked; “how many were in the house?”

“To the best of my belief there were only the old butler and his wife. They seemed to live in the simplest fashion.”

“There was no servant, then, in the detached house?”

“None, unless the little man with the beard acted as such. He seemed, however, to be quite a superior person.”

“That seems very suggestive. Had you any indication that food was conveyed from the one house to the other?”

“Now that you mention it, I did see old Ralph carrying a basket down the garden walk and going in the direction of this house. The idea of food did not occur to me at the moment.”

“Did you make any local inquiries?”

“Yes, I did. I spoke to the station-master and also to the innkeeper in the village. I simply asked if they knew anything of my old comrade, Godfrey Emsworth. Both of them assured me that he had gone for a voyage round the world. He had come home and then had almost at once started off again. The story was evidently universally accepted.”

“You said nothing of your suspicions?”


“That was very wise. The matter should certainly be inquired into. I will go back with you to Tuxbury Old Park.”


It happened that at the moment I was clearing up the case which my friend Watson has described as that of the Abbey School, in which the Duke of Greyminster was so deeply involved. I had also a commission from the Sultan of Turkey which called for immediate action, as political consequences of the gravest kind might arise from its neglect. Therefore it was not until the beginning of the next week, as my diary records, that I was able to start forth on my mission to Bedfordshire in company with Mr. James M. Dodd. As we drove to Eustonn we picked up a grave and tacitum gentleman of iron-gray aspect, with whom I had made the necessary arrangements.

“This is an old friend,” said I to Dodd. “It is possible that his presence may be entirely unnecessary, and, on the other hand, it may be essential. It is not necessary at the present stage to go further into the matter.”

The narratives of Watson have accustomed the reader, no doubt, to the fact that I do not waste words or disclose my thoughts while a case is actually under consideration. Dodd seemed surprised, but nothing more was said, and the three of us continued our journey together. In the train I asked Dodd one more question which I wished our companion to hear.

“You say that you saw your friend’s face quite clearly at the window, so clearly that you are sure of his identity?”

“I have no doubt about it whatever. His nose was pressed against the glass. The lamplight shone full upon him.”

“It could not have been someone resembling him?”

“No, no, it was he.”

“But you say he was changed?”

“Only in colour. His face was–how shall I describe it?–it was of a fish-belly whiteness. It was bleached.”

“Was it equally pale all over?”

“I think not. It was his brow which I saw so clearly as it was pressed against the window.”

“Did you call to him?”

“I was too startled and horrified for the moment. Then I pursued him, as I have told you, but without result.”

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