“I felt I must follow you. Oh, Jack, I have been so dreadfully frightened! It is awful to be there alone.”
“Mr. Holmes, this is the young lady I spoke of. This is my fiancee.”
“We were gradually coming to that conclusion, were we not, Watson?” Holmes answered with a smile. “I take it, Miss Presbury, that there is some fresh development in the case, and that you thought we should know?”
Our new visitor, a bright, handsome girl of a conventional English type, smiled back at Holmes as she seated herself beside Mr. Bennett.
“When I found Mr. Bennett had left his hotel I thought I should probably find him here. Of course, he had told me that he would consult you. But, oh, Mr. Holmes, can you do nothing for my poor father?”
“I have hopes, Miss Presbury, but the case is still obscure. Perhaps what you have to say may throw some fresh light upon it.”
“It was last night, Mr. Holmes. He had been very strange all day. I am sure that there are times when he has no recollection of what he does. He lives as in a strange dream. Yesterday was such a day. It was not my father with whom I lived. His outward shell was there, but it was not really he.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“I was awakened in the night by the dog barking most furiously. Poor Roy, he is chained now near the stable. I may say that I always sleep with my door locked; for, as Jack–as Mr. Bennett–will tell you, we all have a feeling of impending danger. My room is on the second floor. It happened that the blind was up in my window, and there was bright moonlight outside. As I lay with my eyes fixed upon the square of light, listening to the frenzied barkings of the dog, I was amazed to see my father’s face looking in at me. Mr. Holmes, I nearly died of surprise and horror. There it was pressed against the windowpane, and one hand seemed to be raised as if to push up the window. If that window had opened, I think I should have gone mad. It was no delusion, Mr. Holmes. Don’t deceive yourself by thinking so. I dare say it was twenty seconds or so that I lay paralyzed and watched the face. Then it vanished, but I could not–I could not spring out of bed and look out after it. I lay cold and shivering till morning. At breakfast he was sharp and fierce in manner, and made no allusion to the adventure of the night. Neither did I, but I gave an excuse for coming to town– and here I am.”
Holmes looked thoroughly surprised at Miss Presbury’s narrative.
“My dear young lady, you say that your room is on the second floor. Is there a long ladder in the garden?”
“No, Mr. Holmes, that is the amazing part of it. There is no possible way of reaching the window–and yet he was there.”
“The date being September 5th,” said Holmes. “That certainly complicates matters.”
It was the young lady’s turn to look surprised. “This is the second time that you have alluded to the date, Mr. Holmes,” said Bennett. “Is it possible that it has any bearing upon the case?”
“It is possible–very possible–and yet I have not my full material at present.”
“Possibly you are thinking of the connection between insanity and phases of the moon?”
“No, I assure you. It was quite a different line of thought. Possibly you can leave your notebook with me, and I will check the dates. Now I think, Watson, that our line of action is perfectly clear. This young lady has informed us–and I have the greatest confidence in her intuition–that her father remembers little or nothing which occurs upon certain dates. We will therefore call upon him as if he had given us an appointment upon such a date. He will put it down to his own lack of memory. Thus we will open our campaign by having a good close view of him.”
“That is excellent,” said Mr. Bennett. “I warn you, however, that the professor is irascible and violent at times.”
Holmes smiled. “There are reasons why we should come at once–very cogent reasons if my theories hold good. To-morrow, Mr. Bennett, will certainly see us in Camford. There is, if I remember right, an inn called the Chequers where the port used to be above mediocrity and the linen was above reproach. I think, Watson, that our lot for the next few days might lie in less pleasant places.”
Monday morning found us on our way to the famous university town–an easy effort on the part of Holmes, who had no roots to pull up, but one which involved frantic planning and hurrying on my part, as my practice was by this time not inconsiderable. Holmes made no allusion to the case until after we had deposited our suitcases at the ancient hostel of which he had spoken.