“Hardly enough, Mr. Holmes!” the old man cried in a high screaming voice, with extraordinary malignancy upon his face. He got between us and the door as he spoke, and he shook his two hands at us with furious passion. “You can hardly get out of it so easily as that.” His face was convulsed, and he grinned and gibbered at us in his senseless rage. I am convinced that we should have had to fight our way out of the room if Mr. Bennett had not intervened.
“My dear Professor,” he cried, “consider your position! Consider the scandal at the university! Mr. Holmes is a wellknown man. You cannot possibly treat him with such discourtesy.”
Sulkily our host–if I may call him so–cleared the path to the door. We were glad to find ourselves outside the house and in the quiet of the tree-lined drive. Holmes seemed greatly amused by the episode.
“Our learned friend’s nerves are somewhat out of order,” said he. “Perhaps our intrusion was a little crude, and yet we have gained that personal contact which I desired. But, dear me, Watson, he is surely at our heels. The villain still pursues us.”
There were the sounds of running feet behind, but it was, to my relief, not the formidable professor but his assistant who appeared round the curve of the drive. He came panting up to us.
“I am so sorry, Mr. Holmes. I wished to apologize.”
“My dear sir, there is no need. It is all in the way of professional experience.”
“I have never seen him in a more dangerous mood. But he grows more sinister. You can understand now why his daughter and I are alarmed. And yet his mind is perfectly clear.”
“Too clear!” said Holmes. “That was my miscalculation. It is evident that his memory is much more reliable than I had thought. By the way, can we, before we go, see the window of Miss Presbury’s room?”
Mr. Bennett pushed his way through some shrubs, and we had a view of the side of the house.
“It is there. The second on the left.”
“Dear me, it seems hardly accessible. And yet you will observe that there is a creeper below and a water-pipe above which give some foothold.”
“I could not climb it myself,” said Mr. Bennett.
“Very likely. It would certainly be a dangerous exploit for any normal man.”
“There was one other thing I wish to tell you, Mr. Holmes. I have the address of the man in London to whom the professor writes. He seems to have written this morning, and I got it from his blotting-paper. It is an ignoble position for a trusted secretary, but what else can I do?”
Holmes glanced at the paper and put it into his pocket.
“Dorak–a curious name. Slavonic, I imagine. Well, it is an important link in the chain. We return to London this afternoon, Mr. Bennett. I see no good purpose to be served by our remaining. We cannot arrest the professor because he has done no crime, nor can we place him under constraint, for he cannot be proved to be mad. No action is as yet possible.”
“Then what on earth are we to do?”
“A little patience, Mr. Bennett. Things will soon develop. Unless I am mistaken, next Tuesday may mark a crisis. Certainly we shall be in Camford on that day. Meanwhile, the general position is undeniably unpleasant, and if Miss Presbury can prolong her visit”
“That is easy.”
“Then let her stay till we can assure her that all danger is past. Meanwhile, let him have his way and do not cross him. So long as he is in a good humour all is well.”