“There was no reflection upon you, Mr. Garrideb. It was simply zeal upon his part to gain your end–an end which is, I understand, equally vital for both of you. He knew that I had means of getting information, and, therefore, it was very natural that he should apply to me.”
Our visitor’s angry face gradually cleared.
“Well, that puts it different,” said he. “When I went to see him this morning and he told me he had sent to a detective, I just asked for your address and came right away. I don’t want police butting into a private matter. But if you are content just to help us find the man, there can be no harm in that.”
“Well, that is just how it stands,” said Holmes. “And now, sir, since you are here, we had best have a clear account from your own lips. My friend here knows nothing of the details.”
Mr. Garrideb surveyed me with not too friendly a gaze.
“Need he know?” he asked.
“We usually work together.”
“Well, there’s no reason it should be kept a secret. I’ll give you the facts as short as I can make them. If you came from Kansas I would not need to explain to you who Alexander Hamilton Garrideb was. He made his money in real estate, and afterwards in the wheat pit at Chicago, but he spent it in buying up as much land as would make one of your counties, lying along the Arkansas River, west of Fort Dodge. It’s grazing-land and lumber-land and arable-land and mineralized-land, and just every sort of land that brings dollars to the man that owns it.
“He had no kith nor kin–or, if he had, I never heard of it. But he took a kind of pride in the queerness of his name. That was what brought us together. I was in the law at Topeka, and one day I had a visit from the old man, and he was tickled to death to meet another man with his own name. It was his pet fad, and he was dead set to find out if there were any more Garridebs in the world. ‘Find me another!’ said he. I told him I was a busy man and could not spend my life hiking round the world in search of Garridebs. ‘None the less,’ said he, ‘that is just what you will do if things pan out as I planned them.’ I thought he was joking, but there was a powerful lot of meaning in the words, as I was soon to discover.
“For he died within a year of saying them, and he left a will behind him. It was the queerest will that has ever been filed in the State of Kansas. His property was divided into three parts and I was to have one on condition that I found two Garridebs who would share the remainder. It’s five million dollars for each if it is a cent, but we can’t lay a finger on it until we all three stand in a row.
“It was so big a chance that I just let my legal practice slide and I set forth looking for Garridebs. There is not one in the United States. I went through it, sir, with a fine-toothed comb and never a Garrideb could I catch. Then I tried the old country. Sure enough there was the name in the London telephone directory. I went after him two days ago and explained the whole matter to him. But he is a lone man, like myself, with some women relations, but no men. It says three adult men in the will. So you see we still have a vacancy, and if you can help to fill it we will be very ready to pay your charges.”
“Well, Watson,” said Holmes with a smile, “l said it was rather whimsical, did I not? I should have thought, sir, that your obvious way was to advertise in the agony columns of the papers.”
“I have done that, Mr. Holmes. No replies.”
“Dear me! Well, it is certainly a most curious little problem. I may take a glance at it in my leisure. By the way, it is curious that you should have come from Topeka. I used to have a correspondent–he is dead now–old Dr. Lysander Starr, who was mayor in 1890.”
“Good old Dr. Starr!” said our visitor. “His name is still honoured. Well, Mr. Holmes, I suppose all we can do is to report to you and let you know how we progress. I reckon you will hear within a day or two.” With this assurance our American bowed and departed.
Holmes had lit his pipe, and he sat for some time with a curious smile upon his face.
“Well?” I asked at last.
“I am wondering, Watson–just wondering!”
Holmes took his pipe from his lips.