” ‘There are five sovereigns here,’ said he, walking up to me, ‘which will, I hope, be a sufficient fee. But remember,’ he added, tapping me lightly on the chest and giggling, ‘if you speak to a human soul about this — one human soul, mind — well, may God have mercy upon your soul!’
“I cannot tell you the loathing and horror with which this insignificant-looking man inspired me. I could see him better now as the lamp-light shone upon him. His features were peaky and sallow, and his little pointed beard was thready and illnourished. He pushed his face forward as he spoke and his lips and eyelids were continually twitching like a man with St. Vitus’s dance. I could not help thinking that his strange, catchy little laugh was also a symptom of some nervous malady. The terror of his face lay in his eyes, however, steel gray, and glistening coldly with a malignant, inexorable cruelty in their depths.
” ‘We shall know if you speak of this,’ said he. ‘We have our own means of information. Now you will find the carriage waiting, and my friend will see you on your way.’
“I was hurried through the hall and into the vehicle, again obtaining that momentary glimpse of trees and a garden. Mr. Latimer followed closely at my heels and took his place opposite to me without a word. In silence we again drove for an interminable distance with the windows raised, until at last, just after midnight, the carriage pulled up.
” ‘You will get down here, Mr. Melas,’ said my companion. ‘I am sorry to leave you so far from your house, but there is no alternative. Any attempt upon your part to follow the carriage can only end in injury to yourself.’
“He opened the door as he spoke. and I had hardly time to spring out when the coachman lashed the horse and the carriage rattled away. I looked around me in astonishment. I was on some sort of a heathy common mottled over with dark clumps of furze-bushes. Far away stretched a line of houses, with a light here and there in the upper windows. On the other side I saw the red signal-lamps of a railway.
“The carriage which had brought me was already out of sight. I stood gazing round and wondering where on earth I might be, when I saw someone coming towards me in the darkness. As he came up to me I made out that he was a railway porter.
” ‘Can you tell me what place this is?’ I asked.
” ‘Wandsworth Common,’ said he.
” ‘Can I get a train into town?’
” ‘If you walk on a mile or so to Clapham Junction,’ said he, ‘you’ll just be in time for the last to Victoria.’
“So that was the end of my adventure, Mr. Holmes. I do not know where I was, nor whom I spoke with, nor anything save what I have told you. But I know that there is foul play going on, and I want to help that unhappy man if I can. I told the whole story to Mr. Mycroft Holmes next morning, and subsequently to the police.”
We all sat in silence for some little time after listening to this extraordinary narrative. Then Sherlock looked across at his brother.
“Any steps?” he asked.
Mycroft picked up the Daily News, which was lying on the side-table.
“Anybody supplying any information as to the where
abouts of a Greek gentleman named Paul Kratides, from
Athens, who is unable to speak English, will be rewarded.
A similar reward paid to anyone giving information about a
Greek lady whose first name is Sophy. X 2473.
“That was in all the dailies. No answer.”
“How about the Greek legation?”
“I have inquired. They know nothing.”
“A wire to the head of the Athens police, then?”
“Sherlock has all the energy of the family,” said Mycroft, turning to me. “Well, you take the case up by all means and let me know if you do any good.”
“Certainly,” answered my friend, rising from his chair. “I’ll let you know, and Mr. Melas also. In the meantime, Mr. Melas, I should certainly be on my guard if I were you, for of course they must know through these advertisements that you have betrayed them.”
As we walked home together, Holmes stopped at a telegraph office and sent off several wires.
“You see, Watson,” he remarked, “our evening has been by no means wasted. Some of my most interesting cases have come to me in this way through Mycroft. The problem which we have just listened to, although it can admit of but one explanation, has still some distinguishing features.”
“You have hopes of solving it?”
“Well, knowing as much as we do, it will be singular indeed if we fail to discover the rest. You must yourself have formed some theory which will explain the facts to which we have listened.”
“In a vague way, yes.”
“What was your idea, then?”
“It seemed to me to be obvious that this Greek girl had been carried off by the young Englishman named Harold Latimer.”
“Carried off from where?”
Sherlock Holmes shook his head. “This young man could not talk a word of Greek. The lady could talk English fairly well. Inference — that she had been in England some little time, but he had not been in Greece.”
“Well, then, we will presume that she had once come on a visit to England, and that this Harold had persuaded her to fly with him.”
“That is more probable.”
“Then the brother — for that, I fancy, must be the relationship -comes over from Greece to interfere. He imprudently puts himself into the power of the young man and his older associate. They seize him and use violence towards him in order to make him sign some papers to make over the girl’s fortune of which he may be trustee — to them. This he refuses to do. In order to negotiate with him they have to get an interpreter, and they pitch upon this Mr. Melas, having used some other one before. The girl is not told of the arrival of her brother and finds it out by the merest accident.”
“Excellent, Watson!” cried Holmes. “I really fancy that you are not far from the truth. You see that we hold all the cards, and we have only to fear some sudden act of violence on their part. If they give us time we must have them.”
“But how can we find where this house lies?”
“Well, if our conjecture is correct and the girl’s name is or was Sophy Kratides, we should have no difficulty in tracing her. That must be our main hope, for the brother is, of coursc, a complete stranger. It is clear that some time has elapsed since this Harold established these relations with the girl — some weeks at any rate — since the brother in Greece has had time to hear of it and come across. If they have been living in the same place during this time, it is probable that we shall have some answer to Mycroft’s advertisement.”
We had reached our house in Baker Street while we had been talking. Holmes ascended the stair first, and as he opened the door of our room he gave a start of surprise. Looking over his shoulder, I was equally astonished. His brother Mycroft was sitting smoking in the armchair.
“Come in, Sherlock! Come in, sir,” said he blandly, smiling at our surprised faces. “You don’t expect such energy from me do you, Sherlock? But somehow this case attracts me.”
“How did you get here?”
“I passed you in a hansom.”
“There has been some new development?”
“I had an answer to my advertisement.”
“Yes, it came within a few minutes of your leaving.”
“And to what effect?”
Mycroft Holmes took out a sheet of paper.
“Here it is,” said he, “written with a J pen on royal cream paper by a middle-aged man with a weak constitution.