“Good-evening, Mr. Holmes,” said he. “I am sure I am very much obliged to you for coming round. No one ever needed your advice more than I do. I suppose that Dr. Trevelyan has told you of this most unwarrantable intrusion into my rooms.”
“Quite so,” said Holmes. “Who are these two men, Mr. Blessington, and why do they wish to molest you?”
“Well, well,” said the resident patient in a nervous fashion, “of course it is hard to say that. You can hardly expect me to answer that, Mr. Holmes.”
“Do you mean that you don’t know?”
“Come in here, if you please. Just have the kindness to step in here.”
He led the way into his bedroom, which was large and comfortably furnished.
“You see that,” said he, pointing to a big black box at the end of his bed. “I have never been a very rich man, Mr. Holmes — never made but one investment in my life, as Dr. Trevelyan would tell you. But I don’t believe in bankers. I would never trust a banker, Mr. Holmes. Between ourselves, what little I have is in that box, so you can understand what it means to me when unknown people force themselves into my rooms.”
Holmes looked at Blessington in his questioning way and shook his head.
“I cannot possibly advise you if you try to deceive me,” said he.
“But I have told you everything.”
Holmes turned on his heel with a gesture of disgust. “Goodnight, Dr. Trevelyan,” said he.
“And no advice for me?” cried Blessington in a breaking voice.
“My advice to you, sir, is to speak the truth.”
A minute later we were in the street and walking for home. We had crossed Oxford Street and were halfway down Harley Street before I could get a word from my companion.
“Sorry to bring you out on such a fool’s errand, Watson,” he said at last. “It is an interesting case, too, at the bottom of it.”
“I can make little of it,” I confessed.
“Well, it is quite evident that there are two men — more perhaps, but at least two — who are determined for some reason to get at this fellow Blessington. I have no doubt in my mind that both on the first and on the second occasion that young man penetrated to Blessington’s room, while his confederate, by an ingenious device, kept the doctor from interfering.”
“And the catalepsy?”
“A fraudulent imitation, Watson, though I should hardly dare to hint as much to our specialist. It is a very easy complaint to imitate. I have done it myself.”
“By the purest chance Blessington was out on each occasion. Their reason for choosing so unusual an hour for a consultation was obviously to insure that there should be no other patient in the waiting-room. It just happened, however, that this hour coincided with Blessington’s constitutional, which seems to show that they were not very well acquainted with his daily routine. Of course, if they had been merely after plunder they would at least have made some attempt to search for it. Besides, I can read in a man’s eye when it is his own skin that he is frightened for. It is inconceivable that this fellow could have made two such vindictive enemies as these appear to be without knowing of it. I hold it, therefore, to be certain that he does know who these men are, and that for reasons of his own he suppresses it. It is just possible that to-morrow may find him in a more communicative mood. ”
“Is there not one alternative,” I suggested, “grotesquely improbable, no doubt, but still just conceivable? Might the whole story of the cataleptic Russian and his son be a concoction of Dr. Trevelyan’s, who has, for his own purposes, been in Blessington’s rooms?”
I saw in the gas-light that Holmes wore an amused smile at this brilliant departure of mine.
“My dear fellow,” said he, “it was one of the first solutions which occurred to me, but I was soon able to corroborate the doctor’s tale. This young man has left prints upon the stair-carpet which made it quite superfluous for me to ask to see those which he had made in the room. When I tell you that his shoes were square-toed instead of being pointed like Blessington’s, and were quite an inch and a third longer than the doctor’s, you will acknowledge that there can be no doubt as to his individuality. But we may sleep on it now, for I shall be surprised if we do not hear something further from Brook Street in the morning.”
Sherlock Holmes’s prophecy was soon fulfilled, and in a dramatic fashion. At half-past seven next morning, in the first dim glimmer of daylight, I found him standing by my bedside in his dressing-gown.
“There’s a brougham waiting for us, Watson,” said he.
“What’s the matter, then?”
“The Brook Street business.”
“Any fresh news?”
“Tragic, but ambiguous,” said he, pulling up the blind. “Look at this — a sheet from a notebook, with ‘For God’s sake come at once. P. T.,’ scrawled upon it in pencil. Our friend, the doctor, was hard put to it when he wrote this. Come along, my dear fellow, for it’s an urgent call.”
In a quarter of an hour or so we were back at the physician’s house. He came running out to meet us with a face of horror.
“Oh, such a business!” he cried with his hands to his temples.
“Blessington has committed suicide!”
“Yes, he hanged himself during the night.”
We had entered, and the doctor had preceded us into what was evidently his waiting-room.
“I really hardly know what I am doing,” he cried. “The police are already upstairs. It has shaken me most dreadfully.”
“When did you find it out?”
“He has a cup of tea taken in to him early every morning. When the maid entered, about seven, there the unfortunate fellow was hanging in the middle of the room. He had tied his cord to the hook on which the heavy lamp used to hang, and he had jumped off from the top of the very box that he showed us yesterday.”
Holmes stood for a moment in deep thought.
“With your permission,” said he at last, “I should like to go upstairs and look into the matter.”
We both ascended, followed by the doctor.
It was a dreadful sight which met us as we entered the bedroom door. I have spoken of the impression of flabbiness which this man Blessington conveyed. As he dangled from the hook it was exaggerated and intensified until he was scarce human in his appearance. The neck was drawn out like a plucked chicken’s, making the rest of him seem the more obese and unnatural by the contrast. He was clad only in his long nightdress, and his swollen ankles and ungainly feet protruded starkly from beneath it. Beside him stood a smart-looking police-inspector, who was taking notes in a pocketbook
“Ah, Mr. Holmes,” said he heartily as my friend entered, “I am delighted to see you.”
“Good-morning, Lanner,” answered Holmes, “you won’t think me an intruder, I am sure. Have you heard of the events which led up to this affair?”
“Yes, I heard something of them.”
“Have you formed any opinion?”
“As far as I can see, the man has been driven out of his senses by fright. The bed has been well slept in, you see. There’s his impression, deep enough. It’s about five in the morning, you know, that suicides are most common. That would be about his time for hanging himself. It seems to have been a very deliberate affair.”
“I should say that he has been dead about three hours, judging by the rigidity of the muscles,” said I.
“Noticed anything peculiar about the room?” asked Holmes.