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  • THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

  • Adventure XI. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BERYL CORONET

  • "Holmes," said I as I stood one morning in our bow-window looking down the street,

  • "here is a madman coming along. It seems rather sad that his relatives

  • should allow him to come out alone."

  • My friend rose lazily from his armchair and stood with his hands in the pockets of his

  • dressing-gown, looking over my shoulder.

  • It was a bright, crisp February morning, and the snow of the day before still lay

  • deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the wintry sun.

  • Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed into a brown crumbly band by the

  • traffic, but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still

  • lay as white as when it fell.

  • The grey pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but was still dangerously

  • slippery, so that there were fewer passengers than usual.

  • Indeed, from the direction of the Metropolitan Station no one was coming save

  • the single gentleman whose eccentric conduct had drawn my attention.

  • He was a man of about fifty, tall, portly, and imposing, with a massive, strongly

  • marked face and a commanding figure.

  • He was dressed in a sombre yet rich style, in black frock-coat, shining hat, neat

  • brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-grey trousers.

  • Yet his actions were in absurd contrast to the dignity of his dress and features, for

  • he was running hard, with occasional little springs, such as a weary man gives who is

  • little accustomed to set any tax upon his legs.

  • As he ran he jerked his hands up and down, waggled his head, and writhed his face into

  • the most extraordinary contortions.

  • "What on earth can be the matter with him?" I asked.

  • "He is looking up at the numbers of the houses."

  • "I believe that he is coming here," said Holmes, rubbing his hands.

  • "Here?" "Yes; I rather think he is coming to

  • consult me professionally.

  • I think that I recognise the symptoms. Ha! did I not tell you?"

  • As he spoke, the man, puffing and blowing, rushed at our door and pulled at our bell

  • until the whole house resounded with the clanging.

  • A few moments later he was in our room, still puffing, still gesticulating, but

  • with so fixed a look of grief and despair in his eyes that our smiles were turned in

  • an instant to horror and pity.

  • For a while he could not get his words out, but swayed his body and plucked at his hair

  • like one who has been driven to the extreme limits of his reason.

  • Then, suddenly springing to his feet, he beat his head against the wall with such

  • force that we both rushed upon him and tore him away to the centre of the room.

  • Sherlock Holmes pushed him down into the easy-chair and, sitting beside him, patted

  • his hand and chatted with him in the easy, soothing tones which he knew so well how to

  • employ.

  • "You have come to me to tell your story, have you not?" said he.

  • "You are fatigued with your haste.

  • Pray wait until you have recovered yourself, and then I shall be most happy to

  • look into any little problem which you may submit to me."

  • The man sat for a minute or more with a heaving chest, fighting against his

  • emotion.

  • Then he passed his handkerchief over his brow, set his lips tight, and turned his

  • face towards us. "No doubt you think me mad?" said he.

  • "I see that you have had some great trouble," responded Holmes.

  • "God knows I have!--a trouble which is enough to unseat my reason, so sudden and

  • so terrible is it.

  • Public disgrace I might have faced, although I am a man whose character has

  • never yet borne a stain.

  • Private affliction also is the lot of every man; but the two coming together, and in so

  • frightful a form, have been enough to shake my very soul.

  • Besides, it is not I alone.

  • The very noblest in the land may suffer unless some way be found out of this

  • horrible affair."

  • "Pray compose yourself, sir," said Holmes, "and let me have a clear account of who you

  • are and what it is that has befallen you." "My name," answered our visitor, "is

  • probably familiar to your ears.

  • I am Alexander Holder, of the banking firm of Holder & Stevenson, of Threadneedle

  • Street."

  • The name was indeed well known to us as belonging to the senior partner in the

  • second largest private banking concern in the City of London.

  • What could have happened, then, to bring one of the foremost citizens of London to

  • this most pitiable pass?

  • We waited, all curiosity, until with another effort he braced himself to tell

  • his story.

  • "I feel that time is of value," said he; "that is why I hastened here when the

  • police inspector suggested that I should secure your co-operation.

  • I came to Baker Street by the Underground and hurried from there on foot, for the

  • cabs go slowly through this snow. That is why I was so out of breath, for I

  • am a man who takes very little exercise.

  • I feel better now, and I will put the facts before you as shortly and yet as clearly as

  • I can.

  • "It is, of course, well known to you that in a successful banking business as much

  • depends upon our being able to find remunerative investments for our funds as

  • upon our increasing our connection and the number of our depositors.

  • One of our most lucrative means of laying out money is in the shape of loans, where

  • the security is unimpeachable.

  • We have done a good deal in this direction during the last few years, and there are

  • many noble families to whom we have advanced large sums upon the security of

  • their pictures, libraries, or plate.

  • "Yesterday morning I was seated in my office at the bank when a card was brought

  • in to me by one of the clerks.

  • I started when I saw the name, for it was that of none other than--well, perhaps even

  • to you I had better say no more than that it was a name which is a household word all

  • over the earth--one of the highest, noblest, most exalted names in England.

  • I was overwhelmed by the honour and attempted, when he entered, to say so, but

  • he plunged at once into business with the air of a man who wishes to hurry quickly

  • through a disagreeable task.

  • "'Mr. Holder,' said he, 'I have been informed that you are in the habit of

  • advancing money.' "'The firm does so when the security is

  • good.'

  • I answered. "'It is absolutely essential to me,' said

  • he, 'that I should have 50,000 pounds at once.

  • I could, of course, borrow so trifling a sum ten times over from my friends, but I

  • much prefer to make it a matter of business and to carry out that business myself.

  • In my position you can readily understand that it is unwise to place one's self under

  • obligations.' "'For how long, may I ask, do you want this

  • sum?'

  • I asked. "'Next Monday I have a large sum due to me,

  • and I shall then most certainly repay what you advance, with whatever interest you

  • think it right to charge.

  • But it is very essential to me that the money should be paid at once.'

  • "'I should be happy to advance it without further parley from my own private purse,'

  • said I, 'were it not that the strain would be rather more than it could bear.

  • If, on the other hand, I am to do it in the name of the firm, then in justice to my

  • partner I must insist that, even in your case, every businesslike precaution should

  • be taken.'

  • "'I should much prefer to have it so,' said he, raising up a square, black morocco case

  • which he had laid beside his chair. 'You have doubtless heard of the Beryl

  • Coronet?'

  • "'One of the most precious public possessions of the empire,' said I.

  • "'Precisely.'

  • He opened the case, and there, imbedded in soft, flesh-coloured velvet, lay the

  • magnificent piece of jewellery which he had named.

  • 'There are thirty-nine enormous beryls,' said he, 'and the price of the gold chasing

  • is incalculable.

  • The lowest estimate would put the worth of the coronet at double the sum which I have

  • asked. I am prepared to leave it with you as my

  • security.'

  • "I took the precious case into my hands and looked in some perplexity from it to my

  • illustrious client. "'You doubt its value?' he asked.

  • "'Not at all.

  • I only doubt--' "'The propriety of my leaving it.

  • You may set your mind at rest about that.

  • I should not dream of doing so were it not absolutely certain that I should be able in

  • four days to reclaim it. It is a pure matter of form.

  • Is the security sufficient?'

  • "'Ample.' "'You understand, Mr. Holder, that I am

  • giving you a strong proof of the confidence which I have in you, founded upon all that

  • I have heard of you.

  • I rely upon you not only to be discreet and to refrain from all gossip upon the matter

  • but, above all, to preserve this coronet with every possible precaution because I

  • need not say that a great public scandal

  • would be caused if any harm were to befall it.

  • Any injury to it would be almost as serious as its complete loss, for there are no

  • beryls in the world to match these, and it would be impossible to replace them.

  • I leave it with you, however, with every confidence, and I shall call for it in

  • person on Monday morning.'

  • "Seeing that my client was anxious to leave, I said no more but, calling for my

  • cashier, I ordered him to pay over fifty 1000 pound notes.

  • When I was alone once more, however, with the precious case lying upon the table in

  • front of me, I could not but think with some misgivings of the immense

  • responsibility which it entailed upon me.

  • There could be no doubt that, as it was a national possession, a horrible scandal

  • would ensue if any misfortune should occur to it.

  • I already regretted having ever consented to take charge of it.

  • However, it was too late to alter the matter now, so I locked it up in my private

  • safe and turned once more to my work.

  • "When evening came I felt that it would be an imprudence to leave so precious a thing

  • in the office behind me. Bankers' safes had been forced before now,

  • and why should not mine be?

  • If so, how terrible would be the position in which I should find myself!

  • I determined, therefore, that for the next few days I would always carry the case

  • backward and forward with me, so that it might never be really out of my reach.

  • With this intention, I called a cab and drove out to my house at Streatham,

  • carrying the jewel with me.

  • I did not breathe freely until I had taken it upstairs and locked it in the bureau of

  • my dressing-room.

  • "And now a word as to my household, Mr. Holmes, for I wish you to thoroughly

  • understand the situation. My groom and my page sleep out of the

  • house, and may be set aside altogether.

  • I have three maid-servants who have been with me a number of years and whose

  • absolute reliability is quite above suspicion.

  • Another, Lucy Parr, the second waiting- maid, has only been in my service a few

  • months.

  • She came with an excellent character, however, and has always given me

  • satisfaction.

  • She is a very pretty girl and has attracted admirers who have occasionally hung about

  • the place.

  • That is the only drawback which we have found to her, but we believe her to be a

  • thoroughly good girl in every way. "So much for the servants.

  • My family itself is so small that it will not take me long to describe it.

  • I am a widower and have an only son, Arthur.

  • He has been a disappointment to me, Mr. Holmes--a grievous disappointment.

  • I have no doubt that I am myself to blame. People tell me that I have spoiled him.

  • Very likely I have.

  • When my dear wife died I felt that he was all I had to love.

  • I could not bear to see the smile fade even for a moment from his face.

  • I have never denied him a wish.

  • Perhaps it would have been better for both of us had I been sterner, but I meant it

  • for the best.

  • "It was naturally my intention that he should succeed me in my business, but he

  • was not of a business turn.

  • He was wild, wayward, and, to speak the truth, I could not trust him in the

  • handling of large sums of money.

  • When he was young he became a member of an aristocratic club, and there, having

  • charming manners, he was soon the intimate of a number of men with long purses and

  • expensive habits.

  • He learned to play heavily at cards and to squander money on the turf, until he had

  • again and again to come to me and implore me to give him an advance upon his

  • allowance, that he might settle his debts of honour.

  • He tried more than once to break away from the dangerous company which he was keeping,

  • but each time the influence of his friend, Sir George Burnwell, was enough to draw him

  • back again.

  • "And, indeed, I could not wonder that such a man as Sir George Burnwell should gain an

  • influence over him, for he has frequently brought him to my house, and I have found

  • myself that I could hardly resist the fascination of his manner.

  • He is older than Arthur, a man of the world to his finger-tips, one who had been

  • everywhere, seen everything, a brilliant talker, and a man of great personal beauty.

  • Yet when I think of him in cold blood, far away from the glamour of his presence, I am

  • convinced from his cynical speech and the look which I have caught in his eyes that

  • he is one who should be deeply distrusted.

  • So I think, and so, too, thinks my little Mary, who has a woman's quick insight into

  • character. "And now there is only she to be described.

  • She is my niece; but when my brother died five years ago and left her alone in the

  • world I adopted her, and have looked upon her ever since as my daughter.

  • She is a sunbeam in my house--sweet, loving, beautiful, a wonderful manager and

  • housekeeper, yet as tender and quiet and gentle as a woman could be.

  • She is my right hand.

  • I do not know what I could do without her. In only one matter has she ever gone

  • against my wishes.

  • Twice my boy has asked her to marry him, for he loves her devotedly, but each time

  • she has refused him.

  • I think that if anyone could have drawn him into the right path it would have been she,

  • and that his marriage might have changed his whole life; but now, alas! it is too

  • late--forever too late!

  • "Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who live under my roof, and I shall continue

  • with my miserable story.