The ride to the telegraph office
went over even roads and was uneventful. That was fortunate,
since Watson couldn't possibly handle one more thing. Taking
advantage of the smooth trip, he set everything down in his
notebook, as is his practice. Holmes always accused him of writing
the first draft of his next magazine story, but the truth was
it is just his nature. Times, dates, places, and people easily
blur together into one big mess. It was a problem in school
and in his medical practice. He knew he couldn't take the chance
- not on this case - and he would need the facts to be accurate
and concise if he expected Inspector Lestrade's help.
As he wrote, he remembered the
original request from Lestrade, to come to Harrow Weald and
help him investigate four strange deaths. Now, it appears there
was a fifth one, much earlier, the last Lord of the Manor. They
are pretty sure that all five died by asphyxiation, that he
and Holmes had barely escaped the same fate. He wrote down a
question, "What did the people who were murdered have in common?"
What bothered him most were the
people. To Watson, it was always the people. The Lord and Lady
of Dunbury didn't measure up. Neither of them acted like they
were raised by parents and staff of good quality but it was
Lady Dunbury that bothered him most. It isn't that unusual for
a man to lack social graces, but he usually married someone
well-schooled in them, either by his own choice or that of his
parents. She ran the house and issued orders and threats to
her husband both by word and by body language. Her explanation
of the relationship between Peggy Ashcroft and Lord Beckley
Dunbury showed contempt for the working class, also echoed in
the way she managed those who farmed the estate. Her presence
dominated the estate in the same way her portrait dominated
the manor house.
They arrived at the train station
that served as the telegraph office. The station was the center
of a cluster of buildings that included a pub. Leaving Jefferson
with the carriage, Watson went inside. He wrote out the telegram
carefully, bringing Lestrade up to date and asking him whether
there was any record of Peggy Ashcroft in London. Hoping to
receive a message soon and being very hungry, he walked over
to the pub for a supper. He told Jefferson to tie up the horse
and join him. He hoped to learn something more from the time
The pub wasn't in much
better shape than everything else in the area but it was comfortable
and the food smelled good. They settled in to a carvery of meat
with potatoes and a mug of ale. After they had eaten well and
ordered their beer mugs refilled, Watson asked, "Jefferson,
how long have you been at Harrow Weald?"
"About ten years. I come right
after the present Lord and Lady arrived."
"Were Barrows and the maid,
Eleanor, already there?"
"No, Dr. Watson, they came at
about the same time."
"Let me get this straight. All
of the staff were hired after the current Lord arrived? Do you
know what happened to the former staff?", asked Watson.
"No sir, and very few of the
residents knew the staff or his Lordship. The only people who
spent any time there were March, Lovat, Smyth, and Tilly Raines,
and they're all dead. I don't know what to do, sir. I'm afraid."
Watson tried to assure him that
he and Holmes would do everything possible to help him. They
finished their beer and went back to the telegraph office. The
reply was there. "Lucky that Lestrade had been on the force
for so long, and doubly lucky that he always seemed to be at
the Yard", thought Watson. He put the telegram in his pocket,
gathered Jefferson, and set out in the carriage for the manor.
His second trip to the manor
didn't seem to take as long as the first. He was in a hurry
to speak with Holmes, to find out what new things he had found,
and to give him the information from Lestrade. They arrived
at the manor house and Jefferson went in to tell Holmes they
had arrived. Watson lingered at the doorway under the gaslight.
He pulled out the telegram from Lestrade and as he read it,
a feeling of surprise mixed with fear gripped him. Jefferson
"Mister Holmes went to the oast
house several hours ago and hasn't returned", exclaimed Jefferson.
"Come, Jefferson, let's get to
the oast house right away."
They rode there in the carriage.
Watson bounded from the carriage and rushed right in. "Holmes",
he called but received no answer. He saw the ladder there on
the floor and using it, climbed to the upper floor. What he
saw horrified him. His friend was stretched out across the body
of Tilly Raines, his hand clutching his side. There was enough
moonlight that through the cracks in the roof, he could see
a small amount of blood on the floor. He knew it was his friend's.
He rushed to him, his voice shaking from the emotion of the
moment. "Holmes", he said almost in a whisper. "Holmes".
His friend groaned and moved
slightly.Watson checked Holmes' heart rate. It was very faint
but he knew from his military experience that he could survive
if he could be treated for what appeared to be a bullet wound
in his side very soon. He saw the dumb waiter, something he
hadn't seen the first time he was there. He placed Holmes in
it. The groans his friend made as he was being moved pierced
his every being.
Watson made his way back to the
lower floor and, enlisting Jefferson's aid, lowered Holmes down
to the lower floor and helped him in the carriage. They made
him as comfortable as possible and set off for Dr. Kennelworth's
office via the back road so as not to be seen from the manor
house. While Jefferson drove as cautiously as he could, Watson
sat with his arm around Holmes, trying to make him as comfortable
as possible. Holmes was fighting to stay awake but was starting
to lose consciousness.
Before he passed out, Holmes
opened his eyes and stared at Watson, saying two words, "Green