"Painful, and more exsanguination
than was comfortable. I am told that no vital organs were damaged,
but, as I'm sure you are certainly aware, hospital incarceration
does not suit my constitution in the least. I need to be freed
from this pest hole!"
The resurfacing of Sherlock
Holmes's constitutional irascibility and impatience was a comforting
sign of his returning to normal. "In due time, my friend, in
due time. The doctor will release you when your condition permits.
Even if your wound wasn't life-threatening, you do need to rest
and recuperate. Needless to say, I have been worried to distraction
for these last three days, but your doctor is confident that
you will recover." I reassured him
"The time hasn't been a total
loss. Since I recovered consciousness I have had visits from
Lord and Lady Dunbury, headsman Brown, Jefferson, and a few
other assorted local folk whom I have no recollection of having
ever met. I have also had the opportunity to review your report
concerning your visit with the Doctors Kennelworth and Attenborough
and your conversation with Jefferson. All of these have provided
ample grist for my mental mill, and, heaven knows, I have had
an abundance of time to grind away at it in this accursed hospital
"So, have you had the inclination and
energy to give further consideration to the matter of the oast
"I have indeed," answered Holmes,
"fortunately, Dr. Hollins, the doctor which the hospital assigned
to my case, is a smoker and permitted me my pipe. It was probably
worth being shot to be allowed access to my pipe after the long
deprivation at Dunbury Hall. After two pipes and a bit of head-clearing
rest, the many errors in judgement, of which I have been inexcusably
guilty during our involvement at Harrow Weald, have come clear
"Errors?," I asked incredulously.
"My dear Watson, you should have
been screaming "Norbury" at the top of your voice since the
instant we set foot at Harrow Weald"
"I'm sorry, Holmes, but I wasn't
aware of any errors you might have made, in fact I was not aware
of your making any suggestions about the resolution of the case
at all, not even erroneous ones."
"Well," Holmes chuckled, "sometimes
I make the additional error of assuming that you are following
my line of reasoning and, hence, have entry into my own train
of thought. I believe that, with respect to the current case,
I have been a victim of my own past successes."
"How so?" I queried.
"I have spent my entire life
in learning to avail myself of obscure clues which have allowed
me to piece together seemingly unrelated fragments of evidence
into cohesive, sequential wholes. In doing this, I have been
lulled into the fallacy of expecting that there will always
be a sequence of cause and effect events which will make themselves
apparent with sufficient concentration and study."
"Is this not true? It seems self
evident and, indeed, to have been the core of your success as
"Ah, my dear Watson, sometimes
things are not what they seem. On rare occasions, this having
been one of them, it is necessary for the investigator to disassemble
what appears to be an orderly series of events into something
of a more useful disorder."
"Why, Holmes, whatever do you
"In the beginning, my dear Watson,
it was completely obvious to me, and, I presume, to you, that
all the victims had been killed in the same way, for the same
reason in the same place, hence, logically, by the same perpetrator.
"It never occurred to me to think
"Nor to me. We both forgot one
of my basic tenets, 'there is nothing more deceptive than an
obvious fact.' While lying here in the hospital, I did two things
which, I believe, have led to the proper conclusions. First,
I asked myself a question, a simple question, but one which
should be asked during any criminal investigation. Simply, Watson,
cui bono and in this case we should add, I think, cui
malo - To whose benefit and to whose detriment? First, let
us consider to whose benefit would be the deaths of all those
farm workers? Can you think of a single individual who would
have benefited from all their deaths? We must, I think, discount
the existence of some moonstruck maniac who strikes down whatever
victim might be available at the proper phase of the moon. Now,
give a thought to what possible gain might accrue to either
Lord or Lady Dunbury by the deaths of those whom we were told
by Lady Dunbury were the most productive workers on the estate.
Considering the fact that the estate was on the brink of financial
collapse, the loss of the most productive workers could only
work to the detriment of the estate, hence, also to her Ladyship.
His Lordship, I think can be dismissed as a suspect from the
lack of any benefit which would accrue to him, but also by virtue
of the fact that he had neither the spunk nor the nerve to do
anything without the express approval of her Ladyship. She would
certainly not permit her husband to do anything which would
work to her detriment since she would not even allow the inconvenience
of his smoking in his ancestral estate."
"Yes, I think that most reasonable."
I further affirmed.
"Of course, anyone who ever reads
any future account of this case which you might pen can scarcely
miss the connection between the current Lady Dunbury and Nancy
Ashcroft; the former being, I think without question, the illegitimate
daughter of the latter. Lady Dunbury had achieved the desire
of her mother by acquiring the title 'Lady' and joining the
nobility. She did so by marrying her own cousin, of course.
This would be a union ill advised by modern standards, but such
is not unheard-of, especially among the upper classes, and is
certainly no crime. But it would be important to her, in her
mother's memory, not only to achieve the desired lofty social
status, but, also to be successful in that role. Hence, the
loss of her best farm workers would have been a serious, if
not disastrous, detriment to Her Ladyship."
"So who would benefit?"
"Please remember, Watson, that
all four of the farm workers killed were in competition for
the posh, but at the time nonexistent, living quarters promised
by Lady Dunbury. So, any one of the competitive workers would
benefit by the death of any other. Since most of the individuals
directly involved in the murders are now dead, it will never
be possible for me to confirm some of the conclusions I have
drawn from my own reasoning, but as the elements of the case
have worked themselves out, I can conceive of no other logical
alternatives. I believe that James Smyth actually did murder
Joseph Lovat by luring him up to the fourth floor of the oast
house, possibly with the promise of some sort of mutually beneficial
conspiracy to be gained from the Lady Dunbury's promise of reward
to the most productive worker. Smyth abandoned Lovat on the
top floor that dark and lonely oast house, lit the brazier,
and killed him in the manner that almost became our own undoing."
"Very well, are you saying that the contenders for the genteel
lodgings murdered each other?"
"Clearly not, Watson, else there
would be at least one of them left alive! Would you have it
like the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat who devoured each other
until nothing at all was left remaining of either? No, I have,
so far, merely drawn what I believe to be the conditions associated
with the first murder."
"Then who killed James Smyth
and the others?"
"Circumstances have now erased
the data necessary for proof, but I believe that Smyth's death
was a matter of happenstance."
"Yes, a casual comment Jefferson
made in conversation led me to this conclusion. It seems that
some of the farm hands were accustomed to disposing of their
personal refuse by incinerating it in the old brazier in the
oast house. You know the old saying that a murderer always returns
to the scene of their crime? Well, of course, they don't always
do that, but a surprising number of them do. I think that Smyth
returned to the upper floor of the oast house for whatever reason
- perhaps to make sure he has left no evidence behind - and,
coincidentally one of the farm workers happened to start a refuse
fire in the brazier, thereby igniting some of the residual charcoal
and releasing its lethal gases. I believe that this contraband
incineration was also the source of our near lethal experience,
too. When we climbed to the upper floors of the oast house,
Lady Dunbury simply went back home assuming that we would summon
her when we were finished with our investigation. Jefferson
had followed us up the ladder to see to our safety and had then
used the ladder to return to the ground floor, he too assuming
that we would signal when we were finished. Whoever ignited
the fire did so in perfect innocence unaware of our presence
or even that the fire would emit lethal fumes."
"Well, your summary does appear
a bit farfetched, but it seems to account for the events, so
far. So you believe that no one was actually trying to kill
"That is what I believe. Who
would have made the attempt? Only the Lord and Lady and old
Jefferson were present in the oast house. We have dismissed
both the Lord and Lady as possibly being the culprits and since
your own report indicated that Jefferson was in mortal fear
of his own life, he had no reason to want us dead. We offered,
in fact, a possible source of comfort for him. If we could catch
the murdered, then he would consider himself safe."
"Well, then, were the deaths
of Park and Tilly Raines also accidents?
"Such a conjecture would stretch
farfetched beyond farfetched. No, those deaths were murders."
"But by whom?"
The key to the solution of that
came to me when I read your report of your visit to the village
of Harrow Weald."
"Oh, I saw nothing of significance
in any of my interactions in the village. It all seemed most
cordial and inconsequential."
"It would seem so to the casual
observer. I am surprised, though, that you did not perceive
something a bit out of the ordinary in your conversations with
"No, our conversations seemed
to me to be quite ordinary."
"Did Dr. Kennelworth's enthusiasm
about your writings and our detective work not seem to you to
be a little extreme to you?"
"Well, not really. Over the
years I have encountered many avid followers of my accounts
of our adventures together."
"I found Dr. Kennelworth's zeal
to surpass the bounds of enthusiasm and extend into the realm
of fervor, and, in spite of the old saying that 'money is the
root of all evil,' I believe that you have often heard me say
that fervor is the root of all evil.
"I don't recall ever having
heard your say that, Holmes," I said, raising a questioning
"Well, perhaps not, but I should
have said it. It may be the ultimate truth. No matter how worthy
the cause in which the fervor is invested or how flattering
it might be to an author, it is the root of all human evil.
When a person is consumed with fervor, nothing else matters
- there is no room for reason, for justice, or even for morals
or humanity. One's fervor must be served. The devastation of
whole societies has been begotten in the service of fervor.
Now, Dr. Kennelworth had a fervent passion concerning our adventures.
When he first heard of the murders at Dunbury Hall, he waited
in hope that the matter would bring us close to his neighborhood.
The local constabulary, however, effected the only response.
When Smyth was killed - a matter everyone thought to be a murder
- he still waited in anticipation. We were not called into the
case. I am sure, though, that you have heard me say that
'when a doctor goes bad he is the worst of criminals.' In his
passion to meet us and, perhaps, to involve himself in the case,
he murdered Manfield Pike hoping that a third mysterious murder
would cause us to be summoned."
"Just how did he do that?"
"Well, as a doctor yourself,
you well know just how many undetectable poisons can be administered
to a person in a variety of undetectable ways. He administered
poison to Smyth under some medical pretense, transported the
body to the upper floor of the oast house, by way of the dumb
waiter, in order to create the illusion that the haunted oast
house had taken another victim."
"Yes, many poisons could well
go undetected particularly if the doctor performing the autopsy
had no reason to suspect poison."
"Now, the murder of Smyth was,
indeed, enough to bring Lestrade to our doorstep, but the doctor
didn't know that. He waited a reasonable period of time, then
did in Tilly Raines in the same manner. This murder turned out
to have been unnecessary for his nefarious purpose, because
we were already planning our trip to Harrow Weald when the news
of poor Tilly's death reached us. He picked Pike and Tilly Raines
because they were the most important workers on the estate remaining
alive and he thought that their deaths would attract the most
"Are you sure, Holmes, of all
"I admit it was all only logical
conjecture on my part until just before you came to visit me
today. I had just received word from Lestrade that Dr. Kennelworth,
when confronted with my description of his murderous escapades,
confessed directly. The neophyte criminal tends to yield confessions
quickly when confronted by officials who seem to know all. You
will recall a similar incident with a fellow named Ryder . .
"Yes, of course, . . . but who
"That was Kennelworth. When you
stopped for your supper, he returned to the scene of his crimes,
for what reason I cannot say - perhaps it was that murderer
returning to the scene of the crime tendency, or, perhaps he
was trying to effect some plan which would insure his being
summoned by us to participate in the investigation. Fortunately,
his marksmanship was as bad as his criminal plotting. In some
corner of his twisted mind he had become very angry with us,
and, particularly with me, for our not inviting him into our
investigation; he fired on me in a moment's anger born of frustration.
He even offered an apology, of a sort, before shooting me .
. . he said something like, 'I was hoping it wouldn't come to
this. I'm sorry, really I amů' and then fired. He must have
realized, after the act, that shooting me was scarcely a proper
remedy for his disappointment. Then he must have fled from the
Oast House in panic."
"Since Lestrade has extracted
a confession, it would appear that your deductions have been
correct, so the only living perpetrator will come to justice.
Smyth has already reaped his just desserts through an act of
Providence. We shall, also, certainly see to it that the workers
at the Dunbury estate are warned about the dangers of using
the oast house brazier for rubbish disposal. But what about
the tobacco ashes you found?"
"Merely remnants of one of Lord
Dunbury's secret smoking adventures. He claimed that he never
went to the oast house, but since he couldn't smoke in his own
house, well , what was he to do?"
"And the green eyes?"
"Green eyes? I don't know what
"When I found you in the oast
house, the last words you muttered before you became unconscious
were 'green eyes.' What did you mean by that?"
"Hummm. I have no recollection
of having said that at all nor any notion of what I might have
meant. I suppose that the lesson to be learned from this, old
friend, is that you should never put much stock in the mutterings
of a semiconscious, nearly delirious gunshot victim."