The Adventure of the Creeping Man
Mr. Sherlock Holmes was always of opinion that I should
publish the singular facts connected with Professor Presbury, if
only to dispel once for all the ugly rumours which some twenty
years ago agitated the university and were echoed in the learned
societies of London. There were, however, certain obstacles in
the way, and the true history of this curious case remained
entombed in the tin box which contains so many records of my
friend's adventures. Now we have at last obtained permission to
ventilate the facts which formed one of the very last cases
handled by Holmes before his retirement from practice. Even
now a certain reticence and discretion have to be observed in
laying the matter before the public.
It was one Sunday evening early in September of the year
1903 that I received one of Holmes's laconic messages:
Come at once if convenient -- if inconvenient come all the
same. S. H.
The relations between us in those latter days were peculiar. He
was a man of habits, narrow and concentrated habits, and I had
become one of them. As an institution I was like the violin, the
shag tobacco, the old black pipe, the index books, and others
perhaps less excusable. When it was a case of active work and a
comrade was needed upon whose nerve he could place some
reliance, my role was obvious. But apart from this I had uses. I
was a whetstone for his mind. I stimulated him. He liked to think
aloud in my presence. His remarks could hardly be said to be
made to me -- many of them would have been as appropriately
addressed to his bedstead -- but none the less, having formed the
habit, it had become in some way helpful that I should register
and interject. If I irritated him by a certain methodical slowness
in my mentality, that irritation served only to make his own
flame-like intuitions and impressions flash up the more vividly
and swiftly. Such was my humble role in our alliance.
When I arrived at Baker Street I found him huddled up in his
armchair with updrawn knees, his pipe in his mouth and his
brow furrowed with thought. It was clear that he was in the
throes of some vexatious problem. With a wave of his hand he
indicated my old armchair, but otherwise for half an hour he
gave no sign that he was aware of my presence. Then with a start
he seemed to come from his reverie, and with his usual whimsi-
cal smile he greeted me back to what had once been my home.
"You will excuse a certain abstraction of mind, my dear
Watson," said he. "Some curious facts have been submitted to
me within the last twenty-four hours, and they in turn have given
rise to some speculations of a more general character. I have
serious thoughts of writing a small monograph upon the uses of
dogs in the work of the detective."
"But surely, Holmes, this has been explored," said I.
"Bloodhounds -- sleuth-hounds --"
"No, no, Watson, that side of the matter is, of course,
obvious. But there is another which is far more subtle. You may
recollect that in the case which you, in your sensational way,
coupled with the Copper Beeches, I was able, by watching the
mind of the child, to form a deduction as to the criminal habits
of the very smug and respectable father."
"Yes, I remember it well."
"My line of thoughts about dogs is analogous. A dog reflects
the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or
a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs,
dangerous people have dangerous ones. And their passing moods
may reflect the passing moods of others."
I shook my head. "Surely, Holmes, this is a little far-fetched,"
He had refilled his pipe and resumed his seat, taking no notice
of my comment.
"The practical application of what I have said is very close to
the problem which I am investigating. It is a tangled skein, you
understand. and I am looking for a loose end. One possible loose
end lies in the question: Why does Professor Presbury's wolf-
hound, Roy, endeavour to bite him?"
I sank back in my chair in some disappointment. Was it for so
trivial a question as this that I had been summoned from my
work? Holmes glanced across at me.
"The same old Watson!" said he. "You never learn that the
gravest issues may depend upon the smallest things. But is it not
on the face of it strange that a staid, elderly philosopher -- you've
heard of Presbury, of course, the famous Camford physiologist? --
that such a man, whose friend has been his devoted wolf-
hound, should now have been twice attacked by his own dog?
What do you make of it?"
"The dog is ill."
"Well, that has to be considered. But he attacks no one else,
nor does he apparently molest his master, save on very special
occasions. Curious, Watson -- very curious. But young Mr. Ben-
nett is before his time if that is his ring. I had hoped to have a
longer chat with you before he came."
There was a quick step on the stairs, a sharp tap at the door
and a moment later the new client presented himself. He was a
tall, handsome youth about thirty, well dressed and elegant, but
with something in his bearing which suggested the shyness of the
student rather than the self-possession of the man of the world.
He shook hands with Holmes, and then looked with some sur-
prise at me.
"This matter is very delicate, Mr. Holmes," he said. "Con-
sider the relation in which I stand to Professor Presbury both
privately and publicly. I really can hardly justify myself if I
speak before any third person."
"Have no fear, Mr. Bennett. Dr. Watson is the very soul of
discretion, and I can assure you that this is a matter in which I
am very likely to need an assistant."
"As you like, Mr. Holmes. You will, I am sure, understand
my having some reserves in the matter."
"You will appreciate it, Watson, when I tell you that this
gentleman, Mr. Trevor Bennett, is professional assistant to the
great scientist, lives under his roof, and is engaged to his only
daughter. Certainly we must agree that the professor has every
claim upon his loyalty and devotion. But it may best be shown
by taking the necessary steps to clear up this strange mystery."
"I hope so, Mr. Holmes. That is my one object. Does Dr.
Watson know the situation?"
"I have not had time to explain it."
"Then perhaps I had better go over the ground again before
explaining some fresh developments."
"I will do so myself," said Holmes, "in order to show that I
have the events in their due order. The professor, Watson, is a
man of European reputation. His life has been academic. There
has never been a breath of scandal. He is a widower with one
daughter, Edith. He is, I gather, a man of very virile and
positive, one might almost say combative, character. So the
matter stood until a very few months ago.
"Then the current of his life was broken. He is sixty-one years
of age, but he became engaged to the daughter of Professor
Morphy, his colleague in the chair of comparative anatomy. It
was not, as I understand, the reasoned courting of an elderly man
but rather the passionate frenzy of youth, for no one could have
shown himself a more devoted lover. The lady, Alice Morphy,
was a very perfect girl both in mind and body, so that there was
every excuse for the professor's infatuation. None the less, it did
not meet with full approval in his own family."
"We thought it rather excessive," said our visitor.
"Exactly. Excessive and a little violent and unnatural. Profes-
sor Presbury was rich, however, and there was no objection upon
the part of the father. The daughter, however, had other views,
and there were already several candidates for her hand, who, if
they were less eligible from a worldly point of view, were at
least more of an age. The girl seemed to like the professor in
spite of his eccentricities. It was only age which stood in the
"About this time a little mystery suddenly clouded the normal
routine of the professor's life. He did what he had never done
before. He left home and gave no indication where he was
going. He was away a fortnight and returned looking rather
travel-worn. He made no allusion to where he had been, al-
though he was usually the frankest of men. It chanced, however,
that our client here, Mr. Bennett, received a letter from a fellow-
student in Prague, who said that he was glad to have seen
Professor Presbury there, although he had not been able to talk to
him. Only in this way did his own household learn where he had
"Now comes the point. From that time onward a curious
change came over the professor. He became furtive and sly.
Those around him had always the feeling that he was not the
man that they had known, but that he was under some shadow
which had darkened his higher qualities. His intellect was not
affected. His lectures were as brilliant as ever. But always there
was something new, something sinister and unexpected. His
daughter, who was devoted to him, tried again and again to
resume the old relations and to penetrate this mask which her
father seemed to have put on. You, sir, as I understand, did the
same -- but all was in vain. And now, Mr. Bennett, tell in your
own words the incident of the letters."
"You must understand, Dr. Watson, that the professor had no
secrets from me. If I were his son or his younger brother I could
not have more completely enjoyed his confidence. As his secre-
tary I handled every paper which came to him, and I opened and
subdivided his letters. Shortly after his return all this was changed.
He told me that certain letters might come to him from London
which would be marked by a cross under the stamp. These were
to be set aside for his own eyes only. I may say that several of
these did pass through my hands, that they had the E. C. mark,
and were in an illiterate handwriting. If he answered them at all
the answers did not pass through my hands nor into the letter-
basket in which our correspondence was collected."
"And the box," said Holmes.
"Ah, yes, the box. The professor brought back a little wooden
box from his travels. It was the one thing which suggested a
Continental tour, for it was one of those quaint carved things
which one associates with Germany. This he placed in his instru-
ment cupboard. One day, in looking for a canula, I took up the
box. To my surprise he was very angry, and reproved me in
words which were quite savage for my curiosity. It was the first
time such a thing had happened, and I was deeply hurt. I
endeavoured to explain that it was a mere accident that I had
touched the box, but all the evening I was conscious that he
looked at me harshly and that the incident was rankling in his
mind." Mr. Bennett drew a little diary book from his pocket.
"That was on July 2d," said he.
"You are certainly an admirable witness," said Holmes. "I
may need some of these dates which you have noted."
"I learned method among other things from my great teacher.
From the time that I observed abnormality in his behaviour I felt
that it was my duty to study his case. Thus I have it here that it
was on that very day, July 2d, that Roy attacked the professor as
he came from his study into the hall. Again, on July 11th, there
was a scene of the same sort, and then I have a note of yet
another upon July 20th. After that we had to banish Roy to the
stables. He was a dear, affectionate animal -- but I fear I weary
Mr. Bennett spoke in a tone of reproach, for it was very clear
that Holmes was not listening. His face was rigid and his eyes
gazed abstractedly at the ceiling. With an effort he recovered
"Singular! Most singular!" he murmured. "These details were
new to me, Mr. Bennett. I think we have now fairly gone over
the old ground, have we not? But you spoke of some fresh
The pleasant, open face of our visitor clouded over, shadowed
by some grim remembrance. "What I speak of occurred the
night before last," said he. "I was lying awake about two in the
morning, when I was aware of a dull muffled sound coming
from the passage. I opened my door and peeped out. I should
explain that the professor sleeps at the end of the passage --"
"The date being?" asked Holmes.
Our visitor was clearly annoyed at so irrelevant an interruption.
"I have said, sir, that it was the night before last -- that is,
Holmes nodded and smiled.
"Pray continue," said he.
"He sleeps at the end of the passage and would have to pass
my door in order to reach the staircase. It was a really terrifying
experience, Mr. Holmes. I think that I am as strong-nerved as
my neighbours, but I was shaken by what I saw. The passage
was dark save that one window halfway along it threw a patch of
light. I could see that something was coming along the passage,
something dark and crouching. Then suddenly it emerged into
the light, and I saw that it was he. He was crawling, Mr.
Holmes -- crawling! He was not quite on his hands and knees. I
should rather say on his hands and feet, with his face sunk
between his hands. Yet he seemed to move with ease. I was so
paralyzed by the sight that it was not until he had reached my
door that I was able to step forward and ask if I could assist him.
His answer was extraordinary. He sprang up, spat out some
atrocious word at me, and hurried on past me, and down the
staircase. I waited about for an hour, but he did not come back.
It must have been daylight before he regained his room."
"Well, Watson, what make you of that?" asked Holmes with
the air of the pathologist who presents a rare specimen.
"Lumbago, possibly. I have known a severe attack make a
man walk in just such a way, and nothing would be more trying
to the temper."
"Good, Watson! You always keep us flat-footed on the ground.
But we can hardly accept lumbago, since he was able to stand
erect in a moment."
"He was never better in health," said Bennett. "In fact, he is
stronger than I have known him for years. But there are the
facts, Mr. Holmes. It is not a case in which we can consult the
police, and yet we are utterly at our wit's end as to what to do,
and we feel in some strange way that we are drifting towards
disaster. Edith -- Miss Presbury -- feels as I do, that we cannot
wait passively any longer."
"It is certainly a very curious and suggestive case. What do
you think, Watson?"
"Speaking as a medical man," said I, "it appears to be a
case for an alienist. The old gentleman's cerebral processes
were disturbed by the love affair. He made a journey abroad
in the hope of breaking himself of the passion. His letters
and the box may be connected with some other private trans-
action -- a loan, perhaps, or share cenificates, which are in
"And the wolfhound no doubt disapproved of the financial
bargain. No, no, Watson, there is more in it than this. Now, I
can only suggest --"
What Sherlock Holmes was about to suggest will never be
known, for at this moment the door opened and a young lady
was shown into the room. As she appeared Mr. Bennett sprang
up with a cry and ran forward with his hands out to meet those
which she had herself outstretched.
"Edith, dear! Nothing the matter, I hope?"
"I felt I must follow you. Oh, Jack, I have been so dreadfully
frightened! It is awful to be there alone."
"Mr. Holmes, this is the young lady I spoke of. This is my
"We were gradually coming to that conclusion, were we not,
Watson?" Holmes answered with a smile. "I take it, Miss
Presbury, that there is some fresh development in the case, and
that you thought we should know?"
Our new visitor, a bright, handsome girl of a conventional
English type, smiled back at Holmes as she seated herself beside
"When I found Mr. Bennett had left his hotel I thought I
should probably find him here. Of course, he had told me that he
would consult you. But, oh, Mr. Holmes, can you do nothing for
my poor father?"
"I have hopes, Miss Presbury, but the case is still obscure.
Perhaps what you have to say may throw some fresh light upon
"It was last night, Mr. Holmes. He had been very strange all
day. I am sure that there are times when he has no recollection of
what he does. He lives as in a strange dream. Yesterday was
such a day. It was not my father with whom I lived. His outward
shell was there, but it was not really he."
"Tell me what happened."
"I was awakened in the night by the dog barking most furi-
ously. Poor Roy, he is chained now near the stable. I may say
that I always sleep with my door locked; for, as Jack -- as Mr.
Bennett -- will tell you, we all have a feeling of impending
danger. My room is on the second floor. It happened that the
blind was up in my window, and there was bright moonlight
outside. As I lay with my eyes fixed upon the square of light,
listening to the frenzied barkings of the dog, I was amazed to see
my father's face looking in at me. Mr. Holmes, I nearly died of
surprise and horror. There it was pressed against the window-
pane, and one hand seemed to be raised as if to push up the
window. If that window had opened, I think I should have gone
mad. It was no delusion, Mr. Holmes. Don't deceive yourself by
thinking so. I dare say it was twenty seconds or so that I lay
paralyzed and watched the face. Then it vanished, but I could
not -- I could not spring out of bed and look out after it. I lay
cold and shivering till morning. At breakfast he was sharp and
fierce in manner, and made no allusion to the adventure of the
night. Neither did I, but I gave an excuse for coming to town --
and here I am."
Holmes looked thoroughly surprised at Miss Presbury's narrative.
"My dear young lady, you say that your room is on the
second floor. Is there a long ladder in the garden?"
"No, Mr. Holmes, that is the amazing part of it. There is no
possible way of reaching the window -- and yet he was there."
"The date being September 5th," said Holmes. "That cer-
tainly complicates matters."
It was the young lady's turn to look surprised. "This is the
second time that you have alluded to the date, Mr. Holmes,"
said Bennett. "Is it possible that it has any bearing upon the
"It is possible -- very possible -- and yet I have not my full
material at present."
"Possibly you are thinking of the connection between insanity
and phases of the moon?"
"No, I assure you. It was quite a different line of thought.
Possibly you can leave your notebook with me, and I will check
the dates. Now I think, Watson, that our line of action is
perfectly clear. This young lady has informed us -- and I have the
greatest confidence in her intuition -- that her father remembers
little or nothing which occurs upon certain dates. We will there-
fore call upon him as if he had given us an appointment upon
such a date. He will put it down to his own lack of memory.
Thus we will open our campaign by having a good close view of
"That is excellent," said Mr. Bennett. "I warn you, however,
that the professor is irascible and violent at times."
Holmes smiled. "There are reasons why we should come at
once -- very cogent reasons if my theories hold good. To-morrow,
Mr. Bennett, will certainly see us in Camford. There is, if I
remember right, an inn called the Chequers where the port used to
be above mediocrity and the linen was above reproach. I think,
Watson, that our lot for the next few days might lie in less
Monday morning found us on our way to the famous univer-
sity town -- an easy effort on the part of Holmes, who had no
roots to pull up, but one which involved frantic planning and
hurrying on my part, as my practice was by this time not
inconsiderable. Holmes made no allusion to the case until after
we had deposited our suitcases at the ancient hostel of which he
"I think, Watson, that we can catch the professor just before
lunch. He lectures at eleven and should have an interval at
"What possible excuse have we for calling?"
Holmes glanced at his notebook.
"There was a period of excitement upon August 26th. We will
assume that he is a little hazy as to what he does at such times. If
we insist that we are there by appointment I think he will hardly
venture to contradict us. Have you the effrontery necessary to
put it through?"
"We can but try."
"Excellent, Watson! Compound of the Busy Bee and Excel-
sior. We can but try -- the motto of the firm. A friendly native
will surely guide us."
Such a one on the back of a smart hansom swept us past a row
of ancient colleges and, finally turning into a tree-lined drive,
pulled up at the door of a charming house, girt round with lawns
and covered with purple wistaria. Professor Presbury was cer-
tainly surrounded with every sign not only of comfort but of
luxury. Even as we pulled up, a grizzled head appeared at the
front window, and we were aware of a pair of keen eyes from
under shaggy brows which surveyed us through large horn glasses.
A moment later we were actually in his sanctum, and the myste-
rious scientist, whose vagaries had brought us from London, was
standing before us. There was certainly no sign of eccentricity
either in his manner or appearance, for he was a portly, large-
featured man, grave, tall, and frock-coated, with the dignity of
bearing which a lecturer needs. His eyes were his most remark-
able feature, keen, observant, and clever to the verge of cunning.
He looked at our cards. "Pray sit down, gentlemen. What can
I do for you?"
Mr. Holmes smiled amiably.
"It was the question which I was about to put to you, Professor."
"To me, sir!"
"Possibly there is some mistake. I heard through a second
person that Professor Presbury of Camford had need of my
"Oh, indeed!" It seemed to me that there was a malicious
sparkle in the intense gray eyes. "You heard that, did you? May
I ask the name of your informant?"
"I am sorry, Professor, but the matter was rather confidential.
If I have made a mistake there is no harm done. I can only
express my regret."
"Not at all. I should wish to go funher into this matter. It
interests me. Have you any scrap of writing, any letter or
telegram, to bear out your assertion?"
"No, I have not."
"I presume that you do not go so far as to assert that I
"I would rather answer no questions," said Holmes.
"No, I dare say not," said the professor with asperity. "How-
ever, that particular one can be answered very easily without
He walked across the room to the bell. Our London friend
Mr. Bennett, answered the call.
"Come in, Mr. Bennett. These two gentlemen have come
from London under the impression that they have been sum-
moned. You handle all my correspondence. Have you a note of
anything going to a person named Holmes?"
"No, sir," Bennett answered with a flush.
"That is conclusive," said the professor, glaring angrily at my
companion. "Now, sir" -- he leaned forward with his two hands
upon the table --" it seems to me that your position is a very
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"I can only repeat that I am sorry that we have made a
"Hardly enough, Mr. Holmes!" the old man cried in a high
screaming voice, with extraordinary malignancy upon his face.
He got between us and the door as he spoke, and he shook his
two hands at us with furious passion. "You can hardly get out of
it so easily as that." His face was convulsed, and he grinned and
gibbered at us in his senseless rage. I am convinced that we
should have had to fight our way out of the room if Mr. Bennett
had not intervened.
"My dear Professor," he cried, "consider your position!
Consider the scandal at the university! Mr. Holmes is a well-
known man. You cannot possibly treat him with such discourtesy."
Sulkily our host -- if I may call him so -- cleared the path to the
door. We were glad to find ourselves outside the house and in
the quiet of the tree-lined drive. Holmes seemed great!y amused
by the episode.
"Our learned friend's nerves are somewhat out of order," said
he. "Perhaps our intrusion was a little crude, and yet we have
gained that personal contact which I desired. But, dear me,
Watson, he is surely at our heels. The villain still pursues us."
There were the sounds of running feet behind, but it was, to
my relief, not the formidable professor but his assistant who
appeared round the curve of the drive. He came panting up to us.
"I am so sorry, Mr. Holmes. I wished to apologize."
"My dear sir, there is no need. It is all in the way of
"I have never seen him in a more dangerous mood. But he
grows more sinister. You can understand now why his daughter
and I are alarmed. And yet his mind is perfectly clear."
"Too clear!" said Holmes. "That was my miscalculation. It
is evident that his memory is much more reliable than I had
thought. By the way, can we, before we go, see the window of
Miss Presbury's room?"
Mr. Bennett pushed his way through some shrubs, and we had
a view of the side of the house.
"It is there. The second on the left."
"Dear me, it seems hardly accessible. And yet you will
observe that there is a creeper below and a water-pipe above
which give some foothold."
"I could not climb it myself," said Mr. Bennett.
"Very likely. It would certainly be a dangerous exploit for
any normal man."
"There was one other thing I wish to tell you, Mr. Holmes. I
have the address of the man in London to whom the professor
writes. He seems to have written this morning, and I got it from
his blotting-paper. It is an ignoble position for a trusted secre-
tary, but what else can I do?"
Holmes glanced at the paper and put it into his pocket.
"Dorak -- a curious name. Slavonic, I imagine. Well, it is an
important link in the chain. We return to London this afternoon,
Mr. Bennett. I see no good purpose to be served by our remain-
ing. We cannot arrest the professor because he has done no
crime, nor can we place him under constraint, for he cannot be
proved to be mad. No action is as yet possible."
"Then what on earth are we to do?"
"A little patience, Mr. Bennett. Things will soon develop.
Unless I am mistaken, next Tuesday may mark a crisis. Certainly
we shall be in Camford on that day. Meanwhile, the general
position is undeniably unpleasant, and if Miss Presbury can
prolong her visit "
"That is easy."
"Then let her stay till we can assure her that all danger is past.
Meanwhile, let him have his way and do not cross him. So long
as he is in a good humour all is well."
"There he is!" said Bennett in a startled whisper. Looking
between the branches we saw the tall, erect figure emerge from
the hall door and look around him. He stood leaning forward, his
hands swinging straight before him, his head turning from side to
side. The secretary with a last wave slipped off among the trees,
and we saw him presently rejoin his employer, the two entering
the house together in what seemed to be animated and even
"I expect the old gentleman has been putting two and two
together," said Holmes as we walked hotelward. "He struck me
as having a particularly clear and logical brain from the little I
saw of him. Explosive, no doubt, but then from his point of view
he has something to explode about if detectives are put on his
track and he suspects his own household of doing it. I rather
fancy that friend Bennett is in for an uncomfortable time."
Holmes stopped at a post-office and sent off a telegram on our
way. The answer reached us in the evening, and he tossed it
across to me.
Have visited the Commercial Road and seen Dorak. Suave
person, Bohemian, elderly. Keeps large general store.
"Mercer is since your time," said Holmes. "He is my general
utility man who looks up routine business. It was important to
know something of the man with whom our professor was so
secretly corresponding. His nationality connects up with the
"Thank goodness that something connects with something,"
said I. "At present we seem to be faced by a long series of
inexplicable incidents with no bearing upon each other."For
example, what possible connection can there be between an
angry wolfhound and a visit to Bohemia, or either of them with a
man crawling down a passage at night? As to your dates, that is
the biggest mystification of all."
Holmes smiled and rubbed his hands. We were, I may say,
seated in the old sitting-room of the ancient hotel, with a bottle
of the famous vintage of which Holmes had spoken on the table
"Well, now, let us take the dates first," said he, his finger-
tips together and his manner as if he were addressing a class.
"This excellent young man's diary shows that there was trouble
upon July 2d, and from then onward it seems to have been at
nine-day intervals, with, so far as I remember, only one excep-
tion. Thus the last outbreak upon Friday was on September 3d,
which also falls into the series, as did August 26th, which
preceded it. The thing is beyond coincidence."
I was forced to agree.
"Let us, then, form the provisional theory that every nine
days the professor takes some strong drug which has a passing
but highly poisonous effect. His naturally violent nature is inten-
sified by it. He learned to take this drug while he was in Prague,
and is now supplied with it by a Bohemian intermediary in
London. This all hangs together, Watson!"
"But the dog, the face at the window, the creeping man in the
"Well, well, we have made a beginning. I should not expect
any fresh developments until next Tuesday. In the meantime we
can only keep in touch with friend Bennett and enjoy the ameni-
ties of this charming town."
In the morning Mr. Bennett slipped round to bring us the latest
report. As Holmes had imagined, times had not been easy with
him. Without exactly accusing him of being responsible for our
presence, the professor had been very rough and rude in his
speech, and evidently felt some strong grievance. This morning
he was quite himself again, however, and had delivered his usual
brilliant lecture to a crowded class. "Apart from his queer fits,"
said Bennett, "he has actually more energy and vitality than I
can ever remember, nor was his brain ever clearer. But it's not
he -- it's never the man whom we have known."
"I don't think you have anything to fear now for a week at
least," Holmes answered. "I am a busy man, and Dr. Watson
has his patients to attend to. Let us agree that we meet here at this
hour next Tuesday, and I shall be surprised if before we leave
you again we are not able to explain, even if we cannot perhaps
put an end to, your troubles. Meanwhile, keep us posted in what
I saw nothing of my friend for the next few days, but on the
following Monday evening I had a short note asking me to meet
him next day at the train. From what he told me as we travelled
up to Camford all was well, the peace of the professor's house
had been unruffled, and his own conduct perfectly normal. This
also was the report which was given us by Mr. Bennett himself
when he called upon us that evening at our old quarters in the
Chequers. "He heard from his London correspondent to-day.
There was a letter and there was a small packet, each with the
cross under the stamp which warned me not to touch them.
There has been nothing else."
"That may prove quite enough," said Holmes grimly. "Now,
Mr. Bennett, we shall, I think, come to some conclusion to-
night. If my deductions are correct we should have an opportu-
nity of bringing matters to a head. In order to do so it is
necessary to hold the professor under observation. I would sug-
gest, therefore, that you remain awake and on the lookout.
Should you hear him pass your door, do not interrupt him, but
follow him as discreetly as you can. Dr. Watson and I will not
be far off. By the way, where is the key of that little box of
which you spoke?"
"Upon his watch-chain."
"I fancy our researches must lie in that direction. At the worst
the lock should not be very formidable. Have you any other
able-bodied man on the premises?"
"There is the coachman, Macphail."
"Where does he sleep?"
"Over the stables."
"We might possibly want him. Well, we can do no more until
we see how things develop, Good-bye -- but I expect that we
shall see you before morning."
It was nearly midnight before we took our station among some
bushes immediately opposite the hall door of the professor. It
was a fine night, but chilly, and we were glad of our warm
overcoats. There was a breeze, and clouds were scudding across
the sky, obscuring from time to time the half-moon. It would
have been a dismal vigil were it not for the expectation and
excitement which carried us along, and the assurance of my
comrade that we had probably reached the end of the strange
sequence of events which had engaged our attention.
"If the cycle of nine days holds good then we shall have the
professor at his worst to-night," said Holmes. "The fact that
these strange symptoms began after his visit to Prague, that he is
in secret correspondence with a Bohemian dealer in London,
who presumably represents someone in Prague, and that he
received a packet from him this very day, all point in one
direction. What he takes and why he takes it are still beyond our
ken, but that it emanates in some way from Prague is clear
enough. He takes it under definite directions which regulate this
ninth-day system, which was the first point which attracted my
attention. But his symptoms are most remarkable. Did you ob-
serve his knuckles?"
I had to confess that I did not.
"Thick and horny in a way which is quite new in my experi-
ence. Always look at the hands first, Watson. Then cuffs, trouser-
knees, and boots. Very curious knuckles which can only be
explained by the mode of progression observed by --" Holmes
paused and suddenly clapped his hand to his forehead. "Oh,
Watson, Watson, what a fool I have been! It seems incredible,
and yet it must be true. All points in one direction. How could I
miss seeing the connection of ideas? Those knuckles how could
I have passed those knuckles? And the dog! And the ivy! It's
surely time that I disappeared into that little farm of my dreams.
Look out, Watson! Here he is! We shall have the chance of
seeing for ourselves."
The hall door had slowly opened, and against the lamplit
background we saw the tall figure of Professor Presbury. He was
clad in his dressing gown. As he stood outlined in the doorway
he was erect but leaning forward with dangling arms, as when
we saw him last.
Now he stepped forward into the drive, and an extraordinary
change came over him. He sank down into a crouching position
and moved along upon his hands and feet, skipping every now
and then as if he were overflowing with energy and vitality. He
moved along the face of the house and then round the corner. As
he disappeared Bennett slipped through the hall door and softly
"Come, Watson, come!" cried Holmes, and we stole as softly
as we could through the bushes until we had gained a spot
whence we could see the other side of the house, which was
bathed in the light of the half-moon. The professor was clearly
visible crouching at the foot of the ivy-covered wall. As we
watched him he suddenly began with incredible agility to ascend
it. From branch to branch he sprang, sure of foot and firm of
grasp, climbing apparently in mere joy at his own powers, with
no definite object in view. With his dressing-gown flapping on
each side of him, he looked like some huge bat glued against the
side of his own house, a great square dark patch upon the
moonlit wall. Presently he tired of this amusement, and, drop-
ping from branch to branch, he squatted down into the old
attitude and moved towards the stables, creeping along in the
same strange way as before. The wolfhound was out now,
barking furiously, and more excited than ever when it actually
caught sight of its master. It was straining on its chain and
quivering with eagerness and rage. The professor squatted down
very deliberately just out of reach of the hound and began to
provoke it in every possible way. He took handfuls of pebbles
from the drive and threw them in the dog's face, prodded him
with a stick which he had picked up, flicked his hands about
only a few inches from the gaping mouth, and endeavoured in
every way to increase the animal's fury, which was already
beyond all control. In all our adventures I do not know that I
have ever seen a more strange sight than this impassive and still
dignified figure crouching frog-like upon the ground and goading
to a wilder exhibition of passion the maddened hound, which
ramped and raged in front of him, by all manner of ingenious
and calculated cruelty.
And then in a moment it happened! It was not the chain that
broke, but it was the collar that slipped, for it had been made for
a thick-necked Newfoundland. We heard the rattle of falling
metal, and the next instant dog and man were rolling on the
ground together, the one roaring in rage, the other screaming in a
strange shrill falsetto of terror. It was a very narrow thing for the
professor's life. The savage creature had him fairly by the throat,
its fangs had bitten deep, and he was senseless before we could
reach them and drag the two apart. It might have been a danger-
ous task for us, but Bennett's voice and presence brought the
great wolflhound instantly to reason. The uproar had brought the
sleepy and astonished coachman from his room above the sta-
bles. "I'm not surprised," said he, shaking his head. "I've seen
him at it before. I knew the dog would get him sooner or later."
The hound was secured, and together we carried the professor
up to his room, where Bennett, who had a medical degree,
helped me to dress his torn throat. The sharp teeth had passed
dangerously near the carotid artery, and the haemorrhage was
serious. In half an hour the danger was past, I had given the
patient an injection of morphia, and he had sunk into deep sleep.
Then, and only then, were we able to look at each other and to
take stock of the situation.
"I think a first-class surgeon should see him," said I.
"For God's sake, no!" cried Bennett. "At present the scandal
is confined to our own household. It is safe with us. If it gets
beyond these walls it will never stop. Consider his position at the
university, his European reputation, the feelings of his daughter."
"Quite so," said Holmes. "I think it may be quite possible to
keep the matter to ourselves, and also to prevent its recurrence
now that we have a free hand. The key from the watch-chain,
Mr. Bennett. Macphail will guard the patient and let us know if
there is any change. Let us see what we can find in the profes-
sor's mysterious box."
There was not much, but there was enough -- an empty phial,
another nearly full, a hypodermic syringe, several letters in a
crabbed, foreign hand. The marks on the envelopes showed that
they were those which had disturbed the routine of the secretary,
and each was dated from the Commercial Road and signed "A.
Dorak." They were mere invoices to say that a fresh bottle was
being sent to Professor Presbury, or receipt to acknowledge
money. There was one other envelope, however, in a more
educated hand and bearing the Austrian stamp with the postmark
of Prague. "Here we have our material!" cried Holmes as he
tore out the enclosure.
HONOURED COLLEAGUE [it ran]:
Since your esteemed visit I have thought much of your case,
and though in your circumstances there are some special
reasons for the treatment, I would none the less enjoin
caution, as my results have shown that it is not without
danger of a kind.
It is possible that the serum of anthropoid would have
been better. I have, as I explained to you, used black-faced
langur because a specimen was accessible. Langur is, of
course, a crawler and climber, while anthropoid walks
erect and is in all ways nearer.
I beg you to take every possible precaution that there be
no premature revelation of the process. I have one other
client in England, and Dorak is my agent for both.
Weekly reports will oblige.
Yours with high esteem,
Lowenstein! The name brought back to me the memory of
some snippet from a newspaper which spoke of an obscure
scientist who was striving in some unknown way for the secret of
rejuvenescence and the elixir of life. Lowenstein of Prague!
Lowenstein with the wondrous strength-giving serum, tabooed
by the profession because he refused to reveal its source. In a
few words I said what I remembered. Bennett had taken a
manual of zoology from the shelves. " 'Langur.' " he read.
" 'the great black-faced monkey of the Himalayan slopes, big-
gest and most human of climbing monkeys. Many details are
added. Well, thanks to you, Mr. Holmes, it is very clear that we
have traced the evil to its source."
"The real source," said Holmes, "lies, of course, in that
untimely love affair which gave our impetuous professor the idea
that he could only gain his wish by turning himself into a
younger man. When one tries to rise above Nature one is liable
to fall below it. The highest type of man may revert to the
animal if he leaves the straight road of destiny." He sat musing
for a little with the phial in his hand, looking at the clear liquid
within. "When I have written to this man and told him that I
hold him criminally responsible for the poisons which he cir-
culates, we will have no more trouble. But it may recur. Others
may find a better way. There is danger there -- a very real danger
to humanity. Consider, Watson, that the material, the sensual,
the worldly would all prolong their worthless lives. The spiritual
would not avoid the call to something higher. It would be the
survival of the least fit. What sort of cesspool may not our poor
world become?" Suddenly the dreamer disappeared, and Holmes,
the man of action, sprang from his chair. "I think there is
nothing more to be said, Mr. Bennett. The various incidents will
now fit themselves easily into the general scheme. The dog, of
course, was aware of the change far more quickly than you. His
smell would insure that. It was the monkey, not the professor,
whom Roy attacked, just as it was the monkey who teased Roy.
Climbing was a joy to the creature, and it was a mere chance, I
take it, that the pastime brought him to the young lady's win-
dow. There is an early train to town, Watson, but I think we
shall just have time for a cup of tea at the Chequers before we