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 The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger "sherlock holmes's short story

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Philip King
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عدد المساهمات : 44
تاريخ التسجيل : 28/10/2012
العمر : 18
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مُساهمةموضوع: The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger "sherlock holmes's short story   الثلاثاء نوفمبر 27, 2012 7:15 am

hen one considers that Mr. Sherlock
Holmes was in active practice for
twenty-three years, and that during
seventeen of these I was allowed to cooperate
with him and to keep notes of his doings,
it will be clear that I have a mass of material at my
command. The problem has always been not to
find but to choose. There is the long row of yearbooks
which fill a shelf, and there are the dispatchcases
filled with documents, a perfect quarry for
the student not only of crime but of the social and
official scandals of the late Victorian era. Concerning
these latter, I may say that the writers of agonized
letters, who beg that the honour of their
families or the reputation of famous forebears may
not be touched, have nothing to fear. The discretion
and high sense of professional honour which
have always distinguished my friend are still at
work in the choice of these memoirs, and no confidence
will be abused. I deprecate, however, in
the strongest way the attempts which have been
made lately to get at and to destroy these papers.
The source of these outrages is known, and if they
are repeated I have Mr. Holmes’s authority for saying
that the whole story concerning the politician,
the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant will be
given to the public. There is at least one reader
who will understand.
It is not reasonable to suppose that every one of
these cases gave Holmes the opportunity of showing
those curious gifts of instinct and observation
which I have endeavoured to set forth in these
memoirs. Sometimes he had with much effort
to pick the fruit, sometimes it fell easily into his
lap. But the most terrible human tragedies were
often involved in those cases which brought him
the fewest personal opportunities, and it is one of
these which I now desire to record. In telling it, I
have made a slight change of name and place, but
otherwise the facts are as stated.
One forenoon—it was late in 1896—I received
a hurried note from Holmes asking for my attendance.
When I arrived I found him seated in a
smoke-laden atmosphere, with an elderly, motherly
woman of the buxom landlady type in the
corresponding chair in front of him.
“This is Mrs. Merrilow, of South Brixton,” said
my friend with a wave of the hand. “Mrs. Merrilow
does not object to tobacco, Watson, if you
wish to indulge your filthy habits. Mrs. Merrilow
has an interesting story to tell which may well lead
to further developments in which your presence
may be useful.”
“Anything I can do—”
“You will understand, Mrs. Merrilow, that if I
come to Mrs. Ronder I should prefer to have a witness.
You will make her understand that before we
arrive.”
“Lord bless you, Mr. Holmes,” said our visitor,
“she is that anxious to see you that you might
bring the whole parish at your heels!”
“Then we shall come early in the afternoon. Let
us see that we have our facts correct before we
start. If we go over them it will help Dr. Watson to
understand the situation. You say that Mrs. Ronder
has been your lodger for seven years and that
you have only once seen her face.”
“And I wish to God I had not!” said Mrs. Merrilow.
“It was, I understand, terribly mutilated.”
“Well, Mr. Holmes, you would hardly say it
was a face at all. That’s how it looked. Our milkman
got a glimpse of her once peeping out of the
upper window, and he dropped his tin and the
milk all over the front garden. That is the kind of
face it is. When I saw her—I happened on her unawares—
she covered up quick, and then she said,
‘Now, Mrs. Merrilow, you know at last why it is
that I never raise my veil.’ ”
“Do you know anything about her history?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Did she give references when she came?”
“No, sir, but she gave hard cash, and plenty of
it. A quarter’s rent right down on the table in advance
and no arguing about terms. In these times
a poor woman like me can’t afford to turn down a
chance like that.”
“Did she give any reason for choosing your
house?”
“Mine stands well back from the road and is
more private than most. Then, again, I only take
the one, and I have no family of my own. I reckon
she had tried others and found that mine suited
her best. It’s privacy she is after, and she is ready
to pay for it.”
“You say that she never showed her face from
first to last save on the one accidental occasion.
Well, it is a very remarkable story, most remarkable,
and I don’t wonder that you want it examined.”
“I don’t, Mr. Holmes. I am quite satisfied so
long as I get my rent. You could not have a quieter
lodger, or one who gives less trouble.”
“Then what has brought matters to a head?”
“Her health, Mr. Holmes. She seems to be
wasting away. And there’s something terrible on
her mind. ‘Murder!’ she cries. ‘Murder!’ And
1
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
once I heard her: ‘You cruel beast! You monster!’
she cried. It was in the night, and it fair rang
through the house and sent the shivers through
me. So I went to her in the morning. ‘Mrs. Ronder,’
I says, ‘if you have anything that is troubling
your soul, there’s the clergy,’ I says, ‘and there’s
the police. Between them you should get some
help.’ ‘For God’s sake, not the police!’ says she,
‘and the clergy can’t change what is past. And
yet,’ she says, ‘it would ease my mind if someone
knew the truth before I died.’ ‘Well,’ says I, ‘if you
won’t have the regulars, there is this detective man
what we read about’—beggin’ your pardon, Mr.
Holmes. And she, she fair jumped at it. ‘That’s
the man,’ says she. ‘I wonder I never thought of
it before. Bring him here, Mrs. Merrilow, and if
he won’t come, tell him I am the wife of Ronder’s
wild beast show. Say that, and give him the name
Abbas Parva. Here it is as she wrote it, Abbas
Parva. ‘That will bring him if he’s the man I think
he is.’ ”
“And it will, too,” remarked Holmes. “Very
good, Mrs. Merrilow. I should like to have a little
chat with Dr. Watson. That will carry us till lunchtime.
About three o’clock you may expect to see
us at your house in Brixton.”
Our visitor had no sooner waddled out of the
room—no other verb can describe Mrs. Merrilow’s
method of progression—than Sherlock Holmes
threw himself with fierce energy upon the pile of
commonplace books in the corner. For a few minutes
there was a constant swish of the leaves, and
then with a grunt of satisfaction he came upon
what he sought. So excited was he that he did not
rise, but sat upon the floor like some strange Buddha,
with crossed legs, the huge books all round
him, and one open upon his knees.
“The case worried me at the time, Watson.
Here are my marginal notes to prove it. I confess
that I could make nothing of it. And yet I was convinced
that the coroner was wrong. Have you no
recollection of the Abbas Parva tragedy?”
“None, Holmes.”
“And yet you were with me then. But certainly
my own impression was very superficial. For there
was nothing to go by, and none of the parties had
engaged my services. Perhaps you would care to
read the papers?”
“Could you not give me the points?”
“That is very easily done. It will probably come
back to your memory as I talk. Ronder, of course,
was a household word. He was the rival of Wombwell,
and of Sanger, one of the greatest showmen
of his day. There is evidence, however, that he took
to drink, and that both he and his show were on
the down grade at the time of the great tragedy.
The caravan had halted for the night at Abbas
Parva, which is a small village in Berkshire, when
this horror occurred. They were on their way to
Wimbledon, travelling by road, and they were simply
camping and not exhibiting, as the place is so
small a one that it would not have paid them to
open.
“They had among their exhibits a very fine
North African lion. Sahara King was its name, and
it was the habit, both of Ronder and his wife, to
give exhibitions inside its cage. Here, you see, is a
photograph of the performance by which you will
perceive that Ronder was a huge porcine person
and that his wife was a very magnificent woman.
It was deposed at the inquest that there had been
some signs that the lion was dangerous, but, as
usual, familiarity begat contempt, and no notice
was taken of the fact.
“It was usual for either Ronder or his wife to
feed the lion at night. Sometimes one went, sometimes
both, but they never allowed anyone else to
do it, for they believed that so long as they were
the food-carriers he would regard them as benefactors
and would never molest them. On this particular
night, seven years ago, they both went, and
a very terrible happening followed, the details of
which have never been made clear.
“It seems that the whole camp was roused
near midnight by the roars of the animal and
the screams of the woman. The different grooms
and employees rushed from their tents, carrying
lanterns, and by their light an awful sight was
revealed. Ronder lay, with the back of his head
crushed in and deep claw-marks across his scalp,
some ten yards from the cage, which was open.
Close to the door of the cage lay Mrs. Ronder upon
her back, with the creature squatting and snarling
above her. It had torn her face in such a fashion
that it was never thought that she could live. Several
of the circus men, headed by Leonardo, the
strong man, and Griggs, the clown, drove the creature
off with poles, upon which it sprang back
into the cage and was at once locked in. How it
had got loose was a mystery. It was conjectured
that the pair intended to enter the cage, but that
when the door was loosed the creature bounded
out upon them. There was no other point of interest
in the evidence save that the woman in a delirium
of agony kept screaming, ‘Coward! Coward!’
as she was carried back to the van in which they
lived. It was six months before she was fit to give
2
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
evidence, but the inquest was duly held, with the
obvious verdict of death from misadventure.”
“What alternative could be conceived?” said I.
“You may well say so. And yet there were one
or two points which worried young Edmunds, of
the Berkshire Constabulary. A smart lad that! He
was sent later to Allahabad. That was how I came
into the matter, for he dropped in and smoked a
pipe or two over it.”
“A thin, yellow-haired man?”
“Exactly. I was sure you would pick up the trail
presently.”
“But what worried him?”
“Well, we were both worried. It was so
deucedly difficult to reconstruct the affair. Look
at it from the lion’s point of view. He is liberated.
What does he do? He takes half a dozen bounds
forward, which brings him to Ronder. Ronder
turns to fly—the claw-marks were on the back of
his head—but the lion strikes him down. Then,
instead of bounding on and escaping, he returns
to the woman, who was close to the cage, and
he knocks her over and chews her face up. Then,
again, those cries of hers would seem to imply that
her husband had in some way failed her. What
could the poor devil have done to help her? You
see the difficulty?”
“Quite.”
“And then there was another thing. It comes
back to me now as I think it over. There was some
evidence that just at the time the lion roared and
the woman screamed, a man began shouting in terror.”
“This man Ronder, no doubt.”
“Well, if his skull was smashed in you would
hardly expect to hear from him again. There were
at least two witnesses who spoke of the cries of a
man being mingled with those of a woman.”
“I should think the whole camp was crying out
by then. As to the other points, I think I could
suggest a solution.”
“I should be glad to consider it.”
“The two were together, ten yards from the
cage, when the lion got loose. The man turned
and was struck down. The woman conceived the
idea of getting into the cage and shutting the door.
It was her only refuge. She made for it, and just
as she reached it the beast bounded after her and
knocked her over. She was angry with her husband
for having encouraged the beast’s rage by
turning. If they had faced it they might have
cowed it. Hence her cries of ‘Coward!’ ”
“Brilliant, Watson! Only one flaw in your diamond.”
“What is the flaw, Holmes?”
“If they were both ten paces from the cage, how
came the beast to get loose?”
“Is it possible that they had some enemy who
loosed it?”
“And why should it attack them savagely when
it was in the habit of playing with them, and doing
tricks with them inside the cage?”
“Possibly the same enemy had done something
to enrage it.”
Holmes looked thoughtful and remained in silence
for some moments.
“Well, Watson, there is this to be said for your
theory. Ronder was a man of many enemies. Edmunds
told me that in his cups he was horrible.
A huge bully of a man, he cursed and slashed
at everyone who came in his way. I expect those
cries about a monster, of which our visitor has spoken,
were nocturnal reminiscences of the dear departed.
However, our speculations are futile until
we have all the facts. There is a cold partridge on
the sideboard, Watson, and a bottle of Montrachet.
Let us renew our energies before we make a fresh
call upon them.”
When our hansom deposited us at the house of
Mrs. Merrilow, we found that plump lady blocking
up the open door of her humble but retired
abode. It was very clear that her chief preoccupation
was lest she should lose a valuable lodger, and
she implored us, before showing us up, to say and
do nothing which could lead to so undesirable an
end. Then, having reassured her, we followed her
up the straight, badly carpeted staircase and were
shown into the room of the mysterious lodger.
It was a close, musty, ill-ventilated place, as
might be expected, since its inmate seldom left it.
From keeping beasts in a cage, the woman seemed,
by some retribution of fate, to have become herself
a beast in a cage. She sat now in a broken armchair
in the shadowy corner of the room. Long years of
inaction had coarsened the lines of her figure, but
at some period it must have been beautiful, and
was still full and voluptuous. A thick dark veil
covered her face, but it was cut off close at her
upper lip and disclosed a perfectly shaped mouth
and a delicately rounded chin. I could well conceive
that she had indeed been a very remarkable
woman. Her voice, too, was well modulated and
pleasing.
“My name is not unfamiliar to you, Mr.
Holmes,” said she. “I thought that it would bring
you.”
3
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
“That is so, madam, though I do not know how
you are aware that I was interested in your case.”
“I learned it when I had recovered my health
and was examined by Mr. Edmunds, the county
detective. I fear I lied to him. Perhaps it would
have been wiser had I told the truth.”
“It is usually wiser to tell the truth. But why
did you lie to him?”
“Because the fate of someone else depended
upon it. I know that he was a very worthless being,
and yet I would not have his destruction upon
my conscience. We had been so close—so close!”
“But has this impediment been removed?”
“Yes, sir. The person that I allude to is dead.”
“Then why should you not now tell the police
anything you know?”
“Because there is another person to be considered.
That other person is myself. I could not
stand the scandal and publicity which would come
from a police examination. I have not long to live,
but I wish to die undisturbed. And yet I wanted
to find one man of judgment to whom I could tell
my terrible story, so that when I am gone all might
be understood.”
“You compliment me, madam. At the same
time, I am a responsible person. I do not promise
you that when you have spoken I may not myself
think it my duty to refer the case to the police.”
“I think not, Mr. Holmes. I know your character
and methods too well, for I have followed your
work for some years. Reading is the only pleasure
which fate has left me, and I miss little which
passes in the world. But in any case, I will take
my chance of the use which you may make of my
tragedy. It will ease my mind to tell it.”
“My friend and I would be glad to hear it.”
The woman rose and took from a drawer the
photograph of a man. He was clearly a professional
acrobat, a man of magnificent physique,
taken with his huge arms folded across his swollen
chest and a smile breaking from under his heavy
moustache—the self-satisfied smile of the man of
many conquests.
“That is Leonardo,” she said.
“Leonardo, the strong man, who gave evidence?”
“The same. And this—this is my husband.”
It was a dreadful face—a human pig, or rather
a human wild boar, for it was formidable in its bestiality.
One could imagine that vile mouth champing
and foaming in its rage, and one could conceive
those small, vicious eyes darting pure malignancy
as they looked forth upon the world. Ruffian,
bully, beast—it was all written on that heavyjowled
face.
“Those two pictures will help you, gentlemen,
to understand the story. I was a poor circus girl
brought up on the sawdust, and doing springs
through the hoop before I was ten. When I became
a woman this man loved me, if such lust as his can
be called love, and in an evil moment I became his
wife. From that day I was in hell, and he the devil
who tormented me. There was no one in the show
who did not know of his treatment. He deserted
me for others. He tied me down and lashed me
with his riding-whip when I complained. They all
pitied me and they all loathed him, but what could
they do? They feared him, one and all. For he was
terrible at all times, and murderous when he was
drunk. Again and again he was had up for assault,
and for cruelty to the beasts, but he had plenty of
money and the fines were nothing to him. The best
men all left us, and the show began to go downhill.
It was only Leonardo and I who kept it up—with
little Jimmy Griggs, the clown. Poor devil, he had
not much to be funny about, but he did what he
could to hold things together.
“Then Leonardo came more and more into my
life. You see what he was like. I know now the
poor spirit that was hidden in that splendid body,
but compared to my husband he seemed like the
angel Gabriel. He pitied me and helped me, till
at last our intimacy turned to love—deep, deep,
passionate love, such love as I had dreamed of but
never hoped to feel. My husband suspected it, but
I think that he was a coward as well as a bully, and
that Leonardo was the one man that he was afraid
of. He took revenge in his own way by torturing
me more than ever. One night my cries brought
Leonardo to the door of our van. We were near
tragedy that night, and soon my lover and I understood
that it could not be avoided. My husband
was not fit to live. We planned that he should die.
“Leonardo had a clever, scheming brain. It was
he who planned it. I do not say that to blame him,
for I was ready to go with him every inch of the
way. But I should never have had the wit to think
of such a plan. We made a club—Leonardo made
it—and in the leaden head he fastened five long
steel nails, the points outward, with just such a
spread as the lion’s paw. This was to give my husband
his death-blow, and yet to leave the evidence
4
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
that it was the lion which we would loose who had
done the deed.
“It was a pitch-dark night when my husband
and I went down, as was our custom, to feed the
beast. We carried with us the raw meat in a zinc
pail. Leonardo was waiting at the corner of the
big van which we should have to pass before we
reached the cage. He was too slow, and we walked
past him before he could strike, but he followed us
on tiptoe and I heard the crash as the club smashed
my husband’s skull. My heart leaped with joy at
the sound. I sprang forward, and I undid the catch
which held the door of the great lion’s cage.
“And then the terrible thing happened. You
may have heard how quick these creatures are to
scent human blood, and how it excites them. Some
strange instinct had told the creature in one instant
that a human being had been slain. As I slipped
the bars it bounded out and was on me in an instant.
Leonardo could have saved me. If he had
rushed forward and struck the beast with his club
he might have cowed it. But the man lost his nerve.
I heard him shout in his terror, and then I saw him
turn and fly. At the same instant the teeth of the
lion met in my face. Its hot, filthy breath had already
poisoned me and I was hardly conscious of
pain. With the palms of my hands I tried to push
the great steaming, blood-stained jaws away from
me, and I screamed for help. I was conscious that
the camp was stirring, and then dimly I remembered
a group of men. Leonardo, Griggs, and others,
dragging me from under the creature’s paws.
That was my last memory, Mr. Holmes, for many
a weary month. When I came to myself and saw
myself in the mirror, I cursed that lion—oh, how
I cursed him!—not because he had torn away my
beauty but because he had not torn away my life. I
had but one desire, Mr. Holmes, and I had enough
money to gratify it. It was that I should cover myself
so that my poor face should be seen by none,
and that I should dwell where none whom I had
ever known should find me. That was all that was
left to me to do—and that is what I have done. A
poor wounded beast that has crawled into its hole
to die—that is the end of Eugenia Ronder.”
We sat in silence for some time after the unhappy
woman had told her story. Then Holmes
stretched out his long arm and patted her hand
with such a show of sympathy as I had seldom
known him to exhibit.
“Poor girl!” he said. “Poor girl! The ways of
fate are indeed hard to understand. If there is not
some compensation hereafter, then the world is a
cruel jest. But what of this man Leonardo?”
“I never saw him or heard from him again. Perhaps
I have been wrong to feel so bitterly against
him. He might as soon have loved one of the freaks
whom we carried round the country as the thing
which the lion had left. But a woman’s love is
not so easily set aside. He had left me under the
beast’s claws, he had deserted me in my need, and
yet I could not bring myself to give him to the gallows.
For myself, I cared nothing what became of
me. What could be more dreadful than my actual
life? But I stood between Leonardo and his fate.”
“And he is dead?”
“He was drowned last month when bathing
near Margate. I saw his death in the paper.”
“And what did he do with this five-clawed
club, which is the most singular and ingenious
part of all your story?”
“I cannot tell, Mr. Holmes. There is a chalk-pit
by the camp, with a deep green pool at the base of
it. Perhaps in the depths of that pool—”
“Well, well, it is of little consequence now. The
case is closed.”
“Yes,” said the woman, “the case is closed.”
We had risen to go, but there was something in
the woman’s voice which arrested Holmes’s attention.
He turned swiftly upon her.
“Your life is not your own,” he said. “Keep
your hands off it.”
“What use is it to anyone?”
“How can you tell? The example of patient suffering
is in itself the most precious of all lessons to
an impatient world.”
The woman’s answer was a terrible one. She
raised her veil and stepped forward into the light.
“I wonder if you would bear it,” she said.
It was horrible. No words can describe the
framework of a face when the face itself is gone.
Two living and beautiful brown eyes looking sadly
out from that grisly ruin did but make the view
more awful. Holmes held up his hand in a gesture
of pity and protest, and together we left the room.
Two days later, when I called upon my friend,
he pointed with some pride to a small blue bottle
upon his mantelpiece. I picked it up. There was a
red poison label. A pleasant almondy odour rose
when I opened it.
“Prussic acid?” said I.
“Exactly. It came by post. ‘I send you my temptation.
I will follow your advice.’ That was the
message. I think, Watson, we can guess the name
of the brave woman who sent it.”
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The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger "sherlock holmes's short story
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