The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor.  Arthur Conan Doyle

Book. The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor (本书. 贵族单身汉案)
< Prev. Chapter  |  Next Chapter >


Font:
-
T
+

The Lord St. Simon marriage, and its curious termination, have long ceased to be a subject of interest in those exalted circles in which the unfortunate bridegroom moves. Fresh scandals have eclipsed it, and their more piquant details have drawn the gossips away from this four-year-old drama. As I have reason to believe, however, that the full facts have never been revealed to the general public, and as my friend Sherlock Holmes had a considerable share in clearing the matter up, I feel that no memoir of him would be complete without some little sketch of this remarkable episode.

It was a few weeks before my own marriage, during the days when I was still sharing rooms with Holmes in Baker Street, that he came home from an afternoon stroll to find a letter on the table waiting for him. I had remained indoors all day, for the weather had taken a sudden turn to rain, with high autumnal winds, and the Jezail bullet which I had brought back in one of my limbs as a relic of my Afghan campaign throbbed with dull persistence. With my body in one easy-chair and my legs upon another, I had surrounded myself with a cloud of newspapers until at last, saturated with the news of the day, I tossed them all aside and lay listless, watching the huge crest and monogram upon the envelope upon the table and wondering lazily who my friend’s noble correspondent could be.

“Here is a very fashionable epistle,” I remarked as he entered. “Your morning letters, if I remember right, were from a fish-monger and a tide-waiter.”

“Yes, my correspondence has certainly the charm of variety,” he answered, smiling, “and the humbler are usually the more interesting. This looks like one of those unwelcome social summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie.”

He broke the seal and glanced over the contents.

“Oh, come, it may prove to be something of interest, after all.”

“Not social, then?”

“No, distinctly professional.”

“And from a noble client?”

“One of the highest in England.”

“My dear fellow, I congratulate you.”

“I assure you, Watson, without affectation, that the status of my client is a matter of less moment to me than the interest of his case. It is just possible, however, that that also may not be wanting in this new investigation. You have been reading the papers diligently of late, have you not?”

“It looks like it,” said I ruefully, pointing to a huge bundle in the corner. “I have had nothing else to do.”

“It is fortunate, for you will perhaps be able to post me up. I read nothing except the criminal news and the agony column. The latter is always instructive. But if you have followed recent events so closely you must have read about Lord St. Simon and his wedding?”

“Oh, yes, with the deepest interest.”

“That is well. The letter which I hold in my hand is from Lord St. Simon. I will read it to you, and in return you must turn over these papers and let me have whatever bears upon the matter. This is what he says:

“ ‘MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES:—Lord Backwater tells me that I may place implicit reliance upon your judgment and discretion. I have determined, therefore, to call upon you and to consult you in reference to the very painful event which has occurred in connection with my wedding. Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, is acting already in the matter, but he assures me that he sees no objection to your co-operation, and that he even thinks that it might be of some assistance. I will call at four o’clock in the afternoon, and, should you have any other engagement at that time, I hope that you will postpone it, as this matter is of paramount importance. Yours faithfully,

“ ‘ST. SIMON.’

“It is dated from Grosvenor Mansions, written with a quill pen, and the noble lord has had the misfortune to get a smear of ink upon the outer side of his right little finger,” remarked Holmes as he folded up the epistle.

“He says four o’clock. It is three now. He will be here in an hour.”

“Then I have just time, with your assistance, to get clear upon the subject. Turn over those papers and arrange the extracts in their order of time, while I take a glance as to who our client is.” He picked a red-covered volume from a line of books of reference beside the mantelpiece. “Here he is,” said he, sitting down and flattening it out upon his knee. “ ‘Lord Robert Walsingham de Vere St. Simon, second son of the Duke of Balmoral.’ Hum! ‘Arms: Azure, three caltrops in chief over a fess sable. Born in 1846.’ He’s forty-one years of age, which is mature for marriage. Was Under-Secretary for the colonies in a late administration. The Duke, his father, was at one time Secretary for Foreign Affairs. They inherit Plantagenet blood by direct descent, and Tudor on the distaff side. Ha! Well, there is nothing very instructive in all this. I think that I must turn to you Watson, for something more solid.”

“I have very little difficulty in finding what I want,” said I, “for the facts are quite recent, and the matter struck me as remarkable. I feared to refer them to you, however, as I knew that you had an inquiry on hand and that you disliked the intrusion of other matters.”

“Oh, you mean the little problem of the Grosvenor Square furniture van. That is quite cleared up now—though, indeed, it was obvious from the first. Pray give me the results of your newspaper selections.”

“Here is the first notice which I can find. It is in the personal column of the Morning Post, and dates, as you see, some weeks back: ‘A marriage has been arranged,’ it says, ‘and will, if rumour is correct, very shortly take place, between Lord Robert St. Simon, second son of the Duke of Balmoral, and Miss Hatty Doran, the only daughter of Aloysius Doran. Esq., of San Francisco, Cal., U.S.A.’ That is all.”

“Terse and to the point,” remarked Holmes, stretching his long, thin legs towards the fire.

“There was a paragraph amplifying this in one of the society papers of the same week. Ah, here it is: ‘There will soon be a call for protection in the marriage market, for the present free-trade principle appears to tell heavily against our home product. One by one the management of the noble houses of Great Britain is passing into the hands of our fair cousins from across the Atlantic. An important addition has been made during the last week to the list of the prizes which have been borne away by these charming invaders. Lord St. Simon, who has shown himself for over twenty years proof against the little god’s arrows, has now definitely announced his approaching marriage with Miss Hatty Doran, the fascinating daughter of a California millionaire. Miss Doran, whose graceful figure and striking face attracted much attention at the Westbury House festivities, is an only child, and it is currently reported that her dowry will run to considerably over the six figures, with expectancies for the future. As it is an open secret that the Duke of Balmoral has been compelled to sell his pictures within the last few years, and as Lord St. Simon has no property of his own save the small estate of Birchmoor, it is obvious that the Californian heiress is not the only gainer by an alliance which will enable her to make the easy and common transition from a Republican lady to a British peeress.’ ”

“Anything else?” asked Holmes, yawning.

“Oh, yes; plenty. Then there is another note in the Morning Post to say that the marriage would be an absolutely quiet one, that it would be at St. George’s, Hanover Square, that only half a dozen intimate friends would be invited, and that the party would return to the furnished house at Lancaster Gate which has been taken by Mr. Aloysius Doran. Two days later—that is, on Wednesday last—there is a curt announcement that the wedding had taken place, and that the honeymoon would be passed at Lord Backwater’s place, near Petersfield. Those are all the notices which appeared before the disappearance of the bride.”

“Before the what?” asked Holmes with a start.

“The vanishing of the lady.”

“When did she vanish, then?”

“At the wedding breakfast.”

“Indeed. This is more interesting than it promised to be; quite dramatic, in fact.”

“Yes; it struck me as being a little out of the common.”

“They often vanish before the ceremony, and occasionally during the honeymoon; but I cannot call to mind anything quite so prompt as this. Pray let me have the details.”

“I warn you that they are very incomplete.”

“Perhaps we may make them less so.”

“Such as they are, they are set forth in a single article of a morning paper of yesterday, which I will read to you. It is headed, ‘Singular Occurrence at a Fashionable Wedding’:

“ ‘The family of Lord Robert St. Simon has been thrown into the greatest consternation by the strange and painful episodes which have taken place in connection with his wedding. The ceremony, as shortly announced in the papers of yesterday, occurred on the previous morning; but it is only now that it has been possible to confirm the strange rumours which have been so persistently floating about. In spite of the attempts of the friends to hush the matter up, so much public attention has now been drawn to it that no good purpose can be served by affecting to disregard what is a common subject for conversation.

“ ‘The ceremony, which was performed at St. George’s, Hanover Square, was a very quiet one, no one being present save the father of the bride, Mr. Aloysius Doran, the Duchess of Balmoral, Lord Backwater, Lord Eustace and Lady Clara St. Simon (the younger brother and sister of the bridegroom), and Lady Alicia Whittington. The whole party proceeded afterwards to the house of Mr. Aloysius Doran, at Lancaster Gate, where breakfast had been prepared. It appears that some little trouble was caused by a woman, whose name has not been ascertained, who endeavoured to force her way into the house after the bridal party, alleging that she had some claim upon Lord St. Simon. It was only after a painful and prolonged scene that she was ejected by the butler and the footman. The bride, who had fortunately entered the house before this unpleasant interruption, had sat down to breakfast with the rest, when she complained of a sudden indisposition and retired to her room. Her prolonged absence having caused some comment, her father followed her, but learned from her maid that she had only come up to her chamber for an instant, caught up an ulster and bonnet, and hurried down to the passage. One of the footmen declared that he had seen a lady leave the house thus apparelled, but had refused to credit that it was his mistress, believing her to be with the company. On ascertaining that his daughter had disappeared, Mr. Aloysius Doran, in conjunction with the bridegroom, instantly put themselves in communication with the police, and very energetic inquiries are being made, which will probably result in a speedy clearing up of this very singular business. Up to a late hour last night, however, nothing had transpired as to the whereabouts of the missing lady. There are rumours of foul play in the matter, and it is said that the police have caused the arrest of the woman who had caused the original disturbance, in the belief that, from jealousy or some other motive, she may have been concerned in the strange disappearance of the bride.’ ”

“And is that all?”

“Only one little item in another of the morning papers, but it is a suggestive one.”

“And it is—”

“That Miss Flora Millar, the lady who had caused the disturbance, has actually been arrested. It appears that she was formerly a danseuse at the Allegro, and that she has known the bridegroom for some years. There are no further particulars, and the whole case is in your hands now—so far as it has been set forth in the public press.”

“And an exceedingly interesting case it appears to be. I would not have missed it for worlds. But there is a ring at the bell, Watson, and as the clock makes it a few minutes after four, I have no doubt that this will prove to be our noble client. Do not dream of going, Watson, for I very much prefer having a witness, if only as a check to my own memory.”

“Lord Robert St. Simon,” announced our page-boy, throwing open the door. A gentleman entered, with a pleasant, cultured face, high-nosed and pale, with something perhaps of petulance about the mouth, and with the steady, well-opened eye of a man whose pleasant lot it had ever been to command and to be obeyed. His manner was brisk, and yet his general appearance gave an undue impression of age, for he had a slight forward stoop and a little bend of the knees as he walked. His hair, too, as he swept off his very curly-brimmed hat, was grizzled round the edges and thin upon the top. As to his dress, it was careful to the verge of foppishness, with high collar, black frock-coat, white waistcoat, yellow gloves, patent-leather shoes, and light-coloured gaiters. He advanced slowly into the room, turning his head from left to right, and swinging in his right hand the cord which held his golden eyeglasses.

“Good-day, Lord St. Simon,” said Holmes, rising and bowing. “Pray take the basket-chair. This is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson. Draw up a little to the fire, and we will talk this matter over.”

“A most painful matter to me, as you can most readily imagine, Mr. Holmes. I have been cut to the quick. I understand that you have already managed several delicate cases of this sort, sir, though I presume that they were hardly from the same class of society.”

“No, I am descending.”

“I beg pardon.”

“My last client of the sort was a king.”

“Oh, really! I had no idea. And which king?”

“The King of Scandinavia.”

“What! Had he lost his wife?”

“You can understand,” said Holmes suavely, “that I extend to the affairs of my other clients the same secrecy which I promise to you in yours.”

“Of course! Very right! very right! I’m sure I beg pardon. As to my own case, I am ready to give you any information which may assist you in forming an opinion.”

“Thank you. I have already learned all that is in the public prints, nothing more. I presume that I may take it as correct—this article, for example, as to the disappearance of the bride.”

Lord St. Simon glanced over it. “Yes, it is correct, as far as it goes.”

“But it needs a great deal of supplementing before anyone could offer an opinion. I think that I may arrive at my facts most directly by questioning you.”

“Pray do so.”

“When did you first meet Miss Hatty Doran?”

“In San Francisco, a year ago.”

“You were travelling in the States?”

“Yes.”

“Did you become engaged then?”

“No.”

“But you were on a friendly footing?”

“I was amused by her society, and she could see that I was amused.”

“Her father is very rich?”

“He is said to be the richest man on the Pacific slope.”

“And how did he make his money?”

“In mining. He had nothing a few years ago. Then he struck gold, invested it, and came up by leaps and bounds.”

“Now, what is your own impression as to the young lady’s—your wife’s character?”

The nobleman swung his glasses a little faster and stared down into the fire. “You see, Mr. Holmes,” said he, “my wife was twenty before her father became a rich man. During that time she ran free in a mining camp and wandered through woods or mountains, so that her education has come from Nature rather than from the schoolmaster. She is what we call in England a tomboy, with a strong nature, wild and free, unfettered by any sort of traditions. She is impetuous—volcanic, I was about to say. She is swift in making up her mind and fearless in carrying out her resolutions. On the other hand, I would not have given her the name which I have the honour to bear”—he gave a little stately cough—“had I not thought her to be at bottom a noble woman. I believe that she is capable of heroic self-sacrifice and that anything dishonourable would be repugnant to her.”

“Have you her photograph?”

“I brought this with me.” He opened a locket and showed us the full face of a very lovely woman. It was not a photograph but an ivory miniature, and the artist had brought out the full effect of the lustrous black hair, the large dark eyes, and the exquisite mouth. Holmes gazed long and earnestly at it. Then he closed the locket and handed it back to Lord St. Simon.

“The young lady came to London, then, and you renewed your acquaintance?”

“Yes, her father brought her over for this last London season. I met her several times, became engaged to her, and have now married her.”

“She brought, I understand, a considerable dowry?”

“A fair dowry. Not more than is usual in my family.”

“And this, of course, remains to you, since the marriage is a fait accompli?”

“I really have made no inquiries on the subject.”

“Very naturally not. Did you see Miss Doran on the day before the wedding?”

“Yes.”

“Was she in good spirits?”

“Never better. She kept talking of what we should do in our future lives.”

“Indeed! That is very interesting. And on the morning of the wedding?”

“She was as bright as possible—at least until after the ceremony.”

“And did you observe any change in her then?”

“Well, to tell the truth, I saw then the first signs that I had ever seen that her temper was just a little sharp. The incident however, was too trivial to relate and can have no possible bearing upon the case.”

“Pray let us have it, for all that.”

“Oh, it is childish. She dropped her bouquet as we went towards the vestry. She was passing the front pew at the time, and it fell over into the pew. There was a moment’s delay, but the gentleman in the pew handed it up to her again, and it did not appear to be the worse for the fall. Yet when I spoke to her of the matter, she answered me abruptly; and in the carriage, on our way home, she seemed absurdly agitated over this trifling cause.”

“Indeed! You say that there was a gentleman in the pew. Some of the general public were present, then?”

“Oh, yes. It is impossible to exclude them when the church is open.”

“This gentleman was not one of your wife’s friends?”

“No, no; I call him a gentleman by courtesy, but he was quite a common-looking person. I hardly noticed his appearance. But really I think that we are wandering rather far from the point.”

“Lady St. Simon, then, returned from the wedding in a less cheerful frame of mind than she had gone to it. What did she do on re-entering her father’s house?”

“I saw her in conversation with her maid.”

“And who is her maid?”

“Alice is her name. She is an American and came from California with her.”

“A confidential servant?”

“A little too much so. It seemed to me that her mistress allowed her to take great liberties. Still, of course, in America they look upon these things in a different way.”

“How long did she speak to this Alice?”

“Oh, a few minutes. I had something else to think of.”

“You did not overhear what they said?”

“Lady St. Simon said something about ‘jumping a claim.’ She was accustomed to use slang of the kind. I have no idea what she meant.”

“American slang is very expressive sometimes. And what did your wife do when she finished speaking to her maid?”

“She walked into the breakfast-room.”

“On your arm?”

“No, alone. She was very independent in little matters like that. Then, after we had sat down for ten minutes or so, she rose hurriedly, muttered some words of apology, and left the room. She never came back.”

“But this maid, Alice, as I understand, deposes that she went to her room, covered her bride’s dress with a long ulster, put on a bonnet, and went out.”

“Quite so. And she was afterwards seen walking into Hyde Park in company with Flora Millar, a woman who is now in custody, and who had already made a disturbance at Mr. Doran’s house that morning.”

“Ah, yes. I should like a few particulars as to this young lady, and your relations to her.”

Lord St. Simon shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows. “We have been on a friendly footing for some years—I may say on a very friendly footing. She used to be at the Allegro. I have not treated her ungenerously, and she had no just cause of complaint against me, but you know what women are, Mr. Holmes. Flora was a dear little thing, but exceedingly hot-headed and devotedly attached to me. She wrote me dreadful letters when she heard that I was about to be married, and, to tell the truth, the reason why I had the marriage celebrated so quietly was that I feared lest there might be a scandal in the church. She came to Mr. Doran’s door just after we returned, and she endeavoured to push her way in, uttering very abusive expressions towards my wife, and even threatening her, but I had foreseen the possibility of something of the sort, and I had two police fellows there in private clothes, who soon pushed her out again. She was quiet when she saw that there was no good in making a row.”

“Did your wife hear all this?”

“No, thank goodness, she did not.”

“And she was seen walking with this very woman afterwards?”

“Yes. That is what Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, looks upon as so serious. It is thought that Flora decoyed my wife out and laid some terrible trap for her.”

“Well, it is a possible supposition.”

“You think so, too?”

“I did not say a probable one. But you do not yourself look upon this as likely?”

“I do not think Flora would hurt a fly.”

“Still, jealousy is a strange transformer of characters. Pray what is your own theory as to what took place?”

“Well, really, I came to seek a theory, not to propound one. I have given you all the facts. Since you ask me, however, I may say that it has occurred to me as possible that the excitement of this affair, the consciousness that she had made so immense a social stride, had the effect of causing some little nervous disturbance in my wife.”

“In short, that she had become suddenly deranged?”

“Well, really, when I consider that she has turned her back—I will not say upon me, but upon so much that many have aspired to without success—I can hardly explain it in any other fashion.”

“Well, certainly that is also a conceivable hypothesis,” said Holmes, smiling. “And now, Lord St. Simon, I think that I have nearly all my data. May I ask whether you were seated at the breakfast-table so that you could see out of the window?”

“We could see the other side of the road and the Park.”

“Quite so. Then I do not think that I need to detain you longer. I shall communicate with you.”

“Should you be fortunate enough to solve this problem,” said our client, rising.

“I have solved it.”

“Eh? What was that?”

“I say that I have solved it.”

“Where, then, is my wife?”

“That is a detail which I shall speedily supply.”

Lord St. Simon shook his head. “I am afraid that it will take wiser heads than yours or mine,” he remarked, and bowing in a stately, old-fashioned manner he departed.

“It is very good of Lord St. Simon to honour my head by putting it on a level with his own,” said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. “I think that I shall have a whisky and soda and a cigar after all this cross-questioning. I had formed my conclusions as to the case before our client came into the room.”

“My dear Holmes!”

“I have notes of several similar cases, though none, as I remarked before, which were quite as prompt. My whole examination served to turn my conjecture into a certainty. Circumstantial evidence is occasionally very convincing, as when you find a trout in the milk, to quote Thoreau’s example.”

“But I have heard all that you have heard.”

“Without, however, the knowledge of pre-existing cases which serves me so well. There was a parallel instance in Aberdeen some years back, and something on very much the same lines at Munich the year after the Franco-Prussian War. It is one of these cases—but, hullo, here is Lestrade! Good-afternoon, Lestrade! You will find an extra tumbler upon the sideboard, and there are cigars in the box.”

The official detective was attired in a pea-jacket and cravat, which gave him a decidedly nautical appearance, and he carried a black canvas bag in his hand. With a short greeting he seated himself and lit the cigar which had been offered to him.

“What’s up, then?” asked Holmes with a twinkle in his eye. “You look dissatisfied.”

“And I feel dissatisfied. It is this infernal St. Simon marriage case. I can make neither head nor tail of the business.”

“Really! You surprise me.”

“Who ever heard of such a mixed affair? Every clue seems to slip through my fingers. I have been at work upon it all day.”

“And very wet it seems to have made you,” said Holmes laying his hand upon the arm of the pea-jacket.

“Yes, I have been dragging the Serpentine.”

“In heaven’s name, what for?”

“In search of the body of Lady St. Simon.”

Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily.

“Have you dragged the basin of Trafalgar Square fountain?” he asked.

“Why? What do you mean?”

“Because you have just as good a chance of finding this lady in the one as in the other.”

Lestrade shot an angry glance at my companion. “I suppose you know all about it,” he snarled.

“Well, I have only just heard the facts, but my mind is made up.”

“Oh, indeed! Then you think that the Serpentine plays no part in the matter?”

“I think it very unlikely.”

“Then perhaps you will kindly explain how it is that we found this in it?” He opened his bag as he spoke, and tumbled onto the floor a wedding-dress of watered silk, a pair of white satin shoes and a bride’s wreath and veil, all discoloured and soaked in water. “There,” said he, putting a new wedding-ring upon the top of the pile. “There is a little nut for you to crack, Master Holmes.”

“Oh, indeed!” said my friend, blowing blue rings into the air. “You dragged them from the Serpentine?”

“No. They were found floating near the margin by a park-keeper. They have been identified as her clothes, and it seemed to me that if the clothes were there the body would not be far off.”

“By the same brilliant reasoning, every man’s body is to be found in the neighbourhood of his wardrobe. And pray what did you hope to arrive at through this?”

“At some evidence implicating Flora Millar in the disappearance.”

“I am afraid that you will find it difficult.”

“Are you, indeed, now?” cried Lestrade with some bitterness. “I am afraid, Holmes, that you are not very practical with your deductions and your inferences. You have made two blunders in as many minutes. This dress does implicate Miss Flora Millar.”

“And how?”

“In the dress is a pocket. In the pocket is a card-case. In the card-case is a note. And here is the very note.” He slapped it down upon the table in front of him. “Listen to this: ‘You will see me when all is ready. Come at once. F. H. M.’ Now my theory all along has been that Lady St. Simon was decoyed away by Flora Millar, and that she, with confederates, no doubt, was responsible for her disappearance. Here, signed with her initials, is the very note which was no doubt quietly slipped into her hand at the door and which lured her within their reach.”

“Very good, Lestrade,” said Holmes, laughing. “You really are very fine indeed. Let me see it.” He took up the paper in a listless way, but his attention instantly became riveted, and he gave a little cry of satisfaction. “This is indeed important,” said he.

“Ha! you find it so?”

“Extremely so. I congratulate you warmly.”

Lestrade rose in his triumph and bent his head to look. “Why,” he shrieked, “you’re looking at the wrong side!”

“On the contrary, this is the right side.”

“The right side? You’re mad! Here is the note written in pencil over here.”

“And over here is what appears to be the fragment of a hotel bill, which interests me deeply.”

“There’s nothing in it. I looked at it before,” said Lestrade. “ ‘Oct. 4th, rooms 8s., breakfast 2s. 6d., cocktail 1s., lunch 2s. 6d., glass sherry, 8d.’ I see nothing in that.”

“Very likely not. It is most important, all the same. As to the note, it is important also, or at least the initials are, so I congratulate you again.”

“I’ve wasted time enough,” said Lestrade, rising. “I believe in hard work and not in sitting by the fire spinning fine theories. Good-day, Mr. Holmes, and we shall see which gets to the bottom of the matter first.” He gathered up the garments, thrust them into the bag, and made for the door.

“Just one hint to you, Lestrade,” drawled Holmes before his rival vanished; “I will tell you the true solution of the matter. Lady St. Simon is a myth. There is not, and there never has been, any such person.”

Lestrade looked sadly at my companion. Then he turned to me, tapped his forehead three times, shook his head solemnly, and hurried away.

He had hardly shut the door behind him when Holmes rose to put on his overcoat. “There is something in what the fellow says about outdoor work,” he remarked, “so I think, Watson, that I must leave you to your papers for a little.”

It was after five o’clock when Sherlock Holmes left me, but I had no time to be lonely, for within an hour there arrived a confectioner’s man with a very large flat box. This he unpacked with the help of a youth whom he had brought with him, and presently, to my very great astonishment, a quite epicurean little cold supper began to be laid out upon our humble lodging-house mahogany. There were a couple of brace of cold woodcock, a pheasant, a pâté de foie gras pie with a group of ancient and cobwebby bottles. Having laid out all these luxuries, my two visitors vanished away, like the genii of the Arabian Nights, with no explanation save that the things had been paid for and were ordered to this address.

Just before nine o’clock Sherlock Holmes stepped briskly into the room. His features were gravely set, but there was a light in his eye which made me think that he had not been disappointed in his conclusions.

“They have laid the supper, then,” he said, rubbing his hands.

“You seem to expect company. They have laid for five.”

“Yes, I fancy we may have some company dropping in,” said he. “I am surprised that Lord St. Simon has not already arrived. Ha! I fancy that I hear his step now upon the stairs.”

It was indeed our visitor of the afternoon who came bustling in, dangling his glasses more vigorously than ever, and with a very perturbed expression upon his aristocratic features.

“My messenger reached you, then?” asked Holmes.

“Yes, and I confess that the contents startled me beyond measure. Have you good authority for what you say?”

“The best possible.”

Lord St. Simon sank into a chair and passed his hand over his forehead.

“What will the Duke say,” he murmured, “when he hears that one of the family has been subjected to such humiliation?”

“It is the purest accident. I cannot allow that there is any humiliation.”

“Ah, you look on these things from another standpoint.”

“I fail to see that anyone is to blame. I can hardly see how the lady could have acted otherwise, though her abrupt method of doing it was undoubtedly to be regretted. Having no mother, she had no one to advise her at such a crisis.”

“It was a slight, sir, a public slight,” said Lord St. Simon, tapping his fingers upon the table.

“You must make allowance for this poor girl, placed in so unprecedented a position.”

“I will make no allowance. I am very angry indeed, and I have been shamefully used.”

“I think that I heard a ring,” said Holmes. “Yes, there are steps on the landing. If I cannot persuade you to take a lenient view of the matter, Lord St. Simon, I have brought an advocate here who may be more successful.” He opened the door and ushered in a lady and gentleman. “Lord St. Simon,” said he “allow me to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Francis Hay Moulton. The lady, I think, you have already met.”

At the sight of these newcomers our client had sprung from his seat and stood very erect, with his eyes cast down and his hand thrust into the breast of his frock-coat, a picture of offended dignity. The lady had taken a quick step forward and had held out her hand to him, but he still refused to raise his eyes. It was as well for his resolution, perhaps, for her pleading face was one which it was hard to resist.

“You’re angry, Robert,” said she. “Well, I guess you have every cause to be.”

“Pray make no apology to me,” said Lord St. Simon bitterly.

“Oh, yes, I know that I have treated you real bad and that I should have spoken to you before I went; but I was kind of rattled, and from the time when I saw Frank here again I just didn’t know what I was doing or saying. I only wonder I didn’t fall down and do a faint right there before the altar.”

“Perhaps, Mrs. Moulton, you would like my friend and me to leave the room while you explain this matter?”

“If I may give an opinion,” remarked the strange gentleman, “we’ve had just a little too much secrecy over this business already. For my part, I should like all Europe and America to hear the rights of it.” He was a small, wiry, sunburnt man, clean-shaven, with a sharp face and alert manner.

“Then I’ll tell our story right away,” said the lady. “Frank here and I met in ’84, in McQuire’s camp, near the Rockies, where Pa was working a claim. We were engaged to each other, Frank and I; but then one day father struck a rich pocket and made a pile, while poor Frank here had a claim that petered out and came to nothing. The richer Pa grew the poorer was Frank; so at last Pa wouldn’t hear of our engagement lasting any longer, and he took me away to ’Frisco. Frank wouldn’t throw up his hand, though; so he followed me there, and he saw me without Pa knowing anything about it. It would only have made him mad to know, so we just fixed it all up for ourselves. Frank said that he would go and make his pile, too, and never come back to claim me until he had as much as Pa. So then I promised to wait for him to the end of time and pledged myself not to marry anyone else while he lived. ‘Why shouldn’t we be married right away, then,’ said he, ‘and then I will feel sure of you; and I won’t claim to be your husband until I come back?’ Well, we talked it over, and he had fixed it all up so nicely, with a clergyman all ready in waiting, that we just did it right there; and then Frank went off to seek his fortune, and I went back to Pa.

“The next I heard of Frank was that he was in Montana, and then he went prospecting in Arizona, and then I heard of him from New Mexico. After that came a long newspaper story about how a miners’ camp had been attacked by Apache Indians, and there was my Frank’s name among the killed. I fainted dead away, and I was very sick for months after. Pa thought I had a decline and took me to half the doctors in ’Frisco. Not a word of news came for a year and more, so that I never doubted that Frank was really dead. Then Lord St. Simon came to ’Frisco, and we came to London, and a marriage was arranged, and Pa was very pleased, but I felt all the time that no man on this earth would ever take the place in my heart that had been given to my poor Frank.

“Still, if I had married Lord St. Simon, of course I’d have done my duty by him. We can’t command our love, but we can our actions. I went to the altar with him with the intention to make him just as good a wife as it was in me to be. But you may imagine what I felt when, just as I came to the altar rails, I glanced back and saw Frank standing and looking at me out of the first pew. I thought it was his ghost at first; but when I looked again there he was still, with a kind of question in his eyes, as if to ask me whether I were glad or sorry to see him. I wonder I didn’t drop. I know that everything was turning round, and the words of the clergyman were just like the buzz of a bee in my ear. I didn’t know what to do. Should I stop the service and make a scene in the church? I glanced at him again, and he seemed to know what I was thinking, for he raised his finger to his lips to tell me to be still. Then I saw him scribble on a piece of paper, and I knew that he was writing me a note. As I passed his pew on the way out I dropped my bouquet over to him, and he slipped the note into my hand when he returned me the flowers. It was only a line asking me to join him when he made the sign to me to do so. Of course I never doubted for a moment that my first duty was now to him, and I determined to do just whatever he might direct.

“When I got back I told my maid, who had known him in California, and had always been his friend. I ordered her to say nothing, but to get a few things packed and my ulster ready. I know I ought to have spoken to Lord St. Simon, but it was dreadful hard before his mother and all those great people. I just made up my mind to run away and explain afterwards. I hadn’t been at the table ten minutes before I saw Frank out of the window at the other side of the road. He beckoned to me and then began walking into the Park. I slipped out, put on my things, and followed him. Some woman came talking something or other about Lord St. Simon to me—seemed to me from the little I heard as if he had a little secret of his own before marriage also—but I managed to get away from her and soon overtook Frank. We got into a cab together, and away we drove to some lodgings he had taken in Gordon Square, and that was my true wedding after all those years of waiting. Frank had been a prisoner among the Apaches, had escaped, came on to ’Frisco, found that I had given him up for dead and had gone to England, followed me there, and had come upon me at last on the very morning of my second wedding.”

“I saw it in a paper,” explained the American. “It gave the name and the church but not where the lady lived.”

“Then we had a talk as to what we should do, and Frank was all for openness, but I was so ashamed of it all that I felt as if I should like to vanish away and never see any of them again—just sending a line to Pa, perhaps, to show him that I was alive. It was awful to me to think of all those lords and ladies sitting round that breakfast-table and waiting for me to come back. So Frank took my wedding-clothes and things and made a bundle of them, so that I should not be traced, and dropped them away somewhere where no one could find them. It is likely that we should have gone on to Paris to-morrow, only that this good gentleman, Mr. Holmes, came round to us this evening, though how he found us is more than I can think, and he showed us very clearly and kindly that I was wrong and that Frank was right, and that we should be putting ourselves in the wrong if we were so secret. Then he offered to give us a chance of talking to Lord St. Simon alone, and so we came right away round to his rooms at once. Now, Robert, you have heard it all, and I am very sorry if I have given you pain, and I hope that you do not think very meanly of me.”

Lord St. Simon had by no means relaxed his rigid attitude, but had listened with a frowning brow and a compressed lip to this long narrative.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but it is not my custom to discuss my most intimate personal affairs in this public manner.”

“Then you won’t forgive me? You won’t shake hands before I go?”

“Oh, certainly, if it would give you any pleasure.” He put out his hand and coldly grasped that which she extended to him.

“I had hoped,” suggested Holmes, “that you would have joined us in a friendly supper.”

“I think that there you ask a little too much,” responded his Lordship. “I may be forced to acquiesce in these recent developments, but I can hardly be expected to make merry over them. I think that with your permission I will now wish you all a very good-night.” He included us all in a sweeping bow and stalked out of the room.

“Then I trust that you at least will honour me with your company,” said Sherlock Holmes. “It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.”

“The case has been an interesting one,” remarked Holmes when our visitors had left us, “because it serves to show very clearly how simple the explanation may be of an affair which at first sight seems to be almost inexplicable. Nothing could be more natural than the sequence of events as narrated by this lady, and nothing stranger than the result when viewed, for instance, by Mr. Lestrade of Scotland Yard.”

“You were not yourself at fault at all, then?”

“From the first, two facts were very obvious to me, the one that the lady had been quite willing to undergo the wedding ceremony, the other that she had repented of it within a few minutes of returning home. Obviously something had occurred during the morning, then, to cause her to change her mind. What could that something be? She could not have spoken to anyone when she was out, for she had been in the company of the bridegroom. Had she seen someone, then? If she had, it must be someone from America because she had spent so short a time in this country that she could hardly have allowed anyone to acquire so deep an influence over her that the mere sight of him would induce her to change her plans so completely. You see we have already arrived, by a process of exclusion, at the idea that she might have seen an American. Then who could this American be, and why should he possess so much influence over her? It might be a lover; it might be a husband. Her young womanhood had, I knew, been spent in rough scenes and under strange conditions. So far I had got before I ever heard Lord St. Simon’s narrative. When he told us of a man in a pew, of the change in the bride’s manner, of so transparent a device for obtaining a note as the dropping of a bouquet, of her resort to her confidential maid, and of her very significant allusion to claim-jumping—which in miners’ parlance means taking possession of that which another person has a prior claim to—the whole situation became absolutely clear. She had gone off with a man, and the man was either a lover or was a previous husband—the chances being in favour of the latter.”

“And how in the world did you find them?”

“It might have been difficult, but friend Lestrade held information in his hands the value of which he did not himself know. The initials were, of course, of the highest importance, but more valuable still was it to know that within a week he had settled his bill at one of the most select London hotels.”

“How did you deduce the select?”

“By the select prices. Eight shillings for a bed and eightpence for a glass of sherry pointed to one of the most expensive hotels. There are not many in London which charge at that rate. In the second one which I visited in Northumberland Avenue, I learned by an inspection of the book that Francis H. Moulton, an American gentleman, had left only the day before, and on looking over the entries against him, I came upon the very items which I had seen in the duplicate bill. His letters were to be forwarded to 226 Gordon Square; so thither I travelled, and being fortunate enough to find the loving couple at home, I ventured to give them some paternal advice and to point out to them that it would be better in every way that they should make their position a little clearer both to the general public and to Lord St. Simon in particular. I invited them to meet him here, and, as you see, I made him keep the appointment.”

“But with no very good result,” I remarked. “His conduct was certainly not very gracious.”

“Ah, Watson,” said Holmes, smiling, “perhaps you would not be very gracious either, if, after all the trouble of wooing and wedding, you found yourself deprived in an instant of wife and of fortune. I think that we may judge Lord St. Simon very mercifully and thank our stars that we are never likely to find ourselves in the same position. Draw your chair up and hand me my violin, for the only problem we have still to solve is how to while away these bleak autumnal evenings.”

圣西蒙勋爵的婚事及其奇怪的结局,长久以来已不再是他这位不幸的新郎与之周旋的上流社会人士所感兴趣的话题了。新的丑闻已经使之黯然失色,它们那些更加妙趣横生的细情,已将四年前的这一戏剧性事件推向幕后。然而,由于我有理由认为这件案子的全部真相从未向大众透露过,而我的朋友歇洛克•福尔摩斯又曾为弄清这事件作出过重大贡献,所以,我觉得如果不对这一很不寻常的事件作一简要的描述,那对他的业绩的记录将是不够完整的。

那还是我和福尔摩斯一起住在贝克街的时候,我结婚前几个星期的一天,福尔摩斯午后散步回来,看到桌子上有他的一封信。那天突然阴雨绵绵,加上秋风劲吹,我的胳臂由于残留着作为我当年参加阿富汗战役的纪念品的那颗阿富汗步枪子弹,又隐隐作痛不止,因此我整天呆在家里。我躺在一张安乐椅里,把双腿搭在另一张椅子上,埋头在摆满身边的报纸堆里,直到最后,脑袋里装满了当天的新闻,我才把报纸丢开,无精打采地躺在那里,看着桌子上那封信的信封上端的巨大饰章和交织字母,一面懒洋洋地揣度着是哪位贵族给我的朋①友写了这封信。

在他进屋时,我说:“这儿有一封非常时髦的书信。如果我没有记错的话,你早晨的那些来信是一个鱼贩子和一个海关检查员写的。”

“对,我的信件肯定具有丰富多彩引人入胜的地方,”他笑着回答说,“通常越是普通的人写来的信越是有趣。可是这封看来象是一张不受欢迎的社交上用的传票式的信,叫你不是感到厌烦就是要说谎才行。”

他拆开了信封,浏览了信的内容。

“噢,你来瞧,说不定倒是一件有趣的事呢!”

“那么不是社交的了?”

“不,显而易见是业务性的。”

“一位贵族的委托人写来的?”

“英国地位最高的贵族之一。”

“老兄,我祝贺你。”

“说实话,华生,我可以肯定对你说,对我来说,这位委托人的社会地位不是什么了不起的事情,我更感兴趣是他的案情。然而,在这件新案件的调查中,很可能关于他的社会地位的情况也还是不可或缺的。你最近一直很仔细地在看报,是吗?”

“看来好象是这样。”我指了指角落里的一大堆报纸沮丧

①指印在信封或信笺上盾形纹章上端的饰章和姓名等起首字母相互交织成的图案。——译者注地说,“我没有别的事可做。”

“真走运,也许你能向我提供一些最新的情况。我是除了犯罪的消息和寻人广告栏之外,别的一概不看。寻人广告栏总是很启发人的。你既然那么留心最近发生的事,你必定看到过关于圣西蒙勋爵和他婚礼的消息吧?”

“噢,是的,我是怀着莫大的兴趣来阅读这消息的。”

“那很好,我手中这封信就是圣西蒙勋爵写来的。我读给你听听,你则一定要翻一遍这些报纸,向我提供所有关于这件事的消息。他是这么写的:’亲爱的歇洛克•福尔摩斯先生:

据巴克沃特勋爵告知,我可以绝对信赖您的分析和判断力。因此我决定登门拜访,就有关我举行婚礼而发生的令人非常痛心的意外事件向您请教。苏格兰场的雷斯垂德先生已经受理这一案件。但是他向我声明,他认为没有理由不和您合作。他甚至认为您的合作可能会有所帮助。下午四点,我将登门求教,届时您如另有约会,希望稍后仍能惠予接见为荷,因为这件事至关重要。

您忠实的圣西蒙

”这封信发自格罗夫纳大厦,是用鹅毛笔写的。尊贵的勋爵不小心在他右小指的外侧沾上了一滴墨水。“福尔摩斯一边叠着信一边说。

”他约定四点钟来。现在是三点,他即将在一小时内到这里来。“

”那么,有你的帮助,我还来得及把这件事弄明白。翻一下这些报纸,按时间顺序把有关的摘录排好,我来看一下我们这位委托人的身世。“他从壁炉架旁的一排参考书中抽出一本红皮书。”在这儿呢,“他说着坐下来,把书平铺在膝盖上,”罗伯特•沃尔辛厄姆•德维尔•圣西蒙勋爵,巴尔莫拉尔公爵的次子。喝!勋章!天蓝的底色,黑色的中带上三个铁蒺藜。生于一八四六年,现年四十一岁,这已是成熟的结婚年龄。在上届政府中担任过殖民地事务副大臣。他的父亲,那位公爵,有一时期当过外交大臣。他们继承了安茹王朝的血统,是它的直系后裔。母系血统为都铎王朝。哈!这些并没有什么指导意义。我看,华生,我还得请你提供一些更实在的情况。“

”我没怎么费事就找到了想要找的情况,“我说,”事情发生不久,给我的印象又很深。然而,我过去没敢对你说。因为我知道你手头正有一件案子,而你又不喜欢有其它事打扰你。“

”噢,你指的是格罗夫纳广场家具搬运车的那件小事吧。现在已完全搞清楚了——其实从一开始就很明白。请你把翻检报纸的结果告诉我吧。“

”这是我能找到的第一条消息,登在《晨邮报》的起事栏里。日期是,你瞧,几周以前:‘(据说)巴尔莫拉尔公爵的次子,罗伯特•圣西蒙勋爵,与美国加利福尼亚州旧金山阿洛伊修斯•多兰先生的独生女哈蒂•多兰小姐的婚事,已经安排就绪,如果传闻属实,最近即将举行婚礼。’就这些。“

”简明扼要,“福尔摩斯说。他把他那又瘦又长的腿伸向火炉旁边。

”同一周内一份社交界的报纸上对这件事有一段更详细的记载。啊,在这儿:‘在婚姻市场上不久将会出现要求采取保护政策的呼声,因为目前这种自由贸易式的婚姻政策,看来对我们英国同胞极为不利。大不列颠名门望族大权旁落,一个接一个地为来自大西洋彼岸的女表亲所掌握。上周这些妩媚的入侵者在她们夺走的胜利品名单中,又添上了一位重要人物。圣西蒙勋爵二十多年来从未堕入情网,现在却明确地宣布即将与加利福尼亚百万富翁的令人一见倾心的女儿哈蒂•多兰小姐结婚。多兰小姐是一位独生女。她优雅的体态和惊人的美貌在韦斯特伯里宫的庆典欢宴上,引起了人们极大的注意。最近传说,她的嫁妆将大大超过六位数字,预期将来还会有其它增益。由于巴尔莫拉尔公爵近年来不得不出卖自己的藏画,这已成为公开的秘密,而圣西蒙勋爵除伯奇穆尔荒地那菲薄的产业之外,一无所有,所以这位加利福尼亚的女继承人通过这一联烟使她由一位女共和党人轻而易举地一跃而成为不列颠的贵妇,显然这不只是她这一方面占了便宜。’“

”还有什么别的吗?“福尔摩斯打着呵欠问道。

”噢,有,多着呢。《晨邮报》上还有另一条短讯说:婚礼将绝对从简;并预定在汉诺佛广场的圣乔治大教堂举行;届时将仅仅邀请几位至亲好友参加;婚礼后,新婚夫妇及亲友等将返回阿洛伊修斯•多兰先生在兰开斯特盖特租赁的备有家具的寓所。两天后,也就是上星期三,有一个简单的通告,宣告婚礼已经举行。新婚夫妇将在彼得斯菲尔德附近的巴克沃特勋爵别墅欢度蜜月。这是新娘失踪以前的全部报道。“

”在什么以前?“福尔摩斯吃惊地问道。

”在这位小姐失踪以前。“

”那么她是在什么时候失踪的呢?“

”在婚礼后吃早餐的时候。“

”确实,比原来想象的要有趣得多。事实上,是十分戏剧性的。“

”是的,正是由于不同寻常,才引起了我的注意。“

”她们常常在举行结婚仪式之前失踪,偶尔也有在蜜月期间失踪的。但是我还想不起来有哪一件象这次那么干脆的,请你把细节全说给我听听。“

”我可有言在先,这些材料是很不完整的。“

”也许我们可以把它们凑起来。“

”就是这样,昨天晨报上的一篇文章谈得还比较详细,让我读给你听听。标题是:《上流社会婚礼中的奇怪事件》。‘罗伯特•圣西蒙勋爵在举行婚礼时发生的奇怪的不幸事件,使他们全家惊恐万状。正如昨天报纸上简要地报道的,婚礼仪式是在前天上午举行的;可是直至日前,始有可能对不断到处流传的奇怪传闻予以证实。尽管朋友们设法遮掩,此事却已引起公众的极大注意。因此对已经成为公众谈话资料之事,故作不予理睬的姿态,是毫无裨益的。

婚礼是在汉诺佛广场的圣乔治大教堂举行,仪式简单,极力不予张扬。除了新娘的父亲,阿洛伊修斯•多兰先生、巴尔莫拉尔公爵夫人、巴克沃特勋爵、尤斯塔斯勋爵和克拉拉•圣西蒙小姐(新郎的弟弟和妹妹)以及艾丽西亚•惠延顿夫人外,别无他人参加。婚礼后,一行人即前往在兰开斯特盖特的阿洛伊修斯•多兰先生寓所。寓所里早餐已经准备就绪。此时似乎有一个女人引起了某些小麻烦。目前她的姓名未详。她跟随在新娘及其亲友之后,试图强行闯入寓所,声称她有权向圣西蒙勋爵提出要求。只是经过长时间煞费其力的纠缠,管家和气役才把她撵走。幸亏新娘在发生这件不愉快的纠纷之前已经进入室内,同亲友一起就座共进早餐,可是她说突然感到不适,就回到自己的房间去了。她离席久久不归引起了人们的议论,她父亲即去找她。但据她的女仆告知,她只到她的卧室逗留片刻,很快拿了一件长外套和一顶无边软帽,就急急忙忙下楼到走廊去了。一个男仆声称他看到一个这样装束的太太离开寓所,但是不敢相信那就是他的女主人,以为她还和大家在一起。阿洛伊修斯•多兰先生在肯定女儿确实是失踪了以后,就立刻和新郎一起同警方联系。目前正在大力调查。这件离奇的事情可能很快就会水落石出。然而,直到昨天深夜,这位失踪的小姐依然下落不明。出现了许多关于这件事的谣言,认为新娘可能遇害。据说警方拘留了那个最初引起纠纷的女人,认为她出于炉忌或其它动机,可能与新娘奇怪的失踪有牵连。’“

”就这些吗?“

”在另一份晨报上只有一小条消息,但是却很有启发性。“

”内容是……“

”弗洛拉•米勒小姐,也就是肇事的那个女人,实际上已被逮捕。她以前似乎在阿利格罗当过芭蕾舞女演员。她和新郎相识已有多年。再没有更多的细节了。现在就报纸已发表的消息而论,整个案情你已经都知道了。“

”看来真是一件非常有趣的案子。我无论如何也不能把它放过。华生,你听,门铃响了,四点钟刚过一点儿,我肯定这一定是我们高贵的委托人来了。别老想走,华生,因为我非常希望有一个见证人,即使只是为了检验一下我的记忆力也好。“

”罗伯特•圣西蒙勋爵到!“我们的小僮仆推开房门报告说。一位绅士走了进来。他的相貌喜人,显得颇有教养。高高的鼻子,面色苍白,嘴角微露愠意,有着生来就发号施令那类人所具有的一双神色镇静、睁得大大的眼睛。他举止敏捷,然而他整个外表却给人一种与年龄很不相称的印象。当他走路时,略有点弯腰驼背,还有点屈膝。头发也是如此,当他脱去他那顶帽檐高高卷着的帽子时,只见头部周围一圈灰白的头发,头顶上头发稀稀拉拉。至于他的穿着,那是考究得近于浮华:高高的硬领,黑色的大礼服,白背心,黄色的手套,漆皮鞋和浅色的绑腿。他慢慢地走进房内,眼睛从左边看到右边,右手里晃动着系金丝眼镜的链子。

”你好,圣西蒙勋爵。“福尔摩斯说着站起身来,鞠了个躬。”请坐在这把柳条椅上。这位是我的朋友和同事、华生医生。往火炉前靠近一点,让我们来谈谈这件事吧。“

”你很容易就能想象到这是一件对我来说十分痛苦的事,福尔摩斯先生。真叫我痛心疾首。我知道,先生,你曾经处理过几件这类微妙的案子,尽管我估计这些案子的委托人的社会地位和这件案子不可同日而语。“

”但是,委托人的社会地位是在下降了。“

”对不起请再说一遍。“

”我上次这类案子的委托人是一位国王。“

”噢,真的吗?我没想到,哪位国王?“

”斯堪的纳维亚国王。“

”什么!他的妻子也失踪了吗?“

”你明白,“福尔摩斯和蔼地说,”我对其他委托人的事情保守秘密,就象我答应对你的事情保守秘密一样。“

”当然是这样,很对!很对!一定要请你原谅。至于我这个案子,我准备告诉你一切有助于你作出判断的情况。“

”谢谢,我已经看到了报纸上的全部报道,也就是这么些而已。我想,我可以把这些报道看作是属实的——例如这篇有关新娘失踪的报道。“

圣西蒙勋爵看了看,”是的,这篇报道所说的情况完全属实。“

”但是,无论是谁在提出他的看法以前,都需要大量的补充材料。我想我可以通过向你提问而直接得到我所要知道的事实。“

”请提问吧。“

”你第一次见到哈蒂•多兰小姐是在什么时候?“

”一年以前,在旧金山。“

”当时你正在美国旅行?“

”是的。“

”你们那时候订婚了吗?“

”没有。“

”但是有着友好的往来?“

”我能和她交往感到很高兴,她能够看出我很高兴。“

”她的父亲很有钱?“

”据说他是太平洋彼岸最有钱的人。“

”他是怎样发财的呢?“

”开矿。几年以前,他还一无所有。有一天,他挖到了金矿,于是投资开发,从此飞黄腾达成了暴发户。“

”现在谈谈你对这位年轻的小姐——你的妻子的性格的印象怎么样?“

这位贵族目不转睛地看着壁炉,系在他眼镜上的链子晃动得更快了。”你知道,福尔摩斯先生,“他说,”我的妻子在她的父亲发财以前,已经是二十岁了。在这时期,她在矿镇上无拘无束,整天在山上或树林里游荡,所以她所受的教育,与其说是教师传授的,还不如说是大自然赋予的。她是一个我们英国人所说的顽皮姑娘。她性格泼辣、粗野,而又任性,放荡不羁,不受任何习俗的约束。她很性急,我几乎想说是暴躁。她轻易地作出决定,干起来天不怕、地不怕。另一方面,要不是我考虑她到底是一位高贵的女人,“他庄重地咳嗽了一声,”我是决不会让她享受我所享有的高贵称号的。我相信,她是能够做出英勇的自我牺牲,任何不名誉的事情都是她所深恶痛绝的。“

”你有她的照片吗?“

”我随身带着。“他打开表链上的小金盒,让我们看一位非常漂亮的女人的整个面容。那不是一张照片,而是一个象牙袖珍像。艺术家充分发挥了那光亮的黑发、又大又黑的眼睛和优美的小嘴的感染力。福尔摩斯长时间认真地端详那画像,然后阖上小盒,把它递还圣西蒙勋爵。

”那么,是这位年轻的小姐来到伦敦后,你们重叙旧情?“

”是的,她父亲偕同她来参加这一次伦敦岁末的社交活动。我和她数度聚晤,并且缔结了婚约,现在又和她结了婚。“

”我听说她带来了一份相当可观的嫁妆?“

”嫁妆是相当丰富的,和我们家族通常的情况差不多。“

”既然婚礼事实上已经举行过了,这份嫁妆当然归你了?“

”我确实没有去过问这件事。“

”没有去过问是自然的。婚礼的前一天你见过多兰小姐吗?“

”见过。“

”她心情愉快吧?“

”她心情再愉快也没有了,她一直谈着我们在未来的生活中应当做些什么。“

”真的!非常有趣。那么在结婚那天早上呢?“

”她喜气洋洋,高兴极了,至少直到婚礼结束始终是这样。“

”那么这以后你注意到她有什么变化吗?“

”啊,老实说,这时候我看到了我从前没有看见过的第一个迹象。她的脾气有些急躁。不过那是件小事,不值一提,并且不可能与这个案件有什么关系。“

”尽管这样,还是请你讲讲。“

”唉,简直是孩子气。那是当我们去向教堂的法衣室的时候,她手里的花束掉落了。当时她正走过前排座位,花束就掉在座位前面。稍微过了一会儿,座位上的先生把花束拾起来递给她。看来这束花依然完好如初。可是当我和她谈起这件事时,她回答我的话很生硬。回家途中在马车里,她似乎为这件微不足道的小事而心烦意乱,实在令人可笑。“

”真的!你是说在前排座位里坐着一位先生,那么当时在座的也有一般群众了?“

”哦,是的,教堂开门的时候,是不可能不让他们进去的。“

”这位先生不会是你妻子的一位朋友吗?“

”不会,不会,我称呼他作先生是出于礼貌,他只不过是一个看上去很平常的人。我几乎没有注意到他的容貌。但是,我想,真的,我们谈得离题太远了。“

”圣西蒙夫人婚礼结束回来时远没有她去时那么心情愉快。那么,当她重新回到她爸爸寓所的时候,她做了什么事?“

”我看到她和她的女佣人在说话。“

”她的女佣人是什么人?“

”她名叫艾丽丝,是个美国人,从加利福尼亚和她一起来的。“

”一名心腹佣人?“

”这么说也许有点过份。在我看来似乎她的女主人对她非常随便,不拘礼仪。可是,当然在美国他们对这一类事情有不同看法。“

”她和这位艾丽丝谈了多久?“

”哦,几分钟。当时我正在考虑一些别的事。“

”你没有听到她们说些什么?“

”圣西蒙夫人谈到些‘强占别人土地’的话,她总是惯于说这一类的俚语。我不理解她指的是什么。“

”美国的俚语有时是很形象化的。你的妻子和女佣人谈过话后做了些什么事?“

”她走进吃早餐的房间。“

”你挽着她走进去的吗?“

”不,她一个人。象这一类小节,她是一向不讲究的。接着,在我们就座大约十分钟以后,她急急忙忙地站起身来,咕哝了几句道歉的话,就离开了房间。她就这样一去不复返了。“

”但是,据我了解,那位女佣人艾丽丝作证说,女主人走进自己的房间,用一件长外套罩在新娘的礼服上,戴上一顶软帽,就出去了。“

”正是这样。过后,有人看到她和弗洛拉•米勒一道走进海德公园。弗洛拉•米勒就是现在被拘留的那个女人。那天早上,她曾经在多兰的寓所里惹起一场风波。“

”啊,是的。关于这位年轻的妇女,我想知道她的一点具体情况,还有你和她的关系。“

圣西蒙勋爵耸了耸肩,眉毛一扬,”我们已有多年交情了,可以说是非常友好的关系。她过去常在阿利格罗。我对待她并不吝啬,她对我也没有什么可抱怨的。但是,福尔摩斯先生,你知道女人是怎么一回事,弗洛拉是个可爱的小东西,但是个非常急性子的人,而且热切地依恋着我。当她听说我要结婚的时候,给我写过几封可怕的信。老实说,我之所以这样悄悄地举行婚礼,原因就是我怕万一在教堂里出丑。她刚好在我们回来的时候来到多兰先生的门前,极力想闯进去,公然用非常难听的话辱骂我的妻子,甚至还威胁她。但是我预先估计到可能会发生这类事情,在那里安排了两名便衣警察。他们很快就把她重新赶出门去,当她明白吵架决不会有什么好结果时,就安静了下来。“

”你妻子听到了这一切了吗?“

”没有,谢天谢地,她没有听到。“

”后来,有人见到她正是和这个女人走在一起?“

”是的,这正是苏格兰场的雷斯垂德先生为什么把这件事看得如此严重的缘故。据认为,弗洛拉把我的妻子诱骗出去,并且对她设下了某种可怕的圈套。“

”噢,这是一种可能的推测。“

”你也这样想吗?“

”我并没有说很可能是这样,但是你自己也并不把这看作是可能的吧?“

”我认为弗洛拉是连只苍蝇都不肯伤害的。“

”可是,妒忌是能奇妙地改变人的性格的。请你告诉我,对于这件事,你自己是怎么分析的呢?“

”哦,真是,我到这里来是寻求解答的,不是来提出见解的。我已经把全部事实告诉你了。既然你问我,我也许可以说,在我看来可能是由于这件事对她的刺激,以及她意识到她的社会地位一下子提高了那么多,这就造成我妻子精神有点错乱。“

”简单地说,她突然精神错乱了?“

”哦!真的,当我考虑到她抛弃了——我不想说我,但这是那么许多女人热切地想得而得不到的——我不能做其它的解释。“

”噢,当然,这也是一种可能的假设。“福尔摩斯微笑着说。”现在,圣西蒙勋爵,我想我已经几乎有了全部的材料。我想再问一下,你们是不是坐在早餐桌的周围就可以看到窗外的情况?“

”我们能够看到马路的另一边和公园。“

”正是这样,那么我想没必要再耽搁你了,我以后会再跟你联系。“

”但愿你有足够的运气来解决这个问题,“我们的委托人说着站了起来。

”我已经解决了。“

”是吗?怎么一回事?“

”我是说我已经解决了这案件。“

”那么,我的妻子在哪儿?“

”那是一个我很快就能提供的细节。“

圣西蒙勋爵摇了摇头,”我恐怕需要一个比你或我更聪明的脑袋。“他说着,行了一个庄严的老式鞠躬礼便迈步走了。

”承蒙圣西蒙勋爵将我的脑袋和他自己的脑袋相提并论,真是不胜荣幸之至。“歇洛克•福尔摩斯说着,笑了起来。”经过这么长时间的盘问,我想我得来一杯苏打威士忌和一支雪茄。在我们的委托人进门以前,我就已经做出了这个案子的结论。“

”老兄,真有你的!“

”我有好几个类似案件的记录,只是象我曾经说过的那样,没有一个象这个这么干脆。我的全部调查有助于肯定我的推测。旁证有时是非常有说服力的。用梭洛的话来说,就象①你在牛奶里发现了一条鳟鱼一样。“

”但是,我也听到了你所听到的一切。“

”然而,缺少对我起了很大作用的过去发生过的案例的知识。若干年前在阿伯丁有一个相似的例子。普法战争后一年,在慕尼黑又有一件极为相似的事情。这就是这类案例中的一个。但是,喂,雷斯垂德来了!你好,雷斯垂德!餐具柜上有一只特大的酒杯,盒里有雪茄烟。“这位官厅侦探身穿一件水手的粗呢上衣,戴着一条老式领带,显然一副水手形象。他手里提着一只黑色的帆布提包,简单地寒暄了几句就坐下,点着了一根递给他的雪茄。

”出了什么事啦?啊?“福尔摩斯眨了眨眼睛问道,”看你这样子似乎很不遂心。“

”我的确是感到很不称心。就是圣西蒙勋爵婚事这件倒霉的案子。对这件案子我是一点头绪也没有。“

”真的吗?你真叫我感到吃惊。“

”谁听说过这样一团乱糟糟的事情?每一条线索似乎都从我的手指中溜掉了。我一整天都在忙着搞这件事。“

”看来把你搞得浑身都湿透了。“福尔摩斯说着,一只手搭

①原名为HenryDavidThoreu,美国作家,1817——1862。——译者注在他那件粗呢上衣的胳膊上。

”是的,我正在塞彭廷湖里打捞。“①

”天哪,那是为什么?“

”寻找圣西蒙夫人的尸体。“

福尔摩斯仰身靠在椅子上,捧腹大笑起来。

”你没有在特拉德尔加广场的喷水池里打捞吧?“他问道。

”唔,你这是什么意思?“

”因为在那里寻找这位夫人的机会和在另一处寻找的机会一样多。“

雷斯垂德气得瞪了我的同伴一眼,”你好象全知道,“他咆哮着说。

”唔,我刚刚才听说事情的经过,不过我已经作出了判断。“

”噢,真的!那么你认为塞彭廷湖和这件事毫无关系了?“

”我认为根本不可能有关系。“

”那么,请你解释解释,我们在那里找到这些东西是怎么一回事?“他一边说一边打开他的提包,将一件波纹绸结婚礼服,一双白缎子鞋以及一顶新娘的花冠和面纱,乱糟糟地倒在地板上。这些东西全都浸透了水,并且褪了色。”还有,“他说,把一只崭新的结婚戒指放到这堆东西上面。”这可是要你来解决的难题啦,福尔摩斯大师。“

”噢,是真的吗?“我的朋友说着,向空中喷出一个个蓝色的烟圈。”这些东西是你从塞彭廷湖中打捞上来的?“

①原文为Serpentine,伦敦海德公园内的一个人形池。——译者注

”不是,是一个园丁发现这些东西在湖边漂浮着的。已经认出这些是她的衣服,我认为既然衣服在那儿,尸体也不会太远了。“

”通过同样英明的推论,每个人的尸体,都应该在他的衣橱附近找到。请问你想通过这个得出什么结论?“

”已找到弗洛拉•米勒与失踪有牵连的证据。“

”我恐怕你很难做到。“

”目前,你是真的这样想吗?“雷斯垂德生气地喊了起来。”我恐怕,福尔摩斯先生,你的演绎法和推理并不很实用。在两分钟内你就已经犯了两个大错误,这些衣服确实与弗洛拉•米勒小姐有牵连。“

”怎么讲?“

”衣服上有个口袋,口袋里有个名片盒,名片盒里有张便条。这就是那张便条。“他把便条一下子扔到他面前的桌子上,”你听我念念看这写的是些什么:‘一切准备就绪之后,你会看到我的。到时候请马上就来。

EHM…

“我一直认为圣西蒙夫人是被弗洛拉•米勒诱骗出去的。毫无疑问,她和她的同谋者,应该对这一失踪负责。这就是那张用她名字的起首字母签署的便条。无疑这是在门口悄悄地塞给这位夫人的,诱使她落入她们的控制之中。”

“妙极了,雷斯垂德,”福尔摩斯说着笑了起来,“你真不简单,让我看一下。”他不在意地拿起那张纸条,但他的注意力立刻又被吸引住,并且满意地叫了一声。“这的确非常重要,”他说。

“哈哈,你也发现是这么一回事了?”

“极其重要。我热烈地祝贺你。”

雷斯垂德洋洋得意地站了起来,又低下头去看一眼。“这是怎么一回事?”他失声地叫了起来,“你看反了!”

“恰恰相反,这才是正面。”

“正面?你疯了!这儿才是用铅笔写的便条。”

“哦,这儿,这儿看来是一张旅馆的帐单,这使我很感兴趣。”

“那上面没有什么,我也看过。”雷斯垂德说,“’10月4日,房间8先令,早饭2先令6便士,鸡尾酒1先令,午饭2先令6便士,葡萄酒8便士。

我看不出这说明什么问题。”

“你可能看不出什么来,但它还是十分重要的。至于便条,也很重要。或者说,至少这些起首字母的签字是很重要的,所以我再次向你祝贺。”

“我时间浪费得够多了,”雷斯垂德说着站了起来,“我相信艰苦的工作,不相信坐在壁炉边编造出色的理论。再见,福尔摩斯先生,让我们瞧瞧是谁先把事情弄个水落石出。”他收拾起衣服,把它们塞进提包,向门口走去。

“给你一点暗示,雷斯垂德,”在他的对手走出去之前,福尔摩斯懒洋洋地说,“我可以把这件事的真正答案告诉你。圣西蒙夫人是位神话式的人物。现在没有,过去向来也没有过这样一个人。”

雷斯垂德阴郁地看了我的同伴一眼,接着回过头来瞧瞧我,轻轻地在前额上拍了三下,一本正经地摇了摇头,就急急忙忙地走了。

他刚一关上身后的房门,福尔摩斯就站了起来,穿上外衣。“这家伙说的户外工作有点道理,”他说,“所以我想,华生,我得把你撇下一会儿。你看报吧。”

歇洛克•福尔摩斯离开我的时候是五点多钟,但是我根本没有感到寂寞。因为还不到一个小时,就来了一个点心铺的伙计,送来一个很大的平底食盒。他带来的一个年轻人帮助他打开食盒,我立即十分惊奇地看到一份十分丰盛的冷食晚餐摆在我们寒酸的寓所的餐桌上。两对山鹬,一只野鸡,一块肥鹅肝饼和几瓶陈年老酒。这些佳肴美酒摆放停当之后,那两位不速之客,就象天方夜谭里的精灵那样,倏忽消逝,除了声明这些东西已经付过帐了,他们是按照吩咐送到这个地方之外,没有再作什么解释。

刚好在九点钟以前,福尔摩斯脚步轻盈地走进房间。他神情很严肃,但他两眼闪闪发光,这使我相信,他所做的结论并没有使他失望。

“那么,他们已经把晚餐摆上了。”他搓着手说。

“你好象有客人要来。他们摆了五份。”

“是的,我相信,会有客人顺便来访的,”他说。“我很奇怪为什么圣西蒙勋爵还没有到。哈哈,我敢说我听到了他在楼梯上的脚步声。”

确实是我们上午来过的客人。他急急忙忙地走了进来,更起劲地晃动着他的眼镜,在他那贵族气派的面容上,显出非常不安的表情。

“那么说我的信差到你那里去过了?”福尔摩斯问道。

“是的,我承认信的内容使我感到无比的震惊。你有充分的根据证明你的话吗?”

“最充分的根据。”

圣西蒙勋爵一屁股坐在椅子上,一只手按着前额。

“如果公爵听说他的家庭成员之中有人受到这般的羞辱,他会怎么说呢?”他小声地嘟哝着。

“这纯粹是一场误会,我不认为这是一种羞辱。”

“啊?你是从另外一个观点看待这些问题的。”

“我看不出有谁该受到责备,我难以想象这位小姐除此之外还有别的什么办法,虽然她处理这件事的方法有点突然。无疑这是令人感到遗憾的。在这样的关键时刻,没有母亲在跟前,是没有别人给她出主意的。”

“这是一种蔑视,先生,公然的蔑视。”圣西蒙勋爵用手指敲着桌子说。

“你一定要原谅这位可怜的姑娘,她的处境是谁也没有经历过的。”

“我决不能原谅她,我被可耻地玩弄了,我确实非常生气。”

“我好象听到门铃响,”福尔摩斯说,“对,楼梯口有脚步声。如果我劝说不了你对这件事要宽大为怀的话,圣西蒙勋爵,我请来了一位支持我的见解的人,这个人也许更能胜任。”他打开门,让进了一位女士和一位先生。“圣西蒙勋爵,”他说,

“请允许我向你介绍,这是弗朗西斯•海•莫尔顿先生和夫人。这位女士,我想你已经见过。”

一见到新来的人,我们的委托人从椅子上一跃而起,笔直地站在那里,双眼下垂,一只手插进大礼服的前胸,一副尊严受到伤害的样子。那位女士向前紧走几步,向他伸出手,但是他还是不肯抬起头来看她,这样做或许是为了表示他的决心,因为她那恳求的脸色是很难拒绝的。

“你生气了,罗伯特,”她说,“是的,我想你是完全有理由生气的。”

“请你不必向我道歉,”圣西蒙勋爵满怀妒忌地说。

“哦,是的,我知道我是太对不起你了。我在出走之前应当对你说一声,但是当时我有点心慌意乱。从我在这里又见到弗兰克时期,我简直不知道我说了些什么和做了些什么。我当时竟没在圣坛前摔倒和昏过去,真有点奇怪。”

“莫尔顿太太,也许你在解释的时候,希望我和我的朋友离开这房间一下吧?”

“如果我可以谈谈我的看法,”那位陌生的先生说道,“对于这件事,我们已经保密得有些太过份了。就我来说,我倒愿意整个欧洲和美洲的人都来听听事情的真相。”这位先生是一位瘦长结实、皮肤晒得黝黑的人,脸上刮得干干净净,面部轮廓分明,举止显得很机警的样子。

“那么,我现在就来把事情的经过说给你们听吧,”那位女士说道,“我和这位弗兰克是一八八四年在落矶山附近的麦圭尔营地认识的。爸爸当时正在经营一个矿场。我和弗兰克订了婚。后来有一天爸爸突然挖到了一个富矿,从此发了财。可是这位可怜的弗兰克所占有的土地上的矿脉却渐渐变小,以至于完全消失了。我的爸爸越来越富,弗兰克却越来越穷。所以,后来爸爸硬是不同意我们的婚约继续下去。他把我带到旧金山去。尽管如此,弗兰克不愿意放手,于是,他接着也到了那里,并且瞒着爸爸和我见面。让爸爸知道只会使他生气,所以,我们就自己做了安排。弗兰克说,他也要去发一笔财,直到他象爸爸一样富有,他才回来跟我结婚。我当时答应等他一辈子,并且发誓只要他活着,我就不嫁给别人。‘那么,为什么我们不马上就结婚呢?’他说,‘这样我对你就感到放心了,无须在我回来以后要求人家承认我是你的丈夫。’哦,就这样,我们经过了商量,他把一切都安排得那么妥贴,请好了一位牧师,我们当即举行了婚礼。过后,弗兰克就离开了我去奔前程,而我则回到了爸爸身边。

”我再次听到弗兰克的消息是他到了蒙大拿,接着在亚利桑那探矿。以后我又听说他在新墨西哥。在那以后报上登出过一篇长期报道,说有一个矿工营地如何遭到亚利桑那印第安人的袭击,死亡者的名单中有我的弗兰克的名字。我看了以后昏厥过去。接着我缠绵病床达数月之久,病得非常厉害。爸爸以为我得了痨病,带我去找遍了整个旧金山大约一半的医生。一年多来,音信杳然,因而我从不怀疑弗兰克是真的死了。以后,圣西蒙勋爵来到旧金山,我们到了伦敦。婚事定了下来,爸爸非常高兴。但是我总觉得我的心已经给了我可怜的弗兰克,世界上再没有哪一个男人能代替他。

“话虽如此,要是我嫁给圣西蒙勋爵,当然我会尽我对他的义务。我们不能勉强我们的爱情,但是我们却可以勉强我们的行动。我和他一起步向圣坛时是怀着尽我所能来作他的好妻子的意愿的。但是你们可以想象,我当时的感觉如何,那就是:正当我走到圣坛栏杆前的时候,我回首一瞥,忽然看到弗兰克站在第一排座位那里望着我。起初我还以为是他的鬼魂出现。但是当我再往那儿看时,发现他仍在那里,眼睛里露出几分疑惑的神色,好象在问,我见到了他,是高兴还是难过。我奇怪我怎么没有昏过去。我只感到天旋地转,牧师的话,就象一只蜜蜂嗡嗡地在我的耳朵里响着。我不知道该怎么办才好。难道我应该打断仪式的进行,在教堂里闹出一场风波来吗?我又瞧了他一眼,他看来好象知道我在想些什么,因为他把手指贴在嘴唇上,示意我不要作声。接着我看到他在一张纸上草草地写了几个字,我明白他是在写一张便条给我。我在出来的路上经过那排座位时,让花束掉落在他的座位前面,当他捡起花束给我时,悄悄把纸条塞在我的手里。纸条上只有一行字,要我在他向我发出信号时,就跟着他走。当然,我绝无丝毫怀疑我首要的义务是向他尽责,并且决心完全按照他的要求去做。

”回到寓所,我告诉了我的女佣人。她在加利福尼亚时就认识他,并且一直和他很友好。我嘱咐她什么也不要说,只要收拾一些东西,准备好我的长外套。我知道我应该向圣西蒙勋爵说明一下,但是在他母亲和那些大人物面前难以张口,我只好下决心不辞而别,以后再作解释。我到餐桌就座还不到十分钟,就看见弗兰克站在窗外马路的另一边。他向我招了招手,随即走进了公园,我穿戴好溜了出来,跟上他。这时有一个女人过来跟我谈了些圣西蒙勋爵的闲话,从她的只言片语中透露,似乎他在结婚前也有他自己的一点儿秘密,但是我设法摆脱了她,很快就赶上了弗兰克。我们一起坐上了一辆出租马车,驶往他在戈登广场租下的寓所。在盼了那么些岁月之后,这次我才真的算是结婚了。弗兰克在亚利桑那被印地安人囚禁过,后来他越狱逃跑,长途跋涉来到旧金山。他发现我以为他死了,并且已经到英国去了。他追踪到了这里,终于在我举行第二次婚礼的当天早上找到了我。“

”我是在一张报纸上看到的,“这位美国人补充说。”报纸上登着教堂的名字,但没有提到女方的住处。“

”接着我们就商量该怎么办,弗兰克主张完全公开。但是我对这一切感到非常的惭愧,我但愿从此销声匿迹,永远不再见到他们之中的任何一个人——也许,给爸爸写张条子,表明我尚在人间就是了。我一想起那些爵士们、夫人们正围坐在早餐桌旁等我回去,心里就忐忑不安。于是,弗兰克为了使别人找不到我,就把我的结婚礼服和气它东西收拾起来捆成一包,扔到一个没有人找得到的地方。本来我们明天就可能到巴黎去了,要不是这位好心的福尔摩斯先生今天晚上来找我们的话。虽然我想象不出他是怎样发现我们的地址的,但是他善意和清楚地开导了我们,指出我是错了,弗兰克是对的,而我们这样怕人家知道,那要犯很大的错误。然后,他提出给我们一个跟圣西蒙勋爵单独谈话的机会,所以,我们就立即到这里来了。好了,罗伯特,你现在什么都明白了吧。如果我使你感到痛苦,那我就太抱歉了。希望你不要把我想得太卑鄙。“

圣西蒙勋爵一点没有放松他那僵硬的姿势,而是皱着眉头,紧绷着嘴唇,在听着这篇冗长的叙述。

”对不起,“他说,”这样公开地讨论纯属我个人的私事,我是很不习惯的。“

”那么说,你不肯原谅我了?你不肯在我走以前和我握一下手吗?“

”噢,当然可以,如果这样做会使你高兴的话。“他伸出他的手,冷淡地握了一个她伸过来的手。

”我本来希望,“福尔摩斯提议说,”你能和我们共进一顿友好的晚餐。“

”我觉得,你的要求有点过份了,“勋爵回答说,”我可能被迫默认最近的事态发展,但也别指望我会很高兴。我想如果你们许可的话,我现在祝你们各位晚安。“他向我们大家很快地鞠了个躬,就昂首阔步地走出了房间。

”那么,我相信,至少你们不会不给我点面子吧,“歇洛克•福尔摩斯说,”结交一个美国人,总是令人愉快的,莫尔顿先生,许多人包括我在内相信,多年以前的一位君王的愚蠢行为和一位大臣的错误,将不会妨碍我们的子孙在某一天成为同一世界大国的公民,在这个国土上,飘扬着米字旗和星条旗镶嵌在一起的国旗。“

”这是一件非常有趣的案子。“我们的客人走后福尔摩斯说,”因为它非常清楚地说明,一件在开始时看起来几乎无法解释的事情,后来解释起来却又是多么的简单。没有任何事情比这位女士所叙述的事情发生的先后次序更自然的了。可是另一些人,比如说苏格兰场的雷斯垂德先生,依他看来,就没有什么事情比这事情的结局更奇怪的了。“

”那么,你一直就一点都没有弄错吗?“

”从一开始,对我来说就有两件事情非常清楚。一件是那位女士原来非常愿意举行婚礼;另一件是但她在回家后还不到几分钟的时间就后悔了。那么很明显,一定是早上发生了点什么事,使得她改变了主意。这件事可能是什么呢?出了门以后,她不可能同任何人说过话,因为新郎一直在陪着她。那么,她有没有看到什么熟人呢?如果有的话,这个人必然是从美国来的。因为她来到这个国家的日子很短,不可能会有什么人给她造成这么深刻的影响,以致只是看了那么一眼,就会使她完全改变她的计划。你瞧,经过一系列的去伪存真,我们已经得到这样一个结论,就是她可能看到了一个美国人。那末,这个美国人又能是谁呢?他为什么对她具有那么大的影响呢?可能是个情人,也可能是她的丈夫。我知道,她年轻时是在艰难而奇特的环境中度过的。在我听到圣西蒙勋爵的叙述之前,我只了解这么一些。当他告诉我们以下这些情况:在一排座位里有一位男人,新娘的态度起了变化,显然是为了取得字条而从手里掉下了花束的这么一个把戏,她求助于她的心腹女仆以及她提到的侵占土地——这在采矿者的行话中意味着占据别人原来已占有的探矿权——这一很有含意的暗示,整个情况就十分清楚了。她跟一个男人走了,那么这个男人不是她的情人,就一定是她过去的丈夫,丈夫的可能性要大一些。“

”你究竟是怎么找到他们的呢?“

”本来可能是很难找到的,可是雷斯垂德老兄手里已经掌握了他自己还不知道评价值的情报。当然,那几个姓名的起首字母是最重要的,但是比这更有价值的是,知道了他在一周之内曾经在伦敦一所最高级的旅馆结过帐这个事实。“

”你怎么推断出来是最高级的旅馆呢?“

”根据这么昂贵的价格推断出来的:八先令一个床位,八便士一杯葡萄酒,由此可以看出那是一家最豪华的旅馆。伦敦收费这么高的旅馆并不多。在诺森伯兰大街我访问的第二家旅馆里,通过查阅登记簿,我发现有一位美国先生弗朗西斯•H•莫尔顿,刚刚在前一天离开。在查看他名下的帐目时,我又恰巧发现我在复写的收据上已经看到过的那些帐目。这位美国先生留下话要求将他的信件转到戈登广场226号。于是,我就赶到那里,很幸运地发现这对爱侣正好在家。我冒昧地以长辈的身份向他们提出了一点意见。我向他们指出,不论从哪方面来说,他们都最好向公众,特别是向圣西蒙勋爵将他们的处境表白得更清楚一点。我邀请他们到这里来和他见面,并且,正如你所看到的,我使他遵守了约会。“

”但是,结局不够理想,“我说道,”他的举止肯定不够大方。“

”哈,华生,“福尔摩斯微笑着说,”假如你经过求婚、结婚等一系列的麻烦事之后,却发现瞬刻之间妻子和财富不翼而飞了,恐怕你也不会很大方的。我想我们看待圣西蒙勋爵不妨宽容一些,并且谢天谢地不要有一天让我们落到同样的地步。请你将椅子向前挪挪,把那小提琴递给我。现在还需要我们解决的唯一问题是,如何消磨这以后的凄凉的秋夜。“

 
< Prev. Chapter  |  Next Chapter >