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Adventure V. The Musgrave Ritual

An anomaly which often struck me in the character of

  my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his

  methods of thought he was the neatest and most

  methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a

  certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less

  in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that

  ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction. Not that I

  am in the least conventional in that respect myself. 

  The rough-and-tumble work in Afghanistan, coming on

  the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has

  made me rather more lax than befits a medical man who

  keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in

  the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered

  correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the

  very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin to

  give myself virtuous airs. I have always held, too,

  that pistol practice should be distinctly an open-air

  pastime; and when Holmes, in one of his queer humors,

  would sit in an arm-chair with his hair-trigger and a

  hundred Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the

  opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. Done in

  bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the

  atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was improved

  by it.

  Our chambers were always full of chemicals and of

  criminal relics which had a way of wandering into

  unlikely positions, and of turning up in the

  butter-dish or in even less desirable places. But his

  papers were my great crux. He had a horror of

  destroying documents, especially those which were

  connected with his past cases, and yet it was only

  once in every year or two that he would muster energy

  to docket and arrange them; for, as I have mentioned

  somewhere in these incoherent memoirs, the outbursts

  of passionate energy when he performed the remarkable

  feats with which his name is associated were followed

  by reactions of lethargy during which he would lie

  about with his violin and his books, hardly moving

  save fro the sofa to the table. Thus month after

  month his papers accumulated, until every corner of

  the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which

  were on no account to be burned, and which could not

  be put away save by their owner. One winter’s night,

  as we sat together by the fire, I ventured to suggest

  to him that, as he had finished pasting extracts into

  his common-place book, he might employ the next two

  hours in making our room a little more habitable. He

  could not deny the justice of my request, so with a

  rather rueful face went off to his bedroom, from which

  he returned presently pulling a large tin box behind

  him. This he placed in the middle of the floor and,

  squatting down upon a stool in front of it, he threw

  back the lid. I could see that it was already a third

  full of bundles of paper tied up with red tape into

  separate packages.

  “There are cases enough here, Watson,” said he,

  looking at me with mischievous eyes. “I think that if

  you knew all that I had in this box you would ask me

  to pull some out instead of putting others in.”

  “These are the records of your early work, then?” I

  asked. “I have often wished that I had notes of those


  “Yes, my boy, these were all done prematurely before

  my biographer had come to glorify me.” He lifted

  bundle after bundle in a tender, caressing sort of

  way. “They are not all successes, Watson,” said he. 

  “But there are some pretty little problems among them. 

  Here’s the record of the Tarleton murders, and the

  case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure

  of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of

  the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of

  Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife. 

  And here–ah, now, this really is something a little


  He dived his arm down to the bottom of the chest, and

  brought up a small wooden box with a sliding lid, such

  as children’s toys are kept in. From within he

  produced a crumpled piece of paper, and old-fashioned

  brass key, a peg of wood with a ball of string

  attached to it, and three rusty old disks of metal.

  “Well, my boy, what do you make of this lot?” he

  asked, smiling at my expression.

  “It is a curious collection.”

  “Very curious, and the story that hangs round it will

  strike you as being more curious still.”

  “These relics have a history then?”

  “So much so that they are history.”

  “What do you mean by that?”

  Sherlock Holmes picked them up one by one, and laid

  them along the edge of the table. Then re reseated

  himself in his chair and looked them over with a gleam

  of satisfaction in his eyes.

  “These,” said he, “are all that I have left to remind

  me of the adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.”

  I had heard him mention the case more than once,

  though I had never been able to gather the details. 

  “I should be so glad,” said I, “if you would give me

  an account of it.”

  “And leave the litter as it is?” he cried,

  mischievously. “Your tidiness won’t bear much strain

  after all, Watson. But I should be glad that you

  should add this case to your annals, for there are

  points in it which make it quite unique in the

  criminal records of this or, I believe, of any other

  country. A collection of my trifling achievements

  would certainly be incomplete which contained no; account of this very singular business.

  “You may remember how the affair of the Gloria Scott,

  and my conversation with the unhappy man whose fate I

  told you of, first turned my attention in the

  direction of the profession which has become my life’s

  work. You see me now when my name has become known

  far and wide, and when I am generally recognized both

  by the public and by the official force as being a

  final court of appeal in doubtful cases. Even when

  you knew me first, at the time of the affair which you

  have commemorated in ‘A Study in Scarlet,’ I had

  already established a considerable, though not a very

  lucrative, connection. You can hardly realize, then,

  how difficult I found it at first, and how long I had

  to wait before I succeeded in making any headway.

  “When I first came up to London I had rooms in

  Montague Street, just round the corner from the

  British Museum, and there I waited, filling in my too

  abundant leisure time by studying all those branches

  of science which might make me more efficient. Now

  and again cases came in my way, principally through

  the introduction of old fellow-students, for during my

  last years at the University there was a good deal of

  talk there about myself and my methods. The third of

  these cases was that of the Musgrave Ritual, and it is

  to the interest which was aroused by that singular

  chain of events, and the large issues which proved to

  be at stake, that I trace my first stride towards to

  position which I now hold.

  “Reginald Musgrave had been in the same college as

  myself, and I had some slight acquaintance with him. 

  He was not generally popular among the undergraduates,

  though it always seemed to me that what was set down

  as pride was really an attempt to cover extreme

  natural diffidence. In appearance he was a man of

  exceedingly aristocratic type, thin, high-nosed, and

  large-eyed, with languid and yet courtly manners. He

  was indeed a scion of one of the very oldest families

  in the kingdom, though his branch was a cadet one

  which had separated from the northern Musgraves some

  time in the sixteenth century, and had established

  itself in western Sussex, where the Manor House of

  Hurlstone is perhaps the oldest inhabited building in

  the county. Something of his birth place seemed to

  cling to the man, and I never looked at his pale, keen

  face or the poise of his head without associating him

  with gray archways and mullioned windows and all the

  venerable wreckage of a feudal keep. Once or twice we

  drifted into talk, and I can remember that more than

  once he expressed a keen interest in my methods of

  observation and inference.

  “For four years I had seen nothing of him until one

  morning he walked into my room in Montague Street. He

  had changed little, was dressed like a young man of

  fashion–he was always a bit of a dandy–and preserved

  the same quiet, suave manner which had formerly

  distinguished him.

  “‘How has all gone wit you Musgrave?” I asked, after

  we had cordially shaken hands.

  “‘You probably heard of my poor father’s death,’ said

  he; ‘he was carried off about two years ago. Since

  then I have of course had the Hurlstone estates to

  manage, and as I am member for my district as well, my

  life has been a busy one. But I understand, Holmes,

  that you are turning to practical ends those powers

  with which you used to amaze us?”

  “‘Yes,’ said I, ‘I have taken to living by my wits.’

  “‘I am delighted to hear it, for your advice at

  present would be exceedingly valuable to me. We have

  had some very strange doings at Hurlstone, and the

  police have been able to throw no light upon the

  matter. It is really the most extraordinary and

  inexplicable business.’

  “You can imagine with what eagerness I listened to

  him, Watson, for the very chance for which I had been

  panting during all those months of inaction seemed to

  have come within my reach. In my inmost heart I

  believed that I could succeed where others failed, and

  now I had the opportunity to test myself.

  “‘Pray, let me have the details,’ I cried.

  “Reginald Musgrave sat down opposite to me, and lit

  the cigarette which I had pushed towards him.

  “‘You must know,’ said he, ‘that though I am a

  bachelor, I have to keep up a considerable staff of

  servants at Hurlstone, for it is a rambling old place,

  and takes a good deal of looking after. I preserve,

  too, and in the pheasant months I usually have a

  house-party, so that it would not do to be

  short-handed. Altogether there are eight maids, the

  cook, the butler, two footmen, and a boy. The garden

  and the stables of course have a separate staff.

  “‘Of these servants the one who had been longest in

  our service was Brunton the butler. He was a young

  school-master out of place when he was first taken up

  by my father, but he was a man of great energy and

  character, and he soon became quite invaluable in the

  household. He was a well-grown, handsome man, with a

  splendid forehead, and though he has been with us for

  twenty years he cannot be more than forty now. With

  his personal advantages and his extraordinary

  gifts–for he can speak several languages and play

  nearly every musical instrument–it is wonderful that

  he should have been satisfied so long in such a

  position, but I suppose that he was comfortable, and

  lacked energy to make any change. The butler of

  Hurlstone is always a thing that is remembered by all

  who visit us.

  “‘But this paragon has one fault. He is a bit of a

  Don Juan, and you can imagine that for a man like him

  it is not a very difficult part to play in a quiet

  country district. When he was married it was all

  right, but since he has been a widower we have had no

  end of trouble with him. A few months ago we were in

  hopes that he was about to settle down again for he

  became engaged to Rachel Howells, our second

  house-maid; but he has thrown her over since then and

  taken up with Janet Tregellis, the daughter of the

  head game-keeper. Rachel–who is a very good girl,

  but of an excitable Welsh temperament–had a sharp

  touch of brain-fever, and goes about the house now–or

  did until yesterday–like a black-eyed shadow of her

  former self. That was our first drama at Hurlstone;

  but a second one came to drive it from our minds, and

  it was prefaced by the disgrace and dismissal of

  butler Brunton.

  “‘This was how it came about. I have said that the

  man was intelligent, and this very intelligence has

  caused his ruin, for it seems to have led to an

  insatiable curiosity about things which did not in the

  least concern him. I had no idea of the lengths to

  which this would 

carry him, until the merest accident

  opened my eyes to it.

  “‘I have said that the house is a rambling one. One

  day last week–on Thursday night, to be more exact–I

  found that I could not sleep, having foolishly taken a

  cup of strong caf�� noir after my dinner. After

  struggling against it until two in the morning, I felt

  that it was quite hopeless, so I rose and lit the

  candle with the intention of continuing a novel which

  I was reading. The book, however, had been left in

  the billiard-room, so I pulled on my dressing-gown and

  started off to get it.

  “‘In order to reach the billiard-room I had to descend

  a flight of stairs and then to cross the head of a

  passage which led to the library and the gun-room. 

  You can imagine my surprise when, as I looked down

  this corridor, I saw a glimmer of light coming from

  the open door of the library. I had myself

  extinguished the lamp and closed the door before

  coming to bed. Naturally my first thought was of

  burglars. The corridors at Hurlstone have their walls

  largely decorated with trophies of old weapons. From

  one of these I picked a battle-axe, and then, leaving

  my candle behind me, I crept on tiptoe down the

  passage and peeped in at the open door.

  “‘Brunton, the butler, was in the library. He was

  sitting, fully dressed, in an easy-chair, with a slip

  of paper which looked lake a map upon his knee, and

  his forehead sunk forward upon his hand in deep

  thought. I stood dumb with astonishment, watching him

  from the darkness. A small taper on the edge of the

  table shed a feeble light which sufficed to show me

  that he was fully dressed. Suddenly, as I looked, he

  rose from his chair, and walking over to a bureau at

  the side, he unlocked it and drew out one of the

  drawers. From this he took a paper, and returning to

  his seat he flattened it out beside the taper on the

  edge of the table, and began to study it with minute

  attention. My indignation at this calm examination of

  our family documents overcame me so far that I took a

  step forward, and Brunton, looking up, saw me standing

  in the doorway. He sprang to his feet, his face

  turned livid with fear, and he thrust into his breast

  the chart-like paper which he had been originally


  “‘”So!” said I. “This is how you repay the trust

  which we have reposed in you. You will leave my

  service to-morrow.”

  “‘He bowed with the look of a man who is utterly

  crushed, and slunk past me without a word. The taper

  was still on the table, and by its light I glanced to

  see what the paper was which Brunton had taken from

  the bureau. To my surprise it was nothing of any

  importance at all, but simply a copy of the questions

  and answers in the singular old observance called the

  Musgrave Ritual. It is a sort of ceremony peculiar to

  our family, which each Musgrave for centuries past has

  gone through on his coming of age–a thing of private

  interest, and perhaps of some little importance to the

  archaeologist, like our own blazonings and charges,

  but of no practical use whatever.’

  “‘We had better come back to the paper afterwards,’

  said I.

  “‘If you think it really necessary,’ he answered, with

  some hesitation. ‘To continue my statement, however: 

  I relocked the bureau, using the key which Brunton had

  left, and I had turned to go when I was surprised to

  find that the butler had returned, and was standing

  before me.

  “‘”Mr. Musgrave, sir,” he cried, in a voice which was

  hoarse with emotion, “I can’t bear disgrace, sir. 

  I’ve always been proud above my station in life, and

  disgrace would kill me. My blood will be on your

  head, sir–it will, indeed–if you drive me to

  despair. If you cannot keep me after what has passed,

  then for God’s sake let me give you notice and leave

  in a month, as if of my own free will. I could stand

  that, Mr. Musgrave, but not to be cast out before all

  the folk that I know so well.”

  “‘”You don’t deserve much consideration, Brunton,” I

  answered. “Your conduct has been most infamous. 

  However, as you have been a long time in the family, I

  have no wish to bring public disgrace upon you. A

  month, however is too long. Take yourself away in a

  week, and give what reason you like for going.”

“‘”Only a week, sir?” he cried, in a despairing voice. 

  “A fortnight–say at least a fortnight!”

  “‘”A week,” I repeated, “and you may consider yourself

  to have been very leniently dealt with.”

  “‘He crept away, his face sunk upon his breast, like a

  broken man, while I put out the light and returned to

  my room.

  “”For two days after this Brunton was most assiduous

  in his attention to his duties. I made no allusion to

  what had passed, and waited with some curiosity to see

  how he would cover his disgrace. On the third

  morning, however he did not appear, as was his custom,

  after breakfast to receive my instructions for the

  day. As I left the dining-room I happened to meet

  Rachel Howells, the maid. I have told you that she

  had only recently recovered from an illness, and was

  looking so wretchedly pale and wan that I remonstrated

  with her for being at work.

  “‘”You should be in bed,” I said. “Come back to your

  duties when you are stronger.”

  “‘She looked at me with so strange an expression that

  I began to suspect that her brain was affected.

  “‘”I am strong enough, Mr. Musgrave,” said she.

  “‘”We will see what the doctor says,” I answered. 

  “You must stop work now, and when you go downstairs

  just say that I wish to see Brunton.”

  “‘”The butler is gone,” said she.

  “‘”Gone! Gone where?”

  “‘”He is gone. No one has seen him. He is not in his

  room. Oh, yes, he is gone, he is gone!” She fell

  back against the wall with shriek after shriek of

  laughter, while I, horrified at this sudden hysterical

  attack, rushed to the bell to summon help. The girl

  was taken to her room, still screaming and sobbing,

  while I made inquiries about Brunton. There was no

  doubt about it that he had disappeared. His bed had

  not been slept in, he had been seen by no one since he

  had retired to his room the night before, and yet it

  was difficult to see how he could have left the house,

  as both windows and doors were found to be fastened in

  the morning. His clothes, his watch, and even his

  money were in his room, but the black suit which he

  usually wore was missing. His slippers, too, were

  gone, but his boots were left behind. Where then

  could butler Brunton have gone in the night, and what

  could have become of him now?

  “‘Of course we searched the house from cellar to

  garret, but there was no trace of him. It is, as I

  have said, a labyrinth of an old house, especially the

  original wing, which is now practically uninhabited;

  but we ransacked every room and cellar without

  discovering the least sign of the missing man. It was

  incredible to me that he could have gone away leaving

  all his property behind him, and yet where could he

  be? I called in the local police, but without

  success. Rain had fallen on the night before and we

  examined the lawn and the paths all round the house,

  but in vain. Matters were in this state, when a new

  development quite drew our attention away from the

  original mystery.

  “‘For two days Rachel Howells had been so ill,

  sometimes delirious, sometimes hysterical, that a

  nurse had been employed to sit up with her at night. 

  On the third night after Brunton’s disappearance, the

  nurse, finding her patient sleeping nicely, had

  dropped into a nap in the arm-chair, when shoe woke in

  the early morning to find the bed empty, the window

  open, and no signs of the invalid. I was instantly

  aroused, and, with the two footmen, started off at

  once in search of the missing girl. It was not

  difficult to tell the direction which she had taken,

  for, starting from under her window, we could follow

  her footmarks easily across the lawn to the edge of

  the mere, where they vanished close to the gravel path

  which leads out of the grounds. The lake there is

  eight feet deep, and you can imagine our feelings when

  we saw that the trail of the poor demented girl came

  to an end at the edge of it.

  “‘Of course, we had the drags at once, and set to work

  to recover the remains, but no trace of the body could

  we find. On the other hand, we brought to the surface

  an object of a most unexpected kind. It was a linen

  bag which contained within it a mass of old rusted and

  discolored metal and several dull-colored pieces of

  pebble or glass. This strange find was all that we

  could get from the mere, and, although we made every

  possible search and inquiry yesterday, we know nothing

  of the fate either of Rachel Howells or of Richard

  Brunton. The county police are at their wits’ end,

  and I have come up to you as a last resource.’

  “You can imagine, Watson, with what eagerness I

  listened to this extraordinary sequence of events, and

  endeavored to piece them together, and to devise some

  common thread upon which they might all hang. The

  butler was gone. The maid was gone. The maid had

  loved the butler, but had afterwards had cause to hate

  him. She was of Welsh blood, fiery and passionate. 

  She had been terribly excited immediately after his

  disappearance. She had flung into the lake a bag

  containing some curious contents. These were all

  factors which had to be taken into consideration, and

  yet none of them got quite to the heart of the matter. 

  What was the starting-point of this chain of events? 

  There lay the end of this tangled line.

  “‘I must see that paper, Musgrave,’ said I, ‘which

  this butler of your thought it worth his while to

  consult, even at the risk of the loss of his place.’

  “‘It is rather an absurd business, this ritual of

  ours,’ he answered. ‘But it has at least the saving

  grace of antiquity to excuse it. I have a copy of the

  questions and answers here if you care to run your eye

  over them.’

  “He handed me the very paper which I have here,

  Watson, and this is the strange catechism to which

  each Musgrave had to submit when he came to man’s

  estate. I will read you the questions and answers as

  they stand.

  “‘Whose was it?’

  “‘His who is gone.’

  “‘Who shall have it?’

  “‘He who will come.’

  “‘Where was the sun?’

  “‘Over the oak.’

  “‘Where was the shadow?’

  “‘Under the elm.’

  “How was it stepped?’

  “‘North by ten and by ten, east by five and by five,

  south by two and by two, west by one and by one, and

  so under.’

  “‘What shall we give for it?’

  “‘All that is ours.’

  “‘Why should we give it?’

  “‘For the sake of the trust.’

  “‘The original has no date, but is in the spelling of

  the middle of the seventeenth century,’ remarked

  Musgrave. ‘I am afraid, however, that it can be of

  little help to you in solving this mystery.’

“‘At least,’ said I, ‘it gives us another mystery, and

  one which is even more interesting than the first. It

  may be that the solution of the one may prove to be

  the solution of the other. You will excuse me,

  Musgrave, if I say that your butler appears to me to

  have been a very clever man, and to have had a clearer

  insight that ten generations of his masters.’

  “‘I hardly follow you,’ said Musgrave. ‘The paper

  seems to me to be of no practical importance.’

  “‘But to me it seems immensely practical, and I fancy

  that Brunton took the same view. He had probably seen

  it before that night on which you caught him.’

  “‘It is very possible. We took no pains to hide it.’

  “‘He simply wished, I should imagine, to refresh his

  memory upon that last occasion. He had, as I

  understand, some sort of map or chart which he was

  comparing with the manuscript, and which he thrust

  into his pocket when you appeared.’

  “‘That is true. But what could he have to do with

  this old family custom of ours, and what does this

  rigmarole mean?’

  “‘I don’t think that we should have much difficulty in

  determining that,’ said I; ‘with your permission we

  will take the first train down to Sussex, and go a

  little more deeply into the matter upon the spot.’

  “The same afternoon saw us both at Hurlstone. 

  Possibly you have seen pictures and read descriptions

  of the famous old building, so I will confine my

  account of it to saying that it is built in the shape

  of an L, the long arm being the more modern portion,

  and the shorter the ancient nucleus, from which the

  other had developed. Over the low, heavily-lintelled

  door, in the centre of this old part, is chiseled the

  date, 1607, but experts are agreed that the beams and

  stone-work are really much older than this. The

  enormously thick walls and tiny windows of this part

  had in the last century driven the family into

  building the new wing, and the old one was used now as

  a store-house and a cellar, when it was used at all. 

  A splendid park with fine old timber surrounds the

  house, and the lake, to which my client had referred,

  lay close to the avenue, about tow hundred yards from

  the building.

  “I was already firmly convinced, Watson, that there

  were not three separate mysteries here, but one only,

  and that if I could read the Musgrave Ritual aright I

  should hold in my hand the clue which would lead me to

  the truth concerning both the butler Brunton and the

  maid Howells. To that then I turned all my energies. 

  Why should this servant be so anxious to master this

  old formula? Evidently because he saw something in it

  which had escaped all those generations of country

  squires, and from which he expected some personal

  advantage. What was it then, and how had it affected

  his fate?

  “It was perfectly obvious to me, on reading the

  ritual, that the measurements must refer to some spot

  to which the rest of the document alluded, and that if

  we could find that spot, we should be in a fair way

  towards finding what the secret was which the old

  Musgraves had thought it necessary to embalm in so

  curious a fashion. There were two guides given us to

  start with, an oak and an elm. As to the oak there

  could be no question at all. Right in front of the

  house, upon the left-hand side of the drive, there

  stood a patriarch among oaks, one of the most

  magnificent trees that I have ever seen.

  “‘That was there when you ritual was drawn up,’ said

  I, as we drove past it.

  “‘It was there at the Norman Conquest in all

  probability,’ he answered. ‘It has a girth of

  twenty-three feet.’

  “‘Have you any old elms?’ I asked.

  “‘There used to be a very old one over yonder but it

  was struck by lightning ten years ago, and we cut down

  the stump,’

  “‘You can see where it used to be?’

  “‘Oh, yes.’

  “‘There are no other elms?’

  “‘No old ones, but plenty of beeches.’

  “‘I should like to see where it grew.’

  “We had driven up in a dogcart, and my client led me

  away at once, without our entering the house, to the

  scar on the lawn where the elm had stood. It was

  nearly midway between the oak and the house. My

  investigation seemed to be progressing.

  “‘I suppose it is impossible to find out how high the

  elm was?’ I asked.

  “‘I can give you it at once. It was sixty-four feet.’

  “‘How do you come to know it?’ I asked, in surprise.

  “‘When my old tutor used to give me an exercise in

  trigonometry, it always took the shape of measuring

  heights. When I was a lad I worked out every tree and

  building in the estate.’

  “This was an unexpected piece of luck. My data were

  coming more quickly than I could have reasonably


  “‘Tell me,’ I asked, ‘did your butler ever ask you

  such a question?’

  “Reginald Musgrave looked at me in astonishment. ‘Now

  that you call it to my mind,’ he answered, ‘Brunton

  did ask me about the height of the tree some months

  ago, in connection with some little argument with the


  “This was excellent news, Watson, for it showed me

  that I was on the right road. I looked up at the sun. 

  It was low in the heavens, and I calculated that in

  less than an hour it would lie just above the topmost

  branches of the old oak. One condition mentioned in

  the Ritual would then be fulfilled. And the shadow of

  the elm must mean the farther end of the shadow,

  otherwise the trunk would have been chosen as the

  guide. I had, then, to find where the far end of the

  shadow would fall when the sun was just clear of the


  “That must have been difficult, Holmes, when the elm

  was no longer there.”

  “Well, at least I knew that if Brunton could do it, I

  could also. Besides, there was no real difficulty. I

  went with Musgrave to his study and whittled myself

  this peg, to which I tied this long string with a knot

  at each yard. Then I took two lengths of a

  fishing-rod, which came to just six feet, and I went

  back with my client to where the elm had been. The

  sun was just grazing the top of the oak. I fastened

  the rod on end, marked out the direction of the

  shadow, and measured it. It was nine feet in length.

  “Of course the calculation now was a simple one. If a

  rod of six feet threw a shadow of nine, a tree of

  sixty-four feet would throw one of ninety-six, and the

  line of the one would of course the line of the other. 

  I measured out the distance, which brought me almost

  to the wall of the house, and I thrust a peg into the

  spot. You can imagine my exultation, Watson, when

  within two inches of my peg I saw a conical depression

  in the ground. I knew that it was the mark made by

  Brunton in his measurements, and that I was still upon

  his trail.

  “From this starting-point I proceeded to step, having

  first taken the cardinal points by my pocket-compass. 

  Ten steps with each foot took me along parallel with

  the wall of the house, and again I marked my spot with

  a peg. Then I carefully paced off five to the east

  and two to the south. It brought me to the very

  threshold of the old door. Two steps to the west

  meant now that I was to go two paces down the

  stone-flagged passage, and this was the place

  indicated by the Ritual.

  “Never have I felt such a cold chill of

  disappointment, Watson. For a moment is seemed to me

  that there must be some radical mistake in my

  calculations. The setting sun shone full upon the

  passage floor, and I could see that the old, foot-worn

  gray stones with which it was paved were firmly

  cemented together, and had certainly not been moved

  for many a long year. Brunton had not been at work

  here. I tapped upon the floor, but it sounded the

  same all over, and there was no sign of any crack or

  crevice. But, Fortunately, Musgrave, who had begun to

  appreciate the meaning of my proceedings, and who was

  now as excited as myself, took out his manuscript to

  check my calculation.

  “‘And under,’ he cried. ‘You have omitted the “and


  “I had thought that it meant that we were to dig, but

  now, of course, I saw at once that I was wrong. 

  ‘There is a cellar under this then?’ I cried.

  “‘Yes, and as old as the house. Down here, through

  this door.’

  “We went down a winding stone stair, and my companion,

  striking a match, lit a large lantern which stood on a

  barrel in the corner. In an instant it was obvious

  that we had at last come upon the true place, and that

  we had not been the only people to visit the spot


  “It had been used for the storage of wood, but the

  billets, which had evidently been littered over the

  floor, were now piled at the sides, so as to leave a

  clear space in the middle. In this space lay a large

  and heavy flagstone with a rusted iron ring in the

  centre to which a thick shepherd’s-check muffler was


  “‘By Jove!’ cried my client. ‘That’s Brunton’s

  muffler. I have seen it on him, and could swear to

  it. What has the villain been doing here?’

  “At my suggestion a couple of the county police were

  summoned to be present, and I then endeavored to raise

  the stone by pulling on the cravat. I could only move

  it slightly, and it was with the aid of one of the

  constables that I succeeded at last in carrying it to

  one side. A black hole yawned beneath into which we

  all peered, while Musgrave, kneeling at the side,

  pushed down the lantern.

  “A small chamber about seven feet deep and four feet

  square lay open to us. At one side of this was a

  squat, brass-bound wooden box, the lid of which was

  hinged upwards, with this curious old-fashioned key

  projecting from the lock. It was furred outside by a

  thick layer of dust, and damp and worms had eaten

  through the wood, so that a crop of livid fungi was

  growing on the inside of it. Several discs of metal,

  old coins apparently, such as I hold here, were

  scattered over the bottom of the box, but it contained

  nothing else.

  “At the moment, however, we had no thought for the old

  chest, for our eyes were riveted upon that which

  crouched beside it. It was the figure of a man, clad

  in a suit of black, who squatted down upon him hams

  with his forehead sunk upon the edge of the box and

  his two arms thrown out on each side of it. The

  attitude had drawn all the stagnant blood to the face,

  and no man could have recognized that distorted

  liver-colored countenance; but his height, his dress,

  and his hair were all sufficient to show my client,

  when we had drawn the body up, that it was indeed his

  missing butler. He had been dead some days, but there

  was no wound or bruise upon his person to show how he

  had met his dreadful end. When his body had been

  carried from the cellar we found ourselves still

  confronted with a problem which was almost as

formidable as that with which we had started.

  “I confess that so far, Watson, I had been

  disappointed in my investigation. I had reckoned upon

  solving the matter when once I had found the place

  referred to in the Ritual; but now I was there, and

  was apparently as far as ever from knowing what it was

  which the family had concealed with such elaborate

  precautions. It is true that I had thrown a light

  upon the fate of Brunton, but now I had to ascertain

  how that fate had come upon him, and what part had

  been played in the matter by the woman who had

  disappeared. I sat down upon a keg in the corner and

  thought the whole matter carefully over.

  “You know my methods in such cases, Watson. I put

  myself in the man’s place and, having first gauged his

  intelligence, I try to imagine how I should myself

  have proceeded under the same circumstances. In this

  case the matter was simplified by Brunton’s

  intelligence being quite first-rate, so that it was

  unnecessary to make any allowance for the personal

  equation, as the astronomers have dubbed it. He know

  that something valuable was concealed. He had spotted

  the place. He found that the stone which covered it

  was just too heavy for a man to move unaided. What

  would he do next? He could not get help from outside,

  even if he had some one whom he could trust, without

  the unbarring of doors and considerable risk of

  detection. It was better, if he could, to have his

  helpmate inside the house. But whom could he ask? 

  This girl had been devoted to him. A man always finds

  it hard to realize that he may have finally lost a

  woman’s love, however badly he may have treated her. 

  He would try by a few attentions to make his peace

  with the girl Howells, and then would engage her as

  his accomplice. Together they would come at night to

  the cellar, and their united force would suffice to

  raise the stone. So far I could follow their actions

  as if I had actually seen them.

  “But for two of them, and one a woman, it must have

  been heavy work the raising of that stone. A burly

  Sussex policeman and I had found it no light job. 

  What would they do to assist them? Probably what I

  should have done myself. I rose and examined

  carefully the different billets of wood which were

  scattered round the floor. Almost at once I came upon

  what I expected. One piece, about three feet in

  length, had a very marked indentation at one end,

  while several were flattened at the sides as if they

  had been compressed by some considerable weight. 

  Evidently, as they had dragged the stone up they had

  thrust the chunks of wood into the chink, until at

  last, when the opening was large enough to crawl

  through, they would hold it open by a billet placed

  lengthwise, which might very well become indented at

  the lower end, since the whole weight of the stone

  would press it down on to the edge of this other slab. 

  So far I was still on safe ground.

  “And now how was I to proceed to reconstruct this

  midnight drama? Clearly, only one could fit into the

  hole, and that one was Brunton. The girl must have

  waited above. Brunton then unlocked the box, handed

  up the contents presumably–since they were not to be

  found–and then–and then what happened?

  “What smouldering fire of vengeance had suddenly

  sprung into flame in this passionate Celtic woman’s

  soul when she saw the man who had wronged her–wronged

  her, perhaps, far more than we suspected–in her

  power? Was it a chance that the wood had slipped, and

  that the stone had shut Brunton into what had become

  his sepulchre? Had she only been guilty of silence as

  to his fate? Or had some sudden blow from her hand

  dashed the support away and sent the slab crashing

  down into its place? Be that as it might, I seemed to

  see that woman’s figure still clutching at her

  treasure trove and flying wildly up the winding stair,

  with her ears ringing perhaps with the muffled screams

  from behind her and with the drumming of frenzied

  hands against the slab of stone which was choking her

  faithless lover’s life out.

  “Here was the secret of her blanched face, her shaken

  nerves, her peals of hysterical laughter on the next

  morning. But what had been in the box? What had she

  done with that? Of course, it must have been the old

  metal and pebbles which my client had dragged from the

  mere. She had thrown them in there at the first

  opportunity to remove the last trace of her crime.

  “For twenty minutes I had sat motionless, thinking the

  matter out. Musgrave still stood with a very pale

  face, swinging his lantern and peering down into the


  “‘These are coins of Charles the First,’ said he,

  holding out the few which had been in the box; ‘you

  see we were right in fixing our date for the Ritual.’

  “‘We may find something else of Charles the First,’ I

  cried, as the probable meaning of the first two

  question of the Ritual broke suddenly upon me. ‘Let

  me see the contents of the bag which you fished from

  the mere.’

  “We ascended to his study, and he laid the debris

  before me. I could understand his regarding it as of

  small importance when I looked at it, for the metal

  was almost black and the stones lustreless and dull. 

  I rubbed one of them on my sleeve, however, and it

  glowed afterwards like a spark in the dark hollow of

  my hand. The metal work was in the form of a double

  ring, but it had been bent and twisted out of its

  original shape.

  “‘You must bear in mind,’ said I, ‘that the royal

  party made head in England even after the death of the

  king, and that when they at last fled they probably

  left many of their most precious possession buried

  behind them, with the intention of returning for them

  in more peaceful times.’

  “‘My ancestor, Sir Ralph Musgrave, as a prominent

  Cavalier and the right-hand man of Charles the Second

  in his wanderings,’ said my friend.

  “‘Ah, indeed!’ I answered. ‘Well now, I think that

  really should give us the last link that we wanted. I

  must congratulate you on coming into the possession,

  though in rather a tragic manner of a relic which is

  of great intrinsic value, but of even greater

  importance as an historical curiosity.’

  “‘What is it, then?’ he gasped in astonishment.

  “‘It is nothing less than the ancient crown of the

  kings of England.’

  “‘The crown!’

  “‘Precisely. Consider what the Ritual says: How does

  it run? “Whose was it?” “His who is gone.” That was

  after the execution of Charles. Then, “Who shall have

  it?” “He who will come.” That was Charles the

  Second, whose advent was already foreseen. There can,

  I think, be no doubt that 

this battered and shapeless

  diadem once encircled the brows of the royal Stuarts.’

  “‘And how came it in the pond?’

  “‘Ah, that is a question that will take some time to

  answer.’ And with that I sketched out to him the

  whole long chain of surmise and of proof which I had

  constructed. The twilight had closed in and the moon

  was shining brightly in the sky before my narrative

  was finished.

  “‘And how was it then that Charles did not get his

  crown when he returned?’ asked Musgrave, pushing back

  the relic into its linen bag.

  “‘Ah, there you lay your finger upon the one point

  which we shall probably never be able to clear up. It

  is likely that the Musgrave who held the secret died

  in the interval, and by some oversight left this guide

  to his descendant without explaining the meaning of

  it. From that day to this it has been handed down

  from father to son, until at last it came within reach

  of a man who tore its secret out of it and lost his

  life in the venture.’

  “And that’s the story of the Musgrave Ritual, Watson. 

  They have the crown down at Hurlstone–though they had

  some legal bother and a considerable sum to pay before

  they were allowed to retain it. I am sure that if you

  mentioned my name they would be happy to show it to

  you. Of the woman nothing was ever heard, and the

  probability is that she got away out of England and

  carried herself and the memory of her crime to some

  land beyond the seas.”

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