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The Adventure of the Crooked Man by Arthur Conan Doyle

Read and listen to this dramatized story and meet the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and his faithful friend Dr. Watson.

Sherlock Holmes memorabilia

Sherlock Holmes is the archetypical private detective who brilliantly solves all the criminal puzzles he is presented with. He was created by the British doctor and author Arthur Conan Doyle (1851 - 1930) more than a hundred years ago. Sherlock Holmes and his friend and assistant Dr Watson appear in more than 60 novels and short stories. The novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, published around the turn of the century, is probably the best known. As portrayed in these works, Sherlock Holmes suffers from bouts of depression, is addicted to cocaine and is a confirmed bachelor.

A far cry from most of today's cynical and hard-boiled detective heroes, Sherlock Holmes, with his gentle manners, his pipe and his deer stalker cap, still enjoys wide popularity with readers of detective fiction. Through many TV adaptations, Sherlock Holmes has also reached a large TV audience.

The Adventure of the Crooked Man

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The Adventure of the Crooked Man

"The Adventure of the Crooked Man" as plain text

The Adventure of the Crooked Man

by Arthur Conan Doyle


Watson narrator: My involvement in "The Adventure of the Crooked Man" began late one summer night. My wife had already gone to bed, and I was sitting up smoking a last pipe, when suddenly I heard the door bell. To my astonishment it was not one of my patients seeking help, but Sherlock Holmes who stood upon my step.


Holmes: Ah, Watson! I hoped that I might not be too late to catch you.

Watson: My dear fellow, come in. What can I do for you?

Holmes: Could you put me up tonight?

Watson: Oh, I should be delighted ...


Watson narrator: We sat in the drawing room, and he smoked a pipe for some time in silence. I was well aware that nothing but business of importance could have brought him to me at such an hour, so I waited patiently until he should come round to it.


Holmes: I see that you are rather busy just now.


Watson: Yes, I've had a full day. It may seem very foolish in your eyes, but really, I don't know how you noticed.


Holmes: Ahhh ... I have the advantage of knowing your habits, my dear Watson. When your round is short, you walk, and when it is a long one, you use a hansom cab. As I see that your boots, although used, are by no means dirty, I cannot doubt that you are at present busy enough to use the hansom.


Watson: Ah, excellent!


Holmes: Elementary. Now, at present I hold in my hand several threads of one of the strangest cases I've ever had, and yet, not one of these threads leads to the solution. I lack one piece of information to complete my theory. If you could accompany me in that last step, you might be of considerable service to me.

Watson: Oh, I should be delighted.

Holmes: I have this evening returned from Aldershot, and must go back there again tomorrow. If you are not too sleepy, I will give you a sketch of what has happened and of what has still to be done ...


Watson narrator: It appeared to be a case of murder - the murder of Colonel Barclay, who had been the commander of a famous regiment, the Royal Mallows.


Holmes: Now as for James Barclay - it is remarkable that he began as a private soldier, was raised to commissioned rank and lived to command the regiment in which he had started.


It was soon after he got his commission, that he married Miss Nancy Devoy - a woman of great beauty. Even now, when she has been married for upwards of thirty years, she is still very good looking. She is also devoted and faithful, so far as I have been able to find out. The Colonel and Mrs Barclay were regarded in regiment as the very model of a middle-aged couple. They did not live in the barracks, but in a house about half a mile away. Although it is set in its own grounds, the western side faces the road, and is visible from it. On this side is a morning room, which opens through large glass doors on to the lawn. Now, Watson, for the events which took place on the evening of last Monday. Mrs Barclay was hurrying over her dinner, in order to attend a meeting at the Watt Street Chapel ...


Barclay: Shame to spoil good food by rushing it.

Nancy Barclay: Miss Morrison will be waiting for me to walk with her, and the meeting begins at eight.

Barclay: Very well. But you know I like you with me.

Nancy Barclay: (Gently) It is for charity. I'll be back before long, my dear. It'll barely be dark.


Holmes: From what the servants told me, there was no hint of an argument between the two of them at this time. Yet I learned from the housemaid that when Mrs Barclay returned at a quarter past nine, she was noticeably upset.


Nancy Barclay: Where is the Colonel, Jane?

Jane: In the dining room, Ma'm.

Nancy Barclay: Bring me some tea. I will use the breakfast room. No, never mind the blinds - I will light the lamp myself.


Holmes: The Colonel, however, must have heard his wife returning, and joined her in the morning room. The tea which had been ordered, was brought up after about ten minutes, but the maid, as she approached the door, was surprised to hear the voices of her master and mistress raised in a furious argument.


(Gentle tap on door)

Jane: Mrs Barclay? Ma'm?

(Doorhandle tried)

Jane: Lordy! Cook'll know what to do!


Holmes: The cook and the coachman were both downstairs, but came up into the hall and listened to the dispute, which was still

gomg on.

Mrs Barclay: (Voice rising to be clearly audible) What can be done now? I will never so much as breathe the same air as you again! You coward! You coward!


(Piercing scream)

Coachman: I'll break down the door.

(Door failing to break)

Jane: The French windows! They were open earlier!

Coachman: Wait here - I'll go round.


Holmes: One glass door was indeed open, and he passed without difficulty into the room. His mistress had stopped screaming and was stretched insensible on the floor. The unfortunate soldier was lying with his head upon the ground near the corner of the fender, stone dead, in a pool of his own blood.

Coachman: . . . and the expression on his face, sir. It was terrible. Fear and horror.


Holmes: The key to the door was not in the lock, nor was it ever found. The Colonel had been killed by a blow to the head by a blunt instrument. Upon the floor, close to the body, was found a club of hard carved wood with a bone handle, which the police presume belonged to the Colonel, though the servants have not identified it. The police, of course, strongly suspect Mrs Barclay, who, at the moment, cannot speak for herself, as she has lost her senses from an attack of brain fever.


Watson: Oh, poor woman. - But you do not think that she is guilty?


Holmes: There are still various facts which cannot be explained. The missing key, of course, makes it perfectly clear that a third person must have come into the room, through the window. I examined the lawn and the room, Watson, most carefully. From his footmarks, I discovered that someone had crossed the lawn coming from the road. It was not this man who surprised me, but his companion.


Watson: His companion??


Holmes: Yes. (Tissue paper being unfolded) These are tracings of its footmarks.


Watson: It's a dog! A small dog!


Holmes: Did you ever hear of a dog running up a curtain? Yes, I found distinct traces that this creature had done so.


Watson: A monkey, then?


Holmes: But it is not the print of a monkey, nor any other creature that we are familiar with.


Watson: And what had the creature to do with the crime?


Holmes: That is also still unclear. But we have learned a good deal, you notice. There was a man who no doubt saw the quarrel from the road - the lights were on, the blinds not drawn. He came across the lawn and into the room, accompanied by a strange animal, and he either struck the Colonel or - just as possible - the Colonel was so frightened, he fell down and cut his head on the corner of the fender. Finally, we have the curious fact that the intruder carried the key away with him.


Watson: Oh, your discoveries seem to have left the business less clear than it was before!


Holmes: Quite so. They undoubtedly showed that the affair was much deeper than I had guessed. I came to the conclusion that I must approach the case from another aspect.


Watson: Oh!


Holmes: Yes, indeed, Watson. It was quite certain that when Mrs Barclay left the house at half-past seven, she was on good terms with her husband. When she returned, she avoided him, and when he went to see her, she accused him violently. Something therefore had happened between seven-thirty and nine o'clock which had completely changed her feelings towards him. Miss Morrison, who was with her throughout the time, told the police that she had no knowledge of the reason for this change, yet she must know something of the matter. I obviously then called on Miss Morrison, and I found her - oh - a little, thin slip of a girl with timid eyes and blonde hair, but by no means wanting in common sense ...


Holmes: . . . and so, Miss Morrison, I am perfectly certain that you hold the clue as to what it was that turned Mrs Barclay to hatred of her husband. I very much fear that unless you can help me clear this matter up, your friend Mrs Barclay may find herself charged with murder.

Miss Morrison: I promised my friend that I would say nothing of this matter. But if I really can help her when so serious a charge is made against her, and her own mouth is closed by illness, then I think I can break my promise. I will tell you exactly what happened upon Monday evening.


On our way back from the meeting we had to pass through Hudson Street, which is very quiet. There is only one lamp, and as we approached it, I saw a man coming towards us.

Henry Wood: (Coughs)

Miss Morrison: He appeared to be deformed, for he carried his head low, and walked with his back very bent. We were passing him when he raised his face to look at us in the circle of light thrown by the lamp.

Henry Wood: (He stops and screams out in a dreadful voice) Oh, God, it's Nancy!

Nancy Barclay: (Gasps)

Henry Wood: Nancy - my dear .. .

Miss Morrison: Keep away from us! I shall call the police!

Nancy Barclay: (In a shaking voice) I thought you had been dead this thirty years, Henry.

Henry Wood: So I have.

Nancy Barclay: Cecily, dear, just walk on a little way. I want to have a word with this man. There is nothing to be afraid of, I assure you.


Miss Morrison: I did as she asked me, and they talked together for a few minutes. Then she came down the street with fiery eyes, although she never said a word to me until we were at the door here.


Nancy Barclay: I beg you, Cecily, promise that you will tell no-one of what you have seen and heard just now. It is an old acquaintance of mine, who has come down in the world.

Miss Morrison: I will say nothing.


Holmes: There was Miss Morrison's statement, Watson, and you can imagine, it was like light on a dark night.

Watson: Indeed.

Holmes: It was not a very difficult matter to find the man. There are not such a very great number of civilians in Aldershot, and his deformed body naturally attracted attention. I spent a day in search, and by evening - this very evening - I had found him. His name is Henry Wood, and he lives in the street where the ladies met him, though he has only been five days in the place. His payment for the room included a coin that looked like a bad florin - but his landlady showed it to me, and it was an Indian rupee. By trade he is a conjurer and performer, going round to the soldiers' after nightfall, and giving a little entertainment. He carries some creature around with him in a box, which he uses in his tricks. So now, it is perfectly plain that this fellow followed the ladies home, saw the quarrel between husband and wife, and rushed in. But he is the only person in this world who can tell us exactly what happened in that room.

Watson: And you are going to ask him?

Holmes: Most certainly - but in the presence of a witness.

Watson: And I am the witness?

Holmes: If you will be so kind. That can clear the matter up, well and good. If he refuses, we have no alternative, but to ask for a warrant for his arrest.


Watson narrator: It was mid-day when we found ourselves in Aldershot. We made our way immediately to the house where the man was staying. Holmes sent in his card with a message that he had come on important business, and a moment later we were face to face with him.


Holmes: Mr Henry Wood, I believe? I've come over this little matter of Colonel Barclay's death.

Henry Wood: What should I know about that?

Holmes: That is what I want to find out. You know, I suppose, that unless the matter is cleared up, Mrs Barclay, who is an old friend of yours, will almost certainly be tried for murder?

Henry Wood: No! - Is this true that you tell me?

Holmes: Why, they are only waiting for her to come to her senses to arrest her.

Henry Wood: My God! Are you in the police yourself?


Holmes: No.


Henry Wood: What business is it of yours, then?


Holmes: It is every man's business to see justice done.


Henry Wood: You can take my word that she is innocent.


Holmes: Then you are guilty?


Henry Wood: No, I am not!


Holmes: Who killed Colonel James Barclay, then?


Henry Wood: You want me to tell the story? Why not? There's no cause for me to be ashamed of it ... You'd never think it now, but there was a time when Corporal Henry Wood was the smartest man in our regiment. We were in India then, stationed in a place called Bhurtee. Barclay was sergeant in the same company as myself - and we both loved the same girl, Nancy Devoy. Two men loved her, and one she loved in return.


Nancy: Henry, my father wishes me to marry James Barclay.

Henry: He's a fine man. He's had an education, and he's sure to be promoted again soon.

Nancy: Oh, yes, he's a fine man. But it's you I love, Henry, and you I'll marry.

Henry Wood: Not long after the Indians rebelled, and we British were in real trouble. There were at least ten thousand men surrounding us in Bhurtee. We held them off, but we could not break out. We began to run out of food and drink. Our only chance was to get help quickly. General Neill was further south, with a strong force of soldiers, so I volunteered to go out and warn him of our danger. I talked my route over with Sergeant Barclay.


Barclay: You'll come to a steep wooded valley with a stream. I suggest you follow it, it will help to hide you ...


Henry Wood: Six Indians were waiting to ambush me at that stream. I had been betrayed by James Barclay. He had told an Indian servant of my plans, knowing that the man would inform the rebels - I learned this from their talk. When General Neill did come with his soldiers, my friends at Bhurtee were saved, but I was not rescued. The rebels took me with them to the north, out of India into wild country. I was tortured, and tried to get away, was captured and tortured again. You can see for yourselves the state in which I was left. At length I did escape, but it was many years before I made my way back to India. I lived mostly among the natives, and made a living doing som conjuring tricks I had picked up.


Holmes: Why didn't you go back to your regiment?


Henry Wood: I didn't want to. Everyone thought I was dead. I didn't want Nancy and my oId friends to see me like this - a cripple! Even revenge would not make me do that.


Holmes: Why did you return to England, then?


Watson: Why indeed?


Henry Wood: When one gets old, one has a longing for home. For years I've been dreaming of the bright green fields and the hedges of England.


Holmes: I have already heard of your meeting with Mrs Barclay, and how you recognised each other. You then followed her home and saw through the window an argument between her husband and her, in which she doubtless told him that she knew he had betrayed you. Your own feelings overcame you, and you ran across the lawn and broke in on them.

Henry Wood: I did, sir, and at the sight of me, he looked as I have never seen a man look before, and fell with his head on the fender. But I read death on his face before he fell. The bare sight of me was like a bullet through his guilty heart. His own conscience struck him down.

Holmes: And then?

Henry Wood: Nancy fainted, and I caught up the key from her hand, intending to get help. But then I thought the thing might look black against me. In my haste I put the key into my pocket, dropped my stick while I was chasing Teddy, who had run up the curtain .. .


Holmes: Who's Teddy?


Henry Wood: Well, here he is ...


Watson narrator: The man leaned over, and opened a box in the corner. In an instant, out slipped a beautiful reddish-brown creature, with a pair of the finest red eyes that ever I saw in an animal's head.


Watson: It's ... it's a mongoose!

Henry Wood: Some call them that. Snake catcher is what I call them, and Teddy is amazing quick on cobras. I have one here without the fangs, and Teddy catches it every night to please the audience.

Holmes: If Mrs Barclay should prove to be in serious trouble, we may have to call you for a witness.


Henry Wood: In that case, of course, I'd come forward.

Holmes: But if not - well - Major Barclay is dead now. There's no point in destroying his reputation - that would only harm his wife.


Watson narrator: Outside we met one of the officers from Barclay's Regiment.


Major: (Approaching) Ah, Holmes. I suppose you've heard all this fuss has come to nothing?

Holmes: What then?

Major: The inquest is just over. The medical evidence showed without doubt that death was due to apoplexy. You see, it was quite a simple case after all.


Holmes: (Smiling) Oh, remarkably straight forward. Come, Watson, I don't think we shall be wanted in Aldershot any more.

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