THE MISSING BOOTS
On the way to the Northumberland Hotel Holmes entered a telegraph office.
There he sent a wire to the Official Registry inquiring for the name and address of the cabman whose number he had remembered. As we were going up the stairs of the Northumberland Hotel, we saw Sir Henry standing on the landing of the second floor. His face was red with anger and he was holding an old and dirty boot in one of his hands.
'By thunder,' he cried, 'if my boot isn't found immediately, there will be trouble.'
'Are you still looking for your boot?' I exclaimed.
'Yes,' said Sir Henry.
'But you said it was a new brown one?'
'Yes, it was. And now it's an old black one. I had three pairs of boots. The new brown, the old black and the pair I am wearing. Last night they took one of the brown ones, and today they have stolen one of the black ones! Well, have you found it?' he asked the servant, who had appeared upon the scene.
'No sir, I have looked for it everywhere, but I can't find it.'
'Well, either that boot comes back before night, or I go straight to the manager of the hotel.'
'It'll be found, sir — I promise you. Only have a little patience,' exclaimed the frightened servant.
'Very strange,' said Holmes thoughtfully to himself.
'Excuse me, Mr Holmes, for this row about a trifle,'
said Sir Henry, 'but-'
'It isn't a trifle,' interrupted Holmes gravely. 'Your case is very complicated, Sir Henry, but I hope that sooner or later we'll make things clear.'
At lunch Holmes asked Sir Henry what he intended to do.
'I want to go to Baskerville Hall,' was the answer.
'At the end of the week.'
'Perhaps you are right,' said Holmes. 'I know that you are followed in London and among the millions of this great city it is difficult to discover who the spy is and what he wants. You didn't know, Dr Mortimer, that you were followed this morning?'
'Followed!' exclaimed Dr Mortimer starting violently. 'By whom?'
'That, unfortunately, I cannot tell you. Is there among your neighbours or acquaintances any man with a large black beard?'
'No — or... yes, certainly, Barrymore, Sir Charles's butler. He has a large black beard.'
'And where is Barrymore?'
'He is at the Hall.'
'We must make sure that he is really there.'
'How can we do that?'
'Give me a telegraph form. Write: 'Is all ready for Sir Henry?' Address it to Mr Barrymore, Baskerville Hall. Which is the nearest telegraph office?'
'Very good. We'll send a second wire to the postmaster at Grimpen: 'Telegram to Mr Barrymore deliver into his own hands. If absent, return telegram to Sir Henry Baskerville, Northumberland Hotel.' Then we'll know before evening where Barrymore is. By the way, Dr Mortimer, who is this Barrymore?'
'He is the son of the old caretaker who is dead. He and his wife are a very respectable couple, as far as I know.'
'At the same time it's clear,' said Baskerville, 'that while there is nobody at the Hall, they have an easy life.'
'That is true,' I said.
'Did Barrymore get anything by Sir Charles's will?' asked Holmes.
'He and his wife got five hundred pounds each.'
'Did they know that they would receive this?'
'Yes, Sir Charles liked to talk about his will.'
'That is very interesting. Did anyone else get anything?'
'He left many small sums to individuals and a large number of public charities. The rest all went to Sir Henry,' explained Dr Mortimer.
'And how much was the rest?'
'Seven hundred and forty thousand pounds. The total value of the estate is almost a million.'
Holmes looked surprised. 'I had no idea he was so rich,' he said. 'That explains some things. I can understand that a man may risk much for such a large sum. Have you made your will, Sir Henry?'
'No, Mr Holmes, I have not. I've had no time for it. You forget that I arrived here only yesterday.'
'Well, Sir Henry, I agree that it's best for you to go to Devonshire without delay, but you certainly mustn't go alone.'
'Dr Mortimer returns with me.'
'But Dr Mortimer has his practice, and his house is miles away from yours. No, Sir Henry, you must take with you someone who will always be by your side.'
'Could you come yourself, Mr Holmes?'
'That is quite impossible. I cannot leave London for an indefinite time, as I'm too busy.'
'Whom could you recommend then?'
Holmes laid his hand upon my arm. 'There is no man better to have by your side than my friend Dr Watson,' he said.
'That would be really kind of you. I'll never forget it.'
'I will come with pleasure,' I said.
'And you must report everything to me,' said Holmes. 'I'll tell you how to act.'
The question was soon settled. It was decided that Sir Henry, Dr Mortimer and I should start for Devonshire on Saturday. Lunch was over and Holmes was just saying good-bye when suddenly Sir Henry with a cry of surprise drew a brown boot from under a table in the corner of the room.
'My missing boot!' he exclaimed.
'But this is very strange,' said Dr Mortimer. 'I searched this room carefully before lunch and there was certainly no boot in it.'
The servant was called and questioned, but he said he knew nothing about it.
Holmes was silent in the cab as we drove home. All the evening he sat in his armchair smoking and thinking. So many strange things had happened in these two days — the printed letter, the black-bearded spy in the cab, the loss of the new brown boot, the loss of the old black boot, and now the return of the brown boot. Just before dinner a telegram was brought. It ran: 'Have just received answer from postmaster, Grimpen. Barrymore is at the Hall. Baskerville.'