A few minutes later the door bell rang and a man entered the room.
'I have heard that you wanted to see the cabman of No. 2704,'
he said. 'I have come to ask you what you have against me.'
'I have nothing against you, my good fellow,' said Holmes. 'On the contrary. If you give me a clear answer to my questions I'll give you half a sovereign.'
'Well, what did you want to ask, sir?'
'First of all your name and address.'
'John Clayton, 3, Turpey Street.'
Holmes put it down. 'Now Clayton,' he said, 'tell me all about the gentleman who was in your cab this morning. He was watching the house at ten o'clock and then he followed two gentlemen down Regent Street.'
The cabman looked a little embarrassed. 'You seem to know everything,' he said. 'But you see, the gentleman told me that he was a detective and I mustn't speak to anyone about him.'
'My good fellow, this is a very serious business and you'll be in a difficult position if you try to hide anything from me. Did the gentleman say anything else?'
'He told me his name.'
'His name? What was it?'
'It was Mr Sherlock Holmes,' answered the cabman.
For a moment Holmes was too much surprised to speak. Then he burst into a hearty laugh.
'Excellent!' he exclaimed. 'Now, Clayton, tell me all about him.'
'Well sir, he stopped me at half past nine in Trafalgar
Square. He said that he was a detective, that he wanted me to work for him and offered me two sovereigns if I did exactly what he wanted me to do and asked no questions. I was glad to agree. First we drove to the Northumberland Hotel and waited there until two gentlemen came out and took a cab in the street. We followed their cab until it stopped somewhere near this house. We waited for about an hour. Then two gentlemen passed us walking and we followed them along -'
'I know,' said Holmes, 'go on.'
'So we were following them down Regent Street when suddenly my gentleman closed the window and cried to me to drive as fast as I could to Waterloo Station. We were there within ten minutes. He paid me two sovereigns and went into the station. At the last moment he turned round and said: 'It may interest you to know that you have driven Mr Sherlock Holmes.' That is all.'
Holmes laughed: 'So his name was Sherlock Holmes, he said?'
'Yes, sir, that was the gentleman's name.'
'And can you describe that gentleman?'
The cabman scratched his head. 'Well, it isn't so easy to describe him. He is about forty and is of middle height. He has a black beard and a pale face. That is all I can say about him.'
'Well then, here is your half-sovereign, and you will have another one if you can bring any more information. Good night!'
When the cabman had gone Holmes turned to me with a sad smile:
'Our enemy is cunning, Watson,' he said. 'This time he has beaten me. It's a dangerous business and I'll be happy, when you return safe and sound to London again.'