Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sherlock Holmes - The Abbey Grange

Source: Bangalore (India),,
Published by: Gravity Infotainment, ISBN: 978-81-8394-325-3
Source Website: 
Author: Sir  Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure at the Abbey Grange<br>By: Sophie Rohrbach (Illustrator), Murray Shaw (Adapted By), M J Cosson (Adapted By)
PHOTO: Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure at the Abbey Grange
By: Sophie Rohrbach (Illustrator), Murray Shaw (Adapted By), M J Cosson (Adapted By)

      On a cold, wintry morning in the year 1897, Dr Watson was lying fast asleep on his bed.  He shared his lodgings with Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective who had solved many puzzling cases that had perplexed the London police.  Though Watson was a medical practitioner he used to help Holmes with his work whenever time permitted it.  In fact, Holmes had found his help invaluable on many occasions.

      "Wake up, Watson! Wake up, for God's sake!"  cried a voice in Watson's ear.  Watson woke up with a start.  He found Holmes clutching his shoulder with a sense of urgency.  He looked very excited.  "Watson, rise and shine.  We have much work to do today.  Get dressed at once," he said.  "What is the matter?" asked Watson, groggily.  "I'll tell you later," said Holmes and went off.  Watson got ready quickly and joined Holmes.  Holmes told him that they were going on a journey.  They called a cab and Holmes asked the driver to take them to the railway station.  On reaching the station, they got into a train that was going to Kent and settled down.  Watson asked Holmes if he would like to tell him what was going on.

Holmes and Watson are requested to assist with the investigation of a murder in the English countryside. When they arrive, the victim's wife claims they were simply the victims of a robbery gone bad, but Holmes soon has reason to doubt her story.
PHOTO: Holmes and Watson are requested to assist with the investigation of a murder in the English countryside. When they arrive, the victim's wife claims they were simply the victims of a robbery gone bad, but Holmes soon has reason to doubt her story.


Holmes then took out a telegram from his pocket and said, "I received this today morning.  Let me read it out to you."  Then he began to read it:  "Abbey Grange, Marsham, Kent.  3:30 am.  My dear Holmes, I have a case here that promises to be very interesting.  I would be delighted if you could help me with it.  Other than letting the lady go, I shall ensure that everything is preserved as it is.  Please come as fast as you can for I cannot leave Sir Eustace here for long.  Yours faithfully, Stanley Hopkins."  Holmes finished reading and said, "Hopkins is well known to me.  All the seven cases he has asked me to assist him with were quite remarkable."

      After some time the train arrived in Kent.  They hired a cab and after a long ride that took them through narrow streets, found themselves before a gate.  The knocked on the gate and it was opened by a lodge keeper.  There was a long walkway leading to the house and the cab dropped them at the front door.  Stanley Hopkins was waiting for them and he welcomed them inside.  "Come in, Holmes.  Good thing you could make it at the earliest, the situation being what it is."  The he explained what the situation was.  "Sir Eustace Brackenstall is one of the richest men in the countryside.  He has been found murdered.  It is suspected that the three Randalls are behind it.  The are a gang of robbers, comprising a father and his two sons.  Sir Brackenstall was killed with a sharp blow from his own poker.  Lady Brackenstall has gone into shock and has not been of much use to us.  These are the facts."

      Holmes and Watson went off to examine the dining room.  Lady Brackenstall was sitting on a chair and Holmes went up to her.  She was a beautiful woman with golden hair and blue eyes.  Her name was Mary Fraser.  "I am very sorry about what has happened, Lady Brackenstall," he said sympathetically.  "But I need to talk to you about a few things."  Lady Brackenstall seemed very pale and weak.  She looked at Holmes and it was clear from her reluctant expression that she was in no frame of mind to be questioned.  "Can't it wait, Mr Holmes?  As you can see..." she stopped speaking and her eyes filled with unshed tears.  Holmes said gently, "Yes, I perfectly understand.  But, in waiting, precious clues may be lost and I am keen to avoid that."

      Lady Brackenstall smiled wanly and said that in that case, he could go ahead.  As she was speaking to Holmes the sleeve of her dress fell back.  She covered her hand quickly but not before Holmes had noticed some injuries on them.  "I see you have hurt yourself.  What happened?" asked Holmes.  But she replied that it had nothing to do with the unfortunate incident that had happened at the house, the previous night.  She explained, "Lord Brackenstall and I did not have an ideal marriage.  Even the neighbours will testify to that.  He was fond of drink and once he got drunk, it was impossible to be with him for anything more than an hour."  She told Holmes that it was a large house and the sleeping quarters of the servants were in the other section.  The central section housed the bedroom of herself and her husband.  She had a maid named Theresa who slept in the room above hers.  As the servants' rooms were in the new wing which was some distance away from theirs, they would not be able to hear any sounds from the Lord's room.  The robbers probably knew the layout of the house and so were aware of this.

      The lady went on, "Yesterday night, it was about 10:30 pm when the Lord retired to bed.  He fell asleep soon after.  I was not feeling sleepy so I remained downstairs reading a book.  My maid had retired to her room once her chores were over.  Around eleven, I put the book away and went around the house checking all the doors and windows as I usually do every night before I go to sleep.  I checked all the rooms and then I went into the dining room.  Here I saw that the long French window was open and there was a breeze coming in from outside.  Candle in hand, I went towards the window with the aim of closing it.  I drew back the curtain and got the shock of my life when I saw a man trying to enter through the window.  Behind him I saw two other men.  They seemed much younger than him and they were also trying to enter the room.

       "Before I could cry out the first man entered the room and caught my throat in a firm grip.  I struggled and he hit me on the head.  I fainted at once.  After some time I came to consciousness and found myself on this chair.  They had used the bell-rope, after tearing it down, to tie me to the chair.  My mouth too was gagged with a piece of cloth.  The rope was very tight and all my efforts to break loose came to naught.  And as I was gagged I couldn't cry out either.  Then I saw the Lord coming down the stairs.  He must have been woken up by some sound.  He was wearing his nightdress and he was holding a cudgel in his hand.  Seeing the robbers, he ran towards them, his cudgel raised, but they saw him and one of the robbers hit him hard with the poker.  The Lord fell down with a cry of pain.  He lay motionless on the floor and I was sure that the blow had killed him.  I fainted afresh at this horrible sight.

      "I don't know how long I was unconscious but when I woke up, I saw that the thieves had stolen all the silver that had been kept in the sideboard.  I saw them taking a wine bottle and opening it.  The had some wine and I noticed that the older man had a beard.  The two younger men did not have any hair on their faces.  After a while they left the house through the same window through which they had entered.  After they had gone, I struggled to free myself from the cloth which was used to gag me.  I took me fifteen minutes, I think.  Then I screamed for help.

      "My servant heard my screams and came running out of her room.  She untied the rope and then we called the police.  This is what happened."  Holmes then summoned the maid.  "Did you see the robbers, by any chance?" he asked her.  The maid replied, "I did see three men, from my bedroom window, sir.  They were standing near the gate yesterday night, but I didn't pay much heed.  But after half an hour had passed I heard my lady screaming and I came running downstairs.  The screams seemed to come from the dining room so I went there.  I was shocked to see the Lord lying on the floor in a pool of blood.  Oh, it was so horrible, I nearly fainted.  Then I saw my mistress tied to the chair and I untied her.  She is a brave woman, she is.  After she recovered a bit we called the police."  Holmes realised that the maid had nothing more to tell him.  So he hold her that she could leave and the maid left, leading her mistress by the hand to her room.

      Holmes asked Hopkins if the maid was a reliable woman.  Hopkins said that she had been with her mistress for many years and had been her nurse when she was a child.  Holmes took a closer look at the dining room.  It was a stately room with a high ceiling.  The French window was a prominent feature of the room.  There were three other windows in the room.  These were smaller and were on the other side.  Holmes noticed that the bell-rope was still fastened to the chair and its knots had not been tampered with.  The Lord's body was lying on the rug in front of the fireplace.  He looked like a strong man and seemed to be about forty years old.  He was clad in his nightdress as his wife had described.  His hands were clenched and they were raised above his head.  The cudgel that he had attempted to use against the robbers lay across them.  The poker that had been used to attack him lay beside the body.

Holmes examining the corpse

      The force of the blow had been so great that the poker had been twisted into a curve.  Holmes looked at the poker and commented, "No doubt, the elder Randall must have been a very strong man."  Hopkins nodded in assent.  "It is surprising that Lady Brackenstall was left unharmed.  Since she had seen them and could identify them, it would have been natural for them to kill her as well," observed Holmes.  Hopkins replied, "Maybe they thought she was dead.  She had become unconscious by then.  Or maybe they didn't want to kill a woman.  Even criminals have their scruples."

      Holmes was lost in thought for some moments.  Then he turned to Hopkins and asked, "What about the Lord? How is he, as a person?" Hopkins replied, "Oh, he was a good man alright but only when he was sober.  When he was drunk it was a different story.  Then he could be a real villain.  I have heard many stories about him.  Once he poured petrol on the lady's dog and set the poor animal on fire.  On another occasion he threw a decanter at the maid, Theresa.  He could be nasty when it suited him."  Holmes then went to the bell rope and studied it.  The he observed that when the bell rope had been pulled down, it must have rung in the kitchen.  Surely the sound would have woken up somebody.  "The kitchen is located at the very end of the house.  I don't think it is possible that anyone could have heard the sound.  Besides, they might have been asleep by then," said Hopkins.  But Holmes felt that the burglar may not have known about where the kitchen was located.  "What did they take from the house?" asked Holmes.  Hopkins said that many silver articles appeared to have been stolen.

      On the table were three wine glasses and a bottle.  Holmes asked Hopkins if they were the glasses and bottle that the robbers had drunk wine from.  Hopkins nodded.  Holmes examined the glasses and bottle carefully.  Holmes noticed that the bottle of wine had been opened using a corkscrew from a pocketknife.  Two of the glasses had some wine in them.  The third glass had wine and a little bedewing (cover or sprinkle with drops of water or other liquid) in it.  "Did Lady Brackenstall actually see the robbers drinking wine from these glasses?" asked Holmes.  Hopkins replied, "Yes, that is what she said."  Holmes looked satisfied and then told Hopkins that he was sure that the Randalls were behind the robbery and murder.  "Your work is cut out for you, Hopkins.  It looks like an open and shut case to me.  Good luck in nabbing the fellows.  I think I have seen all that there is to see here.  So I will take my leave, if you will permit me."  Hopkins thanked Holmes and Watson for coming and bid the two men goodbye.

      The two friends then took a cab to the railway station and caught a train back home.  Watson noticed that Holmes seemed very preoccupied.  As he did not want to disturb his friend's train of thought Watson amused himself by looking at the passing scenery from the window.  The train had covered half the distance to London when Holmes suddenly got up and told Watson that they had to get out at the next station.  So they got down and waited at the station to catch another train back to Kent.  Watson asked Holmes, "Do you mind telling me what this is all about?" Holmes replied, "I think I came to a hasty conclusion in this case, Watson.  The more I think about it the more things don't add up.  Now I feel that the story of the robbers was entirely concocted.  I have to get to the bottom of it.  It was the wind glasses that made me suspicious.  You see, the third glass contained bedewing (cover or sprinkle with drops of water or other liquid) because the contents of the first two glasses had been poured into it.  Which means that actually only two glasses were used.  The third glass is a smokescreen to lead us astray by creating an impression that three people were present.  I am quite certain that Lady Brackenstall and the maid were lying but I don't know the reason for it."  Watson was shocked.  "The whole thing looks very murky to me," he said.  "And if the lady was lying she certainly put up a good act.  It convinced everyone."  Holmes said that he was determined to find out the truth and that was why he was going back to the crime scene.

      Just then the train to Kent entered the station.  Holmes and Watson boarded the train and soon they were on their way to Kent.  On reaching the place, they took a cab to Lord Brackenstall's house.  They found that Hopkins had gone back to the police station to submit his report on the case.  Holmes went straight to the dining room and inspected it for two hours.  He noticed that there was a wooden bracket on the wall when he placed his knee upon it to reach the bell rope.  Then he got down and looked at the bracket closely.

      After a while he turned to Watson.  He had a pleased look on his face.  "Watson, I think I have solved the case.  The facts which escaped my notice earlier have come to light now.  It is a good thing we came back immediately or precious evidence may have been lost."  "Who do you think is the real culprit?" asked Watson.  "Right now I can say that a tall man who is well-built and physically very strong is the person behind the crime.  It is the bell-rope and the bracket which helped me to arrive at this conclusion.  The man had stood up but was unable to reach the bell-rope.  So he placed his leg on the bracket and cut the rope down with a blunt knife.  The rope had not been pulled down as Lady Brackenstall had said.  It had been cut three inches from the top.  The man's knee had left an impression on the dust which coated the bracket.  Besides the seat of the chair to which the lady had been bound had a drop of blood on it.  This was proof that she had not been sitting on the chair when the blow had fallen."  Holmes concluded his explanation by saying that the lady and her maid had obviously been lying.

      Holmes summoned the maid again and asked her to tell him about her late master.  She said that it was true that he had a nasty temper when drunk and he had in fact hurled a decanter at her, once.  "It was eighteen months back that my lady came to London.  It was in the month of June that she met the Lord.  He was quite taken with her and managed to charm her with his winning ways.  But after the marriage he began to reveal his true colours.  He started ill-treating my mistress.  Even I was not spared.  My mistress told me how he would take a hatpin and use it to puncture her arms.  Several of these marks are still visible on her arms.  Oh, he was a cruel man."

      Holmes then told the maid that he wanted to meet Lady Brackenstall.  The maid said she was resting.  But Holmes insisted that it was important and finally the maid went to convey his wish to her mistress.  After a while she reappeared and said that the lady was willing to meet him.  Holmes went into the lady's room.  She was sitting up in bed and it was clear that she had not fully recovered from the events of the night before.  "I am sorry to disturb you, Lady Brackenstall, but I need you to tell me something."  Lady Brackenstall looked at him apprehensively.  "Are you going to ask me more questions, Mr Holmes?"  she asked in a subdued voice which betrayed a tinge of fear and grief.  Holmes said gently, "I have only one question.  Why don't you tell me the truth about what happened yesterday night?"  The lady protested, "But I have already told you all that I know.  What more is there to tell?"  Holmes gave her a piercing look and asked again, "Are you sure that you have told me everything?"

      Lady Brackenstall said in an agitated voice, "There is really nothing more for me to say, Mr Holmes."  Holmes was about to say something but the maid interrupted him angrily.  "That is enough, Mr Holmes.  Can't you see that she has been affected deeply by the whole thing?  Please allow her to grieve in peace."  Holmes and Watson then left the room.  As they left the house they saw a small pond that had become frozen because of the cold weather.  An odd smile flitted about Holmes' lips when he noticed the pond.  He wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to the lodge keeper.  "Give this note to Inspector Hopkins at the earliest," he instructed.

      Holmes and Watson then returned to London.  On reaching London, they went to a shipping company.  Holmes sent in his calling card to the manager of the company, with the request that he wanted to meet him urgently.  Soon they found themselves face to face with the manager.  He greeted Holmes with great respect, saying that he had heard much about him.  Holmes spent some time with him asking several questions.  The manager told him that Miss Mary Fraser had come to London on a ship called the Rock of Gibraltar in the year 1895.  It had been a south Australian ship.  The crew of the ship was still the same except for the fact that the first officer, Jack Crocker, had been made the ship's captain.  He was a good and capable man and he would be commanding a new ship called The Bass Rock.  "Can you tell me something about Mr Crocker?" asked Holmes.  "Oh, he is an honest fellow alright, Mr Holmes.  But while on land he was a bit hot-headed, if you ask me.  Had a quick temper which needed to be kept in check for his own good," said the manager.  Holmes then thanked him for all his help and he and Watson took their leave of the manager. 

      It was early in the evening and Holmes and Watson were at their Baker Street lodgings when Inspector Hopkins paid them a visit.  They could see that Hopkins was very excited and was bursting with some important news.  "Holmes, I dredged the pond as you had said in the note.  And guess what I found?  All the stolen silver!"  Holmes smiled his all-knowing smile.  "It really confused me.  Why would the robbers dump the stolen silver in the pond?  And then I heard that the three Randalls had been arrested for a theft in New York.  Which rules them out in this case.  How can they be in two places at once?  The murder must have been committed by some others.  And if robbery was not the motive, what could it be?"  Holmes said drily, "Looks like we will have to approach the case from a fresh angle."  After discussing the case for some time, the inspector left, vowing to stitch up the case before long.

      Soon it was time for dinner.  As they were having dinner, Holmes told Watson that the case would be solved satisfactorily within a few minutes.  Just as they finished dinner, the door bell rang.  A little later, a man entered the parlour.  He had striking blue eyes and looked like a sailor.  He looked very nervous as he faced Holmes.  Holmes introduced him to Watson as Captain Crocker and asked the visitor to be seated.  The man asked Holmes abruptly, "I got your telegram, Mr Holmes.  What do you propose to do now?"  Holmes told him to relax and asked Watson to proffer him a cigar.  Watson did so and the man lit the cigar with a trembling hand.  Then Holmes told him to tell the whole truth about what had happened at Lord Brackenstall's house on the night of his murder. 

Watson, Holmes and Captain Crocker
      Captain Crocker was silent for a while and then began to speak.  "I don't wish to hide anything from you, Mr Holmes.  I met Mary Fraser on the ship Rock of Gibraltar.  I can tell you that it was love at first sight for me.  But Mary did not see me as more than a good friend.  She got off the ship at London and I never saw her after that.  But I was never able to forget her.  This time when I came to London, I decided to meet her.  I found out where she lived and went to see her.  I arrived at night and I was so impatient to meet her that I could not bear to wait till morning.  I saw an open window and was about to enter through the window when I saw her.  She saw me too and when I asked her how she was, she broke down.  She told me how her husband used to torture her and I could see that she was very miserable.  I was filled with rage.  She is such a sweet woman, Mr Holmes, and I couldn't bear to think of her being ill-treated in that fashion.  Just hen her husband came down the stairs, brandishing a cudgel.  On seeing us together, he began to rail and rant at Mary, calling her all kinds of vile names.  Then he hit her across the face.  I flew into a rage and took the poker to teach him a lesson."  The Lord hit him with the cudgel and the captain also struck him with the poker.  Unfortunately, the force of the blow had been so great that it had killed the Lord.  The maid had come running when she heard the lady's screams when the Lord hit her.  As the lady had fainted she had opened the wine bottle to revive her with some wine.

      "I would have owned up to everything but Mary did not want it.  So we made a plan to make it look like a robbery.  I tied her to the chair and dumped the silver in the pond.  Then I left for London.  This is the truth."  Holmes who had been listening carefully said, "When I saw the knots on the chair I knew that only a sailor could have made them.  I got your details from the shipping company and the rest was easy."  Then Captain Crocker asked Holmes what he intended to do now that he knew the truth.  Holmes decided to test his love for Mary.  So he said that if he did not inform the police about the truth, Lady Brackenstall would be arrested for the crime of murdering her husband.  "In that case, please call the police, Mr Holmes.  I cannot allow that to happen.  She is innocent," urged the captain.  He looked quite distraught.  Holmes realised that his love for Mary was true.  So he told the captain that he was just testing his love to see if it was genuine.  "I am convinced that your love for Lady Brackenstall is true, captain."  Then he said to Watson, "I am the judge and you are the jury.  Now tell me, do you find this man guilty?" Watson replied, "Not guilty, your Honour!" Holmes turned to Captain Crocker and said smiling, "There! You have been declared 'Not Guilty' by a court of law, captain.  I declare you a free man.  I also suggest that if you come back in a year's time, you might find Lady Brackenstall more willing to accept your proposal."  Captain Crocker thanked Holmes profusely and left saying that he would definitely propose to his lady love after a year.

      "One more case solved to everyone's satisfaction, eh, Watson?" asked Holmes.  "I doubt if Inspector Hopkins would feel the same way," replied Watson, with a chuckle. 

Author: Sir  Arthur Conan Doyle