The Return of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Return of Sherlock Holmes, A Collection of Holmes Adventures

by

SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE



THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE


It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was interested,
and the fashionable world dismayed, by the murder of the Honourable
Ronald Adair under most unusual and inexplicable circumstances.
The public has already learned those particulars of the crime which
came out in the police investigation, but a good deal was suppressed
upon that occasion, since the case for the prosecution was so overwhelmingly
strong that it was not necessary to bring forward all the facts. Only now,
at the end of nearly ten years, am I allowed to supply those missing
links which make up the whole of that remarkable chain. The crime
was of interest in itself, but that interest was as nothing to me
compared to the inconceivable sequel, which afforded me the
greatest shock and surprise of any event in my adventurous life.
Even now, after this long interval, I find myself thrilling as
I think of it, and feeling once more that sudden flood of joy,
amazement, and incredulity which utterly submerged my mind.
Let me say to that public, which has shown some interest in those
glimpses which I have occasionally given them of the thoughts
and actions of a very remarkable man, that they are not to blame
me if I have not shared my knowledge with them, for I should
have considered it my first duty to do so, had I not been barred
by a positive prohibition from his own lips, which was only
withdrawn upon the third of last month.

It can be imagined that my close intimacy with Sherlock Holmes
had interested me deeply in crime, and that after his
disappearance I never failed to read with care the various
problems which came before the public. And I even attempted,
more than once, for my own private satisfaction, to employ his
methods in their solution, though with indifferent success.
There was none, however, which appealed to me like this tragedy
of Ronald Adair. As I read the evidence at the inquest, which
led up to a verdict of willful murder against some person or
persons unknown, I realized more clearly than I had ever done
the loss which the community had sustained by the death of
Sherlock Holmes. There were points about this strange business
which would, I was sure, have specially appealed to him, and the
efforts of the police would have been supplemented, or more
probably anticipated, by the trained observation and the alert
mind of the first criminal agent in Europe. All day, as I drove
upon my round, I turned over the case in my mind and found no
explanation which appeared to me to be adequate. At the risk of
telling a twice-told tale, I will recapitulate the facts as they
were known to the public at the conclusion of the inquest.

The Honourable Ronald Adair was the second son of the Earl of
Maynooth, at that time governor of one of the Australian
colonies. Adair's mother had returned from Australia to undergo
the operation for cataract, and she, her son Ronald, and her
daughter Hilda were living together at 427 Park Lane. The youth
moved in the best society--had, so far as was known, no enemies
and no particular vices. He had been engaged to Miss Edith
Woodley, of Carstairs, but the engagement had been broken off by
mutual consent some months before, and there was no sign that it
had left any very profound feeling behind it. For the rest {sic}
the man's life moved in a narrow and conventional circle, for
his habits were quiet and his nature unemotional. Yet it was
upon this easy-going young aristocrat that death came, in most
strange and unexpected form, between the hours of ten and
eleven-twenty on the night of March 30, 1894.

Ronald Adair was fond of cards--playing continually, but never
for such stakes as would hurt him. He was a member of the
Baldwin, the Cavendish, and the Bagatelle card clubs. It was
shown that, after dinner on the day of his death, he had played
a rubber of whist at the latter club. He had also played there
in the afternoon. The evidence of those who had played with him--
Mr. Murray, Sir John Hardy, and Colonel Moran--showed that the
game was whist, and that there was a fairly equal fall of the
cards. Adair might have lost five pounds, but not more. His
fortune was a considerable one, and such a loss could not in any
way affect him. He had played nearly every day at one club or
other, but he was a cautious player, and usually rose a winner.
It came out in evidence that, in partnership with Colonel Moran,
he had actually won as much as four hundred and twenty pounds in
a sitting, some weeks before, from Godfrey Milner and Lord Balmoral.
So much for his recent history as it came out at the inquest.