The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Greek Interpreter
During my long and intimate acquaintance with Mr.
Sherlock Holmes I had never heard him refer to his
relations, and hardly ever to his own early life.
This reticence upon his part had increased the
somewhat inhuman effect which he produced upon me,
until sometimes I found myself regarding him as an
isolated phenomenon, a brain without a heart, as
deficient in human sympathy as he was pre-eminent in
intelligence. His aversion to women and his
disinclination to form new friendships were both
typical of his unemotional character, but not more so
than his complete suppression of every reference to
his own people. I had come to believe that he was an
orphan with no relatives living, but one day, to my
very great surprise, he began to talk to me about his
It was after tea on a summer evening, and the
conversation, which had roamed in a desultory,
spasmodic fashion from golf clubs to the causes of the
change in the obliquity of the ecliptic, came round at
last to the question of atavism and hereditary
aptitudes. The point under discussion was, how far
any singular gift in an individual was due to his
ancestry and how far to his own early training.
"In your own case," said I, "from all that you have
told me, it seems obvious that your faculty of
observation and your peculiar facility for deduction
are due to your own systematic training."
"To some extent," he answered, thoughtfully. "My
ancestors were country squires, who appear to have led
much the same life as is natural to their class. But,
none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and
may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister
of Vernet, the French artist. Art in the blood is
liable to take the strangest forms."
"But how do you know that it is hereditary?"
"Because my brother Mycroft possesses it in a larger
degree than I do."
This was news to me indeed. If there were another man
with such singular powers in England, how was it that
neither police nor public had heard of him? I put the
question, with a hint that it was my companion's
modesty which made him acknowledge his brother as his
superior. Holmes laughed at my suggestion.
"My dear Watson," said he, "I cannot agree with those
who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician
all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to
underestimate one's self is as much a departure from
truth as to exaggerate one's own powers. When I say,
therefore, that Mycroft has better powers of
observation than I, you may take it that I am speaking
the exact and literal truth."
"Is he your junior?"
"Seven years my senior."
"How comes it that he is unknown?"
"Oh, he is very well known in his own circle."
"Well, in the Diogenes Club, for example."
I had never heard of the institution, and my face must
have proclaimed as much, for Sherlock Holmes pulled
out his watch.
"The Diogenes Club is the queerest club in London, and
Mycroft one of the queerest men. He's always there
from quarter to five to twenty to eight. It's six
now, so if you care for a stroll this beautiful
evening I shall be very happy to introduce you to two
"Five minutes later we were in the street, walking
towards Regent's Circus.
"You wonder," said my companion, "why it is that
Mycroft does not use his powers for detective work.
He is incapable of it."
"But I thought you said "
"I said that he was my superior in observation and
deduction. If the art of the detective began and
ended in reasoning from an arm-chair, my brother would
be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived. But
he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go
out of his way to verify his own solution, and would
rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to
prove himself right. Again and again I have taken a
problem to him, and have received an explanation which
has afterwards proved to be the correct one. And yet
he was absolutely incapable of working out the
practical points which must be gone into before a case
could be laid before a judge or jury."
"It is not his profession, then?"
"By no means. What is to me a means of livelihood is
to him the merest hobby of a dilettante. He has an
extraordinary faculty for figures, and audits the
books in some of the government departments. Mycroft
lodges in Pall Mall, and he walks round the corner
into Whitehall every morning and back every evening.
From year's end to year's end he takes no other
exercise, and is seen nowhere else, except only in the
Diogenes Club, which is just opposite his rooms."
"I cannot recall the name."
"Very likely not. There are many men in London, you
know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy,
have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet
they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the
latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of
these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now
contains the most unsociable and unclubbable men in
town. No member is permitted to take the least notice
of any other one. Save in the Strangers' Room, no
talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and
three offences, if brought to the notice of the
committee, render the talker liable to expulsion. My
brother was one of the founders, and I have myself
found it a very soothing atmosphere."
We had reached Pall Mall as we talked, and were
walking down it from the St. James's end. Sherlock
Holmes stopped at a door some little distance from the
Carlton, and, cautioning me not to speak, he led the
way into the hall. Through the glass paneling I
caught a glimpse of a large and luxurious room, in
which a considerable number of men were sitting about
and reading papers, each in his own little nook.
Holmes showed me into a small chamber which looked out
into Pall Mall, and then, leaving me for a minute, he
came back with a companion whom I knew could only be
Mycroft Holmes was a much larger and stouter man than
Sherlock. His body was absolutely corpulent, but is
face, though massive, had preserved something of the
sharpness of expression which was so remarkable in
that of his brother. His eyes, which were of a
peculiarly light, watery gray, seemed to always retain
that far-away, introspective look which I had only
observed in Sherlock's when he was exerting his full
"I am glad to meet you, sir," said he, putting out a
broad, fat hand like the flipper of a seal. "I hear
of Sherlock everywhere since you became his
chronicler. By the way, Sherlock, I expected to see
you round last week, to consult me over that Manor
House case. I thought you might be a little out of
"No, I solved it," said my friend, smiling.
"It was Adams, of course."
"Yes, it was Adams."
"I was sure of it from the first." The two sat down
together in the bow-window of the club. "To any one
who wishes to study mankind this is the spot," said
Mycroft. "Look at the magnificent types! Look at
these two men who are coming towards us, for example."
"The billiard-marker and the other?"
"Precisely. What do you make of the other?"
The two men had stopped opposite the window. Some
chalk marks over the waistcoat pocket were the only
signs of billiards which I could see in one of them.
The other was a very small, dark fellow, with his hat
pushed back and several packages under his arm.
"An old soldier, I perceive," said Sherlock.
"And very recently discharged," remarked the brother.
"Served in India, I see."
"And a non-commissioned officer."
"Royal Artillery, I fancy," said Sherlock.
"And a widower."
"But with a child."
"Children, my dear boy, children."
"Come," said I, laughing, "this is a little too much."
"Surely," answered Holmes, "it is not hard to say that
a man with that bearing, expression of authority, and
sunbaked skin, is a soldier, is more than a private,
and is not long from India."
"That he has not left the service long is shown by his
still wearing is ammunition boots, as they are
called," observed Mycroft.
"He had not the cavalry stride, yet he wore his hat on
one side, as is shown by the lighter skin of that side
of his brow. His weight is against his being a
sapper. He is in the artillery."
"Then, of course, his complete mourning shows that he
has lost some one very dear. The fact that he is
doing his own shopping looks as though it were his
wife. He has been buying things for children, you
perceive. There is a rattle, which shows that one of
them is very young. The wife probably died in
childbed. The fact that he has a picture-book under
his arm shows that there is another child to be
I began to understand what my friend meant when he
said that his brother possessed even keener faculties
that he did himself. He glanced across at me and
smiled. Mycroft took snuff from a tortoise-shell box,
and brushed away the wandering grains from his coat
front with a large, red silk handkerchief.
"By the way, Sherlock," said he, "I have had something
quite after your own heart a most singular
problem submitted to my judgment. I really had not
the energy to follow it up save in a very incomplete
fashion, but it gave me a basis for some pleasing
speculation. If you would care to hear the facts"
"My dear Mycroft, I should be delighted."
The brother scribbled a note upon a leaf of his
pocket-book, and, ringing the bell, he handed it to
"I have asked Mr. Melas to step across," said he. "He
lodges on the floor above me, and I have some slight
acquaintance with him, which led him to come to me in
his perplexity. Mr. Melas is a Greek by extraction,
as I understand, and he is a remarkable linguist. He
earns his living partly as interpreter in the law
courts and partly by acting as guide to any wealthy
Orientals who may visit the Northumberland Avenue
hotels. I think I will leave him to tell his very
remarkable experience in his own fashion."
A few minutes later we were joined by a short, stout
man whose olive face and coal-black hair proclaimed
his Southern origin, though his speech was that of an
educated Englishman. He shook hands eagerly with
Sherlock Holmes, and his dark eyes sparkled with
pleasure when he understood that the specialist was
anxious to hear his story.
"I do not believe that the police credit me on my
word, I do not," said he in a wailing voice. "Just
because they have never heard of it before, they think
that such a thing cannot be. But I know that I shall
never be easy in my mind until I know what has become
of my poor man with the sticking-plaster upon his
"I am all attention," said Sherlock Holmes.
"This is Wednesday evening," said Mr. Melas. "Well
then, it was Monday night only two days ago, you
understand that all this happened. I am an
interpreter, as perhaps my neighbor there has told
you. I interpret all languages or nearly all but as
I am a Greek by birth and with a Grecian name, it is
with that particular tongue that I am principally
associated. For many years I have been the chief
Greek interpreter in London, and my name is very well
known in the hotels.
It happens not unfrequently that I am sent for at
strange hours by foreigners who get into difficulties,
or by travellers who arrive late and wish my services.
I was not surprised, therefore, on Monday night when a
Mr. Latimer, a very fashionably dressed young man,
came up to my rooms and asked me to accompany him in a
cab which was waiting at the door. A Greek friend had
come to see him upon business, he said, and as he
could speak nothing but his own tongue, the services
of an interpreter were indispensable. He gave me to
understand that his house was some little distance
off, in Kensington, and he seemed to be in a great
hurry, bustling me rapidly into the cab when we had
descended to the street.
"I say into the cab, but I soon became doubtful as to
whether it was not a carriage in which I found myself.
It was certainly more roomy than the ordinary
four-wheeled disgrace to London, and the fittings,
though frayed, were of rich quality. Mr. Latimer
seated himself opposite to me and we started off
through Charing Cross and up the Shaftesbury Avenue.
We had come out upon Oxford Street and I had ventured
some remark as to this being a roundabout way to
Kensington, when my words were arrested by the
extraordinary conduct of my companion.
"He began by drawing a most formidable-looking
bludgeon loaded with lead from his pocket, and
switching it backward and forward several times, as if
to test its weight and strength. Then he placed it
without a word upon the seat beside him. Having done
this, he drew up the windows on each side, and I found
to my astonishment that they were covered with paper
so as to prevent my seeing through them.
" 'I am sorry to cut off your view, Mr. Melas,' said
he. 'The fact is that I have no intention that you
should see what the place is to which we are driving.
It might possibly be inconvenient to me if you could
find your way there again.'
"As you can imagine, I was utterly taken aback by such
an address. My companion was a powerful,
broad-shouldered young fellow, and, apart from the
weapon, I should not have had the slightest chance in
a struggle with him.
" 'This is very extraordinary conduct, Mr. Latimer,' I
stammered. 'You must be aware that what you are doing
is quite illegal.'
" 'It is somewhat of a liberty, no doubt,' said he,
'but we'll make it up to you. I must warn you,
however, Mr. Melas, that if at any time tonight you
attempt to raise an alarm or do anything which is
against my interests, you will find it a very serious
thing. I beg you to remember that no one knows where
you are, and that, whether you are in this carriage or
in my house, you are equally in my power.'
"His words were quiet, but he had a rasping way of
saying them which was very menacing. I sat in silence
wondering what on earth could be his reason for
kidnapping me in this extraordinary fashion. Whatever
it might be, it was perfectly clear that there was no
possible use in my resisting, and that I could only
wait to see what might befall.
"For nearly two hours we drove without my having the
least clue as to where we were going. Sometimes the
rattle of the stones told of a paved causeway, and at
others our smooth, silent course suggested asphalt;
but, save by this variation in sound, there was
nothing at all which could in the remotest way help me
to form a guess as to where we were. The paper over
each window was impenetrable to light, and a blue
curtain was drawn across the glass work in front.
"It was a quarter-past seven when we left Pall Mall, and
my watch showed me that it was ten minutes to nine
when we at last came to a standstill. My companion
let down the window, and I caught a glimpse of a low,
arched doorway with a lamp burning above it. As I was
hurried from the carriage it swung open, and I found
myself inside the house, with a vague impression of a
lawn and trees on each side of me as I entered.
Whether these were private grounds, however, or
bona-fide country was more than I could possibly
venture to say.
"There was a colored gas-lamp inside which was turned
so low that I could see little save that the hall was
of some size and hung with pictures. In the dim light
I could make out that the person who had opened the
door was a small, mean-looking, middle-aged man with
rounded shoulders. As he turned towards us the glint
of the light showed me that he was wearing glasses.
" 'Is this Mr. Melas, Harold?' said he.
" 'Well done, well done! No ill-will, Mr. Melas, I
hope, but we could not get on without you. If you
deal fair with us you'll not regret it, but if you try
any tricks, God help you!' He spoke in a nervous,
jerky fashion, and with little giggling laughs in
between, but somehow he impressed me with fear more
than the other.
" 'What do you want with me?' I asked.
" 'Only to ask a few questions of a Greek gentleman who
is visiting us, and to let us have the answers. But
say no more than you are told to say, or' here came
the nervous giggle again 'you had better never have
"As he spoke he opened a door and showed the way into
a room which appeared to be very richly furnished, but
again the only light was afforded by a single lamp
half-turned down. The chamber was certainly large,
and the way in which my feet sank into the carpet as I
stepped across it told me of its richness. I caught
glimpses of velvet chairs, a high white marble
mantel-piece, and what seemed to be a suit of Japanese
armor at one side of it. There was a chair just under
the lamp, and the elderly man motioned that I should
sit in it.
"The younger had left us, but he suddenly
returned through another door, leading with him a
gentleman clad in some sort of loose dressing-gown who
moved slowly towards us. As he came into the circle
of dim light which enables me to see him more clearly
I was thrilled with horror at his appearance. He was
deadly pale and terribly emaciated, with the
protruding, brilliant eyes of a man whose spirit was
greater than his strength. But what shocked me more
than any signs of physical weakness was that his face
was grotesquely criss-crossed with sticking-plaster,
and that one large pad of it was fastened over his
" 'Have you the slate, Harold?' cried the older man, as
this strange being fell rather than sat down into a
chair. 'Are his hands loose? Now, then, give him the
pencil. You are to ask the questions, Mr. Melas, and
he will write the answers. Ask him first of all
whether he is prepared to sign the papers?'
"The man's eyes flashed fire.
" 'Never!' he wrote in Greek upon the slate.
" 'On no condition?' I asked, at the bidding of our
" 'Only if I see her married in my presence by a Greek
priest whom I know.'
"The man giggled in his venomous way.
" 'You know what awaits you, then?'
" 'I care nothing for myself.'
"These are samples of the questions and answers which
made up our strange half-spoken, half-written
conversation. Again and again I had to ask him
whether he would give in and sign the documents.
Again and again I had the same indignant reply. But
soon a happy thought came to me. I took to adding on
little sentences of my own to each question, innocent
ones at first, to test whether either of our
companions knew anything of the matter, and then, as I
found that they showed no signs I played a more
dangerous game. Our conversation ran something like
" 'You can do no good by this obstinacy. Who are you?'
" 'I care not. I am a stranger in London.'
" 'Your fate will be upon your own head. How long have
you been here?'
" 'Let it be so. Three weeks.'
" 'The property can never be yours. What ails you?'
" 'It shall not go to villains. They are starving me.'
" 'You shall go free if you sign. What house is this?'
" 'I will never sign. I do not know.'
" 'You are not doing her any service. What is your
" 'Let me hear her say so. Kratides.'
" 'You shall see her if you sign. Where are you from?'
" 'Then I shall never see her. Athens.'
"Another five minutes, Mr. Holmes, and I should have
wormed out the whole story under their very noses. My
very next question might have cleared the matter up,
but at that instant the door opened and a woman
stepped into the room. I could not see her clearly
enough to know more than that she was tall and
graceful, with black hair, and clad in some sort of
loose white gown.
" 'Harold,' said she, speaking English with a broken
accent. 'I could not stay away longer. It is so
lonely up there with only Oh, my God, it is Paul!'
"These last words were in Greek, and at the same
instant the man with a convulsive effort tore the
plaster from his lips, and screaming out 'Sophy!
Sophy!' rushed into the woman's arms. Their embrace
was but for an instant, however, for the younger man
seized the woman and pushed her out of the room, while
the elder easily overpowered his emaciated victim, and
dragged him away through the other door. For a moment
I was left alone in the room, and I sprang to my feet
with some vague idea that I might in some way get a
clue to what this house was in which I found myself.
Fortunately, however, I took no steps, for looking up
I saw that the older man was standing in the door-way
with his eyes fixed upon me.
" 'That will do, Mr. Melas,' said he. 'You perceive
that we have taken you into our confidence over some
very private business. We should not have troubled
you, only that our friend who speaks Greek and who
began these negotiations has been forced to return to
the East. It was quite necessary for us to find some
one to take his place, and we were fortunate in
hearing of your powers.'
" 'There are five sovereigns here,' said he, walking up
to me, 'which will, I hope, be a sufficient fee. But
remember,' he added, tapping me lightly on the chest
and giggling, 'if you speak to a human soul about
this one human soul, mind well, may God have mercy
upon your soul!"
"I cannot tell you the loathing and horror with which
this insignificant-looking man inspired me. I could
see him better now as the lamp-light shone upon him.
His features were peaky and sallow, and his little
pointed beard was thready and ill-nourished. He
pushed his face forward as he spoke and his lips and
eyelids were continually twitching like a man with St.
Vitus's dance. I could not help thinking that his
strange, catchy little laugh was also a symptom of
some nervous malady. The terror of his face lay in
his eyes, however, steel gray, and glistening coldly
with a malignant, inexorable cruelty in their depths.
" 'We shall know if you speak of this,' said he. 'We
have our own means of information. Now you will find
the carriage waiting, and my friend will see you on
"I was hurried through the hall and into the vehicle,
again obtaining that momentary glimpse of trees and a
garden. Mr. Latimer followed closely at my heels, and
took his place opposite to me without a word. In
silence we again drove for an interminable distance
with the windows raised, until at last, just after
midnight, the carriage pulled up.
" 'You will get down here, Mr. Melas,' said my
companion. 'I am sorry to leave you so far from your
house, but there is no alternative. Any attempt upon
your part to follow the carriage can only end in
injury to yourself.'
"He opened the door as he spoke, and I had hardly time
to spring out when the coachman lashed the horse and
the carriage rattled away. I looked around me in
astonishment. I was on some sort of a heathy common
mottled over with dark clumps of furze-bushes. Far
away stretched a line of houses, with a light here and
there in the upper windows. On the other side I saw
the red signal-lamps of a railway.
"The carriage which had brought me was already out of
sight. I stood gazing round and wondering where on
earth I might be, when I saw some one coming towards
me in the darkness. As he came up to me I made out
that he was a railway porter.
" 'Can you tell me what place this is?' I asked.
" 'Wandsworth Common,' said he.
" 'Can I get a train into town?'
" 'If you walk on a mile or so to Clapham Junction,'
said he, 'you'll just be in time for the last to
"So that was the end of my adventure, Mr. Holmes. I
do not know where I was, nor whom I spoke with, nor
anything save what I have told you. But I know that
there is foul play going on, and I want to help that
unhappy man if I can. I told the whole story to Mr.
Mycroft Holmes next morning, and subsequently to the
We all sat in silence for some little time after
listening to this extraordinary narrative. Then
Sherlock looked across at his brother.
"Any steps?" he asked.
Mycroft picked up the Daily News, which was lying on
Anybody supplying any information to the whereabouts
of a Greek gentleman named Paul Kratides, from Athens,
who is unable to speak English, will be rewarded. A
similar reward paid to anyone giving information
about a Greek lady whose first name is Sophy.
"That was in all the dailies. No answer."
"How about the Greek Legation?"
"I have inquired. They know nothing."
"A wire to the head of the Athens police, then?"
"Sherlock has all the energy of the family," said
Mycroft, turning to me. "Well, you take the case up
by all means, and let me know if you do any good."
"Certainly," answered my friend, rising from his
chair. "I'll let you know, and Mr. Melas also. In
the meantime, Mr. Melas, I should certainly be on my
guard, if I were you, for of course they must know
through these advertisements that you have betrayed
As we walked home together, Holmes stopped at a
telegraph office and sent off several wires.
"You see, Watson," he remarked, "our evening has been
by no means wasted. Some of my most interesting cases
have come to me in this way through Mycroft. The
problem which we have just listened to, although it
can admit of but one explanation, has still some
"You have hopes of solving it?"
"Well, knowing as much as we do, it will be singular
indeed if we fail to discover the rest. You must
yourself have formed some theory which will explain
the facts to which we have listened."
"In a vague way, yes."
"What was your idea, then?"
"It seemed to me to be obvious that this Greek girl
had been carried off by the young Englishman named
"Carried off from where?"
Sherlock Holmes shook his head. "This young man could
not talk a word of Greek. The lady could talk English
fairly well. Inference that she had been in England
some little time, but he had not been in Greece."
"Well, then, we will presume that she had come on a
visit to England, and that this Harold had persuaded
her to fly with him."
"That is more probable."
"Then the brother for that, I fancy, must be the
relationship comes over from Greece to interfere. He
imprudently puts himself into the power of the young
man and his older associate. They seize him and use
violence towards him in order to make him sign some
papers to make over the girl's fortune of which he
may be trustee to them. This he refuses to do. In
order to negotiate with him they have to get an
interpreter, and they pitch upon this Mr. Melas,
having used some other one before. The girl is not
told of the arrival of her brother, and finds it out
by the merest accident."
"Excellent, Watson!" cried Holmes. "I really fancy
that you are not far from the truth. You see that we
hold all the cards, and we have only to fear some
sudden act of violence on their part. If they give us
time we must have them."
"But how can we find where this house lies?"
"Well, if our conjecture is correct and the girl's
name is or was Sophy Kratides, we should have no
difficulty in tracing her. That must be our main
hope, for the brother is, of course, a complete
stranger. It is clear that some time has elapsed
since this Harold established these relations with the
girl some weeks, at any rate since the brother in
Greece has had time to hear of it and come across. If
they have been living in the same place during this
time, it is probable that we shall have some answer to
We had reached our house in Baker Street while we had
been talking. Holmes ascended the stair first, and as
he opened the door of our room he gave a start of
surprise. Looking over his shoulder, I was equally
astonished. His brother Mycroft was sitting smoking
in the arm-chair.
"Come in, Sherlock! Come in, sir," said he blandly,
smiling at our surprised faces. "You don't expect
such energy from me, do you, Sherlock? But somehow
this case attracts me."
"How did you get here?"
"I passed you in a hansom."
"There has been some new development?"
"I had an answer to my advertisement."
"Yes, it came within a few minutes of your leaving."
"And to what effect?"
Mycroft Holmes took out a sheet of paper.
"Here it is," said he, "written with a J pen on royal
cream paper by a middle-aged man with a weak
In answer to your
advertisement of today's date, I beg to inform you
that I know the young lady in question very well. If
you should care to call upon me I could give you some
particulars as to her painful history.
She is living at present at The Myrtles, Beckenham.
"He writes from Lower Brixton," said Mycroft Holmes.
"Do you not think that we might drive to him now,
Sherlock, and learn these particulars?"
"My dear Mycroft, the brother's life is more valuable
than the sister's story. I think we should call at
Scotland Yard for Inspector Gregson, and go straight
out to Beckenham. We know that a man is being done to
death, and every hour may be vital."
"Better pick up Mr. Melas on our way," I suggested.
"We may need an interpreter."
"Excellent," said Sherlock Holmes. "Send the boy for
a four-wheeler, and we shall be off at once." He
opened the table-drawer as he spoke, and I noticed
that he slipped his revolver into his pocket. "Yes,"
said he, in answer to my glance; "I should say from
what we have heard, that we are dealing with a
particularly dangerous gang."
It was almost dark before we found ourselves in Pall
Mall, at the rooms of Mr. Melas. A gentleman had just
called for him, and he was gone.
"Can you tell me where?" asked Mycroft Holmes.
"I don't know, sir," answered the woman who had opened
the door; "I only know that he drove away with the
gentleman in a carriage."
"Did the gentleman give a name?"
"He wasn't a tall, handsome, dark young man?"
"Oh, no, sir. He was a little gentleman, with
glasses, thin in the face, but very pleasant in his
ways, for he was laughing al the time that he was
"Come along!" cried Sherlock Holmes, abruptly. "This
grows serious," he observed, as we drove to Scotland
Yard. "These men have got hold of Melas again. He is
a man of no physical courage, as they are well aware
from their experience the other night. This villain
was able to terrorize him the instant that he got into
his presence. No doubt they want his professional
services, but, having used him, they may be inclined
to punish him for what they will regard as his
Our hope was that, by taking train, we might get to
Beckenham as soon or sooner than the carriage. On
reaching Scotland Yard, however, it was more than an
hour before we could get Inspector Gregson and comply
with the legal formalities which would enable us to
enter the house. It was a quarter to ten before we
reached London Bridge, and half past before the four
of us alighted on the Beckenham platform. A drive of
half a mile brought us to The Myrtles a large, dark
house standing back from the road in its own grounds.
Here we dismissed our cab, and made our way up the
"The windows are all dark," remarked the inspector.
"The house seems deserted."
"Our birds are flown and the nest empty," said Holmes.
"Why do you say so?"
"A carriage heavily loaded with luggage has passed out
during the last hour."
The inspector laughed. "I saw the wheel-tracks in the
light of the gate-lamp, but where does the luggage
"You may have observed the same wheel-tracks going the
other way. But the outward-bound ones were very much
deeper so much so that we can say for a certainty
that there was a very considerable weight on the
"You get a trifle beyond me there," said the
inspector, shrugging his shoulder. "It will not be an
easy door to force, but we will try if we cannot make
some one hear us."
He hammered loudly at the knocker and pulled at the
bell, but without any success. Holmes had slipped
away, but he came back in a few minutes.
"I have a window open," said he.
"It is a mercy that you are on the side of the force,
and not against it, Mr. Holmes," remarked the
inspector, as he noted the clever way in which my
friend had forced back the catch. "Well, I think that
under the circumstances we may enter without an
One after the other we made our way into a large
apartment, which was evidently that in which Mr. Melas
had found himself. The inspector had lit his lantern,
and by its light we could see the two doors, the
curtain, the lamp, and the suit of Japanese mail as he
had described them. On the table lay two glasses, and
empty brandy-bottle, and the remains of a meal.
"What is that?" asked Holmes, suddenly.
We all stood still and listened. A low moaning sound
was coming from somewhere over our heads. Holmes
rushed to the door and out into the hall. The dismal
noise came from upstairs. He dashed up, the inspector
and I at his heels, while his brother Mycroft followed
as quickly as his great bulk would permit.
Three doors faced up upon the second floor, and it was
from the central of these that the sinister sounds
were issuing, sinking sometimes into a dull mumble and
rising again into a shrill whine. It was locked, but
the key had been left on the outside. Holmes flung
open the door and rushed in, but he was out again in
an instant, with his hand to his throat."
"It's charcoal," he cried. "Give it time. It will
Peering in, we could see that the only light in the
room came from a dull blue flame which flickered from
a small brass tripod in the centre. It threw a livid,
unnatural circle upon the floor, while in the shadows
beyond we saw the vague loom of two figures which
crouched against the wall. From the open door there
reeked a horrible poisonous exhalation which set us
gasping and coughing. Holmes rushed to the top of the
stairs to draw in the fresh air, and then, dashing
into the room, he threw up the window and hurled the
brazen tripod out into the garden.
"We can enter in a minute," he gasped, darting out
again. "Where is a candle? I doubt if we could
strike a match in that atmosphere. Hold the light at
the door and we shall get them out, Mycroft, now!"
With a rush we got to the poisoned men and dragged
them out into the well-lit hall. Both of them were
blue-lipped and insensible, with swollen, congested
faces and protruding eyes. Indeed, so distorted were
their features that, save for his black beard and
stout figure, we might have failed to recognize in one
of them the Greek interpreter who had parted from us
only a few hours before at the Diogenes Club. His
hands and feet were securely strapped together, and he
bore over one eye the marks of a violent blow.
The other, who was secured in a similar fashion, was a
tall man in the last stage of emaciation, with several
strips of sticking-plaster arranged in a grotesque
pattern over his face. He had ceased to moan as we
laid him down, and a glance showed me that for him at
least our aid had come too late. Mr. Melas, however,
still lived, and in less than an hour, with the aid of
ammonia and brandy I had the satisfaction of seeing
him open his eyes, and of knowing that my hand had
drawn him back from that dark valley in which all
It was a simple story which he had to tell, and one
which did but confirm our own deductions. His
visitor, on entering his rooms, had drawn a
life-preserver from his sleeve, and had so impressed
him with the fear of instant and inevitable death that
he had kidnapped him for the second time. Indeed, it
was almost mesmeric, the effect which this giggling
ruffian had produced upon the unfortunate linguist,
for he could not speak of him save with trembling
hands and a blanched cheek.
He had been taken swiftly
to Beckenham, and had acted as interpreter in a second
interview, even more dramatic than the first, in which
the two Englishmen had menaced their prisoner with
instant death if he did not comply with their demands.
Finally, finding him proof against every threat, they
had hurled him back into his prison, and after
reproaching Melas with his treachery, which appeared
from the newspaper advertisement, they had stunned him
with a blow from a stick, and he remembered nothing
more until he found us bending over him.
And this was the singular case of the Grecian
Interpreter, the explanation of which is still
involved in some mystery. We were able to find out,
by communicating with the gentleman who had answered
the advertisement, that the unfortunate young lady
came of a wealthy Grecian family, and that she had
been on a visit to some friends in England. While
there she had met a young man named Harold Latimer,
who had acquired an ascendancy over her and had
eventually persuaded her to fly with him.
Her friends, shocked at the event, had contented
themselves with informing her brother at Athens, and
had then washed their hands of the matter. The
brother, on his arrival in England, had imprudently
placed himself in the power of Latimer and of his
associate, whose name was Wilson Kemp that through
his ignorance of the language he was helpless in their
hands, had kept him a prisoner, and had endeavored by
cruelty and starvation to make him sign away his own
and his sister's property. They had kept him in the
house without the girl's knowledge, and the plaster
over the face had been for the purpose of making
recognition difficult in case she should ever catch a
glimpse of him.
Her feminine perception, however, had
instantly seen through the disguise when, on the
occasion of the interpreter's visit, she had seen him
for the first time. The poor girl, however, was
herself a prisoner, for there was no one about the
house except the man who acted as coachman, and his
wife, both of whom were tools of the conspirators.
Finding that their secret was out, and that their
prisoner was not to be coerced, the two villains with
the girl had fled away at a few hours' notice from the
furnished house which they had hired, having first, as
they thought, taken vengeance both upon the man who
had defied and the one who had betrayed them.
Months afterwards a curious newspaper cutting reached
us from Buda-Pesth. It told how two Englishmen who
had been travelling with a woman had met with a tragic
end. They had each been stabbed, it seems, and the
Hungarian police were of opinion that they had
quarreled and had inflicted mortal injuries upon each
other. Holmes, however, is, I fancy, of a different
way of thinking, and holds to this day that, if one
could find the Grecian girl, one might learn how the
wrongs of herself and her brother came to be avenged.
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