How many digital book readers haven’t dreamt about this at some point? Buying a physical copy of a book and getting a free digital download of the same book allowing you to get the best of both worlds. I can’t count the number of times I have wished for this be the norm.
Every time this comes up in conversation, people seem to be of the opinion that getting a digital copy with your purchase of a physical book is going to become the norm, later if not sooner. Any number of factors point to this being true, predominantly the fact that this is already happening in the musical world. Granted, it has been a while since I purchased a CD, but I am told that more often than not when you purchase a CD today, you get a digital download key included.
I also recall that Barnes and Nobel did try this out when digital books were first on the rise a few years ago, but the fact that they only tried once, and never again is fairly telling in how their efforts were received.
Another consideration is that this would be a great boost to the physical book stores around today that bemoan the internet for killing off their business. Allowing them to sell digital copies along with the books in their stores would cause digital books to become less of a threat to the local stores and indeed a boon to them at no additional cost to the publisher.
But what most people don’t take into consideration is the huge element in the digital book world that is Amazon. Amazon will fight tremendously against this becoming the norm as they have invested so much time and so much more money in becoming the number one retailer of e-books around the world, they have no vested interest in giving their share of this market away.
Amazon sells their e-readers, the Kindle, and Kindle Fire, at manufacturing cost in order to get them into the hands of the consumers. Once they do though, the consumers are forced to use Amazon’s kindle store to purchase their digital books. The consumers simply have no other option.
No one stands to lose more than Amazon if consumers always received a copy of the digital book whenever they purchased a physical copy, and at the same time, they are one of the few companies in the world that are actually in a position to be able to stop this practice from ever occurring. No major or minor publisher in the world wants to risk getting on the bad side of Amazon. They are too big a distributer to every single major market on earth to try and annoy.
Buying books online has so many advantages over buying books from your local bookstore, that as much as I love my local, where everybody knows my name, I still find myself going there less and less, and buying more and more of my new books online. I do realise that there is also a huge used book market on various sites online, but my love for second hand book shops has been documented before far outweighs my love of saving money, but hey, that’s just me. So today, I will focus on the benefits of buying new books online over at your local Barnes & Noble.
Will Always find what you are looking For
There is no worse feeling in the world than getting all excited about the release of a new book from your favourite author, only to get to the book store and find out that either they are all sold out, or they won’t even be getting the stock in for a few weeks more.
I was living in a large rural town with a population of around 50 thousand when A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin was released. Despite being told that it would be there day one, I was told by the sullen lady behind the counter that there had been distribution problems and that I had to wait another week for them to get it in. One week later I was told that I had to wait for the end of the month. Roughly 6 weeks after release, and despite my best efforts to ignore the jackhole online trolls who were utterly determined to spoil the ending for whatever reason, I got my hands on the book for the princely sum of $45. There were many words uttered by me at this time, most of which are not printable, but primarily based around the theme of “Never Again”.
Won’t find it cheaper tomorrow
Using the Book Price Comparison agent on the front page of this website will ensure that, not only will you find the best price locally, but the best price from stores all over the country
You Won’t Get Gouged
My time in rural areas has taught me a lot of respect for people that live out there. Not only from the weather and element hardships that they endure, but the rampant price gouging that occurs because
A: The retailers can get away with it, and
B: The consumers have no choice in the matter.
The ability to compare book prices online and get them shipped to your door by the end of the week is great for the communities that need the education the most.
You won’t be attacked by homeless people on the way in
Something about bookstores seems to attract homeless people like a smelly bee to a flower. But a homeless man’s dirty penis isn’t even the worst thing that you will see at your local book chain, which leads us directly to our next point….
Won’t be attacked by Starbucks Once you are inside
Something major happened when I wasn’t looking. Somehow Starbucks not only managed to fool people into thinking their coffee and other diabetic coma inducing beverages taste good, but they are somehow a trendy, intellectual type of product to be read in bookstores around the world. What!?
They want us to believe that authors and “other book reading types” everywhere drink their coffees, when we know for a fact that anyone with tastebuds realises that their coffee tastes remarkably similar to dirt and anyone with an ounce of intelligence realizes that a company that uses bug extracts in their products and then lies about it, avoids tax to the point of not paying it at all, and treats their employees all over the world systematically like dirt is not one to be trusted, let alone encouraged.
But then, maybe this is all just because I just really hate their coffee.
Comparing book prices in Australia. Living in the great land down under can be hard on many things, most of all your wallet. Whilst it is true that Australia enjoys one of the highest minimum wages in the world, it also enjoys some of the highest food and housing costs in the world as well. Books are considered by many to be a luxury item, (I personally need them just as much as food and water) so any way you can save some money on a luxury item cant be bad.
I lived in Australia for 3 years, and one of the things that shocked me the most was the price of steak and books in a country that is filled with cows and trees. Both steak and books are significantly more expensive over there, be it for reasons of increased distribution costs, or because it is a smaller market (only 22 million people live in Australia compare to 310 million here in the US) but whatever the reason, Australians seem to get hosed on prices more often than not.
I have done a little preliminary research using an Australian proxy, if we shop around a little and compare book prices Australia can get a pretty decent deal. I started by doing a search of the most common book sellers in oz for the relativley new book, Run, Alex Cross by James Patterson released in Febuary 2013.
Angus and Robinson, one of the most famous brick and mortar book stores in Australia have it listed for $23 with free delivery.
Bookworld.com.au have it listed for $23, also with the promise of free delivery.
A quick search using our very own book price comparison tool shows the lowest prices coming in at around $15 for an eBook version and $16 for a new hard copy from an Ebay seller. A quick look at the sellers and adding postage costs of $4, this comes up to a total of $20 for a new hard copy of a brand new book.
Even the famously wonderful bookdepository.com has it listed at $25 for a copy today, though if you are willing to wait the 140 days for the paperback release, you can get it at for around $9.
Funnily enough, the search results from our very own search engine show up an audio book copy of Run, Alex Cross for just $14.69 from abebooks.com with free delivery, even to exotic Australia. During my time in Australia I can tell you that this is by far the cheapest audio book many Australians will have ever seen.
All prices listed accurate at date of research on 2013/02/03.
Lets take a look at some of the most beautiful libraries in existence.
Abbey Library of St. Gallen – Switzerland
The Abbey library of St. Gall is a UNESCO listed world heritage site, and is the oldest in Switzerland. The abbey has existed since 719, and the library houses manuscripts that are up 1600 years old that are on display to the public. In addition to it some 160,000 total volumes, including 2,100 manuscripts from the 8th to the 15th century as well as the Manuscript B of the Nibelungenlied, they currently have an Egyptian mummy on display.
Library of Paris – France
The Library of Paris or the Bibliothèque nationale de France is said to be the oldest library in existence and at times was known as the largest library collection in the world. It can trace its roots back to the Royal Library that was housed in the Louvre and founded by Charles V in 1368. The Libraries collection was moved around a few times until it found its current home
Biblioteca Joanina – Portugal
This baroque library was built during the 18th century in Coimbra, Portugal. It houses some 250 thousand works and is a national monument of Portugal.
Admont Abbey Library – Austria
The library of the Admont Abbey is the biggest monastic library in the world, as well as being one of the scenic both inside (above) and out (below).
Strahov Theological Hall – Czech Republic
The Theological Hall in the Strahov Monastery in Prague was completed in 1679, and has survived largely intact despite Prague being bombed multiple times during its lifetime and occupation by various forces.
Trinity College Library – Ireland
The Trinity College Library is housed at the Trinity College funnily enough in Dublin. It is the permanent home of the Book of Kells and is also known as a copyright library which means that all works published in the Republic of Ireland are housed in the Library.
Escorial Biblioteca – Spain
Housed in an 18th century palace in San Lorenzo, Spain, the Library might be small by other stands housing only 40,000 odd volumes, but it make up for it the pure beauty of its 50 metre long and ten metre high hall with marble floors and hand carved wooden shelves.
The State Library of South Australia – Australia
The State Library of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia is the largest public research library in Australia. The famous Morlock Wing pictured above was opened in December 1884 after 18 years of construction.
Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum Library – Japan
Shiba Ryotaro was one of the most important cultural figures in post war Japan, after his death in 1996 his house in Osaka was turned into a museum in his honour. The pictured bookcase above is 11 metres high and is home to over 20,000 books.
Rijksmuseum Library – Netherlands
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands (above) as well as being beautiful, houses a great number of greatly historical items including the stern of the HMS Royal Charles, but the real gem of the museum is of course its Library, the Rijksmuseum Research Library (below), which is the largest public art history research library in the Netherlands.
As we are a site dedicated to finding the best possible price for any book on the planet, it stands to reason that we are always on the lookout for bargains and other ways to get our literature fix on the cheap. With this in mind I would like to tell you, my humble readers, a little bit about my favorite new discovery on the web. Free Audio Book Sites.
Anyone who has ever looked at the prices of audio books knows that they can be expensive, even prohibitively so. The first listing from a quick Google search shows that the Harry Potter series will set you back a cool $250 for the entire series on audio book. A quick search using our Book Price Comparison Tool will net you the entire series for well under $50 in paperback form. That is a fairly big price disparity.
But why is this? Well, the cost of production of an audio book can actually be almost the same as the writing of the book it is based on in the first place. A sound studio is required for weeks on end, as well as mixers and cutters and professional voice actors. I recall an anecdote from a book publisher years ago when audio books were first taking off that the publishing company paid the Author of the book $150,000 to write it, then the creation of the audio book alone ran up a quarter of a million dollar bill. I imagine that hiring the indomitable Stephen Fry to do the voice acting such as in the Harry Potter Audio Books would set the bill even higher.
So with that in mind, I set upon myself the task of finding a source of cheap, yet high quality audio books. Once again the Internet does not disappoint.
librivox.org is a fantastic resource for acquiring free audio books. All of the books listed there are from the public domain, so they are quite ethical and perfectly legal to own. A quick search netted me the entire Tolstoy collection, including the epic War and Peace, which if I manage to listen to it in its entirety, should keep me entertained for a good 40 odd hours. They offer you the opportunity to download their massive collection in a few formats, including mp3, so it is quite possible to put these on your phone or iPod and take them everywhere you go.
OpenCulture.com has a fairly good list of free audio books from a number of different sites. It is more of an free eBook aggregator. It combs the web looking for free eBooks listed on sites such as Audible and iTunes. Its one advantage over Librivox is that not all the books it list are in the public domain, so often there are quite new titles available.
And last but not least, we come to the behemoth that is Youtube. Youtube is a fantastic resource for audio books, new and old, though i suspect that many of the newer titles are not strictly speaking legal. But there are a huge number of free and legal titles. A quick search shows us a great number of wonderful audio books such as the below Sherlock Holmes title. So now, as long as you have the Internet, you need never be without a book again.
Book price comparisons are a great way to save money when buying your new or used textbooks. Obviously we here at CompareBookPrices.org highly recommend you use our very own Book Price Comparison Tool located on our home page.
This tool gives you the power to compare book prices from hundreds of various book vendors from all over the world. All you need to do is to enter the author, isbn, or name of the book and hit search.
The amount of money you can save by taking the time and doing some quick book price comparisons is not small at all. One quick check of my local book store has the price for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone” at the cheapest price I have ever seen a physical book store sell it for at $16. That’s not so bad I hear you say, no it’s not, I reply, but one quick look below shows you that you can get a high quality used copy for a quarter of that price, and a brand spanking new copy for $6.
Lets have a quick look as some example book price comparisons to see just how much you can actually save when you take the time to do some price comparisons.
Lets try out with one of the most popular books of the last few decades, Harry Potter. There are a few hundred million copies floating around, so it should be fairly easy to find a good deal.
SImply Type in the term you are searching for, in our case, Harry Potter
Then a list of available titles with the search term in it will come up. Pick one of these to do a price comparison for a particular book.
We clicked on Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, lets see how cheap we can get it.
Just under $6 from an ebay site, $7 from Amazon, and $12.45 from BookByte.com. There is also one eBook listed for just under $9, but if you want to search just eBooks, try out our eBook Price Comparisons Tool.
We also have a comparison tool optimised for mobile phones as well as an Android app. Lets
Book lovers all over the world will know that there are few better feelings than buying books online or in local bookshops, then opening up that glorious brand new book that you now own. The feeling of a book spine in perfect condition, the crisp untarnished pages, and the smell, oh lord I love the smell of a new book.
I will be perfectly honest, that while I do love all the benefits of buying books online such as the ability to compare book prices (if you somehow missed it, check out our homepage for just this ability) and find absolutely great bargains, the one thing that I miss from going out book hunting in various new and used book shops is the ability to smell the book before you buy it.
So by now most people will have either closed the page and moved on, the ones that remain are the ones that said to themselves “I know that feeling well”. Quite often I will get many a strange look when I crack open a new book and stick my nose in it. I don’t know exactly what it is that makes the bouquet so olfactorily attractive, the ink, the new paper, maybe it is the glue used to bind it all together that it attacking my brain and getting me high, but whatever it is, it works a charm. I have a numerous amount of books that I purchased simply because they smelled glorious. There is a company online who has tried to replicate this smell and put it in an aerosol can. smellofbooks.com offers New Book Smell in a can to really liven up your eBook collection.
The charm of the used book store must not be understated either. Buying books online will be cheaper and have a better range, but the joy of sifting through a giant pile of discounted books piled up in the corner of a small shop tucked away from the hustle and bustle of town must not be discounted either. Often times you will find a book with some glorious history, signed by the author or the authors grandson or some such nonsense that were you to buy it online, you would pay an extra premium for the privilege. I once found a book in which the previous owner had used the blank pages at the beginning and end of the book to jot down their favorite quotes and pages in the book, as well as listed a number of other books which they thought were similar. I had a great time tracking all these books down and reading each and every one. TO that nameless person I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was introduced to a number of great authors whom I never would have otherwise simple buying my books online.
So by all means buy the bulk of your books online, you will save plenty of money this way, but don’t forget your local booksellers of both new and used books.
The Man With The Twisted Lip – A Sherlock Holmes Short Story Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes makes a shocking discovery in the basement of an opium den whilst investigating a Murder.
The Man With the Twisted Lip is one of the better tales of the great detective Sherlock Holmes. It is the sixth of twelve tales published in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and was first published in Strand Magazine in December 1891.
It provides an interesting glimpse into the shady, but legal in 1889 world of opium in Britain, as well as providing a classic puzzle piece Holmes story.
[wptab name=’Read it’]
Isa Whitney, brother of the late Elias Whitney, D.D., Principal of the Theological College of St. George’s, was much addicted to opium. The habit grew upon him, as I understand, from some foolish freak when he was at college; for having read De Quincey’s description of his dreams and sensations, he had drenched his tobacco with laudanum in an attempt to produce the same effects. He found, as so many more have done, that the practice is easier to attain than to get rid of, and for many years he continued to be a slave to the drug, an object of mingled horror and pity to his friends and relatives. I can see him now, with yellow, pasty face, drooping lids, and pin-point pupils, all huddled in a chair, the wreck and ruin of a noble man.
One night — it was in June, ’89 — there came a ring to my bell, about the hour when a man gives his first yawn and glances at the clock. I sat up in my chair, and my wife laid her needle-work down in her lap and made a little face of disappointment.
“A patient!” said she. “You’ll have to go out.”
I groaned, for I was newly come back from a weary day.
We heard the door open, a few hurried words, and then quick steps upon the linoleum. Our own door flew open, and a lady, clad in some dark-colored stuff, with a black veil, entered the room.
“You will excuse my calling so late,” she began, and then, suddenly losing her self-control, she ran forward, threw her arms about my wife’s neck, and sobbed upon her shoulder. “Oh, I’m in such trouble!” she cried; “I do so want a little help.”
“Why,” said my wife, pulling up her veil, “it is Kate Whitney. How you startled me, Kate! I had not an idea who you were when you came in.”
“I didn’t know what to do, so l came straight to you.” That was always the way. Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house.
< 2 >
“It was very sweet of you to come. Now, you must have some wine and water, and sit here comfortably and tell us all about it. Or should you rather that I sent James off to bed?”
“Oh, no, no! I want the doctor’s advice and help, too. It’s about Isa. He has not been home for two days. I am so frightened about him!”
It was not the first time that she had spoken to us of her husband’s trouble, to me as a doctor, to my wife as an old friend and school companion. We soothed and comforted her by such words as we could find. Did she know where her husband was? Was it possible that we could bring him back to her?
It seems that it was. She had the surest information that of late he had, when the fit was on him, made use of an opium den in the farthest east of the City. Hitherto his orgies had always been confined to one day, and he had come back, twitching and shattered, in the evening. But now the spell had been upon him eight-and-forty hours, and he lay there, doubtless among the dregs of the docks, breathing in the poison or sleeping off the effects. There he was to be found, she was sure of it, at the Bar of Gold, in Upper Swandam Lane. But what was she to do? How could she, a young and timid woman, make her way into such a place and pluck her husband out from among the ruffians who surrounded him?
There was the case, and of course there was but one way out of it. Might I not escort her to this place? And then, as a second thought, why should she come at all? I was Isa Whitney’s medical adviser, and as such I had influence over him. I could manage it better if I were alone. I promised her on my word that I would send him home in a cab within two hours if he were indeed at the address which she had given me. And so in ten minutes I had left my armchair and cheery sitting-room behind me, and was speeding eastward in a hansom on a strange errand, as it seemed to me at the time, though the future only could show how strange it was to be.
< 3 >
But there was no great difficulty in the first stage of my adventure. Upper Swandam Lane is a vile alley lurking behind the high wharves which line the north side of the river to the east of London Bridge. Between a slop-shop and a gin-shop, approached by a steep flight of steps leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave, I found the den of which I was in search. Ordering my cab to wait, I passed down the steps, worn hollow in the centre by the ceaseless tread of drunken feet; and by the light of a flickering oil-lamp above the door I found the latch and made my way into a long, low room, thick and heavy with the brown opium smoke, and terraced with wooden berths, like the forecastle of an emigrant ship.
Through the gloom one could dimly catch a glimpse of bodies lying in strange fantastic poses, bowed shoulders, bent knees, heads thrown back, and chins pointing upward, with here and there a dark, lack-lustre eye turned upon the newcomer. Out of the black shadows there glimmered little red circles of light, now bright, now faint, as the burning poison waxed or waned in the bowls of the metal pipes. The most lay silent, but some muttered to themselves, and others talked together in a strange, low, monotonous voice, their conversation coming in gushes, and then suddenly tailing off into silence, each mumbling out his own thoughts and paying little heed to the words of his neighbor. At the farther end was a small brazier of burning charcoal, beside which on a three-legged wooden stool there sat a tall, thin old man, with his jaw resting upon his two fists, and his elbows upon his knees, staring into the fire.
As I entered, a sallow Malay attendant had hurried up with a pipe for me and a supply of the drug, beckoning me to an empty berth.
“Thank you. I have not come to stay,” said I. “There is a friend of mine here, Mr. Isa Whitney, and I wish to speak with him.”
< 4 >
There was a movement and an exclamation from my right, and peering through the gloom I saw Whitney, pale, haggard, and unkempt, staring out at me.
“My God! It’s Watson,” said he. He was in a pitiable state of reaction, with every nerve in a twitter. “I say, Watson, what o’clock is it?”
“Of what day?”
“Of Friday, June 19th.”
“Good heavens! I thought it was Wednesday. It is Wednesday. What d’you want to frighten the chap for?” He sank his face onto his arms and began to sob in a high treble key.
“I tell you that it is Friday, man. Your wife has been waiting this two days for you. You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“So I am. But you’ve got mixed, Watson, for I have only been here a few hours, three pipes, four pipes — I forget how many. But I’ll go home with you. I wouldn’t frighten Kate — poor little Kate. Give me your hand! Have you a cab?”
“Yes, I have one waiting.”
“Then I shall go in it. But I must owe something. Find what I owe, Watson. I am all off color. I can do nothing for myself.”
I walked down the narrow passage between the double row of sleepers, holding my breath to keep out the vile, stupefying fumes of the drug, and looking about for the manager. As I passed the tall man who sat by the brazier I felt a sudden pluck at my skirt, and a low voice whispered, “Walk past me, and then look back at me.” The words fell quite distinctly upon my ear. I glanced down. They could only have come from the old man at my side, and yet he sat now as absorbed as ever, very thin, very wrinkled, bent with age, an opium pipe dangling down from between his knees, as though it had dropped in sheer lassitude from his fingers. I took two steps forward and looked back. It took all my self-control to prevent me from breaking out into a cry of astonishment. He had turned his back so that none could see him but I. His form had filled out, his wrinkles were gone, the dull eyes had regained their fire, and there, sitting by the fire and grinning at my surprise, was none other than Sherlock Holmes. He made a slight motion to me to approach him, and instantly, as he turned his face half round to the company once more, subsided into a doddering, loose-lipped senility.
< 5 >
“Holmes!” I whispered, “what on earth are you doing in this den?”
“As low as you can,” he answered; “I have excellent ears. If you would have the great kindness to get rid of that sottish friend of yours I should be exceedingly glad to have a little talk with you.”
“I have a cab outside.”
“Then pray send him home in it. You may safely trust him, for he appears to be too limp to get into any mischief. I should recommend you also to send a note by the cabman to your wife to say that you have thrown in your lot with me. If you will wait outside, I shall be with you in five minutes.”
It was difficult to refuse any of Sherlock Holmes’s requests, for they were always so exceedingly definite, and put forward with such a quiet air of mastery. I felt, however, that when Whitney was once confined in the cab my mission was practically accomplished; and for the rest, I could not wish anything better than to be associated with my friend in one of those singular adventures which were the normal condition of his existence. In a few minutes I had written my note, paid Whitney’s bill, led him out to the cab, and seen him driven through the darkness. In a very short time a decrepit figure had emerged from the opium den, and I was walking down the street with Sherlock Holmes. For two streets he shuffled along with a bent back and an uncertain foot. Then, glancing quickly round, he straightened himself out and burst into a hearty fit of laughter.
“I suppose, Watson,” said he, “that you imagine that I have added opium-smoking to cocaine injections, and all the other little weaknesses on which you have favored me with your medical views.”
“I was certainly surprised to find you there.”
“But not more so than I to find you.”
< 6 >
“I came to find a friend.”
“And I to find an enemy.”
“Yes; one of my natural enemies, or, shall I say, my natural prey. Briefly, Watson, I am in the midst of a very remarkable inquiry, and I have hoped to find a clew in the incoherent ramblings of these sots, as I have done before now. Had I been recognized in that den my life would not have been worth an hour’s purchase; for I have used it before now for my own purposes, and the rascally Lascar who runs it has sworn to have vengeance upon me. There is a trap-door at the back of that building, near the corner of Paul’s Wharf, which could tell some strange tales of what has passed through it upon the moonless nights.”
“What! You do not mean bodies?”
“Ay, bodies, Watson. We should be rich men if we had 1000 pounds for every poor devil who has been done to death in that den. It is the vilest murder-trap on the whole riverside, and I fear that Neville St. Clair has entered it never to leave it more. But our trap should be here.” He put his two forefingers between his teeth and whistled shrilly — a signal which was answered by a similar whistle from the distance, followed shortly by the rattle of wheels and the clink of horses’ hoofs.
“Now, Watson,” said Holmes, as a tall dog-cart dashed up through the gloom, throwing out two golden tunnels of yellow light from its side lanterns. “You’ll come with me, won’t you?
“If I can be of use.”
“Oh, a trusty comrade is always of use; and a chronicler still more so. My room at The Cedars is a double-bedded one.”
“Yes; that is Mr. St. Clair’s house. I am staying there while I conduct the inquiry.”
< 7 >
“Where is it, then?”
“Near Lee, in Kent. We have a seven-mile drive before us.”
“But I am all in the dark.”
“Of course you are. You’ll know all about it presently. Jump up here. All right, John; we shall not need you. Here’s half a crown. Look out for me to-morrow, about eleven. Give her her head. So long, then!”
He flicked the horse with his whip, and we dashed away through the endless succession of sombre and deserted streets, which widened gradually, until we were flying across a broad balustraded bridge, with the murky river flowing sluggishly beneath us. Beyond lay another dull wilderness of bricks and mortar, its silence broken only by the heavy, regular footfall of the policeman, or the songs and shouts of some belated party of revellers. A dull wrack was drifting slowly across the sky, and a star or two twinkled dimly here and there through the rifts of the clouds. Holmes drove in silence, with his head sunk upon his breast, and the air of a man who is lost in thought, while I sat beside him, curious to learn what this new quest might be which seemed to tax his powers so sorely, and yet afraid to break in upon the current of his thoughts. We had driven several miles, and were beginning to get to the fringe of the belt of suburban villas, when he shook himself, shrugged his shoulders, and lit up his pipe with the air of a man who has satisfied himself that he is acting for the best.
“You have a grand gift of silence, Watson,” said he. “It makes you quite invaluable as a companion. ‘Pon my word, it is a great thing for me to have someone to talk to, for my own thoughts are not over-pleasant. I was wondering what I should say to this dear little woman to-night when she meets me at the door.”
“You forget that I know nothing about it.”
< 8 >
“I shall just have time to tell you the facts of the case before we get to Lee. It seems absurdly simple, and yet, somehow I can get nothing to go upon. There’s plenty of thread, no doubt, but I can’t get the end of it into my hand. Now, I’ll state the case clearly and concisely to you, Watson, and maybe you can see a spark where all is dark to me.”
“Some years ago — to be definite, in May, 1884 — there came to Lee a gentleman, Neville St. Clair by name, who appeared to have plenty of money. He took a large villa, laid out the grounds very nicely, and lived generally in good style. By degrees he made friends in the neighborhood, and in 1887 he married the daughter of a local brewer, by whom he now has two children. He had no occupation, but was interested in several companies and went into town as a rule in the morning, returning by the 5:14 from Cannon Street every night. Mr. St. Clair is now thirty-seven years of age, is a man of temperate habits, a good husband, a very affectionate father, and a man who is popular with all who know him. I may add that his whole debts at the present moment, as far as we have been able to ascertain amount to 88 pounds l0s., while he has 220 pounds standing to his credit in the Capital and Counties Bank. There is no reason, therefore, to think that money troubles have been weighing upon his mind.
“Last Monday Mr. Neville St. Clair went into town rather earlier than usual, remarking before he started that he had two important commissions to perform, and that he would bring his little boy home a box of bricks. Now, by the merest chance, his wife received a telegram upon this same Monday, very shortly after his departure, to the effect that a small parcel of considerable value which she had been expecting was waiting for her at the offices of the Aberdeen Shipping Company. Now, if you are well up in your London, you will know that the office of the company is in Fresno Street, which branches out of Upper Swandam Lane, where you found me to-night. Mrs. St. Clair had her lunch, started for the City, did some shopping, proceeded to the company’s office, got her packet, and found herself at exactly 4:35 walking through Swandam Lane on her way back to the station. Have you followed me so far?”
< 9 >
“It is very clear.”
“If you remember, Monday was an exceedingly hot day, and Mrs. St. Clair walked slowly, glancing about in the hope of seeing a cab, as she did not like the neighborhood in which she found herself. While she was walking in this way down Swandam Lane, she suddenly heard an ejaculation or cry, and was struck cold to see her husband looking down at her and, as it seemed to her, beckoning to her from a second-floor window. The window was open, and she distinctly saw his face, which she describes as being terribly agitated. He waved his hands frantically to her, and then vanished from the window so suddenly that it seemed to her that he had been plucked back by some irresistible force from behind. One singular point which struck her quick feminine eye was that although he wore some dark coat, such as he had started to town in, he had on neither collar nor necktie.
“Convinced that something was amiss with him, she rushed down the steps — for the house was none other than the opium den in which you found me to-night — and running through the front room she attempted to ascend the stairs which led to the first floor. At the foot of the stairs, however, she met this Lascar scoundrel of whom I have spoken, who thrust her back and, aided by a Dane, who acts as assistant there, pushed her out into the street. Filled with the most maddening doubts and fears, she rushed down the lane and, by rare good-fortune, met in Fresno Street a number of constables with an inspector, all on their way to their beat. The inspector and two men accompanied her back, and in spite of the continued resistance of the proprietor, they made their way to the room in which Mr. St. Clair had last been seen. There was no sign of him there. In fact, in the whole of that floor there was no one to be found save a crippled wretch of hideous aspect, who, it seems, made his home there. Both he and the Lascar stoutly swore that no one else had been in the front room during the afternoon. So determined was their denial that the inspector was staggered, and had almost come to believe that Mrs. St. Clair had been deluded when, with a cry, she sprang at a small deal box which lay upon the table and tore the lid from it. Out there fell a cascade of children’s bricks. It was the toy which he had promised to bring home.
< 10 >
“This discovery, and the evident confusion which the cripple showed, made the inspector realize that the matter was serious. The rooms were carefully examined, and results all pointed to an abominable crime. The front room was plainly furnished as a sitting-room and led into a small bedroom, which looked out upon the back of one of the wharves. Between the wharf and the bedroom window is a narrow strip, which is dry at low tide but is covered at high tide with at least four and a half feet of water. The bedroom window was a broad one and opened from below. On examination traces of blood were to be seen upon the windowsill, and several scattered drops were visible upon the wooden floor of the bedroom. Thrust away behind a curtain in the front room were all the clothes of Mr. Neville St. Clair, with the exception of his coat. His boots, his socks, his hat, and his watch — all were there. There were no signs of violence upon any of these garments, and there were no other traces of Mr. Neville St. Clair. Out of the window he must apparently have gone for no other exit could be discovered, and the ominous bloodstains upon the sill gave little promise that he could save himself by swimming, for the tide was at its very highest at the moment of the tragedy.
“And now as to the villains who seemed to be immedlately implicated in the matter. The Lascar was known to be a man of the vilest antecedents, but as, by Mrs. St. Clair’s story, he was known to have been at the foot of the stair within a very few seconds of her husband’s appearance at the window, he could hardly have been more than an accessory to the crime. His defense was one of absolute ignorance, and he protested that he had no knowledge as to the doings of Hugh Boone, his lodger, and that he could not account in any way for the presence of the missing gentleman’s clothes.
“So much for the Lascar manager. Now for the sinister cripple who lives upon the second floor of the opium den, and who was certainly the last human being whose eyes rested upon Neville St. Clair. His name is Hugh Boone, and his hideous face is one which is familiar to every man who goes much to the City. He is a professional beggar, though in order to avoid the police regulations he pretends to a small trade in wax vestas. Some little distance down Threadneedle Street, upon the left-hand side, there is, as you may have remarked, a small angle in the wall. Here it is that this creature takes his daily seat, cross-legged with his tiny stock of matches on his lap, and as he is a piteous spectacle a small rain of charity descends into the greasy leather cap which lies upon the pavement beside him. I have watched the fellow more than once before ever I thought of making his professional acquaintance, and I have been surprised at the harvest which he has reaped in a short time. His appearance, you see, is so remarkable that no one can pass him without observing him. A shock of orange hair, a pale face disfigured by a horrible scar, which, by its contraction, has turned up the outer edge of his upper lip, a bulldog chin, and a pair of very penetrating dark eyes, which present a singular contrast to the color of his hair, all mark him out from amid the common crowd of mendicants and so, too, does his wit, for he is ever ready with a reply to any piece of chaff which may be thrown at him by the passers-by. This is the man whom we now learn to have been the lodger at the opium den, and to have been the last man to see the gentleman of whom we are in quest.”
< 11 >
“But a cripple!” said I. “What could he have done single-handed against a man in the prime of life?”
“He is a cripple in the sense that he walks with a limp; but in other respects he appears to be a powerful and well-nurtured man. Surely your medical experience would tell you, Watson, that weakness in one limb is often compensated for by exceptional strength in the others.”
“Pray continue your narrative.”
“Mrs. St. Clair had fainted at the sight of the blood upon the window, and she was escorted home in a cab by the police, as her presence could be of no help to them in their investigations. Inspector Barton, who had charge of the case, made a very careful examination of the premises, but without finding anything which threw any light upon the matter. One mistake had been made in not arresting Boone instantly, as he was allowed some few minutes during which he might have communicated with his friend the Lascar, but this fault was soon remedied, and he was seized and searched, without anything being found which could incriminate him. There were, it is true, some blood-stains upon his right shirt-sleeve, but he pointed to his ring-finger, which had been cut near the nail, and explained that the bleeding came from there, adding that he had been to the window not long before, and that the stains which had been observed there came doubtless from the same source. He denied strenuously having ever seen Mr. Neville St. Clair and swore that the presence of the clothes in his room was as much a mystery to him as to the police. As to Mrs. St. Clair’s assertion that she had actually seen her husband at the window, he declared that she must have been either mad or dreaming. He was removed, loudly protesting, to the police-station, while the inspector remained upon the premises in the hope that the ebbing tide might afford some fresh clew.
“And it did, though they hardly found upon the mud-bank what they had feared to find. It was Neville St. Clair’s coat, and not Neville St. Clair, which lay uncovered as the tide receded. And what do you think they found in the pockets?”
< 12 >
“I cannot imagine.”
“No, I don’t think you would guess. Every pocket stuffed with pennies and half-pennies — 421 pennies and 270 half-pennies. It was no wonder that it had not been swept away by the tide. But a human body is a different matter. There is a fierce eddy between the wharf and the house. It seemed likely enough that the weighted coat had remained when the stripped body had been sucked away into the river.”
“But I understand that all the other clothes were found in the room. Would the body be dressed in a coat alone?”
“No, sir, but the facts might be met speciously enough. Suppose that this man Boone had thrust Neville St. Clair through the window, there is no human eye which could have seen the deed. What would he do then? It would of course instantly strike him that he must get rid of the tell-tale garments. He would seize the coat, then, and be in the act of throwing it out, when it would occur to him that it would swim and not sink. He has little time, for he has heard the scuffle downstairs when the wife tried to force her way up, and perhaps he has already heard from his Lascar confederate that the police are hurrying up the street. There is not an instant to be lost. He rushes to some secret hoard, where he has accumulated the fruits of his beggary, and he stuffs all the coins upon which he can lay his hands into the pockets to make sure of the coat’s sinking. He throws it out, and would have done the same with the other garments had not he heard the rush of steps below, and only just had time to close the window when the police appeared.”
“It certainly sounds feasible.”
“Well, we will take it as a working hypothesis for want of a better. Boone, as I have told you, was arrested and taken to the station, but it could not be shown that there had ever before been anything against him. He had for years been known as a professional beggar, but his life appeared to have been a very quiet and innocent one. There the matter stands at present, and the questions which have to be solved — what Neville St. Clair was doing in the opium den, what happened to him when there, where is he now, and what Hugh Boone had to do with his disappearance — are all as far from a solution as ever. I confess that I cannot recall any case within my experience which looked at the first glance so simple and yet which presented such difficulties.”
< 13 >
While Sherlock Holmes had been detailing this singular series of events, we had been whirling through the outskirts of the great town until the last straggling houses had been left behind, and we rattled along with a country hedge upon either side of us. Just as he finished, however, we drove through two scattered villages, where a few lights still glimmered in the windows.
“We are on the outskirts of Lee,” said my companion. “We have touched on three English counties in our short drive, starting in Middlesex, passing over an angle of Surrey, and ending in Kent. See that light among the trees? That is The Cedars, and beside that lamp sits a woman whose anxious ears have already, I have little doubt, caught the clink of our horse’s feet.”
“But why are you not conducting the case from Baker Street?” I asked.
“Because there are many inquiries which must be made out here. Mrs. St. Clair has most kindly put two rooms at my disposal, and you may rest assured that she will have nothing but a welcome for my friend and colleague. I hate to meet her, Watson, when I have no news of her husband. Here we are. Whoa, there, whoa!”
We had pulled up in front of a large villa which stood within its own grounds. A stable-boy had run out to the horse’s head, and springing down, I followed Holmes up the small, winding gravel-drive which led to the house. As we approached, the door flew open, and a little blonde woman stood in the opening, clad in some sort of light mousseline de soie, with a touch of fluffy pink chiffon at her neck and wrists. She stood with her figure outlined against the flood of light, one hand upon the door, one half-raised in her eagerness, her body slightly bent, her head and face protruded, with eager eyes and parted lips, a standing question.
“Well?” she cried, “well?” And then, seeing that there were two of us, she gave a cry of hope which sank into a groan as she saw that my companion shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
< 14 >
“No good news?”
“Thank God for that. But come in. You must be weary, for you have had a long day.”
“This is my friend, Dr. Watson. He has been of most vital use to me in several of my cases, and a lucky chance has made it possible for me to bring him out and associate him with this investigation.”
“I am delighted to see you,” said she, pressing my hand warmly. “You will, I am sure, forgive anything that may be wanting in our arrangements, when you consider the blow which has come so suddenly upon us.”
“My dear madam,” said I, “I am an old campaigner, and if I were not I can very well see that no apology is needed. If I can be of any assistance, either to you or to my friend here, I shall be indeed happy.”
“Now, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said the lady as we entered a well-lit dining-room, upon the table of which a cold supper had been laid out, “I should very much like to ask you one or two plain questions, to which I beg that you will give a plain answer.”
“Do not trouble about my feelings. I am not hysterical, nor given to fainting. I simply wish to hear your real, real opinion.”
“Upon what point?”
“In your heart of hearts, do you think that Neville is alive?”
Sherlock Holmes seemed to be embarrassed by the question. “Frankly, now!” she repeated, standing upon the rug and looking keenly down at him as he leaned back in a basket-chair.
“Frankly, then, madam, I do not.”
< 15 >
“You think that he is dead?”
“I don’t say that. Perhaps.”
“And on what day did he meet his death?”
“Then perhaps, Mr. Holmes, you will be good enough to explain how it is that I have received a letter from him to-day.”
Sherlock Holmes sprang out of his chair as if he had been galvanized.
“What!” he roared.
“Yes, to-day.” She stood smiling, holding up a little slip of paper in the air.
“May I see it?”
He snatched it from her in his eagerness, and smoothing it out upon the table he drew over the lamp and examined it intently. I had left my chair and was gazing at it over his shoulder. The envelope was a very coarse one and was stamped with the Gravesend postmark and with the date of that very day, or rather of the day before, for it was considerably after midnight.
“Coarse writing,” murmured Holmes. “Surely this is not your husband’s writing, madam.”
“No, but the enclosure is.”
“I perceive also that whoever addressed the envelope had to go and inquire as to the address.”
“How can you tell that?”
“The name, you see, is in perfectly black ink, which has dried itself. The rest is of the grayish color, which shows that blotting-paper has been used. If it had been written straight off, and then blotted, none would be of a deep black shade. This man has written the name, and there has then been a pause before he wrote the address, which can only mean that he was not familiar with it. It is, of course, a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles. Let us now see the letter. Ha! there has been an enclosure here!”
< 16 >
“Yes, there was a ring. His signet-ring.”
“And you are sure that this is your husband’s hand?”
“One of his hands.”
“His hand when he wrote hurriedly. It is very unlike his usual writing, and yet I know it well.”
“‘Dearest do not be frightened. All will come well. There is a huge error which it may take some little time to rectify. Wait in patience. — NEVILLE.’ Written in pencil upon the fly-leaf of a book, octavo size, no water-mark. Hum! Posted to-day in Gravesend by a man with a dirty thumb. Ha! And the flap has been gummed, if I am not very much in error, by a person who had been chewing tobacco. And you have no doubt that it is your husband’s hand, madam?”
“None. Neville wrote those words.”
“And they were posted to-day at Gravesend. Well, Mrs. St. Clair, the clouds lighten, though I should not venture to say that the danger is over.”
“But he must be alive, Mr. Holmes.”
“Unless this is a clever forgery to put us on the wrong scent. The ring, after all, proves nothing. It may have been taken from him. ‘
“No, no; it is, it is his very own writing!”
“Very well. It may, however, have been written on Monday and only posted to-day.”
“That is possible.”
“If so, much may have happened between.”
“Oh, you must not discourage me, Mr. Holmes. I know that all is well with him. There is so keen a sympathy between us that I should know if evil came upon him. On the very day that I saw him last he cut himself in the bedroom, and yet I in the dining-room rushed upstairs instantly with the utmost certainty that something had happened. Do you think that I would respond to such a trifle and yet be ignorant of his death?”
< 17 >
“I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner. And in this letter you certainly have a very strong piece of evidence to corroborate your view. But if your husband is alive and able to write letters, why should he remain away from you?”
“I cannot imagine. It is unthinkable.”
“And on Monday he made no remarks before leaving you?”
“And you were surprised to see him in Swandam Lane?”
“Very much so.”
“Was the window open?”
“Then he might have called to you?”
“He only, as I understand, gave an inarticulate cry?”
“A call for help, you thought?”
“Yes. He waved his hands.”
“But it might have been a cry of surprise. Astonishment at the unexpected sight of you might cause him to throw up his hands?”
“It is possible.”
“And you thought he was pulled back?”
“He disappeared so suddenly.”
“He might have leaped back. You did not see anyone else in the room?”
“No, but this horrible man confessed to having been there, and the Lascar was at the foot of the stairs.”
“Quite so. Your husband, as far as you could see, had his ordinary clothes on?”
“But without his collar or tie. I distinctly saw his bare throat.”
< 18 >
“Had he ever spoken of Swandam Lane?”
“Had he ever showed any signs of having taken opium?”
“Thank you, Mrs. St. Clair. Those are the principal points about which I wished to be absolutely clear. We shall now have a little supper and then retire, for we may have a very busy day to-morrow.”
A large and comfortable double-bedded room had been placed at our disposal, and I was quickly between the sheets, for I was weary after my night of adventure. Sherlock Holmes was a man, however, who, when he had an unsolved problem upon his mind, would go for days, and even for a week, without rest, turning it over, rearranging his facts, looking at it from every point of view until he had either fathomed it or convinced himself that his data were insufficient. It was soon evident to me that he was now preparing for an all-night sitting. He took off his coat and waistcoat, put on a large blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about the room collecting pillows from his bed and cushions from the sofa and armchairs. With these he constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon which he perched himself cross-legged, with an ounce of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid out in front of him. In the dim light of the lamp I saw him sitting there, an old briar pipe between his lips, his eyes fixed vacantly upon the corner of the ceiling, the blue smoke curling up from him, silent, motionless, with the light shining upon his strong-set aquiline features. So he sat as I dropped off to sleep, and so he sat when a sudden ejaculation caused me to wake up, and I found the summer sun shining into the apartment. The pipe was still between his lips, the smoke still curled upward, and the room was full of a dense tobacco haze, but nothing remained of the heap of shag which I had seen upon the previous night.
“Awake, Watson?” he asked.
< 19 >
“Game for a morning drive?”
“Then dress. No one is stirring yet, but I know where the stable-boy sleeps, and we shall soon have the trap out.” He chuckled to himself as he spoke, his eyes twinkled, and he seemed a different man to the sombre thinker of the previous night.
As I dressed I glanced at my watch. It was no wonder that no one was stirring. It was twenty-five minutes past four. I had hardly finished when Holmes returned with the news that the boy was putting in the horse.
“I want to test a little theory of mine,” said he, pulling on his boots. “I think, Watson, that you are now standing in the presence of one of the most absolute fools in Europe. I deserve to be kicked from here to Charing Cross. But I think I have the key of the affair now.”
“And where is it?” I asked, smiling.
“In the bathroom,” he answered. “Oh, yes, I am not joking,” he continued, seeing my look of incredulity. “I have just been there, and I have taken it out, and I have got it in this Gladstone bag. Come on, my boy, and we shall see whether it will not fit the lock.”
We made our way downstairs as quietly as possible, and out into the bright morning sunshine. In the road stood our horse and trap, with the half-clad stable-boy waiting at the head. We both sprang in, and away we dashed down the London Road. A few country carts were stirring, bearing in vegetables to the metropolis, but the lines of villas on either side were as silent and lifeless as some city in a dream.
“It has been in some points a singular case,” said Holmes, flicking the horse on into a gallop. “I confess that I have been as blind as a mole, but it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all.”
< 20 >
In town the earliest risers were just beginning to look sleepily from their windows as we drove through the streets of the Surrey side. Passing down the Waterloo Bridge Road we crossed over the river, and dashing up Wellington Street wheeled sharply to the right and found ourselves in Bow Street. Sherlock Holmes was well known to the force, and the two constables at the door saluted him. One of them held the horse’s head while the other led us in.
“Who is on duty?” asked Holmes.
“Inspector Bradstreet, sir.”
“Ah, Bradstreet, how are you?” A tall, stout official had come down the stone-flagged passage, in a peaked cap and frogged jacket. “I wish to have a quiet word with you, Bradstreet.” “Certainly, Mr. Holmes. Step into my room here.” It was a small, office-like room, with a huge ledger upon the table, and a telephone projecting from the wall. The inspector sat down at his desk.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Holmes?”
“I called about that beggarman, Boone — the one who was charged with being concerned in the disappearance of Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee.”
“Yes. He was brought up and remanded for further inquiries.”
“So I heard. You have him here?”
“In the cells.”
“Is he quiet?”
“Oh, he gives no trouble. But he is a dirty scoundrel.”
“Yes, it is all we can do to make him wash his hands, and his face is as black as a tinker’s. Well, when once his case has been settled, he will have a regular prison bath; and I think, if you saw him, you would agree with me that he needed it.”
“I should like to see him very much.”
< 21 >
“Would you? That is easily done. Come this way. You can leave your bag.”
“No, I think that I’ll take it.”
“Very good. Come this way, if you please.” He led us down a passage, opened a barred door, passed down a winding stair, and brought us to a whitewashed corridor with a line of doors on each side.
“The third on the right is his,” said the inspector. “Here it is!” He quietly shot back a panel in the upper part of the door and glanced through.
“He is asleep,” said he. “You can see him very well.”
We both put our eyes to the grating. The prisoner lay with his face towards us, in a very deep sleep, breathing slowly and heavily. He was a middle-sized man, coarsely clad as became his calling, with a colored shirt protruding through the rent in his tattered coat. He was, as the inspector had said, extremely dirty, but the grime which covered his face could not conceal its repulsive ugliness. A broad wheal from an old scar ran right across it from eye to chin, and by its contraction had turned up one side of the upper lip, so that three teeth were exposed in a perpetual snarl. A shock of very bright red hair grew low over his eyes and forehead.
“He’s a beauty, isn’t he?” said the inspector.
“He certainly needs a wash,” remarked Holmes. “I had an idea that he might, and I took the liberty of bringing the tools with me.” He opened the Gladstone bag as he spoke, and took out, to my astonishment, a very large bath-sponge.
“He! he! You are a funny one,” chuckled the inspector.
“Now, if you will have the great goodness to open that door very quietly, we will soon make him cut a much more respectable figure.”
< 22 >
“Well, I don’t know why not,” said the inspector. “He doesn’t look a credit to the Bow Street cells, does he?” He slipped his key into the lock, and we all very quietly entered the cell. The sleeper half turned, and then settled down once more into a deep slumber. Holmes stooped to the waterjug, moistened his sponge, and then rubbed it twice vigorously across and down the prisoner’s face.
“Let me introduce you,” he shouted, “to Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee, in the county of Kent.”
Never in my life have I seen such a sight. The man’s face peeled off under the sponge like the bark from a tree. Gone was the coarse brown tint! Gone, too, was the horrid scar which had seamed it across, and the twisted lip which had given the repulsive sneer to the face! A twitch brought away the tangled red hair, and there, sitting up in his bed, was a pale, sad-faced, refined-looking man, black-haired and smooth-skinned, rubbing his eyes and staring about him with sleepy bewilderment. Then suddenly realizing the exposure, he broke into a scream and threw himself down with his face to the pillow.
“Great heavens!” cried the inspector, “it is, indeed, the missing man. I know him from the photograph.”
The prisoner turned with the reckless air of a man who abandons himself to his destiny. “Be it so,” said he. “And pray what am I charged with?”
“With making away with Mr. Neville St.-Oh, come, you can’t be charged with that unless they make a case of attempted suicide of it,” said the inspector with a grin. “Well, I have been twenty-seven years in the force, but this really takes the cake.”
“If I am Mr. Neville St. Clair, then it is obvious that no crime has been committed, and that, therefore, I am illegally detained.”
“No crime, but a very great error has been committed,” said Holmes. “You would have done better to have trusted you wife.”
< 23 >
“It was not the wife; it was the children,” groaned the prisoner. “God help me, I would not have them ashamed of their father. My God! What an exposure! What can I do?”
Sherlock Holmes sat down beside him on the couch and patted him kindly on the shoulder.
“If you leave it to a court of law to clear the matter up,” said he, “of course you can hardly avoid publicity. On the other hand, if you convince the police authorities that there is no possible case against you, I do not know that there is any reason that the details should find their way into the papers. Inspector Bradstreet would, I am sure, make notes upon anything which you might tell us and submit it to the proper authorities. The case would then never go into court at all.”
“God bless you!” cried the prisoner passionately. “I would have endured imprisonment, ay, even execution, rather than have left my miserable secret as a family blot to my children.
“You are the first who have ever heard my story. My father was a school-master in Chesterfield, where I received an excellent education. I travelled in my youth, took to the stage, and finally became a reporter on an evening paper in London. One day my editor wished to have a series of articles upon begging in the metropolis, and I volunteered to supply them. There was the point from which all my adventures started. It was only by trying begging as an amateur that I could get the facts upon which to base my articles. When an actor I had, of course, learned all the secrets of making up, and had been famous in the greenroom for my skill. I took advantage now of my attainments. I painted my face, and to make myself as pitiable as possible I made a good scar and fixed one side of my lip in a twist by the aid of a small slip of flesh-colored plaster. Then with a red head of hair, and an appropriate dress, I took my station in the business part of the city, ostensibly as a match-seller but really as a beggar. For seven hours I plied my trade, and when I returned home in the evening I found to my surprise that I had received no less than 26s. 4d.
< 24 >
“I wrote my articles and thought little more of the matter until, some time later, I backed a bill for a friend and had a writ served upon me for 25 pounds. I was at my wit’s end where to get the money, but a sudden idea came to me. I begged a fortnight’s grace from the creditor, asked for a holiday from my employers, and spent the time in begging in the City under my disguise. In ten days I had the money and had paid the debt.
“Well, you can imagine how hard it was to settle down to arduous work at 2 pounds a week when I knew that I could earn as much in a day by smearing my face with a little paint, laying my cap on the ground, and sitting still. It was a long fight between my pride and the money, but the dollars won at last, and I threw up reporting and sat day after day in the corner which I had first chosen, inspiring pity by my ghastly face and filling my pockets with coppers. Only one man knew my secret. He was the keeper of a low den in which I used to lodge in Swandam Lane, where I could every morning emerge as a squalid beggar and in the evenings transform myself into a well-dressed man about town. This fellow, a Lascar, was well paid by me for his rooms, so that I knew that my secret was safe in his possession.
“Well, very soon I found that I was saving considerable sums of money. I do not mean that any beggar in the streets of London could earn 700 pounds a year — which is less than my average takings — but I had exceptional advantages in my power of making up, and also in a facility of repartee, which improved by practice and made me quite a recognized character in the City. All day a stream of pennies, varied by silver, poured in upon me, and it was a very bad day in which I failed to take 2 pounds.
“As I grew richer I grew more ambitious, took a house in the country, and eventually married, without anyone having a suspicion as to my real occupation. My dear wife knew that I had business in the City. She little knew what.
< 25 >
“Last Monday I had finished for the day and was dressing in my room above the opium den when I looked out of my window and saw, to my horror and astonishment, that my wife was standing in the street, with her eyes fixed full upon me. I gave a cry of surprise, threw up my arms to cover my face, and, rushing to my confidant, the Lascar, entreated him to prevent anyone from coming up to me. I heard her voice downstairs, but I knew that she could not ascend. Swiftly I threw off my clothes, pulled on those of a beggar, and put on my pigments and wig. Even a wife’s eyes could not pierce so complete a disguise. But then it occurred to me that there might be a search in the room, and that the clothes might betray me. I threw open the window, reopening by my violence a small cut which I had inflicted upon myself in the bedroom that morning. Then I seized my coat, which was weighted by the coppers which I had just transferred to it from the leather bag in which I carried my takings. I hurled it out of the window, and it disappeared into the Thames. The other clothes would have followed, but at that moment there was a rush of constables up the stair, and a few minutes after I found, rather, I confess, to my relief, that instead of being identified as Mr. Neville St. Clair, I was arrested as his murderer.
“I do not know that there is anything else for me to explain. I was determined to preserve my disguise as long as possible, and hence my preference for a dirty face. Knowing that my wife would be terribly anxious, I slipped off my ring and confided it to the Lascar at a moment when no constable was watching me, together with a hurried scrawl, telling her that she had no cause to fear.”
“That note only reached her yesterday,” said Holmes.
“Good God! What a week she must have spent!”
“The police have watched this Lascar,” said Inspector Bradstreet, “and I can quite understand that he might find it difficult to post a letter unobserved. Probably he handed it to some sailor customer of his, who forgot all about it for some days.”
“That was it,” said Holmes, nodding approvingly; “I have no doubt of it. But have you never been prosecuted for begging?”
“Many times; but what was a fine to me?”
“It must stop here, however,” said Bradstreet. “If the police are to hush this thing up, there must be no more of Hugh Boone.”
“I have sworn it by the most solemn oaths which a man can take.”
“In that case I think that it is probable that no further steps may be taken. But if you are found again, then all must come out. I am sure, Mr. Holmes, that we are very moch indebted to you for having cleared the matter up. I wish I knew how you reach your results.”
“I reached this one,” said my friend, “by sitting upon five pillows and consuming an ounce of shag. I think, Watson, that if we drive to Baker Street we shall just be in time for breakfast.”
It seems so small to simply say that books are important. They are, but then thay are so much more than that. They are the very lifeblood of civilization, the safe-guarder of knowledge, the Chuck Norris ultimate work out gym for the mind. But sadly not everybody recognises this. There is a depressing trend in our society of increasing anti-intellectualism. As a result people who read books are seen as the minority, the odd ones out. We here at CompareBookPrices.org love books like no other and we would like to take a moment to try and convey love of literature to you, our lovely humble readers.
1. Reading Crafted Western Civilization as We Know it.
The creation of the first widely used printing press is credited to Johannes Gutenburg, and is widely considered to be the single most important event in the history of the modern age. It sparked the Renaissance, the scientific revolution and began what is known as The Age of Enlightenment.
Everyone takes the ability to read for granted these days, but before the invention of mass communication in 1450, reading was solely the realm of the rich nobility and members of the clergy. Gutenberg’s machine finally delivered literature to the regular people in a reliable, efficient and dependable way, without priests or Nobel’s self aggrandising interfering.
What’s more, the Gutenberg press allowed scientist to be able to easily and quickly share their discoveries with the rest of the scholarly world. What’s more, within 50 years the entire classical catalogue was reprinted and shared throughout the entirety of Europe. With the widespread introduction of knowledge came widespread discussion of knowledge.
2. Books Make You Smarter
It seems silly to have to point this out but the simple fact is that reading books makes you smarter. Not only in that you are constantly exposing yourself to new ideas and knowledge, but the simple act of reading a book actually actively increases your ability to concentrate and focus, your ability to remember things, your vocabulary,
There are also studies that show that simple things such as crossword puzzles help stimulate the mind and has the potential to ward of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
3. Early Reading Increases Your Children’s Potential in Life.
There is an enormous amount of proof that exposing your child to reading early on in their life greatly increases their ability to do well in school and then again later on in life.
It just makes common sense, if they spend less time learning the basics in school, they have more time to learn and absorb more complex concepts during their school time.
4. Is a fantastic Hobby.
No one who reads is never bored. All you need is a good book and a nice spot to sit, and you are set. Few hobbies have the potential to be able transport you to any other place on earth, or other periods in time.
It also gives you plenty of insights into other cultures and ethnicities. it expands your horizons like nothing else, and as a wonderful side result, is known to reduce stress levels up to 68%.
What’s more, with the increasing popularity of Kindles and eReaders, it is now so ridiculously easy to carry around hundreds of book in one single pocket. Even the most voracious of readers is set for a good few months with a hundred books in their pocket.
5. Readers Make Leaders.
There is a quote from Harry Truman that rings as true today as it did when he said it.
“Not every reader is a leader, but every leader must be a reader.”
The 2 most influential men of the last generation are both huge readers.Steve jobs was said to have had in inexhaustible thirst for knowledge, and Bill Gates has such a love of book that he has a huge personal library right in his house.
It is also worth noting that Nobel Laureate Winston Churchill won his Nobel Prize in literature.
Reading increases intelligence and leads directly to better potential for insight and inspiration, so why wouldn’t you read.
We all want our children to grow up and be successful, happy, fulfilled adults. Intelligence is probably towards the top of most parents list’s of skills and traits that they wish to cultivate in their kids. We spend thousands of dollars on schools, books, and supplies trying to give our children the best possible start in life, but quite often, the best single thing that you can do is to instil a love of reading in your children.
1.Children that are exposed to reading at an early age have a higher success rate in school.
Study  after study  has shown have shown that kids that are exposed to reading early on in their life are more likely to do well in all facets of education.
Reading is one of the most valuable skills developed during early childhood.
It really is just pure common sense. If your child has to make a larger effort to recognise or understand words, then they will have to work so much harder to grasp the concepts that the teacher is trying to teach them.
2. It improves communication skills.
When you spend time reading with your toddlers, they are much more prone to expressing themselves around others in socially acceptable ways. Many parents know the dread of the first time they introduce their children to other kids around their age. When toddlers see and understand the social interactions between characters in their books, they gain important communication skills.
3. Improves Logical Thinking and Speech Skills
When you read to your child, they learns important language and pronunciations skills,by listening to you speak. This is also the beginning of their association of words with sounds.
As soon as you child begins to associate the concepts that are happening in the book to what happens in their own life, they start to for important conceptual and abstract thinking skills.
4. The Understanding that reading is good.
Early reading to your kids will see books as a pleasure, not a chore, and they will be much more inclined to indulge in reading as a hobby as they grow older.
5.Your Children form a stronger bond with you!
Just personally, some of my fondest memories are of me and my kids all sitting together on the couch and just reading a book together. Then afterwards sitting and chatting about what happened in the book and how it relates to our lives.
Even after they all got older and we became to big to cuddle up together on one seat, often times on the weekends or holidays we all still sit together in a room and read books together. It warms my heart that a few years from now, my kids will be reading to their own kids and that is something that I directly influenced.
One last piece of advice that was passed on to me by my first child’s teacher. Try not to stress and spend too much time worrying about WHAT your child is reading, simply encourage the fact that that they are.