The Archbishop took off his mitre and laid it wearily on the whisker-stand.
"You are here in regard to the Prince of Wurttemberg."
The Archbishop started and crossed himself. Was the man a magician?
"Yes," he said, "much depends on getting him back. But I have only come to say this: my sister is desirous of seeing you. She is coming here. She has been extremely indiscreet and her fortune hangs upon the Prince. Get him back to Paris or I fear she will be ruined."
The Archbishop regained his mitre, uncrossed himself, wrapped his cloak about him, and crawled stealthily out on his hands and knees, purring like a cat.
The face of the Great Detective showed the most profound sympathy. It ran up and down in furrows. "So," he muttered, "the sister of the Archbishop, the Countess of Dashleigh!" Accustomed as he was to the life of the aristocracy, even the Great Detective felt that there was here intrigue of more than customary complexity.
There was a loud rapping at the door.
There entered the Countess of Dashleigh. She was all in furs.
She was the most beautiful woman in England. She strode imperiously into the room. She seized a chair imperiously and seated herself on it, imperial side up.
She took off her tiara of diamonds and put it on the tiara-holder beside her and uncoiled her boa of pearls and put it on the pearl-stand.
"You have come," said the Great Detective, "about the Prince of
"Wretched little pup!" said the Countess of Dashleigh in disgust.
So! A further complication! Far from being in love with the Prince, the Countess denounced the young Bourbon as a pup!
"You are interested in him, I believe."
"Interested!" said the Countess. "I should rather say so. Why,
I bred him!"
"You which?" gasped the Great Detective, his usually impassive features suffused with a carmine blush.
"I bred him," said the Countess, "and I've got 10,000 pounds upon his chances, so no wonder I want him back in Paris. Only listen," she said, "if they've got hold of the Prince and cut his tail or spoiled the markings of his stomach it would be far better to have him quietly put out of the way here."
The Great Detective reeled and leaned up against the side of the room. So! The cold-blooded admission of the beautiful woman for the moment took away his breath! Herself the mother of the young Bourbon, misallied with one of the greatest families of Europe, staking her fortune on a Royalist plot, and yet with so instinctive a knowledge of European politics as to know that any removal of the hereditary birth-marks of the Prince would forfeit for him the sympathy of the French populace.
The Countess resumed her tiara.
The secretary re-entered.
"I have three telegrams from Paris," he said, "they are completely baffling."
He handed over the first telegram.
"The Prince of Wurttemberg has a long, wet snout, broad ears, very long body, and short hind legs."
The Great Detective looked puzzled.
He read the second telegram.
"The Prince of Wurttemberg is easily recognised by his deep bark."
And then the third.
"The Prince of Wurttemberg can be recognised by a patch of white hair across the centre of his back."
The two men looked at one another. The mystery was maddening, impenetrable.
The Great Detective spoke.
"Give me my domino," he said. "These clues must be followed up," then pausing, while his quick brain analysed and summed up the evidence before him—"a young man," he muttered, "evidently young since described as a 'pup,' with a long, wet snout (ha! addicted obviously to drinking), a streak of white hair across his back (a first sign of the results of his abandoned life)—yes, yes," he continued, "with this clue I shall find him easily."
The Great Detective rose.
He wrapped himself in a long black cloak with white whiskers and blue spectacles attached.
Completely disguised, he issued forth.
He began the search.
For four days he visited every corner of London.
He entered every saloon in the city. In each of them he drank a glass of rum. In some of them he assumed the disguise of a sailor. In others he entered as a solider. Into others he penetrated as a clergyman. His disguise was perfect. Nobody paid any attention to him as long as he had the price of a drink.
The search proved fruitless.
Two young men were arrested under suspicion of being the Prince, only to be released.
The identification was incomplete in each case.
One had a long wet snout but no hair on his back.
The other had hair on his back but couldn't bark.
Neither of them was the young Bourbon.
The Great Detective continued his search.
He stopped at nothing.
Secretly, after nightfall, he visited the home of the Prime Minister. He examined it from top to bottom. He measured all the doors and windows. He took up the flooring. He inspected the plumbing. He examined the furniture. He found nothing.
With equal secrecy he penetrated into the palace of the Archbishop. He examined it from top to bottom. Disguised as a choir-boy he took part in the offices of the church. He found nothing.
Still undismayed, the Great Detective made his way into the home of the Countess of Dashleigh. Disguised as a housemaid, he entered the service of the Countess.
Then at last a clue came which gave him a solution of the mystery.
On the wall of the Countess's boudoir was a large framed engraving.
It was a portrait.
Under it was a printed legend:
THE PRINCE OF WURTTEMBERG
The portrait was that of a Dachshund.
The long body, the broad ears, the unclipped tail, the short hind legs—all was there.
In a fraction of a second the lightning mind of the Great Detective had penetrated the whole mystery.
THE PRINCE WAS A DOG!!!!
Hastily throwing СКАЧАТЬ