The House Of Silk

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Authors: Anthony Horowitz
Tags: Mystery
broken into our home and stolen Mama’s necklace, our most cherished memory of that dear, departed soul. It is all part of the same evil business. How do we not know that this stranger has not come here on her account rather than to pursue some vendetta against my brother? She was with me in the sitting room when he first appeared. I saw him from the window. Perhaps he is an old acquaintance who has followed her here. Perhaps he is more. But this is only the beginning of it, Mr Holmes. So long as this marriage continues, we will none of us be safe.’
    ‘Your brother seems perfectly content,’ Holmes responded, with a degree of indifference. ‘But setting that aside, what would you have me do? A man can choose whom he marries without the blessing of his mother. Or, indeed, of his sister.’
    ‘You can investigate her.’
    ‘It is none of my business, Miss Carstairs.’
    Eliza Carstairs gazed at him with contempt. ‘I have read of your exploits, Mr Holmes,’ she replied. ‘And I have always considered them to be exaggerated. You yourself, for all your cleverness, have always struck me as someone with no understanding of the human heart. Now I know that to be true.’ And with that, she wheeled round and went back into the house.
    Holmes watched her until the door had closed. ‘Most singular,’ he remarked. ‘This case becomes increasingly curious and complex.’
    ‘I have never heard a woman speak with such fury,’ I observed.
    ‘Indeed, Watson. But there is one thing I would particularly like to know, for I am beginning to see great danger in this situation.’ He glanced at the fountain, at the stone figures and the frozen circle of water. ‘I wonder if Mrs Catherine Carstairs is able to swim?’

FOUR
The Unofficial Police Force

    Holmes slept in late the next morning and I was sitting on my own, reading
The Martyrdom of Man
, by Winwood Reade, a book that he had recommended to me on more than one occasion but which, I confess, I had found heavy going. I could see, however, why the author had appealed to my friend with his hatred of ‘idleness and stupidity’, his reverence for ‘the divine intellect’, his suggestion that ‘It is the nature of man to reason from himself outwards.’ Holmes could have written much of it himself, and although I was glad to turn the last page and set it aside, I felt it had at least provided me with some insight into the detective’s mind. The morning post had brought a letter from Mary. All was well in Camberwell; Richard Forrester was not so ill that he could not take delight in seeing his old governess again, and she was evidently enjoying the companionship of the boy’s mother who was treating her, quite correctly, as an equal rather than a former employee.
    I had picked up my pen to reply to her when there was a loud ring at the front door, followed by the patter of many feet on the stairs. It was a sound that I remembered well, so I was fully prepared when about half a dozen street Arabs burst into the room and formed themselves into something resembling an orderly line, with the tallest and oldest of them shouting them into shape.
    ‘Wiggins!’ I exclaimed, for I remembered his name. ‘I had not expected to see you again.’
    ‘Mr ’olmes sent us a message, sir, summoning us on a matter of the greatest hurgency,’ Wiggins replied. ‘And when Mr ’olmes calls, we come, so ’ere we are!’
    Sherlock had once named them the Baker Street division of the detective police force. At other times he referred to them as the Irregulars. A scruffier, more ragged bunch would be hard to imagine, boys between the ages of eight and fifteen, held together by dirt and grime, their clothes so cut about and stitched back together that it would be impossible to say to how many other children they must have at some time belonged. Wiggins himself was wearing an adult jacket that had been cut in half, a strip removed from the middle and the top, and the bottom put together

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