One wretched November night, Inspector Stanley Hopkins comes to see Holmes at 221B Baker Street to tell him of a murder that defies solution. The dead man is Willoughby Smith, secretary to Professor Coram, an old invalid. The murder happened at Yoxley Old Place near Chatham, Kent. The most perplexing thing about the case to Hopkins is that it is apparently motiveless. Willoughby Smith seems to have nothing untoward in his background, and not an enemy in the world. He was the third secretary to the professor, the former ones not having worked out. The murder weapon was a sealing-wax knife belonging to the professor.
The maid found Smith, and the last words that he uttered as he lay dying were “The professor–it was she.” The professor, however, is a man.
This same maid told Hopkins while he was at Yoxley that she had heard Smith leave his room and walk down to the study. She had been hanging curtains and did not actually see him, only recognizing his brisk step. The professor was in bed at the time. A minute later, there was a hoarse scream from the study, and the maid, after hesitating for a moment, went there to find a murder scene. She later tells Holmes that Smith went out for a walk not long before the murder…
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