The Yellow Face
Then Mr Grant Munro left, and Holmes and I discussed the case.
'I am afraid that this is a case of blackmail,' said Holmes.
'And who is the blackmailer?' I asked.
'Well, it must be that creature with the yellow face. Upon my word,
Watson, there is something very attractive about that yellow face at the
window, and I would not miss this case for worlds.'
'Have you got a theory?' I asked.
'Yes,' Holmes replied, 'I think her first husband is in the cottage. This is
what I think happened: This woman was married in America. Her husband
got a terrible disease. That is why he has that horrible yellow face. She ran
away from him at last, and came back to England, where she changed her
name and started a new life. After three years of marriage, she feels safe
again, but her first husband, or some unscrupulous woman attached to him,
discovers where she lives. They write to her and tell her to send them a
hundred pounds, or they will tell her new husband everything. When her
husband tells her that someone is living in the cottage, she knows that they
are her blackmailers. In the middle of the night, while her husband is
sleeping, she decides to go to the cottage. That night she is not able to
convince her blackmailers to leave her alone, so she returns the next day.
That was when her husband saw her coming out of the house. She then
promises her husband that she will not return, but she wants to get rid of
her blackmailers. She decides to go again, and this time she brings a
photograph, which they probably asked her for. Fortunately for her, her maid
warns her that her husband is coming, and she and her blackmailers leave
the house in time.
'Now we can do nothing except wait for Mr Munro to call us, and then we
will see if my theory is correct.'
We did not have to wait long. After tea we received a message from Mr
Munro saying, 'There are people in the house.'
That night Holmes and I took a train to Norbury. Mr Munro was waiting
for us at the station, and he took us to the cottage.
When we arrived there, Holmes asked Mr Munro if he was sure he wanted
to enter the cottage. Mr Munro said he was sure and we went to the door of
the cottage. As we approached the door, a woman suddenly appeared. It was
'For God's sake, don't Jack!' she cried. 'Trust me!'
'I have trusted you too long, Effie!' he cried sternly. 'Let go of me! My
friends and I are going to solve this mystery.'
We rushed up the stairs to the lighted room. In one corner there was a
desk, and at that desk there appeared to be a little girl. Her face was turned
away from us when we entered the room, but we could see she was wearing
a red dress and long white gloves. She turned around to us, and gave a cry of
surprise and horror. Her face was the strangest yellow colour and it had
absolutely no expression.
A moment later the mystery was explained. Holmes, with a laugh, put his
hand behind the ear of the little girl, and pulled off the mask, and there was a
little coal-black girl.
She laughed, and I laughed too, but Grant Munro stood staring with his
hand holding his throat.
'My God!' he cried, 'what does this mean?'
'I will tell you everything,' cried his wife with a proud face. 'You have
forced me, and now we must both accept the situation. My husband died at
Atlanta. My child survived.'
'Your child!' cried Grant Munro.
She pulled out a locket, and inside the locket was the picture of a very
handsome and intelligent man, but a man who was obviously of African
'This is John Hebron, of Atlanta,' said Mrs Munro, 'and he was a very
noble man. I cut myself off from my race to marry him, but I never
regretted it for a moment. Unfortunately, our only child took after his
people rather than mine. She is very dark, but she is my dear little girl.'
When the little girl heard these words, she ran to her mother.
'I left her in America with a trusted servant,' Mrs Munro continued,
'because she was not very healthy, but I never considered abandoning her.
When I met you by chance and learned to love you, I was afraid to tell you
about my child. I was afraid to lose you. I kept her existence a secret from
you for three years, but finally I had to see my little girl. I sent the servant a
hundred pounds, and told her to come to this cottage. I took every possible
precaution so that there would not be gossip about a little black girl.
That is why she wore that yellow mask.
'You told me about her arrival in the cottage, and that night I had to see her,
and that was the beginning of my troubles. And now, tonight, you know
everything. What are you going to do about me and my child?'
Mr Grant Munro did not say anything for two minutes, and his answer was
one of which I love to think. He lifted the little child, kissed her, and, with
the little girl in his arms, he gave his other hand to his wife.
'We can talk it over more comfortably at home,' he said. 'I am not a very
good man, Effie, but I think that I am better than you thought.'
We all left the cottage together, and then Holmes and I returned to London.
We did not say another word about the case until late that night at Holmes'
house in Baker Street, just before Holmes went to bed.
'Watson,' he said, 'if you should ever think that I am becoming too
confident in my powers, or that I am not working hard enough on a
particular case, please whisper "Norbury" in my ear, and I will be infinitely
obliged to you.'