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´╗┐Title: The Adventure of the Dying Detective
Author: Doyle, Arthur Conan, 1859-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Adventure of the Dying Detective


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of Sherlock Holmes, was a long-suffering
woman.  Not only was her first-floor flat invaded at all hours by
throngs of singular and often undesirable characters but her remarkable
lodger showed an eccentricity and irregularity in his life which must
have sorely tried her patience. His incredible untidiness, his
addiction to music at strange hours, his occasional revolver practice
within doors, his weird and often malodorous scientific experiments,
and the atmosphere of violence and danger which hung around him made
him the very worst tenant in London.  On the other hand, his payments
were princely. I have no doubt that the house might have been purchased
at the price which Holmes paid for his rooms during the years that I
was with him.

The landlady stood in the deepest awe of him and never dared to
interfere with him, however outrageous his proceedings might seem.  She
was fond of him, too, for he had a remarkable gentleness and courtesy
in his dealings with women.  He disliked and distrusted the sex, but he
was always a chivalrous opponent. Knowing how genuine was her regard
for him, I listened earnestly to her story when she came to my rooms in
the second year of my married life and told me of the sad condition to
which my poor friend was reduced.

"He's dying, Dr. Watson," said she.  "For three days he has been
sinking, and I doubt if he will last the day.  He would not let me get
a doctor.  This morning when I saw his bones sticking out of his face
and his great bright eyes looking at me I could stand no more of it.
'With your leave or without it, Mr. Holmes, I am going for a doctor
this very hour,' said I.  'Let it be Watson, then,' said he.  I
wouldn't waste an hour in coming to him, sir, or you may not see him

I was horrified for I had heard nothing of his illness.  I need not say
that I rushed for my coat and my hat.  As we drove back I asked for the

"There is little I can tell you, sir.  He has been working at a case
down at Rotherhithe, in an alley near the river, and he has brought
this illness back with him.  He took to his bed on Wednesday afternoon
and has never moved since.  For these three days neither food nor drink
has passed his lips."

"Good God!  Why did you not call in a doctor?"

"He wouldn't have it, sir.  You know how masterful he is.  I didn't
dare to disobey him.  But he's not long for this world, as you'll see
for yourself the moment that you set eyes on him."

He was indeed a deplorable spectacle.  In the dim light of a foggy
November day the sick room was a gloomy spot, but it was that gaunt,
wasted face staring at me from the bed which sent a chill to my heart.
His eyes had the brightness of fever, there was a hectic flush upon
either cheek, and dark crusts clung to his lips; the thin hands upon
the coverlet twitched incessantly, his voice was croaking and
spasmodic.  He lay listlessly as I entered the room, but the sight of
me brought a gleam of recognition to his eyes.

"Well, Watson, we seem to have fallen upon evil days," said he in a
feeble voice, but with something of his old carelessness of manner.

"My dear fellow!" I cried, approaching him.

"Stand back!  Stand right back!" said he with the sharp imperiousness
which I had associated only with moments of crisis. "If you approach
me, Watson, I shall order you out of the house."

"But why?"

"Because it is my desire.  Is that not enough?"

Yes, Mrs. Hudson was right.  He was more masterful than ever.  It was
pitiful, however, to see his exhaustion.

"I only wished to help," I explained.

"Exactly!  You will help best by doing what you are told."

"Certainly, Holmes."

He relaxed the austerity of his manner.

"You are not angry?" he asked, gasping for breath.

Poor devil, how could I be angry when I saw him lying in such a plight
before me?

"It's for your own sake, Watson," he croaked.

"For MY sake?"

"I know what is the matter with me.  It is a coolie disease from
Sumatra--a thing that the Dutch know more about than we, though they
have made little of it up to date.  One thing only is certain.  It is
infallibly deadly, and it is horribly contagious."

He spoke now with a feverish energy, the long hands twitching and
jerking as he motioned me away.

"Contagious by touch, Watson--that's it, by touch.  Keep your distance
and all is well."

"Good heavens, Holmes!  Do you suppose that such a consideration weighs
with me of an instant?  It would not affect me in the case of a
stranger.  Do you imagine it would prevent me from doing my duty to so
old a friend?"

Again I advanced, but he repulsed me with a look of furious anger.

"If you will stand there I will talk.  If you do not you must leave the

I have so deep a respect for the extraordinary qualities of Holmes that
I have always deferred to his wishes, even when I least understood
them.  But now all my professional instincts were aroused.  Let him be
my master elsewhere, I at least was his in a sick room.

"Holmes," said I, "you are not yourself.  A sick man is but a child,
and so I will treat you.  Whether you like it or not, I will examine
your symptoms and treat you for them."

He looked at me with venomous eyes.

"If I am to have a doctor whether I will or not, let me at least have
someone in whom I have confidence," said he.

"Then you have none in me?"

"In your friendship, certainly.  But facts are facts, Watson, and,
after all, you are only a general practitioner with very limited
experience and mediocre qualifications.  It is painful to have to say
these things, but you leave me no choice."

I was bitterly hurt.

"Such a remark is unworthy of you, Holmes.  It shows me very clearly
the state of your own nerves.  But if you have no confidence in me I
would not intrude my services.  Let me bring Sir Jasper Meek or Penrose
Fisher, or any of the best men in London.  But someone you MUST have,
and that is final.  If you think that I am going to stand here and see
you die without either helping you myself or bringing anyone else to
help you, then you have mistaken your man."

"You mean well, Watson," said the sick man with something between a sob
and a groan.  "Shall I demonstrate your own ignorance? What do you
know, pray, of Tapanuli fever?  What do you know of the black Formosa

"I have never heard of either."

"There are many problems of disease, many strange pathological
possibilities, in the East, Watson."  He paused after each sentence to
collect his failing strength.  "I have learned so much during some
recent researches which have a medico-criminal aspect.  It was in the
course of them that I contracted this complaint.  You can do nothing."

"Possibly not.  But I happen to know that Dr. Ainstree, the greatest
living authority upon tropical disease, is now in London.  All
remonstrance is useless, Holmes, I am going this instant to fetch him."
I turned resolutely to the door.

Never have I had such a shock!  In an instant, with a tiger-spring, the
dying man had intercepted me.  I heard the sharp snap of a twisted key.
The next moment he had staggered back to his bed, exhausted and panting
after his one tremendous outflame of energy.

"You won't take the key from me by force, Watson, I've got you, my
friend.  Here you are, and here you will stay until I will otherwise.
But I'll humour you."  (All this in little gasps, with terrible
struggles for breath between.)  "You've only my own good at heart.  Of
course I know that very well.  You shall have your way, but give me
time to get my strength.  Not now, Watson, not now.  It's four o'clock.
At six you can go."

"This is insanity, Holmes."

"Only two hours, Watson.  I promise you will go at six.  Are you
content to wait?"

"I seem to have no choice."

"None in the world, Watson.  Thank you, I need no help in arranging the
clothes.  You will please keep your distance.  Now, Watson, there is
one other condition that I would make.  You will seek help, not from
the man you mention, but from the one that I choose."

"By all means."

"The first three sensible words that you have uttered since you entered
this room, Watson.  You will find some books over there. I am somewhat
exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into
a non-conductor?  At six, Watson, we resume our conversation."

But it was destined to be resumed long before that hour, and in
circumstances which gave me a shock hardly second to that caused by his
spring to the door.  I had stood for some minutes looking at the silent
figure in the bed.  His face was almost covered by the clothes and he
appeared to be asleep.  Then, unable to settle down to reading, I
walked slowly round the room, examining the pictures of celebrated
criminals with which every wall was adorned.  Finally, in my aimless
perambulation, I came to the mantelpiece.  A litter of pipes,
tobacco-pouches, syringes, penknives, revolver-cartridges, and other
debris was scattered over it.  In the midst of these was a small black
and white ivory box with a sliding lid.  It was a neat little thing,
and I had stretched out my hand to examine it more closely, when----

It was a dreadful cry that he gave--a yell which might have been heard
down the street.  My skin went cold and my hair bristled at that
horrible scream.  As I turned I caught a glimpse of a convulsed face
and frantic eyes.  I stood paralyzed, with the little box in my hand.

"Put it down!  Down, this instant, Watson--this instant, I say!" His
head sank back upon the pillow and he gave a deep sigh of relief as I
replaced the box upon the mantelpiece.  "I hate to have my things
touched, Watson.  You know that I hate it.  You fidget me beyond
endurance. You, a doctor--you are enough to drive a patient into an
asylum.  Sit down, man, and let me have my rest!"

The incident left a most unpleasant impression upon my mind.  The
violent and causeless excitement, followed by this brutality of speech,
so far removed from his usual suavity, showed me how deep was the
disorganization of his mind.  Of all ruins, that of a noble mind is the
most deplorable.  I sat in silent dejection until the stipulated time
had passed.  He seemed to have been watching the clock as well as I,
for it was hardly six before he began to talk with the same feverish
animation as before.

"Now, Watson," said he.  "Have you any change in your pocket?"


"Any silver?"

"A good deal."

"How many half-crowns?"

"I have five."

"Ah, too few!  Too few!  How very unfortunate, Watson!  However, such
as they are you can put them in your watchpocket.  And all the rest of
your money in your left trouser pocket.  Thank you. It will balance you
so much better like that."

This was raving insanity.  He shuddered, and again made a sound between
a cough and a sob.

"You will now light the gas, Watson, but you will be very careful that
not for one instant shall it be more than half on.  I implore you to be
careful, Watson.  Thank you, that is excellent. No, you need not draw
the blind.  Now you will have the kindness to place some letters and
papers upon this table within my reach. Thank you.  Now some of that
litter from the mantelpiece. Excellent, Watson!  There is a sugar-tongs
there.  Kindly raise that small ivory box with its assistance.  Place
it here among the papers.  Good!  You can now go and fetch Mr.
Culverton Smith, of 13 Lower Burke Street."

To tell the truth, my desire to fetch a doctor had somewhat weakened,
for poor Holmes was so obviously delirious that it seemed dangerous to
leave him.  However, he was as eager now to consult the person named as
he had been obstinate in refusing.

"I never heard the name," said I.

"Possibly not, my good Watson.  It may surprise you to know that the
man upon earth who is best versed in this disease is not a medical man,
but a planter.  Mr. Culverton Smith is a well-known resident of
Sumatra, now visiting London.  An outbreak of the disease upon his
plantation, which was distant from medical aid, caused him to study it
himself, with some rather far-reaching consequences.  He is a very
methodical person, and I did not desire you to start before six,
because I was well aware that you would not find him in his study.  If
you could persuade him to come here and give us the benefit of his
unique experience of this disease, the investigation of which has been
his dearest hobby, I cannot doubt that he could help me."

I gave Holmes's remarks as a consecutive whole and will not attempt to
indicate how they were interrupted by gaspings for breath and those
clutchings of his hands which indicated the pain from which he was
suffering.  His appearance had changed for the worse during the few
hours that I had been with him.  Those hectic spots were more
pronounced, the eyes shone more brightly out of darker hollows, and a
cold sweat glimmered upon his brow. He still retained, however, the
jaunty gallantry of his speech. To the last gasp he would always be the

"You will tell him exactly how you have left me," said he.  "You will
convey the very impression which is in your own mind--a dying man--a
dying and delirious man.  Indeed, I cannot think why the whole bed of
the ocean is not one solid mass of oysters, so prolific the creatures
seem.  Ah, I am wandering!  Strange how the brain controls the brain!
What was I saying, Watson?"

"My directions for Mr. Culverton Smith."

"Ah, yes, I remember.  My life depends upon it.  Plead with him,
Watson.  There is no good feeling between us.  His nephew, Watson--I
had suspicions of foul play and I allowed him to see it.  The boy died
horribly.  He has a grudge against me.  You will soften him, Watson.
Beg him, pray him, get him here by any means.  He can save me--only he!"

"I will bring him in a cab, if I have to carry him down to it."

"You will do nothing of the sort.  You will persuade him to come. And
then you will return in front of him.  Make any excuse so as not to
come with him.  Don't forget, Watson.  You won't fail me. You never did
fail me.  No doubt there are natural enemies which limit the increase
of the creatures.  You and I, Watson, we have done our part.  Shall the
world, then, be overrun by oysters? No, no; horrible!  You'll convey
all that is in your mind."

I left him full of the image of this magnificent intellect babbling
like a foolish child.  He had handed me the key, and with a happy
thought I took it with me lest he should lock himself in.  Mrs. Hudson
was waiting, trembling and weeping, in the passage.  Behind me as I
passed from the flat I heard Holmes's high, thin voice in some
delirious chant.  Below, as I stood whistling for a cab, a man came on
me through the fog.

"How is Mr. Holmes, sir?" he asked.

It was an old acquaintance, Inspector Morton, of Scotland Yard, dressed
in unofficial tweeds.

"He is very ill," I answered.

He looked at me in a most singular fashion.  Had it not been too
fiendish, I could have imagined that the gleam of the fanlight showed
exultation in his face.

"I heard some rumour of it," said he.

The cab had driven up, and I left him.

Lower Burke Street proved to be a line of fine houses lying in the
vague borderland between Notting Hill and Kensington.  The particular
one at which my cabman pulled up had an air of smug and demure
respectability in its old-fashioned iron railings, its massive
folding-door, and its shining brasswork.  All was in keeping with a
solemn butler who appeared framed in the pink radiance of a tinted
electrical light behind him.

"Yes, Mr. Culverton Smith is in.  Dr. Watson!  Very good, sir, I will
take up your card."

My humble name and title did not appear to impress Mr. Culverton Smith.
Through the half-open door I heard a high, petulant, penetrating voice.

"Who is this person?  What does he want?  Dear me, Staples, how often
have I said that I am not to be disturbed in my hours of study?"

There came a gentle flow of soothing explanation from the butler.

"Well, I won't see him, Staples.  I can't have my work interrupted like
this.  I am not at home.  Say so.  Tell him to come in the morning if
he really must see me."

Again the gentle murmur.

"Well, well, give him that message.  He can come in the morning, or he
can stay away.  My work must not be hindered."

I thought of Holmes tossing upon his bed of sickness and counting the
minutes, perhaps, until I could bring help to him.  It was not a time
to stand upon ceremony.  His life depended upon my promptness.  Before
the apologetic butler had delivered his message I had pushed past him
and was in the room.

With a shrill cry of anger a man rose from a reclining chair beside the
fire.  I saw a great yellow face, coarse-grained and greasy, with
heavy, double-chin, and two sullen, menacing gray eyes which glared at
me from under tufted and sandy brows.  A high bald head had a small
velvet smoking-cap poised coquettishly upon one side of its pink curve.
The skull was of enormous capacity, and yet as I looked down I saw to
my amazement that the figure of the man was small and frail, twisted in
the shoulders and back like one who has suffered from rickets in his

"What's this?" he cried in a high, screaming voice.  "What is the
meaning of this intrusion?  Didn't I send you word that I would see you
to-morrow morning?"

"I am sorry," said I, "but the matter cannot be delayed.  Mr. Sherlock

The mention of my friend's name had an extraordinary effect upon the
little man.  The look of anger passed in an instant from his face.  His
features became tense and alert.

"Have you come from Holmes?" he asked.

"I have just left him."

"What about Holmes?  How is he?"

"He is desperately ill.  That is why I have come."

The man motioned me to a chair, and turned to resume his own.  As he
did so I caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror over the
mantelpiece.  I could have sworn that it was set in a malicious and
abominable smile.  Yet I persuaded myself that it must have been some
nervous contraction which I had surprised, for he turned to me an
instant later with genuine concern upon his features.

"I am sorry to hear this," said he.  "I only know Mr. Holmes through
some business dealings which we have had, but I have every respect for
his talents and his character.  He is an amateur of crime, as I am of
disease.  For him the villain, for me the microbe. There are my
prisons," he continued, pointing to a row of bottles and jars which
stood upon a side table. "Among those gelatine cultivations some of the
very worst offenders in the world are now doing time."

"It was on account of your special knowledge that Mr. Holmes desired to
see you.  He has a high opinion of you and thought that you were the
one man in London who could help him."

The little man started, and the jaunty smoking-cap slid to the floor.

"Why?" he asked.  "Why should Mr. Homes think that I could help him in
his trouble?"

"Because of your knowledge of Eastern diseases."

"But why should he think that this disease which he has contracted is

"Because, in some professional inquiry, he has been working among
Chinese sailors down in the docks."

Mr. Culverton Smith smiled pleasantly and picked up his smoking-cap.

"Oh, that's it--is it?" said he.  "I trust the matter is not so grave
as you suppose.  How long has he been ill?"

"About three days."

"Is he delirious?"


"Tut, tut!  This sounds serious.  It would be inhuman not to answer his
call.  I very much resent any interruption to my work, Dr. Watson, but
this case is certainly exceptional.  I will come with you at once."

I remembered Holmes's injunction.

"I have another appointment," said I.

"Very good.  I will go alone.  I have a note of Mr. Holmes's address.
You can rely upon my being there within half an hour at most."

It was with a sinking heart that I reentered Holmes's bedroom. For all
that I knew the worst might have happened in my absence. To my enormous
relief,  he had improved greatly in the interval. His appearance was as
ghastly as ever, but all trace of delirium had left him and he spoke in
a feeble voice, it is true, but with even more than his usual crispness
and lucidity.

"Well, did you see him, Watson?"

"Yes; he is coming."

"Admirable, Watson!  Admirable!  You are the best of messengers."

"He wished to return with me."

"That would never do, Watson.  That would be obviously impossible.  Did
he ask what ailed me?"

"I told him about the Chinese in the East End."

"Exactly!  Well, Watson, you have done all that a good friend could.
You can now disappear from the scene."

"I must wait and hear his opinion, Holmes."

"Of course you must.  But I have reasons to suppose that this opinion
would be very much more frank and valuable if he imagines that we are
alone.  There is just room behind the head of my bed, Watson."

"My dear Holmes!"

"I fear there is no alternative, Watson.  The room does not lend itself
to concealment, which is as well, as it is the less likely to arouse
suspicion.  But just there, Watson, I fancy that it could be done."
Suddenly he sat up with a rigid intentness upon his haggard face.
"There are the wheels, Watson.  Quick, man, if you love me!  And don't
budge, whatever happens--whatever happens, do you hear?  Don't speak!
Don't move!  Just listen with all your ears."  Then in an instant his
sudden access of strength departed, and his masterful, purposeful talk
droned away into the low, vague murmurings of a semi-delirious man.

From the hiding-place into which I had been so swiftly hustled I heard
the footfalls upon the stair, with the opening and the closing of the
bedroom door.  Then, to my surprise, there came a long silence, broken
only by the heavy breathings and gaspings of the sick man.  I could
imagine that our visitor was standing by the bedside and looking down
at the sufferer.  At last that strange hush was broken.

"Holmes!" he cried.  "Holmes!" in the insistent tone of one who awakens
a sleeper.  "Can't you hear me, Holmes?"  There was a rustling, as if
he had shaken the sick man roughly by the shoulder.

"Is that you, Mr. Smith?"  Holmes whispered.  "I hardly dared hope that
you would come."

The other laughed.

"I should imagine not," he said.  "And yet, you see, I am here. Coals
of fire, Holmes--coals of fire!"

"It is very good of you--very noble of you.  I appreciate your special

Our visitor sniggered.

"You do.  You are, fortunately, the only man in London who does. Do you
know what is the matter with you?"

"The same," said Holmes.

"Ah!  You recognize the symptoms?"

"Only too well."

"Well, I shouldn't be surprised, Holmes.  I shouldn't be surprised if
it WERE the same.  A bad lookout for you if it is. Poor Victor was a
dead man on the fourth day--a strong, hearty young fellow.  It was
certainly, as you said, very surprising that he should have contracted
an out-of-the-way Asiatic disease in the heart of London--a disease,
too, of which I had made such a very special study.  Singular
coincidence, Holmes.  Very smart of you to notice it, but rather
uncharitable to suggest that it was cause and effect."

"I knew that you did it."

"Oh, you did, did you?  Well, you couldn't prove it, anyhow.  But what
do you think of yourself spreading reports about me like that, and then
crawling to me for help the moment you are in trouble?  What sort of a
game is that--eh?"

I heard the rasping, laboured breathing of the sick man.  "Give me the
water!" he gasped.

"You're precious near your end, my friend, but I don't want you to go
till I have had a word with you.  That's why I give you water.  There,
don't slop it about!  That's right.  Can you understand what I say?"

Holmes groaned.

"Do what you can for me.  Let bygones be bygones," he whispered. "I'll
put the words out of my head--I swear I will.  Only cure me, and I'll
forget it."

"Forget what?"

"Well, about Victor Savage's death.  You as good as admitted just now
that you had done it.  I'll forget it."

"You can forget it or remember it, just as you like.  I don't see you
in the witnessbox.  Quite another shaped box, my good Holmes, I assure
you.  It matters nothing to me that you should know how my nephew died.
It's not him we are talking about.  It's you."

"Yes, yes."

"The fellow who came for me--I've forgotten his name--said that you
contracted it down in the East End among the sailors."

"I could only account for it so."

"You are proud of your brains, Holmes, are you not?  Think yourself
smart, don't you?  You came across someone who was smarter this time.
Now cast your mind back, Holmes.  Can you think of no other way you
could have got this thing?"

"I can't think.  My mind is gone.  For heaven's sake help me!"

"Yes, I will help you.  I'll help you to understand just where you are
and how you got there.  I'd like you to know before you die."

"Give me something to ease my pain."

"Painful, is it?  Yes, the coolies used to do some squealing towards
the end.  Takes you as cramp, I fancy."

"Yes, yes; it is cramp."

"Well, you can hear what I say, anyhow.  Listen now!  Can you remember
any unusual incident in your life just about the time your symptoms

"No, no; nothing."

"Think again."

"I'm too ill to think."

"Well, then, I'll help you.  Did anything come by post?"

"By post?"

"A box by chance?"

"I'm fainting--I'm gone!"

"Listen, Holmes!"  There was a sound as if he was shaking the dying
man, and it was all that I could do to hold myself quiet in my
hiding-place.  "You must hear me.  You SHALL hear me.  Do you remember
a box--an ivory box?  It came on Wednesday.  You opened it--do you

"Yes, yes, I opened it.  There was a sharp spring inside it. Some

"It was no joke, as you will find to your cost.  You fool, you would
have it and you have got it.  Who asked you to cross my path?  If you
had left me alone I would not have hurt you."

"I remember," Holmes gasped.  "The spring!  It drew blood.  This
box--this on the table."

"The very one, by George!  And it may as well leave the room in my
pocket.  There goes your last shred of evidence.  But you have the
truth now, Holmes, and you can die with the knowledge that I killed
you.  You knew too much of the fate of Victor Savage, so I have sent
you to share it.  You are very near your end, Holmes. I will sit here
and I will watch you die."

Holmes's voice had sunk to an almost inaudible whisper.

"What is that?" said Smith.  "Turn up the gas?  Ah, the shadows begin
to fall, do they?  Yes, I will turn it up, that I may see you the
better." He crossed the room and the light suddenly brightened.  "Is
there any other little service that I can do you, my friend?"

"A match and a cigarette."

I nearly called out in my joy and my amazement.  He was speaking in his
natural voice--a little weak, perhaps, but the very voice I knew.
There was a long pause, and I felt that Culverton Smith was standing in
silent amazement looking down at his companion.

"What's the meaning of this?" I heard him say at last in a dry, rasping

"The best way of successfully acting a part is to be it," said Holmes.
"I give you my word that for three days I have tasted neither food nor
drink until you were good enough to pour me out that glass of water.
But it is the tobacco which I find most irksome.  Ah, here ARE some
cigarettes."  I heard the striking of a match.  "That is very much
better.  Halloa! halloa!  Do I hear the step of a friend?"

There were footfalls outside, the door opened, and Inspector Morton

"All is in order and this is your man," said Holmes.

The officer gave the usual cautions.

"I arrest you on the charge of the murder of one Victor Savage," he

"And you might add of the attempted murder of one Sherlock Holmes,"
remarked my friend with a chuckle.  "To save an invalid trouble,
Inspector, Mr. Culverton Smith was good enough to give our signal by
turning up the gas.  By the way, the prisoner has a small box in the
right-hand pocket of his coat which it would be as well to remove.
Thank you.  I would handle it gingerly if I were you.  Put it down
here. It may play its part in the trial."

There was a sudden rush and a scuffle, followed by the clash of iron
and a cry of pain.

"You'll only get yourself hurt," said the inspector.  "Stand still,
will you?"  There was the click of the closing handcuffs.

"A nice trap!" cried the high, snarling voice.  "It will bring YOU into
the dock, Holmes, not me.  He asked me to come here to cure him.  I was
sorry for him and I came.  Now he will pretend, no doubt, that I have
said anything which he may invent which will corroborate his insane
suspicions. You can lie as you like, Holmes.  My word is always as good
as yours."

"Good heavens!" cried Holmes.  "I had totally forgotten him.  My dear
Watson, I owe you a thousand apologies.  To think that I should have
overlooked you!  I need not introduce you to Mr. Culverton Smith, since
I understand that you met somewhat earlier in the evening. Have you the
cab below?  I will follow you when I am dressed, for I may be of some
use at the station.

"I never needed it more," said Holmes as he refreshed himself with a
glass of claret and some biscuits in the intervals of his toilet.
"However, as you know, my habits are irregular, and such a feat means
less to me than to most men.  It was very essential that I should
impress Mrs. Hudson with the reality of my condition, since she was to
convey it to you, and you in turn to him.  You won't be offended,
Watson?  You will realize that among your many talents dissimulation
finds no place, and that if you had shared my secret you would never
have been able to impress Smith with the urgent necessity of his
presence, which was the vital point of the whole scheme.  Knowing his
vindictive nature, I was perfectly certain that he would come to look
upon his handiwork."

"But your appearance, Holmes--your ghastly face?"

"Three days of absolute fast does not improve one's beauty, Watson.
For the rest, there is nothing which a sponge may not cure.  With
vaseline upon one's forehead, belladonna in one's eyes, rouge over the
cheek-bones, and crusts of beeswax round one's lips, a very satisfying
effect can be produced. Malingering is a subject upon which I have
sometimes thought of writing a monograph.  A little occasional talk
about half-crowns, oysters, or any other extraneous subject produces a
pleasing effect of delirium."

"But why would you not let me near you, since there was in truth no

"Can you ask, my dear Watson?  Do you imagine that I have no respect
for your medical talents?  Could I fancy that your astute judgment
would pass a dying man who, however weak, had no rise of pulse or
temperature?  At four yards, I could deceive you.  If I failed to do
so, who would bring my Smith within my grasp?  No, Watson, I would not
touch that box.  You can just see if you look at it sideways where the
sharp spring like a viper's tooth emerges as you open it.  I dare say
it was by some such device that poor Savage, who stood between this
monster and a reversion, was done to death.  My correspondence,
however, is, as you know, a varied one, and I am somewhat upon my guard
against any packages which reach me.  It was clear to me, however, that
by pretending that he had really succeeded in his design I might
surprise a confession.  That pretence I have carried out with the
thoroughness of the true artist.  Thank you, Watson, you must help me
on with my coat.  When we have finished at the police-station I think
that something nutritious at Simpson's would not be out of place."

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